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Weeknotes, 06/12/15

20151213ChristmastreesatstationsBrightonStPancras

I’m half-watching a shitty film and my friend’s silly puppy has just stopped chewing me (teething gel appears to be helping; he’s finally gone to sleep). This week has been intense and I’m tired.

My three month probation PDP was at Scope’s head office on Wednesday, so I caught the train up laden with bagel and iced tea. Summary: hooray, not fired! New objectives for the next three months, then probation is over and I’m officially in post.

I can’t believe it’s been a full quarter already though. It’s my first full-time job and a big adjustment; it’s home-working and is basically outcome-oriented so I have lots of control, and therefore haven’t struggled as much as I would have if those things weren’t the case. It’s nice but so novel to have more financial security and not have to worry about how many hours I worked or haggle for clients (and/or fight social security awfulness as applicable).

Concerned is too strong but I was a bit anxious about the review, so am very relieved that everything is as good as it is.

I ended up listening to a bunch of a-starting artists on the journey out and back (first track of albums linked) in between audiobooks: Ani DiFranco (Red Letter Year, More Joy Less Shame), Anti-Flag (American Spring), Alkaline Trio (My Shame Is True), Against Me! (Transgender Dysphoria Blues).

The stations are now “festive” which was surprisingly lovely despite my automatic Scrooge. At St Pancras, there’s a massive tree made of Disney toys, and a year-round light sculpture (Identified Foreign Object by Jacques Rival) outside King’s Cross opposite. I grabbed a new lipstick too from the Mac shop (much less busy and friendlier than the one in Brighton) and vegetarian stew from Chop’d which nearly melted my mouth (chilli, oww).

I had a ticket to go to the Glow Wild nighttime lantern trail at Wakehurst on Friday night but kept falling over and was too wobbly to go.

I’m napping lots this weekend, doing paperwork and thinking about experiential Christmas presents.

Harriet's bookshelf: 2015-12-06

Career of Evil
0 of 5 stars
tagged:
currently-reading, 2015, 2015-11-22, 2015-11-29, and 2015-12-06

Censorship Now!!
0 of 5 stars
tagged:
currently-reading, 2015, 2015-11-22, 2015-11-29, and 2015-12-06

Drawing Blood
0 of 5 stars
tagged:
2015, currently-reading, and 2015-12-06

Monster Loyalty: How Lady Gaga Turns Followers into Fanatics
0 of 5 stars
tagged:
currently-reading, 2015, and 2015-12-06

The Fever
0 of 5 stars
tagged:
currently-reading, 2015, and 2015-12-06




goodreads.com

ABV #71: “Limited perspectives and personal biases”

“Sexism, crime fiction and JK Rowling’s ‘Career of Evil’” by EH Pipher.

“Authorial voice aside, Rowling’s style has always been to tell stories through the eyes of her characters, with their limited perspectives and personal biases. There are enormous swathes of the Harry Potter world and the emotional lives of its characters that Harry, hardly the world’s most observant kid and often a smidge preoccupied with death, danger and intrigue, misses completely. As a result, readers often miss these insights too, or glimpse them only in rare moments when more attentive characters reveal them. This can be limiting, but it can also act in the service of the formidable plotting skills and authorial sleight of hand that make Rowling a natural fit for detective novels; often, characters will just barely notice elements that blossom, in later books, into matters of enormous significance.

The Casual Vacancy, the first and only book for adults published under Rowling’s own name following Harry Potter, flickers between the perspectives of a vast cast of characters. None of these characters quite understand each other, and nearly all of them are loathsome to some degree. Their callousness, prejudice, and misguided attempts to change their small town lead to a series of increasingly disastrous events culminating in tragedy. The Casual Vacancy has much to say about cycles of poverty and disadvantage, intergenerational misunderstanding, longing, loss, abuse, bullying and prejudice, about how people are harmed by one another and in turn do harm. But there are no consistently correct, paragon protagonists in it to tell us how we ought to feel or what we ought to do – the novel begins with the death of the most decent person in town. The closest Rowling has ever come to writing a consistently virtuous person, an actual role model, is Harry Potter himself, a confused, traumatised teenager who manages to make plenty of mistakes. (Harry’s most beloved mentors, for example, include a teacher who nearly abandoned his wife and newborn son, a godfather who treated his servant appallingly and a school principal who was once the wizarding equivalent of a white supremacist.) Cormoran Strike, like every hero Rowling has ever persuaded us to admire and care for, is flawed by design. He’s not sexist because the text is sexist, even if his sexism is unfortunately reminiscent of the uncomfortable portrayals of femininity in Rowling’s past work; he’s sexist because the text wants to consider sexism.

