Archive for July, 2008

Books, work, rock band, music stolen

Every time I get my computer on my lap and kick back to blog all I can do is start to slog through the endless help desk emails for work. The harder problems build up and build up. I get obsessed with fixing them though I have to learn how to say “No, sorry, can’t help you here.” They never stop! It’s not just too much work, it’s also killing my blogging because if I’m on the computer I feel like I should be “catching up”. I can’t let that happen. Not sure what to do about it. We could outsource. “Sorry, beyond the scope we can do for you, but you could pay so-and-so 30 bucks an hour to do it.” That would be a relief and would get people’s problems solved. These are people who need web design support and whose work is *great* – I want to support it. That’s where it gets me!

So in an effort not to work ALL THE TIME I have been reading a bit more. I caught up with some of my blogfriends on LJ (after weeks… months?). I read the last Hostile Takeover book – more about that in a minute. I did some cleaning and gardening (and when Moomin gets back will read more out loud to him.)

Tonight was fun – Zond-7 and I went to a game night – Played Settlers – and a bit of Rock Band. I liked playing bass. What a party – with a wii, some other game console thing, rock band, several board games, a lot of beer & wine, and a crowd of raucous geeks.

My morning was stressful – I was hauling ass to get to work – and my car window was broken. All the cars on the block had windows smashed – My giant book of favorite CDs was stolen – knew I shouldn’t keep it in there – I will try not to miss it but got a little upset over the hard to find venezuelan and cuban stuff. I had resolved to only keep cds I ahd burned in the car – but didn’t stick to it – to the tune of probably 50 cds which built up to be all my favorites. Plus, mix cds other people made for me. I am trying to be detached about it. It’s just stuff. But, music is stuff I hate to lose because it’s memory, it’s the keys to the database of emotions across many years. Sometimes I get deeply melancholy for no reason but in a way that can only be fixed by driving while listening to that one gospel song and crying as I think of the weeks that that song was my only outlet & solace for my horrible feelings on my last breakup – Or joyous in a way that goes with a particular ska CD – Oh – well – I will make new CDs – and at some point will benefit from figuring out which cases are empty and either replacing with digital music or new import cds or THROWING THE CASES AWAY. (I have just remembered the name of that gospel song – “Unconditional” – from a compilation.)

I then hauled ass to tape up my window with a trash bag to try to make it to a meeting, but realized as I got into the car that it would be a bad idea to drive down 101 without being able to see out my side window. It was a sort of survival reflex – like if I were going to lose my job for being late to work, that’s what i would have done – but as I started to do it I realized I’m not in that position, it was not a situation of extreme crisis, and it would be smarter to fix the window!

At the auto glass place (very close! lucky!) my credit cards didn’t go through and there was a bad feeling in the air suddenly as they got suspicious of me. DRAMA… I called my cards (both from one bank, a card and my atm/credit card) & no problem there. The guy didn’t believe me though I offered the phone to him and pointed out the little credit card box-thing said “connection failed” not “card declined” and it was not that I had no money. We went round for a bit because I could not walk as far as the nearest atm that he described – and I did not want to wheel there (somewhat up hill, not sure how far it was really, sounded exhausting). Finally he agreed I would leave one card with him and drive away to the ATM. Just as I was driving off he realized the credit card thing was plugged into the same thing as his phone, which was accidentally left off the hook… HA.

I felt like getting back into bed!

Instead I went to get a sandwich – and after I came out realized I’d left my car running and the door unlocked! OMG!

At that point (now hours later) I decided not to go to the office – and worked from here instead – it was all just too much – plus a 40 minute commute would have just taken away good working time.

Ended up at lunch with a bunch of people from Zond-7′s work and hearing a lot of interesting stuff about Deadweight loss (which was fucking fascinating), monopolies, anti-trust stuff, DRM, talked about all that and about spam, email costs, music industry, and I talked some with the visiting economist dude about the internet ad market. ie. how any blog ad company competes with Google Ads. Good question! Lots of people do, though. It is like the contrast between … well if you had *very small billboards* stuck everywhere kind of randomly but in relation to each thing it was stuck on, like if every parking meter displayed postage-stamp sized ads for parking garages, or every tree by the sidewalk had an index card explaining where to buy trees, vs. there being a public park set up specially with all kinds of ever-changing information about trees and fun things to do in the park. What is more satisfying – making a park and maintaining it and visiting parks & gardens – or wandering around staring at parking meters and smog-ravaged acacias. It is my day of Homely Metaphors as I also had a giant funny picture in my head about the proprietary Egg that you were only legally allowed to cook in special Sony Egg Cookers, it being illegal to invent or sell frying pans even for your own use at home, and the deadweight loss being all the people who might have cooked and ate a fucking egg if not for the $200 Sony Egg Cooker being too expensive, and the Eggs all sprayed with protective anti-frying-pan anti-cracking spray, and no regular eggs in stores since the big chain stores had a special deal with Sony to sell only Eggs not eggs, and the egg industry suffering horribly as a result. (BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHICKENS, for god’s sake? Pay the chickens with special internet micropellets… okay I’ll stop now…) Then was further picturing the proprietary House, in which you were only allowed to put Furniture specially built by Company X (this, while we were talking about tie-ins) which further locks you in to buy only Houses built by company X in future because you’ve invested so much in Company X Furniture. A bad idea for eggs, furniture, houses, real estate agents, department stores, and right-thinking people everywhere.

Then I laid on the couch and worked for many hours!

It was nice to be around people and have a beer tonight after all that!

So back to Revolutionary, the last book in the Hostile Takeover trilogy. I liked it – although one female character DID go into a coma it was not for the whole book, she was doing stuff and having conversations in imaginary nano-telepathy-hacker-head world while she was out cold.

SPOILERS!!!!!! WARNING!!!

She doesn’t die and the end isn’t all about her incredibly bad-idea romance. Throughout the bad-idea romance she keeps asking Dom and herself, “Why do I even like you? Why am I so obsessed with you? You’re kind of a jerk!” It doesn’t get glossed over! It’s a really good point! Others explain to her that it’s wartime and that can happen easily – there are some other reasons – some explored and some perhaps not (ie her ambivalent feelings about being genetically engineered to bond with computers and machines, and his being like 90% cybernetic complete with extra computer in his brain.) Then instead of swooping in and rescuing her and knocking her up or something… he DIES. TWICE. That was so satisfying! OMG! Actually it might have been more than twice – he kept getting eaten by nanobots, and shot in the face, and then coming back from it somehow, until you were ready to strangle the fucker with your bare hands. DIE DIE DIE! and then… score… he totally died AND his time-travel extra self also died. Awesome!

So, even better than that — it was like candy — The butch as hell ex-Marine traitor Kathy Shane, who got her legs blown off and who is NOT plucky or spunky at all, has lots more angsty and in fact, PTSD-ish moments contemplating (and glorifying) the grave of Mary Houghton (who was her captive and who escaped super cleverly – the art history major and painter and tough Marine who goes spelunking for alien artifacts – and instead of DYING as one somewhat expected her to from the very first – as so many good female characters do – instead she thinks about another (female) character and acts on her thoughts in a consistent interesting way. sorry to gush, it’s just rare to see male sf writers get anything like this right, so I was excited and so pleased not to have to hate the book sighing in disgust even as I enjoyed the space opera bits. More spoilers – so, then Shane ends up finding new purpose in life. Notably she keeps her religion, abandons her military loyalties (though is still devastated by exile and by her continuing guilt over betraying her people – her military subordinates) and completely abandons her political loyalties to a particular planet or state. AND… goes off WITH THE HACKER SPY CHICK into space with the alien star map and a giant colony ship. How can I even talk about this without spoilers? I’ll give it a shot and put it up on the feministsf blog!

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Garden project, week two

This week I watered the soil daily, put some coffee grounds and vegetable bits into trenches, and dug the patches of soil a bit deeper. The original spot I thought was very dead was NOT completely dead. I think last summer’s vegetables, especially the zucchini plant, lightened it up and then contributed their dead root systems into the mix. After a night’s soaking, I was able to dig it up about 5 inches down. That was a surprise! I did it sitting down with a small hand trowel. Moomin helped me out.

Here’s the place I decided to put a real compost pile. It’s right outside my door and the hose reaches easily.

Garden projects

Today I put in about an hour of light work. That might have been too much; my back and leg are hurting. Here’s what I did:

- put more kitchen scraps into the zombie patch
- Dug up and watered the brick area
- Watered everything else including the front yard
- Dead headed the giant shasta daisy bush
- dead headed the nameless other yellow flowers along the path
- dead headed the poor neglected giant red geranium bush
- swept up a bunch of leaves from under the solanum
- put some of the leaves and dead things on the compost area (will haul more later)

It was relaxing and satisfying… I’m going to enjoy this! I missed it a lot while I was too disabled to walk around much or even to squander my sitting-up time on it.

I sat in a plastic chair to do most of the work including watering. For digging around in the compost area’s dirt, I sat on the ground. I really appreciate that I am able to sit on the ground or floor and get up again without it being an enormous production, but it’s probably the riskiest part of what I did today. So I better watch it and not overdo the up and down action.

The geranium and shasta daisy are very nasty and scraggly looking from neglect, but I know that with the little bit of pruning I did today, and a few weeks of watering, they’re going to bounce right back. I’m hoping that Rook will help me and also that I can teach Moomin to like gardens and about the science of compost over the next few months. I always like the feeling of working together on the house or yard and the feeling of making and maintaining a nice space, of colonizing space and deciding how it will be as a group endeavor.

My house-mate the Acrobat trimmed his irises and told me their story. His dad’s wife (he caught himself saying ‘stepmom’ and then explained that it still made his mom furious if he says that though it is like THIRTY YEARS LATER and we digressed into the politics of families and naming) is a somewhat famous grower of irises, creating hybrids. So the Acrobat has had these irises for many years from Geekhouse where they were somewhat neglected to pots at their rental house where they dried out completely and now in the ground in our front yard for a few years where they totally thrive.

If you want some great irises then email me, come over and he will help you dig them up.

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Hostile Takeover trilogy, book two

Somewhere along the line in Partisan, I noted particular moments of the female protagonists being pretty decent, but there were some flaws. Tetsami the plucky hacker chick spoke up to Dom the tortured wealthy genius cyborg hero to demand that he treat her as an equal partner in their military operation / corporate espionage. I loved it that she *noticed he was dissing her*. In other words she was savvy enough in the world of “Games Mother Never Taught You” to notice subtleties of power politics. On the down side, she didn’t have much to negotiate with other than “You owe it to me for some nebulous reason we cannot quite articulate but that we are both aware of” and that reason is romantic love or sexual tension or both, which I thought utterly sucked as a motivator in anarchist politics. Or, maybe the story’s trying to get across that anarchist politics gets a sort of humanizing rescue from patriarchal romantic love. It wasn’t very convincing politically or romantically though it fit fine in a pulp genre tale. Their “romance” goes like this:

OMG we’re in Danger! Quick, be clever and reckless! Wait, I hate you! Damn you! You bastard! Taxes and damnation!! (anarchist planet cussing) But I only was reckless because you’d really hate me if you knew who I really was! (WANGST MOMENT ALONE WITH MIRRORS CONTEMPLATING CYBORGIAN NATURE) No, I really hate you because you ignored my agency and hid information from me and hogged all the power and don’t communicate or say what you really think, you fucker! That’s why I can’t resist you, James Bond Spock Daddy! *KISS* *something blows up again* *tragic separation*

Oooookay! Sort of works, sort of annoying!

