sabotabby: (books!)
posted by [personal profile] sabotabby at 10:30am on 16/01/2017 under
 Fiction

1. Everything Belongs to the Future, Laurie Penny
2. Wake of Vultures, Lila Bowen
3. We Are the Ants, Shaun David Hutchinson
4. Waiting for Gertrude: A Graveyard Gothic, Bill Richardson
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posted by [personal profile] sabotabby at 05:46pm on 15/01/2017 under , ,
So the_axel and I are watching Sherlock. I don't think it's all that good, but it's visually cool and not very frequent, so I tend to watch it and then have Opinions that I want to share with the internet, particularly on the treatment of female characters.

spoilers for Sherlock S4 and also Black Sails and Hell on Wheels )
sabotabby: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] sabotabby at 11:01pm on 13/01/2017 under ,
 or, Against the Romanticization of Artistic Poverty.

Quick, what do the following bands have in common?

The Clash
Crass
Gang of Four
The Mekons
X-Ray Spex

If you answered, "Sabs is really into them," or "they're all seminal British punk bands," you'd be correct. But the answers I was going for is that:

1) They all had at least one member who had some sort of post-secondary arts education, and
2) They all formed before Margaret Thatcher's 1979 election, not as a response to it.

One of the things I hear every now and then is that, well, at least we'll have good punk music. The association of loud, angry, political punk music with grim Thatcherite England is obvious, and maybe I've been guilty of that sort of aesthetic Stalinism, believing that as the socio-economic climate grows increasingly bleak, the arts will respond with an explosion of outraged creativity.

Except that this is not how art actually works. Sure, a significant chunk of punk grew out of poverty and squats, led by disaffected dropouts, but this is not the whole story. Art rarely emerges from despair alone. Historically, artists had wealthy patrons, and the image of the noble artist starving to death in a garret is very much a modern notion, presumably invented by capitalists to justify slashing public funding to artists.

I mean, it makes sense. To have the freedom to create, you need to have basic material needs met. That's not to say that artists are inherently wealthy, comfortable people, or happy. But just as it is ridiculous to assume that social change emerges from abject misery—it generally comes from relative, not absolute deprivation, see also the American white working class—it is silly to think that just because things are more depressing out there, a wellspring of cultural innovation will magically emerge to combat it. That shit needs funding, and guess what one of the first things to go is when the hard-right takes power.

So no, we are probably not going to get good punk music again. Sorry about that.
sabotabby: (Default)
Just when you thought the political landscape couldn't get any worse, CrimethInc is back, kickin' it like it's 2001. The third most irritating tendency in anarchism* has announced its return in a typically relevant fashion:

The website is powered by an app built with Ruby on Rails. If you’re a designer, a developer, or an adventurous explorer and want to help us build a better world, send up a signal flare—we’ll be waiting for you. There’s still plenty of work to do (and always will be until we finally destroy empire). Front end HTML and CSS—backend Ruby and Rails—UI/UX design—copyediting—language translation. There’s something for everyone.
UX AS RADICAL PRAXIS, EVERYONE.

I hate to hate on fellow leftists**, but are you shitting me? Whatever made someone wake up and go, "the US has elected to give a racist, sexist, slobbering monument to the Dunning-Kruger effect the codes to the nukes, the climate is permafucked, Syria is no longer a desert because it's basically an ocean of blood, Russia's gone all tsarist again, and the bumblebee just got declared endangered—what the world needs right now is a troupe of edgy anarkiddies declaring themselves post-left all over the internet." The only silver lining here is that practically no serious person will notice this. I mean, I noticed, but I'm not a serious person, and I'm sick of blogging about the fascist orange bezoar. 

WHY IS THIS NECESSARY?

I mean, I'll give credit where credit is due—CrimethInc have some sick graphic design skills and catchy slogans, but you know who else had sick graphic design skills and catchy slogans? Maoist China. Aesthetics does not a political ethos make.

Speaking of edgy, though, it's not all doom and gloom out there! U2 have delayed their latest release in the wake of Trump's election, and they might even not push it on your iPhone this time. Nevertheless, look forward to seeing Bono on stage shaking hands with Trump at the next G8/G20 summit. You know I'm right.




* Anarcho-capitalists at number one, anarcho-primitivists at number two, because someone asked. As if primitivists' "let's kill off most of the world's population and also fuck disabled people" excuse for a political ethos wasn't bad enough, Fake Goth Cathy Brennan has emerged as their strange bedfellow—possibly literally? Who knows, who cares? Plus they ruined a perfectly nice couch I once owned.

