October, 2005

28 Oct 2005, by


Yes, I think the glee I feel at the Miers debacle is base and ugly. Oh, but do I ever feel it. Hee, hee.

Continue reading

Parks256 We have lost one of our nation’s faces of heroism. Thank you, Rosa Parks, for showing us that traditions can be ripped and re-stitched into a better society for all. We need more people like you, people of integrity, invested in their community and dedicated enough to plan for change. May you rest in peace.

A reflection from John Scalzi, on the beauty of having to explain segregation to his child. Slacktivist dispels the myth of one woman, working alone, and reminds us that “Revolutions can be planned.”

050230 Meanwhile, there’s nothing to give you the feel of the times like primary sources. From the Sovereignty Commission Records, you can see both extremes:
1) From the Southern Student Organizing Committee Newsletter of January 1965, Jeff Shero writes, “The revolution began with beautiful simplicity. Mrs. Rosa Parks, an elderly woman, refused to give her bus seat to a white man and was arrested. This small affirmation of human dignity sparked the Montgomery bus boycott that led to the first notable victory for non-violent direct action in the South.
2) Honorable John R. Rarick includes John S. Perilloux’s The Untold Story of Martin Luther King in the May 1968 Congressional Record,”And what of Mrs. Rosa Parks, the woman who precipitated the bus boycott? Shortly before the incident on the bus, Mrs. Parks had attended the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee. To fully understand the nature and purpose of this school we must go back to the early 1930’s, a time when the Communist Party had great dreams and expectations for using the Negro in the Party’s plans for overthrowing the government of the United States.

Continue reading

I have a list of things I want to write about, but I’ve been sidetracked. Yesterday morning, via Scalzi’s Whatever, I read of Marissa Lingen‘s secret delight in taking Communion, because it makes her part of a community that if it could, would exclude her.

I love the sentiment as I understand it, which is that we are fundamentally one in Christ. This oneness is not partial or elective, and Marissa expresses this beautifully as “…the Body of Christ has AIDS, has diabetes, has cancer, has everything. The Body of Christ is gay, is bi, is straight, is asexual, is not sure, is sure of something rather more complicated than any of that.” Indeed.

However (of course there’s a however, because otherwise there’d be no entry, right?), I’ve got quibbles with the theological technicalities implied in Marissa’s poetic expression of oneness. I’ve been worrying at them the better part of a day, so it’s now time to write them down and push them out of my mind. Yes, this entry is about to devolve into theological pedantry. As a disclaimer, this is an explication I have no authority to give, unless you believe in the priesthood of all the believers (which, conveniently, I do), because I’m not sanctioned by any church as a spiritual authority, and have not studied theology at an accredited institution. I still believe in the invisible church and in the unified Body of Christ, which is why I think the words I quoted above are so wonderful, I just don’t believe (nor would Dobson) that Communion is what gets you there.

I’m not sure of Marissa’s religious orientation, but I’m guessing by her language that it’s either Roman Catholic or what I think of as near-RC Protestant (Lutheran or Episcopalian). As such, she probably believes either in transubstantiation or consubstantion, which is a far cry from what Evangelicals like Dobson believe. In fact, when Dobson comes to the Lord’s Supper (because he’d never call the act Communion) and takes the bread, he likely does so in memory of Christ’s act. He’d see that as Jesus sharing bread with his disciples, or his elect. It’s not global, and it’s not unifying. He’d also likely consider anyone who partakes thinking there’s a mystic invisible union (Marissa’s stated interpretation) not so much a bad Christian (as she calls herself) as a fake (or even heretical) Christian.

This may seem like counting angels on pinheads, but it’s important and this is why : at its essence, believers like Dobson are exclusionary. The critical part of their Christian belief is how it delineates them from the world, how it separates them and (usually) elevates them. They’re extremely preoccupied with who is and who isn’t really Christian, even though Jesus has said it’s none of their business. (He also says if you must try and discover who is truly Christian, it’s quite easy to tell.) You can consider yourself part of the greater Body of Christ and the catholic (in the sense of universal) Church all you want, but to them you’re just sadly deluded. One of the things I well remember from my Evangelical childhood is the caveats. You are invited to this table, UNLESS. Unless you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior. Unless you failed to make a public profession of faith. Unless you weren’t baptized by immersion. Unless. Unless. Unless. It’s impossible to feel invited, even if you’ve met all the named criteria. One of the the things I best love about the Methodist church I now attend is that all are invited to partake. No caveats. The table is open. They seem to say, “We don’t think Jesus would’ve put in restrictions, and we don’t presume to either.” Amen to that.

