Good morning, friends. It’s May, and the weather has been lovely this week, and I have a bunch of fun events coming up, I’m officially excited about life. I also have a pile of recent bookish acquisitions and library holds (which, inevitably, all came in at the same time), and I’m so looking forward to all of them I wish I could break open my brain and pour the contents inside. It’s a nice feeling.
- I’ve been thinking about hope a lot this week, so it seems only right to link to a Rebecca Solnit essay on the subject. I read her book Hope in the Dark at the start of 2015, and it set the tone for my year in more ways than I could either imagine or articulate at the time. An excerpt:
I’m hopeful, partly because we don’t know what is going to happen in that dark future and we might as well live according to our principles as long as we’re here. Hope, the opposite of fear, lets us do that. Imagine the world as a lifeboat: the corporations and the current administration are smashing holes in it as fast (or faster) than the rest of us can bail or patch the leaks. But it’s important to take account of the bailers as well as the smashers and to write epics in the present tense rather than elegies in the past tense. That’s part of what floats this boat. And if it sinks, we all sink, so why not bail? Why not row?
- Many thanks to Jenny for pointing me in the direction of Linda Holmes’ “Captain America, Aaron Burr, And The Politics Of Killing Your Friends”:
We are not in a golden age of nuance. We are not in a time in which public conversations leave ample room for good-faith disagreement. Cap and Tony apply similar values to interpret the same evidence about Winter Soldier, reach different conclusions, and cannot figure out how to stop short of a 12-person rumble. Similarly, when discussions of policy and culture take place in public spaces, they often run on the assumption that to reach a final conclusion is to reject (or disbelieve, or not care about) the entirety of the case against it. When that happens, every rejection of a tactic is received as a rejection of all the principles it was conceived to advance; every imperfect alignment might as well be absolute opposition.
- On Prince and Hegemonic Masculinity.
- Hooray for comics! Here Are Your 2016 Eisner Award Nominees.
- I’m on Letterboxd! Feel free to add me so I can get movie recommendations from you.
- The brilliant Katherine Cross writes about “When Robots Are An Instrument Of Male Desire”:
You see this even in “pro-AI” media. In the Spike Jonze movie Her, set in the near future, a man falls in love with his operating system, Samantha. She is essentially sapient and her ability to learn and cognitively develop is the equal of any human; she has desires, dreams, and consciousness. But she exists in a society where OSes like her are considered property, part of the furniture. Yet this ostensible romance movie does not once broach the issue of power and sexual consent; after all, if she’s legally an object, then could Sam ever say no to her would-be boyfriend without fear of reprisal?This was exactly how I felt about Her — I know it’s possible to enjoy it and connect with it for other reasons while still caring about the issues of consent it got wrong, but for me the omission was large enough that I couldn’t sustain my suspension of disbelief.
That this is not even considered, in what is otherwise a touching and even somewhat feminist film, should make clear what assumptions we’re both taking on board as a society—assumptions that Silicon Valley is likely building into what will one day become a properly sapient AI. The service industry, already highly feminized in both fact and conventional wisdom, is made up of people who almost never have the right to say no, and virtual assistants who simply can’t are increasingly the model of the ideal service worker.
- Toni Morrison and Angela Davis discuss connecting for progress at the New York Public Library podcast. MY HEART.
- Well done, London.
- It’s probably been three whole weeks since I last talked about how amazing Deborah Cameron is; time to redress that:
Most people are small-c conservatives when it comes to language: they rarely hail new usages with delight, and often spend decades denouncing them as abominations. What bothers me about this isn’t the reaction itself, it’s the accompanying tendency to construct elaborate justifications for it. Instead of just saying ‘I find this way of speaking annoying’, pundits insist that it’s a symptom of some larger social disease. Vocal fry is a sign that young women are throwing away all the gains of the last 50 years. ‘I feel like’ threatens the foundations of democracy because it’s ‘a means of avoiding rigorous debate’.(I know this post is heavy on long quotes, but I can’t help it when people keep being amazing.)
This is overblown nonsense, and it also has the effect of making the most innovative language-users, young people and especially young women, into objects of relentless criticism–and not only of their speech, but sometimes also of their character. Criticism which they internalize, as is illustrated in some of the quotes I’ve reproduced. When young women are worried that the way they express themselves demeans them, when they’re berating themselves for being ‘indulgent verging on narcissistic’, it might be time for the people who write this stuff to consider keeping their opinions to themselves.
- US friends! My Mad Fat Diary has finally come your way, and I absolutely agree that it’s must-see TV. Here’s what I wrote about it in 2014.
- Speaking of awesome things finally making their way across the pond, allow my friend Memory to convince you that you should read Frances Hardinge’s The Lie Tree.
- Lastly, I leave you with a taste of my week in music. I’m so excited that this album is out: