on the res

some winter music. maybe.

Some of my long-time readers know that before i joined LiveJournal, way back in the 90s, i used to be a teenager who wrote music. I released the vast majority of it for free online, because information wants to be free, hack the planet etc. Although, back in the day, online wasn't the internet, it was BBSes.

In 1999 i released an indie CD album, mastered by a reasonably well-known personality in the Australian dance music scene. It was my entry point to the techno community, and perhaps i could have gone on to become a serious musician or DJ, but instead i became a computer programmer. Better pay. Sadder life.

I am very the fuck drunk. I rarely listen to my own music, because it just makes me depressed that i pretty much gave up on it.

Here is a song from my teenage years about the winter. Shout out to my Texas people and others who are stuck in the ice. That's what this tune was about.


winter-song.mp4

Can you see it? Can you hear it? If not this will be very meta. I blame iced-up windmills for the lack of MP3s.

This is an experiment.
on the res

a fortnight of nothing

Hello everyone, i am alive, and i have nothing to say.

The past two weeks i have just been working. Work is fine. I am "only" doing about 24 hours a week, so it's less intense than a standard 40, but because i am collaborating with people in Europe i have been logging on hella early, and trying to flick into work mode like that before i even had a coffee is exhausting.

I think emotionally i am doing better than before, because even though i am still not leaving the house, at least i know i am getting paid to not leave the house. And if i have a video call at least i make the effort to have a shower.

It's just treading water, really, through the winter. The past week has been the hardest of the core winter, like -20°C all week. The river is almost completely iced over. The more annoying part is that my downstairs roommates cranked up the heating and it's made the house dry, stuffy and uncomfortable. I really miss having my own apartment where i control the heating. And when i say "control the heating" i mean "never turn on the heating", because i'd rather put on a hoodie and some socks than have my nose spontaneously start bleeding and my skin peel itself off while i toss and turn and cough up all the particulates. Last night it was so bad i slept with the windows wide open, which was a presumably a massive waste of energy, but i was at my wit's end. Central heating is the fucking worst.

Actually, air conditioning is worse than central heating. At least mild central heating is useful to avoid frozen pipes. But they're both pretty awful.

My inner cave man shakes his fist at the lack of fresh air.

I always dream of going into space, of flying way out there in the void, a million miles from anywhere... I think i could deal with the isolation, i could deal with being in a small cabin, but i'm not sure i could deal with the lack of outside air.

Anyway, yes, i have nothing for you guys. I sleep. I work. I read the news. I sleep again.

I am very pleased with my subscription to the The Syllabus, which is pointing me to at least a half dozen great articles to read every week. It makes my brain feel exercised to read the odd journal article and actually follow what they're saying, even though i am not an academic.

Seems like everyone and their dog is getting vaccinated in America and England. I can't figure it out. Noam Chomsky was on Coleman Hughes the other day and pointed an accusatory finger at Canada for buying up more vaccines than we have population, but our timeline here is still July for anyone under 65. We might have the most outstanding bookings per capita, but we're definitely not top of the list for order fulfillment.

I do hope we send our overflow to the Global South, though, if we ever get the first fucking round sorted out.

So, yeah, same old same old. I'm 41 now, and the day was about as eventful as my 40th. Stay inside. Work. Eat. Sleep. It's a holding pattern.
on the res

friday night stream of consciousness

Hello ladies and gents and enbies, it's time for another durnken psot.

I have earned it. For realziez.

This week i started working again.

Basically, i considered this dystopic future that will be 2021 and realized there is at least another 6 months of unvaccinated misery to look forward to.

The BC government officially announced that under-65 vaccines are coming in July/August, which is pretty much what we expected back in December, but now it's confirmed.

The province is holding steady at about 500 new cases and about 15 deaths every day. That's not awful, but not great. The governments - both federal and provincial - are chattering about blocking inter-province travel, or at least doing their best to curb it to workers, and to try mandate quarantine - same as what already exists for international travelers.

(Not that most of these jetsetting, ski holidaying, snowbirding shitheads are actually quarantining for real. Yo. I fucking put in my 14 days at an expensive airport hotel, and i am only upper middle class rich. I did my part. Did you? Join the Mobile Infantry and save the world! Service guarantees citizenship. Also. Stop fucking whining. If you can afford to fly during a pandemic, you can afford to quarantine during a pandemic. Shitheads.)