It is my suspicion that the Galbraith books have always been deliberately leading toward the shift in gender politics that takes place in Career of Evil. There have been hints along the way – the supermodels in The Cuckoo’s Calling who recite Whitman off the cuff and have deferred places to read English at Cambridge; Strike’s growing awareness of his caddish behaviour toward his love interest in The Silkworm; said love interest’s mockery of a pompous male author who ‘can’t write women’; Strike’s painfully personal knowledge of the fact that female victims of violence are often dismissed, forgotten or misunderstood because of their wildness, their socioeconomic disadvantage or their sexual licentiousness. While Strike may be subtly sexist, and while Robin may buy into ideas about women that lead her to feel pride when she is distinguished from others of her gender, readers are invited, and eventually encouraged, to disagree.”

“The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic” by Jessica Hopper.

“This past summer, leading up to Kelly’s headlining performance at the Pitchfork Music Festival, DeRogatis posted a series of discussions about Kelly’s career, the charges made against him, and sexual assault. He published a live review of the singer’s festival set that was an indictment of Pitchfork and its audience for essentially endorsing a man he calls “a monster.” In the two weeks since Kelly released his latest studio album, Black Panties, the conversation about him and why he has gotten a pass from music publications (not to mention feminist sites such as Jezebel) has been rekindled, in part because of the explicit nature of the album and also because of online arguments around the Pitchfork performance.

I was one of those people who challenged DeRogatis and was even flip about his judgment—something I quickly came to regret. DeRogatis and I have tangled—even feuded on air—over the years; yet, amid the Twitter barbs, he approached me offline and told me about how one of Kelly’s victims called him in the middle of the night after his Pitchfork review came out, to thank him for caring when no one else did. He told me of mothers crying on his shoulder, seeing the scars of a suicide attempt on a girl’s wrists, the fear in their eyes. He detailed an aftermath that the public has never had to bear witness to.

DeRogatis offered to give me access to every file and transcript he has collected in reporting this story—as he has to other reporters and journalists, none of whom has ever looked into the matter, thus relegating it to one man’s personal crusade.

I thought that last fact merited a public conversation about why.

In this interview (which has been condensed significantly), DeRogatis speaks frankly and explicitly about the many disturbing charges against Kelly and says, ultimately, “The saddest fact I’ve learned is nobody matters less to our society than young black women. Nobody.

“Cassetteboy remix the news: Airstrikes for Dummies”.

ABV #70: “the longest one I’ve walked”

“something there is that doesn’t love a wall” by Sarah McCarry.

“What a luxury to breathe in deep the last faint scent of blooming, pocket a drift of petals. All around us pain aggregates, an abscess of fluid crusting over, breaking through, crusting over, breaking through, no clean scar for the fester when even the bone is rotten. All I want is to go around with the people I love and the people I would love if I knew them and keep them safe, burning from the inside out with the raw fear of how much danger tracks so many of my chosen family: police, real terrorists (drunk on whiteness, guns in their hands, guns in their pockets), governments; how can we ever learn to carry every day the simmering terror that at any moment a call will come, an email, I’m sorry to have to tell you. Why should any of us have to learn to carry this kind of pain. Why should any of us—

I’ve been crying in the wrong places, half-undone by the need to hold strangers as I pass them on the street, to say I love you, I love you, I’m sorry, please stay safe, please be safe, please. Is it really so much to ask that all kinds of human bodies be allowed to move around unharmed in the light. The other night a man followed me for a block singing lyrics of his own invention, an off-key litany of blood, very loud: murdering his neighbors, murdering the women who refused him (meant for me? I don’t know but it was dark and the block was the longest one I’ve walked in recent memory); why, I wanted to ask him, why do this, is your own heart so starved you can think only to gorge it on the fear of other people. Thinking: we are an ill-made species.

But yesterday after I lay in the grass at the gardens I went to Unveiling Visions, the Afrofuturism exhibit at the Schomburg Center: circled through story after story, painting after painting, song after song about black people as kings and queens amidst all the constellations, as cyborgs and pilots, as pioneers, as citizens of far planets, as protagonists, as free, of building palaces in distant galaxies in spite of, because of, sorrow, of daring to dream past suffering but not without it, what miracle these stories that both bear witness to trauma and give shape to hope. Sobbing like a child in front of a glass case of books while a little old lady (tourist) edged away from me, thinking here is the future, here is the future, here is the future: we can still tell stories. Perhaps we are not so badly made after all. We have at least this one piece of grace to carry with us as weapon, as shelter, as beacon, as promise.”

“Censorship Now!!” by Ian F. Svenonius.

“WE NEED CENSORSHIP. Censorship to stop the radio from spewing its vomit nonstop. Censorship of the “free press,” which creates a fantasy version of world events and the intellectual framework for mass murder. Censorship of the books that do likewise: hack, ghostwritten memoirs by political figures and celebrities who should be in jail rather than on the lecture circuit. Censorship of the film industry for churning out infantile, imperialist apologia and pro-torture pornography. Censorship of the arts, whose special status of immunity from culpability explains and excuses the degenerate ideology that makes all this “freedom” possible.

