July, 2006

Sorry for the downtime. We apologize to those who visit the assorted slithytoves sites, as well as to those for whom we host. We lost electricity in the big storm on Wednesday night, and were out for two days. Hottest two days of the summer so far, naturally. Turns out, in an emergency I’m stupid like those people who wouldn’t leave New Orleans without their pets last summer. Plenty of people offered us beds, but those people did not extend their offers to my animals, so we sweated through it. Sergei panted every second of Thursday that he was not in the basement (and he won’t go to the basement without an ivory lettered invite and in company of me or my husband, because he’s persona non-grata near the kitty food and the kitty litter boxes and we’ve yelled at him enough about it that he stays away). I did ok on Thursday, but by Friday I was having all those typical too much heat symptoms : light-headedness, nausea, incoherent thoughts, etc. I didn’t pass out, though, which if you have known me long enough you know is a major victory. Sophia got cool at camp and Kurt went off to work to get online and breathe the ac. Perhaps I need a real job.

They’re saying it will be Tuesday, or maybe Wednesday, before they get power back to everyone. We were fortunate to have been without for just two days. We’ve tried to curtail our power use to help AmerenUE, because they say more load on the system makes it harder to bring people back online. So, I didn’t turn my computer on over the weekend though we had power by Saturday. We haven’t turned the ac on yet, though this afternoon may force my hand on that score. Today I am doing laundry, too. I can’t put it off much longer, unless we want to be naked.

There was a live downed power line in the middle of our street for two days, as well, and it kept sizzling back into a smoky orange fire every time it rained. The fire department kept coming out to stare at it, waiting to see if it caught something on fire that they could put out. Apparently, they’re not allowed to do anything about electrical lines down. Your house catches fire from it, they’ll tend to that, but live wire lying in the road? Not their problem. That high level hum, punctuated by periodic sizzling arcs, and the very particular burning smell of wires permeated the street. The neighbors kept warning people it was live, and people kept acting like we were yanking their chain. Surely not, they argued. No, really. Can’t you hear it? Can’t you smell it? It’s live alright.

No one came to see about it until an AmerenUE employee noticed it. Apparently there’s a law that power company employees cannot leave the site of a live downed power line until a crew shows up. Said crew got here a lot faster when it was keeping one of their employees from doing his job elsewhere. That seems like a good law, to me. Chalk another line on the “reasons I’m not libertarian” column.

I may have mentioned that this is a baseball town. On Wednesday, the night of the storm, the Cardinals were playing in Busch stadium. After the storm blew through, damaging the press box and injuring around 30 people, there were still thirty thousand people in the field waiting for the game to resume. And it did, after about two hours. Half a million people may be in darkness, but a baseball fan doesn’t leave the game. Cardinals won, by the way.

Wednesday’s storm news from the Post-Dispatch, for the curious :

Plus a current tally of who still lacks power, by zip code. It’s a lot of people and businesses. Some of those folks are under a boil water alert, further complicating their living arrangements.

I am behind on everything, so be patient with me if you are expecting something from me.

This is my prayer : may there be no further casualties from the lack of power, and may people be ushered back onto the grid quickly.

P.S. My house is partially visible in the Webster-Kirkwood Times this week! You can also see the city chopping down my tree. So sad. Still, except for losing the tree, don’t count me in the set of people unhappy with street improvements. They’ve promised me a curb and a parking lane and a wider than normal, bike-friendly road. Not to mention taking the bend out of the street. If they’ll plant another tree in my front yard, as the end of the article implies, I’m pretty happy.

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Partial dream in the extended entry, with a little more speculation than usual.

