Posts Tagged ‘utopia’

Vacation with Saturn and proplyds

I'm in the parking lot of a motel staring at spectacular red and buff cliffs! It's the Kaibab Limestone and the Coconino sandstone and that other red rock formation I forget the name of. Spiky little lizards are playing on the fence next to me.

After a great but exhausting week at ETech and SXSWi, I'm on vacation in Arizona with a rental car and no particular plan. Last night in Sedona we picked up a flyer in the Super8 lobby, for Evening Sky Tours which I pictured as a couple of old retired guys out in a parking lot picking up some spare cash for new lenses by showing off their amateur astronomy knowledge. While this was close to the truth the Adventure was run in a scarily businesslike and professional manner and rather than being a once a week or sporadic deal it was clearly a real job. Three guys pulled up with a trailer or two full of telescopes with a D**'s mount sort of a huge wooden box like a box kite with mirrors stuck in and lenses and spotting scopes stuck on! They had a row of folding chairs with wooly blankets laid out. Reclining lawn chairs would have been more the thing.
The main dude went around in a bossy way reminding his employees the telescope flunkies to "tell 'em what they're lookin' at". It was excellent. They did an especially good job of saying "In Africa" or "In the MIddle East" when talking about the names of stars and the history of astronomical discoveries.

As the Milky Way began to slide into our consciousness we saw a few satellites and every time I wanted to scream "Satellite!!!" Might have done just that. We had out our G1 Skymaps at first but put them away so as not to be assholes. I knew Orion, Taurus, Cassiopeia, the Pleiades, the Big Dipper and North Star, and that is about it. With luck I can spot Cygnus and the Corona Borealis. Zond-7 knew where Sirius was, which impressed me. I guessed where Gemini was, but got it wrong. Then I did what one of the astronomy dudes suggested and learned "Arc to Arcturus" and "Spike to Spica". Now I know a new thing!

The Night Sky Adventure dudes explained what we were looking at very well and were patient and sweet about all the questions. It was a little hard to get them to go into any depth. But it was light years better than going to a planetarium!
Stuff we saw: M51 which is sort of colliding or interacting galaxies, M3 (a globular cluster), M81 and M82 together (they affect each other with tides!), the Beehive Cluster, the Pleiades, a red dwarf star among the Double Cluster,  Mizar A and B and Alcor, (The horse and rider!), Saturn and 5 moons, and a bit of the Orion Nebula where the Trapezium is. We looked at Sirius through a polarized filter to see its spectral lines.

Later, the Wikipedia entry on the Orion Nebula turned out to be incredibly great; hello, iron tipped glowing blue "bullets" of supersonic incandescent gas. It just got more and more extreme and crazy in the descriptions. Keep reading. It gets better and better. Like this:

The green hue was a puzzle for astronomers in the early part of the 20th century because none of the known spectral lines
at that time could explain it. There was some speculation that the
lines were caused by a new element, and the name "nebulium" was coined
for this mysterious material. With better understanding of atomic
physics, however, it was later determined that the green spectra was
caused by a low-probability electron transition in doubly ionized oxygen, a so-called "forbidden transition".

In between lurching up from my wheelchair to peer through telescopes, I kept saying over the things we'd seen, so that I could look them up later. "You must have studied this!" one woman said in amazement. "No…. I'm just repeating to myself what the guy just told us…"

I don't mean this meanly, but I have forgotten how dumb most people are. Or maybe not dumb but just, without the most basic snippets of information about things like what a moon or a constellation or a galaxy is. Compared to our amateur astronomer hosts Zond-7 and I were just a couple of people who grew up liking science magazines and who might read the Planetary Society blog once in a while. But the people around us, holy crap. One lady was asking what it meant for something to be a moon. As we explained (super nicely) she *got it* that moons go around a planet, and planets go around the Sun, and so the moons are also going around the Sun at the same time, but with extra wiggling. I could see her getting it, even in the dark! Zond-7 explained very clearly to someone else what it meant for Saturn to be in Leo (which it was). Earlier, someone else went "Is there a thing called a .. a 'quark'?" and boy howdy did I feel like Mr. Peabody just able to say "It's a tiny elementary particle" Zond-7 asked if she meant quasar, but she meant quarks which were mentioned in a movie she saw. When I hung out with large feral packs of theoretical physicists I noticed how they would speak with disdain of washed-up media whores meaning anyone who ever talked to the press or wrote a popular science article. Meanwhile I wish popular science was more popular and more people would learn how to explain (with strangeness and charm) what a quark is to a regular person.

