Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Poetry and Anarchism

"knocked over by the storm
we die in the cages of hatred
the weak throw themselves
on those who are even weaker
and close our mouth with mocking filth

my voice is strangledand the hands of the enemies 
tear my thinking tongue apart.
Pursuers take the resounding present
and living world from me.
where will I feel the flow into airless silence.
I am starving in a decayed placeless mind
cut to pieces earthless.
forced into nothing
drains me
turned to ice
empties from the mouth
into world growing pain."
--Carl Einstein, German Anarchist and distant relation to Physicist Albert Einstein. Participant in the soldier and worker councils following the German defeat of WW1 and the Spartacist uprising (where he gave euology at Rosa Luxembourg's funeral). Wounded fighting in the Durruti Column with the CNT-FAI in Spain and later fled following the victory of the fascists. Trapped in southern France following Nazi Germany's defeat of the French Third Republic, Einstein took his own life by jumping from a bridge on 5 July 1940.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Review: Resurrection

Resurrection Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was utterly amazing. In my opinion, one of the finest pieces of Russian fiction I have ever read and definitely my favorite Tolstoy story I have read so far. It depicts a Russian noble's attempt at redemption and is indictment of the state, prison system, the police, the Russian Church, land ownership, and capitalism.

"Having captured hundreds who were evidently guiltless and who could not be dangerous, the Government kept them in prison for years, where they became consumptive, went out of their minds, or committed suicide; keeping them only because the officials had no inducement to set them free, but thought that safe in prison they might possibly be of use to elucidate some question at a judicial inquiry"

Im not even sure how Tolstoy was able to get this book past the tsar's censors, because its brutal attacks on state institutions barely holds any punches (except maybe against the tsar personally, but even then is pretty openly hostile to the state and authority).

The other main character in the story is a sex worker who becomes politicized in prison by revolutionaries. Maslova's relationship with the political prisoners opens the door to some amazing conversations and depictions of the different viewpoints of anarchists and socialists at the time as to the reorganization of life, while also being a view into the utter degradation of prison life.
The book doesn't have a perfect view of sex work, but what it does is preserve the humanity of the sex worker in a way that most 2nd wave feminists cannot even manage.

"And what seemed most surprising was that all this was not being done accidentally, nor by mistake, nor only once, but had been done continuously for centuries, with only this difference, that at first people's nostrils used to be slit and their ears cropped; then a time came when they were branded and fastened to iron bars; and now they were manacled, and transported by steam instead of on carts
The arguments brought forward by those in Government service who said that the things which aroused his indignation were simply due to the imperfect arrangements of the places of confinement, and that they would all be put to rights if prisons of a modern type were built did not satisfy Nekhlyudov, because he knew that what revolted him was not a consequence of a better or worse arrangement of prisons. He had read of model prisons with electric bells, of executions by electricity as recommended by Tarde, and this refined violence revolted him yet more"

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Sunday, June 4, 2017

I Just Beat Knights of the Old Republic II

I know its a little late to be playing this... like a decade late. But I saw it for $3.50 on steam and figured why not. So here is my review. I really liked this game. The graphics are obviously a bit dated, but it has such a cool atmosphere and story that its easy to overlook.  Where this game shines is in your ability to make decisions that either are associated with light side, dark side, or skirt both.

A number of characters fit basic star wars tropes but have a lot more depth to them.  My favorite character in this story by far is the mysterious Kreia.  She is beautifully voice acted and her actions and motivations keep you guessing through the very end.  She reminds me of the Bene Gesserit from Dune (the original Jedi) and this is an utterly perfect representation of the much more fluid essence of the force than a yin yang (dark/light).

What I also appreciate about KOTOR is that it is so much darker than many of the movies (empire strikes back and Rogue 1 being in a similar vein.)  The temptations of the dark side are strong as taking ruthless action sometimes seems the best choice in a perilous situation, but can have long term consequences.  I definitely recommend it.  Still quite fun!


My favorite scenes for those who have played it include the battle on Dantooine,  the "OH SHIT! A FUCKING JEDI!" moment when you make mince meat out of hundreds of bounty hunters in a cantina, the feeling of finally growing into force powers/light saber and feeling a sense of newfound power compared to your enemies.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Review: Children of the Dragon

Children of the Dragon Children of the Dragon by Frank S. Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was recommended this book by my friend Daniel as a cross between Conan the Barbarian and class struggle. "something I definitely think you will like." After having just finished it I have many conflicting thoughts.

First of all, he wasn't wrong. The book tells the story of captured brigand who ends up leading the anti-imperialist resistance against the foreign occupation by an all powerful god-emperor and his bureaucrats. Not shying away from intense violence and structural critiques, this book includes torture, repression, sexual violence, bloodthirsty retaliation, starvation, land expropriation, and other themes that would be very present in any Fanon text.

"As in Taroloweh, the Ksavra Land Decree was enforced against the barons and their stranglehold upon agriculture was smashed. Some of them yielded without bloodshed, others barricaded themselves in their manor houses and fought to the death. But all of them were drowned in the surging peasant tide.

Through the towns and villages too, Jehan carried the relentless war of liberation. Here it was the merchants and the officials, and of course the priests who were the target of enflamed mobs. Temples would be set ablaze and the priests brutally slaughtered.

Red and black with fire and smoke was the sky above Nitupsar...."

While being hyper critical of structural violence of occupation and authoritarianism, it remains cynical of the short term effects of revolutionary activity and the dislocation it can cause.

I also feel that the books handling of gender was pretty bad. While its class politics were ok, the women in the book were often depicted as manipulative if not outright crazy. (with one major exception). Instead, they were shown as the eternal victims, seldom empowered and not particularly focused on. There were also uncomfortable scenes of sexual violence which occur throughout the book as a way of demonizing the bad guys and also committed as revenge by resisting peasants on their conquerors... and they were hard to read.

If you like gritty depressing stories like Blood Meridian.. or want a conan the barbarian story mixed with class struggle. Then Read it. I still haven't made up my mind on how I feel about it.

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Battle for the AbyssBattle for the Abyss by Ben Counter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was one of the grittier books in the series, a total bloodbath. Starting with the secret hidden weapon of the Mechanicum being used to wipe out the enemies of Horus before hostilities really begin... it follows the hunt for this new mega ship.

while it depicts some of the goriest space battle scenes I have ever read, its pretty damn 2 dimensional in characters and motivations. As a warhammer 40k book it fits in well in the universe. As a novel, its nothing special.

Just dont get beetween a worldeater on the verge of close quarters combat!

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Saturday, April 15, 2017