Tuesday, October 31, 2017


The (Not) Just No Stories ... Casey Karp tells us about yet more ways for The Internet of Things not just to run, but to ruin, our lives. Not scary at all!

Art history, religious history - on the history of the fig leaf, all the way to Instagram. Spiff.

Reider reading! I am shamefully late to getting to it, so probably anyone here who frequents the comments at Janet Reid's blog has read this already, but Jen Donohue was published recently, and her short story is very good. Hop on over to Syntax and Salt, sink into it slowly, and enjoy.

Can we please dispense with the precious little phrase "open secret" now? In the past three weeks alone, we've encountered an open secret in Hollywood - oh, and in politics - now it's academia - and media-curated regions of the world or remoter reaches of the United States - and it's been discussed about Silicon Valley for many years, at this point. "Casting couch" is a phrase probably nearly as old as the phenomenon is, which may be about a century at this point (if you only count *film*). THIS IS OUR CULTURE. Not some isolated little "secret" - open or otherwise - affecting isolated little islands of people other than ourselves. This is the world. Women have never not-known this. So who thinks this is any sort of a secret? Oh yeah. All those men who're so surprised that rape and sexual extortion/blackmail/revenge is a thing. And it's not a secret, even from them. They've just enjoyed the privilege of obliviousness.

Happy Hallowe'en, Y'all!

Not too bad, for a six a.m. makeup job. Maybe could lose the glasses, but that was the pic I took.


"Do you like my face? I just put it on!"

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Take the Con 17

Two weeks ago, I was in Savannah for work. On Thursday, the 12th, I was home before midnight with nearly a thousand miles on my car ... and Saturday the 14th kicked off the annual James River Writers conference.

In the past, I've often done postmorten posts about how inspired I was and re-energized as a writer, after the conference. Well, or just gushed in real time about how amazing the events are. In the fifteen years of JRW's excellence, I've attended for fourteen of the annual conferences. (Thanks again, Mojourner!) I've watched friends chair the event itself, and met countless others. It's always inspiring.

But this year, I was so focused for so long on the meeting immediately preceding the Conference, I spared no time to get excited about it. (I was actually excited about the meeting - there was toy shopping.) For a while there, I also wasn't sure I'd be able to go to the Conference this year at all, and studiously tamped down any thinking about it.

Not only did I coordinate the meeting in Savannah, but I presented there. Speaking up in class, as it were, has never scared me - but speaking before the class was nerve-wracking. And once my nerves got bored, I finished off okay, and it was okay. I handed out little dart boards with my picture on them to people to whom it is generally my job to give bad news. I got to know a lot of people I work with constantly, but rarely or never have seen before. Feedback has been that the meeting was good. Travel was too (no flying!). I spent Friday in a dim drizzle with my mom, coming down off the big event, and NOT really thinking about or getting ready for the next one.

Coming into the Conference without expectations can be a good thing. I've long since put The Ax and the Vase to bed, and the WIP isn't even advanced enough to have announced to me what its TITLE is, so meeting with agents was off my list (and, in any case, I'm ever more persuaded by Janet Reid's objection to conference pitches - and, in any case, it's rarely the case participating agents even "do my genre" as it were).

The rub is, it's also been a long time since I spent time writing.

So I attended the "so you think you're an impostor - no you're not" session ... and, of course, came away feeling all validated but still knowing for sure I am an impostor.

And I spent $72 at the JRW Bookstore before 8:30 a.m. on day one.

And I talked to my new friend Sarah a lot, a writer who is eighteen years old and better organized (and more motivated) than I am, at damn near fifty.

And I spend time with my good writing friends, and Leila Gaskin said she would read some scenes for me and look to the knotty problem of whether I need all my characters ... and, if so (oh, I so need my characters!!!!), how to balance them ...

... and I finished the weekend more excited about the fact that the Festival of India had coincided with our event than about the Conference.

It was when I began drafting my email to Leila, and my very first writing partner, The Elfin One, and choosing scenes to share toward that question of characters and balance ...

... that it finally happened.

My ass was in the chair, and I sent off the scenes dutifully - and, writing to TEO in particular about writing ... I wrote.

"Also, I'm a Writer."


The ghouls, the freaks, the impersonators ... they are everywhere!

Image: pxhere.com free images

Every day, we're assaulted with clickbait, dressed up as headlines. For those of us grown wary, they words call attention to their true calling as propaganda ... but apparently enough people are still beguiled by them that the things still exist, and proliferate ...

So, far from being the monstrosities *I* see, the must be really great words. Right?

How about some scary Hallowe'en flash fiction?

Here are the prompt words (and do you think Janet would mind if I borrowed her rules?):

  • Insane
  • Chilling
  • Revealed
  • Creature
  • This one thing/this one trick

I'll post mine if you'll post yours!!

But YOU will win the wild acclaim of the masses. As for this prize, I recuse myself from eligibility. Not least out of the spine-tingling fear Colin Smith or John Davis Frain might post a story in the comments ... !!!


I am NOT afraid of spiders. Prettiest creature of the Hallowe'en season. Any season.

