Hello world!

I’m moving this blog to WordPress finally, from its old home at http://badgerbag.typepad.com, where it moved in 2004 or 2005 from http://badgerbag.blogspot.com. The 2003-2004 comments are mostly lost.

My current blogging is at http://badgerbag.dreamwidth.org, http://badgermama.com, and http://bookmaniac.org.

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Ruth Fielding of the Red Mill, 1913

I remember Ruth Fielding as being bold, thoughtful, creative, brave, and somewhat of a no-nonsense personality, who works hard on achieving financial independence. She was an orphaned teenager who comes to a small town to live with her mean, crusty old uncle Jabez Potter who runs the local mill on the banks of the Lumano River. His arthritic, hunchbacked, ancient, warm-hearted housekeeper “Aunt Alviry” is not actually Ruth’s aunt but is a servant and for a long time is the only person who loves Ruth. Uncle Jabez doesn’t believe in educating girls. But Ruth manages to win him over somehow. Anyway, Ruth goes off to boarding school at Briarwood Hall with her rich, beautiful motor-car-driving friend Helen Cameron, makes friends with everyone, and ends a terrible schoolgirl rivalry by creating just one big sorority, the Sweetbriars. I seem to recall their moonlight and candlelight ceremony where they’re hanging out in togas by a graceful statue, with a harp. Ruth goes on to have a lot of adventures that center around her solving mysteries, helping poor girls get an education. Her companions include the jolly and popular plump girl, Jennie; and the slightly bitter lame girl, Mercy, as well as a rich friend with a cute brother and a motorcar. Nothing new there, right? But…

Ruth Fielding book cover

The cool thing about Ruth Fielding is that she’s a scriptwriter for moving pictures! She saves her school when a building burns down by writing a moving picture scenario for Mr. Hamilton from the Aelectron Corporation! And goes on to become a successful writer, even transitioning from silent film to the talkies.

Note the fashion in the cover picture. It reminds me of the book from the Betsy-Tacy series where Betsy and the other girls try to look like Gibson Girls, with their dresses gracefully draped instead of being tightly fitted, and a “droop” to their figure, slouching rather than standing up straight.

I believe this might be the series where all the girls make graduation dresses from simple white cheesecloth so that the poor girls won’t feel outshone by rich girl satin and lace. Or is that Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm? There was an amazingly cunning plan for their class valedictorian, Mercy the lame girl, to be able to graduate on stage by the clever and unprecedented use of a podium or a sort of Grecian drapery on a dais. Because it would be impossible for her to graduate on crutches despite her being the damn valedictorian on crutches! Mercy had a sharp temper because of her pain and illness and difference, and all the other girls take that into stride. She wasn’t cured magically like Katy and Pollyanna and she didn’t develop perfect patience; she stays crippled and a little bit bitchy. She’s my hero!

Alice B. Emerson was a pseudonym used by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Known authors who wrote Ruth Fielding books include Mildred Wirt Benson, W. Bert Foster, and Elizabeth M. Duffield Ward. Thanks to Jennifer at Series Books for Girls blog, which I’ve only just now found while searching for anyone… anyone… on the net who is also obsessed with this stuff!

Click through for my re-read and chapter by chapter summary of Ruth Fielding of the Red Mill in all its glorious faily goodness. Or, you can read the full text here from Project Gutenberg. Summary: The miser has a heart of gold; the crippled girl walks again; Ruth wins the spelling bee and gets a new dress; there is a lone page where a Mammy and a young black girl make cameo appearances. The young black girl does not get to go to school or make any friends or get any dresses…

(more…)

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Rebel Girl! Riot Grrl nostalgia show

