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01 Feb 17:26

The Cruelty and Danger of Anti-Choice Panic Over “Infanticide”

by Kylie Cheung

Abortion rights protest sign

Welcome to The Week in Reproductive Justice, a weekly recap of all news related to the hot-button issue of what lawmakers are allowing women to do with their bodies!

This week was a particularly emotional one for reproductive justice advocates, as a proposed Virginia law meant to fully protect the rights and safety of people who have abortions later into their pregnancies led to an onslaught of hateful and deceitful rhetoric from anti-choice politicians and leaders, who have taken to calling later abortions “infanticide” and “murder.”

Democratic Virginia state Delegate Kathy Tran introduced H.B. 2491, a bill to codify the right to third trimester and later abortions in extreme health circumstances. Of course, this right is already delineated in Roe v. Wade, and has saved untold numbers of women’s lives, and spared many others the devastation and trauma of being forced to go through the entire process of giving birth, only to watch their baby suffer and die due to severe health conditions.

As many advocates and medical professionals have pointed out, several tests to discover severe fetal abnormalities aren’t even possible until around 20 weeks of pregnancy, necessitating full protections for access to abortion care at later stages. About 90 percent of abortions take place in the first trimester of pregnancy, and bans on abortion at later stages are aimed to solve a “problem” that doesn’t exist. The only thing such bans accomplish is hurting women when unfortunate and often dangerous circumstances arise in their pregnancies.

But for all the misinformed, deeply ugly conservative outrage at Tran’s bill and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s declared support for it, all their reasoning is just an excuse, and conservatives loathe abortions earlier in the pregnancy just as much. Opposition to later abortions isn’t somehow a sensible, middle-ground stance—not from the same people who support fetal heartbeat bans that effectively ban all abortions, and not from the same people who want you to think a pregnant person’s personal health care decision is somehow equatable to committing murder.

It seems it can’t be stated enough these days, but women and pregnant people are human beings with the human right to autonomy, safety, and privacy in their bodies; “personhood” is inextricably bound to bodily autonomy, and cannot be conferred upon unborn fetuses without first taking it away from a pregnant person.

Backlash against Tran’s bill has drawn medical professionals, advocates, and people who have had abortions to speak up in support of the bill, and reject the lies and misogyny its opponents rely on for their messaging.

“There are many reasons why patients have abortions after 20 weeks; complications happen as the pregnancy progresses, my patient’s health is impacted, and we perform tests to make sure the fetus is healthy. This is why this decision is made based on medical advice, not politics,” OB/GYN and abortion provider Dr. Daniel Grossman wrote on Twitter on Thursday. “Additionally, I see patients who need abortions after 20 weeks because the restrictions to abortion made it difficult for them to get care earlier. Everything from medically unnecessary waiting periods and ultrasound laws to shuttering of clinics and insurance bans create delays.”

There are many reasons why patients have abortions after 20 weeks; complications happen as the pregnancy progresses, my patient’s health is impacted, and we perform tests to make sure the fetus is healthy. This is why this decision is made based on medical advice, not politics.

— Dr. Daniel Grossman (@DrDGrossman) January 31, 2019

Dr. Grossman additionally broke down how other countries’ restrictions on later abortions tend to differ from the U.S., as other industrialized countries offer widely accessible and often publicly funded abortion care. Additionally, permitting pregnant people to safely access later abortion hardly makes the U.S. “extreme,” as abortion opponents want you to think: 65 countries permit later abortions for fetal and health anomalies.

The anti-choice movement’s reliance on spreading lies that invoke emotion and outrage is hardly new. This is the entire basis of the movement, offering a foundation for all its cruelty and contradictions. Speaking of contradictions, reproductive justice writer and activist Renee Bracey Sherman summed up the core of the anti-choice movement’s hypocrisy on Wednesday: “It’s irritating seeing conservatives up in arms about hypothetical abortion situations and willfully misunderstanding abortion, yet they were silent when two children died in ICE’s custody and as a pregnant folks miscarry in jails across the country due to lack of healthcare,” she wrote.

It’s so irritating seeing conservatives up in arms about hypothetical abortion situations and willfully misunderstanding abortion, yet they were silent when two children died in ICE’s custody and as a pregnant folks miscarry in jails across the country due to lack of healthcare.

— Renee Bracey Sherman (@RBraceySherman) January 31, 2019

Plenty more advocates, women, and people who have had abortions have also spoken out, and it’s their voices we should be listening to over the vitriolic, ignorant panic spewing from anti-choice writers and leaders.

Some have pointed out how access to abortion as an option, and certainly access to later abortion in more complicated circumstances, is fundamental to healthy family life, and women’s full access to public life.

“’If your mother had had an abortion, you wouldn’t exist.’ The best answer I’ve heard to that: ‘Actually, it’s because my mother had an abortion that I do exist,’” feminist writer Jill Filipovic wrote in a tweet. “Reproductive choice means women have options. It enables us to escape abuse, build healthy families, build our lives.”

Guardian writer Moira Donegan responded to a Twitter user who argued pregnant people who don’t want to be pregnant should face the “consequences” for their actions by pointing out how this frequent anti-choice talking point belies yet another hypocrisy: “Something I’ve noticed from the anti-choice brigade: depending on the context, pregnancy and parenthood are either unparalleled, beautiful miracles that women shouldn’t give up, or grueling and terrible punishments that women deserve to endure for having sex,” she said.

In a bitter twist of irony, Virginia’s H.B. 2491 has arguably never been more necessary. With Roe v. Wade and its full protections on the line in today’s judicial landscape, it’s incumbent on states to codify these protections into their laws. The horrifying depth of backlash against this bill should hardly be surprising from an anti-choice movement that routinely relies on lies, and even violence and scare tactics, to get its ugly point across.

Yet, pushback against HB 2491 and Delegate Kathy Tran feels even more abrasive than usual. The conservative fight against HB 2491 is rooted in the demonization and dehumanization of women and pregnant people, so we see them not as human beings with a wide range of experiences, circumstances, and needs, but as murderers. Language like this often yields alarming consequences—and needless to say, but if self-proclaimed pro-lifers actually cared about life and safety, they’d take a long hard look at what their words may incite.

A case that could dismantle abortion rights goes to SCOTUS

This week, lawyers for the Center for Reproductive Rights filed an emergency motion asking the Supreme Court to block legislation in Louisiana that would dismantle abortion rights. The legislation in question imposes medically unnecessary, difficult requirements on abortion clinics, and shuts down clinics that can’t meet these requirements. It could go into effect early as this Monday pending action from the Supreme Court, although there are some concerns about what it could mean if the Supreme Court upholds the law.

The Louisiana law would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, which is simply unnecessary considering how objectively rare it is for abortion to result in complications necessitating an emergency hospital visit. In other words, the law is all about stigma and shutting down clinics, and is transparently ideologically motivated, as it has the potential to shut down the last remaining clinics in Louisiana, and force nearly all Louisiana women to travel out-of-state for basic health care.

In 2016, the Supreme Court ruled on a similar law in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, determining that such laws created an undue burden for women seeking abortion care because of their large-scale effect of shutting down clinics. With a similar law now before them, advocates are now concerned the Whole Women’s Health decision could essentially be reversed, threatening to shutter access to abortion, and render abortion a right in theory only.

