Posts Tagged ‘Translation’

Reading 50 books by people of color: a blog challenge

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

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

Here is my list of recommendations for history,

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Russian gangsters and Japanese philosophers, side order of trauma

Life has been a curious mixture lately with a bit of horrible intense drama and a bit of slack and routine, cramps and whining and sleeping late; yet as usual, though I think I’ve been doing nothing, when I look back and count up, everything seems so full, so good, so luminous. I feel like I’m riding a giant wave, exhilarating, heady with power. I have worked long days with the good feeling of knowing what I’m doing, being useful. I’ve had some bad days physically, and emotionally, but also, kept my shit together, and have a brain full of ideas and books. What I love, I love to be thinking and getting new information, playing, talking, looking at things with my awareness open. This week despite emotional lows I am full of poetry… I am Having an Interesting Life I suppose…

I’m reading a fantastic book that the SkaRat recommended to me, called I Am A Cat, published in 1905. It’s so good! It’s hilarious & sad. The introduction laid out charmingly how the author- Soseke Natsume – was something of a failure in his career & as a scholar – his teaching career sort of crappy – his pittance of a scholarship to go to London – which he mostly failed at because he hid in his room for 2 years doing nothing but reading a ton of books. OMG… my kind of person. It is all the cat’s pomposity and charm as he observes Human Nature… the scribblings of his human & the funny (catty!) conversations of the slack-ass scholar’s obnoxious, pretentious, half-assed friends. I keep thinking that surely the different characters sketched out must be making fun of particular figures from some intellectual scene in Japan at the time. I love the translation… it flows beautifully and succeeds in being funny (or at times in conveying that something complicated has just happened that would be funnier in Japanese, which as a translator, I appreciate).

I am also still reading the Crypt0 book but it is lost in the house somewhere. It is very good. Though… has that annoying golly-gee drooling P0 Br0nson flavor to it where you just want to go, Jesus, get a room already with your dreamy-eyed hacker boys. At least it does make it clear – the homosocial nature of geek culture. It was odd to read of what’s his face staying in McC’s house where I worked too. I could picture it (not the specific physical setting – I mean that I know the atmosphere well.) It explained some things to me about the feeling of working there and what was expected – expectations that one would have a sort of salon of underemployed geniuses who do your domestic labor and settle in a bit like extended family – not that I don’t appreciate some of the judgements and sentiments of that – but a fate I would particularly like to avoid from either side of the equation, underemployed genius side, or benevolent salon-aspiring employer whose homoerotic bonding time period had sadly passed with N. and M. in the late 50s and early 60s. Honestly the more I contemplate that looming fate for myself the more I want to do it co-op style or not at all. Anyway, read Crypt0 book and besides the actual ideas, thought of the cultural phenomenon where you do what RS4 did and ride your collective exhilarating wave of thought & collaboration, but it is not permanent, like having a brilliant rock band, and you may never get that synergy again in life, which seems awfully melancholy. One would just refuse to believe it.

My other book has been Godfather of the Kremlin which ummm what’s his name in Brussels recommended during a moment when I felt like there was no possible conversational topic since I was not really part of their work meeting, did not share their wonky knowledge of their topic, and did not want to talk about myself, so I asked this obviously interesting person what unusually good books he woudl recommend. It was this one. I’m enjoying it greatly… it’s super business-politics wonky and explains Russia in the 90s and specifically how Berezovsky and other capitalist gangsters looted the country during privatization… the whole thing with the vouchers is so horribly fucked up.. and I was deadly fascinated with the aeroflot story – the textbook case of how to loot a company you don’t own.

