Happy Punch A Capitalist in The Face Day!

Today is May Day, and while I offer a laurel and hardy handshake to all my Anarchist, Socialist and Pagan friends today,* this year I’d like to also say something to all you Capitalist swine out there who nearly broke the world: Fuck You sideways with your autographed copy of Atlas Shrugged, you no good, corpse-buggering shits. I hope you all die in a fire caused by shoddy maintance and blocked exits.

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*offer void wherever Hot Topic Wiccans, Starbuck Anarchists and the phantom bogeymen “Socialists” of the Right Wing imagination dwell. That would be a mall somewhere in South Carolina probably.

Bruce Sterling Will Now Tell Your Fortune

If yo aren’t already, go read Bruce Sterling’s annual new years future cast, State of the World 2012. A taste:

FUTURE CHANGE AS SEEN BY THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA

1. Continue trend of seize the planet’s physical means of production
by underpricing everyone else, and enduring the pollution and harsh
labor conditions. To back off now after such grand, demonstrable
success would be stupid.

2. Engineer new Chinese material infrastructures of all kinds;
highways, power grids, urban real estate, moon shots, supercomputers,
genetics labs, chip fabs, fab labs, you name it. Offer to build some
for client states, too.

3. Reverse annoying trends in “international law,” because that’s
actually Western hegemony.

4. Accelerate collapse of “intellectual property” because it’s
actually rentier feudalism.

5. Defeat “international finance” because it’s crazy, it doesn’t work,
and it deprives state regimes of command over their economies.

As always, thoughtful and fun read. And it’s going on all week!

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Unemployed. In Greenland! But let’s back up a few months here and frame this story properly…

Back in December, I was informed that the University would not be renewing my contract and so I would be leaving my position at the library come the end of the fiscal year, June 30. A week before Christmas is a hell of a time to get that kind of news.

And who tells someone they’re fired 6 months ahead of time? Because let me tell you, that colors the way you spend those last 6 month. And we’re not talking rainbows and sunshine neither. (True story: 3 months ago I thought I was having a heart attack. At 33. From the stress. Turned out it was just indigestion. From the stress.)

I had 6 months to look for new jobs and did. Things were looking up as, a week before my job ended, I scored an interview for mid July, doing my old job only for more money and hey wouldn’t that be great, because I’d get two weeks of vacation, during which my folks were here. So Ducks in a row is what it was.

Except that I didn’t get the job. That was kind of a blow, I don’t mind telling you because I nailed that interview. We’re talking Gold Medal dismount. Or so I thought. Plainly it was lacking in something as they went with someone else. But that’s fine. I didn’t want that crummy job anyway. *Sniff*

Because really and truly, I’ve been looking forward to being unemployed. Which is weird to say but let me unpack that a moment: Did I mention the stress? Of working someplace that doesn’t think you’re good enough to keep around long term but clearly thinks your adequate enough to keep around for half a year? Mind games would be fun to play after 6 months of that fucked up situation. So yeah. I’m not loosing any sleep over being out of that job. And I mean that literally. I haven’t slept so good in the last 3 years as I have in the last 3 weeks.

Also I’ve been wanting time to write and focus on my novel since I got to Oregon 3 YEARS AGO. I sort of fell into a job right away, which was unintended, but a bonus.

But the gig is over and now, while I look for gainful employment in the worst economy since the Great Depression, battling a hundred other overqualified librarians in a thunder dome lined with razor blade covered books, vying for the one position, I have a moment to focus and actually do what I love, which is write. And so long as I don’t fritter it away, I can finish my novel in a month or two, while I look for other jobs, and maybe, if I’m lucky, back into a new career getting paid to write for a living. Even if it means a pay cut (and it will) even if it means moving to a smaller apartment (which is likewise very likely) because I won’t have to go up against fucking Master Blaster just to work at a fucking library.

Being a librarian pays the bills, but it’s not my dream job. And weirdly enough, being unemployed in the Second Great Depression is liberating. I don’t have any more excuses and if no one’s going to pay me to do the career I’ve built up over the last 8 years, then fuck it, I’ll write my books for a living. If I’m going to live under a bridge and starve to death, might as well do what I love.

But the card board Manse is a little ways off yet. The government teat of Unemployment is a sweet, sweet cushion between here and there. And for a few months at least, I can work at making my dreams come true. There are worse things in the world, like working a shitty job I don’t like, for a university that doesn’t appreciate all the hard work I did for them.

So that’s where I am: all I have left is the dole and a few daydreams of respect. But it beats dying or working for the man, which is just dying, only slower and from the inside out.

So. How’d you spend your summer vacation?

