2016-01-11 10:00 dark-curricula

Dark Curricula: Jan 2016

I don't want to be one of those annoying snobby assholes who say they've gotten rid of their TV and spend their time reading. So I'm not going to say that. I guess I read a lot. Dunno. Your conversation about that TV show confused me, but I'll happily nod so you don't think I'm one of those annoying snobby assholes. I'm sure the show is lovely. I've enjoyed them. Life is short, you choose what you choose. But this isn't about that. This is a semi-regular, or intended to be semi-regular cluster of what I'm reading, and specifically what themes seem to coalesce. Perhaps you've noticed, that as you read, as you select and collect, that periodically themes seem to surface. Two items that may not be strictly related somehow seem to end up being about the same thing.

So this is for me more than you. You're welcome to look over my shoulder. Some of this is stuff I clip and save, some of this is books, some isn't.

Last spring, the US Geological Survey (USGS) issued a report declaring that a spate of earthquakes over seven years were man-made, triggered by drilling for oil and gas. Dumping toxic wastewater from the drilling process destabilized faults in the bedrock, according to the report, causing more problems than the high-pressure injection of water, sand and chemicals, or hydraulic fracturing, that is known colloquially as fracking. Fracking shakes the American west: ‘a millennium’s worth of earthquakes


Here, the formation of near-surface ice layers renders deep pore space difficult to access, forcing meltwater to enter an efficient surface discharge system and intensifying ice sheet mass loss earlier than previously suggested Greenland meltwater storage in firn limited by near-surface ice formation and Meltwater from the Greenland ice sheet releasing faster


This might seem like a small issue, but it’s actually a massive deal, with implications as far away as the Amazon basin. Here’s why: Without the ease of feeding pigs recycled human food waste, their food has to come from somewhere else. That means literally millions of hectares of land is dedicated to producing generally cheap, not-all-that-great food for pigs (soybeans, mostly). And big chunks of that land are in the Amazon, where rainforest is routinely plowed to make room for farmland that’s feeding pigs. Researchers to EU: The Way We Feed Pigs Is Killing The Planet

And the possibilities of geoengineering. There are more. I've got a climate tag here. I kept bumping into climate stories. There's an obvious reason, the northeast is having a record breaking warm winter (I only started wearing my winter coat last week, there was a 75F day in December) so it's on everybody's minds.

I'm also reading Ursula Le Guin's Lathe Of Heaven. I'm embarrassed to say the only Le Guin I believe I've read is one of the Earthsea books when I was a teenager. I remember liking it, but I think the magick/fantasy elements didn't stick with me. Never been too much into that, especially since at that time, cyberpunk was in it's prime, and dominated my scifi reading brain. But as world building I should reread them. But I started here, with Lathe Of Heaven just to get reacquainted with the Le Guin voice.

It's fantastic. A mild mannered worker has dreams that shape reality. There's excellent flourishes and touches that make it hard to put down.

Also, the initial description of the world, set in 2002-ish, is frighteningly dead on. Population, 7 billion. Climate? Fucked. Resources? Changing, diminishing. Work? Stultifying and corporate dominated. Government approved drug use to keep citizens productive? Rampant. A lot of these were probably easy to peg in 1970. But it was the description of the climate that gets me. As someone born into a world with a population of 3 billion, now we are above 7 billion. A US population then of 197 million, now 318 million. As a kid I remember different weather, different food. I'm old enough now that it's obvious to me every day, things have changed, tons of change. In Lathe Of Heaven, we can just have a dream and all the trouble just goes away (or does it, dum dum dah).

I've been dipping back into comics. Or graphic novels. Whatever you want to call them. Tablets work great for this instant kind of comic gratification. I've been working away at Mignola's BPRD, always lots of fun and not shy about destroying major cities. Also the first volume of Trees by Warren Ellis. I'd read some folks bitching about the pace. The thing jumps between storylines around different characters in different parts of the world contending with an inscrutable appearance of alien monoliths. I guess I'm enjoying the pace, it's not Tarkovsky, it moves along enough. I like the recurrence of the idea of a not-understandable alien presence. This is very Stanislaw Lem idea. An alien civilization doesn't necessarily expose itself to you in explosive religious interpretation with difficult maths and detective-like requirements. An alien presence may never be understood by us.

Perhaps of interest. Robert Walser's Microscripts. Always loved Walser, and have known about his microscripts a long time, thinking, "gee wouldn't it be great if someone put them into a book, like the scripts themselves and the translations?". Bingo. There's a compactness and succinctness to each of these. They are perfect things. They are self contained. Seeing the thing next to the meaning of the thing is fascinating.

Finished Mieville's "Three Moments Of An Explosion". Admirable experiments here. Also brave of anyone to publish a book of short stories. Wasn't aware they were allowed to do that anymore (no thousand page franchise building epoch?). A few fell flat, a few were not very comprehensible, and a couple were superb. Really great. These tended to be the creepier stories. "The Rabbet", "The Dowager Of Bees", "Sacken", "Dreaded Outcome". Worth it to proceed from start to finish because the more experimental pieces help set a tone that the others utilize.