Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Jan. 16th, 2017 12:10 pm
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
[personal profile] tim
'We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country's antireligious laws.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn't this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: "All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth." Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.'

-- Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from a Birmingham Jail", 1963

New Year's

Jan. 14th, 2017 06:29 pm
[personal profile] jazzyjj
One of my New Year's resolutions for 2017 is to do more pleasure reading. I honestly don't know how well this will go yet, because I have very chatty neighbors. In addition, I have a very busy work schedule which is another story. More on that in another entry. But I'm going to give it my best shot. I read audio books. I download them to my computer, and then copy them to a USB thumb drive. I can't listen to them on my computer though, because they are in a copy-protected format that only works on my digital talking book player. Fortunately, this player is super easy to use. Additionally, I didn't have to pay a single penny for it and the books are free.

(no subject)

Jan. 14th, 2017 02:55 pm
sanguinity: woodcut by M.C. Escher, "Snakes" (Default)
[personal profile] sanguinity
I flippantly said to someone earlier in the week that the snow would be gone by the weekend. Because, you know, Portland. Snow seldom lasts hours here, let alone days.

In point of actual fact, there are still a good six inches of snow out there, and it's currently 28 deg with a flipping brutal east wind. (But at least it's brilliantly sunny? Does that compensate for the knives in my skull, or contribute to them?) I made [personal profile] grrlpup go for a walk with me just now; the excursion didn't so much relieve my cabin fever as intensify it.

(Look, I was housebound for a week because sick, and then it snowed, and then it snowed again. I am so flipping done with this.)

--

In other news, Elementary Rolling Remix went live this morning: one seed story, passed to another for remixing, which is then passed to another for remixing, and so on, like a brownstone-centric game of Telephone. I contributed, of course, and so did [personal profile] grrlpup. (She almost never participates in exchanges!) Guessing post is here, for those who want to try their hands at guessing creators or reconstructing the chain.
sanguinity: woodcut by M.C. Escher, "Snakes" (Default)
[personal profile] sanguinity
This last round of [livejournal.com profile] holmestice wrapped a while ago, but I am still catching up.

First off, my lovely ST:TNG!Moriarty gift was made by [personal profile] graycardinal, thank you kindly!

As for my own contributions, I began the round writing a fic for my recipient, [livejournal.com profile] phoenixfalls, but then the election happened, my brain became a good deal less stable overnight, and my ability to produce new words... stopped. And yet I kept slogging at the story, hoping it'd all come together somehow. (I have about 10K of trunked words for that story, sigh. Maybe someday?) With deadlines looming, I finally decided to stop beating my head on it and instead gave myself a crash-course in podficcing.

If you've ever wanted to know what my (measured, performative) voice sounds like:
[podfic] A Heap of Sun and Shadow
A recording of A Heap of Sun and Shadow by [archiveofourown.org profile] PhoenixFalls
Elementary
Sherlock/Joan
Retirement, First Kiss, Friends to lovers, always-a-girl!Sherlock
General audiences, no archive warnings apply
9 minutes; 1152 words

Twenty-five years on, Joan and Sherlock retire to upstate New York together.

 

[podfic] The Glass Half Full
A recording of The Glass Half Full by [archiveofourown.org profile] Garonne
ACD Canon
Watson/Mary, unrequited Holmes/Watson
General audiences, no archive warnings apply
18 minutes; 2524 words

Nothing but unspoken words and unspent passions, declarations never made and caresses never given.

Holmes and Mary Watson have an after-dinner conversation about Watson.
I was long fond of both stories, but I fell out-and-out in love with them via the act of recording them. I hope I did them both the credit they deserve. As I said before, I am brand-new at podficcing; if anyone has tips or advice for me, I will happily take them.

Late in the exchange, [livejournal.com profile] phoenixfalls and I were chatting about her own contribution (an Elementary adaptation of a Coules Further Adventures story, yay!), and how frustrating it was that she was still the only person to have contributed to the AO3 Joantes tag. And I thought, fuck it, I KNOW someone who wasn't me requested Joantes this round; saw that one of [livejournal.com profile] venusinthenight's requests could be filled with some straightforward one-shot smut; decided that although smut is not my strong suit, fic-that-exists is always de facto better than fic-that-doesn't; and hammered out some Joantes smut for her.
Sucker Punch
Elementary
Joan Watson/Gina Cortes
Explicit, No archive warnings apply
Boxing, Hatesex, First time, Missing scene, Blood
3409 words

Joan figures she can battle Cortes to a respectable draw, and then they can both walk away, tempers spent and faces saved. Joan is wrong.
By the way, Gina's broken nose in that story? That was my own first broken nose: I was gleefully pursuing a less-experienced fighter who was fleeing me, when she spun and gave me the opportunity to run face-first into her fist. *tight displeased smile* For the record, broken noses are not fun. They hurt then and they hurt later, but the most not-fun thing about them, in my opinion, is that they bleed everywhere, which gives me exactly four seconds to get my revenge before someone calls the fight for bloodborne-safety reasons. I have never once managed to get my revenge in those four seconds, damnit hiss spit.