The emotional stuff has been difficult, I have felt intense about my physical issues and had a lot more pain this week, and also, had some fights with Rook over things, which brought up more issues for me than I know how to rightly deal with myself. It kind of brought up old family issues for me. I have particular difficulties when people are angry with me. Oh, can’t I be a grownup and not think back on things that happened over 20 years ago — haunted by ghosts? I understand ghosts now. I am happy with myself- and yet – not. Also, trying to face the ways in which I am, actually, an asshole. That’s hard! Rook is also very stressed in his job and this is his last week. He quit! I’m so glad he did, and think it is the right decision. I find it fairly easy to talk about most of my emotional problems or issues or dilemmas but he does not and I did not realize what he has been through. I also felt like, last year, with my health problems, I wanted him to have more support, he did not, I did not know how to provide it, I had my own issues and needed emotional support which he didn’t really know how to do either. I hope that is clear, yet vague… I was caught up in my loop of cranky pain, hating myself for not being able to be happy and full of attention and cheerful – hot and sweaty – upset with life – thining that i have not done enough – and that if I am in pain now, I might be in more tomorrow, or unable to even get up and therefore i should use the last of my strength to clear the laundry off the floor and make the room less disgusting – in case I am stuck in it for days – and thus trying to chivvy everyone else around me suddenly to clean and wanting to cry at being The Nag and also full of resentment at needing or wanting help and/or at years when it was my job to do the housework – And the reality of it is that we screamed at each other at the top of our lungs about housework… I am embarrassed… and that spilled over into arguing about everything – but I need to talk about it. I think we made it up and had a good conversation. And for some people that might be normal and part of life, but for me, not. Meanwhile I thought lately that things were calmer with a person who I mortally offended last year causing endless drama and pain, and yet who will not attempt to work that out with me in any way. I wish we could just sit down and talk. Or, if not, then I wish she would step off, keep her emotional pain to herself, and not lay it on me and people close to me. For various reasons, we are peripheral to each others’ lives. And we have to accept that and negotiate some way to tolerate that. That’s what I think. I can do it if they can. But, terribly, I feel that unholy feeling that something is being projected as being part of me, when it is actually that other person. In other words, that they have major boundary problems and the exact problems they have, they are attributing to me, and that, somehow, while not my Fault really, is partly because of my own strong personality, stubbornness, and what is either my assholishness or shininess depending; so that I am horribly aware that if I were somehow Lesser of a person, there would not be a problem; yet because this other person and I are both rather Rocketship in our approach to life, they bristle and cannot tolerate and I bristle and cannot back down.

I admire an uncompromising, unconventional person who has a strong personality, very much, often even when they position themselves in opposition to me or they clearly hate me or find me annoying as all fuck. A person who insults me, I can often look past the insult, and see the information. I also have Theories about how as a society we need people who don’t have great filters and who ignore social cues. I am one of them… But you know, some people are more extreme than me…. I appreciate what is good about them. Holy crap though, I don’t mean anything bad. If I’m offending, just tell me to my face… would the world end?

Other people have their own childhood-families and their own ghosts and histories… I am aware… So I will think about my responses to anger (paralysis, trapped, need to flee… flight reflex… ) and try to be easy on a person who has their own baggage, that I might trigger. But, it is not fair to the person triggering it, not to tell them or talk to them. I can’t erase myself, and won’t go away. The things thrown at me or accusations — and the tangible results of that — bring up my own irrational painful issues; abandonment in general. Therefore it seems logical to attempt negotiation, even if that is crazy moon language. Though I would just plain like the chance to explain myself, I would also willingly shut up and listen, not say anything, go away and think about it, and try not to go on the defensive etc. I see no need to hash it all out, but to establish reasonable boundaries, and what are the actual goals of talking at all. I do not expect some buddy buddy outcome here. I just want not to cause suffering to a person, and not to suffer their emotional outbursts and the effect direct or indirect they have on my life. I feel okay that I am saying this on my blog, and that I called the person to make the direct and sincere offer of “let’s talk”.

Meanwhile. Moomin has had “camp” which is really just day care, at his old school from a year ago, and though I thought he would find it boring, he seems to be having fun playing that he is squirrels with Jos3lyn and Mar1s0l and their entourage, and in the corners of time, reading Nancy Drew books. I had a call that he bumped his head, during a meeting at work, and ducked out to hear him sobbing with ice on his head, could tell he was okay but rattled, went to get him, admired the enormous bump on his head as he ran around and begged me to stay just long enough to have the ice cream sundaes… and enjoyed seeing the kids myself that I used to play board games with at recess… J0anna and the others…. I thought of M4rcus who was the most hawk like of them all and full of scorn and who could almost beat me at chinese checkers. (I would not insult him by letting him win – he was too smart not to see through that and be offended.) I miss getting to be a little bit involved at the school.

