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.
I think you might be right - having a two party system probably has this kind of effect on electoral discourse and iconography. I wouldn't say that electoral campaigns can't be vicious and sometimes a bit, well, exalted (or frothing at the mouth, depending on where you're standing) in France, but yeah, the perspective of having to govern in a coalition might foster a more sober and restrained political climate.
anything more enthusiastic than a slogan like the FG's "Take back the power" (without any exclamation mark, mind you) and a sober photograph of a stoic or hopeful candidate would get associated with slightly hysterical extremist propaganda of dubious respectability. I don't know if it's a general cultural thing, though.
I wonder if that's an off shoot of a two party system, because there will probably not be a situation where you have to share power oor have a coalition government. Although does that apply to France really? How does it go on the parliamentary level there, are coalitions usual, or does the relatively powerful office of president mix things up?
Find a lot of philosophical texts heavy going? There is anotter medium of discourse.
Oh sweet Jesus, now I'm having flashbacks to the Thesis of Doom - some kind of post-philosophical stress disorder? Anyway, it's not until I came across those otters that I realised just how really fucking ubiquitous the word "other" is in philosophy. Especially if you're working on the post-structuralist/deconstruction/any kind of feminist/subaltern/post-colonialist studies end of the spectrum, which I sort of do (even though I think I never want to hear the word "postmodern" again for at least ten years). So, basically, there is a high probability I will now have flashes of frolicking otters every time I read a philosophical text of any relevance whatsoever to my work. Thanks, man :)
Re: the electoral posters, I remember those in Germany being fairly on par with ours here (in France) - most of those I've seen were quite restrained, even when they were bearing the rousing slogans of the Front de Gauche (a left-wing/far-left coalition which became the vector of many hopes for change, especially amongst people my age) in 2012; I don't know if that's the case for anyone else in continental Europe, but I'd say that, here, anything more enthusiastic than a slogan like the FG's "Take back the power" (without any exclamation mark, mind you) and a sober photograph of a stoic or hopeful candidate would get associated with slightly hysterical extremist propaganda of dubious respectability. I don't know if it's a general cultural thing, though.
Seems rather tame (but very civilised) compared to this sort of thing.
But that is much less ambigious and sort of easier for the basic voter, who just needs a compact and concise picture to make a decision. In this case, for example, it is obvious that the voters best interest is to vote for the killer robot from the labour party, because they do not want to get killed by the killer robot. Plus, you get the impression that the killer robot is a new one as well, so progress, yay.
I went back and forth to Germany a fair bit on business trips recently and what struck me was how sober a lot of the political posters were - they all seemed to follow a strict model of "picture of candidate, party logo, pithy slogan", to the point where I had to look carefully to work out whose face was being promoted by which party. Seems rather tame (but very civilised) compared to this sort of thing.
This diagram nicely highlights how complicated the whole European thing is. To be honest I doubt most Brits understand half of it.
Sorry, Robinson, but your friend is full of shit.
More likely a case of garbled understanding on my part. For instance, I was the one who threw in the bit about Cameron having a "strongly anti-EU stance" - which obviously was a gross misinterpretation.
David Cameron occasionally makes Eurosceptic noises, but this is mostly a little dance he does to keep the Eurosceptic wing of the Tories off-balance (note that this wing overlaps strongly with the hardline social conservative wing and other Tory factions who think Cameron is too cuddly and soft, which is a goddamn terrifying prospect). But most of his concessions to the Eurosceptics are entirely meaningless. He has agreed to attempt to renegotiate Britain's position in the EU and then call a referendum if the Tories get a full majority after the next election, which basically translates to "I will buy you a yacht, but only if I win the lottery this week" - it's really, really hard for incumbent parties in this country to increase their proportion of the vote in elections, especially incumbents responsible for as many unpopular decisions as the Tories, especially when the major protest party is UKIP which is likely to vampire more votes from the Tories than it is from the Lib Dems or Labour, and especially when the folks who had been voting Lib Dem to protest Labour are likely to say "Well, fuck that" and go back to Labour after the Lib Dem's soft puppety weakness in the coalition. Even if by some miracle Dave does get his majority, it's been made fairly clear that his attention is to lobby for the UK to stay in Europe - as Labour and the Lib Dems are nigh-certain to do - so you'll have a strong "Yes to the membership" campaign where most UK politicians will actually be working to present the benefits of EU membership, which they're extremely slack about doing usually.
