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My somewhat-beloved and venerable Hyundai Santa Fe, named B, managed to acquire a repair bill twice the value of herself. After a period of panic, I sold  her to my mechanic for $200.  He says that he can fix her up for his 16 year old daughter.  So, she should have a good life after me.  She was at 155,000 miles, and had done yeoman service for six years.  Her name was short for Behemoth, as she was the largest thing that I have ever driven.  Also, a nod to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  (David insists that my very first car, Orange Blossom, was larger.  She was a 1976 International Scout II Travelall, and this may be true, but she stopped running in the late 80s, and I do not remember for certain.)

I purely hate car shopping.  The choice space is just too big.  Upon recommendation from Sharon, I googled "Cars for Old People" since one of my actual issues is that getting in and out of normal cars hurts my back.  Not a lot, but enough.  I knew I really liked my old Subaru Forester, of no name, who I killed a while back by ramming a wall.  So, I ended up going to a Kia dealership to drive a Kia Soul, and then to a Subaru dealership, with the intent of test-driving an Impreza.  I got into the Impreza on the show floor, and that was an instant nope.  It was too far down.  It hurt.  I did test drive an Outback and a Forester.  The modern Forester was lovely, lovely, lovely, but the Outback...was like driving butter.  Really expensive European butter.  It was priced to match, you understand.

And so, to Car Soup.  I found a dealership that had a 2017 Kia Soul and a 2017 Subaru Outback, both ex-fleet vehicles, both at extremely good prices.  The Kia had Most of the Things, and the Outback had All The Things.  David and I went down and test-drove them both.  And, yes, this Outback was still like driving butter, oh god.  AWD and Eyesight and Blindspot and adaptive cruise control and heated seats and the fancy interface with my phone and really, honestly, All The Things.  The Kia was well set up, with stuff I care about, including cruise control, climate control, Bluetooth connection for my phone, a back up camera, but no heated seats.  So,  really only Most of the Things. In the end, I decided based on price.  The Kia was available for $50 less per month, with a loan a full year shorter.  And so

I am now the proud owner of a white Kia Soul.  Which, because I am Captain Obvious, I have named Psyche.  
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I sometimes wonder what gynecology would be like if the medical profession had any history of treating women's pain seriously. Of even their dignity.  Possibly it would be different?  

I have achieved a major life goal: no babies.  I have never been pregnant my entire life, and tests confirm I'm in menopause, so, Achievement Unlocked!  Howsomever, that also means that I need to have the IUD which has been my boon companion for the last five years removed.  The Mirena was lifechanging, I tell you what.  Gone were my periods, and with them crippling menstrual cramps.  I tried to talk my doctor into letting me just keep the damn thing, since any dilation of my cervix hurts like a whole host of blue demons, and this is gonna be terrible as hell, but she insists that no, just no.  Really no.  No with no sauce.  Under no circumstances no.  So I finally made an appointment.

And because the universe hates me, my car is in hospital.  The heating system has been wonky for about two weeks, and for the last week, the heat simply refused to come on.  Occasionally, there was a bad smell, like a skunk a long way off.  On the way home from Jen's wedding (which was very fine), I noticed that the engine was making a weird noise.  I looked at the temperature gauge, and it had pegged in the red.  I was seven blocks from home, there was no where to park, and I said fuck it, and drove the rest of the way home, alternately cajoling and threatening the car.  

The car is old, and falling apart.  We have reached the point of nickel and diming me to death, but I need to save up a down payment on a new car, and I don't have that, yet.  So I'm hoping we can patch the poor thing up for a little longer.  I wish some distant relative I don't like would die and inexplicably leave me money.  My life would be completely transformed by twenty grand.  But that's not happening, so I muddle through as best I can.  If the car is not salvageable, I can probably patch together transport to work for a couple of months while I get it together to get a new car, but it would mean that I can't go to other labs if there was overtime offered, unless David can let me borrow his car.  Which is not impossible but could be inconvenient.  

There's a reason professionals talk logistics, man.  It impacts everything.  In the mean time, my very kind friend Eileen is going to take me to the aforementioned doctor, because god knows gynecological services can't be provided at the clinic 17 blocks from my house, but must be in the fucking suburbs because I don't even know why.  

Still, no babies.  So there's that.
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This is not a well-formed essay because I don't have all the pieces, yet.  But I want to put down what I do have, because I think it's important, and I think it might be important for other people, too.  Or, you know, not.  Do tell me in the comments.  

I've been thinking of the role of contempt in politics.  As a personal project, I've been trying to eliminate contempt in my own political discourse.   This is, you should understand, a work in progress.  I first noticed my own issues with contempt when I started following @NeolithicSheep on Twitter.  She is a small, sustainable farmer in Virginia, a Democratic Socialist, and extremely acerbic about city folk, especially Northern city folk, being condescending and judgmental about the rural South.  She makes a couple of really striking points.  When we talk about being progressive, we talk about caring about the poor and working class.  There is no definition of poor and working class that doesn't include the rural south.  More striking, the rural south has a lot of people of color in it.  When Northerners talk about writing off the South, we are basically saying that people who live in generational poverty because of the racist white ruling class are unimportant.  She says, often, "We don't leave anyone behind."  When Northerners think about the South negatively, we think about the white people.  Worse, we allow the white people who either identify with slave holders, some of whom are descendants of slave holders and inherited wealth generated by slavery, to define the narrative.  And it is to their benefit for Northerners to only see them, only see their issues and struggles.  All those sympathetic "Trump supporter" profiles continue to give voice and power to that narrative, and ignore the descendants of enslaved people, ignore the very vibrant and active progressives in the South.  Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum took Northerners by surprise, but they came to prominence because there is an extremely vibrant and active progressive alliance in the South which built organizations, and mobilized. It is an alliance which is regularly ignored or shit on by Northerners, except when they feel that they can use those people for their own ends.  Lord love a duck, how we adore the white savior narrative.  But the Civil Rights Movement, that wasn't born in the North amongst white people, though the stories we like to tell tend to be skew that direction.  