Idaho lawmakers introduce legislation to make abortion murder

Two Idaho state lawmakers have introduced the Abortion Human Rights Act this week, a bill that would mandate that anyone who receives or provides abortions would be charged with murder. The Idaho state murder statute already recognizes the killing of a human embryo or fetus, but notably prohibits prosecuting women who have abortions or abortion providers, which makes it seem more likely the statute is meant to protect pregnant women from violence. However, the proposed bill would remove this key exception from the statute.

The bill mirrors similar, increasingly common legislation to sweepingly ban abortion via fetal heartbeat bans. Regardless of the constitutionality of such laws, they serve to reinforce and build upon abortion stigma, or potentially launch court battles that could make it to the Supreme Court and either dismantle or do away with Roe v. Wade altogether.

It should, at this point, go without saying, but these are dangerous times for women and pregnant people. The Trump administration has emboldened extremists and ushered in an era of normalized attacks on our most fundamental human rights. It’s never been more important to listen to the voices of medical experts, concerned reproductive justice advocates, and certainly, more than anything, people who have actually had abortions and deserve to be included in every single conversation that takes place about what we can and can’t do with our bodies.

Tune in next week to see what lawmakers will try next in their never-ending mission to derail reproductive justice!

(image: Rena Schild /

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23 Jan 21:34

Welcome to the Dystopia: Amazon Unveils Scout Delivery Robots

by Ryan Whitwam

We've all heard about Prime Air, the drone delivery program currently hamstrung by US restrictions on commercial drones. However, the company just rolled out a new ground-based robotic delivery service in one community north of Seattle. It's called Amazon Scout.

The post Welcome to the Dystopia: Amazon Unveils Scout Delivery Robots appeared first on ExtremeTech.

23 Jan 21:32

'I Tried to Block Amazon From My Life. It Was Impossible.'

by msmash
Kashmir Hill, a reporter at Gizmodo, spent weeks trying to avoid and block Amazon -- and every service that is owned by Amazon or uses Amazon's web services (AWS). She went to great lengths such as getting her own custom-built VPN. Turns out, it is impossible to keep Amazon off your life. An excerpt from the report: Launched in 2006, AWS has taken over vast swaths of the internet. My VPN winds up blocking over 23 million IP addresses controlled by Amazon, resulting in various unexpected casualties, from Motherboard and Fortune to the U.S. Government Accountability Office's website. (Government agencies love AWS, which is likely why Amazon, soon to be a corporate Cerberus with three "headquarters," chose Arlington, Virginia, in the D.C. suburbs, as one of them.) Many of the smartphone apps I rely on also stop working during the block.

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23 Jan 21:32

'Bobs Burgers' embroidery portraits of every Belcher family character

by Xeni Jardin

'Bobs Burgers' fans and stitching crafters, get ready to flip out.

“I made the entire Belcher family into embroidery hoops,” says IMGURian loveandasandwich, aka Chelsea Bloxsom.

“All done on 8 inch embroidery hoops. Cotton fabric backing, felt details. I glued the excess fabric onto the back so they make great personalized wall art.”

Here they are, and they're magnificent.

“Yes I take custom orders and yes I sell my little guys!” Here is her Instagram.

She's also behind Warewolf press on Etsy.

23 Jan 21:31

The Deep Ties Between the Catholic Anti-Abortion Movement and Racial Segregation

by Gillian Frank

The video of MAGA hat-wearing Covington Catholic High School students, who were in Washington DC for the March for Life, in a tense standoff with Black Israelites and a Native American contingent from the Indigenous People’s March, has become hotly debated national news.


23 Jan 21:31

The World of the Book: Talking with Elizabeth McCracken

by Alana Mohamed

The story of candlepin bowling is one of secrets, spooks, and love according to novelist Elizabeth McCracken in her forthcoming novel, Bowlaway, out February 5 from Ecco. When Bertha Truitt is found abandoned in a cemetery in Salford, Massachusetts, no one has any idea what to make of her. Not Joe Wear, the watchman hiding in plain sight. Not Leviticus Sprague, the refined doctor whose race makes him an anomaly in Salford. And certainly not the townsfolk, who dream discomfiting dreams of Bertha. Nevertheless, she integrates herself into the town, opening a candlepin bowling alley and proclaiming herself its inventor. Her mysterious appearance will haunt several generations of Truitts as the bowling alley passes hands from the early 1910s and nearly through the century.

In McCracken’s hands this sprawling timeline shrinks and bites, with poetic lines that dissect warring human emotions with precision and delicacy. Take, for example, McCracken on being falsely accused: “The way falseness made you doubt yourself, it deformed your very shadow, the grammar of your soul.” It’s delightful to watch McCracken play with time, incorporating real events into the lives of her characters, like the deadly Great Molasses Flood that brought Boston to a stop in 1919. These tricks of time help us to follow a family whose fate in inextricably linked to New England’s most New England sport—candlepin bowling.

Recently, we discussed


The Rumpus: At the risk of getting ahead of myself, I wanted to ask you about incorporating the Great Molasses Flood into the novel. It’s a personal fascination of mine. Could you talk about why you included that in there and why that was so important to you?

Elizabeth McCracken: I’m from the Boston area. There are a lot of little things in the book that are inspired by my great love of books like The Book of Lists and The People’s Almanac. I can’t remember whether that’s the first place I read about it, but I also remember hearing about it when I was growing up in Boston. For years, I’ve had a photograph of the aftermath that my friend gave me. It’s one of those things that I’ve put into things and had to take out because it had nothing to do with anything, which is unfortunately part of my process. I was delighted to suddenly discover that I was writing a book where it made sense to put it in. Henry Dunow—who is my agent and a dear friend—when he read it, he thought I had made it up. He wondered if I had made up that and candlepin bowling, because he’s not a New Englander. In those cases I was delighted that somebody could think that I had made up such things, and then was almost even disappointed that I had not.

Rumpus: I started with the Great Molasses Flood because I’m curious how you create this world that’s fictional and a little whimsical, but still incorporate all these historical details. Do you feel beholden to the history attached to some of these things?

McCracken: I definitely did for the Great Molasses Flood. I’m one of those people who have to go back and realize that my characters have aged twenty years, but only ten years have passed. But somebody came up to me and said, “This molasses flood, does it have to happen in 1919?” and I said, “Yes! Absolutely, that is not something I’m willing to fudge.” I read a great book on the Molasses Flood called Dark Tide by Stephen Puleo, who describes where the various aid stations and mortuaries were located. It was important to me that I got that right.

One of the reasons I’ve always been interested in it, besides the fact that it’s strange, is that in the Boston area, it has attendant myths to it. It was said that in the 1960s on hot days, you could smell molasses because it was just so caught in the bricks and the cobblestone of downtown Boston. And that also on horse hooves and carriage wheels, the stickiness was carried as far as Worcester. I just love those details that seem sort of natural, but almost immediately felt legendary.

Rumpus: This book is such a New England type of novel. I was wondering about the research you had to do for this novel because it spans so many decades.

McCracken: Part of it is that I am a New Englander and I feel very New England-ish. I now live in Texas, which makes me feel like even more of a New Englander than I ever have before in my life. Originally I thought of setting the book in Somerville, Massachusetts, which is where I lived for about nine years, and I felt very constrained by history. I kept thinking, “Would this be possible in Somerville at this time?” The minute I decided to make it an imaginary city, I felt much freer. I wrote a book that was about vaudeville and the movies, and then I was really obsessed with getting everything right, because it happened all in actual places. With this book, I can’t remember how long I tried to make it an actual place, I just remember the thrill of making it imaginary.

