September, 2007

Dear Blackwater: You are not helping. Please go home now. Thanks. Kisses, Anarkey.

Dear Madeleine L’Engle: I am not going to be able to write you one of those greatly moving eulogies or remembrances that I’ve read all over the internet in the wake of your passing. I can only say one thing: I’m sad that the woman who taught me the word tesseract is gone from the world. Love, Anarkey.

Dear Jena, Louisiana: Please feel free to join us in this century. Your behavior is appalling. I’ve never been to your town, but I’ve been to Olla, and it makes me think of rustling sun-dried grass and train tracks and cicadas and chewing tobacco. I’ll extend these associations to your town, but only if you cut it out. Seriously, Anarkey.

Dear They Might Be Giants: I adore the new video to your song “I’m Impressed”. Sorry I missed your show a couple of weeks ago. Singing along, Anarkey.

Dear Buddhist monks in Myanmar: I love you for your courage. Fight the good non-violent fight, brothers. Praying for you, Anarkey.

Dear Atheists and Christians: You should read this. No, really. Notice that last entry there? “You’ll never harass the other side out of existence?” Thanks, Anarkey

Dear Belgium: Cheer up. I think you’re a real country. You make great chocolate! Sincerely, Anarkey.

Dear Elissa Wall: I honor your courage. By your example, you make the need for social justice real, and ours. Thank you, Anarkey.

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18 Sep 2007, by

1+2+3 Reasons.

Today’s list is five reasons why the yoga class I went to last week was the worst one I’ve ever been to.

  • No down dog. Down dog is a fundamental pose. It should be done, or offered, in every class. Yes, I’m aware that I’m being dogmatic.
  • Bridge vinyasas. I’ve always thought this was a little dangerous, and most of the teachers I have had avoid this in favor of sustained bridge with a slow release. After the sequence, even though my back is strong and flexible, I felt it twinge in a way I did not like.
  • This studio is finicky about blanket folding. I’m fine with that. But this particular teacher, after demonstrating proper blanket folding technique, gave the reason for folding the blankets uniformly and placing them a certain way on the shelf as: “to promote the energy flow between blankets”. Guh. This is exactly the kind of kookery most people stereotype yoga as having, and which I rarely find. So irritating. Had to clap my hands over my eyes to keep them from rolling right out of my head.
  • A disdain for people who can do poses with proficiency, particularly people with flexibility. I completely understand staying on your own mat, not competing, not giving yourself grief over not doing a pose to some ideal…but to suggest that those who may succeed for one pose or another (or for a single breath inside a pose!) in achieving solid alignment or great posture are doing something wrong, perverse, or just to show off? “You’ll never get enlightenment by having your leg reach the floor,” says she. Not cool. There is (or should be) a goal to improve your poses, otherwise the practice is pointless.
  • No adjustments. Not just for me, for anyone. I can’t promise that I didn’t miss any, she may have made some, but certainly fewer than I expected. I don’t demand to be touched every class, or even often, but if I want a teacher to just talk at me a guided video class will do fine thanks. Of course, since this teacher apparently doesn’t believe in doing poses better (see above), maybe that’s why she doesn’t bother with adjustments.

Still, I have to say the worst yoga class I’ve ever had is still better than no yoga class. I go again today. I wonder whether I’ll get the real teacher or the dreadful sub again. I wonder if, in the event I do get the sub, she’ll be less dreadful this time around. I remain optimistic.

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Two real posts and a panicked PSA after interminable silence frees me for a linky post, right?

  • Penny Arcade on boy librarians made me laugh. Of course in librarianship, like in teaching, while women outnumber men, men still get the directorships the way they get to be principals at schools.
  • Surely that woman dressed in traditional Mayan clothes is a bag lady. Throw her out. Oh wait, you mean, she’s a Nobel Laureate?
  • From the newest, and most favorite, of the blogs I read “Strange Maps” comes this “Cat’s Map of the Bed“. On our bed the Heaving Spot is much, much larger. Oz has always been a prodigious vomiter and Rorschach, who thinks he needs to groom even the dog, hacks up some enormous furballs.
  • Continuing on the cat trend, I took the Egyptian zodiac quiz and no one who knows me will be at all surprised to find I turned out Bastet

    You look for balance and harmony, anxious, devoted. Often rash and impatient.
    Colors: male: yellow ochre, female: grey
    Compatible Signs:
    Sekhmet, Horus
    Jul 14 – Jul 28, Sep 23 – Sep 27, Oct 3 – Oct 17
    Role: Goddess of cats, women, and secrets
    Cat or cat-headed woman
    Sacred animals:

    What is Your Egyptian Zodiac Sign?
    Designed by CyberWarlock of Warlock’s Quizzles and Quandaries

    Bastet rocks.