* * *


In other news, I have signed up as a creator for the charity auction Fandom Tr*mps Hate. (FAQ) I am offering podfic, because I figure I'm less likely to disappoint someone with one of my strange, sideways interpretations of an assignment/commission that way. Full details of my offer are here (as well as links for bidding on it), but in short: max 5K words, no explicit sex or graphic violence, please inquire about fandoms. That is, all the fandoms you'd usually expect from me, plus a couple dozen more.

Of course, I'm not the only one who offered something! Full listings are at @fandomtrumpshateofferings. More info here about how the offers are organized and how to bid.

Snow Day!

Jan. 11th, 2017 03:04 pm
sanguinity: woodcut by M.C. Escher, "Snakes" (Default)
[personal profile] sanguinity
Welp, we have a good nine inches of snow out there. I hear some parts of town have a foot.

[personal profile] grrlpup shoveled our walk, and then our neighbors' to both the east and west. We're being neighborly when we shovel to the east, but to the west? That is a rebuke. (As far as I'm aware, the neighbors to the west have never noticed that we have ever shoveled their sidewalk in all these years, let alone that we do it as a rebuke.)

We went for a walk a little later -- not much in the way of downed trees, it was nice to see -- and then this afternoon I went across the street and helped shovel that neighbor's sidewalk. On our side of the street, all the lots are skinny and deep, so no one has very much frontage, but there are only two houses on the other side of the block, both of which are corner lots, so the people over there have a loooooooooong way to shovel. One of them was out slogging her way around her corner with a narrow little square-tip shovel, so I took my snow shovel over to give her a hand.

(For those keeping score at home: neighborly.)

Mostly, though, I have spent the day admiring the winter wonderland from inside, where I am working hard on a vid. It's coming along nicely, I suppose, although I am at the point where I am heartily sick of it.

Is anyone up to beta, by chance? (It's for Festivids, so even the fandom is a secret at this point, sorry.)
[personal profile] yendi
One of Amazon's Daily Deals is on sub-$5 Magazine subscriptions. And one of those is Teen Vogue, which has somehow become the source of some of the best anti-Trump reporting out there, for $4. There are lots of other good deals (New Yorker, Bon Appétit, Wired, GQ, etc), but that's the big one. Note that for magazines that include print/digital choices, only Woman's Health includes the all-access pass (the others are print-only). The subscriptions range from a few months to a year in length.

Arisia!

Jan. 11th, 2017 07:20 am
[personal profile] yendi
Oh, hey, since it's coming up in two days, I should probably post my Arisia schedule, right?
I'm on three panels this year, because being an ADH, shockingly, takes up a huge amount of time. So when I'm not on a panel, figure I'll be in the Green Room, The Gaming Room, or Program Nexus.
As for my panels:
Friday at 8:30, (Marina 4): Archie Comics (moderating)
Saturday at 5:30 (Douglas): Curmudgeon Panel 3: Season of the Curmudgeon!
Sunday at 8:30, (Adams): The Wicked + The Divine

Play of the Light

Jan. 10th, 2017 05:17 pm
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
[personal profile] deborah
Jason McIntosh ([twitter.com profile] JmacDotOrg) interviewed my household about the way we play videogames: "Play of the Light #11 - The Freaks on group-playing single-player RPGs." This is vaguely connected to accessibility, just because we touch, somewhat, on how we play in a way that doesn't use my hands, although that's not the focus.

Dear Confectioner

Jan. 7th, 2017 04:04 pm
sanguinity: woodcut by M.C. Escher, "Snakes" (Default)
[personal profile] sanguinity
For Round Two of Chocolate Box! ([community profile] chocolateboxcomm)

Likes: Old, complicated relationships; people loving each other generously and well (however flawed their execution may be). I prefer comfort to hurt and affection to angst, and would very much enjoy a happy ending, if you can see your way there. ('Happy' can still be emotionally complicated, of course: many of my own happy endings have been called 'bittersweet.')

DNW: non-con, dubcon, stalking, hatesex, angst. I also dislike the trope of Unhappy Historical Gays and Lesbians; I'm a firm believer that people have always been incredibly resourceful at finagling a modicum of happiness for themselves.

Mostly, though, I want you to write a story that makes you happy; show me what you love about these characters, and I expect that I'll love it, too.


Gentlemen of the Road - Michael Chabon

Amram/Zelikman
Amram & Zelikman

I have a ridiculous affection for these two and their ridiculous bickering. Later adventures, earlier adventures, Amram's petty jealousy of Hillel, that time one of them scared the other nearly to death, that time the one was tremendously kind and had to be even grumpier than usual to make up for it... Throw a trope at them and do as you will; just as long as their affection is rock-solid at the bottom of it all, I'm sure I'll love it.


