Reading: A. David Lewis, Martin Lund — Muslim Superheroes: Comics, Islam, and Representation

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Bike Lights!

I had to buy a new bike light today. Germany has some strange ‘regulations’ about what constitutes a bike light, things like brightness, flashing, whether a bike must have dynamo-powered lights or can have clip-on, all of that is in the Regeln. The Straßenverkehrszulassungsordnung to be precise. (Or StVZO if you wanna get all Abkürzung on it.)

This year, flashing lights are out. Because safety. WTF, Frances? I know! I had an argument with bored Polizei over this—it was a Friday night, they obviously had nothing better to do than pull over cyclists and engage in some haranguing. There’s probably a word for that like Ordnungspredigen. Oh wait! It’s German! You can make new words like that! “Of course flashing lights are safer,” I gegengepredigt in my scheiße Ausländersdeutsch, “People see flashing light as visual movement, which obviously is easier to identiy against a background of light noise–” “Nein! A proper German light must not flash because it is difficult to tell the distance of a flashing light—” “As opposed to just running your Auto up the arse of the StVZO-approved 5 lumens light which no one can see?” “Regeln sind Regeln.”

I had to buy a new light because my old one died, and the StVZO-approved front light frankly scares the shit out of me. 15 lumens vanishes when you’re in traffic and surrounded by cars’ front lights. I could really see drivers not noticing me until I was up their arses, and while I manage to throw myself over handlebars with some regularity (the price of badly excecuted technical riding skills), I prefer my suffering to be self-inflicted. So, off to the bike shop. It was a difficult choice between 300 or 600 lumens—which made me laugh with the insanity of it. Why stop there? It goes up to to 1500 lm!

Then I got home and xkcd had this:

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Unattached No More!

“Yeah, I know Frances, it’s awfully ‘precise’ of me. Can we just leave aside that conversation for now and enjoy some shit?” “Ok, Other Frances, we can, but I’m not sure what everyone else will think of you…” “I’m just gonna leave that ellipsis hanging.” “As you like. Your decision.”

On and off for months/years, I’ve been porting the first I dunno how many years of supernaut properly into WordPress. When I gave Moveable Type the boot—and later ecto, opting to work directly in WordPress rather than with a haha ‘blogging client’ (remember when blog software was so crap you needed a blogging client rather than suffer the web browser?) I had all those years of images to deal with, assimilating them, attaching them to post, blahwork. Weeks of blaaahwork. Done. Fucking finished right now. 6312 images are all unified and fuck me if I ever have to change to another blogging platform it’s gonna be a piece of piss compared to this. Or I will throw my arms up and walk the fuck out of the internet for ever.

This is archaeology. The remainder. The images that weren’t attached, had no home, were left to languish in the dim recesses of my server. Jacques Derrida would probably find these telling. Bin Lang girls from Taiwan, I think from an exhibition, or they might have been actual workers in Tainan or Taizhong. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, I think from when I was in Taipei and was told about what Gen was up to—also introduced to the novels of China Miéville. A page from a comic called Dragnet? I think one of those mid- late-’00s types when tranny was a word we could still throw around without the Queer Police putting a fucking * on the end. That “Jesus Loves You” one … fuck knows. Maybe from Emile? Fuck Gender might even be a photo I took at some Queer* event in Berlin. Or Vienna. Dunno. Thought it was cool at the time (maybe, fuck knows, no memory here), enough to photograph, though not enough to blog. Don’t think it’s cool anymore. Lambs. Baaaaaaah! Was from Christmas 2008, with the mob all in Berlin, around the time I photographed a Nativity Scene. This is definitely one of my photos.

Finally I can remove that shitful “sorry things are broken” apology at the bottom of supernaut.

Reading: Randall Monroe — What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

Relativistic Baseball! Spent Fuel Pool! A Mole of Moles! Machine-Gun Jetpack! FedEx Bandwidth! Exclamation key broken1

Those are some of my favourites from the utterly brilliant xkcd‘s What if? And then there were ones I’ve never read! Periodic Wall of Elements! Orbital Submarine! Lost Immortals! Plus Weird (and Worrying) Questions from the What If? Inbox!

This is probably the most un-obscure book I’ve bought in almost forever, so there’s not much I can say that’s new, especially as the internetz went into meltdown when it was published. Still, xkcd I’ve been reading for ages and is one of my favourite webcomics, and buying this was a bit impulsive but also like going to see a show of an old friend. I was expecting something not as … well, wow, it’s a beautifully presented book. Large, hardcover, with a very touchable dust jacket, really attentively and attractively laid out (it’s far, far from just a reprint of every What If?), a lot of little details (like the inside of the dust jacket) make it a pleasure of a book. I single-handedly (the other hand was busy eating) devoured it (metaphorically; there was already food in my mouth) in an evening. And had planetary surface-sized sadness when I turned the page and it was already the end.

