A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘popular literature

[LINK] “Here’s What Sci-Fi Can Teach Us About Fascism”

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Wired shares excerpts from a recent interview with Bruce Sterling on what science fiction can teach its readers about fascism, and about what science fiction has to learn about itself.

“There’s a kind of rhetorical trick that goes on in science fiction, and in fascism, that kind of says, ‘Don’t really worry about what this means for the guy next door,’” Sterling says. “That it’s so cool and amazing that you should just surrender yourself to the rapture of its fantastic-ness.”

As an example he cites the ending of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, in which astronaut David Bowman is transformed into a superhuman entity called the Star Child. Sterling says the image is so striking and awe-inspiring that few viewers ever think to ponder the potential downsides of the Star Child.

“It’s not like anybody voted on the space baby,” he says. “It’s not like an ethics commission wrote on the space baby. It’s not like anybody says, ‘What if the space baby turns out to be cruel to certain ethnic minorities?’”

Sterling believes that it’s important to retain your ability to be moved and inspired, but equally important to be selective about the images and ideas that you choose to invest in.

“If you don’t have a sense of wonder it’s like you’re dead inside,” he says. “But your sense of wonder can be used to trick you. You can have a sense of wonder over a thing that’s basically a conjurer’s trick, or a con job, or a rip-off.”

Written by Randy McDonald

January 20, 2017 at 5:15 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • Bad Astronomy shares photos of the ripple made by moon Daphnis in the rings of Saturn, as does the Planetary Society Blog.
  • The Broadside Blog questions whether readers actually like their work.
  • Centauri Dreams notes evidence for the discovery of a Jupiter-mass planet in the protoplanetary disk of TW Hydrae.
  • Dangerous Minds links to the 1980s work of Lydia Lunch.
  • Far Outliers reports on how the Afghanistan war against the Soviets acted as a university for jihadists from around the world.
  • Kieran Healy looks at some failures of Google Scholar.
  • Language Hat reports on a fascinating crowdsourced program involving the transcription of manuscripts from Shakespeare’s era, and what elements of pop history and language have been discovered.
  • The LRB Blog compares Trump’s inauguration to those of Ronald Reagan.
  • The Map Room Blog links to an exhibition of the maps of Utah.
  • Understanding Society reports on a grand sociological research project in Europe that has found out interesting things about the factors contributing to young people’s support for the far right.
  • Window on Eurasia reports on instability in the binational North Caucasian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, describes the spectre of pan-Mongolism, and looks at the politicization of biker gangs in Russia.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

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  • Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait mourns the death of Apollo astronaut Gene Cernan and calls for a return to the Moon.
  • Beyond the Beyond’s Bruce Sterling wonders what future historiography will look like when it’s automatically assumed that British imperialism in South Asia was a bad thing.
  • blogTO highlights an impressive new condo tower planned for Mississauga.
  • D-Brief looks at how a literal heartbeat can transform the perception of an individual by race.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper examining the potential for exoplanets orbiting red dwarfs to be habitable, finding that there seem to be no deal-breakers.
  • Language Hat shares the reflections of Russian-born author Boris Fishman who reads his novel, written in English, translated into the Russian.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money links to a paper looking at the potential for industrial espionage to actually pay off.
  • The LRB Blog considers what will happen to Cuban migration now that Cuban migrants to the United States have no special status.
  • The NYRB Daily looks at post-revolutionary Cairo through film.
  • Savage Minds considers the grounds for potentially treating artificial intelligences as people.
  • Torontoist looks at two rival schools of medicine in 19th century Toronto.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes that Washington D.C.’s Freedom Plaza can be cleared of protests.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the potential financial catastrophe of Russia’s declining villages, and looks at Belarus’ national identity.

[URBAN NOTE] “There’s a black market for stolen books in Toronto, apparently”

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CBC News’ Ali Chiasson reports on Toronto’s trade in stolen books.

Japanese author Haruki Murakami may be known worldwide for novels that straddle the border between the dreamworld and reality.

But in Toronto he’s better known as the most popular author among literary thieves, at least according to the city’s bookstore owners.

