Friday, December 30, 2016


I haven't linked American Duchess's blog in a long time, but this week there is a DELICIOUS, detailed post about researching historical costume with a view both from the costume point of view and someone with an artistic education. Many pictures to study, and some interesting aspects of design and portraiture to consider.

"What happened during my transition from one language to another did not become memory."
"It is hard to feel in an adopted language, yet it is impossible in my native language." Yiyun Li at The New Yorker takes a keen and poignant, eloquent look at the way language works in our brains … and in our hearts … Absolutely beautiful writing and thinking, and an incredibly generous expression of personal experience that is meaningful to all of us. Please read this!

The marginalia of Marlene – Dietrich’s books and notes, again at The New Yorker. Being an inveterate marginaliist myself, this appeals to me *so* much ... and some of her commentary brings her right into the room with you as you read. Evocative!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Holy crud, that was FAST

Remember that depressing and frightening Collection post I JUST put up like a minute ago? With this post linked?

Yeah. Well. Now this.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Cookbook Memories

Yesterday, I spent a good while looking through old cookbooks - the Betty Crocker, of course, but also the little binder style book my mother-in-law gave me, complete with several of her family recipes and into which I've put decades - generations! - worth of my own grandma's recipe cards, old magazine recipes, a couple sheets of paper with my dad's handwriting; the bread I used to make, but haven't since he died.

Fourteen years goes by ... well. Not fast.

And yet ... there he is. Right there; my dad, his egg salad. His handwriting. His mother's gingerbread; like velvet.

Cookbooks like this, or recipe boxes, are in their way perhaps even more evocative than photo albums. The memory of food is so strong, so meaningful. The fading handwriting. The stains, and the little notes about special tricks with this icing or that casserole.

Wishing you and yours the sweet - and savory - memories of the season. May we all be blessed, and enjoy a time of peace ...

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


In tech news, a really interesting aftereffect of virtual reality - the dispiriting re-emergence from god-hood into the real world. Courtesy of The Atlantic.

Oooohhh. Neato technology again - and more queasy questions about it. "What outstanding performances from young actors will we miss in the future" ... ? Vanity Fair takes a look at the looks of ageing actors - and de-ageing actors. Complete with poignant irony.

Ars Technica looks at cooking ten thousand years ago. And no, it wasn't all spitted meat directly over a fire! On the first kitchens in the world, human migratory habits, and a kind of stone soup. Yum!

NPR's All Tech Considered has a look (well, listen) into the world of a child. It is far, FAR creepier than it sounds. On the absolutely horrifying doll listening in on your kid. There is a similar post here, on the gimcracks supposedly wiser grownups voluntarily bring into their homes to harvest their lives for marketers.

Cover-age ... The Caustic Cover Critic has been doing a year-in-review of covers (not of 2016 novels, but of his 2016 reading), and post #3 of 3 provides some truly intriguing TBR offerings. The other review posts are worth a click, but this series for me provided the most thought-provoking descriptions along with their covers. Proof that judging a book by its cover can be a mixed bag; keep an eye out for older books the CCC missed out on thanks to indifferent cover art!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Writing Music

Over the years, I've had periods when I've paid attention to the music I often have on VERY quietly while writing, and periods when I have not. There was a nice time long ago, when I had Fiona Apple and Bowie's Hours on random mix, that worked curiously well.

Of late, it's been seventies easy/funky rock - Gerry Rafferty, Atlanta Rhythm Section, that sort of thing. This is among the many kinds of music I grew up on, but not exactly because it was anyone's "thing" particularly. It's good stuff, often really good stuff (not quite the white bread same thing, but another groove I really love - Bill Withers' Ain't No Sunshine, or just about any track of his).

Something about the buzzing funk but the soft rock goes-down-easy-ness of this music really works for me creatively. It reverts me out of the present time, almost firmly taking me out of my own head and sitting me down with a rhythm that can be dramatic, but also comes to the calling. It's easy and crunchy at once - the echoing rasp of "Driver's Seat" opening up a space for my creativity to work - or the infectious but gentle "Couldn't Get it Right" bouncing my brain along.

For the writers amongst my readers - or just for those who like to work with music propelling their time along, especially the work days - what is the soundtrack of your productivity?

______ Porn

Life being what it is these days, I recently had to explain to my tender-eared mother the concept of "food porn." You can't always trust that your little parents won't be exposed to such outre' things; you can, of course, take control of how you explain them to your family.

Food porn is this thing where people take photos of their food so they can share both the deliciousness they are about to enjoy, and tease others with how well they are eating.

It's the ubiquity of television food shows, reveling in exotic ingredients and watching judge after judge ooh-ing and ahh-ing over delicacies we may never be able to enjoy. It's both a sharing and a teasing with food. It's the basis of, at this point, SEVERAL industries - not just one.

The key to food porn of the description in quotes, roughly what I said to my mom, is the teasing, the punishment, the 'better than thou' art eating aspect. Tantalization is *meant* to be a bit cruel.

Substitute other words for "food" and we have all the teasing habits and infotainment making cultural forces we barely knew about when I was a kid.

Tantalization is meant to be cruel.

HGTV specializes in, essentially, architectural porn, a lifestyle on sale - with all the sponsors clearly delineated along the way, so you can ensure your life is properly equipped with hardwood floors never walked upon by anyone before you, white custom cabinetry, granite kitchens, stainless steel appliances.

Wealth porn has been around a long time. Pioneered during the Great Depression in movies of opulence and glamour, it was industrialized for the first time by the likes of Robin Leach, and by now the cultural landscape is rife with people essentially famous for living wealthily, and people becoming wealthy by selling their lives in order to finace ever-more eye-popping lifestyles.

Not so long ago, the sellability of economy porn - specifically, financial scare porn, brought us that glorious year, 2008. (HGTV's specialty, selling homes beyond the means of buyers, indubitably deserves credit for marketing tie-ins.

We've come to a place of generalizing this last variety, to where FEAR PORN all by itself is an engine not merely of lifestyle, but now commands politics worldwide.

Tantalization  is meant to be cruel.

The world is populated with scab-pickers. It hurts. We shouldn't. We do.

Ow, ow, ow. Do it again.

Selling the pain of fear clearly works. Fear the crime rate: ignore real-world statistics; just fear crime, fear that The Other is coming to murder you in your bed. Fear The Other: forget that immigrants are mostly children and their mothers; just fear that *some* of them are men who by dint of their color, or religion, or both, are terrorists. Fear that others' advantage is your disadvantage. Fear everything ... except those most stridently crowing about FEAR.

For them, please vote. Early and often. Leave facts, or facticity (*), to them; only fear, and come to them for protection.

Fear porn. Because it sells. And it's making somebody money.

(*Having not checked the copyright on "truthiness", I coined this term as a pointer to the many statistics and explicit/specific/blatant lies we are being sold of late. But alas, it turns out to be an actual word! Even though spell Czech gives it the red-squiggly underline. Well, durnit.)

All links - which are the same link repeated, involve the language of domination. Hover over the link to read the URL and decide whether you are too sensitive!

States Rights and Wrongs

Today is the 156th anniversary of the first secession leading to the American Civil War.

Even I cannot be facetious enough to call this a happy anniversary.

But it is a good and right thing to remember.

Thursday, December 15, 2016


Costume nerd alert - that thing you see on the back of this seat? The "cracked" appearance in the silk? This is called shattering. Also, is that a stain I see on the front upholstery, under the cushion?

After all my television viewing reviewing of late, I'm interested in others' ethical takes on popular entertainment. Here's an interesting piece from on the fascism of The Walking Dead. I couldn't watch that show past one episode because of the violence, myself - as compelling as even just one show was, but being aware of its force, it's pretty arresting to see who has chosen to advertise with them - and why.

