December 31, 2019
Low, dishonest decade
Posted by Patrick at 07:13 PM * 20 comments

I largely gave up political blogging after November 8, 2016, when it became obvious that I have no idea what I’m talking about. I still don’t think anyone should pay any attention to what I think.

If you’re still reading, here are some of the things I recently thought were smart. Keep in mind that I’m an idiot.

Politics is for Power, Not Consumption, by Eitan Hersh. The bullshit performative stuff we do online isn’t politics, it’s just cosplay. “If you feel unfulfilled, melancholy, paralyzed by the sadness of the news and depth of our political problems, there is an alternative: actually doing politics. Citizens who want to empower their political values would be better off if they spent less time consuming politics as at-home amateurs and instead fell in line to help strengthen organizations and leaders. Rather than kibitzing with their social media friends, they could adopt some of the spirit of the party regulars, counting votes and building interpersonal relationships in their neighborhoods.”

Twitter thread by Jonathan Smucker, author of Hegemony How-To: A Roadmap for Radicals, which I’m reading and which is so far very good. “Being right wins you exactly nothing if you have no power.” “If you don’t choose your battles, your opponents will choose them for you.” “Revelations of misdeeds of the powerful induce only popular resignation if there is no viable counter-power to take advantage of the opening.” More.

Jane McAlevey, How to Organize Your Friends and Family on Thanksgiving. Step by step, how to talk to normal human beings without being the sanctimonious leftist prick everybody hates. Not coincidentally, written by a brilliant modern union organizer. I’m reading her No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age and it’s terrific.

We Have to Take the Roses Seriously: Talking to Nathan J. Robinson. Interview with the very smart editor and publisher of the wonderfully-named Current Affairs, whose writing I’ve been generally bingeing on. “That great Terry Eagleton quote comes to mind, describing a socialist as ‘just someone who is unable to get over his or her astonishment that most people who have lived and died have spent lives of wretched, fruitless, unremitting toil.’ So I’d begin from that kind of disgust with certain features of the world, certain things that happen to some of us, certain ways that workers get treated. If we can agree that people should meaningfully participate in the decisions that affect their lives, then ‘Do you like the fact that if you drop below packing some set number of boxes per hour, a robot will fire you?’ they probably would say: ‘No, that’s not a process I personally would have established.’”

Hoping for hope. Happy new year.

November 15, 2019
The revival of John M. Ford
Posted by Patrick at 06:23 AM * 83 comments

Just posted to Slate, by Isaac Butler: The Disappearance of John M. Ford.

Key takeaway to Making Light readers who remember John M. “Mike” Ford’s brilliant run as a co-blogger here: Tor will, indeed, be reissuing all of Mike’s novels, plus a new collection of short fiction and marginalia. We’ll also be publishing, for the first time, his unfinished final novel Aspects.

Huge thanks to the Ford family and to Tor executive editor Beth Meacham, who worked out this deal over the space of nearly a year. We could not possibly be more excited.

The program will begin with The Dragon Waiting in late 2020, then Aspects in early 2021.

Obviously, this program will not include Mike’s work written inside somebody else’s IP, such as, for instance, his two Star Trek novels.

Further schedule details will be forthcoming as we finalize them.

September 04, 2019
Hot times in the British Parliament
Posted by Teresa at 05:37 AM * 121 comments

I should be explaining what’s been going on in the British Parliament, with links and explanations. Unfortunately I can’t, because Patrick and I spent the evening talking about it, finding bits of good stuff to read aloud to each other, and cooking and eating dinner. This was irresponsible of us, because how often does one get to use the word “prorogue”?

What’s going on: Boris Johnson is trying to drag the UK through a (“catastrophic”, says anyone sensible) hard Brexit departure, the kind where there are no arrangements between the UK and the EU about how to handle this change. He also thought that in the meantime, it would be a good idea to prorogue Parliament — that is, get Parliament to shut down and do no business — until after the hard exit was a done deal.

I wasn’t the first person to observe that the last guy who went to that much trouble to keep Parliament from doing business lost his head.

