Wednesday, March 23, 2016

I swear I only meant to watch through 'Dies Irae'

but wound up sitting through the whole thing while my coffee went cold. Holy wow.

(That audience is so hypnotized you can hear the floor creak under Gardiner's shoes between movements, I love it.)

Monday, March 21, 2016

such a thing as a free lunch....for the rich

I order a spiced honey latte and a strawberry-banana smoothie with mango juice. The barista goofs the second order, and I’m about to say something but decide against it on grounds of feeling like a huge douche. The coffeehouse conversation revolves around not people but algorithms. My friend Zack gesticulates a little too wildly, spilling a drink.
A barista smiles and mops up the mess. She goes back to her post and the shop talk resumes, filling a service-worker-sized void.
It’s weird. No wonder tech workers labor so hard to lessen labor: Tech freeing the poor from working means programmers can be surrounded by nice things, insulated from the wider world, with no humans to remind them it’s broken. At Google—on its surface the least objectionable of Seattle’s big three software companies—the mad-extravagant digs are kept running by stinted service workers, who are never tipped or approached as if anything resembling a commercial transaction is taking place. The class dynamics at most workplaces, or anywhere people are served, are awkward; at Google, they’re extremely awkward—and dangerously close to being taken for granted.
The service workers work regular hours, but their plight might give you a strong whiff of the “sharing economy,” where “instaserfs” will deliver food, do laundry, and make lattés for the beneficiaries of software. In return, the software companies will make them as invisible as possible, less like co-workers or subordinates and more like servants at an English country house. The creators of apps and the service serfs are kept apart, a world of class between them. I’ve come up with a word for this tech-meets-segregation phenomenon: app-artheid.
“You ever feel weird about going in here and asking for free stuff, every day?” I ask my buddy.
“You mean from workers who make one-tenth of what devs do?” he says, “devs” being shorthand for software developer. “Yeah, of course.”
“It’s all the excess that makes it awkward.”
A member of our group actually used to cook for Facebook, and he speaks despairingly of the conditions: “Low wages, no benefits. Beyond all that, we were just treated with very little humanity by the tech workers. It really felt like we did not exist to them—not fully.”
He describes a vast hinterland beyond the shallow hill and squat McMansions: “I was working with one woman who was living in a two-bedroom apartment with four children in Burien,” he continues. “Another guy lived in one of the worst apartments I’ve ever seen, directly below the freeway in Wallingford.”
He concludes: “Why are these people being paid one-tenth of the programmers? When two-tenths, for example, which Google or Facebook could afford, has the potential to dramatically change their lives for the better?”

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Nina Simone was able to conjure glamour in spite of everything the world said about black women who looked like her. And for that she enjoyed a special place in the pantheon of resistance. That fact doesn’t just have to do with her lyrics or her musicianship, but also how she looked. Simone is something more than a female Bob Marley. It is not simply the voice: It is the world that made that voice, all the hurt and pain of denigration, forged into something otherworldly. That voice, inevitably, calls us to look at Nina Simone’s face, and for a brief moment, understand that the hate we felt, that the mockery we dispensed, was unnatural, was the fruit of conjurations and the shadow of plunder. We look at Nina Simone’s face and the lie is exposed and we are shamed. We look at Nina Simone’s face and a terrible truth comes into view—there was nothing wrong with her. But there is something deeply wrong with us.

- Ta-Nehisi-Coates

Friday, March 4, 2016

I’ve noticed that the critics who seem most obsessed by the question of your gender are men. They seem to find it impossible to fathom how that a woman could write books that are so serious—threaded with history and politics, and even-handed in their depictions of sex and violence. That the ability to depict the domestic world as a war zone and willingness to unflinchingly show women in an unflattering light are evidence that you’re a man. Some suggest that not only are you a man, but given your output, you might be a team of men. A committee. (Imagine the books of the Bible…)

Have you heard anyone say recently about any book written by a man, It’s really a woman who wrote it, or maybe a group of women? Due to its exorbitant might, the male gender can mimic the female gender, incorporating it in the process. The female gender, on the other hand, cannot mimic anything, for is betrayed immediately by its “weakness”; what it produces could not possibly fake male potency. The truth is that even the publishing industry and the media are convinced of this commonplace; both tend to shut women who write away in a literary gynaeceum. There are good women writers, not so good ones, and some great ones, but they all exist within the area reserved for the female sex, they must only address certain themes and in certain tones that the male tradition considers suitable for the female gender. It is fairly common, for example, to explain the literary work of women writers in terms of some variety of dependence on literature written by males. However, it is rare to see commentary that traces the influence of a female writer on the work of a male writer. The critics don’t do it, the writers themselves do not do it. Thus, when a woman’s writing does not respect those areas of competence, those thematic sectors and the tones that the experts have assigned to the categories of books to which women have been confined, the commentators come up with the idea of male bloodlines. And, if there’s no author photo of a woman then the game is up: it’s clear, in that case, that we are dealing with a man or an entire team of virile male enthusiasts of the art of writing. What if, instead, we’re dealing with a new tradition of women writers who are becoming more competent, more effective, are growing tired of the literary gynaeceum and are on furlough from gender stereotypes. We know how to think, we know how to tell stories, we know how to write them as well as, if not better, than men.