Curiously, and (ahem) blood-related to the diversity issues touched on in the TWD article above, here's a story about Trek's first Woman of Color as a main character. Sad that it's taken 50 years since Nichelle Nichols' turn as "ain't no maid" to reach this point, but Trek has always had a reputation for progressive inclusion and has had POC and women at the fore before. And now for intersectionality.

Today in "calling it Medieval means it's a relic of The Stupid, Stupid Past" news: our American junta. The thing about the stupidity of the past is? Like many artifacts, we DIY things back to life. Just because a dress doesn't fit anymore doesn't mean some asshat isn't going to recycle it as a scarf.

YAY! The Plague!

That glass? It's half full. Why?

From the vantage point of "seven hundred years later", the Black Plague is a safe little tragedy to examine. We may wince, we may even feel for individual stories of towns utterly ghosted - perhaps it's even scary, in a way. But overall, the plague is an object of study rather than the inspiration for deep personal feeling. It's not "our" horror.

In a new time, with different horrors, there are of course a lot of people feeling deep personal feelings, direct fear, and actual threats. Who needs medieval barbarity? We unquestionably have our own.

One of the received lessons of history is that after the Plague, society changed for the better - with the decimation of the population, "upwardly mobile" became a thing, the middle class was born, prosperity prospered, and ironically the general state of human health actually improved, along with innovation. Eventually, the feudal system died, democracies and republics were born ...

Oh, wait.

It's a complex question, and the happy ending here is neither unquestionably happy nor even remotely an ending. Even if human progress did occur (and I am not the Whig to comment), was the price worth it?

It doesn't matter.

Let us not forget: democracy existed centuries before the plague, as well. And died then, too. Tragedy is the nature of life, just as much as joy. There's no avoiding it, even when its particulars might be headed off in one way or another. Sometimes it's manmade, sometimes not, sometimes humanity gives an assist to a virus and what was a natural disaster is exacerbated to staggering proportions.

Good and evil are constants. Not cycles.

For all those republics born after the population shift, for all those inheritors a generation after 1348 who owned more and were able to leverage it, for all human innovation - there exist crimes great and small, there are oppressions, there is theft and cruelty and utter, pigheaded stupidity.

The older I get, the more I believe, humanity honestly does not change.

Unfortunately, I've also begun to believe humanity honestly likes to be stupid, as well. It's easy, it transfers responsibility to those who feel they must think, it absolves us of even understanding the consequences of our own slovenly communal behavior. It is also an act of will.

I can put quite a few faces of people I know to the sentiment "I just don't know that much about politics." And it does kind of make me angry, but more than anything it makes me despair, because that is a choice.

And yet, and yet. And yet.

For all we endure shock on an international scale at Brexit, at Trump, at what-have-you outrage of the day, I am the kind of researcher, burrower, study-er, learn-er, need-er who must find the other side of a coin.

"Nearly a quarter of the population of the world died in a pandemic? Yeah, but look at what happened next."

We're not going to survive if we don't contemplate what might happen next.  Humanity can't NOT look to tomorrow, it's how we are wired. It's the mechanism of both how we hope and how we fear. "Even if not for me, there will be a tomorrow - for someone, for almost everyone."

This is how causes are born; we fight today in the name of tomorrow, and we fight for ourselves in the name of everyone else. It's not altruism: it's a relay race. Someone must carry the baton of hope, of dissent, of anger or righteousness. The baton becomes the thing, and we carry it for ourselves but we don't fail to pass it along so it can keep going.

I don't believe evolution - history - has been a progression from ignorance to enlightenment. But I don't believe it's a cultural decline, either.

I don't believe in the end of times, I don't believe in complete human degradation, even when so many examples can be found.

For many, religion is the tool to manage fear that humanity's going to end someday. For me, it is entirely the opposite. It's the tool with which I grapple up and down the eternal landscape of mankind's own eternal good and evil, right and wrong. They are always with all of us, always options. So I have to daily make the choice - today, right, or wrong. Today, goodness or wickedness.

Because: the sun's going to come up tomorrow. Even if it doesn't come up on me.

What hope is there for our fears today? Bipartisan cooperation reborn? That could be good. Indeed, a redefinition of the terms that even give rise to the idea of "bipartisan" - the end of the two-party system? As tired as almost everyone is of negative campaigning and candidates who fail to engage us (American voter turnout is horrifyingly low), that could be an improvement, if a bit giddy-making for those of us codgers used to easy (hah) duality.

Let's find out, shall we?

Friday, December 2, 2016

All the Books

All the books I've bought lately have had their own distinctive, incredibly satisfying feeling in my hands. Of one book, I bought four copies. Its pages enchanted me. The resonance, when you tap the stack of them, that echo inside the minuscule spaces between them, the space inside the books, their universe.

Image: Wikipedia

Of another, I bought two. These are older books, hardcover, each of them with the mylar slipcover. One is a first edition, a gift. The other is for me. The instant I opened it, and my hand touched its cover, and I felt that soft vibration, heard the sound of its thump - that soft thump when you pat a book, that satisfying thump as warm as the thump I give Penelope on her furry, deep chest ...

That book had the best thump I have felt in a long time.

Penelope has good thump.

I knew I had to buy another copy of this book for someone I love. And that one, when I found it - that soft, quiet, warm sound. Of a book.

That glorious sound - when you *have* opened a book, when you've been using it as G-d intended, filling yourself with it - and you have to close it again. That sound, of closing a book. Closing a hardcover. That soft, soft, but definitive closing, the almost invisible sound of the mylar, the indescribable movement of paper against itself, and the covers coming together, protecting it, saving the rest of the pages for you, saving them all for you.

What is the best-feeling book you have held lately?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


It just does not get better than the idea of "poop studies" as the "motherlode" of information in archaeology. (Ask an archaeologist!)

The Caustic Cover Critic has a great look at The Clothing of Books, which sounds as fascinating and somewhat frustrating as he describes. It makes you wish you could see this author speak on the topic that gave rise to the book itself, which is how covers are the wardrobe of a book.

Lahiri's talk begins from her own experiences as the child of immigrants, always dressed incorrectly in clothes that are durable but out of fashion, marking her out as an Indian amongst Americans.

Fellow Reider Donna Everhart's debut, The Education of Dixie Dupree, has found its way into my hands (can I just say: deckled edges ... you had me at deckled), but I have not had time of late to crack into it. Everyone has splendid praise for it, but either it's a busy season for me or I am savoring the anticipation for a while. I like to say it is the latter! Alla y'all will be done and feeling Bittersweet, longing for more, by the time I settle down on a long winter's day with an afghan and a Gossamer the Editor Cat, to enjoy it on my own.

Popularizing science and scholarship in the news is a blessing and a curse. While it can dumb-down or over-promise studies and breakthroughs to the lowest (read: most exciting) terms, journalistic coverage of historical study, archaeology, medicine, and other gee-whiz science serves the very real purpose of providing hope and inspiration to those suffering pain, ignorance, or fear and to those who may in turn bring innovations of their own into the world. Here is a great slice-of-life look at one such story - the supposed 14th-century caesarean ... or not - and its journalistic and intellectual implications. (Found by way of The History Blog's perhaps less critical look a the story, where the comments are worth reading.)

Television Watching 2

At the same time I am eliminating certain kinds of entertainment, I'm also analyzing what stays, and why it's worthwhile. What I'm realizing is it's simultaneously unsurprising and completely unexpected what "works" for me entertainment-wise, ethically speaking. One stupendously trashy show has struck me particularly.

