Links and Notes for the Week of June 10, 2018

* The Calvert Journal is publishing Beyond the Game, a series of video vignettes exploring each of the cities in Russia which will be hosting the football during the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
* TOR.com has posted nice big long lists of the major genre releases for June 2018:
** All the new Fantasy Books Coming Out in June 2018.
** All the new Science Fiction Books Coming Out in June 2018.
** All the new Genre-Bending Books Coming Out in June 2018.
* Metafilter has posted the latest catch-all thread for links and commentary concerning the presidency and administration of Donald Trump, whose daddy issues exceed even those of George W. Bush, which is an astounding accomplishment. Baby Hands and Daddy Issues would be the title of the most accurate possible biography of our current and perpetually emasculated president.

Links and Notes for the Week of June 3, 2018

* A worthy list from BookRiot: 50 Must-Read Books with Gorgeous Writing. From this list I have read The Ocean at the End of the Lane, One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Kite Runner, and White Oleander. Looks like my Mount Tsundoku will be growing soon.
* The Midwest Socialist has published an excellent 5-part (so far) primer on the basics of radical thought and history.
** Part 1 – Dialectical Materialism
** Part 2 – Alienation
** Part 3 – Class
** Part 4 – Value
** Part 5 – Praxis
* Goddammit so much. Anthony Bourdain has left the kitchen. Here is a good round-up of the best writing about Bourdain to be found on the web.

Links and Notes for the Week of May 20, 2018

* Happy 21st Century, from Charles Stross.
* The files of the SCP Foundation should be good for writing prompts and nightmares.
* The one Trump scandal which encompasses all the rest.
* Emasculated president Donald Trump, who is terrified of everyone who is not white and rich, believes all Mexicans are part of MS-13. When this was pointed out, he called it “fake news,” which is actually verification of the charge, since literally every time Trump squeals “fake news,” is it because something true was printed and he didn’t like it.
* Metafilter has posted a new catch-all politics thread. Many good links and comments therein.
* If you have a few minutes and you like simple adventure-type games, give Dicey Dungeons a try.

Links and Notes for the Week of May 6, 2018

* Some words: incubate, incubus, cubiculum, cubicle, purgatory

* A small selection of Afrofuturism books to get started in the genre.

* Kim Stanley Robinson: Science Fiction is the Realism of Our Time

* Donald Trump as attention-seeking virus

* Metafilter has posted a new catch-all thread following the current hell-state of American politics. Much information to be had from links and comments therein.

* How So-Called “Right to Work” Laws Aim to Silence Working People

Links and Notes for the Week of April 29, 2018

* Some words: phenotype, phenomenon, noumenon, nootropic, phenotropic

* This week’s Politician Cut from the Same Cloth as Emasculated President Donald Trump: Viktor Orbán of Hungary. What is happening in Hungary now is the same thing that Trump and his water carriers and lickspittles are trying to make happen here in the United States. Viktor Orbán Versus the Enlightenment. Look to Hungary if you want to know what you’re fighting against. The man who thinks Europe has been invaded.

* In honor of the 200th birthday of Karl Marx, here are some interesting links:
** Capital (PDF)
** Marxist Internet Archive Library
** Happy Birthday, Karl Marx! You Were Right!
** Crises of Capitalism
** The Seventeen Contradictions of Capitalism

Links and Notes for the Week of April 8, 2018

* White People Anonymous

* How nostalgia for white Christian America drove so many Americans to vote for Trump

* The Demise of the Nation State

* Mud season in Russia: Putin, Rasputin

* Two lists from Tor.com – All the New Fantasy Books Coming Out in April. All the New Science Fiction Books Coming Out in April.

* “Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.” – from this comment (#26, by Frank Wilhoit) on a post over at Crooked Timber.

* An excerpt from William T. Vollmann’s new book No Immediate Danger.

Links and Notes for the Week of February 25, 2018

* An interesting, fun, and very strange article and comment thread, courtesy of Charles Stross. From the intro: “I am working (for reasons of my own) towards a comprehensive list of plausible techno-thriller plots from 2010 where the MacGuffin is named Satoshi Nakamoto.”

