sabotabby: tulip pointing a gun (preacher)
On a more trivial note (yes, yes, the world is ending, and I'm blogging about telly), I really enjoyed hate-watching Defenders. Which is to say that it was nearly all shit except for the scene where Luke Cage teaches Iron Fist about white privilege. I mean, I can't believe I wasted like 8 hours of my life but in the same way, it made me feel like a better writer because I didn't write it.

spoilers )
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
There’s this glurgy poem about the Earth being a few feet in diameter. It’s an incredibly cheesy poem (and will you check out the cheesy website I found when I went searching for it to write this post), but I’m kind of partial to it for what it reveals about human psychology. It ends as follows:

“People would love it, and defend it with their lives because they would somehow know that their lives could be nothing without it.

If the Earth were only a few feet in diameter.”

This gap, between real things and representations of things, is at the heart of something I’ve been struggling to get my head around in recent months. The passion I see for stories, be they movies, games, or—gasp—sometimes novels, is something that I share, and yet it boggles me that as much as they affect culture in a broad sense, they seem to often have little impact on the individuals most devoted to them.
long and with pictures )
sabotabby: (doctor who)
 After this piece of dreck.

MEDIUM SHOTS OF SIX INDIVIDUALS ON A WHITE BACKDROP, SPEAKING DIRECTLY INTO THE CAMERA.

BONEHEAD

I would describe my political views as the new right.

FEMINIST

I'd say that I'm left.

Title: TWO STRANGERS DIVIDED BY THEIR BELIEFS.

NARRATOR (V/O)

She believed that she was a full person entitled to human rights. He believed that she should be making him a sandwich. Is it possible that the truth lay somewhere in the middle?

A buzzer, much like one you might hear in a prison, buzzes.

INT. WAREHOUSE

Title: MEET FOR THE FIRST TIME

Each pair faces each other over a pile of flat pack IKEA boxes.

BONEHEAD

Feminism today is man hating.

FEMINIST

I would describe myself as a feminist 100%

Title: EACH KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT THE OTHER OR WHAT THIS EXPERIMENT INVOLVES

DOUCHE

I don't believe that climate change exists.

SMUG ENVIRONMENTALIST

I drive a Prius with Bernie Sanders stickers on it!

TRANS WOMAN

I'm, like, a person and stuff.

TRANSPHOBE

I'm more obsessed with strangers' genitals than a normal person should be.

Title: IS THERE MORE THAT UNITES THAN DIVIDES?

WHITE CISMALE HETEROSEXIST SUPREMACY

*Intensifies*

The pairs are presented with the flat pack boxes.

DOUCHE

I got this. I am a man and therefore an expert in IKEA.

Montage of each pair struggling over the instructions.

BONEHEAD

I think this is in some kind of furrin' language or some such.

TRANS WOMAN

What *is* a KUGGALLÂ, anyway?

FEMINIST

I think this is missing a piece. Maybe all the pieces.

Close-up of shelf, assembled with all of the pieces facing the wrong way and some random bit dangling.

SMUG ENVIRONMENTALIST

Aaaah, just hold the—this thing—for an—OWWW.

TRANSPHOBE

This has to go in that hole, there's no other hole that it can go in.

DOUCHE, screaming his head off, tosses a board into the wall.

SMUG ENVIRONMENTALIST sinks sadly into a pile of cardboard boxes, his face in his hands.

TRANS WOMAN stabs TRANSPHOBE in the eye with an Allen key.

TRANSPHOBE
Sooooo much for the tolerant left...

FEMINIST (CRYING)

I...can't. I just...can't do it.

Long shot. Everyone is crying and/or bleeding. Clawing herself across the floor, FEMINIST finds a case of Heineken and cracks one open. DOUCHE reaches for her.

FEMINIST

You! Stay away! I will fucking glass you.

Montage of everyone sobbing into a beer amongst the wreckage of half-assembled furniture and battered cardboard boxes.

Title: HEINEKEN: IT CAN'T SOLVE RACISM, SEXISM, TRANSPHOBIA, OR CLIMATE CHANGE DENIALISM, BUT IT WILL EASE THE PAIN OF YOUR COMPLETE AND UTTER FAILURE.

BLACK.

sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
Today, in a fit of pique, the following occurred to me (prompted by me posting a leftist pop culture critique, only to be told that the author of said post was being called out at the moment, though for reasons that had nothing to do with his post):

Politics, but instead of doing anything about it, we just post “your fave is problematic” over and over again.

Okay, that's not completely fair, but I'm increasingly of the opinion that the left has become even more of a toxic and humourless wasteland than it was the last time I was regularly going to protests, with less effect. Say what you will about grim Stalinist and Maoist dystopias, at least they were effective. What passes for activism these days is not, largely because call-out culture, about which many pixels have been spilled, targets our friends rather than our enemies. 

Also, I am pretty sure that there is not much overlap between "people who are heavily, or even slightly involved in real-life activism" and "people who call out problematic people over the internet." I can't prove it, though.

That's not to say that we should pretend that problematic ideas and people don't exist in our movement. Of course they do. And we shouldn't tolerate sexism or racism and transphobia from our allies any more than we tolerate it from our enemies, but the perfect is the enemy of the good. A rigid adherence to standards nurtured in academia and inaccessible to the vast majority of people who feel that shit is fucked up and wrong is not productive, and it's not like we have so many friends that we can afford to alienate most of them.*

At the root of this, I think, is an overabundance of seriousness. We have focused so much on creating the perfect political terminology, actions that walk the line between confronting capital and creating a safe space**, ensuring that our meetings take place under appropriately sterile circumstances, that we have failed to create a lively, dynamic culture that extends past the protest and meeting and Facebook re-share and into our daily lives. In short, we have forgotten that this struggle should be fun.

"But wait," my straw-activist† exclaims. "You're not taking this seriously! Not everyone has the privilege of being an activist because it's fun."

Of course, no one's an activist because it's fun. It's not fun. Even when you get to fight with a Nazi, it's much more scary than anything else. I would vastly rather marathon Netflix on the couch than wake up at ass o' clock to march in the streets, and I really do it because I'm compelled, because I don't have the privilege of ignoring the world's drunken flailing towards fascism. Because if we lose, I die and my friends die. Fun isn't the end goal here; it's part of the process.

If you look at movements throughout the world and throughout history, you'll see that desperate times and privation and hard, often fatal struggles, did not stop people from having a sense of humour or building community and culture. Witness the dark satire in the plays of Brecht, the poetry of the Zapatistas, the songs of Joe Hill. What I see missing on the left is the hopeful alternative, the shared art and music and theatre, the giant puppets in the street protests, the creative actions, the meetings in pubs†† that bleed into social gatherings. The idea of fighting for and not just fighting against. Even totalitarian state communism had its enjoyable moments; strangely enough these days the only people I see really creating an active, vibrant political culture are tankies. The very people who you'd expect to be the most uptight and humourless are the ones manufacturing memes like they're boots for the revolution. And good on them; it's why I like tankies more than most people whose politics I, on paper, agree with.