Among the unsurprising keepers - and unembarrassing ones - are Luke Cage, with some of the best women characters I've seen in a long time, a killer soundtrack, and a team of black writers filling out a fully realized world it's exciting to learn about and inhabit for a while. Jessica Jones and Agents of Shield too, yeah. Trek, of course, but I won't bore anyone with the details; that's another tag entirely. On my DVD shelf are the queasily balanced Caprica (strong female characters, sure, but a creepily sexualized teenager at the center, and an entire ensemble of absolutely bat-splat crazy people all-round) and Battlestar Galactica (I am not overjoyed with the gender issues and the fact it's an overwhelmingly white, eurocentric show, though it really began to explore these things at least, which so much television fears to).

Of course, few people embarrass themselves by liking Luke Cage, a well-received entry in a Marvel Universe which has been well loved as well as blockbuster successful.

Meanwhile, few people would ADMIT what I am about to, but I have to for the purposes of this post.

I watch The Royals. I watch it gleefully, in tandem with a friend of mine whom I shall not name unless they choose to out themselves, and reveling in its soap operatics, its tonguey-cheekiness (sometimes exposing actual nether cheeks - so naughty!), and ... well, I mean. Dame Joan Collins.

Here's the thing about The Royals. Lambasted in a hurry by everyone in need of protecting their cred against its excesses, laughed at for being unrealistic (that's the POINT, rather), and avoided by all except apparently enough millions of viewers to keep it afloat, the series is on its way into a third season and shows no sign of dying on the vine.

This show is Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, it's Grand Guignol. It's sumptuously daft, and not pretending remotely to be anything else. It is stocked entirely with ham in every casting, and home to more pouty lower lips than I've seen anywhere else on TV - and that is saying something. It's actually got a bit of heart here and there, and the delirious sets and costumes and performances are just right for the madness of the politics and deception around which the whole thing swirls prettily, like a gaudy fan.

Politics and deception have always made good tube. Dynasty hasn't even got a patch on Her Joanness in this gig. Most addicting-cinematic-TV of the 21st century has traded in exactly this sort of GOTCHA plotting. Joss Whedon has made a career out of it, and everybody likes him.

Not so The Royals.

Which is a shame. Not only is the show a lot more fun than the darker takes on murder and mayhem currently on offer (it doesn't hurt your heart to watch it), it's just as valid in honest ways.

And some other ways too, where there are dark shows doing the same thing and failing in important ways.

To wit: the women.

The Royals is outright run by women. The Prime Minister, the Queen, the Princess, the scheming would-be consorts of the on-again/off-again male heir, the million thieves and killers and hangers-on and lovers and exes ... the only characters here who actually move any pieces on the board are the women.

Oh, sure, current-King Cyrus is a gas to watch, for his chin alone. He's up there with Bruce Payne for greasily gluttonous scenery sneer-chewing, and I adore him all to bits.

But it's the tragically-eye-makeupped, colt-legged Princess Eleanor who's learning her way around real power. It's her mother, Queen Helena, played (if not simply embodied) by the sounds-Patrician-to-most-Americans Elizabeth Hurley, who has the will to do literally anything. It's the Queen's secretary, Rachel, who will pop your eyes with her understated outrages.

And even more importantly: most of the men are merely sitting around looking pretty. Prince Liam is all but non-present even when he tries to look determined. Jasper, the youngest and most impressively-eyebrowed security detail, who spends his time caroming through multiple roles only hoping to be near the princess, all but has "Mr. Fanservice" written all over his wonderfully cliche'd role as would-be protector. And his chemistry with her works both on the swoony and the emotional level.

Even the older fellows, especially those security gents, are awfully nice to look at, for those of us a bit leery of leering at the twentysomethings.

And all of them exist only in relation to the actions of the women, even the king, even the craggy fall guy so dedicated to The Crown that he sticks with being the fall guy even when he's given a pass.

In terms of its gender prominence and sexual politics, The Royals is an outstandingly progressive show. It's still a bit white (some of the people of color from season 1 seem to have disappeared entirely; including a very nice pretty security guard I rather miss) - I mean, if we've rewritten the royal family this radically, why not break the Caucasian monotony - but at least it's forward-looking on something, anything, in a world where we continually regress, culturally. And it's not a small thing. Women are, after all, a significant part of the world population. At least, two key women in The Royals are Black and Indian.

In a world where embarrassing discussions abound regarding Prince Henry's girlfriend, picking apart her ethnicity as if it is in any way relevant to anything at all, it's not the worst thing to see women in the royal milieu living entirely NOT on the terms of any men anywhere.

Imperfectly acted? At times. Overheated? Yes, please, and do turn it up. Ludicrous? Indeed, and loving it. This is a hilarious show, and means to be. Yet its reputation, as far as I have seen, has been formed by people dumb enough to think it is dumb enough to take itself seriously.

It's also a good laugh, and provides a few wonderful things to guess about along the way.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Television Watching

Television Without Pity was a bit of an addiction of mine in its day, and after re-watching Battlestar Galactica a year or so back, I hit up TWoP for its recaps.

Reading about an awful lot that happened in that series, written in the shadow of 9/11 but perhaps more resonant still right now, is something almost eerier than "timely" ...

The most stunning aspect being its two Presidents, Laura Roslin (who attempted to steal an election) and Gaius Baltar, a celebrident possessed of superb un-self-awareness, psychological projection, and delusional urgency.

(H)is new plan is to strike a chord with the common man, which is funny because he totally had that, by virtue of being a sexy smart celebrity, until he put everybody in concentration camps.

Now is not the real seat of this post, but it's a good time for it.

Now has been a time of examining at my entertainments categorically, and eliminating some of them. Not my first time doing this (it's been *years* since I could stomach the "special" part of Special Victims Unit - namely, the weekly rape/exploitation/murder of women and children, or the darkness of "Criminal Minds"), but right now my focus is less on darkness than a different kind of cruelty. Right now, I'm eliminating normalization from my life.

Normalization of sexism, racism, homophobia, and anti-intellectualism.

Normalization of trivial and frankly unfunny gay "jokes" such as Big Bang Theory is rife with. That show made me laugh during one of the worst years of my life, and I hung in with it from its earliest days - but the stupid humor about Raj and Howard always annoyed me and never worked. And now I'm flat done with that show. It bends over backward by GENERATIONS to make outdated, stupid, mean jokes that don't work. No more.

Normalization of retrograde gender roles and/or The Stupid Girl (who may be well past 50 years of age) imagery. This ditches almost any reality show not starring RuPaul, and means my slowly-developed habit of allowing anything with Housewives in the title to run while I was doing other things, because it really doesn't require watching, is over. It means Two Broke Girls, not something I can deal with for long given the idiot-plots and buzzy voices, is something I won't deal with at all anymore. Any dating show, ever, in which telegenic fodder proudly displays a profound lack of education or interest in it. Any appearance of Jessica Simpson, not so long ago one of the more powerful vectors of The Stupid Girl in pop culture.

Normalization - indeed, aggrandizement - of stupidity more generally. Not that I consume these things, but shows about Bigfoot, the Merovingian Heresy, popularizations of the ludicrous, demonizations of study and thought. This stuff is EVERYWHERE. It overwhelms critical thought and even taunts the very idea; and I grew up valuing critical thought, by way of being raised by a pack of relentless literalists picking me apart at every turn. (Bless 'em.) The Doctors, gleefully shilling for products they get sued for on a regular basis. Paranormal. Reality. Let that one sink in. Every dating show sustaining the (heteronormative) narrative that women ("girls", almost invariably, in these things) are desperate and stupid and need a sexual relationship to be valid. Hell, even HGTV shows with 30-ish couples featuring young women actively annoyed by homes not featuring granite counters and/or white cabinets, because Maud Knows paint is not something they are equipped to grapple with.

