Saturday, December 31, 2005


A very happy New Year, everyone.

My life is richer for your presence.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Heh--It's been quite a week.

Just a few loose ends to tie up. My dear friend, Ray Wong, is spilling all sorts of made-up secrets about me, on his blog. Something about a wild evening involving Chippendales dancers and Maker's Mark. I told him not to drink so much whiskey. Sheesh, can I help it if the guy is a total lightweight?

It's been meme-madness, and this is apparently the meme Ray is playing with:
"Monday Meme - December 19
If you read this, if your eyes are passing over this right now, (even if we don't speak often) please post a comment with a COMPLETELY MADE UP AND FICTIONAL memory of you and me. It can be anything you want - good or bad - BUT IT HAS TO BE FAKE.

When you're finished, post this little paragraph on your blog and be surprised (or mortified) about what people DON'T ACTUALLY remember about you.

As always, I'd love it if you'd use the 's tag."

Urm...Knowing the bunch of you that post here, I'm a tad bit hesitant, I gotta admit...

Also, the ever-lovely Unique tagged me to write to a photo prompt. You can see the photo on her blog, here.

I sort of cheated, and borrowed a couple of characters from the book-which-shall-not-be-named-lest-its-name-

So here goes:

Somehow, sometimes, storms cleanse the heart that holds them. From complete devastation, you find a place of serenity and simplicity from which you can begin again. Erin was like that, for Matt.

For the rest of his life, his loves would be defined by Erin. He felt certain of it, sitting alone, contemplating the ceiling of his apartment. He even found a small amount of satisfaction in the thought.

Last but certainly not least, go take the My Words Matter pledge. If for no other reason, take the pledge because you do know the power of words.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Holly and Ivy and Stuff

Dawno posts a regular Monday Meme, over at AbsoluteWrite, in the blogging forum.

"Dec. 12th AWMondayMeme

List the holiday songs you know by heart, but only the ones where you know more than just the first verse."

I'm not actually going to do that. I know an awful lot of holiday songs, though; so Dawno's challenge started me thinking about the Christmas songs I love the most, and thinking about Christmas carols, in general.

I love the old songs, like The Holly and the Ivy, probably circa the mid 1700s, but I've seen at least one suggestion that the origins of the song pre-date European Christianity.

The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown
Of all the trees that are in the wood
The holly bears the crown
O the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing of the choir

Musical historian William Studwell classifies "The Holly and the Ivy" as a folk song, and traces its origins to the Gloucestershire region of western England.

The Coventry Carol is another fine old song, from the mid 1500s. There are differing versions, here's one collected from Appalachia, called Lulle Lullay.

Lullay, Thou tiny little Child
Bye-bye, lulle, lullay;
Lullay, Thou tiny little Child,
Bye-bye, lulle, lullay.

Oh sisters two, how may we do
To preserve this day?
This poor Childling for whom we sing
Bye-bye, lulle, lullay.

Herod, the King, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His soldiers in their strength and might,
All children young to slay.

Then woe is me, poor Child, for Thee,
And ever mourn and say,
For at thy parting nor say nor sing
Bye-bye, lulle, lullay.

And when the stars in gather do,
In their far venture stay,
Then smile as dreaming, Little One,
Bye-bye, lulle, lullay.

Revelers going from house to house drinking, celebrating, and singing certainly seems to predate Christian traditions around caroling--after all, the Romans had Bacchus.

There are a number of wassailing songs and traditions. In my internet wanderings, I came across a modern version I hadn't seen, "Homeless Wassail":

"Wassail, wassail,all over the town,
Our cup is white and our ale is brown"
But huddled on the iron grate
we poor and hungry curse our fate.

cho: No wassail bowl for such as these
No turkey scraps, no ale nor cheese,
This Christmas Eve our heart's desire
Is a bottle of gin and a trashcan fire.

Good Christian, mind, as home you go
With dreams of holly and mistletoe
That the holly bears a dreadful thorn
For those who wake to a frozen dawn.

Oh, where is He, that holy child
Once born of Mary, meek and mild?
And whither peace, goodwill to men
Now and forevermore, amen?

All ye who dine with face aglow
In Reninensi atrio (in the Queen's hall---Latin)
Pray pause awile at pleasure's door
And sup some sorrow with the poor.

"Wassail, wassail,all over the town,
Our cup is white and our ale is brown"
This cold and hunger, pain and care
Sweet Jesus Christ, it's hard to bear.

Admittedly a bit far from the festivity of the more usual Christmas songs, but not far at all from the traditional charity associated with this time of the year.

The word "wassail" probably descends from an anglo-saxon "Wæs hal!"--which roughly translates as "be healthy" and resembles the more modern "to your health." (Hopefully I didn't muck that up too badly; I'd hate to make our redoubtable Dr. Nokes cringe...) I'm not one of those folks who needs to claim pagan roots for Christmas, though. I love how old it is, I love the centuries of weight of different cultures and traditions and ideas.

So Merry Christmas, my friends. I'm so very glad you're all here. I wish blessings and good health to you and yours in the coming year.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

December 7th, 1941

Photo of the explosion of the U.S.S. Shaw, from the National Archives.

A strange Pearl Harbor conspiracy site. Here's another one.

1177 souls died aboard the USS Arizona.

Here is a list of those killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor, both civilian and military.

The attack on Pearl Harbor was a defining moment in America's history.

I just wanted to take a moment, and remind y'all it happened today, in 1941.

Update: Jim Macdonald has a terrific post and timeline, and quotes FDR's post-attack speech, over at Making Light. The conversation in the comments that follow his post is fascinating and illuminating.

Terrorism or Free Speech

This is why the Bush administration is so desperate to curtail civil liberties. From today's New York Times:

In bringing the case against Mr. Arian in 2003, the department relied on the easing of legal restrictions under the antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act to present years of wiretaps on the defendants in a criminal context.

In the conversations cited by prosecutors, Mr. Arian was heard raising money for Palestinian causes, hailing recently completed attacks against Israel with associates overseas, calling suicide bombers "martyrs" and referring to Jews as "monkeys and swine" who would be "damned" by Allah.

There are things about our freedom of speech that I'm deeply uncomfortable with. I'm deeply uncomfortable with neo-nazi propaganda. I'm deeply uncomfortable with right-wing Christian condemnation of homosexuality.

What do you guys think? Here are some deeply, deeply disturbing links to aryan-power and neo-nazi sites. Don't click, if you're uncomfortable doing so. I read friggin' everything, and this stuff turns my stomach.

Have we passed the place in our cultural history where it is either necessary or wise to continue to allow this stuff? Does freedom of speech still have a place? Does it still need to apply to these extremes?

I would argue absolutely, yes. I'm curious, though, what y'all have to say about it.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Tagged for a book meme

Tagged by Ray with another book meme--list 15 personal facts and/or preferences about books.

I can deal with book memes, so I'm happy to play.

Here we go:

1--Eudora Welty's prose is so delicious I love to read her aloud, to myself or to others--doesn't matter either way.

2--I actually love to read aloud just in general, now that I think of it. Some authors are better for it than others, though.

3--If I particularly love a book, I'll buy extra copies so I have copies to force on give away to friends and acquaintances

4--My favorite childhood books were The Black Stallion books, and The Happy Hollisters

5--I discovered spec-fic when I found a tattered paperback copy of A.E. Van Vogt's Slan in a box of old books in my dad's auto-shop waiting area--I was completely smitten and besotted with the genre, by the time I reached the end. I promptly read my way through Heinlein and Asimov, that same summer.

6--I wrote my master's thesis primarily on Stephen King's Pet Sematary--much to the bemusement and grudging admiration of my faculty advisor, department chair, and thesis committee. They liked it.

7--I'd rather read than watch anything on TV.

8--I usually have more than one book with me, everywhere I go.

9--I read as much or more nonfiction as fiction.

10--I can't go in a bookstore without buying a book. Or twelve.

11--I'm particularly addicted to How-To sorts of books: How To Tile Your Kitchen With Coconut Shells...How To Make Goat Cheese With An Oversized Tupperware and a Crock Pot...How To Raise Bees In Your Garage Without Being Stung to Death...

You get the idea, I'm sure.