It's a matter of pragmatism, not warm fuzzies. Seriousness is unsustainable. Most of the young people currently calling out this that and the other thing††† will not, long-term, be involved in activism. Anger is a good temporary fuel, but it burns out quickly once jobs and kids come into the picture. The way to retain people and to draw more into the movement is by building links that are less easily severed—those of friendship and community.

Among the most effective groups I was ever a part of had as its core members myself (then an anarchist), a Trotskyist, two MLMs, and a Cuban revolution fanboy. We did not have much political common ground with each other, much less with some of our allies. What we did have was a simple shared goal and debriefing sessions at skeezy bars that degenerated into drunken giggling that had nothing, superficially, to do with politics. I don't doubt that these types of connections are happening now, on an individual level, but I don't see it happening at a larger scale. I don't know how to make it happen—most of the new comrades I meet manage to piss me off within 30 seconds of interaction—but I think it needs to. I know it needs to.

It's worked for the far-right. Their schoolyard humour got Cheeto Benito elected. People who like the spadgebasket like him because, for whatever reason, they find him funny. They're in no small part desperate, jobless, broke, and suffering, but they can find the space for a laugh.

In other words, more giant puppets, people. More biting satire and music and graffiti and I don't care what, just lighten the fuck up and stop trying to make everything perfect and safe.

P.S. If you hadn't noticed, I'm under the same name on LJ and DW. I'm not jumping ship on the latter, ridiculous TOS or not, seeing as I have a paid account at least through next year. But if you wanna add me on DW for the same fun content and fewer icons, by all means do so.

* I say this as someone who holds a lot of grudges. There are people on the left who, for reasons of offences committed recently and otherwise, I cannot be in the same room with.

** This is impossible BTW.

† Not really. I've met loads of people like this.

†† You can't do that, Sabotabby. That's ableist!

††† Today I learned that Love Life of an Asian Guy is racist and misogynist, and that PissPigGranddad—who as far as I'm concerned is a fucking hero—is a "war tourist."


sabotabby: (doom doom doom)
I'm finished work at 8:05 pm! That's only an 11-hour day—a record for me lately, and gives me a whole hour or so with which to SURF THE WEB and all its wonders. And I have internet at home, which is exciting.

Because he clearly hates me, [personal profile] frandroid  asked for my opinion on two recent Twitter hashtags—#lacgate and #hothick. You folks know that I hate Twitter, right? As far as I can tell, the only useful thing it's ever done has been providing me with a torrent of #piggate jokes when the story broke, but whether this balances out the way it's helped to mangle the English language by sticking number signs in the middle of otherwise reasonable sentences, reduce everyone's collective intelligence by limiting thoughts to 140 characters, make otherwise reasonable writers break their blog posts into un-parseable gibberish, and turn the internet into a hate-filled cesspool remains to be seen. 

But okay, there's been some good stuff on it lately. So here goes.

#lacgate

While everyone in the US wakes up like this each morning:

picard - damage report

wondering what new horrors Cheeto Benito has wrought, you'll be pleased to know that Canada too is in the throes of political scandal. #lacgate has gripped the national imagination and is currently haunting my fucking nightmares.

The story is as follows: A decade ago, at a party of the political elite, Globe and Mail journalist Leah McLaren attempted to breastfeed the infant child of one MP Michael Chong, the Last of the Red Tories and the current best hope we have of stemming the global wave of fascism.* McLaren was not at this time lactating—she just wanted to know what it was like. Chong walked in on her and put a stop to it. He's subsequently confirmed that yes, this totally happened.

The entire country proceeded to lose its shit.

I did a really good job of avoiding reading about this for about two days. Look, I think birth and parenting and breastfeeding are all wonderful things, but I have a massive squick around the details thereof. The whole thing horrifies me. I totally support the right of parents to whip out a boob and feed the kid wherever, and post it to Facebook without censure, etc., but it's okay if I avert my eyes, isn't it? Because if I think about it too much my own boobs hurt. Why anyone would want to stick their nipple in a baby's mouth that did not belong to them is gross and awkward and weird and TMI. And also I think a violation of—something.

The Globe and Mail has, in response, suspended McLaren for a week. This, of course, is a complete overreaction but also hilarious. Isn't print media dying? They must have gotten a million clicks from people sharing the article, and then frantically searching for it when the story got spiked the same day. This is good for business, which is why someone must have approved it in the first place.

I also really wonder why shit like this even gets published. I know so many starving writers who are better than the journalists who get paid to write incoherent drivel, like Rosie DiManno, or hateful screeds like Christie Blatchford, or blatantly plagiarized hateful screeds like Margaret Wente. And yet, as the industry gets downsized to nothing—and as the world teeters on the brink, and First Nations communities don't have running water, and migrants lose fingers to frostbite trying to flee the US, and climate change threatens to sink us into the ocean—people are getting paid to reflect on how they once tried to breastfeed a stranger's baby at some bougie party ten years ago.

Vice has a funny article about it, of course.


#hothick

I didn't even know what this was. Ho Thick? Hoth Ick? No, apparently it's Hot Hick, which is a thing. That is a thing apparently I am when I go country line dancing. Anyway, it's a hashtag too.

I checked it out, and it includes people confessing to finding the guy in Duck Dynasty hot. I am typically a "live and let live" type person (except when it comes to breastfeeding strangers' babies), but I actually think that this is a kink that is not okay. I am not okay with people finding the guy in Duck Dynasty hot. Sorry. In fairness, it's mainly because he's a racist.


#osslt

I'm going to add one of my own, because today was the day of the standardized literacy test here, and apparently there's a hashtag for that, too. It's pretty funny, and probably far more educational than the test itself, which is a pointless waste of students' time, teachers' time, and taxpayers' money.

Anyway, this year the braintrusts at the EQAO (that's the company we pay to put our tenth graders through hell) thought that a good question to ask 15-year-olds on a test they need to take to graduate high school was: "If you could meet any historical figure, which one would you choose, and why?"

This is a question meant for old people. Obviously teenagers are going to blank, and reportedly, many of them did.

If you know any 15-year-olds, you will know that 90% of them can name only one historical figure.

Yes, that one.

So have fun marking that.



