Archive for August, 2011

I bought a book on Amazon a few weeks ago and just now am getting around to reading it. As I am wont to do I was googling certain aspects of the story and came across the author’s now-defunct blog. About a half hour into reading it I came across the author’s details about the type of sex they are currently having.

It was, I admit, passably interesting in that I had no idea until reading that entry that men actually masturbated.


The problem is that now as I read the book I cannot get the picture of this lonely man and his digital manipulation out of my head and every time I try to read the book I’m just a bit stymied. I guess I’m all for disclosure and authorial honesty, given as I tout it here, but it does sort of take me back to be invited into the intimate parts of real people’s lives.

I fully expect to get pilloried for having sexual hangups. But in my defence it’s not the sex I mind but the sex in the grocery aisle, to put it bluntly. I read blogs where people talk about their sex lives, but I know that going into it. And although some of those people are authors, the blogs where they discuss sex are not their author blogs.

I kind of think that authors need to be careful once they’re published and drawing in a cold audience. It even makes me ponder if I ought to–should I ever be published–have a secondary blog that is just about writing. I don’t know. I guess, actually, I’m still working through all of this. I hadn’t planned on writing right now, but on reading. And since I can’t read my chosen novel for the aforestated reasons I’m still playing in the shallow end of these ideas.

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The Title is self explanatory.

o This headache
It’s been six days now, and aside from a few good hours (let’s say two) each morning, I’m spending each day with my brain trying to escape through my eyeballs.

o Free e-books about quirky communities of people who eat quaint food (i.e. pie) and Just Need Jesus.

o Free e-books about various quasi-human things (i.e. vampires and werewolves) who Just Need Kinky Sex.

o People who tell me I HAVE to read X.
Look, I’m sure that _Ready, Player One_ is a fine book, a fun book. But I read what I’m in the mood for when I’m in the mood for it. I’m also not very good at have-tos. It’s why I keep flunking out of book clubs. Well, that and all that book clubs want to read are Quaint Food and Jesus books or Werepire Bondage books. Right now I’m in the mood to read Colonial history books. Please quit trying to convince me that I should instead read that new book about Hemingway’s wife. I hate Hemingway and can’t imagine that any woman who found him interesting enough to have sex with is someone that I would much care about.

o Cupcakes
Sometimes less is more. This rule applies to math classes, television shows about designing with throw pillows and frosting.

o H.P. Lovecraft
Is it the anniversary of his first book? All of a sudden everyone I know is wanting to have Cthulu’s babies.

o Facebook
Love being in touch with all my old friends. Love being aware of what’s going on with my new friends. Am really sick and tired of videos about creative marriage proposals, crippled girls being carried around softball bases and pictures of dogs who have been starved and beaten.

o William Shatner
No reason. Just sick of him.

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Somehow I got added onto a libertarian mailing list and I haven’t had the gumption to remove myself from it. I’m still a libertarian, but more and more I begrudge calling myself that as folks are steadily migrating from Tea Party Republicanism to our rocky and desolate shore and bringing with them all their vaguely racist, excruciatingly ignorant baggage. Now, I’m not saying every Tea Partier harbours these things. But I am saying that those who want to claim “libertarianism” and still be name-calling the president, demanding a wall across the southern border and dismissing medical marijuana advocates as “idiot hippies” just don’t really GET what libertarianism means. Here’s a clue: It doesn’t just mean you don’t want to pay taxes.

This mailing list has been incredibly dull and I’ve deleted most of the messages. I don’t want to meet these people for beer and John Stossell videos. I don’t want to go down to the airport and yell at the minimum-wage flunkies running the body scanner. But then two days ago someone sent the oddest message I’ve yet gotten and I couldn’t help going “huh?”

It seems the Nashville Public Library is now making MP3s of Sony music available for checkout periods of five days. And it seems that this particular “freebie” is making one of the list members irate. She keeps going on about how taxpayers are robbing SONY music (capitalising it as though Sony is a sacred brand) and that if people want to be entertained they should pay for it themselves.

I’ve explained that
o Only part of the Library’s funds come from taxation; the rest comes from donors and fundraisers. All the programs she was complaining about (Salon @615, the Courtyard, the free movies) come from the private donors, as do many of the circulation items. The tax budget mostly covers the facilities and staffing.
o The library’s music program gives patrons access to hard-to-find recordings of operas and classical performances that many students use for reports. It isn’t all just Lady Gaga.
o There is no internally consistant reason to object to Sony music if you aren’t also objecting to Random House books or any other company whose wares are in circulation
o All libraries, up to and including the Library of Congress, have catalogued media other than books. It’s standard practice.
o Libraries are historically a good tax investment as they are a comparatively inexpensive way to train and educate the local workforce thereby insuring a more robust free market.
o Libraries are a more libertarianly-sound education investment than the public school system as they place no government-directed requirements on what the population can/should consume, while also offering the public a wider choice of information.

