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What to Do With My Mother's Book?

Matta Painting

Louis_vii_and_alienorWhat to do with my mother's book? She died seven years ago, on Halloween. I'm finally at peace with it, and I feel like doing something meaningful.

Before the dementia made it impossible, she wrote a novel. A whopper. 330,000 words. "Isobelle", set in the time of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Isobelle is launched into life in France, and as is appropriate to a woman of high breeding, goes through several husbands in her life, and has adventures in which she is taken by Barbary pirates and sold into a harem, then more travels, and eventual retirement at a satisfactory old age.

It's not the kind of thing I read regularly, so I'm not the right person to judge its merits. Looking at it as a manuscript, I see plenty of room for edits, taking out some florid info-dumpery, for example, and it breaks into several parts, so breaking it into separate novels is an option.

But I got thinking.... A lot of you out there in f-list land know this stuff better than I. What do YOU think I should do with it?

That Fire T'Was Led Me On

one handed writing

Last night, I went to a concert I'd been waiting decades for. Loreena McKinnett came to Kingston, purposefully in a small venue to play many of her earliest songs from the eighties, which is when my wife and I started listening to her. Her voice hasn't changed. I'd have to say, in fact that it may be richer and more melodic than ever.

She started in busking in the early eighties and her early music reflects that: she was supported on stage by her old-time companions, Brian Hughes and Caroline Lavelle on guitar and cello, and did many of our old favourites, like Bonny Portmore, Greensleeves, The Bonny Swans, The Wind that Shakes the Barley. But my favourite, was the W. B. Yeats poem set to music, "The Stolen Child":

I remember one cold winter's night in Washington, after I'd held a dinner party for some of my work-mates. We had been working 12 hours a day for weeks because of what was going on in Rwanda, and I played the song for a colleague because she asked me "yes, but what do you really want to do?" and I explained the lines:

We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.

Because that's it, really. Sometimes the world is too full of weeping, and nothing else is worthwhile. Here's the rest of the poem, if you're not familiar.

No Fear, No Hate, No Pain, No Broken Hearts

Family Man
No Heroes, No Costumes, No Gaming, No Drama, No Problem.

Life is complicated enough without indulging it.

It Is So Strange, the Way Things Turn

Arjuna
As a new Canadian... Well, it's been over nine years since I became a citizen, but it still feels new to me... I am fiercely proud of how the current aberrant incidents of violence have been treated. Violent, disturbed individuals must never be allowed to drive the political engines. Once we let them do so, we forfiet that very thing that makes our nation work: a trust in the whole of basic humanity to work towards our common good. Halting, often confused and working at cross-purposes, but still determined to make it better for everyone. That's why I chose to become Canadian. Hoping the rest of my countrymen continue to feel the same.
one handed writing
When I first got the inkling I wanted to write, my English teacher told me that if you want to write, you have to do like Earnest Hemingway. You should get up in the morning with a big piece of foolscap and start writing and fill up that huge sheet of paper. Write a whole sheet of foolscap every day, whether you like it or not, and at the end of the day, cross out all the stuff on that big piece of foolscap, and keep the parts that are good, if there are any*.

I want to thank him, because he was so full of shit, and he put me back about twenty years. In that twenty years, I learned about how to do all kinds of work and I met all kinds of people and never once thought "oh, I'm not writing."

So maybe his advice was good, but I doubt he actually told himself "give this kid some stupid story that will turn him off of writing until he grows up and has something to write about."

But thank you, Jon, for your piece-of-shit advice. Because it was actually very helpful, and I didn't waste decades writing pointless crap just to be a "writer".

I think I can get started, now. Because it's all about getting started all the way to the grave.




*Yes, he left out the booze from the real story. Also a good thing, because THAT part, I'd probably have followed, and been a Dylan Thomas wannabe right into a coma at 40.

20140817 Peach Slices

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Peach Slices

Smart Alec
Impunity. There is a machismo to the word "impunity".
It means you are too important to fail.
Like some belovéd boy-child who can do no wrong,
who affirms life by acting out in the way he does,
like Hercules strangling snakes or Krishna stealing butter.

It means that no matter what you do,
someone will find an excuse. Someone will say
"You know what, that must have been difficult for you.
I know it was, because you felt you had to do
[this out-of-line thing]. By doing such a thing,
you proved how important it was to do that thing."

And once that out-of-line thing has been done,
it's equally important to enshrine its permanent sanction
in history, so that, in the future, people will say,
"Oh, yeah, that was then, though. We did stuff like that.
No point in going back to that. It's over and done with."

When people are not punished for crimes,
Those crimes become norms.
And when crimes become norms,
Injustice is institutional.

People say racism is "I hate you because you are
[fill in skin color, nationality or creed here],"
but that's not racism. That's simply personal prejudice.

Racism is when you let impunity create a system where
[fill in skin color, nationality or creed here] is denied justice
permanently. Institutionally. Because
"that's the stuff we did/do/will do."
We do this. Because we can,
because nobody will punish us for doing so.

I hate the Daily KOS. I hate it because it is one-sided
and often stupid, and doesn't check its facts,
and although I am generally a left-wing nut,
I do not feel comfortable with one-eyed kings.

So it pains me to say
that the Most Important article I read this year...

...was on the fucking daily KOS.

Here it is: "Most of you have no idea what Martin Luther King actually did"

Read it. Seriously, do. It's short. I know you're busy.