* I'll explain. Chong is the most moderate of the candidates for the Tory leadership, which is still more right-wing than I'd prefer, but basically he's the only one who's not a Nazi. In a federal election, he'd have practically no chance of winning. Which is why a bunch of non-Tories have recently joined the Conservatives in an attempt to vote him in as leader. I think it's not a bad strategy, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. He does seem like a good egg, though.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (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: raccoon anarchy symbol (socialism with a human face)
I don't actually think it's World War III or the end of the world at the moment, so more ranting about the problem of balance in politics. Two positions I've taken, both in response to stupid comments by supposed centrists:

1. Trevor Noah would never invite an ISIS member onto his show to “get the other side’s perspective.” That’s why the liberal narrative of free speech is so ethically vacuous.

I don't remember the last time I encountered an ardent defender of the concept known as "free speech" who wasn't a raging racist. I'm not sure how the right managed to snatch that one out from under our noses, but like "libertarian," I don't think we're gonna get this one back. Sorry guys.

The reason why ISIS is not included in debates about free speech is because we're all sensible people and we know where that kind of discourse leads. Yeah, a certain percentage of people reading/watching/listening to an ISIS ideologue's opinion—let's be generous and say most people—are going to say, "wow, that guy's a real shithead, listen to him say shitty things, ugh." But a not-insignificant number are going to react in the opposite way—this fellow's saying something I've felt deep in my heart for a long time, and look, he's saying it publicly, it must be socially acceptable."

This is how the Alt Reich gained ascendancy. The media gave them a sympathetic narrative, stopped portraying them as fringe freaks not even worthy of an interview, reported on their hairstyles and suits, demanded that the liberal elite sympathize with their plights. (Can you imagine a similar discourse around ISIS? Even though for the average fighter—not the ideologues—there may be a much more compelling reason, such as starvation, forcing their hand?)

An ethically consistent liberal or centrist would fight as valiantly for the rights of terrorists to be heard as it does for the rights of racist white dudes to spout off hate speech, but there is no ethical consistency in liberalism or centrism.


2. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing people who don't know very much about politics that the horseshoe theory has any sort of intellectual merit.

I was halfheartedly debating with a self-described centrist who was insisting that fascism could be either a right- or left-wing ideology, and that neo-liberalism was a left-wing ideology. I guess 227 years of political history, fought for and bled for by countless Very Smart People, was just not good enough for this fellow, who like so many on the internet, believes that a 15-second Google search qualifies him as a political scientist. (To be fair, I'm not even sure he did that.) The horseshoe theory is referenced commonly amongst the walking Dunning-Kruger effects that inhabit certain corners of the internet, and I'm sick to death of it.

There are, of course, common features in the extreme left and the extreme right. However, all of these commonalities can just as easily describe those in the centre (not to mention that the centre is a rightward-drifting moving target). Probably more so—anecdotally, the most authoritarian types I've encountered in meatspace described themselves as centrists. A conservative may have some moral convictions, even if I disagree with them; a centrist is merely politically and ethically avoidant. It is the perverted sense of balance that led to the above problem wherein the Alt Reich were given a platform rather than being sent scuttling back to the sewers where they belong.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (go fuck yourself)
There's so much stupid out there, and it's hard to know when to start when savagely mocking things, even without the US elections stealing a problematic plot point from an episode of Doctor Who. But here are three things that made me roll my eyes so hard that simply a link and a snarky remark on FB was not enough.

1. Facebook, as you probably heard, took down a post from a Norwegian daily featuring the famous photo of Phan Thị Kim Phúc, best known as the "napalm girl," but be a decent person and call her by her name, okay?  Espen Egil Hansen, the editor-in-chief of Aftenposten, retaliated brilliantly, as you can read here, and eventually Facebook did relent. However, their justification—that is is just too much effort to distinguish between one of the most famous photographs of all time depicting a massive political turning point and child pornography—is what's hella stupid.

Fortunately, I don't need to do a takedown of the whole thing, because Dan Hon did it rather beautifully here, and do take some time to read that post, because it's great and includes one of the most awesome trigger warnings I've ever seen on an online article. But the key takeaway is encapsulated quite nicely here:

Facebook - and, more or less, Silicon Valley, in terms of the way that the Valley talks about itself, presents itself and so-on - is built on and prides itself in solving Difficult Problems. At least, they are now. Facebook is a multi-billion dollar public company where *some* things are difficult and worth doing (e.g. Internet access to 1bn people using custom-built drones, but other things are, by implication, *TOO HARD* and don't warrant the effort.
I was going on at great length yesterday to a friend about my hatred of Facebook's sorting algorithm, and how it can cause some friends to disappear and some to become disproportionately prominent, and make you feel as though no one is listening to you and you're shouting into a void when it decides it doesn't like one of your posts. (It's bad enough when it happens on FB; worse when it happens in cases like hiring practices or policing techniques; we are increasingly delegating large parts of our lives to supposedly objective technology that's created by subjective, and generally speaking, racist, humans.) LJ solved this particular problem in a very simple way, by showing you every post by every friend in the order that they posted it, without continuous scrolling. Now, obviously, this doesn't fit with FB's business model at all, or the way that most people use it, but it does show that the problem can be solved.

Historically, we have not asked big monstrous corporations to solve all of the world's problems, but Silicon Valley seems determined to solve all the world's problems, or at least "disrupt" and create problems where there weren't any problems before. And we seem willing to surrender the questions of what problems exist, and which are worth solving, to them, which is why the US seems to have delegated creating its educational policy to Bill Gates, of all people. Which brings me to a tangential point raised by someone in the BoingBoing forums: At what point do we make a distinction between the traditional definition of free speech being freedom from government repression, and start being honest about the control over the discourse that corporations get. At what point is Facebook equivalent to or more powerful than a state actor? I think we're there; Facebook is the primary news source for a huge chunk of the population, and at some point we need to force it to act responsibly or force it to abdicate this role.

Anyway, fucking stupid. Hire some humans who can distinguish between a black-and-white news photo of a naked child on fire and actual porn, and pay them a living wage.

2. SPEAKING OF A LIVING WAGE...Okay, I've mocked this to shit already today but I'm not done mocking, no I am not.  Via Everyday Feminism, currently vying with Upworthy for the Worst Place On the Internet: 20 Ways to Help Your Employees Struggling with Food Insecurity and Hunger.

Now, for a site that claims to be all about accessibility, EF is slightly less accessible than, say, Alex Jones after 72 hours of substituting Red Bull, vodka, and crystal meth cocktails for sleep, which is to say it's one of the worst-written sites I've ever seen. I'm guessing they don't have paid editors. Every article is skimmable at best, and tends to amount to: "Be gentle, check your privilege, and don't forget to self-care with your yogurt." But this is possibly the worst article of every bad article I've ever read there, because not one of these 20 ways is "pay your employees a living wage."

