Your Happening World (8)

Twenty years ago, yesterday: École Polytechnique massacre: 14 women murdered for being women…

He may have magickally given me an ear infection over the intertubes (the day after he blogged over his ear aches my ears were blocked), but I’m still chuffed to see Michel Vuijlsteke get his share of the glory. His picture of the “bathroom fly” (Clogmia albipunctata) from august 2004 was the first documented sighting of this species in Belgium.

Unexamined priviledges on display at Crooked Timber: is it racist to make fun of Cornel West’s new autobiography or are those who see racism in this thread the real racists? Either way it came across as a bit bullying at first as everybody piled on to make fun of West. Not that his writing didn’t “deserve” it perhaps, but in the context of who West is and how he was designated an officially condoned target back in 2001 when Larry summers tried to kick him out of Harvard it looked like a group of school yard bullies picking on the weird kid whom the teacher had already humiliated in front of the class. It may be fun, but it’s too easy and it ignores targets which need mocking much more.

It may be a few years old, but LarryE’s post on not giving in to rightwing pressure to be “serious” and “respectable” should be required reading to all leftwing activists:

The Red Scare years are hard to grasp at this distance. The level of distrust, of paranoia, of fanaticism, certainly and clearly outstrips what we are living with today – which is not to say it could not become that bad, only that it hasn’t yet. But the one lesson that activists should have drawn from that nightmare is that acquiescence is not an answer. Adopting the terminology, the (dare I say it) frame of the enemy – I use the word deliberately – does not protect you against attack. Most of all, slicing away your friends and supporters will not help you. Spending time and energy going “oh, no, no, no, I’m not one of them” only narrows your base, reduces your potential support, and will not satisfy your attackers.

Casual gaming for the lolcat generation.

Your Happening World (7)

Bwahaha! Texan anti-gay marriage legislation may actually outlaw all marriages there. Serves the fuckers right.

When a Canadian diplomate favourably compares the Dutch and English treatment of prisoners in Aghanistan with his own country’s policies, how bad must they be? Answer: quite bad, but the government doesn’t want to know.

Any suggestions for the 10 Popular science books SF writers would benefit from having read?

Thierry Henry audits for the Feench handball team:

You can’t blame the Irish for being livid, nor the French for being disgusted but philosophical. Bad refereeing is an intrinsic part of football and had the shoe been on the other foot (the ball on the other hand) the reactions would have been the exact opposite. But I thought better of Thierry Henry.

Neither Blair nor Balkenende is EU president. Thank ghu, even if it means we have to keep Balkenende longer. Bet the British tabloids are eagerly awaiting any hint of a sex scandal on the part of Herman van Rompuy, if only to be able to pun on rompuy-pompuy…

Lieberman is the Democratic Sarah Palin.

Ideas I wish I’d had: Nobody’s Favorites, a look at comics’ worst characters, the ones that nobody likes. Some I agree with, some not and some are so obscure nobody even knows them.

Ideas I wish I’d had, part II:Thursday WHO’s WHO.

Friday bitchfest: Professionalism.

Your Happening World (5)

A Pillow Book for Cats — Ursula Le Guin revealing a talent as cartoonist.

Fisking McArdle — almost as perverse an activity as sounds like and she won’t learn a thing anyway, because that’s not why she writes her crap, as this guy realises all too well, but he can’t help himself.

Over at Livejournal, Ross TenEyck had to do jury duty and described the experience for those of us living in a post-Napoleonic law system.

Continuing the legal theme, this judgement (pdf) in which queen bee of the Birthers Orly Taitz is slapped down for wasting the court’s time.

Meanwhile in Holland, the news that Brown is sending more troops to Afghanistan, but only if the Afghan government does x and the NATO allies do y and all the planets are aligned, has given fresh ammo to the people who’d like to extend the Dutch mission once again. We were promised back in 2001/02 that it would be one deployment with no extension, then we got an extension but with the promise that it would end in 2010, no matter what happened and now we have to extend this once again, because we can’t leave our allies behind. Must think we’re born yesterday.

Your Happening World (3)


A reasonable definition of Hipsterism, of which Trainspotting, though it will have no cache among hipsters themselves, is a formative work, is the assumption that there is no position which the middle class subject can not occupy, both class and identity politics have been overcome, or at least class has been subsumed into identity and identity is for the other. The middle class assumes a kind of transcendent, post-historical emptiness into which all cultures can be incorporated. This is not simply hyper-consumerism it’s also a metaphysical claim, a claim to superiority, thus while others are bounded by ethnicity, class, gender; limited, objects, with a finite set of facets and characteristics, the hipster, viewing everything as simply a lifestyle choice, views her own not just as one lifestyle among many but the lifestyle of lifestyles.

Read. That the American rightwing is loony and over the top is a given as is liberal outrage towards the messenger if not so much the message. Remember: America is not Chile. America is not Chile. America is not Chile. Is it?

“THE…. [Sodomite] Hal Duncan”.


Nobody asked for this. Did they?

Americans. Thick as shit. (But don’t flatter yourself your country is any better).

