Archive for January, 2010

Haiti, Disaster Capitalism, Politics and Stories: Some Links

January 30, 2010

The disaster in Haiti is beyond imagining.  When something goes beyond words, what can one say or do?  Well, donate, of course.  But how inadequate. 

It is going to be some time before I can collect my thoughts on this. 

Naomi Klein of Disaster Capitalism fame reminds us that the forces of profiteering / right-wing wackos are always looking for opportunities amidst the rubble of cities and the stench of the dead, as also reported here.  There has been little in the US press that I know of that has talked about more than how wonderful Americans are in aiding Haiti (not that I do not appreciate the generosity of ordinary Americans who are moved by the tragedy but surely this is a time to focus on the Haitians).  Some of the reporting in the American press is so Americentric that one wonders whether they see the rest of the world as mere appendages to America.  Much of what has been said about Haiti itself seems to have been about the looting whereas I have only recently seen a report about people helping each other, which surely can’t be that uncommon. 

I am still reeling from the results of the Massachusetts senatorial election, where the residents of the most liberal state in the country voted for a conservative Republican, Scott Brown.  I’ve often wondered why people vote against their interests.  Apparently others have wondered this as well, and the BBC has a thought-provoking article on the subject.  They quote an “exasperated Democrat,” Thomas Frank as saying 

“It’s like a French Revolution in reverse in which the workers come pouring down the street screaming more power to the aristocracy.”

and as another exasperated Democrat, Drew Westen, explains:

“… stories always trump statistics, which means the politician with the best stories is going to win: “One of the fallacies that politicians often have on the Left is that things are obvious, when they are not obvious.”

This makes me think about climate change (which is one of the issues liable to be affected by Brown’s election) and how the numbers don’t seem to convince people or at least to stimulate them to take action.  I am sure there are many complicated factors involved but perhaps one of them is that we need more and better and truer stories.  Tell all the truth, as Emily Dickinson said, but tell it slant.

Gender, Writing, Science

January 12, 2010

While I get ready for the new semester (and before I disappear from the world for a bit) I want to point to a great post on Jeff VanderMeer’s site on Gender and Writing.   It has been discussed at length elsewhere * that the problems now facing women writers are less of the overt editorial bias kind, and more to do with women not submitting as much as their male counterparts do (which latter has, I suspect, been true historically).  Part of it seems to be that women are not writing as much as men seem to do, although I wish someone would do a Ph.D. thesis on this and give us some data.  I speculate that women writers not writing very much is a consequence of the fact that we live in a gender-biased society, as Jeff’s article and the various responses, including a blog post by Rachel Swirsky, seem to agree.  

 Thank goodness somebody is talking about the dreaded second shift in the context of women writers!  I think women writers need to have a conversation amongst themselves about this, and whatever else is holding them back.  And I suspect that the reason why there are fewer female scientists than male might be rather similar.

Following that train of thought…


Magnetic Musings

January 8, 2010

I love astronomers.

Here’s one reason why.  Currently the solar system is passing through an interstellar cloud.  It is called the Local Interstellar Cloud, which is amusing enough considering its scale — but do you know what astronomers have nicknamed it?  The Local Fluff.

All right, so I’m easily amused.  But here’s the interesting thing about it.  According to this report from NASA, this cloud shouldn’t exist. 

The reason being that where it is right now there used to be supernovas.  Those supernovas did what stars of their type eventually do: ten million years ago they exploded, leaving behind a giant bubble of million-degree gas that should have ripped through the Local Fluff and destroyed/dispersed it. 

And yet the Local Fluff lives long enough to have been named a cutesy name by cheeky astronomers.