Brooklyn Nine-Nine (TV)

Kevin Cozner/Ray Holt

Kevin went to Paris and they could barely cope with being apart so long, and then Ray went into witness protection and pretended to be straight for six months, and then (as if that wasn't enough) Ray was relegated to the boondocks of night shift. It has been a rough year for these two.

Give me the homecoming, the epic kiss, the epic chew-out over being lightly impaled by rebar, the epic scrabble game as they put their relationship to rights... Just put it to rights, please. It's been a rough year for them both, and they need a little TLC.


Mой нежно любимый детектив | My Dearly Beloved Detective (1986)

Mr. Green & Jane Watson
Shirley Holmes & Mr. Green
Shirley Holmes & Arthur Conan Doyle
Shirley Holmes & Jane Watson
Shirley Holmes/Jane Watson
Shirley Holmes & Jose the Torero
Shirley Holmes & Inspector Lester

You know what there isn't enough of in this world? My Dearly Beloved Detective fic! Any of these relationships would be lovely, because there simply isn't enough out there about any of them.

I would be especially pleased if you could see your way to some Valentine's Day fluff or farce. The film has a melancholy heart, I know, and I certainly don't mind if that comes through in your story. But there is also plenty in the film that is ridiculous or joyful, and I would enjoy seeing some of those elements taken for a spin as well.

Quick note on DW/LJ

Jan. 5th, 2017 01:35 pm
[personal profile] yendi
I've been crossposting to LJ and DW for years, and have no intention of stopping. But it does seem that a bunch of people are fully abandoning LJ for DW, which likely means I'll be doing more reading of my DW friends page (instead of my current model of going directly to the four DW-only pages I knew of and reading them; that doesn't scale well). So if you're someone who's reading me on DW, and I haven't friended you back? Leave me a comment to let me know. And if you're reading this on LJ and are moving over to DW, feel free to add me there as "yendi" and I'll add you back (I think I'm up-to-date and will continue to be so on new folks there).

Tolerance is relational

Jan. 5th, 2017 08:31 am
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
[personal profile] tim
I think Yonatan Zunger's essay "Tolerance is not a moral precept" is mostly right-on (and I'm amused to see my friends' bicycle club/radical agitprop collective The Degenderettes in the featured photo), though I wish we'd been listening to the Black women who have been saying similar things for years (decades, maybe?)

I don't agree with the essay's framing of war as justifiable, since war is generally not a matter of self-defense but of offense to enrich capitalists. ("War ain't about one land against the next / It's poor people dying so the rich cash checks." -- Boots Riley.) What I do appreciate about the essay is that it calls attention to the existence of fundamental conflict of interests between groups that can't just be resolved through peaceful negotiation. I think radical redistribution of power and wealth is a better solution than war, but of course, some people might think the opposite.

That said, I agree with the central point that tolerance is not an absolute moral law, but rather, conditional on others' behavior. Zunger phrases this as a social contract, but I would phrase it instead in terms of relationships. As your roommate, it's wrong for me to leave my dishes in the sink every night if you always clean up your messes. But it would also be wrong for me to berate you about leaving a cup in the sink one night if normally, you do most of the cleaning (and that's not part of our explicit relationship agreement).

Tolerance is not about what I'm allowed to do to you, but rather, an emergent property of the relationship between you and me. It must arise from a relationship with back-and-forth and reciprocity. It is not given for free.

Almost 3 years ago, I wrote "Against Tolerance", for which I also chose a deliberately provocative title. My take there isn't so different from Zunger's. I was describing a situation like the "war" scenario that Zunger describes: the question of whether homophobes can lead diverse companies is ultimately about a situation in which somebody has already declared war on you. Brendan Eich declared war on me when he started paying politicians to strip away my civil rights. Under those circumstances, I had, and have, no obligation of tolerance towards him. In Zunger's phrasing, my primary priority becomes self-defense.

As I said, I dislike leaning on war metaphors, since they legitimize state violence (which is very different from the violence that individual oppressed people or small organized groups of oppressed people may use in self-defense; by definition, states are not oppressed), the basic principle is the same. Tolerance is not the operating principle when you're under attack, nor should it be.

In fact, I'm inclined to scrap "tolerance" altogether as a counterproductive word (like the phrases "pro-life" and "political correctness", which mean the opposite of what they superficially seem to) than to rehabilitate it as Zunger tries to do, but he provides a helpful framing for those who don't wish to abandon the signifier completely.

Twelve books I really liked in 2016

Jan. 5th, 2017 08:42 am
[personal profile] yendi
I read a lot in 2016. Not counting graphic novels, comics, magazines, online articles (including some longreads that approached novella length), and other miscellany, there were still probably a good 150 or so books that I devoured (making me the distant second most-read person in our house). Most were some flavor of "good" or "interesting" (there were a few exceptions, because sometimes whether a book is good or not hinges on a last-third writing choice, but if I hate a book after an hour of reading, I don't throw more time at it*).

