Tuesday, 26 September 2017 03:43 am
ruthi: a photograph of a dormouse eating a berry (Default)
[personal profile] ruthi
Today I attempted to draw some roses according to that gif over there: gifs of drawing roses
Where there's a pen-brush, probably, drawing with delicate strokes and it looks so elegant.

Mine look somewhere between a big mess, starry-night stars, and cabbages. Sometimes hinting at roses.
Needs more practice, I tell myself.

,כשאמא מקלפת תפוז
יוצא לה שלם ונקי ויבש
אבל כשאני מקלף
'תמיד יוצא קווץ

A short poem in Hebrew, by Yehuda Atlas: "When mother peels an orange, it comes out whole and clean and dry. But when I peel, it always comes out a mess. "

It took me literally years to realise that a lot of that was about, y'know, not the inherent superiority of mothers, but about years of experience in peeling oranges. And in using knives. And so on.

Just One Thing (25 September 2017)

Monday, 25 September 2017 11:59 pm
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[personal profile] hollymath posting in [community profile] awesomeers
It's challenge time!

Comment with Just One Thing you've accomplished in the last 24 hours or so. It doesn't have to be a hard thing, or even a thing that you think is particularly awesome. Just a thing that you did.

Feel free to share more than one thing if you're feeling particularly accomplished!

Extra credit: find someone in the comments and give them props for what they achieved!

Nothing is too big, too small, too strange or too cryptic. And in case you'd rather do this in private, anonymous comments are screened. I will only unscreen if you ask me to.

hollymath: (Default)
[personal profile] hollymath
Andrew has (extremely carefully and only after I said it was okay, having learned from last week's debacle!) opened the post from the Home Office and can confirm that it's my UK passport.

I'm not even happy or relieved yet. I'm so ground-down by the whole process that it still hasn't sunk in yet, even as I look at it with the lettering all shiny, next to me on the table, waiting to be taken upstairs and filed away into unobtrusive normality.

Star Trek: Discovery

Monday, 25 September 2017 08:28 pm
[syndicated profile] andrew_hickey_feed

Posted by Andrew Hickey

I’m in a strange position when it comes to Star Trek — it’s not a series that I consider myself a fan of, but I am a fan of the *idea* of it. I love the utopian post-racial post-scarcity series its fans talk about, I *absolutely* love the idea of trying to build drama on something other than character conflict, I love many of the characters in the series…

It’s just that when I look at the actual series, it very rarely lives up to the fans’ statements about what it should be.

This is not to say it’s a *bad* series — I genuinely love the good episodes of the original series (roughly speaking, those ones that Gene Coon was in charge of) and the first few films, Deep Space Nine could be good when it wasn’t about entitled men sexually harassing their co-workers until they gave in and slept with them, and Voyager had a lot of good moments (and despite fan-lore was probably the most consistently good of the various series). I own all the films (up to Nemesis) on DVD, own several books on the series, and have watched every TV episode (except the last two seasons of Enterprise), but it’s a concept that seems to me to work far better *as* a concept than as an actual, tangible, work.

(Incidentally I have many ideas about why this is, and about why I find much serialised work from the last couple of decades almost unwatchable and unreadable, which I’m thinking of writing about later.)

So my comments on Discovery should be taken with that as the baseline — I’m someone that an average person would think of as a “Trekkie”, but that someone who calls themselves a Trekker instead would look at as a casual.

I went into the series with a certain level of anticipation, but also some worry. The credits tell their own story — Bryan Fuller had been the original showrunner, and he plotted the series and co-wrote the first couple of episodes. Fuller’s take on Star Trek would be one I’d love to see — he started his scriptwriting career on 90s Trek, before going on to make some genuinely excellent series — but Fuller left the series early on, and the two people who co-wrote the first script with him, and who have been in charge of the series since his departure, Alex Kurtzman and Akiva Goldsman, have been responsible for some of the worst films ever made.

Meanwhile, Nicholas Meyer has been involved as a consultant, and my own opinion of Meyer is rather different from that of most Star Trek fans — while most people think the three Star Trek films he made are the peak of the series, my own view is that his scripts largely consist of people saying to one another “isn’t this situation we’re in just like that in this famous piece of classic literature?” “Why yes, it is. In fact I’d go so far as to say that it’s *very* similar, and that must mean that this is a thematically deep piece of film, not just some B-movie schlock, and so the people watching this are very clever people.” “Do you think we should trust these very clever people to pick up on that thematic deepness?” “No. As Shakespeare said ‘Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt'” — but that said, Meyer does at least know how to make an action-movie plot work, and how to do the kind of comedy that Star Trek does at its best.