Anyway, I was struck by how much people don't know. We don't need to know it, people go around and function and are smart as anything, but I forget that most people don't care for some of the things I like to know. And I was struck by the thought that I am used to being around people who do know and who have a fairly huge internal database of random knowledge not applicable to their daily life. The people who came to the astronomy event were self selected to be people who were interested and curious and willing to learn stuff, unlike the general population. I am not trying to be judgmental on people by saying this, it is just that I felt a gulf suddenly between my assumptions about what's in people's heads all around me, and what actually is. Heather Gold at SXSWi in her talk show at Plutopia touched on this rather sweetly when she mentioned the movie Powers of Ten and said "You know, like that thing you do in bed when you're a little kid, where you imagine you're in your address, St. Louis, Missouri, United States, North America, Northern Hemisphere, Earth, The Solar System, Milky Way, like that? … and the crowd just kind of stared at her…. As Heather did, I assumed everyone did that! Did you? But no – not everyone spends hours poring over photographs of galaxies and nebulae and reading encyclopedia articles. I have not felt like a freak for having a lot of book learning for a long time, not for years. As a kid that was a hard lesson – I thought all reasonable people would automatically know what mitochondria were, and so on.
This crowd, the idea of spectral lines was going to be so completely over their heads that it was impossible for the guys to explain anything. I was glad they showed it anyway.

Meanwhile, I don't know the parts of an engine or how to fix a toilet or knit a sweater or take someone's blood pressure as probably the people on our Star Tour do know.

Saturn's moons freaked me out the most. They just hang there. The light reflected from Saturn shades them like our Moon is shaped and shaded by Earthlight. They were more surreal to me than Saturn itself, because they looked so three dimensional.

There is a flythrough of a 3-D model of the Orion Nebula! Can't wait to try it!

When we get home I have a book called Agnotology waiting for me which promises to be about theories of Not Knowing. What don't we know? And why don't we? And how does that affect us?

One last note, Zond-7 asked one of the astronomy dudes how many stars
were in a galaxy and was told a trillion.  He gently drew out the guy a
little more and then shut up. Later in the car he told me that the
trillion stars theory was in the process of being debunked, as it is
based on "a trillion solar masses" but like 99.999 % of that is dark
matter so there are likely not a trillion stars in the galaxy at ALL.
Speaking of Agnotology!

If you are wondering about a proplyd you may go read the article on the Orion Nebula! Happy pointless knowledge voyage!

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What I think of in the bath

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

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

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

coffee and book in jacuzzi

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

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

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

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

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Riot grrl zine nostalgia

Hey! I nearly forgot to blog about it. I’m reading tomorrow night for SFinX for the Rebel Girl event. I like how there will be cupcakes. Come on by and I’ll give you a VINTAGE RIOT GRRL ZINE and a hot pink riot grrrlz outer space pin if I can find them.

Also, check out this link. ahahah! cover: hot pink

dude zomg also my illustrated reprint of SCUM Manifesto was in a special exhibit at Duke:
Word of a Woman: 40 Years of Feminist Publishing.

“S.C.U.M. Manifesto, reprinted by Lizzard Amazon, Riot Grrrlz Outerspace, 1993. From the Sarah Dyer Zine Collection. Valerie Solanas’ Society for Cutting Up Men (S.C.U.M.) Manifesto is the most famous of the late 1960′s radical feminist manifestos. Third wave feminists republished this and other seminal second wave manifestos in order to spread the message to a new generation of women.”

yayyy!

Anyway here’s the event details for tomorrow night.

Saturday, 8/23, 7:30
San Francisco in eXile presents
REBEL GIRL: a riot grrrl nostalgia show

Saturday, August 23rd
7pm doors, 7:30 show
Center for Sex & Culture, 1519 Mission Street, San Francisco
$10-20 sliding scale (nobody turned away)
[CSC can accept VISA, Mastercard, and Discover]

Featuring:
CELESTE CHAN
GINA DE VRIES
MELISSA GIRA
….errrrrr LIZZARD AMAZON
LEAH LAKSHMI PIEPZNA-SAMARASINHA
NOMY LAMM
ZULEIKA MAHMOOD

Curated by Gina de Vries.

It’s Revolution Grrrl-Style, Now! — with tongue firmly planted in
cheek. Past and present zinestars and grrrl revolutionaries will tell
stories of old, and let you know what they’ve been up to recently.
Zines and cupcakes will be available for purchase.

Also, see the adorable press we got in the Guardian here!:

http://www.sfbg.com/entry.php?entry_id=6963&catid=85&volume_id=317&issue_id=392&volume_num=42&issue_num=47&l=1#SATURDAY_23

Also, if you’re broke, you can get in for free by helping folks with
disabilities get in the elevator, or handling the door. You will also
get free cupcakes for doing this. Email me at queershoulder@gmail.com
for details.

Also, these are some of the fabulous zines that will be available:
*Stick and Stones, by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
*Letters from the war years: some notes on love and struggle in times
of war, by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
*The Revolution Starts At Home: Confronting Partner Abuse in Activist
Communities, edited by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
*Slut Utopia, by Lizzard Henry
*Riot Grrrlz Outer Space, by Lizzard Henry
*The Illustrated SCUM Manifesto, by Lizzard Henry
*the wombs and the browns, by Zuleikha Mahmoud
*letters forged by the daughter putting on her scarf in the masjid
parking lot, by Zuleikha Mahmoud
*… AND MORE!!

