Deliton (Conch Shell)

Pass the word

From the upcoming issue of the Fifth Estate:

On November 3, 2006, anti-war protester and Chicago art-rock videographer/archivist Malachi Ritscher self-immolated as a demonstration of opposition to the American wars.  Near a sign that said, “Thou Shalt Not Kill—As Ye Sow So Shall Ye Reap,” and in front of a steel sculpture called “The Flame of Millenium,” Malachi, draped in an American flag, set himself on fire while his camera filmed his death.  His actions received relatively little media coverage, despite (or because of) the poignant immensity of their meaning.

Such an amazing story and I had never heard it.

Deliton (Conch Shell)

Is Asia about to explode?

I just read this piece by Walden Bello, senior analyst at Global South, in the New York Indypendent yesterday. I'll mention in passing that I specifically avoided disturbing news stories while on my writing retreat in Florida. So for almost three months I didn't read any stuff like this. And then, a jump head-first into ice water. Bello is one of the people that comes out of the global justice movement whose politics I most admire and trust. So to see him making this argument is disturbing.


Essentially, the logic here is that Asian economic growth has led to deepening inequality, but rising consumer power even among the poor created a situation in which political confrontation did not swing out of control. But now, with a weakening consumer base around the world, workers in Asia, especially China, Indonesia, and South Korea, are being laid off by the tens of millions:

In China, about 20 million workers have lost their jobs in the last few months, many of them heading back to the countryside, where they will find little work. The authorities are rightly worried that what they label "mass group incidents," which have been increasing in the last decade, might spin out of control. With the safety valve of foreign demand for Indonesian and Filipino workers shut off, hundreds of thousands of workers are returning home to few jobs and dying farms. Suffering is likely to be accompanied by rising protest, as it already has in Vietnam, where strikes are spreading like wildfire. Korea, with its tradition of militant labor and peasant protest, is a ticking time bomb. Indeed, East Asia may be entering a period of radical protest and social revolution that went out of style when export-oriented industrialization became the fashion three decades ago.

All of this will reverberate here, of course. We may be in for the ride of our lives.
Deliton (Conch Shell)

twenty plus albums

Yes, I participated in this disease-like meme. Cross-posted from Facebook. Probably I'm missing a lot of important stuff in here, but these were a few of the signposts:

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Deliton (Conch Shell)

Trucking along on Fog Island

Words written for current novel: 46,000.

Things started spinning out of a control a little bit today, and some things happened that I didn't expect. Normally that makes me happy because I say "Oh, the characters are acting on their own and not as little puppets of the author. Badass!" I think that's generally the right reaction when that happens. But today it raised some dangerous questions and caused me to go back and revise a big section of outline. The thing is, of course, that when characters' actions veer away from the outline, sometimes it feels like the strings of the puppet have been cut and other times it feels like deeper strings have been revealed. The new master isn't the conscious mind of the author, in other words, but some subterranean psychological operator. In this case, it happened in a kind of literal way.

Well, perhaps I should put it down until Monday. Some other shocking things took place personally so it may just be the wrong time to keep barreling through with it.


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Deliton (Conch Shell)

Hey dogs! Shut up I'm Podcasting!

You might never realize, if you were not trying to record the audio to a story of about eleven thousand words that takes about an hour and fifteen minutes to read even without mistakes (and oh boy are there plenty!) how constantly dogs are barking in a place like, say, St. Petersburg, Florida. If you want an idea, well, check out next week's story on podcastle. Or, I'm not sure if it's going up next week. But if you listen carefully to the one I recorded, you occasionally hear dogs barking.

That reminds me of this story about a guy named Carl Weismann who was out recording bird songs for Danish State Radio. On every tape, he found himself chopping out the barking dogs. (Hmm, is that because stupid dogs are always barking, Carl?). Anyway, at the end he had this bowl of tape fragments big enough to be make-believe chips at a big party. So he started checking the pitch of each bark. Soon he found that he could arrange the individual barks to form a song. And thus, the immortal barking dogs "Pop Goes the Weasel" was born. Click here to hear them sing what appears to be "Reading and Writing and 'Rythmatic."

I would do that. But I'd have the dogs sing "Tainted Love" and the St. Pete dogs don't really sing on key.

Deliton (Conch Shell)

"The Ugly Cops" up at Semaphore

My SF detective story "The Ugly Cops" is now up at Semaphore Magazine. Download the current issue to read it. This one describes a world in which riots get so out of control that the state resorts to dosing everybody with a drug that makes them afraid of cops. Scary material, yes, but can you figure out whodunnit?
Deliton (Conch Shell)

NYTimes: Community consensus-building can be very effective

After one of my periodic moaning sessions about the lack of collective housing in New York City, my friend Xristl sent me a link to an interesting piece in the NY Times about Brooklyn Cohousing, a group that's working to build a community-focused apartment building in Brooklyn. Here's a link to the group's own site. I was really happy to see that this group builds real consensus instead of relying on majority-rules voting. That makes me believe they've thought deeply about what they want their community to look like.

Anyway, the usual complaint about consensus making, in which the group discusses the problem until a solution amenable to everyone is found, is that it's too time-consuming. And one would imagine that this would be even worse in New York City, a place famous for the way everyone hustles around and where "time is money."

But check out this passage from the Times article:

Ken Levenson, the architect who designed Carlton Mews and who has been hired to redesign the interior space, said that he was apprehensive about the consensus process. “But it’s actually turned out to be less time-consuming than working with developers,” he said. “It’s counterintuitive, but when a decision is made here, it’s really made. They can only speak to me as a group, but whenyou work with developers, any one of the partners can call you every day with another idea.”

So it looks like having a group of people who work together to come to a decision might actually be more efficient than a model of confused authoritarianism, where different executives at a developer keep switching around or disagreeing with one another. It's nice to see that in print.

Deliton (Conch Shell)

Teacher Pays for Photocopying by Placing Ads in Tests

Thanks to Mars for sending this story my way. I guess as states all across the union make insane cuts to all kinds of services, we're going to see more surreal examples of the sometimes sleazy techniques used by the people who still have to teach, drive buses, or otherwise provide the services in order to keep the rusty old machine clunking along.

One thought that occurs to me... I wonder if this teacher, Tom Farber, concocted this scheme in part because he knew it would draw media attention to the dearth of funding for teaching supplies. You could easily organize a massive letter-writing campaign and not pick up as much coverage as this will get. We're coming into a time where media jiujitsu is the skill that's in demand. It's hard to teach, can be used for nasty purposes as well as nice ones, and you never know who's going to emerge as a talent in that field.
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Deliton (Conch Shell)

Reading _2666_

Just started reading Roberto Bolano's sprawling novel _2666_ about a week ago, and I can hardly think about anything else. So far, I'm still on "The Part About the Critics," and I am truly inspired at the author's ability to make the conference-going antics of four literature scholars more gripping than any of the random crime novels I was reading recently. I liked the book from the first word, but when an otherwise ordinary paragraph started with the line, "The city, like all cities, was endless," I nearly swooned.

Go read it.