Indeed, of all these systems which require suppression and purging, we start with the arts.

Art is the linchpin. Seemingly inconsequential, “freedom of creative expression” is a red herring; a beard, a ploy, a false-flag operation. Upholding the inalienable right for art to be anything, say anything, do anything, is a parlor trick, designed by the lords of capital, with extraordinary, insidious implications. It has made art—instead of being the shield, weapon, and broadside pamphlet of the otherwise disenfranchised, attainable to anyone—into a holy bit of fluff, the well-being of which must be protected at all costs by the muscle of the militarized state. Upheld by the superprivileged, championed by the cosmically degenerate, what point is there in defending this beast? And what has the beast, in such company, become? Art is not purely sensual, nor does it lack intent or effect. Art is in the trenches, fighting for this viewpoint or that, either overtly or covertly. Art, in fact, incites more violence than anything else.

When the state, like a rampaging mob boss, systematically destroys its opponents (MLK, Malcolm X, Mossedegh, Lumumba, Salvador Allende, Che Guevara, Gaddafi, Fred Hampton, Orlando Letelier, Oscar Romero, nuns in El Salvador, untold numbers in Vietnam, Guatemala, Honduras, Laos, Cambodia, Palestine, Afghanistan, Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Cuba, Angola, Iraq, et al), how are we to interpret their patronizing embrace of “the arts”? With the regime reacting to its foes with such virility, how can the artist class not recognize the free reign extended to them as the ultimate put-down: the relegation of their work to sophomoric vanity? If art can “change the world”—which of course it can and does—isn’t the “freedom of expression” doctrine really just a way to demote it to a theoretical gulag of absolute impotence and irrelevance?”

“La vida de un voluntario / the life of a volunteer” by PBI, via Sara Koopman.

Weekend Links, 11/10/15: Stories

“Miss Marple vs. the Mansplainers: Agatha Christie’s Feminist Detective Hero” by Alice Bolin, via Jane Flanagan.

“Chandler’s essay blames the enfeebling gentility of the detective story on the genre’s readers: he repeatedly characterizes them as “old ladies” who “like their murders scented with magnolia blossoms and do not care to be reminded that murder is an act of infinite cruelty.” In Chandler’s scheme, what Hammett and his “tough-minded” ilk brought to the detective story was a bracing, and specifically masculine, morality. “Hammett gave murder back to the kind of people that commit it for reasons,” Chandler writes, “not just to provide a corpse.” Then the only valid crime writing is tough guys writing about tough guys killing other tough guys. But one forgets, as Miss Marple says, “One does see so much evil in a village.” Or more to the point, as Miss Marple also says, “Clever young men know so little of life.”

The noir stories of Chandler and Hammett are about the malignant effects of a decaying, corrupt institution: the American city. Village mysteries are about the same, but their focus is tighter: the traditional family and its domineering patriarch. “This apparent example of English nostalgia,” Mezei writes of the Golden Age mystery, “has exposed one odd and dysfunctional household after another.” The secret subversion in this genre comes, as Mezei points out, as these mysteries explore not a threat to the status quo from the outside—chaos invading the otherwise orderly home—but from the inside. Their focus is on what is hidden, on secret identities, on the disorder and resentment that already exists within every family. Mezei quotes from Alison Light that Christie was “an iconoclast whose monitoring of the plots of family life aims to upset the Victorian image of home, sweet home.”

This “Victorian” connection is an interesting one: Miss Marple is often characterized as a Victorian because of her conservatism and her views of good and evil, but also the darkness and suspicion of her mind. “A mind like a sink, I should think,” one character says of her. “A real Victorian type.” Christie was also a real Victorian type. She was engaged by Victorian crazes like the one for travel and exotica—she was one of the first British people to surf standing up on Waikiki. Her mother believed she could talk to the dead, and when Christie famously went missing for eleven days in 1926, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used a medium to search for her, continuing the Victorian mania for spiritualism.”

“Twee, American and Otherwise: A Night at the Museum and The Revolutions” by Bianca Steele.

“When I think of twee, I think of Dr. Who. To me, twee is an English thing, a certain English kind of humor. It’s “cute and clever” and a little flamboyant. There’s an American twee, now, the kind of thing you get in Wes Anderson movies, and it’s kind of different. American twee takes itself seriously, and thinks there’s a deep meaning behind the exuberant playfulness on the surface. (I suppose it’s possible there’s a deep meaning behind classic English twee that I can’t see, not being English, but I find it tough to believe it’s the same one.) American twee is very proud of itself for being cute and clever, and sees the wish to be flamboyant and playful as a virtue in itself, and to be indulged for its own sake. American twee says, “Isn’t it amazing that I can feel all these things?”

