sabotabby: (lolmarx)
We're in Odessa, about a 10 min walk from the !!!!!!!! Potemkin Steps.

Expect incoming photos for every day I'm here.

Srsly, I didn't even like Battleship Potemkin but I don't think a movie needs to be enjoyable to be arguably the most important movie ever made, with which we would not have our current cinematic vocabulary. I mean. I teach film. So naturally the first thing I had to do (well, after we had lunch and coffee because we were up at 4 am to catch the flight from Lviv) was brave the 30°C weather to bring you the following:

Don't mind me, I'll be over here geeking out hard/memorizing the angles in the scene so that I can do horrible imitations of them amongst all the tourists.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
 You know when you finish a book and you're sad because you know you won't ever write anything nearly as good?

sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (commiebot)
For the three or so of you who have not seen this posted elsewhere (or who long to see it again), here I am with [ profile] the_axel dressed up as the Spectre Haunting Europe:


Personally I think this is the second-funniest costume I have ever done (after last year's David Cameron and a sexy pig costume). Admittedly I think the intertubes are finding it funnier than people at any of the three parties we hit last night.

P.S. Okay, so it went over really well on the internets. Maybe too well. Now I have newfound comrades in Bangladesh offering to put me up if I ever come visit. Hahaha.
sabotabby: (magicians)
My latest review is up! It's of my favourite episode, so go check it out.

Coincidentally, it's up late because I was at the Historical Materialism conference all weekend. Had a great time, much of it spent hanging out with the Red Wedge people, but now I'm horribly tired and you would be amazed at just how much my email and laundry piles up when I have the audacity to be away from my computer for three whole days. To make matters extra fun, I have a grand total of one introvert night this week, the rest being consumed with various after school things that will no doubt leave me exhausted and behind on everything.

Ah well. The long weekend cometh. Thank fuck, because I haven't had a proper night's sleep for days and won't get one until then.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (socialism with a human face)
Went to the May Day rally today even though the weather was basically tiny little daggers of cold penetrating one's skin and soul. It started out a dreary affair—not enough people, speeches no one could hear—but picked up an hour or so later when there was actual marching to be done.

These guys had the best sign:

(The back said, "Capitalism ≠ super lit 100—Karl Marx." Also check out David Cameron's dream girl on the drum.)

Anyway, a lot of my friends were there, along with the predictable members of the fringe left. The Communist Party of Iran was out in full force, distributing the exact same leaflet they have at every other May Day, ever, except with some of the countries changed and now they're hailing Bob Avakian as the greatest socialist mind who ever lived. But the march was pretty spirited.

It ended up in Regent Park, which is currently experiencing the violence of gentrification. We passed the Paint Box Bistro, which is one of those well-intentioned but overpriced places that tend to be the vanguard of people getting displaced from their homes. Inside, the NDP were having a party for Linda McQuaig and just came out to cheer as we passed by. Awk. Ward. So as out of touch as the fringe left can be at times, at least we're not that out of touch.

Anyway! Happy May Day, all.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (champagne anarchist)
I could not resist doing this again.

1. Comment to this post with "I surrender!" and I'll assign you the basis of some tv show idea. (Science fiction show, medical drama, criminal procedure, etc...)
2. Create a cast of characters, including the actors who'd play them
3. Add in any actor photos, character bios and show synopsis that you want.
4. Post to your own journal.

[ profile] smhwpf gave me period drama and initially specified pre-1815, but my burning period drama idea takes place in 1907, which is nearly 100 years ago so ought to qualify in terms of lavish costumes and set design.

Apologies in advance for the profusion of British white dudes playing Russian white dudes. This is a Beeb production. It's 90% dialogue and largely an excuse to get really talented actors to shout at each other. Russian and French dialogue is in English with the actors' actual accents; dialogue in German and Polish is subtitled.

The show is called Common Cause (Общее дело).

