Friday, July 08, 2016

"But it is less likely that the officer would have panicked were Castile a white gun owner, like those who freely walked the streets of Ferguson carrying automatic rifles after Michael Brown, a teenager who carried no weapon, was shot dead. "

Above right: Tony Robinson,
whose slaying by the Madison Police Officer (top left)
was excused by Dane County (WI) District Attorney
Ismael Ozanne.
Read why that was the wrong decision made by the wrong system.
It's hard not to think that white people, and white police officers in particular, have created a system in which people think the only choice is to violently revolt against their oppressors.

This article, by Andy Cush on Gawker, explains in part how white people have created a world in which black people's lives are considered de minimis and black people can be shot for "crimes" that white people would not even receive a ticket for. It's where the quote comes from in the post title.

When you wholesale authorize the execution of people based on their race, and your fear and condescension and hatred of that race -- as authorities and particularly white people (but not all white people, as District Attorney Ismael Ozanne of Dane County demonstrates)-- you create conditions in which that set of people will view themselves as at war.

Hopefully, the shootings in Dallas will not be seen 100 years from now as the events that set off a race war. My own opinion has been that there will be a class war, similar to the French Revolution, but, then, most blacks are relegated to lower-class status by 200+ years of institutionalized, almost congential, racism, so it may be six of one...

The media is going to go nuts, and the right wing especially, over the killing of 11 Dallas police officers. Exactly none of those stories will mention that so far in 2016 police have killed 604 people. People killing people with guns is what happens when you arm people with guns. That's what guns do. Cops killing black people with guns is what happens when you hand guns to a largely white power structure built on 200+ years of racism.  Going back 20 years, study after study has shown that most judges are white males. Going back 30 years, whites make up on average 70% of police forces, We have created a society where people of one race are taught to look down on the other races, then put in charge, and given guns.

I don't condone the shootings of the Dallas police officers. But I understand why they happened. Unless white people start treating black people like people, and unless white cops stop shooting black men, it's going to keep happening.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

The veterans' museum is pretty cool.

I took a Friday off and we went to the Veteran's Museum as part of our bumming around Madison.

Here's the first ever USS Wisconsin:

An eagle. You probably guessed that.

It took SEVEN tries to get a picture of the boys that was at least acceptable. 

Here are the top 3. There are:

1. Security guard coming over to see if Mr F is still sitting on the display case:

"Mr F has had it with pictures": 

And my personal favorite "Dad, dad, these are the good guys right?"

Moving on to more modern eras:
Vietnam.  It was while I stood under this helicopter that I was a bystander to one of the saddest things I've seen in a long time.

As we were looking around, Mr Bunches had to go to the bathroom, which was just the other side of the helicopter display. So while he was in there I waited outside the door with Mr F, who was drinking from the bubbler.

As we waited, an elderly woman came in. She was wearing all sorts of red, white & bluish stuff, a scarf, a shirt, a flag pin, etc. She was accompanied by a woman who I took to be her daughter, about 50ish.

The elderly woman was talking about her service in Vietnam, and went into a lot of detail about what her life was like there. I was listening to her because she was only a few feet away, and Mr F was still getting water, while Mr Bunches was still in the bathroom.

This woman went on for probably 5 minutes about her experiences, including pointing to the helmet in the display and saying it looked like the one she wore, and how hot it was, and the noise, and all kinds of detail.

Then, at the end of her story, there was a pause, and as Mr F rejoined me, the woman's daughter said "I'm sorry, were you talking to me?"

The elderly woman didn't say anything else.

That's another USS Wisconsin there.

A little better picture. The blurriness comes from the fact that if you get the boys into position Mr F gives you 0.00000000001 seconds to snap the photo before moving, and Mr Bunches then tries to get him not to move, or if he can't stop him from moving, moves himself because Mr Bunches will not let Mr F be first in anything.

This is a scene from the War In Australia in World War II, which apparently was a real thing I'd never heard about before seeing this.

 This is I believe a torpedo or maybe a shell from one of the USS Wisconsins.  It wasn't labeled but it was by the rest of the USS Wisconsin stuff, and it looks like the kind of thing that would be used to blow something up.  It was nearly as big as me, although that's hard to tell from the shot.