12--I adore reference books. Especially books about words. The longer, more detailed the information, the better. Etymologies are soooooooo sexy...

13--I have too many books. I have books I literally haven't handled in years, but I cart them with me from place to place, whenever I move--and I can't bring myself to get rid of a single one of them.

14--I periodically reread much-loved books because the sense of familiarity is like catching up with a dear old friend. I have books I've read ten or more times.

15--I'm always a bit afraid, when I start a new book by an author I particularly like. I'm afraid this book will disappoint me. I'm afraid this book won't be as good as the author's others, and the let-down will taint the joy I feel when I get the next. It hardly ever happens that way. Still.

My god. Reading the above sounds downright...dysfunctional. Heh.

Okay, I'll tag Medievalist (on her blog of choice)--just leave us a link
Jen, on Creatif
Amy on Ruining My Eyes, if she happens to meander by
and Coyote Beta at Coyote Wild

(hint, hint: Someone should tag Frank, at Remaindered Random Musings
I would have, but I didn't wanna tag everyone I knew, so y'all could spread the love! *grin*)

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

"Once upon a time..."

I love those words. I have, for as long as I can remember. The promise of a story, offered to the listener, given weight by the gravity of ritual incantation.

So here is an autumn tale, just for you.

Once upon a time, far to the north, far from any wide blue ocean, there was a place where winter lasted much longer than it lasts now.

My family lived there on a farm, miles from the nearest town or village.

Nights turned cold after the garden was harvested and my mother had finished canning the apples, tomatoes, at least four kinds of pickles and the green beans; after the potatoes, onions, cabbages, and winter-squash were all stored safely away in the root-cellar; the peas, corn, and carrots bagged and stacked in the freezer.

Soon the frost would come every night, growing deeper and holding the land more firmly with every shortening day.

When the days turned cold enough that meat would keep well in the smoke-house, and the neighbor's wood-stove scented the cold air in the mornings, then it was time to butcher hogs.

My father would choose a morning and wake me long before daylight. I'd help him drive a couple of hogs up the livestock chute into the stock-rack on the truck, and we'd drive the few miles to the neighboring Hutterite colony. The defroster in the truck didn't work very efficiently, and my father would scrape a hole just big enough to see through in the the thick frost on the windshield. He'd drive with his head craned down to peer through the slowly widening clear spot.

When we got to the colony, my father would find one of the men, and together we'd unload the hogs into the holding pen. My part was really done, then. I'd wait shivering with the truck. Sometimes there was snow on the ground already. Usually, heavy frost rimed the branches of the cottonwoods, glittering in the headlights of the truck and light falling from the windows of nearby buildings.

In the frosty pre-dawn, the colony women in their long black dresses, with a bright, print aprons and head-scarves were already at work in the communal kitchens, baking bread for the day and preparing breakfast. One of them would bring me a smoking chunk of spicy homemade sausage wrapped in a warm breadroll, and a mug of cocoa. She'd offer it with a smile, and a glance at my father for his permission.

I'd stand in the pool of light from the big flood-lights on the barn, waiting. A small girl, seven or eight years old, munching soft bread soaking up hot fat from the sausage, sipping steaming cocoa.
Gradually, the sky would lighten to winter-gray. My feet so cold I couldn't feel them, by then, my father would finally come back with the men to load the carcasses--butchered, cleaned, bristles scraped. We'd drive home to breakfast, and my mother would spend the rest of the day cutting up meat. Over the next three or four days, the hams and bacons would be injected with brine and packed in sugar-cure. She'd carefully weigh the scraps and trimmings, season them, and grind the meat into sausage.

If you've never been inside a smokehouse--it's the most remarkable mix of salt, sweet, and smoke smells driven deep into the walls, season after season. Loops of sausage in natural casing, hams, and bacons hung to smoke slow, until they're all salty and pink; then all of it wrapped in heavy waxed brown paper and packed into the big chest-freezer on the back porch, stored against the long winter coming.

I don't know how to describe that feeling--the feeling of the winter's food stored against the coming dark and cold. It's not something people often experience during these days of fresh tomatoes and oranges, year-round. It seems very much to belong to a different place and time.

Once upon a time.

Monday, November 28, 2005

WalM*rt Christmas Riots

I've been bemusedly perusing the news reports of Black Friday brawls breaking out in the local Evil Empire Retailer Super-Centers.

The Free Republic reported:

In scenes reminiscient of the Great Depression, Americans lined up early this morning outside stores across the country as word of shortages of Christmas gifts caused riots when the stores opened.

With the price of gasoline and heating oil having hit record highs this year, consumers waited in the freezing cold to be first in line when the doors opened at 5 a.m. to buy laptop computers and other essentials before supplies were exhausted.

Riots at stores from Washington, D.C. to Washington state and as far south as Florida were reported. Shocked mothers complained their children were traumatized by the violence. Many expressed fears their children would be afraid to open their Christmas gifts for fear of causing a riot.

What on earth?

From a Yahoo News story: "Tempers flared at a Wal-Mart in Orlando, Fla., where a man allegedly cut in line to buy a bargain notebook computer and was wrestled to the ground, according to a video shown by an ABC affiliate, WFTV-TV."

Apparently, some folks are blaming this behavior on the Bush Economy.

"George Bush has never had to get up at three in the morning to wait in line for Wal-Mart to open so he could get a $400 laptop for his children," observed Robert Rubin, former Clinton administration Treasury secretary. "Bush's irresponsible tax cuts have hurt working families. I haven't seen lines like this since the breadlines of Republican Herbert Hoover's Great Depression. The shortages of Christmas gifts at this time of year shows how much Bush has squandered the Clinton legacy of sound economic policies."
Okay, you know what? This is just appallingly bad behavior, economy or no economy. These are not people trying to get a loaf of bread to take home to feed hungry kids. These shoving matches are over cheap laptops and plasma TV sets.

What in the name of all the little green gods has come over us, that we'd act like this?

What is so important to you that you'd publically brawl in the parking lot of the World's Largest Retailer, just so you didn't miss out on the one-day bargain price?

I honestly can't think of any single material thing that I value that much.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The Holiday Season kicks off, TODAY!


And a very happy Thanksgiving, my friends, to you and yours.

Now I must go and cook stuff. *grin*

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Victorian era and my Varga-girl shirt...

My rather flippant comment about the Varga Girl shirt, at the end of my last post, led to an interesting response from Sour Duck--and a link to an excellent and thought-provoking article: "Vargas' Blonde Sambos".

Now, since I'm a sucker for links, and an even bigger sucker for googling, you can probably guess how I've spent the greater portion of the evening. Serendipitously, this all ties into the topic of how women are portrayed in the media--hence, circles right back to the deodorant-ad discussion.

Not that straying off-topic ever daunted me. Still, it's nice to at least pretend.

So come with me...this is interesting stuff.

Andrea Dworkin's article, "Vargas' Blonde Sambos", is fairly damning of the whole pin-up girl phenomenon--Varga Girls, in particular.

Among other things, she writes:

Vargas slimes women by trivialization or, perhaps more maliciously, by creating invisibility. The faces are all cosmetic, not a life line in them, the so-called women mostly blonde, with an emphasis in all the drawings on the breast or vaginal area. There are lots of bright red nails but no rib cages or muscles, no fat because there is no flesh; there are hard nipples, vacant smiles, painted toe nails, infantilization, hairless bodies; big eyebrows to designate the hairiness not seen; the blondes are good and childlike; the redheads are a little tougher; black hair is the sign of the wicked woman.
The drawings are propagandistic, fetishized "proto-porn", to Dworkin, and hardly even qualify as pop art.

My problem with this premise is that it takes as granted that pornography--or proto-porn, as the case may be--and art are mutually exclusive. I'm not convinced that's true. I'm also not convinced it is NOT true--but I'm not quite prepared to make it a gimme.

Ms. Dworkin also nearly ignores the historical, cultural, and artistic context of Alberto Vargas' work. Vargas' pin-ups follow a tradition of stylized--and yes, idealized--illustrations. I'm only going to drag you as far back in time as the end of the Victorian Era, and the famous Gibson Girls.

