Tuesday, November 27, 2007

[no title today]

Creeping realisation: I've written a fair bit about things I care about here, but not nearly as much as I intended about things that really hit me deep-down. I realised how ingrained this was getting on the Trans Day Of Remembrance last week. The things I write here are usually polite-disagreement territory, give or take a swearword or two; transphobia is more like I-would-cheerfully-put-your-eye-out-with-a-corkscrew land. I don't keep a corkscrew in my handbag, so when the sparkly one and I are out and about and the sparkly one gets hassled, I tend to smile. Sometimes, we both laugh. They are not nice smiles or nice laughs, even when they seem to be so; my intent is to penetrate, and then twist.

I could say more - describe specific incidents I've witnessed or had related to me, and the people who instigate them; drunk, sober, young, older, nosy, objectifying, they-think-they're-so-subtle, women, men. I could ask why it is that gender lines are, by so many people, held to be fortresses - like a Great Wall, a bulwark we pretend is visible from space (<3 Snopes), diligently patrolled to keep the Khan at bay.

But what last Tuesday was about is murder.

Coupla links; Julia Serano on 'deception' and Holly brings the 101.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

the shipping forecast


I'm being very excited about music lately, but I find myself wanting to do No Music Day anyway. I am cheating. I didn't read about it til it was gone midnight, and there's only so much you can do when you've just discovered DJ Shadow, so I'm drawing the line now, at 1.22 21/11/07.

Drummond wrote this about No Music Day last year. I don't share his jadedness at all - there's things I love that I'm only just starting to swim in; swirling pools on the ambient end of hip-hop; relics of mid-20th century jazz; folk-rock secrets that get passed from hand to hand on Soulseek. I heart Soulseek. Yesterday, I was sharing with someone who had a vast collection of different recordings of 'Summertime' - which is part of why the 'year zero' idea caught my eye.

I even have fantasies about waking up to find that all music has disappeared from the world. We can't even remember what it sounded like. We knew we had music, we knew it was important to us. In my fantasy we would have to start making music again from a year zero situation, with nothing but our voices. As I said, just a fantasy.

I'm not fond of generational generalisations, but I'm attracted to the image of Generation Y (a meaningless descriptor that suggests I, for the rest of my life, will have properties in common with people if they were born between 1981 and 1995 - astrology is not yet dead!) - a generation abruptly swept up in a weightless culture, lifted on the upthrust of words and sounds, a shoal scattering as each finds her own current, descending til she she can no longer bear the pressure. Walking in the real world, we carry our words and music with us, bound on our backs as if it were oxygen - portable atmospheres.

(I've written, a little, about the one who drowned. S/he's vaguely why I don't use portable music myself, except when called to by these amazing people).

No Music Day isn't too hard for me - a No Written Words day would be more unsettling. I'm not sure I've ever passed a day without reading something, writing something or both. Funny thing is, I used to think that might be a Gen Y thing, a product of text-based everything and all the dreadful free papers on the Tube - part of that shared silence. That was very metropolitan. My brother, not nearly so wordy, has lately been imploring me to join Facebook. I tell him I'd rather die (exaggeration, that) and ask why the heck he wants me to. 'So you can see all my pictures!' Why do I need to see his pictures? Can't I see them at Christmas? Can't you get a Livejournal like a civilised Y-izen? Nono, he says, because what on earth would he want to write about? Or read about?

He's clearly part of some image/movie/connection wave, and I'm lost in words and sounds. I'm not sure who's deeper out to see.

What No Music Day mostly reminded me of was Sound Mind by Tricia Sullivan - a story about a world fractured by rationalism. (Sound Mind might have been the best story ever, except that you have to slog through Double Vision to really get it.) This is from a chapter called 'Beat Fascism' - some of which touched on why not to keep a beat. This is from a public gathering overheard by the narrator.

"You see, most people when they consider their own musical expression rely on other people to do it for them. They express themselves in terms of what they listen to. They elect heroes. They "appreciate". But they don't dare take it further than that. They don't dare use the medium themselves. Because music education is so fascistic and structured and nose-down-looking that they could never make it by the official route. And if they are talented enough to make it by the official route, that route brands them with its own fascistic structured nose-down-looking ways. And if they do it in jazz, then they're lucky because maybe they have a shot although what the odds are of making a living as a jazz musician I don't know. And if they go for anything post-1960 in origin like rock or soul or rap then their whole aspiration becomes getting a record contract and you're right back into the System again, under the yoke of commerce. Not to mention under the musical yoke of an increasingly conventionalized form. [...]

