From the world pool: February 6, 2018

I have such a backlog. Well, by the time I get to it half of it will be out of date. That’s a comfort!

Socio-political commentary

US politics

The Weekly List website

The “new normal” of American politics is not normal. The Weekly List reminds us of that. On a weekly basis, the List tracks specific news stories representing eroding norms under the current regime. Taken together, they reveal a nation pushed towards authoritarianism, the wielding of unchecked governmental authority by one person or group at the expense of the freedom of those who oppose them.

Canadian politics

The Canadian history we don’t know. From The CBC Sunday Edition: The little-told history of Canadians as slave owners, not just slave rescuers.

Supreme Court rules in favour of Yukon First Nations in Peel watershed dispute Unanimous decision requires gov’t to consider independent commission’s plan, gov’t sought to restart process

Five Reasons the Aecon Buyout Is Bad for Canada Companies run by the Communist Party of China meddle in politics, break promises and kill rivers.


How News Flows on Social Media. In “Twitter and Tear Gas,” Zeynep Tufekci examines how invisible gatekeepers— algorithms—affect which stories and movements gain traction

The media isn’t diverse – and this leads to appalling reporting

Referenced by the previous article: Objectivity is dead, and I’m okay with it

How companies use personal data to charge different people different prices for the same product

“We’re building a dystopia just to make people click on ads.” 

How your social media betrays your mood

There it is in your Facebook timeline or Instagram gallery – a digital footprint of your mental health.

It’s the (Democracy-Poisoning) Golden Age of Free Speech

The most effective forms of censorship today involve meddling with trust and attention, not muzzling speech itself. As a result, they don’t look much like the old forms of censorship at all. They look like viral or coordinated harassment campaigns, which harness the dynamics of viral outrage to impose an unbearable and disproportionate cost on the act of speaking out. They look like epidemics of disinformation, meant to undercut the credibility of valid information sources. They look like bot-fueled campaigns of trolling and distraction, or piecemeal leaks of hacked materials, meant to swamp the attention of traditional media.


The Wired Guide to Digital Security

Surveillance firms spied on campaign groups for big companies, leak shows

British Airways, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Porsche are among five large companies that have been identified as having paid corporate intelligence firms to monitor political groups that challenged their businesses, leaked documents reveal.

The surveillance included the use of infiltrators to spy on campaigners.

The targets included the grieving family of Rachel Corrie, a student protester crushed to death by a bulldozer, as well as a range of environmental campaigns, and local campaigners protesting about phone masts.

Feminist issues

Raped By Carl Jung, Then Murdered by the Nazis But the theft and erasure of Sabina Spielrein’s intellectual legacy by the psychoanalytic establishment may be an even more troubling crime.

The female price of male pleasure

The studies on this are few. A casual survey of forums where people discuss “bad sex” suggests that men tend to use the term to describe a passive partner or a boring experience. (Here’s a very unscientific Twitter poll I did that found just that.) But when most women talk about “bad sex,” they tend to mean coercion, or emotional discomfort or, even more commonly, physical pain. Debby Herbenick, a professor at the Indiana University School of Public Health, and one of the forces behind the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, confirmed this. “When it comes to ‘good sex,'” she told me, “women often mean without pain, men often mean they had orgasms.”

How ‘provocative clothes’ affect the brain – and why it’s no excuse for assault


Mea Culpa. Kinda Sorta.  Annotated apologies.

When feminists insult each other, chauvinists cheer  An interesting take on the insertion of agism into some of the responses to #MeToo

Time Magazine just dropped the ball on having the first ever black woman #TimePersonOfTheYear When a black woman starts a movement, the movement gets named but not the founder. That’s white supremacy.”  [UPDATE: Time did eventually add her name to the article.]

Time Person of the Year: The Silence Breakers.

The Consent of the (Un)Governed

A great many abusers and their allies have begged us to step back and examine the context in which they may or may not have sexually intimidated or physically threatened or forcibly penetrated one or several female irrelevances who have suddenly decided to tell the world their experiences as if they mattered.

Look at the whole picture, these powerful men say. Consider the context. I agree. Context is vital. It is crucial to consider the context in which this all-out uprising against toxic male entitlement is taking place. The context being, of course, a historical moment where it has become obvious that toxic male entitlement is the greatest collective threat to the survival of the species.