Everything you've heard about the Victorian era--the repressed sexuality, the strict adherence to conventions, the basements full of shocking sorts of sex-toys--lots of it's true, and probably more, besides. Charles Dana Gibson illustrated the end of this era, in the United States. Gibson also more-or-less defined the ideal picture of late-Victorian womanhood.

It's a picture American women have never quite escaped.

One writer (the article isn't bylined, or I would credit the author) explains:

'Many writers have attempted to describe the Gibson Girl, but Susan E. Meyer, in her book America's Great Illustrators did it best and most simply: "She was taller than the other women currently seen in the pages of magazines.. infinitely more spirited and independent, yet altogether feminine. She appeared in a stiff shirtwaist, her soft hair piled into a chignon, topped by a big plumed hat. Her flowing skirt was hiked up in back with just a hint of a bustle. She was poised and patrician. Though always well bred, there often lurked a flash of mischief in her eyes."'

Gibson Girls illustrated the idealized turn-of-the-century American woman, for better or worse.
Much changed with the end of the Victorian age. By 1930, America is in the middle of the Depression. We've seen the Great War. Prohibition is over, an abject failure. By the 1930s, one of Gibson's artistic successors was George Petty.

One biographical sketch of Petty notes:
After graduating from high school Petty travelled to Paris to study at the Académie Julian under Jean-Paul Laurens. Petty then returned to Chicago, working as a photo retoucher for a local printing company.

By the early 20's Petty was working as a freelance artist, painting calendar girls and covers for The Household magazine. It wasn't until 1926 that Petty opened his first studio in Chicago, by which time his client list had grown enormously.

"In 1933, the depths of the depression, Esquire Magazine was started. At a time when The Saturday Evening Post was a nickel, The Ladies Home Journal a dime, and Good Housekeeping and Cosmopolitan a quarter, Esquire debuted at 50 cents. Only Fortune, started in 1930, just three months after the stock market crash, was priced higher at $1. And just as Fortune had confounded the prophets by being successful, Esquire's first issue sold out - even with a print run of 100,000." (source page)

By the thirties, Petty was doing freelance adwork illustrations, and cartoons for Esquire. The Petty Girl first appeared in 1933. Here's an early example of Petty's airbrush work.

Cheap, easily-reproduced, color printing was something of a novelty in the early 20th century--the Chicago Trib finally went color in 1936. Esquire's pin-ups (and the calendars, etc) were inexpensive, full-color art for ordinary folks living through the depression. Since calendars and magazines still have to be purchased, the images were specifically aimed at men--because men were the ones who controlled money, for the most part.

This, finally, brings us to Alberto Vargas. Esquire hired him in 1940.

A year later, America entered World War II. The Varga Girl went, too. Airmen decorated their planes with imitations, like the Glamerous [sic] Gal P-51 Mustang, pictured below, on the left.
Soldiers and Seamen plastered their walls and bunks with pin-ups. Masturbatory fantasy material? Sure.

Proto-porn? Oh, hell--I dunno as you can even call it "proto"--Vargas did illustration work for Playboy, later on.

Is it art?


An essay by Maureen Honey, argues rather eloquently that it is:
Alberto Vargas did not create the relatively narrow parameters for women’s ideal role after the war. As a commercial artist trying to survive, he excelled at picking up on the mainstream cultural trends flowing around him, and he was able to combine his talent for erotic art with wartime forces placing the pin-up in a central location. To appreciate the skill with which he did this is not to approve of the images themselves, however, nor to dismiss as trivial the impact they had on popular culture. Women’s opportunities constricted after the war in large part because representations of female strength were overtaken by those of sexual objectification. It may be possible to combine women’s sexuality with nonracist egalitarian portraits of female accomplishment, but the end result of World War II was to divide these images into contestatory domains even as they met on the common ground of women’s maternal destiny. Perhaps there is something inherently sexist in warfare, especially when erotic frankness is paired with conservative family norms, but the Varga Girl serves as a reminder that cheesecake is not on the margins of culture but rather is as American as apple pie.

She's right, of course. But she fails to ask the question we must ask ourselves: Do we want to participate in perpetuating that image?

Where is the line between art and propaganda? Where does the kitschy pop-art appeal separate from the overt sexualization and objectification of women, and become just kitschy pop art? Does it ever?

I'll freely admit, I'm troubled not at all by the idea of pornography being art--at least sometimes.
However, I'm deeply troubled by the notion of my beautiful Hawaiian shirt as anti-woman propaganda.

Art is disturbingly powerful as a propaganda tool.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Carnival of Feminists

The newest collection of excellent feminist blogging is out. Sour Duck hosts this round.

A really fascinating entry, over at Culture Cat, was this comparison of a 1973 deodorant ad with a 2005 ad. Fascinating and appalling.

Now, I will confess that I have a really stunning Varga-Girls-on-classic-cars Hawaiian shirt. A very cool designer friend of mine made it for me. I love that shirt.

I'm a chick, though, so it's okay, right?

Monday, November 14, 2005

I might as well warn you now...

The holidays are coming. I love the winter holidays, unabashedly. I'm sentimental and silly as a little kid about it, really.

Just so you have fair warning.

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and I'm terribly excited. I walk around planning menus in my head. Not that I'm cooking for anyone. Still, one should give these things a great deal of thought.

Perhaps it will snow. *Happy thought!* Of course, it only snows about once every few years, here. Far more likely it will be partly cloudy, with highs in the 50s, and scattered showers.

That's okay. It will be Thanksgiving day. I will watch the Macy's parade, and cook delicious things for myself, and dig out the Christmas music, which will replace all the normal music in the house, until my housemates rebel outright.

And perhaps it will snow.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Democracy in Action!

So the Kansas School Board voted 6 to 4 in favor of including a prepared statement about Intelligent Design in high school biology classes. (A prepared statement? Perhaps to prevent those pesky science teachers from scoffing and jeering?)

Reporter John Hanna points out, in the linked AP article, "In addition, the board rewrote the definition of science, so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena."

In Kansas, "Science teachers will now be required to instruct their students that evolutionary theory is not proven, and will have to add that life is in fact so complex, it could not have arisen without the involvement of some external agent, or higher power."

At the same time, the Dover, PA trial winds up with closing statements: "lawyers for the defence argued that intelligent design is a 'legitimate educational objective', and described it as 'the next great paradigm shift in science'."

So what did the voters do in Pennsylvania, yesterday? They threw the bums out. All eight pro-ID Republicans were replaced by Dems who don't believe ID should be taught in schools.

Look, it boils down to this: I don't care if people believe in ID. They have no friggin' right to teach what they believe, their religion, to my kids--especially not using my tax-dollars to pay for it. They had to REWRITE THE DEFINITION OF SCIENCE to make it fly.

Guess we won't look for any great scientific minds to come out of Kansas.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

On the Road...

Blogging this from the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, and my plane is boarding as I type. I'll be on the road for the next five days, so I don't know how much you'll be hearing from me this week.

I shall miss you all ferociously.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

What do Sarah Good, Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Elizabeth How, and Sarah Wilds have in common?

Give up?

They were hanged as witches in Salem on July 19th, 1692.

Now, let's look at just one of those names.

I give you Sarah Wilds. She was, by some accounts, a somewhat wild young woman. She'd been arrested twice for lewd behavior in the past.

One of those arrests was for wearing a bright scarf.

The Salem arrest warrant for Sarah (and others included in the same warrant) reads:
Salem Aprill the 21'th 1692

There Being Complaint this day made (before us) by Thomas putnam and John Buxton of Salem Village Yeomen, in behalfe of their Majest's for them selfes and also for severall of theire Neighbours, Against Wm Hobbs husbandman and Delive' his wife, Nehemiah Abot Jun'r weaver. Mary Easty the wife of Isaac Easty and Sarah. Wilds the wife of John Wilds all of the Towne of Topsfield. or Ipswitch and Edward Bushop husbandman & Sarah his wife of Salem Village, And Mary Black a negro of Leut Nath Putnams of Salem Village also And Mary English the wife of philip English Merchant in Salem for high Suspition of Sundry acts of Witchcraft done or Committed by them Lately upon the Bodys of Anna putnam & Marcy Lewis belonging to the famyly of the aboves'd Thomas putnam Complain't and Mary Walcot the daugter of Capt Jonat' Walcot of s'd Salem Village and others, whereby great hurt and dammage hath benne donne to the bodys of said persons above named therefore Craved Justice

High suspicion of sundry acts of witchraft.

