“Do the Right Thing”

Black Voters Didn’t Vote for Biden in South Carolina Because They ‘Lack Information’
https://www.thenation.com/article/politics/biden-black-vote/

The argument would be offensive if it weren’t also so dumb. Older black voters in South Carolina have a lifetime of education and experience dealing with the most persistent threat to their safety and rights in this country: white people.

My read of the South Carolina vote is that black people know exactly what they’re doing, and why. Joe Biden is the indictment older black folks have issued against white America. His support is buttressed by chunks of the black community who have determined that most white people are selfish and cannot be trusted to do the right thing.

‘God don’t like ugly’ is what my grandma used to say
https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/3/4/1924191/–God-don-t-like-ugly-is-what-my-grandma-used-to-say

One of the most valued attributes in the black community is empathy. One of our strongest motivators is survival. We see Donald Trump as a heinous enemy. That’s not paranoia. For us it is a fact of daily life. So we chose to vote for a man, a white man, who has exhibited empathy over decades, who went to Selma on Sunday, who showed up at Mother Emanuel, who attended Elijah Cummings’ funeral, and who had Obama’s back for eight years. We decided Biden has the best shot at assuring our survival.

The first article is locked behind a paywall. An easy lifehack to use to deal with these sorts of articles is that, for most web browsers, you can bypass the paywall if you hit the “esc” key before you start scrolling down.

The second article has a lot of good screencaps from Twitter, and it’s powerful. If you decide to read it, you might want to sit down first.

For me personally, there are two main things to take away from this conversation. The first is that many (but far from all, obviously) community leaders and organizers don’t actually spend that much time on social media. The second is that this country really needs to devote more effort to understanding communities that exist (for the most part) independently of the major coastal cities, and this is especially true of the American South.

Ugly, Following the Requirements of the Market

Baffled City: Exploring the architecture of gentrification
https://www.texasobserver.org/gentrification-architecture/

Ignored for years, redlined by the federal government, and systematically denied the loans that would have allowed the families who lived there to build generational wealth, these “hot,” “new” neighborhoods are being “discovered.” For someone to move in, someone else has to move out. So, in East Austin, in Houston’s Freedmen’s Town and Third Ward and Montrose, in Dallas’ Bishop Arts and Oak Cliff, among other gentrifying and -fied neighborhoods, the architectural language (what architects call “vernacular”) has become inseparable from the vocabulary of policy, where other complicated words, like “displacement,” “segregation,” “inequity,” and “NIMBYism,” are warring furiously.

The white elephants—towering over the bungalows and cottages that used to be good enough, obscuring the present and obliterating the past—reveal what Nicanor calls “two very different dynamics and two very different futures.” Maybe the saddest part is how few new Texas houses have porches, one of the features of older residential architecture that served as a gesture of welcome.

I had a front-row seat as this exact thing happened in Atlanta during the 2000s, and “ugly” is the right word to describe it. To be honest, gentrification was a major factor in my decision to go to grad school, as I could no longer afford to live in the city where I’d built my work history and made professional connections. In my experience, the point the writer makes about adding cars to these cities is prescient, as Atlanta came to have the worst traffic in the country during the relatively short span of the four years I spent in school.

And good lord these types of residences are eyesores, not to mention made of particle board.

The photos in this article are wonderful, and I recommend reading it in a web browser if you’re interested. The site doesn’t have autoplay videos or “disable your ad blocker” pop-ups, and it’s worth it.

Technologies of Behavior Modification

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff review – we are the pawns
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/feb/02/age-of-surveillance-capitalism-shoshana-zuboff-review

While insisting that their technology is too complex to be legislated, there are companies that have poured billions into lobbying against oversight, and while building empires on publicly funded data and the details of our private lives they have repeatedly rejected established norms of societal responsibility and accountability. And what is crucially different about this new form of exploitation and exceptionalism is that beyond merely strip-mining our intimate inner lives, it seeks to shape, direct and control them. Their operations transpose the total control over production pioneered by industrial capitalism to every aspect of everyday life.

I’m not sure I’m up for reading the actual book, which sounds miserably depressing, but this is an interesting review. Two paragraphs are devoted to a blunt deconstruction of Pokémon Go, which is fair.

Even though most of the people (especially artists) I used to follow on Tumblr have moved to Twitter and Instagram, I still feel a bit weird about engaging with those two platforms. Despite its flaws, I appreciate that Tumblr is relatively chaotic and isn’t making money for anyone. Activity on the site has dropped off since the beginning of the year, and I’ll miss it when it’s gone. Also, as much as Discord annoys me for being exclusive, inaccessible, and difficult to use, I’ve found myself spending more time on art and sketch channels during the past few months.

Meanwhile, AO3 remains the Gold Standard of Internet and continues to be my happy place.

Time Costs Money

A dirty secret: you can only be a writer if you can afford it
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/feb/27/a-dirty-secret-you-can-only-be-a-writer-if-you-can-afford-it

According to a 2018 Author’s Guild Study the median income of all published authors for all writing related activity was $6,080 in 2017, down from $10,500 in 2009; while the median income for all published authors based solely on book-related activities went from $3,900 to $3,100, down 21%. Roughly 25% of authors earned $0 in income in 2017.

I would argue that there is nothing more sustaining to long-term creative work than time and space – these things cost money – and the fact that some people have access to it for reasons that are often outside of their control continues to create an ecosystem in which the tenor of the voices that we hear from most often remains similar.

Where is the lie smh.