Contempt is a way of discarding people.  A way of walking away from problems.  When we say, "Should have let the South secede," what we are really saying is that the problem is too hard for us, and that we don't really care about the people who live there.  We are accepting the white supremacist narrative of the South.  I grew up in a Fundamentalist church.  My father was a minister, and I was fascinated by theology as a child.   I think that Fundamentalism is profoundly dangerous, and often evil.  But I am so very, very tired of people saying that Fundamentalists are stupid.  They aren't.  My father was very smart, my mother is extremely bright.  They held virulently horrible opinions about the world.  There are stupid Fundamentalists, but you don't have to be  stupid to believe in Creationism.  That belief system serves some very specific needs and desires, and very smart people do some very interesting intellectual gymnastics to believe in it.  They do it because they need something it offers, not because they are stupid.  Bigots and racists are not stupid, they are evil.  They are making choices that damage the body politic.  But shrugging and saying, "Well, what do you expect from a bunch of hicks," does nothing except make you feel good about yourself.

Contempt is a way of refusing to engage.  Refusing to look at the what's and the why's.  Which is going to sound like I think that you should debate Nazis instead of punching them.  No, no I don't think that.  I would argue that debating Nazis is often a form of contempt, not respect. Ask me how I know.  I used to go out onto Usenet (yes, I am that old) when I was bored, looking for people with bad opinions to argue with and condescend to.  It was fun.   It changed pretty much no ones mind, but it was entertaining to troll the trolls.  I held them, and their beliefs, in contempt, and I enjoyed demonstrating that on the Internet.  I was not engaging with them, I was mocking them.  They had nothing to say that I valued.  Dear friends, nothing a Nazi says is worth engaging in.  Nothing a racist says about race is worth engaging in.  Bigotry and hatred is not something to debate.  It is something to hate, something to excoriate.  My humanity is not up for discussion, and no one else's should be, either.

I think that many of those Trump voter profiles were actually rooted in contempt, masked as empathy.  I think that there was a sense that these people were so pitiably stupid that they had nothing to say, nothing of value, and that profiling them would make that clear.  And, yeah, no.  If someone you respect says something gobsmackingly wrong, you try to correct them.  Ideally without humiliating them.  I do come from a sub-culture where correcting people is considered polite, so I am biased in that direction. The profile of Richard Spencer, which spent a lot of time talking about how natty he was, and not about how hateful his views and goals were, is contemptuous to the point of malfeasance.  The only reason that Richard Spencer matters is because he is getting political traction for Nazi talking points, and a profile more concerned with his polish than his politics is contemptuous of both Spencer and the reader.  If you have nothing useful to say about the reason Spencer's views are dangerous, if you can't write a piece which constructive engages with his hateful bigotry (and I will grant you that writing such a piece may not be possible) then why are you profiling him in the first place?

I find that when I try to remove condescension from my political discourse, I have more room for both compassion and anger.  I am more willing to hold people to account for their own actions, and more willing to consider the context in which they have taken those actions.  I am more aware of what people do, and less judgmental of who they are.  

Here endeth the noodle.  
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I can now report that the two hockey dudes are named Reilly and Jonesey.  I am unclear as to whether they have first names.  I have also been sufficiently acculturated that when Reilly and Jonesey decided that the way to win back Katy was to beat up her big brother Wayne, my second response was, "Could work."  I continue to be impressed that most of the people in this show are kind, that there is very little contempt, and very little embarrassment humor.  
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Ok, who else has seen "Letterkenny"?  And why, oh why, did you not tell me about it?

I am still in the "Oh, my god, what the fuck has happened to me" stage of the experience.  When they say, "This is for mature audiences only" they are not fucking around, my friends.  Is is easily the crudest, most casually obscene thing I have ever seen, with no graphic sex and very little violence, but oh my god, so crude.  Hysterically, hilariously, intensely crude.

Also, and not joking here, it is extremely poetic.  They use repetition in a way that I have not seen, but I believe some forms of poetry do use repetition in this fashion.  

I am unsure if I like any of these people.  But I am entranced by this show.  It is really, really rare to have something with intensely vibrant verbal pyrotechnics combined with an amazing range of obscenity and vulgarity and profanity.  I mean, they fucking use all the goddamn words.  All the words.  

 This, for example, is a description of a bar fight in alphabetical alliteration.  The guy giving the prompt is Daryl, and the guy describing the fight is Wayne, the toughest guy in Letterkenny.  

Warning, there is Language.



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I forgot that today is the Mnstf Pool Party.  It is one of the two (three, if you count Minicon) Big Deal parties of the year.  I have been having unusually bad brain weather, and so keeping track of things like, Today Is a Day I Go to Work has been difficult.  I didn't wake up until 9:30 p.m., and had to shower and red up the media room because Eric and Pamela are sleeping here to night, so I wasn't really ready to put on clothes and leave the house until 10:30 p.m.  By the time I got to the hotel, it would be 11:00 p.m., minimum, and many of my friends will have already left.  So, I've decided to stay at home and drink beer and eat nachos.

I'm really angry about this, but there's no one to be angry _at_.  It was no one's job to remind me, and no one's job to make me make plans, and I forgot, and I didn't make plans, and I haven't seen my Mnstf friends in forever, and I'm just really sad and pissed.

Possibly it will be more than one beer. 
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Beacon Hill Cookies.

Also, they are dead easy to make, even I can bake them.  They are basically a chocolate meringue with walnuts.  (Some recipes call for pecans, but i grew up with walnuts.)  They are gluten free, if you need that, and even DDB, who is deeply dubious of meringue in all its forms, liked them. And the prep time really is just about 10 minutes, and the cooking time really is 10 minutes.  

My mother used to make these, and I love them to pieces.  Also, a cookie I can bake!  Pretty neat, huh? 
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So, recently a friend showed me this video.  It is Vienna Teng's "Level Up".  www.youtube.com/watch

(I have no idea how to embed, sorry.)



