4

The Umbrella Revolution….

HONG KONG (September 30, 2014) —  In one of the biggest political challenges for The People’s Republic of China (aka Communist China) since the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989, pro-democracy protesters took to the streets Tuesday in a growing confrontation with China over the financial hub’s future as either an enclave of freedom or another communist-controlled city.

Some protesters are already labeling the movement The Umbrella Revolution for the umbrellas many are holding to deflect pepper spray and tear gas that was lobbed by police on Sunday night.That fueled even more protesters to come out in force Monday. Tens of thousands of young demonstrators blocked what are normally some of Hong Kong’s busiest streets.

China, which has ruled Hong Kong since 1997 as “one country, two systems,” has denounced the week-long protest and, in typical communist behavior, blocked information about it from reaching the mainland of China.

Ever wonder how and why America fought for freedom in the late 18th century during the American Revolution? Look to Hong Kong today, and the Umbrella Revolution…..

                                           *          *          *          *

I've visited Hong Kong more often than any other city in the world, including cities within my own country, the United States of America….at least two dozen visits throughout my lifetime….as a child….as a United States Naval Officer….as a private world traveler in my retirement.

There are few places as fascinating, dynamic, industrious or exciting as Hong Kong!

I watched with heartbreaking sadness as Hong Kong left the British Commonwealth in 1997 and passed to the jurisdiction of Communist China.

I now watch with a held-breath, trepidation, and the greatest of joy and hope as the young people of Hong Kong fight for their freedom from the bondages of Communist China.

I sincerely wish the free people of Hong Kong all the very best of luck in their pursuits!

我衷心祝愿香港所有的好运的自由人在自己的追求! [Chinese (Simplified) translation]

我衷心祝愿香港所有的好運的自由人在自己的追求![Chinese (Traditional) translation]

And a final note to the “rulers” in Beijing: you might do best to let Hong Kong go their own way if you value your own economy and future!

                                           *          *          *          *

»CLICK the photos for more details….

»Photos via ForeignPolicy (one of the most reliable, accurate, analytic and influential sources of news around the world).

Anonymous Ukrainian hackers have leaked a cache of documents revealing the interactions between separatists in eastern Ukrainian and a Russian far-right political party.

These documents offer fascinating insights into the relationship between the Russian Far Right and the separatists now active in eastern Ukraine.

New Document Leak Reveals Scope of Collaboration Between Moscow and Donetsk

anonymous said:

Are cleaners and food makers worthwhile jobs? Cuz how badly your campaigning for them to get essentially nothing. U don't value the work....

Since when? I’m not campaigning for them to get nothing, I’m campaigning for the market to work at equilibrium where the optimum number of workers are working for the optimum wage. 

I certainly value, for instance, the people who make my Chick-Fil-A chicken nuggets. I am willing to pay a certain amount of money for my chicken nuggets, and that money goes to the company, who pays the employees.

The decision of what to pay the employees is complicated. Companies have to factor in how much people are willing to pay for a product and how much of that product they’re willing to produce. To produce more product, they’ll have to hire more workers and probably build new facilities and machines. Expanding production does, however, often reduce the unit cost of the product, as they can buy in bulk, use assembly lines, and so on.

To hire more workers in a flooded market, they don’t have to raise the wages they pay. However, in a labor market where there is a greater demand for workers than there is a supply of workers, they will have to raise the wages to hire enough people.

I’m going to give you a little bit of my AP Economics course that I took in high school (just the basics), since you may not have taken one yourself. I’m putting Econ 101 under the “read more” for the sake of my followers who do actually know how the economy works.

Read More

Jus days after making a massive oil discovery in the Russian Arctic over the weekend, ExxonMobil will be pulling out of the joint project due to Western sanctions. But the Houston, Texas-based oil giant isn’t exactly out in the cold.

“It’s a long-term business,” Charles Erbinger, director of the Energy Security Initiative at the Brookings Institute, told International Business Times earlier this month, amid conflicting rumors about Exxon’s Russian plans.

He explained that Exxon’s work on this particular well in the Kara Sea has only just begun, and that most aren’t expecting the region to yield anything substantial for at least a few years. Plus, even without the sanctions in place, Exxon and Rosneft would have withdrawn workers in October, since it becomes too cold to operate.

But, with estimated stores worth roughly $900 billion, the oil field is certainly a part of Exxon’s plans for the future. Over the long term, “it would be a real setback for Exxon,” Erbinger said.

We need to summon the will to turn this corner, the State needs to exercise its powers in a reasonable fashion and that means that the Armstrong Report must be properly considered.

