- We were lucky: it was much-diminished when it hit Vietnam, and on top of that, it landed nowhere near us. Folks in the Philippines were nowhere near so lucky, and pretty desperately need our help.
- Climate change is apparently making storms (and other extreme weather events) worse, so events like Haiyan are likely to be more frequent as our climate stability continues to collapse. So, yeah, there is a big-picture take-away for this, too.
Science (& the “Other Stuff”):
- David Suzuki, a Canadian science popularizer I grew up watching, says the party’s over… and he’s right. Suzuki has a whole website up about his Carbon Manifesto, but check out the video below (via Lauren Carter’s website):
- Not just that, but what about the brutalities that underlie the business of fossil fuels? It’s darker than most of us are willing to face.
- Immanuel Velikovsky was a bizarre figure. I’d heard the name, but only recently looked him up. There’s a book on his involvement in the development of “the Fringe” (the part of society that buys into pseudoscience and so forth) that I’m curious about, though I won’t get around to it for a while. These folks are crucial to the formation of that social niche that vehemently opposes talk of climate change like Suzuki’s… to the (short-term, short-sighted) benefit of corporations and governments.
- An amusing comparison of Taiwan and Hong Kong, pretty obviously by a Taiwanese cartoonist. I kept wondering what a comparison ot Taiwan and Korea would look like, but I wouldn’t want to encourage it as that might drive Korean netizens to call for genocide of the Taiwanese people… Excerpt below:
- Meanwhile, Singapore has recently blocked a website that is designed for married people seeking extramarital affairs. Does that sound draconian? I’ve been in Asia so long, I can’t even tell anymore. (I do have a very low opinion of marital infidelity, and think whatever encourages it should be challenged. But then again, in South Korean TV, infidelity is sort of depicted the way it was in medieval French narratives: as a more wonderful, fulfilling kind of love than the marital sort.) In any case, the company plans to open up shop in Korea (and other countries in Asia) in 2014.
- Today from North Korea: New inflight uniforms, public executions. (And the executions were for… prostitution, and for the crime of watching illegal South Korean TV shows! Yay DPRK!) Ridiculous Shithead Basket-Case Nation is the title of the North Korea book I’d write, if I thought the subject needed more hammering away at. But the fact is, nobody really cares enough to do anything about it.
- Hell, even the North Koreans who manage to run away and arrive in the South encounter… wait for it… sexual harassment and shaming during the debriefings. (Among other things. The link in Korean, sorry!)
- In my opinion, anyone stupid enough to defect from South Korea to North ought to just be let go. (Arriving in the crapsack North would be punishment enough.) But the South Korean army seems to disagree, to the tune of a bunch of bullets fired. They may have good reasons, of course: he might have state secrets. (Probably not, though.) Still, even if he did, I’d doubt they North could use them to any effect. However, more telling is the translated comments section of the post linked: if you read through it, you’ll see just how loud and extreme the red-baiters in South Korea are. It’s a bit like they’re trapped in the fifties, really.
- Interesting North Korean defectors’ stories: this piece is old, but worth a read… especially the workplace difficulties, which really illustrate what Bruce Sterling argued in this video–that South Koreans are going to have to figure out how to integrate North Koreans into the economy sooner or later, and not just as slave labour, and that this is a technical or design problem, as much as anything.
- It sucks to be a Uighur in China; a recent suicide attack in Beijing (China’s first) has drawn attention to this. Of course, some people just can’t stop noting that Uighurs are Muslims, while I think it’s more pertinent that they’ve been subject to occupation and even assimilation policy (as differentiated from integration: the former requires you lose your own culture to “fit in,” and has been a major tool of colonized peoples throughout history). Which observation isn’t a defense of suicide attacks, it’s just to note that this isn’t random Islamic jihad, but an act carried out by people who have long been subject to colonial rule:
On Oct. 28, a jeep plowed into a group of pedestrians and burst into flames on the avenue next to Tiananmen Square, the massive public square in Beijing that’s the symbolic heart of the Chinese capital. According to Chinese state media reports, the crash killed three people in the vehicle as well as two pedestrians, while injuring 40 others. On Oct. 30, the Chinese police announced that the incident was an act of “terrorism,” a suicide attack carried out by three Uighurs — a man, his wife and his mother — from Xinjiang, a restive region in northwestern China about 2,000 miles from Beijing. Police also announced they had arrested five people with Uighur names for planning the crash. The attack came at a sensitive time, as China’s ruling Chinese Communist Party prepares for an important plenum meeting on Nov. 9, and is the most high-profile suicide attack to strike China’s capital in recent memory.
