Slow for a while...

Forgive me if the site is slow for a little while (barring whatever JF Quackenbush or EL Borgnine might have cooking up in their demented brains). I'm finishing a novel.

But there will be another installment of the History of Popular Fiction on the pulp era in the near future! Oh, yes.

Interview with Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Recently ran into Dr. Tyson at a holiday party and recorded this interview with him with my cell phone. All apologies about the quality.

Dr. Tyson graciously answers some questions about scientific topics.

Some context:
The Willamette meteor at the museum is considered holy by the Clackamas tribe of native Americans, who were upset when the museum cut off a part of the meteor for research.

Potentially Earth-like planets were recently discovered by the Kepler team:

Scientists at the CERN supercollider discovered a new particle in their search for the Higgs-Boson:

NaNoWriMo is a Cult of Pedophiles

I normally wouldn't comment but it remains amazing to me that Eric's attack on NaNoWriMo from 6 years ago still gets a bunch of angry upset comments. This sort of reaction really only happens when people are irrationally invested in something. You get it from Lyndon LaRouche groupies and Scientologists when you confront them with how insane their sacred ideas are.

And because all cults are by definition cults of pedophiles, clearly NaNoWriMo is some sort of cryptopedophiliac underground designed to seduce young people into an apparently safe environment where they can be preyed on by the pederasts behind the cult conspiracy. It's really obvious when you think about it.

So stop supporting NaNoWriMo, because if you do you're obviously sexually attracted to prepubescent children.

Occupy and What It Means, and Why It Matters

I have liberal friends who don't get it. Mostly young liberals, people committed to the Democratic party and progressive causes; they don't understand it.

The World As I See It In Pieces: Part 3

I'm sympathetic. I'm also empathetic. I have both of these feelings for the purveyors of standpoint theory and the project they claim to be working on. I'm less empathetic to the project they appear to be working on, but more sympathetic than they might actually be willing to admit. But I have no patience for standpoint theory, and there are two reasons for that that have nothing to do with their various philosophical problems. The first is strategic. The second is textual.

The strategic objection is as follows: 1.) Standpoint theory holds that knowledge from a specific standpoint in a socially situated universe of all knowledge is necessarily delineated by the social privileges that a person enjoys by their relative position "in" or "out" of the dominant power positions in that society. 2.) As such, it contains with it a claim that empathy and sympathy are impossible generally, and in particular are not possessed in sufficient quantities by members of dominant social groups BECAUSE OF THE FACT of their membership in dominant social groups. 3.) This amounts to a claim that all members of dominant social groups are deficient in the nature of their being in a very important way. 4.) When members of marginalized groups advance this theory it feels to members of the dominant group like an insult and an attack, because it is one. 5.) Tactially speaking, it's unlikely to win many converts when every conversation begins with a cutting insult directed directly at the potential converts very soul.

Reading the History of Popular Literature part 3: The Progressive Era and WWI (1900-1919)

This article is part of my series Reading the History of Popular Literature.

Books marked with a red asterix (*) are recommended reading. Books that were read previous to starting this project are marked "(previously read)". The country indicated in parentheses is the country of the author's origin (or citizenship), not necessarily the country in which the book was written. If the country of first publication is different then the author's country of origin, it is noted.

Books marked "(Not finished)" I did not finish reading.

What we call the Progressive Era in the United States coincides roughly with the Edwardian Era in the United Kingdom, the period after the turn of the century up until the first world war. It was a time of optimism and ideals mixed with chaos and social and political disruption; big ideas like woman's suffrage, alcohol prohibition, eugenics, occultism, Communism and Anarchism were all gaining traction, and major technological advances—the automobile, electricity, the telephone, the movie camera, the machine gun, etc.—were changing everyday life at an unprecedented rate. The rise of industry led to corporate power on a level no one had seen before, and American industrialists like Rockefeller, Morgan and Hearst ranked among the wealthiest people in the world. All this went hand-in-hand with plenty of violence, in the form of state-sanctioned genocide, revolutionary agitation, the assassination of major political figures and finally the bloodiest war Western history had seen to that point.

In popular literature, reaction to all this change generally manifested as yearning for a simpler time or a simpler world. This simpler world might be in the past, in the future, on another planet, over the rainbow or even just in the cops-and-robbers dramas of the newspaper, but one thing you could count on was that the characters would be larger-than-life, good and evil would be clearly demarcated and good would most certainly triumph in the end.

In America, and to a lesser extent Britain and Europe, there was also a massive influx of immigrants during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, as new technologies (like the steam and then the gasoline engine), and economic and political changes allowed population movement on an unprecedented scale. The racial and class anxiety this caused in the West manifested in popular literature as bald racism and stories where heroic whites battle against corrupt and evil foreigners or dark-skinned monsters.

VanderMeers Launch Weird Fiction Review

In the wake of Ann VanderMeer being taken off as editor-in-chief of Weird Tales following its acquisition by another company, and the publication of the VanderMeer's massive ombnibus The Weird, which collects weird fiction throughout the 20th century, Jeff and Ann VanderMeer have launched a new publication, the Weird Fiction Review, publishing articles, fiction and comics related to weird fiction. Included in the inaugural installment is an interview with Neil Gaiman. Worth checking out.

Dispatches From Occupied Tucson: Week 1

So I'd been meaning to write something about Occupy Tucson for a little while now, and the hope was that I could blog some about it on a day by day basis. Turns out that hasn't really been possible. Between school and some clinical stuff I'm doing and the Occupation, I haven't had a lot of time to reflect on what it all means. Now that it's Friday and I have some free time before the working group meeting I need to attend this evening, I feel the need to let the theorist in my brain run wild for a little bit and there are a few things that have struck me that I'd like to make a note of. Here they are in no particular order.

Sometimes I Publish Things Elsewhere

My thoughts on Occupy Wall Street and the spread of the movement can be found here:

Please link, retweet, etc...

Notes From Underground: First Fragment

Here's some stuff I believe:

You can accept Marx's diagnosis without agreeing with his cure. I'd rather live in a laissez faire hands off communist autocracy than a laissez faire hands off corporate plutocracy. But both of those are not good options, and I see no reason why we can't just have a democratically regulated mixed economy and a tax system that punishes greed.

At the end of the day it's not about some theory of economics or another, it's about basic fairness. The idea that if a person wants a job, he or she ought to be able to find one and that job ought to pay for the true value of his or her labor. That if someone wants a good education, he or she shouldn't be priced out of getting one. That if you break the law and end up in a really bad place, you can do your time, clean up your life and we'll give you a clean slate and a second chance. The idea that we're lucky to have been born in the United States and we can therefore be gracious to those who were not but who wish they were and help them find their way to share in our bounty. the idea that no man woman or child should have to go to sleep hungry tonight. The idea that if you get sick you can see a doctor without having to declare bankruptcy. The idea that if we built a railroad across a continent in the 1860s and put men on the moon in the 1960s, we ought to be able to find a way to fill up a car in 2011 with a renewable energy resource that produces no greenhouse gas. The idea that it takes all of us coming together and agreeing on a common purpose to do some of the most important and fundamental jobs that need doing in our society.

The simple truth that we're all in this together, and so we ought to be able to talk about how to get out of it without calling each other names.

I don't see this as radicalism. I see it as common sense. These are values that we can all agree on. So why is it that it's so hard to get it done?