Friday, November 21, 2014

A Larger Reality

Ursula LeGuin made two different but related points, both vital, in accepting an award.

The first has to do with the literary legitimacy of science fiction and fantasy writers, and the importance of future visions to the future itself:

"And I rejoice at accepting it for, and sharing it with, all the writers who were excluded from literature for so long, my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction—writers of the imagination, who for the last 50 years watched the beautiful rewards go to the so-called realists.

I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality."

The second point is the restraint on the freedom to write and on true authorship that's been growing a long while and has now reached nearly impossible proportions, not because of some fascist or even national security state, but because of the takeover by the institutionalized greed of capitalism:

"Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between the production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximize corporate profit and advertising revenue is not quite the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship. (Thank you, brave applauders.)

Yet I see sales departments given control over editorial; I see my own publishers in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging public libraries for an ebook six or seven times more than they charge customers. We just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience and writers threatened by corporate fatwa, and I see a lot of us, the producers who write the books, and make the books, accepting this. Letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish and what to write.

Books, you know, they’re not just commodities. The profit motive often is in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words."

This is almost her complete speech--it's under six minutes in the video above, and the complete transcript is here.

We Were Strangers Once, Too

It didn't take long for Republican noisemakers to pummel the media with their hypocritical cant and carping, so here is a rare opportunity to hear what President Obama actually said in his 15 minute talk to the American people Thursday on immigration.

He spelled out actions he'd taken to strengthen the southern borders and results that should cheer GOPers if they could accept the facts, and he talked about the efforts to pass immigration reform that have been stymied by Republican leadership in the House.  Like Ronald Reagan and lots of Presidents before him, he outlined a few steps he could take under well-established presidential authority.

But why bother?  That's when this talk rises above policy to get at the American soul, and the soul of our President.  So don't let your ears glaze over before you get there.

"Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger -- we were strangers once, too.  My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forebears were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in, and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like, or what our last names are, or how we worship. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal – that all of us are created equal..."

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What We Can't See Does Hurt Us

We  can't see CO2 or what it's doing to the thin layer of atmosphere that enables life as we know it on Earth.  But a NASA satellite has been looking back at the planet to study what its instruments can see.  Video with narration (and music) from NASA that shows the flow of carbon dioxide and other gases over the planet in a year.  National Geographic supplies some further explanation.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Mega$+MegaFear=GOP 2014

Another Monday, another Doonesbury instant classic from yesterday's papers, and here on the Internet.