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Some time ago, in one of your guises and I think in a remark directed towards someone other than yours truly, you mentioned Lev Grossman's Magicians trilogy as a fantasy (more than) worth reading.

Well. I'm only two-thirds of the way through the first book and so, more than normally aware that my opinion is subject to change, but thus far (mind you), I just want to say a heartfelt Thank you!.

At this point I'm even more baffled than I was before that Tolkien doesn't speak to you, because Grossman is sure as hell speaking to me. The man knows his teenagers and (I think) a whole helluva lot besides.

Long story short, I've never read a book like this one, and for those of us who love fantasy, that is a kudos in monstrously short supply.

So, thank you.

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The following is from the Livejournal blogger Sabotabby, one of the best political minds I know. Their thesis is not a happy one, but because of that, is even more worth reading and thinking about that it otherwise would be. Originally posted by Sabotabby at Frog, meet boiling water

While you're at it, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (yes, that Abdul-Jabbar) has written a powerful piece on how Ferguson is less about race and racism than it is about class war. Possibly a little more hopeful than the below, but equally frightening.

People shocked by Ferguson—and a lot of good, intelligent people are—and by the militarization of thuggish local police appear, to my jaded eyes, to lack a certain historical perspective.

There was a blip in North American history, lasting less, I think, than a century, where this sort of atrocity outraged the general population for any length of time. The Lawrence Textile Strike and the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire were horrible but up until the Reagan-Thatcher era, that violence begat basic protections for workers. The war in Vietnam, the first televised war, meant that the US had to tread a bit more carefully internationally. But essentially the armed wing of the state has been beating on marginalized and, in particular, racialized populations, regardless—and this is important, would-be pacifists—of whether they resist or not or resort to violence or not, as long as it's been in existence, to a chorus of shrugs and sighs from those too privileged to be directly affected.

Ferguson dominates the media cycle at the moment, not because it is radically different in content from similar crackdowns in the past, but because it is the first of a thing. The first time many people have seen the active deployment of police outfitted with military gear. (Unless you've been at a protest in the past twenty years. Or you're not white.) The first time it's not just televised, but livestreamed, tweeted, reblogged. The first time people have been able to hold out long enough without being crushed to get it into the news cycle. Among the first times the citizen media has been able to loudly counter the mainstream narrative. But beyond the technological angle, it's not shocking or surprising or any sort of historical aberration; if anything, the aberration is the aforementioned few decades where speaking truth to power actually had an effect.

The next time this happens, the militarized police response, the almost inevitable murder of demonstrators, will be routine. That's how it works. That's why it's happening now, unfolding in the way it is; to pave the way for the new normal. So that next time we can just sigh and remember that getting outraged didn't work last time so why bother now? That's just how things are.

The other day on the radio, I was listening to an interview with Ken Jarecke, the photographer who, in 1991, took a picture of an incinerated Iraqi soldier just before the Gulf War ceasefire (this is the photo, if you need to see it; here is an interview—with the man's face blurred out—about the photo's significance). The photo was suppressed in the North American press; at the time, the trend in news reporting was to sanitize the war, to make it look like there were really no casualties at all on either side. I was 12 in 1991; I knew what war was, that obviously people were dying, but the essential truth of it, the genuine outrage and the horrific human cost, didn't hit me until several years later, when I came across that photo. Nowadays, such images are commonplace, and Jarecke was speaking about how photos of dead bodies from war zones had completely lost their power to shock. I think he's mostly right; the photos of dead kids in Syria and Gaza splashed all over my Facebook feed have never changed a single person's mind on the issues at hand. In 1991, the AP felt the need to suppress that photo for no reason I can see other than that it might make people question the war, might make them not go along so readily with the next one, might—and this would have been the worst thing—recognize the humanity of the enemy. It had power, back then. Now, we understand that the Other is human, suffers horribly as the result of our actions, and we don't give a fuck.

We are able to briefly give a fuck about Ferguson because it still has the power to shock—this time, and not completely; open racism is socially acceptable again in the US, and so the KKK can raise money to smear the reputation of the murdered child in question. When it happens again—and make no mistake, Ferguson is the future of policing—we will all understand the collective truth that this is the way it always happens, the way it's always been done.

