August, 2005

I am grieving for New Orleans, my birthplace, which will never be the same again. As usual I have avoided photographs and television coverage, but I’m still shaken by what I have heard about this place I love. Eighty percent of the city underwater. The shape of the city reconfigured by the levees that didn’t hold. People kept out of their households for maybe a month or more. The hospital life support systems failed and patients being evacuated. The superdome without power. No air conditioning and no lights, and the bathrooms essentially non-functional for tens of thousands of people. Bodies left to decay while frantic search and rescue missions continue. Not to mention that Lake Pontchartrain’s waters, which are now covering New Orleans, have long been the sewage outflow for the city. How long before outbreaks of cholera? Dysentery? Not to mention the hard hit gulf cities of Gulfport and Biloxi in Mississippi, places that have basically been wiped off the map. So many people have now lost everything. I join the voices of so many others urging you to consider donating something (money, time or blood) to the Red Cross and their relief effort. It is needed.

It is a sad time and my heart is heavy.

I have had a number of strange dreams lately that I have failed to write down. In one I found a baby swimming in a bathtub. In another I had caught some kind of extinct fish, named something that started with “Aep”.

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10 Aug 2005, by


Hmmm, perhaps I’d better wait a week or two before making another post or you may get whiplash! Or I might raise expectations all out of semblance with sustainability.

It’s summertime. I can tell because I have a sudden longing, and I’m not alone, to make a loud and bouncy mix CD. I haven’t done it yet, but I’m working on it. While I’m waiting, Ministry’s “The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste”, Ozomatli’s eponymous, The Ernies’ “Meson Ray”, Faith No More’s “Epic” and They Might Be Giants have become ensconced in my CD player. While you’re waiting for this year’s mix cd, take a look at my prior works.

A few weeks ago we ate at a Tapas bar called Modesto. It appeals to me because it’s esconced in one of St. Louis’ Italian neighborhoods, known as The Hill. It’s probably one of very few non-Italian restaurants in the neighborhood. The eternal appeal of the underdog and the minority, what’s that about? They had a flamenco dancer on the night we went. The dancer strutted and stamped and turned and swished her red skirts. Sophia enjoyed that. So, I don’t really like black olives, but they brought out this fresh bread and this black olive spread concoction they called tapenade. It was delicious. I scarfed it all. Unapologetically. And then, a couple of weeks ago, I found that my local grocery store makes the stuff out of green instead of black olives. Oh, heaven. Green olive tapenade is so tasty.

It has only taken seven months or so of me being home every day, but now during the days Rorschach sometimes voluntarily comes to sit with me, shows me his belly and mraks at me when I pet him. He has always been primarily Kurt’s cat, not mine, standoffish with me (and everyone else) unless I’m asleep when he tries to make a nest in my hair. Lately this consummate and obsessive groomer (he grooms Sergei and Oz and sometimes licks the top of Kurt’s head raw) has taken to licking my hands or my heels. It is good to be loved.

My husband says I’m amazingly fortunate not to have the new Harry Potter book spoilered yet. He says people all over it are referencing it and giving away major plot points. It’s bound to be another couple of days or so before I get to it, since I just Monday finished reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, savoring each sentence. It’s a wonderful, wonderful book. Everything Neil Gaiman said it was and more. Kurt recommends a palate cleanser between JS&MN and HP&THBP or the latter will likely be a let down. I’m finishing up the Planetary series now, and I may read Scott Pilgrim before I start on Potter.

I wish I had the time and skill to create a series of architectural drawings based on all the houses I live in when I dream. I wonder if it would be any easier with lines than it is with words.

If you have time and patience for poetry, you can read this beautiful, Russian-spirited poem by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, about the London terrorist bombings.

Oh yeah, and echinacea is about as good as a sugar pill for your colds. I was wondering about that, because it’s everywhere and highly touted.

Neil Gaiman is pimping this cool auction, where authors are offering to name some minor character in their next novel after the winning bidder. I have to say, it’d be pretty cool to be a corpse in Stephen King’s next book. And it’s for a good cause!

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Yesterday was a day filled with melancholy, in which I wished very much to not be in the world, because of stories like this, this, and this. Please note, it’s all horrifying stuff. I wouldn’t blame you a bit for not wanting to know. I didn’t.