Normalization of all of the above: Archer. A show I ate up with a spoon a couple years ago when it was recommended to me, which I could NOT accept as reflecting - or influencing - actual, functioning human beings, but which so relentlessly flogs its edginess that ... I wonder whether it's edgy or actual, anymore. So much bigotry IS clearly actual, I can't skate anymore, I can't consume what I don't know is really free from harm.

None of my minuscule boycotts means a damn in the wider world, but it's one more attempt of this old lady not merely to woke up (no, that's not a typo) and quite honestly, just to feel better. Funny as Archer was to me, it's essentially mean. Not letting that inside my head eases the tiniest bit of psychic pain in my brain, just as not watching SVU has for so long, refusing to witness rape and cruelty as entertainment.

I watched one single episode of Walking Dead, found it extremely interesting, and will never watch it again, because I just can't take the violence.

Mr. X and I talked about this very recently (probably the birth of this blog post; you'd be surprised how often discussions with him get me writing), and he said, about his own viewing/gaming, "I’ve always been super-resistant to messages in the (non-news) media affecting my views. That probably engendered a certain insensitivity on my part to how others are affected or how views are perpetuated. ... your saying all this makes me wonder if I just didn’t find some of it distasteful and unworthy of support for conscience reasons."

I have always liked that boy for his brainmeats.

The whole basis of some of these entertainments gives new meaning to the term diversion.

I don't want to be diverted anymore.

Monday, November 28, 2016

In the News

More and more lately, entertainment seems to reflect the news - not because it is even possible to be prescient and to write, produce, and release works that could have known what is happening around us just.this.month, but because human behavior is repetitive.

For all we feel stunned by human events, for all predicting what is happening - what WILL happen next - seems impossible, still it is true: nothing is new, under the sun. Perhaps any sun.

And so it is only fair that the news reflects entertainment as well.

Not for the first time, I am brought to mind of Star Trek Deep Space 9's brilliant episode, Duet. This week the story walks among us again in Oskar Groening, the bookkeeper at Auschwitz. No echo at all of the bookkeeper at Gallitep.

I won't add much more than what I observed in that first link, my post above.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Eclectic Music

I often have reason to recall the time I went to a music store in California and bought Billie Holiday, Judas Priest, and Leonard Cohen CDs. The clerk smiled something about me buying gifts, and I said no, these are all for me - pretty sure I got a gleam of respect for the breadth.

It may be a reasonable sample to illustrate just how wide-ranging my tastes are. When I was younger, I'd say, "I grew up in a house with a dad who loved classical, original Broadway musicals (circa 1940s and 50s), and used to wake us up with Switched-On Bach at top volume. My mom was into country and church music. My brother was a punk rocker."

I mean, yeah - of course the elastic broke on whatever bag it was that should have contained my musical tastes.

But I think there's a lot more to it than that. I am intensely easy to bore. Always was. But ...

I'm also easy to interest, if the right odd thing comes along. I still recall the ease with which I could become utterly absorbed in staring down the pattern of the pebbles and mica flecks in the asphalt on the playground, when they had me playing the outfield in kickball. You can get a LOT of absorption-time in when you're not the popular kid, and just what falls in front of your eyeballs (when your eyeballs are perfect and young and can focus or defocus with alacrity).

There was a time in my life I spent almost entirely with musicians. I was still in college, but dating a TOWNIE (gasp - but then, an awful lot of the frat boys were entitled, molest-y jerks), and he was in a band. The music scene where we lived in the Midwest was pretty tight, and very talented, and it was a big interbreeding soup of interesting people I still miss and think of often.

But as dynamic a crowd as we were, we were predominantly white, and pretty much centered on a certain docket of Acceptable Music. Oh sure, they felt it was varied - and I did too, as far as I had forgotten my dalliances with the Dead and disco and the soundtrack from Breakin'. But I can recall the extreme prejudice with which, say, Beloved Ex regarded rap.

Rap and hip-hop (a term we really didn't know, honestly - rap was a blanket for an awful lot of Black music) were NOT music, he felt. All he/we saw was guys posing with their arms crossed. Maybe the unfortunate white-suburban perspective on Flava Flav. Scratching.

Scratching, and sampling, were just STEALING. That wasn't music - it certainly wasn't creation.

And this from a man who was a musician himself. His feeling sprung from a common theme amongst our friends - that "music" involves playing instruments.

Last night, I was struck (not for the first time) by the thought that ... not all instruments have strings, keys, or sticks ...

PBS has been running a series - as so often is the case, excellently researched and peopled, with one hell of a soundtrack - called Soundbreaking. For almost anyone who cares about where music comes from creatively and practically, how it is actually made, its history and impact and the impulses that lead to new music and the ones that come from hearing it, Soundbreaking is immensely, essentially, worthwhile. And I'm not big on the whole "you HAVE to read this/hear this/see this" as a rule.

Last night's episode centered on hip-hop and rap quite a lot, and I was reminded of my periodic obsessions with Rakim, or Tupac, or Nas - of the enjoyment I got as a kid out of Run DMC - of an awful lot of music that wasn't supposed to be interesting to me.

And I realize, one of the million reasons I have never quite been able to lay claim to being a punk, or a goth, or a classic rocker or any one subcultural or pop-cultural thing that strongly associates with any music is that there is no music I'd be happy LIMITING myself to. Sure, I'm not the only person in the world who LOVES combinations like Grandmaster Flash and Warren Zevon and Southern Culture on the Skids (I once dated a guy who was both a huge KISS fan and also Color Me Badd - at the turn of the Millennium, no less, talk about past the sell-by date). But I'm actively, constitutionally incapable of committing to any one music above all others, because I have this stupid fear it'll define me, or I'll lose everything else.

Blame my family for raising me not only eclectic, but literalist. Bastards! :)

So last night, some old white woman bounces around her bedroom thinking, good gravy I am so wrong for this particular bouncing, and just incapable of caring.

I'm like Michael Bolton (not. that. one.).

There is something important, to me, in not accepting the music I'm supposed to be into - not limiting myself to the role of bland, frankly-past-middle-age (I do *not* wish to live to be 100, so I'm not in any sort of middle anymore) suburban woman. And I think, right now, reaching beyond boundaries is perhaps the best thing any American can do.

Where do you cross the lines, or blur them? Where can you bleed out of expectations, and understand a perspective that's not supposed to be yours?

Watch Soundbreaking and realize - or remember - one or two of the places you push your own envelope, break the bubble your everyday life leaves you in.

And maybe get a heck of a laugh at the bit with Sean Puffy Combs. Because that is a cackle-worthy damn DISS, y'all.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

LL Cool R

One of the reasons I love old movies is the truly bizarre things you can find in them.

Ricardo Montalban, in Latin Lovers, is a bit of a surprise to those of us who grew up knowing him from Fantasy Island; perhaps less so for those whose formative experience of his work was as the original, inimitable Khan Noonien Singh.

As he romances Lana Turner in this movie, he is one of the wittiest and most attractive men I've ever seen on screen. For anyone who likes that sort of thing, I'd give this a high recommendation!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

This ...

... is what got me to log back onto Twitter for the first time in a week and a half ...


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Tesserae - or - In Democracy, You Don't Necessarily Have to Rewrite History ...

Image: Wikipedia (detail)

One of the reasons I love research is that, if you do it right, sometimes you learn a little bit more than "and then the Catholics enacted damnatio memoriae on Theodoric the Great, because he was Arian Christian."

