Links You Should Check Out

Today, I was reminded of why I stopped doing these link roundups: they’re time-consuming to produce. I’ll probably switch to just tweeting or linking on Facebook, like almost everyone else I know, and this is probably the last post like this I’ll do. But anyway:

Typhoon Haiyan:

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):

Asia:

  • 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:

  • 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:

Books & Literature:

RPGs:

  • 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.

Misc.:

  • 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:

Saxophonic/Musical:

gordsellar: Your host on this site. I'm an SF writer, homebrewer, and expat teaching at a university in South Korea. My policies for commenters on this site can be read here.

View Comments (9)

  • Thanks for the links. I'd never heard of Suzuki before, so I decided to learn a bit more about him and his cause. Now, I most definitely regret it. Sort of like how Al Gore's use of private jet travel and limos while living in his mansions as he makes millions while saying, "do as I say, but not as I do," really opened my eyes to all these hypocrites. It just proves how extremely hard it is to believe any science nowadays thanks to it being so politicized with government/corporate/lobbyist money that "dictates" what findings "their" scientists release to the public in order to drive their own greedy agendas. It's truly despicable that so many scientists can be bought outright, but I guess I was the naive one for ever believing that there are more important things in our world than money.

    I wouldn't find it at all ironic if our descendants a few thousand years from now classify our present time as the real "Dark Ages" of humankind where greed at all costs trumped humanity. Well, that's if there are any descendants left alive, or on Earth, then.

    • John,

      You'll have to forgive me for saying this, but you sound ridiculously gullible saying all that on the basis on one silly smear video put out by the Canadian equivalent of Fox News. (And, in your rant about Gore, you sound--though less so--like someone who's accepted unthinkingly the Fox News smearing campaigns; not that Gore is perfect, but nobody is.)

      First off, The Sun isn't a well-regarded, trustworthy news source in Canada: it's the newspaper the less-literate people read, in fact... that much I remember from a decade ago. The guy in the video, Ezra Levant, is one of Canadian media's biggest aspirants to the Fox News standard of wingnut media bullshit. Even just watching the video you linked, without any further research, you can see him reaching so hard you expect his shoulder to pop out of joint.

      Here is a good debunking of Levant's allegations, and by someone who actually isn't a fan of Suzuki. While the debunker is even skeptical of Suzuki's speaking fees (and the "cult" of Suzuki), he notes that the school likely made a profit off the visit.

      As for the weird sexual innuendoes of Levant's, it's all very much of the trying-too-hard variety, and on top of that, he's misattributing certain texts to Suzuki's team that didn't come from them. Suzuki wanted female bodyguards dressed like normal people, not huge dudes in suits with earpieces, because that's not the image he wants to project. (And he wanted "escorts" because they would be "escorting" him around, not "escorts" as in paid sex partners, for fuck's sake: the word has more than one sense, though a Conservative news spinner will always go for the seediest). The cringe-inducing parts of the correspondence are mostly written by people at the school, in fact.

      Personally, I have more respect for the man: he was on TV throughout my childhood, talking about science in a way that I could understand and in a way that made me feel it was important enough to take seriously, at a time when almost nobody in Canadian society was doing that in the media. I feel like he had a very positive effect on my life, and on my interest in science. For a lot of Canadians in my age group, he was kind of our homegrown Carl Sagan. The man isn't perfect, but to lump him in with climate change denialist lobbyists (and the vast majority of lobbyists involved in anything related to climate change are in the denialist camp) is just wrong-headed. It is truly despicable that scientists can be bought off, but Suzuki isn't one of them: he's been arguing against ignoring climate change, and advocating all kinds of measures, since at least the 90s.

      And the criticism of his speaking fees, I think you're misinterpreting Suzuki's argument: he's arguing that big business (and its bought-off lobbyists) have coopted government to the point where we're basically institutionally crippled when it comes to dealing with climate change and reforming energy policy. In other words, big companies have effectively crippled government for mere profit. I don't think he's against people making money, and I'm pretty sure he'd argue that the capitalist route is the best way to encourage the innovation necessary to develop all the alternative energy tech we need to do what he's saying we need to. He's just against the corruptive influence of megacorporations on governments with respect to energy/climate change policies. Personally, I don't think people should have to live in caves and wear hairshirts just to dare to open their mouths about energy policy or climate change. Sure, they should take care not to be amazing hypocrites, and mansions really are ridiculous. But there's a fine line between hypocrisy, and making your living while doing important work, and Suzuki's not

      Oh, and the whining about $30,000 speaking fees? I'm sorry, but you and I might balk at $30,000, but it's actually pretty moderate, if not cheap, compared to some public figures: Malcolm Gladwell is one of the worst popular writers around (Idea! Handwavey PseudoEvidence! Obfuscated Counterinterpretations! Handwavey PseudoEvidence! See! Idea is True!) and apparently he claims $80,000 a pop. Maya Angelou makes $50,000-100,000 per appearance: Do you think she's a hypocritical golddigger with no right to speak of African-American people's problems? (Source for those two [estimated] amounts here.) Hell, George Bush can barely speak English and he makes $110,000 an appearance... and he's made $15 million since leaving office, so they say. Dick Cheney, whose primary achievement was screwing America in the backside with a chainsaw turned on, charges something like 150% more than Suzuki. Compared to a lot of politicians, Gore's speaking fees are a steal... and at least he makes his post-political income advocating for a good cause. He was going to make bank either way, right? Better he does it while speading a worthwhile message. (I shudder to think what Bush goes around delivering speeches about. Anyway, here's a source for those politicians' speaking fees.) In any case, by those standards, Suzuki is a bestselling author and Canada's most well-known science popularizer--or he was when I left. Given all that, $30,000 doesn't seem extravagant. (And we don't know what he's doing with that money.)

