Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.
Incidentally, the detail of a frog scraping its own eyes out on hearing the cursed bell in that Kuttner tale is something I'd put out of my mind until you mentioned it. I wasn't crazy about that story, but that image is incredibly unnerving.
This is the first of Price’s stories of the alien city-state of Bel Yarnak.
...though the strange hybrid creatures that a renegade Egyptian priesthood supposedly do seem to riff on some of the monsters seen in Lovecraft’s Under the Pyramids.
If you like audiobooks, there are great audio versions of a few of Aickman's collections for sale on Audible, and I highly recommend them.
I've also read stray tales from the others: "The Unsettled Dust", "The School Friend", "Mark Ingestre: The Customer's Tale", maybe one or two more.
On the subject of odd horror writers, any thoughts on William Sansom? I've been meaning to get a few volumes of his short stories, but the most noted, Fireman Flower, is basically impossible to find.
Aickman's Cold Hand in Mine, in particular, is basically front to back gems of slow-burning Freudian morbidity in marginally genteel trappings
Have you read any of his other collections? Robert Aickman is always amazing, but honestly I found Cold Hand in Mine to be the weakest of the four major collections I've read. Painted Devils, The Wine-Dark Sea, and The Unsettled Dust are all much better in my opinion, but then again horror is probably the most subjective genre.
I know I've been threatening to write something for ages, and have perpetually backed out due to cold feet, but these may be worth some in-depth analysis for public delectation. Aickman's Cold Hand in Mine, in particular, is basically front to back gems of slow-burning Freudian morbidity in marginally genteel trappings, "The Swords" and "Pages from a Young Girl's Journal" presaging Ligotti and almost channelling Angela Carter respectively, and "Niemandswasser" ending with the most devastating punchline and reversal which must be read and reread to be fully appreciated. I also think that Lane's even more scathing and mournful approach to mixing political commentary with weird fiction and character study in the Campbellian vein would be of serious interest to those not already familiar with his work here.
But if you don't remember that many, then there probably aren't any as blatant as "Selene strides through a door whilst the camera crawls along behind her at butt level" from the first movie or "Selene crawls through a duct whilst the camera crawls along behind her at butt level" from Awakening.
I haven't followed much of Fisher's career outside of Star Wars, but from what I've picked up second- and third-hand, it sounds like she was a pretty amazing person, even if she wasn't actually taking on Galactic Empires in her late teens.
Ichneumon: They, too, are victims of modern capitalism and patriarchy, but they fail to understand that women and minorities and poor people and immigrants and young people and queer people are not taking something away from them when they gain rights because every attempt to explain to them that the economy isn't a zero-sum game has been pushing a neoliberal agenda that screws them, and the people with the easiest answers are who else but crypto-fascists and reactionaries.
I absolutely agree. The anger and frustration and fear is justified; the choices of target are not.
Is it really mostly men? I always thought so, but I heard somewhere that a majority of the white women who voted backed Trump, which is it's own kind of disturbing.
Ichneumon: Yet the response is either the kind of defiance that confuses ignorance with real malice, or a kind of condescending pity that only makes people whose better angels might be appealed to with the right education feel belittled. There has to be a better way here.
There always are. Whether or not we'll find one or more of them in time is another question.
I won't pretend I have any of the answers, but I have some ideas. Two weeks ago I was listening to a live stream of the final plenary of a Moral Economy Conference held by a Quaker conference center in Philadelphia. One point which struck me was when they talked about healthcare. The panelists claim that according to opinion polling, a majority of Americans support the idea of a universal healthcare program in the US (that thing every other rich country and several not-so-rich countries have), despite all the Republican and Tea Party scare-mongering. The panelists speculated that a movement for universal healthcare - as opposed to the misnamed mediocre improvement that is the Affordable Care Act - would separate Trump from a lot of his less fanatical supporters by forcing him to demonstrate he really doesn't have their best interests at heart.
It sounded to me like a plausible enough tactic, and there are probably other examples where the left demonstrably has better solutions that what Trump will support, if we can organize effectively around them.
Janne: How to combat hateful rhetoric by actually succeeding to turn people back to believing that progressive ideals are actually a good idea for everybody and for society as a whole?
Perhaps by enacting achievable but far-reaching progressive change whose benefits will be immediately obvious.
One thing I am sure of is that here in the US, the Democratic Party won't get us out of this mess - they played too big a role in getting us into it. Like the Republicans, they are and always have been the War party and the Financial Sector party. They're not going to support policies which would severely undermine the financial and ideological interests of their top members and donors. At best, like FDR, they'll implement major reforms to stabilize the system - but he was only able to do that because the amount of civil unrest was so great that the ruling elite were afraid the country might go the same way as Russia. A similar dynamic was at work in the 60s and early 70s.