This is coming up tomorrow and you’re all welcome to come! I’ll be reading some fun, fiery rants and giving away a few zines and vintage “riot grrl outer space” buttons.
I believe there will be accordion-playing as well!
riot grrl nostalgia reading
The National Queer Arts Festival & San Francisco in Exile Present:
REBEL GIRL: a riot grrl nostalgia show
Thursday, June 11th
The Garage
975 Howard, San Francisco
Show at 7:30; Doors at 7pm
Tickets: $10-20
Buy Tickets on-line!!: www.brownpapertickets.com
More details about the performance and the performers are at:
http://www.queerculturalcenter.org/Pages/QFest09/Rebel.html
All Star, All Grrrl Cast!:
Gina de Vries
Chan Dynasty
Melissa Gira Grant
Liz Henry
Nomy Lamm
Zuleikha Mahmood
Melodie Younce
Join the National Queer Arts Festival and San Francisco in Exile for a
Riot Grrrl Revival — where you can once again dress in your leopard
print thrift store finery, scrawl SLUT across your midriff, toss that
Huggy Bear 7″ on the turntable, and make a fanzine extolling the
virtues of veganism + vibrators. It’s Revolution Grrrl-Style, Now! –
with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Past and present zinestars and
grrrl revolutionaries will tell wax nostalgic about the old days, and
let you know what they’ve been up to recently. Zines and cupcakes will
be available for purchase.

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A riot grrl manifesto

You can buy this very interesting feminist manifesto from the riot grrl days for the Kindle or the iPod! Warning, not for the faint of heart or anyone who minds cussing.
The Slut Manifesto

It’s a long, ranty, somewhat incoherent manifesto about women, gender, sex, and capitalism. Whether you agree with everything in it or not, and I’m guess for most people that’s “not”, it’s definitely thought provoking.
Enjoy!

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Against a law to “protect” disabled people

I sent a letter tonight to a Democratic Congresswoman from Massachusetts who just proposed a law to “protect” disabled people from being represented in pornography, with the same law that forbids child pornography. Wheelchair Dancer says it very well:

Absolutely, anyone, disabled or non, should be protected from abuse. But laws that prevent people from being able to give consent are also no good. People over the age of 60 have sex, act in and consume porn. People with disabilities have sex, act in and consume porn. Not to allow people this kind of autonomy is to deny them their humanity.

And here’s my letter, short and sweet.

Hello Representative Reinstein,
I am not a huge fan of porn, or of the porn industry, or of weird fetishists. I am a 40 year old woman and a mother and a feminist, who has used a wheelchair on and off for the last 20 years. I’ll do as I please with my body and images of it. I don’t need a law to “protect” me, by forbidding me to enter into consensual agreements.
Please talk to a wider range of people with disabilities, before trying to make laws to “protect” them.
I see your good intention here, but the effect is condescending and paternalistic. And that is destructive. I fight as an activist for disability rights — including our right to be seen as fully sexual beings.
The edges of sexual freedom include many problematic situations that are exploitative.
But the solution is not to make laws that treat us as children.
I know I will likely get a form letter back. But I hope you really read this letter.

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Help Gwendomama recover from domestic violence

This last month I’ve watched, from a distance, a little bit of what happens when women face domestic violence. Julie from Tangobaby has been blogging about her friendship with K. and her family, a friendship which started back in April. As an individual blogger talking to one other woman she met on the street, she has made a huge difference in K.’s life. WE ARE THE MEDIA, people.
Meanwhile, my friend from WoolfCamp, Gwendomama, was also attacked by her (then) partner. He was arrested and then took all the money which he said he’d used to paid rent and utilities and used it to pay his bail. Her commitment to truth is stunning and beautiful.

But for now, I cannot allow him to take away or hurt this one thing I have left.
Our children are ours. They will always be ours.
But this blog, these words?
They are mine.
This poetic license to be cryptic and have a quirky sense of humor?
All mine.
This is my blog. This is where I can tell my truth, where I can record the awesomeness that is my children, and even record my parenting triumphs and fails.
This is where I have been able to share the ‘unspeakable’; the coping with parenting loss…this blog has been what even helped to keep me sane those years of cyclical arguing.
Sometimes people even pay me astonishingly low amounts of money to write things.
I write only the truth (which, perhaps upon reflection, is why the amounts are so astonishingly low).

I’m going to repeat what Squid said:

Gwendomama is one of my favorite people and bloggers. She is a loud-mouthed, small-business-owning, straight-shooting, food-loving, empathetic woman and dedicated mom. She is a wonderful friend to folks both inside and outside of the computer, to parents who advocate for special needs kids, and especially to parents who — like her — have faced the unimaginable in losing a child.
The unimaginable happened to her again. Last month, she became a victim, and to literally add insult to injury, she has found herself in a financial hole. Please, please help us help our hardworking friend gather funds for her and her children’s immediate needs: food, rent, utility bills.
We are bloggers. Our superpower is connectivity, and when we use that power for good, we can save and change the world. Please forward, blog, connect, and — especially — donate. The campaign will end next Friday, 5/22. No amount is too small, and the sky’s the limit. Thank you.

