Posts Tagged ‘rants’

Rebel Girl! Riot Grrl nostalgia show

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

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Pastries and sidewalks in Belgium

New blog tagline, “History of Europe through sidewalk curb cuts and things available in cafes” since that is clearly what I’ll be writing about.

I expected the tunnel under the British Channel to be different somehow and momentous rather than just a tunnel you barely notice even if you’re looking. It should have some flashing orange lights and enormous stripey caution signs that go “WARNING! WARNING! YOU ARE UNDER THE MOTHERFUCKING OCEAN”. Instead I thought vague thoughts about roadsides, railway right of way and land ownership, property rights, the San Mateo flock of fire prevention goats, eminent domain, ideas of waste and use and exploitation, geology, glaciers, farming, compost, and forestry. I expected somehow that Britain even by the railway would look more cultivated than the U.S. in the sense that the land has been intensively in use for farming and permanent buildings for so long. In other words that there would be not so many vacant lots and fields that don’t seem to be growing anything or providing pasture or otherwise being used by humans to produce stuff. Once we got through the tunnel, France from the train looked a bit more like that and Belgium even more so.

I liked the train station at King’s Cross/ St. Pancras. Giant Quentin Blake cartoon on building as you pull out of the station… (or really as you pull in as it is a “welcome” message). Odd moment when train station guy came up and accosted me and began to order me around. “No… really… we’re just wandering around this mall for a couple of hours and getting lunch… if I need help I’ll find someone and ask” “NO BUT OMG YOU HAVE TO… AND… ” No actually I don’t THANKS. The hostility that comes through is amazing.

We were in first class in the train because you’re automatically put there if you are traveling in your own wheelchair. The expectation though seemed to be for me to be fairly completely unable to do anything. (Stories later.) The train was lovely and comfortable and the food was fabulous. I did feel strongly that the model of disability and being disabled is utterly broken as there were many frail older people or people traveling with small children who could have benefitted from being in first class and having help with bags, etc. when I just would like a bit more ramps and can walk up the train steps myself and even haul my wheelchair after me if need be. So again as with the broken model of AIDS education that most people got (if you are in a “high risk” category of person etc. etc rather than “if you do X then Y”) it is about identification, instead of behavior, action, immediate situational needs. So the identity politics model works for some things and situations, but for this situation, it doesn’t. The Eurostar staff was clearly trained to see “disabled person: this is what you do” but without any thought of “ask the person what they need” or “be flexible for anyone who needs it”. It is wrong and vile to be treated as a sort of pitiable sub-elite. I notice it everywhere but more here than in the U.S.

Hotel – steps, ugh – amusing punch-card plastic door key that I swear I saw described in some ancient back issue of 2600 magazine – room nice – so happy to nap – no wireless in room, extreme hardship – dinner with Zond-7′s Work People, at The Staff restobar (food fabulous, atmosphere perfect) talked of science fiction with G. who recommended the book “Godfather of the Kremlin”.

Morning, Zond-7 went off to the meeting and I tried to work from the lobby (no wireless in room) but the wireless was far too slow for me to even download my 500 emails much less do web page testing or fixing and to deal with Drupal on any level at all. I set off down Avenue (?) Louise recalling various cafes. Everywhere had a lot of stairs and I can of course do stairs but it seemed daunting to do with all my paraphrenalia and then be trapped in the gravity well and I realized that while I can get into a cafe and its stairs I cannot hang out in it all day long when bathroom is even more inaccessible and just the navigation around the cafes I looked into was multi-level as well. I went a few blocks past Zond-7′s meeting building and then realized everything was uphill; tried the cafe right next to it, which was nice but impossible to deal with; gave up and went to the office and just camped out trying to be oblivious that I was weirdly crashing this meeting that had nothing to do with me. (I did not go into the actual giant meeting but I did sit on the floor in the offices outside, ate their food and used their wireless and bathroom.) Oh well! Embarrassing! But I had to! I worked all day. Went back to hotel around 4 when I was starting to fall asleep sitting up. Oh,,, uphill up the horrible curbs and sidewalks of boring diplomaticky financial districty overpriced fashion-y clothes Brussels, it was really hell! I’m sure it’s a nice city… somewhere that I wasn’t! Napped. Read and got dressed again & Zond-7 came back & we went out to dinner at Brasserie Poelaert which was a lovely spot but not really great food. Worth it for the nice spot on the patio.

Our taxi got lost on the way there & we ended up in streets and streets of endless Antiquities and Tribal Arts and Anthropological Antiquities until I felt kind of sick to my stomach. Not like I come from anywhere that can hold its head up but, man, could you put some of Africa back where it came from maybe? OMG. Everything so reeking of wealth. The buildings I had been admiring with their amazing stone work seemed less beautiful and more signposts to colonial and capitalist horrors.

Dinner, I mostly listened and made occasional polite conversation because it was a very Worky Dinner involving what I think of as Global Foods (which I will explain again or link back to my explanation of but it is from Doris Lessing and I use it as my marker of U.N. cosmopolitan elite) and for me not being part of that world (though in my own technocrat one in parallel, in intersection, and perhaps in competition ultimately) to be there was a perturbation. So if you think of the job of that Global Foods job as being, absorption of tremendous amounts of detailed information and synthesis of it correctly and then telling people how to act, or trying to act collectively or in coalition — it is a hard job and very thinky and talky and yet it is difficult for other people to see what the hell you are actually doing. And moments like this dinner are the moments which I see as people being like conduits for information, they are points or nodes which need to intersect and people have to talk with each other. It would be lovely to quantify and analyze and people of course do. But, I feel in those situations that it is best for me to shut up as much as possible so people can get on with talking with each other. I am also vastly entertained by cosmopolitan informational tidbit exchange ie chatter about one’s favorite restaurants in various cities and tips on jet lag and how wearying Travel is but acceptable if the hotels are of the best. (All true. But nevertheless hilarious from outside of the upper class perspective.) I did explain myself and my presence a few times and had some nice conversational moments with GH and S. and the guy from Italy who explained to me about Article somethingorother which means the govt. has to consider open source software before it buys anything and how he is helping linux groups to band together formally in a way that the government can talk with. Interesting! I told R. from Germany about the way campaign contributions are public and were mashed up so you can see who on your street gave what, with google map info. (Shock and dismay!)