Which is not to say the Democrats don't have any part to play in creating positive change. But I think it's best not to look to them for leadership but to view them as, at best, a group of useful but exceptionally skittish and unruly followers.
And now for something completely different:
In more classic Ferretbrain-related news, my little sister Noria recently saw Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and, being a fan of magical creatures and well-meaning, slightly doofy British boys both being adorable, she greatly enjoyed it. The ending was undermined for her by the obligatory Rowling Angst - which wasn't even that well executed according to her - but she gave it a strong recommendation overall.
For example, our populist party's, the True Finns(although Base Finns would be both more literal and descriptive of them) leader Timo Soini has blathered on about how the media and everyone opposed to them are cultural marxists, an umbrella term which seems to include everything progressive or leftist or green or cosmopolitan or educated. I had thought he came up with the term himself and merely wondered what a relatively obscure out of academic circles German intellectual movement from the 1930s has to do with anything.
But then I happened to look into it and it seems that cultural marxism has been taken into the American alt-right lingo , where it is claimed that everything progressive since the 1930s, including sexual liberation, the women's rights movement and the civil rights movement is a dire commie plot using social constructivism to destroy America(or insert your society here). And Soini has described himself and his party being the only republican(in the american sense) party in Finland. So it seems that he is as callously reactionary as he pretended to be. Because I had had some doubts whether he was just totally ruthless and pragmatic in his tendency to feed every negative and angry feeling in the dissatisfied parts of the electorate, or whether he was just nuts. It appears that he is both.
But point being, just like climate denialism and rock music, American ideas do have a large influence here in the European perifery, so we are kinda interested what you're up to over there. But coming back to the discussion at hand, the sentiment that something is wrong and disgust at the political system and how things were going was seething under the seemingly calm waters of Finnish society and in many ways they had a good reason to be dissatisfied and they were mostly ignored. So when the financial crisis happened and just continued and when Nokia went down(mostly through their own fault, but still), the challenge to the current political balance came from the fringes and all the racism and red-baiting and general idiotism became a force in its own way, actually converting people to nasty and hateful ideas through appealing to their negative emotions and mostly distracting them away from the complex real issues at hand into the strange atavistic illusion that everything will be just fine if we regress back to some idyllic Finnish society of the forties, when everyone was happy and women knew their place and people with darker complexions were safe and exotic oddities seen on tv and in schoolbooks and generally existed as some people that the missionaries could work with. And confusing aspects of the human sexuality(other than straight male that is) were properly shunned and kept quiet about.
But I don't think that all of those people started out as atavistic and paranoid. Their feelings and anxieties were tapped into and that hateful rhetoric proved stronger, when it was even noticed. And surely there were prejudices there, dormant like, but prejudices can wane as well, if they are not enforced and fed. Kind of like with any ideology, you become convinced by one thing that seems reasonable, but every ideology is a package deal, and once you accept one thing, other things associated with that one thing become more reasonable, because you've started to trust the source, which in populist politics is just the thing. After that, cognitive dissonance and all the assorted fallacies start their inevitable work in all of us and it is hard for anyone to not fall prey to wrongful reasoning, even more so if one doesn't even admit its happening, except in other people, of course.
So I guess the big question is the following: Given that this sentiment and that segment of the electorate exists, here as well as in the US, what is the strategy to counter the people who will happily use and exploit those existing and dormant prejudices for political gain, quite often against the benefit of those same people who voted for them once they get into office (and really I don't believe that people benefit from wronging others. The wronging just makes them worse and more miserable when they have to explain their prejudices away by blaming the victims. Of course the victims are hurt much more, but still, even financial gains are limited in the end). Of course those prejudices shouldn't be accepted, much less fed and nourished, but in a democracy there will be someone who will do that if they can gain something from it. So what can be done? From a pragmatic point of view it seems to me that wile direct confrontation might be needed in many cases, it can't go too far, since direct conflict is always dangerous, damaging and very uncertain in its outcomes. But the situation has to be diffused somehow, since it can get so much worse.
I don't really know myself. Here it seems that since we have a multi-party system and every administration is a coalition, the Base Finns have lost support since thay accepetd to enter into a coalition and proceeded to betray every promise they made and seem to have ost the support of everyone except the real hardcore supporters. On the other hand I'm not very hopeful, since the next election is two and a half years away and the current Council of State has been very ineffective in doing much anything, which means that things are very much in the air.
