Monday, July 16, 2018

Framing

Yesterday, my mom and I got together for lunch, sat and waited a little while I got my car cleaned up a bit, and shopped. The first retail excursion was to the crafts store, where she had recently left a couple things to be framed.

One of these is the circa-1960 map of her home county. It includes a legend of several local businesses, and in the top right corner are two images of bank branches; one, the new and super modern DRIVE THROUGH branch. The other, the older building: where mom worked when she was a single lady. She pointed to the second floor corner window.

"That is the window where I looked out and saw your dad when he came for our first date."

They were set up on a blind date, so this was where she saw dad for the very first time.



The other thing she had framed was dad's system. He designed a certain system for CEBAF, now known as Jefferson Laboratory, the national accelerator facility. After sketching it out, he had a student put it in a proper rendering, and this, now, is in a really nice frame.

Dad worked with Jeffy Lab when they first started calling it that, and you can see by the nickname how Virginians are about change. Heh. Plus, it's fun to say - Jeffy Lab.



The framing guy did a splendid job with both pieces. The map was pretty fragile, even had small holes in it, but ironed out and mounted with UV glass, it is a gorgeous faded color, but the blue ink is really pretty. The frame is wood, with a nice interesting grain. It's warm.

The schematic is less amber, though the paper was decades old - and you can discern, if you care to, where it was folded. There is one whiter spot, where it was stored for years next to some smaller piece of paper that left a paler, un-faded square where it had lain. It is in a black frame, white-matted, but with the thinnest under-mat of black, to create a little outline around the document.

For someone into industrial design, this would be a pretty cool design piece. For me, it is an image literally mined out of the mind of my dad; who, not that I've ever mentioned this before on my blog (hah), happened to be a stupefyingly brilliant teacher.

The system's exactingly thin lines and detailed intricacy are beautiful; not entirely unlike a flow chart, balanced, and filled with information I don't understand. It all comes to a result that ... is an ongoing piece of the scientific community of the world.

My dad did that. He is *still* a part of the mechanism of study and discovery. Gone fifteen years and more, he still lives - in this little avatar of his work, which is an artifact we can enjoy - and in his WORK, which is still a part of the engine of science and study.


It's easy to remember, as his kid, that my brother and I, his grandkids - and mom, who lived with him for over forty years, and started this branch of family - are the products of his life. But it's heart-swelling to think: dad contributed to so much more than just "me" in this world (as good fathers do, right?). That his being a teacher frustrated and challenged and maybe inspired hundreds of others. Maybe thousands.

My dad touched so many things, as curious intellects do. He *made* much more than I probably ever will. Which so few of us will ever be able to say.



And it's out that second-floor window ... where that all began, just before the blind date did.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Collection

When an article features Terry Crews and mentions Rosey Grier, I'm going to be all the way in for clicking THAT. When that article fully displays the principle and ever-perfecting manhood, well pre-dating Crews' current testimony before the Senate, and how sumptuously he expresses not only his humanity but his convictions, I all but weep. He's proving what we know - and most need to know. Additionally, he's funny as hell.

A joke I heard on Twitter once: "White people upset about BET asking, 'Why don't we have White Entertainment Television?' ... We do, it's HGTV." Worth the click because sometimes online discourse is fertile.

In other TV musing, something struck me about Pose recently. Having watched other Ryan Murphy works, I knew early on that the discussion I'd seen regarding how unrealistic Pose is was almost funny: Murphy's not interested in realism, he presents setpieces, and he does that nicely if you choose to take it on his/those terms. (Feud felt intentionally setbound; even outdoors scenes are claustrophobic and closed-in. That plays to the emotional worlds of the Crawford and Davis characters in play.) For Pose, the archness is not as visually obvious, so I've seen complaints about, say, just how glamorous the scene is made to look, or the opening sequence for the series itself, where "real" historical costumes are stolen from a museum for a gay ball. Preposterous! And duh. Here is the thing: Pose is 80s TV. Figuratively (it's set in the late 80s) and literally (its emotional beats are ALL Very Special Episode-worthy). The depth of plotting is *veeeerryyy* much like 80s TV - sitcom or drama. The pacing is extremely 80s; when TV took time to lay things out. For many, this seems slow or dry or even insulting (making the implicit explicit). But this is so, so true to its time. It takes the 80s seriously, AND it tells stories no network (remember, we really had three back then) would have told in the time itself. I kind of think that's genius, and it's not Murphy's first time reining pace enough to slow things down like this. Given his current influence, you wonder how this might bear out in others' work. Imagine a vogue for *less* cinematic TV; imagine the VSE's regaining ascendance. I've seen surprising amounts of ink on VSEs over the past couple of years. My guess is nostalgia is bringing it back, in service of subjects even the original concept never served.

Leaping from television to literature, who has read Connie Willis's Doomsday Book? I actually re-read it a year or two ago, and - forget Jurassic Park - this book will scare the willies out of you, in both its plague-ridden timelines. So reading about the extraction of leprosy from centuries-old skeletal remains ISN'T HORRIFYING AT ALL. Just as long as you haven't read the wrong books. Yeep.

Finally ... hmm, and more hmm. Yes, fella babies, it's Adventures in Science Reporting again!

I have written in the past about Penelope's ancestry, and as little obsessed as I am with pedigree, it's not beyond me to admit fascinated with the idea my beloved Pariah descending from millennia of fascinating forerunners. Oddly enough, it seems like cancer is about all we really have left of pre-contact canine breeds. Still - being a critical thinker - it is hard not to wonder about previous DNA studies, pointing to modern Amercan dogs' long history here. Hmmmm. Keep us posted, Dr. Ostrander.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Independence Day

I'm an American.

American dreams are built on words we dare not say.



Are you at liberty today? Remember those who are not; maybe help them out.

If you are American, are you one of the (shamefully few) who vote? This right is under attack. We can fight that.


Are you enjoying Teh Intarwebs? Do you believe all media should be controlled by one party? Is a free press worthy of protection? Defend it.

Be well today - and every day. Be safe. And let's hope we get through this holiday without that uniquely American institution, the mass shooting.



Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels - men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.
--Eisenhower


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

3.5%



I have never read better news than this. As the United States slinks into democratic decline and incipient dictatorship, this is something to remember, repeat, to cling to. To act on.

It takes 3.5% of a population to TOPPLE A DICTATORSHIP. Nonviolently.

We don't need pitchforks. We need to care, and to stand up for our concerns - for our fellow people. We need to stop this dictatorship at its beginning, not listen to the myth that "this can't happen to us"  and "we are a democracy."



Tools (not weaponry).

Nonviolence.

Commitment.



3.5%.

It makes the job we have as citizens - as decent human beings - seem within our grasp.

(Edited to add an important paraphrase/link: nonviolence can be militant.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Consumeration and Cred

We’ve shifted from seeing ourselves primarily as makers of things, craftspeople of one variety or another, to seeing ourselves primarily as consumers
... I'm not saying that this sort of referencing ... is bad writing or poorly conceived. I’m arguing it isn’t writing or conceiving at all.
It’s scratching an itch that we have somewhere.

Oh my, this was a Lightbulb Moment for me. It's one of those things we know but don't "realize" in general, and it's the very shape of our lives. See also: memes. There is some kind of truth in this observation well beyond comedy. Memes live as something more than comedy, they're indicators - we point to those things we want to make sure others know we have seen, just as we post pictures of those things we want to make sure others know we have eaten, people we have met/known/hated/adored/had sex with ... We've gotten awfully pointy in my lifetime. (Oh yeah. I did that on so many purposes.)

I would say this, though: this is more about cred than about advertising our consumption. We get to the cred BY pointing out the references that signify whatever area of the cultural landscape we wish to live upon. For my part, I get my cred by NOT knowing certain references - I am old, I have earned the privilege of never having heard of all the recent 20-year-olds who have died tragically and had articles written about them. I have earned respite from the effort of keeping up with what on fleek means, or who is doing what on YouTube or anywhere at all. I have earned the right not to have an Insta, and to have some fuzzy idea, "Is Snapchat over?" or be entirely surprised that Grey's Anatomy apparently was not canceled like seven years ago or something.