Something the article doesn’t address is that, putting the act of writing aside, actually submitting your work for publication is another full-time job. Although I have a ton of ideas for original stories, one of the reasons I’ve stuck with fanfic since I started getting serious about writing is that not having to deal with the fiction market has given me the space to write, edit, and be a part of a community while still putting in all the necessary hours at my actual job. I don’t want to say that it would have been impossible for me to publish original fiction as a tenure-track professor, but I feel much more comfortable facing the challenge now that I’ve left that position.

2020 Writing Log, Part Eight

– I was rejected from the Path of the Goddess zine, and this hit me surprisingly hard. I think that, because I love Skyward Sword so much, and because I love drawing Skyward Sword fan art, the affective impact was much stronger than it should have been. I spent the entire week carrying this sense of rejection around with me, and it was tough.

– But I still finished the pencilwork for the illustration I was going to submit to the zine, and this week I started inking it. It’s really cute, if I do say so myself. I hope that, after a few more zine rejections, I’ll have put together a much stronger art portfolio.

– Gosh I need a good ritual for dealing with rejection. Perhaps I should make one up myself.

– I posted Chapter 29 of Malice on AO3. Idk, maybe it was the zine rejection, but I’m starting to feel like this story is a silly waste of time. Maybe I’ll take a break after posting Chapter 30.

– I edited and posted Chapter 27 on FFN.

– I reached peak nerd by writing the beginnings of a glossary of some of the Zelda-themed equivalents of contemporary technology I came up with for the story. (Photoshop is “Pictoshop,” for example, and Grindr is “Tinglr.”) In an earlier writing log, I mentioned possibly needing to create something like a concordance, but that seems like a lot of work. Do people use wikis for that sort of thing?

– The artist I contacted about doing a Legend of Zelda comic with me accepted the commission, put together an amazing reference sheet, and sent me the thumbnails. This is going to be good.

– I also spent time editing the stories in It Never Happened. One of them I ended up expanding substantially, and one I decided to commission an artist to turn into a comic. I asked them to do an illustration, and they asked me if it would be okay to make a comic instead. I was like, YES!!!!

– You know who would make a really good art director? This person right here! Maybe I should start looking into those sorts of positions after I move to Philadelphia.

Take to the Sea, Lads!

No Man Is An Island?
https://www.currentaffairs.org/2020/01/no-man-is-an-island

But even if you are unconvinced that the difficulty of forming new states is proof that we live on a tyrannical planet, these questions do open our eyes to some of the absurdities within our system. Why should a French or a German citizen be born with access to world-class services and well-protected rights (actual implementation on the basis of minority status may differ), while a Somalian citizen is not only denied those things, but also faces huge obstacles in becoming a citizen (or even a resident) of anywhere else? If you are born a citizen of Japan, there are 190 countries you can travel to freely without a visa; if you are a citizen of Afghanistan, there are only 25. If you are born a U.K. citizen, and feel like a change of scene, you can pay $7 for permission to go to Canada, hop on a flight, and stay for up to six months without anyone bothering you. If you are born in a refugee camp, it can take years before you even get a chance to live in a place like Canada. So how can we possibly consider ourselves to be people who care about freedom and autonomy, when thanks to borders our destinies are practically assigned to us at birth? Is it absurd to form your own state? Or is it more absurd to have states in the first place?

This article is a fun read, as well as a good balance between “specific enough to be interesting” and “short enough to accommodate my pathetic attention span.” I also happen to strongly agree with the point the essayist is making. Even despite the recent anxiety concerning international pandemics, the legal concept of national borders becomes more absurd and inhumane with each passing year.

Mildly Cursed Content

How the Furby went from adorable pet to cursed object
https://aux.avclub.com/how-the-furby-went-from-adorable-pet-to-cursed-object-1841816828

Artificial intelligence had been a source of experimentation, speculation, and science fiction since the 1950s, but the Furby represented one of the first attempts at domestic AI mass production. With built-in sensors and infrared detectors, the Furby could learn from and adapt to its environment, which allowed it to respond to shifting conditions. Hold it upside-down, and it would tell you, “I’m scared.” Pet its back, and it would say, “Me love you.” The Furby was meant to be an endearing foothold uniting man and evolving machine, and in some circles, that earnest adoration for the toy still exists today—for example, in a few very wholesome communities on Tumblr—but outside of that niche, the Furby’s cuteness has increasingly become cursed by a culture of techno-paranoia.

Today, as AI and evolutionary algorithms continue to become integrated into our day-to-day, the Furby remains an avatar for our fears of a technological takeover. People have responded with cursed Furby content online, which either involves mutilating the toys or refashioning them into entirely new beasts.

This is probably true of every internet subculture to a certain extent, but it’s my personal opinion that the “Furby torture” people really need to find a new hobby. It’s not that I object to the creation of cursed objects; rather, I think these people are putting a lot of time and energy into something that isn’t that interesting – or even that transgressive, relatively speaking.

I’ve seen things during casual searches on Etsy that have made my skin crawl, and these cursed Furbies have nothing on the “action figure mods” and “haunted dolls” that people routinely create with a (seemingly?) complete absence of irony. This in turn makes me wonder how common and widespread knowledge of these subcultures is. Screencaps of these sorts of things turn up all the time on Reddit, so they’re a part of my daily visual landscape, but is there perhaps a meaningful generational divide between “people who see Furby microwave videos as the shallow end of a very deep pool” and “people who don’t know what Reddit is”?