Politics & Culture:
- On torture, and (via Upworthy):
- And by the way, those “detainees” at Guantanamo? Many were cleared for release years ago, but remain in prison. How is that justifiable?
- I’m discomfited by some of the rhetoric of this project/site–the title Before they Pass Away, for example, sort of implies the inevitability of the destruction of aboriginal cultures worldwide–but the (staged) photos of aboriginal people in their traditional dress are gorgeous:
- Daniel Dociu does some pretty amazing SFF art.
- Sweden is now using the Bechdel Test as part of a films ratings system for flagging sexism in films.
- The 2014 Olympics? The IOC had better do an about-face in terms of going along with Putin’s anti-homosexual hysteria unless they want to permanently tarnish the reputation of the Olympics. A sample of what’s to come (via Upworthy):
- Oligarchy, inequality, and neo-feudalism in California today, and its likelihood to become the basis of our modern Western future.
- On the privacy front: in the wake of the Snowden revelations, Bruce Schneier thinks we need a more snoop-proof internet. Larry Seltzer scoffs. But there are people working on making email much harder to listen in on, to protect your email from snoops. (last link via Samizdata)
Books & Literature:
- I’d really like to read Canadian author Lauren Carter’s novel Swarm, about a post-peak oil future, but it’s not available in Kindle edition on Amazon.com, only Amazon.ca, and I’m worried Amazon might bring down the Hammer on my .com account if I buy it. Sigh.
- An interview with Mike Ashley on the work involved in researching the enigmatic life of Algernon Blackwood for the biography he’s written.
- Machen’s “The Great God Pan” In the Eyes of Lorca’s ‘Duende’: an interesting comparison.
- M. John Harrison, on Old Adult Fiction, the literary complement to YA. The comments have an interesting link regarding Baby Boomer Lit, though, you know, in SF we’ve known about this for a long, long time. (Like, at least since Judith Berman’s 2001 article “Science Fiction Without the Future” (reprinted in Strange Horizons).) And of course, Harrison could also be read as snarking: lots of Young Adults read grown-up fiction, while lots of adults read YA…
- Adrian Hon, on why the scenario in Dave Eggers’ novel The Circle, while chilling, won’t happen in our world.
- An interesting rant about the fate of the White Wolf World of Darkness game line. I stopped playing prior to the ending of the old World of Darkness Line and the launch of the new one, so my own disappointment is felt from afar, though as one friend commented, “I though it was cool, but never felt like others got that coolness in the way I did…” That said, I am anxiously awaiting one local expat in Saigon to follow through on his vague plans of launching a game of OWoD Mage: The Ascension. I’m down for that.
- A pretty in-depth review of the NWoD edition Mage rules (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Conclusion). The verdict seems to be that it’s less messy, but also less glorious.
- I usually am bored by candid-camera gags, but this was a good one, and it made me wonder what my reaction would be, and more than anything it made me want to learn how to make special effects gear like they used in the video:
- Finally found a source for Arduino boards in Saigon. Not sure when I’ll get one, or what I’ll make, but I’m very curious to try experimenting with one.
- Why you should clean your instrument, dammit: yes, there’s a condition called saxophone lung.
- The science of practicing and why you’re probably doing it wrong. (Surprisingly similar to aerobic exercise: too much routine is not good.) This certainly applies to how I’ve been practicing.
- Sonny Rollins, interviewed by Joshua Redman!
- A bit arcane–some of it sure flew over my head–but I thought this piece on Morton Subotnick’s use of control tracks in his electronic compositions was interesting, and drives home the fact that making music with new equipment also can mean making music in a new way. The tumblr it’s from is dedicated to analog synthesis, and worth a look more generally.
- Speaking of which, I’m really curious about the Eigenharp. Wish I could try one out, but unless you’re in the UK, even the rental program is a little prohibitively expensive. In any case, I’d be likelier to want to try the Tau or the Alpha, rather than the Pico… and that’s a costly investment! Ah well, maybe someday!
- An interview with Guthrie Ramsay (author of a Bud Powell biography) on the construction of “jazz masculinity” (among other things).
- An interesting piece by Ethan Iverson on the strengths and weaknesses in Joss Whedon’s film scoring… and why off-the-shelf machine-assisted composing can only get you so far.
- I’m so late to the party, I know, but Beck’s release of an “album” as a songbook (no recordings, just sheet music) is kinda cool, even if the renditions I’ve heard weren’t so interesting. If I had a jazz group right now, I’d probably do instrumental jazz versions of the songs, but all I can do for now is watch from the sidelines!