None of this seemed to hamstring her argument, which appears to center around the fact that books from the library are okay and reasonable but music crosses a line. I’m starting to think she must work for the music business in some capacity.

And this sums up my growing concern with the state of libertarianism. It seems to be this place where folks without a logical consistancy are gathering to complain about taxes. We aren’t a party; we’re Archie Bunker’s living room. It’s driving me nuts.

PostScript: The library-complainer’s last words were “WWRPD”–What would Ron Paul do? I wish people would stop thinking that Ron Paul is the king of the Libertarians. Honestly, while I think that he has in the past been the best of several bad presidential choices, he’s hardly the soundest libertarian thinker out there.

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What is it with the British and their long, convoluted tales of inheritance? I just finished an 800-page Jeffery Archer novel that purported to be a rags-to-riches story about a merchant building an empire–an American-style plot–but ended up hinging on baseborn babies and secret codicils and all the other trappings of British melodramatic fiction.

I think that is one way in which I am far too American. That mystical hold of Birth doesn’t pack the same punch with many of us born on this side of the Lochan Mor. We don’t have Lords and Marquesses (?@?) This whole thing of finding out your life is better because you started out in the testicles of one man versus the testicles of another is just too…

I mean, yeah. I get it. Even here in the States we’re some of us born into privilege that others will never know. But the lines are a lot more blurry. Finding out that your Real Father is a rich guy isn’t the same thing as finding out he’s some entitled, landed, parliamentary whingodoodle.

As I ponder it some more, I think that perhaps Slavery was one of the things that transformed our narrative culture away from the Magic Birthright trope. After all, here were vast numbers of people viewed as chattle, the lowest of cultural rungs. Among them there were many, many children who were sired by the Master, the Master’s son or some visiting cousin. And it seldom made any difference at all. Finding out you were The Master’s Daughter wasn’t an automatic elevation into the top rung of society–more often than not it just meant that you didn’t entirely fit in either world. It isn’t the Oliver Twist miracle that it would be in Britain.

I’ve always been uncomfortable with that denouement, but as I get older and do more of my own writing I realise I’m downright angry about it. Because the good ending doesn’t come as a result of anything the character has done. If a novel is a character’s journey from innocence to experience, the exploration of the human heart in conflict with itself, there is no growth in finding out that you started in a different place. Your character is no better or worse in their essential personhood for having had a different origin. Even worse, those novels that end with the uncovering of the Birthright always end with Protagonist being happy and having lots of money. There’s never the question of why this wealthy person figured you were no better than table scraps.

In the last five years I’ve read exactly ONE novel that took this same Birthright convention and worked within the trope while still turning the whole thing on its ear. If you’re into Victorian literature at all, I’d encourage you to hunt down a copy of Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith. At the same time, I’d encourage you to not bother with Jeffery Archer’s As The Crow Flies.

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I just wrote a 600-word post about the recent death of a former friend and then decided not to publish it because it might upset my sister in law.

I didn’t used to blog that way and I can’t decide if this whole “considering your audience” thing is good or bad. I usually write this blog for me. It’s my place for my opinions. But lately, more than once, I’ve made it through part or all of a post and then scuttled the thing out of respect for this or that reader.

I’m torn. Because I do think that it is a gift people give me, to take their valuable time to read what I have to say. At the most basic level I think that it is just plain decent to not throw that generosity back in someone’s face.

But then again, if I’m writing to express my views on the world, how is it helpful to keep my mouth shut?

I’ve been keeping my mouth and keyboard shut a lot more lately. I guess it’s a good thing, a Christian thing. But then again, I believe in treating others the way you would like to be treated. Call me crazy, but I vastly prefer it when people are honest with me. A couple of years ago when I ran a local blog consortium for about five minutes I discovered that a lot of people who had feigned friendship for several years–even been to my home for a meal*–just didn’t like me at all. They thought it was polite to ACT like they did, though. Uh, that’s not my thing. If you don’t like me, I’d much rather know that up front and not worry about bothering with you anymore. Finding out in a series of blog comments you think I won’t read is, uh, not fun.

So anyway, I say what I think. But apparently I no longer blog everything I think. Good thing I have the dogs to talk to.

