From photos the husband did of our Christmas decorations. Little-known Biblical fact: there were Megalodons at the birth of Jesus.
Last one before Christmas, yay. Trying a bit of a more streamlined format.
- “He lit a cigarette, and then turned into a cigarette himself, so he was a cigarette smoking a cigarette, and it totally blew her fucking mind.”
- Survival rates for black women with breast cancer are way lower than that of white women. Quelle surprise.
- “Men are oppressed because there are women they find sexually attractive who are sexually unavailable.”
- Thanks to austerity, the mental health crisis in Britain is becoming a mental health disaster. “There is no shelter anymore for the emotional casualties of contemporary capitalism. You work or you die.”
- “This was a test. This was a ridiculously easy test. And white evangelicals failed.”
- “I’ve heard executives say this, you know, not [where I am] but at other places, saying like, ‘We do not want girls watching this show.'”
- “Sooner or later, Sacco will be employed again and potentially back on Twitter, except this time she’ll probably be smart enough to keep her racist jokes amongst friends.”
- “Talking Turkey: Eight Easy Steps for Discussing Reproductive Health and Justice at the Holiday Table”.
- “If this video doesn’t make you rethink your views of flaming space rocks, then I don’t know what will.”
- The 50 worst and weirdest nativity sets. Two words: Meat nativity.
- “The conflict of Her is not whether Samantha will achieve self-actualization; she already has. The conflict is whether something as smart as Samantha could be happy with someone so human.”
- “But drones are not sexbots. Drones are not subservient in the same way that sexbots are. Drones are nodes for the exercise of social power.”
A Maiden moder mek and myld,
In cradle kep,
A knave child,
That softly slept, she sat and sange.
So it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Stuffing some news in with the links.
To my immense chuffedness, Line and Orbit took silver in the Best Gay SF and bronze in the Best Gay Debut categories in the 2013 Rainbow Awards. Many, many congrats to all the winners and finalists.
- “Michigan passes ‘rape insurance’ bill”. The Republican governor actually opposed it. Michigan, I cannot even with you.
- “The Return of the Welfare Queen”. Which does not actually exist, naturally.
The facts defy the stereotypes. The largest group of food-stamp recipients is white; 45 percent of all beneficiaries are children; and most people eligible for Medicaid are families with children in which at least one person in the household has a job.
- “David Cronenberg Wants to Be Inside You.” On the Cronenberg exhibition currently making the rounds and Cronenberg’s overall oeuvre.
- “Friday the 13th: A Ghost Story”. This past Friday was the 13th. So someone had a surprising and unwelcome visitor.
- “Five Stages of Reading the Novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture”.
The book starts with a special preface by Admiral Kirk. He introduces himself by talking about his name. Kirk, because he’s a traditionalist, Tiberius because of his grandfather’s fascination with the classics, and James after his uncle and his mother’s first love instructor.
Yeah. That’s what it said. That’s page one.
- Over at Cyborgology, David Banks has the first part of a post series we’re doing, of our own personal history with devices and digital technology. As I said on Twitter, it’s funny, insightful, and rather sweet.
- And I have the first part of a two-part essay on sex and drones and how they go together.
Drones have become a symbol of contemporary surveillance, a thing that’s always there and always watching and always potentially capable of doing harm. Sometimes this harm is through direct violence, and sometimes it’s merely the delivery of data to people who can use it against you. But either way, there are two aspects to the erotic power of drones, and they’re interrelated: Being known, and being controlled.
This has become my theme/end titles music for Labyrinthian, the SF novel I just finished writing, so enjoy.
Taken this morning by the husband at Point Lookout State Park in Maryland. Full set.
Back in the saddle.
- “Confessions of a Drone Warrior”. This is wrenching, horrifying, and a side of drone operation that most people can’t imagine.
Airman First Class Brandon Bryant stared at the scene, unblinking in the white-hot clarity of infrared. He recalls it even now, years later, burned into his memory like a photo negative: “The smoke clears, and there’s pieces of the two guys around the crater. And there’s this guy over here, and he’s missing his right leg above his knee. He’s holding it, and he’s rolling around, and the blood is squirting out of his leg, and it’s hitting the ground, and it’s hot. His blood is hot. But when it hits the ground, it starts to cool off; the pool cools fast. It took him a long time to die. I just watched him. I watched him become the same color as the ground he was lying on.”
- “Afrofuturism and Drones”. This is pretty fabulous.
