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I've been yelling from the rooftops, READ EDWARD E. BAPTIST! Specifically his book, "The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism". And of course many people don't have the time or interest for a history book, no matter how compelling. Well, good news! Vox has an interview with Dr. Baptist, about the book, which gives a good overview of his themes and arguments. READ IT!!
"Of the many myths told about American slavery, one of the biggest is that it was an archaic practice that only enriched a small number of men.
The argument has often been used to diminish the scale of slavery, reducing it to a crime committed by a few Southern planters, one that did not touch the rest of the United States. Slavery, the argument goes, was an inefficient system, and the labor of the enslaved was considered less productive than that of a free worker being paid a wage. The use of enslaved labor has been presented as premodern, a practice that had no ties to the capitalism that allowed America to become — and remain — a leading global economy.
But as with so many stories about slavery, this is untrue. Slavery, particularly the cotton slavery that existed from the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the Civil War, was a thoroughly modern business, one that was continuously changing to maximize profits."
5 stars from me for "The Man Without A Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin" by Masha Gessen:
As an American, this was a fascinating and educational read. It fills in the blanks left by our myopic media and provides context to events that were quite mysterious and unexpected at the time that I was living through them.
To have finished the book, which closes describing scenes in Moscow in December 2011, when Alexei Navalny was leading hopeful protests against the Putin regime, on the same day that the news of Navalny's death in prison reached me, seems cruel, but entirely fitting. In these passages, Gessen notes that Putin and his allies were slow to recognize the danger they were in, and predicted that when they did, they would lash out violently, like a cornered animal. Perhaps with a terrorist attack, like the ones the KGB engineered against the Russian people in 1999 - 2000, when Putin was first running for president. But no. Putin started a war.
Follow my bookwyrm account for all my reviews: @SallyStrange
My review of "Splinter In the Sky" (2023) by Kemi Ashing-Giwa:
Imagine your little moon was conquered and colonized, your people exploited. You live with it and try to get by. Then one day your sibling gets abducted. When you ask your ex, who happens to be the governor, to find out what happened, your ex dies rather suddenly. Then, unexpectedly, you have the chance to travel to the heart of the empire, there possibly to seek revenge for your people's insults and maybe even find your sibling.
As noted in other reviews, the book strains belief occasionally with the protagonist's many lucky breaks. A couple of details were inconsistent--like an android who can't go undercover for long because he doesn't breathe, but he does sigh once. In my opinion, these aren't enough to outweigh the interesting development of a peaceful character whose passions are tea and translation having to cope with spy/assassin type problems. Plus, the author clearly has an intimate understanding of what it's like for a colonized person to live amongst their colonizers, constantly dealing with condescension, exploitation, bigotry, and even outright violence. Overall, it's a good balance of serious and silly, and the descriptions of cultural conflict are absolutely on the nose. Worth it, unless you're a stickler for detail.
Last boost (courtesy of @kavana) reminded me of this book which I just finished. Written during the pandemic, it's a humorous but not unserious tale of a woman who takes inspiration from the true story of Phulan Devi, the Dalit girl who went from exploited victim of abuse to vengeful goddess to politician within a few short decades. Definitely recommend.
I binge-read The Murderbot Diaries (1-7) by Martha Wells, and now there are no more out, and I'm feeling unmoored. I have a very long TBR list, but... I want more Murderbot. Difficulty with social reciprocity, comfort in rewatching favorite series, disliking eye contact or touch, and so much more. I get why reviews say this series is "one of the most human experiences you can have in sci-fi."
Tesla thought they were slick!
Tesla slipped the resell clause back into the Cybertruck contract - Desk Chair
This man wants so badly to be Elon Musk it's embarrassing.
Reddit CEO plans to use AI to supplement moderation - Desk Chair Analysts
Today in Things That Did Not Happen:
@bookstodon should i start reviewing/rating books
How to mastodon:
- Post nothing
- Check notifs
- Disappointed, no notifs
- Continue to not post
- ??? why no notifs :(
Bookwyrm gave me my "wrapped" for last year, the first year I used it. It says I read 16 books, but I read lots more than that, just didn't get around to posting about them. Anyway, if you're looking for something to read, especially in the #SFF realm, check it out!
ever heard that factoid about empires lasting 250 years? Sometimes it's claimed that this is an average, one person even claimed that it was an upper limit.