Environmentalist Dr. Wayne Kublalsingh takes up a second hunger strike to protest the construction of a section of highway, but the stakes are now much higher than a simple road.

Second Hunger Strike Over Highway May Leave Trinidad & Tobago Fighting For Its Soul

People who dismiss the unemployed and dependent as ‘parasites’ fail to understand economics and parasitism. A successful parasite is one that is not recognized by its host, one that can make its host work for it without appearing as a burden. Such is the ruling class in a capitalist society.
—  Jason Read
8

TV News Misses Yet Another Opportunity To Cover Climate Change

Photos: NYC Climate Change March Rallies Over 310,000

Re: No one cares about climate change

Four Questions for After the Climate March

Protesters Take to the Streets to Sound Alarm on Climate Change in New York, Across the World

Protesters At People’s Climate March In NYC Cal For Financial Incentives To Help Fight Global Warming

Thousands Rally in New York for the People’s Climate March

Leonardo DiCaprio and Sting among thousands on New York climate change march

People’s Climate March in Photos

Climate protesters march near Wall Street, block street near NYSE

Climate change protesters march on Wall Street

Climate March Spin-Off ‘Flood Wall Street’ Clashes With Cops

Dozens arrested as police face off with Flood Wall Street protesters

Parody Pink

Last Christmas, while preparing for a family gathering, I continued the long and arduous process of ensuring every child in my extended family is raised exactly the way I was: surrounded by an inexhaustible supply of Legos.

image

The children had aged a lot since I first began my endeavor to produce clones of myself. I had already upgraded them from the larger, colorful blocks to the more advanced models and it was getting time to take that next step into functional things with working mechanical parts. For the boys, this was easy: there was no shortage of complex machines with a variety of versatile pieces, marketed to look more action-packed and enticing than a backhoe has any right to be. For the girls, though, I was faced with a different problem entirely.

On one hand, I didn’t want to have the little girls open their presents and think I had accidentally given them something meant for their brother. It’s bad enough that I had forgotten all these children’s names and solely referred to them by their height and hair color; I didn’t want to make it look like I had forgotten their genders too. Not to mention if they just ended up trading the presents to a sibling, I would have failed in my attempt to create clones of myself.

On the other hand, I didn’t want to enforce gender roles on these small children. If you look at the Lego products that are marketed toward girls, they’re not very… Lego. They have a strong focus on characters and accessories, and any actual building is typically limited to very simple tables, countertops, and other elements of interior decorating. Something with building versatility or actual mechanical functions was completely out of the question - the closest you got was this “inventor workshop” that was ultiimately little more than a doll representing the concept of invention. 

image

How do the chemical vials and microscope relate to her mechanical work? Who knows. The math on the chalkboard isn’t even actual math; it’s just “A+D = C”. It’s the concept of algebra. This might be more excusable if it wasn’t coming from Lego; while boys are marketed actual robotics kits, girls are effectively marketed a toy of a toy.

I was raised pretty gender-neutral. My parents got me Polly Pockets and stuff right alongisde my action figures, and it wasn’t until I was much older that I learned about that implicit divide between “girl activities” and “boy activities”. I didn’t want to start pushing these kids into strict gender roles just by trying to get them a gift that was clearly for them, but I wasn’t quite sure what to do. 

So, I consulted a Lego Store employee on the matter.

image

She suggested I get something gender neutral for the girls. While everything mechanical and functional was very explicitly marketed toward boys, she pointed out to me that their Creator line was much more neutral. It had the pieces to build colorful houses and animals and stuff. If the girls liked it, maybe they’d eventually move on to the more advanced things in spite of the masculine marketing. That’s what she did. 

I wasn’t entirely happy with it, but it was the best I had. I went with some gender-neutral-yet-overly-childish-looking animal-building kits for the girls, and some running cars and machinery for the boys. The presents went over well; as usual I was totally the cool relative who made everyone else’s presents look lame. The experience was something that stuck with me, though. It was the first time I really came face-to-face with this curious absence not just in Lego’s product line, but in the market in general.

Pink Gears

image

Lego makes no pink gears.

I mean, yeah, sure, girls don’t have to like pink things. They’re allowed to shop in the whole toy store, not just the Fabled Pink Aisle, and there are plenty of gray and black gears out there should they choose to play with them. But why is there this necessity to sideline femininity if you want to explore these things?