It sounds from this like I don’t like twee at all, which isn’t entirely true. There’s a Wes Anderson film there, or two, I think, that I like—though not when it seems like the point is to admire Anderson himself, and approve the women who sit around and admire him. A.S. Byatt, who’s mostly a pretty serious novelist, can go into twee when she likes. I’m looking forward to the second season of The Librarians. And there are a lot of books coming out these days that have elements of what I’d consider twee. Most of them can’t be dismissed only because of that.”

“The New Age of Superheroes” by Tim Carmody.

“That these two stories appear in the same week seems more than mere coincidence. It doesn’t seem like an accident that Spider-Man now joins Iron Man and Batman in the ranks of the rich, making three of the world’s most popular superheroes wealthy inventor-entrepreneurs by day, crime fighters by night. It seems like a symptom.

***

Every age gets the heroes it deserves—or rather, the heroes it needs to do a certain kind of cultural work. Superhero stories have become our Greek dramas — popular entertainment built around larger-than-life figures with rich histories playing out complex fables of power, morality, and democracy. We tell the stories over and over again, either taking their characters back to their roots or placing them in fresh scenarios. We use these stories to explore new fantasies and solve new problems.

There are many issues playing themselves out in contemporary superhero stories—race and gender representation, surveillance and militarization, LGBT rights and identities, to name just a few. It’s strange, however, that one of the most important is one of the least talked-about: the disproportionate power wielded by the rich, whether wealthy individuals or wealthy societies. Wealth may be the buried theme of both contemporary comics and contemporary politics. Talking about superheroes and superpowers without talking about money misses an enormous part of the story—not least because the business of superheroes is bigger than ever, and the companies behind our most popular superheroes are some of the largest conglomerates in the world.

Now, it’s true that many superheroes have been rich: Batman’s Bruce Wayne and Iron Man’s Tony Stark were created as millionaire playboys decades ago. And this makes sense. As Spider-Man’s adventures showed for years, super-heroics don’t pay the bills: it’s difficult being a gadget-driven superhero (or any kind of superhero) without first having money to burn. But over time, Bruce Wayne stopped being just an idle heir and Tony Stark stopped being just an eccentric arms dealer, and both became hero figures much more recognizable to the 21st century: the genius entrepreneur. These characters are less Howard Hughes (the original model for Tony Stark) and more Elon Musk, less J. Robert Oppenheimer and more Mark Zuckerberg. They are brilliant futurists, larger than life—the people we ask to show us the future, and hope that they will help make the world one worth saving.”

“Masculinity Is an Anxiety Disorder: Breaking Down the Nerd Box” by David J. Schwartz, via Andrew Hickey.

“We have to talk about that word: patriarchy. I have avoided using it to this point because I know that just seeing or hearing the word causes some people to tune out. Apparently for some “patriarchy” is either a code word that signals that the person speaking need not be taken seriously, or a cryptozoological concept, a sort of sociological chupacabra. The problem may be that people understand patriarchy to refer to a conspiracy, but the truth is—as always—more complicated, and more insidious. Patriarchy describes the predominance of adult men in authority, and the predominance of the concerns of adult men in the culture. For the most part, patriarchy is not something that has been consciously constructed (at least, within living memory), but it is something that is consciously and tenaciously defended by those it benefits, and also by some whose benefit from it is questionable. Patriarchy, like capitalism or American democracy, is a fixed game that is perceived to benefit all (all men, that is) but tends to favor those already in power—in other words, the men in power are likely to hold on to that power, and to pass it on to other men who meet their criteria as men—cis, white, Christian, wealthy, etc.

I point this out not to give credence to the tiresome “Not All Men” rebuttal (one that would seem to be effectively euthanized by the Schrodinger’s Rapist concept) but to point out that patriarchy and masculinity are constructs of limited usefulness not just to non–males, but to males themselves, who still fight so fiercely in defense of their Boxes. The Box is not just a badge, of course; it is also a constructed identity, and to be forced to reconstruct one’s identity can be difficult, even traumatic. But it is also liberating, and without feminism I do not see a way for men to experience that liberation.”

“Eileen Myles in Conversation with Ben Lerner” at LitHub.

“Myles

It’s like we’re not doing business, we’re golfing. And there might be a little gender in there, too. When I was in Ireland I met a man who was Beckett’s favorite director. He talked about Beckett and how he wasn’t ambitious at all and how he had no idea how to get his manuscripts to publishers. But he had these ladies who he would have sex with who worshipped him, and they would type up his manuscripts and bring them around for him.

Interviewer

We could go back to Milton’s daughters, right? Taking dictation.

Myles

There’s a whole female industry engaged in materially supporting the illusion that the artist doesn’t work directly on his legacy, his immediate success. He’s just a beautiful stoner boy or an intellectual. All thought. No wife? I like turning that illusion inside out. And making the work be literally about the field and the failures and even the practice. I wrote about these things in Inferno because Dante did. We should let the writing world and its ways of distributing awards be part of fiction. We should expose the very cultural apparatus that is affecting the reception of the book you’re reading. What’s dirty is that we’re not supposed to talk about how it has sex and reproduces.”