People like to gripe about the EU, but there's a long space between that and being willing to vote for an exit, especially when referendum turnout in this country tends to be low and when there'll be months of promotion of staying in and cartoon characters like UKIP representing the "No to the EU" campaign. And it's notable that the bits of the media which really push discontent with the EU tend to be the ones like the Daily Express - the Diana conspiracy-obsessed rag which regularly makes the Daily Mail seem wishy-washy and moderate.
It runs entirely against my grain to be defending Cameron but the idea that he has a "strongly anti-EU stance" is sustainable only if you don't actually pay attention to what he's saying and who he's saying it to and what strong anti-EU stances actually look like.
Sorry, Robinson, but your friend is full of shit.
Currently, the EU is under a coalition government between the center-right Conservative (or Tory) and the center-left Liberal Democratic (or Lib Dem) Parties, which respectively comprise the older and younger siblings in the coalition.
I didn't hear the EU talked about a whole lot while I was in London, but a British friend of mine was on a podcast a couple of months ago with a US journalist where he talked about (among other things) the EU. According to him, at this point more than 50% of Brits want out of the EU, which probably helps explain why the Conservative Prime Minister feels empowered to take a strongly anti-EU stance.
My friend didn't go into exactly why Brits in general or the Tories in particular are against the EU at that point, but elsewhere he brought up a few different issues. For one, he says, Britain tends to be "somewhat misanthropic and distrustful of its counterparts on the continent" (as explanation for why the UK hasn't signed onto the Schengen Treaty). The other issues he identified were sovereignty (not wanting other countries messing about in internal UK affairs, plus the fact that, according to him, the EU is undemocratic because the elected EU parliament is "restricted purely to voting on legislation which they themselves do not write" and therefore they have very little real control); and economy (Britain insisted on retaining the pound as opposed to adopting the euro, and the pound has retained much of its strength over the past five years - it's apparently accepted generally that if Britain hadn't retained the pound, it would now be in a position analogous to that of Cyprus. So basically, many Brits view the EU economically as a sinking ship. and figure they're better off going it alone).
All three issues have some strongly nationalist, inward-looking, "Britain first!" dimensions, which would naturally appeal to a center-right party like the Conservatives.
I must say though, the US two-parties-and-never-the-two-shall-meet system, for all its bombastic campaigns, seems at the same time depressing ... and a bit boring
It gets even more depressing when you consider that even the ~50% of voters (which is significantly less than 50% of the population eligible to vote, even before you factor in the increased fad for purging voter rolls) often have their wishes disregarded by the party in power. As best I can tell, most Americans oppose continued war, austerity measures, and probably domestic spying as well, but none of that has stopped Obama and the Democrats. Really, though, from what I've seen of other countries' electoral systems (especially the UK's), it doesn't seem like our lot is, in the end, all that much worse.
Something I've realized recently is that the two-party system, for all its restrictions on freedom of choice, does prevent situations like the one in the UK with the ruling party getting less than 50% of the votes but still taking power just on the strength of winning a plurality. I'm pretty sure I've heard that was how Thatcher managed to remain Prime Minister for so long, despite being highly unpopular by the end.
As for boring, I dunno, I find the bombast and all the desperate attempts by the two parties and the mainstream media to make out that the essential differences between the two are matters of kind rather than degree make things quite lively (overly so, in election season, for my personal tastes - the US may have ditched the bread by and large, but it's gone to town as far as circuses are concerned).