Today I feel a bit better, in part because I slipped sideways into Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and vanished from here for a few hours, and in part because of things like this. Discovery landed safely, with a woman commander, how cool is that? And I learned something new, I didn’t know the shuttle got carted around on the back of 747 NASA carrier jet.

What a perplexing, sad and awe inspiring time to be alive.

Also, this is a weird thing that I have no explanation for, but I hope one of my readers can point me to one. There’s an African country that is currently undergoing a starvation catastrophe. Yet another one of those things that has me disheartened because everyone knew this was coming and no one did anything about it. I digress, though. The mystery is when I was young, I learned to say this country name as ‘nI-j&r, but I increasingly hear it pronounced in a more Frenchified way, as nE-‘zher. When did this happen? And why? The other day I actually heard a radio announcer correct themselves from the first pronunciation to the second. What is that about? Anyone know?

I heard this most moving story concerning a woman’s remembrances of the bombing of Hiroshima, sixty years ago last Saturday. There’s four parts to the series, all of which are excellent and worth hearing (though you will need to guard yourself against becoming depressed on listening, if you are at all like me). A day or so after the story that I linked above aired, the station read an angry letter from a guy who was totally outraged that nothing in the piece justified the bomb dropping. This seemed so odd to me. Why would a bombing survivor have any business talking about how great the bombing was? I understand that arguments can be made (though never proven) for a quicker end to the war and therefore a smaller loss of life overall because of the United States’ use of the atomic bomb, but I hardly think it’s appropriate that every article about Hiroshima contain a cheering section for slaughter, regardless of potential justifications. How does that honor the dead and the living? Why would anyone demand that others capitulate their position and abnegate their actual experience in order to praise the actions of their enemies? It’s a bizarre sort of thing to be offended about, to my mind, and I can’t quite fathom it. You can hear the letter for yourself here under the entire program link, at about the 22 minute mark.

I am also concerned about the impending, forced evacuation of Israelis from the settlements in Gaza. I don’t want there to be any violence from any person on any side of this polygonal dispute. It is a courageous move on the part of the Israeli government to publicly cede land and I hope the Palestinians can see that. Turning the military on your own people is always dangerous, always difficult and rarely wise. I hope the settlers can understand this is a move of duress on the part of their government. I will be praying for a peaceful transition in which no one (else) comes to harm.

And that’s today’s newscast through the Anarkey filter.

One last thing, Slacktivist is as insightful as ever, with his piece on the difference between need and greed. Today I bless you, reader, in this way: may you always remember that there is enough, whether you have it when you do or not. Dayenu.

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3 Aug 2005, by

Week Old Dream

Between four and five dreams went unannotated in the last week, but I couldn’t pass up mentioning this one, from last weekend.

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My husband is perpetually astonished at the number of open tabs I maintain at any given moment, usually around 15 or 20.

In lieu of content, several links I have to proffer :

