Google's Stadia game streaming service will launch on November 19th, the company's Rick Osterloh announced today at the company's fall hardware event. From a report: In a separate blog post published during the keynote, Google added that servers will open to the public at 12PM EST/9AM PST. Besides the US, Stadia will launch in Canada, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland. At launch, you'll be able to purchase Stadia's Founder's Edition for $129.99. The pack, which has been able to pre-order since June, includes a Chromecast Ultra, limited-edition Night Blue controller and two three-month Stadia Pro subscriptions. The Founder's Edition grants you access to Stadia's library of games at up to 4K resolution, 60 frames per second and with both HDR and 5.1 surround sound. Next year, Google plans to offer a Stadia Base subscription that allows you to buy games individually and play them at 1080p and 60 frames per second.
At an event in New York today, Google unveiled Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, its latest flagship smartphones. The Pixel smartphones have over the years set a new benchmark for photography prowess. So you can imagine that a lot is riding on what Google, which has in curtailed several of its hardware ambitions in recent quarters, does with the new Pixel smartphones. From a report: Google makes it a point that the majority of the primary features are the same between the Pixel smartphones, with the primary exception being the display and screen technology. That is the case this year as well, with the Pixel 4 featuring a 5.7-inch Full HD+ P-OLED display, while the Pixel 4 XL boasts a 6.3-inch Quad HD OLED screen. Both panels support a 90Hz refresh rate, though. Inside both handsets is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, and both smartphones boast 6GB of RAM. The handsets come in either 64GB or 128GB of built-in storage options, but there is no microSD card slot for expandable storage. There is a USB-C port for charging, and both handsets feature stereo speakers as well. The battery in the Pixel 4 measures in at 2800mAh, while the Pixel 4 XL has a 3700mAh battery tucked inside.
Meanwhile, around back, the real star of the show: the cameras. That's right, Google is bumping up the rear camera count to two. It starts with the standard 12-megapixel "Dual Pixel" camera, which is accompanied by a 16-megapixel telephoto lens. The rounded square camera housing also hosts a microphone and a flash. [...] And finally, the front-facing camera is equipped with a radar sensor that gives the handsets much more utility than previous models. It starts with true depth detection while using the front-facing camera to unlock the phone with a face unlock biometric feature. Google is also including a new "Motion Sense" technology, letting the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL support gestures for controlling media playback and more. The pricing for Pixel 4 starts at $799, while its bigger sibling begins at $899. Unlike previous Pixel smartphone models, the Pixel 4 and 4 XL won't offer their users the ability to upload unlimited photos in their original resolution and qualirty to Google Photos at no charge. Both the handsets, though, come bundled with a new voice recorder app that transcribes voice recording in real time for free, Google said.
ebay pricing probably hasn't fully reacted to the news, but it looks like your best deal for an android phone with security updates is the 3a. If you pick up a refurb for $240 and use it for the remaining 30 months of security support, that's just $8/month. A new Pixel 4 base model will cost you $23/month for its 35 months of security support. Also, I like my fingerprint sensor...!
More than 100,000 rescue workers are still combing through flooded and damaged areas of central Japan after it was struck by Typhoon Hagibis, the most powerful storm to hit the area in more than 60 years. Local authorities are blaming this weekend’s typhoon for more than 70 deaths so far, with a dozen residents still listed as missing. Hagibis brought high winds and heavy rainfall, which damaged structures, collapsed dikes, flooded rivers and low-lying areas, and triggered more than a hundred landslides. Gathered here are some of the images of the damage and immediate recovery work taking place.
September 1941. "Buildings on main street of ghost town. Judith Basin County, Montana." Another look at the hamlet of Geyser, which seems to have an affinity for "Kandy." Acetate negative by Marion Post Wolcott for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.