Nobody gives a hang what anybody else is eating, or quoting, or in-meme-ing about. They are interested in, culturally, where somebody stands. If someone is familiar with my political/comedic/subcultural/art cred, I'll be interested in references they might make I don't already know. We judge by where someone places themselves on these social, virtual maps - they just quoted the third Doctor or the Stones or (not Taylor) Swift or Childish Gambino or the Christian Bible or made a Left Shark joke or hollered back to All Your Base, and I love them for it: we share this.

Our consumption is a signifying - UNIFYING - communicator.

Pretty deep, even if it isn't writing.

I need to go marinate in some Trek now.

Half Life

June 26, 1993.


... and this would be Beloved Ex.
Posted with permission.



If I can't believe it's been just over three months since my stepfather died, or fifteen years since I saw my dad's face ... believing that (a) twenty-five years have passed since this day, and (b) twenty-five years is half my life is WELL beyond my wee and paltry brain's capacity.

Huh.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Drag RACING

Royal Ascot fun.




Isn't this composition absolutely perfect?

And don't tell me for *one second* that drag isn't mainstream.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Thought

I am a living binary of faith and skepticism.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Collection

Fourteen-to-eighteen-year-old me would have of course DIED of this piece of news, just because: Cornwall! Tintagel! There is nothing here, of course, even theoretically pointing to a young Arthur learning literacy and practicing at a windowsill. Still I would have come up with the dreamy idea.

Medievalist intercessionality.

Tony Mattera has a beautiful piece on patriotism and our times. A short, perfect read.

Women are perpetually asked to be the cops, the police, the bosses of their bosses, the judges of their judges; the ones held responsible for patrolling and controlling and meting out punishment against — or graciously forgiving — men who trespass. And God help us if we get it wrong.

The Cut has an eloquent discussion of the current Bill Clinton moment - which, as timesome as it is and he is, does bear consideration right now.

In related non-news, the Patterson brand and the Clinton/Patterson ghost(s) aren't great authors. Who knew? Absolutely everybody. Gary Sue, let'r rip. Two reasons I will not read this book - incidental and not even applicable anti-Muslim villain naming, and egregious use of the term Dark Ages. Y'all know how I feel about *that*.

Unfortunately, the title, “The President Is Missing,” depends upon what the meaning of the word “is” is.
--WaPo

BAAAAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA! Also: oh, SNAP.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Contrarian Collection(-ish)

Funny how clicking through can go. You're reading about how nostalgia can be a societal ill, and within two clicks the news is how great nostalgia is for us.

Of course, it's a matter of restrictive dieting, where we forget about simple balance in favor of magical prohibitions.

Maybe you need a little escapism just to unkink. And maybe you don't want to fiddle with credits. But wait, credits are culturally vital. And then *again* ... Stingers are really the evil that will destroy us all.

If it appears I am picking on The Guardian, this is largely an accident - you could argue that they're pan-opinionated in these non-news pieces, but it might also be said the flexibility is itself destabilizing and crippling, deconstructing any integrity by offering all options.

Really, it's any thinkpiece these days. Like this post itself, there is so much inspirtation/opinion/guidance on offer in the world that it can be all too easy to cling to one given social, philosophical, or would-be-scientific outcropping just to hold on for dear life.

And that always ends up as a restrictive diet. It doesn't matter the hill, too many of us are willing to pick ONE to die upon, and this is the danger of our times.

There are many vistas, from many hills. It might not be a bad idea to trek to more than one outcrop just to see the perspective another one doesn't offer. And build a worldview from more than one point. Staying fixed leads to resource collapse, and we die of the entropy.

#CriticalThinking may be the best tool we have to stave off incivility, insensibility, insularity ... insurrection. Because dying on one hill, or living on just one outcropping: insanity.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Collection

There is NO reading like in-depth, contextualized journalism! The more I read of it, the more I want of it, because: fella babies? I am a history nerd. And well-researched, well-rounded journalism is HISTORY, kids. Here we have a stellar piece from The Guardian about sugar, fat, and nutritional fashion/factions. The history here goes through decades of science, reportage, politics, and real-world effects. It is brilliant, and genuinely gripping reading. Please read it, please? Pretty please with ... sugar on it?

Here is a point where we have to engage in critical thinking. Have you heard the stories about those missing 1500 unaccompanied immigrant children? I will disclaim: I have not researched what is said in this thread, but I haven't researched the screamy headlines in-depth either, and I find this counterpoint worth a pause, if not facile endorsement. Is this analysis dangerous? Or is it dangerous when we call these unaccompanied kids "missing", indulge screamy headlines about it, and fail to understand (or try to) what is really happening with them. The dangers of clicktivism, y'all.

(E)ventually something horrible will happen, something dynamic and powerful. It’s going to have to be cataclysmic for people to wake up and say: ‘OK, is anyone gonna do this?’

Now yet another History Blog link, because although I depend upon the HB perhaps too much in these Collection posts, it's because they're so resource-rich. Oh, and the content is pretty spiff. Here is a rare piece on a Hawai'ian artifact repatriated - and I am a sucker for repatriation. I'm also a sucker for Hawai'ian archaeology, but that is another link.


Oh, here is a sigh of a piece, a 2014 interview with Bill Murray, including a quote from Harvey Weinstein which might turn your spine to chalk. Still eminently worth the click. (Also, next time I march I STILL won't wear one of Those Pink Hats, but I might just indulge a Murray Mask ...)

Talking of icons of the 80s, have you read the Molly Ringwald piece in New Yorker? Pretty fascinating reading, for many reasons, and her penchant for research adds to the layers here. She's also an excellent writer; thoughtful, open, interested and interesting.

Hey, and this is a writer's blog (of sorts), so how about a literary link - that is also timely?

We need to reflect on the way the literature we celebrate supports the idea that women who are sexually frustrated create problems for themselves, while men in the same situation create problems for the world.
We have always treated the alienation of men as if it deserved thousands of pages of analysis, perhaps because we feared it had the power to endanger us all.

Yep.

How we KNOW

Through the past several months of #MeToo and all of the stories we all have endured, one of the less-spoken throughlines comes down to something like "how do we know not all men are like this?"

Granted, we certainly have the #NotAllMen hashtag to 'splain about these things. Ahem. And lots of us will note the guys in our lives we're sure are above it. Men themselves discuss how abhorrent certain behaviors are.

It is not a fact that the only good men are the men who live in the imaginations of others, idealized out of reality. I don't know there are Good Men just because I think my dad and my brother are good men. I know there are good men because there are men who have unequivocally demonstrated goodness in (cis and otherwise) manhood. And, yeah, it's not all binary either. But let's look at the binary that binds so many, ant look at it.


There are real STORIES, real moments in time, which prove the lie that All Men (whatever that can possibly be thought to mean) are creeps.

And, you know? I think these stories really need to be told. The unambiguously clear stories about non-predatory behavior.


***


Names, obviously, are altered to protect folks I have not seen in years, but let's start off with a couple Tales from College - and I went to a college where tales of the #MeToo sort abounded, to be certain. Hell, the earful my parents got the night before my graduation is enough to speak to the sexual entitlement of drunken frat boys.

But.

Then there was my "brother".

He and I became friends early out of the gate, freshman year (1986/87). It is not unlikely he had a bit of a crush on me, at least at some point, but he never acted upon it. Literally never - and we spent a lot of time together, at all hours and at that age when Not Acting On Things was more an anomaly than an expectation.

Then there was M.

I worked in the scene shop, and he was an associate in the drama department, I think 25 years old or so and himself scarcely past the college years (and so forth). He was wonderfully moody and intellectual, scathingly funny, and pretty well fixed up with all the things I still dig in a guy: dark, curly hair, sardonic wit, and a level of subcultural nerdliness/marginality.

