January 22, 2018
Open thread 220
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 01:58 PM * 254 comments

Overheard: “You think he’s cool because he’s a dwarf? Or because you read about him online?”

Discuss.

October 07, 2017
My grandmother’s clock
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 08:10 AM * 75 comments

I have a chiming clock in the house. It was originally my maternal grandmother’s, and my mother very kindly gave it to me a number of years back. Hearing it tick in the background, I often think about the song “My Grandfather’s Clock”. We used to sing it* in elementary school. That song is a sweet remembrance of someone’s stout, elderly grandfather.

But.

But it’s such a patriarchal clock in the song, isn’t it? A huge investment on the day a baby is born. It won’t fit anywhere convenient, so you have to make an extra space for it. And then everything comes to a stop when Mr Center of Attention leaves the scene. I understand that in the sequel it ends up in a junk shop, broken down for parts and chopped up for kindling.

My grandmother, whom I never met but am told I strongly resemble, was born into a poor immigrant family. She was a smart woman but had very little access to higher education. She was also a gifted crafter; I have one small piece of her weaving. She was not always happy in the space she was allowed to occupy in society, and she didn’t raise a very happy family. Her death in her fifties was all the harder as a result, for her and for everyone who had to carry on.

But she left this clock, which she’d liked and bought as an adult. A little wooden Seth Thomas mantel clock, now with a chipped face after a shipping mishap. It has a soothing tick and a clear chime. It went through a phase of refusing to go for a few years, but has mysteriously resumed working again. Its ticking is the heartbeat of the house, a reminder of someone I wish I’d known.

And this is a great gift because she also left us ourselves: the female line, unnamed the way female lines are in our culture. A daughter, two granddaughters, one great-granddaughter†, all of whom have inherited something of her smile and a lot of her brains. I look at my hands as I bind books and Fiona’s as she draws, and wonder what hers looked like on the loom. I look at the good in my life and wish more of it had been in hers too.

My grandmother’s clock is at home on its shelf
As it was on so many before.
Not a gift at her birth, for she bought it herself
In LA at a secondhand store.

It has sounded its chimes
Through the good and happy times;
Been a comfort on days that I’ve mourned.
For it ticks on, though she herself was gone
Before I was born.

Her heart beating in memory.
(tick, tock, tick, tock)
Her voice singing the hours to me.
(tick, tock, tick, tock)
For it ticks on, though she herself was gone
Before I was born.

(I don’t think today is any kind of anniversary. But since her genes and her clock are ever-present in my life, any day will do to post this.)


* the first verse, anyway. I’ve just looked it up and it does go on a lot longer.
† I have other cousins and nieces, but this is the female line I’m talking about.

September 07, 2017
NYC primary elections 2017
Posted by Avram Grumer at 09:03 PM *

NYC primary elections are coming up next Tuesday, and there’s actually some interesting action going on in the normally dull and opaque civil court judge elections. What usually happens is there are five positions available, and the party machine picks five candidates, and those are your choices.

This year, a journalist named Gary Tilzer has decided to shake things up a bit by proposing his own slate of five candidates as rivals to the Democratic machine slate. In addition, an eleventh candidate is running, on neither slate. That link up there has details about all eleven candidates; I’m leaning towards the Tilzer slate (Patrick Hayes, Isiris Isella Isaac, Thomas Kennedy, Sandra Roper, and John O’Hara).

Those are county-wide positions, affecting all of Brooklyn. In addition, there’s a district-level municipal civil court system, and something odd going on here in the 6th Municipal District. The machine seems to be siding with Rupert Barry; I’ve received two different full-color glossy cardstock flyers promoting him. But I see here that he was fired from a previous position for poor evaluations. Also, he’s a former homicide prosecutor, so the heck with him. I’m leaning towards Hemalee Patel for that spot.

I also like Anne Swern for Kings County DA, and will probably vote for the incumbents for Mayor (DeBlasio) and Public Advocate (Letitia James) unless anyone can give me good reasons not to.

NYC voters can check Who’s on the Ballot to find out what choices you’ll see on your ballot.

Update: One of our commenters has drawn my attention to this newsletter by Jen Abrams, who’s done a whole bunch of research that I didn’t bother to do, including sending out her own questionnaires to candidates. She’s changed my mind on a few of the races; I’m gonna vote her recommendations on the wacky county-wide Civil Court race (C Melendez, II Isaac, EE Edwards, F Arriaga, P Frias-Colon), and my district’s City Council member (Ede Fox). And I’m now leaning towards Elena Baron for the 6th District Municipal Civil Court position, though I won’t cry if Barry or Patel get it.