Back to why Tetsami is awesome. She thinks and fights. Fine, she thinks damn near every thought about how she wants some cyborg man-love. But, she also plots, is good at tactics, saves her wounded soldiers, hacks, is brave, gets her own dark secret and angstiness over her genetically modified heritage and cyber-brain-implant, etc. And so far (FINGERS CROSSED) she has not been raped, stripped of all her thoughts and powers and skills, held hostage and rescued while being completely helpless, put into a coma, or mind-wiped a-la-Vernor-Vinge. How extremely unusual for a military sf book. I appreciate that.

Kathy Shane, the ex-Marine and one of the tanks of our Adventuring Party (where Tetsami is the thief or rogue) has some good moments as well. She does try to off herself in a blaze of guilty soldierly glory but instead gets some cyber legs and spends most of book 2 on a dungeon crawl (Swiniarski, I can spot your rpg roots a MILE away) chasing her former soldier and escaped prisoner Houghton whose magical sudden art history background leads her through a 2 day spelunking expedition to the freaking heart of the planet miles below sea level to the ALIEN ARTIFACT CACHE. She didn’t do much else but it resolved her angst neatly, she had some nice banter with Random Walk, the remote drone of the AI of the Adventurers. Again, notably not raped. She gets a love interest too; from moment 1 of meeting Ivor (Tetsami’s adopted father) they have a soldierly little undercurrent of unconscious swoony destiny. They have not yet leaped into bed together but Destiny calls. So that’s nice too actually, while romantic subplots make me throw up a little in my mouth and I hate them as motivating or defining characteristics of female characters, it’s also nice that Shane doesn’t get de-sexed or doesn’t get to have the potential of getting laid just because she’s the tank of the party.

The story has continued moving along. It’s exciting! It’s pulpy! There’s a giant war and a bunch of local star system politics becomes clearer with 4 main arms of the Confederacy vying for power with Bakunin the anarchist planet as the prize. Nanotech! Giant laaaasers! Armored giant transformer-like vehicle porn lovingly described!

Oh I must also note the naming of one of the Vehicles. There is a funny car-buying scene where Tetsami realizes the awesome RV she’s about to buy is Loved by its owner to an extreme. He fetishizes it and caresses its shiny curves and has named it The Lady. Further evidence that Bakunin is not a post-patriarchy anarchy. (And how can that be… I ask in all seriousness.) Tetsami uses that knowledge very well in negotiating with the vehicle’s owner. So she ends up with “The Lady” which is basically the best RV ever with giant battle weapons and an autodoc and mining equipment and everything you could wish on your futuristic wish fulfillment survivalist pave-the-earth mobile living capsule. I took the naming and fetishizing as evidence of post-patriarchy while Zond-7 thought it meant sort of high status or respect of women ie “Lady” but I pointed out that still conflated property with women and vice versa and owning a high status (or named to be) woman/vehicle was a way to confer status (and not to the owned party) and also the trope of naming a slave or pet with a name like Duke or Cicero (which he was not aware of at all). Again a passage that would be illuminated by complete regendering. If it sounds hilarious regendered, it’s probably not post patriarchy.

The moment where Dom is looking at himself in a hundred reflections of reflections of himself in the polished walls of the obsidian cave would also be somewhat “off” if regendered. It might make a nice literary experiment.

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Thoughts at the beginning of The Hostile Takeover trilogy

A hundred pages in to The Hostile Takeover trilogy I have the basic idea of what’s going on. Cast of characters:

* Dmitri who is super super old and lives on Mars and has lots of replacement organs.
* Ambrose is his cyberslave Jeeves. If you get robot body parts you are no longer human. Oh no!
* Klaus Dacham who is EEEEEVIL and whose mom Helen died. Head of TEC which stands for uhhhh The Evil CIA, or something. Sucks the blood of kittens.
* Captain Kathy Shane, interstellar marine in the Confederacy. She’s tuff and has a cool punk haircut.
* Dominic Magnus which is a pseudonym and who killed Helen and who is on Bakunin the anarchist planet. Used to be in TEC. Started GA&A megacorp. OMG has robot parts. Stares at self in mirror a lot. Gothy.
* Tetsami who is an industrial espionage superhacker and rides a flying motorbike on the anarchist planet. She has a cool sexy haircut.
* The mystery assassin on Mars. (There are hints in a couple of chapters to who it is and how/why.)
* The AI (s) who have their own mysterious motivations.
* We will not “spoil” things for you by pointing out that of these characters some of them might be BROTHERS OMG MAYBE EVEN TWINSIES!! Angstorama!

So far my main thoughts are,

The anarchist planet horrible paladin church with TV game show killings and ransoms are AWESOME and funny. There is a good bit of Tetsami and Dom discussing how the socialist anarchist atheists who founded Bakunin’s colony would be rolling in their graves at the Techno Paladins. The paladins run around in shiny cyber armor rescuing people and slaying criminals. Or they stun everyone and take them hostage to be on their holo tv game show where the audience phones in money to kill, ransom, or perhaps maim the rescued or the criminals. This is great – you can totally picture it happening on the anarchist planet.

