Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pitching Woo

Source: CNN Front Page.
Goin' on a holiday! So long!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Blog note; Tiptree-style

Sorry I haven't been posting or responding to comments--I've been engaged in activities other than being on the computer. Largely obsessive reading, but also things that involve not being inside my house, which is nice. But anyway--I'm not ignoring comments (also, if you've e-mailed me and I haven't responded, well, see above), and, oh, Picador in particular, I want to respond to you, and hopefully will at some point during this lifetime--possibly with a whole new post, who knows.

Something that will probably delay that is that the day after tomorrow the Baronette and I are heading off to a lake in the mountains for some water and mountain activities and, we pray, no internet. What I'm looking forward to most is seeing more than four or five stars at night.

Quick response to Justin and ergo's comments on the last post--just as a warning, The Book of the Damned and The Morning of the Magicians can be incredibly goofy reads--and the former can be a bit tiresome, as the vast majority of it is just a litany of what Fort considers evidence, mostly of weird things falling from the sky--but if you read them not as positivist statements of what is, which neither book remotely wants to be, but instead as lengthy, impassioned rants against the tyranny of Occam's razor, then they can be quite valuable, I think.


Another quick thing I wanted to make note of is that I've just started reading James Tiptree, Jr.'s first short story collection, 10,000 Light Years from Home, and so far it is excellent for reasons I'm seriously considering writing a full-length book about (OK, it's not just about her, but I'm completely honestly on the verge of writing a book-length study of science fiction), but one relatively minor stylistic point I've noticed is that it seems that she frequently wants the reader to misread what she's written. Maybe it's just me?

Take for example this exchange, which occurs towards the end of the first story, "And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill's Side," much of which has been an extended discussion of sex with aliens and the implications of this (and, satisfyingly to me but not directly relevant to this post, our imperialist urges biting us in the ass), to the irritation of the differently-minded narrator:
"Man is exogamous--all our history is one long drive to find and impregnate the stranger. Or get impregnated by him; it works for women too. Anything different-colored, different nose, ass, anything, man has to fuck it or die trying. That's a drive, y'know, it's built in. Because it works fine as long as the stranger is human. For millions of years that kept the genes circulating. But now we've met aliens we can't screw, and we're about to die trying. . . . Do you think I can touch my wife?"


"Look. Y'know, if you give a bird a fake egg like its own but bigger and brighter-marked, it'll roll its own egg out of the nest and sit on the fake? That's what we're doing."

"You have a heavy angle on sex." I was trying to conceal my impatience. "Which is great, but the kind of story I'd hoped--"
Now in that last paragraph, is the narrator trying to conceal his impatience or his impotence? He says, Tiptree has him say, impatience, but the context (and subtext) and the shape of the words makes it easy for the reader to switch them.

Then take the third and fourth paragraphs of the next story, "The Snows Are Melted, the Snows Are Gone":
The dog-wolf faded off the ridge, reappeared by the bushes where the human crouched. The figure bowed its head; as the wolf came near. Dawn light flickered on his canines. He snapped sideways, carrying away a dark cap.

A flood of light hair spilled out, flew as the human tossed it back. The wolf dropped the cap, sat down and began to worry at something on its chest.
Tiptree describes a wolf approaching a human, makes us linger on it by the odd use of a semicolon in the middle of the action, after which she gives us a closeup of the wolf's teeth. The wolf snaps, carries something away from the human's head--and then the next paragraph gives us something spilling out from that human's head, and a word that looks almost exactly like, but is not, blood.

For the moment, I have nothing to say about that other than that I am impressed. But my god, you should see the heap of notes I've already built up for that book...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Commonplace digest 4

As usual, clicking the links will take you to the full quote.

This time we start with Robert Sheckley, who we've had before. From his Journey of Joenes, more commonly known by the less-good re-title Journey Beyond Tomorrow, here he is on the laws, on the living dead, police brutality, and other things, and on one difference between democracy and dictatorship.

On to Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier, from The Morning of the Magicians, on science in the context of all knowledge, on Nazis, Reason, and the Fantastic, and on the difference between signifier and signified.

And now Charles Fort, from The Book of the Damned, on Being, inclusion, and exclusion (and more detail on the same), on our relationship with the gods, and on science, fear, and business.

And in with the Charles Fort, one I wanted to single out because I love it so much: probably the best definition of evil possible.

And finally, Joanna Russ, from The Female Man: on men, women, and what to do in every situation, on being socialized female and related things (including a single-sentence condensation of everything that ever comes out of the mouth of a Certain Type of Dude: "That's irrelevant, because I'm a man"), on perspective and taboos, on the dominance game called I Must Impress This Woman, on patriarchal society's reactions to women's truths, and on what women ought to be interested in.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I don't have the stomach to write much about this

I see via antiwar that horrible Wired has finally released the full Bradley Manning/Adrian Lamo chat logs, and my (and a bunch of other people's) feeling, based on the bits that had leaked out already, that Manning has been misgendered this whole time seems to have been correct (assuming, that is, that the log is reliable).

I have no doubt that the guards who forced hir to stand naked with legs spread and hands behind hir back, and whoever gave them their orders, know that.