Then again, the only other system I can really compare it to is Britain, which has exactly one more major party than the US; two of its major parties (Labour and the Lib-Dems, both broadly analogous to the Democrats in the US) are mostly indistinguishable at first glance, and the difference between either one of them and the third (Conservative) party is no more pronounced than between the Democrats and the Republicans in the States. So maybe I'm just missing out on what a proper multi-party political dust-up looks like.
And we do morally owe the world, even if maybe not Greece in particular.
I guess I would go along with this - but not, I would argue, any more than other major powers like the US, Britain, Russia, Belgium, France, etc. all of which also have numerous nasty blots on their records.
With the baby-carrier scenario - I'm hampered by frankly being incapable of truly understanding a dislike of / uninterest in having children (no doubt helped by the fact that biologically speaking, I am exempt from taking on the really hard role), so I'm sure that skews my perceptions to some extent.
But moving away from the scenario where the female-coded baby-carrier desperately wants to have children, I decided for a couple of reasons that I didn't want to go to the opposite extreme of having them actively not want to have children. I like the idea of having them be mostly ambivalent; not strongly wanting children for their own sake, but when somebody else brings up the idea (with the understanding that it doesn't necessarily need to be them) and knowing they'd have at least one other person to help with the bringing up process, happy enough to do that. I think there is a significant difference between that and "highly desires children" which could be neat to explore.
I did think it would be good to have an extra reason, though, especially if I don't end up going the artificial wombs route - as you say, it's a big undertaking for the baby-carrier character. So I threw in the "I want to grow the perfect lab partner" bit as an added incentive, which I imagine eventually overtaking the "I am broadly positive in a low-key way about the idea of having children for their own sake" motivation. I think I could produce a rather tragic scenario of the baby-carrier character loving their kids on some level (though not to the extent that someone who enthusiastically wants to have kids), but having that feeling overshadowed by disappointment by not being able to mold them into the perfect assistants.
Thanks for the info on IVF. I admit I haven't studied artificially induced pregnancy in any sort of detail and essentially put in the first thing that popped into my head. I will, of course, devote more research to the subject when and if I get around to turning the idea into an actual story.
And yes, I'm aware people (including asexuals) have sex outside their orientation for various reasons. Again, I may just be showing my ignorance here, but I figured the non-baby-carrying character would prefer not to do that if it turns out it can be avoided without too much hassle. I guess I'll see where my research and the feel of the story take me on that point.
Alternatively, I could just have them have sex for some reason (which I think would also entail research to make it plausible), the baby-carrier character winds up pregnant, and chooses not to abort. Either way can work, I guess.
Dan: If you select the "I may have killed more people than I actually avenged" option, you get an achievement called "Acknowledged Ludonarrative Dissonance."
Oh, that's cute.
I bought it for £3.99 in a Steam Midweek Sale and I think that's probably about what it's worth. I think if I'd payed full price I'd have resented it.
At the end, your protagonist writes a blog post summarising the events of the game, and they seem to be published to the actual internets. Mine is here.
If you select the "I may have killed more people than I actually avenged" option, you get an achievement called "Acknowledged Ludonarrative Dissonance."
I agree too, that the project to save Euro and EU is not done out of altruism, or at least if that is a reason, it is far from the deciding or most important one. EU is much too good an idea to be let go, especially by the first real crisis it has ever faced.
I heard about the Green affair too, although one might hope that that stays as a tangential affair. Those sorts of ideas were relatively common in the 70s' when the sexual revolution was still looking at its limits and children's sexuality was thought to be repressed by some people. That was checked out in the end, if I recall correctly by people pointing out that sexual freedom is not supposed to end in an end of responsibilities and many feminists pointed out that some of the more wild ideas seemed to just be justifications for men's sexuality to run amok unchecked under the pretext of freedom. But that was some 30-40 years ago. For example, one of the richest men in Finland, the banker Björn Wahlroos used to be a stalinist, but now he is nearly a billionaire and an extreme Randian who thinks that democracy should be limited because it interferes with the markets and freedom of individuals. So, a lot of stuff can happen in a few years.