I read an interesting piece recently by a game writer who made the rather poignant statement that sexism comes at her from two directions: in the male-dominated technology field she was expected to pretend to be “one of the guys”, while in the female-dominated publishing field she was expected to be a “proper woman”. I think this highlights the important point: sexism does not favor men or women, but dichotomy - the real losers being the stereotype-breaking people whose interests don’t cleanly fall into either the male/female category. We don’t do much to recognize those who straddle the divide, and this means we get no pink gears.

This is pretty silly, though. There is nothing explicitly masculine about engineering or robotics. In fact, it has some very traditionally feminine elements that I think you could play up into a brilliant marketing angle. Machines can be delicate, intricate, and beautiful. An action-packed piece of boxart showing a fast car skidding across a muddy highway is just as representative of mechanical creation as an elaborate piece of clockwork. 

In fact, watch, I’ll come up with a Lego product line right now:

image

On the low-price end, I went for a hummingbird. I figure it’d come with alt instructions to rebuild it into a dragonfly or butterfly or something, and basically be playing up this idea of turning circular motion from a crank into up-and-down motion to animate wing flapping. Maybe it could even make that conversion twice: a cable going up the stalk being pulled back and forth would be converted back into gear rotation, which would then power the wing flapping. It’d entail enough small parts that you could make some cool stuff with it.

On the mid-tier, I went for a kitten. I figure it’d be built around a pouncing function, its associated muscles rigged up with rubber bands. You could wind it up (maybe an excuse to use a worm screw?) and then hit its tail or something and it could probably clear at least three feet of air. Throw in some alt instructions for a turtle or something that can use the same spring principles for a wind up engine that makes it turtleflop across the ground.

For the highest priced bit, I’d go for a panther. Swap in green gears for pink to make it more special, have lots of sparkly green parts to accent the black. I’m envisioning this being motorized - large felines have a very iconic walk cycle, and I think the right parts could simulate it pretty well. Heck, depending how good its designer is maybe you could even have a secondary motor that will bend its midsection and shift its weight to the side so you can actually steer its movement. Alt instructions would probably be a dolphin or something; instead of a walk cycle it’d just be on wheels and animate its fin/tail movement. 

You could market these things in an extremely feminine way. Like, go full Lisa Frank on the fucking box art. They’re pretty and they play up an angle to robotics and creation you don’t see in toys much. And not just that, but it goes all the way up - it’s not just some gateway drug to get girls to buy the trucks and racecars, but rather a whole line of robotics that plays up traditionally feminine elements. Girls could buy it without feeling like they’re sacrificing their femininity to experiment with these interests. Boys would uncomfortably buy it and defend its awesomeness to their friends. It would make so much money

Companies are apparently afraid of money, though, since this hasn’t happened yet. Well, maybe the truth is a little more complicated than that.

Breaking Patterns

image

I frequently refer to myself as an Overglorified Fanfiction Author because it’s funny. There’s a lot of humor in the fact that I’m best known for writing a story based off an eight-year-old video game, and calling it “fanfiction” highlights the sheer ridiculousness of the entire situation. When you get down to the specifics, however, the stuff I write isn’t fanfiction - it’s parody.

The distinction is an important one that a lot of people miss when they try to undertake similar projects. There are tons of people who try to do Elder Scrolls-inspired stories that very accurately or realistically chronicle their experiences in the game, yet such stories quickly fade out of existence without you ever hearing about them. Sometimes it’s even by people who really love the source material, but they’re simply not saying anything about it. You saw the same phenomenon in the Homestuck fandom at its apex: hundreds of people coming up with their own “Sburb Groups” of internet friends and chronicling their adventures into the Medium. They saw a formula that worked, and they struck out to imitate it. 

I think this is sort of the same mentality that drives gendered marketing. People know it works - products that hit every stereotype of masculinity have an audience among men, and products that hit every stereotype of femininity have an audience among women. So, creators make fanfiction that tries to capitalize off these successes, showing reverent respect and homage toward the companies that have sold better than them. 

And you rarely see that proper sense of parody toward these things. Like, you don’t see that drive that makes a creator simultaneously imitate and attack something. It’s baffling, because when this does happen it’s often wildly successful. Who would’ve thought to take the traditionally masculine concept of monsters and zombies and build a line of fashion dolls around it? Who would’ve thought to build a setting and adventure cartoon around traditionally feminine palettes and iconigraphy? These are ideas of parody - attacking the problems or monotony of a concept while simultaneously paying it homage, and it’s something that can generally only be created through a conscious effort to do just that.

