Jul. 3rd, 2012

x_los: (Four by Toulouse-Lautrec)
Status Anxiety: I am living proof that ‘two-tier’ exams work
Captain America: The First Avenger Rifftrax: Has anyone seen this? I'd rather not invest unless I know it's worth watching.
The Sonnets [Paperback]: sounds either interesting or awful
Poll results on 'canceled TV shows people would most like to bring back': meh, agree with a couple, Firefly so over-rated it's not true
Paradises Lost: opera in two acts, based on the novella by Ursula K. Le Guin
How The Taste Of Tomatoes Went Bad (And Kept On Going)
The English Girls' School Story: Subversion and Challenge in a Traditional Conservative Literary Genre: "Girls school stories are dangerous; they change lives. So claims Judith Humphrey, who combines wry wit and rigorous scholarship in her wide-ranging exploration of the phenomenon of the English girls' school story and its continuing popularity with adult women. She argues convincingly that this seemingly innocuous and conformist genre bristles with subversive messages that normalise strong, proactive and intelligent women in a society that has preferred them to be quite otherwise. In this female world, women, framed by society as lacking and incomplete without men, quietly assume themselves to be whole and slip without question or contest into all positions of authority, even, as Dr Humphrey persuasively argues in the chapter on spirituality, that of the all powerful godhead. Replete with examples and quotations from the school stories themselves, this book, though academically challenging, is often funny. Crucially, it portrays a world in which girls and women are happy, loving and free a world that is still evolving in the Internet fan fiction that reworks its themes and recreates its community. Girls school stories have long been dismissed as formulaic third-rate literature. Judith Humphrey claims that, on the contrary, they are sites of empowerment, and this book explains their significance in the body of children's literature as well as their importance in the lives of many women."

Should read that for charm.

25 Things I Learned From Opening a Bookstore
The Amazing Spider-Man is So Good I Don’t Know What to Say About It
Hilariously shirty review of the John Campbell Memorial Award winner
The Strongest Woman In America Lives In Poverty
BBC's Summer Shakespeare Season Guide
McEvedy's Agent
Top 10 Non-Dickens Books for Dickens Fans
Amon, stand-up comic
36 Terrible Sex Tips for Men: "27. "81 percent of women do not want you to attempt anal sex without asking."
A unexpected loss for Team Surprise Anal."
The Avengers in Fifteen Minutes
Avengers Eating Schwarma: not thrilling, but I didn't know it happened
Catullus is FIERCE
Willow Smith Declares ‘I Am Me’ in New Video, as If We Could Ask for Anything More: meh, not v. fun
Donatella Versace Says Feminism Is Dead
Fast Roast Pork with Rosemary and Caramelised Apples: made tonight, sans sauce. Nice flavors, but not tender enough!
Literary Maps of USA and Britain
Lavie Tidhar meta short story on sf
god-awful review of Prometheus, what the actual fuck
'Derechos'/Land Hurricanes: American weather is always weirder than English weather, and way more interested in seeing you dead
Revealed: the scale of sexual abuse by police officers: horrible subject, obviously, but I kind of love the strange, detached archaism of the Guardian's language here
x_los: (Cleopatra /Look/)
Ablism and Ebooks: tbh, kind of dumb. I mean maybe this is a dimension that should enter the argument more often, but even people who are most stridently against ebooks don't like it as the huge publishing trend it is, or don't like it as an aesthetic experience. I haven't heard anyone, not even the most profound luddites, say 'yea, and take away all of the ebookes, even from thee dis-abeled, who canst reede no other way!!' What smugness there in is the debate--is on both sides. I mean I've heard oozing pretension from both camps. And I don't want to say 'omg disabled people, it's not abooooout yooooou', because that sounds like the cuntiest/aka pretty much what they hear 24/7, but I believe that the Umbrage in this argument is about Tony Stark mudwestling Walter Benjamin circa "Unpacking My Library", and that Benjamin is not saying 'fuck you, disabled people, and fuck your reading experience.'