Same bread, same cup but the investment of meaning is worlds apart. And the bifurcation of meaning cuts both ways (as proposition 41 will tell you). The table is not shared. And while the disalignment of belief may cause Marissa an inner chuckle, I find it terribly depressing. To her, all sharers of Communion stand in the same circle, part of the same holy Body, though (she imagines) Dobson would find that repugnant. Meanwhile, evangelicals have already drawn their circle to exclude her, as well as the homosexuals, the unwed mothers, those who have cancer, the poor, the hungry, and countless others. Their Body of Christ, their invisible church, is as homogenous as they themselves are.

So the question is, how do we return these Christians to the greater union? How do we help them see that we are all one body? You cannot starve a finger. You cannot cut off a foot and still be whole. You cannot use your elbows to walk, or your knees to digest your food. Every one of us is necessary to achieve the greater good of God’s will. I don’t know the answer, but it seems to me that sharing the table would be a start.

Continue reading

I’m disturbed by the further torture revelations from the 82nd airborne. What we all feared when we heard about Abu Ghraib, that torture of people in our custody was routine, systematized and widespread, has turned out to be true. I am sickened and dismayed. I want it to stop, I want accountability and consequences, and I want our military fixed so this does not happen again. I want a sense of honor, I want adherence to the Geneva conventions, I want to be the good guy and not the savage bully. I’m tired of might makes right.

As a result of this, I’m especially shocked by the group being referred to as the torture nine:

  1. Sen. Wayne Allard [R-Colorado]
  2. Sen. Kit Bond [R-Missouri]
  3. Sen. Tom Coburn [R-Oklahoma]
  4. Sen. Thad Cochran [R-Mississippi]
  5. Sen. John Cornyn [R-Texas]
  6. Sen. James Inhofe [R-Oklahoma]
  7. Sen. Pat Roberts [R-Kansas]
  8. Sen. Jeff Sessions [R-Alabama]
  9. Sen. Ted Stevens [R-Alaska]

If moral values = torture, then I stand before you as decidedly amoral. You are not the sort of people I want in power, and in at least one case, my vote can (and will) let you know this directly. My memory is long.

I’m desperately hoping that since Uzbekistan has yanked out the welcome mat from the U.S. air base that we’ll take a more aggressive attitude toward its tyrannical ruler, Karimov, who besides using all the usual methods to quell dissent (systematic torture, public massacres) has taken a play page from the Soviet regime and even throws activists into lunatic asylums. I hear George Bush hates tyranny. I’ve moved to Missouri, so I’ll take up the state motto: Show me.

Continue reading

The darkening of days has already begun. I feel the squeezing out of daylight hours keenly; I hate it when the sunlight is foreshortened and when it’s mostly dark. Also, this weekend may bring the first real cold. So far it’s been cool at night and warm in the daytime, so we’ve had two weeks of blissful windows open weather. Projected daytime temperatures won’t break sixty for the next few days. Brrrrrrr. Too soon. Time to get the warm clothes and close the storm windows, I guess.

I’ve often touted the wonders of the local public radio station. This week they had their fund drive, and our family was able to join (which in the spring had been impossible because of the whole two mortgages thing). They did something that I hadn’t heard before in all my years of public radio fund drive enduring. They stated a goal, and when that goal was met they stopped. So yesterday morning, shortly after morning edition, they quit blathering on and on about “call now, call now, make a pledge”, though it was scheduled to go on until Saturday night, because they got the money they had set out to get. How cool is that? While I’m on the subject of NPR, I noted a while back that they had a zillion newsfeeds. They also have a zillion podcasts.

It was with great joy that I heard of the re-opening of Cafe du Monde in New Orleans this past week. I want beignets and hot chocolate and powdered sugar all over my black clothes. Like many things in New Orleans, Cafe du Monde perfectly melds locals and tourists. Sure, New Orleans has tourist traps like anyplace else, but a lot of the institutions of the city that are touted to visitors are also genuinely enjoyed by people who live there. Here’s a list of re-opened restaurants.

While I was away the first week of October, I visited a good friend, Legomancer. He’s a big fan of board and card games, and he was introducing me and my husband to several of his and Mrs. Mancer’s favorite games. We played TransAmerica, Carcassone the Castle, and Fjords (while the husband was there) as well as Category 5, San Juan, and Geschenkt (after he’d gone) all for the first time. He also talked to me about Citadels and Cave Trolls, but we didn’t play those (as discussed in this thread on boardgamegeek), because I wanted to get in another round of San Juan. When the husband returned home with the child, he immediately bought Carcassone the Castle, and we’ve been playing that pretty regularly. It is great fun. I would like to own San Juan as well, at some point, it was most enjoyable. In Jackson we had friends that we periodically got together and played board games with, but we don’t have anything like that here, which is a shame. Simultaneously with our convergence on the Mancer household, Legomancer was exploring all sorts of online versions of board games, which he then posted about. I didn’t try all of those (some looked boring, or had images of spiders that were too realistic for my taste, and others were windows only), but a couple have become staple games for me: the online version of TransAmerica and Coloretto. I love Coloretto!