People who just try to ignore gender stereotypes alltogether often fall into them anyway. Like a fantasy author who insists his story isn’t just Star Wars with dragons, people tell themselves that they’re not going to play their work into gendered stereotypes, but then do it anyway simply because they’ve come to view it as how things work. To make things worse, they don’t even call the resultant work “masculine” or “feminine” - they play into the stereotypes exactly but give it names like “serious”, or “pro-social”. In an attempt to be progressive with their language, they make an implicit statement that women are frivolous and men are antisocial. 

It’s something I think you can only really circumvent through intentional parody. You need to find that middleground that sexism attacks and openly start dancing around in it. Mock the work of others; acknowledge the established rules and violate them anyway. You need to be a beacon or weirdness that spurs other people to stand along with you, until in time you have created a bastion where your unconventional tastes are Just Plain Okay. 

Market Mercenary

image

You don’t defeat ideas by criticizing them. You defeat them by outcompeting them.

Far too few people recognize that criticism is a means to an end: you isolate the problems with something so that you can eventually render it powerless or irrelevant.

As I established at the beginning, Lego’s approach to gendered marketing left me without a satisfactory solution in my attempts to build a clone army. I’m probably not the only one who feels this way. There is an untapped money mine here while creators continue to pick away at the long-hollow ridges at each end of the gender spectrum. 

This isn’t just something that affects big companies. If you’re a creator, stop making fanfiction and start making parody. Be honest with yourself - no matter how original you think your work is, you’re paying homage to something you like. Recognize this, and poke a little fun at it instead. Address your biggest criticism. Combine it with something else you like. Do something no one else would ever think of doing. Don’t think it will work? Well it’ll definitely work better than a straight-up rehash of something else. 

The worst thing you can do is nothing new. Remember that the next time you make your gears gray.

10

"The American Survey image captured the expansionist desires of a fledgling republic after the Civil War. The surveys were meant to provide both valuable geological and topographical information about the West to the Congress, and were also a means of indirect subsidy for the private sector - to encourage land speculation and to attract the development of unsettled territories. Through their pictorial organisation these photographs demarcated land as possession, placing it under the singular view of a privileged eye. In demonstrating that the land could be encompassed in the monocular gaze of the camera lens, these images provided subliminal reinforcement of the idea that man could control it. Writing on the American West, Jane Thompson describes the power of these representations to locate an imperialist desire within the passive experience of the spectator, transferring an agenda in the service of a state apparatus to the psyche of the individual citizen. As she writes: ‘[the blankness of the plain] implies - without ever stating - that this is a field where a certain mastery is possible… the openness of the space means that domination can take place virtually through the act of opening one’s eyes, through the act, even, of watching a representation on a screen.’ As this experience of possession is ‘shared’ with the individual subject, the sense of triumph is claimed as a democratic realisation of personal freedom enabled by the state and economic opportunism. This defined a distinctly American mythology of the West as an area to be mastered and colonised and whose subordination could be experienced as a triumph on the personal level."

— Walead Beshty ”Notes on the Subject Without Qualities: From the Cowboy Flaneur to Mr Smith" in Afterall, No. 8 Autumn/Winter 2003

"Why landscape now? A few conjectures come to mind: it is certainly true that among educated, middle-class audiences, landscape is generally conceived of as an upbeat and wholesome sort of subject which, like mom and apple pie, stands indisputably beyond politics and ideology and appeals to ‘timeless values.’ This would sit well in our current conservative climate where images of the land (conceptual, historical, literary) from lakes Tahoe to Wobegon are being used to evoke the universal constancy of a geological and mythic America seemingly beyond present vicissitudes.

But this is too simple. Images of landscape cannot be perceived simply as an antidote to politics, as a pastoral fantasy lulling us back to some primordial sense of our own insignificance. Nor should landscape images be regarded simply as the occasion for aesthetic pleasure in arrangements of material objects in ironic constellations, found “happenings” for the lens whose references to the worlds beyond the frame rivet all attention on the sensibility of the artist.

These two prevalent constructions of landscape remind us that landscape as a subject of visual representation is a distinctly modern phenomenon. The taxonomic term “landscape” comes from European art history and refers to a genre of painterly practice that gathered momentum and prestige only in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In the aristocratic classical tradition of painting, landscapes were principally fields for noble action—carefully cultivated gardens suited to the gods and heroes who populated them. With the rise in the seventeenth century of the merchant bourgeoisie in Holland, a new sort of landscaper emerged—a seemingly more natural landscape that celebrated property ownership: the working water- or windmill, the merchant ship at anchor, the farmer’s field, the burgher’s estate. English landscape painting in the eighteenth century followed the Dutch model, though it supplanted the formulaic quality of earlier genre painting with scientific accuracy that reflected the increasing prestige and achievements of empirical science and its offspring, technology. The world landscape, in English, initially referred specifically to Dutch paintings and only later denoted the broader idea of a view or prospect.