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Nobody suggested that I do the fandom meme, but I took note of it on (guess who!) Sabotabby's Livejournal some time ago and thought it might be fun. And maybe, again, a way to kickstart this blog. (And nobody wants to hear about how I-can't-power-off-my-mobile-and-I-think-it's-broken-and-I-haven't-even-finished-paying-for-it-yet do they?)

So fandoms.

Shit. First of all, I deny that I even have a fandom (singular), let alone more than one. Sure, I tend to write about Doctor Who a little more than most people, but I'm engaging in a critical dialogue with pop culture itself, damn it!

Or maybe not. Onwards.

To meme or not to meme? Your click will kill the cat - or not )

Your favourite film watched this year?

Short version: I hardly watched any full-length movies in 2013, and none of them were really good. )

Your favourite book read this year?

Think you can't be shocked? Think again! )

Your favourite album or song to listen to this year?

Old white guy and young Oriental woman, oh yeah! )

Your favourite TV show of the year?

The good, the bad and Jane Austen's revenge. )

Your biggest fandom disappointment of the year?

Do you really have to ask? )

Your TV boyfriend of the year?

It's kind of cheating, but I'm going with Troy and Abed from Community, even if I have to reach back to 2012 for examples of their awesomeness.

Your TV girlfriend of the year?

Last Tango's Nicola Walker as Caroline. Who knew I'd fall in love with a sheep farmer?

Your biggest squee moment of the year?

Cheating again. The best Doctor Who multi-doctor Episode of all time. Seriously. And it's in Spanish. (And I"m done, so I'll leave you with them.

Steven Moffat, take a fucking lesson. Please.

ed_rex: (1980)

Every once in a while (in a while, damn it! Not and a while, what's wrong with you people? Also: It's "try to ..." not "try and ..." Okay? Pretty please?) — I digress. Jesus god and it's only paragraph number one.

(Second try.) Every once in a while, as some of you might have noticed, I interrupt my steady stream of tweets and occasional links to Doctor Who reviews with threats to return to blogging, to keeping an online journal of sorts.

Well here it is, very nearly my 49th birthday, and I'm at it again. This time with (yes) a meme, in hopes that it will re-ignite my powers of more-or-less extemporaneous writing. So to start, a tip o' the hat to Livejournal's brilliant Sabotabby, who cursed me with gave me U.

* * *

Something I hate: Unsafe drivers. As a professional driver (not to mention regular cyclist and even pedestrian), I have come to a powerful dislike for the careless, the inattentive and the thuggish types who get behind the wheel and seem to have no conception of just how much power it is they don't bother to be careful with. I don't like conducting myself in a state of constant paranoia, presuming that every other vehicle on the road is out to kill me, but it seems the safest way to play it.

More personally, hate is an emotion that comes hard to me now. I don't know if it's a sign of maturity or of defeat, but for individuals I am more likely to feel pity than even rage, let alone hatred.

For abstractions, on the other hand, or for those who represent them (Steven Harper, anyone?), it's not so hard to say "I hate".

Something I love: "Raven", who of course is a person, not a thing. And I can't explain why she qualifies under the letter U, but she does. You'll have to trust me on that.

Somewhere I have been: Seriously, Sabs? You give me the letter U and expect me to answer this one! Jesus god ...

Oh. Wait. United States. (Thanks Google Maps!)

Somewhere I would like to go: Umingmaktok, Nunavut. Well, maybe somewhere a little more urban. But a long-time fantasy of mine is to make a trip to the far north, preferably in winter. I want to experience permanent night and to see the Northern Lights in full glory.

And it might happen sooner than later. One of my regular passengers, a flight attendant, has offered me a pair of his "buddy passes", which would drop the cost of a ticket from a couple of grand apiece to a few hundred dollars.

Someone I know: Urbanites and upstarts, mostly.

Best film: I can think of only two movies starting with this accursed letter. First is Up in the Air, a mostly forgetable vehicle for some handsome guy whose name escapes me and Up, a charming animated feature about an unlikely understanding that develops between a crotchety old man and a young boy. Also, flying, balloon-powered house!

I probably should have started with an easier meme, but at least this typing is done. Lemme know if you want a letter.

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The death of Nelson Mandela was the death of a courageous man and a complicated man. Killer and peace-maker, he was no pacifist, but a revelutionary locked in a death-match with an evil system that — until they abandoned it like so much rats from a foundering scow — was backed by just about every so-called freedom-loving country in the Western World ...