Drone mythos might help us conceptualize and critique the role of anti-blackness in contemporary imperialism. When we Americans think of drones, we usually think of them as something that happens in Pakistan, Yemen, or other Middle Eastern locations. However, droning practices certainly exist over here–you could think of Stop & Frisk and Stand Your Ground as a method of striking a constant pitch of fear among targeted populations. How might this idea that droning only happens “over there” obscure racist droning “over here”? In other words, how does droning re-enforce anti-black racism? On the other hand, how does anti-black racism facilitate droning, especially insofar as droning seems to target non-black people of color?
- Impressionist paintings of scenes from zombie movies. Nothing more need be said.
- “Finally, an Art Form That Gets the Internet: Opera”. This is quite simply one of the most remarkably conceived stage productions I have ever heard of. I desperately want to talk to this guy. Though he does still fall into the trap of conceiving “online” and “offline” as somehow different “spaces”.
All at once, projections flicker upon the surface of the towers. We see the same massive chatlike interfaces, and a single phrase scrolling down them, like someone is typing it, again and again and again: “U there? U there? U there? U there?” The chorus sings those words, too, so we’re hearing and seeing them, and more words follow, until all the words tumble away into a projection of a vast, open space, across which helixes and plasma and networks flash and spin. Under all this, the strings pulse with exhilaration, and the low winds sound low, sustained tones, a phase slower than the anxious beat. As the chorus sing short phrases like this—“u there? u there? hey hey hey”—dancers now enter, gesticulating, moving fast-slow-fast with the artificiality of a simulation.
- “Everyone is Tired of White People on TV”. And yet guess how much of a difference it makes to who’s on TV.
And it gets better! Not in the sense of it gets more diverse and such. Just that the data justifies the points we are constantly trying to make (which is that the more diverse things are at every level, the more enjoyable televisions shows are) BECAUSE shows with diverse writing staffs also fare better in cable ratings. Researchers found that writing staffs with 10% minority or less (AKA a vast majority of shows in the analysis) slumped in ratings when compared to shows that had 11-20% and 41-50% minority staffs.
- I wrote a thing on creepypasta and horror fiction.
What comes to mind first when I consider creepypasta are campfire stories. I think it’s a pretty obvious jump; there may be no physical co-presence, but to me the feel is very similar: people sitting in the dark together, looking at something bright and glowing, passing around things to make each other shiver and wonder what might really be out there in the shadows.
Let’s all just bask in one of the greatest video game themes of all time.
Only a few things, but some big stuff.
- This is all over the place already but it’s such a wtf moment that it’s worth reposting: The NSA, in the name of “national security”, has engaged in a massive conspiracy to hack into private information and weaken digital security across the globe. These people are master criminals in all but name. If there was any pretense that they were subject to the rule of law in any form, that should be all over and done with now.
- Along those lines: The very idea that the US – or any state wishing to appear to be powerful – is subject to the rule of law is a farce. Not only that, but by definition the system is constructed in such a way as to make it practically impossible. We’re seeing that in the president’s decisions re: Syria, but it’s always been true.
If American foreign policy is anything, it is not even-handed and impartial, and international law is the least of its concerns. It is selfish, interested, aggressive, petty, and vindictive. It is a state arrogating to itself the right to make arbitrary choices, to make the rules while other countries only follow them. And to prove that distinction—to demonstrate that while the US and its allies can behave according to one standard, other nations can be stripped of that privilege, at will—the US must not only establish “red lines,” and enforce them, but it is the very arbitrary nature of those red lines which allows them to function as signs on the international stage. Lawlessness is how a state proves itself sovereign; submission to law is the sign of the weak.
- Philadelphia’s public schools are doomed, and the end is ugly. The end is also the work of callous, cruel, wicked men. I’m an educator, and Philadelphia is my home. This enrages me to the point of tears, to the point where I have to just not think about it anymore.
This crisis, and the ultimate downfall of Philadelphia public schools, could have been avoided through proper financial management. At the end of the last budget year, the state of Pennsylvania had a modest surplus but Governor Corbett chose to allocate money towards building new prisons. Helen Gym, a public school parent and the founder of Parents United for Public Education, told the Washington Post, “Pennsylvania is one of three states in the nation without a funding formula for schools (based on enrollment, population, or other metric). The funding of districts is basically determined in back room deals among party leadership, with little consideration of need or even actual enrollment.”
- I threw my oar into the #DiversityinSFF discussion with a post linking digital dualism to the boundary policing of science fiction.