So, the possibility existed of the series being great, but it also had the possibility of being dreadful. And after the first two episodes, the series still seems to be existing in that superposition of states.

On the plus side, the series looks fantastic — it clearly looks like Star Trek without being imitative. The acting is uniformly excellent (apart from a couple of the Klingons, who seem to be reciting their Klingon-language dialogue by rote), and it was nice that both the principal characters were women of colour. The idea of having a human protagonist who has been raised Vulcan is a genuinely good way of ringing the changes on the Spock/Data/Seven of Nine archetype, and the story has clearly been conceived as a serial, rather than having a “story arc” retro-grafted onto standalone episodes (which is a mistake too much 90s Trek made, and which ends up with the worst of both worlds).

On the negative side… well, there’s the treatment of race, which is surprising since the main criticism the series has been getting is from the kind of men who think that the existence of women or black people is a personal insult to them, who’ve been complaining about the series “bringing identity politics into Star Trek”.

The Klingons have always been uncomfortably racialised, and the redesign of them for this series could have been an opportunity to rectify that, taking them away from the appearance of any particular human race. Instead, they appear to have gone for an almost minstrel-show boot-polish black skin — and then they introduced an albino Klingon, who is an outcast from Klingon society for his white skin, but who is proved to be braver than most of the other Klingons. All of which gives a deeply disturbing impression, apparently without ever intending it.

But that’s not the thing that bothers me. Rather, the part of the show that seems to me right now, based only on two episodes almost to be bordering on far-right propaganda is its treatment of Klingons as a parallel to Islam. T’Kuvma’s attempts to unify the Klingon Empire, fractured into disparate Houses, under a fundamentalist version of the teachings of Kahless, seem deliberately to parallel the attempts of ISIS and similar organisations to reunify the Ottoman Empire under fundamentalist Islam. And there’s actually a fair bit of insight in the way this Klingon fundamentalism is put together and who T’Kumva attracts to his cause — it’s written by someone who understands the appeal of authoritarian nationalism and fundamentalism (though the way all the Klingon leaders almost immediately convert to T’Kumva’s cause is one of the points where you can clearly see the joins in the script). The theme of the Klingons being Muslim-standins is set up even by the pre-story teaser, set on a desert planet with characters wearing pseudo-Arabic SF clothes a la Dune or Star Wars.

The problem is that Michael Burnham (the protagonist, who is apparently female despite the name) argues that the Federation need to attack the Klingons first, as it’s the only language they understand (or words *very much* to that effect). She says it’s “in their nature”. Another character questions her about this:
“Considering your background I would think you the last person to make assumptions based on race.”
“With respect it would be unwise to confuse race and culture.”

This is, of course, the line that is used by every single racist demagogue and outright fascist at the moment. It’s the line used by Farage and Trump, by “Vox Day” and Scott Adams, by anyone who wants to claim that “those people” are inferior. And it’s used by even supposedly progressive, and left-wing, people who write chin-strokey arguments in the Guardian and the New Statesman about how it’s not racist to hate Muslims because “Islam is not a race”.

Now, Burnham’s actions are definitely depicted as being unwise, and as leading to deaths of people she cares about and to her own fall from grace, and it’s entirely possible, even probable, that the series’ overarching story will lead to her realising the bigotry inherent in her position. But *right now, as of these episodes* it’s still the case that we’re being invited to sympathise with her and to read the Klingons as being the baddies. Right now, we’re meant at worst to see pre-emptive war on the basis that “it’s in their nature” and “it’s not race, it’s culture” as justifiable. Our protagonist is expressing views that put her on the side of the worst elements in humanity right now.

But again, that’s not *what the show is*, and I wouldn’t tell people not to watch it based on that. There’s enough that this series is doing right — like the Kelpiens, an alien race created for this series, who are an intelligent domesticated prey species, bred by predators to be more fun to hunt (an idea that sounds very Fuller), who may be the best idea for a new alien race Star Trek has ever seen — that I’d thoroughly recommend that anyone who enjoys Trek even at the level I do should watch it (the true fans will of course already have seen it). Cackhandedly and problematically dealing with hot-button social issues is itself part of Star Trek at least as much as anything else is, and if it *hadn’t* messed that kind of thing up I’d have been rather worried I wasn’t really watching Star Trek.