If Janice Raymond’s much-maligned (1979) book The Transsexual Empire could be summed up in a single sentence, I think that sentence would be: gender dissatisfaction is a social problem, not an individual problem. Social problems should be treated with progressive social reform, not with the medicalisation of individuals. When people from socially marginalised groups protest against their situation, we recognize that the groups they’re part of are facing a social problem. We don’t treat individual protesters – poor, black, old – as though there’s something wrong with them for thinking that there’s a problem. We aim to fix the differences in social outcomes between rich and poor, black and white, old and young. Just as we wouldn’t respond to an ambitious woman with medication to dull her aspirations and keep her in the home, we shouldn’t respond to men frustrated with the constraints of masculinity with medication to help them (seem to) change sex. And those men are not the only people who feel ‘gender dissatisfaction’: many if not most women, and many if not most men feel it too (those who feel it the most tend to be referred to as ‘gender non-conforming’, but I won’t use this term given that virtually no one is fully gender-conforming).
Reading Raymond helped me to clarify something that’s been in the background of my thinking and writing about gender for a while. Raymond puts the blame on the medical establishment, which approaches gender dissatisfaction in the case of trans people as an individual problem (this is the ‘empire’ referred to in the book’s title). But I think we should put some blame on at least some trans (including nonbinary) people too. I think being gender non-conforming while repudiating your sex class membership can be roughly analogised to crossing the picket line, and I think considering the parallels between these two cases can be helpful in getting a handle on exactly what is different between the trans rights movement and other movements for minority groups’ social and legal rights.
In a classic strike, unions organize workers to refuse to work at coordinated times, sometimes just for a segment of the working day, sometimes for full days – or even weeks (at least in the past) – at a time. Individual union-members are committed to the cause of the strike, for example because some among them are not being paid fairly for their work, or because the workplace policies are unreasonable. But there can be reasons to refuse to join the strike, or to break the strike before the union calls it off. A particular employee might run out of money and simply not be able to afford to remain away from work. Although historically fellow strikers have been angry at those who break with the collective stance (‘crossing the picket line’ is pejorative), from a moral point of view individuals can have adequate excuses for doing so, and so not be culpable for strike-breaking.
The strike, when it comes to gender, is the feminist project of stereotype-busting. Sex stereotypes are bad for everyone, because they limit freedom. Feminists historically have worked to reject the sex-stereotypes applied to women. They fought for women to be able to vote. They pushed for more women in workplaces and arenas of public life traditionally dominated by men. They taught little girls that they could be and do anything. They resisted women’s sexual objectification, in advertising and in popular culture, and through pornography. They popularised the idea that there are as many ways to be a woman as there are women, or more: you can wear pants, you can have short hair, you can love women, you can grow your body hair, you can be an engineer, you can take up space, you can speak your mind… you’re still a woman.
This is a moral project. Feminists in different eras looked at women’s inferior social position, and saw a social problem. Although there have been attempts by the medical establishment to diagnose individual womens’ dissatisfaction as an individual problem, feminists generally recognized it as a social problem that needs a social solution. For example, the problem with mostly white women in 1960s America wasn’t that individual women were ‘ill’ and so couldn’t simply enjoy being housewives and mothers. The problem was that women were intellectually under-stimulated and restless, because they didn’t have lives of their own. They existed for others, for their husbands and their children. The projects that they had going on the side tended not to be challenging or meaningful enough to quell their unrest. Betty Friedan argued in The Feminine Mystique (1963) for a progressive social solution to this problem, namely that women needed meaningful paid work outside the home.
Feminists today continue the moral project, pushing for an end to male violence against women (breaking the stereotype that women are men’s property, to treat as they like), equal representation in public decision-making (breaking the stereotype that women are disinterested in politics or power), increased representation in industries where men are dominant (breaking the stereotype that women are not talented in e.g. science, technology, engineering or mathematics), an end to sexual objectification and harassment (breaking the stereotype that women should be aesthetically pleasing and sexually available to men), equal pay for equal work (breaking the stereotype that women are not as capable as men, or don’t have as many financial responsibilities as men), and many other things. We want an end to sex stereotypes, so that people of either sex can do and be whatever they like. Sex stereotypes are bad for everyone.