It's 1907. The first attempt at revolution in Russia two years ago was a miserable bloody failure; the movement's surviving leaders are scattered in exile throughout Europe or rotting in Tsarist prisons. Lenin's just declared that it'll be twenty years before they have another shot at overthrowing the Tsar. Some elements are trying to reunite the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, as well as the Social Revolutionaries and anarchist groups in a common struggle; other forces work behind the scenes to undermine any cohesion or unity.

The one group that does take the revolutionaries seriously is the Okhrana. In an attempt to prevent a repeat of 1905, the Tsarist secret police has dispatched agents and infiltrators to destroy the various revolutionary movements from within; in fact, as in Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday, the Parisian emigré community has more informants than actual activists, and they've been entirely successful in hobbling the movement.

Until now.

based on a true story )

I expect it would run for two or three seasons (with six episodes each) and then get abruptly cancelled. There is also a made-for-TV movie, set during the Berne Trial, that reunites the surviving characters and ends the series.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (pwned!)
In a just world, I'd be able to slip a copy of Nick Mamatas' Love Is the Law into the hands of any number of disaffected teenagers, or at least have it lurking on my classroom bookshelf for them to stumble upon. But of course—as in the world portrayed so vividly in the book—there ain't no justice.

It's 1989. Communism is crumbling in Europe. Dawn Seliger, a teenage punk, Communist, and aspiring black magician in the tradition of Aleister Crowley, hangs out with nothing much to do on Long Island, living with her senile grandmother after her father takes up a crack habit—until her mentor/lover in politics and the occult is found dead, seemingly a suicide. True to the detective trope, Dawn knows better, and takes it upon herself to solve the murder. Then it gets really weird.

Let's be honest here, there was practically no way I wasn't going to love a noirish bildungsroman about punk, Trotsky, and the occult. You could get more up my alley, but it'd be a challenge. Never mind wanting to be a bad influence by loaning it out to my kids; I wanted to build a time machine and hand it to myself in 1997. Without getting too personal, Dawn reminds me very much of my teenage self*, but more significantly, is just a spectacular protagonist—broken, self-aware, uncompromising, and a savage deconstruction of the Strong Female CharacterTM that pervades genre fiction. It's just that the coming-of-age novels I was forced to read at that age weren't about kids like me (or like anyone I knew, for the most part) and this, well? This is.

I'm actually not sure if it's supposed to be YA; certainly, [ profile] nihilistic_kid never condescends to his audience the way most YA, and especially political YA, tends to do. Dawn isn't an audience surrogate to whom other characters stop and explain the complexities of Marxism or Crowley; she's living it, keep up. Anyone who's ever been involved in left-wing activism in the Western world is going to be nodding along while reading—there's a specificity to the depiction of fringe politics and the personalities that get attracted to it that just rings true.

Love Is the Law is a bleak, hilarious, clever little** novel and to say more would ruin some of the more excellent twists. (Please do not ask "why Communism and Satanism; aren't they kind of the opposite?" Because the answer is cool.) I'll just leave off with my favourite bit that seems to be everyone else's favourite bit:

“'By the dawn of the new millennium,' Bernstein told me, 'fucking Ayn Rand will be considered a serious philosopher. Democrats will be pulling off shit that Ronny Ray-gun wets the bed dreaming of – slave labour for welfare mothers, permanent military bases all over the Middle East, torture chambers deep underground, bugs in every phone and office fax machine, computer chips in everything else, and robotic stealth bombers doing all the dirty work. And that will be the liberalism of the epoch.'”

Read it. I'm tempted to buy another copy to loan to people.

* Minus all the blowjobs. I wasn't that kind of girl.

** I don't mean that in a patronizing way. I mean it literally fit in my coat pocket.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (commiebot)
Via [ profile] jamie_miller: As usual, VICE has the best coverage of everything. This article is about the struggle in Greece against Golden Dawn and their cop buddies; the author spent a night with anti-fascist protestors following the murder of rapper Killah P.

The political situation in Greece is terrifying; my heart goes out to everyone there who is fighting the good fight. If anyone hears of a way to help (is it International Brigades time yet? It almost feels like it is), do let me know?
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (silver mt zion)
Sad news from [ profile] ed_rex: His uncle, Jules Paivio, has passed away at the age of 96. Jules lived near where I spent the first 18 years of my life, but I only met him in 2005, when my friend informed me that the last surviving member of the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion, Canadian volunteers who fought in the Spanish Civil War, was living in Aurora, of all places, and up to being interviewed.

I can't do justice to all of the stories he told us that day, but here's the article that my friend wrote. Epic, grand narrative stuff. The nice old man who lives down the street fought in the noble and ultimately doomed Good Fight. Jules was only 19 when, against the policy of the Canadian government, he joined 40,000 other brave Communists, anarchists, and socialists from all over the world to fight against Franco's fascists. He spent a year in a prison camp and, upon returning home, was considered a "premature fascist" and barred from fighting overseas in WWII. Those urban legends about how Vietnam vets were spat upon by hippies coming back from the war? Well, in the case of veterans of the Spanish Civil War, it was the government spitting on them. It wasn't until 2001 that the Canadian government would recognize the courage of these volunteers, who fought against fascism when the international community had turned its back on the people of Spain.

In 2011, Jules was granted honourary Spanish citizenship.

When you hang around with enough leftists and would-be revolutionaries, an inevitable topic of conversation is about whether you'd have gone to fight in Spain if you'd lived back then. If something like that happened now, would we abandon everything we had—our jobs, our families and friends, our lives—to fight the good fight? We all like to think that we would, and most of us are honest enough to admit that we just aren't that strong.

Jules was. They don't make people like him anymore.

My sincere condolences to [ profile] ed_rex and his family.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (commiebot)
Leigh Phillips joins authors Gwyneth Jones, Marge Piercy, Ken MacLeod and Kim Stanley Robinson to discuss the role of science fiction in extending the radical horizons of our imaginations.

I don't agree with everything in this article, especially in regards to Zizek (Ken MacLeod, you know that's not what he meant) but it's a pretty fascinating read on the radical potential of science fiction and a good starting point for discussion. I particularly liked the last question, about technology and its place in cultural narratives. All of the authors really hit the nail on the head in terms of describing exactly why I feel uncomfortable with the emphasis on anti-GMO/anti-Monsanto/pro-woo stuff on the left:

Gwyneth Jones: Progressives have a right to be cynical about nanotechnology, likewise GM foods and crops, as long as these developments are controlled by ruthless corporate interests. It isn’t about the science; it’s about the tragedy of the commons.

On a more mundane (but still futuristic!) note, this article on organizing workers in a service economy (from Macleans, no less!) is also an interesting read. The premise is that traditionally middle class jobs aren't coming back (likely true) and thus minimum wage service sector jobs should be transformed so that one can actually earn a living at them.

Proponents of the idea that service jobs can become the new ticket to the middle class point to sweeping changes in the manufacturing sector in the early 20th century that helped transform factory work from dangerous low-pay jobs into secure careers that could support a family. From 1914, when Henry Ford declared he would pay his employees what was then an exorbitant sum of $5 a day in order to reduce turnover and boost demand for his cars, governments saw higher wages and greater workplace regulation as the start of a virtuous economic cycle. But whether the service industry can follow the same model is far from certain.

Read and discuss.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Jenny Sparks)
Here is a thing I didn't know about:

These lovely ladies are Night Witches, female military aviators of the 588th Night Bomber Regiment, who flew harassment bombing campaigns for the Soviets during WWII. We don't learn about them in history class for some reason. I blame the patriarchy. They flew utterly obsolete airplanes that made huge amounts of noise and nevertheless managed to kick serious Nazi ass. Their leader flew over 200 missions and was never captured.