“Those Like Us” by Dayna Tortorici.

“Different names, every time, but the reaction is the same: a momentary light in the listener’s eyes that fades to bored disappointment. An Italian woman from Naples, whose name you wouldn’t know. Who did you expect?

One answer ends in o: the first name of a man. Whether to goad Ferrante out of privacy or because they think it’s true, the Italian newspaper L’Unità has accused the novelist Domenico Starnone of penning her books. If Starnone is behind Ferrante’s work, I would like to meet him. No man I know would write so well and not take credit for it.

Since the English-language publication of My Brilliant Friend, the first of the addictive Neapolitan novels that have inspired what publicists call “Ferrante fever” in American readers, Ferrante has caused a minor crisis in literary criticism. Her novels demand treatment commensurate to the work, but her anonymity has made it hard. The challenge reveals our habits. We’ve grown accustomed to finding the true meaning of books in the histories of their authors, in where they were born and how they grew up, in their credentials or refreshing lack thereof. Forget the intentional fallacy; ours is the age of the biographical fallacy. All six of Ferrante’s novels published in English to date (translated by the dexterous Ann Goldstein) are narrated in the first person, which invites this kind of reading. Surely work of such intimacy and length must be — as if all novels weren’t — true.”

“Crimes of the Clock: The Crooked Corridor of Timecrimes” by Roy Christopher.

“The time-travel trope, if employed well, never seems to wear thin. Several of my favorite narratives — Donnie Darko (2001), Primer (2004), Source Code (2011), and The Shining Girls (2013), to name a few — all involve time travel to some extent. “Part of the fascination of time travel concerns the stark paradoxes that threaten as soon as travel into the past is considered,” writes theoretical physicist Paul Davies (2001). “Perhaps causal loops can be made self-consistent. Perhaps reality consists of multiple universes” (pp. 123-124). These thought experiments are rife with unanswered and unanswerable questions, which are the very stuff of great stories.

Time is a game
played beautifully
by children.
— Heraclitus, Fragment 79

Most recently, Project Almanac (2015) illustrates those paradoxes and their intrigue while still being a fairly mediocre movie, but it fails in spite of the time travel rather than because of it. 2009’s Triangle also loops time in a muddy and often confusing story. Time travel is such a huge cognitive load that it’s difficult to get right in a movie with much else going on and even harder to make feel real.

In contrast, Timecrimes (Los Cronocrímenes; 2007) capitalizes on its causal loops and suspenseful twists rather than wasting them. The film contains exactly four actors, and its action takes place over the course of about an hour and a half. In its handling of causality, Timecrimes is somewhere between Shane Carruth‘s Primer (2004) and the popular Back to the Future franchise of the 1980s, both of which feature extensive backwards time travel. Like Primer, which uses time travel as the pretext for the study of larger issues (Taubin, 2008), Timecrimes evokes themes of voyeurism and ethics in addition to its time-looping structure and the subsequent questions of causality. This is Spanish director/actor Nacho Vigalondo’s first non-comedic film and his sure-handed direction makes this condensed, pressure-cooker of a temporal thriller an imminently watchable and intriguing film.”

“Know Your Place” by John Steppling.

“Marc Auge’s notion of non-spaces is close to a number of other ideas out there, even I have written of the ‘dead now’, which is much the same thing. Steven Flusty, Neil Smith, Steve Graham, and others have all intuited this specific quality of hyper alienation that emerges out of both a deep numbing homogeneity in landscape, and the surveillance apparatus and fortress mentality of the state.

Mike Davis was probably the first to really see the coming trends when he wrote City of Quartz. The creation of spaces that are impossible for certain classes to access, or if accessed, that cannot be occupied comfortably for any length of time. Flusty of course gave names to some of these, but the overriding point is that the authority over space in most large cities of the U.S. today is in the hands of the police, and they monitor everyone. The actual physical barriers matter, too, and increasingly there is now an additional aspect to barriers and check points and that is the stealth space. The hidden, or non existent location. I find one of the curious aspects of GPS, actually, is that they so rarely work. Once you are *there*, you often, if not usually, find you are not. But I am more interested in that comment I quoted from Franco Berardi (Bifo). I have many issues with Bifo, but I still find some fascinating perspectives in his work, and one is what I have tried to write about in most of my recent posts; the growing loss of identity, but not just identity, for that loss might really be a positive in some contexts, but the insertion of the non-self. And the non-self is quite comfortable in non-places.