This is a series with great potential, and it’s the first ever Star Trek series where the pilot is actually a good piece of TV rather than something completely unwatchable. There’s a lot to like, and even to love, about it. I’ll definitely be watching next week.

But just as past series of Star Trek don’t quite live up to the praise of its most ardent fans, this one doesn’t yet quite live up to the attacks of its enemies. Here’s hoping it gets there.

This blog post was brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them?


Sunday, 24 September 2017 11:51 pm
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[personal profile] ceb posting in [community profile] qec
* bit of tidying
* books to charity shop
* ordered sewing pattern
* fixed O's jacket
* fed cats

Fitbit goal check

Sunday, 24 September 2017 11:19 pm

Reading: Autumn

Sunday, 24 September 2017 06:19 pm
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[personal profile] white_hart
I bought a copy of Ali Smith's Autumn in the Oxfam bookshop in York last week, because they were playing Leonard Cohen and I ended up browsing the contemporary fiction section much more closely than I often do because I wanted to keep listening to it. It was the day the Booker shortlist had been announced so someone had been talking about the book on the radio as I was driving up; it sounded interesting so I thought I might as well buy it when I saw a copy there.

It's a strange book. Essentially, it's the story of a friendship between an elderly man and little girl, growing and developing across the space of years, but it's also a complicated web of allusions through which Smith considers questions of time, memory, love and art; key influences are Dickens (the opening sentence is "It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times") and Ovid's Metamorphoses although there are many others. Its time-hopping, non-linear format jumps between the aftermath of the Brexit vote (the novel was published last October and it was clearly written, fast, after the referendum), the 1990s, the Profumo scandal of the 1960s and World War 2 and the years immediately preceding it. It's funny and thought-provoking, melancholy and angry and also somehow hopeful. And the prose is beautiful and poetic. It's a short book, and a quick read, but I think it will stay with me.

Just One Thing (24 September 2017)

Sunday, 24 September 2017 04:07 pm
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[personal profile] hollymath posting in [community profile] awesomeers
It's challenge time!

Comment with Just One Thing you've accomplished in the last 24 hours or so. It doesn't have to be a hard thing, or even a thing that you think is particularly awesome. Just a thing that you did.

Feel free to share more than one thing if you're feeling particularly accomplished!

Extra credit: find someone in the comments and give them props for what they achieved!

Nothing is too big, too small, too strange or too cryptic. And in case you'd rather do this in private, anonymous comments are screened. I will only unscreen if you ask me to.


Reading: St Mungo's Robin

Sunday, 24 September 2017 10:23 am
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[personal profile] white_hart
I wasn't quite ready to get my head out of fifteenth-century Scotland after finishing Gemini, so I thought I'd read the fourth of Pat McIntosh's Gil Cunningham mysteries. Set in Glasgow, about ten years after the end of Gemini, these books feel a bit like a extension of the world of the Niccolò series; some of the same historical characters appear in both and I like to imagine Dunnett's characters living their lives just off-screen. (Accidentally or on purpose, there are also a couple of cases where character names and nicknames end up being minor spoilers for points in Dunnett where knowing a character's full name rather than just their nickname would have given too much away, so if you're reading your way through Dunnett and care about remaining unspoilered I'd recommend leaving McIntosh until afterwards; I also enjoy McIntosh more for having read all of the Niccolò books now and understanding the historical background.)

In this book, Gil (now officially charged with investigating murders, after his earlier successes on an amateur basis) is called to a Glasgow almshouse where the unpopular Deacon has been found stabbed with no shortage of people who might have had a motive to kill him. He's also due to be married in a week's time and his investigations are both helped and hindered by family and friends arriving in town for the wedding, while he and his fiancée, Alys, are both suffering from pre-wedding nerves.

I enjoyed this a lot - the series really seems to be hitting its stride by this stage, with the core characters established enough to feel like old friends now; Gil's investigations manage not to feel out of place in the historical setting while still allowing him to do things like estimate times of death from the condition of a corpse. I did spot a couple of clues well ahead of Gil, and had worked out the identity of the murderer by about two-thirds of the way through the book, but then it's always nice to feel cleverer than the detective!

Five things make a post

Sunday, 24 September 2017 01:13 pm
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
[personal profile] rmc28
1. I was just saying to my boss this week that I was quite proud of keeping my migraines under control more lately; guess what I got yesterday? So annoying, especially as I'd been looking forward to a friend's party that I ended up missing.

