Wednesday, June 28, 2017


A "well-healed" amputation and a prosthetic toe (no actual heel present) - on the most ancient prosthesis ever found in-situ. Or in-sitoe, if you like to draw out the punnery. So many chortles, so little time while reading this cool post from The History Blog.

An illustrated guide to writing PoC for the white author. Perspectives, and more perspectives! I think "cudnt spel to sieve her lyfe" is the perfect detail. Nicely done indeed, with a lot of Teh Funnay too. Fair warning, though: there are a LOT of tasty links here in addition to the observations and comics!

Just who gets to play in which cultural sandboxes?

"Columbusing." I guess this is what the kids are calling it now. Back in the 80s, all people said about this kind of thing was, "I remember my first beer." I remember when our year-younger-than-we-were friend discovered feminism for me and another friend. (I remember the phrase recency illusion as well.) ... and now I feel a little conflicted, because I was in the mood for Mexican for dinner, and my mom has a few "things" about PoC from south of the US border ...

I don't see what humanity has done over those 200 years that would make anyone have a softer view of humanity.

Need some more for your TBR? Well, I sure do. This revisitation of Frankenstein - now with a new revenant of a very different sort added to the old Monster - looks absolutely stunning, and maybe more terrifying than ever for some people. This may be my "I need 37 copies of this" release this year. Even just the interview is so beautiful and striking, linguistically. Voice, kids. Voice.

"I'ma Send You to TIMBUKTU!" and Other Stories ... (or) ... on Literature Itself

When I was a kid, there were a few mythical experiences in life that never, somehow, lived up to their hype. Snipe hunts amounted to a load of pointless wandering and taunting, often with a group of kids who didn't even like each other (see: taunting). Opposite days - where every word was an argument against itself. Pediatric exercises in negation and frustration, that was all the "magic" I ever understood.

Then there was Timbuktu. I don't know how prevalent this was outside my little slice of the world, but there was a magic by which my brother used to "send me to Timbuktu" - and I think other kids would say or do this to each other, too. To be sent to Timbuktu meant some hand gesture, perhaps, or a magic word - spoken by some hapless exilee, or by the ones wanting to send them away - and an instantaneous disappearance the victim never could perceive.

When my brother sent me to Timbuktu, he evinced the most astonishing inability to see or hear me anymore. Indeed, one might even say his imperception of me was overacted, almost. Now and then, other people might be present and play along as well.

Again: the ultimate in frustration. "I'm RIGHT HERE!" is perhaps the most pointless piece of dialogue between kids or in science fiction, in recorded (or invisible/inaudible) history.

So Timbuktu, to us, was no real place, it was just a neato sounding word some kid had appropriated to be mean, and its geography was simply the delineation of disempowerment of some poor other kid. Usually not for too long.

They lectured the townspeople on the evils of their cult of protector-saints, then began to smash the intricate carvings with pickaxes and metal crowbars.

It's a joy, then, to read a little history/politics/culture/reality/hope ... about Timbuktu, today.

Timbuktu is a rich skein in the cultural history of the world, and its treasures have been imperiled. But there are people who save our shared human legacy.

Imagine the Library of Alexandria, with allies covertly preventing its obliteration. Imagine an alternate ending to The Name of the Rose.

Imagine your TBR pile growing by just one more volume of narrative nonfiction.

Conserving, and protecting, the material evidence of human innovation, ingenuity - art.

We are worth saving. We are worth studying. We are worth questioning, and maybe sometimes revering. Humanity is like a field of corn, constantly shifting and perhaps too-rich with vermin or smut, or maybe too try to grow - but as a whole, absolutely hypnotizing to view, as the wind lifts some eddy and draws undulating patterns. As we contemplate what grows before us.

And ...

Let's not forget that we also lecture and smash and destroy the artifacts of culture when it hits our prejudices.

Friday, June 23, 2017


That awkward - not to say cognition-stompingly surreal - moment when Donald J. Trump and Barack Obama are in the same place linguistically. *Blink*

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Science Daily has a great piece on the reward mechanisms in our brain relating to making art. This article focuses on the study of visual arts in this, but I would expect any writer to pipe up and say, "me too!" on this phenomenon.

(Bonus question for the novelists: is this a new meaning for the term SCIENCE FICTION? Heh.)


Regular readers here know, I love me a good debunking of The Dirty, Stupid Past - and American Duchess is serving up an epic takedown of the old 18th-century-bugs-in-the-hair routine. Along with quite a lot of good info, and a little period experimentation. Their podcasts are not short, but SO cool. And the very depth is what I am digging.

I have family in the Pacific Northwest, and one of the first local uniquenesses I remember hearing about was the wooly dogs. The mention of separating the dogs connects to hearing about their island breeding; this was a precious animal (as indeed all dogs are). So these Salish dogs fascinate me in a similar way to Carolinas.