I spent a lot of hours alone in the shop with M, and (as faulty memory implies) probably not without hopes that something drastically inappropriate might occur with him. Memory of any specific ideas I had about him are not clear, but I do have recollection of one particular day, when Beloved Ex and I were on the outs (I met BEx sophomore year, but worked in the scene shop for several; so by this point, I would have known M for a good year and a half - taking a class with him, working with him, making sure of course to display my intellectual cred at every opportunity). We talked a long time, and he let me go on a bit about whatever bothered me - maybe "boys" as a general caste, maybe just BEx specifically. I am fairly certain I made my vulnerability and availability for "reassurance" pretty plain.

And M didn't do a damn thing about it.



Now. Let it not be said I think I was some irresistible thing, so to resist me must be a feather in any man's cap. But I was fairly cute, making myself clear, and oh about twenty to, by then, his maybe 26 or 27. It wasn't exactly out of the question.

But M not only cared about the preservation of his job: essentially, he just was not that guy. He wasn't the guy who would mess with a student, even one he knew well, even one who wasn't "out of the question" - in circumstances other than the situation we actually did share.

Plus, I believe he had a girlfriend.

So, not only is it a dead-cert FACT that some men don't infringe upon women who might even be up for some level of infringement, but some men don't mess around on their girlfriends to do it. This is unquestionable.

There are men who do not use power - authoritarian, financial, or physical - to extort or demean a woman. There are men for whom that could never be sex (etc.) at all.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Empathetic Magic and Writing: Lose Yourself in the Cheetah

This essay on writing by Cutter Wood (and how great a name is that?) speaks to something I definitely understand.

The moves in the book that felt most freeing were not taking on the perspective of the victim or the murderer, but these brief dips into other points of view—a minor character, a bird sitting on a branch. Those moments where, in the space of a single adjective, the lens just shifts slightly. As a writer, that’s where I feel happiest, I guess.
All of this is a way of trying to move past our fundamental loneliness. ... we have these amazing computational organs in our heads, and seemingly the only thing they can’t do is connect to another one?

When I was a kid, I used to play by myself all the time, and much of what I played at was mental - empathetically occupying the body of our dog, or the neighbor's cat, imagining what it felt like to be "big", to use the counter without climbing anything ... to be a boy, or to be old, or to lack a limb or the use of them.

I envisioned my body in states other than the state I lived in, other than the species I lived in, and really tried to imagine what a tail must feel like, or limbs all one length, carrying me all at once, without free hands, with my head out front instead of on top. It was especially interesting to imagine inhabiting a snake or a worm - something ALL tail, or something without bones. To project myself into fish was difficult, but elephants, fascinating.

Really, it's the most concentration I can think of ever honestly applying to *anything* in my life. I'm not good at physical endurance, I never was an intellectual. But play? Solitary play, imagining myself out of my life, into something else's? Irresistible. Wonderful.

The connection, for me, to writing - what Wood describes in his experiences, the ineffable transfer out of self or transformation of nonself internalized ... his feeling is different, but I understand it.

Diana Gabaldon says something to the effect that "write what you know" is a drag, that the very point of storytelling is to evoke - to occupy - a world other than one's own. This is elemental, for me, as a writer. I could not be less interested in replicating myself, or my environs - for me, the entire point of reading and writing both is the escape from the everyday, the release from myself.

Irresistible. Wonderful. And who needs a story without wonder?



All this is not to say I dislike living in my own skin. It's good skin, and I've cultivated quite a nice life in it. But it is JUST too interesting to think about what others' lives, worlds, experiences must be. I know my own life pretty well, so reading about it or writing about it doesn't have the same draw as reading about altered landscapes, different eras, unknown people.

The point Wood makes about fundamental loneliness, too: I considered myself a bit friendless as a child. I wasn't - it's just that childhood is not a perpetually social experience, and (looking back) being alone might have been the only way to stretch my brain and get away from ordinary old family life. I used to sit in my closet alone, I'd appointed it with books and my beanbag chair. I would take Speedy, my gerbil, and read and let him scritch and tickle around my knees and arms. Sometimes, it was the front porch or back patio. Or even the loft in the shed my dad built.

I would read, or just throw myself into some imagined world - desiring to be grown up, glamorous, living in the 19th century, or the first ... surrounded by people, in my mind, but people I created, maybe controlled. Costume excited me, and history. And animals, of course.

My older niece went through a prolonged period as a puppy. She had a "tail" (a pink leash, clipped to whatever pants or skirt she was wearing), she was always in character. And the character was complete; she would not break it, not even for her granddaddy, sometimes only reluctantly for mealtimes. She wasn't even telling a story, she WAS the story.

That seems a long time ago, but I can remember that too - watching, and knowing I had once been the same, though without her levels of sustained concentration. I might make it an hour, building my consciousness inside an imagined body, but she sustained this for months, maybe a year. And, it happens, this was during a difficult time in our family, in her life. That puppy life probably, for her, provided the control I got out of living in another century with characters I got to conjure.

Each borrowed gesture—whether it’s an intentional homage or just something a writer adored and internalized‚ is a sign someone or something broke through.

There is both danger and security, wearing the skin of another character, of an animal. And, like Richard Pryor's cheetahs ... just a WHOOSH of your own breath ... and the cheetahs disappear.

But they were there. They were real.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Collection

I have long felt this way about the (w)racking of the nerves. Oddly enough, though, I don't mind seeing either spelling. Free rein, however, reigns for me.


Okay, THIS THIS THIS THIS SO VERY THIS, when it comes to complaining that Al Franken is out but the GOP tolerates worse abusive and demeaning behavior than his. "There is a difference between the actions of Harvey Weinstein (accused of rape) and Franken (accused of forced kissing and groping women). But that doesn’t mean women should have to choose between the two. The ideal is none of the above." (Emphasis added.)

And here we are with one of those sites I always depend upon ("Too much?") for Collections posts, with a great pairing:

You may have heard of the partially mummified baby, but The History Blog, as they always do, has excellent background of its own along with their usual collection - ahem - of links. Make with the clicky for the clicks beyond on this story! Also: yay, science!

THB link #2 *may* not be for the squeamish - note, the words "gnaw" and "bones" occur togehter in an analysis of burial practices. But, for my gravedigging money (there's no research like grave goods!), funerary finds are the richest finds of all. So make with the clicky here, if you can stand the phrase "four pelvises on a stick" in service of a REALLY interesting look at Celtic warfare and military burial.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Catastrophe! Hee.

Holy CATS, it is fascinating when science can tell a novelist their historical fiction may have been fiction in the historical documents themselves. I was happily reading along, this Atlantic piece about Greenland ice core sampling and how it correlates to the Roman economy and conquests ... when it casually BLEW MY WEE AND PALTRY MIND with an aside about the Plague of Justinian. Which just happens to be awfully important to my WIP's action, themes, even those aspects of my work which I literally don't even believe in.

The mention, in the article, of absence of evidence of Justinian's Plague in the ice record does not equate to evidence of absence. (Evidence of exaggeration? Always possible. Discoveries can indicate many things.) I am content to accept Procopius, amongst others. Lucky thing: I am neither scientist nor historian, and as a novelist of historical fiction, I need not dash down the twin rabbit holes of history *nor* science to justify my theories as to how the "Dark Ages" (I don't even believe in) began. Ahh, liberty!



Do you know, I do believe some authorial bits of my brain may be awakening? Well, my my my ...

Monday, May 14, 2018

PROSSA-seez

Since my last post, there has been some indication of life in the WIP. I have the comments to thank, in part, but also mindfulness that baby steps really are the most important, sometimes.

After a week at work that was extremely difficult - not because the work was hard, but thanks to office politics which demand emotional and professional bandwidth I don't have these days - I've returned for a new week with my head down and my feet steady. You have to keep your ambitions small when things are overwhelming, and a week that ends with the advice to document difficulties is overwhelming.