We know the world doesn’t work the way most of us want it to. We watch a bunch of badly-fitted suits stuffed with self-satisfied swagger frogmarch our nations down the road to economic calamity and climate destruction, and we try to tell ourselves that we chose this, that we have some sort of control, that there is a thing called democracy that is working more or less as it was designed to. We want to believe that some of this is our fault, because if it isn’t, then maybe we can’t do anything to stop it. This is more or less the experience of being a citizen of a notionally liberal, notionally democratic country these days. It is depressing and scary. And if we ever actually speak about it honestly we can count on being dismissed as crazy or bullied into silence, so it’s easier to swallow our rage, to bear up and make the best of things and try not to start drinking before noon every day. Being as furious as we want feels like it might be fatal, so we try not to be too angry. Or we direct our anger elsewhere. Or we turn it inwards. Or we check out altogether.

Sound familiar? That’s about how most women experience sexuality.

This Moment Isn’t (Just) About Sex. It’s Really About Work.

Masha Gessen has written for The New Yorker with perspicacity in past weeks about how this moment risks becoming a sex panic, that one of the perils at hand — as we try to parse how butt-groping or unsolicited kissing can exist on the same scale as violent rape — is a reversion to attitudes about women as sexually infantilized victims. Her concerns are valid, pressing. Yet I fear that the category collapse that makes Gessen anxious is being misunderstood in part because we are making a crucial category error. Because the thing that unites these varied revelations isn’t necessarily sexual harm, but professional harm and power abuse. These infractions and abuses are related, sometimes they are combined. But their impact, the reasons that they are sharing conversational and journalistic space during this reckoning, need to be clarified. We must regularly remind everyone paying attention that sexual harassment is a crime not simply on the grounds that it is a sexual violation, but because it is a form of discrimination.

So You’ve Sexually Harassed Or Abused Someone: What Now?

The power that you had in order to be able to do this gross shit? It’s power you can use to actually stop this gross shit.

In The Midst Of #MeToo, What Type Of Man Do You Want To Be? 

I hear so often from men who are astounded that we would ask for so much. Affirmative consent?? We’ve gone too far! We’ve lost our grip! We aren’t dealing in reality!

But who decides what men are? Who decides how men should act? Is it decided by decree? By popular vote? Or is it decided by you, individual men?

Right now, in the midst of this rising discussion around sexual abuse and assault, you — men — have the chance to look it all right in the face. You have the chance to look at the type of men you have been. You have the chance to look at how you’ve been treating women and how you define your relationships with them. You have the chance to re-evaluate what you deem “victory” or “defeat.” You have the chance to determine for yourselves what you consider to be a healthy and satisfying sexual or romantic encounter.

We’re Not Done Here

Oh, girls, look what we’ve done now. We’ve gone too far. The growing backlash against the MeToo movement has finally settled on a form that can face itself in the mirror. The charge is hysteria, moral panic, hatred of sex, hatred of men. More specifically, as Andrew Sullivan complained in New York magazine this week, “the righteous exposure of hideous abuse of power had morphed into a more generalized revolution against the patriarchy.” Well, yes. That’s rather the point.

Racism and Civil Rights

Pyramid of White Supremacy

Prisons and Justice

Forensic Science Put Jimmy Genrich in Prison for 24 Years. What if It Wasn’t Science?

In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences performed the most sweeping independent survey of the state of forensic science to date. It was a bombshell. “Much forensic evidence—including, for example, bitemarks and firearm and toolmark identifications—is introduced in criminal trials without any meaningful scientific validation, determination of error rates, or reliability testing to explain the limits of the discipline,” the report noted. Forensic examiners in pattern-matching disciplines, it concluded, had no scientific basis for making claims of certainty in court. Professional societies gave no guidelines for testimony. Labs had no standard accreditation or certification procedures. There had been little research on variability, reliability, or human bias. Judge Edwards, who co-chaired one of the report’s subcommittees, said at Harvard, “We found a forensic community in disarray.”


The Souls of Poor Folk: Auditing America 50 Years After the Poor People’s Campaign Challenged Systemic Racism, Poverty, the War Economy/Militarism, Ecological Devastation and Our National Morality

A journey through a land of extreme poverty: welcome to America

As Tiny Gray-Garcia, herself on the streets, described it to Alston, there is a prevailing attitude that she and her peers have to contend with every day. She called it the “violence of looking away”.