Pretty little liars.

They're just jealous. It’s the *witches’* holiday, and that’s me.

Remembering the seven-footer, an insanely huge web from the kitchen window to the stoop railing. Remember the filament I all but ate last night. The air was finally chilling, walking the dog, one tenacious string, stretched across the sidewalk. Never revealed, it just hit me in the lip.

I am not afraid of spiders. They’re afraid of me.

I do my own weaving. That filament was Arachne’s last insult.

This one trick …

Monday, October 23, 2017

Preying Animals


And again. And again. And again. And again.

The Weinstein (etc. etc. etc.) scandal in Hollywood might seem to beg comment from a blogger such as myself, but the simple fact is my main reaction to the whole thing was, for a good while, mere exhaustion. The fact that MEN are surprised and offended ... I don't know. Maybe it's nice. But there isn't a woman I know who's taken aback at the information unearthed so far. No, not even the scope.

Remember, kids: we just watched a proudly bragging sexual predator take the White House. Oh yeah, and the supposed fall of Bill Cosby, though that story seems to have been forgotten ("Thanks again, Trump's distracting Tweets!") You think we are shocked about a movie mogul?

Watching the astonishment of *men*, who rather loudly insist upon swearing they had NO IDEA about all this, might be almost be amusing for some, but - again - merely a bit tiring for me. Talk about bad acting: "gents", you are either criminally incompetentintellectually compromised, or lying your asses off. (Same goes for women.)

So, why am I bringing it up at all?

The drumbeat right now is all about men in power taking advantage of women who cannot reasonably consent, given that consent requires autonomy, and so few have it in the situations encountered.

That is an important dynamic to consider, it's important to fight.


For men power comes in other forms, and other magnitudes, than Trump or Weinstein or congressmen or kings.

Sexual harassment comes from the contractor at work, whose only power lies in the fact of his maleness and his speaking up after-hours in a deserted office. Sexual harassment comes from an awful lot of guys at work, in fact - just everyday guys in cube farms - the guy leaving anonymous notes which are TERRIFYING evidence of being covertly *watched* by unknown eyes, the guy cornering a woman in the break room. It comes on the street. It lives in every possible environment.

It could by ANY guy. That's what's got me mad: that in sanctioning this "Hollywood is the dangerous place" "Powerful men are the ones to watch out for" groundswell, we are safely defining boundaries around predators, pointing to the most unusual varieties as if they encompassed all the perniciousness women face every day. And thereby nullifying the fact that indeed it IS every day. Everywhere. Not just these rich monsters. NOT just desperate actresses.

It's every woman. And it is, potentially, every man we meet.

It is pissing me off that the sudden vogue for pearl-clutching focuses so narrowly, so significantly, on plutocrats alone.

Not all power comes in the form of famous men using women who think they need these men in order to advance in an industry - or politics. These situations are not limited to the casting couch, or to some town or business the majority of people aren't in.

And not all blame belongs to these wealthy ... "exceptional" ... men.

#NotAllMen? Sure. Certainly not anyone I'd even call a "man".

But more than just a few, kids. And not just the one percent. Not by a long damned shot.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Collection of GOULS

Tis the season, after all ... let's have some gruesome collections for October!

You can't buy a doll in rigor mortis.

Starting off, we have Frances Glessner Lee, a nice little old lady who created meticulous, scientific dioramic recreations of murder scenes - still used today by police departments, and now in conservation and on display for their many interests even beyond those of justice.

Hallowe'en vacation trip ideas? We got 'em - how does the Cornell library sound? Well, honestly, pretty good to me any time of year - libraries are churches, for readers and writers. But right now, they are putting on The World Bewitch'd, a display of witch trial writings, spooky drawings and manuscripts - interestingly, exploring the gendered portrayal of witches in (European/American, I suspect) history. Didn't we just do this? Yes. Yes, we did. And I, for one, don't mind one bit doing it again: “It’s a time of year when people are thinking about the subject …"


Oh, the library isn't scary enough for you? How about a trip to Tokyo, where the headlining photo alone might make you yelp? Or, if you're feeling oldschool: Transylvania? The catacombs of Paris are a classic ghastly destination. London offers an ever-so-British tea celebration, featuring Night of the Living Tarts. (Which describes all to many American prefab costumes aimed mostly at women.) Keep scrolling for some surprisingly disturbing smiling bananas, or start your planning for a trip to Croatia ...

Okay, and the next story I am not going to link, because it has stuck with me, and its presence in my thoughts is the point of interest. I'd be curious what others think. The Anne Frank (or "refugee girl") costumes that came out this year, and were rapidly yanked. Objections point to the extreme insensitivity of co-opting the identity of a tragic victim of war for trick-or-treats, and I cannot say this is not a terribly ill-considered product ...

... but, the fact is, I keep coming back to "because little girls have to be princesses and witches." And I don't like the implications there. As poor a route as it may appear, at least the idea of an Anne Frank costume brings with it the possibility of discussing who she was and what she went through with a child - and what the elements of the costume MEAN. So many costumes *are* appropriations - and exoticizations/sexualizations of cultures to which a given child doesn't belong ... and the inevitability of that sexualization part - well, see my "joke" above regarding Night of the Living Tart, and don't kid yourself it waits for legal age.