So the WIP may be viewed as a saving grace - something for my brain and soul to resort to, which is "under my control" (cue the laugh track of every author I know enjoying the idea they "control" their writing). Well, perhaps it is just a refuge - a puzzle to work under stress, a world outside the one I have to occupy day-to-day. A promise to be winkled out.

A week ago, it was scary facing the dragon, but right now it is oddly satisfying to contemplate going at something so big. With work being just as daunting, the strange truth is that the butter knife is turning out to be an unexpectedly efficacious tool.

The thing is to see it as a TOOL, rather than a weapon.

I don't want to kill a dragon. I want to write a book. It does seem rather fighting-a-beast terrifying, given that I have been out of the world I want to build for so long, but thanks to perspective and a certain assist from Jeff Sypeck, I realize that not only is this not a fight ... the fact is, it's an enterprise I can take or leave, and that somehow makes me want to claim it, to get the best of it, to create something remarkable.

Or just create something.

Whatever the words, the point is *motivation* - something I have not had for six months, really.

As with the WIP, so goes the job. I'm off my game - even just cognitively, my mom and I both are up against forgetting things, being blankly unable to identify how to deal with things, the recurring embarrassment of displaying our sieve-brains. It's pretty giddy, but I have trust that it is temporary. You have to.

And you have to work for a living. And, if you're a writer, you have to write. You don't have to publish, but you have to *write*.



And so. I entered my credentials for the expense system at work. All I'll need to do to start that item on my to-do list is hit "enter" when that bubbles up to the top of said list.

I sorted piles. I knew which pile is the easily-dispatched stuff, and I knew which pile I had to defer for today. It left me with a nice proportion of stuff I knew could be managed. I managed it. Printed nameplates. Scanned uploads. Scanned several small things to email to specific people. Deferred the items I'll have to scan and share around looking for who should see it. Laid out two FedExes. I'll enter credentials for that in the morning.

It sounds, perhaps, unbearably elementary, but it's just conscious inrementals I usually implement every day without the consciousness part:

What is routine is now something I have to think about, but that doesn't mean it's not advancing.



Inevitably, this is where I get all writerly and point out that it's the same for the WIP. Ooh, meta.

But it's true. Opening the doc can be a step, but of late it's not enough. One window amongst others can be ignored, so - having realized that research is my entry point - I squared off with the manuscript and found a piece of research I could manage. It is so vanishingly small it may seem silly: but, it was an image, already followed by the character description it inspired. I deleted the image.

That is work on a manuscript. Tiny work? Undoubtedly. But it is "in there", and "in" is where I wanted to be. Right?

This led me on to a more substantial idea, which might get very exciting indeed. The WIP having been born out of research for The Ax and the Vase, there are relics of that novel in this one. I put them in place in the years when WIP was related to Ax, even if it never was a "sequel" in my mind. And ... the stunningly obvious fact has at last pierced my callused brain, which is: that work is not relevant to this work.

My next step may be some deletions. If I ever feel the need to refer back to anything in Ax, I always have that manuscript available. But that may be absurd conjecture.

In the meantime: deletion is work. It is "in." I want to be in. So some extensive surgery could feel really good.

Leila: remember the time you got me to cut 60 pages out of Ax? I will think of you with a bloodthirsty smile as I get to slicing again.

The butterknife is a tool. Which can do a great deal, in the right hands (and when you know where to apply it).

It's pretty exciting.



I'm coming back to life. Not from death. Just from a long detour.

Thanks to Jeff and Leila, especially, for helping me find the path - and maybe lighting fires under my posterior.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Saturation

One of the things about going through a dry spell as an author of historical fiction is that getting back to writing involves more than simply ass-in-chair hours. When you leave behind a work involving masses of research, world-building, and characters who possess entirely different mindsets than the modern American cube-farmer, you become desaturated.

Writing fantasy or histfic or sci fi (just a few examples, I know) means world building. And when you stop building - researching, occupying, *knowing* a place and its denizens - you become desaturated. It's extremely difficult to be in that world again on a dime, when you have neglected it for a long time.

To the exclusion of much social life, and to no complaint of any kind (I would have been nowhere else), I have focused on my family for a good six months now. With my stepfather's decline stretching across eight years, my immersion has been NOTHING next to my mom's. (To say nothing of the man himself, which seems cruelly self-involved.) But, as family circulates through all our lives, so has his failty.

And, yeah, I saw that typo. But it fits. Let's make it a word: failty. (Perfectly cromulent.)

A loved one's failty is the job and the beloved duty of those who care for him - caring, in the emotional sense, inevitably comes with caring in the custodial sense, if we live long enough. And writers often are alive, and love other people (often - not always!), and so we get distracted.

Hell, writers get distracted easier'n magpies, we all know that. How else would writing blogs ever survive?



Coming out of distraction ... there are levels, for a world-building author. You can still write about the peculiarity of someone's gaze (har), or some contained scene that exists within the greater context, but doesn't require reference to the context, with all the researched or invented knowledge of the world within easy recall.

Still, sitting down to the manuscript as a whole is terrifying. "I don't remember the context for the earliest anti-semitic riots in Christendom" or "Oh geez, how OLD was this character at this point?" I'll be frank: I can even forget who was alive when, and continuity in historicals can get so detailed you can screw up some other part of the book even noodling with what you think of as a contained scene. Containers leak, and sooner or later you've piddled your continuity all over. And cleanup can be death-defying.

(Literally - see also, that bit about forgetting who's even alive when.)

It's been a LONG time since I was doing the "W" part of the WIP.


It's always been the case with me, that I can read something I wrote and, if enough time has gone by, it won't even feel like reading my own work. Even being able to recall constructing a scene, the product of the work put in still seems fresh to me, unfamiliar. There is much brain science here, underlying the way authors say "I am a conduit" - but basically, the stream of consciousness we navigate doesn't always seem like it runs through our brains as it does a greater dynamic in which our souls are mere passengers.

(Yeah, and WOW on that piece of work. I *told* you I haven't been writing! Be forgiving, please. I'm making up lame pun-words at this point; you knew the risks, reading this.)

This unfamiliarity can be freshness, but it's also symptomatic of losing the headspace. The fixtures of research and writing are important as you keep going, but are all too easily rewired incorrectly, or even lost.

As long as it's been since I was writing the WIP: it's even longer since I was researching it.



And there it is, perhaps ...

Perhaps my "in" is with research, rather than writing.

Sometimes the ass-in-the-chair isn't scripting out a scene ... sometimes, it's mapping what happens where. What to use, and what doesn't serve. Who needs to be where, rather than the dialogue they provide once they're in situ.

Maybe I need to get myself in place - remember the place - before I try saying what happens in it.


A thought. I'll think about that, then.

Collection

Holy. Hell. How have I never discovered Frock Flicks before? Well, I have found it now, and wanted to share with y'all the terrible secret of our times: the great hairpin shortage through which we are suffering. (Calling to mind my own loathing of beachy waves and bitchin' velvet ...) The bit about interns ... hee! Beautiful comedic writing blended with splendid costume blogging. Count me IN.

When thirteen is GOOD luck - just a short, sweet article about some hero truck drivers. Also here. Click for a little uplift!


Okay, this draft post is ageing, so even though it's on the brief side, let's hit "publish" rather than waiting for inspiration, which seems to be even more minimal ...

Friday, May 4, 2018

Nope, still not posting ...

... still not writing either. Sigh.

But tonight, I pulled up Over the Edge to watch, and this woke up one of the happier memory parts of my brain.



Cheap Trick is OSUM, man.



But (... for now ...) that is all.

See you some time soon though, fella babies. I can't stay shut up for but so long.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Collection

Danger, Will Robinson! Plot bunnies ahead! But wow is this a GREAT mind-blower for Friday the 13th. The Atlantic on the possibility of truly ANCIENT civilization (... ?). Man, oh man, the fiction you could write riffing on this idea! OSUM. This appeals to me immensely, with my increasing thing about systems and scale ...

