The Snow In The Summer or So-So

Knowledge is liberation

Koan

Every straight white man with a smartphone has two things: a podcast and the belief that they could win The Chase.

7 augustus 2022
The Weeknotes

This week...

20 juli 2022
From Strikethrough to Gamergate: the rise of christian fascism

Solarcat on Tumblr posted this:

I survived the Livejournal strikethrough of 2007

A shame that the wider internet culture didn't remember. If it had, we would have responded to "Gamergate" in a much more robust way.

It's often forgotten that Strikethrough '07 was the second such attack. And this blog can draw on our extensive archives to explain why.

(More: A potted history of Strikethrough and its 2006 antecedent, drawing out the arguments re-used since)

Would the whole course of history have been different if Ben and Mena Trott had had a spine? If Anil Dash were ever working for a better society? If Denise Paolucci had had the courage of her convictions? Doubt it. But it might have done.

The social breakdown around us wasn't caused by Livejournal. It was, in a very small way, enabled by it.

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4 juli 2022
PRETEXT: Havoc

What was Pretext? A literary book of new writing, loosely anthologised around a theme. It was published by Pen&inc Press, which operated out of the University of East Anglia in Norwich. Pretext published at least eight editions between 1999 and 2005; "Havoc" was edition 4, from autumn 2001.

The editor's foreword sets this volume in historical context: written and selected in August 2001, and then havoc came to our television screens. We'll judge the works as time capsules, from a time when shit is about to get real but we don't know it.

The main attraction is a diary by Lars von Trier about how he made The Idiots. Something called "dogma", which comes across as ridiculously rigid and unfriendly to the acting talent. While it's doubtless interesting to the arty-farty crowd of 2001, it's incredibly self-indulgent from this distance.

As an anthology of new writing, the quality is inevitably going to vary. Claire MacDonald's Lightly Smashed paints a vivid tale of a household about to fall apart, and Sarah May's Somewhere in the Middle of Nowhere conceals havoc in a relationship through the medium of a holiday. Other works, particularly those in translation, proved impenetrable.

Authors were allowed to interpret the theme, "Havoc", however they thought fit; some pieces had no clear link we could discern. We found Pretext hard going, the lack of a unifying voice - and the lack of clear themimg - ensured we approached each new work with trepidation rather than hope.

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5 juni 2022
Caitlin MORAN - More than a Woman

The sequel to How to be a Woman sees Caitlin Moran revisit some of the topics from the earlier book, expanded with the benefit of ten years' experience. It's still stridently feminist, still equal part funny and wince-some.

The opening few chapters are rip-roaringly funny, Moran can still make us laugh. But the chuckles soon fade away, as the book's heart comes into view. Loving people is hard, it requires sacrifice, and you'll lose them anyway.

Along the way, there are insights into parents who can't properly care for themselves any more, parenting the next generation, body image, how gender stereotypes hurt everybody. It's a memoir, and written from an upper-middle class comfortable place - the sort Moran both sneered at and secretly wanted in her youth.

Moran's politics haven't changed: she remains a Champagne socialist, she continues to advocate for change at the grassroots rather than the structural level - it's always been changes to your own life and those around you.

For us, the book felt a bit too long: we skim-read a number of chapters near the end, because they were just wittering on without going anywhere. We made a similar complaint about the prior volume. More skilful editors might have knocked this into better shape. Make no mistake, Caitlin Moran's sentences are still first-rate, and she's an awesome columnist. The argument doesn't land when extended to 300 pages.

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4 mai 2022
De verraders: twee

Dear Dear Conservative canvasser

Hey, come back!

Don't just drop your leaflets through the letterbox and run on! We've got things to discuss.

Or are you too frit to defend your record?

Democracy is more than you shoving lies through my letterbox. It involves you listening.

But you're too afraid to do that.

Scardey-cat! Coward!

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3 mai 2022
De verraders: één

Dear Labour canvasser

Thanks for dropping by today. Here's a note of everything we discussed.

No, I won't be voting for your party. One reason: Europe.

Yes, I'm aware that there was a supported proposal to leave the union. No, I don't believe it was a democratic decision. Two reasons for this.