"So here's music, universally lauded as the deepest expression of cosmic humanity or whatever you want to call all that music-of-the-spheres stuff. Here's music, making the screaming hoards move like one organism at a big concert. Here's a mother singing her baby a lullaby, here's music, and we're totally cut off from it except as consumers." [...]

"Bring back Bob Dylan!" somebody said.

"No, you don't get it - that's just the point. Bob Dylan is just a guy. Hey, we wouldn't dare make sound in our own right. If we did, wed feel compelled to judge our sound on the basis of the commercial stuff. Somewhere along the line, listening became the whip hand of judgement instead of a tool for understanding. [...] We're trapped in a small world and we can't get out of it. And the whole thing is in our heads. [...] It's just taking what was already true and making it more obvious."

-that last line could represent the entire internets, I figure.

No music today. Except for singing things I made up. If I'm brave, no reading or writing on Thursday.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Two more tasers:

First, a reminder from Canada that tasers kill.

Second, the West Yorkshire Police helpfully explain why it's perfectly good and legal to taser someone, twice, if they 'look Egyptian', are carrying a rucksack, and are already in a diabetic coma.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hypocrisy - specifically; mine.

I did a bad thing here yesterday. A stupid, emotional thing that was contradictory and lame - not unusual, I'm perpetually full of it, but I want to own up to it this time.

I linked to David Cameron bemoaning the low rates of sex crime convictions, and then I linked a successful terrorism conviction and got sceptical and paranoid about it. This is not only an inconsistent attitude towards criminal justice, towards the principle of innocent until proven guilty - it's also inconsistent regarding individual people.

I've mentioned this in passing before: there's these two guys - Jean Charles de Menezes and Mohammed Abdul Kahar. You've probably heard of at least one of them.

I'm not cherrypicking examples here - they are the only two people to have been shot by Metropolitan Police officers as part of Operation Kratos, in which a shoot-to-kill order was applied to terror suspects who were thought to be capable of causing imminent damage. Menezes died after being shot eight times while catching a train at Stockwell tube station, and Kahar survived being shot once in the chest during a house raid at Forest Gate.

Both were, within days, confirmed to be innocent of terrorism.

Both were, shortly afterwards, charged with sex crimes - Menezes was accused of rape and Kahar was accused of downloading child porn.

Further forensic examination found that both charges were as devoid of substance as the original terrorism suspicions.

So if we're going to ask that our legal system doesn't shoot to kill, assumes innocence until guilt is proven, and requires a case to be solid beyond reasonable doubt, that has to apply to terrorism and to sex crimes because the wrongly accused may well be the exact same people, under suspicion for the exact same reasons. (and it doesn't take much in the way of paranoia to cause speculation as to why these two men were wrongly accused of sex crimes - if it happens the next two times as well, maybe we can talk about a trend).

Monday, November 12, 2007

ye linkage

David Cameron wants to fix our broken rape laws. Please, please, let this become the bipartisan effort it should be. Some of it - like the idea that sex ed should be absolutely compulsory and should include lessons on consent (and I'd hope they'd do some on the effects of abuse too) - might even work. Read this too - terrifying stories about women who were let down by the police and/or the courts.

This bothers me in so many ways. It says it's a horrible crime to own a few books and to write a few poems. It says that crime is equivalent to those of Abu Hamza, or other hate preachers. It is all a bit bizarre and scary. I wonder what'll happen if/when she appeals.

I actually find this strangely reassuring - I like knowing I'm not the only one who can't look the bullshit in the eye.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Seven Reasons Why The Campaign Against Climate Change Is Good For A Laugh

[or, Selected Notes from a Mass Meeting, with Panel, held at Friends House on November 8th.]

1. It made consumerism feel like a sort of black magic. At one point in the floor session, John Sauven's reply to a questioner included the words 'We mostly exceed our fair carbon ration even if we don't fly, and I won't embarrass you by asking if you do fly...' Total Heroes moment there, hand gesture and all. Flying, for Christ's sake, what could be more magical than that? We were told, in a variety of different ways, that emissions in the developing world are not increasing and ours are not decreasing, that we're merely outsourcing our own consumption - having the things we use made on the other side of the world, where it will create even more inefficient mess. (The Moonbat helpfully added that we wipe our asses on trees shipped over from Brazil). I own more books and more changes of clothing than any medieval queen, you know? And when Sauven said all advertising is pornography and that industry should be ended...we're dipping back to before economics, back to objects with moral dimensions, back to magic as if we never left.

At the CCC's heart is the belief that this way of living is going to radically change our world, probably destroy vast swathes of it. The government's target is for a 60% cut in emissions by 2030; apparently this target was pegged not by science, but by the CBI - science suggests that to avoid runaway warming we need to cut emissions by 90% as soon as we possibly can.