If you can fix this truth in your minds, namely, that the true use of books is to make you wiser and better, you will have both profit and pleasure form what you read.
--Sarah Fielding

Oh my gosh, what a splendid piece of YA literary history. Also, I love a teacher names Mrs. Teachum. I just like the word teachum, like hokum, absurdum, or bunkum but so much more appealing. Go make with the click.

And a little more from Smithsonian Magazine - e-cigs are using the same advertising gambits decades and even generations-since prohibited for combustible cigarettes. PLUS a back-to-school special ad, which I don't think the old school ever even tried. Stay classy, vape-producers!


Thursday, April 12, 2018

Mourning.

I would hardly be the first, and it's hardly the first time I've thought this myself - but the loss, through the 20th century, of traditional mourning practices in the United States is also a loss of an important signal between us as humans. It's been tempting, since my stepfather's death, to find some way to communicate, without having to have awkward conversations with strangers or acquaintances, that I have just endured a loss. With even the black armband all but vanished, mourning itself is an awkward proposition anymore.

There has been an increasing sense, for me, that it's time to move on. Nobody has pressed this upon me, but with weeks passing at a clip (I almost cannot believe it's been nearly three now), there is an inescapable feeling that continuing to Have The Feels about my stepfather's death is already drama-queening. That, to be frank, there is only the briefest of periods we can get away with not being okay and getting on with the day-to-day.

It would be ... if not nice, then certainly convenient, to have an unspoken signal of mourning. If one is to get on with the day-to-day, not having to *speak* about the loss of a loved one would certainly facilitate that. But the human heart is what it is, and it still hurts when people you're not sure even "know about it" register no sympathy. There is confusion - do I tell this person I see every day? Why should I have to do that? It feels like dramatics to lay that on people - particularly when you're not sure whether they know already. Some people won't speak because it's been more than a few days, and the news-cycle of life has sailed. Some people won't speak because they are sensitive to the pain of loss. Some people won't speak because they are awkward with the subject. Some people won't speak because they do not know. As the bereaved, it would be easier to know - is this person in ignorance, or are they being kind? It HELPS to understand.

So much of communication is nonverbal.

And so, if I had a signal, I could at least understand the words that do come toward me. And I could also communicate this important thing about myself, without having to stop time in the workroom to say, "Yeah, my stepfather just died." And leave someone feeling VERY awkward.

My guess is, this is one more gift Americans have accidentally or heedlessly imposed upon the world. In the rush to imprint our informality, nonconformity, and expectations upon human interaction, we have obliterated some forms of signal someone figured wasn't necessary, and over time the social enforcement that is conformity (har) ended up killing off this branch of etiquette. Uncomfortable, restrictive, depressing, perhaps even importunate upon the carefree (har) lives of other individuals.

Goodbye, mourning. Seriously, has anyone seen real mourning since Jackie Kennedy? I can't so much as remember consistently black garb at funerals; my mom, as it happens, wore poppy-red over a red and black dress, to the funeral inspiring me to discuss this whole thing. She is a great believer in the reaffirmation of life in vivid (the word means lively, after all) color.

I wore black. He was a bit more traditional. And he deserves to be mourned.

Indeed, since he died, I have kept my wardrobe more on the sober side ever since. If I can't go around in mourning jewelry (that people will understand as such, as opposed to thinking I just picked coz I'm goth-ly tinged), at least I can calibrate my mien to less flamboyance. And wear *less* jewelry. I actually applied a shot of brown hairspray to cover the blue hair, in fact, before the funeral; and at least once or twice since. I'm not even wearing highlighting cosmetics these days; bright eyes just seem inappropriate. (And the simpler the eye makeup, the less smear when I slip and find myself crying. In the middle of a meeting. Because: dork. In mourning.)

Three weeks. And already, I find myself embarrassed to even SAY "I am in mourning" (except to that one actual human telemarketer who called, and I could not take it). In the culture I've grown up in, mourning itself is unseemly, because it imposes upon those around us the distasteful necessity of sensitivity, or just the reminder of mortality. Mourning for three WEEKS, well. That is just melodramatic.



And yet, I am impelled to say - at least here - he deserves more than weeks. And what he has taught me, perhaps especially in his own final week, which was horrific ... will stay with me for the rest of my life. I still don't understand everything I saw and experienced, and it's both something to process and also to extrapolate from: for all I went through the eternity and power and heartbreak of his deathbed, my mom has been enduring as a caregiver for years now. His decline, in fact, goes back eight years - I still remember the Mother's Day lunch we shared, when we had to hold his arm back out to the parking lot.

Mom is still learning, too. Just how long this road has been. How, bit by bit, her own liberty to move in the world was curtailed - sometimes by my stepfather's will (he developed terrified and aching separation anxiety), and always by his frailty. How she did it all herself, and kept him home.

Six months ago, I was firmly of the belief that I would NEVER die in a hospital. My own dad's death left me sure it was barbaric and awful. My own dad's death came fast, though.

Now, I am not so sure. Being home might be nice, if I could be assured of sudden death (and that The Poobahs would not starve). It has an allure - who would wish to be in a hospital at the end?

But a slow death at home ... knowing that I could be alone, is that something to sign up for in all eagerness? Not that I'm interested in artificial prolongation, but the variables in horror - if I were alone, and broke a hip (my stepfather's final crisis was a break, and this is often a precipitating factor for those already in decline), what would I endure, ensconsed at home yes, but immobilized, in pain ... ?

Even with caregivers, death at home isn't some peaceful slipping away in one's own bed. Indeed, a standard bed is a horrible, dangerous place. Only after a hospital bed was delivered did my stepfather subside from cruel restlessness and the torture of his broken bones. And by "subside" I do not mean he found comfort. Only some respite, and that incomplete itself.

I learned from him; and sat with him, and tried to give him silence. Sound made him uncomfortable, so I stopped even indulging myself telling him how much I loved him. Or that he could go on. We told him that a lot. He didn't need to hear it, he wasn't holding out for permission to die.


And this too, I learned from him ... death doesn't always answer to the pretty stories we apply to it. It's not always a saga of fulfillment, someone waiting until an important figure comes to their side and releases them. It's not even always a question of release. The man my stepfather was? He had life left, and he was going to use it all up. All of it. Where for six years, he literally begged for death, once it announced it was come, he wrung out of his body the last *iota* of life left to him. Death wasn't impatient for him; those of us around him were.

It is a harrowing thing, a week long deathbed. Human chatter becomes intolerable, and I understand his responses when it was pushed on him, or shot over him as if he were barely there. He was there.

Even outside the room where he lay, the prognostications of "when" ... the stories about crows haunting us, or passed family members coming to take him away ... were not merely exhausting, they became irrelevant quickly as he kept on living on ... and we undoubtedly crossed into distasteful territory, more than once. People coming and going, speaking loudly of meals once shared, or playing music he would have hated ... crossing with those who came to sing, to pray, to just be beside him.

I think (and this may just be a story I tell myself) I became more silent as the days passed, simply because that was the only gift I had left to give to him. I stopped typing one day, because I felt the sound of my keystrokes, even, were too much to bear. I didn't hold his hand constantly, I stopped telling him he was the best stepfather ever, or that I loved him, or how much he amazed me.

I just never stopped kissing his head. Breathing the smells of him - not all of them beautiful. And yet, I both miss the scent of him and find myself having a sort of PTSD series of flashbacks to the smell that seemed most emblematic of him in his last year or so. The smell of his death began long before he ever broke a bone.



I miss him, and I love him, and I mourn him, and just thinking it makes me weep silently.

One of the funniest people I ever knew.

Someone who, never having been a father before, took on our whole family when he was not a strapping youth, and who found ways to laugh alongside us. Great G-d, it was not always easy - for him, or for us. The first years were difficult.