It's a stunning video, and it reminded me of how much I love this kind of dance, and how much I don't know about dance.  As in, I have no idea what style(s) the dance in this video is/are.  I see some breakdance moves, but that's not the only thing going on here.  Does this fall under the rubric of "modern dance"?  Is is something more specific?

More importantly, where can I see more of this?  Especially, where in the Twin Cities can I see this live?  I don't even know what to search for, so impoverished is my vocabulary.  

Anybody have any good pointers?  

Thanks.  
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[personal profile] mrissa mentioned Jackson's treatment of LOTR in the previous post, and I think that, in fact, there are some strong similarities to the choices he made in the LOTR trilogy and TSNGO, and I'd like to noodle about that for a brief moment.  

We know as a matter of historical fact that LOTR is heavily inflected by Tolkien's experience fighting in World War I.  It was not, nor was it intended to be, an allegorical work.  At the same time, his experiences were very influential.  There's been a lot of ink spilled on that topic, and I've not read most of it, but even at a glance, one can see the reflections and resonances.  

Jackson, in his treatment of LOTR, makes two very consequential and contra textual changes to Tolkien's work.  The first is the way he treats the One Ring.  It is, in the movies, an absolute corrupter.  It deprives those near it of agency.  It is how we get to see Boromir as a tragic hero, and weep for him.  In the end, it's not really his fault that he tried to rape away the ring from Frodo, he was caught in the thrall of the One Ring, and it wasn't really his fault.  This reading of the power of the ring also forces Jackson to do the most egregious bit of rewriting.  Faramir in the book said, "I would not take this thing, if it lay by the highway. Not were Minas Tirith falling in ruin and I alone could save her, so, using the weapon of the Dark Lord for her good and my glory."   In the movie he is strongly tempted by the ring, and almost steals it from Frodo.  That impeachment of his character still infuriates me.  That change also alters our understanding of Denethor, makes his choices and tragedy less explicable.  In the book, we understand Denethor through his relationship to his sons.  This change makes Denethor much more of a cipher, makes his choices less explicable. The weight of that change steals agency from every character who interacts with the ring.  It's subtle, but that choice changes the heroics of Sam, the temptation of Galadriel, the actions of Gandalf in ways that make their choices less consequential and more fated.  

The other extremely consequential change, which [personal profile] mrissa mentioned, is removing the Scouring of the Shire.  One of the reasons that Lord of the Ring works so very well, is so intense and readable and important, is because he tells the grand sweeping, mythic story from the view point of a common, small, not very important hobbit.  I expect there's a lot of literary criticism about how this creates a relatable character to allow the reader to identify with.  But there's something else going on, too.  It's not just a nice literary device upon which to hang a mythic tale.  It is also a viewpoint that people matter.  That actions matter.  That people like Frodo, and Merry, and Pippin, and Sam, matter, that their choices and their actions matter.  The Scouring of the Shire has some of the "as above, so below" resonance that one would expect from someone well versed in Catholic theology.  But it is also, indelibly, about context and significance.  One of the reasons that hobbits continually surprise Gandalf, one of the reasons that they are capable of such enormous courage and stubbornness, is because of where they came from, and what they value.  

In Jackson's treatment of LOTR, the hobbits' context is largely played for a joke.  Their heritage, their concerns, their delights in food and drink are reduced to jokes about second breakfast and the smoking scene after the flooding of Isengard.  None of these things are real for Jackson.  He doesn't care.  The fact that who they are is partly a product of where they came from, that the choices that they make are heavily inflected by their past, is stripped away.  

So, in LOTR, we see Jackson strip his characters of agency, and treat their context as a joke.   He doesn't manage to do this as thoroughly in LOTR as he does in TSNGO, because the story Tolkien told doesn't really let him completely denude the characters of choice and past.  

I only saw the first of The Hobbit trilogy.  I reacted to it like blue food.  I had an extremely bad reaction to Radagast the Brown.  I found him vastly offensive. But I would also argue that Bilbo can't carry the story that Jackson said he wanted to tell.  He's a simple hobbit with simple desires, and that is the fundamental charm and strength of Tolkien's story telling.  We see small people as consequential.  Not because they are huge heroes, but because they want a nice cup of tea, and yet still are endowed with great courage.  This huge scope robs Bilbo of agency.  He's a bit part in a large play, yes.  But what he does matters a lot, and he does it for his own reasons, within his own frame of reference.  Jackson doesn't seem to think that this frame of reference matters.  He doesn't seem to believe that people's actions actually matter.  
 

Tolkien, I think, fundamentally believed that people matter.  Their choices matter.  Their lives matter.  The world is huge and strange and there is a larger story than any of us can comprehend of which we are a part.  But we are not an inconsequential part.  We matter.  Our lives matter, our past matters, our choices matter, and our future is not completely outside our control.  No one wants to live in such terrible times, but, "that is not for them to decide.  All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."

I think that Jackson has a broken sense of story.  I think that he has a broken sense of agency, of consequence, of truth.  I think that shows in his treatment both of LOTR and the Great War.  
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I saw Peter Jackson's "They Shall Not Grow Old" last week, and I have feelings.  I said some of this on a locked post, but I find that I still have many, many feels, and I wish to share.

So, let's start by what Jackson actually did.  He had access to about 100 hours of silent movie footage, courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, and about 600 hours of audio, largely from the BBC, of interviews of veterans.  My impression is that much of the audio was collected in the Sixties or Seventies, so probably for 50 year retrospectives of the Great War.  Jackson did a lot of computer work to enhance the visual components.  The movie footage was supplemented with contemporary stills, as well as stills of contemporary drawings from a magazine called something generic, like, "The War Magazine," of which Jackson, personally, owned about 200 issues.  These images were mostly used during the battle sequence, since there is very little contemporary still footage and no movie footage of the actual battles.  The only narration of the documentary is from the BBC audio.  I am not sure how many individual voices were used, more than a double dozen, I think.  They are never identified while they speak.  