On the anti-eu stance of brits, there are probably many people here who know better, but as I see it, the current PM Cameron seems to want the best of both worlds. On the one hand he wants to stay in the EU, because it is a big benefit to their economy, on the other hand, he has to handle a large anti-eu faction in the Tory's while the anti-eu party UKIP, seems to be gaining in popularity, I assume at the expense of Torys. Britain does have a long history of looking after it self and trying to somewhat stay away from the messes of the continent, merely trying to uphold the balance there so that no one player gets too strong. But I don't know how relevant that is in today's politics.
Yeah, from what little I understand of the issue, the problem is more that there are people who are poor and unemployed in Germany, and they don't like public funds going abroad instead of using it to raise pension levels here to a point where you wouldn't have some elderly people needing to collect bottles from street wastebins for the return deposit anymore, for example. It's misdirected frustration, because most of the major print publications (especially the tabloids) are owned by big corporations with other arms in heavy industry and banking (the German private banks did get huge bailouts, too). It's the same with the discussion of the "too high" electricity prices for consumers right now - industry trying to distract the public from the fact that they're getting a free lunch right now due to the rapidly falling wholesale prices and the widespread industry exeptions from the surcharge.
I don't think Greece ever had much of an export economy, at least to Germany, except for a few select expensive foodstuffs (olives, wine, cheese etc.) and labourers. From what I can tell, the country's economy is mostly dependent on tourism (85% of their economy is in the service sector), which of course isn't happening as much as long as they are in turmoil. But I believe what we're seeing now is not just the result of irresponsible banking speculation and possibly government corruption, but also the first signs of the economic impact of climate change, which will turn the Mediterranean if not uninhabitable, then certainly not able to produce their own food supplies anymore, never mind for export. (The problem is less the heat, more the ever increasing droughts.) And the country doesn't have much heavy industry or natural resources to exploit. (Unlike for example Morocco, which is hot and dry, but also has most of the world's supply of rock phosphorate, which worldwide agriculture is completely dependent upon. Hence why the country was kept stable throughout the Arab Spring.) Well, Wikipedia tells me Greece owns the world's biggest merchantile shipping fleet. But that source of income will dry up, too, unless the oil price goes down considerably. So I don't think the area will ever return to the level of prosperity that they once had.
However, I think Merkel is mainly trying to help the country not out of the kindness of her heart, but because if Greece, mother of democracy, breaks away from the EU, then others will follow. And Germany needs the EU to survive, not just for economic reasons, but for emotional reasons as well.
And, well, at the end of the day, most Germans are still well enough off that some solidarity doesn't hurt. And we do morally owe the world, even if maybe not Greece in particular.
... And between this and the queer/poly relationship discussion, I am now having Darkover-related flashbacks to my teenage years. "The Forbidden Tower" and "The World Wreckers", in particular.
So that looks promising for the future.
But in my state, the NPD got 5.9% - considerably more than in the adult polls. D:
Also, now I see what you meant about the Greens having problems, Janne. Oh, for fuck's sake. Apparently a couple of days ago some big newspaper published a story about how the current leader of the Greens (whom I personally don't like, because he's been courted by big industry lately, but I don't think he's evil) was "legally responsible" for the publishing of a campaign pamphlet calling for the decriminalisation of some forms of pedophilia during a municipal level election, 32 years ago (when he was 27 years old). Note, he didn't write the thing, he just didn't stop it from being published and he was the one who held the responsibility for the pamphlet according to our publishing law. (The Greens were generally antiauthoritarian at the time, and just incorporated all the demands of a gay activist group into their campaign program without making any changes, because they thought they didn't have any right to censor them. I've had a look at the wording of the West German laws they wanted to reform, and it was probably a "15-year-olds having sex with 13-year-olds shouldn't be treated as sex-offenders, and 17-year-olds should be allowed to have consensual sex with their teacher if they want to" kind of thing. Which ignores the whole problem of emotional coersion, grooming and power-abuse, of course. But I can see why a group of overzealous young activists in the middle of the movement to acknowledge the existence of kids' sexuality would overshoot the mark by a mile, and why their straight allies were overly careful about judging or silencing them.) Not that the press headlines are presenting it that way, of course. The man himself said he regrets letting that slip through and thinks it was very wrong of his party to support that call for reform. This is the guy who was minister of the environment when the nuclear phase-out was first put into law, by the way. The Greens have dropped to 8% in the polls, thus giving the CDU a slight majority over the centre-left block again, even without the FDP.