But the past eight? The past six? The years since my brother's family moved, and it's been me, mom, and him? The time it took for me to go from reluctance, to content, to tenderness?

I am blessed to have had these years.

Their passing deserves observation.

My stepfather deserves mourning.

Friday, April 6, 2018

DRAG, the Series: Human

I have decided to leave this series of posts, intentionally, in a very draft form. This owes to the upheaval of the past month of my personal life, yes ... but it also feels fitting, as the entire point of this discussion of drag is about construction and challenging assumptions. To smooth it all into coherent, long prose might obscure the various parts, and thoughts, I have put into this, and they perhaps should stand out starkly. In honesty, much of what I say is just intros to the links embedded. And so, here is this series. Unfinished. Challenging - to me, in one sense, and to the audience in another. Seems right ...

The essence of the art form is compassion.


Stories - both the wit onstage, and the realities of the performers: we all know these glorious manifestations were born of pain. Even the most loved and supported queens, who have enjoyed acceptance from their friends and/or families (genetic or adopted, by whatever means) performing right now are up against the WORLD of those who do not. And acceptance by those nearest and dearest is hardly guaranteed. Probably not a queen standing has not endured humiliation, doubts cast upon them, and discrimination - never even to mention the scrutiny of strangers who consider they have a right to particular knowledge of the most intimate aspects of their lives and even bodies. And yet, these people devote themselves to the art and entertainment they provide. This is not a minor risk ... even as many queens say their drag is their armor, the main reason it can be such is that they are forced to *need* armor at all ...



Drag Race capitalizes on turning self-expression into a competition - and then overturns all narratives about "winning" as Miss Congeniality and runners-up become superstars on tides of fan support ... or queens walk off voluntarily, messianic (no, seriously) figures simultaneously rejecting the crown and glorifying it, simultaneously gaming and messy, and - well - Miss Congeniality incarnate. The show has exemplified reality television's outcomes, where "winning" ends up meaningless - and might almost ruin the game, for some.


We all contain multitudes. Some of us may be less aware of that most of the time, and some may play it up more consciously, but few of us are glam queens 100% of the time any more than we're litter-cleaning schlubs 100% of the time.

Third genders

What is "authentic" anyway?


One of the major focal points of drag is the synthetic ideals we've applied to the idea of "femininity" - and thereby, obliquely, pointing to the synthetic nature of the masculine, and of binary sexuality and humanity. Drag queens rarely dress like (everyday, cis) women. I am in lug-heeled boots, jeans, and a chunky sweater as I write this - and, on average, a drag queen is not to be caught dead in the attire that outfits most "women" throughout our lives. A queen is OTT, pointed (ahem), fabulous. If a drag queen is a showgirl, the point is the showing-girliness. If the spotlight is on, it's not going to shine without some glitter.

Pigments are often seen as the root of complex symbolic behavior. Think of the way we use color on clothes, flags, and tattoos—all signals of social identity.


This series of posts has discussed the depths of social, cultural, *human* behavior in a lot of depth, and I've linked the dickens out of things which point to the fact that "human" does not strictly mean man-woman/nuclear family/hetero/binary/cis etc.

If "we" are hundreds of thousands of years old, and even before anatomically modern humanity we engaged in recognizeably human society and culture, how is it even possible to presume what any one of us thinks we know is any form of bedrock truth? If we were built to be, and survive only because we are, flexible and adaptable, why are there people who think their is safety lies in rigidity, in immutable definition and narrow parameters?

Why are people afraid of drag queens?

As natural as it is to be adaptable, it is also natural and human to harbor fear - and the original interpersonal fear, the greatest fear outside of fire and flood and hungry, toothy predators: is The Other. The person we do not know.

The person we do not understand.

As human as it is to self-decorate and put on uncomfortable shoes or shocking color: it is just as human to fear drawing attention, to fear those who brave it, and to fear behavior we cannot understand because we cannot bring ourselves to it at all.

Human innovation, our ingenuity itself, is born of fear and need. The need to eat and self-protect created community and the cultures we built to sustain the human herds within which we found it safest to function.

DRAG, the Series: Gender

I have decided to leave this series of posts, intentionally, in a very draft form. This owes to the upheaval of the past month of my personal life, yes ... but it also feels fitting, as the entire point of this discussion of drag is about construction and challenging assumptions. To smooth it all into coherent, long prose might obscure the various parts, and thoughts, I have put into this, and they perhaps should stand out starkly. In honesty, much of what I say is just intros to the links embedded. And so, here is this series. Unfinished. Challenging - to me, in one sense, and to the audience in another. Seems right ...

We're all born naked, and the rest is drag.
--RuPaul Charles


Cis
Genderqueer
Nonbinary

PINK LABELING

CODED presentation and what that means: masculine marketing - cuck - shaming - feminized restriction

"Feminine" and "masculine" codes and symbology are taught and learned, not genetically determined.

HOW "natural" is binary sexuality ... third gender (only three?) ... why do we punish gender variance and respond to it so viscerally? Why do people care how someone else loves, or uses their body? Why are other bodies' behaviors important to our minds? Why do we refer to nonbinary pronouns, people, behavior as gender TRANSGRESSIVE?

Clearly, the underlying conceptualization of gender implied by these taxonomies is at variance with the idea that physical sex is fixed, marked by genitalia, and binary.



It's hard not to assume, growing up with a given set of assumptions, that these reflect the way the world "is" in some immutable way. But each of us, throughout the millennia of history and prehistory, grew up in a finite time and place - and the slightest observance of the world beyond our lives reveals that even in one given time there is a multiplicity of assumptions, even closer than we often like to imagine. Multiply this multiplicity across time and distance, and the variety of human culture is impossible not to acknowledge. Only the presumption of rock-solid correctness is bewildering, when you really look at humanity.

And so the challenge to heteronormative sexuality and gender should hardly be as surprising as it seems to be, for many people. But our emotional attachment to what we think we know means we cling to it with the strength of fear, or morality; all the things that reassure us deep inside.

My mom, who knows I love drag, and who even helped me to shop for the baby drag queen I used to sell to on eBay a few years back, still recoils at the whole thing. She's of a certain age and background, she's Southern Baptist, she's conservative. She never has had the vitriol for gay men so many like her harbor, but she does prefer not to think about it. Just recently, she was talking about watching Project Runway, and a man was in heels but his outfit was more athletic than stereotypically feminine. I told her, drag these days is less and less about synthesizing the "feminine" than it is about questioning what is stereotypically masculine. Heels aren't meant to evoke a paradigmatic "woman" - they are just to certain men's taste, or they are a question mark of a kind. Challenge.

Drag is no longer all about "female impersonation" if it ever was. Given the recency and locality of strictly heterosexual and binary sexuality and gender notions - given cultures who accept "third" genders and familial relations based on paradigms other than the modern Western nuclear family - heck, even given just the two-generation definition we've narrowed that down to, where even a household of three generations, or offspring living with parents past certain threshholds of adulthood, are looked askance, the het/cis/binary is a correspondingly narrowed view of roles. At a point where many are questioning the validity of 4-person nuclear households, questioning het/cis/binary roles is as natural as living outside them is.

Going along with all this fee-lossy-fizing is the point that "drag" as such is not even strictly a description of a specific form of entertainment. Not all drag is a staged performance. Like any persona in anyone's day-to-day life, drag is for many just their life - see the quote at the top of this post. Just as not all drag queens are cis or gay men, not all drag takes place on a stage, and not all drag is specifically a portrayal of women.



Controversy about RuPaul's statements on trans women.

My own baby queen ... ?


Fat, Femme, and Asian   Feminizing and exoticizing race ... glorification and elevation of the marginalized - even within subcultural/marginalized terms.


Clothing in terms of menswear, women's wear ...