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I’ve noticed from reading a handful of genre blogs that periodically people will bring a topic to attention and delve into it with great vigor and vim (as Dr. Seuss would say). Since WisCon, the topic receiving the analysis from all angles is cultural appropriation. To be honest, I haven’t followed everyone’s argument (a massive lj-oriented list’o’links is here), but I did read what my list of regulars had to say on it, and what they linked. I have no light to add to the debate, and not very much heat, either. I have no sweeping statements to make, no edicts on who should (or shouldn’t) write what, no real dog in that hunt. Even so, it’s a topic that makes me uncomfortable. I believe in cultural honesty and cultural integrity. I believe in letting people have their own voices about their own history. I’ve criticized white, male writers far more talented than I for writing outside their cultural norms here on this very blog, but only when their efforts failed to convince me they knew what they were talking about. Only when their lies were shoddy. Had they been convincing, all would have been forgiven. But what sort of random, subjective standard is that?

Still, the whole idea of cultural appropriation makes me uneasy. If I should not write outside my culture, then I cannot write at all. I have no culture to call my own. I have a background, sure, but having existed on the planet for several decades isn’t the same as having a culture. I am jealous of and mystified by people who own cultures. I am a rootless outsider everywhere I go. The whole time I was in Europe (the first time) people believed I was European, but were never convinced I was local. In England, they assumed I was French or German. On the continent, they assumed I was British. Actually, I’m just a pretty good imposter.

So this is a problem, you see. I don’t want to appropriate, but really, none of this is mine, so I can’t help it. If I cannot borrow and/or steal, then I cannot frame my stories. This explains some of the brokenness of my shelved story “Olympus”. I am not Argentine. I have no right to this story. And yet, I was standing right there, looking at that building and wondering to myself (because I am a wonderer, you see) why someone would block up all the windows. Didn’t they want light? I walked past that building countless times, staring at it, deaf to the screams of people being tortured within. Don’t I own my experience then? I don’t know. Doesn’t feel like it, and I think my doubts are on the page.

And here’s the other part, the part that I call “I can only tell the stories I have to tell” and I’ve seen (more eloquently phrased) by other writers of genre as “you dance with them that brung you”: if that’s the story I pull from the well, then that’s the story I must tell, best as I know how. It doesn’t really matter whether I’m Argentine or not, whether I’m Hispanic or not, whether I’m Jewish or not. I’ve got Analia, and she is who she is, and I’ve got what happened to her to tell, somehow. I don’t want to shunt responsibility off onto some inscrutable muse by saying that, you understand. I don’t even believe in muses. All writers are superstitious, true, but that whole muse speaking to me paradigm has never had any significance for me. There’s not someone else responsible for my stories. On the other hand, it’s not like I can take full credit, either. Stuff happens in there, and it’s better than I can make it, though not always sufficiently better.

I only have this clay to shape – no other – and if I’m going to do this job, then I have to put my hands to the clay, come hell or high water or accusations of cultural appropriation.

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11 Jul 2006, by


Ok, so let me get this straight. All U.S. military detainees now get the minimal protection afforded by article 3 of the Geneva conventions, but this is not a change in policy. What does that mean? Does business go forward as usual, or are we done with such despicable habits as waterboarding? As my husband says, “There was a time when waterboarding didn’t take up any space in my brain.” I resent that I know about this, and other methods of torture the U.S. military employs, in great detail. I want my government’s doublespeak to mean that we are done with torture, but it doesn’t say that, does it?

And of course, even if we were to do the just and civilized thing by those we have detained in military custody, what of those in CIA custody?

This should be good news. I hope it is good news.

In unrelated current news, when did Bombay become Mumbai? And why? Clearly, I’m not paying enough attention. And for some unexplainable reason, all the foreign reporters I heard today said Mumbai, but the Indians all said Bombay.

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1 Jul 2006, by

World Cup Blues

Gah. The world cup has suddenly turned into the all-Europe cup. Lame. Every team I rooted for got sent home in the quarterfinals. Even Brazil! After Argentina, Ukraine and England got sent home I thought, “Well, at least I can still bank on Brazil!” I was already thinking how cool it would be for the two Portuguese speaking teams to meet up in the semis. Alas, it appears I cannot, in fact, bank on the Brazilians to beat the French. Bleah.

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