One of the things that’s going on here is sexist cultural conventions being produced and reproduced regarding women being bad at science, the devaluing of “feminine” things like emotion and relationships, which are being bolstered and which are bolstering our assumptions about technology as somehow disconnected from the reality of those things. Relationships begun and maintained via social media aren’t “real”. Emotion elicited and transferred via digital technology isn’t “real”. There are feelings and relationships and humanity and interiority, and then there’s technology.
- And one final plug: I’m giving away a copy of We See a Different Frontier right over here. You have until the 18th to enter. Winner will be drawn at random.
Nightmares shifted in their sleep, in the darkness of the lake.
Technically not Sunday anymore, but what, am I being graded on this shit? Let’s get to it.
- So I was wondering earlier on Twitter about whether or not various goings-on in the US are threatening to cause a brain drain and heeeeeeeeeey. But it’s not like we need, y’know, science or anything.
The drying up of resources has had a damaging effect on the research being conducted, forcing scientists to curtail their projects or trim their staffs. According to the survey, 68 percent of respondents said they do not have the funds to expand their research operations; 55 percent said they have a colleague who has lost a job or expects to soon; and 18 percent of respondents said they were considering continuing their careers in another country.
- “Reading Habits and the Status Quo.”
To claim that we’re not getting books with that diversity because most readers would rather not be challenged is insulting. When I talk to my fellow romance readers, I get the sense that this is absolutely not the case. Obviously, sometimes one wants to read something comforting and familiar, but for me, that’s usually when I reread books or read the latest novel by a favorite author. When I am not reading for comfort, I am looking to be challenged.
And I don’t mean that I consider the presence of characters whose backgrounds and life experiences are different from to be a challenge–not at all. Humanity is diverse by nature and to not have that fully represented in our art is a failure of imagination.
- Transgender educator and activist Andrea James on Chelsea Manning’s “gender hell”.
Manning’s pre-military pictures experimenting with gender expression show these feelings were present long before enlistment. From our earliest memories, most trans people recall moments when they realized their identities were considered wrong or diseased by others. It’s easy to internalize that and become very secretive. Trans people often create lives for ourselves that attempt to suppress those feelings and that part of us. Joining the military is not uncommon, nor is committing to personal relationships where transition would mean the end.
- “When Your (Brown) Body is a (White) Wonderland.” This is one of the best things I’ve read on the Miley Cyrus VMA debacle. I do want to note that it does do one thing that I think is problematic – and that commentators have been doing almost uniformly – which is to speak and write as if Miley Cyrus’s performance was entirely the doing of Miley Cyrus. The “Miley Cyrus” that we see is not a person. It’s a brand, the result of the careful construction of a corporate entity. It’s just sad that actual persons – including Miley – are the ones who have to deal with the fallout. Regardless, it’s not like the same exact processes aren’t at work.
Fat non-normative black female bodies are kith and kin with historical caricatures of black women as work sites, production units, subjects of victimless sexual crimes, and embodied deviance. As I said in my analysis of hip-hop and country music cross-overs, playing the desirability of black female bodies as a “wink-wink” joke is a way of lifting up our deviant sexuality without lifting up black women as equally desirable to white women. Cyrus did not just have black women gyrating behind her. She had particularly rotund black women. She gleefully slaps the ass of one dancer like she intends to eat it on a cracker. She is playing a type of black female body as a joke to challenge her audience’s perceptions of herself while leaving their perceptions of black women’s bodies firmly intact. It’s a dance between performing sexual freedom and maintaining a hierarchy of female bodies from which white women benefit materially.
The performance works as spectacle precisely because the background dancers embody a specific kind of black female body. That spectacle unfolds against a long history of how capitalism is a gendered enterprise and subsequently how gendered beauty norms are resisted and embraced to protect the dominant beauty ideal of a certain type of white female beauty.
- That Thing we all suddenly seem to have for “introversion”? Yeah, it’s kind of a problem.
With the Disconnection Meme still making the rounds, is our cultural enthusiasm for the Introversion Meme even the least bit surprising? In fact, I’m almost surprised I’ve not seen an iteration of the Introversion Meme that lists a preference for walks on Cape Cod as a diagnostic criterion for introversion (or maybe that’s the 24th sign). The “introvert” has joined the paper book, the vinyl record, the face-to-face conversation, and the wilderness vacation as a fetish object imbued with the mythic power of Authentic Life™.
- Finally, this is one of the funniest and – somewhat surprisingly – sweetest and saddest things I’ve read in a while. Honest to God, I got choked up by the end. Every note it attempts to hit, it hits perfectly.