History of female impersonation, passing,
We know that Joane of Arc didn't go in for dresses, but we also know that her practical, spiritual, individual mode of dress and behavior met not only her needs but answered to something much larger than one young woman. It still answers, for many, even centuries after the wars she fought have been, as far as this can be said, resolved. What she was and what she did continues to be meaningful even though she, her armies, and her Dauphin, are all dust. Her transgressions speak to us.

There have always been as many practical reasons to blur, to cross, or to sneak behind constructed boundaries as there are deep-seated objections to conformity.


DRAG, the Series: Costume

I have decided to leave this series of posts, intentionally, in a very draft form. This owes to the upheaval of the past month of my personal life, yes ... but it also feels fitting, as the entire point of this discussion of drag is about construction and challenging assumptions. To smooth it all into coherent, long prose might obscure the various parts, and thoughts, I have put into this, and they perhaps should stand out starkly. In honesty, much of what I say is just intros to the links embedded. And so, here is this series. Unfinished. Challenging - to me, in one sense, and to the audience in another. Seems right ...


We began sewing at least 50,000 years ago. Clothing and textile ever since have been used not only for practical purposes, but symbolic ... and, if you think you are not dressed symbolically, even if you're reading this in your jammies, think again. LOOK again.

Most of us choose our symbols out of prefabricated options, sometimes with more consideration than others. But think about a drag queen; as often as not, she has created her own "look" - not merely in terms of painted features, but also in costume. A queen is a seamstress, a model, a performer - wearing a thousand themes through a thousand nights, and generally conceiving and creating every aspect of a look and a performance all on their own. A queen is inspired to a theme, but also has to look to practicals - is the piece I'm making utilitarian for me to sing, or lip synch, or dance, or all of the above? What are the optical principles in presentation - in a dark hall or bar, in front of this crowd or that, in front of dozens - or hundreds - or thousands?

Dressing outlandishly is an art. Indeed, *many* arts. From design to performance, from choosing materials to deploying them, drag is head-to-toe ... inflatables, headpieces, shoes, unexpected materials. There is engineering to consider - will this prosthetic makeup hold up to the movement of my face, will the paper gown survive sitting down, or a long meet-and-greet with fans?


Makeup AND costume



fashion history and what's old is new again ... The study of the history of costume is the study of history itself, and perhaps a more insightful one than strictly reading direct sources. Looking at modes and methods of dress can tell the story of social priorities - even scandals - and deepens our understanding of the times in which surviving textiles or portraits were made. Oh MY!


what is appropriate to wear where. Clothing as instruction: this is for girls, this is for boys ... the eye it takes not just to see these distortions, but then to parlay them into art, beauty, and commentary.

Our culture is about choosing an identity and sticking with it so people can market shit to you
--RuPaul Charles



You hear often that drag is an "armor." The thing is, this is true for everyone, every day. The importance of costume exists for EVERYBODY, even those who think they're not doing it, not paying attention. If you dress yourself at all - and if you don't (there is no escape, Major Major) - we present ourselves to the world, even when we're not dressing up for other people. Even when all we present is what we prepared just to manage the physical act of living.

If humanity as a whole is constantly evoking, demolishing, reimagining, and retrieving our fashions, even as we feel the need to just-as-constantly make fun of what is old. Sometimes, those among us creating the real rules by which we actually live are those of us destroying what, ideally, we might like to be the rules. Drag is destruction, and simultaneously it is creation. That's a hellaciously difficult magic trick, and it is one of the keys of beauty itself.

Self-decoration is older than homo sapiens itself; in the ochre of ancient hominid burials, we see the urge to beauty - to self-presentation - in the deepest history of what we are. It is tied to religion and death, and without it there is no culture, no society at all.
............ "The only thing I didn't like was the makeup" ... "You don't need makeup"


"Fake it till you make it" ...

Grand Guignol
We use exposure to our fears to get over our fears, but also for the *thrill* of the fear.


Not long ago, I was watching an episode of "Lucifer" in which an immortal character is costumed in a completely innocuous sweater with a peter-pan collar. She's in no way presented with fantasy color or extreme style, but her sweater is embroidered with dozens of bees. It wasn't a design choice 99% of viewers would even register, but for the very few who would, it was meaningful - and quietly gratifying.

All our clothing is projection. Drag is projection. Projection of wishes, projection of feelings, projection of fears - thrilling, and inuring. And beautiful


DRAG, the Series: Challenge

I have decided to leave this series of posts, intentionally, in a very draft form. This owes to the upheaval of the past month of my personal life, yes ... but it also feels fitting, as the entire point of this discussion of drag is about construction and challenging assumptions. To smooth it all into coherent, long prose might obscure the various parts, and thoughts, I have put into this, and they perhaps should stand out starkly. In honesty, much of what I say is just intros to the links embedded. And so, here is this series. Unfinished. Challenging - to me, in one sense, and to the audience in another. Seems right ...


The thing about most offputting entertainments and art forms throughout history is this: they *mean* to be offputting. To a certain audience. Ugliness, cacophany, discomfort in art are a direct challenge, always, to prevailing assumptions. And right now, for a western-centric culture out to homogenize the world, a culture which has dressed men the same for upward of 200 years, there can be little wonder that one of the most popular challenges is the industrial-scale insurgency of drag

I’m not doing drag to give you makeup tips. This has always been a political statement.
RuPaul Charles

Nancy Pelosi ... YOUTUBE CLIP OF HER FROM RDR



There is no one way to be gay ... or drag, or masculine, or feminine, or a particular age, or republican, or spiritual. More specifically: there is no wrong way to be any of these things, or any others.

I do Goth wrong. In my life, the very essence of nonconformity has been ... showing up at a tattoo convention and having a triple piercing removed. "You went to a tattoo festival and got yourself UN-maimed," my brother said, and it was a revelation to me. Or wearing sky blue and glitter lipgloss to a Type O Negative show, or putting together a 40s-vintage ensemble, but wearing forest green lipstick amongst otherwise "authentic" hair and clothing and period-perfect makeup.

We. All. Contain. Multitudes.



People have been weird since we've been people: truly, independently, fiercely weird. We have also been "people" for more than three hundred thousand years - not merely hairy little tool-users who put the dead away systematically or even ritually - but engaging in trade, and even processing pigment from stone.

Using pigment to permanently mark ourselves.

Pigment is at the heart not only of art, but of self-decoration. And even self-decoration performs double-duty - many people are aware that eyeliner dates back thousands of years, but fewer realize its practical application, in reducing visual glare in a very sunny region. The principal of dark patches on the face to improve bright-light vision survives today, quite prominently.



Our attachment to our tools and our expressions is the basis for the very concept of sin.



Fishy aesthetic versus Acid BettyDirt WomanDivine (both glamorous and un-"pretty", using symbols of the former and co-opting the latter to invent something new)...

Perhaps especially during the 1970s and 1980s, punk and drag had a lot in common, and RuPaul's early days show a grungy, harder-edged New Wave image.



This post "UNDER CONSTRUCTION" and I'll publish it anyway ... this post is a challenge. Ooh, how meta.


DRAG, the Series: Beauty

I have decided to leave this series of posts, intentionally, in a very draft form. This owes to the upheaval of the past month of my personal life, yes ... but it also feels fitting, as the entire point of this discussion of drag is about construction and challenging assumptions. To smooth it all into coherent, long prose might obscure the various parts, and thoughts, I have put into this, and they perhaps should stand out starkly. In honesty, much of what I say is just intros to the links embedded. And so, here is this series. Unfinished. Challenging - to me, in one sense, and to the audience in another. Seems right ...

The only thing I didn't like was the makeup.


On its opening weekend, I went to see A Wrinkle in Time with a group of people, most of them new to me, and one of the most interesting counterpoints to the diversity and inclusion celebrated by the film was the quote above. Stated by someone I suspect would consider their liberal cred to be beyond reproach, the idea was that The Mrs. Ws' fantastical appearances set a bad example for little girls by way of cosmetics.