I want to write funny bits where Dom is staring at himself in the mirror thinking of suicide because he’s half robot and stuff (as has done already several times in 100 pages and will clearly do again) and then some horribly funny over-gothy sex happens. Or his thoughts as he broodily contemplates his robot dick in the mirror in all its throbbing cyber glory. Slash with the *cough*brother*cough*! Or a scene where he shows his partner in crime his “hardware specifications”! Maybe it’s just me. I’m waiting to see if the author will actually go there himself to write a tacky robot sex scene. Why waste ink if it’s already in the book?

About the scene where Dom is being attacked by a gang of thugs. The writer takes the time to set up all the thugs as separate people with different haircuts and outfits and little personalities like roleplaying game NPCs and then they all get SHOT DEAD in half a page. It has a timeless trashy-beautiful quality about it like the scene in a war movie where the guys in the submarine or the trenches all have cardboard personalities set up so that you can appreciate the pathos of their deaths. But here, more so that you can feel you are in Pit Fighter kicking the ass of Slightly Futuristic Stereotype #5 with an eyepatch, and remember him as a different death than Slightly Futuristic Stereotype #6 with the mohawk. In Hostile Takeover so far, this happens a lot, part of what makes it satisifyingly trashy.

One more thing. Like most science fiction books that think out a politically and culturally different far distant future there is not a very good gender analysis. On the anarchist planet in theory everyone has these giant fucking laser cannons and motorbikes, or whatever, and so why do we still have some kind of fundamental patriarchy such that Tetsami thinks instantly of her main value as sex work? What the hell? Gender essentialism I guess. If you have a society where an industrial espionage black ops hacking expert who has survived against all odds by being incredibly tough and having a giant motorbike and blaster bazooka things or whatever she has in her arsenal, why would your main selling point to ransom yourself be to fuck the guy who ransoms you? (Minor spoiler: She doesn’t – it is just her big plan. Don’t worry.) Why wouldn’t you be like OH HAI I HAZ MAD SKILLZ AND CAN FIX YOUR COMPUTERZ. Why assume it would be a man who ransoms her and that anyone (male or female) would care to pay that much to fuck her? If that’s what instantly springs to her mind it has all sorts of weird implications that don’t seem to really hold water – it would mean women are terrifically oppressed and disempowered in Bakunin’s anarchist system (for some strange reason) and that also somehow, there aren’t enough prostitutes (which there would be if women were that disempowered) so men are so desperate to fuck this one hacker chick with a hot haircut that they would pay a king’s ransom to do so. Also, it’s idiotic that she is made to say it sort of bravely like it would be difficult and the other dude was shocked and impressed that she might just square her jaw and go “Because I’d promise to fuck him” like she should squeal at the thought with maiden delicacy and horror and he admired her pragmatism. Dude…. just NOT. All you have to do is regender the scene in your mind, and the politics and culture don’t make any sense.

Zond-7 has reassured me that no one gets raped and the situation of women in the book is balanced and not what one might expect though there is some denial of agency which is then later rectified. We’ll see! I noticed in the Paladin game show the audience votes to fry a captive who was caught “raping a teenage girl” so I suspect rape culture will pervade this sf novel – so disappointing – you can imagine interstellar travel, yet you think that patriarchy is permanent?

I give a huge amount of credit for the entertaining setup. I love the horrible yet still attractive anarchist planet! The anarchists are sort of the good guys! That part’s great so far.

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Not everyone dropped acid or even failed to inhale it

Rook: And did you know, Moomin tie dyed this tshirt himself at camp. It was Psychedelic 60s theme week at camp.

My mom: Whaaaaat! hahahahah!

Rook: Yes, they did all sorts of Psychedelic 60s things, tie dyes, listen to the Beatles, drop acid,

Moomin: I DID NOT DROP ACID!!!!!

My mom: HAHAHAAHAH

My dad: AHAHHAAHA

My mom: Well I have news for you, not everyone in the 60s was dropping acid.

My dad: (Squarely and gruffly) That’s right.

Moomin: What does dropping acid even mean, anyway!

My mom: You know, I don’t really have any idea. What does it mean?

Me: DIES LAUGHING BECAUSE I KNOW IT’S COMPLETELY TRUE.

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Dead dirt

Besides reading and housework I need some excuse to look away from the computer. Now that I’m up and out of bed more, maybe a little garden tending?

I am eyeing spots for compost that is very near my door, and one or two areas also close and easy to water where I can rehabilitate the soil. The long dry season here and the tough rocky soil made from decayed serpentinite combine to make it easy for the dirt to die, in other words, for the worms to leave, the fungi to quit threading their little riots of mycelia, & microbes all dormant so that you could set an apple out in that dirt and nothing would happen to it for weeks.

dead dirt

I used to really like the process of composting, balancing out a compost pile and watching it cook. I produce a steady stream of coffee grounds and eggshells. For leaves we could shred paper. It would be good to have a little pile of dirt and leaves to start with or a trench for burying stuff.

Though the goal is to get myself off the computer and into the physical world, god knows if I don’t blog it I might not stick with it and even then… it’s chancy.

My other project is to get rid of books. I thought that I could start by blogging brief notes on a bunch of heavy literary theory books, so that I remember what I had and read and knew and could find it again if I wanted. Then it won’t be so painful to give away the books.

Fixing broken things, making bare dirt turn fertile with weeds or fruit, nursing half-dead houseplants thrown away in the trash, all those things give me particular pleasure. Then later the triumph over deadness of running my fingers through the soil, easy home for worms, made from waste and trash. It’s like shaking my fist at the world. It brings out all my stubbornness.

I stayed home from Naomi Novik’s reading at Borderlands – last few readings there were so crowded and I couldn’t take it in the wheelchair in a crowd after this weekend! I am sure she was lovely – I will write a review of Victory of Eagles to make up for not going.