Then Parliament rebelled. Ancient much-respected Tory stalwarts voted against the government, despite the threat to (less exciting than it sounds) “withdraw the whip.” In a dramatic gesture, while Johnson was speaking and waving his arms around, Tory MP Phillip Lee silently walked across the room to sit with the Liberal Democrats, thus costing the Tories their one-vote majority. Johnson was reduced to calling for a snap national election in mid-October, but that actually requires approval by a two-thirds majority, and the leaders of both Labour and the LibDems — who rarely act in such coordination — agreed that they weren’t going to give Johnson his election before Parliament passes a bill ruling out a no-deal exit. It was Boris Johnson’s first serious fight in Parliament, and he lost big. Theresa May was photographed this evening leaving Parliament with a big grin on her face.

I abjectly apologize for being so tired, but Patrick kept finding one irresistible story, after another. Feel free to post links to anything good that you find. I’ll see you first thing in the morning.

[Update from pnh: Teresa was in fact so tired that she didn’t actually publish this last night. Posting it for her now.]

August 03, 2019
Who we are
Posted by Patrick at 10:44 PM * 73 comments

Nobody reads this blog any more. But do read Kieran Healy.

A fundamental lesson of Sociology is that, in the course of making everyday life seem orderly and sensible, arbitrary things are made to seem natural and inevitable. Rituals, especially the rituals of childhood, are a powerful way to naturalize arbitrary things. As a child in Ireland, I thought it natural to take the very body of Christ in the form of a wafer of bread on my tongue. My own boy and girl, in America, think it natural that a school is a place where you must know what to do when someone comes there to kill the children.
As we used to wearily say back in the day: Read the fucking rest.
June 21, 2019
Open thread 222
Posted by Avram Grumer at 02:08 PM * 906 comments

The year 222 BCE saw the Roman Emperor Elagabalus assassinated by the Praetorian Guard, to be replaced by Alexander Severus, who was only 13 years old, young enough to have attended Hogwarts and studied potions under a teacher with whom he had a name in common.

Or, alternatively, to have attended the fictional Walt Whitman High School in Los Angeles, where he might have learned about the assassination of his predecessor in a history class in Room 222.

April 07, 2019
Dysfunctional Families: Growing Wings
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:53 PM * 297 comments

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a new entry to this community, and I know the comments on the last one have gotten unworkably long. I’m sorry. You deserve better.

There’s been stuff. There still is stuff. I’ll explain in the comments.

But I’d just like to point out that even with my highly intermittent presence, this community has continued, and continued to be a wonderful thing.

I’ll continue to be back as I can. But it fills me with so much delight to see the egg I hatched, the hatchling I fed, grow wings, spread them, and fly.


This is part of the sequence of Dysfunctional Families discussions. We have a few special rules, specific to the needs and nature of the conversations we have here.

  1. If you want to participate but don’t want your posts linked to your contributions to the rest of Making Light, feel free to choose a pseudonym. But please keep it consistent within these threads, because people do care. You can create a separate (view all by) history for your pseudonym by changing your email address. And if you blow it and cross identities, give me a shout and I’ll come along and tidy it up.
  2. On a related note, please respect the people’s choice to use a pseudonym, unless they make it clear that they are willing to let the identities bleed over in people’s minds.
  3. If you’re not from a dysfunctional background, be aware that your realities and base expectations are not the default in this conversation. In particular, please don’t do the “they’re the only family you have” thing. Black is white, up is down, and your addressee’s mother may very well be their nemesis.
  4. Be even more careful, charitable, and gentle than you would elsewhere on Making Light. Try to avoid “helpiness”/”hlepiness” (those comments which look helpful, but don’t take account of the addressee’s situation and agency). Apologize readily and sincerely if you tread on toes, even unintentionally. This kind of conversation only works because people have their defenses down.
  5. Never underestimate the value of a good witness. If you want to be supportive but don’t have anything specific to say, people do value knowing that they are heard.

Previous posts (note that comments are closed on them to keep the conversation in one place):

March 07, 2019
One man deserves the blame
Posted by Avram Grumer at 10:22 PM * 31 comments

Pretty sure we’ve all heard Tom Lehrer’s “Lobachevsky,” right? A song about plagiarism where all the bits of melody are stolen from other songs.

I just learned that even the idea for the song was stolen! Danny Kaye used to do a routine about the Russian theatrical director Konstantin Stanislavsky, and it’s the obvious basis for the Lehrer song. Lehrer credited Kaye in his intro to the song, which was left off the version on the album I listened to as a kid, but it’s on Genius.com.

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