Tried to pack. Must get up and go to Budapest at 4am.

I forgot to say about the pastries. They were astonishingly great. Those little fruit sponge cake things soaked in liqueur, wrapped around custard, with a glazed egg yolk thing on top – was it actually a whole egg yolk? It stunned me. Well, Belgium does not know how to build a ramp, or a sidewalk, or have free wireless anyfreakingwhere, but its inner city roadways are very sensible and its food utterly rocks. (Also apparently it still knows how to loot the hell out of Africa and get rich off it, as i think of not just Antiquities but of Chocolate.)

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Invertebrate rescue and the Rights of Women

Happy birthday to me! Happy birthday to me! Happy birthday to meeeeee! Eeeeeeeeeeeepc!!!!

I got a tiny cute little computer for my birthday!

And pancakes and colorful drawings, and everyone being together, and the beach, and seeing the Kung Fu Panda movie (which I wrote up briefly this morning for Body Impolitic), and some fabulous zines, and Flora Tristan‘s The Workers’ Union. (DROOOOOL, I love Flora Tristan so much! I’ve read her Peregrinations of a Pariah and her London travel journal and some of her political writing! But not this, ever. It’s amazing.)

Rook made the pancakes and had also made cookies the night before. After the movie last night we all ran around Yerba Buena Park, went to the MLK waterfall, and it was super nice (but tiring). He and Moomin were doing fake kung fu and then I think for the rest of the evening and the next day they were playing they were superpowered kung fu animals. Rook and Zond-7 and I watched the two newest Doctor Who episodes and they were JUST GREAT and very disturbing.

Today! I almost wimped out on an Expedition. Went anyway.

Went to the beach! Everything on the drive down rt. 1 stunningly beautiful. My favorite tiny beach inside the breakwater! Kids rocketing around! They built a sand castle with me & ran around like wild things. Lucked out no traffic no fog, only a bit windy! Saw many moon jellies, harbor seals sticking up their heads from the water, grebes pelicans cormorants and terns. Rolled & walked rather a long way. (I am exhausted but aside from the pain in my leg am okay, it’s more like regular exercise exhaustion, but I don’t know how much I can do tomorrow physically).

Then when we walked to the point to sit on the wall, we saw a guy surf fishing. He pulled something out of the water with a gaff, inspected it, and threw it down onto the sand. He was far enough away that it was hard to tell what it was. But… it looked like the shape of a giant gumboot chiton and I saw a flash of orange underneath. I didn’t have my crutches (having gone from the path to the wall on Zond-7′s arm) and there was no way I could get to it. “You could find out…” “I won’t know what it is!” “You could bring it to me!” “WHAT!!! Pick it UP???!!!!” I couldn’t believe it when he really picked it up and started bringing it over. I mean, this is a thing pretty much as big as a human liver and kind of the same texture. Or, like, a liver mixed with a smallish nerf football. OMG I started bouncing around and going “YAYYYYYY!!!” Guess what, it was indeed the most humonguous gumboot chiton I have ever seen. It’s my favorite kind! I saw the magnetite-tipped teeth of its radula! and they were super disgustingly creepily awesome! Anyway this thing had to be a foot long! We held it for a while and then Zond-7 was totally a hero and clambered out onto the rocks with it and dramatically threw it into as deep and rocky a spot as he could manage. I’ve never seen one at this beach and it seemed like a sort of fabulous omen for it to be my birthday and that I got to hold my favorite invertebrate.

The beach has become a mixture of sublime and boring, like that Berlioz opera.

I thought about how intensely my perceptions and experience have changed over the course of my life. When I was a kid, I loved the cold. It felt just cold, but not bad. There was an initial shock, then I welcomed the cold and felt like I was made of knives and wind. I’d breathe in the cold, or open myself up to the 50 degree sea water, and expand like the universe, jumping around, body surfing, rolling in the snow, whizzing down a hill on my flying saucer. My lips would turn blue and I’d shiver uncontrollably, and someone would make me come out of the water or into the house or car. But now, there is no way I can enjoy the cold, or even tolerate it without intense pain. I thought of times when I’ve heard people (talking to me, or others) cajoling, persuading, bullying: “Come on! It’s not so cold! You’ll get used to it!” They could say that to me now, and it wouldn’t be true. Likewise, I thought of all the old people who I grew up around, and their constant horror at how cold I must be, and how impossible it was for them to understand that I was not suffering from cold air or water or snow, to the point of complete disrespect of my reported experience. I thought of how many experiences like this there are. Not just cold or heat, but pain, the tastes of food, emotional suffering, oppression, sanity, *reality*. People change over the course of their lives, and know, or should know, that it is possible to perceive the world and experience very differently and that cold DOES feel good, and that also, cold DOES feel bad and terrible, and there is a giant spectrum of true experience. In other words, I marvel that people don’t respect others’ subjectivity or reported experience. How can they not have learned some measure of empathy, merely from the changes they’ve been through in their own lives and the different people they were and are and will be? I said some of this to Zond-7 who replied that people are alienated from their former selves, their younger selves, and instead construct narratives in which they used to be wrong, and now are right. I felt like I was seeing in greater depth how it is that people lose or never develop a sense of that respect and empathy and how related it is (or can be ) to discontinuity of identity and self hate/disrespect. I realized that “self respect” has to include all your selves across time. Zond-7 went on to talk about the evening person (who stays up too late) dissing the morning person (your future self who you are screwing up by staying up too late) so that the morning person (future you) is really angry at past you from the evening before. (Hmm, I am still thinking about that and myself and my issues with health and driving myself too hard.) We made some remarks on how lovely it would have been in a way to have these thoughts in 1789 or something when we could have written “A Treatise on the Unities and Discontinuities of Human Consciousness and the Rational Social Mind” and been studied like geniuses hundreds of years later but instead it will be like “LiveJournal entry, ho hum, 2 comments”. Hahaha! We didn’t mean it and do believe it is a million million times better to have the net and have everyone saying this sort of thing in casual asides to ferment & propagate like letters but more discoverable.