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Books on Piracy

Last night I read most of Dangerous Waters – it has an interesting setup, a dude sailing his ship who gets boarded by pirates in the South China Sea on his way to Singapore. He lives through this ocean mugging, and then writes a book about shipping and piracy, hitching a ride on a VLCC – I have forgotten what it stands for, but a freaking huge oil tanker. Freaking Huge Oil Tankers (or VLCCs, or FHOTs) have crews of about 17 guys and they don’t have enough people to mount effective night watches against pirates who speed-canoe up, “swarm” up the sides with bamboo poles, and attack with giant knives sharpened out of bits of old cars.

Sounds like a good book? Well up to a point, but the dude is so super racist and incoherent that I lost patience. No story is developed – it’s like reading a mishmash of magazine articles and bits of wikipedia thrown together with SENSATIONALIST STORY, then some hanging out while the author dude drools all over the sexy, lone germanic or british man in charge captain enjoying his total captain fetish (that part was amusing) and having neurotic fantasies about being raided by pirates. The whole thing would have made a fine pirate romance novel if he would have stopped trying to write it as non-fiction. In his mind, brown, barefoot men jabbering, or babbling, or prattling, in their own brown language, may be pirates or mayn’t be, but what they do is swarm up your ship like sperm looking to plonk themselves into a giant oiltanker of an egg, crack you over the head with a machete and torture you till you open the safe. Okay. His main point seems to be that there aren’t enough guards on the ships. So then he goes (mixed in and mashed up with his other Adventures in the Captain’s Mess) and drools over some soldiers of fortune and how tough they are and how scary it is when they shoot people and the bodies wash ashore and no one cares. Our author loves a badass with an AK-47 who shoots some dudes in canoes.

Homosocial bonding should bring us some prime sexism. An unpleasant book! It does not disappoint on this front. “To those who cross the seas, the ship is more than a mere universe, it becomes part of the essential core of our being, and we imbue our vessel with our own unique spiritual traits that we pray are strong enough to carry us through the worst conditions. It is why men have always called a ship “she”.

Oh is it why! Who is this we!

Grrrrrr!!!

What drivel! You really start wanting to be with the pirates, i swear!

The other book on Piracy is on Zond-7′s ipod. I will read it tomorrow – it is called The Outlaw Sea. The first chapter was FANTASTIC – serious, scholarly, sourced, actually has some arguments to develop and stories to tell along with them.

The point to take from both books is that piracy and hijacking have been on the rise since the early 90s. In the hot spots, people are horribly poor and have turned bandit. At worst, they join up with organized crime and smugging and human trafficing.

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New improved! books in the bathtub

I’m reading a bunch of books at once. I finished up The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole, an autobiography by Mary Seacole which is mostly about her travels to Panama and the Crimea. In the 1850s during the Crimean War she was a nurse and kept a field hospital. She tried to join up with Florence Nightingale’s effort but was rejected for what sound like racist reasons. I enjoyed her memoirs, especially her entrepreneurial spirit. She’d go pretty much anywhere, and with a little capital would set up a boarding house or hotel and store, and would naturally turn into the community’s medical care. It is a bit awful to imagine what cholera must have been like, especially under the doctoring philosophy of being given violent emetics. Ew. I looked up cholera on Wikipedia and elsewhere to find that you can pretty much survive cholera if you just stay as hydrated as you can.

Meanwhile I read a bunch of Robin Hobb “Assassin” series books on Zond-7′s iPod Touch with the Kindle reader app. Another fantasy series about an assassin! And a bastard! I thought of the “Lens of the World” series and also of Curse of Chalion. Actually, I expected not to like the first book from its first chapter, which piled fake-medievally world stereotype upon stereotype, with characters named Verity and Chivalry and Shrewd. Then the decent writing and fast moving plot completely sucked me in. The guy who takes care of the young assassin bastard, the stable master, was just a great character, a flawed unhappy guy doing his duty… And then the assassin guy himself, who doesn’t know his own name till halfway through the book and nearly an adult, grows and changes over the course of the stories and isn’t really that much of a hero either. I have criticisms and complaints about the Plot Device magic powers but mostly I could let that go and enjoy the story. Any deeper criticism I would need to do with the book in hand & a lot of quoting from it.

