Just a heads up…

I’ve got some pro-gamergate comments in a queue for approval in the last Debarkle chapter. I’m not averse to having them in the comment thread but I’m wary of escalation. Fine to reply to them but if people could be chill, that would be good and people may wish to avoid the comments.

Covid graph update

I left off doing these for a while as the situation wasn’t shifting much globally. Today, I’ve picked a grab-bag of countries that we’ve looked at before or are in the news.

The good news is that both Israel and the UK which had very swift vaccination programs have levelled off. However, that is not necessarily showing cause and effect.

The main news story on the pandemic is the disastrous second wave in India. Using the style of graph I picked, the numbers are misleading. India is a big country in both area and population and the per-capita figures belie the impact of this new wave. As I have said before, it is the trajectory that matters with these graphs and that becomes clearer when India is graphed by itself.

I’ve been sceptical about the utility of looking at the death rates in these graphs for various reasons but with the vaccines in play now, we should expect to see an impact.

I’ve focused on the last few months so as to keep the vertical scale manageable.

The world is not out of the woods yet.

Timothy Reviews The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin

Greetings, salutations and the assorted lyrics of Hello, Goodbye by the mop-headed foursome from Liverpool to you all. I am, once again, your inimitable host and master of ceremonies, Timothy the Talking Cat esquire, who shall be taking you on a journey into the foundational texts of modern scientifiction.

Today we examine Ursula Le Guin’s fascinating story of anarchism and physics, entitled “The Dispossessed”. You might think from the title that there will be spooky ghosts but no, there are no spooky ghosts and this was nearly as disappointing as discovering that my much-cherised vinyl LP of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells would no longer play. I asked Camofluaged Fellertron and he explained that we not only don’t own a record player but that we have never owned a record player. I used a pair of scissors to cut the LP down to a size that would fit into the CD player, only to discover that we don’t own one of those either. I’m no prehistoric Luddite, I’m up with advances in technology and I deduced that I could take a digital daguerreotype with one of my several telephones and then simply play the resulting file with my trusty copy of Winamp. Sadly my plan was foiled due to technical limitations which Calisthenics Frenchfries rather cruelly summed up as: “that was never a vinyl LP of Tubular Bells, it was just an old photo of Richard Branson from a Virgin Airways Inflight Magazine”. We live and learn.

I should also add, this isn’t a story about the bailiffs coming round to your palatial mansion and making you move out because you took out a third mortgage without telling anybody so you could buy a decommissioned Russian nuclear submarine. Oh how we all laughed about that afterwards as the doctor stitched up the claw wounds on the bailiff. Happy times and the caravan in the waste ground behind the pub is much comfier. Plans proceed afoot to scare away the new owners of Felapton Towers by pretending that the mansion is haunted. I’ve convinced the house poltergeist to dress up as a ghost to frighten them away. Straw Puppy says that this is an excellent idea and the eldritch monster from the hell-dimension that lives in the basement has agreed to help by wearing a sheet over its head and saying “boo”.

So what this book is actually about is a guy who is on a moon and then he is on a planet and then he is on a moon and then he is on a planet and then he is on a moon and then he is on a planet and then he is on a moon and then he is on a planet and then he is on a moon and then he is on a planet. Finally, he gets his act together and he is on the moon. “Woah!”, he says, “I was on a moon and then on a planet! I think I’ve got a new theory of physics now!” Everybody lives happily ever after. I think it is a bit like that book Laughter House Five by Urt Vonnegut where the main guy is just all over the place and is all like “So where is this laughter house then because I don’t see nobody laughing” or at least he should say that because there is a serious lack of jokes in that book. Maybe I shouldn’t have cut off the spine but I was going through a phase where I thought books were molluscs and could live in a shell. It was the height of the 70’s and catnip and wild parties were the norm and I had some strange ideas. A cat must sow his wild oats as they say but the seed catalogue was right out of “heirloom oat variety” and we sowed mustard seeds instead.

New tagline

For anybody curious, it was from RT aka ‘Russia Today”. Not a news outlet I would normally direct people to but they quoted that silly Tweet about Jordan Peterson! https://www.rt.com/op-ed/520297-jordan-peterson-captain-america/ I get to play the role of the meany-head leftist. I was tempted to use the next phrase “just gorge on the fact that the left still has a near-monopoly on mainstream art” but people might think it was unironic.

Debarkle Chapter 28: Gamergate 2014 meets Vox Day

[content warning for descriptions of internet harassment and extreme misogyny]

A fun fact that I learnt today from Wikipedia is that the word “gamergate” means a worker ant that can reproduce sexually and the term is pronounced something like “gamma-gate”[1]. That will be about the only wholesome fact in this chapter. For the rest of it, the chapter covers what Wikipedia entitles the “Gamergate Controversy”. What this chapter is not going to be able to do is give a full and authoritative account of the controversy. Instead, I want to look at some of the precursors to Gamergate that influenced later events in the Debarkle story and where Gamergate intersected with some of the key players in the Sad Puppy Hugo Award controversy.

The major events in Gamergate ran from August 2014 and into 2015 and beyond. However, for this chapter, I will only be looking at 2014. It is also a distorted view of the controversy. Vox Day presents himself as a significant figure in Gamergate but third party accounts do not. Nevertheless, for the purposes of the Debarkle narrative, the influence of Gamergate on Day and the political and personal coalition that arose from that is important. I’m getting ahead of myself though.

Continue reading “Debarkle Chapter 28: Gamergate 2014 meets Vox Day”

Susan’s Salon: 2021 April 25/26

🇦🇺🇳🇿🇦🇺🇳🇿🇦🇺🇳🇿

Please use the comment section to just chat about whatever you want. Susan’s Salon is posted early Monday (Sydney time which is still Sunday in most countries). It’s fine to be sad, worried, vaccinated, unvaccinated-yet, angry or maybe even happy (or all of those things at once).