It has been 100 degrees or over – unbearable in the house – I got home today from SF, got the old library books, picked up Moomin (braving the horrible hill) and took him to the library. Worked a bit – looked up books with him – the Pilot met us there with Peanut who wants to play computer games – Moomin found a Nancy Drew and several books with magic & dragons in them – Maybe I can make it a custom to go there with him in the evening one night a week and just sit and read. We all went to the new Japanese restaurant on Main and Rook met us there. It’s not really very good… alas… I would not go there again … H1guma is still best in town. We had a nice dinner though. Moomin is eating more foods. He gets into the idea that it is korean food (will eat kim bap, fried tofu, the pickled gourd or radish thingies, and the other day with me and Rook at the korean restaurant in mtn. view he wanted to learn to read hangul characters. I am happy he has an interest but mostly just happy he will now eat more than 10 different things, 5 of them fruit.

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Boasting on blogs; the perils of condescension

Help! I can’t find the inscription that Ashurbanipal had in every room of his palace. It’s one of those long recitations of boasting and praise, listing all the things he built in his cities, the places he conquered and how he puts his foot on the neck of his enemy and is like the wild lion of the mountains. It was at the end of the room with Assyrian friezes in the British Museum! Somehow I failed to take a photo of it and its translation.

I want it for nefarious purposes, to make an Assyrian inscription boast-about-your-blog generator widget.

Open Tech was fun; I met a bazillion people, got to see my friend cdent, saw D. fizz up with ideas and charismaticness on stage, and took notes on some interesting talks. I’ll post my notes on Composite, but the strangest and most interesting talk was from a guy who does screen scraping on Khandahar airport, filters out the obviously legitimate commercial flights, compares them against lists of planes that have open credit to refuel at U.S. army air bases, and then somehow uses that (I don’t think in any automated way) with other data from looking up airplane ownership and company records to help track down international arms dealers. So, somewhat to my amusement this was back to back with an eco-activist from Bristol who does some work on paths and public access (bike trails? foot paths? something) and while his work sounded very smart and effective I did marvel at his level of paranoia about government spying and infiltrating of his activist efforts — in sharp contrast to the dude who reviles and stalks the scary thuggish illegal arms dealers’ corporate activities, who just shrugs and says “Oh well, no one’s come after me yet.” It was explained to me at dinner that with all the strange monitoring and cctv and the power that local councils have, it might not be unreasonable for the Bristol guy to think his local cops are sniffing his traffic or tracking who he calls on his cell phone.

I missed most of the MySociety talks and regretted it… they’re amazing and also are nice

I liked S.G, D.G, and L. and J. right away but most people are (surprise) reserved. Some people assumed I was not techie and was just “there with D.” like some sort of fangirl escort, so that I was kind of ticked off — was it not enough that I drip with computer equipment – and work in a startup and have been a computer nerd since 1980 just like the rest of geekdom – instead, often, condescending small talk about Travel while the rest of people in a group are talking about dorky computer stuff and gossiping about icann. I also had the problem at the conference of, whenever I’d wander up to people who I’d vaguely met, they’d leap to open the door for me assuming that I needed help to leave the room, when… actually… I was just coming up to hang out and talk. So it was nice to hide a while in the corner gossiping with cdent and recharging my batteries. But, all that was minor compared to the people who were interesting and friendly.