As you can see below, I’ve finally started on Elizabeth Bear’s Hammered. I’m enjoying it so far. Pacing is good, prose is crisp, characters are engaging. Its flavor and narrative voice remind me of Wilhelmina Baird’s Crashcourse, particularly the first person narrator who is tough, but not tough enough and she knows it. Crashcourse is a book I loved intensely, but rarely hear discussed and when I’ve pressed it on people they’ve responded positively, but no one went “Oh yeah! I’ve heard of this!” I read the two follow up books (ClipJoint and Psykosis) and enjoyed those as well, but the last book was a tangent that didn’t leave me nearly as well satisfied (in fact, it’s the only one I didn’t keep). I’ve also wondered where Baird went, and whether it’s a pseudonym (the internet says it is, for Joyce Carstairs Hutchinson). Is she doing something else these days or did she just drop out of writing? Cautionary tales of the mid-list writer perhaps? It’s kind of sad, because she could clearly write and her stories were interesting and engaging, but she’s apparently vanished. I suppose it’s possible she died. Anyway, if you like Hammered, you’d probably like Crashcourse too.

Continue reading

In: in my life | Tags:

It has just occurred to me that there are possibly potential readers of “How Does Your Garden Grow?” who might find it controversial. I’m glad the idea didn’t suggest itself to me in the writing, I might have been paralyzed by it. I have no desire to be controversial. The story was well-received when I concluded the reading of it this past Tuesday at my writer’s group. It took forever (five weeks, I think) because it clocks at a touch over 6,000 words, which in my opinion is way too long. Not a single person said “Zuwhaa?” which is the usual reception my stories get. A line was picked out by several people as particularly nice, and it was a line I liked as well, so that was gratifying. I was pleased by the reaction, content to change the small things people suggested altering and continue to feel optimistic about this story’s chances in the marketplace. Now to smooth out the rough edges and send it off to find itself a home. Still aiming at before Halloween as my deadline for submission.

The new story is hard. Its filename is “dreamsba” (Dreams B.A.) and I’m trying so carefully to get things right. I don’t think it is controversial, but I suppose it could surprise me. I have to face being an outsider – my natural state – and speaking with authority about things which I frequently think I am not entitled to speak on. Still, if the story asks me to tell it, I must tell it. That’s the pact between me and the storytelling well. I draw up the bucket and take the drink, but have no choice to turn down the tale I swallow. So here I am, with the untitled piece, which moves forward only about a hundred words or so a day but fills every corner of my brain, and which suggested to me just now that it wants to be called something mythological, like “Olympus”. “Olympus” is much too blatant, perhaps my brain can work up something subtler. I had hoped to finish it this week. That seems unlikely now, as Analía has not yet spoken to our protag (but soon will), and we’ve not even purchased the requisite plane ticket yet.

Oh. You’re probably waiting to hear about VP 9, huh? Well, it was great. Absolutely worth it. The instructors were very generous with their time and very accessible. I learned quite a lot, and have the feeling that more will be making sense as time goes on. I took copious notes, and if there were interest (this means you’d leave a comment if you wanted to hear in more detail about VP9) I could go into a chronology and the various and sundry bits of wisdom that I picked up. Jim McDonald’s plot lecture was invaluable, and I spent quite a bit of time with him and with Laura Mixon chewing over the nuts and bolts of YWGYSL’s plot. I’ve got lots of planning to do, and another from scratch rewrite probably, but I think I can make it work. I’m probably not going to have a completed novel by the end of the year, though, so there’s one goal broken.

One disappointment was that there was a mixup with my first and second draft, and three out of four instructors were critiquing the wrong draft. This even after I realized TNH had the wrong draft and asked another instructor, “Please make sure you have the right draft!” If it had been four out of four, I would have deduced that I did something wrong, but I think the mix up was at a different spot than me, which may make me guiltless but doesn’t make me any happier. Even so, I did get useful critique on both drafts. The original first scene, with Father John, was universally loved. Pity it’s got to go. On the other hand, if I can’t work it around to be a short story, that makes it good fodder for the website, so all of my blog readers may get to read it.