2. I am very slowly beginning to tackle the backlog of Stuff I Kept Putting Off While Studying; this week has been all about the clothes / fabric. I have assorted piles of worn-out clothes and out-grown clothes accumulating around my room. I pulled out all the actually worn-out stuff, and bagged that up to go to recycling. I bagged up two sets of bedding we never use for the charity shop. I bought myself some underwear that doesn't have holes in, and added all the ones that did to the recycling bags, along with my oldest & least useful bras. I sorted through my socks, and chucked a good few pairs in the recycling bags, and a few others into the charity bag. Finally I ended up sorting through my stash of pretty scarves and wraps and kept only the ones that I really love and may actually wear more than once a year. (I sort of aspire to be someone who routinely wears pretty scarves etc but in practice I am never that put-together very often.)

3. I took the charity bag to the EACH shop, and came back with a very shiny pair of not!DMs and a metallic blue stripey hat. (Amusingly, I had been whinging this week about needing new shoes for winter, and hating shoe shopping, so that was very well timed.)

4. Last Saturday I watched Robocop with [personal profile] fanf . He was inspired by this post (linked by [personal profile] andrewducker ), and I'd never previously watched it - not on purpose, just never got round to it. It's very very Paul Verhoeven isn't it? Gratuitious mixed-sex shower scene, gory violence, horrible-future-media & horrible-future-adverts. Although my reaction to the project manager with the huge glasses was a. love those glasses b. you are really enjoying imagining watsisface having his hand broken c. please tell me watsisface dies horribly after forcing a kiss on you and taking credit for your work (spoiler - he does). Watsisface really is a walking example of the unwarranted confidence of the mediocre white man.

5. Nicholas saw Trolls at holiday/after school clubs and asked for his own copy. It's not awful, and I like the music, but after sitting through it with him three times in less than a week, I think I have had enough of it for now. The trailers on it include Home (based on The True Meaning of Smekday) which I've been meaning to watch, and Nicholas is keen to do so too, so hopefully I'll enjoy that more.

Freeways (cpatain games)

Sunday, 24 September 2017 09:36 am
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[personal profile] jack

Yesterday andrew ducker's links got me addicted to this little game. Each level is a screen with some roads coming in and some going out, and you need to join them up so the traffic can flow freely. Some connections need high traffic and need direct connections. Sometimes there's small or medium levels of traffic but lots of connections.

It's really cute how the separate screens join together to make a city with coast and mountains and houses and industrial areas. When you do all the levels in the initial 3x3 grid it expands to 5x5, then 7x7. And maybe further, I don't know.

I don't really understand the score, it clearly correlates with how good the network is, but I don't know exactly what contributes to it.

It makes some real-world motorway engineering make more sense. There's lots of situations where roundabouts work really well. Sometimes there's a couple of really busy routes which need direct connections, but then everything else just needs to be connected *at all* so you can use normal cross-roads with no flyovers at all.

Some things are bizarre. Who designed this city so SOME roads drive on the left and some on the right?

A few of the screens have a menu item to open an aerial picture of a real-world junction with similar connections and see if you came to the same sort of solution. One was a diamond interchange, with a moderate traffic road crossing a high traffic road. Another was two low-traffic roads crossing, in the middle of some fields somewhere.

There doesn't seem to be an "undo" button, am I missing something? That's realistic for working with concrete, but with the interface so clunky it would be really nice.

Edit: Also, there's a directory called save but I can't find any option to save which disinclines me to play again. Anyone know where it's hidden?


Saturday, 23 September 2017 07:34 pm
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[personal profile] ceb posting in [community profile] qec
* more washing
* tidying of spare room
* tidying of clarery
* yuletide tagmodding
* fed cats

Just One Thing (23 September 2017)

Saturday, 23 September 2017 08:34 am
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[personal profile] nanila posting in [community profile] awesomeers
It's challenge time!

Comment with Just One Thing you've accomplished in the last 24 hours or so. It doesn't have to be a hard thing, or even a thing that you think is particularly awesome. Just a thing that you did.

Feel free to share more than one thing if you're feeling particularly accomplished!

Extra credit: find someone in the comments and give them props for what they achieved!

Nothing is too big, too small, too strange or too cryptic. And in case you'd rather do this in private, anonymous comments are screened. I will only unscreen if you ask me to.