Crossing the picket line, then, when it comes to gender, is being someone who reinforces sex stereotypes. This is immoral in just the same way that crossing the picket line in a strike is immoral, at least if you don’t have a very good excuse. As I said already, in the case of strikes it is possible to have a very good excuse. In the case of trans (including nonbinary) it is possible to have a very good excuse too. Some trans people experience severe and distressing dysmorphia about their sexed bodies, to the point that they would rather not go on living if it meant living in those bodies. This is a good parallel for being genuinely unable to afford to not return to work. If the choice is between starvation and strike-breaking, we strike-break. Similarly, if the choice is between suicide or reinforcing sex stereotypes, we reinforce sex stereotypes. Blaming people in either of these situations is inappropriate. Any moral demand that requires a person to sacrifice their own life is overly demanding. I’ll assume for the sake of argument that all transsexual people have this excuse, and all transgender people (including nonbinary people) do not (this will not be a perfect heuristic, because there will be some transgender people who would be transsexual if they could, and yet cannot have surgery for medical or financial reasons). Transgender and nonbinary people are crossing the picket line, and compromising the feminist project. (Often while claiming to be feminists).
This charge cannot be credibly made against any other minority group movement for social and legal rights (at least that I can think of). Some argued that the push for gay marriage was morally objectionable, because it forced a reconceptualisation of marriage, when marriage has value to religious people. And indeed, were marriage not a state institution conferring material benefits, and were it instead solely a religious practice, there might be something to this claim – we might have another parallel to strike-breaking. In Melbourne (where I live), the only two characteristics protected against vilification are race and religion, which says something about which groups are seen as the most vulnerable to it. So arguably religious people are a minority group, and this group wanted to hang on to a practice that has meaning to them (marriage as between a man and a woman). But marriage isn’t solely a religious practice, it’s a state practice, so the charge doesn’t go through.
In other more familiar cases, e.g. the movement for civil rights or women’s rights, there’s no plausible case to be made that people of colour or women were doing anything morally objectionable in pushing for their rights. Their gains did upset the distribution of resources and opportunities, which some members of dominant groups (here white people, men) probably did view as a net loss. But those gains did not negatively affect an ongoing project for the liberation of another minority or disadvantaged group. White people were not using their exclusive political power to achieve their own liberation before people of colour gained the vote and stopped them in their tracks. They were already liberated. Likewise men. This case – of gender non-conforming people repudiating their sex – is different. Reinforcing sex stereotypes conflicts directly with the women’s liberation project.
Natalie Wynn has objected to this point by saying that if the objection was really to reinforcing sex stereotypes we’d expect to see feminists directing anger at particularly feminine women. She asked, why do feminists focus their anger on transwomen, rather than people like Kim Kardashian? (Wynn’s video here and a fuller reply from me here). But this question can be answered. While people like Kim Kardashian do conform to sex stereotypes, they don’t necessarily reinforce them. That’s because, as I said already, feminists believe there are as many ways to be a woman as there are women, or more. The only thing you need, to be a woman, is to be female. After that, do whatever you like, be however you want. Being feminine is one of those ways. Because there’s no ‘right’ way to be a woman, being feminine is not a ‘wrong’ way.
But the same goes for being a man. There’s no ‘wrong’ way to be a man, including being feminine (even though of course not everyone in society agrees with feminists on this point). When a transwoman adopts femininity and takes the extra step of claiming to be a woman, he is expressing to the world that he thinks being feminine is not a way to be a man. He reinforces sex stereotypes of masculinity. The usual criticism is made in the other direction: it is a familiar thought that transwomen reinforce sex stereotypes of femininity, because of the type of women they tend to try to be. But I don’t find this particularly persuasive. If this were the only criticism, Wynn would be right to ask why we’re angry with transwomen for doing this but not with women who do it. But because being trans involves a repudiation of one’s sex (or one’s ‘gender’ understood as a sex-typed social role), it necessarily involves the statement that this way I want to be is not a way of being my sex. For example, being sexually subordinated by men is not a way of being a man; being the person who takes care of the house and raises the children is not a way of being a man; taking a passive role and deferring to the man in my life is not a way of being a man; wearing dresses and makeup and having long hair is not a way of being a man; (you get the picture). (I take some of these examples from transwomen Raymond interviewed and quotes from in her book).
