Friday, May 19, 2023


 Jordan Neely was failed by society.

When he expressed this, a stranger decided to murder him as punishment.

Right-wingers were absolutely fucking delighted by this, and have donated millions of dollars to the killer's legal defense.

Right-wing pundits and politicians quickly coalesced around the term "Good Samaritan" to describe the killer.

The Republican Party has been wholly subsumed by Antichrist Spirit.  Nothing more to say.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Reading Round-Up

 Here are three short novels I have read since finishing with Tokarczuk.  What more can I say?

Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle (1963)

I've often thought I should read more Vonnegut, but I don't know--I somehow always feel like if I haven't by now, it's kind of too late for me to really appreciate him--his ideal audience is younger than I am, at this point.  I feel the same way about David Foster Wallace and Joseph Heller.  Well, regardless, I did read this here book.  This is the one where the world ends in ice--well, from the perspective of the narrator it does, at any rate; it's not really clear if his judgment on this made-up science can be trusted.  Not clear to me, at any rate; I don't think it's something we're really supposed to think about.

I mean, it was fine.  I liked it better than Breakfast of Champions; not as much as Slaughterhouse-Five.  It certainly wasn't unpleasant to read.  And yet, it does have something of the feel of a shaggy-dog story, where you get to the end and wonder, is that it?  Did I get anything out of this?  Well, having read these three novels, I feel like I can in good conscience ignore the rest of Vonnegut's output.

Ryu Murakami, In the Miso Soup (1997)

How many people--Westerners, at any rate--do you think have read Murakami either because they confused him with Haruki, or because they had some vague sense that this seemed like it was probably basically the same sort of thing?  Probably a lot, I bet.  The two of them ARE almost exact contemporaries, but aside from a general patina of weirdness, they're nothing alike, at least based on this.

It's about a guy named Kenji who makes a decent, if sleazy, living serving as a guide for foreign sex tourists in Tokyo.  His latest client is an odd guy named Frank who, he starts to think, may actually be a gruesome murderer.  There's one scene of very unpleasant violence (which comes on quite abruptly; be prepared), and then things end ambiguously.

Well, I thought this was all right, actually.  I was sort of interested in the milieu because I've been playing Sega's Yakuza games lately, and they always feature some element of the kind of...thing you see here.  I mean, sex clubs that we're frequently told aren't actually sex clubs but clearly...are?  Japanese culture is confusing to me.  But it was interesting to see these issues addressed from a different perspective, though it's difficult to tell what if any argument Murakami is trying to make.  Regardless, I might try one of his other novels, but if it relies on shock the way this does to some extent, that might be enough.  I can neither confirm nor deny at this point, but he might be a one-trick pony.  As, indeed, that other Murakami is.

Heinrich von Kleist, Michael Kohlhaas (1810)

Here's something different!  This is a very strange story where the title character, a horse trader, gets angry because he's compelled to leave his horses at a local castle, and when he comes back for them, they've been maltreated and they're all emaciated.  So, to get revenge he wreaks bloody violence all over the place, until he gets a message from Martin Luther (yes!) urging him to knock it off.  This shames him into stopping, and the rest of the book is concerned with the question of whether he'll be recompensed for his horses or put to death or both or what.

If this sounds a bit odd, you're not wrong--it is VERY odd.  From my perspective, anyway.  I have to imagine the contemporaneous audience would have read it differently--in the same was we're being anachronistic when we call Tristram Shandy "postmodern."  Very interesting, though.  Also, Kleist died in a murder-suicide pact with his terminally-ill lover, which is the most German-Romantic way to go possible, so good work on that, I guess.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Olga Tokarczuk, The Books of Jacob (2014)

OH MY GOODNESS GOOD LORD.  Yes, I've been reading this book on and off for...months.  I thought I was past lollygagging around like that, but in this case, not.  Well, I finally finished it.  It seemed like a good book to read; the wikipedia entry describes it thusly:

The Books of Jacob is a 912-page novel divided into seven books. It begins in 1752 in Rohatyn and ends in Holocaust-era Korolówka. Its title subject is Jacob Frank, a Polish Jew who claimed to be the messiah. The novel combines dozens of third-person perspectives of those connected to Jacob Frank.