You better come see us!

xox,
g.

– queershoulder.livejournal.com /// sfinx.org

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Another weird feminist dystopia

I’m reading an odd and charming feminist post-apocalypse novel, “Cry Wolf” by Aileen La Tourette. The world has ended (maybe) and climate changed. A village or maybe city-sized group of young people is headed by a lone oldster, Curie, from the time before the disaster. The book opens with a classroom scene, Curie thinking bitterly that the youngsters are half witted ignorant monkeys, all too obedient and peaceful, unable to share any of her memories or cultural experience, since she (or she and her former collaborators, or some other governing body I haven’t yet figured out) decided to teach only conformity and non-aggression, & no “cultural baggage”, nothing about the world before. She set it all up that way with her fellow activists, but she despises the results. Curie is a lonely, lying cult leader, not a Repository of Knowledge apocalypse survivor.

‘The sea. A long letter. A love letter,’ she said softly, thinking of the morgue-world all the while, with its sheets of dry-ice smoke rising from the naked blue forms. There were no clothes to spare for the dead. ‘The sky, the sea’s mirror — or is it the other way round? Who can say? Or is the sea the sky’s own unsigned letter?
… But they didn’t notice the limitations. Nature’s blunt and abbreviated needs were all they knew; and their own.
‘Rain, with its blue shine,’ she instructed them. ‘Rain, with its blue tune,’ she dared. Would such a metaphor mean anything to them?

There are M-others, and Potters (who are, I think, hermaphrodites) – a reference to the culturally important graveyard or Potter’s Field.

And behind all these spinning thoughts and images, she had the dolorous notion that had begun the process of repression and masking: that the skip or space in their title, M-other, was precisely the space of a strangled sob, a catch in the throat.

So far, the best scene has been the Festival and its description of the religious groups. The religion is based on the Body. There are cults of every body part – Toenails, Hands, Feet, Brains, Hearts, Fallopians – all with their ritual garb and dances.

With them, running behind, came the Feet, the babies of the body. If the hands were its prodigies, the feet were its clowns, its holy fools, wriggly and silly and utterly serious. They were universal pets. They had poignancy, orphaned at the extremity of the body, far from the brain, often out in the cold. But they were cheerful and fertile, with their two sets of quintuplet toes, the plump, cherubic babies’ hands.

Like I said, odd and charming.

I’m enjoying the setup and the weird structure of the book, which so far goes like this:

- classroom scene, with Curie’s speech about Blue
- Mutants!
- Global climate change
- the bitter, lonely inner thoughts of Curie
- Sexual tension of Curie (and everyone, but especially and her best pupil Sophie)
- The festival with the cult dancers and the orgy in the river. Don’t miss the sexy hermaphrodite sex scenes. Here there be “fringe”. Tentacles?
- Telepathy!
- Curie begins to tell a mythical version of the past to Sophie.
- Curie’s mother was one of the women of Greenham Common

(Zond-7 explained to me about Greenham Common and told me that I would enjoy reading about it; it was a feminist or women’s anti-war anti-nuclear-missile camp or commune that lasted for many years, and here is a link so I can go read about it later: Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp.)

- That sort of lesbian feminist novel Thing where it is all about The Personal and about a clearly real group of activist women Processing their Shit, so you are dying to know what the real story is, and you think of your own little incestuous groups & their complicated interpersonal dynamics so difficult to explain

- Curie explains about Scheherazade, and a new section of the book begins, which looks like it will be told from the points of view of the other 4 women of Curie’s activist group who maybe survived the apocalypse and who helped her set up this utopian society

That’s where I stopped.

I really like to write a reaction in mid-book.

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Long slow weekend incoherent books resolutions

I stayed in bed rather a lot the last few days, since the storms hit, venturing out for noodle soup with whump and ska-rat yesterday, and to SF to Zond-7′s house today & back. I’ve been hurting a lot and a little depressed maybe, or emotionally shaky, or something. Often i’m in such heinous pain I whimper by accident. I’m in that state now, embarrassing. I dont’ lie around sighing or acting hangdog with just any pain. instead i am here typing and acting normal as possible but then whine out like a dog with its tail stuck under the rocking chair. I swear if that thing had just happened in YOUR ankle you’d sing out too. damn.