The same goes for nonbinary people, because all the ways that nonbinary people are, are ways of being their sex. It’s sex stereotypes that make us think they’re not. If nonbinary people would be the way they want to be (e.g. a female person with an elective double mastectomy and short hair) without claiming not to be their sex, then they would be contributing to the project of busting sex stereotypes. By claiming to be nonbinary instead, they send the message that this is not a way to be their sex, that in order to be this way you must repudiate your sex (or ‘gender’ understood as sex-typed social role).
This is an old point put in a new way. Feminists have long accused transwomen of reinforcing sex stereotypes. But it’s not stereotypes about women they’re reinforcing, it’s stereotypes about men. Many people instinctively felt this when they heard about UK Stonewall advisor Alex Drummond claiming to be widening the bandwidth of being a woman, by having a beard. Feminists worldwide asked, why isn’t Drummond widening the bandwidth of being a man, by wearing skirts and eyeliner? What makes it the one rather than the other? The reason feminists have been so angry with those trans and nonbinary people who don’t have a good excuse for claiming trans and nonbinary status is that it’s a form of crossing the picket line on the feminist project of busting sex stereotypes. This is not just an idea for a project, where there might be reasonable disagreement about which project to take up. It’s a project already in full swing and which has made massive gains for women. What we need is a movement comparable to feminism aimed at freeing men from the constraints of masculinity. What we don’t need is large numbers of people acting like gender dissatisfaction is an individual problem, and the solution to it is reconceptualising sex stereotypes as innate features of persons (under the banner of ‘gender identity’).
Yeah. I was confused and appalled by this as well. First, solidarity is not an unalloyed good. Even if people are pursuing a good cause, the practical need or theoretical desire for universal solidarity leads people down pretty dark paths. While the history of unions has often yielded good results (shorter work days for example), there is a brutal side to them when their organizers look to enforce solidarity from those who aren't interested. For example, the Blackleg Miner song is full of veiled and not-so-veiled threats for those who cross the picket line and this violence is not the part of Union history we should seek to emulate today (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackleg_Miner). But setting that aside, I have a hard time buying the logic that 'X is a moral project, moral projects don't conflict, Y conflicts, therefore Y is immoral.'. Good things conflict all the time. It is frequently the case that people who care passionately about one good cause are happy to reduce the resources for other good causes to further their own. And many times a good cause pursued jealously ends in disaster as everybody ends up worse off. Standing up for the workers is a great cause until you end up with gulags. Fighting against the gulags is a great cause until you end up in McCarthyism and witch hunting. And so on and so on. Whatever the cause you have, the world is not defined in terms of your cause. There are others out there with legitimate causes of their own and sometimes you may come into conflict. The important thing is to peacefully mediate these conflicts and to come up with ways to make progress on both causes. The trans cause is not the feminism cause and should not be somehow subordinate to it. It is its own thing. They can be allies to the feminism cause to some extent, and vice versa. But there will always be some ways in which they are not identical in goals and aspirations, and places where helping one might lead to hurting the other.
So Lucky just won the Washington State Book Award for Fiction! Wow. I am surprised and happy. Both the Seattle Times and Seattle Review of Books have more info so go read those for details on where, what, who etc. What I want to talk about here is my surprise.
As the night’s MC, Paul Constant, pointed out, this really was one of the strongest groups of finalists I’ve seen for these awards. Every single book on the fiction list would have been a fine winner. (Yes, writers often say these things as a courtesy; this time, it’s true.) I did not expect to win, both because of the other books nominated but also because of the nature of So Lucky itself.