Anyway, here's six fiction and six non-fiction I enjoyed. Not necessarily the "best," but ones I still think others should read. I limited my list to 2016 books, although I certainly read from other periods (probably my favorite read last year was Nabokov's Pale Fire, which is brilliant enough that I don't understand why it's not talked about and taught more, as it may by my favorite piece of postmodern lit). I hate saying these are the "best," since I liked so much, and it's not even fair to say they're my favorites, since things like my mood are big factors in how I feel about things. Just twelve books I really liked, and wish more folks would read so I could have more conversations about them.

Fiction:

I am Providence, by Nick Mamatas. I really wanted to write a full review of this, but never found the time. While the obvious comparison point for this book are the Jay Omega books of Sharyn McCrumb, this actually felt like less of a send-up of fandom than of "pro"dom within the Lovecraftian community (and the blurred lines that have led to almost everyone involved in Lovecraft fandom to be able to claim some form of "pro" in their title). The concept is that Panossian, an author with an uncanny resemblance to Mamatas (but often in a "road not taken" sense -- this version did have a novel that mashed up Lovecraft and another classic work of literature, but never really found any success after that) is murdered at a Lovecraft con, and his roommate (and first-time attendee) attempts to figure out what happened. Mamatas takes the neat twist of alternating Colleen chapters with ones told Panossian as his corpse lies on the table and his brain is slowly starting to fade. It's a fun take on the "have the victim tell his tale" thing, and appropriate in this setting. While the satire is first-rate, it's only part of the story, and the book exists (and has to exist) as a solid murder story as well, one that should work for folks not familiar with either Lovecraft or (if they're really lucky) his fandom. While doesn't feel like it's meant to be a complex puzzle-box mystery in the vein of John Dickson Carr or Yukito Ayatsuji, it does have a couple of solid twists, and works really well as a character-driven piece of mystery fiction, with a huge bonus for anyone who's spent time in fannish communities and needed to get the stink (metaphorical and often literal) off afterwards.

The Passenger, by Lisa Lutz, and What Remains of Me, by Alison Gaylin. I read a LOT of good crime fiction/thrillers this year**, but these two stand out as examples of authors who leveled up. Lutz tells the story of a woman who has been on the run for years, and suddenly has to leave her safe haven again. The mystery of her backstory unfolds slowly as she winds her way across the Midwest, leaving even more bodies behind. Gaylin's story, like Elizabeth Little's witty Dear Daughter from a couple of years ago, is about a woman released from jail after being convicted of murder, but goes down a very different path, keeping things darker and generally more serious, but with a cast of brutally broken characters. I don't want to dive too deeply into either plot, but both are well worth grabbing.

The Last Days of Jack Sparks, by Jason Arnopp. Years ago, I read a bunch of the licensed horror movie books from the no-defunct Black Library label from Games Workshop. They ranged from great to terrible, often, not surprisingly, depending on the author. One author I'd never heard of before was a guy named Jason Arnopp, who wrote a witty novel about Jason, a pair of serial killer cultists, and yet another serial killer masquerading as an FBI agent, all of whom converge on a resort hotel. It was ludicrously fun Grand Guignol stuff, and randomly this year, I decided to google to see if he'd writen anything else. Turns out he had, and the book had just come out, complete with blurbs from people like Alan Moore. So I grabbed it, and it was good (and thankfully, felt nothing like recent Moore). It's "found footage," in the sense that it's the journals of the titular journalist, a British gonzo reporter who wants to be the next Hunter S. Thompson, but is, in the end, really just a textbook example of toxic masculinity who gets himself caught up in his own reporting about possessions and seances. But it's a lot more fun than that paragraph makes it sound, even as the characters suffer more and more horrible fates.

You Will Know Me, by Megan Abbott. I almost feel like I'm cheating with this one, because Abbott leveled up years ago, and gets the national attention for her books that she deserves (incidentally, she and Lutz are both writing for HBO's upcoming TV show The Deuce). She's actually no longer what I'd think of as a thriller or mystery author at this point, instead writing literary mainstream books in which the death is almost secondary or even tertiary to the rest of the story. This tale, about the parents of a teen gymnast, is just incredible (and clearly incredibly well-researched), and came out at just the right time (right before the Olympics) to make it both painful and wonderful to watch the events.

Blackass, by A. Igoni Barrett. This is another of those books that's incredibly hard to describe. It starts with a Kafka-esque moment, in which Furo Wariboko, a Nigerian, wakes up to discover that he's now a white man. But even in a majority-black country, white privilege means that he's cast up in society, not down, as the result of the change. But of course, he's still adrift, and eventually runs into a character named Igoni, who just happens to be a writer. The book is technically genre, of course, but it's really a look at race and gender and cultural imperialism, with some fun postmodern touches and multiple well-developed narrative voices. It's also blazingly funny and cutting, and a hell of a fast read.

Nonfiction:

Eight Flavors, by Sarah Lohman. I knew I was going to love this book as soon as I saw Lohman present at the Museum of Science earlier this year at a Gastropod program. The book did not disappoint. It's a look at eight flavors in American history, including pepper, vanilla, garlic, and siracha, and how they all changed American cooking. It's basically culinary anthropology and history along with some science, and Lohman's a great storyteller as well as researcher. Basically, if you enjoy food, you should read this.

