Sunday Spectacle: What Caught My Attention Last Week (29Jan2017)

THE WRITING PROJECT: Yesterday was a new moon and the beginning of the writing part of my writing project. Yay! I met my quota this weekend, so… so-far-so-good. I still don’t have a title, but the working title is Death in a New Age. Meh.

I’ll keep a running tally of words in the right-hand column.

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!: Saturday was the lunar New Year and we begin the Year of the Rooster (more accurately the Year of the Barnyard Fowl, but that doesn’t have quite the same ring).

I’m not sure what we should expect from a Year of the Rooster, but Wikipedia tells me the rooster (along with the ox and snake) is “hard-working, modest, industrious, loyal, philosophical, patient, good-hearted and morally upright, but can also be self-righteous, egotistical, vain, judgmental, narrow-minded or petty.”

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IN THE GROOVE: It looks like this blog is settling into a groove of weekly updates. I’m sure there will occasionally be other posts, but probably not so many. So, if you want to subscribe to receive these posts by email (in the right-hand column), I suspect you’ll only get one (and sometimes two or three) emails a week.

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LOCAL POLS DO GOOD: On the home front my state Representative and some of her colleagues walked out of a presentation on immigration when the Florida House Republicans trotted in an anti-immigrant bigot in an attempt to “hear every side.” Do we really need to hear the side of hate, cowardice, and bigotry? (The answer is No.)

Here’s the letter she sent to the Speaker of the House.

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AMERICA FIRST: This isn’t the first time there’s been a party promoting America First.

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THE MOON: Moon Express gets permission to send rocket to the Moon and gets funding.

Moon Express is a Florida company.

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THE THRILL OF FASCISM: Wired has posted some text excerpts from Geek’s Guide to the Universe podcast interview with Bruce Sterling. I read Pirate Utopia at the end of 2016. I thought it was terrific, but I think most things Sterling writes are terrific.

“If you’re under fascist occupation, there’s very little question that you’re suffering a lot and that they’re really bad. Even though they’ll propagandize you and so forth, their contempt for you—their racial contempt for you and their cultural contempt for you—is so overwhelming that you never believe that. But if you’re inside the fascist tent, it’s all about patriotism, and the allure of self-sacrifice, and how we’re bringing civilization to other people, and we’re resolving age-old conflicts in our own society by uniting around our great leader, the Duce or the Führer, and it’s actually exciting, it’s thrilling. You go out into the square and there’s like a hundred thousand people all around you, they’re shouting for the same thing, they’re making the same arm gestures. There’s tremendous light shows, fantastic music. The women are excited, even the five-year-old child thinks it’s great, your grandparents are overwhelmed by the pageantry. You really feel like your civilization has gotten up on its feet and achieved something fantastic.”

Here’s a review of the book if you want to know more.

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WORLD’S BEST SUGARY WINES: Eric Idle posts The Australian Wine Sketch.

Of the sparkling wines, the most famous is Perth Pink.
This is a bottle with a message in and the message is “Beware.”
This is not a wine for drinking. This is a wine for laying down and avoiding.
Another good fighting wine is Melbourne Old and Yellow, which is particularly heavy and should be used only for hand-to-hand combat.

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MONSTER BRAINS: For more than a decade Aeron Alfrey has been curating an amazing collection of illustrators who deal with the monstrous and macabre. Definitely the kind of independent project you should donate money to.


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EDITORIAL: It’s not enough to oust Trump. Being polarized helps the Trumpistas more than it hurts them. Along with the outrage we need real solutions to the problems, real or perceived, that brought Trump to power. So, while we need to dedicate energy to the #resistance, we also need a vision of what a brighter future looks like and a clear defensible plan for creating that future.

Not every supporter of The Donald is the enemy. HRC mentioned the basket of deplorables, but the other basket, forgotten by the media for the sake of a soundbite, are those…

“…who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.”

So, to that end, one of the challenges I’ll set for myself for this blog is to be more solution-oriented and maybe try to keep the freaking out to a minimum (at least on this webpage).

Seriously, take care of yourself.

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” – Audre Lorde

Sunday Spectacle: What Caught My Attention Last Week (22Jan2017)

The inauguration, and then the Women’s March, soaked up most of my attention the last couple of days. I’m not sure if my liver can stand four years of Trump.

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What are you marching for?: I’ve seen some befuddled souls on the right asking “what do they want?” Here is the Guiding Vision and Definition of Principles released by the organizers of the Women’s March.

