Re: Guest Post - Race Together With Starbucks

1

Lots and lots of funny twitter responses to this, but I laughed hardest at k-sky's: "So do you like your women like you OH GOD IT BURNS"


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 6:24 AM
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1: Checked that one now and there is some funny stuff though of course it also bring brings out all the courageous Guardians of White Privilege. I like the new Dunkin Donuts ad campaign -- "We don't want to talk".


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 6:50 AM
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I got an email asking for nominations for a diversity award. I'm thinking I'd probably get in trouble if I sent in the names of all the baristas.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 6:56 AM
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A diversity award is kind of funny: Congratulations, you're black! Or you're white! Shouldn't it go to the biracial person every time?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 7:00 AM
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Improbably, it seems potentially even more awkward than McDonald's Pay With Lovin' campaign. Please just give me my goddamned McMuffin already.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 7:00 AM
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Pay With Platitudes.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 7:02 AM
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The award is for encouraging diversity or inclusiveness by writing things on paper cups.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 7:02 AM
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"Pay with Lovin" -- were they trying to improve employee morale by having the customers perform sex acts on them in lieu of cash?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 7:04 AM
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What's hilarious about this is that it's coming on the heels of that unbelievably misguided McDonald's campaign. But not even on the heels - that thing crashed and burned over a month ago. So there's been plenty of time for someone - anyone - at Starbucks (or, I assume, at a PR/ad firm) to put the brakes on this, yet nobody did.

Some weird kind of groupthink, both that two different orgs (in kind-of but not-really different businesses) would almost simultaneously come up with similarly cringe-inducing campaigns and that nobody within either org stepped up to say, "this will be a Hindenburg-scale disaster."


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 7:04 AM
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Goddammit, I started writing 9 before 4, let alone 5.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 7:05 AM
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Arby's should try a "Pay by being slightly less disdainful" campaign.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 7:07 AM
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9, 10: That's ok, JRoth -- the hyperbole of "Hindenburg-scale disaster" made it worthwhile.

I saw a tweet suggesting that this campaign could work in bringing the races together - since blacks, whites, hispanics, asians, etc can all agree that it's terrible.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 7:09 AM
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I thought this from the white fragility interview was quite good:

But even if she is feeling [discomfort], which she very well may be, we should be suspicious of our feelings in these interactions. There's no such thing as pure feeling. You have a feeling because you've filtered the experience through a particular lens. The feeling is the outcome. It probably feels natural, but of course it's shaped by what you believe.

Definitely a tricky thing to negotiate on the left - unless you're around the really annoying kind of marxist who totally disregards feeling, you usually find that "feeling" is given too much primacy and accepted too uncritically.

On the "talking about race" front: I have had two hilarious [for a certain value of hilarious] situations in a community ed class I am teaching where I, the white person, have been all "and I am concerned that [X aspect of our reading] assumes a white readership and [thing thing]" or some other concern about race in what we're reading, only to have a student of color in the class say "actually, I don't think that and it doesn't bother me". (Separate students....and not totally "students", as this is more a facilitated discussion group than anything else.)

I think that the main way I deal with my white fragility is through overcompensation and Bringing Race Into Everything All The Time Even When We Really Don't Need To. Honestly, something I find difficult is to signal in group situations where I don't know everyone that it's okay to talk about race and okay to criticize white privilege while still not making it seem like I only see people of color in terms of race. And then I get all wound up in worrying about that....thank goodness I have a smart group of students.

On the other hand, I think that it's been better to be awkward and weird about race while still making it clear that it's okay with me to talk about it....at least, I have definitely had friends say that they were glad that I had signaled - however awkwardly and weirdly - that I wasn't going to go into white rage mode or white discomfort mode.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 7:10 AM
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Clearly, recycling ideas from two decades ago isn't a foolproof strategy for career success.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 7:11 AM
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I, the white person, have been all "and I am concerned that [X aspect of our reading] assumes a white readership and [thing thing]" or some other concern about race in what we're reading, only to have a student of color in the class say "actually, I don't think that and it doesn't bother me".