That's terrifying stuff, if you live somewhere that is very dark indeed, when the sun sets. The devil might walk just out there, in the forest, just beyond the palisade that protects the village from wild animals and . . . other dangers.

The trial is shockingly brief. It consists of a flurry of exchanges that I'm tempted to paraphrase, just because it would sound so terribly ridiculous.
Here's the transcript:

Hath this woman hurt you?

Oh she is upon the beam.

Goody Bibber that never saw her before sayd she saw her now upon the beam, & then said Bibber fell into a fit

What say you to this are you guilty or not?

I am not guilty Sir.

Is this the woman? speaking to the afflict[ed]

Thay all, or most, said yes, & then fell into fits.

What do you say, are you guil[ty]

I thank God I am free.

Here is a clear evidence that [you have] been not only a Tormenter [but that] you have caused one to sig[ne the] book, the night before last [What] you say to this?

[I n]ever saw the book in my life [and I never] [saw these per]sons before

[Some of th]e afflicted fell into fits

- 807-

[Do] you deny this thing that is [torn]

All fell into fits, & con[firmed] that the accused hurt th[em]

Did you never consent that [these should] be hurt?

Never in my life.

She was charged by some [with] hurting John Herricks mo[ther]

The accused denyed it.

Capt How gave in a relation [and] confirmation of the charge before made.

She was ordered to be taken away, & they all cryed out she was upon the Beam, & fell into fits.

She was condemned, of course. Then she hung. Sarah, John's wife, with a daughter of her own. Sarah, who once wore a brightly-colored scarf. I wonder if she loved that scarf, loved the color of it.

I hope so.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Coyote Wild tagged a handful of folks with the following meme, so here goes.

1. Take first five novels from your bookshelf.
2. Book 1 -- first sentence
3. Book 2 -- last sentence on page 50
4. Book 3 -- second sentence on page 100
5. Book 4 -- next to the last sentence on page 150
6. Book 5 -- final sentence of the book
7. Make the five sentences into a paragraph.
8. Feel free to "cheat" to make it a better paragraph.
9. Name your sources
10.Post to your blog.

Here's mine:

Nothing moved but the wind and only a few, last, lingering drops of rain, only a blowing of water off the ruined wall. Was it enough just to survive? They discussed the mystery while perambulating the sunken mounds of the settlement. Jonesy's wide gaze did not falter, but Horn saw that the skin around his eyes was drawn tight with tension. Then they walked down the steps and across the lawn side by side, Jonesy limping, Horn with the sleeping child in his arms, and for that moment the only darkness was their shadows trailing behind them on the grass.

The Walking Drum by Louis L'Amour
The Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson
I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company by Brian Hall
Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner
Dreamcatcher by Stephen King

Why, no. I don't alphabetize, unless I'm procrastinating terribly...

Coyote also tagged Jason, at The Clarity of Night--he churned out a really creepy paragraph;
and Kira, at Loving Twilight--who posted a rather surreal paragraph. Kira then tagged Tish at love and sex and hope and dreams, Michelle at Random Thoughts, Chris at Skittermagoo, and Dawno at NVNC ID VIDES, NVNC NE VIDES.
Jason tagged Anne Frasier, Static (it's only fair)
Kara Alison, Mountaintop Architecture
Chemical Billy, Chemical Billy
Anne, Something Under the Bed is Drooling

Tag to ALL of you regulars, but especially Jill at Writes Like She Talks; Mark Pettus at The Bluff; .:J.r.A.:., at The Thought That Almost Was ; Joanne, at Writing After Dark; Jen, at Creatif; and Ms M, at PhDBlogIt (err--you did take novels with you, didn't you?)

*Grin* If you don't have your own blog, feel free to post it in the comments here. Post a link here, if you do have a blog, and choose to accept the assignment.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Children Left Behind

An opinion piece in today's New York Times states:

The Bush administration responded characteristically this week when it put a positive gloss on national math and reading scores that were actually dismal - and bad news for the school reform effort. Faced with charges that his signature reform, the No Child Left Behind Act, was failing, the president played up the minor positive results. He should have seized the moment to acknowledge the bad news and explain what it would take to make things right.

He should also, of course, have reminded the nation that as long as it fails to take school reform seriously, American children will fall further and further behind their peers abroad.

Public Education just isn't one of those sexy issues. You know the issues I mean--the ones it's so much fun to get all worked up over and scream at each other: war, scandal, indictments, criminal neglect after hurricanes, and all manner of corruption and dirty deals.

In fact, instead of addressing our kids' crappy science scores, we're debating teaching the Intelligent Design speculation* in our science classes. Because what the heck? It's not like we're actually teaching science very successfully anyway, right?

"A 2004 study by the National Science Foundation found that the United States ranks 17th in the proportion of 18- to 24-year-olds earning science and engineering degrees, down from third place in 1975." (Houston Chronicle)

Ironically, Congress cut the National Science Foundation's budget in 2004.

Figures, huh? This is the same party that wants to yell about family values and prioritizing, yadda yadda yadda.

We better get our heads out of our asses pretty soon and start educating our children, though.

I was talking with friends who have a toddler. They've started the application process to get her into a good private school. Apparently, there's quite a waiting list. Also, it's quite expensive. It made me wonder what the heck happens to kids with parents who just can't afford to do that? They go to public school, of course. They get an education that might--if they're lucky, bright, and motivated--equip them to fill out W*l-M*rt applications.

For the record, I don't blame teachers for this situation. I think the whole system is broken. I think far too much of the money we spend on education gets syphoned off into administrative bureaucracy, and far too little gets spent on things like books, computers, and lab equipment.

Also for the record, I could care less whether people believe in a supreme being who designed the life with deliberate intent. I do think that supreme being might have put a bit more effort into designing more efficient backs for bipedal primates who walk upright. . .

Which only further reinforces that ugly gap between haves and have-nots, doesn't it? Right now, we're building what America will be for the next generation. Why, for heaven's sake, can't we just once show a little forethought?

*I refuse to refer to ID as a "theory" because, in fact, it is NOT a theory in the same sense and definition of the word as the theory of evolution. No amount of referring to it as such can make it so. The media has been treating the word as if it means the same thing when applied to either evolution or ID--which is either ignorant or intellectually dishonest, but certainly inaccurate and misleading.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Orphan books: a shameless promotional pitch for someone else's writing

Here's a post from the Zack Company blog that's pretty educational for the writers out there.

Sometimes it happens that a book gets sold to a publisher, but then the editor leaves. That editor is the person who sold everyone else in the house on publishing that book. He or she is the champion and voice of that book. So when the editor leaves before the book goes into print, it can be devastating.

The Dead of Winter apparently lost both its editor and its publisher, and pretty much everyone else who was originally involved with the decision to publish the book. (Except, apparently, its dedicated agent.)

"...More than half a century after the last shots of World War II were fired, a team of forensic scientists and relic hunters enlisted the aid of several veterans of the Bulge for one last mission: to return to the battle site and recover the lost remains of their brothers-in-arms, to ensure they would be buried with all the honors they deserve. Written by a member of the expedition, this is a story of loyalty and the bonds of war, a compelling scientific mystery, and a long-awaited homecoming for families who waited decades for the return of their loved ones." (from the Amazon editorial review.)

I love WWII history stuff.
It also looks like a damned good book.
Andy Zack has been a seriously stand-up guy in terms of helping writers for free whenever and wherever he can. He blogs, and he answers questions on the Ask The Agent forum on AW. He doesn't ask for much in return.

Mostly, though, good books deserve to be read.

Here's an interesting thing...

So while cruising the blogosphere in avoidance of real work, I came upon this Ginmar post, linked at Philobiblon via Carnival of Feminists. Go read, or at least skim. I'll wait.