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Blueprint of Pain: Given the contradictory statements from the current administration it’s difficult to predict the future. However, there is a high probability that this Heritage Foundation document is guiding many of the decisions we’ll see over the next few months. Blueprint for Balance. If you don’t have time to read the whole thing check out the summary on page 159.

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The News: Nonprofit news organizations are more important than ever and ProPublica is one of the best. Here’s what they’re covering moving forward and the reporters on the beat. Commercial news is like sugar; it’s everywhere, it’s easy to consume, but it’s not healthy, and can make you sick if you consume too much.

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Surreality: The world could use more guerrilla street signs.

Surreal Street Sign

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Resistance Tips: Celeste Ng offers some tips at Teen Vogue. 20 Small Acts of Resistance to Make Your Voice Heard Over the Next 4 Years

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Cartoon: Decluttering is healthy. Even in post-apocalyptic world.

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Movies: 366 Weird Movies. They have a little over two hundred so far. I’m happy to say I’ve seen about half. The rest have been added to my to-watch list for 2017.

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Concept New-To-Me: How it that I’ve never heard of Luxury Communism before now?

“Located on the futurist left end of the political spectrum, fully automated luxury communism (FALC) aims to embrace automation to its fullest extent. The term may seem oxymoronic, but that’s part of the point: anything labeled luxury communism is going to be hard to ignore.”

“Bastani and fellow luxury communists believe that this era of rapid change is an opportunity to realise a post-work society, where machines do the heavy lifting not for profit but for the people.”

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Art: The image below is Alex Gross, from his upcoming show Antisocial Network.

Artwork Image: Alex Gross

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Twitter Weirdness:

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Editorial: My New Year’s resolution was to become more in tune with the moon. I downloaded the app Luna Solaria to my phone and check it every day. That helps. I still want to do more, so I think I’m going to start grabbing an image of the moon every day. Well, maybe not EVERY day until I get in the habit (or if it’s cloudy), but I’ll probably start tweeting a daily moon shot. I also added moon cycle information to my Google calendar (both private and the one I use at work) and my wall calendar shows the moon cycle.

I’m also using the moon cycle as a cue for when to initiate new projects. I’ve already posted one story on the first full moon of the year, and today I’m editing the story that will go up during the next full moon. Next weekend is the new moon, and that’s also the start date of writing this year’s novel. (BTW, the prep work went really well yesterday, and I feel I’m in a good place for starting next Saturday. More about that next weekend.)

To the overarching goal of being more mindful and less mediated I’m also considering screen-free Saturday, a screen-free hour at work, and regular patio sunsets. We’ll see…

For now, it’s back to the word mines.

Sunday Spectacle: What Caught My Attention Last Week

I’ll see if I can make this a weekly feature.

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STORY: The biggest thing for me this week was posting “The Conscience Switch” on Thursday. Check it out and let me know what you think. (And share the link if you like it!)

The seed for this story came as I lay in a hypnagogic state, partially napping before attending a Friday happy hour. It is an attempt at the Troutian/Vonnegutian morality tale. I read biographies of both Tesla and Alexander Graham Bell to add some verisimilitude. Bell really did make raspberry vinegar, and it’s completely possible they could have crossed paths in Colorado during the time indicated.

“All morning he watched reports of soldiers abandoning their posts, drone operators walking away from their consoles, billionaires donating substantial sums to charity, pundits recanting their hate speech, criminals turning themselves into the police, high-level politicians resigning their positions, priests and rabbis and pastors and imams admitting they didn’t believe in God. Every moment, someone was clearing their conscience.”

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TROLLS & COURAGE: Lauren Duca, editor at Teen Vogue, is a complete badass. Unfortunately, that comes with a steep price. In her essay “To Trolls, With Love” she reflects on the desire to kick against the pricks, and to withdraw because of the avalanche of hateful abuse. If you read it, or follow her, send her some love and solidarity. @laurenduca

“I’m a warrior goddess, who can weather the worst of the misogynistic treasure trove, calling out explicit sexism, and slicing open stealthier versions, usually with a witty aside about your poor use of grammar. (Do they not teach contractions anymore, or… ?) I’m also human. I don’t know if this means I’m a “triggered snowflake,” but I’m not embarrassed that mean things make me feel bad. Burying pain under a too-thick layer of irreverence can only dull the feeling for so long. I can take it, and I will continue to take it, in part because a presence online is part of my job. That doesn’t mean it’s OK.”