Rumpus: There’s a point in the book when the narrator says of Bertha that she’s “the oddest combination of the past and the present that anyone had ever met.” This seems to apply to the book as well because you have characters like Dr. Sprague and Joe Wear, where you have to walk this line of balancing these older attitudes against a contemporary readership with newer ideas. Was that a challenge for you at all? 

McCracken: I don’t think so, only because I don’t think I thought of it as I was writing. There’s a huge amount that when I’m writing that happens on a subconscious level. I try to, as much as I can, plunge into the world of the book. There’s a lot of stuff that ends up coming out in the book that I didn’t—I mean, I did put it there purposefully in some way—but it wasn’t sort of an intellectual exercise to get it in.

Rumpus: Are you really regimented; do you keep notes in a notebook that you return to, or does it happen more loosely?

McCracken: For this book, the process went differently than any other thing I’d written. I worked really long hours when I was able to, and I also wrote this faster than any novel I’d written before. I wrote the first draft relatively quickly and then I kept revising it. To me, that helped with being able to access the subconscious. When I say draft, I mean I typed it over and then if there was a part of the book that wasn’t working, I would type that part over and over, so that revision process felt like writing.

Part of it is that I knew less about what was going to happen in this book when I started writing it than almost any other novel I’ve ever written. I simply started writing it and then figured things out as I was going along. So, the first draft ended up being sort of the plan for it. There are some things that are the same, but there were more characters initially, and the ending was different and really quite bad. I wince to think of the corny thing I did at the end of the first draft.

Rumpus: I read that you liked titles and titling chapters and such so I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about settling on the title for this book.

McCracken: It was one of those things where I came up with the title, and then I had to go back and change the name of the bowling alley. Originally, [the alley] was just called Truitt’s all the way through. Because this is a book that has been so overstuffed with stuff, that I imagined it was going to have a wordy title, but none of the ones that I came up with were any good. I liked the idea that [Bowlaway] sort of explained the setting of the story from the beginning. But I also like the fact that it’s a weirdly dreamy name, and that there are bowling alleys called “Bowlaway” across the country.

Rumpus: I didn’t know that!

McCracken: For a while, I went to Amazon to see when the book would be up, but the thing that was for sale was a vintage match book for a bowling alley called The Bowlaway that would come up instead, which I found very pleasing.

Rumpus: What, initially, kind of sparked your interest in bowling and why did you think it would be a good vehicle for this story?

McCracken: Often I like having a bit of material to wrap a novel around. Part of it is to do research and part of it is to have an anchor, so I knew I wanted to do that. I love reading both giant, multigenerational sagas and novels that don’t have that, but I feel like I could wander for a long time—forever—in a draft if I didn’t have some sort of bit of material at the heart of the book. Also, I always like having a one-sentence answer when somebody says, “So what’s your novel about?”

I bowled as a kid, and I knew that I wanted to write a very New England novel. It really feels like there is little that is as New England as candlepin, especially because people still play candlepin bowling in Massachusetts. I like the idea of writing something that regional.

Rumpus: It seems like your revision process is quite demanding, so I’m wondering how you decide what actually needs to be there. Are there ever any tensions that arise between you and your editor where you have to fight for something to be included?

McCracken: Historically, I have. But this book, I haven’t, partly because I’m less precious—or maybe I’m better at leaving things out? I can’t say. When my work does something strange that I can’t quite intellectually justify, I try to trust it anyhow. There are things that might be hard for me to explain why they seem essential to the book, but I feel that they are. There was a lot originally—and maybe there one or two sentences residually left—in which Dr. Sprague was a very prolific painter. There was going to be a giant retrospective of his work at the end of the book, and I understood why I was taken with the idea, but that it didn’t have anything to do with what happens in the book. Part of it was that I enjoyed describing a bunch of different paintings, but I also really loved the idea of—and maybe one day I’ll write about it—every now and then you’ll hear about a large collection of a previously unknown painter. I really liked the idea of writing about that. I think I read a newspaper article about such an artist while I was working on the book and I thought, “That’s great! I’ll cram that in!” But I knew after I had already written it that I could neither intellectually nor emotionally justify keeping it in there.

Rumpus: You mention that idea of an artist retrospective for a later novel, but I was wondering how you keep these tidbits straight about these historical stories and weird myths.

McCracken: I’m one of those writers who has many, many notebooks with the first three pages are full and then I forget about them. I mostly take notes when I’m working on something continually, but a lot of the stuff just cycles back in my brain. Like I said, I had wanted to write about spontaneous combustion and the Great Molasses Flood for years now. I had wanted to write about fire, in general. I guess I’m a literary pyromaniac. I like writing about this stuff even if it has nothing to do with the book and I finally got it in a little bit in this book.

Rumpus: I’m wondering what the impetus is for putting all these very real, but very strange situations into your fiction. It doesn’t feel like you’re inserting it into the story as an aside, but that you’re incorporating them into your world.

McCracken: [Laughs] Why do I insist on doing that? Is that the question?

Rumpus: I suppose!

McCracken: Part of me has always felt that real life is intensely weird and much weirder than people sometimes give it credit for. I’ve always been interested in that both in fiction and nonfiction. I went to graduate school in the late ‘80s at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and even though my friends didn’t write basic things that you would think of when you use the words “minimalism” or “realism,” one of the models of what we passed around to each other was domestic minimalism, amazing stuff. I love Raymond Carver’s work, for instance. But I remember even then thinking that realism seemed to me to be a spectrum and not one thing, though when people used the word realism, they were usually attaching it to a writer like Carver or Updike. I think the late ‘80s were a time where there was an idea—not to the people I went to school with and certainly not to many of my teachers—but, this notion that a story looked a certain way and any way that you stepped away from that was like a deviation in a weird way. And I’ve always been interested in deviation and deviance, so…

Rumpus: I do like what you’re saying about realism being a spectrum because there is something very real about your work, but it also feels really whimsical and young, like it’s approaching reality with fresher eyes. Do you ever feel other people influencing in your work or other trends in your work, where you have to take a step back and kind of re-attune yourself to that type of approach to realism?

McCracken: Like anybody, I’m a writer of my time. I love it when people say, “Who are you influenced by?” and you get this chance to mention other writers that you love. But actually, nobody really knows what they’re influenced by and how strange things make their way into your work. I think there are very few writers who are not influenced by everything they read and ingest, whether it’s the highest-minded art or the ads you read on the subway.

Rumpus: Who did you envision the narrator to be?

McCracken: So, I never think of a third-person narrator as a who, but always as a what. When I was in a philosophy class as an undergrad at Boston University, the teacher once referred to God as a “gaseous invertebrate” and I think of my third-person narrator as being a gaseous invertebrate. My students can tell you that I sometimes get quite exercised when people talk about third-person narrators as though they are people, in terms of what the third-person narrator knows or feels. They can go places, they can see things, but I don’t think of them as believing things in the way that human beings do.

Rumpus: There’s something weirdly creepy about the entire novel. You talk about this, all these bits of fascination, but were there any other characters you had a lot of affection for? Or were there any you found more difficult to write?

McCracken: I have a lot of affection for Joe Wear, who was really a quite minor character in early drafts. I ended up putting a lot more of him into the book. And I mean, I like ‘em all. The character who I had the hardest time writing was probably Minna. That was partially because in early drafts of the book a lot more happened away from the bowling alley, but I realized that the book didn’t work when it was away from the bowling alley. The whole thing that I knew about Minna was that she wanted nothing to do with the bowling alley. She felt quite elusive to me because I needed to get her back to the bowling alley at least once and she didn’t want to go.