I seem to read so many books that I think, “Kids would love this!” They’d probably think I’m wholly and embarrassingly out of touch old person. But in the small event I’m not, this is the kind of thing to make someone go off and become an astrophysicist, or geologist, or make comics.

Randall Monroe — What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
Randall Monroe — What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

Reading: Hergé – The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Along with The Shooting Star, my diversion in St George’s netted The Secret of the Unicorn. More Tintin, less racism! In the space between two volumes, Hergé manages to avoid all the embarrassing stuff that caused me to ask the question, “Is Tintin acceptable to read these days?” The Secret of the Unicorn is more-or-less completely safe to read. An epic detective story with pirates, the high seas, mystery and adventure, Captain Haddock, the twins Thomson and Thompson, Red Rackham, whisky! more whisky! It’s in my top-10 favourite. I’m slightly worried I’ve tricked myself into committing to buying all 24 of them (25 along with Tintin and the Lake of Sharks).

Hergé – The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
Hergé – The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Reading: Hergé – The Adventures of Tintin: The Shooting Star

Listening to Wagner and Burzum, and reading Tintin is probably the trifecta of Euro-racism, or at least it can’t be done without knowing clearly what I’m engaging in. I was in St George’s (as usual) picking up some books (again as usual), talking with Jamie, then took a wander and found a stack of Tintin comics. Tintin was long my lunch accompaniment when I was a child (or at least that is my memory), with peanut butter and jam on toast. After reading Tintin again, today I went out and bought said items plus some Neuköllner Spross bread and … well, anyway, Tintin.

“Is Tintin acceptable to read these days?” I asked Jamie. In-between childhood and now I was well-aware of ‘over-reaction and hyper political correctness’ in regard to Hergé’s earlier, more overtly colonial works (if you change the term ‘political correctness’ to ‘being nice to people’ it’s actually what they’re saying), and have distinct memories of Tintin in America, the portrayals of Native Americans and Africans, and it isn’t pretty.

The Shooting Star from 1942 gets off to a pretty good start in this respect. It was one of my more favourites, having astronomy, meteorites, giant mushrooms and an oppressive, slightly hallucinogenic quality. Then we meet the principal antagonist, the spider at the centre of the web, a fat, be-speckled crooked businessman with a giant proboscis of a nose, who despite the not-so-Jewish name of Bohlwinkel is unmistakably the meanest caricature. Bohlwinkel was originally known as Blumenstein. Sure, Hergé caricatures everyone, from the drunken Captain Haddock to the prima donna Bianca Castafiora; there are different positions from which one may caricature, and Europe 1941 for Jews isn’t one of them. But as Hergé says, “That was the style then.”

I really liked Tintin when I was young, and still do. The art, the line-work, colour, stories, humour, all appealed to me then as they do now; it’s both light and entertaining, and serious and political. And definitely in places racist, colonialist, crypto-fascist, and the answer to my question, “Is Tintin acceptable to read these days?” is probably something like, “Weell… it’s not The Birth of a Nation …”

Hergé – The Adventures of Tintin: The Shooting Star
Hergé – The Adventures of Tintin: The Shooting Star

Oglaf!

I discovered Oglaf last night. A first I thought it was pretty cool and smart. Then I thought maybe it was a bit bro-ish. Not that I mind, just the perspective of who’s writing and drawing alters how much I enjoy it, usually because it ends up slipping into dickhead hetero bro ‘humour’. Then … “Heh. Snake tits.” And when I found out it’s done by an Australian pair, it all made sense. Fucktastic! It’s so disgustingly, brilliantly funny. My guts are aching. I want to live there. Buying the comic already! (Not sure if it’s a comic or masturbatory aid. Probably going to end up blind either way. Doesn’t matter. Fucking worth it.)