Apostle: Travels Among the Tombs of the Twelve, by Tom Bissell. I'm not religious, but I do love me both mythology and literary history along with good travel writing, and that's what Bissell (who I know mainly for his video game journalism) delivers here. Bissell (a lapsed Catholic) decided to visit the tombs (or alleged tombs) of the twelve apostles, and along the way, he takes some deep dives (based off a huge amount of research) into the oft-conflicting stories about them, as well as the huge amount of early mythology and apocrypha that arose around these people (many of whom have almost no canonical personalities). He mixes some great personalities into the stories, from the martyr-obsessed nun at one church to the Palestinian taxi driver who takes Tom and his friend through hidden backroads so they can witness a locked-down protest first-hand.

The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture, by Glenn Weldon. I'm a huge fan of Weldon on Pop Culture Happy Hour, as his style of nerdery mimics mine pretty strongly. This witty book isn't about Batman per se (although it certainly does have its share of actual history), since that's been done before. Rather, this is about how Batman influenced and was influenced by the culture of the world. Weldon is snarky and laugh-out-loud funny, and really knows his stuff, and fans of Batman in any form (or even of just good writing) should grab this.

A Burglar's Guide to the City, by Geoff Manaugh. This is my second Gastropod-related book (Manaugh is the partner of one of the podcast's hosts), although I discovered the book when Sarah Weinman wrote a rave review. It's actually almost more an architecture book than anything else, a look at how buildings are viewed through the eyes of criminals and those who try to stop them, so things like access to balconies and basements and all the cool heist things you see in movies, and how people try to prevent them. It's a true crime book with some hysterical stories (the number of criminals who are smart enough to find their way into buildings, but dumb enough to leave trails when they leave, is astounding), and one had me examine every building I saw for a while to see if there were things designed to prevent access (or poorly designed and thus offering easy access). Fans of capers should read this one.

Sex with Shakespeare, by Jillian Keenan. Keenan rather famously came out as a spanking fetishist a few years ago in the New York Times. She's now written a book that's a mix of a memoir and literary analysis. Like many people, she's been reading Shakespeare for a good chunk of her life, and like many folks, she's found parallels in some of the characters and situations. As she discovers her own sexuality (and follows professional and personal pursuits) over the years, she has imaginary conversations with characters from the plays, and adds her reading of many of the plays through a kink-based lens, with varying degrees of success (although her reading of Helena in Midsummer as a masochist, or Lear as a sexual predator, are compelling). But it's her own story (which also includes some childhood abuse, a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, and some international travel) that keeps this moving along so well.

Real Food/Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know What You’re Eating and What You Can Do about It, by Larry Olmstead. This sounds like a book that's going to be all about how you should avoid artificial sweeteners and the like, but it's not. It's actually a book about the history and development of a lot of foods that have now been devalued by counterfeiting, ranging from Parmesan cheese to Kobe beef to Champagne to seafood. It covers the legal and the ethical issues involved, and while I'd known about some of this (I read and posted links to the Tampa Bay Tribune expose of restaurant fraud last year), there was a lot of new info here (spoilers: pretty much any sushi you eat at any local restaurant has some degree of fraud involved other than maybe the tamago). Bonus: Mario Batali takes it on the chin for committing food fraud in the first chapter.

*The exception being Andrew Vachss's increasingly terrible series of Cross novels, which are so gloriously awful (and yet self-assured) that they're almost a master class in what not to do as a writer, but which at least read quickly.

**Like, looking at my list and only including "thrillers" (as opposed to the Abbott book, or detective fiction by folks like Ace Atkins or mysteries like the one by Mamatas), I could probably have put together a list of twelve thrillers I loved.
sanguinity: woodcut by M.C. Escher, "Snakes" (Default)
[personal profile] sanguinity
2017 decided that what I needed to kick the year off right was a head-cold. (Thank you 2017! You’re so kind!) So I guess we can call this part ten of [personal profile] language_escapes Dared Me to Watch and Liveblog HOUN Adaptations While I Was Sick.

(Well, if we’re loose with our definitions: this is more of a review than a liveblog. But wev, I’m sick, be nice to me.)


The Hound of the Baskervilles (2011, Big Finish), Nicholas Briggs & Richard Earl

in which Sanguinity is a crankypants who cares more about Holmes and Watson than she does about Sir Henry's valorous nostrils )
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
[personal profile] tim
In engineering we ask what-if questions all the time, for example: "What if the datacenter loses power?" This is a descriptive "what-if" because it's trying to identify a scenario that might happen. Further, you're probably asking this in a group of people who share a common goal: keeping a service running. And finally, you're willing to take "it doesn't matter" for an answer: if you're running on a managed platform where somebody else takes care of failover to another datacenter, and someone tells you that, you'll say, "OK, cool, we don't need to care."