In Ravenna, Italy, where Theodoric ruled and where most of my WIP takes place, is the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo. Dedicated in 504 to Christ the Redeemer, it was his palace chapel. Theodoric subscribed to an early sect of Christianity known as Arianism, a non-trinitarian faith which was at the time of Theodoric and Clovis losing ground rapidly to a smaller, more obscure sect known as Catholicism.

After The Great King's death in 526, several political and religious (and yeah, same thing in many ways) forces combined to produce incalculable unexpected results.

Theodoric, who had spent his youth as a court hostage in Constantinople - honored, cared for, and almost undoubtedly educated by his captors, very definitely in favor with them and well liked by them - was rewritten by his own Ostrogothic nobility as an illiterate Barbarian. This picture of Theodoric the Great holds to this day in the popular imagination (so far as he's popularly remembered at all). Yet a cursory look at his career speaks to a different conclusion.

Also upon his death, the Catholic upsurge in Ravenna, Theodoric's seat as King of Italy, led to certain redecoration.

Look at the image above in another window, zoom a bit, let its details come clear. You will see a couple of disembodied hands.

The Church, taking over Christ the Redeemer when the king's palace chapel became the Catholic's basilica, made some edits to its mosaics and thematic decoration.

Theodoric's family were once framed in each arch showing in the mosaic above. His daughter, Amalasuntha, was one of the figures. Amalasuntha was one of those rare princesses who became a regnant queen - for a while. Theodoric had no sons, and she was his only legitimate offspring. Thus to her fell the responsibility for bearing a royal heir, which she did, but not to great effect. King Athalaric inherited as a child, apparently became dissolute in his youth, and died still under the regency of his mother.

Because I am a lying liar who lies ("writer"), at this point in drafting the manuscript (always note: with a WIP, anything I say and/or write is subject to change), the Catholic takeover of Redeemer, and their ascendancy, are accelerated a little. Not by multiple generations, but I pulled up the most likely time of their reconsecration of Redeemer, specifically, by roughly twenty-four years. Generally thought to have occurred in AD 560, I have it happening within about a decade of Theodoric's death.

The reason I pulled this piece of history into my historical fiction was to play parallels with the Ostrogoths' revisionist history of the Great King and the Catholics' damnatio memoriae of his dynasty, brief though that was.

The most striking thing about the latter events, in the symbol of those mosaics above, is the disembodied hands.

Imagine being the survivor of a dynasty that only survived three generations, looking up at the church your grandfather built, looking for the images of your family, your brother, your mother - and seeing only their maimed fingers or hands.

Irresistible scene, of course. I had to envision that.

But the reason those hands are most interesting is not the absence of everything else. It is their presence.

I've used the phrase damnatio memoriae - and, for the Romans and many other cultures throughout the world and through human history, destroying someone's name, removing them from the history books as it were, was a powerful tool. To be sure, we still remember those whose names have been stricken out. But that's not the point of a DM, not really.

The point of striking out a name is not to pretend "so and so never existed" ... but to point TO their existence, and to highlight the obliteration of anything so and so ever accomplished.

The disembodied hands are not an error, an incomplete obscurement of a vanquished opponent.

They are the reminder of the vanquishing.

We have erased something here, the images said. We have the power to remove—but we want to remind those we have supplanted.Damnatio memoriae was no obliteration. It was a reminder. This has been done, and we have undone.
--excerpt from the WIP

Possibly the deepest root of my patriotism lies in the pride I feel not only in voting, but in witnessing the peaceful transfer of power in the United States. I've participated for 30 years now as an active citizen, and watched this process for about forty-five. I remember Jimmy Carter's election, Reagan's - I remember Watergate, and the echoing word, "impeachment."

I remember the giddy sensation of watching the 2000 election, the fear then, the outrage. I don't expect to forget 2016 without illegal amounts of chemical intervention or outright dementia, neither of which appeals.

The new administration will do some amount of damnatio memoriae as it finds its way. ACA is on the block; many people's futures seem to be as well.

The American DM will not be a revision of history, it will be a change of what is envisioned.

Monday, November 14, 2016


My spine just tingled a bit, and my heart contracted. I hadn't thought of this, but Stephen Parks may be right. The death that may have changed history.

Question about the post-electoral protests which involve shutting down freeways. Is there any irony in protesters' doing is what Chris Christie's compatriots just got convicted for? Just wondering.

Okay, enough politics-adjacent thoughts for now.

There is a fungus among us! (Yes, this is NOT politics.) Funky (fungi?!) furniture - now there's a design concept. What's next? Welp: "bricks without kilns, leather without cows and silk without spiders" ...

Here's hoping that Gwen Ifill and Leonard Cohen will rest in peace. I was stunned, in particular, to hear of Ms. Ifill's death today, and late to hear of Cohen's passing. He was eighty-two, she only sixty-one.

With thanks and condolences to their friends and loved ones ...

It seems right and good to close with a reminder - tonight is the supermoon's brightest night! Beautiful photos from around the nation's capitol, with a couple stops in Maryland and Virginia. Does your moon hang low ... ?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

This Week

This week, I've seen those who are horrified at the United States' election outcome galvanized, all but instantly.

I'm not one of those people.

That first reaction I had, of gritting my teeth and practicing gratitude, didn't come easily, but it came unbidden. It was unexpected. I might have expected anger (I do have anger, but it is secondary with me), but perhaps I was too tired, too shocked. And anger is not my go-to. So gratitude and determination are not natural to me, but outrage apparently is less so. So.

The comments section at Janet Reid's blog is not a homogeneous slice of like-mindedness. The "Reiders" (I came up with that name thinking it was a bit on the nose, but it seems to have stuck) don't like the same things, we don't do the same things, but the people there - those who comment, and the many who read and seldom speak or never do - comprise a community.

The conversation there has always been one place I recommend as the one place on the internet you can - and *should* - read the comments.

This week, it has been one of the few places into media/social media/Teh Intarwebs I have not been afraid to go. It was impossible for me to listen to punditry or analysis of any kind. Until today, the actual physical pain of what has been done has been too much; being alone at night has been devastating. (Sometimes, even Gossamer the Editor Cat is not enough.) But the Reiders have been my reminder, COMMUNITY is what we come down to. (Okay, the Reiders and Jeff Sypeck, who commented on that post above with such sensitivity and insight.)

The open communication there - from the silent majority, from those who voted Trump but unhappily, and from the many who have shared something of my own horror, has been intelligent and reasonable. Utterly constructive.

I'm grateful for the Reiders, this week.

Monday's post - memories and hope.

Tuesday's discussion - little post, but so many there to speak.

Wednesday's continued management of the situation - and hope - and such a wave of creative galvanization.

Me, I'm still working through. I haven't really begun to act. I'm cutting some things out of my life - shows that are "edgily" wrong to be funny, and normalizing homophobia (bye-bye, Big Bang Theory) and even racism (Archer). Those that don't even think they're edgy, but propound reductive, retrograde gender roles (any reality TV other than RuPaul's Drag Race) and feminine lack of education/intelligence.

Once I'm less afraid of where the economy is going to go from here (augh), if I have money, I'll put it where my principles are more than I do now.

I will speak.

And, Janet: I will write.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

November 9, 2016

Yesterday, almost from the moment I voted, I experienced a sensation of strength much the way voting always makes me feel. There was also a pretty sure happiness. This hideous campaign was OVER. Time to look forward.

What I was expecting, we do not have to look forward to after all.

The things this cannot take from me, though, are almost obsessively on my mind this rainy autumn morning.