Victor Turner somewhere said something to the effect that *communitas* is not just banding together, but is bonding together. And that one of the features of bonding is that of collective ritual, and that ritual is located in a ritual space. A ritual place. And Robert Bly once said ‘all learning takes place in ritual space’, which I’ve always found to be true. Now, the evolution of non-places in what Auge labels *hypermodernity* has occurred through a conditioning of the populace to the loss of history. A conditioning to amnesia. I continue to find both Jain and Hindu cosmogony oddly appropriate to such discussions. Perhaps because in both the idea of ‘creation’ is dismissed. And perhaps it is the psychic correspondence between non-place and the erosion of thinking about it that seems hard to avoid. For amnesia gives birth to this absent mental space, this conceptual hole. Edward Casey’s book The Fate of Place is very good on the primeval origins of cosmogony and void as ‘ideas’. As he says, once the panic of the idea of void is admitted, the second problem is how to master the void (which implies, always, a sense of filling it).”

“Post Whatever: on Ethics, Historicity, & the #usermilitia” by “Jimmie Tiptree Jr”.

“I’ll start by making two claims, which I won’t return to since they speak for themselves, and because they are—as far as I’m concerned—incontrovertible. With the first, I’m paraphrasing Nicholas Mirzoeff in saying that post- should not be understood as “the successor to,” but as “the crisis of.” Having established this, the second claim aims to get one thing straight: every artist working today is a postinternet artist. Let’s move on.

The modern-millennial hubris around newness (and, by extension, youth; and, by extension, technological progress, accelerationism, and neoliberal futurity) is epitomized by breathless discourses around the seismic, revolutionary, never-before-seen newness of the internet and surrounding technologies—and echoed in initiatives like 89plus. This feels especially damaging when many of us have been living in an essentially striated (e.g. sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic) world for as long as anyone can remember. One of the few strategies for imagining a better, fairer world is the idea that things have not always been this way. Another strategy is the practice of intergenerational discourse, or learning from—and railing against—one’s elders and forebears. Until recently, this was a required part of any art education—or indeed, any coming of age rite, even if the balance between “learning from” and “railing against” might vary across cultures.

Now, however, the notion of the “digital native” seems to draw a division—and implicit hierarchy—between those who have enjoyed access to networked technology since childhood and those who have not. This division may or may not be correlated with age, race, class, gender, and geographical location.”

“The pessimism of time” by Nina Power.

“The mood of contemporary politics is understandably complex: the viciousness of the attacks on the poor, unemployed, disabled and the related divide-and-rule tactics mobilised to undermine solidarity along the lines of race, employment and visa status, religion and so on are far advanced. The Right, ideologically and politically, seems to be winning (it has, as always, the police, law and prisons), while the Left seems to be in a permanent defensive formation, with the unions’ old slogan ‘an injury to one is an injury to all’ a desperate motto as increasing numbers are injured by the destruction of the welfare state (and/or by the police) and the ‘all’ becomes everyone able to fight back, even in a fragmentary way. Do I fight to save my local swimming pool? Protest against the raising of tuition fees? Campaign against the privatising of the health service? Oppose police brutality? Demand reform of the prison system? Stop the war? The truth is, there are lots of people doing all these things at once, but it’s exhausting to be on the back foot all the time.

There is a fundamental paradox when those who would describe themselves as revolutionaries are nevertheless forced into a position where they are defending the vestiges of reformist policies: when even mild forms of social democracy are all but destroyed, what else can you do but fight to protect the system that cares for those who would suffer and die without it? If you believe in an alternative that would involve genuine provision for need, it is impossible to turn off the desire to make that a reality in the present, against those who would callously and knowingly permit harm to occur in the name of future profit.

Alongside this exhausting, defensive work, there is a feeling of disappointment in some quarters at the perceived lack of new Left theoretical ideas and positions. We could put this in a slightly different way, equally pessimistic – if we cannot even save the welfare state and the last fragments of social democracy, or win a battle for free education, stop (one of the many) wars or even save a local library, can we still be confident in what we could achieve if we had a chance to do things differently? What positive set of ideas would move us beyond the defensive (and frequently unsuccessful) tactics that currently consume us and our time?”

“The Left’s Failure to Enact Gun Control Exposes Its Tactical Weakness” by David Atkins.

“There is a broadening schism in the activist community between those who focus on nuts-and-bolts electoral and legislative politics, and those who spend their energy on issue-area visibility and engagement. Much like the storied separation between hacks and wonks, the rift between the two camps has been growing wider over the years. Within the Netroots activist community the visbility and engagement crowd championed by most progressive NGOs has been gaining dominance, even as the “take over the Democratic Party” faction inspired by Howard Dean has been shunted to the side as an afterthought. It’s not uncommon these days to see “disruption” touted as the highest activist calling, even as success is measured not in terms of votes won or laws passed but by petitions signed and social media posts shared. Election work and party involvement is increasingly seen as the unhip, uncool, morally compromised province of social climbers and “brogressives” not truly committed to the supposedly “real work” of social justice engagement by non-electoral means.

I’ve been in both camps over the years myself, as both a progressive blogger and Democratic campaign activist. There is certainly great value in persuasion, engagement and visibility model. But the issue of gun control provides an excellent example of why I find the recent and growing hostility to the Howard Dean model deeply misguided and more than a little troubling.”

