Sunday, November 29, 2009


Having finished revising Martin's War (at least for now), and not being quite ready to start another novel (although, you know, that was how Anthony Trollope did it -- the minute he finished one book, he snatched up a sheet of paper and began the next), I am at a loss for anything to do.

It's an odd and vacant feeling and I do not like it.

I suppose I should go rake leaves, or fold laundry, or something.

I'm reading China Mieville's The City & The City, which is really good, also a fat book on the history of Modern Poetry which is annoying me mightly by leaving out all the women poets, nearly.  And I'm dealing with the prep for class tomorrow.  Other than that I am doing almost nothing.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Empty Blogosphere & the Post-Holiday/Post Novel Stall

No one is blogging today.  What's the deal, are you all spending time with your families?  Or hungover?  What?

Me, I did in fact put away a deal of the rum and the associated alcohols yesterday, but nevertheless I am feeling okay.  Must be all the turkey and pie and sweet potato casserole that went down with it.  We had a fine holiday, in which no one got damaged badly: me and HDD and my folks and one of my & HDD's mutual students & the kid all met up & my father told rocket scientist stories & HDD & me & the student told English professor & NW Arkansas stories & the late afternoon late winter Arkansas hill weather was beautiful.

Today I do not know what I will do.  I have finished the revision.  I suppose I might start writing something else.  I can't think what, though.  

I wonder if the library is open.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

TNX for Holidays

Since I don't have classes on Tuesdays this semester, my Thanksgiving break started last night.  I've been busy at work on the I-hope-final-revision of Martin's War since.  I've honestly lost count of how many times I've revised this novel now.  Thirty-seven times, I tell my writing class, but in fact I do not know.  Somewhere between twenty-four and five gabillion times, and we are not talking editing revisions, either, where I have just fucked with commas, we are talking major page-one re-structuring the entire creation revisions.  When I look back at the first draft of this novel, which I won't even tell you what the title of that was, it was so stupid, I barely even recognize it as the same novel.  It's twice as long, for one thing, and really dumb.  Apparently I need five gabillion revisions to be a good writer.  

Though I have done a lot of just fucking with commas, too.  If I never have to think about another comma, I will be so happy.

Anyway, besides revising this novel, I am working on another short story, as well as the first draft of my frog prince novel, and being Herr Dr. Delagar's sou chef.  (He is making Thanksgiving dinner.  I used to cook, but now I just fetch and scrub for Our Chef.  This is okay, since he is an excellent chef.  Also, more time to write!)

We're having turkey from the Green Egg* for our Thanksgiving dinner, plus some sort of cauliflower plus Gruyere cheese deal, plus homemade cranberry sauce, plus a sweet potato casserole (I get to make that, since it is not part of HDD's Yankee Tradition), plus crusty French rolls and a green salad.  Also, I will make the crudities.  My parents are in town -- they'll be attending.  Oh!  And pumpkin pie as well as banana cream pie for after.

Mostly, though, I plan to spend the next five days writing and writing and writing.

How's your holiday going to go?

*HDD's favorite toy, er, tool

Sunday, November 22, 2009

More On Healthcare

The Free Clinics came to Arkansas.

These are the same folk that take free medical care to third world countries, and took them to LA a while ago.  They went to Little Rock, and, as usual, had people lined up for hours.

No health care crisis in this country, nah.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Health Care Reform

A bit of movement on Health Care Reform, not supported by Blanche Lincoln, the Democratic Senator from my benighted state, and coming too late for one of my best students, who this past Saturday had a major stroke and is, as we speak, in one of our two local hospitals.

She had worked all of her life, as most of my students have, in one of our local factories, and suffered multiple health problems because of it, include severe hearing loss.  She also had no health insurance, although, because she had some Native American blood -- again, as many of my student do -- she was able to use what she called "the Indian clinic" in Tallequah.  

Well, she was able to use it when (a) she could reach it and (b) it could fit her into its schedule.  Since so many of our local impoverished depend on it, it was nearly always overbooked.