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Uneasy need for rest

I spent yesterday in bed writing drafts and abandoning them, watching feeds, absorbing too much information. After the long intense weekend, complete rest might have been a better idea. Last night in sleep and waking I scrabbled an endless round of anxiety dreams about airports, schedules, missed trains, my wheelchair being taken away from me, being lost in cars, and stressful arguments. I don’t want to get out of my pajamas. My mom and dad are here, planning to take Moomin to the giant complicated indoor playground-inside-a-swimming pool in the East Bay, meeting Minnie and her baby, going back to her house, so I also feel torn and sad and want to be with them and that I am letting my family down, my child barely missed me, I am not needed, I did not organize, I didn’t invite, I didn’t cook or shop or prepare, I’m not participating, I’m not paying attention, I’m letting the moments slip away.

I made hundreds of shallow connections, but not enough deep ones. Nothing felt like it bore fruit in the moment. But, it will, and I trust that. Instead I was a conduit and a connection point. I didn’t do anything, make anything, fix anything, build, create, even in my imagination it all remained inchoate — but I took the quick evaluations & shallow connections and said here, you talk with her, you need to know this, read this, are you aware of exactlywhatyouneed.net, and people lit up as they connected, as if I were a telephone switchboard. If I am invisible in that, I have to still be satisfied with my role and abandon my ego. It is hard to be visible, but invisible. A sort of conspicuous mascot, seen but not known. I could cry on the shoulder of everyone I met but did not get to know. Is it possible to love everyone? Maybe, but not to love them right. There is too much, there are so many of us, I am starving to know everything and everyone.

Oh poor me, a weekend of hundreds of people telling me I’m super awesome!

Ugh! But am I… I’m so not… they don’t know… Is it enough? Am I enough? Can I ever do enough to be satisfied with myself? Can I at least finish a few projects, follow through on anything? How do I know that people like me for the right reasons? What if it’s all flash and show and surface, and false?

Where is my discipline?

What if I am making all the wrong choices?

But back in real life and out of my theoretical identity tailspin:

Aside from catching up with some regular work, I want to continue trying to synthesize this weekend and some general thoughts about blogging, gender, class, and digital divides. And I’d like to look forward as well into planning some things to do or suggesting directions.

I have an awful lot of blogging cards to look at. Blogs to consider and link to. Notes from conversations to write up. Thoughts to gather and express.

Meanwhile the book project is on the back burner, a constant torment and source of guilt.

I am comforted yet perturbed as the hypothetical of “at some point in next few years Rook might switch career tracks and have a break” becomes “Now I support the family for a while and switch roles myself.” Can I do it? I’m a little scared. It might be a very good thing in many dimensions.

I might need in a big way to migrate all my blogs back into a single one, clean up this one big time with proper tags and categories even if most of the categories are nebulous like “Long Philosophical Rant Mixed with Daily Life and the Juicy Bits Buried Baroquely”. Badgermama and Composite feel so cramped and sterile and thank god I still ramble on at length without trying to narrow the focus here, where I say whatever the hell I want (barring a couple of limitations which i will keep trying hard to think of as Tact).

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Parties, and Eddie Izzard show

I showed up at the hotel early this afternoon and then realized there wasn’t a central place (yet) for me to camp and work. I had been somewhat frustrated at driving in traffic downtown, got lost & overtired. So I fled the hotel with cramps & no lunch; nearly got run over by a cab driver at the parking garage, screamed fuck you at the cab driver and then felt super embarrassed (Lindsay was in the cab and claimed she had feared for her life on the ride from the airport) and went to Zond-7′s where I laid down to work and was able to complain neurotically, ate a tuna sandwich with the new super nice organic produce delivery, chocolate, pecked at more work, nursed my cramps, and calmed the hell down. Back to the hotel this time in a cab (since it is a 10 dollar cab ride but like 50 bucks a microsecond to park in the hotel garage.) Hotel = superswank.

The parties rocked – I saw SJ – Squid – Skud – Jenijen – Jenny – Maria – Beth Kanter – omg everyone – there was a lot of hugging – we had our photos taken for new hi res pix on the site – I committed “bloggerface” – I felt mildly bewildered that everyone else was going off to special invite-only parties and I had not been asked to any – And yet not really that jealous at all – Just in the minor way that I would like to say no instead of feeling left out. Got over it. Felt a little like Nathan Barley myself for a few minutes there… I imagined myself shoving my computer into someone’s face and going look – “TRASHBAT.COCK”. this image kept me giggling – and kept me going. Hugged 20 million more people… met lovebabz and Lauren and Adrienne from Black Woman in Europe – gossiped some more with Beth – talked with Claudia who writes for El Tiempo – had a rum and coke – videoed erin and laurie and some others on the wii boxing. I picked up some emily’s list swag and also those free wine charms (oops! ones). I then hauled ass out of there to get another cab to just a few blocks away to see Eddie Izzard. I started out mildly hostile from the somewhat clumsy attempts at “local san francisco ” humor and because the callbacks (bits where he’d go back and reference an earlier bit) were also sort of klutzy and I felt un-trusting that they would not be dumb. But, then they weren’t, and they all built up and became really good. My other main criticism is that slapping creationism is kind of a cheap shot. It worked and it was funny but a combination of things meant that I could see the show as being a reach for a particular profundity by Izzard and it didn’t quite get there. But, close. If he had said the word “stromatolite” i might have forgiven a bit more. Go a little deeper please, on all of it… it would be funnier… even if not everyone gets it… I wondered if it was dumbed down on purpose to be accessible. I did like the sparta bits and hannibal bits… Did his god moments get near cosby’s god and noah? Or are my memories of cosby’s god and noah a bit rusty – because I thought they got near to it. So on the great side, Izzard swayed me around to his side and I was laughing my ass off by the last half of the show. He was doing like 5 levels of the “callbacks” at once until they were layered up very ridiculously and the traumatized squirrel survivor of the ark was helping feed skittles to the plague frogs and half the 10 commandments ended up from the squirrel. (10. when someone comes, run up a tree ) and giraffes were playing charades and then a velociraptor in a derby hat (who was really god) has a conversation with jesus about spiders having sex, and bjorn borg/boromir does a whole tennis match with new coached inter-thwock grunting sound effects and you can see all of it perfectly well though it’s imaginary, that’s really impressive!