Anyway, it's because of impunity
that I'm probably related to the subject of the article.
My great-great-great grandfather's son was a rapist
of, well, rapacious proportions. Because he could be.
Because nobody told him he couldn't.
Because he held the whip over anyone who challenged him.
And nobody challenged him in return.

Because the crimes that happened under slavery.
Went unpunished to this day. Even in Ferguson.
Part of me wants to add: "Even in Erbil, Even in Gaza, even in...."

But that's a distraction from the point:

Impunity is the keystone of injustice.
The only person who can break the power of impunity.
Is the oppressed. Nobody can do it for them.

"That is what Dr. King did—not march, not give good speeches. He crisscrossed the south organizing people, helping them not be afraid, and encouraging them, like Gandhi did in India, to take the beating that they had been trying to avoid all their lives."

20140810 Black-Eyed Susans

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Black-Eyed Susans

Smart Alec
Musing on cultural appropriation. Here's a very good example, a series of TV lectures for KQED San Francisco. Alan Watts, in his time, used the teaching of "Oriental Philosophy", in which case he meant his own interpretation of certain schools of East Asian thought and practice, to introduce "The West" by which he meant his own WASPy sort of people, to ideas that, at the time, had a great deal of appeal.

It was a time of extreme anxiety in the U.S., where, like today, people were looking for enemies under the bed and expecting Nuclear Conflagration at any time. These TV shows were recorded Before: The Cuban Missile Crisis, Martin Luther King's march on Alabama, the Birth Control Pill (just barely), psychadelic drug culture, and all the associated events that were associated with the counterculture of the Sixties. He was doing this in the centre of a Western School philosophy in finally pinning down the nature of experience (in vast volumes that were to thinking what the mummified corpse is to the living man).

What's wonderful about them is not that he was point-of-fact accurate (he's better than some, like Rexroth, but oversimplifies far too many things) or gave proper context to the concepts he was talking about (thousands of years of variation over history are entirely absent from his discussions), but that he uses a Western craving for reductionism combined with an Eastern appreciation for the indefinability of the Numinous. (see, I'm doing that cultural oversimplification right there, just trying to talk about this!)

In that, though, I think he came up with a hybrid philosophy that was at the same time attractively simple and incredibly subversive.

I like to think of him as one of America's great philosophers, in the same way that Leonard Cohen is one of its great poets (never mind that niether of them were born in the U.S., it's where you hang your hat that counts). He just chose to use the media at hand to do what Philosophers should do: allow life to continue by supplanting the dross of the past.

So, that's my challenge to the question of cultural appropriation: When you fail to subvert your own culture when appropriating another, you are performing cultural appropriation, and deserve to be called out on it. If you don't, you are performing synthesis, and in so doing, allowing both to continue in a new direction.

But take a look for yourself—If you only have half an hour, take a look at the first one, "Man and Nature":

20140809 Hosta Blossom

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Hosta Blossom

Don't Surround Yourself With Yourself

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This is my worried pup, my friend and companion for nine years, until she passed away last January:



She was badly abused when she was in her first years, and as a consequence, walked with a limp, and had no friends other than humans. The dog rescue owner tried to get her to socialize with other dogs, but she spent her entire time after being rescued in a box, cowering and trembling at the noise of the other dogs.

But one day, she finally overcame her fear. With anger. She learned to lash out at the other dogs, tear their throats, and beat them into submission. Somewhere along the line, she never learned to recognize the moment, so important to the social hierarchy of wolves, that you have defeated your enemy. She took on all dogs, from terriers to mastiffs and injured them and was injured in return, and would not stop until she was forcibly restrained and removed from the presence of the other dog.

The rescue owner believes this is because her previous owner took her from her mother too early and put her in a situation where other badly socialized dogs were encouraged to attack her. Whatever the reason, we took her on because we didn't want more than one dog and we worked at home, so we didn't need to worry about her getting out and attacking other dogs, and we could kennel her herself, or find somebody to watch over her if we were away.

In the picture above, I think it's pretty clear to make out the worry on her face. She's got her ears up and her eyes pensive (even though she's blind at this point) because there's a dog barking in the distance, and she's preparing for an encounter. Most of all, she's just plain anxious. Anxiety ruled her life.

This is a 10 Litre food-grade plastic bucket:



On the rescue farm, there were a lot of these about, and horse buckets, and things like that. Horse buckets, she loved to eat. She would sit down with one and bite off a tiny bit, swallow it, and move on to the next. As far as we can understand it, it was because the chunks made the butterflies in her belly go away. It was a sort of destructive self-medication. But, as the rescue person said "she passes them well, so it's not much to worry about". We had to keep soft plastic things away from her when she moved in with us.

But the other habit she developed out of her anxiety was to run around the paddock with one of these food-grade buckets on her head, barking at the top of her voice. Whenever she saw a bucket free, she'd tip it over her head and run like a mad thing barking barking barking. She did this compulsively until the buckets were taken away. After a while of owning her, we discovered that she was slightly deaf in one ear. I suspect this was the ear that was deepest in the bucket.

So why did she do it?

Well, the way I see, when she did that, she couldn't see any other dogs and her voice was so loud it could drown out all the others. There was a comfort for her in that, to be affirmed that her bark was the loudest and the strongest and could conquer all the others. At that time in her life, she needed that kind of assurance.