This is probably false. The claim originates with a fellow named Glubb. Dude was born in the 19th century and served as an agent of British military control of the Middle East. He wrote a short book/long essay called "The Fate of Empires and the Search for Survival" in which he made that claim. He was not trained as a historian, offered no citations, and excluded American and African empires. (He did say it was an average, though.)
Anyway I thought I'd mention it since I brought it up during a conversation with @poiseunderchaos and they were like, "yeah I'm not so sure about that."
Today is the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. Stop rolling your eyes, this isn't a patriotic post! You know me better than that.
This is about spilling the tea... about the British East India Company's spilled tea, and what that had to do with Bengal, textile workers, and famine.
See, BEIC was using its private armies to open markets around the world to their trading policies, and to install local rulers who would keep the goods and money flowing. They did this in Bengal, one of the world's biggest producers of textiles in the mid-1700s.
Then, in 1768, drought hit Bengal and crops failed. People began to go hungry, but the BEIC's puppet rulers and agents just continued to collect taxes--and, in some cases, to profiteer off the sale of food. Over the next two years, these practices exacerbated the food shortages, leading to the Great Bengal Famine of 1770, in which 7 - 10 million people are estimated to have starved to death. That's at least 25% of the entire Bengali population of the time.
This put a big dent in the profits of the BEIC (oopsie, who knew famine profiteering could have negative economic impacts?), leading to a financial crisis in England. This is also why BEIC was unloading tea for cheap in the American colonies, to get some of those revenues back.
So yeah, "no taxation without representation" was the rallying cry, but isn't it interesting that we (USians, I mean) were never taught that the REASON colonists were worried about this is because they felt they had something in common with starving Bengalis: namely, the vulnerability to a multinational corporation which clearly demonstrated its depraved indifference to human suffering in pursuit of profit.
Courtesy of Metafoundry newsletter:
Okay #Fediverse, let’s get something straight. We are all grown ups here (hopefully) and can make choices for ourselves. We alive in a society that allows us the freedom to choose for ourselves what to do.
Why would you allow or want to be part of an instance where they choose for you who or what to block? I understand that there are BAD people on #Meta, just as there are on EVERY platform on the internet.
Give the regular people on each platform a chance to been seen.
Another post about this cool book I'm currently reading: "The Sol Majestic" by Ferrett Steinmetz. Gotta love that name.
Have you ever wondered how a top-rated restaurant might function on a space station? Light years from any planet? Well, Ferrett Steinmetz thought about it and came up with:
-artificial gravity used to cook things using the heat generated by enormous planetary-scale pressures instead of direct heat
-stasis fields instead of fridges (duh) but also speeded-up time field used to sneak a week's worth of work into an hour
-an alien sourdough culture that MIGHT be sentient
All of this is an excellent backdrop for a story of a young boy finding (gay) love, seeking independence from his parents, and exploring questions of philosophy, truth, capitalism, and marketing. It's not #SolarPunk, but it has that homey vibe.
Btw, you can follow me on bookwyrm, I'm @SallyStrange and I read a lot.
So I just listened to Kara Swisher's interview of Ben Mezrich, author of "Breaking Twitter" which is out now I believe. Mr. Mezrich does not believe that tolerating racist people, turning Twitter into a firehose of racist conspiracy theories, and grandstanding for the worst white supremacists on the planet makes a person racist. "It's so complicated," he said to excuse leaving most of Elon's racist tweets and bigoted antics out of his semi-satirical book.
But it's not. As Kara points out, racist posturing by insincere people who should theoretically know better is, in some ways, worse than sincere outright racism. Either way, it's definitively racist behavior.
Definitely not going to read that book.
#TIL: Young children (up until the age of about 7 - 11) can regenerate their fingertips.
This is from "We Are Electric" by Sally Adee, which is all about the body's bioelectric code. Apparently electrical fields and electrical charges are the software to the hardware that is our DNA.
The fingertip regeneration was discovered by researchers investigating how salamanders regenerate limbs. Of course it's not something you can easily test, but there are enough people who grew up without easy access to medical care that this is a known fact.