Monday, August 9, 2010

Links for a Monday

Unlike most other places in the US, the weather here in Seattle has been all over the map for the last few weeks. (I am grateful, even if this has been a rough year for my tomatoes.) I've been listening to a CD of Birdsongs of the Pacific Northwest, and have begun to identify some of the birds who hang out in my yard that I never can seem to get a good look at. I've also been starting to identify birds that I see (often with the help of my mighty binoculars) on my visits to Union Bay as well as various parks in Seattle. It's a slow process! But it occurred to me last week that it's much more fun this way. (Most fun is when it's the behavior, rather than the markings or shape of the feathers or beak or length of the neck that nails it for me.) So I've been wanting, really, to post about my adventures watching birds. But I'll defer that pleasure and instead offer you a few links to check out:

--Last week at The Rejectionist it was Feminist Science Fiction Week.
Here's a story for you: we grew up in a very small and unpleasant town, with parents whom we ADORE, do not get us wrong, but whose politics are very... well, different from ours. We were well on our way to a content middle-class life of fluorescent-lit day jobs, picket fences, and voting Republican (our mom recently unearthed a fan letter we wrote to Ronald Reagan at a tender age). What happened? you may well ask, as we clearly took a hard turn for the road less traveled in between then and now. We wonder that ourself sometimes (possibly drama club?) and the best we can come up with is: Sci-Fi. No, seriously. Bear with us.

Science fiction: it does not have the greatest history. For every Lieutenant Uhura, there are a whole truckload of Kirks, and even Uhura had to wear that fucking uniform. But as long as science fiction has been written, the ladies and the queers and the people of color have been hijacking that shit for their own excellent ends, and the results are what we might describe as transcendent. You take White Man, Captain of the Universe; we'll take Octavia Butler, Ursula K. LeGuin, Sheri S. Tepper, James Tiptree Jr., Samuel Delany, Mary Shelley, and the legions of people they have influenced and inspired. We started reading that stuff young, and it did its percolating somewhere in there under the surface, so that when finally we got out of Dodge and met people doing the righteous work of the revolution, everything just sort of clicked. When you grow up reading about planets without gender it doesn't seem very odd that a person in your real life might feel the gender they live is not the same as the sex they were born with. When you spend your formative years obsessed with a story about transgender mutant prostitutes inhabiting post-apocalyptic Washington, D.C., it's not really a stretch to envision an anarchist, self-governing utopian future. When you read Samuel R. Delany as a kid, once you put your brain back in the ear it came out of it's no big deal when someone sits you down and says, Look, kid, pull your head out of your ass and recognize the privilege your white skin affords you.
The week's posts include interviews with Nnedi Okorafor, Elizabeth Hand, and Arwen Curry-- who's making a documentary about the life and work of Ursula K. Le Guin-- and an essay by Neesha Meminger on the importance of fighting to claim a voice in stories and mythologies. Go check all of it out!

--Over at the Bookview Cafe, Ursula Le Guin's "Art, Information, Theft, and Confusion" (posted in two parts; part one can be found here, part two here) considers influence, exchange, and borrowing, the difference between imitation and emulation, homage vs plagiarism, and sharing vs theft and piracy.

--The Telegraph has an interesting article by Gaby Wood on Penguin editor Eunice Frost, who eventually became Penguin's first woman director.
Along with the firm's founder, Allen Lane, she revolutionised the way we read by making good writing accessible to anyone for the price of a packet of cigarettes. So much was she the guiding spirit of the historic house that its penguin mascot and logo is named 'Frostie' after her. In 1958 she became the first woman in publishing to be awarded an OBE for services to literature.
(link via Paula Guran and Cynthia Ward)

An over at the Nation, Willam Greider's The AIG Bailout Scandal makes it crystal clear why Timothy Geithner is so opposed to Elizabeth Warren.
The five-member COP [Congressional Oversight Panel], chaired by Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren, has produced the most devastating and comprehensive account so far. Unanimously adopted by its bipartisan members, it provides alarming insights that should be fodder for the larger debate many citizens long to hear—why Washington rushed to forgive the very interests that produced this mess, while innocent others were made to suffer the consequences. The Congressional panel’s critique helps explain why bankers and their Washington allies do not want Elizabeth Warren to chair the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.


The most troubling revelation in this story is the astonishing weakness of the Federal Reserve and its incompetence as a faithful defender of the public interest. In the lore of central banking, the Fed is awesomely powerful and intimidating. As regulator of the banking system, it has life-and-death influence over banks. As manager of the economy, it has open-ended authority to intervene in the financial system to restore stability, as the central bank did massively during the crisis.

Yet the Fed was strangely passive and compliant when it came to demanding cooperation and sacrifice from the largest financial institutions. Timothy Geithner was then president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, the lead regulator of Wall Street’s largest banks. He briefly insisted they must accept the burden of rescuing AIG. But the bankers called his bluff and blew him off—and Geithner deferred to their wishes. The taxpayer bailout followed. The episode is relevant to the future, because Geithner is now Obama’s Treasury Secretary and in charge of preventing the next taxpayer bailout.
Let's be thankful for brilliant women, yes? (And wish the people who most desperately need their advice would actually listen to them for a change!)

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