Because, sorry. A minimum wage is supposed to be a living wage, and if your employees are on food stamps, you are not paying them enough. If you "can't afford" to pay them enough, as EF suggested in their equally ludicrous rebuttal to the criticism this article garnered, you are a shitty businessperson and deserve to go bankrupt. And if you have the time and money to learn about your employee's food sensitivities—again, you are not paying them enough, and hardworking taxpayers should not be expected to subsidize your lack of business acumen.

Should you be in the odd position where you cannot control how much you pay your employees (let's say you're the just-above-minimum-wage manager of a McDonald's, though if you were, I'm not sure why food sensitivities would be an issue), plenty of helpful friendly unions would be happy to come and visit your employees and assist them in organizing to get their wages raised.

Also, they include the worst suggestion of all time, which is to load up on meat-lovers pizza. Please do not do this, whether your workers are starving or not. In 100% of catered work events I have attended, the "meat-lovers" go right for the paltry vegetarian options and eat it all up before the vegetarians can get to it.

3. Finally, let's talk about architecture. Check out York U's new building! Now, York U is already the repository for a collection of the worst architectural trends in the last half-century (as is Toronto in general; we spawned Frank Gehry, after all) but this one is just too hilarious to be believed. It's like the Edgy White Liberal of buildings. You can practically see the #hashtags in #every #sentence in that #puffpiece.

Guess what, starchitects. People figured out hundreds of years ago how to make buildings work, and you can't improve on it all that much. Human beings like to feel relatively contained, and more importantly, like their ambient noise to be contained, particularly in places where they're supposed to work or study. That's why universities have quaint, outmoded features like "classrooms" and "lecture halls." Ever tried to work in an open concept office? It's distracting as anything. I'm all for less productivity—productivity is one of the Great Lies of late-stage capitalism—but I would rather be unproductive on my own terms. And common areas for meeting with students? When students want to meet with me outside of class time, it's quite often to tell me that they're struggling with family or workload or mental health issues, so why not just shout that all over the #learningspaces where the whole #engineering program can hear it?

Plus, like every building erected in the last 20 years, it looks like the architect gave up, crumpled the blueprints, and submitted the balled-up paper as the actual design.

Kill it with fucking fire.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (candle salad)
It's a rare day—and especially in the middle of some acrimonious contract negotiations with my union—that I'll say something nice about the Ontario Liberal government. But here it is: They updated the antediluvian Grade 1-8 sex ed curriculum and it's pretty good. It needed to be done and the changes are thoughtful and vital, including information about LGBTQ sexuality and affirmative consent. So, yay government on this one particular specific issue! You done good! You are terrible and corrupt when it comes to mostly everything else, but I can rest assured that you are sensible when it comes to the health education of young children, and I genuinely do appreciate that.

If you are interested and have enough time on your hands that you want to read really dull Ministry curriculum documents, you can read it here. It's not very interesting unless you're a teacher or a parent but there you go—it's totally public information and you can read it for free.

You know who didn't read it, though? Most people with an opinion about it.

Naturally, when I Googled "ontario sex education curriculum," the curriculum itself was not the first search result. Or the second, or the third. It's at least halfway down the page. The top hits are about protests—very sympathetically covered by the media, in contrast to how left-wing protests are covered—and misinformation by the likes of extremist anti-abortion and right-wing hate groups. This thing has been incredibly controversial, with said hate groups appearing on mainstream media with absurd claims that the new curriculum teaches seven-year-olds how to buttsex. (Spoiler: No it doesn't.)

One thing that would probably seem weird to an outsider is the support that the Tories (and make no mistake—these are not grassroots concern groups coming out of nowhere with no political agenda out of concern for THE CHILDRENS) have amongst marginalized and immigrant communities. I mean, you would think that a party of almost exclusively rich white men who hate people of colour, restrict immigration, have actual ties to white supremacist groups in some cases, and starve poor communities would not be well-liked by the people they make a living disparaging. But they do! And this is by design.

I'm reading Kill the Messengers: Stephen Harper's assault on your right to know, by Mark Bourrie, and there is a fascinating chapter as to why this is the case. Harper has a famous mistrust of journalists and believes that the mainstream media is a Liberal conspiracy that's out to get him, and one of the things he's been able to do in his tenure is to craft his message mainly towards the ethnic language media. So he will say one thing to Tamil language media, and another thing to Chinese language media, and so on, depending on whose votes he wants to win, and these are all tiny publications and stations that are basically just excited to get exclusive interviews with major politicians, so they softball interviews and don't have the budget to fact-check. It's completely brilliant and lets the Tories pander to various communities while actually enacting policies that directly harm them.

So when I see stories about how Ontario parents are staging a "strike" over the new sex-ed curriculum, I don't think I'm particularly conspiracy-minded to suspect a greater manipulation at work. I mean, let's be honest; it's pretty impressive if parents of young children can organize a bake sale to raise a few hundred dollars for their child's school, let alone a province-wide movement. Someone is out there, spreading lies and misinformation and playing the fears of parents to score electoral points. And it's working, because our mainstream media is not, in fact, a well-oiled Liberal machine and is actually an uncritical, bare-bones, defunded dinosaur gasping for its last breath as the meteors strike.

Who loses in this? Ontario, because this is all in service of eventually electing a Tory government that will be even worse than the abominable Liberal government. And most of all, the very children that these poor dupes want to protect. Every study ever done points to poor sex education as a major factor in teen pregnancy and the spread of STDs. And even more dramatically, I think this curriculum, properly implemented, is a crucial step in building a culture of positive consent that will pay off when these kids are teenagers and experimenting with sex for the first time. Teaching young kids that "yes means yes" means a future where not as many boys will think they're entitled to girls' bodies, and not as many girls will think it's their fault because he bought them dinner. Not as many queer and trans kids will grow up thinking that they're abnormal. This is a net gain for everyone, except for the backwards reactionaries.

Which is maybe why we need to reframe the debate. Instead of "concerned parents," let's focus on the manipulators behind the scenes and their pro-rape, homophobic, transphobic agenda. While sex ed is always a controversial thing, the butthurt of a few uptight pearl-clutchers has never made quite so many headlines in modern Canada, so follow the money. Who is really holding the kids hostage to make a political point?

ACAB

Aug. 13th, 2014 09:06 pm
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Behemoth (Master&Margarita))
The stupidest comment I've seen today (in response to a comment I made elsewhere about how police can basically murder with impunity):

"I don't think being put on adminstrative leave pending investigation and having your murder inspire riots and protests is "impunity.""


