Posts Tagged ‘china’

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!


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.

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.

Getting rid of books, fiction, A-C

The books in my own library function as my external memory. I’m going through some of the fiction bookshelves in my office to get rid of some books. So that I remember what I’ve read, and where I could find certain information or stories again, I’ll record what’s going out the door. (And if you want any of these books, ping me to come pick them up. Otherwise – donation.)

Frozen Future A prophetic report from Antarctica. Ed. by Richard S. Lewis and Philp M. Smith. 1973. A very cool book with lots of charts and diagrams. I like knowing what people thought was going to be the future in 1973. This was part of my 1999 inhalation of everything about Antarctica, just before Rook went to work at the South Pole for 6 weeks.

The Speedwell Voyage: A true story of survival at Sea in the Bestselling Tradition of The Endurance. Piracy & mutiny in the 18th century. Kenneth Poolman. Okay, but not great. Too far removed from the source. Why not just re-read Hakluyt again if you’re going to go there.

The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition. Caroline Alexander. Coffee table book. Again… go to the source.

Nisa: Life and Words of a !Kung Woman. Marjorie Shostak. Interesting but sometimes I want to slap the anthropologist. Nisa is cool.

Travels in West Africa. Mary Kingsley. Fabulous, but falling apart and missing some pages. I will tear some more out and save them for envelope art and throw away the rest. I especially remember the scenes where Kingsley is lost in a mangrove swamp.

The Book of Weird. Why do I even have this?

Paula, and Stories of Eva Luna. Isabel Allende. I so don’t need this. Allende bugs the ever living crap out of me. I kept House of the Spirits just to critique the hell out of it.

Ranger’s Apprentice. John Flanagan Utterly unmemorable YA fantasy book. Why do I have it?

Dragon Keeper. Carole Wilkinson. YA book set in China. Passing this one on to Moomin. I think someone sent it to me for review. Read it, can’t remember it… I think it was okay…

A whole bunch of Kushiel books. Jacqueline Carey. Might have re-read them once over while sick. Could get from library so easily. Worth keeping? What do you think? In 10 years, or 20, will I still be able to find a copy? I think so.

Xenocide. Orson Scott Card. Advance uncorrected proof.. Going, going, gone.

Agatha Christie. 4 huge hardback collections of mysteries and short stories. Mostly Miss Marple. Others too. Okay, these are around so that when I have a cold, I can tear through them. Again, couldn’t I just send someone to the library to fill me up with junk reading? Yet, these are relatively compact. I’m torn. Miss Marple Meets Murder. Miss Marple Complete Short Stories. Five Complete Miss Marple Novels. Then another book with 5 Tommy/Tuppence novels.

John Dickson Carr. hardback “Three Detective Novels.” See above.

Wit’s End. karen joy fowler. Liked it, not necessarily going to re-read it.

Territory. Emma Bull.. Ditto.

Nancy’s Mysterious Letter. This one sucked!

Jennie: The Life of Lady Randolph Churchill. Volume 2. Great, but why do I have two copies of volume 2 and NO VOLUME ONE?

The Fortunate Fall. Raphael Carter Fabulous. Duplicate copy!

The Collected Stories, Isaac Babel I remember these with affection but have not touched the book for 15 years… Out it goes, if I want to read Babel again, will go to library.

Lynn V. Andrews. Jaguar Woman. sacred journey blah blah. Don’t remember it. Why do I have it? Not the sort of book I would even bother to read. At least not since I was about 13 years old. Book 3 of a trilogy I don’t think I’ve read.

MLA handbook 3rd edition good riddance

Bruce Chatwin. In Patagonia Duplicate copy of a rather loathsome book. It’s so loathesome that I’m keeping copy 1.

La última niebla. La amortajada. María Luisa Bombal. Good stories but likely I am not going to translate them. I will stick with poetry. Someone out there wants this book. Will donate to library…

El Aleph. Borges. Duplicate. In spanish

The Fall of the Towers. Samuel R. Delany. Duplicate copy. paperback.

Sundiver. Startide Rising. David Brin. I so don’t need this on my shelf. Left over from high school.

Oroonoko. Aphra Behn.. Duplicate copy!

Phantom Islands of the Atlantic Okay but just not worth keeping on the shelf. Better idea than execution.

What I think of in the bath

Moments where the heights of luxury hit me; I live like this!

With all the history I’ve read, and all the fantastic future histories, I’m dizzied that at this particular moment, I can summon enough just-so-temperatured, perfumed, clean-enough-to-drink water to cover my body, and have the leisure to lie in it, with food and a book at hand, with music playing, with a wealth of culture a snap of my fingers away, in this decadent privacy and peace, free from fear, secure in control, able to move around as I please, absentmindedly rubbing green tea and fennel lotion into my hair. I am a magician – Can this be real? How did this happen? Can it last? Might this, as I have thought many times before, be the pinnacle of physical experience of my life? How is it that I have all this? That we have all this?