How old/aware is the person of color?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 7:13 AM
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There's a black man I drink with at the local bar sometimes. I always tell him I'll see him again unless the cops murder him. That seems reasonably sensitive.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 7:13 AM
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16: You should probably nominate yourself for that diversity award.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 7:18 AM
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I continue to find the term "anti-racist" gratin fly self-congratulatory.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 7:27 AM
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AGH gratingly. This is a word, you stupid fucking phone.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 7:27 AM
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I have a Starbucks coffee here that conspicuously lacks any mention of race. The baristas who served it to me were East Asian and South Asian, so it's not like we didn't have anything to talk about.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 7:27 AM
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"I think Asians are very sexy."

"Sir, I'm going to have to call my manager."


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 7:31 AM
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"Alright. Threesome."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 7:31 AM
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My most infuriating auto-correct was recently when the phone switched "neither" to "either". Both are words, and you just corrected my sentence to the exact opposite meaning? SCREW YOU.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 7:31 AM
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The baristas who served it to me were East Asian and South Asian, so it's not like we didn't have anything to talk about.

Geesh, togolosh, talk about abdicating your responsibliity! You could start the conversation too! As Hillell/Einstein said, "If not me, who? If not now, when?"


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 7:33 AM
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In Kansas, Starbucks baristas are discussing the challenges facing that state's ethnic brownback community.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 7:35 AM
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Gratin fly sounds like an interesting mix of national (and racial) conversational styles.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 7:37 AM
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15: Old enough! Early twenties. But the thing is, in both instances the text could be read several ways. We're reading some neo-space-opera stuff and one thing I've been thinking about and bringing up in class is the method by which authors estrange/create a sense of the exotic and remote....for example, does the author use images or customs loosely derived from Asia to create a sense of an exotic and distant future? If so, does this suggest a white audience and an expectation of an orientalist reading? The student's take was much more that the particular author's use of images suggested various Asian imperial conflicts and as such made a lot of sense to her. [I can't really explain more without rehashing the whole plot of the book.] And I think that's a perfectly good reading, maybe one that allows for a better and more flexible read of the book. Especially because one thing I try to steer the class clear of is the urge to "convict" the authors of various political/social/writerly "sins". (That is, I choose writers who are basically of the left, whose work is intended as feminist and anti-racist even if it does not succeed perfectly all the time - so in general I try to steer us toward a generous reading because otherwise it gets very fiddly and defensive and I don't think we learn much as a group. But of course, then I get anxious that maybe I have accidentally picked a terrible book and my students are all horribly uncomfortable but just aren't telling me, and we're off to the races.)


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 7:38 AM
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and we're off to the races

You're getting ahead of yourself; that's Starbucks' next campaign.


Posted by: My Alter Ego | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 7:42 AM
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23: Reminds me of an e-mail I got yesterday. The text of it:

The only issue I have with the response is where we state specifically "For a small business operator ... the [document] may be as little as two pages long." I would prefer to say something like "For a small business operator ... the [document] may be substantially smaller than that of a larger company." We should specify how many pages exactly [the document] may be.
It looks to me like there's a contradiction between the first two sentences and the third. I specifically asked if there was a typo in the third sentence but never got a reply. Some people... although in fairness, he's far from my least favorite person on this project, and the current stage of it has flipped my opinion of some of them.
Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 7:51 AM
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4: I believe the conventional answer is "Rae Dawn Chong".


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 8:09 AM
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On the "talking about race" front: I have had two hilarious [for a certain value of hilarious] situations in a community ed class I am teaching where I, the white person, have been all "and I am concerned that [X aspect of our reading] assumes a white readership and [thing thing]" or some other concern about race in what we're reading, only to have a student of color in the class say "actually, I don't think that and it doesn't bother me". (Separate students....and not totally "students", as this is more a facilitated discussion group than anything else.)

This is interesting. I've had concerns (actually, in some of our treasured meta-discussions about the nature and meaning of the Unfogged comments section, but also in other contexts where I'm not remembering specifics) that seemed related, but that I never managed to get clear enough to talk about coherently, although I'm going to try now.