Unscented flatus and original sin. A very interesting piece indeed on Augustine at The New Yorker. I am intrigued by the many quotes here, most uncited - and the very contemporary-versa vulgata translation of his Confessions mentioned at the top.

200 legitimate voters may be impeded from voting for every double vote stopped.

Finally, from The Atlantic - an in-depth look at the extensively documented relationship between white supremacist organizations and the GOP's voter-fraud initiatives. To anyone who feels "just having to show a driver's license" is not a coded method of racist targeting, look again. Or just look once. And consider the emphasis on data which purges tens of thousands of legitimate voters in a single state. Alfred K. Brewer could tell you a story.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

"I don't live by the river"

Editing at the top to add this curious note. One of the people at this concert dropped into my brother's life briefly, pretty much at the moment I was inspired to write this post. I hadn't gotten around to posting it yet when he told me about the encounter, days later.

Curious thing, life.

Should've worn the Chris Crafts.

But, I mean, it was a concert. It was The Clash. The little Asian cotton Maryjanes were the thing. I wore The Thing. And my nerdy jeans and beige socks, yeah. But then the cool top, it was kind of new wave. Vivid turquoise stripes, cool puffed sleeves.

As cool as *I* got in 1982.

I was fifteen.

My brother asked me to go to a concert with him. It was weird, but with his girlfriend's little sister going, maybe he kind of had to. Or maybe he was just being cool with me. It was about this period in our lives that sort of thing began to happen here and there.

Whether he had to bring me, or wanted to ... Didn't matter. We were excited. I remember us spotting other cars as we got closer to Williamsburg, "Bet they're going." Seeking shared anticipation.

Fortunately, for a change: not seeking boys. This isn't because I was with my brother, though usually he terrified any boys I might find interesting, event he other punks. No, it was because Joe Strummer with a mohawk looked too much like my big brother.

So I enjoyed the whole show without dreary old sex interfering mentally, and actually experienced the concert.

That unique smell - of The Reagan Years ... of the ozone-crackled electricity that was the music itself (mountains of speakers and amps) ... of that much youth packed into a venue. The incredible, the ineffable scent and sensation and sight of youth, in the early 80s. Angry youth, but exultant too.

The crush was intense at the front. I was with the other kid sister, against the barricade; barely more than a child.  Some guy saw me (us?) and got concerned. Or maybe he just wanted my spot. But ... it was after ... Maybe he really was scared for me. He signaled the roadies, they pulled me out of my cherry position. My memory has failed, in 35 years, as to her being pulled up to, but probably so. Dragged up onto the stage, shooed off it, shepherded around - and ended up out of the crush. I was annoyed.

Where my brother and his girlfriend were, who knew - I didn't care, there was nothing to be afraid of. Not even death by general admission. Safe. Wherever the older sibs were, they were never farther than the walls of the venue. Nobody in the crowd was out to hurt us. There was a show to go on.

And so, I wormed my way BACK up to the front, once again causing annoyance, but this time to the guy who had ordered us "saved" from the crowd. Maybe the other kid sister and I did this together. I just remember I was there.

I latched onto the barricade like a tick.

The Clash. Front row. Sea of kids, strange adulation and imperative demand. It was sensational.

At some point, we pulled ourselves back out - noise-fatigue, or the desire to find the others, or maybe they found us. I have some recollection of standing on the seats, scream-singing, bopping.

I had lost one of my flimsy cotton shoes, either in the dragging moment of my salvation, or stomped off during the second round, surrounded by combat boots. Stuck the other shoe in my back pocket - heaven knows why. Maybe I thought I'd find the lost one after the show. Maybe I even did. History and memory have failed in this detail.

Standing on a seat, beer-sopped socks, the muck of spit and sweat and beer and cigarettes. Just a few hours of a life; a meeting of four people. Of thousands.

Then a drive home, on an autumnal night. Ears ringing.

"Rock the Casbah" was the big deal that year, and it was pretty great. But even today, I maintain that "London Calling" is one of the great tracks in recording history. It echoes in a way beyond the mere sonic definition.

The weekend before that concert, The Clash appeared on SNL. Little Opie Cunningham was the host (this was before he disappeared completely *behind* cameras). He drank a beer live on camera, protested his Little Opie Cunningham-ness, and got ribbed by Eddie Murphy.

The ineffable scent of the 80s. The sound of soaring, roaring, echoing, raw music. GOOD music, but raw in a way that's really only synthesized anymore.

I really did see all the good concerts.


Ever notice how hard it is to find a supermarket in a city's downtown? But easy to find a McDonald's or other fast food? It's not just a happy coincidence.

There's a fast-food restaurant within walking distance in many low-income neighborhoods, but nary a green leafy vegetable in sight.

Do you know who Maggie Walker was? Find out here and especially here - it's nice to see her getting some attention.