The movie opens with a series of men talking about how the war was important, formative, and if they had to do it over again, they would have.  The fact that the only narration is from veterans gives the entire movie a gloss of authenticity.  All the visuals are contemporary, all the voices are of people who are talking about first hand experiences.  The structure of the movie itself strips away all the political context, and the passage of time.  There are men talking about enlisting, then men talking about boot camp, then men talking about the trenches, time spent either in the trenches or behind the trenches, then men talking about being in battle, and then a few voices talking about how they couldn't find jobs when they returned home.  All these voices are British.  I am not good enough to sort out class by accent.  None of these voices are identified.  The segues between the voices make them sound as if they are speaking as one voice.  After the movie is over, there is a 30 minute coda with Jackson talking about how he built this film, talking about some of the technical challenges, the foley work, how and why he chose to colorize certain bits, and so on.  All of this is interesting.  But he also says some things that are just...wrong.  He talks about his choice to ignore the politics in the context of saying that what he was trying to do was represent the generic experience of an infantryman.  He says that the experience of being an infantryman was roughly the same for the British, the Canadians, the Americans, the Italians, and the Germans.  At which point my brain, which had been trying to make sense of his storytelling choices, screeched to a halt, and I became very, very angry.  I am still angry.

So, let's start with a couple of theories about Story.  Teresa Nielsen Hayden has said that plot is a literary convention, but Story is a force of nature.  We are pattern-matching and pattern-creating creatures, and one of our primary ways of understanding things is via Story.  We will create Story out of any set of random facts you care to throw at us.  It is essentially impossible for this documentary not to be telling a story.  And, indeed, Jackson claims to be trying to tell a story, just a denatured, generic story.  But the thing about Story is that is never generic.  We are not generic.  Who we are now, who we have been, who we hope to become, all of these things are essential to our personal story.  The details of our lives create the narrative that we use to understand them.  The best way to enhance an emotive connection, to enhance the common humanity of the other, is specificity.  A guy goes to war is a generic story, and not very relatable.  A boy raised on a farm who has never seen a big city but who feels the call of both patriotism and a desire for wider horizons and so signs up at fifteen and his parents let him because they too feel the pull of patriotic duty, that is a story with a beat you can dance to.  You have never been that boy or lived in those circumstances, but the detail brings the story alive.  You feel as if you understand that choice, that person.  And that's the other essential thing about Story.  It is about choice.  The choices people make, the choices they fail to make, the alternatives they see, the ones they fail to see, the ones they see in hindsight.  Story is both choice points and connective tissue.  The context matters.  Context always matters.  Context controls content.  Simple declarative sentences are very different, depending on the context.  "Clean up your room," "I hate you," "That was an interesting choice" are all sentences that can mean very different things, depending on tone, context, the speaker, and the intended audience.  

SO, WHAT ON EARTH MADE JACKSON THINK THAT THE BEST WAY TO TELL A STORY ABOUT MEN DOING SOMETHING EXTREMELY STRANGE, HARD, UNTHINKABLE, AND HORRIFIC, WAS TO STRIP AWAY CONTEXT?  IN WHAT WORLD DOES THAT MAKE SENSE?  

There are a  lot of different voices in this documentary.  And they are telling very, very different stories.  One of the most interesting "tells" are the men who speak in the first person plural versus the ones who speak in the first person singular.  The ones who speak in first person plural tend to talk about the war in a positive fashion.  "We were, none of us, afraid." "We had a job to do, you see, and so we did it."  "We were all very proud of being British."  The first person singular voices were more specific, and more nuanced.  "I wasn't afraid of dying, but I was afraid of losing a limb."  "I have never been more frightened in my life."  "That was when I lost any idea that war was noble."  I don't know if Jackson did any computer magic to make the voices sound similar, but there isn't any obvious way to tell when the narrator switches.  The voices segue from one to the other, without any notation as to who is speaking.  They are all very British male voices, and while you could generally tell when a different person started speaking, there was no way to tell if this was the same guy who had taken off his stripes on the way over to France because he had heard that officers were targeted, or the guy who insisted that they were all proud to do their duty.  There was no way to tell if the man who said that he lied about his age in order to join up was the guy who had never been more frightened in his life, or the man who said that battle was just a job of work and so he got on with it.  The man who says that they were trained to stab bags of sand in preparation to bayonet human beings is never connected up to anyone's experience of actual battle.  And there is no way to tell if the man speaking at any given time was an officer or an enlisted man, if he saw combat, if he did a week in the trenches or the whole bloody four years.  

These men do not have the same story, nor do they tell the same story.  The sergeant in charge of turning a raw recruit into a soldier, the boy from the factory who is undernourished and weak, the Boer War veteran, have the commonality of the trench, yes, but where they came from must surely change how they saw their time there.  There was one story that stuck out of the narrative, in part because it was an actual story, with detail, choice, and consequence.  In the battle montage, the voice says that there was a fellow soldier with horrific, fatal wounds who was crying for his Nana.  The narrator shot the wounded soldier, and says, "It was the right thing.  He would have died.  I couldn't just let him suffer.  But it hurt me.  It hurt me very much."  In this incredibly homogenized and denatured montage of battle memories, it sticks out.

I also question the way in which Jackson carefully distances distinctly different views from each other.  You do not hear a man saying, "We were none of us afraid" and another saying "I was never more afraid in my life" one right after the other.  Rather, there are other voices in between, and that stark juxtaposition is missing.  This cannot be accidental, and I assume it is in service of the conceit that Jackson is telling the "generic, average" story.  

Something that I didn't realize until later, but which seems very important, is that every one of these voices is the voice of a dead man.  I am certain that Jackson has the unimpeachable legal rights to use these voices in this way, but none of these men could have consented to it.  None of them had the opportunity to look at how Jackson used their voices.  The interviews were given in a particular context, and presumably much of what was said was in the response to questions.  All of that is stripped away, and I do wonder exactly what was lost, and if the speakers would agree or disagree with the story that was told using their voice.  (In the coda, Jackson mentions that one of the videos, of men in the sunken lane, are all in their last half-hour of life.  They all died in the battle that followed.  This, too, stands out because suddenly there is context for those smiling boys in uniform, a bit dazzled to be in moving pictures, a bit scared about what comes next, and trying not to show either emotion.)