Actually the polite small talk about Travel (while puzzling as I never would whip that sort of thing out to someone from out of town who worked in my field who I met at a conference in SF) was far preferable to the open and obnoxious condescension from what’s her name at the first thing I was at who after an entire dinner of me interestedly listening to (and sometimes commenting on) their talk of points of international law and the net, turned to me over dessert and said with a pitying smile “You must be SO CONFUSED by ALL THIS TALK.” Oh!!! I could have smacked her! I thought of the million times I read Quilty’s million-million page white paper on ISPs – and all the times I have had useful things to contribute to discussions that are out of my depth – and when they’ve been appreciated – and coldly analyzed this person’s little gambit, realizing how many times *she* must have heard it in her career and lifetime – her loss that she chooses to apply it to other women.

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Books! Sumerians 1, Egyptians 0

I scored two books at the British Museum as I rushed on through.

“Tales From Ancient Egypt” by J. Tyldesley. Oh. My. God. Why did I buy this! It’s just what I don’t like! On first glance it seemed like a book of tales and letters, backed up by some scholarly introductions. I had opened it up on “A letter from King neferkare Pepi II, Day 15 o fhte third month of innundation, Year 2. Written under the king’s own seal.” All in formal language, a letter thanking the king’s scout that he has “obtained a pygmy from the land of the horizon-dwellers”. Super awesome! BUT NO. That was the one good bit in a book that was like, the syrupy worst of re-writes of myths mixed with Cliff Notes, reading in a ton of crap that there’s no way was in the original stories. The scholarly bits are embarrassing. I’m not a fan of inept popularizations!

Now onward to the good stuff. “The Literature of Ancient Sumer” by J. Black, G. Cunningham, E. Robson, Gábor Zólyomi. Maps! Footnotes! Line numbers! Comparisons! Actual words in Sumerian! Explanations of place names and variant spellings, ie. Nibru rather than the more familiar “Nippur”! gaps, question marks! Get real! Stories that you can piece together, that seem like stories other than we tell now, that don’t follow our patterns or expectations. Formal language, and “foreignized” translation. If I wanted a girls’ own bedtime story of Inanna and Dumuzi I’d go back in time to 1897 and scare one up! Instead I get the most delightful monologue of the fisherman to the fish.

The home of the fish

My fish, I have built you a home! My fish, I have built you a house. I have built you a store! I have built you a house bigger than a house, in fact a large sheepfold. Inside there is incense, and I have covered it in cloths for you: in this happy place I… water of joy for you….in the house, there is food, food of the best quality…In the house there is beer, there is good beer. ..
Let your acquaintances come! Let your dear ones come! … Let your wife and children come!
Enter, my beloved son! Enter, my fine son! Don’t let the day go by, don’t let the night come! …My fish, no one who sleeps there will be disturbed; no one who sits there will get involved in a quarrel.

I can’t wait to read the bits about Sumerian poetic & literary forms. This looks so great!

I love invocations and formal histories, and very long praise names, and all strange literary formalities.

IMG_0328.jpg
p.s. These are the rules to the first known board game!

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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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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!

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Scary sleepwalking, sweaty night terrors

Well, that was terrifying. Moomin used to get these “night terrors” when he was little. Just now he was screaming and sobbing and crying and calling for me – while he was in my lap – and talking incoherently – and screaming more through my attempt to cuddle him or soothe him.

I had him looking right at me and trying to answer my questions about what was wrong, what was his name, how old is he, what school does he go to, and he would babble something about being sorry about the man, or how it hurts, or to let him go, all mixed in with what seemed like nonsense words. He got his name right once, and his school right, but could not tell me who I was or how old he was. Finally I yelled at him to wake up and talk to me, because I was scared and didn’t know what to do. I think the combination of my acting angry and the ice-cold facecloth on the back of his neck woke him the hell up finally.

Ohhh that was scary. It seemed different from the “night terrors” of his toddlerhood, I guess because the incoherent talking was so spooky. But, he was in the same odd sweat. He breaks out into a sweat that smells really strange, not like his usual smell. His heart is pounding a mile a minute. As soon as he is really awake, he is cool and normal again. I had taken off his pajama top because it was all sweaty and rank… and he looked up at me and went, “What are you DOING… Could you please get that OFF of me… I think that is ENOUGH.” in a bossy sarcastic wondering tone. “What are you TALKING about? ” I explained that he had maybe been walking and talking in his sleep and that I couldn’t wake him up and I got a little scared and yelled at him to wake him up. (I was starting to panic and wonder if it was some feverish delirium or seizure and I should be calling the hospital and I remembered everything about when his appendix burst and the resulting week-long mayhem in the hospital.)