2. The Moonbat. The Moonbat! He's a lovely voice - even pronounces 'solution' correctly, and vanishingly few people can do that without sounding like an utter twat. I wrote down some of the things he said;
"As an environmentalist I quite like pain. We all thrash ourselves with nettle leaves in the morning before breakfast."

"I don't care very much about trawlermen."

"I was a great supporter of the Stern Report, until I read it."

"Microgeneration requires ambient energy, and people avoid living in places with high ambient energy - the tops of mountains, the middle of the Sahara desert, or several hundred miles offshore..."

"There are only three questions [about stopping climate change] left; if not now, then when? If not here, then where? If not us, then who?"

[as with almost all nicknamage, I call him the Moonbat because I love him, really I do.]

3. Everything they were talking about - about shutting down Drax again, about supergluing people to the Shell HQ, about taking to the streets on December 8th, about building a mass movement, about the failure of the million-strong Stop The War campaign - is directly tied to the meaningless of civic life in the UK. These people, driven people who know their science, who know what has to be done, who care so deeply about the preservation of life and of wellbeing and even of our crazy magic economy - cannot do anything to influence the course of events other than by putting a tick in a box once every five years, and by supergluing themselves to Shell and maybe writing a few letters here and there. Meanwhile, government climate targets are set by the CBI.

This is why we need to move towards direct democracy as soon as we possibly can.

[addendum: a recent Moonbat piece on this very subject.]

4. The repeated allusions to 'total war'. If stopping cimate change were the overriding priority of our society, we would, as happened in the USA right after Pearl Harbour, rapidly turn our entire economy towards that priority. (The Moonbat in particular was confident that we haven't lost this one yet, and he firmly believes that Europe, if Europe so wanted, could be generating all its power from renewable sources within a few years.)

Could we? Would we? That was sixty years ago. That was a world ago. That was back when we actually made things here, back before we substituted real economic growth for the City boom, back when such efforts didn't require renationalisation and imported labour, back when dissent was a different beast. It's really weird, from here in the magic carpet world, to listen to people harking back to long-gone efforts as if it could ever be the same again.

5. The confidence in carbon rationing. It's the only fair way of making cuts, sure. It also wouldn't work, wouldn't last, wouldn't be secure, and would be extremely morally iffy.

There were 600 people in Friends House that night, some there because they cared, some there because it was free and interesting. Given carbon rationing, how would we have 'paid' for the lighting and ventilation? Would the organisers bear the burden, or would all the attendees share in it? How about other public events - bonfires, for instance. And who picks up the tab for your copy of the Metro? These are tiny things, but they add up - would rationing only cover large indiscretions like food miles and flight? Or would it cover everything? If the government builds a new hospital, who covers its power use? Patients, taxpayers, who? For individual consumers, out there going places and buying things, rationing would work. Consider it on a social, community level and it shatters.

We're used enough to chip and pin, right? But there's always the odd granny out there who doesn't get it; people who don't use cards, or don't know their PINs, even some who can't use them due to disabilities. My teenage brother has only just got his first one, and still goes to the bank counter because he's shy of ATMs. Carbon rationing would have to be used by everyone; it would have to be simple enough and secure enough for, at the very least, everyone in Europe to be able to use it, no getouts for disability or incomprehension or unwillingness.

And what happens if someone urgently needs something - a meal, an ambulance, a morning after pill, a ride home - and finds they have no carbon ration left?

And then it has to be secure, and those who calculate the carbon costs must be accurate. I'm not even going to go there.

6. Crowd demographics. I'll tell you a secret; I'm tired of gender. I'm fed up of it, it's exhausting me, I'd like to see it abolished, and I wish I could put it down, but I can't, because it has no intention of putting me or anyone else down, and that's the fault of people like the CCC, and just about everything else I walk into.

There were, we were told, 600 people at the meeting; all but perhaps a dozen were white. I'd hazard that the gender split was dead even. Where that got interesting was when the floor was opened at the end (nb: not like that, though the reference is appropriate) - of those, we'll call it 20 people, who raised their hand to put forward a question, I counted only three women, and only two not-white men.

Even on the far left, political discussion is still all about Mr Special White Guy.

Why? Why the crap do vast numbers of women enter that political space as listeners, and then not even attempt to contribute? And why - even after being challenged about this last year at Conway Hall, by a fantastic black lady from the floor - do the CCC organisers seem oblivious to the whole race/gender thing? They were speaking of building mass movements, of the pressure from the street that had brought social changes in the past - how the heck are they going to get that if they've come up with a way of having meetings that gives access [almost] only to Mr Special White Guy?