Incarceration is not something that improves when you do it while trans.

PS I only read the top, like, twenty lines, and my god is Adrian Lamo even more disgusting than I thought.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Remakes, sequels, canon, supremacy

It always kind of bores me when people complain, as it is so popular to do, about the abundance of remakes and reboots and sequels in movie theaters and on television. Because, you know, the forces behind the movies and tv shows are very nasty capitalists and make their decisions for anything but artistic reasons, let's take that for granted, but at the same time there is nothing either new or intrinsically capitalist about redoing and reworking and reinterpreting works of art. It's just something we do; one word for it is "dialogue."* Complain all you want about the remakes and reboots and sequels not being any good, and I'll agree with you about most (but not all) of them, but then you can say that about just about any movie or tv show or anything, really, so it's not particularly valuable as a critique if you ask me. Complain about how there's more of them now than there used to be and, well, maybe you're right, I haven't done a statistical survey, but on the other hand, try searching IMDB for "Wizard of Oz" and count up the results that come up from before the Judy Garland version, for example.

*Not that "it's always been that way" is a valid defense of anything (see below), but for one thing I wouldn't want art to stop responding to other art, and for another thing the supposed newness of the phenomenon is usually part of the complaint, as in, "today's creative bankruptcy..." etc.

But there's a different issue about the contemporary crop that I've been thinking about recently, and that's the convenient way that it allows for a continuity of white male supremacy in our popular culture. You know, if you're casting a brand-new show about people in space, or even a bridge crew for a new addition to the Star Trek franchise, the wacky kids these days might expect you to throw in non-white, non-male characters in decent proportions. But if you're rebooting KirkandSpock, there will be little objection to there only being two nonwhite characters and only one woman (or to these three tokens being spread miserly across two relatively minor characters), because that's the way it's always been. Not only that, but people will get upset if you try to change anything, because Spock's white! It's canon! I mean, me, I think Spock has been and always shall be Leonard Nimoy, but if you're going to throw an ill-fitting Halloween costume on Zachary Quinto and call it Spock with a straight face, I see no reason why the race and gender of these characters must be eternally fixed. Or my god, you should see, if you haven't, the outrage any time it's suggested that The Doctor could regenerate into something other than a white man, as if race and gender were discrete, unalterable genetic categories for an alien whose entire physical body changes and comes back to life every time he dies. For an even more instructive experience, try googling Idris Elba Thor.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Commonplace digest 3: Derrick Jensen edition

Back in May when I was reading the second volume of Derrick Jensen's Endgame I kind of had the idea that I was going to write a series of posts of thoughts inspired by it. But then I ended up, you know, not doing that. Partly it was laziness. Partly it was getting distracted by whatever I was writing about at the time. But mostly it was that, since I read the first volume (almost exactly a year ago now), a good portion of Jensen's ideas and arguments have become foundational parts of my worldview, to the point where I found that I had as little to say about them explicitly and in isolation as I do about, say, breathing air. I don't write and think about these ideas anymore; I write and think with them.

Another thing is that while the ideas themselves are the same, there is a huge difference between volume one (The Problem of Civilization) and volume two (Resistance). While it made a lot of sense to me, and honestly delighted me, to discuss the philosophical (or intellectual or whatever) implications I found in Jensen's ideas as presented in the first volume, doing so with passages in the second volume seems to me to miss the point. In many ways, the most important passages in volume two (which I am not referencing here) are the ones that give specific information on what can be done to actually take down civilization and list resources for where to find even more specific information. Ideas, as Jensen would surely agree, aren't worth anything. Action is what matters. And since a blog isn't exactly a platform for action, lengthy discussions of the book here seemed like a waste of energy.

But! I did type up some nice passages, so if you'd like, click over and read Jensen on meticulous records of atrocities, on the best definition of history I've ever seen, on the purpose of the rules, on our disconnection from death (and consequently from life), on the master's tools, on the chicken and egg question of civilization and violence, on the proper targets, on our unshakable but false faith in the products of civilization, on production--or the conversion of the living to the dead--including the wonderful description of the Nazi concentration camps as "production stripped of the veneer of economics," on what kind of culture should replace civilization, and on the land coming back.

Monday, July 4, 2011


In mathematics, a rational number is one that can be expressed as a fraction of two integers--for example, 1.4 (7/5), 0.333... (1/3), 2.85714286 (20/7), all of the whole numbers (e.g. 4=4/1), and so on.

An irrational number is one that cannot be expressed as a fraction of two integers. Some of the most famous irrational numbers are π, e, √2, and φ.

In other words, rational numbers can be expressed simply and exactly, but irrational numbers cannot. They are irreducibly complex.

Some of the most useful, important, and beautiful numbers in mathematics are irrational. But if you want to make use of them, you must strip them of context, and when you do, you're using an approximation at best.

When faced, as we are, with the overwhelming rationalism of bureaucratic capitalism, which seeks from its centralized perch to dictate to everyone else what makes sense in different localities, which seeks to define what is rational and to define everything else out of existence, I think it can help to remember these definitions.