Rumpus: I’m going to attempt a last question, which is kind of like that “who inspires you” question, but more specifically, do you have any suggested reading or supplementary materials one might think of as accompanying this book? This is a very selfish question on my part.

McCracken: I feel like I have often tried to write something that has the feel of those black and white cartoons from the 1930s by the Fleischers like Betty Boop but also related and I feel like this book is the closest I’ve gotten to that. Something that’s both dark and jolly and kind of scary at the same time.

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23 Jan 21:29

The Sensible Math of Knocking Over Absurdly Large Dominoes

by Rhett Allain
Using a small domino to topple a taller one, you could in theory take down a domino the size of a skyscraper. Here's how it would work.
23 Jan 21:27

Why Free Software Evangelist Richard Stallman is Haunted by Stalin's Dream

by msmash
Richard Stallman recently visited Mandya, a small town about 60 miles from Bengaluru, India, to give a talk. On the sidelines, Indian news outlet FactorDaily caught up with Stallman for an interview. In the wide-ranging interview, Stallman talked about companies that spy on users, popular Android apps, media streaming and transportation apps, smart devices, DRM, software backdoors, subscription software, and Apple and censorship. An excerpt from the interview: If you are carrying a mobile phone, it is always tracking your movements and it could have been modified to listen to the conversations around you. I call this product Stalin's dream. What would Stalin have wanted to hand out to every inhabitant of the former Soviet Union? Something to track that person's movements and listen to the person's conservations. Fortunately, Stalin could not do it because the technology didn't exist. Unfortunately for us, now it does exist and most people have been pressured or lured into carrying around such a Stalin's dream device, but not me. I am suspicious of new digital technology. I expect it to have new malicious functionalities. It has happened so many times that I have learned to expect this, so I have always checked before I start using some new digital technology. I asked to find out what is nasty about it and I found out these two things. It was something like 20 years ago, and I decided it was my duty as a citizen to refuse, regardless of whatever convenience it might offer me. To surrender my freedom in this way was failing to defend a free society. This is why I do not have a portable phone. I refuse to carry a portable phone. I never have one and unless things change, I never will. I do use portable phones, lots of different ones. If I needed to call someone right now, I would ask one of you, "Could you please make a call for me?" If I am on a bus and it is late and I need to tell somebody that I am going to arrive late, there is always some other passenger in the bus who will make a call for me or send a text for me. Practically speaking, it is not that hard.

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23 Jan 21:18

World Bank defection helps highlight appeal of green financing

Closed-end funds raised for renewable energy hit an all-time high of $42.3bn in 2018
14 Jan 21:31

A Visual Compendium of Where Houston’s Neighborhood Names Come From

by Dan Singer

Budding internet etymologist and Albany High School senior Adam Aleksic is out with his latest annotated map (bigger version here), which points out the origins behind some of the Houston area’s most well-known neighborhood names. As you can see in the legend at the top right corner, the author makes a distinction between developers and people — both of which have left their marks in the region’s spacial vernacular. And of course, no map of Houston would be complete without its fair share of wet spots, too, which appear in the meanings behind 6 locations shown above: Lazybrook, Timbergrove, Spring Branch, River Oaks, Clear Lakes, and Denver Harbor. Infographics [The Etymology Nerd] Image: The Etymology Nerd … Read More
14 Jan 21:30

Philip Glass Finishes His David Bowie Trilogy, Debuting His Lodger Symphony

by Josh Jones

Sometimes I feel
The need to move on
So I pack a bag
And move on
Move on

--David Bowie, “Move On”

We might have been calling it the Lake Geneva Trilogy, given David Bowie’s recuperative sojourn in Switzerland after the emptiness he felt in L.A. The first album in the Berlin Trilogy, Low, was mostly recorded in France, and the last album of the trilogy, Lodger, in Montreaux in 1979. But they were almost all written in, around, and about Berlin, where Bowie found what he was looking for—a more rarified form of isolation—or as he puts it, “virtual anonymity…. For some reason Berliners just didn’t care. Well, not about an English rock singer, anyway.”

Bowie’s wife Angela remembers that “he chose to live in a section of the city as bleak, anonymous, and culturally lost as possible…. He took an apartment above an auto parts store and ate at the local workingman’s café. Talk about alienation.” The feeling pervades all three albums to different effect, but Lodger takes things in a far edgier, more cacophonous direction. Removed from Bowie’s time of soaking up krautrock and producing his roommate Iggy Pop’s solo albums, recorded as his marriage dissolved, it is the sound of jaded cultural and relational dislocation.

“A lot more chaos was intended” on Lodger says Tony Visconti, and it is on these rocks that composer Philip Glass foundered for 23 years. In the 90s, he began his own trilogy, of symphonies based on the renowned Bowie/Eno/Visconti collaborations. Lodger hung him up because it “didn’t interest me at all,” he tells the Los Angeles Times. Despite its wild experimentalism, he heard "no original ideas on that record.”

Glass gravitated towards the melodies of the first two albums, releasing his Low symphony in 1993 and the equally inspired Heroes in ’96. Finally, just this week, he premiered Lodger, with venerable American composer John Adams conducting, in Los Angeles on what would have been Bowie’s birthday, January 8th.

Though Glass never shared his thoughts about Lodger with Bowie, he may not have needed to. Bowie himself felt that “Tony [Visconti] lost heart a little” during the recording “because it never came together as easily as both Low and “Heroes” had. This had a lot to do with my being distracted by personal events in my life," he says, though "I would still maintain thought that there are a number of really important ideas on Lodger.” It is on the ideas that Glass seized. “The writing was remarkable. It was someone who had created a political language for themselves.”

While Glass’s other Bowie symphonies drew directly from the albums’ music (the Low symphony opens with the cinematic theme from “Subterraneans”), “What I was going to do on Lodger,” says Glass, “had nothing to do with the music that was on the record.” He realized that he had been given “a whole piece by a very accomplished writer and artist who had a vision of the world” in the lyrics. Employing the unique voice of singer Angélique Kidjo, Glass made what he calls “a song symphony” using seven of the “texts” (he left off “Look Back in Anger,” “D.J.” and “Red Money”).

Glass takes these “poems” as he calls them and weaves them into his own musical fabric. He’s “unconcerned,” writes Randal Roberts at the L.A. Times “with what Bowie would have thought of his method,” but he remembers Bowie was most struck in his other symphonies by “the parts that didn’t sound very much like the original.” At the top of the post, hear “Warszawa” from Glass’s Low symphony and listen to his other Bowie-inspired pieces on Spotify. The Lodger symphony will make its European premier at the Southbank Centre in London in May of this year, and we should hope to see a recording released soon.

Related Content:

The “David Bowie Is” Exhibition Is Now Available as an Augmented Reality Mobile App That’s Narrated by Gary Oldman: For David Bowie’s Birthday Today

Stream David Bowie’s Complete Discography in a 19-Hour Playlist: From His Very First Recordings to His Last

David Bowie’s Top 100 Books

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Philip Glass Finishes His David Bowie Trilogy, Debuting His Lodger Symphony is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

14 Jan 21:25

The FTC Thinks You Pay Too Much for Smartphones. Here’s Why

by Klint Finley
The agency has charged wireless chip maker Qualcomm with imposing a "tax" on the makers of smartphones like Apple and Samsung.
14 Jan 21:25

'Doctor Who' Is Reaching a Whole New Audience

by Geek's Guide to the Galaxy
The BBC series recently completed its first season with Jodie Whittaker as the titular Doctor—a welcome addition to the franchise.
14 Jan 20:40

Pass the Weekend with the BBC's Backlog of Doctor Who Screenplays

by Julie Muncy

Did you know that the BBC shares a lot of their teleplays online? Including a lot featuring our favorite Doctor.