A moment where I don’t take it for granted, where I acknowledge this ordinary moment of a daily hot bath is an amazing luxury I am lucky to experience at all.

coffee and book in jacuzzi

How very odd – Roman emperors or Trimalchio really could not have it any better – How smug we are and how tiny a blip in history – and how sure we are that it is deserved, permanent, this hot bath – I think the same when I eat a sandwich in the back yard – It is what we die for really – for someone’s right to this peaceful back yard or miracle bathtub. Part liberty, part theft. What splendor. No wonder we hardly know what to do with ourselves, emperors lacking any good citizen-ish Mirror for Princes. A funny picture as I consider Roman cities: thunk, the public park and fountain is plunked down in our utopian sim city grid and the people stop their riots.

Often I think of myself as an anarchist, but I am politically naive and lazy enough to have never examined or defined my political beliefs. The most glaring inner contradiction has always seemed to be my love of, and belief in, virtuous and stable institutions and laws, which I somehow cherish along with a strong tendency to veer off in order to disrupt institutions that aren’t or that I think aren’t. I was struck by this bit of tonight’s book; it’s near the end of Godfather of the Kremlin, after long exposure of corruption, embezzling, capital flight, murder and greed:

Private property or free markets alone do not guarantee a high level of civilization. Even the most impoverished countries have private property and free markets. What they lack is a healthy state and a healthy society. Today these are the two essential preconditions for civilization.
There are several salient characteristics defining a healthy state: a good legal code and the means to enforce it; the equality of all citizens before the law and the state; a sound financial basis allowing for the provision of such public goods as national defense, law enforcement, transportation, education, medical care, and pensions; an efficient and effective government apparatus. A healthy state is uncorrupted by wealthy individuals, powerful businessmen, or special-interest groups; it is an honest broker for all the conflicting interests of society. Finally, a healthy state protects the weak from predation by the strong.

This calls out to the bits of my middle-class and civic-minded soul that believe in such things. The root of the non-contradiction is that I believe it could be achieved by anarchic means. Maybe. Given some ideal state of beginning, or anarchic-alientech-ex-machina, or that proper nucleation that crystallizes and spreads that we like to imagine could be just around the corner.

Thoughts on Budapest

Not like I’ve seen any of it but the airport and the hotel!

Hungarian food is goddamned delicious! It’s the best ever! The little pastries even beat the Belgium pastries!

There are billboards like crazy. It could have been Houston, getting off the plane. I noticed advertisements in London were oddly restrained and dorky. Brussels… what advertisements? Other than Antiquities and snooty-looking fashion and billboards for the opera I did not see any evidence of popular culture or the hopes and dreams and chains of regular people. But, the billboards in Budapest were all full of people bursting out of reality, leaping in the air in gravity-defying ways, living it up at water parks or wild with laughter and romance. The billboards were all along the highway next to row after row of identical enormous concrete block apartments stretching as far as I could see. The billboards seemed perhaps related to the feeling of wanting to escape, wanting some wildness, having the ability to get out of the concrete block. There was plenty of graffiti. It’s scruffy like Beijing but not so full of earnest and callous Industriousness. A lot of women on the street have dyed bright red and purple hair.

I am happily ensconced in my swank hotel (Novotel Centrum) which is lovely & perfectly accessible.

I might go venture out by myself if I can’t wake up Zond-7.

I blogged a bit of the conference and have notes on later panels but then I conked out completely, took a nap, had a bath, read Iain Banks, worked, slept again. I am walking okay, in fact I feel like I could walk a few blocks as I did yesterday with no problem, but my legs hurt a lot and I have the burning and buzzing down into both feet. So, I want to go out to see the city, and yet lying down for a while longer would help my legs feel a little more normal.

I’m sad that I won’t see more – it is beautiful and interesting and jumbledy here

I have been feeling really grateful for my in-between-ness and ability to get around and yet also frustrated & impatient at not just being all the way better. It’s hard because, what would you rather do, walk 5 blocks painfully and not be sure you could continue on with people going somewhere, or just give up and wheel… thus being set apart and judged and also an annoyance and yet freed to go as far as you want to go…

Facials! I don’t mean the dirty kind!

I think I’ve had a facial maybe 1 other time and it was one of those deals where you go “Oh, whatever” and abandon yourself and 60 bucks to the hands of fate. Salons and day spas are such a crapshoot. You know that some strangers are going to touch you for a while and some shit’s going to happen to you – but what? It is very like going to a whorehouse but for middle aged suburban ladies (as I’m sure many of you have noticed.)