What this worked out to was that her high blood pressure (not to mention her hearing loss and bad vision and dental issues and other problems, but we'll stick to the blood pressure problem) went untreated for years.  All last summer she kept driving over to Tallequah, trying to get her medication adjusted.  Her car was ancient and unreliable, she had to sit for hours at the clinic, and often they sent her home unseen because the doctors were overbooked.

So: stress, poverty, illness, overwork, and she was a semester away from graduation, set to graduate this spring, so there's that too.

Now she's in the ICU, and who knows what she'll be able to do?

Nor was she that old -- late fifties.  With proper medical care, she would have been an excellent English teacher in the public schools, a productive member of our economy.  Now she's going to cost Arkansas a ton of money for quite some time.

Heck of a job, Blanche.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Support Your Local Indie SF Press

I know I've mentioned this before, but Crossed Genres is now having an official fund-raising drive. Buy the anthology and get prizes! It's not even a ton of money, either. Like $13 bucks, as I recall. Even in these financially sucky times, most of us can scrape that together.

And! If you buy it? You win a chance to maybe get a free copy donated to your library. How cool is that?

And! You help keep an indie SF magazine in business! One that publishes lots & lots of women writers, may I add?

Contribute if you can, and spread the word.

Marriage is Illegal in TX

Hey, it's one way to solve that Gay Marriage issue...

The amendment, approved by the Legislature and overwhelmingly ratified by voters, declares that "marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman." But the troublemaking phrase, as Radnofsky sees it, is Subsection B, which declares:

"This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage."

Architects of the amendment included the clause to ban same-sex civil unions and domestic partnerships. But Radnofsky, who was a member of the powerhouse Vinson & Elkins law firm in Houston for 27 years until retiring in 2006, says the wording of Subsection B effectively "eliminates marriage in Texas," including common-law marriages.


This is funny.

A young man calling himself “Robert Erickson” stood up at a teabagger rally that was organized to protest immigration, and made an anti-immigration speech.  He baited the audience with boilerplate nonsense about immigrants taking jobs and bringing crime, and then he started to tip his hand when he indicated that they also bring disease, namely small pox...then he led the crowd in chants of "Columbus, Go Home!"

Here in Pork Smith, as in much of the South, where the myth of Liberal Revisionism Rides high, it's a big deal in our elementary schools to push Columbus and his "vision" and the "real" story of Thanksgiving and all the rest of teh Red State mythos about America.  

(Hell, for awhile our school, which you'll remember is a Montessori school, where I pay way too much of my own money to have the kid indoctrinated in liberal values, was singing that appalling Lee Greenwood song in music class -- the one with the lines about thanking God he's an American, where at least he knows he's free?  The kid hated it for many reasons, but first and foremost because, as she kept pointing out to the music teacher, it started with the lines "if I had to start again with just my children and my wife," which, as she told the teacher, was sexist. [No, I did not tell her it was sexist, she figured it out on her own.]  It's just a song, the teacher kept telling her, and she kept reporting this reply to me, and I kept telling her to complain again, because nothing is just a song.)

Where was I?

Oh, yes, Columbus.  Well, we don't hate on Columbus, here in this socialist household, but I do point out to the kid that Columbus did not, in fact, discover America; that plenty of people were here when Columbus arrived, including many of her own ancestors; and that those ancestors were, many of them, damaged by the arrival of the Europeans.  

Then she goes to school, where her teacher will not allow this reading of history at all -- Columbus found America, don't speak about the Native Americans, or the South American indigenous people and what happened down there, that is not the point of the lesson.  The point of the lesson is to talk about the great things Columbus did.

Since we've raised the kid to argue (well, she's a Jewish kid, her job is to argue, as we often tell her) this does not sit well.

So I reckon she'll like this story.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

They've Got It Comin', The Sluts!

That's the reaction Zelda got when she told her students about the 10-year-old Ozark child who was tasered by the cop on Tuesday.