Ginmar quotes one of her posters as saying:
What you and other commenters have said about anger got me thinking. I'm not afraid to express my anger when provoked, but one thing I've noticed is that people often laugh.
Actually, I say people, but the faces that come to mind all belong to men. See, I go clubbing a lot because I enjoy dancing to loud music. What usually happens is that some idiot thinks that because my clothes are tight he can grab my ass. I turn and get angry. Invariably, these guys laugh at me and are all "what's the big deal?"
One particularly bad night I had been groped maybe ten times in under three hours. I was standing outside a club waiting to get in, feeling really on edge. Someone standing behind me grabs my ass. I whirl and almost punch the guy in the face before I realise I know him; he's a friend of a friend. I glare at him and say "that was not cool." He grins. I repeat, vehemently, "that was not cool." He says "aw, c'mon, I was just joking around!"

Now, I don't know if you read the comments following, or not, but what struck me most was that nearly every poster had a story about being touched, grabbed, groped, or otherwise man-handled--and laughed at when she objected. Both the offending groper and other men in the crowd laughed or otherwise dismissed her objections.

What really freaks me out is when other women participate in this bizarre and alarming attitude.
I remember one night an acquaintance's husband (who was a complete creep) grabbed my ass when we were all out at a bar together. I whirled around, planted the heel of my hand in his chest, and shoved hard. Then I told him off in no uncertain terms, and in pretty graphic language. I was furious.

He was indignant and offended. His wife was perplexed. She laughed and told me I was overreacting. Explained that, since I was a lesbian, I apparently just didn't understand that I should be pleased and flattered by the attention.

Yeah. She really said that.

Gag, retch, blech, ptoooie, ICK.

Now. At the time, I thought this was mostly about gender-preference. I was very young--mid-twenties--and self-absorbed. Largely, though, I interpreted both his and her actions as sexual aggression in response to my open lesbianism. The bigger picture was a lost on me. I did realize that I really didn't want to know anything more about the dynamics of their marriage. Whatever freaking kink they shared that made it okay for them to participate in molesting unwitting acquaintances in social situations was just too icky to contemplate.

Now I'm wondering, though--is this attitude something women do to other women on a regular basis? Is this something straight women do to lesbians, to keep us in line? Some of both? Because women participating in the subjection of other women happens a lot.

What's the social motivation for that? It cannot possibly be pleasant for a woman to go to a bar with her husband, for chrissakes, and defend his entitlement to grope other women.

In a sane world, she would have been as pissed at him as I was.

No. Scratch that. In a sane world, it would have never occured to the guy that it was in any way appropriate, acceptable, or otherwise okay to grab a woman's ass in public.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


I'm too sleepy to write anything political, or to think very hard about things controversial.

Instead, I'll share a realization I had the other day. Perhaps it's indicative of getting older, I don't know.

When I think back over romantic attachments in my past, the people I remember most fondly are seldom the ones I actually went to bed with. Rather, the almosts hold my memory: The single kisses, that for one reason or another never went any further; the flirtations, with the too-long eye-contact that never quite turned into anything. The potential interrupted. It's just irresistable.

I'm not sure what that says about me. Commitment-phobe, my ex would probably say. Heh.

How 'bout y'all?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The trouble with thought crimes...

I remember when the first hate-crimes laws were proposed. I had a queasy feeling about it, even though I'm a member of one of the groups of people thought to benefit from such laws.
Now, as you can imagine, mine isn't a popular view with my gay and lesbian peers.

It seemed to me that attaching stiffer penalties to crimes based on motivation of the perpetrator created an uncomfortable dynamic, whereby we defined and assigned value to individuals based on their "otherness". My sister was bartending at the time--and it seemed horribly wrong that should she be assaulted and murdered in an alley some night upon leaving work, it could be prosecuted differently than if I were assaulted and murdered in the same alley, upon leaving a gay bar. It also seemed both rash and wrong to make the motive--the thought--part of the crime itself.

Hate crime legislation doesn't seem to have made much of a dent, at least not here from the front lines. We're trapped in a painful tension of valuing ourselves based on diversity--embracing our "otherness"--and being separated from the greater part of our own culture and society by that same difference. I deeply fear that every time we create some official means of separation, we only deepen that dichotomy.

It's still a pretty regular occurrence to hear of someone getting beat up coming out of the wrong bar. There's apparently been a new rash of cross-burnings in the midwest, lately, too.
Recently, someone vandalized a local African American couple's house, here in the Seattle suburbs. They spray-painted racial slurs, swastikas, and obscenities all over the exterior.
It turned out to be a couple of local teenagers. They confessed. You've got to wonder just where they learn this stuff, don't you. The local news team interviewed people. The neighbors all professed their shock and dismay. I'm sure most of them were sincere.

Unfortunately, there seem to be some unforseen consequences stemming from an attempt to prosecute ideology. In the hysteria following the 9-11 attack, we passed a bunch of terrorism and Homeland Security legislation--a natural progression of trying to sort crime by the thoughts and motives behind it. Now we've come to a place where nine United States Senators and the White House all think it's just fine to torture people--as long as we think they're terrorists. It's just fine to hold even American Citizens indefinitely and without charge--as long as we think they're terrorists.

We've long made distinctions that benefit someone who commits a crime, with mitigating circumstances, self-defense, and other grounds for leniency. Is that really intrinsically different than finding grounds for even stiffer penalties? I actually think it is. Recent emphasis and movements for victim's rights aside, I applaud compassion built into our laws for both the perpetrator and the victims, whenever possible. I remain distinctly uncomfortable by attempting to impose greater penalties by peering into the motives of the defendant.

Hobbit Bones

Wee little bones from wee little people, found in Indonesia. Perhaps there was a hobbit massacre, involving orcs and balrogs and evil wizards.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

I had a lovely post all planned

Don't worry. I saved it. It can go up some other day.

Today, though, I wanted to direct your attention to Writes Like She Talks. Jill has been taking us through modern traditional observance of Yom Kippur, and writes about a version of a confessional prayer recently sent to her. She's posted this sensitive, incisive, and eloquent "Al Cheit"--called "If Dubya were a Jew, he'd be in trouble on Thursday."

See you there.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

"Not that I'm a feminist, or anything..."

I hear a lot of women--especially youngish women--preface some fairly innocuous statement with the semi-apologetic disclaimer, "Not that I'm a feminist, or anything, but..."

I wonder how on earth that happened? How did it come about that women are embarrassed to be identified with an ideological movement committed to promoting women's equality?

A couple of days ago, I had a brief property line skirmish with a new neighbor. The guy has spent I don't even know how many hours with a hundred-foot measuring tape and a ball of twine and a handful of stakes, figuring out the edges of the lot he just bought. His lot sits right against the back of our lot.

The guy measures out his property line again a couple of weeks ago, about the same time I start constructing a dog run behind the house. We visit amiably about where he thinks his property line runs, and I set the fenceline on my side, by several inches. I set the posts in concrete because that's just the right way to set posts. He watches me do this.

A couple of days ago, the guy comes back with his measuring tape and other paraphanalia. Remeasures everything. Decides his line is actually not where he originally marked it. Decides my posts are actually on his property. Tells me so.

The really curious part of all this, though, is that it was so important to Mr. Wonderful that he could perceive himself as being in-the-right, to be justified in his anger, that he actually accused me of going back after he was gone and moving all those posts--posts he'd watched me set in concrete. The total difference? Less than six inches.

Now, I'm an extraordinarily competent woman. I'm not, however, an idiot. Nor am I an amazon. I'm pretty sure I would need a tractor to pull those posts out of the ground.

At this point in the conversation, I made a strategic error. I laughed at him. Then I might have, sort of, maybe accidentally, presented a logical false dilemma suggesting he was either a lunatic, or just not the brightest crayon in the box. I briefly considered asking him if this meant I was off the hook and he was going to finish building the fence--but was stopped by the purplish hue of his face and the veins bulging from his temples.

He demanded I move the posts the four or five inches, to comply with his newly-measured property line. I responded that he was welcome to solve the problem either by calling an actual surveyor, and presenting me with a legal property boundary--or he was welcome to pull the damn posts himself--I'd be happy to compromise and reset them, should he choose either option.

Actually, I may not have been quite that polite about it.

He opted to pull the posts himself. It was frankly a bit alarming. He started flinging himself against the posts to loosen them. The guy was literally running at these big posts, slamming his body into them, grunting and all but foaming at the mouth. I didn't stick around to watch him heave them out of the ground with fifty pounds of concrete clinging to each base.