So what happened to me in this huge fancy (yet cheap) new salon place in downtown Deadwood was that two women removed my socks and shoes and put me into a giant vibrating chair (see?) that also did percussion and kneading. They soaked my feet and hands. I thought the hand soaking bowls were nifty because they put smooth glass pebbles in them so your fingers don’t get bored. There was painting, and dabbing, and massaging with about 6 different kinds of scrubby stuff and lotions. They did all the dabbing and pincering of cuticles and filing early on. They pointed at the autoclaving disinfecting thing to reassure me about how modern they are & that flesh eating bacteria will not rot my fingers off my bones because of their cuticular invasions. There was hot stone massage. I noted they took the hot stones out of a crockpot. The hot stones might have been the best part, but I also liked the HOT LOTION. Dang! Then, a rather elaborate french manicure which is pale pink or clear nails with white tips. I don’t know how long thatall took. A long time.

I find that perhaps because language is a barrier, but perhaps also cultural difference of some kind, the Nail Salon ladies are alert to the slightest twitch and they overinterpret a bit. So, if you fidget, or scratch your nose, they assume no matter WHAT you say that you don’t like what they were doing and they should switch. Alas. An exaggeration of the Curse of the Just Right, where someone is massaging you, and you say “OMG, just right, don’t stop, keep doing exactly that” and they can’t HELP doing it different. Also true for sex. You might have noticed this in your own life.

For the facial part I was led back into the bowels of the building where there were candles and more mysterious Stations for things to Happen and then into a small room with more candles and all sorts of big dentists’ office looking machines. I was given a white cotton muumuu for purposes of neck and shoulder massage which made me feel nearly certain this would not be like my FIRST time I braved the “facial”. When THAT happened oh, it was awful. If you look at my skin, which I recommend you don’t, you will see I am acne-ridden, greasy, and dry-skinned all once. There are blackheads and whiteheads and sort of looming way underneath lurking incipient zits that cannot be stopped but are lined up on a zit conveyer belt waiting for their turn. So in the historic facial of days of yore, some lady whose language I did not speak *squeezed my zits* and sort of eviscerated them with a tiny post-hole digger. It was wildly painful. Afterwards my face was all raw. So anyway, THIS time was awesome. The dental machine turned out to be a high tech Vaporizer which gently puffed warm, perfect steamy air onto my face. A hot towel was wrapped around my head and then infinite strange hot faceclothings and more dabbing and scrubbing and face massage happened. IN between every stage I got hot towelled again. I lost count. First there was coarse grained scrubbing and then a towel. Then fine grained scrubbiness. Towel. Lotiony stuff. Towel. Tingly stuff. A sort of Mask thing which dried as I fell half asleep deliciously to some horrible new age flute music and a botched rendition on guitars of that one Satie piece that they always play in arty movies. Some shoulder and neck rubbing happened while I was lying there on my back with a warm fuzzy blanket over me. There was a point where there was tiny karate-chop percussive massaging all over my face, my sinuses, jaws, much better than you’d think.

So that was pretty awesome. My face does not feel or appear magically different — the point is more the hour of face massage. I don’t really care about the nail polish either (though it is rather splendid) since I will ruin it by tonight, but the good news on that front is whatever they use for polish does not asphyxiate me or them.

The bad part was they were flipping out the whole time about my crippledness (which they didn’t the first time I went there! dammit!) and just could not grasp that I could walk okay. Like, I walked in. With my backpack and crutches. And they saw me walk a little without the crutches. But, they would grab onto my arms while I was walking, or try to lift me up sort of from a chair — unbelieveable — and I had to explain 5 times that no one had dropped me off, Yes I could drive, no I did not have a special car for handicapped people — Yes I could work the pedals — no, no one was coming to get me — this from people who were looking at my feet and watching them move for an hour and a half and I repeat, who saw me walk in and walk around their salon. (My guess is that much like it was in China, Vietnam must not quite be there with popular awareness of ideas of independent living, despite some evidence to the contrary. I dealt with this as if quaaludes were my compass and anchor with a mild half-smile and eventually all the questions stopped as I dozed and sank into the awesome vibrating throne chair and let myself be buffed and squashed and oiled like a motherfucking empress of rome.

Rook drove to M4rin to pick up his mum from her spirituality Retreat & thence to the Assploratorium. They are on their way back. My plan is to feed them soup and hope to god my mom in law goes to bed early after her exhausting day. Armed with my 3 hours of hand, face, and foot massage and new age music I have another plan, which is, ANY time she brings up any crappy health thing or says anything that pisses me off I will Change the subject and ask her what her plan is for when she begins to lose mobility in her 4 story house that has stairs to get in the door, and also what she will do when she can’t drive safely any more, and what her blood pressure is, and I will also regale her with stories about my mom’s parents in their assisted living with expensive round the clock aides. That ought to fix her wagon. If that fails then I will remember some errands and leave for an hour or so.