I give you a quote from Flora Tristan, from the chapter “Why I Mention Women” in The Workers’ Union, 1843, the book where she called for an international social justice movement and union to transcend existing governments:

Workers, in 1791, your fathers proclaimed the immortal declaration of the rights of man, and it is to that solemn declaration that today you owe your being free and equal men before the law. May your fathers be honored for this great work! But, proletarians, there remains for you men of 1843 a no less great work to finish. In your turn, emancipate the last slaves still remaining in French society; proclaim the rights of woman, in the same terms your fathers proclaimed yours.
“We, French proletarians, after fifty-three years of experience, recognize that we are duly enlightened and convinced that the neglect and scorn perpetrated upon the natural rights of women are the only cause of unhappiness in the world, and we have resolved to expose her sacred and inalienable rights in a solemn declaration inscribed in our charter. We wish women to be informed of our declaration, so that they will not let themselves be oppressed and degraded any more by man’s injustice and tyranny, and so that men will respect the freedom and equality they enjoy in their wives and mothers.
1. The goal of society necessarily being the common happiness of men and women, the Workers’ Union guarantees them the enjoyment of their rights as working men and women.
2. Their rights include equal admission to the Workers’ Union palaces, whether they be children, or disabled or elderly.
3. Women being man’s equal, we understand that girls will receive as rational, solid, and extensive (though different) an education in moral and professional matters as the boys.
4. As for the disabled and the elderly, in every way, the treatment will be the same for women as for men.

A footnote by the translator, Beverly Livingston, notes that Tristan had read Mary Wollstonecraft but probably not Olympe de Gouges.

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Chickens in the bathroom


jefferson state
Originally uploaded by Liz.

A funny detail from the trip back. We called a bunch of bed and breakfasts in Grants Pass rather late at night. The only one that was in business had a super nice proprietor who answered our questions and was very excited to have some business. She asked if we were okay with pets and we were excited back at the thought maybe we get to sleep in a B&B with some cats!

So we were going “Oh! Yes! Pets! We love ‘em!” and she went “Oh good, because I have really.. A LOT.”

Something about the way she said it made me go “Um… like …. what kind of pets do you mean?”

“Oh.. just everything. Like, I have chickens.”

“Well! Chickens! Um but not in the house of course.”
*pause*
“I am actually, massively allergic to chickens.”

“Well, yes. Some chickens. Chicks. In the house. Just got them today, they’re babies. They’re um, in my bathroom. “

Deal off!

Alas, and if I weren’t deadly allergic to chickens I would have liked to have seen the baby chicks and woken up to gentle peeping and a view of the Rogue River.

There is a whole Saga of our hotel-finding that night but I will skip to the part where my tire went flat overnight and I twittered it and CityMama saw my twitter and within like 15 minutes her awesome super nice brother showed up at my car! With an electric tire pump! And he pumped up the flat tire and led me to the local tire shop where they FIXED MY TIRE FOR FREE.

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Road trip north!

Mountains that look like volcanoes, covered in snow! Lots of tantalizing roadcuts that we have whooshed past! We got on 101 at Cesar Chavez at 10am. It’s 7:30 now, coming up on Eugene, Oregon. All three of us have to stop about once an hour to pee, which has been extremely pleasant; no one is impatient with anyone else’s bladder. We have healthy food and chocolate from Sarah’s shopping trip and yet chips, sodas, ice cream, beef jerky, ends up in our pockets.

We had lunch at Big D’s BBQ/ Silva’s Restaurant in South Weed, right under Mt. Shasta – sat on a deck outside in the sun & gawked at mountains & devoured the best bbq sandwiches. I highly recommend their coleslaw and potato salad. The sandwiches were on perfectly soft giant buns slathered with garlic butter, toasted, then mayo & lettuce and tomato… *drools in memory*

Everything has gone green! After the pass coming down into Oregon, no more sagebrush and scrub.

I saw some columnar basalt, a lot of mudstone and sandstone layers, something I think was a giant roadcut of ash (as it looked a lot like the painted desert and it was right before we got to Ashland), some stuff to the west that looked granitic (in how it was weathering). Maybe on the way back I’ll stop and look a few times. When we pass a roadcut or some bare rock I get so excited like my cats get when they see a toy mouse.

We are pushing on to Portland tonight so that tomorrow there is only a little to do – that way we can rest.

I need that rest as I started out loping along with only a tiny bit of help from crutches. By now though I am in some pain and limping a lot. Next stop I might need the chair.

I talked with my mom and my grandma rallied a bit & is back in rehab. She was in the hospital with a possible TIA and pneumonia, then out again to rehab sort of place, then last night they couldn’t wake her up and brought her back to the hospital and my mom was very upset & thought she was dying. She might be. She sounds really confused. They have had trouble feeding her. It sounds really tough. My mom is being really brave and a good advocate.

My throat is still horrible. Not scratchy but it seems very swollen. Zond-7 has a cold too and also had a root canal yesterday and was jet lagged and just ill in every way. We ordered pho and went to bed at about 9:30, whimpering with the unfairness of it all but very comforted by the soup and cosy bed. Though, a horrible awakening at 6am as his roommate’s dog got into the house and for some reason shit all over the carpet by the bed so his roommate helped us take up the giant carpet (which was half-pinned underneath the bed) It turned out the dog had kind of lost control various other places so she is probably sick… From there everything went uphill as Zond-7′s fever had broken and I felt perky and good. Coffee, some cheery early-morning reading of Ubik, email check & I was off to get Sarah and cindymonkey. We are enjoying each others’ stories & music.

This is all a bit flat as I’m so tired now!

Earlier I was very excited because of the gorgeous mountains!