It seems to have emptied some of the air from the balloon, though. But that is not really an option in the US, or in many other countries. How to combat hateful rhetoric by actually succeeding to turn people back to believing that progressive ideals are actually a good idea for everybody and for society as a whole?
Mostly I'm thinking about an article which I didn't read but read about where the author argued that the Democratic Party should move away from "identity politics" after their electoral college defeat this year (translation: placate racists), and the first minute or so of an MSNBC panel discussion where the host introduced the segment by talking about people who apparently said, "Well, I supported Obama in 2012, but then he came out in support of Black Lives Matter, and he's supposed to be the President of everyone," and I was like. No. Just no. No to all of this shit.
I guess the idea there was that many people didn't vote for Trump primarily on racial issues, but that it pushed them over the edge. Which I suppose may be true, but as you say: "Prejudice is a quality to be rejected, not a demographic to be courted." Focus instead on the legitimate concerns voters have expressed.
most of the working class is not white in this country
Is that right? My understanding was that while proportionally more people of color in the US are working class, white people are the majority in absolute numbers - which makes sense to me, given we're almost 70% of the US population as a whole. (I'm also sure I've seen progressive commentators noting the irony of how stereotypes about black "Welfare Queens" and the like are used as a justification to slash social programs for impoverished Americans, and the majority of victims of these cuts are actually white, according to these commentators.)
Hamilton was fascinating... and a huge dick.
It seems like that can be said for a lot of the Founding Fathers. And many of the more prominent subsequent US Presidents. And, to be fair, many famous anti-colonial leaders as well.
I happen to quite agree with you on the whole notion that Clinton should have tacked harder to the right, although I was unaware of the "she shoulda been more racist, Bob" angle. It probably ought not surprise me, given the climate of stupidity and desperation, but I thought that part of HRC's appeal to most folks was that she isn't a demented racist. (And yes, the "superpredator" thing was awful, but context is key here.) But even setting that aside—and that most of the working class is not white in this country, and that most of Trump's support came from dissatisfied middle-class people, as you pointed out—the people who voted for Trump primarily on racial issues are, for the most part, the exact sort of people who would never, ever vote for Secretary Clinton, or any woman in some cases. Prejudice is a quality to be rejected, not a demographic to be courted. The people saying this seem not to recall Kennedy's famous speech about those who would ride the back of the tiger. But hey, look what it got the Republicans: The single most imminently impeachable President of the United States since, god, before Nixon. And don't we all want that?
Hamilton was fascinating... and a huge dick.
Ichneumon: Just chiming in as an actual American here
Er, the way you say that, it makes me feel like I should check to make sure my citizenship hasn't been revoked.
Anyway, I'm sorry if I implied earlier that Trump garnering sufficient votes even to carry the electoral college was entirely reducible to misplaced anti-establishment sentiment. Among other things, that would be an overly reductionist argument.
My intention is to push back against the (equally patronizing) narrative in some liberal circles that the reason their candidate lost the electoral college was that she didn't pander sufficiently to racists. Or, as I remarked to my sister a little while ago, I think it's entirely fair to blame racism for Trump's victory, but not for Clinton's defeat, if you see the distinction.
I've also heard that Trump accumulated fewer total votes than Romney, meaning more Democratic Party voters stayed home in 2016 than in 2012, despite the Republican candidate this time around making Romney look like a moderate. (And yeah, there's also the matter of the ~800 polling places closed after the US Supreme Court struck down some of the Voting Rights Act provisions.) And an article I read soon after the election claims 20% of Trump voters told exit pollers they don't believe he's qualified to be President - I haven't been able to track down that polling data from a cursory internet search, though.
What I have found is data which supports an assertion I heard on a podcast that Trump got massive support from middle income voters, so while many liberal and progressive commentators may work under the stereotype of Trump voters being overwhelmingly poor, it's a fallacious assumption to make.
(Speaking as someone who grew up in the United States' middle income bracket, I can easily believe that many of these commentators have not, in fact, ever met a poor person before.)
The electoral college is a sick joke. To a lesser extent, first-past-the-post is another sick joke.
I completely agree, as does our dearly beloved President-Elect - or at least he did in 2012, when he thought Romney carried the popular vote.
Though I'd argue that fundamentally, the entire US electoral system is a sick joke, much of it orchestrated by Founding Fathers like the musical-inspiring Alexander Hamilton, precisely to avert what Samuel Huntington, writing two centuries later, termed "an excess of democracy."