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PHOTO MANIPULATION: This Is Colossal points to these great photo manipulations by Antoine Geiger.

Antoine Geiger photography

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MOON: There is now more confidence in the age of the moon. It’s about four-and-one-half billion years old.

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FAIRY TALES: Mari Ness starts a new column about fairy tales over at Tor.com with a look at the woman who coined the term, Marie-Catherine Le Jumel de Barneville, Baroness d’Aulnoy, aka Madame d’Aulnoy.

“Along with others, Madame d’Aulnoy took distinct advantage of these possibilities, using her tales to comment obliquely on court life in Versailles and (as far as we can tell) her own experiences, specifically focusing on the intrigues and dangers of court life.”

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OUR CREEPY PRESENT: Ambrosia is back in the news. Creepiest pseudo-science ever.

“Just off a winding highway along the Pacific coast in Monterey, California, is a private clinic where people can pay $8,000 to have their veins pumped with blood plasma from teenagers and young adults.”

I first heard about Ambrosia last August when Vanity Fair linked them to Peter Thiel.

“Given Thiel’s obsession with warding off death, it comes as no surprise that the Silicon Valley billionaire is interested in at least one radical way of doing it: injecting himself with a young person’s blood. On Monday, Jeff Bercovici of Inc. magazine published part of a year-old interview with Thiel, in which the venture-capitalist explains that he’s interested in parabiosis, which includes the practice of getting transfusions of blood from a younger person, as a means of improving health and potentially reversing aging.”

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JOKES: I made up a joke! — Sign in my post office says they will start accepting the ruble as a form of payment on January 20.

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SPIRITS: It’s not really absurdly complete, but there’s some interesting information about how environment and barrels affect the taste of whiskey. An Absurdly Complete Guide to Understanding Whiskey

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POETRY: @Limericking tweeted the following —

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ART: This underwater exhibit by Jason deCaires Taylor came through one of my feeds this week. I first saw these images a couple of years ago, but am completely enamored with the concept. They iinspired one of the stories I’ll be posting later this year.

Jason deCaires Taylor exhibit

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WORDS: Carrie Frye at Black Cardigan asked her readers for their favorite words of 2016. Here’s what I sent her:

ABDERITIC

Abderitic is a neologism coined by Immanuel Kant in his essay “Is the human race constantly progressing?

He argues there are three potential futures for humanity.

“The human race exists either in continual retrogression toward wickedness, or in perpetual progression toward improvement in its moral destination, or in eternal stagnation in its present stage of moral worth among creatures.”

“The first we can call moral terrorism, and the second eudaemonism …, but the third we can term abderitism because, since a true stagnation in matters of morality is not possible, a perpetually changing upward tendency and an equally frequent and profound relapse (an eternal oscillation, as it were) amounts to nothing more than if the subject had remained in the same place, standing still.” — David D.

David D. also pointed to gynepunk, as his “new to me” word and “microbenevolence” as one he coined himself this year.

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STATE OF THE WORLD: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky on the State of the World 2017.

Back again for another twenty-first century edition of the WELL
State of the World! Who’s gonna collapse first: us pundits, or
“the World”?

On the face of it, this is the worst condition the SOTW’s world has
ever yet been found in. I do hesitate to bluntly state that,
because whenever you tell Americans a harsh truth nowadays, instead
of pragmatically taking some hands-on action to cash in (as was once
their wont) nowadays they tend to empty a bottle of Oxycontin and
float out on a paisley tide of weltschmertz.

I don’t intend to mince a lot of words here, as that is not our
tradition, but I would start by strongly urging you prize your
existence in 2017. Life is precious and shouid be valued, for it’s
easy not to have it. Besides, despair is an act of intellectual
arrogance. Despair implies that you’ve got it all figured out,
while the only sure thing about 2017 is a forthcoming boatload of
unheard-of surprises.

Although everybody expressed shock and surprise at world events
during 2016, I saw little evidence that anybody actually changed
their mind much yet. Scarcely anybody broke a filter-bubble;
positions simply hardened all around.

You’d think that having your 2015 weltanschaaung reduced to 2016’s
gonzo cartoon-status would cause everybody to undergo some healthy
reassessment of ground-state reality. But, no. Nowadays, that
sends confirmation-bias into overdrive.