Oglaf — Fresh Horses (involves no actual horses)
Oglaf — Fresh Horses (involves no actual horses)
Oglaf —The Glamazon Way (the Glamazons didn’t follow fashion – they set traps for it and wear its shiny pelt)
Oglaf —The Glamazon Way (the Glamazons didn’t follow fashion – they set traps for it and wear its shiny pelt)
Oglaf — Hoopla (The fucktopus’ only natural predator is the sperm whale)
Oglaf — Hoopla (The fucktopus’ only natural predator is the sperm whale)
Oglaf — Puzzlecunt (Once you know it, the solution seems obvious)
Oglaf — Puzzlecunt (Once you know it, the solution seems obvious)
Oglaf — Rainbow Cake (Garish sex can cause permanent colour blindness. Wear eye protection)
Oglaf — Rainbow Cake (Garish sex can cause permanent colour blindness. Wear eye protection)
Oglaf — Romance (Turns out love arts and Lovecraft are pretty much the same)
Oglaf — Romance (Turns out love arts and Lovecraft are pretty much the same)
Oglaf — Snakeskin (The invincible vampire gorgon doesn’t show up in mirrors)
Oglaf — Snakeskin (The invincible vampire gorgon doesn’t show up in mirrors)

bechdel’s law

A couple of days ago I was reading Thus Spake Zuska, one of the many science blogs I consume most days. Some mornings while reading, it’s as if I wake up wondering what that rough sensation is on my face and discover my head is being rubbed forcefully into the synthetic carpet. Oh sexism…

The followup the her first piece, displayed both an American regionalism that comes up in feminism often, which I find difficult, but ignoring my own provincialism for a moment, the problems she brings up of straight white males who whine, “Where is the [meeting/retreat/study room/pizza party/program] for white men?” and the overt sexism, racism and homophobia behind it is one that is a thread through far too much of my own life and those around me.

I also finished Charles Stross’ Palimpsest today, (spoiling my later this week reading when Wireless arrives). I was thinking, while reading Saturn’s Children earlier this week on why he is one of my favourite writers, and in no small part it’s because he creates convincing, believable, female lead characters. That he does this in science-fiction is doubly impressive. He also writes on the importance of such female roles, citing Bechdel’s Law, a post I often think of.

My last time in Vienna, staying in a woman’s apartment whom I never met, I plundered her books. Much excitement. I was rather tired in the evenings though, and amused myself with comic book lesbian porn and Dykes to Watch Out For. There is a rule, which should be a standard, not just in writing or film, but as the bare minimum for judging whether an effort is being made to stymie the monotonous objectification of women. Charles uses it to critique his own writing, and reading it should be mandatory, either in words or in comic form

1. Does it have at least two women in it,
2. Who [at some point] talk to each other,
3. About something besides a man.

Some time ago – almost three months in fact – Smashing Magazine published a piece called Group Interview: Expert Advice for Young Web Designers, sixteen ‘industry leaders’ brought together and none of them female. (Not so) anonymous (berlinerin) said,

Couldn’t you find even one female designer for your panel? While they may be exceptional at design, there are few enough role models for young female designers and students as it is.

Secondly, there is no way of discerning how the experience for a female designer might differ simply because there is a complete lack of representation.

Please try harder.

Today, much to my delight, appeared: Women in Web Design: Group Interview. Much enjoyable reading and some new designers to follow, one who is an ex-dancer even.

A strange question asked of the women but not of the comparable previous interview with the men, How do you handle the pressure of deadlines and find time for your family? The use of headshots to illustrate the article instead of the usual design portfolio shots (though the editor did explain his reasons for doing this, which I don’t find fault with), and… suddenly I am back thinking of Zuska and in complete sympathy with her when she says, “I’m fucking angry”.

I would rather spend the next half hour getting ready for yoga than analysing all the comments to this article from sexist hetero males, so better to go and read Zuska and Charles and Alison. It is an endless tedious oppression having to share the planet with a minority who ruin it for the rest of us.

So what does a comic book author and a rule about which movies to see as a feminist dyke have to do with web design, underrepresentation of women and harassment in the workplace?

Hint: it’s not about comparing women to minorities, it’s about examining the systematic disempowerment of half the human population on the basis of an accident of birth.

— Charles Stross

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on’s guro fairytales

Oh if only I could make art as good as this. One of those “uuhhh… why didn’t I think of that?” moments, I mean as in what I was doing in hell, pestilence, thinking ideas for abjection… oh so obvious, Susan Norrie’s Havoc… mmm… perfect.

Dennis Cooper has been something of a personal influence these last couple of years, well since I discovered Sunn0))) and so on, or maybe to say his blog is, because despite wanting to, I’ve never read or seen his work or collaborations. He blogged on an artist called On, who makes Guro paper art, almost puppetry, almost performance, almost photography, deeply, wonderfully dark horror, enough to make me laugh with joy, so cruel and clever.