At various points in rural highway California we were all eyed in a friendly way at gas stations by cute women, definitely checked out by the check-out girls. OH HAI we are the city freaks! But in Oregon as we neared Grants Pass cindymonkey told us about this one time she was near there at a gas station bathroom and there was a giant obvious group marriage of women in old fashioned dresses giving her dirty looks. She was waiting in line for the bathroom. & one of them came out and gave her an evil-sweet smile and when cindy went in she realized the woman had covered the bathroom in poo like all over everything. (How, in one of those long dresses!?)

My plan tonight is a motel somehwere or Sarah’s friend might find us a hotel. I think they all will go out drinking if we can find a motel at a truck stop with food and a Trucker Saloon, while I gracefully fall onto a motel fainting couch with Vicodin by my side.

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Can I whine with you?

If you want to hear me do a Texas accent, head over to Can I Sit With You? live for a video of me reading the bit of the story where some nasty 10 year old “kicker” chick in 1980 goaded me until I ranted the good rant.

Then, buy the book!

If you want to see me read an even sillier, and more obscene, story, come on Thursday to the Center for Sex and Culture in the Jon Sims Center, 8pm. I’ll be reading from my story in the book Sex for America. It’s not porn… it’s political humor that happens to have some nostril-flaringly dirty sex in it.

Speaking of rants! Holy hell, I hate the rain and cold. Though I’m all glad there’s ramps, I hate wheeling to Moomin’s school, and I hate going up the elevator, and trying to muster a smile for the desperately-smiling yupster moms, which today I just couldn’t.

What’s with that insane-o chick who greeted me today with a head splitting grin and in a toddler-amusing voice said simply, “WHEEEEEEEE!” as if I must be overcome with the joy of movement or as if I were her 18 month old forced to go down the slide alone, clearly not enjoying it and in need of encouragement. While I often am overcome with that joy of movement, it tends to happen in the sun, and warm, and not in the rain when I have wet hands and a wet lap, hunched and ruffled and huffy in misery like a little wheely owl. All I can tell you is that I was ready to leap up and smack her one across the face with a be-gloved, wet hand. Wheeee, indeed.

I am coming to think that what able bodied people could do most to help me out is to submit themselves for a hearty slapping with a wet codfish. It would get some of the aggression, bitterness, and sadism out of my system.

MEANWHILE, earlier today I went off looking for a notary. I thought of the mailbox place in the big parking lot across the street, but rejected that thought. Online I found a zillion places with notaries. I put on the 5 layers of clothes I must don to survive the brutal 60 degree California winter and set out on the expedition. AN HOUR LATER and several times of crutching into somewhere and then wheeling in only to find no goddamn notaries, who are amazingly useless anyway, the very last place I tried (on a whim as they were a tax place near my house) their usual notary was out… doing whatever notaries do on their days off, the Royal Nonesuch or cavorting in the sleet or returning to their underground burrows and lairs… and had I tried the mailbox store in the shopping center across the street, because they had a notary for sure? OH.

As I wended my weary way from invisible notary to invisible notary, the fancy plant store sucked me in. I bought a $35 hanging pothos. The shame of it… I used to grow them very successfully in jars from leaves pinched from other people’s houseplants for free. But to hell with it, here is a frothy thing bigger than my entire body, like an exploding air cthulhu, now enlivening the kitchen! Instant gratification!

Rook is in a sort of Internet Drama about copyright and the Open Gaming License. I’m fascinated! Zomg. His meticulousness, let me show you it. A small part of it. I contemplate this (and Quilty’s archival tendencies) and wish I could achieve something like that. Instead, I do what I do.

In cheerier news! I have been spending more time with Moomin and feel less rotten about myself as a parent. He is lovely… I will be rotten today, hiding in bed, perhaps eating his months-old halloween candy if I can find it, but once I perk up with the help of electric blankets I’ll be nice again, and help with homework.

Zond-7′s mom and nephew are in SF now at a cool-looking cheap hotel in the Mission. I liked having them. It was a little stressful, but good — mostly stressful to worry over whether they were secretly miserable or not. Of course it was vastly entertaining to be blasted with insight about the characteristics of his family. Also, they shopped and did dishes without any undue fuss, and unlike my own parents and more jaded set of inlaws, they didn’t try to do some vast helpful Project like throwing away all my possessions or earthquake-proofing and greasing the cats. (Though the last Project *was* helpful…) His mom is likely the worst washer of dishes I have ever encountered but rather than bothering me to find smears of peanut butter over everything “clean” it just made me feel like a Domestic Genius. (Believe me, a rare feeling.) The characteristics have to do with maybe a sort of disconnect, combined with the ability and determination to guess what other people want and make it so, which can be pleasant and make life smooth, but also can go very wrong at times in more ways than one. We made bread pudding, and went to the mall. They hid a lot in bed with their computers and books, compatible with our normal lifestyle. It was peaceful. I did not stick to my resolution to do computer-fixing for them. I did feel happy that our Unconventional Thing was accepted and respected. I need to come out to my own parents. It always feels icky not to be. It is not about being in their face or anything. It is just not sustainable not to be “out”.

Also cheerier! My entire work team came over last night, tromping in with enormous amounts of fancy beer and wine and cheese which they squirrelled away and set out on plates. They draped themselves across my enormous couch & each other, and most of us hot tubbed. My hot tub can fit at least 8 or 9 drunken, naked software engineers in it. Did you know? Some of the newer co-workers didn’t know and were not quite in the California naked hot tub thang. Maybe next time. They were sweetly sad yet congratulatory that I’m leaving that job (but sticking around for a while as an occasional contractor.)

I have read the 2nd Empress of Mijak book, well, skimmed it because it was not really that good to the point of being nearly unbearable (and really only the first bit of the first book was good, anyway) and Howard’s End, and Terry Bisson’s excellent kids’ book on the Nat Turner Rebellion, and re-read the Golden Compass which seemed considerably less awesome than I had found it to be when it first came out and I was a young grasshopper with less critical oomph to my brains. I’ll just throw it out there that the movie Lyra was better than the book Lyra. The part I still liked, parts, were the panzerbjorne, the atmosphere/background/setting, and the end where Lyra realizes that both her parents are freaking scary and not to be trusted. I loved the book when I first read it for that basic message of not trusting authority & for the lack of happy ending. Yet… as a “strong female character” I have to say, Lyra blows.