  • So the votes on the new seven wonders were counted, and they are: Chichen Itza, Macchu Picchu, Christ Redeemer, Petra, The Great Wall, The Taj Mahal and The Colosseum. I have to say, I’d love to go to Macchu Picchu but the only one of those I’ve been to, the Christ Redeemer wasn’t all that. I mean, it was cool and all, but it wasn’t in the top seven things I’ve ever seen or anything.
  • Sophia loves these boxy paper toys from paperboxworld. You might like them too.
  • Also in the world of folded and glued paper beings are the paper critters. Sophia’s made several, and I made this one: . Go make your own!

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Uhm, I got suckered by Quechup. Sorry if you got an invite there on my behalf. Please don’t accept. It’s noxious, they take your gmail contact list and mail them all with invites FROM YOUR ADDRESS. So like, everyone I’ve ever submitted a story to, for example. Hideous, hideous. A thousand apologies. Please just ignore and carry on.

This is like a virus. Everyone I’ve ever sent an email to got one of these when I was spammed from another friends address and was foolish enough to look around at the Quechup site. I apologize. Please do NOT reply. Do not go to Quechup. I’m not inviting any one of you anywhere.


I should totally know better than this.

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So last year, I read this wretchedly bad book about Buenos Aires by Jason Wilson. In it, I found this throwaway sentence, slipped in nearly at the end of the book:”On the plaza Once is the odd, art-deco mausoleum of Bernardino de Rivadavia, the radical, mulatto first president of Argentina, who died in exile in Cadiz, Spain.” The art-deco mausoleum Huh, I thought to myself, Rivadavia was a mulatto? In my mind’s eye I could see one of a thousand Rivadavia cuadernos I’d used in my schooldays, most of them with portraits of Rivadavia on the cover or on the front endpaper. He never looked anything but Caucasian to me, but maybe it’s my eyes, and my memory, and not the portrait. Or maybe it was the eyes of the portrait painter, like all those Egyptian murals you see in museums, which may have people with pale skin in them, but then you look at the stuff in the cases underneath those murals and you realize that if the features you see on the faces of the genuine artifacts were to match the paint color on the wall, then the paint color on the wall would be darker.

Still, weird that no one mentioned in it in all those history lessons I had as a kid, right? Then again, Argentines are all sorts of weird about race. I’ve often had to endure long lectures from Argentines about how racist us U.S. folks are, from citizens of a country which, during the 1980’s, would not allow the ambassadors of African nations to hold visas for longer than 90 days (for all I know they still don’t give them permanent visas).

Whoops. Veered dangerously close to a rant there. Pardon me.

Wilson drops this information all casual-like, in a sentence about statuary, so maybe everyone but me knows, and I just wasn’t paying attention as I should have in school.

So I say to my brother, who knows more things about Argentine history than Sophia knows about dinosaurs,”I read this book, where this guy said that Rivadavia was mixed-race.”

He looks at me like I’m crazy. He’s never heard any such thing either. I don’t have the book on hand, and I wondered if I confused Rivadavia with someone else: Sarmiento maybe, or Urquiza. But no, the assertion remains in the book when I come home and check it again, and my brother, just like me, finds the assertion suspect.

Not because it wouldn’t be cool if Rivadavia were part African…that would be totally cool, rather because it just doesn’t seem all that likely.

The mighty internet doesn’t gift me with the smudgy monochrome portrait I recall so well from those cuadernos, but here’s a couple I snagged for your perusal:Bernardino Rivadavia Bernardino Rivadavia

Right, I know, doesn’t look like a person of color, but then again, race is such a slippery subjective sort of thing. Can’t really rule it out, either.

Spanish wikipedia’s article on Rivadavia doesn’t mention his supposed race, or his ancestry at all, not even on the discussion page.

Wilson didn’t support his sentence with references, so I can’t track that way. Maybe he’s full of manure.

More google digging follows. The folks at the Marcus Garvey tribute site embrace him as one of their own (and who wouldn’t, he was awesome), but, like Wilson, don’t support (or even address) the supposition that he was a person of color.

Hmmm. Time to pull out the mad librarian skillz and dig more deeply.

First I dig up a secondhand source, a book review, which says “Morrone does, however, provide an important observation on the use of the term mulatto as a political insult (15). If in fact mulatto was, as the author intimates, an epithet employed to politically slander a rival, and not strictly a racial designation, this would put into question Reid Andrews’s implication that Bernardino Rivadavia was in fact of African descent (“Dr. Chocolate” to his federalist enemies [see Andrews, 81-2]).”

So what we know is that, according to Andrews, Rivadavia was of African descent, because some of his political rivals accused him of being so. There had to be some reason, I suppose, his political enemies thought this label would get traction, but Morrone’s analysis is that it might not mean anything really. So…is Morrone whitewashing? Did the “epithet” apply, or not?