Your Happening World (2)

  • A modest proposal: WhoseKidAreYou “a Web site to monitor nepotism, and backscratching influence-peddling more generally [...] we’ve got bitterness and resentment on our side”. Google groups mailing list.
  • Agricultural royalism.
  • SEK is much more patient with idiots than I could ever be.
  • (Related.)
  • Oh looky here. The Farepak compensation is finally being paid out, three years too late and no thanks to Labour. The moral? Governments will pump billions in failing banks and let the scumbags who destroyed them walk free but balk at spending 38 million to help 100,000 of the poorest families in the country to get some form of Christmas after Farepak fucked them over.
  • Read this.

Watch this:

More Peter Fox.

Outer space linkage

Some quick links to interesting stuff today that don’t need their own post. First up, the annual Strange Horizons fund drive. Strange Horizons is an excellent science fiction/fantasy site, publishing fiction, poetry, reviews, etcetera, with the staff all volunteers but with paid contributors. I use the site quite a lot when doing science fiction or fantasy reviews for the booklog, as their reviewers usually have their heads screwed up straight and I’m always curious to see what they think of the book I’m reviewing.

The Guardian has an interview with noted science fiction writer and friend of the blog Charlie Stross, in which the following quote jumped out at me:

“Many science fiction writers are literary autodidacts who focus on the genre primarily as a literature of ideas, rather than as a pure art form or a tool for the introspective examination of the human condition,” he says. “I’m not entirely at ease with that self-description.” But with a background in biomedical and computer science rather than literature, his fiction always returns to science. “I just can’t help myself,” he explains. “I have a compulsive urge to use that background to build baroque laboratory mazes for my protagonists to explore, rather than being
content to examine them in their native habitat.”

That one paragraph explains so much about Charlie’s books.

Way back in February, Brad Hicks blogged about a Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s live action science fiction series. No, not Space:1999, but UFO. When he described it, it sounded like it had provided a lot of the inspiration for the only computer game that ever gave me nightmares: UFO: Enemy Unknown (or X-Com 1 as it was also known), which I played a lot in
the mid-nineties. Finally having tracked down the DVD set of the series myself and watched the first episode, it does remind me a lot of X-Com. Of course, it’s quite dated, as it’s a 1969 idea of what the far flung future of 1980 would look like, full with men in Nehru suits smoking and drinking in the office while purple wigged women in silver miniskirts watched out for ufos on the moon, while their counterparts on earth wore tight jumpsuits, which showed cameltoe could be a problem in the future as well…

Three by Ellis

Ellis Sharp, over at the Sharp Side has in recent weeks written some excellent posts. Here are three of them:

First up, short post on the politics of remembering:

And contrast the Bali memorial (which will apparently be a large stone globe) with the memorial to the
victims of the 1987 Kings Cross fire. It’s a perfunctory, obscure, barely-noticeable plaque which says
nothing at all about the tragedy and does not list the names of those who died, even though many of them were residents of the capital. But then the Kings Cross fire resulted from the under-funding and undervaluing of public transport, with rubbish allowed to accumulate under ancient wooden escalators, and an easygoing attitude to smoking in confined public spaces which was a tribute to the lobbying power of the tobacco industry and its political pimps (QV Margaret Thatcher and Ken Clarke).

Then there was this post on Aldeburgh, a small seatown resort in Suffolk, which reminds me quite a lot of similar towns on the Dutch coast in Zeeland, towns like Veere or Middelburg. Towns that look nice, elegant and cultured at first, but are largely ruled by provincialism, where the idea of having a work of art in your house is reduced to a reproduction of a 17th century map of the province hanging in your hallway, next to the clothes rack.

You’d expect an independent bookshop to be a bit, well, arty and liberal. Not in Aldeburgh. The shop seemed to be run by ghastly braying Tory women. My deep distaste for the shop hit new depths as I discovered it didn’t have any Crabbe in stock. No edition of his poetry; no biography; nothing. I was looking forward to buying a Crabbe edition, which would then inspire me to read my second hand biography. But they didn’t even have Crabbe in the slimline £2 Everyman Poetry series, let alone a more substantial edition. Yet Crabbe’s closest associations as a poet are with Aldeburgh. I hate bookshops which don’t carry the work of local writers and the absence of Crabbe plus the cretinous petition made me stomp furiously out again, determined not to buy anything.

Most recently, he reprinted an excellent review of Ian McEwan’s Saturday by John Banville:

Saturday is a dismayingly bad book. The numerous set pieces — brain operations, squash game, the encounters with Baxter, etc. –are hinged together with the subtlety of a child’s Erector Set. The characters too, for all the nuzzling and cuddling and punching and manhandling in which they are made to indulge, drift in their separate spheres, together but never touching, like the dim stars of a lost galaxy. The politics of the book is banal, of the sort that is to be heard at any middle-class Saturday-night dinner party, before the talk moves on to property prices and recipes for fish stew. There are good things here, for instance the scene when Perowne visits his senile mother in an old-folks’ home, in which the writing is genuinely affecting in its simplicity and empathetic force. Overall, however, Saturday has the feel of a neoliberal polemic gone badly wrong; if Tony Blair — who makes a fleeting personal appearance in the book, oozing insincerity –were to appoint a committee to produce a “novel for our time,” the result would surely be something like this.

Every time I read extracts from Saturday, my gorge rises. I haven’t got a high opinion of McEwan to start with and these excerpts confirm my opinion. Yet I still know I will need to read this book sooner or later if only to be able to pan it with a clear consciousness.