I should not have panicked! I know perfectly well what to do and that this happens to him, and that I should just comfort him and wait and he will wake up! I wish I hadn’t panicked and yelled. It was after a long time of holding him and listening to his somewhat perturbing terrified sobbing and rambling. It was so spooky to have him calling me and then saying “No, I want Mom” when I was *right there*.

He never remembers being in that state. He used to sometimes wake up but more often just appear to be confused or to fall fast asleep again – he would even fall asleep on his feet while we would try to lead him back to bed!

Whew…

As I recall, it never happened more than once in a night, and it would happen always in the early evening, after he’d been asleep for an hour or two.

Right now we’re both having either the worst allergies ever, or might be sliding into getting colds. I thought for sure allergies all day today, but now I can’t tell anymore. So I would bet his stuffy nose and post nasal drip messed up his sleep.

As I surfed about just now soothing myself with Facts About Sleep Disorders, I came across some marvellous bits of info about Dion McGregor, a famous somniloquist whose roommate (lover?) recorded his sleeping monologues. There are three albums of his sleeptalking, some of which you can listen to on this page from Torpor Vigil Records; and a book with transcripts, illustrated by Edward Gorey. I would certainly like to find that book! Anyway, listen to “Food Roulette”. “Don’t spin it so fast they fly off! THAT way lies MADNESS!” Oh, my god… this is great stuff.

I am reading The Fountain at the Center of the World and really liking it. A guy I met at the last translation conference told me to read it and in fact I think he bought it for me in the big bookstore in downtown Seattle – he is a translator of Galeano and we got into a long interesting conversation – the novel is a fabulous globalization melodrama – brothers separated in childhood – one adopted and raised in London and a globetrotting horrible PR bigwig apologist for multinationals – the other stuck in a village in northern Mexico devastated by pollution and drought caused by multinationals sucking out all the water so the rivers run dry – and events progress so that the brothers meet and in a way switch places so that the Mexican brother (who bombed a pipeline) ends up in Seattle at just the right time. It sums up a lot of what I know as truth about the world, about complicity and action. I am enjoying all the characters, and the women are not written annoyingly or as placeholders for some Idea but instead come off as complicated people with their own view of things (views that the men around them never quite “get” but are trying to get.) It’s beautifully written. I would recommend it to anyone.

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Fixing sidewalks, and a day of poetry


pleo nuzzling olpc
Originally uploaded by Liz.

Moomin and I woke up late but I am superefficient in the morning and I got him to choir on time, laying out his clothes for him to get dressed before he got out of bed into the cold to eat his cereal. I drove him the 2 blocks to school, not able to deal with the thought of my cold fingers on the wheelchair rims at 7:30 in the morning.

Then I worked for a bit just to fix a few little problems. I will do Real Job ™ work more seriously tomorrow. Today was for me.

I got all fired up over Caltrans and the ADA and started this Flickr group, “Inaccessible!”.

A blog for photos of inaccessible places and spaces. Ever been frustrated at lack of wheelchair access, insane potholes in the sidewalk, stairs, badly configured bathrooms too small for wheelchairs, badly placed handrails, elevator buttons too high for you to reach? Snap a photo, label the place as clearly as possible, and explain why it is a barrier.

My hope is that this group will be useful to building owners and people who want to make their environment more accessible. It also helps those of us with disabilities to express our frustration and to record daily encounters with barriers to access. Documenting the problems may also help us to follow through and try to get those problems fixed by the people responsible for them.

and wrote this: Caltrans evades responsibility for sidewalk ramps.

