Links of the Month: November, 2021

cartoon by the ever-brilliant Sandra Boynton

I have been pretty grouchy sometimes in the last few months (like, whenever I read anything about COP26, or the racist murder trials in the US). I know there is no justification for it, and it does no one any good, and it seems rather lame to keep saying it’s not my fault because we have no free will etc, but there it is. I’ve been trying to find things that refocus my attention on things of wonder; some of them are described in the “fun and inspiration” section below. And then, too, there are the lovely, complex, cryptic lyrics of Ayla Nereo’s remarkable song Turning Wake (thanks, Kavana, for playing it). Find in them what you can, and may’t be so:

Turn, turning you a bent-bone weary wandering soul
And born, borne upon a body you can never own
Rollin’ you a long-bent sideways tumbling a mother-given loom
You knew it when you flew in shuttlin’
Weaver you are goal-bent, but do your strings
Hold the strength of what was given when you flew in?

Burn, you’re burning your own home
Some days could you live a little lighter
Give a little water, give a little eye to eye
See from what you’re made, got a lil’ shadow in your wake
Wakin’ is the way you grow this, know this
Got a lil’ matter to be bade, met and given it away
This the trip we being shown, told is all we’ve ever known
What another truth you gonna hide?
Baby, finding that you choosin’ every moment
Lookin’ through the frame they givin’ you

There’s a turn from the fear, a stand for the free
A song for the beat-down pickin’ up steam
You will hear my voice here singin’
There’s a let from the greed, a gift for the kind
I’ll be dancing’ with the ones who remind me
We are born of dust and silence, we are made of ancient song
And there are ones who’ll keep us sleeping
And there are ones who bring the dawn
Put your back to the birch and your mind
To the matter of a listening kind of way
We are born of dust and silence
We are made of ancient song

Rose, rose upon the shoulders of the shoreline
Eyesight creeping ’round the edges of the known
You’ve known it from before, before your sight was shorn shifted
And they told you not to talk of this, but you remember in your sleep
All the ones that you could see raisin’ candles to the sky
Through the forest dark as night
Wide-eyed, keep stride this the path you bein’ shown
Sure thing keep singin’ to the ones you walkin’ on
They the wonder, you the stars they look upon
You are clouds to them, giving harm or giving form
Do we greet them with a grace?
Do we run or do we face the ones who helping us
To heal our choice and choose again?

Bade farewell all you’ve been told, waves are rising you to shore
It’s not what you say, what you think
It’s the walk and the way that you do
So you give what you give, what you give
What you give, what you can, what you give, give what you give, what you are
What you give, what you give, what you can
What you give, what you give, what you are, what you can

We are born of dust and silence, we are made of ancient song
And there are ones who’ll keep us sleeping
And there are ones who bring the dawn
Put your back to the birch and your mind
To the matter of a listening kind of way
We are born of dust and silence, we are made of ancient song


Image of Ken Ward in 2016 Valve-Turners action, from the film The Reluctant Radical

COP26 (or is it 96?): Yet another opportunity for politicians to hobnob with corporate lobbyists, express great concern and protect their most destructive local industries, while actually doing nothing. Most of those who are actively trying to address climate collapse walked out.

6º here we come: Stephen Emmott, in a 80-minute harangue, explains why current inactions will lead to a catastrophic 6ºC temperature rise in this century, and blames everyone. He’s right in his diagnosis, but also annoying and unhelpful. But if you dare admit he’s right, be prepared for professional environmentalists like Bill McKibben and others whose jobs depend on raising false hopes to shout you down. Thanks to Juan Perez for the link.