My housemate managed to smooth it over, at least a bit. Much later.

She informed me that I could have handled the situation in a more calming manner. That seemed completely ridiculous, to me. Maybe that guy's poor wife has to calm his almighty temper, but frankly, I could friggin' care less if he strokes himself out having a tantrum like a two-year-old. She told me, "That's just how men are. You're not straight, so you've never really had to deal with it. But that's pretty much just how men are. Women learn to deal with it."

First of all, I honestly do not believe that's how all men are. Then I started thinking about a comment I would have sworn Kira left--but now I can't find it--to the effect that women engage in calming and affirming behavior towards inferior men, as a sort of culturally programmed response, to keep the peace.

The problem is, when bad behavior is rewarded with that kind of attention, it only reinforces the bad behavior. Why the hell would women want to participate in that crap? That brings us around full-circle, to the beginning thought: why do so many women reject a feminist identification?

Perhaps someone can explain this to me...

From now and ever after...

They will be called The Nazgul:

1. Wayne Allard, Colorado
2. Kit Bond, Missouri
3. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma
4. Thad Cochran, Mississippi
5. John Cornyn, Texas
6. James Inhofe, Oklahoma
7. Pat Roberts, Kansas
8. Jeff Sessions, Alabama
9. Ted Stevens, Alaska

These nine senators (all Republicans) voted against the McCain ammendment banning torture of prisoners.

"...they entered into the realm of shadows. The Nazgul were they, the Ringwraiths, the Enemy's most terrible servants; darkness went with them, and they cried with the voices of death."
From The Silmarillion: "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age"

PNH has declared this a new meme. Feel free to pick it up and pass it along.

(via Makinglight, via Jim Henley at Unqualified Offerings, via Procrastination.)

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Just for JM

  • Come on out to Seattle any old time, Jean Marie. I know how you feel--there's nothing like horses.
  • Housekeeping

    Okay--in the previous comments thread, I promised a post when I'd recovered from spending the last three days piloting a truck and horse trailer across the Pacific Northwest. In the rain. (I went to eastern Oregon to fetch a friend's pregnant broodmare...but that's a whole other story.)

    I've fed the dog, consoled the cat, put the horses to bed, poured myself three fingers of top-shelf bourbon over ice, and checked my email.

    You can imagine my consternation to return from three days out of town to discover the inestimable and effervescent Miss Snark posted a link here while I was gone. Even if it was to...errrr...gently chide me for not posting my email within plain sight, at the same time she said kind things about the blog. My email is available in my blogger profile--should anyone else be wondering.

    I couldn't help but notice another Mac commented on the Joke post--causing a bit of confusion. At least, it caused some confusion for me. I had a weird moment during which I had to consider seriously whether or not it might be possible that I'd posted something quite intelligent, but utterly not in my own voice. That possibility brought up all kinds of unpleasant and self-reflexive questions about multiple personalities, checkbook balances, future therapy bills, and just how much time it's okay to be missing. Then I clicked on the link in the user name, and it took me to some complete other "Mac". At least, I'm pretty sure.

    For my beloved regulars--that actually wasn't me. Welcome, other Mac--nice to see you here. Welcome to Fran and the others who found their way here from Miss Snark, as well. Pull up an opinion and stay for a while.

    I was surprised to see that the joke issue seemed to hit a chord with many of you--and pleased, too. Jokes are strange things. I loved the splendid deconstruction that Lisa did. I was thinking I'd need to pester Ms. M to talk about jokes and cultural status issues, too.

    Don't go all paranoid on me, folks. It's interesting that the funniest jokes often have a bit of an edge to them. Which, I imagine, makes them intrinsically unfunny for the object, at least in some cases--the lesbian joke that I started the post with, for example. That joke has always seemed even funnier to me than to any of the straight folks I know--who "get it" but don't internalize it the same way.

    Of course, that might just say something unflattering about my sense of humor, too.

    Thursday, October 06, 2005

    A joke.

    Q: How many politically-correct lesbians does it take to change a lightbulb?

    A: (delivered deadpan) That's not funny. You think that's funny? That's not funny.

    So I did that thing--that obnoxious thing so eloquently captured in the joke above. I stepped on a guy's joke. The joke had to do with the ideal woman--about three feet tall, with removable teeth and no vocal cords, so the joke goes. The guy made the joke on a public forum, in a sort of joking, just-for-fun thread. He wasn't off-topic or anything.

    I just thought it was breathtakingly offensive and misogynistic. So I said so. Talk about a conversation-stopper. Finally, another woman piped up, said something to ease the awkward silence, and the conversation resumed.

    I started thinking about whether or not I'd have done/said the same thing in a real-life social setting. Yup. I'm pretty sure I would.

    I don't think I'm a typically humorless person. Heh. However, I do think there are situations where something might by hysterically funny--but in other situations, desperately innappropriate and offensive.

    I also think misogyny continues to be a very real and serious problem in our culture. I came quite late to feminism, and by a rather sideways and circuitous route--and I'm not accustomed to thinking of myself as one of those chicks with no sense of humor...

    You know what, though? It wasn't fucking funny.

    Wednesday, October 05, 2005


    You know what? The spam is getting out of control. If I actually was a person who slept more, I'd never be able to keep up with the onslaught.

    Here's the thing. I really loathe those little verification boxes, where you have to type in the jumble of distorted letters, to prove you're a real poster. I hate those. I find them insanely difficult, all out of proportion to how difficult I imagine I should find them, for one thing...

    So for those of you who have added the verification to your comments, do you find it helps? Is it really worth it?

    Because those little boxes are a serious check on my impulse to comment on other people's blogs, I gotta admit. I'll type a long comment, then I encounter the dreaded verification box, and it's about 50-50 whether I take a stab at deciphering the letters I'm supposed to type, or just say, "Aw, hell. Forget it" and delete the comment and go read something else.

    Miers' nomination

    So we don't know anything about her, really.

    The NY Times reports that she did make a conversion to evangelical Christianity, simultaneous with her move towards the Republican party.

    "Just a closer walk with thee..."

    I know more than a little bit about evangelical Christians and Republicans, both, having been raised among them.

    The shape of the US Supreme Court is going to be very different, for the next generation or so.

    Monday, October 03, 2005

    "You remind me of the man...(what man?)"

    "In hoodoo practice, after one completes a "job of work" or magical ritual, the most neutral way to dispose of remnants such as left-over candle wax, incense ashes, footprint-dirt, or ritual bath water is to carry everything to the crossroads, throw it into the intersection, turn and walk home without looking back. (Alternative methods for the disposal of ritual items include throwing them into running water for get away or moving spells, taking them to a graveyard for hard-core enemy work, or burying them in one's yard for drawing influences toward one.) "
    --from this site

    "The man with the power...(what power?)"

    Can't you just see the crossroads? Robert Johnson's crossroads, where he sold his soul to the devil, the story goes, in return for genius. Oh, what we would trade for our heart's desire.

    It's a metaphor, of course.

    At least, in the clean light of day, I'm pretty sure it's a metaphor. We make those trades every day, right? Stealing time and energy from families and jobs, to put towards the monster we're building in our basement, or that manuscript we're assembling, or that degree that's supposed to take us somewhere, or...Well...You get the idea.

    "The power of hoodoo...(Hoodoo?)
    You do..."

    It seems so simple and clean, in comparison, just to take your guitar down to the crossroads at midnight and wait for that big black guy to show up and offer to tune it for you.

    It's a way of thinking, too, though--what do you want badly enough that you'd trade everything else you have, just for that one thing? Sacrifice everything? I think there are things we think we want that badly, but when the rubber hits the road we don't want it so badly after all. Not badly enough to go find our own crossroads late one night, anyway.

    That isn't a bad thing, by the way--it's about balance versus insanity. I don't believe you have to be tortured and driven to get what you want.

    "Standin' at the crossroads, risin' sun goin' down
    Standin' at the crossroads baby, the risin' sun goin' down
    I believe to my soul now, po' Bob is sinkin' down"
    (From Crossroads Blues, Robert Johnson)

    I also don't believe you have to be tortured and driven to be brilliant.

    But if you bad do you want it?

    Wednesday, September 28, 2005

    Oh, look!

    Tom Delay has been indicted...