Tilda as Bowie
People in Glass Closets: Anderson Cooper and Straight Responses to Coming Out
Garth Nix on his novel writing process
Giving Bad Advice To Kings: beginning strong, ending weaker
Fall of a Genius: On the life and death of Alan Turing. Sadly I don't really grasp the discussion of decidability and real numbers. Should read more on this.
Our Billionaire Philanthropists:

In the 1940s, The Rockefeller Foundation launched a drive to develop new high-yield crops in order to improve Mexican agricultural productivity. The subsequent explosion of food production in the developing world in the 1950s and afterward, known as the Green Revolution, is now a textbook illustration of the world-changing breakthroughs that philanthropy can achieve—and of the dangers it courts.

The Rockefeller Foundation’s original motives were not purely altruistic; there were strong geopolitical reasons for fomenting the Green Revolution. The leftist government of Mexico had nationalized Standard Oil’s assets at enormous cost to the firm in the late 1930s; when a far more business-friendly administration came into power in 1941, Rockefeller trustees and the American government were keen to prop it up by preventing increased hunger and unrest: Bread, at least, if not circuses.

Rockefeller Foundation researcher Norman Borlaug won a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in this effort; he developed a high-yield dwarf variety of wheat that boosted production so much and so quickly that by 1956, Mexico had become self-sustaining in wheat.

"Self-sustaining," that is, insofar as domestically-grown crops were now sufficient for the country's requirements. But the skyrocketing need for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides merely created a different kind of dependency on imports. "These nations became perilously dependent on foreign input suppliers for their food security," wrote Tom Philpott in Grist. Bumper crops caused prices to collapse, driving family farms out of business. Millions of Mexican farmers were driven out by Big Ag. Philpott: "Since the Mexican manufacturing economy has been nowhere near robust enough to absorb them, a huge portion of one-time Mexican farmers now wash our dishes and harvest our crops."

The immense social and environmental costs of the Mexican agricultural reforms went unmeasured. Western aid authorities exported the Green Revolution to India, with the same detrimental results: a permanent disruption or destruction of local villages and local agricultural practices; a dangerous loss of biodiversity; huge increases in pollution, particularly in tainted water [PPT]. Again, Green Revolution agricultural practices favored larger farmers, with the result that hundreds of thousands of small farmers were driven from the land, in India as in Mexico. The mass suicides among small farmers in the Punjab are widely thought to be directly attributable to these sweeping agricultural reforms. Measurable results, all right—only they measured "output," not the number of displaced small farmers or fishing ruined by toxic runoff.

These problems were evident well before 1971, when the Ford Foundation’s agricultural director, Lowell Hardin, gave a public speech warning that "the green revolution is exerting a destabilizing influence on traditional social and political institutions [...] Increased output is not necessarily associated with positive social change."

And note well that just having enough food doesn’t ensure that the world will be fed. As of 2011, 925 million people were still hungry, according to the World Hunger Organization. Thousands of children in poverty die of hunger in India every day. There is food enough in India to feed their whole population, but not the means of paying for it; the supply side of the equation has been solved, but the demand side has not. Or rather, it has been solved, but in an unintended fashion: Reuters reported last December that India had "sealed deals to export one million tonnes of corn to southeast Asia in the first two months of the season." Put another way: Export markets may come to trump domestic need.

Despite all these metrics, which researchers have collected for more than sixty years, the Gates Foundation has joined forces with Monsanto to bring Green Revolution agricultural practices to Africa. This time, though, the privately financed initiative is meeting with greater public resistance among a target population by now educated to its likely effects. As Mike Ludwig noted recently in Truthout, African opponents of the Gates initiative have latched onto a recent study by the International Assessment of Agricultural Science, Technology and Development, which found that despite its many productive successes, large-scale industrial agriculture "has caused environmental degradation and deforestation that disproportionately affects small farmers and poorer nations. … Massive irrigation projects now account for 70 percent of water withdrawal globally and approximately 1.6 billion people live in water-scarce basins."