*I’m really funny about this. I’m really particular about having people into my home. I view it as a quasi-intimate thing. To come to my house and break bread is, to me, a particular gesture of deeper friendship.

**I should clarify that the unpublished article wasn’t mean. It just discussed some things that are probably better kept private for the sake of surviving family members.

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Proof Of Weird

I wanted to put these pix in the last post about Quinn and Gobie (Joe B) watching Babylon 5, but it was taking forever for them to import from the iPhone. (I’ve got 2000 pictures on there and can’t delete them until after vacation, when I will need the doggie pix to hold me over.)

So here is actual photographic evidence of two weird dogs watching an old science fiction program on television.

We LOVE this show!

Shhh! Something cool is about to go down!

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I came thisclose to using one of WordPress’ “writing prompts” to feed today’s blog post. But I realised any 500-word thing I’d write about “guest-starring on my favourite TV show” would devolve into a diatribe about violence against women as entertainment, so I figured I’d just stick with the usual trick of writing about whatever random things are floating through my head at the moment.

Thing One
I used to scoff at all those concepts for relaxation and relieve that seemed vaguely unorthodox–stuff like biofeedback, acupressure, reflexology. Then my husband began to cure bouts of nausea and headache with acupressure points he found in a library book. And then I got VERY sick and found out that the single best pain-reliever in my arsenal was self-hypnosis. I’m now a master at separating mind from body, at using mind to visualise destruction of pain. It works and I will advocate that everyone try to learn at least a measure of self-hypnotic skills as they face the aches and pains of aging. I do suspect, however, that it comes a bit easier for those of us with more practice in the art of imagination.

I’m rambling about all of this because one of the newer things I’ve been trying my hand at is Brainwave Entrainment. There are reams of scientific research out there, interwoven with sales pitches and man-on-the-web testimonials. The short explaination is that by listening to a series of synchronised tones one can engineer any type of mood. It sounds a bit woo-hooey, I admit, but after a year of off and on use of a Brainwave Entrainment app for my iPhone, I can vouch for its authenticity, at least in my own case. It works for relaxing, for concentrating, for falling asleep. I love it.

The only drawback is that when I’m NOT plugged in, I get stuck with the world’s worst brainworms. The last time I used the app to sleep well, I spent the next three days with part of a showtune running through my head. Constantly. I still think it’s worth it, but be forewarned. You need to really like showtunes.

Thing Two

My dogs are addicted to watching Babylon 5. It is the strangest thing ever. They pester until I turn it on, and then lie on the floor staring at the TV with dogsmiles on their faces. If I pause the show or turn to another program they immediately whip their heads around and stare malevolently at me. The best I can tell is that they like the soundtrack. Or else they’re huge scifi geeks.

Thing Three

We’re going on an anniversary trip in just a few weeks and I am getting beyond excited. It’ll be the first non-visiting-family trip I’ve taken in about three years.

Thing Four

Check out my friend Andrea’s blog. I’m kind of embarrassed because she wrote an entry that talks about me in a way that is both moving and blushish. (She’s sprung for her own domain name, and I’m beginning to think I may have to do the same thing. The Other Mycropht is nipping at my heels.)

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I tend to avoid music articles and discussions because, all too often they end up like this:

When they start singing about babies and church I puke. It’s like the CD should come with the minivan.

Now, I’m not much of a fan of babies nor am I a blind devotee to “church” as a social institution. But I do like very much the music that strikes a chord in me, whether it’s Johnny Cash’s low, insistent and ironic “Tennessee Stud”, the Grateful Dead’s live performance of “Ripple” on Reckoning, Patty Griffin’s “Mary”, Amick & Cassie’s “Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing” or the entire Warren Zevon catalog. (Seriously. I cannot think of one Zevon song that fails to strike a deep and abiding note in me.) The music a person likes is a bit like their handwriting or their taste in men. It isn’t necessarily a direct statement of who they are, but it is generally a very revealing detail.

That means that when you start dismissing the music you are invariably dismissing the person. I hope to never have a minivan. I long ago lost any starry-eyed desire to have a baby and church to me is a much more complex notion than the place I go before a chicken dinner. There isn’t a whole lot of country music that really grabs me the same way that I’m moved by other types and styles so I don’t feel like this guy is talking about me personally. I’m not saying that I’m really wounded that a dude I’ve never heard of dislikes the bulk of country music.

But I’m sure as heck troubled by the socioclassist dismissal he has for the people who do.