Off To Thought Bubble…

Saturday, 23 September 2017 06:17 am
[syndicated profile] andrew_hickey_feed

Posted by Andrew Hickey

I’ll be with some of the other Mindless Ones at Table 79 in the Cookridge St Marquee at Thought Bubble this year. Unfortunately, this year I didn’t think I’d be able to go until a few weeks ago, so had no time to pull together another book on comics (or on geek media stuff like Doctor Who), and having a big pile of unsold books always depresses me, so I’ll be bringing only two copies of each of three of my books — An Incomprehensible Condition, Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!, and Fifty Stories for Fifty Years — because I happen to have a few copies left over from previous years’ conventions. You’ll have to ask for them specially if you want them, though, because I’m not wasting table display space on them as they’re unlikely to sell.

Feel free to stop by and have a chat, though, and to buy the great comics that we’ll be selling by the other Mindless Ones.

[personal profile] archangelbeth on cats

Saturday, 23 September 2017 01:19 am
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[personal profile] conuly posting in [community profile] metaquotes
Cats can reproduce by budding. Make sure to dispose of all brushed fur properly.

Context needs to comb her cat more often.


Friday, 22 September 2017 11:25 pm
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[personal profile] ceb posting in [community profile] qec
* tagmodding
* washing
* fussed cats
* paid I
* paid B
* paid D

On New Political Strategies

Friday, 22 September 2017 02:50 pm
[syndicated profile] andrew_hickey_feed

Posted by Andrew Hickey

This post is a political one, and discusses party strategies, but I think it has more applicability than just to Lib Dem partisans (which means that unlike the internal-fighting posts of last week, I’m going to charge for this on Patreon).

One thing last week’s Liberal Democrat conference showed was that, to the leadership of the Lib Dems at least, being in the moderate centre seems to be an idea that has a great appeal. It doesn’t appeal to me, and so I have an instinctive dislike of the idea, but I also think that right now it’s the wrong idea from a purely strategic point of view, and I think the other parties are starting to realise this.

The problem is that right now there is no centre of British politics, at least in any way that we would have talked about the centre a decade ago. And what centrist politicians of all parties have to realise is that, in the long term at least, and while we have the system that we do, that is the case more often than not.

British politics has had, in the last hundred and twenty years or so, roughly three stable periods in which it was sensible to talk about a political centre. In the period up until World War I, all the parties were, roughly speaking, in agreement on ideology — they were for imperialism, for a franchise limited to adult males, and for a hierarchical world-view in which white English rich men were the apex of the human pyramid. There were, of course, differences in ideology between the Liberals and the Tories (and the new Liberal Nationals and the tiny Labour party that was just starting to become known), but to anyone from outside that paradigm the differences look non-existent.

The same thing happened again in the period from roughly the end of World War II to the late 60s/early 70s. There, both the Tories and Labour were agreed on the philosophy known as Butskellism. This involved a mixed economy with high levels of taxation on higher incomes, most major industries nationalised, a strong welfare state, and the country run by what amounted to a three-legged stool — government, capital, and the unions all having roughly equal decision-making power, and government being by consensus among those three powers. Civil liberties, in this period, were slowly increased, though with a rather paternalistic aspect to this in which the lower classes needed to be educated in the responsibilities that came along with extra rights.

And then from about 1990 until very recently there was neoliberalism — the policies put forward by Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown, Cameron, Clegg, and Miliband. With some differences in nuance, all of these believed in low levels of taxation of income, even lower levels of wealth taxation, and that the role of the government in the economy should be that of a contractor, with all implementation to be done by private organisations paid by the government. There was also a rough consensus that international movement of capital and goods was a good thing, and that immigrants should be made into the scapegoats for any problems caused by other problems. All parties with any kind of power were also agreed that civil liberties were completely unimportant, and that universal rights could be abolished (though rights could still be granted to particular groups, so in this time life became immeasurably better for gay men, for example, than it had been pre-1990). In general, more even than the previous periods of time, those things which led to corporate profit were valued, and those things that didn’t were considered anathema to the political consensus.

All those periods of consensus definitely created losers, but they all sort-of worked for enough people (in Britain — they all caused a great deal of harm to other countries), and on the whole even though they harmed some people, most people in the UK were OK with them for a reasonable period.

However, all those periods of consensus came to an end in gigantic crises — first came the ongoing crisis that was World War I, the Depression, and World War II, during which time the Liberal Party fractured and almost died, the Labour Party rose, fell, and then rose again, and everything about British society changed irrevocably.