She was the closest thing I've ever had to a child, and I like to think that she taught me a lot. In this case, she taught me about anxiety, anger, and social media. I try to remember that no matter how I feel I'm right in some matter of opinion, when I get a visceral reaction to the stupid, wilfully-ignorant, violent bullshit that I'm reading... the reaction of surrounding myself with my own opinions, through re-posting and re-tweeting of people who agree with me, and by artificially amplifying my own opinions.

This has been a particularly bad month for that, because the Israel/Palestine conflict is very near to my heart.

So it's times like this where I try to remember my old friend. I think about that dog that runs around barking with a bucket over her head, and I try to not be that dog.

So, my firends, here is my advice: Just don't be that dog. Okay? And if you see me with a bucket over my head, feel free to call me out on it.

Suggestions for cat toys?

AM
Any good suggestions for TOYS for entertaining NOCTURNAL CATS? Like the kind that hide under the bed all day but go for an eight-hour extended chase each other around the apartment every night kind of cats?

You'd Maybe Think There's Something Wrong

in his cups
My twenty-five year-old Medieval Scampini deck is undergoing a cleaning. It's been so overused that the edges are fraying and specked with dirt, and in the process of cleaning them, I'm going back to sources to rejuvinate my outlook on them. It's a kind of meditation, and a little bit of a side-study on something that isn't WORK. Not a programming book. Not a current novel. Not a short story in a current magazine. I don't get enough simple research and study like that, so this is how I'm keeping sane during my protracted housebound state.

Just now, I was stumbling over the five of swords. It's one of the cards that is often hard to define in a reading, since it can mean a great variety of things. Here's my five of swords, newly cleaned:



Rider-Waite has the most famous image of the five of swords, and I think one of the most clear images. It tells the story in nuance: see the defeat of the other soldiers, who do not acknowledge the querant's victory, but have turned their backs on him. The querant, however, doesn't care, but picks up their swords as a trophy. There is a smirk on his face, more of a gloat. He is clearly self-satisfied, and unaware that this victory is actually a defeat. Here's the image:



But I think Rider-Waite has sacrificed some meaning for clarity, and so I prefer Luigi Scapini's version. Five swords pierce the stone bower of a reclining figure, smoking hashish in his slippers and nightdress, resting his head on a pile of books of magic. Four of the figures are vampiric/demonic, and the middle one is symbolic of Dagon. If you read Judges 16.23, the connection is obvious. Samson is brought out of prison on the feast day of Dagon, in Gaza, to entertain the Philistines. He does his bronze-age equivalent of a suicide bombing, and kills everyone in the temple.

So, the defeat side of the five of swords is much more palpable in Scapini. It's the defeat from being too comfortable in your power, too sure of your success and gloating on it while your shelter crumbles around you. By defeating your enemies without honour, you have set the seeds for your own destruction.

I hadn't known about the Samson imagery until today, when I went to identify the triton-figure on top, and found the connection to Dagon, and to Samson, and to... Gaza.

So the reason I wrote this is because it dawned on me that what I've been watching on the news, and reading online, and listening to in the background is Israel's great Five of Swords moment.

[I might still write it. It's about impunity, and it mentions Martin Luther King]

So I wanted to write something about this. State my opinion firmly and clearly.

But just today, I saw this excellent article, "The Country that Wouldn't Grow Up" in Haaretz by Tony Judt, of NYU, which says exactly what I want to say. Go and read it. It's pithy and to the point on every issue.
one handed writing

So I've got my foot wrapped up and lots of ibuprofen in my system, and I'm sitting down in the basement of a church registering people for archery classes when a notice comes in that an anthology, The Sea has just been released from Dark Continents Publishing, which is an interesting little publishing house with an international cast of characters, including Nerine Dorman, who is a South African writer and editor.

In it, I have a retelling of the Marie Celeste myth, "A Cruel Intemperate Sea" which works on the theory that of the casks of alcohol in the hold, the leaky, empty ones, have a role. As do vengeful spirits of the sea.

By co-incidence Dark Continents also just published a book, Erased by Liz Strange, who is also a Kingstonian, and her editor was also Nerine. Perhaps it's something in the water.

Anyhow, it's out now and available at the usual suspects:

20140627 Peony

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Peony

20140619 Rose

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White rose, with flies

20140617 Columbine

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Columbine

Nochd's gur fuar i, o hi ibh o

Eris Exultant
One for wasabi_poptart. A little tedious to watch at first, but it has an interesting payoff:

Eat the Invasive

My Brother

This recipe is only really of interest to people living in the Northeastern America, from Maryland through Minnesota, including most of Quebec, Ontario, and Manitoba, or so I understand. Reason being, that's where Garlic Mustard is considered a dangerous invasive weed. It makes zillions of seeds that will mature even on dead plants and is extremely hard to kill. It takes over forest undergrowth and strangles the native species, and it is also biennial, so you have to come back for at least two years after you've attempted to exterminate it to find the next round.


The reason it's here, however, is that it was a potherb, and one way of destroying those seeds is to cook and eat them. So when you've uprooted a bunch of plants (try to get them in the early spring before the white flowers open, since that's when they're the least bitter) give them a good wash:



Then you can hold them by the root and with the crook of the index finger and thumb, strip away the leaves and the flowery crown and/or seedpods:



They're tastier with some onion or garlic already in the soup. In this version, I'm going totally gathered-food, with wild leeks and wild garlic as well. Beware picking wild garlic, though, because white death camas. This is stuff I let somebody else gather for me:



Chop and fry, in butter naturally, the whites of the garlic and leeks:



Add leftover cooked rice as a thickener, and enough water to start cooking the garlic and leeks together. Add salt and/or stock to make as much soup as you want to make, proportional to the greens:



Chop the garlic-mustard leaves and flowers and the green parts of your garlic and leeks, and put half into the soup.