Anyway, a key point is that in Canada we have universal healthcare, but it's based on province of residence. So it's kinda biased against travelers and homeless people. Fortunately homeless people who are registered in a shelter are up for vaccination straight after long term care, parallel with prisoners and other folks who are stuck in government-mandated co-living situations. I am not that kind of homeless, though. I am a month-to-month vagabond-y richie ditch nomad homeless, so i still gotta wait for July. But if i move provinces in between, i could very well lose my place. So... i'm thinking stay in BC till i get the goods.

But that completely fucks my idea of using the warmer months to see Turtle Island. The border with America won't be open for God knows how long. Sooo. Stay in BC - whether in Kamloops or some other place - long enough to get my vaccine, then... then who knows? Depends on what the world is looking like. Travel across Canada, see my Ontario buddies, maybe hit up America? Or fly over to Europe? I dunno.

All this to say that i was planning to skedaddle around March or April, but now i'm thinking to try stay in-province till July or August. I am lucky to have enough money saved from the past few years of working and living frugal to continue living frugal and not working... But it feels like a waste of my sabbatical, especially over this winter period where i have spent 2-3 months in bed, 23 hours a day (the other hour is cooking a meal), not doing anything with my time besides reading and watching shows. And there's still 2+ months of this depressing winter weather to go.

But in December i got an email from my old boss in Berlin. The one who gave the middle finger to Palantir and blacklisted them from our service when they tried to sign up. The one who never wanted our corporate email hosted by Google or any American company because the NSA tapped Angela Merkel's phone. He's not a German nationalist. He's an anti-authoritarian. And an anti-capitalist. He turned down VC and decided to downsize the company to get out of the rat race. After living in China i am the fuck ready to work for a boss who just wants to serve his customers and not play in the pool with the big boys who have no goals beyond increasing their own personal wealth and power.

Fuck capitalism. Fuck, fuck, fuck capitalism. And fuck this flop-ass "socialism" of China which is basically just a capitalist economy regulated by a single-party dictatorship instead of democratically elected representatives. It's all the same garbage.

But that's the game, and if you don't play it, then you are the one getting stepped on.

So. I am good at what i do, and i am fortunate enough that what i do is worth serious cash money. I earned enough working part-time this week to pay for my rent and food for the whole of next month.

I bought myself a treat. I bought myself two treats.

I bought this album: https://kioskid.bandcamp.com/album/43-katzen-tanzen-aufm-tisch-acidbogen-curated-by-mira - 43 Katzen tanzen auf'm Tisch - Acidbogen.

It is an album that Mira - one of the hottest DJs from my alle favorit nightclub in Berlin, Kater Blau - put together, in the absence of any fucking nightclubs being open last year. Each year she has her birthday party there, or previously at Katerholzig nightclub. The number of cats on the table are her years of age. One of the great things about clubbing in Berlin is that you can go when you are old, and the DJs are the same age as you.

I will be 41 very soon.

Anyway, yeah, so i bought the Acidbogen (= acid rainbow) album, which is the album for the downbeat room at Kater Blau nightclub. There is an accompanying Heinz Hopper album for the upbeat room, but that one i might need to listen through a few songs before buying blind, because anything over 120bpm is rarely my jam in this decrepit geriatric raver day and age.

Anyway. Techno music is brilliant. I fucking love techno. Guitars are shite.

The other thing i bought, which i doubt any of my highbrow fucking journal readers will care about right now because i drunkenly rambled so long, is a subscription to The Syllabus: https://www.the-syllabus.com/

Guys. If any of you highbrow folks are still reading. Get a subscription to The Syllabus. It is expensive, but it is Good. Basically it is a news aggregator, but they include academic papers and books into their weekly mail-out. They have various different focuses that you can sign up for, but all are reported from a Europeanish liberal angle. It is extremely refreshing to read pragmatic liberal ideas that aren't taking their lead from the depressing spiral of postmodern navel-gazing that seems to have gotten a lot of American and British left wingers stuck in the weeds. If you can read other European languages, they report in those too, which is excellent, to get an even better insight into the world outside the Anglosphere.

Anyway. Fuck. That paragraph was way too fucking intelligent for my present drunkenness. I need to misspell something just to prove the BAC.

Fsck.

Hello UNIX nerds who continued to the end.

Ah, my dear LiveJournal friends, i wish i had a great conclusion to this post, something to make the whole reading worthwhile, your well-deserved climax, but there is nothing. I do not have anything interesting to report.

Fucking techno.

I haven't finished listening to my new album even one time through yet, but so far this is my favorite song.


WIDE AWAKE - O [Kiosk I.D.]

