Hugh Howey, best-selling author

Jul. 30th, 2016 09:02 am
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Posted by Claudia Lamar

Our guest this week is Hugh Howey. Hugh is the New York Times bestselling author of WOOL, SAND, BEACON 23, and over a dozen other novels. He lives on a catamaran he custom built in South Africa and is now sailing around the world.

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Show notes:

Kindle
Kindle Voyage E-reader ($199)
“It is the perfect reading device. … It weighs almost nothing, it’s comfortable in your hand, and I can fit an entire library. The only ding that people have said about the device is its price. I read a lot of classics. When I look at all the free books on gutenberg.org the device has paid for itself already several times over. … The Voyage uses the same screen as the Paperwhite. The body is just slimmer and there’s physical page turn buttons now and my favorite thing actually about the interface is that there’s a very wide side so that you can hold it with the kind of fat part of your thumb, the way you would hold a book without covering the screen or accidentally turning pages. …I have the same sort of emotional attachment to my e-readers as we’ve always had towards books because I think what I’ve found is that I imprinted on books by reading and enjoying them, and now I’m doing that with my e-reader device. The people who say, ‘Well I’ll never feel the same way about it,’ well that’s because you haven’t read enough books yet to have that imprinting take place, but once you do you’ll love the smell of plastic in your hand.”


oceanicoci
Oceanic OCi Wrist Dive Computer ($1,175-$1,300)
“[My Oceanic OCI] is a magical piece of technology. The original dive watches used to be enormous. They’re about as big as the dive computers you carried on your scuba gear, but this … is a very normal size watch. You can wear it every day for telling time, but when you go out for a swim — I’m doing a lot of free diving now — it keeps track of how deep you go and how long each dive is. You get basically a log of your entire swim, like every single time you surface it resets and logs that as a separate dive, so I know if I’m staying down for a minute, if I went down to 60 feet, like all these nice metrics which motivate me to work on my freediving even more. … The great thing about this watch is it’s wireless and when I put on my scuba gear it communicates with my tank and it’ll tell me how much air I have left.”


Hario
Hario Ceramic Coffee Mill ($26)
“Something I love is my coffee mill. I could easily have a little plugin electric coffee mill but on my first sailboat I had very little power and I got as many hand powered things as I possibly could, including my drill was a hand-powered drill, which was a lot of fun, and this Hario ceramic coffee mill gives you a perfect grind. It’s less than $30 for this thing and one of the things I really like about it is it’s quite a bit of work. It might not seem like a selling point but … I get more of a boost to my morning to making my coffee than I get from the coffee itself, and there’s also a meditative quality about it. You really feel — between that and the French press and the whole coffee making process — it just fits with the boat lifestyle more than getting up to a coffee machine and pressing a button or getting in line at Starbucks.”


Magicbullet
Magic Bullet Blender ($40)
“This something else that I use every single day and I see these everywhere now. They’ve become very popular. … If you have all the right ingredients it makes for a wonderful replacement meal, very healthy. I started using it on land and it became indispensable. I actually traveled with my Magic Bullet Blender and I do a smoothie every day for lunch now. It’s one and a half bananas, some peanut butter, yogurt, blueberry, strawberry, and protein mix, and then some camu camu and chia seeds. This all sounds like a lot of stuff but I have one little cabinet that has all my smoothie accoutrement in it. I pull it all out, that’s what I had for lunch, just a couple hours ago, and it’s so quick and easy and you’re not hungry until dinner time. This blender, it’s wonderful, it’s very small and compact but it’s powerful enough to crush ice. You drink right out of the thing that you blend in so you don’t have a lot of extra cleanup and the blade has held up to 6 months of abuse so far. It comes with all kinds of blades and containers. You don’t need a lot of it so you can really kind of figure out what you need and recycle the rest, but it’s a beautiful blender. I love it.”

So for anyone who missed it

Jul. 30th, 2016 04:16 am
giandujakiss: (Default)
[personal profile] giandujakiss
It's two mainstream newspapers now that have come out with massive editorials endorsing Hillary Clinton - even though it's long before the season for that - because of the unique threat Trump poses to the Republic.

One of them, Houston Chronicle, is usually Republican - they endorsed Romney in 2012.

Meanwhile, no one should be holding their breath waiting for a Trump-Clinton debate.
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Posted by h.waterhouse@gmail.com

I originally gave this talk at Open Source Bridge 2015. I then almost completely rewrote it and gave it at Write/Speak/Code Chicago in 2016.


Content notes

This essay will contain references to the following topics. If that’s something you prefer not to read about, I totally understand:

  • Discussion of sexual harrassment
  • Discussion of sexual violence
  • Discussion of intimate partner/domestic violence
  • Discussion of online stalking/abuse
  • Adult language

Cassandra

If you’re here to learn about the database, I’m sorry. This is the other one.

I named it after a mythological character who was cruelly cursed to provide perfectly accurate prophecies AND NEVER BE BELIEVED.

I think Cassandra is the patron of whistleblowing because no one decides to upend their life for a lie. Whistleblowing is a painful and dangerous process, much like telling ancient Greek kings news they don’t want to hear.

Whistleblowing: A definition

For something to be whistleblowing, it needs to have all of these qualities.

  • True
  • Actionable
  • Expensive or painful to solve

If something is true and actionable, you are asking for a reasonable improvement, there’s no problem.
If something is true and painful, but not actionable, there’s nothing anyone can do to fix it.
If you are reporting something you know is untrue, your organization is not what needs repair.

When I say painful, I mean that the problem is going to be hard to fix, because it’s expensive, or because it damages a person or company’s self-image, or because it will require behavior changes from a large number of people.

Reducing carbon footprints, admitting doping in sports, and recalling cars are all examples of painful actions.

Also, when I say whistleblowing, there is an implied power differential – this is not a thing that happens in mutual relationships, but from a less powerful person to a more powerful person or organization.

Whistleblowing is not reporting something because it affects you, but because it will affect other people. Vengeful reporting may be justified, but it’s not always the same thing as whistleblowing.

Options

So you have noticed something is very wrong.

You are sure it is happening.

There are actions that could fix it, if someone had the will to take the actions. You are not sure anyone will choose the right thing to do over the status quo, because the action will be very difficult.

What can you do?

from Google Books
Exit, Voice, and Loyalty, a book about choices by Albert O. Hirschman

In 1970, Albert O. Hirschman wrote that when a person sees a decline in quality from their organization, they can either choose voice (complaint) or exit, but that loyalty affects that binary choice to make it a three-way decision. Your loyalty affects how you choose to exit or speak up.

For example, have you ever been attached to a brand and disappointed when they screw up, like when Lands End took two belt loops off the back of their plus size jeans? You can either write them and complain, or you can silently take your business to Eddie Bauer. But if you have a lot of loyalty to Lands End, you’re more likely to give them a chance to fix their mistake by telling them about it.

These balancing decisions frequently occur in combination in whistleblowing cases. A person can see a problem, voice it, and then remain loyally silent if it is not repaired. Eventually, they may feel that they need to leave. Voice, Loyalty, and Exit are not a one-time decision, but an ongoing tension in our decision-making.

Let’s make this less abstract. Here are three examples from my life.

Voice

Do not plagiarize the American Medical Association. This seems like an obvious rule for living, but I was put in a situation where my manager directly told me to “file the serial numbers off” some documentation from the AMA. I felt…unhappy about this and asked if we could get permission. He said no.

Rather than repeat my protests to my manager, or just go ahead and do it, I went to the CFO and explained why this was a violation of my professional ethics and could get me, personally, sued, as well as the company. The CFO took my report seriously, and I ended up in a call with a terrifying lawyer from New York who probably billed by the second.

The CEO got my manager to back off, and it was mostly ok. But even though that is a best-case scenario of how to handle whistleblowing, this guy was still my manager, still didn’t believe he’d done anything ACTUALLY wrong. I left as soon as I could, because it was so awkward working as his direct report.

Loyalty/Silence

Have you ever wanted to stand up at a wedding and say, “For the love of God, don’t do it”? I have.