“Scholarship, Security and ‘Spillage’ on Campus” by Barton Gellman.

“Sure enough, someone filed a report with the above-mentioned Information Assurance Officer, who reported in turn to Purdue’s representative at the Defense Security Service. By the terms of its Pentagon agreement, Purdue was officially obliged to be shocked to find that spillage is going on at a talk about Snowden and the NSA. Three secret slides, covering perhaps five of my ninety minutes on stage, required that video be wiped in its entirety.

This was, I think, a rather devout reading of the rules. (Taken literally, the rules say Purdue should also have notified the FBI. I do not know whether that happened.) A more experienced legal and security team might have taken a deep breath and applied the official guidance to “realistically consider the potential harm that may result from compromise of spilled information.”

Or perhaps not. Yes, the images I displayed had been viewed already by millions of people online. Even so, federal funding might be at stake for Purdue, and the notoriously vague terms of the Espionage Act hung over the decision. For most lawyers, “abundance of caution” would be the default choice.

This kind of zeal is commonplace in the military and intelligence services. They have periodically forbidden personnel — and even their families — to visit mainstream sites such as the Washington Post and the New York Times for fear of exposure to documents from Snowden or Wikileaks.

But universities are not secret agencies. They cannot lightly wear the shackles of a National Industrial Security Program, as Purdue agreed to do. The values at their core, in principle and often in practice, are open inquiry and expression.

I do not claim I suffered any great harm when Purdue purged my remarks from its conference proceedings. I do not lack for publishers or public forums. But the next person whose talk is disappeared may have fewer resources.”

“Corbyn in the Media” by Paul Myerscough.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter. The Guardian, like the Telegraph, can hardly be said to have much influence beyond its own politically well-defined readership. Perhaps, as Fraser Nelson, the editor of the Spectator, pointed out recently, it is otiose for people to complain about the influence of newspapers when none of the broadsheets is read by more than 1 per cent of the adult population and even the Mail reaches only 3 per cent. But that isn’t how influence works. The media do not merely generate the political weather. They play a large part in creating the climate in which information is received and understood. A notion such as ‘electability’, to take the example at hand, is unthinkable without the media, which, in their every representation of a political leader, ask (and supply the authorities to help us decide) not only who is and is not electable, but what should be the criteria by which electability is judged.

The hegemon in this respect, as Nelson acknowledges, is not the Guardian, or even the Daily Mail, but the BBC. And because of its place in the national life, because of its dominant role in people’s reception of news and commentary, because of its freedom from commercial influence and its editorial doctrine of independence and impartiality, accusations of political bias in its coverage of news and current affairs are always with us. Studies of bias typically go in for a lot of counting; for what it’s worth, a Cardiff University study last year showed that the BBC was more likely than ITV or Channel 4 to use sources from the right than from the left. Recently, Aditya Chakrabortty, one of the Guardian’s true live wires, highlighted another Cardiff study, of the Today programme’s coverage of the banking crisis in 2008, showing that one in three of its interviewees in a six-week period was from the banking sector, with the ‘rest of British society – politicians, regulators, campaigners – far down the pecking order’.

But the numbers will only get you so far. Bias isn’t just a matter of ‘source access’. The causes of the BBC’s institutional bias aren’t just a matter, either, of the backgrounds and educations of the people who work there, or the politics of the journalists involved: the fact that Andrew Neil, the presenter of Daily Politics and This Week, was the editor of the Sunday Times in the Thatcher period; or that Evan Davis, the presenter of Newsnight, was part of the team at the Institute of Fiscal Studies that devised the poll tax; or that the policy editor of Newsnight, Chris Cook, used to be an adviser to David Willetts; or that Nick Robinson, shortly to replace James Naughtie on Today, was once president of the Oxford University Conservative Association. Doubtless most of the time these men do a bang-up job, suspending their personal beliefs in the service of professional integrity. Nor, in its manifestations, can bias best be measured by the corporation’s excesses, such as John Ware’s Panorama hit-job on Corbyn broadcast three days before voting closed in the leadership election (Ware sneering about Corbyn’s ‘friends’ over unidentified footage of Hizbullah soldiers marching in black balaclavas). It’s more a matter of the everyday, the gradual accretion of decisions taken and declined, the issues thought worthy of discussion, in what order, in what way and by whom, a line of questioning, an inflection in the voice: unquantifiable things which form the ideological weave of broadcasting as much as headlines and the arrangement of text and images on a page do of print.”

“Apostolate of Death” by Aaron Kheriaty via Alan Jacobs.