Druggy, dubby, slow fucking morning techno. God, i miss going out. Fuck COVID.
on the res

Friday Five for Jan 22, invasion edition

I'm not always inspired by our LJ-local Friday Five meme, but this one (via notte0) from website http://f.riday5.com/ brought up a topic i thought about recently that might be fun to talk about.

1) Who’s the nastiest flavor in the ice cream parlor?

All of them! I don't like icecream. The milky stuff is too thick and creamy and gives me phlegm. Gelato is better, but it still has the cold problem to deal with. And the sweet problem. I won't turn down gelato, but i'd take pretty much any savory snack or room-temperature dessert over it.

2) Which item in the produce aisle is most likely to spoil the party?

As a child i would have answered onion or bell pepper/capsicum for this, but i have slowly become more accepting of those two ingredients by trying to trick my brain into believing they are just watered-down takes on far superior ingredients like garlic and chili. So i would say the worst item i discovered recently is kale.

We don't have many good greens in Canada. Basically there is lettuce and cabbage and spinach and kale, the end. I was hoping kale might be something that could fill the vast chasm in my heart left behind by the abundance of awesome greens available in China, but it so doesn't. It tastes about as interesting as spinach - which is to say not very - and it doesn't wilt properly when it cooks. Eat kale and your throat will not be happy. Smoking a cigarette will leave your esophagus just as miserable, but at least you'll get a nicotine rush out of it. Definitely the most overrated green i ever tasted.

3) What’s the most embarrassing song by your favorite musician or band?

This is the question i wanted to answer, after reading a recent article in The Guardian about Guns'n'Roses. G'n'R aren't my favorite band, but they - much like another top band of my childhood and teen years, Nine Inch Nails - had some overly earnest lyrics that as an adult come across as utterly cringeworthy.

The great taboo song of Guns'n'Roses is a track called One In A Million, where lead singer Axl Rose describes his experience of arriving in the big city. Dude was a juvenile delinquent from an abusive, ultra-religious, mid-west background who moved to LA to try build a new life for himself. Then he penned a raw as fuck song about how alienated he felt in this environment full of black people (using the N word), gay people (using the F word), immigrants and so on. He also lashes out at the police, and organized religion, and basically everyone who isn't exactly like him. It's a song about anger and isolation and feeling overwhelmed. It is, by far, my favorite song in the G'n'R catalog, and the one which i think holds up the best 35 years on. But it was deleted from the box set reissue of their debut album, because it offends the delicate sensibilities of 2018-era record execs and presumably an army of butthurt social justice warriors on Twitter.

That's no new thing. Supposedly Kurt Cobain found the song offensive too, although that might have just been a kayfabe feud put together to sell more records and make David Geffen rich. If it wasn't obvious, at the time i was Team Axl, since Kurt and all those Seattle dweebs basically turned guitar music into a miserable wasteland of tedious, depressing spins on punk rock. Then i got into electronic music and left all these stupid pop star feuds behind.

Anyway, leaving the song out of the recent box set is the kind of censorship that is self-defeating, in my opinion. You wanna understand the Trump voters? You wanna understand how people in small towns get radicalized? This song puts a voice to their fears. It exposes the ugly truth.

If you travel across small towns anywhere in the world - not just in the United States - you hear the same sentiment, over and over. Big cities are scary, they're dangerous, they're full of muggers and grifters and foreigners and weirdos. It's a very pure, basic form of xenophobia, the kind that every human secretly harbors somewhere in their lizard brain. The fear of things that are different, the discomfort around people whose behaviors and values aren't quite what you're used to.

That feeling goes both ways. I also hear it from my city-dwelling peers who are literally terrified of traveling to small towns because of all the phantom Nazis. They are so afraid that they will be targeted because of who they are, they don't even want to give it a chance. There is a misconception that most countryfolk are straight-up murderous bigots, ready to lynch gay people or people of color or even just out-of-towners at the drop of a hat. The reality is far from that extreme. But the fear that it could be... that's just as much a fear of The Other, i think.

Which isn't to say fears are unfounded. As an outsider, or even just a statistical outlier, you do get treated differently. Always with more suspicion or caution. Sometimes in a way that negatively impacts you, occasionally in a way that benefits you. That's part of being a traveler. Some people adapt more quickly than others to their new environment, but there is always a culture shock. I think being able to express those emotions, being allowed to put words to it, that's part of the process of dealing with it, of understanding one another and trying to grow our compassion.