Please feel free to post what you like (either troubling news or pleasant distractions) in the comments for this open thread. [However, no cranky conflicts between each other in the comments.] Links, videos, cat pictures 🐈 etc are fine! Whatever you like and be nice to one another 😇

So I guess that was Falcon & the Winter Soldier then

The final episode of the Disney+ MCU show dropped and it perfectly encapsulated the show: it was sort of all right. Anthony Mackie dialled up the charisma and there was some exciting superhero action, the plot didn’t make a bit of sense and Sebastian Stan was moody and handsome. There was only a small amount of Baron Zemo who was the best and worst thing about the show but there was just enough in this episode to have to put a spoiler warning here. Which, I don’t think I did on the other posts, mainly because nothing felt like it mattered enough to be a spoiler.

Continue reading “So I guess that was Falcon & the Winter Soldier then”

Review: The Irregulars (Netflix)

I started watching this series a while back but just for reasons of life, work and commuting, I didn’t finish it quickly despite it being only eight episodes long. I’ll say upfront that I enjoyed it because the show has so many quirks and issues and aspects that may well put people off that in explaining it (or even just watching episode 1) I can imagine it putting people off.

From the title and the description of the show, you might expect it to be about the side-characters from the Sherlock Holmes stories known as the Baker Street Irregulars (the street kids that Holmes employs as informers) but with a supernatural twist. It really isn’t and that framing doesn’t do it many favours. Likewise, despite all the trappings, the show really isn’t set in Victorian London (departing from that setting in good ways, bad ways and lazy ways).

Put all that aside if those expectations will trip you up. It is a fantasy London and it’s not a specific year (you could pin it to 1870 for a specific historical reason but that way lies madness). It’s Victorian as a setting, not as a time period and hence Dickens-like in places and Sherlock Holmes adaptations in other places. It doesn’t have the technology aspect to call it SteamPunk but closer to that vibe than a period drama.

The good departure from historical accuracy is that it applies diverse casting to all characters at all levels of society. So the ethnic make-up of the casting reflects modern Britain including members of the gentry. The up side of that is the excellent casting of Royce Pierreson as Doctor Watson, who gets an interesting character arc, appearing initially as a cold and sinister figure in the lives of a set of older teenagers/young adult living rough in (not exactly) Victorian London.

The downside is that while the show (particularly in the earlier monster-of-the-week) episode tries to deal with questions of inequality, abuse of power and exploitation, it can’t really examine racism. For example, in the second episode where some very spooky thing is stealing children’s teeth the eventual target of the supernatural plot is the Duke of Winchester. The Duke, as a major landowner, did things that led to a family tragedy. The Duke in this case is played by Ghanaian actor, Patrice Naiambana (https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0619628/?ref_=ttfc_fc_cl_t20 ) and that is clever and subversive casting but it means a few punches are pulled in a compelling story of supernatural revenge. It’s a trade-off and frankly, subverting expectations of race in a historical drama is a reasonable exchange in context for a story that could have been harder hitting in other ways. Not every story needs to examine racial-injustice.

More odd, given the setting, is the odd way that social class behaves in the show. It’s definitely there but it has a weird superficiality to it. Hard to describe without you watching it but again, it feels like a calculated effort to put the show into a Victorian setting but one where characters can move more easily between settings. The plot needs a rag-tag group of street kids to attend a gathering of an elite secret society at a country manor? Well, it will find a way round that and why not?

At this point, I can see I’m making it sound like a kind of sanitised, romantic or bowdlerised version of Victoriana. It really isn’t. It is often gory and brutal, uses frank language about sex and frequently genuinely spooky. It is pitched at teenagers but in the sense of more ‘mature’ content in some ways but still having the character of convention-breaking children’s television. Sort of Doctor Who-like but with more swearing.

So a fantasy, alternate-universe Victorian London that is stuck in a generic Victorian time period (e.g. flashbacks to 10 years early looks like the same time period) with two incidental characters that if they had not called them Holmes and Watson then you might think “these characters occupy a sort of Holmes and Watson space”. Accept that and it’s a fun show with a great cast and some really interesting ideas about grief and love gone awry.

By the end, I think the creators of the show mainly made good decisions about these choices. It packs a lot in and rather than try to make everything work, it simplifies the edges so that the show can be its own thing. Maybe…if they had cast an older Holmes and Watson and set it in Edwardian times or in 1900, that could have also been interesting. Oddly, a key character is Queen Victoria’s youngest son Leopold which places a very specific historical point into the show (hence why I said, the setting is 1870), although character-wise he could have just been a fictional aristocratic teenager who has been sequestered away because of ill health.

Spooky and charming.

Debarkle Chapter 27: Vox Day, Racism, Sexism and Opera Vita Aeterna

[content warning for extreme views on race, gender and sexual violence]

Larry Correia’s second Sad Puppies slate was not very different from the first. There were a lot of Mormon men (because of his writer connections in Utah) and seven of the twelve people listed were people Correia had recommended in previous years. Marko Kloos was new but Correia knew him from gun forum days and had been promoting his book. Sarah Hoyt was also new but she was a fellow Baen author and they had a lot in common politically (and coincidentally, both had family connections to Portugal).

Vox Day was different though. Nominally, he had called himself a libertarian in the past but his views on women and race were more extreme than Correia’s. I don’t know if there was any communication between them other than the comments left by ‘VD’ at Correia’s blog but the additional works that Vox Day listed on his own blog, look more like works that Correia would have listed if he had the time.

Continue reading “Debarkle Chapter 27: Vox Day, Racism, Sexism and Opera Vita Aeterna”