Here is some more information from a website with horrible typography. And here is a Telegraph article focusing on Lilia Litvyak, who flew under the call sign White Lily and needed a cushion to see out of the windshield. I'm bookmarking this BBC segment for later. Bitch has an excellent article about them as well. From former pilot, Dr. Galina Beltsova:

"We slept in anything we could find—holes in the ground, tents, caves—but the Germans had to have their barracks, you know. They are very precise. So their barracks were built, all in a neat row, and we would come at night, after they were asleep, and bomb them. Of course, they would have to run out into the night in their underwear, and they were probably saying,—Oh, those night witches!' Or maybe they called us something worse. We, of course, would have preferred to have been called 'night beauties,' but, whichever, we did our job."

Oh, and Garth Ennis wrote a comic about them. How is that not in my eyeballs right now?

More pictures! )
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (scriabin)
Electronic music. Communism. Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin. Futurism. Alchemy and the occult.

There are a few times that I've wished that I were more mechanically and musically inclined. Alas, I lack the talent to ever build one, though given that it's played by drawing, I'm pretty sure I could actually play one.

ETA: Here it is being played (starts at around 4:17):

sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (harper = evil)
A senior Conservative cabinet minister has made my Monday by dropping one of the most hilariously WTF statements ever uttered by a Canadian politician who wasn't the Honourable Wife-Beater.

“We talk about Gangnam Style. There wouldn’t be a Gangnam Style if we hadn’t had the sacrifice of Canadians, members of the United Nations who came together with a resolve to ensure that we repelled communism,” [Veteran’s Affairs Minister Steven Blaney] said.

There is no response worthy of such a statement but a stream of Psy gifs.

That's right, kids! You wouldn't have K-Pop if Canadians hadn't battled communism.

Wait, were we even in the Korean War? And, um, didn't that one kind of end in a stalemate?

Anyway, it's a statement worthy of some of the DPRK's more hilarious moments. Also, where are the Tories keeping their stash of crack, and did they bring enough for the rest of the country?

(The Star responds, cheekily: "There was no word either on whether Canadian veterans would be saddled with responsibility for the current free fall down the musical charts that the South Korean artist’s follow up song, “Gentlemen,” has experienced in recent weeks.")

In "Things Canadians Actually Did Do," news, we are totally complicit in the brutal murder of a Chiapas anti-mining activist. So there's that.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (squee!)
may day photo 12000_10200326256333766_1641470171_n_zpsd4f0e934.jpg

Wish I could join the marches for migrant rights and justice for the workers murdered by capitalism in Bangladesh that are going on today, but alas, my crip status and physio appointment today rule that out. So, you know. Celebrate for me.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Jenny Sparks)
Interesting discussion on FB that started from me posting that link to Alex Jones losing his shit (watch it if you haven't already; it's hilarious) and suddenly became about something else. It's old meme in anarchism to declare oneself off the left/right spectrum (no; anarchists are at the extreme of one end or the other), and of course that gets picked up by other Folks With Opinions, most notably many of the Occupy-related groups.

And it is this idea, that one is somehow above the old divisions, that allows whackjobs like Jones and the Truthers to slip into the discourse, muddying the waters with a toxic mixture of paranoia, anti-Semitism, and general asshaberdashery. They proclaim themselves part of the 99%, the champions of the proverbial little guy, even anti-corporate, while the vision they present is some sort of Mad Max libertarian dystopia with every man for himself (women are out of sight; probably making babies because you need a certain amount of civilization to make birth control happen).

Now, I happen to find said whackjobs highly entertaining, but I take umbrage at the suggestion that because they, perhaps, have some opinions regarding Palestine, war in the Middle East, or corporate hegemony that coincide with my own, I should therefore consider them allies and make common cause. They aren't allies; not where Jews, racialized people, women, disabled people, and queer people are concerned. I have to point this out every so often when someone on one of my mailing lists or FB feed posts InfoWars articles—even if the article itself is good, we do our own causes a great deal of harm when we promote the opinions of nasty-ass douchebags. And I find the suggestion that I should overlook the poisonous beliefs of someone like Jones because he's Speaking Truth to Power Against Our Elite Corporate Overlords.