As usual, it was hard to get really consistent feedback. Regular workshoppers gave me a pretty uniform critique which I think may have been largely positive, though I immediately discard anything that isn’t brought up as a problem, so I can no longer be sure whether it was generally liked or not. However, the instructors (whom I was really paying attention to, of course) were all over the map. Specific things that were described as brilliant by some were categorized as terrible by others. It’s somewhat paralyzing in terms of fixing things, but I think by the end of the week I had sorted through a lot of the diametrically opposed information I was getting. It helped that I could go back and ask instructors to clarify and expand on what they’d said. Only Jim McDonald twigged to the Eden scene, and it was both strangely satisfying to have someone see the extra reference I’d shoveled in as well as gratifying to know it wasn’t so blatant that everyone picked up on it.

Just as I suspected, having a for real editor look at one of your manuscripts was one of the biggest possible advantages, the thing that not many other workshops can offer. The editor in my one-on-one session (Teresa Nielsen-Hayden) told me my copy was unbelievably clean. She insisted that were I able to see someone else’s manuscript I would be agog at how little marked mine was. I thanked her of course, but viewed such praise with suspicion (as is my nature) until I talked to other folks who were like “Did she do that line-editing thing? Can you believe how much scribbling is on your first three pages?” To which I had to admit uh, no, actually, mine was fairly free of notations. This is cause for much joy, because countless of the author blogs I read go on and on about the importance of turning in clean copy. Huzzah, I can tuck that happy little card into my winning hand.

TNH also told me not to worry about my long sentences (most reassuring, because I was getting exasperated with repeated iterations to the contrary), but to learn how to break out paragraphs. In light of what she said, I have finally realized that this is something I really need to master. Happily, adding paragraph breaks is something that my local writer’s group consistently helps me out with. I’m not sure why I have trouble telling where a paragraph ends or begins. It seems basic, something that people do on instinct, without thinking about it. When people add paragraph markers in my text I’m always like “Oh right, of course!” but when I’m writing I don’t seem to be able to see it so clearly. I never had trouble with that in school while writing essays and papers and such, so I’m not sure why I’m having trouble with it in fiction. Getting the paragraph right is critically important because TNH says that the paragraph is the basic unit of language in English. Right, you didn’t expect that, did you? Me neither. It’s not the word, not the sentence, but the paragraph. (I just added four paragraph breaks to the chunk about VP 9 so far, it had been just one thing to me until I read over it). The “aha!” moment granted to me by that small piece of information was worth the whole cost of the workshop. There were many, many of those moments, scattered throughout the week both specifically about my work and generically about the craft of writing.

If you’d like someone else’s view on Viable Paradise, one of my roommates wrote down a blow by blow of her week: part 1, part 2, part 3. I rate a couple of mentions, including the social engineering bit I did to get everyone to say their names in the opening round of Mafia on the first night. Legomancer, whose knowledge of games is deepest among my friends, tells me Mafia is more commonly known as Werewolf. It’s the sort of game I’m dreadful at, due to my complete inability to dissemble. I don’t play poker, either.

Oh, Google’s new blog search, how I love thee! Other summaries and reviews of Viable Paradise 9 (I’m embarassed to say I’m not certain of the identity of all the people commenting below):

  • What I learned and general impressions from Aryllian.
  • An admission from VP: britzkrieg doesn’t like reading fantasy.
  • sfharper is glad to be home.
  • Flyby mentions (1 and 2) from the affable VPer I mentally tagged as “real estate guy”.
  • [As an aside, I found myself explaining about the mental tagging thing I do several times, which I found weird, because I was so convinced everyone does this. Maybe no one is fool enough to admit it?]

  • A day by day roundup, most of which was written as it happened by one of the quietest people there: Going to VP, Day 0, Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, and Day 5.
  • [Before you ask, my mental tag for her was smiling, tall woman with dark hair.]

  • Reflections from Shadowmisty.
  • [tag : Canadian librarian (but she was colorful scarf wrapped around her hat woman first, then she quit wearing it). There were three of us librarians, and I think we formed the largest single profession block.]

  • The workshop synthesized into a single and significant piece of advice by cicadabug, one of my favorite people present.
  • What the workshop looks like if you’re an instructor or a different instructor or staff or the indispensable Kate.
  • Picture posts from staff: people and scenic.
  • [Thanks, Carol! You can see me in all my sharpie-tattooed glory if you know where to look. At some point in the distant future you may be able to see some of the photos I took in our photo database but, you know, don’t hold your breath. Also, I’m not in any of those because duh, I was taking them.]

iTunes says I was listening to Nobody Likes You from the album Taste the Blood of Zombina & the Skeletones by Zombina & the Skeletones when I posted this. I have it rated 4 stars.

Continue reading

In: writing | Tags:

10 Oct 2005, by


Dear China –

Continue reading

Powered by WordPress