Of course Axl used the most offensive words he could think of to express his emotions, and no doubt that was deliberate, since the controversy was a vital part of his band's image. The whole LA scene was about shock and awe. I suppose today people could read it as the dying gasp of toxic masculinity or the ongoing story of systemic oppression in America or some other grand theory of macropolitics, but reducing it that way is kind of missing the point, which is just as relevant today as it was back then.

I've met a lot of One In A Millions, traveling. Drugged up kids who ran away and don't know how to cope. Most have been taken advantage of at some point or another. They tend to be filled with anger and can be quick to lash out. Some of them work through their emotions, others don't. Some assimilate and adjust, others retreat or radicalize. They're still people. A song like this one speaks honestly to their experience, just as Simon & Garfunkel's America or Bronski Beat's Smalltown Boy or Tracy Chapman's Fast Car speaks to the experience of other demographics who are trying to work it out. Traveling, the pain of leaving or the shock of arriving, the hope and the defeat, it's an evergreen theme.

4) Which part of your body is always in trouble?

As a child and teenager it was my ankles, which i kept rolling. In my 20s it was my knees. I found it extremely uncomfortable to bend them for extended periods, to the point where i avoided traveling in cars. In my 30s i got regular back and arm pains, usually from lying in bed or sitting at a desk too long. Right now my shoulder is hurting. (My fitness-loving friend R helpfully informed me it's my "rotator cuff", which means nothing to me except i have to lie on my other side for a while.)

5) What’s the worst film in your favorite actor’s filmography?

Much like with the band question, i don't really have a favorite actor. But i like this question because most of the actors who i do enjoy are actors who i enjoyed in their "bad" movies. Like Kurt Russell in any of John Carpenter's flicks. Or Angelina Jolie in Hackers. Or Steve Buscemi in Escape From LA. Sam Neill in Event Horizon. Roger Moore in North Sea Hijack. Good actors in bad movies. Give them all to me!
on the res

losing my europeanity

My oma was my last connection to Catholicism.

The Dutch half of my family is Catholic, you see, which might be a surprise for people who know the country as the source of the orange pennants of the UK's most devout Protestants. Mom's family is from way down south of South Holland, practically a stone's throw from Belgium.

I wasn't religious at all, growing up. My father came from a British colonial (and presumably Protestant) family, which greatly upset my oma and opa. I do remember being taught The Lord's Prayer, and reciting it every night before i went to bed. That was just some dumb cultural thing that we were expected to do. I always tacked on a custom prayer at the end asking God to grant me the power of flight. Still waiting on that, God! But, anyway, i pretty much never went to church.

Which isn't to say i never went to a church. On the contrary, churches were one of the most popular destinations for our family when on vacation or visiting new and different cities. Especially in Europe, churches are some of the best-preserved and most historic buildings. And Catholic churches are by far the best churches, dripping with gold and jewels and the sort of finery that common people would never have had the chance to experience before the era of mass production.

Anyway, something neat about the current era - that is, the corona era - is the cyberspacing of what used to be largely meatspace events. Like funerals.

I've only been to one funeral in my life, of a friend of mine who committed suicide. I am a shitty friend because i already forgot her name, despite being one of her bridesmaids, but for fuck's sake, it was over 15 years ago. Most other deaths in my life happened to people on the other side of the world from me, or to people whose conservative families didn't want their kid's drug addicted and/or gay friends to attend the funeral. To be honest, i kinda think funerals are a waste of time and money. I went to one. It was awkward.

Oh, wait, now i'm remembering i went to another one - my ex's grandmother. That was a fucking thing. It was a Jewish funeral, so it was the first and only time i went to a synagogue. All the men over this side, all the women over that side, the segregation was horrifying. Her family was doing the whole sitting down on a low chair thing, being brought food... that was some weird ass shit. Although i suppose Jewish people would consider transubstantiating bread and wine into the literal body and blood of Christ - and then eating it! - to be pretty fucking weird. Anyway, i felt even more awkward there than i did watching a priest shoehorn in some religious shit for my bisexual, atheist, suicidal friend to appease her Bible-bashing parents.

But i digress. My oma died of cancer last week and she had a corona era funeral. Which means very few people could show up to the actual service, but the church livestreamed it for the rest of us.

Dude, Catholics know how to make anything epic. Like. White and purple robes. Giant fucking stave/cross thingy with incense in it. Statues! Gold! Oil! So much opulence. Full blown monkish chanting. In Latin, for fuck's sake! Candles! Stained glass! One of the pall bearers - my holiest aunt - showed up in full nun garb! The church was built in 1394! History all up in your face! I might have enjoyed being there in real life. For the first 15 minutes, at least.