Because girls grow up reading books by men, we are used to the sound of male voices in our heads, and have no trouble imagining the lives of the cowboys, sea captains, and pirates of he-manly literature, whereas men balk at entering the mind of a woman, especially an angry woman.

Yes, I hold that male colonization of our imaginations—a calamity while ever we were unable to give shape to our difference—is, today, a strength. We know everything about the male symbol system; they, for the most part, know nothing about ours, above all about how it has been restructured by the blows the world has dealt us. What’s more, they are not even curious, indeed they recognize us only from within their system.

As a female writer I take offense at the idea that the only war stories that matter are those written by men crouched in foxholes.
Every day women are exposed to all kinds of abuse. Yet there is still a widespread conviction that women’s lives, full of conflict and violence both in the domestic sphere and in all of life’s most common contexts, cannot be expressed other than via the modules that the male world defines as feminine. If you step out of this thousand-year-old invention of theirs, you are no longer female.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

I was just quoting Le Guin elsewhere and found her Paris Review interview, as you do, and OH MY GOD SHE AND PHILIP K DICK WENT TO THE SAME HIGH SCHOOL

What was it about Dick’s work that caught your attention?

Partly it was that he and I had similar interests in certain things, such as Taoism and the I Ching—after all we were both Berkeley kids of exactly the same generation. And then, his sci-fi novels were about ordinary, unexceptional, confused people, when so much sci-fi consisted of Campbellian or militaristic heroes and faceless multitudes. Mr. Tagomi, in The Man in the High Castle, was a revelation to me of what you could do with sci-fi if you really took it seriously as a novelist. Did you know we were in the same high school?

You and Philip K. Dick? Really?

Berkeley High, thirty-five hundred kids. Big, huge school. Nobody knew Phil Dick. I have not found one person from Berkeley High who knew him. He was the invisible classmate.

That could almost be taken from one of his novels. So you didn’t know him at all?

No! We got into correspondence as adults. But I never met him physically.


I actually liked this NYT editorial

The Republicans seem to be reeling, unable or unwilling to comprehend that a shady, bombastic liar is hardening the image of their party as a symbol of intolerance and division.

Last summer, as Mr. Trump began to rise in the polls, party leaders took umbrage at the idea that they’d have to do something to keep the nomination from the likes of him. They stood aside and said, let voters decide. Now voters are deciding. They are leaning, in unbelievable numbers, toward a man whose quest for the presidency revolves around targeting religious and racial minorities and people with disabilities, who flirts with white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan, who ridicules and slanders those who disagree with him.

His opponents, meanwhile, have rushed to adopt his anger-filled message. It’s small wonder that Republican leaders don’t seem to know quite what to say.

“If a person wants to be the nominee of the Republican Party, there can be no evasion and no games,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Tuesday, after months of such games. He sounded naïvely unaware of the darker elements within the Republican Party, present for decades, and now holding sway: “This party does not prey on people’s prejudices. We appeal to their highest ideals. This is the party of Lincoln.”

The Republican Party is taking a big step toward becoming the party of Trump. Those who could challenge Mr. Trump — Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio — are not only to the right of Mr. Trump on many issues, but are embracing the same game of exclusion, bigotry and character assassination.


T said drily that all the Republicans who are horrified at Trump can feel happy voting for Hilary, since she's a sorta-moderate conservative owned by big business. Heh.

books read in March 2016

Fiction is in red. Date of first publication in (parentheses).

5. My Father, The Pornographer: A Memoir, Chris Offutt (2016)
6. The Price of the Ticket: Barack Obama and Rise and Decline of Black Politics, Fredrick C. Harris (2012)
7. The Gay Metropolis: The Landmark History of Gay Life in America, Charles Kaiser (1997) (2007 edition)
8. Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to Its Own Past, Simon Reynolds (2011)
9. Not Dead & Not for Sale: A Memoir, Scott Weiland (2011)
10. Tiny: Streetwise Revisited, Mary Ellen Mark (2015)

all 2016 booklist posts