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Mon 23 Mar 2009
I moved. You will be redirected.
Thu 19 Mar 2009
A modest proposal: nationalise the bankers
Though it would undoubtly be cartartic to enact the solution proposed by the Financial Times to the current economic crisis, to shoot the bankers, nationalise the banks, we should not let our emotions get the better of us. We need practical solutions, not rash action.
The economic crisis cannot be solved with a single act; it's a crisis of capitalism and only radical change can solve this crisis. But we can make a start at solving two of the most pressing short term problems facing us: the need to punish the people responsible for the crisis and the need of our governments for large amounts of money to combat the crisis with.
The solution is simple: nationalise the bankers. Every banker and retired banker above a certain level of responsibility to be determined will be divested of their capital and possessions, then put on public work schemes for at least ten years or to the mandatory retirement age, whichever is greater. A portion of the funds raised with this action should be put aside to pay the bankers affected a miminum wage and provide them with a council flat, the rest should be earmarked for combatting the recession.
Naturally the bankers participating in these public works schemes will be wearing the same sort of dayglo orange now reserved for petty criminals and other scallywags.
Mon 16 Mar 2009
If you read this blog regularly you'll probably be aware by now of Racefail 2009, the ongoing discussion/flamewar about cultural appropriation and racism, systemic and otherwise in the science fiction/fandom community. This discussion, long overdue, has been generating a lot of heat and little light (most of the latter can be found through the excellent services of Rydra Wong's daily link list). One positive outcome of Racefail '09 has been the founding of Verb Noire, a new publishing initiative aiming at providing greater diversity in science fiction:
So help them out will you:
Sun 15 Mar 2009
Byzantium -- Judith Herrin
In her introduction Judith Herrin explains she was inspired to write this book by a conversation she had with two workmen knocking on her office door. They had been doing repairs on the building in King's College where she worked and noticed the sign on her office: "Professor of Byzantine History" and were interested enough to ask what this meant. As she puts it, she found herself "trying to explain briefly what Byzantine history is to two serious builders in hard hats and heavy boots". From their suggestion that she should write a book explaining Byzantium to people like (or me, for that matter) who knew little if anything about the subject, this book arose. Byzantium -- The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire is an attempt to explain more than a thousand years of Byzantine history, as well as the many facets of this history.
It sounded like the perfect book to read, now that I had temporarily exhausted my library's stock of interesting looking books on Roman history. Byzantium was after all a clear succesor to Rome, I knew little about it and Herrin's book easily passed the page 37 test. She isn't a historian I was aware of before, but with Byzantium she's become one of the names I'll pay attention to when looking for new books, no matter the subject. She manages to write a good introduction to a complex subject without talking down to the reader.
Fri 13 Mar 2009
If it's not online it doesn't exist
Via Caveat Lector we learn that physicists think that if it's not online it isn't worth reading:
From personal experience, where I see this bias a lot is on Wikipedia. Subjects that have little to no online presence are much less well represented but worse, when the importance of an subject cannot be easily established online, they're much more likely to be deleted as non-noticable. So you get a sort of systemic bias towards subjects that are so obviously important that you'll also find them in the Encyclopedia Brittanica, or new enough to have a deep online presence or with enough of a following/interest in them for an active online community to spring up around it. Subjects that fail those requirements though, even if there are proper offline sources for them are much vulnerable to deletionism.
Thu 12 Mar 2009
As Justin notes, dacre's Daily Mail has no problems spicing up an article on degrading advertisments to women up with some of the advertisments in question, despite Dacre's moralising...
Do you think the results found in this Home Office study are surprising, considering the combination of patriarchal morality as displayed by this prominent newspaper editor in his speech and the salaciousness of the newspaper he edits?
Tue 10 Mar 2009
Happy birthday to me
Or at least, the blog. It just turned seven today I just realised, while slogging through the archives manually converting posts to the new Wordpress based incarnation of this blog that escaped slightly too soon into the wider world. On this day seven years ago I blogged my first post. It wasn't very interesting, hopefully that has changed over the years even if I sometimes feel that I'm forever plodding where others seem to be able to jot down great posts with no effort at all...
I still have a lot of fun blogging even if the hopes of getting famous through it have long since faded. There's been some good writing here, also some pretty horrible writing, but who cares?
Greg Egan does the right thing
So yesterday I posted about Greg Egan's somewhat dumb and insulting comparison of "geek" and "nerd" to certain incredibly offensive racial insults. What made it even worse was that he made this comparison in the context of responding to Adam Roberts' review of his latest novel, Incandenscence. Well, Egan popped up in James Nicoll's post discussing this action. He got into a discussion with Carlos and after some prodding, decided Carlos was right in thinking this comparison was offensive. Egan therefore altered the paragraph in question and it now reads:
These days there's often ranting about "nerds" and "geeks" -- terms that the world would be better off without, though I have to admit there's something gloriously awful, in a Love And Death on Long Island kind of way, when would-be sophisticates who spend half their time discussing Joyce or Sophocles switch to a vocabulary whose current usage was largely forged in the supremely inane universe of American high school cliques.
I still wouldn't agree with his argument that nerd or geek are slurs; they used to be but they've long ago been reclaimed. But this doesn't matter. What's important is that Greg Egan saw he had made a mistake and had inadvertently insulted people and then apologised and took action to recitify this. Well done!
In related matters, cluefulness has not broken out everywhere in science fiction land, as another of James' posts shows:
Apparently in their current version, the skin of Drow who convert to good becomes lighter coloured while the "blackness of the drow's skin has become a permanent sign of their depravity". The Curse of the Lamanites angle seems to have been introduced by self-confessed Canadian author Lisa Smedman in The Lady Penitent.
Oi. That really is some old skool racist imagery, isn't it? With fantasy there's always the danger, if the writer isn't careful, that old racist stereotypes are redeemed by applying them to orcs or other fantasy races, but this is so obvious that there really is no excuse. This isn't just an awkward appropriation of an "exotic" culture to populate some generic fantasyland with, but use of an old idea that has served as a particular pernicious justification for slavery: the "curse of Ham". From wikipedia:
According to pro-slavery literature, Ham’s transgressions, particularly the shaming of his father by looking upon his nakedness, provoked "Noah’s curse". Allegedly, Ham’s son Canaan and his descendants were thereafter doomed to serve their American lines for all of eternity. Indeed, when discussing the slaves of the pharaoh in Exodus, Origen specifically identifies them as descendants of Ham who were punished due to their ancestor’s skin color. In 1823, amidst controversy concerning the justice and morality of slavery, South Carolinian Frederick Dalcho argued: "and perhaps we shall find that the negroes, the descendants of Ham, lost their freedom from the abominable wickedness of their progenitor (Ham)."
Much worse than some of the offenses that have driven racefail 2009...
This is not a weblog. Nu-uh.
This is just a place for me to jot down some random thoughts and reactions to the news so I don't have to yell at the television or radio, or mutter to myself whilst reading the news.
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