I think i might be a cultural Catholic, even though i never did any of the official Catholic things growing up (confirmation, eucharist, confession etc). I dig the aesthetic. My mother always vowed she'd never get us into Catholicism because it brought back bad memories for her... she was so traumatized that even when i played ambient or techno music with church bells in it, she'd shudder. But she still always took the time to visit cathedrals and light a candle for Maria, Mother of God. Every time i travel, i do the same.

Oh, interesting thing about the funeral, during shout-outs to foreign family, i discovered that my sister has a child. I guess that shows how much contact we have with one another, eh?

So, yeah, the funeral happened. And so my connection to Catholicism, and the Netherlands, is pretty much severed. Some of my aunts and cousins still live there, but with Brexit over and not having any direct bloodline back to the low countries, all i got left is a useless fluency in the language and the childhood memories my aunts talked about and my mother passed on to us - reading fairytales, building blanket forts, playing with Lego, eating bread rolls, enjoying ice cream with an umbrella in the V&D (department store) cafeteria.

Listening to my family talk about my oma helped me to see the cultural things that we had in common. Living free and independent after a divorce is something i am proudly taking into the third generation. Drinking a coffee every morning. Reading the newspaper every day. Playing a musical instrument. This is all from my mom's side.

My dad's side is where the alcoholism, boisterousness and wanderlust comes from.

But, really, this funeral was the Brexit funeral for me. My European heritage disappearing into the ether. I only got my British colonial heritage left now. Funerals ain't all bad. Deze was nodig.

Ugh, fuck fucking Brexit. Truly the worst political event that has happened in my life.

Meanwhile, i spoke with my old boss from Germany yesterday, and agreed to do some freelancing. I don't really want to go back to "real" work, but also with this pandemic stretching out well into 2021, i figure i might as well use the limbo i'm stuck in to earn a bit of cash. I hope it doesn't bust all of my sabbatical dreams. Sif fucking Brexit and the pandemic didn't already do a good enough job.

Bye, oma, voor nu. Dankjewel.
on the res

Weekend long read: censorship, Hollywood and Uncle Roger

The latest cancel culture drama was around Malaysian stand-up comic Nigel Ng, better known as his YouTube character Uncle Roger.

During pandemic, a few months back, he did a joke reaction video where he played a stereotypical Chinese uncle watching a British cooking show where they pretty much butchered the preparation of fried rice. Clips of it went viral on TikTok and the character blew up.

Fast forward a few months, this guy is doing Uncle Roger video every week, mostly reaction videos, but sometimes turning up in person to roast customers at Asian restaurants or joke about stuff in the Asian diaspora.

This is a fairly common YouTuber format. There is also the Fung Brothers and countless other people in the diaspora who travel around and eat food and show their Asian pride to an audience which i think is mostly diaspora people, maybe a few white people. There is some overlap with the expat YouTuber community, where you also can see delicious food and gushing, positive stories about China and East Asia in general.

Anyway, last week Nigel Ng invite Chinese American Mike Chen on his show and they do a double reaction video, roasting some poor Filipino/Thai American chef for his ugly dumplings. And the comments section EXPLODED. Because, you see, Mike Chen is a member of Falun Gong, a religious movement that the Chinese Communist Party detests.

Almost immediately the video gets taken down without any comment or explanation on YouTube or any of the western (outside Great Firewall) social media. But Nigel Ng makes this big, groveling, apologetic statement on Weibo (Chinese Twitter) about associating with people who have an "incorrect" view.

This is barely reported in the western press or on western social media, because as usual, western media do not care about Asian diaspora. They also do not care about YouTubers, even with millions of subscribers. But also, i guess they were too busy arguing about whether or not Trump and his cronies should be censored.

Well, people, this is the fucking world champion of censorship coming to give every "well it's only in the interests of national stability" apologist a right proper schooling. This. This is the censorship endgame.

Now, there is a deeper story here about Falun Gong in particular, since (like many movements that have been completely obliterated by the CCP inside China), they have taken to using the CCP's own propaganda tactics against it. The CCP accuse Falun Gong of being a dangerous and bigoted cult, like some kind of domestic Satanic Panic thing. So Falun Gong accuse CCP of organ harvesting and manufacturing the coronavirus as a WMD.