They had a periscope in the museum and you could look out to see Capitol Square. This is a church Mr Bunches likes to go to when we go downtown and walk around.

And this is the view of the Capitol itself through that periscope.

"Hey guys I want to just take a picture of you in front of the cannon before we go."

They were pleased to do it.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Book 49: Oh, Nick Harkaway's books? Yeah I mean I guess they're all right whatevs I'M JUST KIDDING THEY'RE AWESOME.

Angelmaker is phenomenal.  As with The Gone Away World I wanted to reread this one, but I did it with audiobook this time, and just like with Nick Harkaway's other book, the experience improved the second time around.

Angelmaker is a weird sort of book: part scifi, part steampunk, part near-apocalypse, part gangster, it's weird in the kind of way I like: it has a little bit of everything in it, and somehow it all fits together in a preposterous story that makes you, if you get into it, smile at times with just how outrageously fun and exciting it is.

That fun feeling is a bit weird, too, though, given how dark the book really is in the details. This is a book in which men get crumpled into pieces, crucified with electricity, burnt in boxes, tortured, and torn apart with guns, and yet somehow it's all just... fun, a lighthearted feeling prevailing even amidst the darkness. I think the closest movie I could relate it to is Raiders Of The Lost Ark. It has that sort of feel to it.

The storyline is hard to summarize. Where The Gone Away World followed a fairly narrow track through an expansive world, Angelmaker just reaches out in all sorts of directions before pulling everything back together. But I'll try:  Joe Spork is the son of Matthew Spork, a 'king of crime' sort of gangster back when gangsters were fun and grandiose.  Joe has rejected Matthew's ways, and instead followed in his grandfather Daniel's footsteps, working as a sort of tinkerer: he fixes clockwork things, a calling that leaves him poor and discontented.

Joe has a new client named Edie Bannister, who has been giving him increasingly harder things to repair, and a friend named Billy Friend, who finds Joe an interesting sort of clockwork book to fix up. These two things lead Joe to accidentally put into motion "The Apprehension Engine," a series of clockwork beehives around the world that are meant to bring the world to peace by making people 9% smarter so they can see the truth of the world and nobody can get away with anything.

Edie, it turns out, was a secret agent for the British government in World War II, and was dispatched as part of her job to retrieve a French mathematician/scientist who was hired to build an engine of destruction for Shem Shem Tsien. Tsien is a ruthless leader of a Third World country who plans to become God by doing all the things he thinks God actually does.

That doesn't really do the plot or the book justice: there are submarines, law firms, a sort of antique-dealer museum, evil government agents, a serial killer, robots, weird scientists, gangsters, and a whole host of other interesting characters, things, subplots, and strangely awesome moments.

Harkaway excels at creating memorable characters; even his minor players are interesting and get at least some backstory and a moment to shine, and none of it feels forced in any way.

There are larger themes here, too; Angelmaker has serious ideas on its mind behind all the fun and excitement and scariness.  The book wrestles with what it might mean to know the truth, whether if we knew everything that ever could and ever would happen we would become simply automata, moving through the universe without much volition (that's what people fear the bees will do.)  Harkaway grapples too with what's happened to civil liberties in our era, as the "Legacy Board," a shadowy branch of the British government, attempts to force Joe to cooperate with its plans to use the Apprehension Engine to restore Britain to world supremacy.  There are questions of religion and God's relationship to humans, and how to deal with uncomfortable aspects of family, while finding one's own identity in the process.  Somehow Harkaway does all this in a book which also features a woman fleeing an exploding palace while pushing a baby elephant in a box.

I think Harkaway has established himself as one of the best writers around, and his books deserve to be better known. Maybe 1 in 10, or 1 in 20, books are as compelling as Harkaway's books, and their sheer craftsmanship continues to awe me. Angelmaker, even more so than The Gone Away World, wastes no words, despite using jillions of them. In the end, every little piece of the story matters, right down to the most throwaway movement.  Harkaway is the master of Chekhov's gun: there is no detail in his stories that doesn't end up in the end being crucial to some other aspect of it.  This is one of those books that I just want to read and reread over and over again.