I spent the week before my brother’s wedding trying to deny to myself that I was worried about his choice. I thought that maybe I was being overprotective of my little brother, that I just needed to let the bride find her feet in my family. I chose loyalty over voice, over saying something.

As it turns out, it was the wrong choice, and she was the wrong fit, and maybe it would have saved everyone some court costs and time and heartache if any of his loving and loyal family had said, “Yo, you know you don’t have to get married, even if we have the dress right here, don’t you?”

Exit

Anyone wanting to see which way I incline in this system has only to look at my LinkedIn history.

I leave. I see problems, and I say something, or I don’t say anything, but I leave. I leave as well as I can in the circumstances I have, but I get out of Dodge. This may seem like cowardice. It may BE cowardice, but I don’t have the energy to stay and fight it out every time. There is an enormous mental and emotional cost to convincing an organization they have a problem.

Most recently, I fired a client because I believed they were selling something as a security solution, when it was in fact only an access control solution. I tried voice, but when that failed, I left instead of staying for what I felt was the inevitable crisis when someone was breached.

Bigger examples

My examples are relatively small-scale. I’m lucky that way. Let’s touch on some other people who have made the voice/loyalty/exit choice on a larger scale.

Voice

Whistleblowers can be women who stand up to abusive rudeness, like Sarah Sharp.

Sarah Sharp
Sarah Sharp, Open Source Hardware Developer, General Badass

Sarah was a Linux kernel developer when she decided to request more collegial interactions on the Linux Kernel Mailing List, which could have upwards of a thousand messages a day.

Linus Torvalds said,

“I’d like to be a nice person and curse less and encourage people to grow rather than telling them they are idiots. I’m sorry – I tried, it’s just not in me.”

Network World said,

Sharp has publicly locked horns with senior Linux kernel developers including Torvalds in the past over issues of civility and professionalism, and has, arguably, been more responsible than anyone else for pressing the community to consider those issues more critically in recent years.”

There are people like this, who have chosen to take their whistleblowing public, and are suffering very real consequences for it, but who are also moving the conversation by their very presence, their stubborn refusal to shut up about it already.

We don’t all have to be that someone. We don’t have to admire all of whistleblowers on a personal level. We don’t even have to like them. But we can see that this is what voice looks like, if that’s a path we ever feel we need to follow ourselves.

Loyalty/Silence

When I was thinking of examples for this section, I was struck by how many of them were masculine.

Oh, I thought. The culture of military and sports bonding promotes loyalty over speaking out.

  • The NFL’s coverup on traumatic brain injuries.
  • Lance Armstrong’s US Postal cycling team full of doping.
  • The Charge of the Light Brigade.

Then I realized which women were engaging in loyalty and silence — women in abusive and unsafe relationships.

Frequently, by the time a woman starts thinking of leaving to save herself, she is tied to the abuser by loyalty, by children, by financial dependence, by emotional abuse. It’s too easy to say that people in abusive relationships should just leave. We have a strong human urge to team up with people we love, who say they love us.

Exit

There are a lot of people who have left, and for the most part, they have chosen not to be famous about it.

They decided to spend more time with their families. They went into a second career. They found another job. I don’t think it’s right for me to use most of them as examples, but the one really core to me is Kathy Sierra.

She was viciously abused and threatened, and because of that, she gave up her online presence, and much of her speaking and teaching career for five years. She stopped teaching people Java and user empathy and spend healing time with her Icelandic horses, who have never been known to dox anyone.

Photo by Kathy Sierra
Kathy Sierra takes heartbreakingly good pictures of her horses

Her exit was public, clear, and painful for a lot of us to watch.

Real Talk

Let’s talk about what’s going to happen if you choose to exercise voice.

You’re likely to get fired

Not for reporting harassment, but because you’re not a good fit, or a bad team player, or just not fitting in. The worst part is that the people telling you this will actually believe it’s true.

There are federal whistleblower protections, but once you’ve been fired for reporting someone, you are probably not excited about working with them anymore, and invoking the protections involves getting a lawyer, and and and. So there’s that.

You’ll take a reputation hit

Depending on how big a splash you make, or who you are pissing off, you may come under online or offline attack, you may suffer professional damage, you may get a reputation as someone who is in it for the drama, or a tattle. Just as women in an industry talk to each other about unpleasant men they deal with, men gossip about who is difficult for them to deal with. It will feel like everyone is calling you a bitch.

One of the first responses a lot of people have to a report of harassment is to tell the victim to toughen up. You remember that Medium post where the woman said, sure, guys had tried to kiss her at conferences, but it wasn’t a big deal, she just talked more about her husband and her kids and made sure to leave parties before midnight? Yeah. It’s not just men that will come down on women who report harassment. It’s also women who have had their own run-in and have chosen loyalty, for their own reasons. Choosing otherwise challenges them in really uncomfortable ways.

You won’t feel vindicated

Even once you speak up, you are not necessarily going to get the outcome you want. That’s frequently outside your control.

People can report rapes, but they can’t jail rapists by themselves. They can report embezzlement, but they cannot get the money restored. They can report harassment, but they cannot change a company’s culture.

If you are going to be crushed if nothing changes, you may want to consider Exit more heavily.

Why speak up?

That is all pretty dire, isn’t it? This is not the same talk I would give to people with less experience, but I’m guessing that very little of this is news to you. [Note: I was giving this talk to a room of senior/experienced women]

So let’s talk about why people make the choices they do about whistleblowing.

Systems

Either the whistleblower loves the system so much that they can’t bear to see this grit in the gears of something good…

….or they are so bothered by the apparatus of the system that they want to throw a wrench in the works — the original sabotage.

In any case, this kind of motivation is usually about a long-term problem.

Empathy

The problem you see matters to other people – people like you or people you care about.

Think of LeAnne Walters, who went to the Flint City Council and then the EPA about the water in her house. It’s not just that she had a problem, it’s that if she had a problem, then other people would too. Environmental concerns are probably the easiest for us to generalize as being for the sake of humanity in general.

Something is going wrong and people are being hurt, and our whistleblower can’t stand that. The whistleblowing invokes the power of someone who has more capacity to stop bad things from happening to people.

Ideals and rules

Say something because your ideals are being violated. Ideals can include things like patriotism and faith, or even the image of ourselves as “good people”. Chelsea Manning leaked documents because she felt that the world needed to know what the US was doing, because it conflicted with her understanding of what it meant to be American/patriotic to keep quiet.

Say something because you are following an ethical or legal structure that requires it. This is why we have mandated reporting for people who work with children. You are given the support of legally not being able to keep questionable things to yourself if you are a mandated reporter. You have to tell someone.

Know your reasons for speaking up. It makes it easier to be clear about the outcomes you hope for.

Why keep quiet?

This is not an idealistic talk. I am aware there are lots of reasons a person would choose not to be a whistleblower. Let’s talk about some of the common reasons people decide that the risk is too much.

Practicalities

Sometimes, your truth is not worth as much as the ability to live indoors and eat food.

Sometimes you need to weigh the benefit others will get from your speech with the harm you may experience. Lots of us are sole wage earners, or we don’t have the ability to walk away for some other reason.

In my family, we say, “Mommy can’t go to the beach with you. Someone has to earn the money to buy the yogurt.” This example is grimmer by the day as my kids turn into teens!

Integrity

Maybe it’s important to your self- concept to keep a secret.

For example, Chelsea Manning’s co-workers did not reveal classified data, even if it conflicted with their personal ethics, because they had sworn an oath to keep it secret.

Autonomy

The most important reason not to tell your story is because you don’t owe it to anyone. You are not required to live out your pain for other people to see. You are not required to report a rape if it doesn’t serve your needs. You are not obligated to speak up at detriment to yourself.

No employer is as important as you are, your whole self. If it would serve your organization and harm you, you don’t have to say anything.

Exit, your other option

Odds are, at some point you’re going to have to leave. Either your organization won’t change, or they will push you out, or you don’t feel that you can stay any longer without saying something.