14 Jan 20:32

A History of Ottawa in Seven Maps

by Jonathan Crowe

CBC News presents seven maps, drawn from the City of Ottawa Archives and other sources, that purport to tell the story of Ottawa, from its beginnings in the 1860s to today. Highlights include its since-abandoned streetcar network, the Gréber plan, and Indigenous claims in the region. [WMS]

07 Jan 21:08

Blame authors' fortunes on monopolism, not university professors, booksellers and librarians

by Cory Doctorow

The New York Times weighs in on an Authors Guild survey that shows a "drastic 42% decline in authors' earnings over the past decade. John Scalzi offers some important perspective.

Here's the summary:

* Authors Guild: authors' incomes are way down, thanks to Amazon's monopolism, which is crushing indies and traditionally published authors alike; universities are relying on fair use and Google Books for coursepacks, and big tech overall is "devalu[ing] what we produce to lower their costs for content distribution."

* New York Times: yeah, it's mostly Amazon.

* Scalzi: This isn't a very good study. They surveyed 5,000-ish, self-selected authors (and the Science Fiction Writers of America didn't participate). Comparing the fortunes of authors today to Hemingway may not be very representative -- think instead of writers like John Brunner, who lived a writerly life that's pretty recognizable to writers today. Was there really ever a guilded age of writerly incomes, or just a bunch of survivor bias?

My take: Amazon and the other monopolists are a huge problem. But big tech isn't uniformly culpable. Facebook and Twitter are certainly big social problems, but, they're not hurting authors. The idea of "devaluing what we produce" by letting people talk to each other for free is incoherent, intellectually bankrupt nonsense, ripped from the pages of "Home taping is killing music" and "Home cooking is killing restaurants."

Also a problem: consolidation in publishing (we're down to five big publishers, and rumor has it that Simon and Shuster will be a subsidiary of Harper Collins within a year). Consolidation in bookselling (letting the chains merge until only B&N existed was great for looter hedge-fund sociopaths, not so much for bookselling).

The Authors Guild recommendations are a mixed bag. Letting authors unionize and negotiate for good rates with Amazon is a great idea.

Establishing a lending right that charges libraries for the right to lend books is a terrible idea. If we're going to fund authorship through state grants (which I totally, absolutely support), let's break up digital (and publishing!) monopolists, make them pay their fair share of taxes, and fund the NEA and other institutions. But attacking libraries' funding in the midst of the human race's neoliberal extermination crisis is an attack on literally the only institution left in the country where you are welcome even if you're not spending money or praying.

It's not just libraries that the AG is taking aim at, it's also booksellers. The AG is worried about returned books entering the stream of new book sales. This is, as far as I can tell, not a problem. Making life harder for indie bookstores will not win the AG any friends. Librarians and indie booksellers are authors' class allies, as are university professors. Our adversaries should be the tax-dodging, Fortune 100 Big Tech/Big Content vampire squids with their blood-funnels jammed down our collective throats.

This is a category error that is often made by copyright maximalists when they argue over "piracy" and tech: they locate the problem with readers, technology, public lending, etc -- not with monopoly capitalism that reduces the competition for our works and starves the public coffers of the social safety net that has made a career in the arts survivable in years gone by. The problem with Big Tech is "big," not "tech."

Brunner’s tale here is anecdotal, and as with all anecdotes one should be careful not to make more of it than it is. But at the same time, as an anecdote, Brunner’s tale has more to tell us about middle-class author jobbing in the 20th Century than the tale of Ernest Hemingway or William Faulkner. And to bring it around to where we started with this piece, it does suggest that at all times, it’s a hard time to make a living — middle-class or otherwise — solely as an author.

Is it harder now? It might be. It’s different than it was fifty years ago, with different players and challenges, but also with different opportunities — it’s the best time in decades to be writing novellas, for example, and the best time ever for writing work meant for the audiobook format. And if the BLS has anything to tell us, it’s not the worst time ever to be a writer in a general sense, at least in the US.

Just, you know. Maybe keep your day job. Still.

Author Incomes: Not Great, Now or Then [John Scalzi/Whatever]

Authors Guild Survey Shows Drastic 42 Percent Decline in Authors Earnings in Last Decade [Authors Guild]

Does It Pay to Be a Writer? [Concepción de León/New York Times]

20 Nov 21:22

Worst-Case Thinking Breeds Fear and Irrationality

by Bruce Schneier

Here's a crazy story from the UK. Basically, someone sees a man and a little girl leaving a shopping center. Instead of thinking "it must be a father and daughter, which happens millions of times a day and is perfectly normal," he thinks "this is obviously a case of child abduction and I must alert the authorities immediately." And the police, instead of thinking "why in the world would this be a kidnapping and not a normal parental activity," thinks "oh my god, we must all panic immediately." And they do, scrambling helicopters, searching cars leaving the shopping center, and going door-to-door looking for clues. Seven hours later, the police eventually came to realize that she was safe asleep in bed.

Lenore Skenazy writes further:

Can we agree that something is wrong when we leap to the worst possible conclusion upon seeing something that is actually nice? In an email Furedi added that now, "Some fathers told me that they think and look around before they kiss their kids in public. Society is all too ready to interpret the most innocent of gestures as a prelude to abusing a child."

So our job is to try to push the re-set button.

If you see an adult with a child in plain daylight, it is not irresponsible to assume they are caregiver and child. Remember the stat from David Finkelhor, head of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. He has heard of NO CASE of a child kidnapped from its parents in public and sold into sex trafficking.

We are wired to see "Taken" when we're actually witnessing something far less exciting called Everyday Life. Let's tune in to reality.

This is the problem with the "see something, say something" mentality. As I wrote back in 2007:

If you ask amateurs to act as front-line security personnel, you shouldn't be surprised when you get amateur security.

And the police need to understand the base-rate fallacy better.

20 Nov 21:21

Skulls and bones with magnifying-glass-burned "tattoos"

by Cory Doctorow

Damien Noll sez, "My skulls and bones are all burned (like black line tattoo) using just a magnifying lens and sunshine."

My latest work is solar pyrography on animal skulls and bones, boar, beaver, cat, cow, coyote, deer etc. Many of these skulls were processed by me from animals passed to me by local hunters in Southern France, Colorado, and Texas. In processing the animal skulls, one becomes intimate with these animals. I take them through the entire process, from life to death and back again. Sometimes along that way a hearty meal is the outcome.

The final markings on their skull, like a tattoo, are individual to each one. The markings become a sort of outfit for passage onto the next, more ghostly realm. The immaterial rays of sunlight giving new context, new meaning, new life,, to what would otherwise be forgotten lives.

Drawing with sunlight [Damien Noll]

20 Nov 21:03

New Arecibo Observatory message challenge announced

In 1974, the Arecibo Observatory made history by beaming the most powerful radio message into deep space ever made. The famous Arecibo Message was designed by the AO 74's staff, led by Frank Drake, and with the help of the astronomer and famed science communicator Carl Sagan. It contained information about the human race and was intended to be our intergalactic calling card.
20 Nov 20:48

“The space bar trick” is the most amazing feature in iOS 12, and the internet just realized it

by Mark Sullivan

Just tap and hold on the space bar and you can move the cursor any damn place you want.