Ozymandius Jr.

Is this our future?:

Dubai has been built very fast. The plan was money. The architect was money. The designer was money and the builder was money. And if you ever wondered what money would look like if it were left to its own devices, it’s Dubai.

My driver gets lost more than once. He’s lived here all his life. He says he always gets lost. The roads keep changing. It’s a confusion of orange traffic cones and interlocking barriers; access roads peter out into long drops to rubble and dust. Nothing actually goes anywhere. The wide lanes loop around endlessly, and then there’s no place to go. No plaza or square, no center. Nowhere to hang out, nowhere to walk. Why would you walk? In this heat? You pull over and throw your keys to a valet, and get indoors as quickly as possible, generally in one of the countless shopping centers that look like the airports of lesser nations or Egyptian tombs. They echo with the slow footfalls of the security guards. In the boutiques, the glossy assistants stare at mannequins with a mutual mime of cashmere-folding despair. Dubai has been mugged by its own greed. Its consumer economy is being maintained by oil-rich families to whom depressions, booms, lottery wins, and recessions mean little. Riches and wealth are relative terms. But not ones we’re related to. There is an indoor ski mountain, probably the biggest indoor ski mountain in a desert, where the Arab boys queue for suits and boots and skis. The smarter locals arrive in their own designer après-ski gear, with fur and moon boots. You walk through the doors and it’s like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe—the land of permanent winter. The fat boys push past carrying their snowboards toward the Tyrolean chocolate shop and Swiss fir trees and slide down the hill with a practiced arrogance. The girls slither, splay-legged, hijabs fluttering, in the manufactured snow.

When the Republican greed-heads finally knock down the unions and kill the New Deal with a thousand paper cuts, is this what America will become? I sometimes think so. What’s the end game of unregulated greed? There’s only so much money/wealth./capitol/stuff to go around. When you have all of it, built around you in a giant tower of nothing, sinking into the sand, what then?

I blame Republicans but that’s just a convenient handle, a metaphor for the empty, soulless gnawing nihilism that has replaced the heart of America. Like Dick Cheney’s pulse-less body, still walking around like Frankenstein’s monster, this is what we’ve become. We’d like to think we’ll be the villagers with pitchforks, the victim’s who have finally gotten angry enough to act but really, we’re all Igor. We helped build this monster. We let them do it, thinking that if we capitulate to their sociopathic desires, the table scraps they fed us would be enough to build a future on, without having to do the hard work of working hard.

Reading about Dubai is like reading a Ballard novel.* You recognize yourself in that warped mirror world and you’re shocked and titillated. Because there’s something sexy about the destruction. To be precise, there’s something seductive about the slow heat-death destruction represented by Dubai and the crumbling American dream. The quick and nasty destruction that hit Japan last week is something else. It’s the brutish act of animal fucking magnified to a global scale. But Dubai? America? That’s the slow hand, baby. That shit takes finesse. Wine and sweet nothings and violin music. Sure, it’s Nero’s fiddle, but you can’t see that in the dark. Or from the top of the Burj Khalifa. From up there, it looks like a long way down and anyway, it won’t be you who does the falling. Some poor sucker not cunning like you. You’ll find away to that penthouse in the sky, that’s why you threw in with the devils in their expensive suits and billion dollar grins.You fluff them up, vote for them, give them power and glory and maybe when the world ends, they’ll think kindly about you as they slip off into the void in their luxury space yacht. It could happen.

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* “The American Dream has run out of gas. The car has stopped. It no longer supplies the world with its images, its dreams, its fantasies. No more. It’s over. It supplies the world with its nightmares now: the Kennedy assassination, Watergate, Vietnam.” — J. G. Ballard

Upping the Resolution

It’s a brand new year and so time to make resolutions! But let’s be honest, most resolutions frankly suck. They’re something vague about loosing weight or being a better person or goodwill towards humanity.  You can easily ignore these resolutions when they fail because they were not attainable to begin with, or pretend that they were achieved just resolving to be generically better.

The key to a good resolution is to make it specific, tangible and realistic. Like mine.

In 2011, I resolve to finish a novel and have it on the desk of an agent. This is a 2 parter, and as such has 2 deadlines. The first, to finish a novel, is very tangible and attainable. If I write a certain number of words a day, I can have a novel length manuscript done in 6 months. This is not as arbitrary a deadline as it may at first seem.[1] The second deadline, getting the finished, polished manuscript on the desk of an agent is a bit more subjective, as it’s reliant on the first being completed in a timely manner. I’m confident though that I can make this deadline, but to get there, I’m going to need help. That’s where you come in.