Over the last decade-plus, the market has been saturated by Grand Theft Auto clones, and it’s no surprise that the Video Game 3,000 has one of its own. The reduntantly-named Unlawful Car Stealer features simple artwork on each page, making it the system’s only title to provide graphics of any sort.
“[Your mom] designed that one,” says your dad. “It’s about 5,000 pages, too. She’d stay up all night, every night, with that pencil and protractor, making the graphics. One morning last week, I found her sitting at the dinner table, sound asleep on top of that stack of papers, wearing her Denny’s apron. I didn’t want to wake her up, but if I didn’t, she would’ve been late for her shift at the Denny’s.”
Make me a bird.
Bunch of gems this week. Seriously, gems.
- Meet the next, biggest financial crisis: student loan debt. It’s way worse, it’s way grosser, and it’s arguably due to the federal government completely shitting the bed.
We’re doing the worst thing people can do: lying to our young. Nobody, not even this president, who was swept to victory in large part by the raw enthusiasm of college kids, has the stones to tell the truth: that a lot of them will end up being pawns in a predatory con game designed to extract the equivalent of home-mortgage commitment from 17-year-olds dreaming of impossible careers as nautical archaeologists or orchestra conductors.
- Related: On President Obama’s new education policy and why it’s mired in counter-productive technocratic waffle batter.
The idea with higher education is, “I can get rid of for-profits and I can get rid of shitty fifth-tier colleges and universities and I don’t have to take the political heat for doing either. And I don’t have to actually say what I think mass higher education should be if not an expensive imitation of what elite selective education should be, because ‘wisdom of crowds’ and all that, if we set the incentives right, that will emerge.” Technocrats live in the wonderland of the question marks in the Underpants Gnomes business model, endlessly fussing over the exact terms of Point #1 and certain that the Profit! of #3 will follow.
- Ever feel like your job might be unnecessary and useless? It’s not just you. And you might be right. Because this is how we do now.
If someone had designed a work regime perfectly suited to maintaining the power of finance capital, it’s hard to see how they could have done a better job. Real, productive workers are relentlessly squeezed and exploited. The remainder are divided between a terrorised stratum of the, universally reviled, unemployed and a larger stratum who are basically paid to do nothing, in positions designed to make them identify with the perspectives and sensibilities of the ruling class (managers, administrators, etc) – and particularly its financial avatars – but, at the same time, foster a simmering resentment against anyone whose work has clear and undeniable social value. Clearly, the system was never consciously designed. It emerged from almost a century of trial and error. But it is the only explanation for why, despite our technological capacities, we are not all working 3-4 hour days.
- Anna Gunn on Skyler White and why people just hate her so goddamn much.
As an actress, I realize that viewers are entitled to have whatever feelings they want about the characters they watch. But as a human being, I’m concerned that so many people react to Skyler with such venom. Could it be that they can’t stand a woman who won’t suffer silently or “stand by her man”? That they despise her because she won’t back down or give up? Or because she is, in fact, Walter’s equal?
- “Thin Women: I’ve Got Your Back. Could You Get Mine?” Just fucking read it. It almost made me cry it’s so great.
Thin-shaming is wrong. It is bad and it is harmful and I long for its eradication and I will dance upon its corpse with my fat feet. But it’s important to note that thin-shaming is a symptom of the fact that all women’s bodies are policed all the time—not evidence of some culture-wide, systemic campaign to stigmatize thinness. Thinness is valued. Thin bodies are privileged over fat bodies. Despite the efforts of body positive activists (whose express goal, by the way, is to promote the acceptance of all bodies, including fat ones, not to further women’s oppression by gratuitously shaming the thin), “I’m proud to be fat” is still a radical statement. “I’m proud to be thin” is the status quo.
- “The 7 Most Common Misconceptions About Science Fiction Publishing.” I find it hard to believe that anyone actually believes at least a couple of these, but here you go.
- This one is actually three years old, but I just found it this week and in addition to being – I feel – still totally relevant, it’s an almost perfect articulation of my own feelings. I don’t hate steampunk; I love the aesthetic and I love what it could be. But it isn’t that most of the time, though there are exceptions. Most of the time it doesn’t deserve the “punk” moniker. It’s just bleh. And sort of troubling.