The second crisis period lasted, again, about twenty-five years — from roughly the time of the devaluation of the pound in 1967, through the three-day week, the OPEC crisis, the Winter of Discontent, and the Miners’ Strike, and probably coming to an end around the time of the Poll Tax riots. Again the major progressive party of the time (Labour) fragmented and almost died, again everything about British society was irrevocably changed. By the 1992 election — and certainly by the 1997 one — there was a new consensus, a new reality tunnel through which anyone with pretensions to political respectability would look at the world.

And this pattern — a shake-up that involves the two main parties going to wide extremes, and then slowly converging on a “new normal” that lasts about twenty years or so — is built into the biggest-loser electoral system. The system incentivises false binaries and clustering when something seems to be working, and it also incentivises getting as far away from “the other lot” as possible when something stops working. It *also* means that when things stop working, it takes so long for the electoral system to respond to them that only catastrophe will cause a response.

And the introduction of referendums into the system, which managerialist centrists who think that everyone “really” agrees with them and that the system is really OK thought would be a sticking plaster that would fix this problem, only makes it much, much worse. The Brexit referendum accelerated the latest catastrophic shake-up, which had already been coming since the crash of 2007, which had proved that the neoliberal system was broken just as effectively as the OPEC crisis did with Butskellism.

The elections of 2010 and 2015 saw all three main parties led by people who were fervent believers in the old system, but we haven’t had an election with a decisive result since 2005, and don’t look likely to have one again any time soon. We’re in the part of the cycle that happened in the early thirties or the early seventies, with parties fragmenting and reforming, and with ambiguous election results and Prime Ministers relying on other parties to get their agendas through Parliament.

Now, for all progressives of whatever party, this isn’t a good thing even were the current government not doing everything they can to exacerbate the current crisis. Conservatives tend to dominate these periods of uncertainty, partly because they tend to prize party discipline over everything else, and partly because they’re willing to throw away any principles at all for power so adapt better to new electoral landscapes.

But the problem at the moment is that no-one is even putting forward a workable idea of what the next paradigm might be, and we can’t even begin to move on from this catastrophic system until someone does. Theresa May’s Conservatives are rapidly heading towards full-on fascism and becoming a party of the ethnonationalist right. It’s my worry that the whole country will end up going for that by default, but I don’t think we will so long as there is at least a semblance of Parliamentary democracy, because fascism offers easy pseudo-answers, but it doesn’t actually work.

Labour at least seem to have settled on a strategy, give or take some argument about whether they should also be incredibly racist or not. The problem is that the strategy they’ve settled on is basically to return to the Butskellite system. This is a less bad strategy than many in my own party would like to think — that system *did* work, and work well, for a time, and there are plenty of lessons that can be learned for it for whatever new consensus is reached. Just because a system eventually failed doesn’t mean everything about it was bad.

But it’s still, ultimately, a retrograde step. That system was designed for an economy based on heavy industry, two-parent families in which only one person worked, a demographically young population, and pre-existing strong unions, and a world in which most of Asia was still pre-industrial so couldn’t compete. There are lessons to be learned from it, but it won’t work without those conditions, and much of the Labour leadership seems to me to be too intellectually incurious and inflexible to adapt it to the world as it is today.

They do, though, have a decent (though incomplete) analysis of what’s wrong. They’ve pointed to some of the problems, even though they haven’t yet suggested good solutions.

And this is the problem for centrists, whether those be Tory centrists like Anna Soubry, Labour centrists like Owen Smith, or the centrists in charge of my own party. In times of crisis, centrism is a reactionary position to be taking. It’s defending an old, broken-down system, not looking for a new, better, one.

Of course, this is sometimes necessary, because there are things about the old order that definitely need to be retained. The EU would be a prime example, in my view. But if centrism at its best is something like the Kinks’ Village Green Preservation Society, “Preserving the old ways from being abused/Protecting the new ways for me and for you”, at a time of crisis it seems to centre the former, when the latter is more necessary.

This is something that, for all his faults as a leader, Tim Farron realised — he gave a great speech to conference in, I think, 2014, in which he outlined most of this and said the Lib Dems should be in the forefront of developing new political thought. And while his reaction to the EU referendum was, ultimately, the cowardly one of favouring a second referendum (which is basically just the “denial” stage of the stages of grieving, hoping that maybe everyone will come to their senses), he did prioritise trying to come up with radical new ideas.