Yes, you, the person at the other end of this computer screen, whose eyes are reading these words right now.

I’m going to need guinea pigs beta readers to help me stay on target and reach my goal. A beta reader is someone who likes to read, (science fiction, specifically) who wants to be a part of the creative process (because it’s fun)  and above all, a beta reader is someone who has a well-manicured pedantic streak. If you have an eye peeled for typos, like to quibble about grammar and come out of a movie plotting all the ways the writers could have told the story better, than you are who I’m taking about. Dear pedants: your finely tuned eye and perspicacity is not a curse, but a virtue, one I wish to exploit for the mutual gain of the world! Or at least me.

So, how this works: I send you, dear beta readers, part of the manuscript every 2-3 weeks.[2] your job will be to do your thing and read the story, looking for grammatical and continuity errors, writing notes asking questions and generally acting as a spare set of eyeballs and remote brains, using your finely honed instinct as habitual editors and creative types to make this the best novel it can be. Finally you get to look over an author’s shoulder and tell them what they’re doing wrong! You’ve wanted to do this your whole life and now I’m offering you the chance. Let’s fulfill our dreams together!

If you want o be one of my dear beta readers and new best friends, send me a message via email, Twitter or Facebook.

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1. I loose my job in six months and I’m tired of doing other things, badly, and writing as a hobby. Hence, the six month deadline. My true, not-so-secret resolution is to become a professional writer this year. That’s the new job I plan to start July 1st. This means finances will be…creative this year. But so be it. I wanted to loose weight anyway, and starving is a kind of diet. So see, it’s a traditional resolution after all!

2. I’m planning on using Google Docs to track comments and changes, though I can arrange to deliver hard copies to those of you who live in the Portland metro area.

Clap Louder, You Swine!

Daniel over at Crooked Timber has a nice little post on the financial crisis and how, contrary to popular opinion, it wasn’t the result of stupid bankers banking stupidly, but from far more complex issues, as financial problems tend to be. As an aside, he linked to this article in the Spectator by Melanie Phillips, who blames the bankers (of course) but also casts the whole predicament in the frame of the culture war, so that it isn’t just the fault of an army of incompetent professionals infiltrating the highest echelons of the financial industry, but also the fault of all us atheists. Again. Our moral perfidity is so far reaching as to have touched even the sacred halls of the banking industry, which, until Richard Dawkins came along, was lily white and motivated purely by Christ’s injunction to take what thou hast and give it to the poor at an adjustable, 30 year rate with high yield dividends.[1]

Continue reading “Clap Louder, You Swine!”

Viva la Revolucion!

I was hoping to live long enough to see the US adopt some Socialist ideas, I just didn’t expect it to happen like this, or this quickly. Yikes. John Quiggin:

A couple of days ago, I thought my call for full-scale nationalisation of the banking sector would remain beyond the pale of political acceptability for at least a week. But in today’s paper I read the following, very sensible assessment

“Inevitably, the US, Britain and Europe are going to end up with nationalised banking systems in one form or another, and with governments guaranteeing not only their deposits but probably all their liabilities. The nationalisation will be a temporary emergency measure. But for some time at least the systemically important banks effectively are going to be public utilities and must be regulated accordingly.

This taxpayer rescue of banking systems opens up a new and potentially very important avenue for unfreezing bank lending and restoring the flow of credit. If governments effectively control the banks, what is to stop them from demanding that they start lending again?”

And what wild-eyed socialist wrote this? Alan Wood in the Australian.

Meanwhile, calls for a guarantee of bank deposits are gaining force.

Of course, none of this constitutes a shift to socialism in any meaningful sense of the term. But it does mean, for quite some time to come, the end of neoliberalism (or free-market liberalism or whatever you want to call the set of ideas centred on the proposition that markets can do a better job than governments in managing risks of all kinds).

As John Quiggin points out, this isn’t Socialism in the usual, “let’s feed everybody and make sure we have health care and education” sense but in the, “let’s make sure the rich don’t suffer the depredations we gladly heap on the poor.” We being the Bush administration, which means that, as usual, it’s Conservative ideals turned all wibbly wobbly, so that now Free Market Capitalism = Socialism for the Rich. Swell.

The upside being that the next time some jackass politician* gets on TV and tells us that gollygee, we’d love everyone to have Universal Health Care but we just can’t afford to go down that road just yet, sorry, they are, as usual, full of shit. 700 Billion for bank bailouts is a hell of a lot more than Universal Helathcare would ever cost. I mean, that’s only slightly more money then we’ve burned in Iraq.

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* Sadly, that jackass politician may turn out to be Obama.