What are you going to do about it?

Go quietly

There are two ways to leave. The first is to leave quietly, to take the exit interview and say you’re moving for a better opportunity, to bite your tongue, to get out as cleanly as you can.

This is a perfectly valid, reasonable, and respectable decision.

Burn it all

The other way to leave is like an action movie hero walking away from an explosion.

You go in to the exit interview and lay out the whole truth. You email the details to the paper of record. You embrace your identity as a troublemaker and you make sure everyone knows why you are making trouble. You (gasp) tell the truth on Glassdoor.

You’ll burn some bridges. It’ll be awkward to get references, or maybe even your next job. But you can pick voice and exit simultaneously.

Practical advice

Do what you can with what you have. Know your reasons and your (probable) consequences.
Whatever your reasons, you should identify them and make sure that your plan takes them into account, so you meet your actual goals. Why are you doing this? Systems? Empathy? Ideals?

There are always consequences for invoking power. It’s a little like summoning a demon. You are never the most powerful person in the relationship, by definition. So before you say anything, you have to try to establish what the likely consequences are, and whether they change your opinion of what you want to do.

Depending on the level of what you want to say:
Talk to a friend
Talk to a lawyer
Talk to people who will be affected

Are you ready to go? Do you have a box under your desk, do you have your computer all cleaned up, do you have your parachute packed? Exit is what you do on your own terms, but depending on how serious the thing you are speaking up about is, you may get asked to leave anyway.

Audience matters

You want to invoke some external power, but you need to figure out how the most appropriate person is. Telling the wrong person could be worse than silence.

Power: They need to have power — the power to change something, or to bump the problem up the ladder. You need them to be someone who can do something about your problem that you’re reporting.

Authority is the external trapping of power, but it is also the way that your actions will be legitimized. When I refused to plagiarize the AMA, I went to the CFO to report my boss. Although the CFO had the power to tell me I had done the right thing, and to connect me with the expensive lawyer, it was only when he told the CEO that my boss was reprimanded. I had chosen someone with power, but not the right kind of authority.

Sympathy: Choose someone with sympathy. They don’t have to be sympathetic to you as a human, although that’s nice. They need to be sympathetic to your reason for telling. Are they systems people? Are they empathy people? Whatever it is that drives them needs to be something you address when you tell them.

Go in with a solution

Choose someone who can act on your report. Choose someone as a partner for change, with the power and the psychological profile of being a ‘fixer’.”

Especially in workplace situations, if you go in and complain, you are a problem. If you go in with a solution, you are an asset. People may not take your suggestion, but that’s ok, at least you have offered a way that they can think about solutions.

The worst thing about getting a reputation as a complainer is that it’s easier to think of YOU as the problem, and if they get rid of you, then they don’t have a problem anymore, right?

It’s all about the money

Choose someone who understands how this change will contribute to the financial health of the company.

The great thing about whistleblowing at a company is that it is almost always true that your disclosure will save them money in the long run. You just have to get them to understand that scope. Are you going to save their product from being delayed by programmer communication issues? Will this action keep them from being sued? Could the company avoid a superfund site-level of expense? Will a change improve the productivity of a team that is no longer dealing with the mental expense of micro aggressions?

Businesses have a hierarchy of needs, just like we do. They want to stay alive. So part of successfully disclosing is convincing the organization that it’s a matter of life and death.

Protect yourself

With any form of whistleblowing, you run a risk, but here are my suggestions for making it as safe as possible.

Build a “Fed-Up Fund”

How you fill it is your business, and I will tell you it is wickedly hard to do this after you have kids, so I really suggest doing it before.

You should have 3 months of expenses saved up. That gives you time to emotionally recover and find a new job. 6 months is better, but 3 months will probably do.

I can’t tell you the number of women I know who have taken on stressful or unpleasant high-paying jobs to save enough money to have “just walking out” as an option.

Build your team

Make sure you can get ahold of the people you care about without going through your company, your church, or your ex. Make these connections before you do anything drastic, because afterwards, it will feel awkward to reach out to people you are no longer seeing every day.

Find support. It’s emotionally exhausting to be the nail that sticks up. You’re going to need support from your peers, your family, your friends. Make sure Team You is activated and consulted as appropriate before you do anything.

Keep offsite backups

Don’t depend on having crucial information that you are trying to distribute or keep to protect yourself in just one place. Give a copy to a friend, file it with your lawyer. Especially do not count on corporate email to prove your case. They are in charge of the server, not you.

Document everything

I have a friend who worked for a non-profit. She was having real trouble with a person in leadership, and she felt that her job was threatened. When I asked her if she had documentation, she said that she did, but it was all in an account tied to her employment there.

That’s a terrible idea. I am not a lawyer, but in my experience, there’s nothing saying you can’t BCC yourself on emails as long as they don’t have PID or classified information in them. Those cranky emails from your boss? Totally legit to keep for your records, as well as the ones where she told you to do the exact opposite a week ago. If you are whistleblowing about something at your company, or in your volunteer organization, or ANYTHING ELSE, keep your own copy of the documents in question. Keep it secret, keep it safe. You may need it later.

NOTE: There are several circumstances in which you can get sued or prosecuted for removing proprietary information. Talk to a lawyer.

Go into security lockdown

Before you do anything dramatic, pre-emptively go into security lockdown.

Turn on your two-factor authentication, decrease your public social media profile, don’t leave a lot of hooks for people to attack you instead of the problem you’re pointing out.

You may feel silly and paranoid later for doing this, but it’s not going to be something you regret doing.

tl;rt – Too long; read Twitter

I can’t tell you what you should do when you see something going wrong. It’s not as straightforward as George Washington and his mythical cherry tree. I can give you some questions to ask yourself.

Is it true?
Can anything be solved?
Who is against me speaking? Who will be hurt?
Am I willing to pay a price to say this?

Choose. Choose again and again. If it’s true, it will not be less true in the future. You can choose exit then voice, loyalty then exit, exit and voice. But by having noticed something, you are forced to make a decision. Not doing anything is a decision.

People generally make better decisions when they know more about the problem space. That’s why I’m giving this talk

It is a service to tell your company something they don’t know. That doesn’t mean it will always end the way you expect. The stress of keeping secrets is really high. The stress of acting against your beliefs is astronomical. Either you break or your beliefs bend around to encompass horrible things you don’t want to support. At the risk of bringing up morals in a technical talk, you need to be able to live with yourself in the end.

Jobs are transitory, volunteer positions, money, fame, they come and go. But you only have yourself in the end.

Original slides

Pastrybox had a great take on Voice, Loyalty, and Exit.

[syndicated profile] caravanmagazine_feed

Posted by Surabhi Kanga

This post was originally published on Public Books.

In the intellectual history of modern India, 1909 was a turning point. That year Mohandas Gandhi, a middle-aged Gujarati lawyer based in South Africa, wrote his slim but Galilean freedom charter, Hind Swaraj, or Indian Home Rule, which made the case for ending British colonialism in India. Vinayak Savarkar, eventually to be recognized as the father of Hindutva, or majoritarian Hindu nationalism, published an English translation of his Marathi history of the sepoy mutiny, The Indian War of Independence of 1857, anonymously signed “By an Indian Nationalist.” And in the same year, down south, R Shamasastry, the Chief Librarian of the Mysore Government Oriental Library, published the editio princeps of Kautilya’s Arthashastra, a Sanskrit work on politics and statecraft then thought to date from the reign of the Emperor Chandragupta (circa 321–297 BCE). Chandragupta was the founder of the Mauryan kingdom, the earliest imperial polity covering a huge swathe of the subcontinent, more or less the entirety of what we now think of as “India.”