An entire shelf dedicated to Murakami books disappeared in December at the Roncesvalles store A Good Read.

“I lost $800 the last two times this guy hit me,” owner Gary Kir told CBC Toronto. “They’re very easily converted into cash, because they’re very high in demand and they don’t turn up that often used.”

[. . .]

Derek McCormack has worked at bookstores in Toronto for 25 years and says the most shoplifted names come and go in waves.

“It used to be all the beats,” said McCormack, of Type Books on Queen Street West. “Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Then it became [Vladimir] Nabokov by far — you couldn’t keep Lolita on the shelf.”

Written by Randy McDonald

January 8, 2017 at 7:00 pm

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

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  • Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait shares a video showing how tacos are made in space.
  • blogTO shares some classic photos of the TTC in the 1960s and 1970s.
  • The Crux goes into more detail about the mesentery.
  • D-Brief notes how the binary star KIC 9832227 is projected to experience a stellar merger in 2022.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to one paper suggesting that exoplanets and brown dwarfs are as common around A and F stars as around dimmer Sun-like stars, and links to another paper examining the potential of detecting transits of exoplanets orbiting brown dwarfs.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to an article wondering if China’s seizure of a US navy drone could set a precedent for satellite seizures.
  • Language Log links to Yiyun Lee’s article about abandoning Chinese for English.
  • The LRB Blog remembers philosopher Derek Parfit.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer looks at the recent riots in Mexico, caused by rising gas prices.
  • Strange Maps shares informative maps exploring the Netherlands’ internal distinctions.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at how the Russian language has multiple standards despite Russian official claims, and shares complaints about Kaliningrad’s vulnerability.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

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  • Beyond the Beyond’s Bruce Sterling notes the terminal problems of Livejournal.
  • blogTO names five up-and-coming Toronto neighbourhoods.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at asteroids and other bodies in space that might be natural vehicles for travelling between planets.
  • Crooked Timber links to a grim analysis of the prospects for the United Kingdom’s Labour Party.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper suggesting a search for Beta Pictoris b as it transits its star.
  • Marginal Revolution looks at the importance of Chuck Norris in Ceaucescu’s Romania.
  • Savage Minds looks at reasons why anthropologists have failed to join in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
  • Torontoist notes the generally low quality of jobs created recently in Toronto.
  • Window on Eurasia links to two scenarios for Russia’s collapse, looks at conflicts in Russia-Belarus relations, and considers two Estonian novels recently published regarding Russian invasions.

[LINK] “How same-sex samurai stories made gay love beautiful in Japan”

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At Daily Xtra, Michael Lyons writes about some astonishingly popular homoerotic published for the masses in 17th century Japan, looking at the plot and looking at the import of these stories’ popularity.

Funny that same-sex love, at least male homosexuality, was once not only celebrated, but a cultural pastime. Published in 1687, Nanshoku ōkagami, or The Great Mirror of Male Love, was a book of 40 short stories by Ihara Saikaku.

This was at the height of the Tokugawa period when merchant classes, while still considered lower social status than farmers, were enjoying greater wealth that gave them access to prostitutes, urban pleasure quarters, art and popular fiction — the four were often interlinked.

To these chōnin, “townsmen,” the assumption was that romantic and sexual love was to be found outside of the institution of marriage. By this point in Japan’s history, monastic and samurai traditions of age-based hierarchal relationships legitimized homosexuality, so a culturally legitimized “cult of sexual connoisseurship” developed around adolescent boys without any stigma.

The latter half of Saikaku’s collection focuses on relationships with men and young kabuki actors, but it’s the samurai tales that interest me, one in particular, called “Implicated By His Diamond Crest.” The love story starts with Shimamura Daiemon, a 27-year-old samurai, renowned weaponist and engineer; a masterless samurai devoted to his family.

Daiemon attends a firefly viewing party near the outskirts of town near a statue of Buddha said to be carved by Kūkai (posthumously known as Kōbō-Daishi), the founder of Japanese Buddhism — rumoured to be the man who brought homosexuality to Japan — where he anonymously foils an intrigue, saving the reputation of a young samurai named Haruta Tannosuke.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 4, 2017 at 6:30 pm