It sounds like the sort of maximalist thing I have traditionally enjoyed.  Also, for whatever it's worth, Tokarczuk won the Nobel Prize in 2018.

Read more »

Sunday, March 12, 2023

But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao...

 I'm doing language cafes at a high school for Ukrainian refugees here in Tallinn, so they're on my mind a lot lately.  Obviously, you don't need to physically be around them to empathize with them, and I don't want this to sound like some sort of ridiculous hipster-ish "I care about the refugees on a much deeper level than you," but, I mean, it's only human for people to be especially moved by things that are personalized for them.  There's currently a photo display of refugees in the town square:

It is extremely moving, or such was my experience.

Read more »

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Don't buy the monster's videogame! What the hell is wrong with you?!?

 People call JK Rowling a "TERF," but even that is giving her too much credit, I feel.  I mean, okay, it's not really giving her credit, but she likes to talk about what a feminist she is and how she cares about women's rights and supports abortion and same-sex marriage and all, but the fact is, she uncritically supports and refuses to distance herself in any way from the most nightmarishly hard right people there are--people who would strip women of all rights and force all gay people back into the closet at best--as long as they hate trans people as much as she does.  Actions speak pretty darned loudly, Joanne.  

The point is, she's a horrible person, and we live in a time where gruesome, evil monsters are literally trying to whip up a genocide against trans people.  So don't buy her fucking game!  What the hell is wrong with you?!?  This is the no-brainer of no-brainers!

Or so you would think.  But when you point out this extremely obvious moral calculus--moral arithmetic, let's say--you get a whole lot of dumb pushback.  So let's have a top-five list of disingenuous "it's fine to buy this woman's game" arguments.

Read more »

Thursday, February 02, 2023

Lady Stardust sang his songs of darkness and disgrace

 Look, I know I'm an idiot, but after gay marriage was legalized nationwide, I kind of figured the US was done with official bigotry on a widespread level.  Obviously, I underestimated the number of us that have a desperate need to fear and hate.  The current anti-trans panic is incredibly horrifying.  Obviously.  I don't need to say that, but I feel I ought to say it, so I am.  Solidarity is important even if individually it doesn't seem likely to do much.

I try to fathom transphobia, and I'm not going to say I can't do it.  It's easy to see how trans people would seem threatening to some, threatening as they do the stability of our gender norms.  Still, it's not THAT hard to get over--is it?  I'm not even sure when I first became aware of the very concept.  I vaguely remember a friend in grade school saying something about "sex changes;" that was probably it.  I likely thought this was a sort of silly idea, but I definitely didn't have any violently adverse reaction, and when I realized that this was a serious thing and not just a joke, I took it in stride.  As anyone would, if they haven't been carefully taught.

Well, obviously, many people have been, and many people who may or may not have been are all too willing to exploit their hatred for power.  The first thing I always wonder when the topic comes up is, is it really possible that you lack the metacognitive awareness to realize that people who spread fear and hatred of marginalized groups are never looked back on as the good guys by history?  Unfortunately, I then am forced to concede that this is a naive question.  Homophobia remains, and the legal status of gay marriage is not nearly as set in stone as I'd thought.  Anti-Semitism is resurgent (look, or rather don't look if you don't want to be profoundly depressed, at junior neonazi Nick Fuentes and his fanbase).  Islamophobia never even temporarily abated.  And as for good old-fashioned racism against black people...just look at Ron DeSantis and his merry band of fascist thugs.  So...yeah, they don't realize that history always judges bigotry harshly because they don't judge bigotry harshly, or at all.  Well, that's true for many of them, at least.  For others, it may just be "sure, racism et al is bad, but this is different."  Sure, sure, it's always different, innit?  Blech.

Gawd, we are SO proficient at hating one another.  Look, if you have ingrained bigotries, that's okay as long as you recognize them for what they are and make an honest effort to overcome them.  But if you're just wallowing in them, you are officially The Worst, and society would be better off if you would fling yourself off an embankment and lie there until you're eaten by vultures.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Christine Brooke-Rose, Between (1968)

I was not kidding when I said I was going to follow up the Freddy marathon with "some bristly, avant-garde fiction."  I've been neglecting Brooke-Rose, but she's still one of my favorites, and here's the third book from the Christine Brooke-Rose Omnibus.

Read more »