Somehow, I ended up reading a book called Mulengro by Charles De Lint. How did it even get into my house? Was it a present? Did someone recommend it? It’s awfully boring. The characters bore the daylights out of me. They appear in vignettes and I utterly don’t care about them and then they get disembowelled by the Bad Super Magic Romany Dude/Spirit Who Was Traumatized By Nazis. Now it is not like I know jack about anything Romani. Other than, that I spent half a year tutoring an 8 year old kid to read somewhat against the wishes of his family – I was working as a tutor, and from what I could tell he didn’t go to school but there was some legal trouble *and* someone in the family *did* want him to learn to read and so, twice a week tutoring. We would have long discussions over why it might be pointless to learn to read (his view, reinforced by his uncles) and why it might be okay and in fact useful (my view, and his grandmother’s; but it was interesting to hear his reasons.) I’m slogging through the book to see if there is any point. So, my question is for you all, is there any point? Am I just reading the wrong De Lint novel? Should I try another one?

I really liked reading on the iPod, way more than I thought I would. Flipping pages was effortless. The reading experience was so seamless that I kept putting it down, then looking around for the physical book to pick it up again, then remembering there WAS NO BOOK.

It is easier to wash your hair while reading on an iPod than to do it while holding a regular book; just riskier. True!
I re-did my purple hair dye tonight half while not looking and reading Mulengro, which is now more like Purplengro. Then I realized that I was wearing a white shirt which I had to take off over my head. FAIL! Good thing I don’t mind.

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Reading 50 books by people of color: a blog challenge

Earlier this year I signed up to do the 50books_poc challenge, to read 50 books by people of color.

Part of the fun of this has been noting other people’s books and reviews, getting leads on good books to read that I’ve never heard of, and participating in discussions. Today I saw a question about history books by POC especially focusing on history of Asian countries or regions. So I contributed a bit by looking at my own bookshelves. While I have mostly fiction – and an entire bookcase full of mostly-fiction from China, Korea, Japan, and India – I picked out some histories, historical fiction, and stories that are kind of political or that I learned history from – especially socialist realist fiction, which I love.

Here is my list of recommendations for history,

Korea Unmasked, a comic book history of Korea, very odd and interesting, by Won-bok Rhie. I particularly recommend this as a view of Korean history and China and Japan that you will not get from a Western source.

A New History of Korea – Ki-baik Lee This is the most tolerable in style and authoritative feeling history I have found in English. I would love to see comparably well-sourced and annotated Korean history books but written for a mass audience or maybe sort of more pop/journalist storytelling style of history.


Feminist Cultural Politics in Korea
– ed. Jung-Hwa Oh. A collection of academic essays. Very interesting!

Korea Forty Three Centuries by Tae Hung Ha. (A bit dull and textbooky like so many English translations of Korean history, but full of interesting details.)

A Handbook of Korea Extremely boring AND YET STILL INTERESTING. It is a very “official publication”.

And here’s a few interesting novels which sort of, well, have a lot of history in them:

The Sun Shines over the Sanggan River by Ding Ling (really, anything by her that you can find in translation to English is pretty awesome.

My Innocent Uncle – Ch’ae Man-Shik (short stories)

A Ready-Made Life: Early Masters of Modern Korean Fiction (more short stories, again heavy on the politics)

But I have more to say as I gaze fondly over my bookcases, with a full heart!