One final detail also very much bugs me.  The film starts with men whistling "Hanging on the Old Barb Wire."  I know the lyrics well.  It is an anti-war song, a sarcastic commentary on the horrors of war, and how those horrors are not shared equally across the ranks, how the officers live well and better based on rank, and how the common soldier dies in horror and mud to maintain that social status quo.  (As an aside, I believe that at this point in history, officers were usually chosen from the upper classes, and so the difference between officer and enlisted man was usually a difference of social standing as well as military rank.)  The whistling gives the song a haunted air.  The credits are to the sound of a half-dozen diplomats flown in for the occasion, singing an energetic rendition of the cleaner verses of "Mademoiselle from Armentières."  So, what story is Jackson telling by starting with a war protest song, full of pain and class consciousness, but stripped of its lyrical detail, narrating a story in dead men's voices but stripped of context and detail, then ending with a legendarily dirty song, cheerful and complete with lyrics, sung by live men who have (probably) never seen war? 

Jackson was asked to create something never seen before.  He did.  The visuals are stunning.  But it is also the first time I have seen The War to End All Wars portrayed as generic, denatured, bereft of agency, and vaguely cheerful around the edges.  
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Do not fall down the stairs.

Again.

I am achy, my wrist hurts, my palm is swollen, and I have an amazingly large, dark bruise with swelling on my right ass cheek.  

Advil is one of the great wonders of the world.  

I can still knit, although I need to take breaks.  But that's a relief, you have no idea.
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Rather abruptly, I came down with what was probably a stomach flu Thursday night.  I left work early, and managed to get home before the severe chills hit.  I never took my temperature, but I assume based on the misery of the chills that it was rather high.  At one point, I was unable to roll over in bed, because the effort that took caused severe nausea.  

While neither sensation is pleasant, I would just like to say that ravenous hunger and nausea are particularly unpleasant in combination.  

I am clearly on the mend, and was able to eat soup  last night (tom yum, my go-to sick soup) and two eggs this morning.  So, that's good.  

I have been enjoining my beloveds not to touch me, and washing my hands frequently.  Hopefully no one else ends up with this.  The onset was extremely abrupt, and no one in my social or work circles has this that I know of, so I have no idea what's going on. I suppose the other option is salmonella poisoning.  Any way, it is the ick.

First Days

Nov. 8th, 2018 09:20 am
lydy: (Default)
So, today was the first day in a very long time that I came home from work and did not have a cranky, bossy tortie cat nag me to feed her.  No ghost has visited me, yet.  Often, my dead cats make a brief appearance, but not always.  

There was a lovely article I wish I could find about making room for your dead friend.  The gist was that since your newly deceased friend can no longer inhabit the world, they will move into your head, and the article was tips and tricks for how to welcome and live with your new room mate.  I looked for it a while ago, but couldn't find it, as my google-fu is not great.

I was not thrilled with the election, but I was locally very pleased and nationally hopeful.  It is not all I wanted, nor even all that we need, but it has a bunch of good things in it.

I woke up, last night, to the news that Trump has fired Sessions, which terrifies me.  I do not know how this will go.  Watergate gives me hope, but Trump has far fewer morals or qualms than Nixon.  Which is a perfectly terrifying sentence to write.  Hell, Trump has fewer morals than _KIssinger_.  Saints preserve us.  Days like this, I wish I was a theist. 
lydy: (Default)
 My cat Naomi died today around noon, probably of a stoke.  She's been doing poorly, lately, but was still purring and active right up to the end.  She was a funny, opinionated cat who used to bully David around.   She never figured out how to sit on laps.  Her favorite thing was for David to lie down on the bed, and she would lie stretched out next to him, and he would scratch her chest and belly.  She would hound him when he was working on his desk until he would finally lie down so she could be petted.  None of this getting up on the lap stuff for her.  

Pamela and I brought her and her sister Arwen home from the pound in January of 2001.  Naomi, a teeny tiny tortie, hissed at the person who took her out of the cage.  She was mentored by my aging Lilith, and she in turn was best friends with Nuit.  Naomi used to run into the bedroom, and make a kind of querying "prrrtt" noise to let Nuit know that the game was afoot, and they'd then go rocketing off together through the night.  

She was a deeply opinionated cat with mad hiding skills.  If she didn't want to be found, that was the end of that.  She was also incredibly smart. Some years ago, she saw me put the cat carriers into the cat-free zone the night before the vet appointment.  When I returned in the morning to take them to their appointment, Arwen was sleeping on the bed, but Naomi was no where to be found.  Eventually, I took Arwen in for her shots, and Naomi had to be rescheduled.  

Ginger jars make very nice, cat-sized urns, and both Lilith and Arwen are in appropriate ginger jars.  I just made an offer on one on eBay that I think will suit Naomi.  

I miss her very much.
lydy: (Default)
So,  a couple of friends and I have a tv date every Sunday, more or less.  At the moment, we are watching "Community" which I really love.  The acting is amazing.  The plot lines are pretty stupid, and it is a sitcom with all the ills to which the genre is heir, but seriously, the acting is amazing.  One of the episodes involves a family day, where the community college members invite their family.  Donald Glover's character is forced into squiring around his grandmother.  He says that she is evil.  One of the other characters insists that this cannot be the case, and to prove her point, tells a slightly tasteless joke to gramma.  Gramma tells her to get a switch.  

This is all very predictable.  Glover's character tells his friend she shouldn't do this, she insists, finds a suitable stick, and brings it to gramma.  Gramma tells her to drop her pants and bend over her knee, which the character with some amazement does.  I was expecting them to play this for laughs, and wasn't real happy about it.  The first blow startles the victim, the second clearly hurts, and she starts to cry on the third blow.