The High-Tech Poorhouse

I had this conversation with a woman who I called “Dorothy Allen” in my first book. We were talking about her EBT [Electronic Benefit Transfer] card. She told me, “Yeah. It’s more convenient. It’s great to not have to carry around paper [food] stamps anymore. But also, my caseworker uses it to track all of my purchases.” And I had this look on my face, a look of total shock. And Dorothy said, “Oh. You didn’t know that, did you?” I did not. She said, “You all” — meaning middle-class people like me — “You all should be paying attention to what happens to us, because they’re coming for you next.”

What Amazon Does to Poor Cities

San Bernardino is just one of the many communities across the country grappling with the same question: Is any new job a good job? These places, often located in the outskirts of major cities, have lost retail and manufacturing jobs and, in many cases, are still recovering from the recession and desperate to attract economic activity. This often means battling each other to lure companies like Amazon, which is rapidly expanding its distribution centers across the country. But as the experience of San Bernardino shows, Amazon can exacerbate the economic problems that city leaders had hoped it would solve. 

Indigenous Issues

The Great Quake and the Great Drowning Mega-quakes have periodically rocked North America’s Pacific Northwest. Indigenous people told terrifying stories about the devastation but refused to leave.

The ground moves and doesn’t stop moving, and almost no one survives the tsunami. So get off the beach. Go up into the hills. Build on high ground. Tie your boats with long ropes. Make sure your children know, as Robert Dennis’s great-grandfather said, that this is “what this land does at times.” And don’t bother trying to separate the present from the past.

One town, two worlds: Reconciliation in Port Alberni


Salish Sea Orcas #jointhepod

Science and Technology

Deep Empathy

Around the world, 50 million children have migrated across borders or been forcibly displaced within their own countries. In Syria alone, the brutal six-year old war has affected more than 13.5 million people and 80% of the country’s children—8.4 million young lives shattered by violence and fear. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced and their homes destroyed.

Can you conceptualize these numbers? People generate a response that statistics can’t. And technologists—through tools like AI—have opportunities to help people see things differently. 

Rats sniffing out landmines speed up process of a mine-free world. Rats are also being trained to sniff out tuberculosis.

Why We Forget Most of the Books We Read

Beautiful watershed maps by Robert Szucs

Researchers use ‘mini tanning beds’ to treat white-nose syndrome in bats


The Consumerist Church of Fitness Classes

Perhaps it feels more natural to strive for spiritual fulfillment through rituals that are packaged alongside other things American culture already worships: overwork and consumerism. The Protestant work ethic and the hunger for consumption can combine to create an irresistible drive toward measurable accomplishment. Earnestly engaging with the spiritual can feel woo-woo and self-indulgent; striving to live your best life is not just allowed, but actively encouraged. Infusing spirituality with the flavor of success might make it more palatable to some.


Meet the woman confronting public figures with their immigrant histories

Art + Design + Writing

Ursula K. Le Guin, 21 October 1929–22 January 2018

There have been endless commentaries written on the work and importance of Ursula K. Le Guin after her death on January 22nd. If you’re curious these are starting points (tributes linked from her blog, Tor’s list), but I think this piece by Nicola Griffith is one of the best I’ve read.

Ursula did not lack a sense of self-esteem. She would have enjoyed many of the accolades being heaped upon her in these eulogies. But what might make her sad as she reads is that today three of those five writers I mention at the beginning do not yet have the reputation they deserve. For centuries the gatekeepers have been building that wall, designed with a single aperture to let through one woman writer at a time. I like to imagine Ursula would snort at this giant game of Highlander, in which There Can Be Only One, and call for us to tear that wall down. To paraphrase her speech at the National Book Awards in 2014: We live in patriarchy, its power seems inescapable — but then, so did the divine right of kings. Resistance and change often begin in art, the art of words.

If you want to honor the memory of Ursula Le Guin, the next time you’re asked what you’re reading or whose work you love, talk about those the gatekeepers tend to turn away. And get writing.

On a personal note, Ursula K. Le Guin has been for many years my favourite author. She took her genre and shifted the goalposts, and then did it again and again, and she did it with an ability to lodge complicated depths in simple language with a mastery of words and meaning that was simply amazing to me. In 2012 I wrote a fan letter to her—via snail mail—because I thought, you know, I’ll bet writers don’t get told nearly often enough how much their work is appreciated, and I’m one of those people who never gets round to saying anything and then is sorry for it. In my letter I thanked her for the enormous pleasure she had given me over the years. She’d recently written an interesting blog post on the relationship and differences between writing and craft, and I commented that their similarity was not in the tangibility of the product but in the act of creation. I didn’t expect a reply, as she indicated on her website that she did had neither the time nor the stamina to reply to to letters, though she would try to do so if you were under 10 years old. Which I am not.