Rainy autumn mornings, finally cooling down.

The tum of my sweet Pum, when I lean over her to hug her and wrap my arms around her middle. Gossamer's purr.

My health. This blessing, surrounded as I have been for ... years now, with people I love who do not have it, has come to mean a great deal. I am immensely grateful for my health. And the year or so I've been working out; how much *that* means to me, how good it makes me feel to do it.

My mom. My stepfather. My brother. My nieces. My friends - I have such ripplingly, gloriously, wonderfully fine and good friends. The mere knowledge these people love me. Nothing can take away what that means.

The city I live in. It isn't perfect, but its swamps, its architecture, its history, its beauty, its schools and universities, its people, so many such richly beautiful and interesting and good people. This home is mine, and I belong to the land I came from.

The little locket I wore to vote yesterday, that was my grandmother's and bears her tooth marks from when she was a little girl and tested it the old fashioned way, to see whether it was gold. The picture of my dad, inside. The family I miss, who are gone but are inextricably mine, my blood and my memory. The family I love, no matter how far away.

My talents. My writing.

Nothing can take from me these powerful, important blessings.

And, to my friends, nothing can take me from you. We have to have each other. I thought of so many people this morning, after a night of quaking in my guts, after a night spent fear-pooping through denial and horror. All the so-very-different people I love, who honor me back with their regard.

It would dishonor them for me to give in to despair. It would say the blessings I have are not enough.

I wore the bright, light clothes I laid out last night with different hopes in my heart. I wore the beautiful necklace Cute Shoes gave to me, and the stylish little shoes, and I brushed my hair and put myself together. Walked Penelope. Fed the babies.

My neighborhood is not less beautiful today than yesterday. What concrete things are mine are mine, at least today, and what ineffable things are mine remain in place: along with my gratitude.

You have to practice gratitude. It's like anything else - if you don't practice, you'll never get good at it. Ten thousand hours.

Today is my recital, and I have to nail it.

I am grateful.

I am afraid.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

New Flash

Janet Reid is running another flash fiction contest.

Prompt words:


My entry:


Frantic. "Attitude--flight attitude malfunction! tailspin!"

She'd never seen the controls like this. Stared, time stopped. This was death.

She had trained, she knew what to do. Just over mach 7 when the rocket malfunctioned--now approaching 4. She'd lost less than ten thousand feet and the port aileron. She compensated. She breathed. She held, hard. She compensated again.

The mountains rose up as if to greet the craft. The world twisted, a yaw she had never felt, the roar obliterating all other senses.

The gates were really all pearls.

Hello …”

Friday, November 4, 2016


Every week at the very *least*, I am struck with gratitude for a couple of things in my upbringing - one, I grew up at a time when popular entertainment was thinner on the ground, so we had 3 networks and PBS to choose from until I was like THIRTEEN and, gasp, a whole *fifth* channel showed up (what eventually became Fox). PBS being a great place to visit, its programming made up a hearty chunk indeed of my up-growin', and I still gravitate to its offerings, some of them as old as I am, but always intriguing - and, to boot, with parents like mine a great way to learn critical television watching.

Our Earth is a master chef. She really knows how to cook!

All this intro is apropos of the neato-spedito NOVA now playing. Shiny gems! How do opals come to be? What can we learn from so-called "flawed" diamonds (now I want one; I've never given two hoots about a dang diamond before, but - five billion year old geology, preserved in a beautiful uncut stone? GIMME inclusions!)? I am enchanted by how excited these scientists are, it's funderful to watch. The thing about learning the science of things we romanticize is this: sometimes, understanding the properties that lead us to emotional conclusions actually *deepens* the fascination and mystic feeling.

Glamour, I admit/protest, is not generally a source I think of when it comes to news. Yet somehow, in my wanderings around the intertubes, at some point this week I bumped into this piece about Uber's discrimination against minorities and women. (Yes, the info here points specifically to discriminating against Black people; do you think they're better with other POC? I don't.) It's sad, and it is a good article.

This post from Ann Bennett made me happy if only for using the term "messes" in my favorite way, but it's also a neat agricultural/cultural/foodie piece. On the health benefits and history of 8 messes of poke salad. (Bonus content: in the comments, she uses "victuals.")

Okay, SUPERMOON! Who doesn't love a supermoon? I don't not! Pick your link here.

A 49,000 year old human settlement in Australia? Linkyness from the Sidney Morning Herald, because I kind of love that their domain is Most news'll do the SMH to you. (The posture in this picture? That doesn't remind me of anyone I know, at ALL. Except totally.)

You can adapt through mutations, but if you interbreed with the local population who are already there, you can get some of these adaptations for free.

Click for the story behind the quote: the genetics behind Neanderthallergies. Hmm!

For centuries, nobody batted an eye at singular they...

I'll pause with this quote and say this: honestly, in my nearly 50 years on the planet, I had never even heard of anyone objecting to "they" (or ... thinking it is new!???) until a year, maaaaayyyybe two, ago. What rocks do the people live under, who protest against this as politically correct tyranny? What language do they speak? As The Arrant Pedant says: this complaint is not about grammar.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Collection - BOO!

Sadly, Edward Gorey images are not available for (legal!) reuse.
Image: Google image search, labeled for reuse

Jeff Sypeck on how easy it is to make an eerie little sentinel. Hooray for seasonal ghoul-ery! I have not felt NEARLY enough in the Hallowe'en spirit this year.

To get in the spirit, it is a good time for ghost stories. How about River City Secrets, an anthology including quite a few talented and charming authors I happen to know?

If you prefer Old World scares, or happen to be on the UK side of the Pond, Nottingham's Monster anthology may be your taste. The cover is a nicely evocative piece of art.

Diwali Ragnoli decoration with lamps
Image: Wikipedia

If Hallowe'en and All Saints are not your thing, how about an enjoyable look into the preparations for Diwali, where an entire town cleans house and welcomes the goddess and the holiday in beautiful style? Instilling "the spirit of ownership for the city" sounds like a wonderful celebration.

However you celebrate - or if you do not - be careful out there. There are flour and egg crackdowns, and souls going around ticking the Devil off enough to get kicked out of Hell.

Have fun! And, if you can't be good, be good at it!

Saturday, October 22, 2016


How the Reformation helped to create the nuclear family model, and how Millennials are retrieving a pre-modern way of life. Perhaps The Golden Girls had it “golden” for reasons other than we thought!

How many of us have a default setting that ancient artifacts are the product of male fabrication?
How many of us realize that that sets an assumption of male gaze in early art? What if the earliest goddess figurines were not made by men in worship … but by women, perceiving themselves? Why not? Women made a great deal of art before we started creating history.

The History Blot has had a couple of good digital reconstructions this week. One, a look at the face of Peru's Lord of Sipan, from the pieces of his preserved skull. You can watch the art of the process in the video in fairly amazing detail. Next, a very nice look into a home in Pompeii. There are THREE videos at the HB on this piece, but I included this one as the most instructive of the two shorter clips, for my fellow history nerds. There is a 10:44 minute one that is even more detailed; the mosaic of a dog at the entry indicating a guard dog, and more in-depth consideration of the architecture.

Friday, October 21, 2016

"Dixie Dupree is eleven years old and already an expert liar"

For my Reider readers and beyond, many of you have seen me mention The Education of Dixie Dupree, Donna Everhart's upcoming debut novel. For those who have not: I've been eagerly awaiting this book for a LONG time now. Eagerly!

Well, I am not alone ... and pre-order is always an option.

Donna knows I have a "thing" about the intimacy of reading, but I also have a thing about supporting good authors, and without a doubt she qualifies. The struggle to wait is real.