Epoch Times newspaper is owned by Falun Gong - it is a full-blown pro-Trump, QAnon, anti-vaxxer crazytown tabloid. Any reasonable liberal in America would look at Epoch Times and immediately assume Falun Gong are exactly the nutjobs the CCP says they are, now CCP wins this propaganda battle. But a right-winger will have exactly the opposite view, and see CCP as a bunch of murderous thugs. Which they are. The fallout on American politics is just collateral damage.

This propaganda war is no joke. There are countless instances of alt-right personalities and agitators supporting the Hong Kong protestors, for example. That doesn't mean all the Hong Kong protestors are right-wing loonies (a message the CCP would very much like to portray, so they win the sympathy of American liberals), it just means that sometimes the enemy of my enemy is my friend. This is further confused by memes like Pepe the Frog or NPC Wojak having a less politically-charged meaning in Asian communities than in America, where they are associated with the alt-right.

There is no simple good and bad here. This is a complex set of competing parties, most of whom are very entrenched in their views and very cynical in their tactics.

But here's one thing that shouldn't happen. Two fucking comedy YouTubers getting together to joke about how to make dumplings should not be such a political faux pas that it requires removing the video and apologizing to the (much, much) bigger bully in the room for "bad social impact". WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK IS THIS SHIT.

Of course Chinaboos and useful idiots point to the fact that Mike Chen is also employed by Falun Gong propaganda networks, so his dumpling channel is really just a front being used to radicalize people. The hypocrisy is rich, since all of these self-censoring for CCP motherfuckers who make innocent "China is great" videos are exactly the same gateway drug.

And, yes, i am especially pissed off about this, since it was literally commenting on this topic that got me reported to HR at my company back in Shenzhen. This is how deep the censorship goes, how intensely this government will strong-arm anyone who speaks out against their propaganda programs.

Well, the BBC did do a short article on this, since the original Uncle Roger video was roasting their own shitty fried rice recipe. The best part of the article was when they linked to this incredibly good report about how self-censorship works in Hollywood.

https://pen.org/report/made-in-hollywood-censored-by-beijing/

If you care even just a little bit about movies and pop culture, or international politics, i cannot urge you enough to click on that link and read about exactly how the CCP has been getting Hollywood to modify its content for decades. It is a very long read, but it loops in everything. The Xi administration's crackdown on censorship, why the Tibet story disappeared from the public consciousness after the 1990s, the true embarrassment of how China dealt with coronavirus, the understanding that America is no longer the world's biggest entertainment market, the unfree trade practices of the China/Everywhere Else relationship and so on.

Make no mistake, we in the west already lost this war. CCP already won the battle over our entertainment. Now what we really need to think about is how we respond to that. Are we going to employ the same tactics to censor our own entertainers and politicians? Are we going to try strike back using the same kind of propaganda based on rumor and fake news? These are really important questions that i wish more newspapers in the west would address.
on the res

bye oma

My nan died of cancer in the 1980s.

My dad's sister died of cancer in the 1990s. So did my godfather.

My grandpa and my opa both died of cancer in the 2000s.

My mom died of cancer in 2019.

My oma died of cancer in 2021.

Fuck cancer. Everyone in my family has died of it, and i probably will too.
on the res

absurd reasons for being a refugee

This wonderful piece of news made the front page this morning: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/12/bangladeshi-man-with-asthma-wins-france-deportation-fight

It is about an asthmatic person whose lawyer successfully argued in French court that deporting him back to Bangladesh would constitute a threat to his health because of air pollution, therefore he should be allowed to remain in France.

You might find this reminiscent of the other story from last month where air pollution was listed as the cause of death for a kid in London.

Friends, air pollution is no fucking joke. It is a massive killer. It's been known for decades - probably centuries or even millenia - that breathing in fumes is not good for your health. Our noses are designed to filter some of the toxic substances in the air, but even the kind of facemask we're all wearing today to slow the spread of coronavirus doesn't block these particulates. Obviously we can't do much to stop volcanoes or forest fires or dust storms, but we can stop driving internal combustion vehicles and burning coal.

Anyway, this post isn't about environmentalism, it's about immigration, and absurd refugee claims.

There is one case that gets thrown around a lot in arguments over trans rights, and it drives me up the wall. It's about a person who successfully applied for asylum in New Zealand because the country she came from was so violently transphobic she could not possibly return. The country she was from? England.

Now, i don't deny that some people face extreme transphobia in their lives, and without a doubt there is some very ugly shit that goes on in England, and America, and all of the "great" western nations. I myself have been on the receiving end of aggressive verbal insults. I've been sexually abused, and it fucking sucks. It sucks, but also it's par for the course as a trans person and as a woman in society. It's not acceptable behavior, and anyone condoning it is a fucking asshole, but it happens, even in the most liberal and secular nations of the world.