In politics, what-ifs are much more likely to be prescriptive. Consider:
"What if women lie about rape?"
"What if women are biologically predisposed to be uninterested in science?"
"What if there's no discrimination against Black people in tech job hiring, and the absence of Black people in the field is solely due to inadequate education?"
"What if resources are scarce and there's not enough for everyone to meet their basic needs?"

People ask these questions, and others like them, because they want to influence how power gets distributed -- in other words, to have a political effect. They don't ask them in order to be prepared for something, they ask them in order to make something happen.

Asking about the datacenter doesn't make power failures any more likely. But asking whether women lie about rape has a direct effect on whether women report rape. Merely asking the question changes reality. Likewise, asking whether women are biologically predisposed to be uninterested in science has a direct effect on whether women choose to follow their interest in science as well as on whether male scientists believe "women shouldn't be here" and feel empowered to harass female colleagues. Asking whether there are no qualified Black candidates for engineering jobs has a direct effect on whether your colleagues see Black candidates as qualified. Again, merely asking the question changes reality, even before hypothetical answers get discussed.

The questions we ask have a direct effect on how we allocate resources. (Also see: [CW: anti-Semitism] Are Jews people? Find out after the break on CNN.) "I'm just asking questions" is not a "get out of thinking of the consequences of my speech, free" card.

Lowering the bar?

Jan. 4th, 2017 09:28 am
tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
[personal profile] tim
I want to remember to quote these tweets from Samuel Sinyangwe from now on every time someone opens their mouth about "lowering the bar." To wit:

"Of all the facts I've tweeted #onhere, trolls seem to direct the most vitriol at those re: how obscenely white and male US institutions are.

These facts, I'm convinced, are the most challenging to white supremacy.

Because to acknowledge that white men make up nearly 90% of the governing party brings you to one of two conclusions...

Either you believe racism exists or you think white men are so uniquely qualified for nearly every position and nobody else in America is."


There's a dialogue in tech companies that often goes like this:
A: "We need to recruit more diverse candidates."
B: "How can we do that without lowering the bar?"
A: "I'm glad you ask! You see, we're going to hold 'diverse' candidates to the same standards and... [1/937]"

I would like to see it go like this:
A: "We need to recruit more diverse candidates."
B: "How can we do that without lowering the bar?"
A: "Your question is ill-formed, because the purpose of recruiting more diverse candidates is to raise the bar: to improve the quality of our staff by hiring people on the basis of their qualifications rather than because they look the same as existing staff."

B's question is inherently racist. You cannot ask that question without a base assumption that the explanation for the paucity of Black people in tech is that Black people are less competent than white people.

We need to stop justifying why women could be competent, why Black people could be competent, why Latinx people could be competent and instead: (a) call out the assumption of incompetence as unshared (B asks this question because they assume A shares their prejudice, and in the first dialogue, A neglects to make clear that they don't share it); (b) demand evidence for a competence gap rather than rushing to provide evidence against it.
[personal profile] yendi
So last night we watched the first two episodes of Good Behavior. It's a fine show so far, if very dark (like, if you're comparing it to the other con artist show TNT's known for, Leverage, it's about as dark as that show was fun). But one thing that kept nagging at me during the entire episode is that Michelle Dockery speaks in the exact same voice that Hayley Atwell uses on Conviction (whose latest episode we'd literally just watched immediately prior to GB).

Since both actress are British and portraying American characters (but very different ones), it feels like this is either the new coached American accent, or there's some overlap in their training. And it's more than just an accent -- they speak with the same actual voice, with a sort of whiskey-soaked throatiness that's also not a part of either of their natural speaking styles. The closest comparison I could make is Michelle Monaghan in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Since Monaghan is from the Midwest, I could see that being the goal, maybe? Although Atwell's character is supposed to be upper crust East Coast, and Dockery's character is implied to be from Appalachia.

It's better than what I thought of as the previous accent, a sort of faltering New Jersey thing that only Hugh Laurie could actually pull off, but a lot of other actors tried and failed and sounded like they came from nowhere (the worst ever being Louise Lombard during her run on CSI).

Additional notes:
- Dockery's accent slips less than Atlwell's does. I adore Atwell, but she cannot sustain the American accent for an extended period, and it's frustrating.
- That said, there's a sequence during the first episode in which Dockery's character puts on a cloyingly awful Southern accent that I assumed was meant to be awful, since that's usually the American accent British actors do best (see Liz Taylor, etc).
- Conviction, which has been canceled even if the network won't acknowledge it, is a better show than it has a right to be, and in a world where quality rules, it would have outlasted a lot of other new shows (although it's still monumentally flawed at times).
- While I'm really impressed by the first two episode of Good Behavior, I'm curious as to how well the show can keep things up. But Dockery's every bit as good here as she was playing Susan Sto Helit (and I hear she also had a good run on some other show, too).

