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.