With 1/2 the garlic mustard cooked (about 20 mins light simmer), I like to use a hand-blender to smooth out the base and the rice:



Then finish with the other 1/2 of the garlic mustard and greens to give the soup some texture. Sour cream is a good addition.


Smart Alec

Ever noticed how RUDE Conservative pundits* are on TV? They constantly interrupt, especially if the person arguing the other side is making a good point. It's like they want to shout down some reality they object to. I keep hoping that somebody will just pull one down to the table by the ear and say "Shut your trap when I'm talking, OK?"

But no, just like reasonable people have a bias towards facts and politeness, it never happens. However, I've been taking note of what they are objecting to, and from what I can tell, it's because the discussion has become a violation of one of their sacred cows. Here are the cows I've been able to suss out. The things they hate the most, and can't stand thinking about are:

  1. Questioning the wisdom of the Bible

    From what I can tell, the "Bible" is what it says it is, "some books". It's like what was left when somebody's house was burning, so they grabbed an armful of books and legged it to safety with a lawbook, a family history, a volume of Mother Goose stories, a songbook, a bundle of letters, a collection of memorable quotations, an underground comic book, and a porno mag. Not even its editorial committee was sure about it, and even wrote "not so sure about these" on a couple of volumes.

    If the Bible was literally, miraculously, the word of God, then, based on the contradictions alone, God is either certifiably insane or a liar or both, and so I'm deeply suspicious of anyone who makes any claim to holiness for the Bible. It makes me think they never read it, or if they did, they didn't really think about it, or if they both read it and understood it, then they're selling a hoax of some kind.

    So why do people fall for this shit? Some hoaxter has convinced them that they're going to hell for eternity if they don't. But the hoax outlived the hoaxter, and now only the fear is left. That fear is a tool for conservatives, to they protect it like a child. I's a built-in weapon to control people with, and the most valuable tool in the conservative repetoire.

  2. Pointing out instability and unfairness in the free market

    The market is not fair, balanced, or stable. It never has been. There is the mental illusion that a bunch of random trading will balance out in the long run by a rule of averages, but markets are anything but random. They very much follow the intent of the investor, the bigger investor (or event affecting a group of investors) causing more of a trend.

    History is the best witness of the instability of markets: Every market-driven uptick in history has simply been a reflection of the boom and bust cycle of innovation. Something new comes in for trade, it becomes sought after, the market becomes saturated, and the wealth that can be made from it bottoms out. The bubbles are not the exception, they are the rule, and quite appropriately, the model in nature that most closely resembles the market is the bubbly kind. Yeast starts small, grows like crazy, takes over the medium, and then dies in the alcoholic waste of its own consumption.

    But in the end, the real winner is always the one "with more toys". The bigger the pool of cash, the more probable its ability to increase its size. In fact, the more deregulated the market, the more likely it will be that those that have will get more, and those that don't, won't. That's why conservatives can't stand having the sanctity of the free market challenged. It costs them.

  3. Pointing out flaws in the U.S. Constitution:

    I know, non-Americans: You're thinking, yes, but what does this have to do with me? Well, A LOT. Everything that comes out from the U.S., from news reports to movies to music has in the unexamined core of it, the core values of free speech, access to firearms, people being created equal, etc., etc. Most American values ultimately rest in this document of revolutionary thinking.... well, revolutionary for 1760.

    Problem is, over 250 years have intervened. I'm not just pointing out that it took over fourscore and seven years to get African-Americans included, and even longer for Women... but my GOD this is an out-of-date manuscript. You don't need MONTHS to decide who's President, because we're not delivering results by horseback anymore. Regular elections only entrench the politicians into a never-ending campaign cycle, distracting them from regular work. The lack of rules about how to manage the Legislature have turned the intentional crippling of government into total paralysis. Not to mention the Bill of Rights! How a bill of rights can fail to include humans without dicks or with melanin in their skin is mind-boggling in itself, but to still be founded in the idea of "No Standing Army", (because of which maintaining sidearms is a duty, not just a right), and "Freedom of Speech" including incitement to hate crimes?

    No, I think we've grown up some as a society since the late 18th Century. You know, despite its flaws and the fact that it was often not properly enforced, I think you can see that other democracies have more modern and relevant charters of citizen rights, for example Canada's. I'm sure there are other, better ones out there, but please.... PLEASE, Americans, update your idea of human rights for the good of the rest of us. Because through your money, your influence, and your media, we're getting a pretty fucked-up message here.

So, yeah. That's why I find conservative pundits so rude. And those are the three areas where I think reform could best happen.


*In America. Your experiences may vary on location, but "rudeness under the guise of plain speaking" is a general rule.

20140524 Tulip

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Tulip

20140518 Bladder Cherry

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Bladder Cherry

20140517 Allium

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Allium Opening

20140514 Giger Papaya

the Eye!

Giger Papaya

20140513 First Geranium

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First Geranium

20140520 Yellow Crocus

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Yellow Crocus

You Don't Owe Me Anything

Smart Alec
If I EVER hear the "we lost 3,000 in Iraq" again, I'm going to lose my cool.

You lost 210,000. OK, you can add your 3,000. There you go.