I have worked on poety translator things, submitted 2 batches of poems to places, cooked, done laundry, on top of all that!

The more prosaic diary of what’s up

So I decided I’ll go to UCSF to their ALS clinic, and get a 2nd opinion or workup or whatever from them. They can use all the same tests and MRIs and stuff. I might just have to have an EMG – sounds like a somatosensory evoked potential is no picnic, but something like that will get done.

I walked a bit again today with crutches, and sat up a good part of the day. Went out to lunch with and Jo (I’m completely obsessed with this pho place in Deadwood and its totally delicious noodle soup) and then came back here to talk poetry with D. (lying on couch with an electric blanket) and THEN Rook and Moomin and I went to Jo’s house to do a little minor clearing up and moral support which I hope helped. It is a dreary thing to do alone, moving, even when you’re not having that feeling of salvaging from the wreck.

Rook took kids to our house, and then when Ep’s husband came over around 5 to drive Jo around town, they dropped her son and Eliz. off at my house too. Everyone played super peacefully with rocket launchers and “guns” that were actually my crutches, & then in elaborate gladatorial games with the tiny remote controlled cars from China, MC-ed by Eliz and fenced off by a coliseum of couch pillows. I watched from bed.

I thought I would miss the concert but then just in time all the kids got picked up. WHEW.

And what a fabulous feeling with my lap blanket tucked in around me, whooshing down the street in my new ultralight wheelchair, down the BRAND NEW RAMPS.

I’m very lucky…

It was all a bit exhausting, but I mostly stayed very warm. I’m hurting now despite baclofen. My left leg is spasming a lot tonight, mostly the calf and foot.

I have to say, that the feeling of trouble swallowing is more intense the last few days, and I never know if it is just in my mind… or if it is really worse. I guess if it gets really-really worse, I’ll know it. I have had increasing trouble in the past years with swallowing when I ‘m lying down or on my back. For example if getting a massage I have to turn on my side to swallow. I guess that is not quite normal? And much of the time I have to sort of think about swallowing food. I do it by leaning forward just a bit and stretching out my neck. Is that …. well, I know it must be odd, because I don’t remember ever thinking about it or noticing it before a couple of years ago. Can I just confess… I didn’t mention that to the neurologist even when he asked about swallowing difficulties.

I do think about it, and figure I will do a quick project to record myself reading more of my poems.

I haven’t really wanted to talk about that to anyone because it feels like it would make it more real and it makes me much too afraid.

They have programs where you record yourself saying like 1500 common words and phrases and then a speech synthesizer thingie digitizes it and can construct what you want to say from that. The software to do this has different moods so you can inflect things to be angry or happy or whatever.

Remind me to record some key phrases like “Shut the fuck up” and “OH GOD! HARDER!”


On the other hand I am not convinced it’s not all in my head and I don’t mean in the “upper motor neurons in brainstem” way of being all in my head.

You know the feeling of when your throat gets tight because you are super emotional? Like that.

Pilot and I had a nice talk yesterday and she filled me in on the acromegaly stuff which went along with the tumor. I didn’t realize that bit of it. She’s having a rough time over there, which I knew but didn’t really grasp. It’s funny to think of us in our next door houses, struggling. And I want to offer more solidarity in some way.

Meanwhile, I continue being absurdly happy. I get frustrated and scared and especially tired of being in bed. Not that I don’t love to be in bed. It’s just that when I have impulses to do something else, but can’t muster up the stamina, and bed is warm, and cold hurts like helll.

Rook’s parents are coming on Thursday!

I need to make a bunch more appointments and deal with medical things and faxing and insurance! And get food for xmas dinner, order a turkey or whatever! I feel like baking bread and cleaning the house! Instead I laid in bed all evening and watched “Hail the Conquering Hero” with Rook.

Fiery vengeance, and shirtless men on zepplins

Everyone is over for pizza and gaming. We had another enormous dragon battle with fire and sword and Catholics with rifles, secret passageways, and phrases like “vengeance shall be mine!” or “I burst out of the door, covered in my mother’s blood” or “Well, who wouldn’t be frightened, when the secret mastermind running all this has been… Hark! What’s that!” … ghosts, revolution, scary shamans, all on the island of Jeju around 1864. The councillor of our small town has been slain! People are proposing various leaders for our movement — zdashamber’s character Gunpowder, or Bob’s character Mi-Sook, maybe the Admiral, or China Lee as a military leader. zdashamber cracked me up afterwards by peering at my book and going “Aw right! zepplins! No, wait, shirtless men on zepplins!”

I found the hydrotherapy pool in the hospital close by (in real life, not in our game). $120 for 4 months and it’s open for free messing around all day on weekdays. It’s not swimmable but I don’t need that – just a bit of kicking and doing range of motion and stretching in the water, maybe some walking if I can manage it. Score!