Anyway over the weekend I took out a giant wad of poems and worked on them, and arranged them, and started messing with layout, and got a little bit further into an artistic funk as I looked at the little book of poems (“short”) that I made in 2002 and fiddled with its layout and thought about reprinting it and sort of loved and hated the old poems in the way you might too if you write something very overthinkily until it’s burned into your brain. There they are, they’re done, I’m not going to burn them or shoot them or anything — but I’ve passed them by. I fiddled with the arrangement of the poems in another book of poems, and then the enormous manuscript-thing that might should be broken up into two. This, sort of in the background of cleaning things up to have the house full of people and then cleaning up afterwards, so if I seemed abstracted I probably was… Then had a splendid time on the couch (forsaking the baclofen and taking a spacey-outy muscle relaxant) with z-amber and cyn, ranting about the hugos and then making a femsfaward LJ community as we looked over the list of eligible books by women and realized how many of them we hadn’t read, and resolved to read them and review them and to ask other people to write up the ones they’ve read. We got very punchy & giggly and had kind of worked up to it by cyn coming into the bedroom and telling me ominous ominous vague thigns about Blood in the Fruit and then we struggled to outdo each other in praising the 1st three Marq’ssan books & which parts of them perturbed us and led us into self-criticism (I think I cried randomly for several days as I thought about the ways I was like Zeldin with her shreds of privilege, and then later again as I thought about the bits of me that are like Weatherall. Oh, house of horrors!) And back to my own poems sometimes as I feel sort of small and down, needy and cranky and insignificant, I gawk at some sprawly grand scrawl of poemyness and wonder how I wrote so big, or so biggity. I like it, but it’s odd for that voice to be me. But when it is… it’s the best thing ever but it’s being up high and unsustainable, somewhere that I have abstracted myself to, to where I think Maureen Owen would approve and be leaping around from building to building in the Gotham night with me like superheroes cloaks billowing out – but Alta would roll her eyes… earthy hippie goddess on the other shoulder… and tortured ginserouac clashing with cid corman somewhere around my neck, like lice scurrying around … glass bead games as I position carefully in tone and branch out and attempt to grow an architecture suddenly in the middle of someone else’s poetic driveway…

Rook just caught me crying and offered to move my leg around but it was too painful. I’m having trouble with the weight of blankets which sucks becasue I’m cold. the vellux blanket is good for the foot part because it’s so light, and then the electric one can go across my legs. The bad parts right now are my big calf muscles, and the smaller ropy ones next to them on the inside, especially near knees and ankles and then there are othe rmuscles doing stuff in places I didn’t know I *had* muscles. The bottoms of my feet ! Clearly one has muscles there but they aren’t supposed to DO ANYTHING while you’re lying in bed. The thing that just made me yelp was some kind of thing with my big toe leaping up, but….leaping up somehow against something very hellaciously tight up higher. So in trying to pull back against it I burned some other muscle. I wish Tom had not been such a drunken creep pawing at me, because he was the best at un-spazzing my legs when not out of his mind. The feeling is awful; it’s the same awfulness i had during transition in labor, where it felt like my leg muscles were ropy snakes at war with each other.

the ska-rat showed me pictures, in 2nd life and without, kids, family, old friends, fascinating, and paintings. he sweetly left a painting of the view out my study window and i taped it next to the window so that I can have the refreshing mediation of reality always there before me. i like the movement in his drawings and also the utopian glow of the way he paints strip malls, backyards, traffic lights, and suburban swimming pools, infused with grace and mystery. I worried that the slow pace of my life appalled him. Yes, it’s relaxing and I believe it, but, bascially, if you want to hang out with me at the moment it’s at the cusp of sublime and boring. I’m not hopping onto my motorcycle to tour the big city… not till the sun comes out.

So instead of a game we had a little sparky cabal meeting. (Since I took a pain pill I was chirky enough to sit up and be social instead of brooding over my legs in bed.) now part of the problem for me and reading patterns is that I read whatever free piles of books come to me. I’ll change that and start reading new sf by women that comes out as best I can, especially if it comes already recommended!

I miss Zond-7 and wanted to stay over, but Moomin has school tomorrow and rook starts his new job, and plus it’s his birthday! hey! I thought I’d make a cake from scratch if I can manage it. Tues. I’ll go up to the city and then be there Wednesday for my scary but longed for appointment at the ALS clinic.

The kids were lovely today with only minor moments of squabbling. Really it’s amazing how they will just play for hours in elaborate pretending games. Even Peanut was in on most of it though she’s younger. I talked with Moomin a bit today about it being rough being the oldest in a bunch, and asked him to go easy and not to scorn them for a) not knowing somehting b) not being always able to handle their emotions. We talked about who we know with virtues and flaws.

In the pho place ska-rat asked us what we would go back and tell ourselves 20 years in the past (when we all first knew each other.) I think whump’s were somewhat practical financial advice. (Buy *** stock!) and mine was to tell myself that I was doing it all just fine and to go right ahead. Perhaps with a side note to see a neurologist in the next couple of years. But what would that 18 year old self have wanted to ask me! I suspect some things about love and happiness to which I would have plenty of answers, all along the lines of “stay foolish, you’ll enjoy it.” But probably she would have had some warnings and tellings for *me* not asking for mine to her. “Don’t forget this! Don’t forget being like this! Don’t forget me, and this feeling and this other moment, this complexity, and this very beautiful thing! They were real! Don’t get old in that way that makes you lose your fucking heart and soul!” (I won’t… she wrote it all down very thoughtful of my well being.) Ska-rat did not report but clearly had some things in mind for his callow-youth-former-self.