* Homecoming: How Afrofuturism Bridges the Past and the Present is an excellent article.

* Once upon a time I was a fan of Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth books. Then he starting carrying water for Ayn Rand, and the decent-but-not-great quality of his interesting-but-not-innovative stories declined sharply. Now he has distinguished himself as a jackass by publicly insulting the cover artist of his latest book. The internet, of course, is having none of this and is doing an excellent job of roasting Mr. Goodkind. It appears his behavior has cost him spots at a couple of conventions, and will likely make future business with the publishing industry more difficult for him. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

* Since students are protesting their presidentially (45) approved murder at the hands of NRA-backed second-amendment fetishists and other terrorists, members of the mainstream conservative fascist and fascist-adjacent community are sending them death threats and accusing them of being crisis actors, etc. This has not stopped the students from protesting, and indeed seems to be reinforcing their will and message. To that point it is important that students (and enforcers of student-affecting rules) know which rights are in play. The ACLU has helpfully published a page which clarifies students’ rights.

* Voyages in Sentence Space is a wonderfully strange tool which “bridges” the space between two arbitrary sentences with additional sentences along a “gradient” of meaning. From the example:

  1. I went looking for adventure.
  2. I went out on a mission.
  3. I shouted awkwardly.
  4. I stared incredulously.
  5. I feel desperate.
  6. I never returned.
  7. I never returned.

Sentences 1 and 7 are user input. Sentences 2 through 6 are generated to “fill the space” between 1 and 7. Here is an example I generated:

  1. His followers called him Mahasamatman and said he was a god.
  2. His features seized his mistressmaker, and then.
  3. True Bailey leaped through little branches at them.
  4. Send Clayton taking off his shot.
  5. No more pictures stood in things.
  6. It has returned close to none.
  7. And none returned alive, save I.

Interesting and fun in an absurdist, surrealist way. The full article details the thought and technology behind the experiment.

* At the time of the publishing of this post, I have 1,091 books cataloged at LibraryThing.

Links and Notes for the Week of February 11, 2018

* My partner and I have been spending our Sunday afternoons studying, writing and watching The Mind of a Chef, which is all kinds of distracting and wonderful and a purveyor of the worst kind of wanderlust. Anthony Bourdain is the executive producer and narrator of each episode. Like all of his shows, he makes even the most exotic and high-concept meals accessible (in concept, if not financially) to even the most casual non-foodie viewers.

* I spend a lot of time reading news of the literary world. To keep things organized, I use Feedly, which I picked up after Google shut down its Reader service. This is a partial list of the lit news resources I read: Book Riot, NPR Books, Brain Pickings, Electric Literature, Literary Hub, Locus Online, Publisher’s Lunch, The Millions, New York Review of Books, Tor.com, Words Without Borders, Aerogramme Writers’ Studio.

* Some words: suppose, oppose, impose, depose, compose, transpose

* Metafilter has posted a good catch-all thread discussing a recently published study from the Southern Poverty Law Center: The Alt-Right is Killing People. The post, and many of the comments, provide additional links to stories which add context and nuance to the points discussed. As always with Metafilter, the comments are worth reading.

* I’ve been following The Edge for oh, about fifteen years now. It looks like they may be closing up shop, as they just asked their last question: “What is the last question?” The link goes to the (hundreds of) answers.

* The squealing cowards who oppose gun control have the blood of 32 more people on their hands. The NRA is a terrorist organization and they pull the strings of their lickspittles in the GOP. The emasculated orange coward-in-chief has, of course, done what all Republicans do and is blaming the victims. For a continually up-to-date score of the Republican-sanctioned violence in this country, see the Gun Violence Archive.

* As of the date of publishing this post, I have 631 books catalogued in LibraryThing.

Links and Notes for the Week of January 14, 2018

* Back in September of 2016 I took the Amtrak from Grand Rapids to Vancouver via the Empire Builder route. It was a wonderful, contemplative, transcendent experience (blog posts pending). Based on that, and based on this article in the Calvert Journal, I now want to experience the Trans-Siberian Railway. It will also give me an excuse to dust off my Russian skills.