The influence of Gandhi and Savarkar on the making of modern India is undisputed. But how did the Arthashastra, an erudite treatise from Indic antiquity, become one of the key books from ancient India to have an important career in modern times? The Arthashastra is not just a relic of a remote past; it continues to animate discussions about political life in contemporary India. Defense analysts, management gurus, and op-ed page pundits at Indian think tanks are fond of quoting the Arthashastra. According to the political psychologist and public intellectual Ashis Nandy, this text manifests, at least in the fantasy of modern-day hawks who like to flaunt their familiarity with the classics, an ideology of power that could be described as “controlled pathology,” though it cannot really be taken to advocate out-and-out tyranny or a state that might be called dictatorial.

In an engaging account of the rediscovery of a manuscript of Lucretius’s first-century BCE Latin didactic poem De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things) by a papal secretary, Poggio Bracciolini, in the library of a Benedictine monastery in southern Germany, in 1417, Stephen Greenblatt argues that it was the appearance of this book in early fifteenth-century Europe that led to the “swerve” toward Renaissance Humanism. By putting Lucretius’s ideas back into circulation after centuries of amnesia about this text, Bracciolini, a so-called book-hunter, inadvertently became “a midwife to modernity.” Greenblatt traces Lucretius’s influence throughout the literature and arts of the Renaissance, a period in Europe’s cultural history that is by very definition about the “rebirth” of Greek and Roman antiquity a thousand or more years later.

The “swerve” toward modernity—what philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre might have called an “epistemological breakthrough” marking the transition from the medieval to the modern world—can be seen in the work of a range of figures, including Copernicus, Giordano Bruno, Spinoza, Galileo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Hobbes, and many others, who over time brought about a profound change “from one way of perceiving and living in the world to another.” A case stands to be made, I would suggest, that the discovery of the Arthashastra in early twentieth-century southern India has a comparable role to play in the still-evolving elaboration of the idea of an Indian modernity.

In India today, the Arthashastra is considered analogous to Aristotle’s Politics and Machiavelli’s The Prince. Its topics include kingship, governance, and law in early India. Its perspectives on these subjects have proved to be as important to the project of Indian modernity as the theories of violence and non-violence, state, community, and self-rule authored by such political thinkers and founding figures of the postcolonial Indian nation as Gandhi, Ambedkar, Tagore, Savarkar, and their peers. British India’s foremost anti-colonial leader and free India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, brings up the Arthashastra half a dozen times in his classic popular history, The Discovery of India (1946), written in jail on the eve of Independence. Sixty years later, Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate in Economics, still treats this work as relevant to our times.

*

First things first: what does the title mean? A shastra is an authoritative work, a master manual or a scientific treatise, in this case about something called artha. What is artha? It can mean “meaning,” as in the meaning of a word. It can mean “substance,” as in the material, the stuff out of which anything is made. It can mean “purpose” or “goal,” the end that determines the means, the driver of an action or the reason for an undertaking. The title “Arthashastra” refers to both the substance and the purpose of political power. If power were a kind of material, of which kingdoms are made, and because of which the king can do things, then this book tells you in a rigorous and rational manner about the type of substance power is, what it might do in the world, and how best to put it to use—if you happen to be a king—to consolidate your own power, keep rivals in check, and take care of your people.

The Arthashastra has two sections, the first dealing with the governance of the kingdom (tantra, “home affairs,” so to speak), and the second dealing with foreign relations (avapa, “external affairs”). There’s a prefatory table of contents, and a concluding self-reflexive statement showing that the Arthashastra itself is a well-constructed text, ideal as a handbook for the ruler of a well-governed kingdom. All aspects of what we might think of as policy, planning, infrastructure, strategy, security, war, treaties, alliances, law and order, trade, taxation, revenue, property, fortifications, treasury, and defense are covered in a systematic fashion.

The Arthashastra is an encyclopedic, in many ways unique source of knowledge about the material culture of ancient India; it preserves information that has otherwise disappeared from the historical and literary record. Even though it does not refer to any historically specific domain, ruler, or set of kingdoms, it is replete with breathtaking empiricism, using a vast and specialised vocabulary to describe in detail a highly urbanised, diversified, and developed economy, polity, and society. (Translating this vocabulary is itself a stupendous task.) The Arthashastra does not, however, address the moral dimensions of sovereign power or political conduct. Those are subjects for a related but separate body of texts concerned with dharma, law or norms, in contrast to artha, the pragmatics of governing a kingdom.

*

 

In his new annotated translation of the Arthashastra, Patrick Olivelle, Professor Emeritus of Sanskrit and Indian Religions at the University of Texas at Austin, settles many questions about the date, authorship, architecture, and contents of the text that have dogged scholars since the first modern edition of 1909. The Arthashastra as we receive it, he argues, has its roots in textual materials dating somewhere between the mid-first century BCE and the mid-first century CE. These materials are lost and we only know of their existence because of references to them in the later literature. We are helped in temporally locating these materials with some precision, though, by references to coral, gold, and gold coins, which indicate that the text was written at a time when sea trade between India and the Mediterranean lands had already begun, and gold was being both mined and minted into currency on the Indian subcontinent.

The right way to think of the Arthashastra, then, is as the apotheosis and distillate of a tradition of political pragmatics in India between the mid-first century BCE and about 300 CE, of which the greatest exponent was the historical author whose name has survived in connection with this body of knowledge, namely, Kautilya. This body of knowledge is variously referred to within the tradition using a vocabulary of compounded words, all of which weave together one element connoting administration, governance, policy, punishment, rule, and so on with another connoting the science or discipline thereof. Next, sometime between 50 and 125 CE, an author, a real historical person with the name Kautilya (sometimes “Kautalya”), composed a work with the probable title Danḍaniti (literally, “Policy of Punishment”), which is still the core of the Arthashastra. This text has the aphoristic brevity, linguistic elegance, and structural compactness characterising much of classical sutra literature in Sanskrit. The final version, which comes down to us two millennia later, Olivelle calls the “Shastric Redaction” of Kautilya’s root text, a much longer and more elaborate treatise, the work of many hands between 175 and 300 CE. In this book, danḍa and dharma marry, as it were, to yield artha, an epistemological provenance of the theorisation of sovereignty according to which power has both bluntly punitive and subtly normative aspects.

According to Olivelle, Kautilya the author of the Dandaniti that is the spine of the Arthashastra chronologically preceded Manu, the author of the eponymous Manusmriti, or Laws of Manu, the text that stands in the dharma epistemological tradition exactly where the Arthashastra stands in the artha epistemological tradition. The Manusmriti, however, had stabilized before the process of shastric redaction that yielded the final Arthashastra.

Both texts—the Arthashastra and the Manusmriti—have been subject to philological and hermeneutical commentary and interpretation over the two-thousand-odd years of their respective trajectories, from the dawn of the Common Era down to the present. In the first millennium, in southern India, the Arthashastra seems to have been known, read, commented upon, and referred to a great deal, though it seems to recede from view somewhat in the second millennium, until its rediscovery in the twentieth century. More importantly, both Kautilya’s and Manu’s texts continue to animate discussions about political life even in contemporary India, which necessitates our taking them seriously as the repositories of living ideologies and not just as relics of a remote past.

*

Any reader of the Arthashastra would be struck by a couple of features of the world conjured through the text. First, the polity being referred to is both urban and urbane. People practice a variety of professions. The population of the city is largely mobile and transient. Men and women both work; there is a large and complex bureaucracy employed in the king’s service; the state must keep an eye on the traders, courtesans, actors, informants, spies, ascetics, secret agents, soldiers, artisans, officials, manufacturers, performers, moneylenders, and hundreds of other types of persons inhabiting and moving around in the city and its surrounding countryside.

A tint of the fourfold hierarchy of varṇa (social class + ritual status) normally referred to as “the caste system” seems only lightly and belatedly brushed onto this teeming, dynamic, and complex sociological picture. Olivelle argues, based on the work of scholars like Thomas Trautmann and Mark McClish, that the superimposition of the vocabulary and sociology of caste onto the basic structure of Kautilya’s text was due to the original text’s later redactors.