This was said to me at a time I had my hair jacked up to Jesus, was wearing all metallics, and my eyeshadow was silver and not at all subtle. Also, I have blue hair for pete's sakes.

The lady opining did not join us after the movie, but I have been stuck with her restrictive liberal ideals in the same way I've been struck and confounded by prescriptivist liberality before. The way I really hate.

If feminism is about choice, what feminist is to say it is INVALID right on its face (and do pardon the pun, please) for a woman to wear makeup? Or a man? And if makeup is an evil tool of the conformity-enforcing Evil Beauty Industry, out to subjugate women into narrow beauty ideals ... where is it bedazzled eyebrows and green glitter eyeshadow fit in to this narrow, cis, white ideal?

As I have said before. Sometimes, makeup is not about remediation. It's special effects. And nobody - man, woman, or anyone else - gets to prescribe for me what is limiting, or to limit me by "setting me free" from it either.



silhouette - of period clothing, of presumed gender-conforming bodies, of nonconforming bodies

corsetry jewelry

cleavage, highlight/shadow ("The champagne glass") - controlling light itself, synthesizing it for illusion

erasing the face to repaint stereotypical femininity, or owning one's own features to challenge the binary (bald queens, eyebrows) ... Kevyn Aucoin's erasure art, queens who emphasize their own - amplification versus obliteration ... the BEAT face



Self-decoration predates anatomically modern humanity itself. We have been decorating ourselves since before "we" WERE "ourselves" - ochre and seashell jewelry, religion, trade, and art reach as far back as our current understanding takes us. Pre-human, prehistoric. Cro magnon and Neanderthal man created beauty as well as tools, and the tools of beauty and art date back over 160,000 years.



Advent of "I can draw what I want" marketing and autonomy over rigid fashion - STYLE over fashion ... still an industry, but emphasis affected by people's needs. How much can commercial interests still command people reshaping themselves? How much has the narrow beauty standard *really* changed? Really at the point where individuals are using the beauty industry, or still beholden to beauty standards?



As with most things, the alterations we perform to create beauty can pass into The Uncanny Valley, where synthesizing the suppleness of youth with plumpers and tightening becomes ghastly. Pop culture obsesses, at times, on hatred of this tendency - making fun of everyone from always-a-target Jocelyn Wildenstein to the Jenners/Kardashians for "overdoing it" ... and this both happens in drag, and is played-with in drag. Not a few queens proudly name their alterations, and it's difficult not to suspect that many who do it do so less for ideals of beauty than for the exaggeration of those ideals - for intentional effect. Special effects.

Drag USES the Uncanny Valley, gooses it - can transform it from challenge into a new definition of beauty.


Scale

God said let there be lights in the firmament of the Heaven, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years.


My lifespan seems a small enough thing to me.

To a fruitfly, it might seem a wasteland of time, beyond bearing.

To a molecule ... to an atom, to a gluon ... all existing at such different scales: would my life seem vanishingly short, or extraordinary in its immensity?

A living cell might exist within a comprehensible "human" scale, though it comes and goes more quickly than we do.

The molecule - these can be broken so easily, or may hold tight for eons and eons. Some unstable and brief, some all but immortal from where humanity stands.

Down into the tenacious atom ... the nucleus ... these buzzing, speeding systems outstripping any velocity we can understand - are we great, slow, neverending collossi, or fleeting organisms, so ephemeral as to be irrelevant? So tempting to conceive a universe in the orbit of an atom. So human.

And, if space folds into itself, who is to say that scale does not ... that Horton was right, along with every one of us when we discover the mind within the brain we already had: that, though we know the universe is the greatness around us, we also occupy the greatness which encloses lives and systems and universes impossibly small? That there are systems within us; planes we do not understand which make us up. Not merely the individual cells coming and going, each one's life one necessary part of what we think is "our" own life - but symbiants - even the impulses and autonomic actions that preserve life, but we do not create.

We are minuscule and immense; it is all in how we look - outward, and inward.

And we owe debt both to the greatness beyond us, as well as the greatness we enclose, which contains all we think is "small" ... That we are both gargantuan and infinitessimal, and that our part is to BE part of both these scales: in the universe, which is the organism of which all our lives are the tiniest part: and as the universe, within which myriad forces exist, dependent upon us, or making up the magic and meat that *is* us.



My lifespan seems a small enough thing to me.

But if I do not honor its scale, it might as well be nothing at all.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

He died this morning at about seven. Thank you, Lord - for his life, and for his peace.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Meta-for

The old metaphor of life, like a candle, flaring up before it goes out ... really isn't strictly poetic. When you reduce them to lowest terms - that fire, and life, are energy processing systems - they are the same thing, fundamentally. A wick left on its own will burn until all its paraffin is gone or it sinks into its own matter, self-snuffing. Life seems similar; we eat, we burn - and, though human beings of course also do so much more than this processing, the end of fuel means the end of life.

What is rarely displayed is just how efficiently the human system burns, sometimes.

I put the blog on pause to wait out a system at its end ... and here, on day six, we still are waiting. Life is almost cruelly tenacious. And, like a candle, life can gutter by flaring up, by burning furiously and then flickering. And even then it may not be exhausted.

Life is *alarmingly* tenacious.



The sacred time we place, around birth or marriage or death, the most important things to us ... I have never spent so long, in my life, in this time removed from the world, from everyday life. I have been enclosed in sacred time so long now it may be time to emerge, at least for a day. Only, presumably, to go back inside. It is a dizzying prospect, even though the hermetic seal around us right now is itself rarefied and disconcerting/disorienting.

We are exhausted. The living, and the dying. But I have learned this: though I know I have had periods in sacred time before, thinking I wished it would go on and on ... now I understand in a more immediate way, the truly sacred part of time separated from the everyday, from the world: is that it must be finite. The truly sacred part is re-entering LIFE.

Tomorrow, I may have to do that. Let us see what tonight will bring.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

We interrupt ...

The post series I was talking about is nicely developed, and will come. But first, a pause for my family.



When I was a kid, I understood that there *was* death. It seemed, like so much of my understanding, binary. There is life. There is death. We live in a dualistic culture - man and woman, light and dark, good and evil ... life, and death. Black and white. One is not the other.

As we get older, though, we learn: there is so much between Thing One and Thing Two.

It is an ever-growing horror, when we begin to learn *just* how much of a body can be dead, and yet its owner still lives on.


And so, I pause. For family.

I pray that, before you hear from me again, pause will have, for one person that I love, become just "stop." He deserves peace. And release. "Stop" cannot come too soon.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Collection

If you haven't already heard about the gorgeousness of Steve, you really ought to have a click. Steve happens to be a new auroral phenomenon ... or maybe he's something else entirely - but he's beautiful, his story is ridiculously charming, and you really have. to meet. Steve.

Oh my gosh, y'all. Judging a book by its spine ... is now kind of copyrighted. Events! Local bookstore small-business gloriousness! Discuss.

Here's a new one on me. I have friends who live in Israel, and have known many folks who grew up there, or lived there in the 80s, and one of my best friends goes pretty much every year with her family. I have even been myself, though that too was back in the 80s, and I was only fourteen. Through all this acquaintance with Israel, particularly Jerusalem, I've never heard of the Razzouk family: Coptic Christian tattoo artists who have been at work for seven centuries (first in Egypt, but since 1750 in Jerusalem). It makes sense that literally marking a pilgrimage to the Holy Land would be an enshrined act of faith, but having grown up in an American Christian community in which tattooing is all but The Devil's Work, this just had never occurred to me. From fertility to the blood and pain of a tattoo, they make a badge of faith and a reminder of it too. Interestingly, the family have also used the art in therapeutic tattoos, which we have seen on Otzi and seems to have been practiced for millennia across the world in many cultures. A fascinating article from tattoo anthropologist Lars Krutak.

Side note - at the longer link above and then here, I learned that George V and Edward VII both had tattoos. Huh.