“The claim to a right to physician-assisted suicide raises many questions, not the least of which is this: If there is such a right, why would it be restricted to those in the throes of terminal illness? What about the elderly person suffering a slow but nonterminal decline? What about the adolescent or young adult in the throes of depression, demoralization, or despair? Once we adopt the principle that suicide is acceptable, then the fences that legislators might try to erect around it—having six months to live, or having mental capacity, for example—are inevitably arbitrary. These restrictions will eventually be abandoned, as the situation with assisted suicide in Belgium and the Netherlands demonstrates.

In Belgium, assisted suicide has been granted to a woman with “­untreatable depression”; in the Netherlands, assisted suicide has been granted to a woman because she did not want to live in a nursing home. We see evidence here of not only a practical slippery slope but a relentlessly logical slide from a cancer patient with six months to live to people who are merely unhappy, demoralized, dejected, depressed, or desperate. If assisted suicide is a good, why limit it only to a select few?

Recent debates on physician-assisted suicide have largely ignored research in psychiatry and the social sciences. It is important to appreciate what motivates suicidal behavior, which individuals are at risk for suicide, and how suicide risk can be lowered. We know, for example, that suicide is typically an impulsive and ambivalent act.

One suicide “hot spot” is the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, where fourteen hundred people have died, while only a handful have survived the jump. A journalist tracked down a few of these survivors and asked them what was going through their minds in the four seconds between jumping off the bridge and hitting the water. All of them responded that they regretted the decision to jump, with one saying, “I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable—except for having just jumped.” This small sample is consistent with larger studies of suicide survivors: Ten years after attempted suicide, nearly all survivors no longer wish to die but are pleased to be alive. To abandon suicidal individuals in the midst of a crisis—under the guise of respecting their autonomy—is socially irresponsible: It undermines sound medical ethics and erodes ­social solidarity.”

“The importance of having an opinion. And voicing it.” by Caroline Hirons.

“Here’s the thing. Every time I do an event and get to meet some of you lovely readers, I come away inspired and always with new ideas for posts. This one came to me early on during my PA yesterday when I heard some version of ‘I read your blog because you’re not afraid to have an opinion’ or ‘I love that you have an opinion’ from maybe every other person. I’m not exaggerating. It was both moving and unsettling. I’m very grateful that so many of you read my opinions. I really am. It wasn’t always thus..

Ever since I can remember, although especially in my working life, people have said ‘you’re very opinionated’ – and they nearly always mean it as an insult. Always. ‘Oh she’s very opinionated.’ *side-eye*
It astounds me that this is still used – especially against women in the workplace and on social media – as a way of shutting someone down. We are all, each and every one of us, fully entitled to have an opinion. We may disagree – frequently – but isn’t that the joy of being alive and present?

Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely spoken out of turn on occasion, and opened my mouth before engaging my brain, but again, we all do. Own it, fix it, move on.

Of course I have an opinion. So do you. For the love of your sanity, please voice it.”

Weeknotes, 13/09/15

My nan’s funeral was on Monday. The first religious one I’ve been to, hymns & poems & psalms. (The building was definitely more beautiful than any crematorium I’ve seen.) I can’t articulate it properly, but it was the best it could have been and people had such lovely things to say. It’s just really strange. All of us sitting in her house, but her not there.

I started at Scope on Tuesday, as I’d pushed it back by a day due to the above. My manager came down to Brighton for a meeting on Thursday, and we camped out at Moksha. Still getting there but everything has been going well so far. Getting set up with all the HR + IT stuff, reading documents, other induction tasks and making plans. I’m honestly so excited to get on with everything, scribbled notebooks galore already.

There are training days lined up for later in the month (induction then a community engagement planning one), and I’ve scheduled local introductory meetings starting on Monday. We’re starting an Access to Work application to help with mobility and software costs, so I hope that won’t take too long (ha…).

On Friday night I tagged along on a car journey so could pick up some second-hand synths. Korg EA-1 and Volca Beats. Sleep-arrive-food-synths-leave-sleep. EXCITED.

I also have a confirmed panel place for the “no strings attached” scheme at Farnham Maltings! It’s not for five weeks, so the proposal will likely change but it would be so useful to fund some workshops and/or rehearsed readings, then end up with a more polished presentation at the end. Currently obsessed by different types of alienation and assimilation.

This weekend, taking it easy. Sitting in the quiet, catching up a little bit with housework, lazy reading.

Harriet’s bookshelf: 2015-09-13

Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead
4 of 5 stars
tagged:
2015-09-13, 2015-09-20, and 2015-09-27

Conspiracy in Death
0 of 5 stars
tagged:
2015, 2015-08-23, 2015-08-30, 2015-09-06, and 2015-09-13

Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense of the Twentieth Century
0 of 5 stars
tagged:
currently-reading, 2015, 2015-08-30, 2015-09-06, and 2015-09-13

The Girl in the Spider's Web
0 of 5 stars
tagged:
2015, 2015-09-13, 2015-09-20, and 2015-09-27

The Art of English: Everyday Creativity
0 of 5 stars
tagged:
2015 and 2015-09-13




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