A food blogger from Atlanta named Krissy Brierre-Davis sparked a great awakening on the internet Sunday when she posted about a very handy iPhone feature she discovered by accident.

Read Full Story

20 Nov 20:39

Earth Puzzle

by Jonathan Crowe

Earth Puzzle

This is wild. The Earth Puzzle is a 442-piece jigsaw puzzle with a difference: based on an equal-area icosahedral projection, the puzzle can be built from any starting point, and in any number of configurations: there is no defined centre or edge. One of Nervous System’s infinity puzzles (one for the Moon is also available), it costs $120 and (at the moment) ships in three weeks (so if you’re shopping for the holidays, get on it). All is explained at Nervous System’s blog. [Kenneth Field]

20 Nov 20:20

What's missing from machine learning research: an East African perspective

by Cory Doctorow

CIT computer scientist Milan Cvitkovic conducted 46 in-depth interviews with "scientists, engineers, and CEOs" and collated their machine learning research needs into an aptly named paper entitled "Some Requests for Machine Learning Research from the East African Tech Scene," which presents an illuminating look into the gaps in the current practice of machine learning, itself an example of how rich-world priorities shape our ability to understand, compute and predict the world.

Some of the gaps are predictable enough (regional languages are underrepresented in speech-to-text models) and others are somewhat surprising (speech-to-text models are really bad at recognizing when speakers "code switch" between languages mid-sentence, which is a common practice in the region) and some are really thorny (due to regional "low trust" economies, "interviewees who use machine learning with surveys or customer interaction data reported spending significant effort fighting fraud or dishonesty").

Reinforcement Learning - No interviewee reported using any reinforcement learning methods. However, interest was expressed in it, particularly regard ing machine teaching and using RL in simulations, e.g. using RL in epidemiological simulations to find worst case scenarios in outbreak planning.

Machine Teaching - There is a shortage of good educational resources and teachers in East Africa. Several initiatives exist that use mobile phones as an education platform. Practitioners were interested in using ideas from machine teaching in their work to personalize content delivered. However, the author did not encounter anyone who had employed any results from the machine teaching literature at this point.

Uncertainty Quantification - An important factor that keeps the wealth of rich regions from moving into poorer regions like East Africa, despite the fact that it should earn greater returns there, is risk [1]. Not all risk can be machine–learned away by any means. But (accurate) predictive models are risk-reduction tools.

Machine learning models are most useful for risk–reduction when they can (accurately) quantify their uncertainty. This is particularly true when data are scarce, as they usually are in East Africa. UQ is not a new problem by any means, but it is listed here to reiterate its importance to the organizations interviewed. Importantly, when used in East Africa, UQ is typically much more concerned with conservatively quanti fying overall downside risk (with respect to some quantity of interest) than characterizing overall model uncertainty around point predictions.

Some Requests for Machine Learning Research from the East African Tech Scene [Milan Cvitkovic/Arxiv]

(via Four Short Links)

(Image: Cryteria, CC-BY)

20 Nov 20:19

Watch “The Midnight Parasites,” a Surreal Japanese Animation Set in the World of Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights (1972)

by Josh Jones

Hieronymus Bosch’s bizarre paintings might have looked perfectly ordinary to his contemporaries, argues Stanley Meisler in “The World of Bosch.” Modern viewers may find this very hard to believe. We approach Bosch through layers of Freudian interpretation and Surrealist appreciation. We cannot help “regarding the scores of bizarre monsters”—allegories for sins and punishments far more legible in 15th-century Netherlands—“as a kind of dark and cruel comic relief.”

While Bosch might have intended his work as serious sermonizing, it is impossible for us to inhabit the medieval consciousness of his time and place. There’s just no getting around the fact that Bosch is really weird—weirder even (or more imaginatively allegorical) than nearly any other artist of his time. In some very important ways, he belongs to a 20th-century aesthetic of post-Freudian dream logic as much as he belonged to peculiar medieval visions of heaven and hell.

Bosch “described terrible, unbearable holocausts crushing mankind for its sins,” writes Meisler, visions that seemed both stranger and more familiar in the wake of so many man-made holocausts whose absurdities defy reason. What modern horrors does famed Japanese animator Y?ji Kuri invoke in his psychedelic 1972 film “The Midnight Parasites,” above, a surrealist short set in the world of Bosch?

Dangerous Minds’ Paul Gallagher describes the plot, such as it is:

Here Kuri imagines what would life might be like if we all lived in Bosch’s painting “Garden of Earthly Delights.” It’s a basically shit and death or rather a cycle of life where blue figures live and die; eat shit and shit gold; are skewered, and devoured; are regurgitated and reborn to carry on the cycle once again.

Kuri’s satirical vision, in films long favored by counter-cultural audiences, has “bite,” writes Animation World Network’s Chris Robinson: “he helped lift Japanese animation out of decades of cozy narrative cartoons into a new era of graphic and conceptual experimentation. His films mock and shock, attacking technology, population expansion, monotony of modern society… Witnessing the surrender of Japan during WW2, the devastation of his country followed by the quick rise of Western inspired materialist culture and rampant consumption, Kuri, like many of his colleagues at the time, questioned the state and direction of his society and world.”

His creative appropriation of Bosch, “dark, dirty, oddly beautiful, with a groovy soundtrack,” Gallagher writes, may not, as Meisler worries of many modern takes, get Bosch wrong at all. Though the Dutch artist’s symbolism may never be comprehensible—or anything less than hallucinatory—to us moderns, Kuri’s half-playful reimagining uses Boschian figures for some serious moralizing, showing us a hell world governed by grave lapses and cruelties Bosch could never have imagined.

via Dangerous Minds

Related Content:

Figures from Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights” Come to Life as Fine Art Piñatas

Hieronymus Bosch Figurines: Collect Surreal Characters from Bosch’s Paintings & Put Them on Your Bookshelf

Take a Virtual Tour of Hieronymus Bosch’s Bewildering Masterpiece The Garden of Earthly Delights

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Watch “The Midnight Parasites,” a Surreal Japanese Animation Set in the World of Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights (1972) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

20 Nov 20:17

List: Holiday Cards for Your Racist Relatives

by Ryan Weber

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20 Nov 20:16

5 steps to release yourself from being a slave to PowerPoint

by Darren Menabney

If you can rely on the strength of your words and ideas, let those persuade your audience.

PowerPoint, for all its flaws and despite its bad rep, is still a pretty good tool when used to do what it was designed to do: create visuals to accompany spoken words and support our presentations.

Read Full Story

15 Nov 20:57

Remus Lupin Was an Amazing Figure of Non-Toxic Masculinity, Don’t @ Me

by Kate Gardner

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban sees Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) learning about his parents from Professor Lupin (David Thewlis)

There has been a lot of Fantastic Beasts discussion about Newt Scamander and whether he, as a hero, is a good example of non-toxic masculinity. As someone who loves a good hero who shirks the idea of toxic masculinity (Steve Rogers, Thor, Steve Trevor, and Finn are all my favorite examples), I will say that my favorite part of the eternally frustrating Newt is that he tends towards the kind, the compassionate, and the non-violent.

However, I think the first introduction I ever had to a character who displayed non-toxic masculinity remains the superior compassionate character in the Harry Potter franchise. I am talking, of course, about Remus Lupin.

Even when I first read Prisoner of Azkaban when I was a tiny, not-jaded Potter fan, Lupin was my absolute favorite. I own two copies of the third Harry Potter book because my original has fallen apart to such a degree that it now deserves to rest in a glass case somewhere. There is much to love about the wonderful third book, from Hogsmeade to hippogriffs, but Lupin is one of the best additions to the series.