But even after this transformation, the sensorium of Arthashastra retains an ecumenical, diverse, and worldly flavor. The royal palace, the marketplace, the brothel, the government office, and the army camp are the hubs of most of the action in the Arthashastra, not the temple, the private home, the monastery, or the university. In the latter half of the text, we get an overwhelming sense of the importance of surveillance, stratagem, and counter-insurgency to the ruler’s control over his kingdom. People are not who they seem to be; identities are in flux. Enemies and rivals swarm within the kingdom and flourish abroad; the king must be vigilant at all times and trust no one.

The text’s focus is on the expansion of territory; plucking out “thorny elements” (kantakashodhana)—criminals, miscreants, spies, and so on—using surveillance, interrogation, detention, and punishment; the consolidation and management of subject populations; and the monopoly of military strength. To that extent, it is oriented toward realpolitik and reminds the modern reader of Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Schmitt. Nehru writes about Kautilya: “Long before Clausewitz, he is reported to have said that war is only a continuance of state policy by other means.” In this scenario, soul-searching, ascetically inclined, and exilic monarchs like Janaka, Krishṇa, Rama, Siddhartha Gautama or Ashoka—kings at odds with power, who are valorised in other traditions of Indian political philosophy—have no place.

It should also be emphasised that the Arthashastra does not show us a “Hindu” society in the least: entirely preoccupied as it is with the institutions of government, law, and the military, it is devoid of reference to gods and goddesses, temples and shrines, worship and ceremonies, priests and other religious leaders. It belies every vision of either Vedic antiquity, saturated with sacrificial rituals and elemental deities, or of India’s purportedly timeless religious essence, so beloved first of the colonial historians with their Orientalist gaze, and today of the ruling right wing, bent on constructing a once and future Hindu Rashtra, India as a nation of, for, and by Hindus.

The urbane and canny denizens of Kautilya’s city-state, more wary of their local police superintendent, tax collector, and revenue officer than concerned with whatever rewards and punishments await them in the afterlife, look nothing like the pious Hindus we are today being told built India into the great civilisation it was thousands of years ago, before the advent of Buddhism, Islam, Western modernity, and other such “recent” encumbrances.

*

Olivelle’s meticulous scholarship puts to rest the most widely held belief about Kautilya—that he was in fact the Brahman Chanakya, the prime minister of Chandragupta, who founded the Mauryan Empire sometime around 320 BCE. When the Arthashastra was rediscovered at the beginning of the twentieth century, and subsequently published in constantly improving editions right into the 1960s, many Indian political thinkers and historians were only too happy to equate its author with the Brahman advisor to Chandragupta. Both the emperor Chandragupta and his Brahman prime minister, Chanakya, were taken to be near contemporaries of the Greek king Alexander (who came to India) and the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who was Alexander’s teacher.

The Arthashastra could therefore be seen as analogous to and contemporaneous with Aristotle’s Politics. Nationalists could argue that Indian antiquity had its own tradition of political thought to rival the Greek. This, added to India’s long history of glorious and enormous pre-colonial indigenous empires, from the Mauryan to the Gupta to the Mughal, could be presented as a strong argument against the continuation of the British Empire in India, to be defeated and replaced by Indian self-rule once again.

The Arthashastra became enfolded into the nationalist narrative of Indian thinkers and leaders struggling against colonial domination, as a sign of historical antiquity, political power, intellectual prestige, and cultural pride. Nehru’s retelling of prime minister Chanakya’s role in the founding of the Mauryan Empire is almost breathless with admiration for this kingmaker, who is somewhat implausibly described as “bold and scheming,” “proud and revengeful,” “simple and austere,” “unscrupulous and rigid,” and yet “wise” and conciliatory—all at once. Even today, almost seven decades after Independence, it takes a genuine effort of scholarly disambiguation to undo the mythical aura that surrounds the Arthashastra and its purported author.

Over the past century since its rediscovery, the Arthashastra has been attractive for modern Indian thinkers, especially its political leaders doubling as historians and intellectuals, for its empiricist breadth as well as its imagination of statecraft as a function of intelligence gathering, military strategy, and panoptical surveillance. It has appealed to nationalists—both secular and Hindu—more broadly because it seems to embody the impressive extent of philosophical achievement that prevailed in ancient India, proving that Indian intellectual culture was sophisticated to the highest degree, and that systematic knowledge pertaining to all aspects of life was cultivated, honed, and valued.

*

Olivelle proves definitively that there is no evidence whatsoever for equating Kautilya with the Brahman prime minister Chanakya. The myth of these two being one and the same came into circulation in the Gupta period (early fourth to mid-sixth century CE), when the playwright Vishakhadatta wrote his famous Sanskrit drama the Mudraraksasa, a story about the origins of the Mauryan dynasty and the founding of the Mauryan empire. It was likely written sometime in the late fourth or early fifth century CE, during the reign of Chandragupta II “Vikramaditya,” the greatest of the Gupta dynasts.

The Guptas explicitly modeled themselves on the Mauryas, building an empire whose territorial extension sought to match that of the Mauryan imperium five or six hundred years earlier. For the Guptas, the prestige of a tradition of political thought represented by the Arthashastra, a text very much under revision during their time, became further enhanced by rooting it firmly in the Mauryan period and by positing its Brahman authorship in this amalgamated but fictitious figure of Chanakya-Kautilya.

Building on earlier research by McClish and Trautmann, Olivelle makes it explicit that it was in the Gupta period that the idea of a Brahman advisor who was also a political theorist attached itself to the vision of ideal kingship, and was projected onto the then already-distant Mauryan past. With impeccable philological thoroughness, Olivelle undermines the political imagination that firstly posits the Arthashastra as a singular text (rather than as the summa of a textual tradition), secondly attributes the authorship of the Arthashastra to the Brahman Mauryan prime minister Chanakya, and finally treats Chanakya and Kautilya as alternative names for the same person.

Even if we were to accept that Chanakya actually lived and was Chandragupta’s advisor, his Brahman status, his intellectual perspicacity, and his inauguration of a tradition of political philosophy are propositions we can no longer simply accept as historical truths. No indication of the existence of this type of person, of his dramatic role in the establishment of the Mauryan Empire, or of his legitimation of any kind of absolutist monarchy is available. Moreover, what we know about Mauryan kingship is markedly at variance with the rather more intricate and ambitious prescriptions of Kautilya.

While philologists and historians would have no problem adjusting to this henceforth-permanent separation of Chanakya from Kautilya and the former’s severance from the authorship of Arthashastra, it remains to be seen how the culture warriors of the Hindu right, who currently claim to represent mainstream Indian opinion, will react to the paradigm-shifting implications of Olivelle’s opus.

For, like Faust or Shylock, the figure of Chanakya-Kautilya, wily Brahman, kingmaker, and strategist, has become stock and stereotype, equally likely to show up in Amar Chitra Katha comic books, in television serials, in the names of newspaper columns, or in the titles of learned books. Under a regime of the Hindu right, what was a harmless bit of myth-making stands to become a dangerous article of faith, and moreover to acquire sinister overtones, providing yet another symbol of idealised authoritarianism that Indian democracy simply cannot afford to perpetuate.

Although citizens of democratic India continue to mull over and quarrel about old texts like these, it could be argued that what keeps such works vital and relevant is not so much what’s in them as the fact that they exist at all, that they function as reminders of the deep foundations on which the edifice of Indian modernity rests with a degree of confidence and stability. Whatever we may make of such texts, depending on our ideological needs, our political vantages, and our imaginative capacities, we must remain grateful to scholars like Olivelle, whose immense labor and lucid analysis give us the building blocks with which to make or break, arrange or rearrange our past, our present, and perhaps, with time enough, our future as well.

Public Books Dispatches

This post is a collaboration between Public Books and The Caravan.

The post An Ancient Treatise and the Making of Modern India appeared first on The Caravan.

linkspam is way behind

Jul. 29th, 2016 10:18 pm
cofax7: D'Argo: there is always time for beer (FS - Beer Time - Saava)
[personal profile] cofax7
I was on vacation in the mountains last week, in a place that not only didn't have wifi, it pretty much didn't have cell reception! It was great. But as a result I have more than 2 weeks worth of links piled up...