YOU LOST 213,000. Some say as much as 650,000, but that is based on mathematical models for smaller conflicts, and is probably not accurate. 213,000 or so is DOCUMENTED.

For every American killed in Iraq, at LEAST. AT LEAST. SEVENTY Iraqis died because you went to war there.

Don't tell me that "oh, but it was a majority thing. I couldn't help it. We have a legal process, and it was decided that we should declare war in Iraq because <fill in bullshit reason here>."

Don't you FUCKING DARE.

Bang. Your loved brother caught a bullet to the head.

I am sincerely sorry. He didn't deserve that. Even though he knew the risks, and you knew the risks, and maybe you prayed for him, and maybe it was completely unfair, and maybe there are children who will never know what a marvellous man he was. Or sister, woman, who knows. No, it's not fair. I would weep myself, if I knew him or her. But I don't. I'm not going to pretend to feel things I don't. That would be even more insulting than just being callous about this issue.

And every man, woman, and child who suffered because of the war deserved better. I sincerely believe that.

But please. 3,000?

No. A QUARTER OF A MILLION or thereabouts.

OK, can you quantify a genocide? Six million Jews? Thirty million enemies of Stalin?

No, you can't.

You know, my own opinion is when you deny that a genocide happened... or not just a genocide (it has a very specific definition which I encourage you to actually look up), but a mass murder, you are complicit.

Which means when you say that the Iraq war killed 3,000, you are complicit in the death of 70 times as many people...

People who were:

...buying bread when the bombs hit
...in the wrong place at the wrong time
...got a power-drill in the head because their name was "Hussein" and not "Ahmed".
...had their skin burned off because they lived in a town where some CIA contractors got torched.
...went to the parade on Ashura to celebrate
...reported on a problem with bribes
...had the wrong name
...took their kids to a bomb shelter that might have been used by government forces
...were just a little too dark or light in their skin
...spoke another language that was suspicious
...were simply unliked and in an inopportune place

Listen. When you declare war, you are responsible. You CHOSE to declare war. The things that happen aren't just "those things that happen in war". You chose that they would happen because you chose to go to war. You are responsible.

So don't ever ever ever tell me that the Iraq war killed 3,000.

Because when an invader counts the cost of an invasion solely on their own losses, they are, by implication, saying that the invasion was sanctioned by them.

Take Comfort in your Friends

The Power and the Passion
Thinking about suicide (no, not mine, just suicide in general. Thank you for your concern, but this is NOT about me right now)... suicide can be just as much an act of self-love as an act of self-hate.

I've heard of suicides due to self-hate, but when I look into what the suicides said about themselves, I'm not so sure. Japanese and Roman suicides, for sure, are definitely about preserving an idea of self-worth when such an idea is no longer viable.

And in my own case? I know it's self-hate that makes me sometimes try harder to be more than I actually am. Which is often just as bad as self-love, but it's definitely not suicidal. The more I hate myself, the more firmly I grasp the nettle. (oo, but isn't that painfully Freudian. Well, yes, but FUCK YOU).

And self-love? Tiresome surrounding the self with the self.

Suicide, for me, is an act of self love. An assertion of the perfect self against reality. It's the ultimate in masturbation.

And suddenly, I understand the dying-in-a-motel-from-asphyxiation-misadventure a little better.

Sorry if you read to this point and saw it all along...
Smart Alec
One of my personal heroes (yes, despite my heart two sizes too small and mummified, I actually have a few), Roméo Dallaire, was given the Elie Wiesel award last week. For me, he'll always be that high, timorous voice clipped by audio artifacts on the satphone. Here's a quote from one of his books (Shake Hands with the Devil—well worth reading) that he wrote while "recovering" from those awful days that speaks directly to something that has been a touchstone in my real® life:

"Many signs point to the fact that the youth of the Third World will no longer tolerate living in circumstances that give them no hope for the future. From the young boys I met in the demobilization camps in Sierra Leone to the suicide bombers of Palestine and Chechnya, to the young terrorists who fly planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, we can no longer afford to ignore them. We have to take concrete steps to remove the causes of their rage, or we have to be prepared to suffer the consequences."


And that's the thing and the much of the whole of the thing. Our shadow is large, and may eat us.

Here's a quote from Elie Wiesel himself, though, and I think it's equally relevant for writers, and caps off this thought:

"No one may speak for the dead, no one may interpret their mutilated dreams and visions."
My Brother

"If you write, you need to know how to cook, because being poor is bad enough without balogna sandwiches."

I don't know who said that, but it's true. I don't have any suggestions on how to write, because as far as I can tell, everyone has their own method once you get past the basics, and the basics are covered better by a whole lot of other people who are better at it than me. So let me tell you about something I do know, which is how to eat well for cheap.

Here's how to make soup like the Soup Nazi does, using a piece of meat called mutton breast.

cut for animal bits cut upCollapse )

I Entertain by Picking Brains

Family Man

She's back!

20140424 Interloper of some kind

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Some kind of anemone-like thing coming up next to our Chinodoxa and pretending to belong there.

20140424 Siberian Squill

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Siberian Squill

With Nail in Eye
I know you've been here before: You're talking to a friend about her long-term, borderline abusive relationship. He hasn't really done anything illegal, but he just has this tendency to be hurtful, controlling, making himself out to be the victim in any argument, making her into the bad guy with the kids and otherwise being manipulative, mendacious, etc., etc... You believe he's cheating on her and you don't want to say so because it would just add one more thing to her long list of worries about him. So you let her talk and get it off her chest, and give some advice about setting boundaries, and eventually, she goes back home feeling a little better, a little more confident and assertive...