Time for an ecological uprising?: Adam Tooze provides a useful recap of the dilemma of current direct climate collapse activists (do nothing useful, or risk the alienation of public support, media denunciation and political/police repression by doing something that actually makes a difference). In reviewing Andreas Malm’s work, he provides a rather stunning conclusion on radical environmental activism: it’s hopeless, he says, but, like the Jews rising against the Nazis in the Warsaw ghetto and the camps, “If it is too late for resistance to be waged within a calculus of immediate utility, the time has come for it to vindicate the fundamental values of life, even if it only means crying out to the heavens…”, an “affirmation of life by way of sacrifice and combat with no prospect of victory”. I think it highly likely that this is what it will come down to. Thanks to Tony Walker for the link.


from the Potentially Inappropriate Memebrary

Not as simple as we thought: David Graeber’s posthumous new book The Dawn of Everything suggests our reading of humans’ innate behaviour and the history of our civilizations is wildly wrong. Our culture developed even before abstract language, and humans lived in staggeringly diverse and complex societies, an often chose to return to more ‘primitive’ ways of living, rather than being carried along some unavoidable trajectory to our modern global civilization. We have even lived in cities without hierarchies of rulers and laws. Here’s a lengthy excerpt outlining the book’s thesis. Thanks to Kavana Bressen and Tom Atlee for the links.

Workaround: Safe at-home abortions: With Texas devolved to a fascist vigilante state, women have had to find other means to look after their health. Safe at-home abortions are one of them. Sadly, it leaves the door open for the fascists to institute even more extreme repression, especially as long as the Christian Corporatists dominate the US Supreme Court.

Whimbrels make an undiscovered comeback: What’s an endangered species to do when humans encroach on all their breeding and flyway grounds? Move offshore.

Kidnapped teen uses domestic violence hand-signal to summon help: A TikTok-popularized hand-signal developed by the Canadian Women’s Foundation for those dealing with domestic violence who want to signal discreetly their peril to others, is coming into broader use and potentially saving lives.


from the Potentially Inappropriate Memebrary, courtesy Robert de la Torre

Corpocracy, Imperialism & Fascism: Short takes:

    • Mega-corporations have been quietly introducing a two-tier labour market over the past decade: in union and labour negotiations, the corporations offer existing employees in each position a modest pay raise, while getting agreement in return for lowered pay rates, and fewer benefits, for future employees working the same jobs. It’s how they keep labour costs low and profits high, while locking younger workers and future generations into wage slavery. Thanks to Kavana Bressen for the link, and the two that follow.
    • The British anti-capitalist group Plan C has published a fascinating study of how capitalism’s “blame the victim for the system’s failings” strategy of incapacitating opposition has evolved from (a) inflicting misery on workers (until 1890) (the “public secret” being that capitalism was supposed to benefit all but actually inflicted misery on the working class), to (b) inflicting boredom on workers (until 1980) (the “public secret” being that automation was supposed to be liberating but actually imposed crushing boredom on workers), and then to (c) inflicting anxiety on workers (1980-now)(the “public secret” being that most are living in a state of constant precarity with real declining earning capacity, declining wealth, and constant surveillance).
    • Steven Donziger, the civil rights lawyer who successfully sued Chevron for $18B (which Chevron has never paid) on behalf of Ecuador’s indigenous peoples for its environmental atrocities, has now been jailed by a judge seemingly controlled by and sympathetic to Chevron’s “private” prosecutors, after public prosecutors refused to pursue the matter. But the case is complicated.
    • The problem with social media, as both Zeynep Tüfekçi and now Anne Applebaum have asserted, is not so much that incompetent billionaires have inordinate control what content we see and don’t see, as it is that they control what content they promote, amplify (for profit), and suppress. By nationalizing social media, eliminating advertising, and running them as non-profits, we could address this huge problem. Meanwhile, pity the poor guy who tries to help people unsubscribe. Thanks to PS Pirro for the link.
    • Yanis Varoufakis explains how capitalism has evolved into technofeudalism, with billionaires running independent fiefdoms more powerful than entire nations. Thanks to Phil in NZ for the link.