And because it's 10:30 on Friday night and I have had too much whiskey, I'm not going to sort these. Randomly, then:

Well, there's a backhanded compliment: Reading “Belgravia” is rather like visiting a modern re-creation of a Victorian house — every cornice molding is perfect — but it’s a Victorian house with 21st-­century plumbing and Wi-Fi. It’s for anyone who has tried to read a 19th-­century novel and become bored, say, with the demanding philosophizing in “Middlemarch” or the social misery of “Oliver Twist.” Heh. I think I'll pass.

Natural history and the invention of Great Britain.

Turns out women were the poison pill in the Civil Rights Act. Whoops.

Sea level rise and the future of New York City. Yikes.

Nicely geeky: a character map for the Silmarillion.

Inaccurately-titled story about finding people who knew your parents when they hid from the Nazis during WWII. Pretty awesome, really.

Tor has a new series on African writers of SFF.

Hope as poetry or song: a great compilation of links and poems here.

Some good news from Henson: They will be teaming up with Rhianna Pratchett to make a Tiffany Aching movie. I was dubious at first, but it's Henson, after all. (Coincidentally, I made my nephews and niece (and big sister!) listen to the first half of The Wee Free Men on the drive to the mountains.)

The US expects to sweep the gymnastics medals in the Olympics; this story explains why.

Gotta love Samantha Bee on the Russian connection to the election.

Easy delicious healthy one bowl meals.

Research on the neurological value of silence.

Reddit has a place to talk about bodyweight exercises, and a recommended routine.

Well, this article about the inevitable failure of the Hayward Fault is disturbing.

UK LeGuin gave this commencement address at Mills College 30 years ago; it's sadly still relevant.

So I thought the DNC commissioned Rachel Platten's "Fight Song" for the convention; turns out I was out of the loop and the song's been out for a while. Anyway, it's endearingly catchy and inspirational, and I think we'll see a bunch more vids set to it. Here's one done for Fury Road. (The DNC should have given Connie Britton more air time, though. IJS.)

*

In other news, I'm almost caught up on Steven Universe but haven't watched any other tv except the DNC all week.

And my dog-sitter broke my washing machine, argh.
[syndicated profile] crooked_timber_feed

Posted by Corey Robin

So Donald Trump Jr. went to the Neshoba County Fair in Mississippi this week, where he said, vis-a-vis the Mississippi state flag, which is the only state flag that still invokes the Confederacy, “I believe in tradition.” Those Neshoba County fairgrounds are just a few miles from Philadelphia, Mississippi. The place indelibly associated with the murder of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner in 1964. So that tells you a lot about Donald Trump. Junior and Senior.

But it also tells you a lot about the Republican Party. Thirty-six years ago, almost to the day, Ronald Reagan, then a candidate for the presidency, also went to the Neshoba County Fair in Mississippi. There, he said, “I believe in states’ rights.” That, of course, had been the slogan for decades of racial segregation and Jim Crow. Like father, like son; like Reagan, like Trump.

But it also tells you something about the Democratic Party.

For Ronald Reagan is the man whose name improbably electrified the Democratic National Convention meeting this week. In another Philadelphia.

On Wednesday night, Barack Obama said:

Ronald Reagan called America “a shining city on a hill.” Donald Trump calls it “a divided crime scene” that only he can fix.

On Thursday night, Hillary Clinton said:
He’s [Trump] taken the Republican Party a long way…  from “Morning in America” to  ”Midnight in America.” He wants us to fear the future and fear each other.

And just in case the point wasn’t clear, a former official from the Reagan administration enchanted a crowd of screaming Democrats with this one-liner (itself a nod to another DNC one-liner; there’s more intertextuality at a political convention than there is in a grad school seminar):
Donald Trump, you are no Ronald Reagan.

So does any of this matter? Why do I keep harping on the non-newness of Donald Trump, why do I keep resurrecting the multiple precedents for his candidacy against those who would argue for its novelty and innovations?

Part of the reason is that it is an offense against history and memory to pretend that the GOP of the past was somehow a party of reasonable men, clear-headed and basically decent moderates who were taking the car out for a Sunday spin when it all of a sudden it got hijacked by neighborhood toughs and crazed yahoos.

This is not a new argument with me. I’ve been trying for years to explain to dubious liberals and skeptical leftists that Trumpism is what this party is all about, that the “rational, prudential conservatives they think they know are in fact ultra-revanchist songstresses of domination and violence.”

But as I’ve thought about it some more these past few days—why do I keep insisting on these precedents?—it’s occurred to me that there is a less historical, less intellectual and scholarly, reason for my claim.

In this election, we have the opportunity to repudiate not only Donald Trump but Trumpism, and not only Trumpism but the entire apparatus that gave us this man and this moment. That apparatus is the Republican Party and the modern conservative movement. The movement and the party that gave us the Southern Strategy, that made white supremacy the major dividing line between the two parties, that race-baited its way to the free market as the dominant ideology of our time, that made hysterical, revanchist militarism the common sense of bipartisanship, that helped turn the Democratic Party into the shell that it is today (with plenty of assistance of course from people like Bill Clinton), that gave us Donald Trump.

When we pretend that Donald Trump is an utter novelty on the American political scene, when Democratic presidents and Democratic presidential candidates invoke the reverie of Ronald Reagan against the reality of Donald Trump, when liberal journalists say the contest this year is not between the Republicans and the Democrats but between a normal party and an abnormal growth from an otherwise normal host (with the implication being that if only we could go back to the contests of 2008, 2000, 1992, 1980, 1972, all would be well), we not only commit an offense against history and memory; we not only betray a woeful ignorance of how we came to this pass (and thereby, as the cliche would have it, ensure that we will come to it again); we help shore up, we extend the half-life, of a party and a movement that should be thoroughly smashed and repudiated. (That, incidentally, is what all the great realignments do: they shatter the old regime, they destroy the ideological assumptions and repudiate the interests that have governed for decades, they send the dominant party and its leading emblems into exile, where they wander in the wilderness for decades.) We make plain our intention to give that party and that movement, even if they should lose in November, a second chance to make their malice and mischief all over again.

Seems like a bad move to me.

Pre and Post-Scarcity Ecotheonomics

Jul. 29th, 2016 11:01 pm
[syndicated profile] crooked_timber_feed

Posted by John Holbo

Erick Erickson:

In Genesis, God put Adam and Eve to work in the garden. There is something soul nourishing about work. When we all get to Heaven we will all have jobs. Getting people comfortable not working sucks their souls away and destroys their families.
Two questions here.

First, did Adam and Eve work in the garden? My distinct impression is that they may have done a spot of more or less recreational-sounding ‘dressing and keeping’, but the garden grew without initial tilling. And all that ‘getting bread by the sweat of one’s brow’ business only came later. Eden was a pre-scarcity economy, in which Adam and Eve enjoyed guaranteed, basic subsistence without work.

Second, how does the job-market operate in Heaven? Is it a capitalist economy? If so, who owns the means of production? Can you be fired? By whom? If you are fired or don’t want to work, is there unemployment insurance? Is the labor market tight? It seems like infinite Goods, all around, are going to make a mess of macro and micro calculations. What about money? Is Heaven on the gold standard or is it some ‘in God we trust’ paper scheme like we’ve got on earth? A lot of these speculations sound vaguely absurd, perhaps, but it’s surely equally absurd to count on every saved soul working on the assembly line at their local Hosannah Factory just for the love of it, the inherent satisfaction. Work may be inherently satisfying but obviously people will only avail themselves of those inherent satisfactions if prodded with economic sticks. God’s omnipotence is such that He can create a post-scarcity economy that includes scarcity, for incentive purposes. We want Heaven to be a safety net, not a hammock, as Paul Ryan would say.

[syndicated profile] astoriapost_feed

Posted by admin

TasteofBengal

July 29, Staff Report

A popular 31st Street Indian restaurant is expanding and is taking over the space beside it that was previously occupied by a cabinet store.