** Just kidding. That's basically my favourite thing to do.
sabotabby: (jetpack)
I wrote this back in ohdeargod 2008 to explain why I didn't understand the American health care debate. Sadly, in 2017, with the Republicans repealing the hella flawed ACA and leaving nothing but ruins in its place, I still don't understand the American health care debate. Hence, a repost.


The People Who Live on the Moon
An awkward parable

I don’t know if you guys know this, but the Moon has been colonized for ages by a race of aliens that are very much like you and me. They live in underground caverns that look a bit like this:

terriformed moon

Their society is one of the most prosperous anywhere in the universe. They have tons of money, which they use to buy awesome technological gadgets that let them be in instantaneous contact with friends on the other side of the Moon. They produce more food in their underground greenhouses than they know what to do with. Their reality TV is of the highest quality of any reality TV in this region of space.



The only problem is this: The Moon has no air. They’ve developed a way to synthesize a breathable atmosphere, which they pump through all of the buildings in the underground caverns. But this technology was developed by a capricious and greedy company. The air company keeps their quality filtered air circulating through the Moon colony. The Moon people hardly ever think about where their air comes from. But every so often, completely randomly, the air company cuts off the air of a particular house until the owner of the house pays for them to restart it. The amount of money that the unfortunate owner of the house must pay is completely dependent on the whim of the air company. Moon people get understandably nervous about the prospect of their air getting cut off. After all, there’s no source of free air on the Moon, and suffocation is a horrible way to die.

Accordingly, an industry has sprung up around keeping the air flowing to people’s houses. Several companies provide air insurance—at a cost, of course. If you have air insurance and the air company cuts off your air, the insurance company will get it back up and running before you suffocate. Usually. So most of the Moon people have air insurance. Many Moon companies recognize the importance of air, so they provide air insurance to their workers. Other Moon people buy it privately.

There are just a few snags:

1. Air insurance is really expensive. Some Moon people can’t afford it.
2. If you’ve ever had your air cut off in the past, no company will sell you air insurance.
3. If you get sick and can’t work, your company will stop paying for your air insurance, and you won’t have any money to buy your own private air insurance.

It’s quite possible, of course, for an alien to live her entire life out on the Moon and never get the air in her house cut off. So many Moon people who don’t have a lot of money decide to take a risk and not buy air insurance. They figure if their air does suddenly get cut off, they can run to a neighbour’s house and hope to be taken in, or that maybe they can do a deal with the air company to get the air back up and running, as long as they pay a tribute to the air company for the rest of their lives. Hopefully, their air won’t get cut off until they’re old and have enough savings to pay the reconnection fee.

For a lot of Moon people, air insurance isn’t even an option. They can’t get jobs at the sorts of companies that provide good air coverage, or they’re too young, or too old, or too sick, or they’ve had too many run-ins with the air company before to qualify. A significant number of Moon people die of suffocation every year because they can’t afford to pay when their air supply gets cut off.

This used to not be reported at all, but increasingly, the Moon people are noticing that Martians, who also suffer from an air shortage, have a different air system entirely. The Martians pay more in taxes than the Moon people do, but they don’t need to pay for air insurance. It actually comes out cheaper, because there are no big air insurance companies that require an overhead; just one, centralized government department that makes sure that air gets provided to everyone. The Moon press reports that the quality of air on Mars isn’t as good as the air on the Moon, but the Martians aren’t complaining, really. Air, they argue, is a Martian right.

Many Moon people are talking about reforms to the air insurance industry. As it happens, there is currently an election happening for Moon President. One candidate thinks that the air insurance system is pretty good as is—if anything, he seems to want to get rid of any limits that currently exist, letting the insurance companies charge whatever they want for their services. The other candidate wants to pass a law requiring everyone to buy air insurance, including the people who are now too poor to buy air insurance.

A few Moon people have suggested moving to the Martian system, but whenever they pipe up, they’re called socialists, which is the biggest insult you can possibly think of in the Moon people’s language.

The Martians, for their part, don’t understand at all why the Moon people don’t stage a revolution over this. To them, the whole air insurance issue is, well, pure lunacy.
sabotabby: (doom doom doom)
posted by [personal profile] sabotabby at 08:06pm on 10/01/2017 under ,
 So Trump likes getting peed on. This is going to be so much worse than the Honourable Wife-Beater. Worse than #piggate, though admittedly not quite as funny. 
sabotabby: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] sabotabby at 01:04pm on 07/01/2017 under ,
Tanzanian braised coconut cabbage:

yum

Recipe here.


Verdict: It looks rather a lot like coleslaw, which can be unnerving as it tastes absolutely nothing like coleslaw. However, once you get over that, it is far more delicious than coleslaw. Easy to make, 100% would make again.