At which point, I hear myself say, "This is not ok.  This is not ok.  MAKE IT STOP.  I CAN'T STAND THIS.  THIS HAS TO STOP.  I'm sorry, I have to leave, I have to..." and I leave the room walk into the living room, stand staring at a blank wall and cry.  After a while, I say, "I'm 56 years old.  This is stupid."  It takes me a while to stop crying.

It was embarrassing.  My friends are wonderful people, and this will never be used to hurt or mock me.  But it is still embarrassing.  And it was such a shock.  I was completely blindsided by my own brain.  I referred to it as a flashback, but I'm not sure that's technically correct.  I didn't suddenly relive a childhood experience.  But I was utterly overwhelmed by an extreme distress, and taken completely by surprise.

Brains are really weird.

Donald Glover is a wonderful actor, and I need to look for the actor that plays Abed, because he is amazing.  Glover has charm and charisma.  The other guy has fucking range, and gorgeous timing.  I will watch the rest of the series.  But damn, that was a shock.
lydy: (Default)
So, I have this long, extremely funny story about losing my virginity.  If you know me in person, you may have heard it.  It actually is quite funny.  But part of the reason it's funny is because I take all the personal trauma off the table right up front.  The actual thrust of the story is how terrible my parents were.  It is part of my decades-long attempt to redress the injustices of my childhood by telling family secrets.  It is a pretty good story.  If you haven't heard it, I might be willing to tell it again.  

Or, maybe not.

I want to talk about the things I usually elide.  The things that watching a probable rapist elevated to the Supreme Court has brought up.  And, to be clear, I never really wanted to deal with any of this.  It happened 40 years ago (come April) and is 4/5ths of my life ago.  I had the whole thing carefully boxed, labeled, and put in the back of a closet.  But then all those motherfuckers on the Judiciary committee kept on going on and on and on about how this wasn't really important.  So, I opened the box to find out if they were right.  If maybe it really hadn't mattered.  If, possibly, I didn't matter.

Here are some facts that I don't elide, but I sure don't emphasize:  I was sixteen, and he was 25.  I was a virgin.  And while I really wish that didn't matter, it actually did, for me.  He knew these things.  I was drunk, and he helped get me drunk.  I tend to emphasize my agency in this scenario, but what I don't emphasize was that if I had been sober, I would not have said yes.  I was not blacked out, or incoherent, but I don't actually remember ever saying yes.  I let it happen, I didn't struggle, but I didn't really want it to happen.  

What I never say:  it was profoundly traumatizing.  A lot of the trauma was secondary, at the hands of my parents. But that trauma would not have happened if Alan Campbell had not chosen to fuck a drunk sixteen year old virgin in the kitchenette of a Unitarian Church.  (Weird side-note.  Another man I was dating, also 25, was named Lawrence.  My mother also socialized with him.  After the event, she asked him if he had ever slept with me.  [This, by the way, is even creepier than it sounds, since my mother was fucking him.]  He said, in shock, "No, I would never" and said that he saw how completely destroyed I had been.  So, there's an outside observer confirming the trauma.  Which, oddly, I need.)  For some years after the event, I believed it to be a pivotal, identity defining moment, and it was.  The story I like to tell talks about all the wonderful things that happened as a result, including the divorce of my parents.  And those are also true.  But there's a soul-deep wound there, too.  A profound belief that I was damaged.  Even when I rejected the idea of sexual purity as a necessary element of being a good person, the sense of damage and inadequacy remained.

Another detail I rarely relate:  My parents, when they found out, made me call Alan Campbell and tell him that I could never see or speak to him again.  He said, "Ok," and hung up.  It took me years to admit that what he sounded was relieved.  

I had always thought that rape was a consequential act.  That it mattered.  Not that people necessarily paid for it, or that rapists regretted it.  But I thought that it mattered to them.  I do not think that I mattered as a person to Alan Campbell (who may or may not be a rapist, depending on how you measure these things) but I thought that I mattered as an object.  The Kavanaugh hearings have made it clear...nope.  I was just a canvas upon which he could sketch his masculinity and his dominance.  I didn't even matter as a prize in the game.  I was just the medium.  

I am still not over how devastating this revelation has been.  

The other thing I am discovering is that for forty years, I have interrogated and struggled with my choices, and never once really looked at Campbell's choices.  I do not know, and will never know, why he did what he did.  But the fact that he made those choices, choices which were hugely consequential to me, had actually escaped me.  In my mind, he was more force of nature than a human with free will.  And because I, and society, think of rapists that way, we fail to hold them accountable for their actions.

I wanna circle back to Lawrence, for a moment.  He was the same age as Campbell.  He was, especially by modern standards, kinda skeevy.  He took me to plays, took me to dinners, we took long walks around downtown Pittsburgh admiring old buildings.  He treated me like a precious person.  He was funny and witty and had this gorgeous English accent.  He was also fucking my mother.  He was no one's hero.  But he never made the choice to fuck me.  He gave me the occasional glass of wine, but never, ever tried to pressure me into sex.  He was a gifted kisser, and man, he had lovely hands that did marvelous things to my body.  But he was gentle, kind, and did not have sex with me, even though it must have been incredibly tempting and he probably could have persuaded me, especially if there had been a little more wine.  

We say that rape is about power, not sex.  Which isn't exactly right.  The implication there is that sex is not about power.  If that were true, there wouldn't be BDSM.  Sex is a complex human behavior, which serves a lot of different functions, and the exercise of power and dominance is one of them.  It is also very central to the way we build our understanding of ourselves.  One of the reasons the LBGTQ movement is what it is is because these things are at the center of how we understand ourselves.  Our innate sense that sexual abuse is qualitatively different from other types of abuse is because of this.  Rapists are affirming their central sense of self.  And, honestly, that's scary.  

I am not recovered from this re-visiting of trauma.  It's actually kind of awful.  I'm not sure what I'm learning, either about myself or my society. I really wish I could put my quasi-rape back in a box.  