Winding into civic gray

Jan. 3rd, 2017 07:51 pm
grrlpup: (rose)
[personal profile] grrlpup

Happy new year! I still have three more days of Christmas in which to finish up my holiday correspondence, but other than that I’m back, and so are most of those around me. Sanguinity and I had a good few days with her parents– I’m not usually one for posting photos of presents I receive, but check out the awesomeness from my in-laws:

two large jars of nutella and a vivid nutella hoodie

I’m still working on my list of books that I read in 2016. I’ll post a link to it when it’s done, but in the meantime here are

Ten Top Picks from 2016

Beware the Power of the Dark Side! by Tom Angleberger. Children’s, 2015. An authorized novelization of Return of the Jedi. By contract, Angleberger had to use all the movie dialog exactly as it was performed– but he makes use of authorial asides, retcon, and description to set his own pace and tone. A fun reading experience for someone who knows the film well and is also interested in how books are put together. And it must have been a blast for him to write, as a longtime fan!

Tumbling, by Caela Carter. YA, 2016. Audiobook narrated by Emily Eiden. Follows six girls at a fictional US Olympic Trials meet. I learned a little more about gymnastics, and the drama was satisfying without becoming over-the-top soap opera. The narrator had “young” speech patterns like vocal fry.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers. Fiction, 2014. Space opera featuring a small cast of varied species, on a long-term work assignment in space. Fun!

The Rest of Us Just Live Here, by Patrick Ness. YA, 2015. For every story of outsider high school kids fighting supernatural powers, there’s a townful of regular kids trying to figure out their regular lives. Each chapter begins with a paragraph or two about the “indie kids” and what their TV show plot would be… then the rest of the chapter is the regular kids’ story, with only occasional intersections with the supernatural plot. The regular kids and their friendships were well-drawn, too. Best book I read this year.

Lucy and Linh, by Alice Pung. YA, 2016. Lucy gets a scholarship to the fancy Melbourne girls’ academy, where her race, low-income family, and immigrant background ensure she is very much alone. She observes the political machinations at school and tries to navigate her new social milieu and its repercussions at home. I loved her relationship with her baby brother, and her mother’s quiet speech about the value of their close family. Pair with both Counting By 7s and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks.

The Cosmopolitans, by Sarah Schulman. Fiction, 2016. A retelling of Balzac’s Cousin Bette (which I haven’t read), set in the Village in the late 1950s. A middle-aged white single woman’s dearest friend is the gay black man who lives across the hall, but when her ambitious cousin shows up, all the relationships shift. The characters have to re-interpret the past and learn new patterns. Beautifully stylized, with themes familiar from following Schulman’s career. This version of French Realism lets Schulman take her time and lovingly develop all the details of 1958 New York and the characters’ inner lives.

Ludell, by Brenda Wilkinson. Children’s, 1975. Ludell lives in Georgia in 1955, a poor black kid in an all-black community. No school lunch program yet– the teachers sell hot dogs, soda and candy at lunchtime. Blue jeans for girls are just coming into fashion. Great details. I liked the immersion in black culture and the dialect (“nem” for “and them”). The dialog tags had a lot of shouting and yelling that reminded me of the Harriet the Spy books. The rest of the trilogy was also good. I hope to write a Wikipedia article about this author.

Shadow Hero, by Gene Luen Yang, art by Sonny Liew. Comics, 2014. The Green Turtle was the first superhero drawn by a Chinese American artist, Chu F. Hing, during WWI. He wanted to make the Green Turtle Chinese, but his editor wouldn’t let him. So Green Turtle’s face is hardly ever visible, and never in full. Shadow Hero is Yang’s origin story for Green Turtle, set in a California Chinatown in the 1930s. Hank’s mother hilariously pushes him into pursuing a career as a superhero, but the society he’s in is corrupt and dangerous, with the tongs influencing city politics. Wonderful, can’t believe I waited so long to read it.

Willie Bea and the Time the Martians Landed, by Virginia Hamilton. Children’s, 1983. Takes place over two days on a black family’s farm in Ohio, when Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds radio play broadcast. I marveled at how much of the book followed ordinary events in the children’s lives, without an apparent plot thrust. I can see why I didn’t read more of her books as a child, but now I am eager to. The description of being a kid walking a beam and knowing you won’t fall is perfect.

Alone in Antarctica, by Felicity Aston. Memoir, 2014. Aston’s account of her trip as the first woman to ski solo across Antarctica, coast to coast. Adept at describing the mental and emotional challenges without melodrama, alternating with the landscape. I appreciated that it didn’t fill in with a lot of back-story from her life. I felt for her in many of the episodes she described because I had experienced a milder version while hiking and camping– the “almost there syndrome,” the uncertainty about routes, the repeated struggle to get out there and get going each day despite discomfort. Similar to Helen Thayer’s adventure reports, which I also love.

It’s cold and windy here this week, so I’m reading Debbie Clarke Moderow’s Fast Into the Night, an Iditarod memoir that I hope will make Portland’s winter feel balmy by comparison.