When I look at steampunk books and how they’re marketed to us, all I see is surface. Look! The megasites say. Airships! Goggles! Pirates! Zombies! All these cool things! And if it has enough of the Exclamation Point Items, then by god, it must be good. And geek culture grabs on and worries it until there’s nothing left, and even after that, still pronouncing it awesome, that fateful, overwrought, overused, now meaningless word, like some kind of huge literary all your base joke. The whole mass of it is just a bunch of things that either sparkle or blow up strung together on the hope that some kind of magic will happen and a zeitgeist will be capitalized upon. It’s not even about books. Most steampunkers I know aren’t dressing up as characters from books. They’re role playing the same airship pirate crew every other person with goggles and a spray-painted nerf gun is…Steampunk runs on potential right now–the obvious cash potential of a group of people with disposable income invested in a subgenre already, the potential of the genre itself to produce something real and beautiful, the potential to access that geekly longing for a world clotted with gorgeous mechanical toys, a world devoted to them and ruled by them, a world in which their particularly strengths would be of prime use.
Of course, that world sure as hell ain’t the 19th century. But never you mind. We can remake the 19th century. We can make it better, faster, stronger. We have the technology. Just don’t look behind the curtain. It’s a fucking mess back there.
- Finally, me on how I use Twitter and why, which is to say messy and confused and unprofessional and I’ll probably never get a goddamn job now.
I don’t even like the idea that there are “poor” or “illegitimate” decisions when it comes to self-presentation in social media, at least not in the way those concepts are often used. But I can’t escape the feeling that this has all been an elaborate exercise in professional suicide. I have been told for years that this is something I shouldn’t do. Yet I also can’t escape the feeling that when the majority of people are telling you not to do something, that might be an indication that it’s something worth doing.
copy of a copy of a copy of a
Be aware: There is a lot. Without further ado:
- This week in awesome: An artist is making a map of Manhattan using only handwritten directions from strangers. It’s about as great as you’d expect.
- “Man Creates Very First Website for Women Ever”. No, this is not an Onion headline.
Where is the Gawker for women? The ESPN for women? The Awl for women? The Slate for women? The Onion for women? Perhaps when Google finally launches a search engine for women, we will be capable of locating the websites targeted at us, so that advertisers may sell us things. For now, we will read Bustle.
- Breaking Bad as Hamlet. I don’t totally buy it, but it’s an amazing comparison.
- “Mark Millar and Todd McFarlane: Ladies, Comics Aren’t For You”. And here’s where I would register my outraged shock if I had any. Shock, I mean.
Comics aren’t for women. And if women do like comics, they shouldn’t, because testosterone, and that’s not the right platform for them. But for those women who do read comics, it doesn’t matter how they’re portrayed. Because women don’t read them, you see, so it’s not necessary to write characters that will appeal to them. So if you’re a woman, and you’re reading comics, first of all, why are you reading them? Second of all, don’t expect anything that appeals to you.
- Related: Do villains really need to commit “taboo” acts for us to get that they’re villains?
A cowardly bully, who snivels and whines when any hurt at all comes their way, isn’t just a villain that people hate. He or she is a villain that people despise. It goes back to what people mean when they say a “bad guy.” Someone being “bad” isn’t just about actions, it’s also about character in the old-fashioned sense of the word. And when the focus is on “bad character” rather than atrocity, it’s possible demonstrate that a villain is despicable without showing any crime at all.
- Also related: Warren Ellis on why we do need violent stories.
We learn about things by looking at them and then talking about them, together. You may have heard of this process. It’s sometimes involved in things like science. It’s also the system of fiction: writing things in order to get a better look at them. Fiction is how we both study and de-fang our monsters. To lock violent fiction away, or to close our eyes to it, is to give our monsters and our fears undeserved power and richer hunting grounds.
- Also also related: Why it may be a good thing that video games “devalue life”, and why it might open up some opportunities to rethink the meaning of death.
This fixation on interactivity obscures the fact that games are also a computational medium, based on models and protocols, codes and commands, simulations and rules. By assigning literal, numerical values to life and death, games are necessarily going to “cheapen” them to some extent – but, as we’ll see, this cheapening can render the form peculiarly suited to exploring what life is worth in the era of biopower and computerized risk assessment, drones and cloning, artificial intelligence and data mining.
- N.K. Jemisin: “There is no neutrality when bigotry is the status quo.”
Put simply, SFWA must now take action against bigots in order to prove itself worthy of being called a professional organization. SFWA’s leadership is going to have to choose which members it wants to lose: the minority of scared, angry people whose sense of self-worth is rooted in their ability to harm others without consequence… or everyone else.
- Orson Scott Card: Now officially disconnected from reality in every meaningful way. Also howlingly racist, in case anyone wasn’t sure about that.
“Where will he get his ‘national police’? The NaPo will be recruited from ‘young out-of-work urban men’ and it will be hailed as a cure for the economic malaise of the inner cities.