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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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Fierce and tough, belly up, navel-gazing, on drugs

I was thinking about how much I have invested in being fierce and tough. When you set out to be brave you tend to view with suspicion anyone saying “It’s okay, you don’t have to be tough.” Yes you do! “It’s okay to be scared and cry and be taken care of.” You know most of the time it’s NOT and I don’t want to live that way or encourage myself to be unable to cope. Generally, I operate that it’s okay to feel those things for like 1 minute and then one Figures Out What to Do to make it feel better or change the situation or be proactive or constructive. That’s how I try to operate. Negative feelings are allowed, can be and should be recorded for the sake of honesty, completeness, transparency, and later analysis. A little wallowing is okay. What can I do better next time? All that.

But omg I feel a lot of wallowing right now, fear uncertainty anger.

It was so nice that xyzzy came down yesterday and basically just patted me and said there there this sucks it’s not fair poor sweet badger. and massaged me ultra gently for hours while feeding me chocolates and allowing me to lie there spaced-outedly on a dose of Vicodin, with intermittent complaining, web surfing, and geeking out on Inform 7 in my more lucid moments. (Which, holy crap, Inform 7 is amazing, epiphany-making, and as I have said many times before, in so many words, E. Short is one of my idols for having a beauty and clarity of writing & vision & aesthetics that I will never achieve. I can go there, but I am not that, so I admire it all the more, (which incidentally is why I keep marrying physicists, besides the sexy nerd factor)).

What I mean to say is –

You really don’t get very far in life, if you’re me, by accepting anyone saying “There there poor sweet Badger.”

No one had better encourage me to be weak… no physical or emotional malingering is allowed here. No time for that in life. Life is too short. Get the fuck over it. Etc.

So on some level, niceness makes me want to run away screaming.

However it was belly up and paws up for me and dammit if people want to be nice to me then I’ll just have to take it… because I need it. I’ll just to suffer through all this being-nice-to-me wallowing-in-self-pity.

D did it for me last year in the Botanical Gardens and I will always remember it and in fact often do.

Also, about a whole year which is a horrible haze to me in some ways, post-miscarriage, where Rook petted me to sleep every night while I cried into my pillow… I still feel forever in debt and a bit disappointed in myself for not being tougher. On the other hand, supported by Rook’s emotional care, I did manage to make a good career transition and also was productive in some other ways. People have miscarriages all the time… I still feel like I was really un-tough back then. How I will deal with anyone’s actual death or actual super intense tragedy any much worse than this, I do not like to think. Okay, let’s not go there.

Anyway.

The point is.

“You don’t have to do anything or be entertaining or productive”

Not exactly my motto is it?

I looked at the part of me that would like to hear that and it was like gazing into a horrible endless void…

“You’re at a low point, that’s okay”

It’s never okay with me for me to be at a low point. Basically I slap myself and say get over it. Though I value this about myself, maybe I go too far.

That was an interesting insight – how much resistance I have no matter how much I need it to the very idea (even when I’m asking) and the basic really strong feeling of suspicion.

The suspicion runs like this: Are you trying to make me weak? Are you trying to enable my incompetence? My fear? Do you want me dependent on you? What happens when you go away?

Does it make me seem pathetic or as if no one else is ever “nice” to me? People are nice to me all the time!

Suddenly I think of CERTAIN OTHER PEOPLE who are a lot like this. A quality I admire. But how frustrating to deal with from the other side. How mistrustful and pointless it seems! How insulting! How not-in-the-moment! How closed-off! I don’t want to be like that, actually!

High expectations! I like to be competent. I like to be kick ass. I like to be, if not obviously the best at any one thing, stunningly and unexpectedly good at many things, with no reason to be. That does NOT include lying in bed doped to the gills telling myself it’s okay not to do anything. Even if one has to lie there, there is plenty to do. Upon reflection, these are the qualities of an arrogant motherfucker who is in total denial.

If I were someone else would I be thinking “so you can’t walk and you’re in pain, get over yourself”?

Well yeah. On some level I would be. So aren’t other people all thinking that as they nicely take care of me and watch me melt down?

You see what I mean about my being “arrogant motherfucker”.

First step in that might just be to go easier on myself.

Which as you should see by now, is total blasphemy because the answer is NEVER “go easier on myself”… wtf…

Rambling… pain meds…. er… oh well… Embarrassing myself on the intarwebs since whenever, might as well keep it up.

Grief sucks, denial is better 8-P I will be walking friskily by Monday right? Or if not I will be wheeling competently in a super tough way?

Because I’m going to teach my class on Monday no matter what!

Also I am going to Vancouver! Fuck! Rook pointed out I need to accept I might not. Hmmph. I will so. Maybe a day late if i have to.

Maybe I could go back on oral prednisone?