The neuromancer today was fairly kind and answered all my million questions. I came in with a printout marked up and took notes. He explained how he got to PLS but that MS is also likely and while it does not fit as neatly as PLS does at the moment it might fit better after we look at more MRIs and other tests. I have to say I think MS is way more likely. There’s like 500 people in the US who have primary lateral sclerosis and more like 400,000 with MS. So we will see what we see on Tuesday. He said I should be feeling a bit stressed and anxious right around now and that pressure of uncertain diagnosis will likely be around for a few weeks. That I should be active, and yet rest; educate myself about possibilities, but not worry or fret; and then he signed all my forms for physical therapy and pools and parking thingies. He said I should go on short term disability for maybe 4-6 weeks. It will take that long to figure out diagnosis and get things going and if I have MS I will need some treatment, drugs, etc. Also he said it was okay to go off the Lyrica. I would rather try going back to the pain than feel my mind all fuzzy and my arms too weak for me to do much. So, no Lyrica tonight.

MS fits better in that I had a long period of remission and more of a remission and relapse pattern where I might have remyelinated.

I was very interested to see the Kurtze Expanded Disability Scale on this set of pages on MS. Those scales are really useful in trying to think about what’s going on over time.

Here’s that table, hope it’s fair use

Kurtze Expanded
Disability Status Scale


EDSS Level Description
0.0 Normal neurological
1.0 No disability, minimal
signs in one FS
1.5 No disability, minimal
signs in more than one FS
2.0 Minimal disability
in one FS
2.5 Mild disability
in one FS or minimal disability in two FS
3.0 Moderate disability
in one FS, or mild disability in three or four FS. Fully ambulatory
3.5 Fully ambulatory
but with moderate disability in one FS and more than minimal disability
in several others
4.0 Fully ambulatory
without aid, self-sufficient, up and about some 12 hours a day despite
relatively severe disability; able to walk without aid or rest some 500
4.5 Fully ambulatory
without aid, up and about much of the day, able to work a full day, may
otherwise have some limitation of full activity or require minimal assistance;
characterized by relatively severe disability; able to walk without aid
or rest some 300 meters.
5.0 Ambulatory without
aid or rest for about 200 meters; disability severe enough to impair full
daily activities (work a full day without special provisions)
5.5 Ambulatory without
aid or rest for about 100 meters; disability severe enough to preclude
full daily activities
6.0 Intermittent or
unilateral constant assistance (cane, crutch, brace) required to walk about
100 meters with or without resting
6.5 Constant bilateral
assistance (canes, crutches, braces) required to walk about 20 meters without
7.0 Unable to walk beyond
approximately five meters even with aid, essentially restricted to wheelchair;
wheels self in standard wheelchair and transfers alone; up and about in
wheelchair some 12 hours a day
7.5 Unable to take more
than a few steps; restricted to wheelchair; may need aid in transfer; wheels
self but cannot carry on in standard wheelchair a full day; May require
motorized wheelchair
8.0 Essentially restricted
to bed or chair or perambulated in wheelchair, but may be out of bed itself
much of the day; retains many self-care functions; generally has effective
use of arms
8.5 Essentially restricted
to bed much of day; has some effective use of arms retains some self care
9.0 Confined to bed;
can still communicate and eat.
9.5 Totally helpless
bed patient; unable to communicate effectively or eat/swallow
10.0 Death

I would say that this December and January I was a 1.0 on that scale. By February I was maybe a 2, limping, hurting, tired, but mostly hiding it. Since then I’ve been back and forth between a 6.0 and a 7.0. Maybe I was getting even to the 5.5 level, which was very cheering! Up to 7.0, it’s a level of disability I know very well how to cope with. I am for the last couple of weeks at a 7.5, an abrupt and scary change.

I could chart out the last few years with ups and downs on that scale; it might be interesting. Charted with pain added it would be even more useful.

update Sat. morning – I’m walking a few steps, feeling way less weak, more clear-headed. Going off the Lyrica was a good idea!

Old notes on Playing for Thrills, incomplete

Here’s a file I just found, with my notes on the novel “Playing for Thrills”. I figured I’d post them even though I never finished the note-taking, but stopped at Chapter 17.

If you’ve come across this post from a search on the novel, because you want cliffnotes or a cheatsheet, and you’d like to add to the notes, do it in comments!

Obviously, there are spoilers ahead.


Notes on Playing for Thrills

Ten years ago, Fang Yan and some of his friends went out to eat at a cafe. The men had just gotten out of the military. They seemed to have an unusual amount of money. One of the friends, Gao Yang, was murdered soon after. Fang Yan has vivid memories of the afternoon the friends spent together, but the details of his memory keep changing, and he has a week of lost memories just afterwards. Was he with Gao Yang, or with some girl? Or where? The book opens with Fang Yan roaming around Beijing hitting on women and interviewing all his friends to figure out what happened that day. Fang Yan is a pathological liar and joker.