There is also increasing evidence that sustainable farming practices that do not rely on patented Monsanto products can boost farming output without polluting the environment and without the social disruptions that have unsettled poor communities in India and Mexico. But Monsanto will presumably resist attempts to amend Green Revolution practices in favor of its own profit motive.

The metrics that guide great foundation crusades are very effective when it comes to persuading us that business, and business-trained philanthropists, can do better—but it appears that metrics don’t matter when they conflict with ideology.

I asked Kavita N. Ramdas, a scholar at Stanford, to explain to me why, in light of what we already know about the effects of these reforms in India and elsewhere, the Gates Foundation is still pursuing a new, Monsanto-driven Green Revolution in Africa.

Her response was striking. "I do not believe that the Green Revolution was an unmitigated success for India, given what we now know about the impact of these high yield seeds and intensive agriculture on topsoil, the dependence on fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation and the social effects on small farmers and landless labor in Punjab," she said. "On this, I clearly disagreed with my colleagues at the Gates Foundation, who argued that the benefits of the Green Revolution in addressing hunger outweighed the costs."

Still, she notes, the foundation’s new Africa alliance with Monsanto came about due to the culture of the metric return rather than via any malicious design. "The Gates Foundation is far from being a caricature of an evil empire. In fact, it is a foundation with extremely good intentions. I see these as the natural inclinations of a foundation so closely affiliated with a tech company that believes in the importance of measurable impacts."

Ramdas went on to suggest that the econometric model of philanthropic activity may come with dangerous blinders. "At the root of the difference in approach is what we believe causes hunger or poverty. If you think that people are poor because there is not enough food, then you will concentrate on making measurable gains, in growing more food, and more nutritious food, more efficiently. But if you think that people are poor because of problems with equality, with access, with education, then developing a concrete strategy is far more difficult; these things are not readily measurable."

Def. an article worth reading!

There’s no oversight in the spending of foundation money. The communities and individuals affected by foundation spending typically have no influence on it at all. This isn’t especially surprising, when you consider that the modern entrepreneurs who establish foundations have typically acquired an allergy to transparency; the best known philanthropists in our age, after all, are Bill Gates, a ruthless monopolist, and George Soros, a hedge fund manager. According to the cult of the alpha executive, the effective business leader makes decisions unilaterally and brooks no opposition. This model of decision-making may pose few real threats when it comes to peddling a terrible Web browser, or inflicting Mr. Paperclip Man on the hapless user of Word. But the public should take note when a billionaire philanthropist‘s tough-guy decision-making effectively sets social policy in ways that can alter the life chances of millions of other people.

Yoda's Attractive Gallifreyan Guide
Cultural relationship between the Welsh and the English
The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck, by Beatrix Potter

From conversation with Katy:

beatrix potter uses a semicolon whenever she damn well pleases
she doesn't wait for it to make sense
oh no
that would just limit her
Peter; Rabbit
awh yeah, that's the stuff

Also: "Sage and thyme, and mint and two onions, and some parsley."--dear fox, wtf do you think you're going to do with the mint and parsley? You are cooking this sentient duck. Are you also providing mojitos and a garnish? #foxescan'tcook

"Unfortunately the puppies rushed in and gobbled up all the eggs before he could stop them.

He had a bite on his ear and both the puppies were limping." WHAT THE CRAP
AUGH
SO DARK!!!
JEMIMA PUDDLE DUCK, I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU WENT THERE!!

Predictive Policing: What Can We Learn from Wal-Mart and Amazon about Fighting Crime in a Recession?: despite the title, v. not about the recession. Interesting, if creepy that they're very unembarrassed about associating themselves with v. corporate bodies. Predictive policing would seem best accomplished by attaching underlying stratification issues, and those might merit a mention in re: community policing, but otherwise, the concept doesn't seem terrible (though I'm uneasy with the thought of a hyper-effective police force in general, because I don't really trust or like US law enforcement--who does?). What the article lacks is concrete examples of how they'll use analytics (other than as an extension of racial profiling).

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