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Visit from a friend

My friend the SkaRat is coming to visit! Tonight, if the flight gets in okay. Friends for over 20 years!

Here he is in 1986, when we were dating; he’s probably high as a kite but not necessarily, hanging out with my Very Serious poster of Octavio Paz!

1986

Here we are cooking dinner at our old co-op! A bit later, probably around 1988?

1989 - dinner cook at 21st St. Co-op

I had hoped to go up to the city with him tomorrow and hang out and go to bookstores, but with the rain and cold so nasty, we might just end up staying here. Then, a Dragons game in the evening. I met whump originally because he and skarat were best buddies. My god, that one time we were all tripping and they would *not shut up*! I’ll never forget it! I fled and went to wander the city and enjoy its jewel-ish night and the flickering blue of other people’s tv sets through their windows, sharing Tiger Balm and Carmex with Rachel… I remember other weird times with ska-rat wandering around Barton Creek (maybe tripping or not, it was all the same) and making up sort of ritual places where things Should Happen. Also he would try hard to describe sort of delicate evanescent visions that were so complicated and referential that I would have to watch several movies, read a science fiction book series, and listen to a lot of loud punk rock to understand his 3 hour caffeine fueled rants. I have to say, he introduced me to a lot of very awesome culture and sparked my lifelong investigation of ska. His rambly novel about cartoon characters intersecting with reality, never finished, long worked on… and with very beautiful moments, is on my bookshelf in a blue binder, in the fiction section, under “L”. Also I do still have that notorious box of Letters.

Anyway, I think we’ll loaf around and I hope he’ll sketch or paint and I’ll write and probably we’ll have lots of gossip. Or he will end up geeking out about movies with Rook in which case I’ll disappear into my computer!

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Quaint hotels for rich fake-bohemian ex-hippie boomers can bite my ass

I really really really hating the Mcmenamin’s Edgefield hotel. It is not accessible and no one cares about that and its staff just stare at you blankly and smugly when you bring it up — like ignorant hippies who think if you just believe hard enough, anything is true. I am sure I should have a postive attitude and hug a crystal, or something… dumbasses.

It is family unfriendly and disabled-unfriendly and I freaking loathe it. They booked our room-with-bathroom that I asked for on the 3rd floor, and unlike every other goddamned hotel in this country which last time I checked had something called the ADA, the elevator does not go to all the floors of the hotel. So they put us in a room on the first floor, but the room has no bathroom. So any time I need the bathroom or my child needs the bathroom, I have to haul my ass into the wheelchair and down the hall through three heavy doors.

Also there is no room service.

And the paths around this sucktastic place are gravel.

I am in a lot of pain, very ill tempered, and exhausted, and have been having to take Vicodin steadily just to not be crying all the time from pain. That’s the context.

This is a work-retreatish place for grown ups to pretend they are in college … I swear this small plot of land has like 10 “brew pubs” on it, and a golf course, and a statue of jerry garcia. And one of those fake-fancy restaurants with $25 meals that are sort of fancy and okay, but not actually good. And I hate everyone here and they can go to hell.

To leave the building at all I must go down an enormous ramp and then there is one place I can go without being in a street or parking lot. Then I have to come up the enormous ramp. The hotel’s main floor is an entire story up. Effectively this means I am trapped in the hotel unless I have someone with me to push me up the 1-story ramp. I left twice today and it sucked and was painful and exhausting. These morons need to put a lift in. Or, quit pretending, and make it really clear on their web site that they are NOT accessible.

I’m in too much pain even to walk around the room freely. I had to bring crutches. But even that is pretty bad. So it is the wheelchair for me even to go across the room and I am having trouble bending, can’t pick things up off the floor, putting on my socks is hard.

The EMG clinic called me to schedule the next electric shock torture appointment and I asked to talk to the dr. and they transferred me to the medical assistant but the phone rang and rang and then hung up on me. They block their number so I will have to try to look them up later online and leave a message.

The hotel staff (two separate sets of them) said they would try to get someone to trade rooms with us. But, apparently they asked one guy, who said his wife was pregnant and didn’t want to switch rooms. So, an enormous hotel full of people and not one set of them will trade rooms with a crippled person with a kid?

Also their advertising said they had a hot soaking pool thing, and they don’t, they haven’t even finished building it yet.

I went to their “spa” to get a massage as my big panacea of the day, but guess what, it is not in the hotel, and it is down a hill and a street and full of stairs. There was a lot of behind the scenes fuss. I said I would haul myself up the stairs. They instead set up a room specially. But the massage therapist seemed super perturbed by me. And I told her right off she was hurting me (doing this rocking thing, where she would grab me and shake my whole body) and I told her not to do that, that it hurt, and why, and made suggestions like “maybe instead, I think gentle steady pressure, on particular points, would work and be helpful”. So she would try for a few minutes but then go back to shaking me or jabbing and dragging, until I said again that that hurt too much (after flinching first or stopping her with my hand… which cues she did not follow.) And repeated my line about slower, single point, steady pressure. It was never quite bad enough for me to walk out on the spot. But, it also sucked and made me nervous and upset. She kept being mad at me for being hurt… and then started saying things like “Well I’ve NEVER in all my time massaging people come across someone who didn’t like the ROCKING. Usually it helps people just relax right into it! I’ve never known that anyone could not like it!” And I said “Well now you do.” That was tense. That was probably where I should have walked (rolled) out. I kept asking for pillows also and she would say that she would rather have me how I was.

Then, when I left, I had to roll myself up the enormous hill, up a curving unlit narrow street, in the dark and cold, and then up the 1 story ramp.

I feel filthy and cold and covered with massage oil, and I am trapped in this room with Moomin and no internet connection and can’t even bathe or shower. When he goes to sleep I will sneak out and try to shower in the stall with the bench thing. And I will post this mean and bitter and hateful post.