I don’t believe in accepting reality, it’s one of my virtues, it makes for better struggle and bringing about of utopia…

Considering ways my parents fasten on any doubt and exacerbate it, makes everything seem difficult or impossible, throws obstacles in path, encourages inertia, make a doubt or difficulty a big excuse to not do anything, so it’s not like in any dark night of the soul I would call them. when I do it is just to take care of them so they won’t feel bad that I feel bad. They are not any help. I appreciate that they would like to be. What it results in is discouragement of ambition and dreams. I only go into this to explain part of why i am like this in the first place; it doesn’t affect me at this point because I don’t have that kind of expectations from them… But on looking back, I can see they were not useful to turn to and weakness scared and bothered them when they saw it in me. (Partly, I think they were waiting for me to go crazy, like my uncle did when he was a teenager. Emotional upset and my neuroticness really perturbed them as they were haunted by this fear.) Plus if you look back at you know who, whose mission in life was to teach me to be tough, the real world, wake up and smell the coffee, be on the ball, if you get cheated it means you are stupid and deserve it, if you’re not on guard, tough luck, fear is weakness, be tough. I rejected him and (complexly over years) that lesson. Part of this may be the ghost of that lesson.

I can’t sit up in bed, still. I called the doctor and got a call back to take more pain meds, this is normal “increased pain”, I should become more functional over the weekend, take the meds. There will be a “dramatic upswing” when it happens I will feel way better. I guess when the swelling goes down and the nerve is uncompressed.

But so far I can’t put on my own socks, I can maybe hobble or crutch to the bathroom, and as I said, sitting up in bed is not an option yet.

Sideways in bed is really not so bad for a little while, with laptop, brain mostly intact, and pain meds if I need them.

The weekend looks hard. I would like visitors who don’t require me to get up out of bed. Ass massaging optional. My ambition is to be outside for some of the day. This will take a goodly amount of setup. I can’t get up and down easily at all. even being on the couch is a big deal and also, not comfortable. Also I can’t fake it that I’m doing okay for very long, it is a strain. So, a mercy if I don’t have to. and yet I would like to see people who it is okay if I am not really okay because I get really bored and lonely.

Should I post this…? How embarrassing, later… but I’ll pretend it isn’t…

Wouldn’t it be nice to be the sort of person who never writes or says things like this? Who is never so messy? And who would just quietly go about their business? My steely-eyed jaw-clench would be the only clue. A little macho muscle-twitch or a bead of sweat on my forehead as I moodily contemplated the horizon and thought of … something that no one else would ever know. It would not bother me that no one would know. It would be none of anyone’s business. A useful, unbothersome person, fond of order, with few possessions kept neatly polished.

I’m amusing myself by tagging this both “whining” and “optimism”.

I thought last night of weakness and dependency and how much I dislike them in myself. I thought too of things said at Woolfcamps past about people’s strong feelings about touch and that it is possible to go years where no one ever touches you physically or is affectionate. (I’ve certainly heard it from women and men, by the way.) That sounds like hell. I need physical affection a lot. We are strange little animals and need petting even at the best of times. I feel lucky to get it not only in general but right when I need it most.

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Alas, my squids, I hardly knew you

Bad news, the book was only really about cool multigendered matriarchal lesbian warrior squid for like 10 minutes. Then it was about crashlanded humans who start out with super good peaceful intentions but just by being there spark all sorts of fuckedupedness including the underground not-buddhism religion becoming more warlike and deciding to adopt English as its sacred language, but then the peaceful hippie scientist utopian humans realize that they must conquer everyone.

In between, there are enormous chunks of history and sciencey bits as the hu-man characters explain to each other very boringly and lecturingly about Steven Jay Gould and astronomy and the Mongols and Zulus and Nazis and Alexander the Great and then some more Mongols and some more hittite chariots; The hippie chick who’s all peaceful and nice and nonsexist begins to worry about the natural inevitable evolution of patriarchy as their crashlanded human children grow up and then oh, oh, oh…. You see where this is going. What a nasty little bait and switch! The hippie Buddhist woman has to (because of evolution and the Mahabharata, and Mongols) give the order for genocide and then she sits on the top of the hill and looks sword-like and stonyfaced onto the scene of slaughter as she sees into the inevitable future of more slaughter and atrocities, empires and dictatorships, and did I mention, Mongols and Steven Jay Gould again? Then chemical warfare and nationalism.

I left out the bits about how the humans can only survive by eating the barf of the peaceful cow-squids who have only rudimentary language (?!) and believe in the Great Sacred Coil of Life and are enslaved cruelly by the lesbian squids. But are sort of tended or domesticated sweetly by the benevolent human demon things. The sacred holy cow-squids *love* the humans!

Madeline and vito_excalibur pointed out about 80s lesbian tentacle porn… i’ll write all about that tomorrow. Lesbian squid 3 days in a row! It’s international lesbian squid week!

Rook points out that many alternate histories are annoyingly conservative and patriarchy-affirming and that we knew that already. Yeah! But I was so blindsided! I mean giant lesbian octopi with battle armor!

You might almost say… I was suckered!

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inner pants

Several neologisms and playful concepts tonight at the editor meeting. The fad of every problem being described as a dilemma; authoritative nonsense about triangulating; trilemmas and quadrilemmas. Maybe they exist, or maybe not, or maybe existence itself is questionable, or maybe there’s really no difference whether they exist or not, what do you think? 8-P

Frontal nudity. What is the opposite? Rearal nudity. No… rearazoidal. No… astral. (Asstral, I guess. Claire thought of that.)