      Hell, he's even taken to "clustering" public appearances to minimize his carbon footprint as much as possible. It is a tradeoff, but given his celebrity status and the resulting ability to give the issue force in the public eye, it's an understandable decision, just as it is with Gore, to hope that the work he does outweighs his carbon footprint. (I sincerely doubt Bush, Clinton, or the others on that list of politicians even consider the issue; I would wager Gore does.) And if it reassures you any, look at the policies of Suzuki's foundation.

      And as to Gore's lifestyle: while I won't defend an ostensible eco-activist living in a mansion, I'm not sure exactly where you or I would draw the line on fair speaking fees or on lifestyle, either. I'd be much quicker to criticize Bush, Clinton, Cheney, and Guiliani for their lack of willingness to do a goddamned thing about climate change--even admitting its significance or anthropogenic nature--while tromping about the country making equal or greater amounts than Gore is making... and I'm pretty sure they're not investing in building what has been called "one of the nation's most environmentally-friendly" houses, complete with solar panels, a rainwater collection system, and sourcing of energy from renewable resources. Again: I'm not sure we should be requiring environmental advocates to wear hairshirts. It'd be nice if they were willing to live like you and me, in smaller apartments or homes, but I have trouble criticizing Gore when he's gone to those lengths to not just reduce his footprint, but also to make sure what he does spend on energy cycles back into developing cleaner energy sources.

    • By the way, out of genuine curiosity at Levant's apparent vendetta against Suzuki, I have been reading up on Suzuki. (Been away so long...)

      It's a weird mix of articles and posts. I don't see many people behaving like the "adoring cultists" that keep getting referred to, though I'm sure some are out there--just as there are for any public figure. But what I see when I look around is this:

      • People complaining that he overgeneralizes (which is what science popularization often unfortunately involves, when you're dealing with effective illiterates, but it's dangerous).
      • People complaining of negative personal experiences with the man. (Which, well, he sounds like a crotchety old man, maybe with a touch of celebrity diva.)
      • People who have a more balanced view that allows them to see him as a person, like in this article.

      What I can say is that whatever Suzuki's possible flaws as a person, they are neither unique to him, nor counterevidence against his arguments. (The reliance of climate change denialists on ad hominem attacks in fact is pretty damning; if they could refute the evidence for it, they would, but since they can't, they get personal.) I have no idea whether I'd get along with him in person, or could work with him... but then, I have no idea whether he'd get along with me, or could work with me: nobody's perfect, and unlike a lot of Suzuki's critics, I think it's silly to expect him to be.

      But I'm willing to bet that we have goals in common to work for... and the smear campaigns of twits like Ezra Levant are far too weak and desperate for me to forget that in a blaze of working-/middle-class envy (the speaking fees, the value of his properties) or scientific confusion.

      Am I willing to overlook that he may be unpleasant at times, in person? Well, not on a personal level, though, as I say, I have no experience of the man personally, and also, everyone has their off days, months, and years. (I'm quite certain I could find people out there who'd say of me what Suzuki's critics say of him--indeed, I've heard comments second-hand from former students that amounted to as much... and I definitely know of people in Korea, online, who've said of you, John from Daejeon, some of the same things that Suzuki's critics say of him, in terms of personal abrasiveness.) There's subjectivity, and there's forming a capsule picture of a person based on one (very much mediated) encounter. I'll let you know if I ever meet him, though... chances are getting smaller by the year, though.

      I am a little alarmed at some of this:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4SaIFsyxgA

      But while Suzuki's perhaps not up to date on things, it's pretty telling how reliant his critics are on ad hominem attacks.

      Meanwhile, you might consider Ezra Levant's background. What I see is a libelous, intellectually dishonest, and outright bigoted oil shilling right-winger. Which is hardly surprising considering just whom he chooses to attack.

      • Anyone who reads the Korean mainstream media in any way are pretty familiar with these ad hominem attacks. It's kind of disgusting, but more depressing that Koreans are more receptive to criticisms of public figures' private lives rather than what they actually do.

        • Yeah, it's a pretty common thing in Korean media, just like in the US and apparently now in Canada, too.

          And yeah, I find it depressing how receptive some people are to this kind of criticism, though I think it comes down to gullibility and the resentment that has been cultivated as part of modern victimology.

          (That is, the aesthetic/political shift whereby people--especially the middle class--went from seeing themselves as privileged and lucky, or the happy benefactors of hard work, to victims of those poorer than themselves who appear to them somehow as leech-like vampire class, and of the rich, who appear to them in much the same way.)

          Combine that with with the tendency to see themselves as underserved consumers of government services, rather than as the vital, active polity, and you have a lot of resentment on your hands.

          But enough about that! How are you? I haven't seen you online in dog's ages, and your blog hasn't been updated in months! :)

          • LOL, I know! I haven't got anything done, unless you count the several buildings I built in the sims. Uh, virtual anyway. Though if you think about it, I think I spent far more time wrestling with the many bugs that come with the game than doing the fun stuff. On the bright side, I now have a wrking knowledge of what cfg and xml files do.

            I'm contemplating posting pics of the buildings I did somewhere, except that would basically be proclaiming on the internet that I am the female version of a neckbeard (at least it's not Second Life, I guess.)

          • Well, you're also in school, so I imagine you're getting OTHER things done too.

            I think you should post the building pics. What is the web for, if not for showing off one's socially unacceptable geekery? That, and showing off one's understanding of XML. :)

            Also, you're not the female version of a neckbeard. The female version of a neckbeard is also a neckbeard! (Shudder.) But yeah, at least it's not Second Life...

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