The brilliant Sabotabby writes about Mandela's legacy, and why we owe it not so much to his memory, but to ourselves, not to forget the truth about his struggles. It's a must-read: http://sabotabby.livejournal.com/1162324.html.

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One of the best political bloggers around tells it like it is about Kathleen Wynne's supposedly centrist Liberal government.

Originally posted by [personal profile] sabotabby at On state-sanctioned murder

Kathleen Wynne, our newly appointed, self-described "social justice premier," has a plan to "reform" welfare based on the Orwellian-titled report "Brighter Prospects." Part of this reform is the elimination of the already criminally low Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and the special diet allowance. There will now be no distinction between regular welfare and disability. Under the current system, ODSP gets you $1,075 a month and general welfare gets you $606 a month. Neither amount is really enough to live on, especially in Toronto, but now people on welfare will get slightly more ($100) and people on disability will get drastically, murderously less.

Anyone who is disabled or knows someone who's disabled will see the immediate problem. I mean, there are many immediate problems, but the biggest one is that having a disability costs much, much more than being an able-bodied but jobless person. Medications, mobility devices, and other necessities for survival cost a lot. The medication that kept me alive for a year, thankfully covered by my insurance plan because I'm employed, cost $679.70 a month, which is nothing compared to what it costs to keep a cancer or HIV patient alive. A manual wheelchair starts at maybe $130. A motorized wheelchair—a crappy one—starts at almost $2000. Many disabilities require a special diet beyond what food banks can provide. You can, if you're lucky, get a tiny and shitty apartment for under $1000/month in Toronto (subsidized housing being a scarce commodity), but good luck if you want something on a subway line so that you can haul your disabled ass to one of your many doctors' appointments. And if you've managed that, have you noticed that you don't have any money left over for food, or transit, or emergency expenses?

How do disabled people get by as it is? Generally, because there are free subsidies that the government doesn't need to think about—beleaguered friends and family members who take up the slack when the state fails.

Wynne ought to know, because she's premier now and it's her job to know. If this budget passes, she'll have condemned thousands of people in Ontario to desperate poverty, starvation, and homelessness.

She'll get away with it too, because disability advocacy is just as problematic as any sort of advocacy for marginalized people. No one listens to crips. If you're disabled, you generally have too many problems dealing with bureaucracy and pain and sickness to fight for your rights. But above and beyond that is the difficulty with quantifying deaths that occur due to capitalism.

If you are, for example, calculating deaths under Stalin, you can look at how many people were shot, how many died in gulags, how many died of famine and forced relocation, and so on. (If you're being brutally honest, you need to separate which famine deaths would have occurred regardless of the political regime in place and which were deliberate, and also compare the death toll when any large shift in economics happens—for example, privatization—but it's nuances like these that get me called a Stalinist even though I'm quite far from that.) Deaths under capitalism, and particularly the deaths occurring in a vulnerable population, are much harder to quantify. Many disabled people are sick, and likely to die while on disability. This is a given. How do you separate out the "natural" death toll from the premature death toll that will occur when the threadbare safety net keeping some alive is yanked out from under them. You can't easily do so, and thus it will look like Wynne murdered 0 people, when in fact she might be murdering thousands. (But, of course, it's with a stroke of a pen rather than by the firing squad, and we as a society are much more comfortable with that.)

It also highlights the ridiculousness of tokenism in politics. Wynne is the "social justice premier" because she's queer and a woman. What good will this accomplish for queer disabled people? For disabled women? Precisely fucking nothing, just as the election of a black "progressive" president in the US didn't benefit Trayvon Martin or countless children murdered by drone strikes, just as the election of a female Prime Minister in the UK all those years ago crushed the poor and the working class just as surely as the election of a male Prime Minister would have done. Wynne is proving herself already to be just as bad as Conservative butcher Mike Harris—if not worse—and our main alternative seems to be an outright fascist who would further destroy unions and institute chain gangs. (Oh, and the NDP is being useless. I had hopes there, but it's useless.)

It's a pity Ontarians are so placid. We ought to be storming the legislature with pitchforks and torches. These people are monsters, killers, targeting the weakest and most vulnerable amongst us so that they can kiss up to their wealthy base. There's no gulag hideous enough to punish that level of cruelty. We ought to refer to them, and treat them, as enemies of humanity.