Pity the poor cop on paid leave who isn't currently dead or having his skull bashed in, unlike a good many other people. The only thing worse than cops is the culture of racism and bootlicking that enables them. And that's regular people with a fetish for authority and a delusion that what happened to that poor kid in Missouri won't ever happen to anyone they love.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (porn!dalek)
It's that time of year again when some stick-up-the-ass prude tries to make Pride Toronto, the biggest tourist event of the year, not happen because dudes rubbing dicks together makes them feel funny in their pants. This year, it's all quiet on the Queers Against Israeli Apartheid front, so it's back to the usual bugbear of the pearl-clutching set—Totally Naked Toronto Men, a.k.a. TNT!Men, a.k.a. the naked old dudes with wrinkly scrotes.

God, I love those guys. Seriously, if it wasn't for them, Pride would suck, and not in the fun way. It's not that I have a thing for wrinkled scrote (I don't) but if TNT!Men weren't letting it all hang out, Pride would be 100% co-opted by banks. Not that it isn't 99.99% co-opted, but the presence of these excellently freaky gentlemen is a reminder that Pride used to be a controversial protest. Plus, they are super-nice (I've marched behind them before) and always willing to help out when Pride is threatened by someone's stupid manufactured controversy, even if it doesn't affect them personally. Good folks.

Today's moral panic is courtesy of some boneheaded TDSB trustees, who want City Hall to guarantee that their the children's delicate sensibilities will not be offended by the presence of a bum or, god forbid, an actual peen. Because it's a family event and they have a float there.

Um.

To illustrate the sheer douchebaggery at play here, allow me to present an allegory. Let's say you throw a birthday party every year. It used to be you and a couple of your buddies, but word got around that you throw a great party and there's plenty of sweet cake and great cocktails there, so people you didn't know very well started showing up. Cool! The more the merrier. The invite's open, as long as no one's actively planning to trash your house.

Then, one of the acquaintances you invite says she'll show up. But, she says, you can't serve alcohol.

"But it's my birthday!" you protest. "You don't need to drink if you don't want to, but lots of people who come really like cocktails."

"I'm bringing my kids," your guest replies. "And it's inappropriate for them to be around drinking."

You don't remember inviting her kids, but fine. "That's your call," you say, politely. "I'd love to have you, and your kids there, but I'm a grown-up and it's kind of a grown-up party. So if you bring them, it's your job as a good parent to supervise them and explain to them that sometimes grown-ups like to drink, but they shouldn't drink until they're older."

"You'd better not serve alcohol at your party," your guest shrieks. "Or I'm calling the cops! Also I am gluten-free and my kids are allergic to peanuts and make sure the cake is vegan."

You see my issue here. Fortunately, like all initiatives aimed at destroying Pride, this one will flop, as Pride is a massive juggernaut and teh gays have disposable income. But the fact that it's my employer being ridiculous makes me extra angry.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (humping bunny)
[livejournal.com profile] treehavn asked for a post about Teen Wolf. This amuses me greatly. Apparently I have many thoughts about werewolves with shirt allergies.

Okay, first of all, it's probably obvious that, in general, I watch much more TV than movies. Part of this is convenience, but also I think that TV is, by and large, telling more interesting and varied stories, and I'm a fan of long-form narrative. I like to be engrossed in media. There are some really brilliant shows out there at the moment that I'd consider Great Art.

Teen Wolf is, of course, not one of them.

This said, it succeeds at a lot of things, possibly by complete accident, and there's a reason I was sucked into it in a way that I didn't connect with, say, True Blood or The Walking Dead or supernatural drama in general.

cut for the disinterested )

Anyway, so, that would be my guilty pleasure if I felt remotely guilty about any of my guilty pleasures.

Still happily taking requests for anything that people want me to blog about, BTW.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (pinko pie)
As you know, Bob, there is some sort of minor sporting event being held in an increasingly fascist country that has just passed some draconian anti-gay legislation. Our fine city has elected to—in a minor show of solidarity with the persecuted queer folks in Russia whose declining civil liberties and right to existence are being trampled so that pampered athletes can move very quickly and put balls in holes, and foreign journalists can complain about having to throw toilet paper in the wastebasket*—fly the rainbow flag over City Hall.

Okay, great! You'd have to be a real douchecanoe to object to that.

You don't even need to click to see what this link is about, do you?

Our paragon of upstanding morality and virtue states: “This about the Olympics, this about being patriotic to your country." Naturally, his handful of supporters leapt to declare him Not Homophobic despite his many, many homophobic statements and the fact that he's still not planning on attending World Pride when it arrives this summer to shower upon our fair city a shit-ton of money, tourists, and TD Bank-branded condoms**.

As always, the money quotes go to Brother Doug, who objects to the presence of buck-naked middle-aged men with potbellies (the fact that he clearly never looks in a mirror explains a lot, actually) and:

“He’s not homophobic, he has friends that are gay, he just chooses not to go.


I bet he has a lot of black fri—oh wait.

I for one would like to thank all of the potbellied, buck-naked middle-aged men out there for keeping these two bigoted wankers and their scumtastic drug-addled family away from World Pride. Pride should be classy, dammit.

In other news, rumour had it that late yesterday afternoon, two cops were seen entering Ford's office from the back door,† but I can find no confirmation of this online. Investigations into his myriad criminal activities are ongoing.

* Seriously? Travel to Not North America sometime. Though I did like the "dangerous face water" tweet.

** Look, a free condom is a free condom.

† Not a euphemism!
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (bat country)
The internets, and my little corner of it, are full of big-hearted liberals professing concern for the health and welfare of our Honourable Wife-Beating, Crack-Smoking, I-Did-It-In-A-Drunken-Stupor Mayor. Yes, there's a fair amount of schadenfreude among my friends and to some degree among the media, but the heartfelt pleas for him to "get the help he needs" and all the bleeding-heart sympathy for his addiction problems actually do seem to predominate. Maybe that's why he's had a bump in the polls (as opposed to his usual bumps of coke); people feel sorry for his teary addict routine. At the heart of this loud-mouthed, sexist, racist, homophobic, austerity-pushing pig-rapist is a broken man. Pity him.

I don't.

And let me be clear: I believe that drug addiction is a health issue, not a criminal issue. I believe in the decriminalization of all drugs, including crack. I do not believe that addiction is a choice per se.

However, I also believe that the addict has agency, and that addiction can spiral well beyond the life of the individual afflicted and destroy the lives of others, and to that extent, an addict must be responsible for him or herself. Addiction isn't an excuse. Plenty of addicts live lives of quiet desperation, damaging only themselves; the ones who use their sickness as a bludgeon against others, against their consent, bear some responsibility.

Amidst all the public concern for the Laughable Bumblefuck on the part of the chattering class, I hear little concern for his wife and kids, and their physical and emotional safety. We know he's assaulted his wife. I can't imagine that his kids will grow up undamaged. Where's the sympathy for them?

Amidst all the wishes that he would get the help he needs, where are those volunteering to help addicts who are less white, less rich, less famous? The ones that Ford blocked harm-reduction initiatives for, the ones he suggested dry out in a jail cell, the ones he wanted to run out of town? When are they going to get the help they need?