A brief history of children sent through the mail. Bees, bugs, and babies, y'all. Thanks, Smithsonian Magazine, I am well and truly squicked. (And how many of you are now wondering what the weight limit on modern drones is ... ? Yeah, I thought so. Same as a Europran swallow.)

Also from Smithsonian, here is a cool look at Wonder Woman's origins ...

American Duchess talks with Cheyney McKnight on a range of things, including a nuanced look at slaves' clothes in America. The post alone is interesting, but the hour-plus podcast is highly worth the listen. Never say what we wear - what YOU wear - sends no message.

Yet again, researchers have looked to the yucky/bizarre medicine of the ancient past, and found it was not so bizarre after all.

One of the problems with the modern concept of The Dirty, Stupid Past is that we no longer understand the most basic mechanisms of our world. We judge crazy old plant medicine without understanding plants in the slightest, nor allowing for the possibility that what we now call chemistry was for millennia the mere result of observation and implementation. The scientific method was only named in recent centuries; but the need for experimentation and innovation go back as far as humanity itself. Contemporary society considers itself very advanced, but hardly any of us understands the workings of anything we use, from our technology to our environment. Whereas, in times past when people were dependent upon their environment, and had no vast networks of text-bound research or even vast networks of other people's observations and experiences, communities (a) worked together and (b) knew their world intimately. Small as those worlds may seem to us today, the individuals living in them knew them better than we even know our own bodies anymore.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


Rest in peace, Wallace.

This is frustrating. Labor is being paid first again. Shareholders get leftovers.

Revisiting the shareholder-first business model - courtesy of The New Yorker.

On the unexpectedly morbid history of ribbons as adornment. Naturally, this piece brings to mind the Beresford Ghost, and other stories.

To my knowledge, this lady hath much joy and pleasure in death.

I have to say, this makes more sense to me than fear, perhaps *especially* in the direst of circumstances - precisely because those people are facing deliverance from suffering.

The real point of this article - or, really, the research it discusses - is the guiding force in American healthcare: avoidance of death. I have known more than one person who would have been happier had they not been treated not-to-death, honestly. I do not intend to become the dying person constantly snatched back from the brink, either, and I don't wish to die in a hospital. This morning, I said to someone who said, "Getting old sucks!" "Yeah, but it beats the alternative." The fact is, sometimes death beats some of the medical alternatives, too. The trick is to know when to choose what. At some point, perhaps I will have the grace and blessing to choose not to incur obscene debt for life"saving" measures which prolong my agony and deplete my earthly resources. If I get there, I don't expect I'll face the end with horror or regret.

To people furious over the Kathy Griffin photo I ask, where were you when effigies of Obama were lynched and burned across the eight years of his administration...?

The Boston Globe has an EXCELLENT piece looking at the outrage surrounding the Trumpian Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar. And I say: um, yeah. Anyone who thinks this play is a celebration of assassination is ... well, let us use the term "uninformed" to be kind.

Throwback post - because it needs to be said. Again and again and again.

And again. Because we KNOW it's about power, not sex.

Sunday, June 4, 2017


Even apart from the fact that I am a writer, words have always meant a great deal to me. They are more than stories, more than communication, they are avatars for what me must express as human beings. Today, I learned a new word. It is meaningful to me. How about you?

How to keep cool in eighteenth-century summer clothes - American Duchess provides such interesting background (yes, silk IS the worst in summertime in Virginia!). Observations from experience, some of them unexpected. (And, inauthentic or not, an icepack in the bonnet does sound pretty good to me ...)

Aww ... I shall recuse myself from entering Janet's latest caption contest, but it's about my boy again! Also, I already won a book this week, so someone else deserves this win. I deserve just to enjoy the entries!

Notes to entrants: Kate Larkindale, Gossamer used to RUN under that door when I first adopted him! And kathy joyce, a draft sock didn't even stop him. I used to pull a DRAWER out of my chest of drawers and put it at the crack to keep him from careening in and out all night long. He was so wee. I love Melanie Sue Bowles's caption, and BJ Muntain's, and got such a laugh out of Mark Ellis's and Colin's and Donna's and Elissa M's and Craig F's. Note to Brian Schwarz - I have a pic of him on my cube wall at work - all giant eyeballs and curious whiskers. On it is pasted, in about 24 pt. bold font, the question, "Didja ever get the feelin' ... ... you was bein' WATCHED?"

My theory? He was remembering when he used to bolt under that door, and reminiscing about being so small he could do that ... and then fall asleep on my neck with my chin for a pillow. And how he used to knead on my head so I got such INTERESTING hairdos. (Because: Gossamer.)

Editing to add another link - Donna Everhart is going to start her first-sentence Fridays feature again, now for her new novel, The Road to Bittersweet. In celebration, a clip of great music and dacing - one of those things it is a joy to see digitized online, real people in a real place and a real time, in joy and creativity and community. What a wonderful document, and a fine way for Donna to celebrate.