...until the next week when she's back on your couch again doing the same thing. This goes on and on for years, until it finally dawns on you that... YOU'RE PART OF THE PROBLEM. If you weren't there to let her blow steam and talk it out and have a bit of a cry and so on... She would have dumped that asshole years ago. You're just enabling her to maintain a crappy relationship, and not only is it wasting her life, but she's wasting yours with this codependency bullshit.

After a while, you even start to tally the hours and the pots of tea and the going out to the pub that you've been doing to make her feel better, and you see that it's costing you money, not just time. And there's all those lost opportunities that you have because you were at home on the weekend consoling her rather than getting to know people and do interesting things. And all this builds up into a huge festering pile of resentment. Eventually, you stop seeing this friend of yours, you cut her off, you let her sleep in the bed she made.

Is that being a friend? I don't think so.

But what can you do?

I realize, perhaps while thinking about the period twenty to ten years ago, that I've spent the decade between ten years ago and now doing this social networking thing. I've been both the woman with the abusive relationship and the longsuffering friend through all this time, and I'm thinking.... This is not working. Not for either of us.

What kind of brought it to a head is YET ONE MORE BULLSHIT EVENT FROM THE SFWA.

It's not a particularly bad one. Some bigots rallied around a bigot and got him some votes. Happens every election in every European democracy. There's always the token skinhead member of parliament, and most everyone seethes to see him there, and the minority rejoice to get one up on the system.

But here's the thing: I've begun to notice how much time I devote to this codependency. I'm beginning to see how there's this one country, and this one country has these serious problems with equality. Race, gender, and economic equality. And this broken relationship it has with equality manages to inveigle itself into every. single. online. issue. ever.

I'm also noticing this because someone (I won't say who, because she'd resent me for bringing her into this petty argument) said that one thing you need to know about Americans is that "we assume everyone is just like us." And it's true. I know because I was raised American and it took twenty years of marriage to a non-American for me to get a full grasp of the enormity of how this is true. We Americans (and possibly all humans, but being raised American biases me) try to put all things into our own context rather than try to understand someone else's.

To the point where we actually have the fucking gall to tell other people how to run their societies, when we're so abysmally bad at running our own. The hypocricy is STAGGERING. [But that's my own bugbear. Being raised as a Foreign Service brat makes me put everything into the context of international relations. See? AMERICAN!]

So I am going to try (AGAIN, because I've tried before, and even closed down an earier LJ account to prevent myself from sucking at this bilious teat) to stop enabling this relationship. Now... back to pretty flowers.

20140422 Emerging Hyacinth

the Eye!

Emerging Hyacinth

20140421 Red Crocus in Sunset

the Eye!

Red Crocus in Sunset

Tchango
Perhaps I've made an amalgam of memories
But today, twenty years later, I find
My mind can't move far from the circling
Swirling images of water-bleached-bald
and bloated bodies, like obscene starfish
filling the mud-dark pools under Rusumo falls,
where tourists used to play
on their way to see the Gorillas in the mist.

A thin, sad, and oh-so-tired voice stuttering
in the digital stacatto of the sattelite relay.
Nobody knows anything, no, I can't confirm, but I can tell you...

Twenty years ago, the machetes were falling
falling,
falling,
falling.

And we knew nothing
So we did nothing,
Were worth nothing.




We knew.

20140417 Fading Crocus Petal

the Eye!

Fading crocus petal

the Eye!

Got a nice surprise today. Got a call from the Ontario Conservation Areas authority saying that a photo I entered in last years' contest won first place in the nature is design category. I didn't realize there was a prize. Apparently, I'm going to be sent an iPad, which will come in handy for the Safari App from O'Reilly, for sure. Here's the photo, on the right.

Fungus

I was actually going to start taking photos again for this blog starting today, but I think I'll wait until tomorrow now. The light is finally bright again, and there's all sorts of things coming up at last, after that horrifically long winter that ended... yesterday.

But wait, there's more! Because just a few days ago, I also won one of the two honourable mentions in the Merril Collection Short Story Contest for "The Politics of Bird Flight", which asakiyume will be happy to know.

Who Gnu?
Gosh, I almost never post here lately. Unfortunately, it's because I don't have much to say, not because I don't want to.

So for want of anything else, here's a website I threw together this week: The Chiaroscuro Reading and Workshop Series, because the free host shut us down for having the word "lesbian" on the front page. It was an auto shutdown, designed to stop porn, but still... took four days to get it back. And we can do better in-house, I think.

Anyway, let me know if you see any problems, please.
one handed writing
Thinking about reviews, it occurs to me that I never posted here about my first pro-magazine review. Here up at Locus, by Lois Tilton, with a "Recommended" next to it. I've recently been told this is kind of a coming-of-age ritual for our tribe, like being published in ASIM is for our Australian cousins, or Tesseracts is for us Canadians.

(Something I'm still trying to do, with three strikes so far. Just got the reject from Tesseracts last week. Maybe I shouldn't have sent them the immortal-gay-viking-autoerotic-asphyxiation-story-that-I-wrote-because-David-Carradine-made-me-wonder-what-this-famous-wankers-dying-in-motels-is-all-about story).