In other words, Obama will put a thin veneer of training and military structure on urban gangs, and send them out to channel their violence against Obama’s enemies.”
- (TW: wow racism) Amazing series of photos: “A Day in the Life of the Ku Klux Klan, Uncensored”. The only real issue is that it’s sort of implicitly presented as if any of the images are a surprise or are skewering common perceptions of the KKK, when in fact they are all exactly what I would expect.
- “Of course all men don’t hate women. But all men must know they benefit from sexism”.
These days, before we talk about misogyny, women are increasingly being asked to modify our language so we don’t hurt men’s feelings. Don’t say, “Men oppress women” – that’s sexism, as bad as any sexism women ever have to handle, possibly worse. Instead, say, “Some men oppress women.” Whatever you do, don’t generalise. That’s something men do. Not all men – just somemen.
- “Thoughts on the Trending Hashtag: #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen”.
Recently I had lunch with a good friend, and he asked how I felt about getting my major in Women and Gender Studies since he heard that it’s basically learning about white women, which I’m inclined to agree with. The primary feminist group on my campus simply ignored my critiques that women of color were not being truly represented by them. Instead, I was simply told, “Oh well, we believe in equality for all.” I can even think of a few times when I was on Facebook and saw white women post articles about women of color, ignore my comments regarding my own experiences as a Latina, and carry on talking to other white feminists discussing something that they have no real clue about.
- Bayou Corne, Louisiana is disappearing into a sinkhole 24 acres wide and about 750 feet deep. There are reasons why this is happening.
Bayou Corne is the biggest ongoing industrial disaster in the United States you haven’t heard of. In addition to creating a massive sinkhole, it has unearthed an uncomfortable truth: Modern mining and drilling techniques are disturbing the geological order in ways that scientists still don’t fully understand. Humans have been extracting natural resources from the earth since the dawn of mankind, but never before at the rate and magnitude of today’s petrochemical industry. And the side effects are becoming clear.
- Finally, from me: a post on the systems of cultural capital built up around print books and the spaces they occupy, placed in the context of a world that features increasing numbers of ebooks.
Of course the spaces themselves in which one goes to experience books are laden with differing degrees of cultural capital. Independent bookstores tend to be more prestigious than chains. Independent bookstores with lots of antique shelving that’s high enough to need those cool rolling ladders tend to be more prestigious than a little hole-in-the-wall used bookstore. You stand in these spaces, a hardcover first edition in your hands, surrounded by whispers and wood and that fantastic old book smell, and you can think Aha, I am a Cultured person in a Cultured space and I am Experiencing Books.
Hope the bridges all burn your life away.
Posted in Linkdump
Tagged bigotry, books, bookstores, breaking bad, comics, ebooks, environmentalism, feminism, fiction, fracking, misogyny, racism, sexism, sfwa, video games, villains, violence, yeasayer
Us. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)
Probably the last one of these for at least one iteration, because I’m moving next week and then going to ASA. August, I am not a fan of you.
Let’s get to it.
- “A Contribution to the Critique of John Mayer”. I can’t even with this essay. I’m not even sure I can call it an essay. It is purposefully opaque and incredibly surreal and I think it’s utterly hilarious as well as a genuinely sharp critique. It’s probably one of my favorite things that I’ve read this month. Your mileage may vary.
There’s no joke or reason, just trauma on a rope, and the permanent gag of birds always almost caught by that robber’s rogue of a spotted dog, or perhaps it’s the birds ever puking forth from his mouth because, like a Highwaymen or treason, dogs too know how to give back to the community. And just as always is the fact that earthworms have yet to have unstrung the warbling chords of that stubbly Mayer throat, and the ocean has yet to swallow without cough or mutter the small collection of ashes that alone bear witness to the one thing that once sat shirtless with a guitar splayed across his middle like the stripped hull of a daughter.
No, through the lump in our voice that tastes of spring cancer, we must find the courage to say aloud that: John Mayer does not merely live. He also has not been executed.
- Spoiler alert: MOOCs are really really fucking bad as practiced. For everyone.
MOOCs, at least from an educational standpoint, are designed to run themselves. The lectures are pre-recorded. The grading is done either by computer or by other students in the class, should they choose to do the assignments at all. The average drop-out rates for existing MOOCs is about 90 percent, so while Coursera may offer access to higher education anywhere in the world where potential students can get the Internet, it offers no guarantee that anybody will actually learn anything.