This article implies a lot of whitewashing went on and goes on, and I can certainly attest to the fact that standard elementary education tells you there were hardly any slaves in Argentina and there sure weren’t any persons of color in any sort of significant positions. You rarely, if ever, come across people who are clearly African in Argentina, even today. There’s a pretty famous enclave in Entre Rios that you hear about, sort of like you hear about New Orleans’ free people of color, but that’s pretty much it.

The article’s author flatly states that Rivadavia was of African descent, and like the Marcus Garvey site, without supporting his argument.

As for the lack of Afro-Argentines in everyday life, I was told that because Argentina was so fertile, and no laboriously intense crops such as sugar or cotton were grown like in Brazil, the slave trade was essentially limited to house slaves. I am ashamed to say I have repeated this lie I was taught.

This Clarin article poses the following question: ¿Por qué en 1810 uno de cada tres porteños era negro y al finalizar el siglo XIX sólo había 8.000 africanos y afroargentinos? (Why in 1810 was one in three of Buenos Aires’ residents black, and at the end of the 19th century there were only 8,000 Africans and Afro-Argentines?). Good question. Apparently experts float basically four theories or some combination of the four theories: miscegenation, departure for Montevideo after Rosas, the disproportionate use of black-recruited regiments to fight in the 1865 War of the Triple Alliance, and the yellow fever outbreak of 1871.

I’ve gotten a small way off the point of Rivadavia himself, in an attempt to give an overview of some of the whitewashing of Argentine culture. For example, while it is generally acknowledged that candombe and milonga have African roots, it is not usually acknowledged that tango also does, though this can seem obvious to even a casual listener.

My last bit of digging finds me at Spanish wikipedia’s entry on Argentina’s black population. Under “colonial racial categories“, I finally find a reference to Rivadavia’s supposed mixed ancestry. Why this doesn’t extend to his own entry, I don’t know. It’s also a fairly circumspect allusion:”known personalities such as…Bernardino Rivadavia were classed as mulatos.” That’s not exactly decisive.

So is Rivadavia a victim of mudslinging in his own time or a victim of current whitewashing? Neither? Both? Was Argentina’s first president, a liberal and enlightened man, a person of color? I’d love to know.

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New Amsterdam by Elizabeth Bear. (24) [specfic]. I checked this book out of the library. I LOVE this book. It may be my favorite Bear thus far. I may have to buy it. More of this, please! Maybe I’ll review it, full-fledged, later (I seem to be doing that less now that I do these mini book reports). Finished 06/26/07.

Catalyst by Nina Kirki Hoffman. (25) [YA, specfic]. I checked this book out of the library. It was very good, Kiriki Hoffman is one of my favorite writers. I wasn’t completely comfortable with the sexual nature of it, but it was well within tone, and not gratuitous at all, just a little unsettling. Finished 06/28/07.

The 60 second organizer by Jeff Davidson. (26) [non-fiction]. Checked this out of the library. Summer reading vacation 07. This was the worst book I’ve read in a long, long time. If I can just keep one other human being from reading this book, I will consider it a good deed accomplished. Among the tidbits of wisdom the author offers are shameless plugs for his other books, and buying (and presumably carrying around) a pocket scanner so you can scan anything you need to keep at any moment. Not only is much of the advice pointless or counter-productive, a lot of it is uselessly vague: “make profound choices” and “‘work smarter’ for real”. He actually recommends using GANTT charts in your personal organizing! Oh, and get this, the entire book is phrased in first or second person, except for one little part. The part about cleaning house, when we suddenly get a third person female named Rhonda for our example. Right….because the ‘you’ of the rest of the book must be a man…or maybe the only people who clean house are women…or…I don’t know, pick your own offensive stereotype. Yes, the cleaning house section comes with this little gem of advice:”Thereafter, only a few maintenance activities are necessary, and with enough nagging, she can get her husband to do those.” Organizational professionals upping the ante in gender stereotyping and degrading male/female relationships everywhere. Give this one a miss, if you’re thinking of reading it. Finished 06/30/07

Little Big by John Crowley. (27) [specfic]. I bought this book secondhand, basically on Elaine’s endorsement. Summer reading vacation 07. I enjoyed it, which is no surprise. Any book that steeped in Alice in Wonderland is bound to give me moments of joy. I didn’t feel it was quite as epic and earth-shattering as maybe it should have been, but it was intelligent and interesting, which is enough. I return to thinking about it periodically and may read it again someday. Finished 07/02/07.