The police chief also defended the officer's actions, but hey, we're used to that by now. I'd expect the local police to defend their officers if they zapped a toddler, frankly. "Brat was coming at me with his rattler, Chief."

However, the students in Zelda's class defended the police officer's actions assiduously, and why?

"These ten year olds today, they're out there getting pregnant! They've got it coming!"

What? You -- What?

"They're out of control! You have no idea!"

(Because Zelda, see, who has raised two kids and is helping to raise several grandkids, she has never met a 10 year old....)

I just got a paper from a local kid, we're on the problem/solution paper now, explaining to me how crime was higher than ever, and teen pregnancies were soaring, and violence in schools was out of control, and drug use was sky-rocketing, and I said, dude, where are you getting this information?

Well, it's common knowledge, he said, confused. Everybody knows it.

They all believe that about the world, which is why they're happy to have the police be jack-booted thugs, tasering grandmas and grammar-school kids, turning the US into Prison USA, dumping endless amount of tax dollars into the War on Drugs and the War on Terror and the War on Sex, and meanwhile not a fucking nickel into educating any of them so that they could do some fucking research and find out that teen pregnancy was actually dropping until Bush started funding Abstinence Only bullshit and have a look at who, if a ten year old is pregnant, just who it might be got her pregnant, because I really, really, really fucking well doubt that ten year old child is out seducing other ten year olds, jeezus crap on a bicycle.

Common knowledge. Ai.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

From Rottin' in Denmark

Only I think he's actually in Australia now --

A post on how disparity in our education system plays out, leading to disparity in the playing field. 

Overall, the whole thing just made me think of my University of London's professor's old catchphrase, 'You can blame people for their choices, but you can't blame them for their options.' 

U.S. Hunger

The Right-Wing narrative is that no one is hungry or poor in America -- "This is the only country in the world where our poor people are fat! Hurr Hurr Hurr!" -- but, in fact, not only are Americans poor, we're getting poorer.

No, it's not Third World Poor.  Only a few of us actually crouch under bridges and have no possessions at all.

But once people climb out of their basements and rip themselves away from their laptops, they'll find actual people, trying to live in some actual dire situations, here in this country -- living on twelve to twenty thousand a year, without health insurance, with no dental care (there's a reason my Arkansas students are missing teeth), with no vision care (I wince every year, at the first of the semester, when I write on the board for the first time, and five or six students move to the front row, squinting -- not because my handwriting is small, because it isn't -- they can't see), without enough money to buy food, the last weeks of the month.

Food insecurity, this gets called, and it's increasing these days, like everything else.

...about 49 million people, or 14.6 percent of U.S. households [...] a significant increase from 2007, when 11.1 percent of U.S. households suffered from what USDA classifies as "food insecurity" — not having enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle.  Researchers blamed the increase in hunger on a lack of money and other resources.

Over on the Winger blogs, this gets dismissed -- if they didn't spend their money on plasma TVs, and bling, on malt liquor and smokes, on lottery tickets and cheap hamburgers, they'd have plenty of money for food.  If they would just learn to live on rice and peas, like we did when we were poor, it's not that these people are poor, it's that they're wastrels.  Let'm starve, it'll teach'm a lesson!

Any time anyone says shit like that, I know right off he's never actually been poor.  Here's a clue, for anyone who needs a smack with a clue stick: being low on funds for a few weeks, or even a few months -- that's not poverty.


Via Bitch magazine (my issue came yesterday), I bring you the ultimate in kitty cuteness.

A cat blog from Japan, about a cat named Maru.

If your kid is anything like mine (or you are!), wails of delight will soon ensue.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A.S. Byatt

Having finished A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book, I am here to report that my instincts halfway through the novel were correct. It's a masterpiece. Also, it's a truly feminist novel -- not a polemic, that is, but an actual work of art that speaks to feminist issues.