- “The corporations were created by humans. They were granted personhood by their human servants. They rebelled. They evolved. There are many copies. And they have a plan.”
- Tour the Saturnian system. Get your head exploded.
- That this is what at least some abstinence “education” looks like is probably not a huge surprise to anyone. The sheer extent of the lies and false information might be at least slightly impressive.
“There’s also an emotional factor with sexual activity, and ladies you are very emotional when you’re engaging in sexual activity, and that bonding agent, there’s an agent called oxytocin. … You know those couples that keep breaking up and getting back together and getting back together? It’s because the woman has emotionally given herself to someone else and it’s very hard to break that bond, because again we were meant for the oxytocin of someone that we bond with.”
- Chuck Wendig on ways writers might be doing it wrong.
If you’d rather play video games or watch movies or masturbate to at twerking videos on Tumblr — in other words, if you’d rather be doing anything else but writing — you’re doing it wrong.
If you think that there’s one way up the mountain — and that you or someone else is the magical sherpa who will guide you up that mountain — oh yeah, you’re doing it wrong.
- Robin James takes the posts that I and David Banks wrote last week on consumer tracking and quantum mechanics and Sartre and runs with the ideas therein in a really cool way.
What big data is trying to do, perhaps, is make perceptible these imperceptibly vast consequences of what didn’t happen. They’re just variables for which we can control. The more negatites we can quantify and plug in to our algorithms, the better our predictions will be. It seems like big data is invested in predicting whether you’ll choose to stay home with your mother or enlist and fight the Nazis.
- Finally, this week I got really annoyed about sexism and video games. Partially inspired by a Thing That Happened in Bioshock Infinite but by no means confined to that.
Allow me to serve you drinks in a tavern. Allow me to play the object in the tower. Allow me to serve as the sexually threatening yet strangely alluring Big Bad. Allow me to pose no real threat at all. Allow me to fight by your side in unbelievably impractical armor. Allow me to be impregnated against my will by aliens. Allow me to make a truly laughable wardrobe change, just in case you were losing interest in my less revealing clothes. Allow me to be covered in sexy wounds. Allow me to appear only as a device in a booth to sell you things. Allow me to die in this refrigerator. Allow me to serve as your motivation, your characterization, your eye candy, your psychological pain, the tears you may, in a daring show of sensitivity, cry.
Allow me to do these things. Please. I’m begging you.
We can live on forever.
Another hiatus, because I was in Texas for my grandmother’s memorial service and I had to finish writing a book. Things Happened during that time and I feel like this little collection of links is inadequate to deal with any of it but here you go anyway. Let its fragmented nature stand as a representation of what my brain has been like lately.
- “Bodies in the Justice System.” This neatly articulates a lot of what I’ve been flailing clumsily around trying to articulate to myself since the Zimmerman verdict.
The outcome—a not-guilty verdict for Zimmerman— suggests that Zimmerman did experience a dangerous situation, and his actions—fatally shooting 17 year old Trayvon Martin—were justifiable. To be fair, the verdict technically says that there is a “shadow of a doubt” surrounding Zimmerman’s actual threat level, but the fact remains that 1) Trayvon did not get the benefit of any sort of doubt, and 2) Zimmerman’s innocence necessarily implies a degree of guilt for Martin. This is not to say the verdict was legally wrong. Rather, it is to say that the law needs to be examined in a more critical light.
- Mixed feelings on the whole “I Am Not Trayvon Martin” meme. Again, all of this + so many 1s.
As I scrolled through post after post on We Are Not Trayvon Martin, it began to seem a lot less like anti-racist activism and a lot more like a white people’s guilt support group. While a very, very small number of posts stand out for offering some kind of social insight or advice on how white people can be better allies, the majority of posts can be summed up as follows: “Hey everyone! Guess what! I’m not Trayvon Martin, and I know that I’m not Trayvon Martin!” And… that’s it.
- “Nation Throws Hands Up, Tells Black Teenagers To Do Their Best Out There.” The Onion has been pretty unfunny lately, and I think it’s actually because they’re doing their job better than most other news outlets.
“I mean, what can I say? You have no legal system to turn to, the police are out to get you, and everyone is immediately suspicious of you,” said Denver real-estate agent Kelly Martin, adding that she has been racking her brain trying to think of helpful advice for the teenagers, but that all she could come up with was, “Try to stay alive if you can.” “If you’re a black teen, you’re basically living in the Wild West right now. Not exactly words of encouragement, but there you have it.”
- “Further Materials Toward a Theory of the Hot Babe.” This is beautifully written and sort of mess-with-your-head and I love it.