August 26, 2017
“If you feel safe now, it’s an illusion born of your relationship to power.”
Posted by Patrick at 05:53 PM * 184 comments

From a post by Logan Rimel, parish administrator at University Lutheran Chapel of Berkeley, Caifornia.

I outsourced the sin of my violence to them. I asked them to get their hands dirty so I could keep mine clean.

In Charlottesville, my “nonviolent” stance was met with heavily armed men. They came with bats, clubs, plywood shields painted with swastikas, brass knuckles, tear gas canisters, and wooden sticks. Not to mention the guns. The heavily armed militia were everywhere. They liked that they made you feel nervous. It was fun for them.

They came to hurt people, and they did.

Let me take a moment to be clear—I do not advocate for violence. I trust, however pig-headedly, that all of creation—including all people—is both capable and worthy of salvation. That there is no such thing as a lost cause with God. I cannot explain this trust; it is a part of me deeper than rational faculty. To commit violence against another human being is to commit violence against the image of God in them. To me, it is a sin. I do not believe God requires us to sin. But it seems apparent to me that the world sometimes does.

I never felt safer than when I was near antifa. They came to defend people, to put their bodies between these armed white supremacists and those of us who could not or would not fight. They protected a lot of people that day, including groups of clergy. My safety (and safety is relative in these situations) was dependent upon their willingness to commit violence. In effect, I outsourced the sin of my violence to them. I asked them to get their hands dirty so I could keep mine clean. Do you understand? They took that up for me, for the clergy they shielded, for those of us in danger. We cannot claim to be pacifists or nonviolent when our safety requires another to commit violence, and we ask for that safety.

And so I come to this—white liberal Christian friends, I’m talking to you. I’ve seen a lot of condemnation of “violent response,” lots of selective quoting Dr. King, lots of disparagement of antifa and the so-called “alt-left,” a moral equivalency from the depths of Hell if I ever saw one. You want to be nonviolent? That is good and noble. I think…I think I do, too. But I want you to understand what you’re asking of the people who take this necessary stance against white supremacy, the people who go to look evil in the face. You’re asking them to be beaten with brass knuckles, with bats, with fists. To be pounded into the ground, stomped on, and smashed. You’re asking them to bleed on the pavement and the grass. Some of them are going to die. And you’re asking them to do that without defending themselves.

Are you willing to do that? Are you going to to go out when the Nazis come here, to the Bay Area, next week? Are you going to offer your body to them? No? Are you willing to take a bat to the head? To be surrounded by angry young men who want nothing more than to beat you unconscious, like they did Deandre Harris? Are you going to rely upon a different type of violence—that imposed by the state—to protect you—even knowing it is a danger to your neighbors? To outsource the violence your safety requires to someone else? Or are you just not going to show up, at the rally or afterward? To choose passivity over pacifism—because let’s be clear, nonviolence is still about showing up.

If you are unwilling to risk your bodily integrity to stand against literal Nazis, but you are willing to criticize the people out there who are taking this grave threat seriously but not in a way of which you approve….I just don’t know what to say to you. Truly. Your moral authority is bankrupt and you’re not helping. You’re a hypocrite.

Everyone wants to feel safe. You are not safe. Your Muslim neighbors are not safe. Your immigrant neighbors are not safe. Your black neighbors are not safe. Your disabled neighbors are not safe. Your indigenous neighbors are not safe. Your Jewish neighbors are not safe. Your transgender neighbors are not safe. If you feel safe now, it’s an illusion born of your relationship to power. But make no mistake—you may not be the canary, but we’re all in the same coal mine. These people have been “community organizing” for DECADES. They are base-building and they have the White House. They have infiltrated law enforcement. They are in every legislative body and on every school board. You are not safe.

August 16, 2017
August 08, 2017
FTL, Y’all
Posted by Avram Grumer at 03:55 AM * 70 comments

Iron Circus Comics (Spike Trotman’s company) has just announced its next anthology project: FTL, Y’all. Imagine what would happen if someone, this year, invented an FTL drive that could be built with $200 in easily-available parts, and put the plans up on the Internet so just about anyone could build one.

The open submission period starts next week (Aug 15), so comickers, start your engines. I don’t know when the Kickstarter launches. You might want to look over Iron Circus’s general submissions page for an idea of what Spike likes and doesn’t.