COOL cover, right?"
You know you're curious.

But now ... the wait is but a couple of business days!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

"Dark" Times ... (?)

This morning, a thought wandered around in my head a bit, and I'm curious what some of you might think.

As a researcher and writer of a period in history at which the so-called Dark Ages were born, one of the issues I have with my work is the dearth of primary sources. It's difficult in the extreme to research some of the key aspects of my plot: could, or even *would*, a community's midwife become a nurse to a single household? At what age did children begin to to to Christian services? At what age would a king's child have begun to go, and was that earlier? What did the Arian service look like?

I can structure a day around liturgical hours known beyond Catholicism during sixth century Christianity. I can provide the shape of a night's segmented sleep. I can hear the echo of the hushed voices in the palace at Ravenna.

But I'll always be up against the damned Dark Ages. The lack of voices to tell me what they thought, had to say, even did, in most contexts of their lives.

The lack of primary sources.

There are not a few folks who fear we are tipping into a dark age right now. Brexit, perhaps, is worrisome. Name-the-outcome of the U. S. election looks to folks of all persuasions like the invasion of the Barbarians.

But my readers know, I don't believe in Barbarians. I don't accept that the whole world went dark and stupid for a thousand years. I don't believe there are, as a bloc, genuine heroes and villains at the national/imperial/tribal level, one entire nation of people good, another evil.

And the thing is: even the most partisan believer in these things will agree. The entire reason we call them "The Dark Ages" is because we don't know as much about the period.

That we know humanity was actually dumber for one thousand years ... I don't think any honest lover or student of history can say that with integrity.

So here is the thought that came picking about my brains today.

Whatever comes on November 8, whatever we despair of the loss of privacy and the uprising of technology that takes away our autonomy, even (perhaps) our individuality ...

Nobody will be ignorant of what we thought about these times, any century any time soon.

Nobody will look back at the early twenty-first century (or whatever era they name us to be in future - The Antrhopocene has some traction, but it's a self-given nickname, and those don't always catch on) and WONDER WHO WE WERE.

We are going to be a hard lot to lose in time, is what I am saying. We are not opaque.

Indeed, one of the possible tragedies of this age is its vomitous ubiquity. There is a wide swath of our culture right now dedicated just to photographing food before we actually eat it, reporting on it, commentating it.

Which either fascinates somebody I've never met, or reflects something deep and internal about the current generations of living humanity in a way that tells us about a lot more than that tasty churro shot.

Heading for destruction?

I don't know.

But I do know this: Rome never burned in a way catastrophic enough her legacy was obliterated. And my society, my culture - whatever it is, with all its good and its bad and its laughability and its heartbreak - is not a relief cut into the Earth that is going to erode easily.

What is beautiful about humanity right now is not going to disappear.

What is ugly, we've ensured will endure, too.

Do you think there can ever be a Dark Age again? Do you even believe there ever truly has been a descent of mankind, ever a period in history marked by the absence of redemptive qualities?


Am I the only Blogger user who's getting MASSES of bot traffic - now not from Russia or Korea, but from the US? On Macs? Every two hours almost on the hour, every day for over a month, there are 32-38 hits all in one go.

The problem with domestic bot-ification is that I've lost all sense of any actual readership (down, I know, of late; I haven't been linking my posts on Twitter, and my content isn't what it could be).

So, as shamelessly shill-ful as it is to beg for comments: who else is getting this sort of bot-ery?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

26 Tabs

“it (is) like heroin mixed with crack mixed with anime

I started off several days ago, amused by some link I saw somewhere about The Dung Ages. As my regular readers know, I have a few issues with the whole idea of The Dark Ages, illusions of recency, and The Dirty, Stupid Past. So the link-intensive piece on The Dung Ages led me to Medieval Morons and The DARK Ages.

TV Tropes looks like a lightweight site, but in short order I’ve been through dozens of tabs (part of the addictiveness is the brevity of many of the articles), and I’m extremely impressed with the scholarship here. It’s more intelligent, and far less snarky, than so many “this is how” websites about pop culture, writing, or television. It also goes far, bar beyond “TV” and examines sources back to ancient mythology and oral traditions.

This might not be a site to use for research if you need a depth of understanding, but I’d call it a hell of a reliable one-stop-shop for general understanding of … well, many things. It is great for writers (though dangerous, and filled with The Bunnies of the Plot), or just consumers of entertainment. It’s even responsible and intelligent.

TV Tropes is also an absolutely superb place to educate yourself, if you have a nerd of almost any sort in your life whom you do not always understand. Five minutes’ reading can teach you a lot about their obsessions!

Of course, five minutes reading there is not possible …

I would caution against clicking even a single one of the TVT links (mine are probably safe; I am not addicting except in very limited ways!) for a few minutes’ reading. The very brevity is what makes clicking “just one more” all too easy. You can get a wide array of tabs open, and winnow your way back down to a mere three, the tantalizing promise of “I will stop” so close before you, and that hope will disappear when five more fascinating links present themselves in those three innocuous little tabs. TV Tropes may be a cruel mistress.

But dang. Sure is fun. Enjoy! Carefully …

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Ego Tripping - Nikki Giovanni

Today, I did not want to make the moment I shook her hand about myself. So instead of telling Nikki Giovanni how she had affected me, I said only thank you.

But the first time I ever read Ego Tripping is still indelible, powerful in my experience. You don't forget moments that change you, that elevate your perspective.

I hope it is forgivable, permissible, for me to reprint her work. It is too important to just hope you will click somewhere and read. And so ...

I was born in the Congo
I walked to the Fertile Crescent and built
The Sphinx
I designed a pyramid so tough that a star
That only glows every one hundred years falls
Into the center giving divine perfect light
I am bad

I sat on the throne
Drinking nectar with Allah
I got hot and sent an ice age to Europe
To cool my thirst
My oldest daughter is Nefertiti
The tears from my birth pains
Created the Nile
I am a beautiful woman
I gazed on the forest and burned
Out the Sahara desert
With a packet of goat's meat
And a change of clothes
I crossed it in two hours
I am a gazelle so swift
So swift you can't catch me

For a birthday present when he was three
I gave my son Hannibal an elephant
He gave me Rome for mother's day
My strength flows ever on

My son Noah built New/Ark and
I stood proudly at the helm
As we sailed on a soft summer day
I turned myself into myself and was
Men intone my loving name
All praises All praises
I am the one who would save

I sowed diamonds in my back yard
My bowels deliver uranium
The filings from my fingernails are
Semi-precious jewels
On a trip north
I caught a cold and blew
My nose giving oil to the Arab world
I am so hip even my errors are correct
I sailed west to reach east and had to round off
The earth as I went
The hair from my head thinned and gold was laid
Across three continents

I am so perfect so divine so ethereal so surreal
I cannot be comprehended except by my permission

I mean...I...can fly
Like a bird in the sky

The line that captured me a generation ago, and holds me to this day is "I am so hip even my errors are correct" ...

As I grow older, though, it is "I cannot be comprehended except by my permission" that comes to mean more and more.

What gets you, in this piece?

Or in any other poem?

Library of Virginia Literary Lunch

Today, I shook Nikki Giovanni's hand and said thank you.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Always a sucker for a good sword-making article, I reveled in Tom Williams' latest post, looking at the combination of iron and carbon best calculated for "the whole cutting into your enemy and killing him bit." Pattern welded steel - the work of ages.

In "worst pink label EVER" news ... yes, it is true. Melania wore a pussy-bow blouse (why yes, of *course* it was PINK) to cap this weekend's sexual assault extravaganza. Sigh.