* And speaking of that trip, while in transit, while not watching America roll by, I read Trysting by Emmanuelle Pagano. It is an absolutely beautiful book, recalling all of love and beauty and intimacy and trust and heartache and the million tiny moments that bind people together and pull them apart. I just came across a wonderful review by Lauren Goldberg in Music & Literature which does justice to the most compelling book I have read in years. On a related note, I think I will now buy a subscription to Music & Literature.

* And speaking of Russian stuff, the Speak Russian Like Russians blog is both useful and fun.

* In the world of fandom and literature, author Jim C. Hines (may his beard grow ever longer) has put together an excellent post detailing the long history of Jon del Arroz’s trolling and harassing behavior toward authors, fans and organizations in the larger community. The comments on the article are mostly erudite and informative, though a JdA supporter/GamerGater pulls an impressive amount of sea-lioning to no significant effect.

* The 2018 State of the World conversation over at The Well has wrapped up. It, as well as the many previous conversations in the series, are well worth perusing over the upcoming weeks and months. A hearty thank you to Bruce Sterling, Jon Lebkowsky and all the other participants for opening this to the general public.

Dean Allen, creator of the content management/blogging system Textpattern, has passed away. Allen was one of the biggest influences in my early career as a web developer. I took his thoughts on design and typography to heart, though I was never a designer. His photo blog featuring his Weimaraner Oliver made me want to move to rural France. Allen, along with Eric Meyer and Jeffrey Zeldman, were huge influences as I began my career in web development.

All Media is Mainstream Media

The title of this post sums up everything which is to follow.

All media sources which have internet access are mainstream. Full stop. Any story which appears virally on Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr or Instagram or any of the other click-bait aggregators, even if the original outlet was created only an hour earlier, is at that moment mainstream.

Post 2016 election, much hay has been made of “fake news” and how to distinguish the real from the unreal. Without falling into the rabbit hole of implicit vs. explicit bias–which is about as useful in this context as debating free will vs. determinism–let us agree that there is news which is deliberately false in its entirety, and news which is true from a certain point of view.

The news which is deliberately false is that in which the headline serves as click-bait, ESPECIALLY when the headline in question imparts no information about the content of the story. These are headlines which are in the form of a question, or are followed by a listicle. These are headlines meant to drive traffic rather than impart information. With this filter in place approximately 75% of all social media noise can immediately be ignored. For the rest, the next filter requires a little more thought.

Deliberately false news also includes everything which falls under the category of “opinion” or “editorial”. Here we can safely dismiss everything from Fox News and Breitbart, and all right-wing hatriot hives like World Net Daily, InfoWars, The Blaze, Focus on the Family, StormFront, Red State, and so forth.

This is not to say the left-leaning news and information sites don’t have similar problems, but “the liberal media”, to the extent that it ever existed, is responsible for only a tiny fraction of all noise generated by American outlets.

Oh: Fair warning–my political sensibilities fall fairly far to the left by American standards, which by rational world standards would make me ever so slightly to the left of center on most issues.

The entirety of mainstream American political though is skewed severely to the right side of the global political spectrum. Our Democrats are, in the main, to the right of where Reagan stood when we were engaged in nuclear brinkmanship with the USSR. Our Republicans are somewhere far down a slope along which lies plutocracy, corporatocracy, neo-feudalism, Dominionism and straight up reactionary sensibilities. And the Democrats are fast on their heels. Thus the center of American political conversation is substantially to the right of center. And thus any “compromise” between political parties moves the entire local spectrum farther to the right.

All of which is to say, any American media outlet which deliberately brands itself as “conservative” can be dismissed out of hand. The output of these outlets can be ignored for the same reason that fish have no words for “water.”

With these filters in place, recognize that whatever news media remains is driven first and foremost by the profit motive, and (distantly) second by journalistic integrity. This is a subtle form of regulatory capture which has always existed, but came to prominence when the Fairness Doctrine was revoked during the Reagan presidency.

So when someone on social media posts a story which includes a headline hinting of some grand conspiracy of silence, it can be safely assumed that the originator of the underlying story or meme is simply looking for attention. Or a quick buck. Not that there is much difference between the two.

Sometime soon, I’ll discuss the difference between “media” and “journalism.”