What about the city? The kids in Scarborough who, because he's run the city for the past three years in a drunken stupor, are still cut off from educational, work, and recreational possibilities because he blocked the expansion of a functional transit system? The working poor who need affordable housing, the destitute who need shelters? Where's the sympathy for all the ordinary people he's fucked over?

Addiction's a tough ride no matter who you are, but Ford is a man who's had literally every possible privilege handed to him and every chance to get clean. He's insanely rich, politically connected, white, male, and heterosexual. If a guy like that can't get his shit together and check into a rehab, fuck him. Even if he did, fuck him anyway. Sobering up is unlikely to make him less of a jizzbag. I work with people who came to this country with nothing, who've had to scramble up to barely surviving and get shat on by the SUN for doing so, and the most out-of-control violent gangbangers I've ever met have destroyed fewer lives than this piece of shit.

At the risk of getting personal, I've been at the receiving end of someone else's drug addiction. Multiple times, actually. It's not pretty. It's not a victimless crime. I see my own experience writ large and ugly and all the guilty mushy liberals praying for his recovery.

All of Toronto is Ford's battered spouse, begging him to get help when we should be booting him in the ass. Let him dry out in a jail cell. Let him beg for change in a cardboard box. We owe every single junkie and dealer and petty thug in Toronto our sympathy and aid before we throw one iota of it in Ford's direction.

Let him destroy himself. The world will be a better place.
sabotabby: (jetpack)
Oh you guys, you guys. I am so enjoying the explosion of pure nerd rage that has accompanied Chris Sprouse's decision to quit Adventures of Superman over the Orson Scott Card controversy. (You can read some of the butthurt* in the comments there and also in the BoingBoing post about it.

Now, Sprouse's actions, if you read his statement, are not particularly heroic—he's not quitting because OSC is a terrible human being with terrible views; he's quitting because of the "controversy" surrounding OSC's hiring. Hell, even if he quit over OSC's terrible views, it's hardly praiseworthy to not want to work for an actual bigot who plans to overthrow the government if gays get too many human rights. That's kind of called "baseline human decency." But in the white, male, straight-dominated world of mainstream comics, I'll take what I can get, and Sprouse has done right by deed, if not by word, making him far better of a person than the bigwigs at DC.

But to hear the nerds tell it, Sprouse, and the folks calling for a boycott of OSC's Superman run and/or the new Ender's Game movie are one step away from throwing all of the conservatives in gulags and forcing their political opponents to choose between death and mandatory butt sex. I keep seeing neckbeards screeching about freedom of speech, and how OSC's has somehow been denied.

Nerdy liberals are not helping much by pointing out that the problem is not that OSC has reprehensible beliefs, but that he sits on the board for the National Organization for Marriage and every penny you give him ends up benefiting an organization that has, as its sole raison d'être, the denial of civil liberties to gay people. I think this is because no one's read his recent books. One of my friends, who is approximately as nerdy as I am, didn't even know about his politics. I've read—well, parts of his recent books; to be honest, they're pretty unreadable—and the dude has an agenda that he can't keep out of his writing and that should be kept well away from Superman's spandex-clad buttocks, trust me. (He can't write a riff off Hamlet without working in ass-fucking.) So the issue is not just economic; it also has to do with OSC as a person and an artist. You shouldn't give him your money because he's awful.

The most hilarious bit is when the neckbeards compare the boycott campaign to McCarthyism (because OSC probably would argue that communists and fellow travellers ought to be shot in the face), suggesting that we, the nerd community, have an obligation to buy his media so that he can earn a living in the style to which he has become accustomed. Freedom, apparently, means an compulsory copy of Ender's Game and its sequels in every household. (Hey neckbeards who take this line: I'm a geek too! You are hereby obligated to help me maintain my paid LJ account; otherwise you're censoring me.)

Which—no. In a capitalist system, you are not guaranteed the right to earn a living in the profession of your choosing, even if you wrote a book a gazillion years ago that people liked a a lot. If you think this is unfair, let's talk! But unless you're proposing something revolutionary, OSC has no inherent right to not have his career destroyed over his repellent worldview.

Nor is he being "censored." OSC has every right to peddle his hateful shit on a soapbox, literally or metaphorically, without the government stepping in to jail him on charges of Aggravated Asshaberdashery. He's got a right to put his poisonous ideas down on paper without every copy of said paper getting burned or pulped. He even has the right to try and sell his raving bollocks to any publisher who will have him—but said publishers are just as free to say, "No, we do not believe your raving bollocks will sell," and we, as media consumers, are also free to say, "No, we will not buy your raving bollocks because we don't want our money going to NOM, and also because your writing sucks now." This is not censorship.

Let's briefly touch on the other argument I'm seeing a lot of, which is that an artist is separate from his political beliefs. As previously mentioned, OSC is not—both financially and in his inability to keep attacks on queers and leftists** out of his books. But let's just say he was not on the board of NOM and he was only writing books about little boys being unaware that they were committing genocide. I would still argue that his political beliefs are relevant. Look, I like all kinds of problematic art—my two favourite musical genres being opera and neo-folk—but the distinction between a geek-as-active-participant-in-media and a passive consumer at least ought to be, to some degree, critical engagement with said art. I can love Wagner, or T.S. Eliot, or Frank Miller†, or James Bond movies, or Chronicles of Narnia, despite the anti-Semitism, or Islamophobia, or misogyny, or blatant support for British imperialism inherent in the authors and/or work while still criticizing the politics they represent. If you feel a need to mindlessly defend an artist because you like their work, you are officially too dumb to play in geekdom.

Finally, to address the last defence I'm seeing, which is that anything he wrote is actually good. I'm going to piss a bunch of people off and say that, unless you're a bullied adolescent, Ender's Game is actually a bit crap, and if you're over the age of 16, you ought to see OSC for the naked emperor that he is. He's kind of a crap writer. Even if he was the greatest guy, I still wouldn't buy his books or comics because they're not that good. That's not a boycott or anything—it's just taste. If Ender's Game came out now you'd probably roll your eyes. Admit it.

I actually kind of feel sorry for OSC as a person, because I think his bigotry goes beyond simple bigotry well into the realm of mental illness. But that doesn't mean that anyone ought to indulge his delusions. He's got issues, but unfortunately those issues resonate with many theoretically sane, fascist-minded people hell-bent on oppressing anyone who's not like them, and he's got money and more of a platform to be heard than most spluttering lunatics do. For this reason, you should actually torrent Ender's Game rather than pay money to see it, if you feel the need to torture yourself by watching it, and you should totally boycott his run on Superman if it goes ahead. There are enough bigots in the world without you funding their bigotry.