No, sorry. The beliefs he represent are just as harmful to me personally (if not more harmful) and to people more marginalized than I am than those of the dominant right-wing. It's always straight white men who insist that he's worth hearing out, too; people more likely to survive said Mad Max scenario than I would be.

The answer, I'm afraid, is a certain level of ideological rigour and purity. Not, of course, to the point of sectarianism—I am friends with, and do political work with, a number of people with incorrect political lines—but to the point where we at least exclude the voices of people who are fucking idiots and make us look bad. And it means declaring for yourself a position on the left-right spectrum. You are not above it, you are not beyond it, you can certainly explore its nuances and flaws, but you must engage with it.

At any rate, I hope that Jones' latest outburst will help the less discriminating among us on the left to be, well, a bit more discriminating in our choice of information sources.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (socialism with a human face)
China Miéville, Cory Doctorow, and Peter Watts in the same room debating whether or not people are essentially scum.

cut for pictures )
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (zizek)
There is not a lot that could get me out to Nuit Blanche (which combines huge drunken crowds, exhaustion, cold, and corporate sponsorship of the arts) but I have very few celebrity crushes, and one of them was speaking at it. Accordingly, I ventured out to Symposium: Until the End of the World to see Slavoj Žižek talk about the apocalypse at Toronto City Hall.


the apocalypse will be averted because the Communists will win )
sabotabby: (lolmarx)
Here's a pro-tip for understanding economics: Every time you see the phrase "increasing productivity" (for example, as used in this article) you should read it as "stealing your money."

So for example:

It’s time “to modernize our post-secondary education system in a way that will make it more relevant, more flexible, and more beneficial to Ontario students,” the paper says. “It will grow our economy and, by modernizing the system and increasing its productivity, we can reduce the cost to the public.”


It’s time “to modernize our post-secondary education system in a way that will make it more relevant, more flexible, and more beneficial to Ontario students,” the paper says. “It will grow our economy and, by modernizing the system and stealing your money, we can reduce the cost to the public.”

If you're discussing economics with someone of a reflexive right-wing bent, you can also use "stealing taxpayers' money," since the vast majority of taxpayers work for a living.

Here are a couple good articles about what productivity is, and they say it in fewer words than Marx does in Das Kapital, but it's basically the same thing. If you can make more stuff (or do more things, in a service economy like ours) in less time for the same rate of pay, you are not the one profiting. You're getting robbed. It should be obvious, but since everyone likes thinking of themselves as "productive," "modern," "efficient," and so on, it's one of those concepts often buried under business jargon.

And it makes Lenin facepalm.

That first article on university education is really stupid, by the way, and another example of the Ontario government's shortsightedness. I don't pick on the Ontario government nearly enough, because the federal government is evil and the municipal government is stupid and evil. The provincial government is mainly stupid, but they're the ones who affect my daily life the most.

"Growing the economy" is also a phrase that needs to go.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (commiebot)
There's much to detest in the corporate culture of late-stage capitalism, but its failure on an aesthetic basis is something that really fascinates me. Driving home from Niagara-on-the-Lake—a town with some truly lovely architecture—[ profile] bcholmes and I passed a rather fascinating building. I wish I'd snapped a picture because there's no way I can adequately describe how ugly this building was. It was this sprawling complex with a green roof—not green as in full of plants or carrying an aged patina, but a deliberately bright green roof meant to evoke an aged patina, kind of. Because aged patinas are stately and sophisticated, even when rendered in plastic. It was impossible, at a glance, to look at this building and determine its intended use. It looked halfway between a mega-church and a shopping mall (as I put it, "a perfect symbol for our age") and fully hideous.

I'm currently reading (for class, obviously) Steven R. Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and given how vigorously this book is pushed in our education system, it's a goddamned miracle that I haven't had to read it until now. I'm finding it impenetrable. I say this as someone whose favourite author is James Joyce. But I can't read this. My eyes skim over and bounce off of the page like pebbles on the surface of a lake. There's nothing to grasp on to, just made-up businesspeak and mangled prose. My assigned chapter begins with a quote from Bush and, early on, hits the reader with this abortion of a sentence: "Synergy is the essence of Principle-Centered Leadership."