Oh, and for the record? Both welfare and ODSP need to be raised significantly to pre-Harris levels + inflation and cost-of-living. We can tax the obscenely wealthy and/or cut MPPs' salaries to make up the difference. It's just basic human decency.

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Short and to-the-point analysis of media bias, liberal and conservative versions — both meant to defame a former child-soldier and victim of long-term torture.

Originally posted by [personal profile] sabotabby at The vocabulary of dehumanization

Interesting that the Star calls Omar Khadr a war criminal and the SUN calls him a terrorist. Both terms are inaccurate ("child soldier" would be much more appropriate; "torture victim" is also relevant); both are intended to dehumanize this young man to the papers' respective readership and to invoke a sense of fear at the very existence of this psychologically broken individual.

But both papers are very canny about what will arouse that fear-and-dehumanization response amongst their readers. The SUN knows that the worst thing one can be is a terrorist*; the enlightened readers of the Star know that this is just silly fear-mongering. The worst thing that one can be to the common liberal is a war criminal. Just the thought conjures up images of concentration camps and rallies in Nuremberg, obfuscating entirely the act itself: the alleged throwing of a grenade by a 15-year-old brainwashed child at armed men who had voluntarily signed up to get paid to subjugate other countries.

At any rate, I'm rather hoping that Mr. Hallam himself doesn't get too much flak over this, because he sounds like a stand-up fellow and someone I'd get along with. Anyone who takes such a positive interest in the education of young people is fine by me!

* Unless one's terrorism is directed against women exercising their reproductive choices and health care providers who assist them in doing so. That kind of terrorism will get you a medal from the Queen.
ed_rex: (The Droz Report)

I've kind of been meaning to post more about my (not-so) brilliant soccer career, or how we've signed a lease and (barring some unforeseen disaster) will be moving on the 4th of August into our Tiny Perfect Apartment, but live and driving and writing have got in the way of all that.

Also, sloth. But I digress.

Nevertheless, a couple of things force me into extemporaneous blogging mode.

The first comes courtesy of The Guardian (UK), which suggests I (and everyone else talking and/or marching about the One Percent) have had our outrage out of whack by an order of magnitude or three.

Apparently, the global super-elite have (yes) somehow managed to, er, "move" some $20trillion into off-shore bank accounts, all the better to keep the tax-man's grubby little fingers off of their "hard-earned" wealth.

The full piece is at online at The Guardian's site and meanwhile, I'm going to go out and by myself a few pitch-forks — and sharpen 'em.

Speaking of class warfare — and Batman — the livejournalist Sabotabby has seen The Dark Knight Rises. I haven't yet, and don't know when I will, but her review makes for some very interesting reading (but be warry of spoilers). It lives here and is well-worth your attention.

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Young Geoffrey basks in Watts of praise

Accepts correction from a tabby
(and apologizes for the really second-rate word-play two lines up)

"I'm not generally given to flattery. That was just one damned eloquent piece of commentary." — Peter Watts, to me. (Yes, that Peter Watts.)

Yes, I feel flattered again and am struggling with the urge to tell him so. Probably best to keep silent, yes?

Meanwhile, the LJ blogger [personal profile] sabotabby answered the question I had about this meme's Question #20, "What are your favourite character interactions to write?"

I had blocked on what the question meant, wondering in essence whether it inquired as to whether I prefer to write sex scenes or fight scenes. [personal profile] sabotabby suggested, quite rightly I think,

I took it as meaning that sometimes characters are interesting in particular combinations. So I might prefer writing scenes where Aisha and Boris interact, because they have such a complicated relationship, over writing scenes where Clarissa and Darshika interact. Everyone else took it to mean "do you like writing fighting scenes or fucking scenes?"

So, and without further adoo and with no desire to be like 'everyone else', Young Geoffrey tries again. 'What are your favorite character interactions to write?' )

But I'll put it behind a cut anyway. )

Well. There wasn't a of wit in that dialogue, but I think it holds up pretty well anyway. And those are the kind of character interactions I enjoy writing. Interactions that hint at the nature of the characters, that suggest motivations and threats and emotions that may not be explicit, and dialogue that moves the story along and also makes me want to find out what happens next.

Even an hour a day would see me re-write this thing pretty quick, wouldn't it?

Click to see all the questions )

July 2017

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