So. To claim that the threat of violence (note: not actual violence) is so debilitating that you cannot possibly ever go back to the UK... it's frivolous. When there are places in the world that still sentence homosexuals to death, when there are countries where political leaders encourage extrajudicial killings of LGBT people, we're really going to use a single successful asylum case of a 50-something trans tech worker as an argument that the UK is uniquely transphobic? Come on.

Most people reading know i am ideologically opposed to borders and immigration controls in general. That's a fairly radical position, usually only held by the nuttiest of anarchists and libertarians. Folks, i am a proud veganarchist nut, and i won't apologize for it. You are what you eat.

But also i am a pragmatist, and i understand that we live in a world that still has states and governments and laws and borders. And, in that world, there are very few ways for people to legitimately migrate internationally. Some countries have a very strong support for family-based immigration - if a blood relation lives there, you can probably find a way in too. Other countries have a solid skills-based immigration policy - if you are educated and experienced enough, you can can probably make it through. Most countries also have a tiny fraction of slots reserved for asylum seekers, which is to say migrants who are able to prove that the country they left would persecute them if they returned.

Everyone knows the asylum seeker mechanism is gamed. I lived with a Pakistani guy about 20 years ago who did not want to return, so he created a homosexual identity out of thin air to try make a case for asylum in Australia. I'm not sure if he was ever granted asylum in the end. These cases tend to take a long time to resolve, at which point the person has hopefully established enough of a life in the new country that booting them out would be especially cruel.

One of the charities i used to donate to was Immigration Equality, which tries to help LGBT and HIV+ migrants into the US. I stopped donating when it occurred to me that giving $1000 to them would barely pay for a few hours of legal help, whereas giving $1000 to rescue ships in the Mediterranean could help save hundreds of migrants who might otherwise drown. But, in both cases, the idea was to try to help people less privileged than i am to have the same opportunities for migration that i do.

So, when i read stories about these kind of activist reasons for being granted asylum, one part of my brain is like "fuck yeah, you hacked the system!" But another part of my brain is like, seriously? There are human rights lawyers out there doing this kind of shit for clout when hundreds of thousands of people who are legitimately trying to escape violence and persecution are still stuck in camps in Kenya and Jordan, or sitting on an island in Greece or Italy awaiting processing?

I suppose you have to be fairly well-connected to start with to end up in New Zealand, or France, or some other developed country that's a thousand miles away from any real flashpoint of political conflict. Maybe i shouldn't be surprised that a handful of well-publicized asylum claims in these rich countries tend to be a little bourgeois.

Anyway, i don't really have a point with all this rambling. I certainly don't hate on anyone who managed to find a path through the minefield of immigration law, even if it did lean on some questionable reasoning. It's not easy to move internationally, and getting the stamp in your passport that legitimizes your stay is always a huge relief. I wish more people had the opportunity. I wish i could read about more of these stories in the paper, instead of the insular, nationalist bullshit that has been trending for the past half decade, at least.

I've been sharing some Substacks i like recently, so here's one for immigration fans: https://borderlines.substack.com/ BORDER/LINES publishes weekly and rounds up developments in US immigration policy.

No borders, kein Mensch ist illegal, fuck Brexit, etc etc.
on the res

army brat memories

Wow. I just stumbled upon this wonderful little piece of history.


BFBS Startup from 1984 + Birthday Time

I am fairly certain I recognize one of the names who got a birthday call out, but common names are common and it could just be my synapses getting crossed. I can't remember if my name ever got read out.

I think I already posted the short BFBS documentary on my journal before, but in case I didn't, here it is again for posterity.


This is BFBS Television, Part 1 (1983)


This is BFBS Television, Part 2 (1983)

I wonder if there will ever be something like this again? If we started flinging astronauts out to Mars and beyond, would they get their own special channel? I guess not. The internet made television random access, an endless library where you can just pick whatever book you like.
on the res

thinking about my own reactions

Something i am finding more interesting the older i get is how people frame current events based on their background. Over the past year or so, i have started recognizing my own filter, and why i often don't perceive things the same as some of my peers who are ostensibly on the same side.

A great example is Wednesday's brief occupation of the Capitol building in DC. Predictably, all the "law and order" Never Trumpers practically popped a blood vessel trashing the tepid response of the police, who ended up needing to retreat and call for backup to handle a threat that literally everyone saw coming. Equally predictably, all the "white supremacy" types have dusted off their BLM op-eds to explain why this, yet again, shows that America is a nation racist to its very core, and really Trump and all of his supporters, but also the police, make all their decisions because of white resentment.