* Probably a bad choice of words.

** See Empire. Or don't. It's awful; I got about 50 pages in before deciding it was too bad to even parody.

† Well, before he went to actual shit.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (quit your whoring now)
Pop quiz: What's worse than letting starchitect wanker Frank Gehry crumple up a bunch of paper, 3D-render it, and plunk it in the middle of Toronto like so:

Photobucket

Letting him do so in the middle of a reasonably nice area of the city, in the process demolishing the quite lovely and human-scale Princess of Wales Theatre in order to shit out his architectural abortions.

Gehry apparently intends to TP several city blocks in the heart of the entertainment district. As you might know, I have a special hate-on for Gehry because he doesn't like wheelchair ramps. He represents the worst trends in contemporary architecture: utter contempt for usability and accessibility, aesthetic hideousness in the service of appearing avant-garde, and a complete disregard for the particular context of city spaces.

My first reaction was to projectile vomit. My second was to make sure that James Howard Kunstler knew about it ASAP. He is probably sick of people from Toronto writing him to tell him about our city's perverted love affair with monuments to poor taste and unsustainability by now. But really, is there any other city besides Dubai so slavishly devoted to uglifying itself?

Oh, and screw David Mirvish, too. He's apparently determined to fuck up his father's legacy as thoroughly as possible.

ETA: And Kunstler e-mailed me back, ZOMG! /fangirls
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (vir)
Under the cut: Horrendous working class stereotypes, altogether too much space hippie, probably too many Star Trek references, and a poll about how Byron should die.

my thoughts on B5, let me show you them )
sabotabby: (books!)
I used to know a guy who hung around anarchist and other activist circles when I was involved with the Anarchist Free Space back in 2001. Weird guy. We didn't get along at all, to the point where he came close to decking me over an ideological disagreement. He wasn't really an anarchist—in fact, he professed no great objection to capitalism as an economic system—but he couldn't find any takers for his bizarrely specific politics anywhere else, and anarchists are too antiauthoritarian to exclude someone from their collectives just because the person is potentially violent, doesn't share any of their ideals, blocks consensus, and is unconcerned with piddly things like personal hygiene.

This guy was the founder and sole member of a committee against technology. Don't get me wrong—he was neither a Luddite nor an anti-civ or primitivist anarchist (though I hate those guys too, don't get me started). He did not object to the technology that produced his glasses, the clothes he wore, the photocopied pamphlets he distributed. Rather, he had been laid off back in the 80s, replaced by a primitive computer, and so any technology developed subsequently was responsible for massive job loss and the destruction of humanity.

Reading Sherry Turkle's Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other, I kept being reminded of that guy. It's not that Turkle's a Luddite. It's more that she's terrified of the future, of obsolescence and irrelevance. The technology that her generation is comfortable with is just fine; the technology used by Kids These Days With Their Cellphones and Baggy Pants is going to destroy civilization as we know it.

Or something. Turkle talks a lot about the negative impact of technology on individuals, that it makes us more depressed and doesn't solve our problems, but devotes perhaps a paragraph to some vaguely worded solutions for an issue that I'm not entirely convinced exists. Nor does she amuse me by painting a vivid picture of a future Gattaca or 1984. No, she talks about sad stories of people who feel isolated or overwhelmed by technology. Occasionally, she offers a counter opinion, only to counter it with, "but is this really what we want?" Criticizing this book feels like throwing darts at Jello—there's nothing solid to even attack.

Alone Together is actually two books. One is about how robots, specifically sociable robots (I don't think Turkle objects to the robots that, say, make the car she presumably drives), are evil and are going to replace people. They will start by replacing caregivers for children and the elderly and become romantic companions for people with robot fetishes, and eventually we'll just take them for granted and even prefer them to people. The second half of the book is about social networking technologies, and in particular cell phones. Turkle isn't really a fan of those either.

A massive flaw in the book is the lack of hard facts. She's obviously done research—she's a professor at MIT after all—but much of the information in the book reads to me as incredibly anecdotal, culled from an admittedly extensive series of interviews. These interviews seem skewed towards WEIRD, and the upper-middle to upper class segment of the WEIRD population (she interviewed vastly more private school than public school students in the second half of the book, for example), and selected for a particular level of neurosis. Without stats, I have no way of determining how broad her sample is. Most of the people she talks about seem rather broken, even by my standards—abandoned children, abandoned seniors, WoW addicts, and so on. And I feel that she imposes her own neurosis on the interviews, condescending to her subjects and sounding for all the world like a concerned Jewish mother.

I'm not qualified to quibble with her discussion of robotics, which would be vastly more interesting if sociable robots were as advanced and widely used as she seems to think they are, and also if scientists had already invented a way to bridge the Uncanny Valley. I still don't buy her argument that there is a substantial difference between the way a child interacts with a Furby or Tamagotchi and the way a child interacts with some other favourite toy. She describes children experiencing severe confusion, anxiety, and overidentification with robotic toys, but I've honestly seen kids act the same way if they think a stuffed animal has gotten lost or damaged. And while I do think there are people out there who would prefer a robotic lover over a human one, I'm not sure that there's any harm in it, as they are not generally people who would be getting laid without robots.

The social networking part is what I really read the book for. You all know that I love long-form blogging, loathe Twitter, use Facebook only grudgingly, and can't figure out what to do with G+ or Tumblr.* I get frustrated when my kids are more interested in their cellphones than in my scintillating lessons. I am suspicious of e-readers, particularly those that can't manage to get line length correct. I like getting stuff in the mail, I don't own a TV, and if you phone me for no good reason, I resent it. What I'm saying is that my relationship with social technology is complicated.**

So is Turkle's, except that she won't admit it. She likes the phone a lot. Texting, e-mail, and IM are all dangerous technologies, because you can multitask rather than devote your full attention to the other person, leading to social isolation. Phones are great, though, because they mean that you are giving the person your undivided attention. Especially if it's a landline. Because apparently people never multitask while on the phone. (Pro-tip: If I've been talking to you on the phone longer than five minutes, landline or not, regardless of how much I like you, it's guaranteed I am looking at pictures of cats on the internet. And I assume that you are too.) Never mind that phones also interrupt family dinners, that they replace more "authentic" communication like face-to-face contact or handwritten letters—landlines are what Turkle's generation are comfortable with, so it is good, personal technology. Skype, which actually does guarantee undivided attention (I mean, I'm still looking at cat pictures, but Skype means I've actually made a plan to talk to someone and that someone can see if I'm not mentally present), is somehow bad because theoretically you can Skype from a cell phone, so you may be lying about your location. It's a kind of logic that isn't.