My God, those big energy assholes are fighting dirty. (Yeah, the original news article was written by the professor who was contracted by the Greens themselves to investigate the handling of this particular issue during their chaotic early years. But you can't tell me they would be so suicidal to make these findings public a few days before the election if they weren't forced to head off their enemies doing the same.)
@Robinson: Sorry for taking my time to answer you - I caught a nasty bug that's going around and wasn't feeling up to being coherent in a foreign language.
I don't know anything about foreign elections either. Well, apart from the US, of course. If the US sneezes, the whole world gets a cold, after all. But I don't even know which side is in power in the UK right now, for example. (I just know they're anti-EU. Why is that, by the way? Is it some kind of "We were an empire, we're not going to play second fiddle from the right in a group now" thing, or because the central European powers (Germany and France) were traditional enemies of Britain, or what?)
I must say though, the US two-parties-and-never-the-two-shall-meet system, for all its bombastic campaigns, seems at the same time depressing (in that almost 50% of the population don't get a say in politics no matter who wins, and that new parties have little chance of getting a foot in the door), and a bit boring. Only two possible outcomes, you know?
About your story:
Yeah, I know what you mean about not having all the ingredients yet. I've had a complex Doctor Who fanfic in the planning stages for a few years now, and not just because of low self-esteem and lacking literary English skills.
The thing is, if the baby-carrier in question (I'm not using the word "woman" here, because she could be genderqueer and transmen have given birth, too, even post-hormones.) doesn't want the kids herself for at least some good reason, I would question why they are doing it. I mean, pregnancy does take a heavy toll on the body and does have serious health risks, even in this day and age (pre-enclampsia, diabetes, etc.) And birth is a painful, disgusting, and highly vulnerable process which involves several strangers touching your genitals and leaves the vagina permanently changed. (You're very lucky if you don't tear / get your taint cut in advance to avoid a more ragged scar.) And a cesarean is even more scarring and dangerous, because all major surgery is. So just "Yeah, I'm okay with it as long as I don't have to raise them" isn't really good enough. It would be, if it was an accidental pregnancy, but personally, I wouldn't intentionally take the pain, risks and indignities just because my best friend wants kids. I'd tell him to adopt instead. It would be on the level of donating a kidney - something you go through to save a life, but not just on a whim.
What I meant was that the woman shouldn't be the only one who wants the kids, and it shouldn't be presented as an inherently feminine trait - i.e. because "all women want babies". A more cynical/practical reason would be fine, though. Wanting to groom a lab assistant / mini-me would be okay from a feminist standpoint, I think, even if it's creepy on the characterisation level. In that case, I'd really be in favour of an artificial womb or other Frankenstein-esque method, though, because someone that selfish wouldn't want to risk her health for the project, I think. Well, unless she's the kind of 'scientist' who tests stuff on herself, like Walter on "Fringe".
