Happy new year! Weeknotes are supposed to be EVERY week technically. But it was the holidays so this is more a sort of 'weeksnotes' of things I haven't done anything about.
Pulp Sci-Fi and Mad Scientists
iO9 has been publishing a series of articles on science fiction in totalitarian contexts. Probably the longest articles ever published by iO9. Of particular interest was the one on Japan. My MA dissertation was a study of fiction under dystopias and totalitarian systems and how these were represented in the fictions. Japan's military was of course responsible for some horrific 'medical' experiments during the Second World War on prisoners of war and Chinese citizens, the research of which was claimed by US big pharma in the aftermath. It's strange then that the section on 'Evil Surgeons and Mad Scientists' only brushes over this connection, referring back to Wellsian links to Dr Moreau and so on.
This brought to mind two of my all time favourite 'novllettes' which are by no menas 'pulp'. Firstly, Adolfo Bioy Casares' The Invention of Morel. Morel is a clear take off the Island of Dr Moreau but features computers that can holographically replay history as the evil of invention and an increasingly paranoid escapee as the witness - his horror and fears informed by the machinations of machines rather than living tissue.
Referring back to living tissue, Bulgakov's Heart of a Dog (sometimes Dog's Heart) is a lesser known satire by the writer of The Master and Margarita in which a master surgeon implants the heart and glands of a dog into a minor criminal who proceeds to become the ideal communist. A political satire acted out through the widening doors of eugenic technology that marked the era.
Hackers and Sexism
I'm not really as savvy on hacker and maker culture as I should be. Though both are linked and important modern movements that exercise personal freedom through technology in an age of tightening systematic controls, I fear studying them for they fall into the 'experts' category. Much like tattoo artists or lens grinders, they know so much about their own field that it's hard to dip one's toe in to test the water without either having it ripped off or being dragged under.
One thing that does keep surfacing (and perhaps has marked the entirety of 2012) was the issue of sex in these cultures. In a moving and compelling post, Asher Wolf, a key player in the hacker community posted about her disdain at the rampant sexism and abuse that women suffer. This isn't the first time this has come up gamer culture suffers an awfully similar and at time, more pronounced problem.
If these invigorated 'geek' cultures are to be future industry and social leaders then they need to consider how their social attitudes might belie their forward thinking.
Check out this review of Makers at the Guardian. It's important to note when talking about these cultures that more often than not, the optimistic potential far outweighs the actual reality of these cultures integrating with the real world in reporting them. I had the exact same problem with David Wolman's End of Money. Lot's of wistful talk of a cashless future without dealing with the realities of the expense of digital infrastructure, how culturally and socially vital cash is and with almost no economic theory. Perhaps this is an endemic problem with techies writing about social change.
Dark Knight Sins
I really love Dark Knight Rises but, apart from not noticing the randomly falling over guys, here's a breakdown of what I also agree was wrong. (They should just call this Suspension of Disbelief Counteraction)
2012 and Rape
For a lot of people 2012 was a year when rape came to the forefront of political debate. Even in the UK, the issue of abortion briefly surfaced and a row with the Church over female bishops prompted him to pipe up with the immortal 'get with the programme.' And yet it was in the US where the presidential debate sealed world opinion that American social attitudes were decades behind the rest of the 'developed' world with repeated blunders and idiocy from public figures.
Following their election loss, I was concerned that the Republican party might rally deeper behind it's extreme elements, citing Romney as too moderate - as evidenced by his constant swinging and u-turning - and further divide the political spectrum, potentially deepening the flaws in the two-party democracy. Luckily it looks like I was wrong.
In India, the issue is gaining traction, I read an article about it some time earlier in the year and now with the horrible case garnering mainstream media attention, the issue of women's rights in developing nations is finally coming to the fore. Even the Arab Spring was marred by stories of journalists being raped and assaulted.
And again in the US, the issue of prisons, something which I really want to broach at some point, and the endemic rape that happens there is beginning to come into focus following a series of articles throughout the year (again, I've lost them all.) Listen to this though for some cracking journalism.
The near-mythic 'fiscal cliff' provided another opportunity for the election's bitter losers to emulate the temper tantrums of a five year old in the eyes of the world.The fiscal cliff is a long and childish story of coincidences and brow beating that still isn't over and we'll see brought back to life in the next few months. This article probably provides the most interesting coverage. Anything else is party-posturing.
List of '10' codes as popularised by US police dramas but no longer in use due to gross inefficency. Still, if you need to send some discrete signals...
The Guardian, who's journalism I become more and more despairing over, has another article where a potent question - What does a world without work look like? - is asked but never answered let alone conjectured upon and the author uses the whole tract to have a go at government cuts.
Someone who can talk to me about Coasean economics (desperately.)