The people at the cafe were possibly:

Gao Yang (dead)
Fang Yan (the narrator)
Gao Jin (now a hotel manager)
Xu Xun (now a cop)
Wan Ruohai (who went to jail for years)
Qiao Qiao (possibly sent for re-education for being a delinquent)
Xia Hong
Gao Yan
Zhuo Yue (unless he had died before that, which he probably did)

Memories of that afternoon: 13, 37, 35
The silver bag: end of ch. 3, p. 63

Chapter 1
Fang Yan is at Fat Man Wu’s, playing poker. Someone named MIngsong sends him a telegram to expect two visitors, newlyweds from the South.
Fang Yan goes to meet the couple, but screws up and forgets what he was doing. He meets some guy who knows him, meets Tan Li and the pudgy girl, who goes back with him to his apartment. There, three cops, Zhao, Qian, and Sun, interview him about the afternoon 10 years ago. They leave with the sword from Yunnan.

Chapter 2
Fang Yan ends up at Fat Man Wu’s with the pudgy girl and Liu Huiyuan. Then he goes to visit Gao Jin at the hotel where Jin works. He brings up the missing 7 days. Fang Yan visits Zhang Li and her husband and falls asleep.

Chapter 3
Fang Yan is at his apartment with Fat Man Yu, Liu Huiyuan, and the newlywed couple. Cops call, p. 42. Li Jiangyun, the good-looking cousin of one of the newlyweds, visits. There is a mysterious phone call from a woman; Fang Yan tells her he’s going to America. Fang Yan notices the silver bag.

Chapter 4
Fang Yan goes to the Children’s Hospital to pick up Jin Yan, who is a nurse there. They go to Xu Xun’s house. They have differing memories of the afternoon after leaving the cafe.

Chapter 5
Fang Yan and Wang Ruohai, who has been in jail, meet seemingly at random in the street. Wang says that Fang was in love with a girl – the girl with the silver bag. Why was Wang in jail? He says for pickpocketing a wallet; Fang Yan mentions a rumor about a ruby that came from an antique slipper of some court lady — which Wang denies.

Chapter 6
Fang Yan goes looking for Qiao Qiao, but runs into Zhang Li. At the time of the murder, they worked together in a pharmacy. She reminds him the girl’s name was Liu. They called her “the hippopotamus”. Fang Yan wanders around, ends up choosing a random “Liu” from his address book, Liu Xiaoli, who mistakes him for his old commander Zhao Yue.
Chapter 7
Fang Yan wanders to his old barracks, filled with possibly false nostagia. He plays cards with 3 pale young men. Ends up in a restaurant where all his friends from now and 10 years ago, even the dead ones, and the cops, appear. He remembers the girl’s name was Liu Yan. Then he comes out of his fugue state with Li Jiangyun. He either sleeps with her or dreams that he did.

Chapter 8
Fang Yan wakes up in his apartment. The newlywed couple makes dinner for him and all his friends. Li Jiangyun is upset. He finds the photograph of Liu Yan in an old jacket. Liu Huiyuan thinks he remembers her. Li Jiangyun and he have an intense conversation. At his apartment, the phone rings. It’s the woman he told he was going to america (I think this is Jin Yan.) She tells him to go and see Ling Yu.

Chapter 9
Li Jiangyun takes Fang Yan to her friend Baishan’s apartment. He settles in. She has violet cologne. There is a dust storm in Beijing. Fang Yan freaks out and calls Liu Huiyuan, who meets him in a cafe.

Chapter 10
Liu Huiyuan takes Fang Yan to meet his friend, a government department head of some sort, Li Kuidong. Liu says that police searched’ Fang’s house and questioned everyone. Liu Yan lived with Li ten years ago. Fang lies and says she is is his big sister. Li says he saw Liu Yan years later with some guy named Wng Kuanglin. She’s a great dancer a d skater.

Chapter 11
Wang Kuanglin wears a suit and runs the Crippled Citizens office. He says Liu Yan was a cheap whore. He says that Fang Yan and Liu Yan met in Giangzhou and were pulling off scams and burglaries. He remembers Gao Yang, Xu Xun, Wang Ruohai, and Gao Jin. He also knew her through a woman called Five Grain Alcohol. Fang doesn’t remember doing all those crimes, but he swells with pride and admires himself for being so cool.

Chapter 12
Fang talks with Wang Ruohai. The cops are watching outside and have been questioning people. Wang makes a crytpic reference that makes it sound like everyone knows how Gao Yang died. Qiao Qiao comes in. Wang and Qiao are married now. Qiao says 10 years ago she saw Gao and Fang’s names together in a hotel register in Kunming. Qiao tells another story about Fang and an unknown girl in a hotel room, with Fang crying; not LIu Yan, and not the girl in the photograph. Qiao says there were two meals at the restaurant. At one, there were 8 people. At the second, there were 7. The man in the striped shirt was Feng Xiaogang. Back at Baishun’s apartment, Li Jiangyun is waiting for Fang. They sleep together. Fang dreams about Baishan and wakes up crying.