A few reviews I've seen have complained about the history infodumps scattered through the novel, but I can't agree. I suppose to those who have a perfect knowledge of Late Victorian/Edwardian history and culture, these may have seemed unnecessary and tedious; but how many readers have that knowledge? Knowing that culture is essential to understanding why these characters are doing what they're doing, and Byatt's renditions kept me (who knew quite a bit about the times and cultures) entertained.

As for the wide cast of characters, well, yes, we do have lots of characters. Dickensian is the operative word. It's a novel, not a tweet. That said, if the novel has a weak point, it's probably this one. I can see how she could have combined some of these characters, and cut others. Julian's role in the novel, for instance...?

But on the whole, this is a wonderful book, worth reading if only for the stories of Philip, our working class boy (who owes only a little to his literary ancestory Pip -- I like him so much better than the Pip in Great Expectations) who runs away from his impoverished life working at the pottery because he wants to make pots; Elsie, his sister; and Dorothy, who decides at 11 to be a doctor.

And then? At the End? WWI. AARGH!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Happy Belated Returns of the Day!

The interwebs turned 19 last Thursday!

More Whining

  • It's hot here.  Mid-November and we still have days reaching to the 70's.  I do not like.
  • Thanks to our techno-friendly campus, students can demand to be advised 24/7!  I don't exactly know that I must comply, but I seem to be complying.  Advised a kid at eleven-thirty last night.  Yes.  Saturday night.  Am I a loser or what?
  • I'm revising Martin's War, which is supposed to come out in December or January.  Assiduously.  This is, I'm hoping, the final revision.  It's slow going.
  • I've submitted two stories and a novel to three different journals, on various continents of the planet.  Now I am waiting to be rejected.  This is my least favorite part of being a writer.
  • We got a stern email from the kid's teacher about how the kid did not do a presentation which was due this past Friday -- a book report, of all things.  She had read the book, but it had to have props and a written component.  She hadn't done that.  So we're spending the weekend on remedial sturm und drang. (The kid hates homework.)
  • Did I mention it was hot?  

Saturday, November 14, 2009


The Significance of the Franken Amendment; or, Why the Republican Party Should Be Set on Fire, Beaten With Shovels, Stomped to Bits, Shoveled Under, and Forgotten About Forever.

You'll remember this is the amendment that seems like a slam-dunk to most people with any sort of sense -- Federal money shouldn't go to companies that write clauses into their contracts allowing employees to freely rape other employees?  (The actual wording is more that we withhold defense contract money from companies that restrict employees from taking sexual assault cases to court.)

This amendment passed, as it should have, and handily.  OTOH, 30 -- THIRTY -- white male Republican Senators voted against it.  

(These would be, I imagine, the same white male Republican Senators who are verklempt about Federal dollars paying for abortions.  What do you think?  Who gets to control women -- that's the issue here.  Not the dollars. From Daryrl in the comments: 

So federal funds subsidizing abortions is bad but federal funds subsidizing rape is A-OK?)

Friday, November 13, 2009

In Which I Am Officially Conflicted

A very cool, very good small midwestern college is looking at Herr Dr. Delagar.

Oh boy.

Nate Silver Takes On Strategic Vision

I'm always suspicious of any group decrying the declining standards of today's et cetera.  When that group is on the Right, well!

Here is Strategic Vision, a Right-Wing Think Tank (say no more! say no more!) which claimed to have done a study (Awoohah! Awoogah! Raise all Shields!) on Oklahoma school kids, and alors!  Those kids today!  Taught by those Union-coddled over-paid lie-bral teachers!  Look!  Just look!

Couldn't any of'm tell you who the first President was!  When asked what the Supreme Law of the Land was?  No Idear!  When asked what the name of the two parties were in America's two party system?  They answered Republican and Communist!

So claimed Strategic Vision, anyway.

Nate Silver had his doubts about this survey.

For me, some of these results don't pass the smell test. I agree that public schooling in the United States needs to be improved, particularly in the areas of government and citizenship. But only 23 percent of high school students in Oklahoma knew that George Washington was the first President? Really? I have difficulty accepting that claim at face value. In 2008, 68 percent of Oklahoma fifth graders passed the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Social Studies Test.