This post also appears at read write run repeat. Comments read and welcomed in either place!

tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
[personal profile] tim

"Assume good faith" -- ancient liberal proverb

"Treat every poisoned word as a promise." -- Liel Leibovitz, "What to Do About Trump? The Same Thing My Grandfather Did in 1930s Vienna" (2016-11-14)

"Should I encourage my employer to take a public stand against creating a Muslim registry? I don't know. Of course I wouldn't knowingly participate in the creation of a registry. But Trump wouldn't really do that, would he? Sure, he said he would, but it's such a ridiculous plan. Doesn't he know that? He must. He must have only said that to get votes; surely he couldn't really want or intend to do it."

This is what some of my fellow workers in the tech industry have been saying. Sure, everybody thinks the idea of creating a Muslim registry (or substitute any one of a number of other seemingly-ridiculous Trump campaign promises) is abhorrent, but we also think it's silly and impractical. Why bother taking a public stand in favor of something that's not going to happen?

"Assume good faith" is something that gets taught to white, middle-class Americans. Not all white, middle-class Americans internalize the message, and we're not the only ones who absorb it. But it's most present in those who have enough privilege to be able to suspend vigilance temporarily, while lacking the privilege needed to suspend vigilance for good. We are taught to assume the most charitable interpretation: when interacting with our family members, partners, co-workers, friends, or neighbors, we're taught to not jump to assuming the worst, to assume the other person means well and that if you perceive them acting in a way that's threatening or hostile towards you, to question your own assessment before you take defensive action. If your roommate never takes out the compost, maybe it's because you've never told them that you prefer the compost not to pile up in the kitchen -- to greet them when they get home from work one day with a cry of "Take out the goddamn pile of rot!!" would be unfair. If you get left off an email about a meeting to discuss the project you're leading at work, assume it was a typo rather than a plan to exclude you. And so on.

And in interpersonal relationships, that's often a good principle. That is, assuming good faith, as a personal practice, is a good principle; telling other people when they should assume good faith is a bad one (more about that in future work). The reason is that to the extent that you can choose who to live with, work with, and sleep with, it's a good idea to choose people you can trust. If you trust people, then it's not helpful to assume that they're out to get you. And if you don't trust the people in your life, you have to either work on your own ability to trust or get them out of your life, depending, before you level accusations. That's just common sense, right?

But "assume good faith" is very bad advice when dealing with fascist dictators. If your neighbor says something that sounds offensive or threatening to you, it's probably a good idea to at least make sure you heard them right before you call your lawyer. When a fascist dictator -- someone who's both inclined towards using violence to get what they want, and who has the power to act on that inclination -- says something that sounds offensive or threatening, it's a safe bet to assume that whatever the worst possible interpretation of their words is, that reflects the dictator's intent. That might be a bad way to operate in your close relationships, but is a good way to protect yourself and prepare for violence.

Treat every poisoned word as a promise. When a bigoted blusterer tells you he intends to force members of a religious minority to register with the authorities—much like those friends and family of Siegfried’s who stayed behind were forced to do before their horizon grew darker—believe him. Don’t try to be clever. Don’t lean on political intricacies or legislative minutia or historical precedents for comfort. Don’t write it off as propaganda, or explain it away as just an empty proclamation meant simply to pave the path to power. Take the haters at their word, and assume the worst is imminent.
-- Liel Leibovitz (ibid)

"That's just ridiculous." This is a comforting thing to tell yourself and others. Denial is one of the most powerful tools humans have for tolerating the intolerable. If you think the worst might happen, saying it won't happen will protect you against it, right? It's worked up until now, right?

"That's just ridiculous." Overreacting runs the risk of shame: of being told "you're too sensitive" or, worse, "you showed insufficient chill in the face of something that turned out to be no biggie." We face two possible futures. In one, we're all still alive and I've lived to be seen as someone who overreacted to the threat of a violent, xenophobic rapist with access to nuclear weapons. In the other, we're all dead, but my gravestone says "He had enough chill." I prefer the first one.

"That's just ridiculous." The more you call an idea ridiculous, the more ridiculous it will be, and the less likely it will be that anyone will act on it, right? Kids regulate each other's behavior with words like "you're being silly" -- the same strategy should work when we as citizens level it against a tyrant-in-waiting, right?

It's not ridiculous. It is scary. It's hard to face fear. No one who has power to do so is stopping a fascist from taking control over the United States. That's a scary situation to be in.

Many people associate this kind of fear with childhood, and remember when their parents or other adults would step in and let them know the monsters under the bed aren't going to eat them. Now that we're adults, it's comforting to assume that some benevolent authority figure is going to step in and tell the fascists they have to respect the rule of law. But there are no adults, except us. Denial, shame-avoidance, and dismissal are tools for surviving a situation in which you're powerless. But we still have power.

It's psychologically safer to laugh things off than to admit you're scared. But if you're so concerned with saving face, with protecting your self-image as a chill person who doesn't freak out over nothing, that you put up no resistance in the face of a violent, repressive regime, then how do you think you'll be remembered -- assuming there's anyone left to remember you?

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