Chapter 13
Liu Huiyuan and Fang go to Wang Kuangin’s office. It’s a setup and the man in the black leather overcoat and two thugs with bayonets are there. Black Leather Overcoat thinks Fang is the person that his client, a girl with heavy makeup, is looking for. The girl comes in and tells her story. Fang is not the Fang Yan she’s looking for. She describes a scene that makes it sound like her Fang is actually Zhao Yue. But she also mentions his striped cotton shirts.

Chapter 14
Fang Yan runs into Tan Li (from Chapter 1). He demands she tell him where Sha Qing is. Sha Qing tells him the story of how she met the other Fang Yan (perhaps Zhao Yue, but perhaps the man in the striped shirt.) Xu Xun and Qiao Qiao and everyone else Fang knows walk by randomly on the street. He sees Gao Yang and Zhao Yue, then Liu Yan, who turns into Li Jiangyun.

Chapter 15
Li Jiangyun and Fang Yan talk in bed. Fang is bewildered at the thought that in some alternate life he’s a merciless gangster. Fang thinks about games of cops and killers when he was a kid. He tries to remember LIu Yan.

Chapter 16

Li Jiangyun and Fang go to lunch with a middle aged man, who tells a story about a young couple in love he used to know and about a girl who was an orphan and who lost her little brother. She was a talented person and a good skater and dancer, but started hanging out with the wrong crowd. The man mentions “the cripple” Wang Kuangin. His story could be about Fang. A precious gem is hinted at.

Chapter 17
Fang watches some skaters. He runs into Tan Li. Tan Li asks if he’s looking for Liu Yan. She mentions Five Grain Alcohol. She says she’s seen the picture of Liu Yan before at Gao Jin’s house, where she met the striped shirt guy. The bomber jacket and the sword were also there. Liu Huiyuan and Li Kuidong bring a woman to meet Fang; she thinks he is her little brother.

Chapter 18

I hate the TSA, I love comic books, and home is a beautiful place

Rook persuaded me to go home and so I spent the morning mildly drugged and with Rachel Edidin who was so awesome at Wiscon and got me to be one of the Birds of Prey, and who writes for Girl Wonder. Rachel took us all around Dark Horse, where she works as an editor. Moomin liked the giant statue of Concrete a lot and I am sure now he’ll want to read about Concrete. The first dude we talked with gave us a cool hardback book of Tarzan comics, the ones by Joe Kubert. Moomin opened, started reading, and then just folded up and sat down in the hallway where he had been standing. It was very awesome looking because he was so small and so engrossed. My son, let me show you him:

stopped cold in tracks by comic book

See? Really awesome. It just makes my heart flop around like crazy in an AWWWWWW sort of way. How lucky we are…

I feel like a good, or at least competent, parent again.

So, we toured all around and I met a zillion amazingly cool-seeming people whose offices are all decorated with comix posters and action figures and books and fun stuff. And did I mention all the people were super nice, and loaded us with free books and comic books and stickers and keychains and buttons? And there were lots of cool women working there. I mean, I’m sure it’s like working in any small publishing job where the pay might be a bit sketchy and yet, there are amazing benefits to working there

Rachel drove us back to Hell Hotel, where we ordered some food and ended up eating it in the car on the way to the airport. I was so relieved to be going home. And so grateful for the ride. Thanks Rachel! I wish I were more “on” and sparkly and talky and all that. But I just wasn’t… I was in that barely hanging onto reality place, where you go when you’re in a lot of pain. I know Rachel understands this from her own experience and was cutting me a lot of slack.

I will miss Rook and Moomin and I feel guilty for not being able to pull it together to stay and be cheery and family-ish. And I had looked forward to being in a bunch of games with zdashamber, because she rocks… Yet it’s so much better to be home.

The nicest thing about friends, and this morning, is that friends fix everything wrong. Rachel does not know it but she cured me of feeling full of bitter hate. Not with the 50 lbs of free comic books but with just basic human decency.

Rook too of course. He was a glorious force-field of reality-warping goodness.

The Portland airport was easy to get around, very small really; I got my ticket and to security in like 5 minutes. Then, the TSA gave me shit because my drivers license had expired. I forgot about this and if I’d remembered could have brought my passport. And I have a current license, but lost my wallet and then used my old expired license figuring I will go back to the DMV soon, and then haven’t had time, and then forgot I had to do it. Soooo… it was super dumb, because an expired drivers license is still perfectly valid ID. The only reason it expires is to make you go back to the DMV to check your vision and if you are still competent to drive, or something. It’s not like the ID-ness of it expires! There is your photo! Still very you-like! But the TSA is too dumb to realize that. And so put me down as having NO ID. Which also is no big deal and just means you go in a different line, which as a crippled person I do anyway, and they frisk you extra (which they do anyway since I’m crippled, naturally) and search my bag by hand.