By the way. Is there ANYBODY left who doesn't understand the concept of rape culture?

In a much happier link: death! And taxes! Please click and enjoy a short story from Stephen G. Parks - and leave him some feedback, too, if you have any.

Teh Funnay! Also: because I needed MORE blogs to be addicted to. What it's like to be married to a writer. Pure reality gold, my friends.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


The Peach-Hued Puckered Mouth Hole Himself
Image: Wikipedia

I'm not sure there's any woman I've ever known who has not been sexually assaulted in the way described by the current Republican nominee to the presidency of the United States.

“To say that locker room culture is somehow this defense for what Trump is saying is really denigrating all professional athletes,”
--Former Minnesota Viking Chris Kluwe

I smile that the quote above comes from a Viking, because the man I married is a Vikings fan. The purple sweater I was wearing when we first met, he liked, because it was just the right Vikings color.

Beloved Ex is a MAN. He is a man in the sense of the word I came to understand under the tutelage of my mother and father, a man in the sense I expect of any man I have ever dated or been friends with, a man in his own skin and in his own mind, a man of integrity such that he need never impinge upon the dignity of another human being. Ever.

Around the time he and I became engaged, I was living in an apartment on campus, and he came to see me once, bewildered and upset. He'd been out to a bar the night before, and while sitting outside on a freezing Ohio night waiting for his van to warm up, his long, looping golden hair had caused two guys to mistake him for a woman alone. Not his first experience being mistaken for a girl, from behind, though he was 6'1" and had shoulders even more prodigious than my own. But this was the first time he ever got TREATED like a girl alone.


As I recall his retelling of the incident, this was about the extent of their enticements before they realized he was a guy and (thankfully) failed to gay bash him for their error(s). (In all the years I have known him, BEx has not felt the need use his fists; but my suspicion has never been that he would be unable to - and brutally - if he perceived the need.)

He came to me with this experience, with this story, to retell it: to hope that I would tell him it was strange, that this doesn't really happen, that his experience was special and awful.

"Do guys SAY things like that to women?"

I can still feel, in memory, the tired smile I gave him. Hell, I heard fifty comments like that in a weekend, back then. On gigs with HIM, while I was watching him play and when our friend Joe (even bigger than BEx) wasn't by my side. He even once watched while a bunch of guys came up behind me and pulled my skirt up, exposing me. (No. He didn't use his fists even then; it was FAR too easy to just stop the show to call them out - management ousted the idiots, toute de suite.)

BEx is many things - boyish, even now. Perhaps even still, in some ways, dazzlingly innocent. He's not ignorant (magna cum laude,  in fact). But his purity is beautiful, and his virility is as pure as all his sweetness. He's ALL man - his skin is warm, his hands are big, he's got an enviable square jaw, he looks like a man, a big, Nordic man.

He has no need to grab a woman or a girl, and no desire to lessen anyone else in the world.

This is the kind of man I knew was worthy of attention, from the earliest age. I've never blessed an ass with my regard, never loved anyone who wasn't a real MAN - a man of such wholeness in himself he could no more fracture another person than murder them.

Real men are bewildered by Donald Trump's idea of "locker room" talk.

Mr. X is the same way. Perhaps less a wide-eyed Midwestern boy than BEx is, Mr. X still cannot fathom the objectification of women. He knows about it; he's not shocked by it. But appalled? He is appalled by it.

He's a man, too. Tall, dark, and handsome, at that. And he's a man who also happens to have a daughter.

The thing is, he does not find sexism wrong because he had a child with matched chromosomes.

He finds it wrong because it IS wrong. It was wrong before he ever had children. It's literally inhuman: dehumanizing.

I've known a lot of men, boys, and guys in my life. At a certain stage in my youth and development, I had no use for girls. So I hung out with boys - school mates and mall rats. I heard a LOT of the kind of discussion Trump wants to pretend his comments released this past weekend were - indeed, wants to pretend his entire view of womanhood is. I heard boys looking at other girls passing by, I heard them talking about things that happened with other girls the night before. I heard them assess me, right to my face, and I was okay with that.

There are issues there. Deep, and layered.

But the fact is, even RIGHT NOW, I know this: not one of those guys, even the ones telling me right to my face I was cute, or my chest was small but my ass was great, ever would have encroached upon me physically. They never DID. For one, they were afraid I would kick *their* asses. My reputation did not include the likelihood I was ever going to put up with being grabbed, or kissed, without clear consent - or, more accurately, encouragement. My reputation also included the salient fact that I was a virgin, and not looking to change that. My virginity both soured and sweeteened the grapes; they knew I wasn't a going concern, and they were a little tender about it, protective of me.

Paternalistic? Yep. Threatening and dehumanizing? No. I didn't hang out with the Trumps of this world. That was the preppy guys at school and, later, certain entitled, rich frat guys at college. Those called me a whore for not being available to them. Logic!

My friends were not a bunch of boys with clean noses. They got into drinking and drugs, many of them did indeed knock up one girl or another ("She trapped me" was a wearyingly familiar refrain). Scrapes with the law. I even remember one I didn't know so well, who showed us a trunk full of guns he had to sell. Not choir boys. But not rapists, either.

None of these guys (well, save First Love, of course) ever quite measured up to my standards and expectations. So none of them ever really got my attention. None of them was, by my archetypal, by my conscious or unconscious or ineffable standards: a man. Save First Love, of course.

Some of them, all these years on, I imagine may be voting for Trump. Those who are alive, who even bother with voting.

Caging the animal is a start.
But don't self-confessed criminals belong behind bars?
Image: Wikipedia

My point is, my experience of men's "talk" about women is not limited to the pretty compliments given me by adoring wooers. Or even the wary kindnesses emitted by those familiar with my big brother. Eep, he scared off some boys, he did. (Reasons I dated younger guys in high school: they had missed out on Diane Major's big brother.)

Even after my mall rat years - spending as much time in bars with BEx gigging as I did, alone by appearances, while he was between sets or onstage - I had plenty of ears full of men's talk about women. Sometimes, about my person, sometimes not. Heck, even if you just sit quiet and still in some bars, they forget you are sentient, and speak pretty damned candidly - either for you to hear, or not realizing you do. Some say execrable things, even concerning things.

MEN: never speak like Donald Trump.

Not even most boys, not ones raised by anybody who cared. I started to say "in a barn" there, but Trump is beneath the barnyard, frankly.

A barnyard is a place where horse shit is wholesome, and perfectly congruent.

When somebody tells you who they are:
believe them.

Monday, October 3, 2016


Random thought: how about … never trust anyone (man or otherwise) who decides anyone (woman or otherwise) must not be TRUSTED on the basis of any aspect of their personal tastes?

Let it be said: The Telegraph is not my favorite UK paper. But they have a couple good links now and then.

First, their list of 30 great opening lines from literature . It's a nice breadth of recent centuries and authors. To read them all at once makes for interesting inspiration; even in a single sentence, the different novels take you to different places and introduce us to a variety of characters. Well worth the look, for my writer and reader readers!

Next, just this quote, though it's only one from a longer series. Anyone would know I'd agree with the sentiment, but in keeping with my Illusions of Recency posts, it's looking at the date on this one that'll either sober you up quick or reassure you somewhat about today.

Star Trek: Axanar and the legal aspects of copyrighting Klingon. What a fandom buzzkill, Paramount. Fan produced for *generations* (b’doom pssshhhhhhh) have been fun, hallowed, and even considered canon at times. So much for that thing where “CBS has a long history of accepting fan films” and “…realizes that we’re just making their brand that much better.”. Bummer. With thanks to Dena Pawling for pointing to the suit.