Misinformation and Disinformation: Short takes:

CoVid-19 Becomes the Pandemic (mostly) of the Unvaccinated: Short takes:


from the Potentially Inappropriate Memebrary, by Tom Gauld

The strange genius of Jacob Collier: It took a 25-year-old British prodigy to get me, suddenly, magically, to appreciate jazz. I had always considered jazz to be emotionally distant, and unnecessarily difficult and extravagant. Jacob made me realize that our passion for repetition and conformity in music makes complete sense, but also inhibits us. His riffs, off well-trodden, ‘accessible’ music like Lionel Ritchie’s All Night Long, are not just flashy improvisations, but a complete rethinking of where a musical motif can take us, while still keeping its home base in earshot. In addition to perfect pitch, he has the capacity to reharmonize and shift key signatures continuously and on-the-fly, creating something magically original from the familiar without losing track of it. He takes the straight-ahead, simple Grammy-winning R&B hit Best Part, by Canadian Daniel Caesar, and completely reinvents it — and then brings the gobsmacked Daniel onstage to do a duo with him. Astonishing.

The Star Thrower, re-reinvented: Caitlin Johnstone takes Loren Eiseley’s story, already reinvented by those who would make it folksier and more suited for motivational indoctrination, and reinvents it further.

The world’s largest crystals: Hank Green tells the story of the accidental underground discovery of crystals the size of whales.

How every summer song is composed: Only half-jokingly, Dutch composer and music analyst Paul Davids dissects the ingredients of every summer song written since the Beach Boys, and the result is pretty catchy! In another video, he suggests five stirring chord progressions everyone should know.

No free will, but never mind: German professor Sabine Hossenfelder explains in simple terms why free will is an illusion. She actually has an amazing sense of humour, spoofing overly-serious (male) scientists who want to debate with her. Thanks to Joe Clarkson for the link.

Four women made a road trip across Canada in 1954: An amazing photo collection. In 1954 there was no trans-Canada highway.


from Facebook, original source not cited

From Chris Rufo, Republican Party strategist, via “We have successfully frozen their brand—’critical race theory’—into the public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions. We will eventually turn it toxic, as we put all of the various cultural insanities under that brand category. We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans.”

Headlines from the Beaverton Nov 2021:

    • 2021 poppies “extra stabby” to help Canadians appreciate soldiers’ sacrifice
    • Misinformed horse uses COVID-19 vaccine to treat worm infestation
    • Feds to lower flags to quarter-mast on Remembrance Day
    • Unemployed anti vaxxer reassured he can always get work as a National Post columnist
    • Erin O’Toole reverses position he hasn’t announced yet
    • Edward Rogers announces takeover from small corner of home where he can get reception
    • Companies outraged that workers are leaving minimum wage jobs before they can be replaced by robots
    • Key habit of successful people found to be plenty of free time to pursue goals

From Canadian James Nicoll: “The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.”

From Caitlin Johnstone on the Myth of Separateness: “Cognitive and perceptual biases cause us to assume that the human organism is separate from its ecosystem. It is not. The biosphere is one inseparably unified happening of which humans are part. We developed these biases of perception out of evolutionary necessity; our recently-evolved prefrontal cortices gave us unprecedented capacity for abstract thought, but it couldn’t help us advance our survival unless we thought of ourselves as separate from sabre-toothed cats etc. In reality the biosphere isn’t made up of separate ‘things’ any more than a tornado or hurricane is. An organism is just a process, a happening, that is in nonstop interplay with the rest of the ecosystem.”

From Greg O’Ceallaig:

Father: “We used to navigate using maps made out of paper.”
Six-year-old son: “You mean like pirates?!


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2 Responses to Links of the Month: November, 2021

  1. Chris Corrigan says:

    The Collier stuff is magic. Thanks for those!

  2. Apneaman says:

    An entertaining BBC docuseries based on Melvyn Bragg’s 2003 book (or is it the other way around?), ‘The Adventure Of English’.

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