Whether noble, picturesque, sublime or mundane, the landscape image bears the imprint of its cultural pedigree. It is a selected and constructed text, and while the formal choices of what has been included and excluded have been the focus of most art historical criticism to date, the historical and social significance of those choices has rarely been addressed and even intentionally avoided. (…) 

Thus, whatever its aesthetic merits, every representation of landscape is also a record of human values and actions imposed on the land over time. What stake do landscape photographers have in constructing such representations? A large one, I believe. Whatever the photographer’s claims, landscapes as subject matter in photography can be analyzed as documents extending beyond the formally aesthetic or personally expressive. Even formal and personal choices do not emerge sui generis, but instead reflect collective interests and influences, whether philosophical, political, economic, or otherwise. While most art historical/curatorial scholarship has concentrated on the artistic genius of a select few (and the stake in so doing is obvious), it is time to look afresh at the cultural meanings of landscapes in order to confront issues lying beyond individual intuition and/or technical virtuosity. The sorts of questions we might ask concern what ideologies landscape photographs perpetuate; in whose interests they were conceived; why we still desire to make and consume them; and why the art of landscape photography remains so singularly identified with a masculine eye.”

Deborah BrightOf Mother Nature and Marlboro Men: An Inquiry into the Cultural Meaning of Landscape Photography” (1985) in The Contest of Meaning: Critical Histories of Photography (1996), or in Illuminations: Women Writing on Photography from the 1850s to the Present (1996)

Photographs by Timothy O’Sullivan, Carleton Watkins, Sze Tsung Leong, Bryan Schutmaat, Susan Lipper and Robert Adams.

Watch on sagansense.tumblr.com

Engagement rings are a scam. Save yourself a few grand and invest in some originality.

Example: I “engaged” the lovely collection of star stuff (and resident Tumblr blogger) lawngirl with a 3D-printed Voyager spacecraft ring :)

I wonder if it would have been considered acceptable to anchor a medical report on heart disease solely in terms of its costs to employers – to headline a news story on cancer treatment with the words “working days lost to cancer”. I suspect not. While economic reporting on various vaguely defined patient groups is certainly becoming prevalent, I believe both medical professionals and news editors would feel compelled to include a more patient-based approach when reporting on what a friend has astutely called “X-rayable diseases”. I certainly hope they would not dream of telling the nation on the first page of the report what percentage of “the national disease burden” they form – which is what the CMO does, lumping all mental health issues together. It would be considered inexcusably insensitive.

Coping with mental illness can include feelings of self-blame, inadequacy and failure. It did for me, and does for many people I know. The economic commoditisation of human pain is dangerously close to victim-blaming. Such an approach can send the destructive message: see how much money you cost everyone, you broken person? Its dark heart is that the state’s only interest in its citizens is as economic units, occasionally broken and in need of quick and efficient repair, in order to slot back into the corporate design.
Watch on rhamphotheca.tumblr.com

A Brief Introduction to Marxism

This presentation looks at the basic idea of Marxism, specifically the conflict between the different classes in society.

(via: The Curious Classroom)

" Wage theft—employers’ failure to pay workers money they are legally entitled to—affects far more people than more well-known and feared forms of theft such as bank robberies, convenience store robberies, street and highway robberies, and gas station robberies. Employers steal billions of dollars from their employees each year by working them off the clock, by failing to pay the minimum wage, or by cheating them of overtime pay they have a right to receive. Survey research shows that well over two-thirds of low-wage workers have been the victims of wage theft."

Watch on redbloodedamerica.tumblr.com

Like the socialist utopia, the Loch Ness Monster requires a lot of magical thinking.  Now, magical thinking is not wishful thinking.  ”It sure would be cool if there was a Loch Ness Monster.”  That’s wishful thinking.  Magical thinking is the belief that belief can make things actually manifest themselves in the real world.

Magically thinking not only dulls reason, it kills reason; because magical thinking is actually a form of anti-thinking.  It’s belief in something not because of evidence but in spite of evidence.

If you retain anything from this video, make sure it’s the truth about “socialist” Sweden around the 5:20 mark.

Text
Photo
Quote
Link
Chat
Audio
Video