So, a few years ago I went on a reading spree and sought out books from China. I read some of the major classics like The Scholars, Outlaws of the Marsh (or The Water Margin, or The Marshes of Mount Liang), Journey to the West, and Story of the Stone (Dream of Red Mansions or Dream of the Red Chamber). They are very huge long complicated epic novels. I read them in multiple translations. As well as all the “classic” scandalous books I could find like Golden Lotus and The Peony Pavilion and The Carnal Prayer Mat. Ranging backwards in time, I read some translations of Sima Qian (or Ssuma Chien), The Three Kingdoms, The Pearl Blossom Fan, and whatever stuff Arthur Waley translated, some buddhist scriptures, and translations of Mencius and Confucius. And the Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature. And a lot of other random stuff that was quite old, that gave me more background to understand stuff going on in the epic novels. Moving into the 20th century, I read translations of both versions of Rickshaw Boy. They are quite different – one with a happy ending kind of tacked on. Then, a completely wonderful anthology which I highly recommend, called Literature of the People’s Republic of China. It is crucial if you want to get a flavor of literature in 20th century China! I read other authors like Ding Ling and Gu Hua and I’m sure I’ve mentioned him before, you should read Wang Shuo’s Playing for Thrills if you are going to Beijing to get a good unhealthy dose of modern cynical street thug postmodernism. (This balances out the socialist realist novels about love and wheelbarrows.)

That isn’t even counting the poetry and I have read rather a lot of Chinese poetry as well. Maybe best for another post.

Basically, I have this secret self-taught degree in Chinese literature which I never particularly get to talk about or share. It was a reading kick that lasted many years. I still re-read the long epics, which I love the best because they suck me into a completely different world full of hundreds of characters and they last a good long time. (I read fast, so a regular paperback novel is over in a couple of hours.) I have a lesser knowledge of classics from India but have read multiple versions of the Mahabharata and Ramayana, Pancatantra (one of my favorite books ever) and I read every single Penguin classic from India as well like the Rg Veda, Upanishads, Kathasartsagara, and so on. And I have a similar middling depth in Norse sagas which have a similiar feeling of epic scope and a huge cast of characters.

The Korean history books I list at the top of this post are from Rook’s completely separate reading kick over the last 2 or 3 years – I have read some of them but not all.

My goal in doing all that focused reading was to get some real depth in something that was not my background and not what I was being taught or that everyone around me assumed was true, so I could have a better picture of reality, history, truth, human nature, and the nature of stories. That has been a driving force for me since I was a teenager and began to read as widely as possible. The beautiful thing for me is that there is always so much more out there – infinitely more amazing literature than I could ever manage to read in a lifetime.

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The elusive kilogram

Last night I had this conversation with Moomin. “I just want to make sure you actually understand this metric system stuff rather than doing the problems blindly. So let’s draw a little chart. How many grams in a kilogram?” “Um… ummm… ummmmmm…. Oh yeah! 1000!” “Okay, how many centigrams in a kilogram?” “There’s no such thing as a centigram.” “There is!” “No there’s not! They didn’t tell us that! Look, I wrote it down… Can you just let me finish this page? It’s my bedtime!” Bedtime is not a good time to explain the entire concept of the metric system so I gave in.
Later a certain person assured me that Moomin was right! Well, they are wrong! 8-P
And then led me into a delightfully pointless reading: Wikipedia: Kilogram.
The kilogram is the only unit not defined off a physical constant – it’s defined from this particular object, the 130-year-old International Prototype Kilogram or IPK. And a whole bunch of other metric units are defined using mass, like newtons, pascals, joules, amperes, couloumbs, volts, teslas, webers, candelas, lumens, and lux. (The plural is not “luxes”. I looked it up.) It was created and then defined as the standard. But some replicas of it were created, like the Kilogram of the Archives, and over time they have diverged from each other. The story of what they’re all made of, and how they’re periodically compared and verified, is pretty cool. And sort of insane. Is that a whole bunch of people’s life work? Making sure that we know how wrong our kilograms might be? Eeeeeee! That’s so hot!!!!!!
And so are multiple bell jars over a brass-looking pedestal thingie! It’s like The International Geek Thingamajig on a Steampunk Cake Stand of Awesome!

Burrow deeply into the kilogram article and you will get to the proposed alternatives that would tie the kilogram to a constant. Atom-counting approaches (I liked the Avogadro project, which would use a silicon sphere); Ion accumulation; and the rather sexy sounding watt balance method: the electronic kilogram!

I am tempted to show all this to Moomin but not until he finishes today’s tedious homework, which is three pages of textbook problems of temperature conversion. No one needs that many examples – it is very pointless. At the least I will wow him with the revelation that there are exagrams, zettagrams, yoctograms, and zeptagrams which I will prove through the irrefutability of Wikipedia because we all know the important thing to teach 4th graders is that Wikipedia is totally true.

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