First, there were more people who weren't permitted to express their opinion than voted for or against it - or didn't vote at all. When the biggest group is those disenfranchised, the change lacks democratic legitimacy.

And second, do you remember the atmosphere at the time? All the lies pushed out by one side? The way only one side went around threatening people, even killing an MP? Nothing done in such a hostile atmosphere is democratic.

Why, yes, I do recall how Labour activists worked hard to get the correct result. Shame it didn't include the man at the top. And a shame it didn't last beyond the result.

When the Conservatives delivered on the mandate they claimed - when they presented a white paper outlining their proposals - Labour endorsed it.

You, literally, voted for it.

Sure, I did tell your man at the time, Mr. Burden. He sent a patronising reply, six weeks later, and basically suggested that he knew democracy and I didn't.

This mess - all of this mess - it's his mess, it's your mess.

Do you have any proposals to clear it up? Cement our place at the heart of Europe, take power away from those partying whores in Whitehall? I'd love to talk further when you do.

Yes, I am aware that it's a straight fight between Labour and the Tory. Yes, I know that a vote for the Liberals - or the Greens - is effectively a wasted vote. We don't have PR? That's another time where Labour argued against democracy.

Fundamentally, I don't trust Labour. You've not objected to a perversion of democracy, you've chosen to hand those liars in Whitehall a blank cheque, and this is the result. Labour helped make this mess, and isn't bothered to clean it up. Labour don't regret their actions on the big things. Why should I trust you on the little things?

I've kept you long enough. I wish you well, but not this time.

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3 Januari 2022
Comic capers

Lew Stringer writes about Scotty and Freddy, from The Bash Street Kids. Until last year, they were known as "Spotty" and "Fatty", but politely asked their classmates to use real names rather than nicknames. It's all been handled with sensitivity, and the only people annoyed are those who think Lord Snooty and Billy the Cat still prowl The Beano's pages.

Stringer is one of the artists who freelance for DC Thompson - he's drawn some spectacular Keyhole Kate strips for this year's Dandy annual. Reflecting on his career, Stringer concludes,

"Political correctness" isn't a war on humour. We can still produce funny stuff without punching down at minorities and people who don't deserve to be ridiculed. In this day and age more of us should be using our humour to target the elities, the authority figures who'd do us down, not our fellow citizens. That's always been a tradition in humour comics too of course; for the underdog to get the better of the oppressor, and may that tradition not only continue but thrive!

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11 August 2021
Olympic report

How was the BBC's Crass Spectacle coverage on the radio? Very variable.

We're accustomed to the effortless move from one event to another, the hallmark of radio sport is to move swiftly. The commentators were the right blend of enthusiastic and knowledgeable. The coverage shared the tonal fault of the television coverage, it's over-emphasised the nationalist aspect of the spectacle. This blog's interested in sporting achievement and completely not about jingoism.

While the events coverage was good, the supporting coverage was predictable. Conversations with sportsfolk, and the families of sportsfolk, rarely rose above the banal. The chats were filler between events, and never aspired to be anything more.

Previews and reviews of the events concentrated on the day's top stories, often mediated through the nationalist teemiegeebee lens. We loved Steve Bunce's daily piece about unsung olympic heroes, but this was a rare glimpse beyond the quotidian.

And the radio coverage seemed deliberately to ignore some big stories. Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, the athlete who refused to back the autocratic regime in Minsk, was completely ghosted by the main coverage, and featured only occasionally in the general news bulletins.

They gave over a lot of time to bigots who didn't think Laurel Hubbard should compete in the weightlifting, and there was no effort to balance the coverage with people who do think Laurel Hubbard should compete. Mentions of Quinn, the non-binary competitor in the soccer, were zero: they don't fit into the BBC's corporate transphobia.

Nor did the Beeb mention the nonsense surrounding Caster Semanya, the 800m champion who was excluded for the crime of being a Black woman and a bit good. Would the BBC ask HRH Sir Sebastian Coe to defend the decisions of his World Athletics fiefdom? Would they heck! Would the BBC explain why Semenya wasn't allowed to defend her title? Would they heck! Would the BBC note that Semanya wasn't present? Couldn't even be bothered to do that.

Coverage of the events was as good as we'd expect. Coverage of everything else around the events was poor, and should have been done better.

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