If you don't go the sci-fi route, do remember that people have gotten pregnant with the help of sperm donors and turkey basters long before the invention of IVF. Also, IVF is expensive and rather invasive, too. (You've got to have one ore even several doctors get up and personal with your genitals. And putting an instrument through the cervix is probably going to be painful. And I don't even know what they do to extract several eggs from the ovaries at once. Huge needle through the stomach?) Though it does make twins more likely, because they usually implant several fertilised eggs at once. From what I understand, it's mostly done if the sperm cells don't have enough motility to reach the egg the natural way or if the combination rarely results in conception and you have to increase the odds, not as a way to avoid sex.
And besides, gay men have had sex with women for the purpose of having kids as long as human civilisation existed. Unless he's actively gynephobic or she's phallophobic or really sex-repulsed (which even most asexual people aren't), I don't see a problem with conception taking place the conventional way. Maybe with the help of another male partner and a blindfold, if that's what it takes, and the gay man really has to be the genetic father for some reason. (In the Harry Potter scenario I was thinking of the Salamander family as originally from the Ottoman Empire, so Luna would have some trouble finding another wizard among their friends with a suitable skin tone to make the kids look like they could be Salamander's, to satisfy his grandfather's wish for a blood-related heir. Of course, in a sci-fi scenario, he could just insist on a paternity test.) Unlike pregnancy, the sex part actually is on the level of "Yeah, whatever, just get it over with", even for most asexual people in relationships with verisexuals. (Granted, sometimes it's barely endured because of emotional blackmail, social pressuring and the fear of being left alone, and not just something freely given as a gift to the partner or specifically engaged in to make a baby. But as long as you make clear this isn't the case in your story, it would be okay. I know "enthusiastic consent" is a big issue in feminist thought, but people can consent for other legitimate reasons than enthusiasm for sex or physical attraction to the partner. Denying that means infantilising asexuals by default.)
It's great to get this kind of information from the inside, especially as my German reading skills require a dictionary and that's too slow for newspapers. It's great that the neo-liberals are having a downturn, as their rise in contemporary discussion has been a bit of a mystery. Hopefully if their fortunes wane in general, we can avoid the more extreme incarnations here in the perifery.
The Euro issue is interesting, as Germany's economy in general benefits from the stronger euro, it also means that the economies in trouble probably need more help as well because of it, at least in part. So the disgruntledness of some germans(or Europeans) is caused by the crisis, and everybody prefers to blame it on the greeks and others(which of course carries a grain of truth), but as I understand it, the economical troubles of some Germans are not necessarily because of support for Greec, but rather that because of hevay support to the export industry, the domestic market in Germany has dwindled, because the wages are not rising. So the public economy is doing ok and the export industry benefits hugely, which of course is important, but the segments of society which are dependent on domestic markets are actually faring well, as they are supporting the export industry. And because the demand in German domestic markets is weak, countries potential importers to Germany, of which Greece and is one, subsequently have lesser demand for their exports, making recovery slower.
But if German economy keeps on growing, the thing to hope for is that wages start to rise a little and the domestic economy revives as well. But I do agree that Merkel has been doing okay as Europe's unofficial leader and it's good that she will continue doing so. Hopefully we can all start fixing stuff again soon, when the dust settles a little.
Also included was another short essay which sadly does not appear to be available online, but which captured my attention just from the title: Heart of Grimdarkness, by Jared Shurin. Then the first paragraph sold me with this description of the grimdark debate:
Proponents of the genre say it is exploring more realistic emotional territory than traditional fantasy (through rape and torture), all while committing itself to a greater degree of historical accuracy (with rape and torture). Critics say it is prurient and nihilistic - tarnishing the genre of Tolkien (reactionary politics), Howard (racism) and Lovecraft (all around bastardy).
The rest of the article is Shurin plumbing the depths of depravity to which grimdark literature has presently sunk, touching on such themes as "Atheism," "Truancy," and "Books that treat Twilight with respect." All pretty amusing, even though I'm sure I don't get the joke.
Another example Shurin provides is Newsflesh, a series which features "Bloggers as heroes." After deploring the characters' focus on "traffic counting, story re-posting, social media spamming tactics"; he concludes "At least they don't write book reviews."