Unfortunately, the snap election put paid to that, and we are now once again pivoting back to centrist defence of existing institutions, rather than radical rebuilding of them. The criticism the Lib Dems made of the other parties’ leaders during the election was the largely accurate one that “Theresa May wants to take us back to the 1950s, Jeremy Corbyn to the 1970s”. Unfortunately, we too have succumbed to the Boomer-led gerontocracy fad, and we have a leadership that wants to take us back to the 1990s.

Personally, I’d rather go back to the 1990s than the 1970s, and rather the 70s than the 50s, but if I had a choice I’d rather get into the 2030s. I’d quite like us to cut out the decade-plus of flailing around making bad choices and harming everyone that political history suggests lies ahead (optimistically taking 2007 rather than last year as the start of the crisis period). And we will only do that by accurately diagnosing the problems that led us to this place. We should not accept the false solutions of Brexit, austerity, and racism, and nor should we lazily push for ever more binary referendums based on false premises.

The Lib Dems were the last party to accept the neoliberal consensus (cleverly doing so right at the point it broke) and have historically always been the party of constitutional radicalism. And one of the few bright points of a fairly depressing conference was hearing Vince Cable say what the current Boomer gerontocracy deems most unsayable — that house prices need to fall.

One of the things I’m hoping to do as my Prometheans series progresses is to come up with some very precise definitions of the problems we’re facing (albeit from the unusual angle of looking at old science fiction books). I’m also pushing within the Lib Dems for more radical solutions to problems, through things like working with the Radical Association (join us!) But for everyone on the side of greater equality, greater freedom, and less conformity — whether in the Lib Dems, Greens, Labour, SNP, or Unaffiliated Other — there’s a task ahead, to try to define and shape a new political reality. We should not be shirking the task by pretending the problem has already been solved.

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What it’s like for girls

Friday, 22 September 2017 03:39 pm
marnanel: (Default)
[personal profile] marnanel
I've always dressed androgynously and worn my hair long since childhood, because of being nonbinary, but this was the first time I'd got this treatment. I think it gets more common after puberty?

When I was about fifteen, I participated in a thirty-mile walk to raise money for charity. The final checkpoint was a pub, and of course everyone went into the beer garden and lay down on the grass.

Now you know how when you've been exerting yourself, you can walk fine until you stop, whereupon your muscles seize up. Well, after lying on the ground for a few minutes I got up because I needed to go into the pub and find the toilet, and of course I could hardly walk. So I hobbled towards the pub door.

A middle-aged man walked up and held my elbow, saying, "Let me help you, my dear."

First thought: wtf?! Why has this creep grabbed my arm without asking?

Second thought: Oh! In these baggy walking clothes, he thinks I'm a girl.

Third thought: Wait a moment. That means that girls get this sort of treatment all the time and I'VE NEVER NOTICED.

It was seriously a life-altering moment.

Friday, 22 September 2017 02:21 pm
fluffymormegil: @ (Default)
[personal profile] fluffymormegil

Dear Northampton Partnership Homes,

If you are going to threaten me with legal action if I don't telephone you, you could at least make your hold system actually useful by giving me SOME KIND OF BLOODY IDEA whether I'm going to be waiting five minutes or twenty-five.

Cruel disregards,

"Home away from home"

Friday, 22 September 2017 03:07 am
rosefox: A bearded man in a yarmulke shouting L'CHAIM! (Judaism)
[personal profile] rosefox
Selichot )

Rosh Hashanah )

It's genuinely disorienting to encounter all these spaces where I don't have to educate anyone or fight to be seen for who I am. Other people have already done that work, and leaders have clearly been receptive to it. (Rabbi Lippman is queer, but I don't assume that cis queer people will be welcoming to or understanding of trans people, especially nonbinary trans people.) I get to just show up and be a human being in human community. What an immense privilege. What a gift. Honestly, that might be the thing that gets me to stick with this—just the pure pleasure of being in a place where I didn't personally have to claw out a space for myself.

Josh met me and Kit in the park and we walked for a while (GMaps Pedometer says I walked 3.2 miles today, most of it pushing a heavy stroller with a heavy toddler; my feet and arms are very tired). I teased him that he should be glad I didn't make him meet the rabbi. But this is my thing, really. Maybe it's my latest three-month hobby. Maybe it'll be more than that. We'll see.


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