Why did I come here?

I think I hate these people most for acting all surprised like I do not automatically love their little enclave of hippietastic quaintness and fake commercialized communalism. I lived in a real commune. And this is not one. And a poorhouse where you are forced to live by the state is not either.

I am not the perky well-adjusted smiling heroic crippled girl today.

The thing I hate the most though is the art on the walls. This building used to be the poorhouse, or workhouse, or Poor Farm, for the area. There is painting after painting of happy smiling old people looking super fulfilled while knitting and playing chess while magical realist things happen and there is especially painting after painting of people in wheelchairs. That is what has enraged me past the breaking point. I seriously have been fantasizing all day about taking a taxi to the walmart, buying some spray paint, and painting some bitchy disability activism slogans all over those fucking murals. WHO ME, OFFICER?? Their little brochures go on and on about the guy named Lucky who “though confined in a wheelchair, became a champion pool player” as if you need to have legs to hold a pool cue and as if playing pool made him some kind of hero. There is a giant wall sized painting of him in his wheelchair smiling from different magical hippie mural perspectives… IN THE STAIRWELL.

Come on people. If you were in the poorhouse living in a barracks or dorm in 1920 or whatever, and were crippled, and it was full of stairs I am seriously doubting you were all smiling and happy with your smiling happy indigent old-person friends. And I don’t really care if you were.

It is dumb, dumb, dumb, and offensive, how this place fetishizes happy poor crippled people on their happy institutional farm.

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A trip to the geek mall

Yesterday we got up intending to go to Tiananmen, but it was raining. So we thought we’d go on a geek pilgrimage to what we read was like “Beijing silicon valley” in Haidian district, a ways out of downtown past the 4th ring road. We got in a taxi and pointed to the address, bascially the intersection of Zongguocun and Zonguocun Lu streets. Zond-7 and I liked the feeling of just getting in a cab and trusting to fate and our wits to get us home again.

About 40 minutes and 7 bucks later we were dropped off at an insanely busy corner, at an “Easy Joy” gas station. With a big crowd of people we surged across the street. There was a big plaza with several buildings all covered in ads for computers and techie gadgets, mp3 players, cameras. We followed some loud pop music up to a booth that was so crowded I couldn’t see inside; it was a video game demonstration. A couple of guys tried to herd us into the building. There was a ramp… so… why not? We followed a bunch of people onto an elevator and got off at the 2nd floor which was full of glass cases of tiny shops with computer stuff, mostly mac and ipod and ps2 and wii sort of things. I could get an ipod touch for around $150 (I did not try to bargain, but I didn’t buy it either). Back on the elevator, we got off where everyone else did, at the 6th floor, adn went down a narrow hallway full of grungy small offices. People were eating noodles, talking, sleeping, building computers, unpacking boxes… and at the end of the hall we turned left into a GIANT MALL of only electronics. Booths, stalls, glass cases, everything was piled high. It felt a bit unofficial, like a flea market, and most people were very young. Every booth had a group of people just hanging around and mostly playing video games or surfing the web.

I get a nod of recognition from guys with slightly long hair (popular alternative style is much like Rain’s haircut, alternative but not too outrageous) and from ever so slightly gothy looking chicks. There are some skateboarders who definitely look me over and seem to want to talk (but I am with this big tall guy in a SUIT.)

Here is a little part of Beijing I was looking for, and found, on the 6th floor of this electronics flea market mall behind the winding hallway of grimy offices:

Geek plaza in Beijing

The next building over had a starbucks and a mcdonalds – we didn’t go into that one. Across the street there was an even bigger building with a giant “e” on it. Its first floor sold laptops of every kind, very fancy, with classical music playing way too loud and an oppressive atmosphere like a boutique department store or a car sales lot. We got out of there as fast as possible, to the elevator, and the basement which was labelled “cool comics zone”. Dance Dance Revolution! an arcade! Better music! No one bothering us! an online gaming room! and then another whole building full of mobile phones and gadgets. Clearly if we came back at 9pm this place would be hopping with teenagers. The 5th floor was all a huge food court and I liked it a lot. The booths mostly had raw food which the cooks prepared in front of you. Nothing was in English, but sometimes there were photos of the different dishes. Or, the food was laid out raw on a plate covered with plastic wrap so you could see what it was. We ended up eating in a small Korean restaurant. I had grilled eel bibimbap, which was totally delicious, and the thousand year egg out of Zond-7′s noodle soup. The 4th floor of this mall was also nice, the “DIY” floor with computer parts. I liked the section with clear shells and light-up stuff for modding your desktop computer.

There was a very big plaza or balcony on this floor, where we overlooked the small park and plaza and the Sino Steel building. Below, we realized that getting a taxi would be hard. There were tons of taxis, but they were mostly full.

The plaza was pretty and full of people strolling around or sitting on the benches. We sat to people watch and to decide on which toddlers in fancy outfits and pigtails were the cutest.

I can’t describe this well, but here are my general observations and impressions on the character of the city. I like Beijing, and I feel at home here. It has to do with how people treat each other and their expectation of how they will be treated. People aren’t snotty, but they seem to feel entitled in a way I find familiar, or pleasant, or easy to deal with. Everyone is thinking of themselves, for example in crossing the street or in a line, there is no false deferential politeness. But people aren’t rude about it either, or pushy. I like the loving respect that shows in how people treat their children; in the park and elsewhere there were many times I would see a small child choosing what to do and the parent following along and supporting them, or lifting the child to where she wanted to go, or to see a new thing. So I like the freedom and encouragement that people seem to give their children. Also, in every situation where I have *not* been in a “fancy hotel” environment, people just act like we are all human beings, and no one either acts snotty, or kisses my ass. Zond-7 says it has to do with not acknowledging class differences, or those class differences not meaning that you have to act a certain way. People don’t act blase, or indifferent, or self-important, like they do in New York and San Francisco.

That is my one-day impression! Take it for what it’s worth!