    Michael Brown melts down and blames the Katrina response on everyone from the president to local faith-based organizations...

    The Rita response was sadly lacking, too...

    The National Enquirer says W fell off the wagon...(who cares if it's true--it's gotta be embarrassing)

    A google for "impeach Bush" brings up over 2 million hits...

    Sane and normal people are unhappy about the push to put religious mythology into our science classrooms...(go ahead, ask me how I really feel about "Intelligent Design"...)

    Just by glancing at the headlines for the last couple of days, I'd almost think the whole BushCo house of cards is teetering.

    But I've always been an optimist.

    After the War Between the States...

    An influx of northerners sought to exploit the condition of the South to make a bunch of money.
    The carpetbaggers had little real interest in helping repair the nation after the civil war--mostly they wanted to buy up property and manipulate the political disarray for their personal benefit.

    Just sayin'.

    Sunday, September 25, 2005

    Cool people

    You know how it is. Sometimes, in the course of an otherwise utterly horrible day, you happen across some stranger who does something so unexpectedly kind and thoughtful that you're caught flat-footed with surprise...

    You go away from the encounter feeling much better about humanity in general, and your own lot in life, specifically.

    That's how I felt about the girl at the Motel 6 in California in the middle of the night. I'd stopped maybe 20 other places--they were all either full, or wouldn't take my dog. Moreover, it was getting late: a.m....two...The night clerks were getting ruder and ruder, as the night wore on.

    By two-thirty, feeling desperately tired, wanting a shower and a stiff drink and to get the hell out of my vehicle and into a bed, I stopped at the last of five motels off of the interstate exit--a Motel 6. Normally, I probably wouldn't even have considered it. I like wifi in my room. I like a bar and restaurant on-premises.

    But it was two-thirty in the morning, I'd been driving nearly 20 hours, and their jaunty radio-slogan was running through my head, "We'll leave the light on for ya!" So I swung the truck and horse trailer into the parking lot, on my way back to the freeway to push on--however unwillingly--to the next town.

    The kid at the night desk window looked up from her book and gave me a sunny grin when I showed up. I'm sure I didn't look happy OR approachable under the sodium-vapor lights of the parking lot. I said, without preamble, "PLEASE tell me you have a room."

    She did. A clean, spartan little room. Bless 'em. And she was NICE about it, too.

    Re-reading "The Dead Zone"

    Does anyone remember what on earth the lightning rod salesman has to do with anything else in the whole friggin' book? His name is Andrew Dohay, we meet him on page 83 (Signet, 1980) in a bar called Cathy's, where the proprietor declines to buy any lightning rods. He climbs in his car and apparently departs the story on page 86. The scene is written from the seller of lightning rods' point of view.

    I'm now on page 316. About a hundred pages ago, I started to wonder what ever happened to the guy. I'm right on the verge of having to stop reading and backtrack to see if I missed anything.

    Sunday, September 18, 2005


    Some bright autumn morning, you might decide to lace on your hiking boots and walk. You might cross the horse pasture behind the house, your trail stretching through the wet grasses of the pasture behind you, arrowing back the way you came. Perhaps you pause, turn and look over your shoulder at the place where you dwell, pale sun slanting off the windows, the last of the frost glinting from the shaded part of the lawn, protected by the single cottonwood profiled against the sky.

    You can push your hands deep in fleece pockets against the cold of the fall morning, and think warm thoughts about the smell of bacon in your kitchen, but walk on. Climb through the barb-wire fence on the edge of the pasture and walk down the hill. There are wagon ruts still carved into the earth, here--grassed over, now, but your feet find the track and follow, unerringly.

    At the bottom of the long hill, the old road hidden beneath the grass veers sharply right, away from the rim of the coulee. You can leave the path, though, and go and stand on the edge looking down. Perhaps deer are still feeding in the canyon bottom, lulled by the cool sunlight. Knowing that winter is surely coming.

    At the top of the coulee the good earth falls away beneath your feet. The prairie ends in sandstone cliffs where the coyotes and buffalo dance forever, etched into the stones by hands long since gone back into the sod beneath the long brown grasses and wild roses covered in brilliant red hips.

    And it abides. Even when you turn back, cheeks flushed, to go home to your coffee and the day--it abides.

    Saturday, September 17, 2005

    War is very ugly

    Images from Iraq. Only if you haven't eaten recently.

    At last...

    The truth comes out. The destruction of the Gulf Coast is all Ellen Degeneres' fault. I found it via the very fabulous Shakespeare's Sister, who found it on the way-too-cool TBogg.

    Pat Robertson said:
    “This is the second time in a row that God has invoked a disaster shortly before lesbian Ellen Degeneres hosted the Emmy Awards,” Robertson explained to his approximately one million viewers. “America is waiting for her to apologize for the death and destruction that her sexual deviance has brought onto this great nation.”

    The first time, apparently, was 9-11.
    Pat Robertson is a fucking idiot.

    Behold the all-encompassing power of our lesbian sexuality. Tremble, weak-kneed and wanting, before us queers! BWahHahhAaahahahaaaaa!!!!

    (Okay--the article is really satire. It's a fake. Robertson didn't actually say that stuff. The scary part is that it's completely believable that he would. *sigh*)

    Sunday, September 11, 2005

    Another September 11

    This is how my mother feels about the day JFK was killed. She was in Dallas that day.
    She's said that the country seemed to change, after that. Things went inexplicably sour.

    From a historical standpoint, I know that the pendulum swings back and forth, and September 11, 2001 was not really the beginning of this country's slide into the new dark age of neo-conservatism, anti-intellectualism, and get-whatcha-can and fuck the poor...but I think the events of that day hastened the slide.

    And shame on us, for allowing it.

    Saturday, September 10, 2005

    I was going to say...

    I was going to write more about Katrina. More about the grief and anger and outrage and disgust I've been immersed in for the last two weeks.

    Perhaps talk about Michael Brown being recalled to Washington, to prepare for Ophelia, now swirling around out in the Atlantic.

    Or yet another villain, Rep. Baker of Baton Rouge saying, "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did."

    Or, certainly more inspirational than Baker or Brown, 6 year old hero Deamonte Love.

    It just seemed terribly self-indulgent, though, considering what the victims of the storm are going through. Besides, other bloggers are saying it all, and saying it better.

    Meanwhile, the perfidy goes on. From the NY Times: "
    WASHINGTON, Sept. 9 - A three-judge federal appeals court panel ruled unanimously on Friday that President Bush had the authority to detain as an enemy combatant an American citizen who fought United States forces on foreign soil."

    We can't afford to get too exhausted. We can't stop watching what happens. Because this administration has lots more people to kill, and the deaths of a few thousand of our poorer, more marginalized citizens mean precisely nothing to them. That's becoming more clear, every day.

    Perhaps in another few days, I'll be able to think and say something intelligent about something else. Biodiesel and alternative energy sources. Or hope for an almost-forgotten endangered species. Or how the Red Cross first-aid class went. Something besides the smirking villainy residing in the White House.

    I remember being a kid, and reading a biography of Abraham Lincoln. I was filled with profound admiration (and a blossoming but then-unrecognized love of history) and read every book about presidents that I could find in the little school library.

    I understand very well that this administration's actions and attitudes will be fascinating, from a historical perspective. From a safe distance.

    Sort of like Idi Amin.

    Wednesday, September 07, 2005


    Timeline of events Leading up to Katrina.
    by Evan Derkacz -

    Katrina Disaster timeline

    Reports of the media being blocked - via Talk Left

    Personal accounts from Inside the Astrodome - via BoingBoing

    MSNBC Video - video editorial by Keith Olbermann

    I'll say more about this link round up later, I'm sure. I had to take a step back for a couple of days. The grief and rage were on the verge of overwhelming me. Also, I had to do some work on the deck before the winter rain starts.

    Because that's what we do, before the seasons change, right? We prepare. We reinforce. We replace that which is crumbling.

    Sunday, September 04, 2005

    It goes on...