If We Shadows about to be released

Anticipation 09 Workshop
I've been waiting to be able to share this. My good friend and writing workshop colleague, D. E. Atwood's YA novel (If We Shadows) is going to be released on an accelerated schedule next week. Atwood has a real understanding for the difficulties of teenage life to begin with, but deals with the particular difficulties of being a transgendered teen with aplomb and verisimilitude that I've not seen often, and handles the genre elements with a minimum of drama and gimmickry.

I'm not a great reader of YA (surprise, surprise), but while this novel was being threshed out, I was impressed by the clean, accessible style, the pace, and the plot development. I kept thinking... this person knows writing, is professional, and has a keen understanding of her genre.... this book is a winner!

So, if this kind of story appeals to you or somebody who knows this situation, I strongly recommend you pop by the website and pick up a copy.

For All Those Born Beneath an Angry Star

Who Gnu?
I read an article about how the big investment banks were buying locations near the NY Stock exchange in order to have the shortest fibre optic pipe into the trading floor, so that those microseconds of difference pay of in millions in the great horse race that defines the fate of the world's economy, and it seemed obvious to me that big money and big data are an excellent example of how the future is here now, just not distributed evenly. Not quite pissing trickling down, so to speak.

I brought it up as an example during a discussion at last years' Can-Con of real-world horror stories just waiting for the payoff. In the past year, I've seen little to dissuade me that this is a dangerous direction we've chosen to go in.

But what is SF, but a playpen no normalize us for horrors (and occasional triumphs) we have not yet fully grasped. So, without further ado, may I point you (not altruistically) in the direction of the marvellous acwise and brni's Grump's Journal, now doing service as Unlikely Story, the Cryptography Issue, where my attempt to capture some of this horror, braided in with much thinkiness about artificial intelligence and identity.

I hope you enjoy. Better still, I hope you think to make a contribution equivalent to what you would pay for a copy (or better), even though it's being offered online for free in the full spirit of open media.
Mirror Madness
So after a rash of telephone calls over the past three days where the caller hangs up as soon as I say my name....

I started blocking the numbers. They were all from Toronto or Manitoba.

Then the last one came from the Bahamas.

This is not doing my baseline paranoia any good at all.

I know it's very likely all coincidence.

But I've stopped saying my name when I pick up the phone. ;)
Awww

Outpouring Cover

Just got word from Dean Francis Alfar that the Yolanda anthology is now available. I'll add more links as they are posted, but for now there is [EDITED]:

And here's the very excellent TOC, which makes this book such a bargain even if it WASN'T for a good cause, which it very much is:

  • “The Wordeaters” by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz
  • “Invisible Empire of Ascending Light” by Ken Scholes
  • “The Photograph” by Veronica Montes
  • “A Moment in Time” by Charie D. La Marr
  • “A Gentlemen's Agreement” by Susan S.Lara
  • “X” by Karissa Chen
  • “Cunning Syncronicity” by Berrien C. Henderson
  • “Godsend” by Joel Pablo Salud
  • “Ondoy” by Laura McPhee-Browne
  • “Rescuing the Rain God” by Kate Osias
  • “The Wish Head” by Jeffrey Ford
  • “Flash Forward” by Jhoanna Lynn B. Cruz
  • “Where Sky and Sea Meet” by Dan Campbell
  • “Arrow” by Barry King
  • “Finding Those Who Are Lost” by Celestine Trinidad
  • “Synchronicity” by Victor Fernando R. Ocampo
  • “We're All Stories in the End” by Matthew J. Rogers
  • “Silverio and the Eidolon” by Vincent Michael Simbulan
  • “Tinkerers” by Jay Wilburn
  • “Finding” by David B. Ramirez
  • “Ikan Berbudi (Wise Fish)” by Jason Erik Lundberg
  • “Pilar Escheverria” by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard
  • “Scraps” by Michael Haynes
  • “Freeborn in the City of Fallacies” by Andrew Drilon
  • “Storm Warning” by Lilian Csernica
  • “The Nameless Ones” by Gabriela Lee
  • “Whispers” by Grant J. McMaster
  • “Highway Run” by Alexander Marcos Osias
  • “Black Sun” by Todd Nelsen
  • “Life at the Lake's Shore” by Alex Shvartsman
  • “Aliens” by Fiona Mae Villamor
  • “Little Italy” by Isa Lorenzo
  • “Discipline” by Rebecca McFarland Kyle
  • “Unmaking” by Julie C. Day
  • “Fresh Fruit” by Yvette Tan
  • “The Sparrows of Climaco Avenue” by Kenneth Yu
  • “Gellen's Retirement Plan” by Tim Sullivan
  • “When We Were Witches” by Nikki Alfar
  • “All the Little Gods We Are” by John Grant
  • “Tuba Knight” by Cesar Miguel G. Escaño

Keep Her Up, Both Night and Day

8.5
So, after 479 days, Harper Collins Digital got back to me with a form rejection, so my whole self-manufactured drama llama ding dong over that is over. Still, to make it to the last four days out of 4500 submissions isn't bad, and it IS a difficult book to sell for a dozen reasons I could name.

In more important news, Seeger passed away. I'm fortunate to have been able to see him play four years or so ago, when he came through Kingston. He told a story about last time he came through, and had to be smuggled in because he was listed as a subversive communist pinko atheist scum by both the U.S. and Canada. One thing never changes, it seems, is the disproportionate amount of fear the secure and safe have. Perhaps it's a subconscious acknowledgement that the security comes at a price someone else is paying. I'd like to think so. But I'd rather have the lack of fear, if it's all the same to you.