Taste of Bengal, which offers Bengali, Indian and Pakistani cuisine, has been operating out of its 28-27 31st Street location since April 2013 primarily offering take-out. The restaurant has offered eight seats since its inception.

In early August, the restaurant will unveil its additional space that will make room for 15 more seats taking the total to over 20.

The decision to expand was prompted by strong business.

“Our customers have been asking us for more dining space for some time,” said Ruhel, the owner of the restaurant. “We also need more kitchen space: we average about 80 deliveries over the weekends.”

Ruhel said it is a family-run business, with his parents doing the cooking. He handles the management and said he will be bringing on additional staff. The menu will be the same in the short term.

The family has been in the country for about 12 years ago, and has lived in Astoria the entire time.

He said the majority of the restaurant’s customers are westerners.

The restaurant also plans to expand its hours.

It will be open from 12 pm to 11 pm seven days a week. The restaurant will continue to do deliveries.

 

[syndicated profile] astoriapost_feed

Posted by admin

Venus Music Festival

July 29, Staff Report

An ode to female musicians and creatives in the shape of an indoor eight hour music festival is taking place at Irish Whiskey Bar on Saturday, July 30.

The first ever “Venus Envy Music Festival” will feature a lineup of almost a dozen female musicians, artists and performers from Astoria, and will be held at the Irish Whiskey Bar, on 28-48 31st St. from 4:00 pm to 12:00 am.

The festival’s founder, a part-time songwriter and Astoria resident of 12 years, Nelly DuBarry, said she was inspired to put together the festival while performing at open mic nights every Tuesday at the hosting establishment.

“I would go there, and in between a lot of acts, there would only be a few girls who were up on stage, so one day I thought, ‘Hey wouldn’t it be a great idea to have a show with just us?’ ” explained DuBarry.

Venus Team

(Left) Venus Envy Music Festival founder Nelly DuBarry (Right) Astoria Music & Arts Director, “Doris Cellar”

Nelly entered into the music scene a year and a half ago, and has since seen a great deal of female creatives in Astoria that she hopes to highlight through this festival, which she would like to make an annual event.

“It got to the point where I unfortunately had to say ‘no’ to some of the musicians who wanted to be a part of this year’s event because we didn’t have enough time or stages to book them, so I hope to one day bring it to an outdoor space as demand for stage time and the number of female performers grows,” she said.

Astoria Music & Arts (AMA), a local non-profit that has put on large outdoor music festivals at Astoria Park, is one of the Venus Music Festival’s newest sponsors, and has been promoting it through their marketing channels.

“We think its important for us to be involved because we want to inspire women to get out there and play,” said AMA director Nicole Mourelatos, also known by her performing name, “Doris Cellar.”

“We can’t wait to show our town what some of the talented women of Astoria are made of!” she added.

Readers can RSVP on their Facebook event page here.

WHEN: Saturday, July 30, 2016
WHERE: Irish Whiskey Bar, 28-48 31st St. Astoria, NY
WHO: See below

5:30 pm – Elise Levitt
6:00 pm – Ithalia Johnson
6:30 pm – Barbara Dragun
7:00 pm – Virgina Marcs
8:00 pm – Lauren Hunt
8:30 pm – Kayyla O’ Keefe
9:00 pm – Doris Cellar
10:00 pm – QuickFinger w/ Cathy Crisci
11:00 pm – Mainline Gypse w / Bernandette Claffrey
12:00 am – Open Jam w/ Shannon Conley

image

Festival poster

Please note: The Astoria Post is a sponsor of the Venus Envy Music Festival

In these times

Jul. 29th, 2016 02:34 pm
starlady: (bibliophile)
[personal profile] starlady
I called my father this afternoon, who commented that I sound tired. Well, yeah, because I'm staying up way too late reading Wimsey pretty consistently. In that vein, I'm trying to put together my thoughts on the second half of Murder Must Advertise, which is difficult because it's a perfect book.

Sadly my Samsung phone is too full of bloatware to make catching Pokemon feasible for me at this point, but there is a Pokemon Go community on Dreamwidth now, for those who might be interested in that sort of thing:

PokeStop - a Pokmon Go community
giandujakiss: (Default)
[personal profile] giandujakiss
panicking again.

I actually don't think there will be big scandals because I don't think they are corrupt. But I think they are political and there will be nasty stuff that will be embarrassing or distracting.
[syndicated profile] kottke_org_feed

Posted by Jason Kottke

In his latest video, Evan Puschak takes Batman v Superman director Zack Snyder to task for filling his movies with flashy moments instead of scenes that would give the movie more emotional punch.

It's a convincing argument. But before watching this -- and full disclosure: I have not seen Batman v Superman -- I thought he was going to discuss the real flaw in BvS which is very simply: Superman is an invincible man and Batman is a normal guy in a fancy suit. If this were not a movie designed to entertain 14-year-old boys but a real thing happening in an actual world, Superman would just deal with Batman as trivially as you or I might swat a mosquito. And don't get me started on kryptonite and Superman's greater Achilles Heel, his goodness and love of humanity. As a storyteller, how many more interesting ways can you exploit those weaknesses? Superman is the most boring superhero -- a nearly invincible man with very obvious flaws -- and that's why no one can make a contemporary film about him that's any good.

P.S. Actually, Superman's biggest flaw is that he wants to be a writer when he could quite literally do anything else with his time, like fly around or make time go backwards. What an idiot.

Tags: Batman   Evan Puschak   movies   Superman   video

I’m a real editor now!

Jul. 29th, 2016 03:58 pm
alexandraerin: (Default)
[personal profile] alexandraerin

Yesterday, I said on Twitter that I felt like a real editor when I had to send out my first refusal notice for someone who had failed to follow submission guidelines in a way that is automatically disqualifying: they sent a standard manuscript, with their contact information and all. Since our editorial process is built around reading pieces anonymously, this is the one point on which we’ve accorded ourselves no wiggle room. It might be that we wind up using the other guidelines to trim the slush pile, or at least do some preliminary sorting and weighting, but that’s the one that’s just automatic.

Today, I had an experience that really hammers home the fact that I’m editing a magazine of fiction and poetry. I received the following email:


Dear Editor: I’m always glad to see new publishers on the scene, but you do have more requirements for publishing a writer’s work than I have ever seen.The worst requirement that is going to keep submissions out of your mail box, is your refusing to accept simultations. However, I do wish you goodluck.
[name redacted]

Well! I’ve heard about this, but I never believed it would happen to me. I was over the moon! This may not be the wisest move, but I replied thusly:

Dear Mr. [redacted]
First, let me heartily thank you for sending this email. As a writer and poet, I have many friends who have been editors and otherwise worked in publishing, and they have all told me stories about receiving messages like this when they were first hired or set up shop: the earnest and forthright man who wishes to tell them what it is that is wrong with their submission guidelines and what they may do to correct them.
Now that I have received one of my own, I feel like I am truly part of an illustrious circle.
I couldn’t agree with you more that not accepting simultaneous submissions will keep submissions out of our inbox. In particular, it will keep those submissions out of our inbox that are under consideration elsewhere, thus preventing awkward situations where a story or poem we would like to accept has already been accepted elsewhere. We are admittedly new to this side of the table, but my suspicion is that it will be markedly easier to assemble a magazine when the submitted pieces are sitting still as we try to arrange them. The advantage has always been clear to me, which is why I’ve never balked at submitting to a magazine that does accept simultaneous submissions.
Actually, come to think of it, I can’t recall the last time I read a set of submission guidelines that allowed for simultaneous submissions, without at least some healthy caveats. I know I’ve seen at least one, but it’s very much the exception and not the rule in my experience. I think considering simultaneous submissions is really a luxury that only the bigger, better established venues can afford, as they have the staff, organizational infrastructure, and pool of contributors to handle the complications that arise as a result.
Our fledgling two person operation, on the other hand, does not. In fact, if the only practical difference was that disallowing simultaneous submissions was that it cut our slush pile down by some arbitrary amount, it would still be worth doing on that ground alone. Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite happy that the response has been as strong as it has been. I’m just straining to imagine how we’d keep up if it were both markedly increased in volume and some of the pieces submitted for our consideration came with an invisible random time limit and the possibility of a silent bidding war.
As for our other requirements, they are hardly that numerous but rather are specific. We have a preferred format for reading, which is quite normal. We have a standardized subject line for submissions, which is far from unusual and which aids in our automation and sorting. We require that all personal identifying information be stripped from submitted manuscripts so that we may read them without bias. Markets are split on this, but I think you’ll find most of them either require the author’s contact information be present or require that it does not; there are few magazines that take a laissez-faire approach to where the author’s name appears. We have a generous cap on the number of pieces that may be submitted by a single author at a given time.
And that about does it for requirements. Nothing unique, nothing even that unusual, nothing overly onerous or complicated.
Perhaps it strikes you as more than it is because we spell it out in paragraph form rather than bullet-pointing? This is a personal preference from my own time submitting. I prefer when publishers are unambiguous about what it is they expect of me rather than waving a hand vaguely in the direction of their inbox and hoping I can divine their preferences. It might be that you’ve never had the experience of stopping and asking yourself, “Is this really what the other person wants from me? Am I doing this right?”, but I prefer to go the extra mile to reassure those who do worry about such things.
Or perhaps when you speak of the number of requirements, you’re talking about the section entitled “Dos, Don’ts, and Dislikes” at the bottom? These are not requirements, per se, but rather are there to alleviate one of the unfortunate side effects of soliciting submissions for a first issue. If we were an established venue,then you or any other author or poet who happened by could peruse our back issues to see what sort of things we’re wont to publish, get a general feel for the magazine, and see how your work might or might not fit into it. I know that when I submit my poetry, I take care to get to know the market in which I’m trying to sell it.
It might be that the idea of finding the right home for your work is an alien idea to you. It might be that you are more accustomed to shotgunning your pieces across the wide world and its web, which would explain your preference for markets that accept “simultations”, as you would term them. To which I say: it is certainly an approach to things, but it is not my approach as a writer, nor an approach that is likely to receive a warm reception at any venue I edit.
Spam marketing may move penis pills, Mr. [redacted], but it does not move me.
That said, I wish you good luck as well in your endeavors. If you do chance to have any pieces you would care to submit, please do make sure you follow our relatively few, simple guidelines for formatting, as they help ensure that we can read your work without respect to your identity as a person and thus without any bias based on prior relationship, reputation, or email interactions.
Kindest possible regards,
Alexandra Erin
Head Editor
Ligature Works

Now, I’ve alluded to the size of our slush pile, both in this blog post proper and in the email response. If you’ve been thinking of submitting, please don’t let that stop you! Our guidelines, few as they are, can be found in detail at http://www.ligatureworks.com/submissions. We will tell you exactly what we’re looking for (insofar as that can be conveyed with regards to artistic works), exactly how to format it to be read, and exactly how to send it in. Easy-peasy!

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write.

A Lego minifig with human skin

Jul. 29th, 2016 06:06 pm
[syndicated profile] kottke_org_feed

Posted by Jason Kottke

Um. Um, um, um. Uh. Frank Ippolito built a costume designed to look like a Lego minifig with real human skin. The hands -- the haaaaaands!! -- are super super super creepy.

Tags: Frank Ippolito   Legos   video

Early Bird Books

Jul. 29th, 2016 05:04 pm
[syndicated profile] cooltools_feed

Posted by mark

If you’re an ebook junkie like me, you know that the cost of them is normally way, way, WAY too high. I’m not sure where I first found these guys, but they send out an email every weekday with a handful of interesting ebooks, covering many genres, for not a lot of money. Usually 1.99 if you buy that day only. They aren’t current best sellers, but they’re not total junk either. I’ve been subscribing for a couple of months, and I’ve managed to score a couple deals in that time. Each email also includes one free ebook, always public domain, usually more than 120 years old, but still. And the links to buy the books are non-denominational — they offer each one from multiple vendors (Amazon, Apple, B&N, etc.). It’s a great way to build up your e-library.

-- Dave Faris

Early Bird Books newsletter (Free)

Kitty

Jul. 29th, 2016 04:36 pm
[syndicated profile] mamohanraj_feed

Posted by Mary Anne Mohanraj

There is an extremely affectionate cat here. If I could guarantee that a cat we got would be quite this prone to curling up in laps and being petted, I would be very tempted to get a cat again. Kevin thinks Ellie might not take well to one, though. Hmm….

withcat

How Are You? (in Haiku)

Jul. 29th, 2016 01:29 pm
jjhunter: irridescent raven against a background of autumnal maple leaves (world tree raven)
[personal profile] jjhunter
Pick a thing or two that sums up how you're doing today, this week, in general, and tell me about it in the 5-7-5 syllables of a haiku. I will leave anonymous comments screened unless otherwise asked; feel free to use this to leave private comments if that's what you're most comfortable with.

=

Signal-boosting much appreciated!
[syndicated profile] aerogram_feed

Posted by Pavani Yalamanchili

kite.fight.

After releasing her postcolonial pop rock debut album Lingua Franca in 2013, Tanya Palit assembled Boston-based punk rock band Awaaz Do (meaning “Make Some Noise”) to pay tribute to modern and classic Bollywood hits, and channel the Fender Stratocaster-playing character Saraswathi Jones. (Read The Aerogram’s interview with her to find out more about Palit and how Saraswathi was born.)  

Awaaz Do features Jagdeep Singh of Faux Ox, New Orleans-trained bass player Maanav Thakore, Leilani Roser of Hammer and Snake on drums, and Sapan Modi, guardian of SubDrift Boston, on dhol. The band has been working on its debut EP, due to be released tomorrow, July 30, at Cambridge’s Lilypad Inman as part of a raucous night of desi punks and hindie rockers with bands Humeysha and The Kominas performing alongside Awaaz Do to provide Late Night Rock Therapy for the Postcolonial Soul.

The new music video for the EP’s title track “Kite Fight” is out now, with its confrontational kite-themed lyrics posted on this page beneath the video. In an email to The Aerogram, Palit shared how the idea for the song came about: “I’ve always been inspired by the drama of Kite Fighting in South Asia and throughout the world. I was surprised no one’s ever written a song about it, so our band did it last May.”

She also revealed the source of the colorful kites featured in the punk rock video’s rooftop setting: “My father actually hand carried about 100 paper kites from India to America last winter, and we then carried them from Michigan to Boston for the shoot!” Visit the event’s page on Facebook for ticket/venue details on tomorrow’s album release and Cambridge, Massachusetts, show.

I’m gonna win the war, I survey my kingdom
cut cut cut cut the cord, why would you even try?
I’m gonna take your paper cuz I am made of glass
I’m gonna cut you off, cut you off at the pass

call me Raja, baby, cuz I’m the King of the Sky
kite! fight! kite! fight!

they’re gonna write about me, they’re gonna chant my name
down in that puja pandal, they’re gonna light my flame, they’re gonna light my flame
they’re gonna light my flame
they’re gonna spark a deepak, they’re gonna write my name

array ki holo, bhai? is your kite, like, caught in a tree? HA!
kite! fight! kite! fight!

from the Howrah Station to the Howrah Bridge
from Victoria Memorial to where the Red Road is
back down from Science City and down in Tangra too
they’re gonna talk about me, but no one’s heard of you

I’m gonna win the war, I survey my kingdom
cut cut cut cut the cord, why would you even try?
I’m gonna take your paper cuz I am made of glass
I’m gonna cut you off, cut you off at the pass

ekhon ki holo? oh, bujchi…ami jitechi. HA!

kite! fight! kite! bolo!
kite! fight! kite! chalo!

* * *

Pavani Yalamanchili is an editor at The Aerogram. Find her on Twitter at @_pavani, and follow The Aerogram at @theaerogram and on Facebook.

The post Boston Punk Rock Band Awaaz Do Releases “Kite Fight” Music Video appeared first on The Aerogram.

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