But she did reply. And I can guarantee that I squee’d far, far more than amy ten-year-old would have.

Thank you, Ursula.


The house that Edek built – and the secret suitcase kept inside

National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year Contet 2017

Hyper Real at the National Gallery: be prepared to be confronted and amazed

Encore + YouTube: streaming old Canadian TV shows

Earthship Global: eco-construction and self-sufficient living.  Interesting.

From the #womensart hashtag

One of the things I like about following this hashtag on Twitter is that it points me to women who have done amazing work.

Nahoko Kojima: papercut sculpture

Sally J. Smith: land art

Chiamonwu Joy: hyper-realistic charcoal drawings

I had no idea.

Well Groomed  The other kind of dog show.

Real folk dancers do not need the approval of a legislative body.” The State Folk Dance Conspiracy: Fabricating a National Folk Dance

Who knew that square dancing was so contentious? This is an old article, but the struggle between the tradtionalists and the moderns continues to this day: “The national folk dance campaign is on hold until we can get support to submit a new bill.”


The Adopted Black Baby, and the White One Who Replaced Her  I thought I knew where this article was going—but I didn’t.

It was around 1970 in Deerfield, Ill., and Ms. Sandberg told her youngest child a closely guarded secret about a choice the family had made, one fueled by the racial tensions of the era, that sent a black girl and the white girl that took her place on diverging paths.

Post-work: the radical idea of a world without jobs Hm. Seems to me I’ve heard this before…

Just cool

Restoring the Prehistoric Horse

Hummingbirds Are Where Intuition Goes to Die  This makes me admire the little Anna’s currently at our feeder even more.

Hunting for the ancient lost farms of North America

Awesome! 3-year child prodigy plays drums like a pro

Just for fun

Can You Say… Hero?  I never watched Mr. Rogers, but I found this fascinating.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, a man took off his jacket and put on a sweater. Then he took off his shoes and put on a pair of sneakers. His name was Fred Rogers. He was starting a television program, aimed at children, called Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. He had been on television before, but only as the voices and movements of puppets, on a program called The Children’s Corner. Now he was stepping in front of the camera as Mister Rogers, and he wanted to do things right, and whatever he did right, he wanted to repeat. And so, once upon a time, Fred Rogers took off his jacket and put on a sweater his mother had made him, a cardigan with a zipper. Then he took off his shoes and put on a pair of navy-blue canvas boating sneakers. He did the same thing the next day, and then the next…until he had done the same things, those things, 865 times, at the beginning of 865 television programs, over a span of thirty-one years. The first time I met Mister Rogers, he told me a story of how deeply his simple gestures had been felt, and received. He had just come back from visiting Koko, the gorilla who has learned—or who has been taught—American Sign Language. Koko watches television. Koko watches Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and when Mister Rogers, in his sweater and sneakers, entered the place where she lives, Koko immediately folded him in her long, black arms, as though he were a child, and then … “She took my shoes off, Tom,” Mister Rogers said.

Downtown: Maclemore & Ryan Lewis This paen to mopeds gives “over the top” a whole new meaning.

What if animals were round? Watch them all.

Gifts For People You Hate, 2017

Every year I sit down to write this and think, “what am I even going to come up with this year? I have used up all possible Bad Gift Ideas and am doubtless in reruns at this point” and then I start poking around looking at what’s available for purchase on Amazon:

And I realize that I have barely scratched the surface of astonishingly terrible objects that one could give to those people to whom one is required by circumstance and etiquette to give gifts.

Working in the Theatre: Manual Cinema 

MANUAL CINEMA is a Chicago-based performance collective, design studio, and film/ video production company that combines handmade shadow puppetry, cinematic techniques, and innovative sound and music to create immersive stories for stage and screen. Using vintage overhead projectors, multiple screens, puppets, actors, live feed cameras, multi-channel sound design, and a live music ensemble, Manual Cinema transforms the experience of attending the cinema and imbues it with liveness, ingenuity, and theatricality.

Teatro Hugo & Ines And more here. Amazing.

This did not go the way I expected.

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