One request: please don't admire my bravery.  I am not at risk.  Nothing bad is going to happen to me for telling this story in public.  No one powerful or dangerous will see this, or care if they do. Christine Blassey Ford -- that was bravery.
lydy: (Default)
from [personal profile] brithistorian 

1. How did you get started keeping tropical fish?  

I literally do not remember.  My parents had tropical fish when I was a kid.  And I think I started out with  a Betta in a very nice Eclipse tank that made almost  no noise.  At the moment, I am fish-less, and have not yet got up the energy to clean the tanks and start over.  I kind of want a large tank with a lot of small fish, but the work involved is daunting.


2. Is there an SF con that you've never been to that you'd like to check out?

Tons, actually.  Boskone and Eastercon come immediately to mind.  If Jo continues to run Scintillation, I'd really like to do that, too.  

3. What gets your vote for most underrated SF novel of the last 10 years?

This assumes that I am far better read than I actually am, I think.  Especially in the last two years, I've read very little, as Trump has eaten my fiction brain.  I think that Seanan McGuire's Toby Day books are undervalued.  They are popular, but tend to be seen as covered in girl-cooties.  Which, yes, but in an incredibly good way.  I think that Walton's Thessaly Triology was amazing, but I'm not sure it's underrated.  


4. What's your favorite card game?

When I have brains, bridge.  When I don't, Czar.  


5. What's your favorite international cuisine?

Thai.  Closely followed by Indian.  

If you want five questions from me, comment below.  
lydy: (Default)
So, there was a link in my Twitter Feed to this article about child abuse at Catholic Orphanages. Here's the link, in case you care: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/christinekenneally/orphanage-death-catholic-abuse-nuns-st-josephs

I tried to read it. I could not make it all the way through. Not because it's long, but because of the way it's structured, and because of the graphic abuse described. To be clear, I do not have PTSD, and I do not have flash-backs when reading graphic accounts of abuse and torture. But at some point, my brain just nopes out. It does this before I get traumatized (thank you, brain).

As these pieces are wont to do, it starts with a graphic, personal vignette. Then the piece weaves together other people's stories, the account of at least two different law suits against the orphanage, brief tangents about other orphanages, all of it punctuated by stories of graphic abuse, and with an underlying theme that maybe some of this didn't happen. The one thing I know about human memory is that it is profoundly malleable. False memories are a thing. I am less clear on recovered and repressed memories, but it wouldn't surprise me. People lie, and people attempting to tell the truth get it utterly wrong. The article kept on holding out the promise of sorting all this out. But the structure of it, the constant interweaving of graphic stories of abuse with other bits of personal history from one of the nuns, one of the lawyers, some of the children remembering abuse... And the structure made it such that trying to skip the really graphic bits made the whole article become incoherent. The story was written so the that the through-line was not uncovering the truth, but the stories of abuse.

Dear reader, I do not need this in my life. I just don't.

This style of writing is pretty common. Start with an intriguing personal anecdote. Pull back, suggest a wider context and big themes. State a question or thesis. Pull in close to the personal, pull back to the general, rinse, repeat. Even when the detail isn't about terrible horror, I find this structure really hard to read. The personal details often strike me as irrelevant, or derailing. There's a real lack of causality in this structure that just makes me crazy. If the totality of the story actually answers the question or supports the thesis, I am often unable to tell by the end, even if I get there. It often seems to seems to me that the detailing of the subjective experiences is used to undermine rather than support an objective conclusion. And this shit just makes me crazy.

Possibly, I am just a bad reader. But I really hate this style of reportage/essay.

P.S. If anybody can tell me if the story that I cite above actually comes to a conclusion about how supported the claims of abuse are, I'd be interested. After the mass grave in Ireland and the stories of the Magdelen laundries, I'm inclined to believe almost anything about Catholic run orphanages and charities, but that doesn't mean that every story is true.
lydy: (Default)
I've been listening to the podcast "Slow Burn." The first season chronicled the Watergate scandal, and how it led to Nixon's resignation There's a lot of stuff there I didn't know, and some stuff they left out that they shouldn't have, but it's a good, interesting listen. I had no idea about Martha Mitchell. The second season is about Clinton's impeachment, and before I listen to it, I want to try to remember what it was like at the time, without reference to notes and histories. I want to set down my vague memories before I get a lot of facts. Conservatives have been beating their chests about how we failed to hold Clinton to account, which is painfully and obviously disingenuous, but I am curious about my opinions now, and want to contrast them to what I think and feel after I have a better look with more detail.

I was in my mid-thirties when this all went down. One thing I never really focused on was how young Monica Lewinsky was. I think I was thinking of her as roughly my age. (I did look this up: she was 11 years my junior.) A young, pretty woman wants to sleep with the most powerful man on the planet? Seemed like a no-brainer, to me. Moreover, Bill Clinton had tons of charisma. When I considered the question, "Would I sleep with this man?" the answer was an absolute and resounding "In a hot minute." And the answer would have been the same if I was Lewinsky's age. My early twenties were full of unwise sexual liaisons, some of which were enormously rewarding, others...less so. I would also say that I did not focus on the power imbalance. She was an adult, he was an adult, and well, ya know. I kind of assumed, or maybe hoped, that Bill and Hillary had a secretly open marriage. Certainly, there were a lot of stories about how Bill liked to tom-cat about, and I assumed that the two of them had somehow come to terms with that.

I had certainly heard of the Genifer Flowers story, but I didn't pay it much attention. I just don't care about adultery, to be honest. Either he and his wife will work it out, or not. Do not care, and do not want to know. Also, there had been (or were still happening? not sure of timing) a whole series of increasingly entertaining peccadilloes from tv evangelists, which warmed the cockles of my heart. The Jimmy Swaggart downfall was just downright funny. But if the most prominent members of Reagan's Moral Majority were being hung out to dry for moral failings, it didn't seem to me that anybody should be throwing asparagus at Bill Clinton.