No, it's not their fault - it seemed to be like any other white boys' club, with questions taken from men they knew, men with clipboards, men from thinktanks, men of science, men with opinions, men who knew other men. It's interesting how the gender split among the organisers (all white, except the West London rep lady) worked out; there were three male panellists - two campaigners (the CCC head and the Greenpeace head) and a writer - while the compère, the Climate Camp (ie. direct action) head, at least half of the local London organisers, and (as far as I could see) all the people carrying microphones around were women. As if the boys are meant to talk about the big ideas while the girls do all the work. I've heard this one before. It's not the CCC's fault, but it's their problem and they haven't a hope in hell of building any kind of popular movement without fixing things so they have a room that at least looks like London and sounds like London.

(The unbearable whiteness is echoed on the other side of the same coin, in the UK's new religious movements - not the same thing as the green movement, but there's a hefty overlap. I touched on that a little bit here, not that that post is recommended reading, being as long and rambly as it is, but hey.)

7. John Sauven. He's a really special white guy. He even started a sentence with 'The cost purely from an American perspective -' (No, of course he's not American, and I doubt he's ever lived or worked there, he's just making shit up). He also said 'Money isn't a problem - the world is awash with money.' No, really, who the fuck are you and what planet are you from?

A lot of suggested emissions cuts are based on European metropolitan privilege; the Moonbat cheerfully announces that the Sahara gets 15 hours of sunlight a day so we could just go run a 4500-mile DC power line to it and - Maybe he's forgotten that it's not his desert? (I actually doubt it has escaped his mind - more likely he thinks it would enrich the region, because the oil markets have totally proven how that works - but it wasn't something he touched on). Individual cuts also work for us but not them; while we develop ever more fuel-efficient cars, our secondhand gas guzzlers, like so much of our secondhand clothing, get shipped to Africa and sold on to people who've never had cars before, people who really benefit from having cars.

People like John Sauven need reminding that not everyone can be Mr Special White Guy like he is.

I've every intention of continuing to support the CCC, and I'll likely be outside the US Embassy with a placard on December 8th, but they remain in blissful single-issue obliviousness to their place in the world.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Feminist Art Criticism: When Not To Even Bother/links + an invite

Ow, my brain.


Alis Dee has more about Frank Miller, with added BATMAN.

V, who has begun a blog about art, mental health and race, yey!!1, is telling us why to hate The Poisonwood Bible (which I've never read) and Lost In Translation (which I never liked and was just gagging for a good reason to hate).

And an invite to be a greenie leftie:

Campaign against Climate Change - "How can we win the race against climate catastrophe?"
A Public Meeting on Thursday November 8th, at 7.00pm
at the Friends Meeting House, Euston Road, London.

With George Monbiot, Author, Journalist and Campaigner
John Sauven, Director of Greenpeace UK
Claire Fauset, from the Camp for Climate Action
and Phil Thornhill, National Coordinator Campaign against Climate Change

This year the arctic ice cap shrunk to just 60% of its normal size (the average summer size for 1979-2000). We are seeing the first macro-impact of global warming. Some have speculated that only a small temperature increase (of a kind quite possible in the next ten years or so) could see the ice disappear completely and very rapidly. That would leave open sea which absorbs heat from the sun rather than reflect it back into the atmosphere as ice does. The warmed waters would then transmit heat to the land causing massive melting of permafrost, releasing huge quantities of CO2 and methane., triggering a massive warming event that would render much of the globe uninhabitable. This is just one of the terrifying “positive feedback” scenarios that have been suggested as a possible result of continuing to belch out greenhouse gases into the atmosphere the way we do now.

So what are we doing about it?

Changing the light bulbs. Buying cars that use slightly less petrol. At most, reducing emissions by a few percentage points a year. Do we have a plan even remotely radical enough to stand any real chance of heading off disaster ? Where are the politicians conveying the true urgency of the situation ? Where is the solemn prime ministerial broadcast explaining that the nation and the world is in grave peril and we need to take extreme action? What can we do in this situation to turn the politics around and get the scale and speed of action that we really need?

George Monbiot in his recent book “Heat” has offered a radical blueprint for survival. But recently he has said that even that does not go far enough.

Come to this Public Meeting to find out what he is saying now –what the Director of Britain’s best known environmental pressure group has to say about it, too, - and also the view from the activists who hit the headlines with their 'Climate Camp' at Heathrow, earlier this year.

The Moonbat is a decent speaker, so should be alright, for a laugh if nothing else. Friends House is right opposite Euston Station. I'll be there.