  • Thought-provoking stuff from Elizabeth Bear. Watch as she adroitly explains the four stages of mastering a new skill. Besides using a model that is encouraging about those times when it seems like everything you are writing sucks (you have mastered one area and don’t notice it being executed competently and have your sight focused on the area you haven’t mastered yet), she also brings up a couple of almost tangential but very interesting points : one, her assertion that writing is a whole array of skills, not just a single mastery and two, this bit of genius (which I hope I may freely quote at length without offending) “…you can write stories that work–at least on some fairly facile level–almost every time if you follow…rules. It’s what permits Hollywood to exist, and what permitted the pulp writers to bang out a story every night over a fifth of scotch and a mechanical typewriter. This isn’t to say that there’s anything wrong with stories constructed on three-act structure and internal and external conflict and a hook, rising action, climax, denoument model. Because there isn’t. But it’s only one model. It’s just the one we’re most culturally conditioned to recognize as a story.” This is one of my current problems, I think. I hate to say it, or even think it, because it seems pretentious and snobby but at least some of the time I catch myself trying to write stories that break that model. It’s not my fault. I no longer find that model as interesting as I once did, and I have been writing long enough to want to do other things. On the other hand, I wonder if I’m pulled in other storytelling directions because I haven’t as good a good grip on the traditional model as I ought to. At any rate, there’s a large random readership percentage that finds explorations of alternate story models unsatisfying or downright offensive. Out of thirty or so readers, only two felt like I did, that the absence of consequences was one of the beauties of “Hindsight”. I “fixed” that story by creating dramatic consequences for the main character and “punching up” (a term that makes me grit my teeth) the ending. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I damaged my artistic integrity by changing it up, and I’m quite pleased with it, but I just didn’t see the flaw in having it fizzle to an end instead of popping. And I’m absolutely willing to believe that I have to listen to people about what is unsatisfying in a reading experience. They’re the readers, not me. I am also willing to work at delivering stories in a more accessible way. So I’m not pulling the no one understands my art card here either. I have no designs to be even the slightest bit avant-garde. An editor friend of mine that I hope will help me with “Ennui” told me it was “experimental” and I felt myself cringe. Ugh.
  • More from Elizabeth Bear on how to write good intrigue (likely not of interest to most of you regular folk). She’s so straightforward in her layout that I begin to consider I might attempt to write a book with intrigue. Angles and elements. Why didn’t I see that?
  • Confirming my worst suspicions, this article explores the possibility that “corporations [are] fundamentally psychopathic organizations that attract similarly disposed people”. The guy making the assertion ought to know, he’s Dr. Robert Hare, creator of the Psychopathy checklist.
  • Interesting new research shows that cats have no taste receptors for sweets. The scientists involve suspect that there’s some connection between this absence and the obligate carnivore nature of cats. I’ve always heard that cats and dogs are attracted to anti-freeze because it smells sweet and so is especially dangerous. That might work for dogs, but if they really cannot taste anything sweet what makes anti-freeze attractive to cats?
  • Listen to radio waves from Saturn, as captured by Cassini (and downshifted to a human hearable range and also time compressed).
  • Resources for better living: about one third of the way down this very informative page is a chart listing common composting materials (tea bags, hair and dryer lint — who knew?), a zester I covet, and a neat hack for keeping your grocery bills in tune with meals you actually prepare. I particularly like how the startup is simple and doesn’t involve a massive immediate organizing binge to get going.
  • Kudos to a couple of my writing heros. Gene Wolfe won the 2005 Locus award for best novella (“Golden City Far” in Flights, which is a delicious, dreamy story I savored and then reviewed) and he was also nominated to win the Nebula for his book The Knight (which I haven’t read but want to) though he lost out to Lois McMaster Bujold who won it for Paladin of Souls (which was a wonderful book). She was also nominated for a Hugo for “Winterfair Gifts” which I hope to get read soonish. It’s so splendid to live at this time, with such talented people producing books. And while I’m on the subject, check out this extremely exhaustive and commented list of this year’s Hugo contenders.
  • These links I include for my own personal reference and business information. A site to get free credit reports. A form to fill out that supposedly opts you out of pre-approved lines of credit. I don’t know if it works or not but I’m sick to death of stupid pre-approved “checks” that are actually loans with exorbitant rates that could be stolen off my front porch by anyone and land me in a heap of trouble without my knowledge or consent. Get out of my life and stay out, usurious lending companies. And that’s all I’ll say about that before I degrade into full on rant mode. Also, instructions on how to get less snail mail spam marketing. I’m tired of people killing trees to mail me advertising for stuff I will never buy and just go from the postbox to the trash, ending up in a landfill, I’m sure. Really guys, I’m less of a consumer than you could hope for.
  • Not much to look at yet, but this is the fledgling wiki for my writer’s group : WUTA. I’m looking forward to contributing content to it.
  • Last but not least, some online fiction I think is worth reading, but I probably won’t be getting around to reviewing in depth. Merrie Haskell’s flash piece “Star and Galaxy” is up at Between Kisses (yes, I know it’s not a particularly good layout, just search on Merrie). Another good read is “Cloud Dragon Skies“, by N.K. Jemisin, a Viable Paradise graduate. (see? That could be me one day!)

Phew! Down to six tabs of stuff I really haven’t read yet. Not bad! Thanks for the good links to the usual suspects (you know who you are).

iTunes says I was listening to Procreation Chick from the album Blueshift by Splashdown when I posted this. I have it rated 4 stars.

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