Geek plaza in Beijing

I know that we don’t know how to read people and neighborhoods. And I’m very curious… for example as we drive past a neighborhood I keep wondering “and what stereotype of people live here? What do people say about them?” Like how we talk about “Mission hipsters” or what San Franciscans think of people from Los Angeles, and vice versa. That is the local geography I would really like to know, but it only comes when you’ve lived in a place for real.

I love it that Zond-7 and I were perfectly happy going to a random destination in the suburbs. It is as if someone came to San Francisco and instead of seeing any of the tourist sights, went to Hillsdale Mall and Fry’s.

So, back to our adventure in the park. We watched a roller-blading guy set up small cones and practice a set routine. We smiled at babies. Then we headed to what we thought might be a hotel but which turned out to be a grocery store underground and then a huge huge mall with brand name Western stuff like Izod and Adidas. “Middleclasstastic!” Zond-7 pronounced… But next to us there were just a few, very non-middle-class, street vendors with skewers of meat and giant sweet potatoes roasting on steel oil drums on the back of bicycle trailers. It took us a while to get a taxi.

Then our taxi driver got a bit lost at the end after negotiating rush hour with awesome skill. We could only point to the tiny map printed on the card from our hotel… he pulled over, called the hotel, cussed cheerfully I think at our stupidity and the hotel’s; we finally got there and I tipped him 10 yuan extra hoping that would make up for it all. He said no at first, but then took it and seemed rather surprised and cheerful.

Oh! wheelchair notes! So far, my wheelchair has fit into the back of every kind of taxi. IN the smallest ones, I have to take off the footrest, but that is easy – it’s quick release, and I only have one footrest. My chair is a Quickie x frame. Your mileage may vary. Taxi drivers have been super nice about folding up my chair and stuffing it carefully into the trunk.

Some hotel bathrooms, like the ones in the airport, are very accessible. Some are not! Out in the geek malls, the bathrooms would have a wheelchair-access sign, but then were not at all accessible. I parked my chair, went up a step into the narrow stall, held onto the plumbing pipe for dear life, and squatted. If you can’t do that, you will run into difficulties; stick to bathrooms in big hotels and very fancy western malls.

Here is another random observation: people hand business cards with both hands. I keep forgetting, then noticing again. Offer your card with both hands and also accept other people’s cards with both hands.

As I wander all these malls and see the general prosperity of the millions of people in Beijing I think of what I would read about China in the 1980s. That if you came as a visitor, you would get a military escort or a “tour guide” who shadowed you and would not let you do barely anything; that you’d be shown “model” projects and Potemkin villages. 20 years later, that is not the case. But I still have that history in mind, and feel lucky to be here.

Another observation on character. There seems to be more public space, and the feeling towards public space is somewhat different than in the U.S. Public spaces are slightly less commericalized, less determined. Where in the U.S. it is hard to find a place that has not been overdetermined as to its use and what you are “supposed to do” there. Some of that attitude towards public space might be that people don’t have a lot of private outdoor space, while in the U.S. you might have a tiny backyard or in a big city might consider public space to be “unsafe”. So, I am not romanticizing it, but I like the feeling that people just go outside and hang out.

Back to my description of the day. After a rest we forced ourselves to go out, to get more familiar with the neighborhood and to look for dinner. We realized suddenly we were right on Wangfujing street, which is a giant pedestrian outdoor mall, a section of street that goes for many blocks with no cars. TV billboards, and brand name stores, and giant pharmacies, ice cream places, all a street for chinese tourists coming to shop and gawk at life in the big city. To the side there were little alleys with booths — a whole street with just meat on skewers, meat of many many kinds, and another with just booths of tourist tchatchkas like stuffed pandas and small replicas of the terracotta warriors.

As we got further and further from our hotel I realized I was freezing, my neck hurt so much I couldn’t push my chair anymore, and I was exhausted. All the jet lag in the world hit me at once and I felt sort of helpless and weepy and unable to think. I felt super scared that tomorrow (now today) I wouldn’t be able to be independent, or go out, because my arm wasn’t working very well. Zond-7 nicely gave me his warm sweatshirt and pushed me back to the hotel, remarking that my body thought I had just stayed up all night and it was 10am. The restaurants all seemed either too huge, touristy and bustling, or too pissant and empty like the one across the street. So we tried the hotel restaurant on the 2nd floor.. but it not only sucked, but was closing for the night. I slurped some cheap slightly nasty noodles, giggling in despair. We went up to our room, where I had a bath and passed out within like 10 minutes.

My arm is still a bit wobbly (old neck problems flaring up) but I think it will be okay. I just need to be a little more conservative and not wheel myself up curbs and ramps and endlessly everywhere for 8 hours straight. We’re going back to the conference today. I hope I can go out on my own again – but maybe will save it for Tiananmen tomorrow.

Everything in the guidebooks has has been hopelessly silly, wrong, and pointless. Misleading, overdetermined, ignorant, and with dumb generalizations, full of all that.

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Beach day delirium, strange shapes bring in a banquet