SO. Here is my little irate-customer fight with the TSA. Because what more fun thing could I do high on Vicodin and nearly crying with the jabs of pain and fire pulsing down my shattered tibial nerve, and my zombie leg spasming like a dying eel?

As I was being frisked by the well intentioned but clueless TSA frisking lady, who was named something like Paula 56234 or Denise 52342, bag-searching guy yelled from maybe 10 feet away, “HEY! Does she have her boarding pass?” I looked up from where Paula 56234 was shoving the backs of her hands uncomfortably between my ass cheeks and the wheelchair cushion, waved, and said snappily with a bitchy-polite smile, “Hey man! You can ask me directly, I’m a human being right in front of you, and I can hear!” The bag-searching guy walked over with a menacing cop swagger. His name was something like Robert 56965. (I have to find the little piece of paper where I wrote down his badge number, but he was definitely a Robert; an older man with a grey mustache.) Robert 56965 got right up in my face, considerately bending down to my level. Robert 56965 then yelled at me like he was my dad and I was a bad teenager. He let me know that there was no cal for me to be rude. And that I would learn, and he would teach me, that I should “keep my mouth shut” and “not butt into conversations that were not addressed to me”.

I am a crippled girl with purple hair, travelling alone in a wheelchair carrying a backpack and balancing my sticker covered crutches between my legs. I yell at hotel managers. I have a job. I am the media. I go to Beijing. And I just got a lot of free comic books because of powerful geek girl solidarity. I’ve already been a giant entitled bitch about a hundred times on this trip. Do you think I am afraid of being arrested and thrown in fucking jail by the likes of Robert 56965?

No. I am not.

Well maybe a little. But, fuck it.

I might have flipped off Robert 56965 when he turned his back and the frisking lady definitely saw that and smothered a giggle.

So then when frisking was over, I explained to Robert 56965 that he should address me directly and that it was rude not to and that it is well known to be offensive to disabled people to talk to the person next to them using the 3rd person to talk about them as if they could not hear or understand. He refused to answer me and instead directed many sarcastic comments to Paula 56234. I whipped out my own Sarcastro superpowers and began to critique Robert 56965 to Paula 56234 while he searched my bag and swabbed my digital camera and my extra laptop battery and my toothpaste as if they might be super secret dangerous hi-tech crippled bitch weaponry. “Maybe you can let ROBERT 56965 KNOW in your SPECIAL LANGUAGE THAT ONLY YOU SHARE that I do not mind how much he searches my bag and that I would like to SPEAK TO HIS SUPERVISOR who maybe just maybe will know MY special human-being language.” Oh, poor Paula 56234!!!

Robert 56965’s supervisor came over and in front of Robert 56965 I told the supervisor that it was not right and that some people have issues because of people looking a little bit different. And that that was not acceptable. And that I would be complaining to the TSA with everyone’s badge numbers. I explained very politely and coherently that when a person points OUT that someone is being rude, that rude person might then get defensive and hostile. And that as a disabled person I am very familiar with people who thoughtlessly speak not to me but to the person next to me, and I try to point it out on the spot when it happens. Etcetera. The flak-catcher nodded and put on a Very Serious Listening Face and said nothing-ish things and I took the comment card and left.

Oh, glorious mocha, and nice lady in the waiting area who had been in China and talked with me about the Great Firewall, and perfectly nice seat-mate on the plane who was a real estate developer who worked on the California Academy of Sciences and is now proposing to build the Disney Family Museum complex in the Presidio and who listened to me talk about wikis, thank you for making me feel human again and helping me not burst into tears and cry all the way home.

I didn’t, and I am now home, and the nice taxi driver helped me load up all my crap back onto the chair and then my housemate the Pilot brought in my chair and the mail and my backpack and the exciting packages from Amazon that had come in my absence, and talked with me to make sure I was okay alone, and brought me a soda.

I am very happy to be home in my own bed.

I’m so happy to be in a place where I can go to the bathroom without being on public display and without going through many heavy doors. I still can’t put any weight at all on my right leg. But I can crutch myself like 8 feet away to the small bathroom. I have internet from bed and I have my cell phone, so I am very comfortable and happy considering my leg doesn’t work and hurts a lot. Later… a hot bath. Zond-7 has a cold and an uncertain kid-pickup-schedule so he might not be able to rescue me from alone-ness without herculean effort. But he will come tomorrow. If I need help tonight there are tons of people I can call.