Rook liked it but I think was reserved about the cheap shots. Zond-7 had the comedian’s critique which I will not attempt to explain. I liked it very much though I wanted more or better, somehow. More depth to outweigh the jokes.

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On Sunday Dinners, Cities, Pubs, Middle and Old Age

I have various observations from my trip, written on the plane from Heathrow to LAX in a 5am delirium.

Out of London
We packed, cleaned, and got on a train to Ch3lmsford to visit Z.’s family, for Sunday dinner. Everything still seemed new to my eyes as we left London and forayed out into fields and suburbs. J. picked us up at the station to drive us the long way round through a Sc4recrow Fete (the first time I’ve heard anyone say that word aloud, I think) which I didn’t care about though the drive was nice. What I was really looking at was how people set up their houses and gardens, at shop fronts and billboards; they all reminded me of the rural bits of R.I. in New England near where I grew up in the summers. The architecture (maybe the time period) of the buildings was the same in some subtle way I couldn’t pin down that wasn’t just about snow and being built of bricks.

The Rules of (not) Saying Hello
I had another observation of going through streets and train stations. I had read in Watching the English that people don’t say hello to strangers and in fact they don’t even look at you in the face or nod – it feels wrong and rude to do that, but it is my instinct because in the U.S. if you are walking past someone in a long corridor or on the street you would at least meet eyes and give a little nod as you pass and you might say “how’re you” or “good morning” in a perfunctory way to someone in an elevator. Certainly in Latino neighborhoods, “how are you/como está” or you are eye-rollingly rude. Here in London I think that would be a sign of madness, over-familiarity that might be a dangerous challenge or open hostility, as if by boldly meeting someone’s eyes, you might be about to steal someone’s wallet — like gorillas smiling to bare their teeth. This puts people in a bind, as they become disconcerted around me and want to leap to open a door or see if I need help but they are prevented from speaking to me by the Rules of Not Saying Hello. It’s extremely amusing!

the pleasures of essex
So, back to the pleasures of Essex, which the saying of the name to anyone carries a load of irony and meaning which I don’t understand but which is equivalent of bemoaning the fact of having come from Modesto, or Nebraska, a flat boring place full of sameness, hay, and hicks. To my eyes it was perfectly new, picturesque, with tall grass or wheat in the fields, little fields charmingly separated by lines of trees or hedges rather than the very ugly barbed wire or chain link I would expect, roads that had character and curve from organic and long development rather than being laid out by a surveyor’s line in an “empty” land seized all at once, parceled out and fenced. The suburbanness I found oddly reassuring as after all I am mostly a suburban creature. So the malls and the equivalent of big-box stories and in fact the very boringness of things were all interesting especially as I considered the things alike in Z. and I and in how deeply he must have chafed at growing up there with his dreamy nervous energy and free roaming thoughts and desire for companionship, for social quickness of mind, and whatever else drives him or drove him then — as I did in the distant outskirts of Houston with its miles and miles of cowfields, metal-buildinged strip malls, and housing developments. (At least he had buses and trains! My god!) The narrow scope of the world and yet thick material comforts, mixed, bourgeois paradise, with definite allure.

Parsnips are the bomb
Immune to family weights and subtleties or nearly so (and securely knowing I could not possibly come off worse than particular others even if I was gauche and also, scandalously married; plus i hosted his family at my house; plus, they are just nice) I had a really lovely time, one of the best dinners ever with actual roast beef carved in slices along with at least 6 kinds of boiled vegetables (which seemed nearly unbearably exotically English like what people eat IN BOOKS) and including PARSNIPS which I don’t think I’ve ever seen and which I could not stop devouring – they were so delicate and faintly caramelized – better than yams and almost as good as plantains. AND apple crumble with … custard sauce? and TRIFLE. I tried to act casual but I know Z. knew how funny and exciting it was. Again, please imagine if you can possibly how strange this was. So aside from my marvelling at how stereotypes and things in books really are true, and my absolute & embarrassing uncontrollable greed for parsnips and custard (separately), one of the more pleasant things was how alike his family’s Sunday dinner was to my mom’s families’ sunday dinners (though we had our own Exotic Stereotype of incredibly great Italian food) at the leaf in the table, the lace tablecloth on top, and how the extended family would stay and play cards far into the night. (Though his did not, it had that feeling like they might have 30 years ago.) I missed his nephew (the MindWind Monkey) and worried over him in the hospital. His other (charming) nephew had a fine time with me and my amazing TWO COMPUTERS and my willingness to learn from him how to play Runescape at least long enough to get his other character online to pass some coveted black armor and a Staff of Air back and forth. (I killed some giant spiders and goblins.) I nearly fell asleep on the couch (and Z. fell asleep upstairs) which shows you how nice they all are (that no one really minded and that one feels comfy and at home enough to do so.) His mum gave us about 40 cadbury bars (I will grow out of this set of pants, dammit.) I liked his sisters especially the one I talked with more, and his teenage niece. Then we had a brief foray off to his dad’s house…