Everyone has put their own spin on these events which in practice didn't really move the needle on anything. Trump is still the president. Biden will still be the next one. The stock market is still doing great. People are still dying from corona.

My favorite take so far has been in City Journal, which is a neoliberal publication: https://www.city-journal.org/the-role-playing-coup

My own reaction, of course, is biased by my own background. I am starting to understand that i perceive a lot of what is going inside America through the lens of how it affects the idea of America, as we understand it overseas. Perhaps it's because i'm a third culture kid, but perhaps that's just the sort of politics that i am especially interested in.

The first thought whenever i see violent demonstrations in the US is about how the Russian or Chinese media will report on the story. It's no accident that RT (Russian state media) has reporters on the ground in every major protest in every G7 country. They're a useful source for frontline reporting, but also their choice to spend a disproportionate amount of time reporting on civil unrest is clearly politically motivated. It's useful for actual authoritarian nations to paint America and its democratic allies as failing states. It's important for them to gather propaganda footage that can show that democratic states are frightening, terrifying, violence-ridden places to live. That point was driven home for me in China, where the government used the more violent side of the Hong Kong protests to make their case that the spirit of the Chinese people itself was under direct attack from subversive forces and therefore a harsh crackdown was required.

Every time we set fire to a car in a protest in the west, authoritarian leaders say "you see, this is what happens to law-abiding citizens in a country who let their free speech advocates run rampant". Every time the police smack down a protestor in the west, authoritarian leaders say "you see, this is what happens in these western countries that call us authoritarian, you never see police here hitting hard-working civilians on the head" (never mind the fact that in authoritarian countries people are regularly disappeared and media reporting on civil unrest is completely suppressed anyway). Any kind of political violence can and will be spun as a condemnation of democracy itself.

So, this bunch of jackasses who went on a march to take back the vote they believed was stolen... They overwhelmed a pathetically under-powered security cordon, and then occupied the Capitol for a couple hours taking photos and raging against a cabal of sinister deep state operatives that doesn't actually exist. And then they went home. Some people got arrested. One person got shot. It's not a nothingburger, but i don't see it as some thwarted terrorist attack. This was no organized militia. The SolarWinds hack (to pick just one recent example) was a security breach with far more frightening consequences. But this event may have a more deleterious effect on the reputation of America and the west. Not because it was a serious coup attempt, but because American politicans and media elites were so rattled by seeing a bunch of plebs desecrating their "most hallowed temple of democracy" that they're treating it like it was. That kind of response makes America look weak and hypocritical to countries outside of the western bubble.

And yet. This is me - with my detached, upper-middle class, third culture kid, foreign privilege - looking in from the outside. Of course Americans who are very tied to their political identity as Americans feel personally attacked. Of course they feel terrorized. Of course anti-Trumpers feel vindicated. Of course people who got teargassed 5 minutes into their protest against police brutality are annoyed that these idiots were able to maraud about largely unopposed for a couple hours. I get it. I know i'm not experiencing it the same way.

But, yeah. It's how my brain works, it's my background. For a couple days i have been frustrated by this coverage which seems to be taking such a sensationalist view on what to me came across as a fairly minor domestic disruption. But today i have kinda cooled down on being annoyed at how narrowly my usual sources are reporting on it, because i understand that everyone needs to be able to report from their own point of view. I mean, that's the real thing that differentiates us from authoritarian states. It's not that we don't have any propaganda outlets, or that we have a mythical unbiased media, it's that people actually do get to share their personal takes without being shut down.

For me, when this stuff happens, i really do feel like i missed my calling in international relations or foreign intelligence or something. Like, this is stuff i get really passionate about. I'm fascinated by how events impact the way different nations or different cultures perceive one another. I find myself less interested in the actual event and more in the fall-out, the narrative that is built around it. If i could ever actually care about being a citizen of one country in particular, i think it would be thrilling to be an analyst or operative working for a government agency. Whether strategizing or detecting and countering active measures, how cool would that be? Getting paid to read the news? Sign me up! Unfortunately i am not ideologically motivated enough to be valuable to any state actor. Maybe if there was actually a shadowy globalist Illuminati, then i'd work for them!

Or maybe i already am? Muahahaha!

I think i should go play Deus Ex again.

Anyway, TLDR, watch TV, write blogs, don't keep schtum or you're letting the terrorists win.