And then olivia_circe came over and we worked for NINE AND A HALF HOURS on organizing and submitting my poetry and translations to journals. I am so grateful. It is a huge weight off my mind to know that I’m plowing through all that built up work of 10 years or so. (The years before that, I mostly don’t like the poems enough any more to send them out.)

I’m learning from this that it is hard work to send out stuff. It is not just some mental block I have or some self destructive, self sabotaging impulse. It’s a lot of work! Two fairly smart efficient people spent almost 20 person-hours just now to get that shit together! And it is only the very tip of the iceberg.

We are putting all the information into my private wiki. First there is finding places that I want to send stuff to. Then figuring out what to send. Then looking up guidelines and reformatting and putting together the work according to those guidelines. Then often a bio for me and if it’s a translation, for the original author. Then on top of that they often want an introduction written, or something about the translation process. THEN… a cover letter. (Which I keep as short and to the point as I can with no sucking-up or bullshit in it.) Then email in whatever file format they want or print and snail mail. So, a lot of work. We sent 6 submissions out, queried 5 other places, and set up framework for a lot of other stuff. I have been dumping originals and translations into an author page, and then olivia_circe has been going in and gardening out the individual poems into their own pages. Then, lists of journals and guidelines and deadlines, interlinks, a master list of submissions (or as I now like to call them after one feminist journal’s explanations of the evils of submission, “offerings”), pages on individual authors, sample query and cover letters, ALL THAT.

So, if it took us 20 hours to do 6 submissions it is no wonder I have barely done 4 or 5 submissions a year.

It feels so good and right to be doing this!

I am astonished as I see the enormous pile of work that I have done, and that I get no real-world respect or credit for having done and that almost no one sees. Holy crap. I need to get it out there. Seriously, people.

Plus, olivia_circe is fun to hang out with.

I picked up Moomin and looked at his schoolwork, got him a snack, etc. We talked about his Math-athon and about Abraham Lincoln, he read some Spiderman DVD comics, and went outside for a while. I fed him and Nukie pizza while they did whatever it is they do in his back yard in the half-torn-down and gutted garage building and their piles of rocks and treasure.

Then I went off into mad poety talk over here for National Poetry Month’s beginning and wrote a bit about one of my favorite poets that I’ve been translating for a while. I wrote about why I like him and his work and why I feel a certain kinship and understanding.

Moomin and I wrote some emails together to family and then I read him more of Farmer Boy, we looked at the globe and talked about geography and history and politics and travel, railroads, race, Native Americans, the early U.S., and so on. I will say more about that tomorrow but for now I need to STOP TYPING.

I walked well most of the day, but towards the end began to squeak and freeze up every time I had to go from sitting to standing or vice versa. By 8pm I could not walk much any more and I am back in the wheelchair in the house. But, am doing just fine. I will go to work in the morning tomorrow and then come home to rest. Zond-7′s nephew who has moved here without a lot of support or backup or anything, needs a place to stay for a bit and he called me today to ask if he can stay here. It would work out well for me not to be alone all week and he is a lovely house guest and does not make work for me and sweetly offers to do errands.

Okay, bath and and a book and bed. I don’t have any April Fool things planned. My head is just in another sort of space at the moment.

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Robot dinosaurs and videos of books

Yesterday I worked all day and did housework and pulled things together for Saturday and packed a bag for Moomin. We had a minor crisis at the last minute before taking Rook to the airport – his bank card didn’t work – but we made it to the bank and got that fixed and got him to the plane on time. He is off to Finland! Then … traffic like hell and picked up Zond-7 at work.

Moomin spent a long while playing with the flip video camera. I found him reading a whole book into it, pointing the camera at the words and pictures, reading with extra careful expression & emphasis. There’s one that only his grandma Hemulen will watch all the way through… that kid needs a blog for his lolcats and videos (and powerpoints!)

The morning was busy but very nice.