I’m also troubled that he takes music, one of the deepest and most personal methods of expression we’ve got, and uses it as a shibboleth for determining who is and is not worthy of notice, respect, inclusion.

Granted, I may be reading way too much into the original article which is, after all, just supposed to be the review of an album designed to convince people that

There’s no reason left wing liberals can’t eat up Pistol Annies.

But the review says so much more to me. It says that so very few of us are willing to see past our preconceptions.

It’s sad that we feel we have to vet everything through our self-ground lenses before risking openness and dialog.

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Twist Ending

::cue Hallelujah Chorus in full voice::
My First True Mobius Snood* is complete!

I think I’m addicted to Mobius knitting, even though it is not unlike getting in a car driven by a casual acquaintance and just riding without a map. You cast on, start knitting and just have to trust that you’re going to end up in the right place.

The finished product, "folded" as best as a Mobius Snood can be folded

The sunlight makes this yarn look a bit more blue in this picture, when it is a much more deep purple with a bit of dusky reddish tone.

This picture may help explain what is happening. Heaven knows it took me awhile to catch on…

The yellow line points to the cast on. The blue arrows show the two simultaneous directions that the work flows. The pink line shows the single edge as it wraps around the work.

A closeup look at the pattern shows the detail of the basketweave and the I-Cord bind-off. If you do a Mobius work, since you are knitting something that flows in two directions but is to look like one piece of fabric, it is in your best interest to select a reversable, simple-plan stitch pattern. In other words, STAY AWAY FROM CABLES. Oh, and be careful with lace.

And here I am modeling the finished product. Yes, I need to have my glasses straightened. Also, today is a chemo day, so that is why I look like watered-down paint.

Smiling, for all those people who tell me to smile more in photos.

Not smiling. For me, who doesn't like the way my smile looks in photos

*I always thought that a “snood” was the net head-covering women of the mid-nineteenth century put over their buns and modern women crochet to go over the backs of their hairdos for things like renfaires. But I’m told by many knitting magazines and books that we are now calling these scarf/hat combos “snoods” as well. Probably because “snood” sounds (slightly) better than “babushka”, which is what I think these things look more like. Oh well. I never was much of a fashion person.

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Lately I’ve been pondering Fear again. I first began to hate Fear as a motivator when I realised how many people were using it to drive their agendas. Politicians use fear–of terrorists, of economic struggle, of the changing way of life–to win elections. Christian writers use fear to sell books. Remember Mike Hyatt’s sky-is-falling Y2K tome? Hal Lindsey’s books? Even the Left Behind series capitalises on that Christian fear of being, well, left behind to deal with the hell on earth that is purported to be the tribulation. Secular writers use fear to sell books too. And win Oscars and Nobel Peace Prizes. Fear is the easiest ore to mine, and the smoothest path to wealth for those who have no qualms in exploiting it.

A few years ago I met a man who excelled at exploiting the fear of others. He preached the gospel of Peak Oil and moved his family to his father-in-law’s farm to prepare for the coming apocalypse. It was thanks to him that I became anti-fear. God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love and self-discipline. I’ve been able to remember that for the big things, the End Of The World As We Know It things. It has helped me evaluate whom I vote for. It has helped me weigh proclamations from all sides about the bogeymen they dangle.

But clearly I still need to work on the tiny fears. The fears that lay/lie* on my own doorstep. Things like driving to the grocery, writing short stories, ending novels, knitting a catbed. Okay, maybe not the cat bed, since I haven’t actually gotten a cat. Just as I write this I realised that verse I quote to myself all the time–the one about “not being given a spirit of fear”–also ENDS with the fact that we’ve been given a spirit of self-discipline. HOW DID I OVERLOOK THAT? It should be that spirit I rely upon to do my daily work.

Which brings me to the other point I wanted to make. Christianity is only one of many religions that address the very human condition of fear and how to overcome it. In Christianity overcoming fear is free of monetary cost. Other major world religions also deal with fear in their own ways.

Yet there exists one religion that charges people a lot of money to overcome fear. They preach that this fear is the cause of things like, well, arthritis, and if you go through their process you can become fearfree. The fact that they are rolling in money and famous people is a testament to how badly people want to banish that aspect of themselves that limits their potential.

I wish my religion–Christianity–would be more upfront about how we deal with fear. Instead of constantly stirring the pot with Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God and “oooh, that license plate has ‘666’ on it, I want another one”, we need to draw a line in the sand that says HOPE, NOT FEAR. Think how much more we could get done.

*(would someone HELP me learn the right way to use these?)

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