The “have a happy period” thing. Menstrual pad pulled out, unwrapped, examined, and photographed for posterity. Some amazing woman’s art on deviantart passed around, oohing and ahing over her tribal wombats and pink lizards. Amazing stuff. I am in love! Can I have posters? There should be a coffee table book.

Inner pants. Leanne’s idea. You can get in my pants, but not my inner pants. A useful concept! Like underpants, but more intimate and psychobabbly. They are easy to imagine. I totally knew where my inner pants were, the instant Leeanne mentioned the words. I declared that the new thing, like Madonna wearing bras and girdles over her other clothes, would be wearing your inner pants on the outside. In fact, my blog wears its inner pants on the outside. I show my underpants but also… my inner pants. Except to you… you don’t get to see them… Do you?

We had fun editing, by which I mean we were often cruel. Commas, semicolons, overcapitalizations, whole fluffy sentences, whatever committee makes up the MLA handbook standards… no one was safe from our scary “wit”…

Some of us went off to “The Nasty 500 Club”, (open at 5am!) for margaritas made with orange juice, beer, and a shirley temple with lime (mine). Talk of books. I held forth on the glories of Illicit Passage. We discussed the minutea of the Ayla books. The dragon napoleonic navy books sound so good. We ripped on various fashionable current authors until we were in a thorough group smug. Claire had the opposing point of view from me on the disruption in the center and end of “Air”. She also explained The Clarion Thing with the timer and “ditto” and “antiditto” and how you become accustomed over 6 weeks to harsher and harsher judgements until none of you care anymore, like torturers or being brought up like Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung in the Peking Opera, but with bluntness and your own precious novel. I wouldn’t so much mind that with poetry if people were honest which I imagine after 6 weeks you wouldn’t be able to help it. C. next to me having a beer and talking enthusastically, me feeling the same as ever of course about her, and so I reveal what is not allowed. Distance is strange, the illusion of distance and its gradual reality, after intimacy for the last couple of years. At lunch today while we worked on stuff, Jo and I talked about intertexualness and conversation and what it meant to us; I said I thought the daily intimacy of knowing about someone experience of their life was what was important. That is the relationship. More than that, to me it is building shared reality. It is how I know who I am. “men dont’ need it” she said, speculative… I did not agree but think maybe there is a self assurant lone-ness they can achieve, or expect themselves to acheive as a norm, but as we are destabilized and dislocated and accept this as identity, we need conversation to know. That is not necessarily a bad way to be. One believes in interdependence more than “love” in utopian visions. We both need a lot of it. That’s why we write, that’s why we blog. We did not talk about our own meta-thing, or how we were in steady conversation of that sort and then, she was in the hospital and I had to pull back; she was somewhere else where we could not reach each other with our dixie cup and string telephone… and where I did not want to go. But I was thinking about it. At some point during her hospitalization and going-crazy I was trying to explain my own devastation from the realization of her mental illness, and finally burst out “We were… deeply INTERTEXTUAL….” I have a high pain tolerance. I am able to sustain trust or bring it back. C. and I broke up what, a month ago? 3 weeks? But did not stop “the relationship” in so many ways though it all sort of hideously throttled back while also opening up. Sustained conversation is a perpetual process of self revelation and creation in relation to another person. For the first time in two years we did not email each other every day about the details of our lives, or about anything. She said she was not reading my blogs (as if I have been writing about it….) How lonely I felt. I have not been writing about this. I am missing days. I was in bed sick and miserable and unmissed. That felt like the real breakup. Epistolary intimacy gone without being noticed. That, maybe, was our relationship. I guess it was part of the pressure of what she could not sustain or felt was becoming artificial. She is relieved without it. I am too intense. If I am somewhere she didn’t want to go, how did I get here? When did our courses diverge? Am I really so far away to her… oh, how? I have become closer maybe to Quilter and Debbie who IM me casual or serious, fluid, depending, or whose presence, unpinged but ungrayed and clickable on the sidebar, is so comforting. The conversation lines are open. I get to know a little of the routines of their lives. How good that is. I will miss that with C. just as I will miss seeing her in the morning working in her pajamas with her glasses on or smelling the face lotion she puts on at night.

There’s me for you — if I haven’t been talking, it’s because I feel that some things are private, but go ahead and have that much. I violate everyone’s privacy by writing this… I become embarrassing… Well… In a few weeks it will feel different and in a few months or years she will not tell me to email when I get home safely, as she does not with any other friend. I will also be distracted I am sure, since I am practical and distractable; resilient; I’ll be thinking of other things and having some other conversation.

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Regendering Dave Winer

I love men’s epiphanies! Especially when they’re sweet and have utopian visions of collective social action – that rocks. I strongly believe in this:

Neither of our work is done, but I have a strong feeling that the connection betw Grace and myself is going to create a path that lots of men and lots of women go down, working together, to make the world a happier, more fair and better-running place.