The life of the sunday dinner
Despite loving the visit I have to say that at my (finally true) nearing 40 and feeling like an actual grown-up, I have grown into a person who is relieved not to have a lot of burden of family no matter how nice. I felt no impulse to fulfill any role in their family really or to be specially dutiful (or in anyone’s) and felt satisfied we had not been lured into staying with family (and that I avoid staying with my own though I know that sounds a bit sad) I like to see them and to be friends with them but I really fiercely like to have my own life and complete independence of movement including not being pressured. I thought of course of Moomin and my own life and what my future might be like and how odd it would be for him to be grown, maybe seeing me once a year for a day or two, and I hope we will be closer than that. But, I do see the way people aren’t, and how many of my peers have parents who had such different expectations — they wanted the life with the Sunday Dinner, with extended family across generations getting together regularly, to cook and preside over the table benevolently — to shop and to help — to know the intimate concerns of their adult childrens’ lives. And, that has never been what I chose as an adult. The times I’ve tried it have been a strain. You know the feeling when you are just uncomfortable in your own skin – it is something like that. I feel for the frustrated dreams of the parents who saw themselves as beautiful and benevolent, generous and beloved patriarchs and matriarchs, but it doesn’t work out that way very often, maybe. As I mulled this over on the train on the way back I thought that my picture of myself as an older woman say 30 years from now does include (as I have remarked to my friend wild_irises) that I’d like to have cross generational friendships, to know and listen to people younger than me; and to be useful to them; I hope that will include my child and nephews and nieces and godchildren but it kind of doesn’t have to be them, or me for them, if that makes any sense. And also thinking of wild_irises’s way of having once a month sunday-at-home; very nice; I am not all that good at sustaining structured things; but I do host role-playing game groups which is incredibly nice, and, especially dear to me, having small swarms of kids have the free run of the house and yard (though again, it is also nice when they go…)

Where to be when older
I also continue to think that I will be happiest as I get older in cities, close to the center of things, public transport, good services, and (possibly most importantly) able to just see the daily life of many different people around me. I love to see people on the street, to look out the window and watch them going about their business. How stifling it is in the deep suburbs (not where I live now, but in Houston or Chelmsford’s semi-rural edges), with tiny glimpses of a neighbor perhaps once a week but no real bustle, no feeling part of a mysterious hive of life and purpose.

Rich neighborhoods can suck
Back in London, we switched sadly from A. and C.’s marvellous cosy be-Washleted rooftop-garden flat in Hoxton to the sterile absurd confines of the conference hotel, a scungy Holiday Inn in South Kensington which appeared to me as a hell of tourist-fouled bland international-mall-block overpriced theater-going pretentiousness. (Admittedly the Nathan Barley (or earlier incarnation, Cunt) population of Hoxton was high but still, it was nice and it felt *normal and human* like actual people actually live there.) Anyway, South Kensington. I’m sure I would like going to all the museums but, stay away from the embarrassing awful hotels. How nasty the Holiday Inn was, a little bit of importation of the worst of “America” with its ugly veneers and shoddy conveniences that utterly weren’t.

The conference itself fascinated me and I took extensive notes. (Z. wrote it up for the Ir1sh T1mes so you may go read his summary if you like. He was up all night in a fervor and is asleep on my shoulder in the plane; I had coffee and can’t sleep on planes anyway; thus this blog post.) I went to a half day each day and worked the rest of the time. I have massive notes from conference. Not written up yet. Notable was the home office guy, and the BP1 somewhat shark-like dude and his flunky who quizzed me on whether I download music illegally.

Monday night we went to dinner with S. who was nice, funny, and a bit pleasantly sleazy (like I can talk – I am notorious – and had a hard time not escalating to out do his stories – but could easily, without breaking a sweat). We talked about Internetty things, speculating, analyzing, predicting, trying to be wild-eyed but not quite hyped up or comfortable enough to get to that golden land of prophecy & inspiration. (Dinner was fantastic; can’t believe we lived a few blocks from Cay Tre all week and didn’t know to go there! Will amend C and A.’s house-sitting FAQ! Catfish in a clay pot, slightly caramelized, perfectly cooked with spicey sauce, and the (tender to die for) beef fried at table in rice wrappers. OMG.)

Squirrel with a hoard of small memories
Ultimate pleasure also at Z’s reading aloud of the Fish chapter of my Sumerian book, how happy it makes me to think of it, how absurd, but who else would share my pleasure at it (maybe Minnie) but, no one else could read it so well aloud with such understanding of the particular enjoyment.

You know particular moments stick with you and you know while they are happening that they will and that you are at a pinnacle of happiness? I have so many moments with Rook that are like that, sometimes very little things like watching the coyote pounce on a mouse at Fermilab from the roadside and feeling wordless about it, or when we watch Moomin and just about die of happiness, or watching him do his tap dance as King Herod in the musical. Anyway it is a little silly to say so on my blog since it is a private and unexplainable moment but that is also how I feel about the Sumerian fish.