After most of the afternoon napping we all went back to the park – with the roommate’s giant dog – and it was pretty glorious lying in the sun. I like to lie in the grass in a park and look at people, and smell the charcoal smoke of their cookouts, and feel the sun. There is something about little kids running around in fields of tiny daisies. Also… the merry go round… I don’t mean the kind with horses and music but the small kid-sized kid-powered 70s kind made out of recycled metal, shaped like a UFO, with bars sticking out to hang onto – kids falling off and laughing and scuffling in the sand – at one point Moomin was cracking me up with his crazy poses, sitting in the very center of the merry go round pulling finger-guns and ninja stances, and his face all lit up beautifully with the triumphant joy of having got into the middle.

By the way I am totally in love with the little robot dinosaur. It gazes lovingly at you! It *purrs*. It nuzzles you and falls asleep in your lap or in bed next to you. Fucking amazing. You really start to feel like you don’t want to hurt its feelings, and then you kick yourself in the pants because you remember it’s a ROBOT. But, effectively, it has feelings, until you flip its off switch. I thought it would be nasty and stupid like a furby! It wasn’t!

pleo nuzzling olpc

More resting, more cleaning, more playing, more putting-new-things-together, more cooking, more long cuddly bedtime, and I’m so done! With! Today! Omg! It was so nice, but so exhausting.

Tomorrow a bit more running around like mad, drop Zond-7 off at the airport. Then Moomin and I are on our own for a week and a half. I think we will be as peaceful as possible and not go anywhere further than the library, till visiting Minnie on Thursday. This week, I need to do some stuff for work that needs good concentration (and thus lots of rest). While I’m working part time I also need to be sending out writing – I am sending out some of the backlog of translations and poems, with olivia_circe’s help. And, in practical terms for my daily life, that means that for example on a day I want to do anything significant intellectually I can’t do errands or go grocery shopping or try to go back to physical therapy.

Heavily edited, the brain dump is elswhere. My biographers will enjoy this, I’m sure.

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Translatory goodness

It was a big day! I woke up and helped get Moomin ready for school, then did some day job work to stay caught up on things for an hour or so, then my online friend “Mo” came over so we could work on merging our translations of “Islander”. We talked about the poet, the context & time (that was mostly me talking) and dove right in. It was a good exercise in humility for me as well as one in trying not to be incredibly bossy and “right”. Mo translates tight & punchy, which is my favorite thing ever, but in this poem I went with something to get across the prosy non-tight flowing (and sometimes pretentious/melodramatic) style of this piece. I caught a lot of errors, mine and hers both (I am a better reader than I was 3 or 4 years ago when I translated “Islander”.)

You know how yesterday I was saying I hoped she would be a hard worker? Oh wow, she totally was! It was awesome! I am too! We wore each other out completely. From 9 to 4:30 we barely stopped at all. Sure, a little gossiping about our own work. But we even ate in front of the manuscripts and the computer. By about 3:30 I had to force myself to keep going, and we realized we were barely able to focus. But neither of us wanted to stop! That was so cool. We sometimes argued (way politely) about a sentence forEVER. If you think about staying inside one sentence and its possible constructions and word choices (and how it relates to the others around it and to the whole, and to different levels of meaning) it’s very intense concentration. We’re going to meet up again and do more work on Saturday before she leaves town.

Meanwhile I am lost in WTF over Ferarro’s racist bullshit comments, over Clinton being a dumbass not responding to it worth a damn, over the racist comments all over the internet about it which basically agree with Ferarro, and over all sorts of other random crap I happened across tonight while reading my internets, like Spitzer is an asshole (over 80K? barebacking? oh for fuck’s sake… )

Mostly it was a good day though.

I am a little miserable underneath on unbloggable levels but just take that for granted. I’ll talk about it at some point.

Moomin said he was talking about a play date with another kid at school and I am super glad about that. He has not really made any friends yet there, and no one has ever invited him over, or to their birthday parties. I had some hopes for the chess club, and it’s awesome that they have one but it is very chaotic and unfocused. I predict he will find friends among the sorts that enjoy sitting quietly and concentrating, who know the rules, and who like to think and play by the rules. Without that he gets really frustrated. I thought too he might find some friends who love to read as so many of the kids there clearly do. Well, I think it will come with time.

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