Turkle has a curious relationship with the idea of real time. Phones are real-time technology, which is why one of the reasons I hate them and she views them as authentic, allowing you to be honest and not edit. Facebook, blogs, and e-mail are not real-time, and so you create an avatar, presenting an idealized self that is edited for public consumption. She spends a lot of time extolling the virtue of the authentic, unedited self, while telling stories of teenagers who agonize about what information to include in a Facebook profile. And yet at the end, complaining about regular Skype conversations with her daughter, she waxes nostalgic for letters and scrapbooking—edited memory, and no different in my mind to a teenager deciding to remove his zits in Photoshop or to not post that picture where she's wearing sweatpants around the house.

The author professes a good deal of concern for marginalized people, particularly the elderly and disabled (she's so much of a disability ally that she refers to one of her friends as "confined to a wheelchair"!). And yet she dismisses their voices. Again and again, it becomes clear that the dichotomy she poses is often not between a human caregiver and a mechanical/distant one, but between the mechanical/distant and nothing at all. (Though she denies this, and vaguely suggests at a paradigm shift, with a grand total of one worthwhile suggestion, which is to pay caregivers more.) Depressed people who now use PostSecret or anonymous memes to cry out for help did not, in the past, go around the corner to cry on a neighbour's shoulder. They suffered in isolation or killed themselves. The technology that she views as inherently isolating is, for people like me, incredibly liberating. If I ever end up in a position where I need to use a bedpan, you're damned right I want a robot rather than a human to change it.

The thing is, there's some value in this book. Certainly, an argument can be made around the addictiveness of technology (Turkle dismisses the addiction model, though), the shifting paradigms around privacy and anonymity, the extension of the working day through always-on technology (except Marx basically made that argument, more coherently and way before cellphones were invented), but every time she starts to get close to those arguments, there's another really cringeworthy personal anecdote coupled with a vague warning. Whatever point she's making is lost through a sheer lack of logic and consistency.

Incidentally, she's a tremendous hypocrite, and here's a low blow. This book was published in 2010. The author, who insists on authentic, hands-on human interaction and sighs over girls who make their Facebook profile pictures thinner, was born in 1948. So this is the avatar—I'm sorry, the author photo—she presents to the world on her book jacket:



There is nothing wrong with what she actually looks like. I mean, I hope I look this good at 62:



I'm just saying that presenting something other than your tangible physical presence, warts and all, is nothing new, and predates Photoshop, Facebook, and Second Life avatars. We all do it. My generation, and my kids' generation, is simply more conscious of the presentation of multiple selves, the illusion of privacy, and the fact that there may just not be anything all that special to being human.

Oh, and that anti-technology guy? Saw him last weekend, handing out the same pamphlets at the Occupy Toronto camp. You know, that protest that's part of a global movement that only exists because of widespread access to newfangled things like the internet and cell phones. The one where, in some cities, innovative activists have created bicycle-powered generators to power their laptops and allow them to share ideas, strategies, and create communities with likeminded people all over the world. So there's that.

* I'm going to point you in the direction of my favourite Tumblr of the moment: Yo, Is This Racist? I want to buy that person a drink. Several drinks, maybe.

** In other news, it's not my imagination that analog really does sound better, is it? /hipster douchebag

† I'm trying, and failing, to think of more than a handful of my kids doing this. They just put everything up and don't care if people know they like geek shit. Everyone likes geek shit.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (keep calm and shoot them in the head)
Yes, I know I should be posting about Occupy or any number of things going on in the world, but I'm up to my ears in trying to teach kids how film works as a medium, and it so happened that I was finally talked into watching a show that makes great use of film (well, video, but the conventions of film) as a medium. (I'm also reading an interesting book about social networking, so get ready to hear me rant about that when I'm trying to teach kids how the intertubes work as a medium. Probably not as much, though, because so far nothing has blown up in the book.)

I highly recommend [livejournal.com profile] bitter_crimson's post on why you should watch the show, as it convinced me and I more or less agree with said post, having now watched the show. Also, those clips are about a thousand times funnier in context.

A note on spoilers. There are some. But they're things like (as [livejournal.com profile] snarkitysnarks brought up in my last post) "human head on a tortoise." Which makes absolutely no sense if you haven't seen the show, so probably won't ruin your enjoyment of said scene when it occurs. If I told you what happens after there's a human head on a tortoise, I suppose that would be a spoiler.

Accordingly, if you're one of those people who cannot possibly know anything about what's going to happen before you see it, might be better to skip this one. But I'll try not to give everything away.

BrBabble )

Um, that was longer than I meant it to be. Shorter [livejournal.com profile] sabotabby: As a viewer, I like to be manipulated into watching things that I shouldn't like, and to be conscious of said manipulation. And also drugs are bad.

* The best example of the latter is that scene in The Wire where the guy can't put an IKEA bed together. I hated that character and wanted him to die. I can put an IKEA bed together.

** SORRY! I typed it, regretted it, and couldn't find another way to express that idea. Just ship me off to York University to run anti-oppression workshops or something.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (teachthecontroversy)
Were I a very different sort of person, I would see a nefarious connection between the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks and the fact that my hold on Jonathan Kay's Among the Truthers: a journey into the growing conspiracist underground of 9/11 Truthers, Armageddonites, Vaccine Hysterics, Hollywood Know-Nothings and Internet Addicts came through at just the right time to allow me to finish it on September 9th. Of course, I'm not remotely that sort of person, but the pattern-recognition part of my brain still twigged a little when I realized the coincidence.

I confess that I am obsessed with conspiracy theories and the conspiratorial mindset. I blame X-Files in the 90s for both causing my interest in conspiracy theories and inoculating me from believing in them. Kay is similarly obsessed, though for different reasons—as he admits in the book, he actually shares many traits with people who believe in conspiracy theories. In fact, the book contains a conspiracy theory as elaborate and bizarre as any depicted in Loose Change or Zeitgeist, one that draws mindboggling links between Das Kapital, Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Orientalism, and modern conspiracy movements.

Yep, there's an agenda at work here. Kay is a writer and editor with the National Post, and he doesn't so much want to debunk Trutherism as use it as a tool to slam the typical bugbears: Marxism, social justice and anti-war movements, atheism, and Kant's supposed "moral relativism." (It's always Kant's fault.)

I'm not going to say you shouldn't read it or that it was a complete waste of time; there is certainly good information in the book, and he's correct in stating that there are more 9/11 conspiracy theories out there than there are books debunking them. It's important to understand the conspiratorial mindset and to critically examine the claims of Truthers, especially given what I've said repeatedly about their infiltration into legitimate social and political movements. It's not a harmless crank theory. He does interview actual Truthers and present case studies, and that stuff is valuable to know about. I just wish this book had been written by someone who wasn't as much of a crank as his subjects.

I get the feeling this is gonna be long! )

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