Friday I hung out and worked from SF from That Cafe, meeting Skud and some guys I work with (Matthew and Marc) and Zond-7 who showed up for an hour to rant about how much he hates the snootiness of That Cafe (pre-caffeination). I had the best tacos ever with Marc and Matthew who nicely drove me to La Taqueria on 25th and then Mission Pies which I had just described to them in glowing yet slightly mocking terms as a beautiful utopian thing. Then shovelled Zond-7 off to the dentist at 2 and got him around 3 from downtown. Our vacation cannot be stopped by mere mortal things such as traffic or lost fillings. I don’t think *I* could get a novocaine shot and a crown replaced and then be in good temper for a drive and a vacation but Zond-7 can, or can fake it well! The coast was beautiful… there was no traffic once we were on the highway… all was magic and imaginary leaping dolphins with rainbow sparkles. We established with tenative pokings that we are both the sort of people who like to stop randomly and often on road trips. We got a smoothie and some fudge and …. holy grail (unused as yet) index cards as Zond-7 was fantasizing about how index cards were about to bring the molecules into alignment and in the correct chambers. Every once in a while over the weekend we would sigh out “Index cards!” pleased that they were there just in case. We stopped at the beach… we talked about so many things that I will never remember and cannot list… I did hear entertaining differences in me and Q’s travel styles. Apparently my saying “let’s fuck around in this random shopping center to buy fudge and eat it in bed later at midnight for energy” hit home as an elemental Difference from “we are in for the long haul and will pack much flat food wrapped in tin foil which will sit on the engine block and cook”. Which strikes me as having a certain charm as an experiment (yet not a way) and I prefer convenient if overexpensive food, not fussing about things, midnight fudge, and crumbs in bed as a luxurious pleasure of life. The beach — i think it was Bean Hollow — was beautiful and nearly deserted but not quite. We didn’t care and made out disgracefully as if completing a postcard of the beach with a slot for “snogging couple”. After a bit we tried to move out of direct parking lot view. The sand was warm, the water freezing, we did not see otters, we rolled in the sand, there were pelicans galore; everything was fuzzed with a golden halo. Back on Highway 1 we saw a bobcat cross the road — a cat, no, it is huge, its ears are tufted, and no tail. The drive into redwoods from the coast is always astonishing, gold and sage and dryness and dunes turn to furry post oak canyons then suddenly a cleft and you’re 200 feet down into cathedral pillars and shadow. Among all the beautiful things we talked about I am suddenly thinking of Zond-7 breaking into a silence by remarking dreamily on the way the trees looked like they had dropped down not grown up because of how straight they are – like stalactites – and I felt so fond of him for this quality of reacting to any situation by looking at it and having a new thought, a sort of fertile improvisation, erratic – I just like how he reacts to the world in general. I do it too. By the time we got to the Secret B&B it was 7 or so. I was not as crippled as they had expected. D. welcomed us with absent-minded professorly concern. His partner’s razor sharp observations made me want to hide a bit — plus, I had to pee. The room felt very private, separate from the house. I like to think of myself as unfussy, and I am, but I do have aesthetic awareness and this room was the nicest I have ever been in, down to every detail. Things were where you would expect them to be, convenient things, beautiful and useful, extra things you don’t expect but think OH how every sensible and good. The tub, enormous, stone, with a sort of bulgy part underneath the tap in a different kind of rock obviously fiddled in by hand on purpose to catch the water stream. We stayed up pretty late, I think, but I lost track of time… it’s bizarre for things to be so amazing but to be also sure that they will continue to be more so and it is not some random peak of feeling or coincidence or new-love surge.

Breakfast in the morning was … well I was feeling like oh will it be annoying and intrusive or what… but instead we walked into the living room of the house and the other 2 couples were there playing scrabble with coffee in fancy china cups quietly chatting and then we all had breakfast together at the table… and everyone was nice. and D. and S. and the other person served us breakfast in 3 courses complete with shakespeare anecdote about how D. felt like Prospero and his invisible spirit minions at the feast and Ariel saying we must think on our crimes… I loved D. and would not mind going back to talk to him and S. sometime. What a beautiful unexpected thing to say and image to give while shimmering in like a philosophical butler and placing honey and biscuits… I shall record the fantasticness of the food (forgive me) A wedge of pineapple that looked like an enormous piece of cake – perfectly ripe and sliced and in its shell – with slices of ripe warm banana covered in lemon sauce and cinnamon. Biscuits with butter and honey and apricot jam and another kind of jam but the apricot was the best. Eggs and spicy sausage sort of things and fried tiny peppers and potatoes, all perfect. And I drank about a gallon of coffee – still delirious from the night before – As I still am right now. We spent the rest of the morning in bed and in the giant giant deep bathtub. We thought about going to the shakespeare festival with them but ended up doing the redwood park instead and again finding a nice compatibility of liking to lie down in a quiet spot and stare at the trees.
Meanwhile we talked and Zond-7 entertained me royally with the History of J4vascript and then the 3 kinds of Object oriented programming with tangents on various actual people and with me interjecting my own experiences — it is very fine to bitch about my encounters with hideous objecty code that didn’t have any reasons to be that way. Observer; Aggregate or Collection; Commander, etc. explained as well as history of the architecture patterns dude and his books and the trends following them. My own counterlectures were shorter and more interruptive or disruptive; ocean surfing tips, rants on various topics, resolutions and organization, personal history, feminist internet controversies, whatever the hell else I usually talk about, (interrupt) but it’s another day later now, so I don’t remember anymore. We discussed what to do in another tenative establishing-of-norms-or-expectations conversation (trying to make sure we were not just saying what we thought the other person wanted or or expected in an endless round of doublethink) and concluded we did not want to waste more time sitting in a restaurant, or going to a town, or going to a place of crowdedness, or calling people we know, or going back, but instead would like to be somewhere else nice and space-outable, zennishly spacing out and talking and looking at things. This ended up being scott’s creek beach, which had some very excellent warning signs about rip tides, sharks, water contamination, not breaching the lagoon, and many other forbidden or dangerous things. Walking in the sand was a challenge, but not impossible. I went halfway in the water until my feet stopped being numb and instead ached scarily – though I could have waited it out. Soon we should go to the beach with both kids, to the excellent place with tidepools!! We got back after dark and hung out with Skud and Rook and zdashamber for a while – I had to lie down a bit and so Zond-7 and I crashed out with computers as the others watched a movie (that was coincidentally my exact anti-pattern of a good movie, with extra hollywoodyness).

The rest of the weekend I stressed about my article deadline, helped Rook do prep for his trip, did kid things and domestic chores and made pancakes for everyone and drove Zond-7 to the train and picked up Moomin’s friend, Hamster, who lives near the train station, and got to hang out with Hamster’s mom in my yard eating tomatoes I grew and picked, and I also walked all the way to Hole Foods and bought things and walked back (!!!) and did not get to hack with Skud mostly b/c of catching up on domesticity and my deadline (alas) but it was a good, mellow, day.

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