I added a bit of tofu for protein. It could also probably do with some other spices.
sabotabby: (sabokitty)
posted by [personal profile] sabotabby at 10:22am on 06/01/2017 under
Everyone's doing these intro posts, but I suspect things like age, relationship status, and number of pets are not particularly relevant until you get to know someone better. (But if you're curious: 37, in a poly relationship, two cats, Cocoa and Sabot.) One of the things that's always drawn me to LJ is how you get to know someone through their thoughts and opinions rather than their meatsacks.

Hence asking y'all what you wanted to know about me! Here goes.

How different would your life have been without the Internet?

Being a Woman Of a Certain Age, I can remember life before the internet was a thing. It's hard to separate what isolation was as a result of geography and age—I suspect that even now, few nerdy, ugly pre-teen girls growing up in the suburbs are particularly happy—and what because I failed to find likeminded people. i suspect my friends circle, my general knowledge, my concept of the world would be less broad but potentially more in-depth. I spent much more time working things out, socially, politically, academically, because you <I>had</I> to work on it rather than flit from one thing to another. But my life was less full. I don't know if this answers your question.


Why "a sudden absence of bees"?

It was a reference to Colony Collapse Disorder, which a few years ago we were convinced was going to end human life as we know it. The good news is that we'll probably all die from a flaming nuclear fireball now that Trump's in office.

[livejournal.com profile] nihilistic_kid liked the turn of phrase so much he wrote a short story about it.


What flavor of toothpaste?

Arm and Hammer Complete Care. It's kind of minty.


What you wish the last three books you read were and what were they actually?

Oh, I suffer from an incomplete literary education because they were trying to modernize the reading list when I was in high school, and I did not go to uni for anything academic. But it's a bit awkward and embarrassing to not have read Marx's Grundrisse, or Mann's The Magic Mountain, or—and this is really bad—Moby Dick. Even my knowledge of Victorian literature is shameful for someone involved in the steampunk scene.

In fact, the last three books I read were Everything Belongs to the Future by Laurie Penny, Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen, and Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer. I'm trying my best to read new releases so that I can talk to other people about books. All excellent in different ways, incidentally.


Television commercial that makes you the angriest?

The joy of Netflix and illegal torrenting means that I no longer have to be subject to TV commercials! I don't like it when the mother is portrayed as super-competent in a condescending way—like she could have a degree in astrophysics, but she applies her superior intelligence to cleaning up stubborn stains instead, while the dad is laughably bumbling. Do they still make those? If so, who do they appeal to?


Just what is it that makes luxury space communism so different, so appealing?

There is a fantastic line in the miniseries Cambridge Spies, which you should all see if you haven't already, where privileged, white, upper class Anthony Blunt (my second favourite of the Cambridge Five, btw) is asked why he's a communist. He says that he doesn't want to tear down the structures of privilege; he wants to extend that privilege to everyone. I think this is actually something Blunt said IRL, though I wouldn't swear by it. Anyway, that's what I want—to have beautiful things and a meaningful, comfortable life, for everyone. That, IMO, should be the goal of politics.

Today, we have more than enough food to feed everyone in the world, we have technology that our ancestors would have attributed to magic, we have more knowledge at our fingertips than anyone in the history of humanity. And yet the left aestheticizes poverty and misery and a historic concept of the working class that bears no resemblance to the modern working class, and wastes time quibbling over which 19th or 20th century political theorist had the right idea about the 21st. Fuck it. A robot replacing your job should mean infinite vacation and time to create art, not desperate poverty. We should fill in coal mines and build community gardens over them.

I remember spending time with a bunch of anarcho-primitivists who criticized my bourgeois need for eyeglasses. They all came from wealthy backgrounds but had chosen a life of scavenging and poverty for ideological reasons, and considered me privileged and soft. Why? I work hard, I should have nice things—but so should everyone.

Space communism is a metaphor, particularly for those of us who love sci-fi—to be honest, I have no idea if mass physical space travel, terraforming, and colonizing other planets is ever a thing that we could do. But it's a view of progress as expansion and imagination rather than the austerity mindset that has hijacked the left as solidly as it has hijacked the right.


Tell me anything you want about hair coloring.

I do not enjoy having boring hair. Bright, unnatural colours are still unusual amongst people in my profession, so it's kind of a trademark. I've been regularly dyeing my hair since i was about 14, with increasing levels of fanciness. Currently, I have teal and violet streaks in my hair, which looks fantastic. 

Having weird hair colours makes strangers 300% more likely to approach you, for good and ill.

Green is the most practical colour to dye your hair if you are cheap, as it lasts the longest. Red and purple are the least practical, though I haven't tried pastels.

Once you bleach (which I do at an actual hairdresser, and it's costly), you can keep it fresh with Manic Panic.