We’re first introduced to Lupin on the Hogwarts Express, where Harry and his friends wonder about how “shabby” he looks as he dozes in the corner, and why a professor is on the train with them. Lupin wakes up when dementors converge on the car, drawn to Harry’s trauma, and he immediately dispatches them. He makes sure Harry gets some chocolate in him and makes sure his soon-to-be students are safe.

This might seem like a low bar, but between Dumbledore’s “I’m like a cool grandpa who wants you to die” schtick and Snape abusing students left and right, this kindness sticks out.

It’s a kindness that he doesn’t only extend to the son of his former best friend. He’s genuinely kind to all of his students, especially to poor, frightened Neville during the boggart sequence. He even behaves courteously towards Snape, who treats him like utter garbage the entire time.

Let me just say this about Lupin’s boyhood misadventures and why Snape might still dislike him: He didn’t know that Sirius sent Snape to the Whomping Willow, and also anything Snape endured did not mean that Snape should out him to the entire school and get him fired from what was probably his only stable job in his adult life.

Lupin’s wolfy secret could have made him a complete and utter asshole. Look at Snape, whose big hangup is that he got rejected for being a racist supporter of a fascist organization and held that against everyone until he died. Lupin, who was cursed as a child and as a result was ostracized his entire adult life, shows nothing but kindness towards others, despite the Wizarding World trying to break him at every turn.

He’s an empathetic individual who is, without a doubt, the best Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher in the entire series, and who bravely stands up for what’s right when Voldemort rises again, even at the cost of his own life.

When Harry turns to him for private help fighting off the dementors, Lupin does so and never once belittles or becomes angry when Harry can’t produce a patronus or gets frustrated. He’s supportive and encouraging, and it’s his teaching that allows Harry to actually access his most cherished memory and conjure a full patronus. Again, being a decent teacher is a low bar, but this is Hogwarts we’re talking about.

Lupin consistently reacts with kindness and empathy, which is why his characterization in Deathly Hallows is, as the kids say, bullshit. Flaws are great; abandoning your pregnant wife is another thing, not to mention Rowling used Lupin’s moment of weakness to half-heartedly justify offing him by saying that Arthur Weasley had to live instead, since he was one of the few good fathers in the Wizarding World.

Arthur’s great, but Lupin is still a better father figure than literally every other character. Am I still bitter? Probably.

J.K. Rowling, in her infinite capacity for heteronormativity, intended Lupin’s struggle with lycanthropy to be a metaphor for the AIDS crisis, but that reading falls very flat after she has aggressively denied that he might be queer at any turn. Interestingly enough, both Prisoner of Azkaban director Alfonso Cuaron and actor David Thewlis, who now plays the anti-Lupin in Big Mouth, read the character as gay.

To try to apply the idea of non-toxic masculinity to a character written by an author whose flaws become more apparent with each reread will never quite work, but in his first outing, Lupin is every inch the non-toxic male hero. His compassion and empathy drives him to care for his students, and I only wish he’d have had the chance to actually grow, rather than play pair the spares and die for shock value.

If Newt is now leading the way for a new kind of wizarding hero, then Lupin paved that way.

(image: Warner Bros)

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25 Oct 16:22

Saudi Arabia Proves That Oil Is Power

by Robert Rapier, Contributor
The killing of Saudi Arabian dissident Jamal Khashoggi - and the debate over what to do about it - provides a stark reminder of the economic power wielded by Saudi Arabia.
24 Oct 23:01

Civility vs. Decency

by Jenn Boggs


A spokesperson for a divisive president is turned away from a restaurant. That president delights in dog-whistle insults that fall just short of outright ethnic slurs—usually. A white woman calls the police on a black child selling water on a city street on a beastly hot day. A patron who hasn’t been turned away from a restaurant leaves a note for the server, who bears an Arabic name, saying, “We don’t tip terrorist [sic].”

Updated Date

Thursday, October 4, 2018 - 16:30

Illustration by Lauren Simkin BerkeA spokesperson for a divisive president is turned away from a restaurant. That president delights in dog-whistle insults that fall just short of outright ethnic slurs—usually. A white woman calls the police on a black child selling water on a city street on a beastly hot day. A patron who hasn’t been turned away from a restaurant leaves a note for the server, who bears an Arabic name, saying, “We don’t tip terrorist [sic].”

We live in bitter, angry times, with a hall-of-funhouse-mirrors quality to them: Call a racist a racist, and that person will be hurt because you have used an injurious term. Call someone you disagree with a derogatory term, on the other hand, and you might earn a few likes on Facebook. Lose a job here, gain a pardon there: In this swirl of flying invective and free-floating rage, we’re barely talking to one another except to shout.

All this speaks to a crisis of civility, which is to say, a species of etiquette: As a civil person, I may despise the beliefs you hold, but I won’t shout, “You lie!” across a crowded auditorium. I may not like the way you look, but I’ll reserve my comments for interior monologue. Believe what you want to, the thinking goes, but be polite about how you express it in public; advocate separating children from parents at the border or argue for the virtues of the Confederacy with all your might, but mind your manners as you do so and you will have satisfied the all-too-frequently heard plea for civil behavior, no matter how ugly the message.

One can have heart and mind full of venom and still be civil; decency need not enter the picture. Like civility, the latter term speaks to propriety of conduct. Unlike civility, it carries an element of essential soulcraft to it: It goes deeper, into character more than manners. A civil person may be a scoundrel, a decent person never so; a civil person may be a racist, a decent person not; and so forth. Decency gauges the inherent rightness or wrongness of a thought or action, while civility is largely agnostic on such matters. When Joseph Nye Welch beseeched Joseph McCarthy, in a famous moment in American political history, “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” he was asking the Wisconsin senator for more than showing a little decorum.

Does one precede the other? And which is to be preferred? If you’re looking for no one to be offended, then civility is a desideratum, to be sure. But, observes the philosopher Avishai Margalit, decency is really what we should be after: “A decent society,” he writes, “is one whose institutions do not humiliate people.” A decent society is fair and constructive, a civil one merely polite. Given the war on the social contract and the supremacy of the zero-sum game, of course, we should be grateful to take what we can get, but there’s a world to win—with the utmost courtesy, of course.


Gregory McNamee Topics: Conduct society racism character call to action courtesy Fine Distinctions




Fall 2018

20 Aug 17:52

N.K. Jemisin Wins Her 3rd Consecutive Hugo Award For Best Novel

by Princess Weekes

Stone Sky

Last night was the Hugo awards and the Beyoncé of science fiction,  N.K. Jemisin, won her third Hugo in a row for the final book in her Broken Earth Trilogy The Stone Sky. It was not only a big night for Jemisin, but for female authors in general at the Hugo Awards. Most of the winners of the evening were women and some were women of color, including Ohkay Owingeh /Black author, Rebecca Roanhorse, Asian-American author Marjorie M. Liu, and Japanese illustrator Sana Takeda.