People have identified Unfogged comments (and I've seen the same sort of identification in other contexts) as a very white space, and obviously I know exactly what that means (mostly white, middle class commenters and the conversational assumptions reflect that), and it would seem absurdly defensive to deny it or push back against that identification. But I find the identification kind of worrisome, because it's hard to draw the line between a descriptive and a normative identification. I end up wondering if raising that issue explicitly has the effect of informing any non-white lurkers or commenters of color that if they think they're full, comfortable readers or participants, they're wrong, and they should, correctly, feel excluded. At which point the explicit identification is perpetuating and enforcing the degree to which the space is exclusionary. And then I don't know what to do with that thought, so I drop it and think about something shiny.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 8:52 AM
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There a fine line between "encouraging employees to talk about race" and "creating a hostile working environment for members of a nonmajority race," and labor lawyers across America are itching to take on Stasrbucks.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 9:00 AM
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18 is one of the more delightful autocorrects I've seen in a while. Waiter, there's a fly in my gratin! (At which point the waiter delivers a pithy riposte, because he is of the French race.)


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 9:03 AM
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a very white space

It is until we fill it up with black letters.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 9:08 AM
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I also literally cannot imagine what Starbucks expects baristas to do. "Here's your coffee do you have any black friends next!"


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 9:10 AM
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"Here's your latte, cracker. Enjoy your privilege."


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 9:14 AM
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Someone trying it out.

"Thanks for reminding me," he continues. "I was writing [the hashtag on the coffee cups] more yesterday, but a lot of the customers were not super into it." He makes air-quotes during the last three words, leading me to believe those other customers were so not into it as to be far away, observing the inside of "it" through binoculars while shaking their heads emphatically.

Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 9:21 AM
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"Mocha? Now that you mention it, your skin kind of does look that color."


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 9:21 AM
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"Oh yes, a latte is a great choice for you, since your ancestors likely evolved lactase persistence. But have you thought about the races that didn't?"


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 9:24 AM
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They could try something useful.

"Did you vote for somebody trying to repeal or restrict into meaninglessness the Voting Rights Act? If so, you may wish to consider your views on the matter."

That might be too long to write on the cup, but people do tend to order really big cups of coffee.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 9:43 AM
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"I admit I don't really know anything about horses but I do love NASCAR!"


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 10:14 AM
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This ties into their recent introduction of the "flat white" somehow, right?


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 10:16 AM
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"How about I make that with decaf? You people seem to get agitated easily."


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 10:21 AM
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"Would you like one drop of cream?"


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 10:54 AM
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"Are you sure you wouldn't prefer some green tea?"


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 10:57 AM
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46

Curious now what the novel in 27 is.


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 11:02 AM
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Curious now what the novel in 27 is.


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 11:04 AM
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Curiouser and curiouser.


Posted by: Not Alice but I did wear one of those bands my entire childhood | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 11:05 AM
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46 - I'm guessing the tea ceremony-type stuff in Anne Leckie's Ancillary Justice (and particularly the sequel), but that's just a guess.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 11:09 AM
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I knew the flat white would come to no good.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 11:16 AM
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49. Probably - good spot. The trouble is that the human species has infested this planet for 100,000 years and there are now 7.5bn. of us, so the chances of an imaginative writer coming up with an imaginary culture which doesn't reflect somebody in the real world at some level must be close to zero. Either we have to accept this or abandon imaginative fiction as a project altogether.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 11:20 AM
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49: Snarkout wins! Not just the tea ceremony stuff but the various things about the icons and the religious rituals. I have not yet read Ancillary Sword, although I am looking forward to it.

We are also going to read Aliette De Bodard's On A Red Station, Drifting, of which I cannot speak highly enough. (De Bodard is Franco-Vietnamese and writes, among other things, stories set in a space-faring Viet far future.)


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 11:49 AM
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51.last: and the trouble is, if you go the "safe" route of blending various traditions, unless you're very subtle, you start the reader thinking about how hieroglyphics, tea ceremonies, nomadic horsemanship, and online gaming fit together - you're presenting a grab bag, not a cohesive-seeming culture.

Or you go down a Tolkienesque rabbit hole, trying to create cohesive cultures with deep underlying histories, and you still get it wrong, because limits of human imagination and such.