I’ve never been a fan of false modesty or excessive humility. I can write; So Lucky is a good book. But, by its very nature, it is designed to force the reader to look inside themselves and face their own ableism—because, oh, we are all ableist, even if we don’t want to be; it’s how we’re raised. If the book works as intended, it will make the reader uncomfortable (as well as thrilling, amusing, delighting, all that stuff—but, definitely, some discomfort). In other words, So Lucky is not the kind of fiction that wins awards. Nonfiction that makes the reader squirm? Sure, maybe. But fiction? No.
So when I saw the finalists I knew I wouldn’t win. I showed up at the ceremony a) because it really is an honour b) free party! and c) I wanted to support the friend who I was convinced was going to win. Of course I had thought about what I might say if I did win—doing otherwise is like going for a drive and, though not expecting to crash, not taking a moment to fasten your seatbelt: just plain idiocy—but I hadn’t thought deeply, and I hadn’t polished my thoughts or committed them to memory.
Then when I got to the auditorium I saw that the only microphone at the front was a fixed mic attached to a podium—utterly inaccessible to someone in a wheelchair. So then I was sure, with rock-bottom certainty, I wouldn’t win. So when Constant read out my name I was shocked. I wheeled out, totally blank, and they handed me a handheld wireless mic. And I thought, Fuck, should have practised…
Luckily, I did in fact remember most of what I’d intended to say (because I’ve been saying it for a year at various book events), though not nearly as elegantly as this (now polished—yes: stable door, meet bolt) written version:
SO LUCKY is about a woman with MS, written by a woman with MS. The first word of the book is it, and it is a monster. But the monster is not MS, the monster is ableism.
Ableism is the story we’re all, disabled and nondisabled, fed from birth: that to have intellectual or physical impairments makes us less, Other. Ableism is a crap story.
For one thing, it’s wrong. What disables a person in our culture is not impairment but society’s attitude to that impairment. We are disabled by assumptions. By, for example, the bookstore owner who, when asked why there’s no wheelchair ramp, says, with no trace of irony, “Well, none of our customers use a wheelchair.” Or the editor who says to their author, Can you make the disabled character a bit more lonely and sad, more authentic?”
Ableism is not only factually incorrect but poorly constructed, an inauthentic story told by those who have no clue. Next time you read a book about a quadriplegic who kills himself because he can’t bear to live in a wheelchair, next time you read about a blind woman whose happy ending relies upon a magic cure, ask yourself: Is the author of this story disabled?
According to the CDC, 25% of Americans has an impairment that has a serious impact on their life. One quarter. But what proportion of novels on our shelves are by and about disabled people? According to my back of the envelope calculations, about 0.00013 percent.
Ableism is a crap story. I wrote So Lucky to counter it. So for giving this book—this anti-ableist story—recognition, thank you.
I added a few more thanks, I think. At least I hope I did. If I’d had more time—and less shock—I would have thanked the judges, and Washington Center for the Book, and Washington State Book Awards. I would have thanked my agent, Stephanie Cabot, for having faith in me and my work (no matter how odd it gets); my editor, Sean McDonald, at FSG who found a way to publish a weird thing as an actual novel, and to do it in a vast great hurry because I felt it was urgent; Kate Macdonald, publisher and chief energy source at my UK publisher, Handheld Press (ditto); and all my friends who were sincerely puzzled at my sincere puzzlement over this book. Librarians and booksellers have been amazing; they expected HILD II and got this odd little thing, but embraced it anyway. But most of all I want to thank Kelley, my rock and my beacon, who always had faith in me and my book even during those times when I didn’t, quite. She took the picture, below, of me at the afterparty, still looking a little bemused.
I got to sign a lot of books at the afterparty—photo by Kelley Eskridge
I suspect the bemusement may last a while. But right now the sheer delight is gaining, so I think I’ll stop here and go party some more!