A part of me is not sure I want to simply mute the subject of Anne Frank, because ... a part of me actually thinks this COULD be done without the heartless indifference shown by this offering. Minus mass-production. Definitely minus the cutesy-attitude pose of the poor child who modeled this monstrosity.

Is it trivialization to make of Anne a mass-produced costume? Yes. But was it trivilization when my brother went as Nathan Hale, and isn't the entire holiday predicated in many aspects on the trivialization of death - a defiant raspberry in the face of mortality? The core of Hallowe'en in its original costumes was to elude the specter of Death by aping someone already dead. Of course, that has "evolved" (eroded, changed, become subject to market concerns), but at the end of the day it's all about remembering those who *have* passed, and the line is sometimes difficult for some people to see or frankly even to think about. It's a gross-out holiday, it's a time for scares and ENJOYING morbidity, it's a festival.

It hasn't been so long since I found the idea of friends dressing up as dead-John Jr. and dead-Bissette-Kennedy pretty funny, even though they decided against it because it was "too soon." Nor since I dressed up as Sarah Palin and found out *I* was the one scared and grossed out all night, thanks to the utterly disgusting reactions of men who apparently felt there was no human in the suit, and it was okay to explain every last thing they'd like to do to the costume. Aieee.

We know (I hope) that I am not a costume. We may know it's "too soon" for, ahem, the Dead Kennedys, or 9/11 "joke" costumes, or disgusting would-be-but-not-actually commentaries on the volatile political climate of the day (are you bracing yourself for all the khakis, white shirts, and torches this year? or people dressed as toppled Confederate statues? because you need to). But we don't flinch at a ghost soldier from some bygone war, or the purely grotesque. Poe is literature, not cruelty ... and yet, the imagery in his stories is genuinely harrowing.

Oh my. That got long. And in a collection post, no less - one I started in hopes of lighthearted Hallowe'en fare. Oh, dear.

Hey, who still uses the apostrophe in Hallowe'en?

Ahem. And on we move ...

Maybe you need something to read. John Davis Frain always has splendid flash fiction on tap, and this Hallowe'en season is no exception. This is a guy well schooled in ways to die!

My online writing pal Colin Smith was recently published, and I failed to observe the occasion in a timely way, but I am so rarely timely it is to be hoped he'll consider "belated" (as we do in my family) only prologation of the celebration. It's a GREAT, creeping-atmospheric tale - not specific to Hallowe'en, but appropriate to it nonetheless.

Say the travel ideas I threw out above aren't on your menu - staying close to home this year? Well, then, how will you decorate? An AT-AT of your own (the caption on the headline photo here is worth the click all by itself)?

Or you could just find something that might be interesting and paint it black. Here is a little history of the color for inspiration. The click beyond this time? In fact is the article where I found this link - and well worth a look, for the history of the Little Black Dress. Above average research and depth for a fashion article.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017


Ooh - has *anyone* here been reading my blather long enough to remember mere exposure? Well, fair enough, to be honest, I'd forgotten the phrase myself, or at least failed to use it in a long time. Still, seeing it again in this look at remote work dynamics at The Atlantic brings to mind other ways mere exposure affects us. So often, "normalization" was a phrase we heard during the campaign (and since). What "normalization" is is mere exposure.

Also, what "fake news" is is propaganda. I'm all for allowing the evolution of language, but this is not evolution, it is distortion and misdirection. As well as stupid. It is one glossing-over too far, at a time when misdirection is literally dangerous, and terrifyingly successful.

Anyway, I know someone who's heavy into the Agile model (mmmm - scrummy!), so - neato. Now go make with the clicky above.

Awrighty then, in other news (or not) ...

In my entire life, I have never been excited about the choice of a presidential portraitist, but the upcoming work from Kehinde Wiley has me all but squeeing. The first time I ever heard of Mr. Wiley was on a museum legend at Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, next to one of his portraits. I was GOBSMACKED, and fell in love with everything about the painting, not least simply its appearance. It is glorious, and beautiful, and what it has to say is poetry and joy. Cannot. Wait. to see this new work.

Interestingly, there was a "declined to comment" in regard to whether the woman artist painting Mrs. Obama will be paid equally to Mr. Wiley, to which I say "sigh" - but it is so predictable that there would be inequity that the unspoken answer is exactly no surprise. Double consciousness.

The Washington Post has one of the most uplifting things I have read in a long time. It's not a new article, in fact it dates back just a hair more than one year. But it's in-depth reporting on a redemptive tale that is splendidly worth reading. On the heir of Stormfront .. and how he renounced "white nationalism" - not just as an ism, but even as a phrase. Perhaps even better than that simple headline: the way this came about is wonderful to read.

Viking-Arabic textile design? I'm skeptical. But The Atlantic raises enters the dialogue of medievalism, racism, and today's socio-political climate - I am thinking of you, Jeff Sypeck!