Pubs and liminial spaces and the nature of time
Tuesday night (after particularly exhausting work, and then more conference where I paid close attention and became more burned out than i thought possible) we went out with S. again and more of Z’s friends and conspirators. I liked seeing him happy amidst his old friends (and as at the Opent. conference his friends’ pleasure in seeing him Cured As If By Miracle Back From Insanity or Nervous Breakdown or Misery or Whatever) Though I was too exhausted again to really be social and connected I had several drinks and talked with L. and S. a bit, but mostly listened to other people. (And I know that one is not Magically Cured from life, middle age, or particular traumas and does not return to an Old Self (as people kept saying “he’s BACK” which is both true and not) but people have continuity of identity throughout whatever scars they have. It is maybe more, ah, you have connected visibly with that old self we knew and that you were and that we thought you were or wanted you to be — when as we get older (speaking again from my getting to be middle aged with my bitter yet spoiled generation’s astonishment that that can HAPPEN) and watch people we know change beyond recognition, go down paths we never thought possible, cut off and disown or forget their former selves we used to love, or simply die. So I enjoyed their pleasure in the moment but found it a little bit sad and ephemeral. (Is it very American of me to be so earnest and analytical rather than sum things up with a little ironic remark – if so then pretend we are in the pub past closing time in the liminal space of drunkenness where such thoughts are permitted.)

Additional thoughts to my post on Cities, suburbs, middle and old age on the other computer when the battery on the first one ran out

At Z’s dad’s house I noticed his frailty and old age and his air of real philosophical detachment which I have noticed in my own father (who is much younger in mind and body, but perhaps on the same path) and wondered at the life path that would take him to this place when nearby was the little bustle of the Sunday dinner which perhaps he might have come to. And that is clearly not part of the way he lives and I think we’ve all seen men who go that path and yet stay in a family, lurking in workshops or basements while the life of the kitchen and its gossip goes on around them. I wonder at it. I have definitely had my moments of desire (and fulfilment) of that matronly vision of the table of lovely food and everyone gathered round (and will have many more such moments) but there is a strand in me that leans another way (or that sees how I could become very different and yet be happy in it though I would not be happy in it now.) I also see another strand in future ways of living, of public involvement or public works or civic works, service rather than of private cultivation of my own garden.

Back to the moments in the monastic living room of Z.’s dad. I got to see Z. become younger suddenly in an indefinable invisible way. (And it was the house where he grew up, which I didn’t realize till later.) Other than looking at a few photos on the wall there was no reminiscing or dwelling on that aspect of the past. His dad had a million mannerisms I recognized as Z’s or really it is opposite and some of them also in other people though in fledgling form. Also, their hands are the same, so it was odd to see basically Z’s future hands and to imagine him old (while right then seeing him as much younger than he is now because of the indefinable slightly melancholy younger-infusion effect of being around one’s parent.) His dad interacted with us by firing a gentle barrage of diffident questions mostly at Z (a relief that there were not many questions for me!) but I felt a little melancholy myself wondering about the relationship. I thought of the time that we were soldering our LED kits together and both feeling a weird bond and memory of bonding with our dads — as if our dads would be pleased with us and pleased at having transmitted something to us that they had liked (even if they don’t like it or do it now.) Or would be proud of us in a minor quiet way. My own dad seems to have forgotten the pleasures of doing things like that (soldering and little projects) and does not really get it that it was important to me or the scale of that importance in a kid’s life (and the life of the future person – as we age and return to earlier memories; he is probably lost in his own bonding moments with his dad when he was young, over baseball; thus, disconnect as our significant memories that formed us are of different times.)

I thought of a blog entry I read recently from someone in the blogher network of being in the snow with her dad and how grateful that she was that he insisted she wake up and ski with him even though she hated it. It was not about the activity really but about giving her some way to remember him and herself, so that now whenever she skis or goes in the snow or whatever they were doing, she thinks of that time and of him. (He is not dead. But he’s different, and it’s harder for them to be close.) Her post was about her consideration of what she is giving to her children.

I think of both Rook and Zond-7 and what they give to their kids as fathers. They are both so good at it, I suspect light-years better than their own fathers were. I wonder if because my own dad was so nice and so good at it, I like them for some of those same qualities. For myself, I have an ideal of being a parent that I don’t at all live up to and never quite have even at my best moments. I am so sporadic in my abilities to do it at all. I’m not running myself down here – it is true – and not an awful thing – just how it is.

Partly this is because my particular skills – that I thought would be so useful in parenting – are not in my case becasue they are not what Moomin responds to and maybe I have not known how to learn and shift fast enough. Partly I might just suck wih little kids (beyond an ability to entertain and bond with any little kid for about an hour) and will come into my own & into usefulness when he is in middle and high school. But so farmy main strengths or things he will remember fondly might be much like my memories of my grandma Hemulen and the absent-minded way she would put hot dogs into the toaster oven for me and my uncle Redolb with a beautiful absence of fuss and we would run around doign whatever we liked, watching junky tv shows, playing with legos or making elaborate stuffed animal battles without interference.

While I do have a very solid comforting motherly reality-bending home-making ability I also think it is a bit unstable and (especially in the last year with health problems) I have pulled back from it. I like that quality in myself and value it and see how other people like it in me, but it’s like it breaks down daily – this might be part of my own damage or frailty that I don’t have clear grasp of yet – the damage that being in fairly high levels of physical pain has done – and the effect of my own fears.

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Tell It Like It Is award

I’d just like to take a moment to appreciate the bloggers who do not hold back and who say what they’re thinking. I used to do this much more and then I got all boring and square and circumpsect.

I’m thinking of giving a totally unofficial spontaneous blog Award! Complete with a little badge!

The “Tell It Like It Is” award!

Right now I’m looking at you, Totally Rosalie and you, Just my Life! You crack me up! Just My LIfe, I will totally never forget your whole deal with your Mom In Law and the swimming pool and also how your awesome husband comes home and falls asleep in the damned recliner and snores and you have to all tiptoe around. Also, “busier than a cat covering shit” is my new favorite expression. Seriously I read your blog and tears leak out of my eyes as I laugh hysterically and you are the blogger I most want to do tequila shots with as we bitch about all the stuff in our lives.

Now I have to get it together to create a funny little badge thing for people to stick on their blogs!

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