Get ready to become known as the $PERSON with the $COLOUR hair.

People will develop opinions about your hair and state them rather directly and rudely. I just shrug it off, to be honest.


I think that's it! Anything else you wanna know, ask away. I'm kind of an open book about most things.
sabotabby: (lolmarx)
posted by [personal profile] sabotabby at 11:51am on 31/12/2016 under
Fuck Putin!

Free Syria!

All power to the workers!

(Oh, and unrelated, but happy New Year.)
sabotabby: (motherfucking books)
posted by [personal profile] sabotabby at 12:35pm on 30/12/2016 under
WHERE DO I EVEN START?

This has been an amazing year for books. Favourite authors publishing new things, exciting debut novels, a sound defeat of the Puppies, Chuck Tingle's epic Hugo trolling. My reading goal is a modest 50 books a year (I don't know how y'all manage hundreds of books a year) and to automatically bump non-ciswhitemale authors up in the reading order if at all possible. (It's not always possible, as the majority of what I read is on hold from the library.)

I would be here forever if I talked in detail about every book I loved, but here are some of the highlights, focusing on books released in 2015 or 2016.

Fifteen Dogs, André Alexis: Hermes and Apollo are drunk in a Toronto bar and make a horrible bet about whether animals, given the capacity for human reasoning and intelligence, would be just as miserable as humans are. So they give said questionable gift to 15 dogs in a nearby vet clinic and bet a year of servitude on whether any of them will die happy. If just the premise of this book is making you cry, I beg you to give it a chance anyway. Yes, all the dogs die at the end, but it's gorgeous, poetic, and occasionally hilarious novella.

Judenstaat, Simone Zelitch: An alternate history where a post-WWII Jewish state is set up in Saxony rather than Palestine, largely under the administration of the USSR. Following the assassination of her husband, our librarian protagonist, Judit, opens doors best left closed in search of the truth behind the murder. The entire thing is a thrilling, horrific, and unflinching look at politics and nation-building, with a flawed, brittle, complex heroine I utterly adored.

Guapa, Saleem Haddad: Bias out of the way: Saleem is an old LJ friend of mine, but this would have been on the list even if I didn't know him. It's a day in the life of a young gay man in an unnamed Middle Eastern country as he navigates his grandmother discovering his sexuality, the disappearance of his friend, and the tragic ruins of the Arab Spring. What struck me most was the sense of place; the city feels real, lived in, and is a capricious, complicated character in its own right.

I Am Providence, Nick Mamatas: Nick is also a longtime LJ friend and put out two excellent books this year, but I'm going to limit the nepotism and just rave about this one. I suspect it will appeal to a narrow demographic, but one that overlaps with many of my friends, which is to say that it's a darkly funny novel about a murder at an H.P. Lovecraft convention. As someone who is nerdy but also female, I related to this far too much. I have been in rooms like this. This is why conventions scare me. It's a savage evisceration of nerd culture and I loved every word of it.

The Last Days of New Paris, China Miéville: Like I said, a great year for books: my favourite living author put out two. They're both amazing but if I had to point to a book that hit nearly every literary kink I have, it'd be this one. The embattled Trotskyist Surrealists, in a quasi-allegiance with Thelemite rocket scientist Jack Parsons (yes, this bit is true), create a weapon that brings exquisite corpses to life. But they are under siege by the Nazis, who have made a pact with Hell. And if this concept alone doesn't clue you in to why China Miéville is my favourite living author, just wait until you hit the big plot twist, which made me love him even more.

Everfair, Nisi Shawl: I have already raved about this in a separate entry but here's one more go in an effort to make as many of you read it as possible. Congolese steampunk alt-history featuring Fabian socialists, American misisonaries, and the native population teaming up to give the genocidal King Leopold a brass-booted kick in the ass. There are many, many badass ladies, and a complex romantic subplot and everything about it is perfect.

Neoreaction a Basilisk, Phil Sandifer: This is a very fun little book with one of the best opening lines I've come across in ages. When I initially read it earlier in the year, it looked like the Alt Reich might be a bit of a problem. Now that they are clearly a lot of a problem, you owe it to yourself to read Sandifer's examination of the philosophical origins of the Dark Enlightenment so that you are best prepared to kick their neo-Nazi asses right back into the swamp they crawled out of.

Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates: I got around to reading the most important book of last year this year and it remains one of the most important books of our time. Coates' searing examination of what it means to be a black man in America is raw, poetic, and absolutely vital.

The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia, Laura Miller: Finally, someone with the same fraught relationship with the Chronicles of Narnia as I have. Miller gets it, and reading this was like stepping into the wardrobe for the first time all over again.

What did you read that blew you away this year?

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