Not that no one gets it right, but it's really a critique that needs to be used sparingly if at all, because it's one that could probably be applied to virtually every world-building project ever, if you want to be a dick about it.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 12:04 PM
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I find the idea of a world as a disc sitting on a turtle to be a bit too something.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 12:06 PM
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54: Truthful is probably the word you were looking for.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 12:11 PM
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There was only one layer of turtles. I found that unrealistic as it is turtles all the way down.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 12:14 PM
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56: I used to be a polyturtlist, but then I realized that all the turtles are One.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 12:17 PM
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One turtle, perplexingly named both Tor and Tuga.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 12:56 PM
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I once met a Japanese ESL student who took freshman English at an American university. One of the readings was Neuromancer, which she thought was anti-Japanese. It's not something I picked up on when I read it, but I've always been curious if it was a plausible reading or not.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 1:32 PM
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It's not mentioned on the Wikipedia page.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 1:35 PM
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59: I don't recall it reading that way, but it was written at the height of the "Japan is going to own America in a few years" anxiety, so I wouldn't be surprised if some (probably unconscious) anti-Japanese sentiment is in there somewhere.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 1:37 PM
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There was that bad Michael Douglas movie where Japanese gangsters seeking revenge for the atomic bomb thing killed his bunny rabbit.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 1:38 PM
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The bits in Japan do seem to be set in fairly lowlife/criminal settings, without much interest for other bits, and have a bit of a "look how different this is!" feel to it, so I can see someone reacting that way. It's a bit tricky though because it's set in the future and almost entirely in lowlife/criminal settings so it doesn't obviously stand out to me (but very well might to someone from Japan, depending on what he highlights).


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 1:56 PM
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I don't think that Neuromancer is anti-Japanese, but it is - like all of Gibson's early work - funny about race, and not funny ha-ha. (Actually, this was something we discussed in an earlier course cycle where we read a lot of Gibson and some feminist cyberpunk.)

In early Gibson, non-white racial characteristics are treated sometimes as if they're an optional subculture (see the part where the Sassy Black Gay friend in Mona Lisa Overdrive reveals that they were born white), or sort of subculturized/stereotyped - one black guy is...a pimp. One black guy is...a Rasta. I think that Gibson is sincerely trying to write a multiracial future, and these characters are depicted as complex and capable, but it's far from ideal.

I think the Russians are treated a bit as a race, and they get the most sympathetic treatment - they're mysterious and distant, but also have this sort of psychic connection to all the Cold War/near-space/technology-fugue stuff, and a special awareness of state/corporate fascism.

Japanese people are mostly just depicted as distant and unknowable, even when they're positively depicted. (Consider the father in Mona Lisa Overdrive, who seems like a good guy and who we're meant to read as a loving parent, but who also essentially drives his wife to suicide because of the Coldness and Loneliness of Japan, etc.)

It occurs to me now that the way race works in early Gibson is pretty much "white people are better people of color than people of color" - like, Sassy Black Gay Friend, or the English Yakuza in Mona Lisa Overdrive. Race becomes something that white people can try on but people of color can't really escape. (My fantasy for the Super Ninja Assassin in "Johnny Mnemonic" is that he fakes his own death by diving off the killing platform and just runs away to live in the Sprawl.)

I think that Gibson is basically pro-Japan - I think we're meant to read all the mysterious unknowable Japanese characters as really cool - but it is pretty ham-handed and certainly not something I would just pass off as "oh this is a completely acceptable way to write characters of color in science fiction" or something that I would teach without making clear that we were going to read it critically.

One thing I did realize on reading early cyberpunk, though, was how much just intentional racism there was in a lot of those stories. Bruce Sterling has written some stories I find totally unacceptable, for instance. Gibson is definitely trying to show a future that isn't just white or under American hegemony, and I think that's a political move for him.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 2:05 PM
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the Coldness and Loneliness of Japan

I work with a woman from Japan, but I figure it's best not to ask about stuff like that. Mostly she seems the same as everybody else, which is to say slightly annoyed to see me but not horribly put out.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 2:10 PM
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I read it a long time ago, but to me the Sprawl sounded like "What if Tokyo came to the US". I don't know if this is anything in the text, or just how future urban agglomerations end up looking like Tokyo in movies.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 2:10 PM
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Didn't Dairy Queen already try to start a discussion of race when they came out with the moolatte?


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 03-18-15 4:12 PM
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