The Merlin Conspiracy by Diana Wynne Jones. (28) [specfic, YA]. Got this book as a gift, I think for my birthday last year. Summer reading vacation 07. Man, I love Diana Wynne Jones. No exception here. The Welsh grandfather was the bomb. Finished 07/03/07.

Komarr by Lois McMaster Bujold. (29) [specfic]. I bought this specifically for reading vacation, because it never hurts to have some Bujold in your reading vacation. Summer reading vacation 07. Loved the characterization in this one. Finished 07/05/07.

Violet Eyes by Nicole Luiken. (30) [specfic, YA]. This was the intruder book, the one I was told to read by someone else (Marlee). Summer reading vacation 07. The pacing in this book was relentless and drew you on well, but this book followed on some stereotypes that really bothered me, beginning with the appearance worship and following onto the big bad guy being fat. Ugh. Still, glad I read it. Also, wtf, pseudo-1986 without a Cold War? I mean I realize it’s Canada, but still! Finished 07/06/07.

The Watchman by Robert Crais. (31) [thriller]. Second of the intruder books, loaned to me by Doug MacLean. Summer reading vacation 07. An interesting read, not my sort of thing, but it does me enormous good to read books with implacable pacing, since I’m more of meanderer. Finished 07/07/07.

A Farewell to Summer by Ray Bradbury. (32) [specfic]. Checked this out of the new arrivals section of the library (along with Catalyst and New Amsterdam, both of which are better books…I’m a danger to myself and others in the new arrivals section of the library, apparently). Summer reading vacation 07. I really didn’t care for it at all. Some sentences were gorgeous, some ideas made me pause but overall a gigantic meh. So sad. At least it was brief, and a quick read. Finished 07/07/07.

Drowned Ammet by Diana Wynne Jones. (33) [specfic, YA]. I own this. I bought it secondhand when I realized I had the first and fourth of the series but not two and three. I enjoyed this book, but I didn’t like it nearly as much as I liked Cart & Cwidder or the Spellcoats. I guess thematically, it meant more to me when it was tied to music and than when it was tied to sailing and the water. Possibly a strictly personal feeling. Finished on 07/18//07.

Spellcoats by Diana Wynne Jones. (34) [specfic, YA]. I own this, bought secondhand. I really liked this book. The rugcoats were awesome. Finished around 07/20/07.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling. (35) [specfic, YA]. I borrowed this from Kate Grumke. Rowling didn’t botch the ending, which is admirable, considering how much momentum and how much weight the whole thing needed to really satisfy. I’m impressed, and I enjoyed it. Finished on 07/24/07.

The Crown of Dalemark by Diana Wynne Jones. (36) [specfic, YA]. I own this. I think I was given it. I was kind of annoyed that this book was almost exactly like a fictionalized version of the “Tough Guide” (which I was also reading, but returned to the library unfinished because I didn’t want to read the same book twice at the same time). I also was put off by the tone shift between the more serious, earlier books and this book. Except for that while it started funny, it ended pretty serious. And there were lots of little things about it I liked (the whole griffin children thread was just beautiful) and so finally it won me over. Finished late 07/07.

The Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynne Jones. (37) [specfic, YA]. I checked this out of the library, but oh, I want to own it. I love the Chrestomanci universe. It’s my favorite place DWJ plays. I hope she writes more books there. Finished at the first of August, before the 11th (08/07).

Whiskey and Water by Elizabeth Bear. (38) [specfic]. Checked this out of the library (new arrivals section, still trawling where I shouldn’t) I was happier with costs in this one than I was in Blood & Iron and there were some really cool things about the world (the competing hells concept was really intriguing, for example) and how it continues to unfold, but overall I’m a little meh about the trilogy so far. I love Arthuriana, so it should really be hitting my interests, but I like all the stuff in it better than I like any of the people (maybe except Ian and his father and the kelpie…surely, everyone loves the kelpie?) and I was like omg, Marlowe AGAIN? How often in Bear’s work am I going to have to put up with him? OTOH, I read her blog while she wrote this, and she complained bitterly about the omniscient point of view and how difficult it was to write and how nobody would like it and so on and so forth and that part of it is just perfect. Loved the POV stuff. Finished on 08/21/07.

Dark Reflections by Samuel Delany. (39) [fiction]. I checked this out of the library. Man, this guy can seriously write. If you had given me a synopsis of the book I would have passed it up, but I was interested, engaged and blown away by how beautifully it is all stitched together. Can I use the word poignant? Or is that too twee? I was drawn inside the world, I was captivated, I was moved. That is all. I seriously have to get off my lazy behind and read Dhalgren. Seriously. Finished on 08/27/07

So wow, only the first of September and I’ve read 40 books (ok, 39, but close enough). Looks like I may make 52 this year, because this is only week 35. I’m 4 books ahead, woohoo!

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