But anyway, back to Seeger. When I think back on songs I still remember from being three or four years old, I can only dredge up "Puff the Magic Dragon" and this:



It was only later that I learned that he wrote "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" and other fixtures the grade-school music class. Which I suppose, are also a thing of the past, thanks to tax-cutting security-fearful political shenanigans.

And drama llama ding dong.

Do not speak ill of the dead

The Mouth!
Do not speak ill of the dead

Do not speak ill of the dead

Do not speak ill of the dead

I must remember

Do not speak ill of the dead

It's Everybody's Jump Start

Our Rob or Us
There's something about being "Mr. Jones". You're not a number. You're real, but at the same time, you're average and you're not quite sure if you're unique. In fact, you know you're pretty average. But you look around and know everyone wants to keep up with you. So there's a pride in that. But beyond that... what is there?

Well, here's three versions. Three generations. Boomers, X-ers, and millenials. Funny how much nothing has changed.

Pay attention. If you ever wondered what the changes in pop culture are over the past fifty years, well, I seriously can't find a better example.


lyrics to Ballad of a Thin ManCollapse )

Talking Heads take on Mr. JonesCollapse )

Counting Crows Lyrics to Mr. JonesCollapse )

Longer Boats are Coming to Win Us

Family Man
2013 started with me chasing a woman-girl through a train wreck caused by nobody being at the wheel. We brought the train into station, but ultimately, it's the person who delivers the train to the station is the one that gets blamed for the condition of it. There are some pieces to this engine that should never have been put in them. But persistence and work means eventually, things should wrap up rationally and I can step away from something that at least works, if it isn't ugly and overburdened by unrealized potential. It was too distracting and became far more personal than work should ever become, and it did my health and love of work serious damage. So my resolution in 2014 is no more coddling of woman-girls or man-boys. You have to be this grown-up to ride this train.

However that works out, whether by dropping consulting or partnering with others, my goal is to and get onto a regular schedule with a team of people where some sort of accountability exists, but where at the middle level, not everyone is trying to resumé-hop back and forth between the private and public sector. In the mean time, bills need paying and machines need poking, so I'm diving back into regular work on Tuesday, with a regular schedule to follow. Interviews have been had, and results have STILL not been posted, so I need to do some follow-up.

But there is a difference in the wee days of 2014. After two weeks of enforced avoidance of all things that do not have to do with the personal, I've been having real dreams again. Some silly, some profound, but mostly just personal and unremarkable. I've had a chance to let go of some unnecessary chores in 2013, and the calluses they left behind (both mental and physical) are softening and sloughing off. If you live by the seasons, there is a season of dying, and it's now over. Now comes the lean months before Spring. A time for finishing large projects, for maintaining tools and learning skills.

On queue, the two-year blockage I've had over the novel is clearing up, and the plot is falling back into place. I recognize that was something that was going on, and watching General Orders 9 was brining that to the forefront. It has to do with connecting principles, as Jung would have termed them. Causality being one, and his much-misunderstood (it's a known unknown that remains a known unknown to me, but I know that I know something about causality, and so...) "synchronicity" being another. But being able to put one in one toolbox and the other in another and to recognize them as tools, not as fetters, is an important thing, I think, for everyone to achieve at some time in their life. My personal Mecca, if I may blaspheme with impunity, but I've made the pilgrimage again and will likely do it again some times before I die. And this journey back will have a novel in it.

Perhaps its our nature as symmetric flesh to divide so much into pairs, and so there may be other connecting principles, but there seems to be a cluster of left brain in causality, rationality, linearity, and a right brain in synchronicity, symbolism, association. We can't think much further than three dimensions and time, so we have to reduce process to Einsteinian curvatures/densifications of the field, or to the Dragon and the Unicorn, Solve et Coagulo, the caduceus and the divine couple, or some variation of paper folded on itself. Those are the limits of the mind, and it's good to see its own limits, rather than getting caught up in self-reflective/referential mirror-play that leads to infinity. If there is a split, an ultimate "original sin", I still suspect the chasm of that alienation runs down the middle of the hippocampus. But this is a time in history where if we don't close those infinite loops, those open systems, we are likely to take the planet with us. May have done already, "dead species walking".

So the closing line to General Orders 9, that "in the end only one thing matters" resonates. I think I may go back and re-read James Carse and Julian Jaynes while finishing this novel. It will keep me in mind of the underpinnings.

I Fashion My Future on Films in Space

The Power and the Passion
I remember in Islamabad, back around 1980 or 1981, that Orson Welles' The Man Who Saw Tomorrow, about Nostradamus, was playing in the Nafdec Cinema. It was a favourite: gnawing on paan and hearing about New York being destroyed by nuclear missiles. I suspect aficionados of doomsday claim that particular quatrain has to do with 9/11. But I'm too lazy to google it.

I wonder if Sheikh Mullah Omar saw it there, or in Peshawar, or on VHS somewhere, and started wearing a blue turban, which was the de rigeur headdress for the "third antichrist". It wouldn't surprise me. It's a little like Joseph Ratzinger choosing a name, in a way. Or like Muhamar Ghaddafi being found in a culvert clutching a custom made golden gun.

Saw that at Nafdec, too. With all of the kissing edited out by some less prominent mullah.

Not Christopher Lee's best work, in the end.

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The God That Marks The Fall Of Every Sap
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