    This is from today.
    “One of the Worst Abandonments of Americans on American Soil Ever”
    Crooks and Liars has the video.
    Part of the transcript follows:
    "The president of Jefferson Parish in New Orleans, Aaron Broussard, just issued an emotional appeal on NBC’s Meet the Press. By the end, he was completely broken down, sobbing uncontrollably:
    RUSSERT: You just heard the director of homeland security’s explanation of what has happened this last week. What is your reaction?
    BROUSSARD: We have been abandoned by our own country. Hurricane Katrina will go down in history as one of the worst storms ever to hit an American coast. But the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history. … Whoever is at the top of this totem pole, that totem pole needs to be chainsawed off and we’ve got to start with some new leadership. It’s not just Katrina that caused all these deaths in New Orleans here. Bureaucracy has committed murder here in the greater New Orleans area and bureaucracy has to stand trial before Congress now.

    Broussard then discussed the difficulties local authorities had with FEMA, including one case where they actually posted armed guards to keep FEMA from cutting their communications lines (*MacNote--but don't miss the way that Russert tries to shift the blame onto Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco):
    'Three quick examples. We had Wal-Mart deliver three trucks of water. FEMA turned them back. They said we didn’t need them. This was a week ago. FEMA, we had 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel on a Coast Guard vessel docked in my parish. When we got there with our trucks, FEMA says don’t give you the fuel. Yesterday — yesterday — FEMA comes in and cuts all of our emergency communication lines. They cut them without notice. Our sheriff, Harry Lee, goes back in, he reconnects the line. He posts armed guards and said no one is getting near these lines…

    Finally, Broussard told the tragic personal story of a colleague, and broke down:

    I want to give you one last story and I’ll shut up and let you tell me whatever you want to tell me. The guy who runs this building I’m in, Emergency Management, he’s responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, “Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?” and he said, “Yeah, Mama, somebody’s coming to get you.” Somebody’s coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Friday… and she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night! [Sobbing] Nobody’s coming to get us. Nobody’s coming to get us...'"

    We are surely damned, if we continue to attempt to rationalize or countenance this behavior on the part of our elected officials.

    NOLA View Weblog


    Celine Dion - you've got to watch the video.
    Anita Roach -"Roach stood out as a beacon of beauty and strength against a backdrop of death and despair."
    "Roach never stopped singing, never stopped smiling, never stopped comforting a crowd of some of the last of Hurricane Katrina’s victims to receive even a shred of assistance. She sang from her belly with a voice that could be heard down the block, drowning out cries for help and the rumble of National Guard trucks. One by one, family, friends complete strangers joined her, clapping and singing as she led them as she had choir director at New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church in Bridge City..

    "When this world
    Is tossing me
    Like a ship on the raging sea
    Thou who rulest the winds and water
    Stand by me, stand by me"

    Bystander says song prevented possible rioting Song for broken souls Roach had arrived at the Convention Center to find a chaotic scene, where the only food or water or booze came from looters and people desperate to survive."

    Marisol chef/owner Pete Vasquez -

    "Chef Pete is still in New Orleans. Marisol is undamaged. Please help us to help others.

    We can feed the hungry with your help.

    Massive clean-up and rescue efforts are finally underway and all of those rescuers and remaining displaced New Orleanians are very hungry.

    Chef Pete is co-ordinating with one of our specialty produce suppliers, who is now in exile in Texas. The two of them believe that they will be able to round up enough supplies to feed many people for many days & weeks, but only with your help."

    (excerpted from an email sent to Chuck Taggart, posted on his blog Looka. You'll have to scroll down, I can't find the permalink.)

    Jabbar Gibson - "Jabbar Gibson's first time behind the wheel of a school bus was spent transporting dozens of people from New Orleans to the Reliant Astrodome."

    Ernest Washington - "While Thomas was figuring his family's fate that first night, little Ernest bolted to the rooftop.

    He had fashioned a white flag on a piece of stick, and began waving. "That is one courageous boy," Thomas said.

    A helicopter passed them by. A National Guard unit passed them by."

    Derrick Trahan - "the world's maddest unofficial paramedic"
    "The medic, Mr. Traham, said nine people have died in the centre named after Dutch Morial. They're kept in what everyone calls "the fridge." They were taken there, not by any authorities, not by police, but by the people who watched them die and wither away, and who now can hardly bear to remember that for a few days here, these strangers were family."

    Lt General Russel Honore
    - General Honore is quoted as saying,
    "By-and-large, these are families that are just waiting to get out of here. They are frustrated; I would be, too. I get frustrated at the cash register counter when the paper runs out."

    [From the CNN article linked]
    Hundreds of National Guard and active duty troops are carrying weapons in the city. But the way they carried those guns was a concern to the general.

    He ordered all he encountered to point their weapons down, said CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr, who was with the general. Honore repeatedly went up to military vehicles, National Guardsmen standing sentry and even to New Orleans police officers, telling them to please point their weapons down and reminding them that they were not in Iraq.

    I'll add to this as I find stories. Feel free to point to the stories YOU'VE heard, too.

    Saturday, September 03, 2005

    Chief Justice dead

    Chief Justice William Rehnquist died this evening.

    "We are you."

    Anne Rice's NY Times statement, here.

    Among other things, she says:

    I know that New Orleans will win its fight in the end. I was born in the city and lived there for many years. It shaped who and what I am. Never have I experienced a place where people knew more about love, about family, about loyalty and about getting along than the people of New Orleans. It is perhaps their very gentleness that gives them their endurance.

    They will rebuild as they have after storms of the past; and they will stay in New Orleans because it is where they have always lived, where their mothers and their fathers lived, where their churches were built by their ancestors, where their family graves carry names that go back 200 years. They will stay in New Orleans where they can enjoy a sweetness of family life that other communities lost long ago.

    But to my country I want to say this: During this crisis you failed us. You looked down on us; you dismissed our victims; you dismissed us. You want our Jazz Fest, you want our Mardi Gras, you want our cooking and our music. Then when you saw us in real trouble, when you saw a tiny minority preying on the weak among us, you called us "Sin City," and turned your backs.

    Well, we are a lot more than all that. And though we may seem the most exotic, the most atmospheric and, at times, the most downtrodden part of this land, we are still part of it. We are Americans. We are you.

    I don't have any links for this

    My housemate (she's a dialysis and critical care nurse) just informed me that a doctor has managed to procure a New Orleans area Wa* Mart. He's setting it up to help the most medically compromised, out of that facility.

    He only has five staffing volunteers so far, but she signed up to go. She goes on the hero list, too.

    This is what it's going to take. We are going to have to do this ourselves.

    I weep for New Orleans

    Patrick Nielsen Hayden at Making Light point out this story, at Respectful of Otters.

    Why The Aid Wasn't There

    The Red Cross has been ordered not to enter New Orleans with relief.
    Hurricane Katrina: Why is the Red Cross not in New Orleans?
    • Acess to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities and while we are in constant contact with them, we simply cannot enter New Orleans against their orders.

    • The state Homeland Security Department had requested--and continues to request--that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.
    "Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city." See, and here you thought that tens of thousands of people spent the last few days trapped in the Superdome or the Convention Center without food, water, medical care, electric power, or basic sanitation, in constant fear of violence, surrounded by the unburied corpses of their fellow victims, because they couldn't evacuate. But all this time, they've been there by choice. If they had a Red Cross station distributing fresh water and sandwiches, they'd choose to stay in their fetid, corpse-riddled, life-threatening, lawless swamp of a city indefinitely. You know what those people are like, always sitting around waiting for a handout. Humanitarian aid just encourages them.

    Yes, clearly, it's far better to evacuate Katrina's victims than to leave them in place in New Orleans. But when you can't get them all out right away - and they haven't even been able to finish evacuating the hospitals, much less the lower-priority evacuees - you need to provide aid in place. Immediately, not five days later. To willfully withhold basic life support from tens of thousands of desperate people because you think it will discourage evacuation is - actually, I have no words strong enough for what it is. Unconscionable. Morally depraved. A crime against humanity. Nothing seems strong enough.

    How about "murder"?

    One of the commenters at Making Light pointed out this report of people TRYING to evacuate...but being turned back.

    So, what do we call it when thousands of people are trapped in a box, and we don't let them out, and we don't give them any food or water...?

    *update: Feds refuse aid from Chicago, too. Reported from Talk Left.
    **new update: Daily Kos has some frightening things to say about what begins to look less like incompetence, and more like systematic obstructionism.