When I first heard of the story of Monica Lewinsky, my first thought was, "No relationship can stand this kind of public scrutiny. What ever they were to each other, this will destroy them." Near as I could tell from the grotesque coverage at the time, the two of them were genuinely fond of each other. I was less clear on how honest Bill was with her, and unclear on what she thought about the harm she might be doing Hillary, but it seemed gross and unconscionable that this was being dragged into the public sphere. It was unique. Lots of presidents had mistresses. GHWB was rumored to have one, JFK was known to have several, and so back in time. (If Reagan had any sexual peccadilloes, I really didn't want to know, because euwww.)

I hate Newt Gingrich with a passion. The Clinton white house had its problems, but most of the scandals seemed, from the vantage of Minneapolis to a person who was not an avid news consumer, to be concocted and blown out of proportion by a person who was obviously dealing in bad faith. He was an evil little prick, and if you want to talk about polarizing politics, well, he's not patient zero, but man is he close. I did not see the White House as scandal-ridden so much as Gingriched.

The Paula Jones story seemed like trumped up nothing. At that time, I thought that you could really only claim sexual harassment if someone refused you advancement because you wouldn't sleep with them, or non-consensually groped you. At the time, I used to say that sexual harassment sensitivity training should really be simplified to "The first grope is free." I...do not hold those views, anymore. At the time, none of the things that Jones said sounded that bad to me, but I was not playing close attention, either. Carville said, "Drag a $100 bill through a trailer park, it's amazing what you'll get." It was an appallingly misogynistic and classist slur, and I am ashamed now that I laughed. The one bit of misogyny that did really irk me were all the people going on and on and on about Lewinsky's weight. There were numerous pundits who appeared to be offended, not that Clinton was banging an intern, but that he was banging an intern that wasn't hot enough. It was intensely gross.

The spectacle of the House Investigation, with Henry Hyde, who had a long-term mistress, Newt Gingrich whose sexual misconduct included banging his secretary and then divorcing his wife while she was in the hospital with cancer, and various other Republicans whose own sexual histories were nothing to write home about was vile. Hypocritical and vile. The various slings that they took at Hillary, at Lewinsky, and their sheer self-righteous posturing made me vow that I would never vote for another Republican, not even for dog-catcher. This is a vow I have kept, although gods know the Republicans make it easier every year.

There was also an allegation of two ... Arkansas cops? ... who allegedly, I'm not sure, took Clinton and his paramour to anonymous no-tell motels on the Arkansas dime, maybe? It seemed deeply far-fetched and not credible. I haven't revisited that set of allegations, but what I've seen of politicians' behavior since then makes it less incredible.

Do I think we failed to hold Clinton to account, upon reflection? I ... think we failed Monica Lewinsky. I think that we let the government and the press victimize her, and I think we should all be ashamed of that. I am less clear about Clinton. I don't think that, at the time, we had anything like the understanding we have now about power imbalances and consent. And if we were going to hold Clinton to account, he wasn't really the best place to start. There were so many other things that were more common-place and worse. If it happened now, things would be different (I hope), but those stepping stones had not yet been put in place. I think that he did misuse his position, but I do not know how coercive he was. I actually care a lot about coercion.

So, I guess we did fail to hold Clinton to account, but it wasn't because he was the president, or Bill Clinton, so much as it was that we weren't holding _anybody_ to account in that way. And the naked partisanship on display had exactly nothing to do with advancing the cause of feminism. It was entirely about playing moral gotcha at the president. The talking points were all about monogamy and marriage, and I don't give a wet slap about that. No one should think that the Republicans were, in any way, champions of women's rights.

So, that's what I've got. I'll revise this after I've listened to this season of Slow Burn.
lydy: (Default)
To repeat:  I knit.  A lot.  And I usually give away what I create, since I do it for joy.  Like you, I've been hugely disturbed by the stories coming from our southern border.  So I would like to ask that if you want one of my shawls, you pledge to donate at least $10 to RAICES, or some other immigrant support groups. The donate link for RAICES is https://www.raicestexas.org/donate/  

Materials cost for a shawl is between $20 and $50, more if there are a lot of beads.  I am not a fast knitter, and I do a lot of ripping and reknitting, so labor time on these is between 30 and 100 hours.  What I'm saying here is, if you're thinking about value, $10 doesn't even cover materials costs.  

All shawls are knit with a wool blend.  If you are allergic to wool these will make you itch.  If you have not very bad cat allergies, these shawls should be fine.  They were washed and blocked in a cat free area, but stored in a room where cats do go -- though they have not been sat upon by said cats.  If you are very sensitive, I can re-wash and re-block, and never take it into a room where cats go before shipment.  

Shipping to anywhere is free.  I will choose a cheap shipping option.  If you need it fast, let me know, we'll work it out.

One last note, my camera doesn't capture the glitter of the beads well, and the colors are not always true.  I'll note as we go along.  In general, the shawls are prettier in person than in pictures.

Please comment to let me know that you want a thing, and I'll PM you and we'll work out the details.

6. Celtic Knot

This is actually greener than the pictures show.  It's fairly simple, except for the knot work.  Kind of subtle, but man was it a pain to knit.  It starts in the round, and I purely hate DPNs.  (So, of course, I have been seeking out patterns that use DPNs, because I'm just that kind of nutter.)  
Read more... )

7. Flowers for Yvonne

This is a nice, rich shawl.  No beads, just some really lovely lacework. It is fairly large, which means you can knot it or drape it dramatically. And if you ever want to watch me bitch in almost real time about the process of making something, check out my Ravelry page, where I use the pattern notes to whine extensively.  I'm lydydrew, there, and most of my projects go up there, too.  
Read more... )

8. Perseus

For reasons that are beyond me, the designer thought that this pattern looked like Greek armor.  Dunno.  The yarn is Malabrigo, which means that the colors are marvelous and complex.  And, unfortunately, I can't photograph them for toffee.  The colors are both more blue and more purple than shown, and generally a lot richer.  It's a nice little shawl, and, again, prettier in person.  Sigh. 

Read more... )
And that takes us to the end of this shawl crawl.  If you have interest in any of these, please let me know.  

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