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EDITORIAL: I’m as confounded as anyone over what to do next or how to deal with what looks to be a weird and disturbing near future. But, if I was compelled to offer a little advice, here’s something I did in 2016 that is working for me.

Around spring or summer of 2016 I took a closer look at what I was reading. I sort of assumed I did a reasonable job of reading women and people of color, but when I took a closer look at the authors I unthinkingly gravitated toward I realized they were almost always white males. White males that typically shared my lefty/inclusive sensibilities, but white and male nonetheless. I decided to make a conscious effort to read more women and people of color. Instead of picking up Charlie Stross I picked up Nalo Hopkinson. Instead of reading China Mieville I read Carmen Maria Machado. I looked at my twitter feed and culled out a lot of white males I didn’t know and started paying attention to anyone who wasn’t a white, able, and male. I deliberately added diversity to my information diet.

It’s not much, I know, but it is something. I want to be a better listener, and to be a better question-asker. I want more knowledge about the world that isn’t my world.

It isn’t always easy. Those authors, my ‘favorite’ authors, are a comfort zone. It’s a cocoon I’m familiar with. In this new environment I find myself confronted with critiques I don’t fully understand. It takes time and effort to dig deeper and figure what those critiques mean instead of dismissing them and moving on to my next bon-bon of entertainment. Inside my own head I have to tell myself to shut up and listen. When I don’t understand something someone who doesn’t look like me is saying, I force myself to slow down and and take the criticism seriously. I read and research and think.

And, it’s working. Not quickly. Not completely. But I’m better now that I was this time last year. I still don’t have any answers, but I think I understand the questions, concerns, and critiques better than I did.

This year I’ll continue to do the same, and maybe be a little better for it.

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ZORRO: And to conclude – Here’s Zorro!

New Story: The Conscience Switch

It’s the first full moon of 2017! That means it’s story time.

The blog goal for this year is to publish a story every full moon. This moon’s story is “The Conscience Switch.”

Ever wonder why humanity’s humanity seems intermittent? It turns out there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation.

“The Conscience Switch”

“All morning he watched reports of soldiers abandoning their posts, drone operators walking away from their consoles, billionaires donating substantial sums to charity, pundits recanting their hate speech, criminals turning themselves into the police, high-level politicians resigning their positions, priests and rabbis and pastors and imams admitting they didn’t believe in God. Every moment, someone was clearing their conscience.”

Look at the Moon

Every time I think of the moon I hear Victoria Williams in my head.

As I contemplated my New Year’s Resolution I decided this year I’d become more in tune with the moon. Now, everytime I think, ‘Oh yeah, I should think about the moon!’ I hear Williams sing “Why, look at that moon/way up high/seeing everything/oh yeah, that goes by.” OR, is she singing “Why look at that moon?”

Why, indeed.

Winter Break

Between work-sanctioned holidays and vacation time I managed to cobble together a two-week winter break which ends today.

Yay for break! It took me almost the whole two weeks to de-tox from work and to get my head into a happier, healthier space. Alas, tomorrow it’s back to the grind.

One of my key goals over the break is to de-clutter my desk and the space around my desk at home. I’ve been doing this for the last few years and it makes for a positive way to begin the new year.

The way I de-clutter is that I remove everything from my desk and only return the items I remember using over the last year. If I don’t use it regularly it needs to be put away somewhere else. Then, I do the same for the book shelf beside me and the one behind me.

Despite working in libraries for nearly 20 years I am still somewhat of a compulsive book-buyer. I love buying books, but I’ve been trying to curb the habit. I’ve also been culling my collection. This year I removed hundreds of volumes, as I did last year. I donate them to the library. It’s a challenge, because I have a strong sentimental attachment to the idea of books, but seriously, even if I live to a very ripe old age I have more great books in my house than I can ever read.

So, that was my winter break. Hanging out with friends, eating a lot of junk food (pizza! burgers! chips!), drinking beer, whisky, wine, and champagne, working on the novel, cleaning my desk, de-cluttering my bookshelves, culling my newsfeeds, cleaning house, and generally preparing for the lunacy of the 2017.

So long winter break! It’s been awesome. See you again in about 360 days.

Information Feed

At the end of 2016 I culled and weeded, reduced and cut my garden of information feeds. At the beginning of 2017 I’m looking for new sources of information.

What should I add to my information diet? What blogs, webpages, RSS feeds, twitter feeds, news sources, websites, television programs, podcasts, etc. should I consider?