June 11, 2017
Mosaic face
Posted by Teresa at 05:17 PM * 36 comments

I love the faces in Byzantine mosaics. 28.-St-Georges-Rotunda-Thessaloniki copy.jpeg

I used to make my own Mac icons back in the 1990s, when pixels were bigger and the Finder was user-tweakable. You had 31 x 31 pixels to work with. I learned to respect the art of using jagged little squares of color to imply details when seen from a distance.

Byzantine mosaicists were masters of it. The image at right is from the Rotonda of Galerius aka Agios Georgios aka St. George’s Rotunda in Thessaloniki.* It’s remarkably sophisticated. Seen up close, the heavily underlined jaw, the bright yellow highlights, and the checkered colors on his eyes, throat, and chin, look harsh and unnatural: abstract decoration, not mimetic representation. But the more you blur its edges — squinting through your eyelashes should work — the more realistic it looks to your brain.*

It also has that odd characteristic of recognizably being the face of a real person. I don’t know why people can spot that; I just know they do. The differences must be infinitesimal.

Byzantine mosaics thrived in the midst of physical limitations. Their palette was limited to the natural colors of rocks, plus a few colors of glass. The formal architecture of the time didn’t admit a whole lot of light, many of the best decorative surfaces were located way up toward the ceiling, and eyeglasses hadn’t been invented yet.

They still made them sing.

March 20, 2017
March 14, 2017
Wealth, risk, and power
Posted by Teresa at 01:56 PM * 163 comments

This is a thread I wrote on Twitter, because sometimes it’s easier to write about big subjects on very small pieces of paper. Numbers link to individual tweets. Title swiped from Jonathan Korman.

1. The rich don’t need fed. health insurance. Their up-and-coming competitors, who aren’t rich yet, do: one major illness can wipe them out.

2. The rich donor class hates social policies that make the non-rich braver and more enterprising. For example…

3. Social security, so a lifetime of hard work doesn’t end in misery. Student financial aid, so that talent + hard work can = achievement.

4. Bank regulation, so our careful savings and investments aren’t wrecked by irresponsible games the big-money guys play with each other.

5. Health and safety regulations, because it shouldn’t be okay to maim or poison people who don’t have clout. And so forth.

6. Us little guys shouldn’t have the nerve to start new businesses, develop new products, or go as far as our work and talent will take us.

7. Poor whites are supposed to stay poor, and know in their bones that they’re born to sorrow, and their luck will never last.

8. Blacks should keep quiet, and do first-rate work on jobs that are well below their ability, because things can always get worse, y’hear?

9. There’s no point in women having ambitions, because one little mishap can wreck everything you’ve worked for.

10. Keeping the rest of us in a constant state of low-level fear is the one consistent goal of the policies the donor class supports.

11. Why? Because we have to tolerate some risk in order to successfully compete with them and their less-than-talented offspring.

12. I’m not talking about rational, calculable risks. I mean the unforeseeable: illness, accidents, market crashes, natural disasters.

13. They want us to know in our bones that we have no defense against risk. If *anything* happens, we’ll be stuck paying for it forever.

14. We’re not allowed to build a more level playing field that we all share. They want us out of the game entirely, so they can always win.

15. Meanwhile, they’re always angling to get their own risk reduced. Always. Because winning.

16. One more thing. Who are the Alt Right? They’re guys who think they’re entitled to a place among the wealthy and risk-averse, …

17. …And haven’t figured out yet that few if any of them are going to succeed at that. They’ll get consolation prizes at best.

18. That’s why they harass egalitarians: they think we’re interfering with a game they plan to win, but have already lost.

[end]

19. And one more thing I forgot.

20. The wealthy donor class wants to instill fear in us, so we’ll be unwilling to try to compete with them.

This is grounds for hope.

21. Because if they could have made it impossible for us to fight back & compete, they’d have done it by now. Therefore, we can.

[real end]

March 13, 2017
Making Conversation
Posted by Teresa at 08:50 PM * 9 comments

This is just to say
that my recent essay collection,
Making Conversation,
is eligible for Best Related Work.

Forgive me.
I know this sort of reminder can be done badly;
but it’s my book,
and Hugo nominations close in four days.

March 08, 2017
Dori Smith and Tom Negrino
Posted by Patrick at 03:32 AM *

Long ago in Internet time, the well-known tech writer and programmer Dori Smith, a sometime reader hereabouts, did Making Light a very useful kindness.

Now she and her husband Tom Negrino are going through the hardest of times. Whatever the outcome, we wish them solace and ease.

Copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.