That is not writing. Someone swallowed jargon and vomited it all over a page, and then a publisher published it because that's how so many people speak (and think) these days.

I'm reminded of the contrast between the writing just before and in the early stages of the Russian Revolution, and the clunky, bureaucratic, heavily stylized prose that followed when Stalin came to power.* This shift is, of course, mirrored in the visual; think of the two impossible architectural projects, Monument to the Third International and Palace of the Soviets. You don't need to know anything about Soviet history to guess which one was designed right before purges were about to happen.

I'm no religious sort, but I remember hearing something—probably from an art history prof—that really stuck in my head about how, at one point in Western history, the tallest and grandest buildings were churches, and now they're bank towers. Think of the Gothic cathedral and the mosque versus the big glass box. Today, we can barely imagine what an inspiring building ought to look like; the best we can do is crumple up a piece of paper and call it architecture.

It's the same with prose. We're trained to believe that graceless, clunky writing with a maximum number of "impactfuls" and "bottom-linings" thrown in will somehow make us better, effective people. I don't think it does. The worst thing about aesthetics is that they come out of nurture, not nature, so if you're trained to think via ungainly prose, your very thoughts become ungainly over time. Remember, the people who crashed the economy were all about synergy.

I don't, of course, expect that every book be written in clear, graceful language, any more than I expect every building to be beautiful. But I do wonder why we promote rather than bury this sort of aesthetic. It says something ugly about our culture. How do you inspire anyone to believe in anything with buildings, and books, like these.

(Shorter [ profile] sabotabby: But I don't wanna do my homework.)

* The best analysis of how and why this happened that I've come across can be found in Alexei Yurchak's Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation. Highly recommended.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (commiebot)
MY GOD YOU GUYS I AM SO TIRED. Totally worth it. But I feel like I'm going to sleep for a year and do nothing but watch TV and read cheesy fantasy novels for a bit.

Today's panels:

The Circuits of Labour and Capital. Translation: Migrant labour, and I chose this one both out of interest and because I knew three out of the five people involved. Alas, two didn't show (including the one who's in 2 Revolución). The other two were really good, though.

Marxist Aesthetics and Utopia. This was the perfect note to end on. Relevant to my interests in a big way, and we got into a debate about Tatlin's Monument to the Third International that ended up going way overtime and summarizing many of the themes in the conference as a whole. I Googled the presenter, Travis English, and I think he might also be the guy who does all of those cool minimalism posters that you see all over the intertubes. Not sure. Anyway, the discussion induced pangs in me because when I was thinking about grad school, I was thinking about working on Russian Constructivism stuff, which is at the intersection of art, design, and radical politics. Also, I love Monument to the Third International. It's brilliant on every level, encompassing both the power of the theory of dialectical materialism and the fragility of the revolutionary moment. And as someone pointed out in the discussion, as much as it was a failure in the sense that it was never built, given the history of the Russian revolution, it might have been more of a failure if it had been built. As an ethereal work that exists in the imagination instead of in reality, it's a more powerful symbol of revolutionary potential than if it existed as an actual physical object.

I shouldn't be so surprised to find out that people have Photoshopped the hell out of what it would have looked like if built.

SPEAKING OF SCULPTURE! Bad sculpture, this time. I failed utterly for the third day in a row to capture the glory that is the dick sculptures. However, I realized I could just Google it, and so here they are:

Fontana d'Italia by Enzo Cucchi.

Notice that the water is jetting out in the photo. In reality, it drizzles down the shaft and looks more like this. Ah, York. How much I do not miss you at all.

Anyway, all in all the conference was even better than my already inflated expectations, and I'm so glad I went. I think this is the longest I've been consistently in a good mood since Maggie's diagnosis.


sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)

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