Best Novel

  • The Stone Sky, by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
  • The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi (Tor)
  • New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)
  • Provenance, by Ann Leckie (Orbit)
  • Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
  • Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty (Orbit)

Best Novella

  • All Systems Red, by Martha Wells ( Publishing)
  • “And Then There Were (N-One),” by Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny, March/April 2017)
  • Binti: Home, by Nnedi Okorafor ( Publishing)
  • The Black Tides of Heaven, by JY Yang ( Publishing)
  • Down Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire ( Publishing)
  • River of Teeth, by Sarah Gailey ( Publishing)

Best Novelette

  • “The Secret Life of Bots,” by Suzanne Palmer (Clarkesworld, September 2017)
  • “Children of Thorns, Children of Water,” by Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny, July-August 2017)
  • “Extracurricular Activities,” by Yoon Ha Lee (, February 15, 2017)
  • “A Series of Steaks,” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Clarkesworld, January 2017)
  • “Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time,” by K.M. Szpara (Uncanny, May/June 2017)
  • “Wind Will Rove,” by Sarah Pinsker (Asimov’s, September/October 2017)

Best Short Story

  • “Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience™,” by Rebecca Roanhorse (Apex, August 2017)
  • “Carnival Nine,” by Caroline M. Yoachim (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, May 2017)
  • “Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand,” by Fran Wilde (Uncanny, September 2017)
  • “Fandom for Robots,” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Uncanny, September/October 2017)
  • “The Martian Obelisk,” by Linda Nagata (, July 19, 2017)
  • “Sun, Moon, Dust” by Ursula Vernon, (Uncanny, May/June 2017)

Best Related Work

  • No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, by Ursula K. Le Guin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
  • Crash Override: How Gamergate (Nearly) Destroyed My Life, and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate, by Zoe Quinn (PublicAffairs)
  • Iain M. Banks (Modern Masters of Science Fiction), by Paul Kincaid (University of Illinois Press)
  • A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison, by Nat Segaloff (NESFA Press)
  • Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia E. Butler, edited by Alexandra Pierce and Mimi Mondal (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • Sleeping with Monsters: Readings and Reactions in Science Fiction and Fantasy, by Liz Bourke (Aqueduct Press)

Best Graphic Story

  • Monstress, Volume 2: The Blood, written by Marjorie M. Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda (Image Comics)
  • Black Bolt, Volume 1: Hard Time, written by Saladin Ahmed, illustrated by Christian Ward, lettered by Clayton Cowles (Marvel)
  • Bitch Planet, Volume 2: President Bitch, written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, illustrated by Valentine De Landro and Taki Soma, colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick, lettered by Clayton Cowles (Image Comics)
  • My Favorite Thing is Monsters, written and illustrated by Emil Ferris (Fantagraphics)
  • Paper Girls, Volume 3, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Jared Fletcher (Image Comics)
  • Saga, Volume 7, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form

  • Wonder Woman, screenplay by Allan Heinberg, story by Zack Snyder & Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs, directed by Patty Jenkins (DC Films / Warner Brothers)
  • Blade Runner 2049, written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, directed by Denis Villeneuve (Alcon Entertainment / Bud Yorkin Productions / Torridon Films / Columbia Pictures)
  • Get Out, written and directed by Jordan Peele (Blumhouse Productions / Monkeypaw Productions / QC Entertainment)
  • The Shape of Water, written by Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor, directed by Guillermo del Toro (TSG Entertainment / Double Dare You / Fox Searchlight Pictures)
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi, written and directed by Rian Johnson (Lucasfilm, Ltd.)
  • Thor: Ragnarok, written by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost; directed by Taika Waititi (Marvel Studios)

Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form

  • The Good Place: “The Trolley Problem,” written by Josh Siegal and Dylan Morgan, directed by Dean Holland (Fremulon / 3 Arts Entertainment / Universal Television)
  • Black Mirror: “USS Callister,” written by William Bridges and Charlie Brooker, directed by Toby Haynes (House of Tomorrow)
  • “The Deep” [song], by Clipping (Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes)
  • Doctor Who: “Twice Upon a Time,” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Rachel Talalay (BBC Cymru Wales)
  • The Good Place: “Michael’s Gambit,” written and directed by Michael Schur (Fremulon / 3 Arts Entertainment / Universal Television)
  • Star Trek: Discovery: “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad,” written by Aron Eli Coleite & Jesse Alexander, directed by David M. Barrett (CBS Television Studios)

Best Editor – Short Form

  • Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas
  • John Joseph Adams
  • Neil Clarke
  • Lee Harris
  • Jonathan Strahan
  • Sheila Williams

Best Editor – Long Form

  • Sheila E. Gilbert
  • Joe Monti
  • Diana M. Pho
  • Devi Pillai
  • Miriam Weinberg
  • Navah Wolfe

Best Professional Artist

  • Sana Takeda
  • Galen Dara
  • Kathleen Jennings
  • Bastien Lecouffe Deharme
  • Victo Ngai
  • John Picacio

Best Semiprozine

  • Uncanny Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, and Julia Rios; podcast produced by Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies, editor-in-chief and publisher Scott H. Andrews
  • The Book Smugglers, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James
  • Escape Pod, edited by Mur Lafferty, S.B. Divya, and Norm Sherman, with assistant editor Benjamin C. Kinney
  • Fireside Magazine, edited by Brian White and Julia Rios; managing editor Elsa Sjunneson-Henry; special feature editor Mikki Kendall; publisher & art director Pablo Defendini
  • Strange Horizons, edited by Kate Dollarhyde, Gautam Bhatia, A.J. Odasso, Lila Garrott, Heather McDougal, Ciro Faienza, Tahlia Day, Vanessa Rose Phin, and the Strange Horizons staff

Best Fanzine

  • File 770, edited by Mike Glyer
  • Galactic Journey, edited by Gideon Marcus
  • Journey Planet, edited by Team Journey Planet
  • nerds of a feather, flock together, edited by The G, Vance Kotrla, and Joe Sherry
  • Rocket Stack Rank, edited by Greg Hullender and Eric Wong
  • SF Bluestocking, edited by Bridget McKinney

Best Fancast

  • Ditch Diggers, presented by Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace
  • The Coode Street Podcast, presented by Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
  • Fangirl Happy Hour, presented by Ana Grilo and Renay Williams
  • Galactic Suburbia, presented by Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce and Tansy Rayner Roberts; produced by Andrew Finch
  • Sword and Laser, presented by Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt
  • Verity!, presented by Deborah Stanish, Erika Ensign, Katrina Griffiths, L.M. Myles, Lynne M. Thomas, and Tansy Rayner Roberts

Best Fan Writer

  • Sarah Gailey
  • Camestros Felapton
  • Mike Glyer
  • Foz Meadows
  • Charles Payseur
  • Bogi Takács

Best Fan Artist

  • Geneva Benton
  • Grace P. Fong
  • Maya Hahto
  • Likhain (M. Sereno)
  • Spring Schoenhuth
  • Steve Stiles

Best Series

  • World of the Five Gods, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Harper Voyager / Spectrum Literary Agency)
  • The Books of the Raksura, by Martha Wells (Night Shade)
  • The Divine Cities, by Robert Jackson Bennett (Broadway)
  • InCryptid, by Seanan McGuire (DAW)
  • The Memoirs of Lady Trent, by Marie Brennan (Tor US / Titan UK)
  • The Stormlight Archive, by Brandon Sanderson (Tor US / Gollancz UK)

In recent years, the science fiction awards have been working to be more inclusive, and this year’s finalists and winners show just how far we have come in recognizing the accomplishments of a diversity of people in working in that genre. It is hard to believe that in 2016 Jemisin became the first African-America author to win the Hugo for Best Novel and has now become the first person to win it three years in a row in that category.

It’s a beautiful reminder that despite all the things going wrong, that progress is happening.

(via Tor, image: Orbit)

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20 Aug 17:52

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