But I have some problems with the tone of the article and want to pick on Dave a little – and on various other men whose names I don’t remember. It is not like Dave is an especially awful example of sexism – quite the contrary – it’s just that he’s visible. Plus, he can take it.

I promised Dave that my jackbooted feminazi foot would be gentle, this time. Even perky! I’ll try! I’ll show him my underwear and giggle while I explain what yanks my chain.

So here is an opportunity for some more learning… let’s look at Dave’s take on BlogHer, regendered:

Post BlogHim Thoughts

They are beautiful hunks, but not like like booth bimbos, more like Thomas and Louis. So you got a great ratio, and they’re smart and driven, but that’s not all — they’re also bloggers! Which means I don’t have to explain what blogging is.

Heh heh… Read it and think about the places where the language is off-key & think about why that is. It does have a tone that Dave expected to feel unwelcome, or expected to be surrounded by unattractive, frowning bitches? Or feels that his readers might have that expectation and he wants to reassure them that it’s not true?

I can’t even start in on the stuff about how the 20 to 1 gender ratio was heaven for men. Grrrrrreat! Because women exist to make men feel loved and comfortable!

I’m just trying to imagine ever feeling like this at a conference or workplace full of men and I’m coming up short. There’s hostility in those situations, but it’s mostly about having your “self” be invisible – about men automatically paying more serious attention to each other’s ideas and opinions; like there’s a game field where they interact (homosocially) and their attention to women, if it exists, takes place off that field. It’s being at a meeting and saying something that is ignored, and then a man repeats it 5 minutes later and everyone attributes the idea to him. It’s being at Bloggercon and the IRC channel being full of comments on the female Bloggercon attendees’ looks – along with links to photos of them in their underwear. Was there a BlogHer backchannel where we compared the men’s looks, and bodies, and winning smiles, and how cute they are when they cock their head to the side and giggle, and gossip about their qualities as ex-boyfriends of one or the other women in tech?

But every guy who’s talked with me about Bloggercon has talked about how *I* was fierce and scary on the IRC channel – because I pointed out sexism – and even then I hear how they’re surprised that they consider me nice-looking, or that I’m smiling at them, or they even flirt and tell me that they wonder why they are always attracted to fierce scary feminist women: they make sure to let me know that even my empowerment and anger, to them, is a sexual commodity.

There is a subtext in what Dave says that if women aren’t sexy, flirty, smiling, glad to see him, and good-natured, then they’re not worth listening to, or they’re not going to be listened to. There is a message for women in that pervasive societal message. I feel sure he didn’t mean that – but honest to god that’s how it comes off to me.

If I expected men – in tech or anywhere – to be sexy, flirting, good-natured, smiley, welcoming, and happy to see me, I’d be waiting a long time . . . Do men compliment each other at conferences on their friendly sexy smilyness? I’d like to see it.

So with that in mind, why do I flounce around in ball gowns? Okay… number one, it’s fun. But two – it doesn’t matter if I do or not. I can dress utterly butch in my jeans, techie polo shirt, belt, leatherman tool, and boots, not smile or cock my head to the side, and just be “neutral” — and still be dismissed, not included, sexually harassed, paid less, and the target of misogynist jokes. In fact, the butcher I dressed in tech, and the more serious I acted, the more misogynist jokes I was subject to hearing – I was expected to participate in them to prove I was one of the guys. Even though my girl cooties would never, ever, go away. Since it doesn’t matter . . . as many women who either butch it up a little bit or who dress in professional-lady drag discover. . . I might as well do whatever the hell is fun for me – which includes ball gowns, bikinis, nakedness, suits, and scruffy jeans with tshirts. It would be nice if men were also “free” to play with all those images and identities for themselves. But because of misogyny & patriarchy, they aren’t. It’s so awful to be girly that most men don’t dare.

I’d like to challenge any men in tech who are reading this to think about their very own workplace. How much do the men get paid and how much do the women get paid? Why? Are all the women in lower positions and the men in higher? Anything you can do about that?

Do you get asked, guys, during your techie job interviews, and networking events and stuff, if you’re married and if you have kids and if you’re planning a family? Are you ever present at a conversation where men wave their hands and dismiss some woman b/c she will probably just have babies anyway and then be less productive or involved at the workplace? I’ve been there for those conversations.

So, saving the world is important, helping disaster victims is also important, but look a little closer to home. Look in what is in your own power. Next time some other dude says something messed up… speak up and call them on it… you can do it gently, just by asking them a question, like “Do you think it’s okay to say that in front of me? Why?” You’ll find out then, probably, that just questioning as nicely as possible will get you called the PC police. But it will also get you any women in earshot thanking you privately later.

We’ve all heard this rant before. I do feel like I have to keep saying it, though mostly I try to move on to focus on other women, what they’re doing, and positive changes and action.

Things *are* changing, and men are coming along on a journey of their own thought and consciousness of these issues… it’s nice to see.

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