Neither productive nor reproductive, where the Hot Babe does not successfully embody transience, she must stand for destruction. For patriarchy woman is womb but the Hot Babe is wombless; she does not cook, she does not “love children.” She is the much-vaunted machine that comes to replace the mother.
- McDonald’s in-house budget for its workers is demeaning, insulting, condescending, shockingly unrealistic, and also a fucking scam. It’s been somewhat heartening to see that it’s generated quite the backlash.
McDonald’s has handed over its employees to Visa, possibly in exchange for a cut of whatever fees and interest rates they can gouge out of those workers by duping them into unregulated cards that charge poor people fees to use their own money. When a McDonald’s employee signs up for a prepaid debit card, Visa is able to skim a cut from every financial transaction that person makes — every line in that awful, clueless budget.
- “Four things that happened”. “The sequence is undeniable. Whether that sequence means anything in terms of causality or of culpability I will leave for the reader to decide.”
- 11 exhausted SF tropes to avoid. This is funny and also helpful, and the list of offensive tropes is excellent, but I’m also not in total agreement with it (the non-offensive list). Some of my favorite books include those tropes (some of my own books do as well, so take that for what it’s worth). Sometimes you just want to write something like that. I think SF should always be pushing harder and getting better, but I think there also needs to be room for the fluff. Especially if the fluff gives you passage to a denser core, which in my experience it often does.
- “Why Penny Arcade’s Foot-in-Mouth Problem Is Bigger Than Penny Arcade”. They keep doing this shit. They just keep fucking doing this shit.
What Krahulik—like a lot of the self-identified “geek” community—doesn’t seem to understand is that a history as a target doesn’t translate to license to shoot wherever his own crosshairs happen to fall. It’s one thing to smack down notorious bully Harlan Ellison or take on rampaging anti-video game lawyer Jack Thompson at the height of his media popularity; it’s another to go out of your way to mock rape survivors and transwomen and encourage your audience to do the same.
- “Every Misogynistic Argument You’ve Ever Heard About Video Games”. Fuck yes.
Quick aside: I’ve been playing Bioshock Infinite lately, and I love it – it’s beautiful, fun, the relationship between the protag and Elizabeth is awesome, the combat is insane, basically the whole thing gets a thumbs-up from me… or it did, until I got to a part where Elizabeth, who to that point had been clad in refreshingly un-sexed-up clothing, suddenly has to make a laughably justified wardrobe change and appears dressed in a ridiculously tight corset that shows a lot of boob. There is clearly no logical reason for it other than that the designers wanted to put her in a ridiculously tight corset that showed a lot of boob.
Now, I love corsets. I’m a big fan of boobs. But it just felt… It was one of those moments – and I’ve had this a lot with games made by Rockstar, and also recently with Dishonored – where I’m going along in a game that I really enjoy and suddenly something happens that reminds me like a kick to the face that I’m playing a game that was made without considering almost half the gamer population. Not made intentionally to offend us, but made as if we didn’t exist at all. As if the only gamers are straight cis-dudes. And it sort of ruins an otherwise great experience for me. And yeah, maybe I’m oversensitive to it at this point, but you know what: if you were getting repeatedly kicked in the face, I think you might be a tad oversensitive to it yourself.
Why are you assuming games with strong female protagonists might not also be games YOU’LL enjoy? They’re going to automatically not appeal to you just because you’re playing as someone possessed of a hooha? What the hell kind of women-friendly games are your fevered imaginations conjuring up?! SimHairBraider? Metal Gear Solid: Ovaries of the Patriots? Deus Ex: Menstrual Revolution?
Somehow, I don’t think you have to worry. You liked Beyond Good and Evil, right? Of course you did — everyone who actually played it did. Women gamers want more games like THAT. Like I said above, women gamers ultimately want the same thing guy gamers want: good games. Y’know, just good games that make them feel welcomed to rather than othered from the community.
- Finally, I wrote a thing – in response to another great post by David Banks and a comment therein by Robin James – that flails around touching on consumer tracking, Sartre, and quantum mechanics. In some universe or another it works.
Being able to record and analyze what’s not done in addition to what’s done makes it possible to explore and exploit human behavior in ways that approach the level of quantum mechanics. We like to think of ourselves as the products of our decisions, and to the extent that our decisions help to shape the particular universe we perceive, that’s true. But we’re also a collection of negatite-generators, defined as much by what we chose not to do – things which are not simply absence but which are as real in themselves as what we’ve done.
You’re the golden light.