He took the survey Strategic Vision claims to have given to Oklahoma School children and gave it to students in 10 Oklahoma school districts in the area he represents.  And his results do not show what Strategic Visions says their results do, but quite the contrary.

Which -- for anyone who knows any actual school children, or who has been in any actual schools lately, as opposed to anyone who simply hangs out at teabag rallies -- d'oh.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Byatt's The Children's Book: Review

I've been reading A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book for the past week; I've been reading it slow, because I can't bear for it to end.  

I read Byatt's Possession way back when it was published, a billion years ago.  That one won the Booker Prize, I believe.  Then I went out and read everything else she had written, though nothing else she had written up to that point was nearly as good as Possession.  The movie, when it came out, as I recall, sucked; or anyway, wasn't nearly as good as the book. 

I was a little wary, getting this book, despite a review I read somewhere, which promised me wonders.  But oh my is it good.

It seems like it will just be a kind of Dickensian knockoff, at first, although a very well written one.  Byatt is a brilliant writer.  But as we climb further and further into the book, and Byatt reveals more and more about her characters, the layers of meaning begin to build -- and oh, this is a great book.  Much better even than Possession.  I'll just say, because I don't want to give spoilers, that it's the most truly feminist book I have read in a long time.  But not a bangy bang the drum feminist.  Feminist in the sense that she's written a great work of literature about what it means to be a woman in the patriarchy feminist.

I love this book.  I think I want to marry this book.

Also -- if you know anything about E. Nesbit's life?  That will make you love this book even more.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


The guy came and fixed the dryer. It dries so speedy quick now, it is amazing!

Now if only we could afford to replace the kid's computer...and get the other car fixed....and get a kitty (the kid forced me to add that bit)...we would almost be middle class again.

Support the Indie Press!

Crossed Genres is having a sale.  Buy the anthology, you get a free subscription.

They do good work over there.  Go have a look around.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Look Here

Thanks to Tree of Knowledge, I discovered a new web comic, which I spent way too much time reading with the kid today.

Questionable Content.  It's actually been on the net for years & years, so if like me you didn't know about it already, you've got years of catching up to do.  It's a delight, and I'm not just saying that b/c it has a main character named Marten too. (He spells it different from my Martin anyway.)  Also!  A cute little sidekick robot!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Write Your Very Own Goth Poetry

Just in case you don't have enough ways to burn time: one of my students sent me this:

Good Story

This story, over on Crossed Genres, by Tuulia Saaritsa, knocks me out.

It's called "Me and Susannah."  Go read.

Why I Hate Being Poor

One more morning at the laundromat.  We're scrounging up the price of getting the dryer fixed, but meanwhile....meanwhile, we get up at dawn, hoping to beat the fellas who hunker down right outside the laundromat door smoking their Kents (no smoking in the facility, but just outside the door is totes cool).

No luck.  Even at 8.00 smokers are up and smoking and doing laundry.  

Also Faux News is playing non-stop about the shooting at Fort Hood and what this means about how Obama is mishandling the Nation.

Oh well.  

We laundered just the same, and my migraine from the cigarette smoke is not so evil.  I've taken my Frova & Aleve & Xanax & am hoping for the best.  Also now it is only 11:15 and every bit of clothing in the house is laundered and put away.  

The kid wandered the laundry in huge circles, chewing her blueberry flavored Trident, and finally came awash by my chair.  "Mama."



"Suppose what."

"Suppose you had evolved a long tail.  Like three meters long.  Suppose it had a loop on the end of it.  You had evolved a loop on the end of it, like a noose.  Suppose--"

"What would be the possible evolutionary advantage to--"


"All right, all right."

"Do you think you could, if you had that tail, could you loop the tail over a branch, or a rafter, maybe, and hang yourself with your own tail?"

I stare at her.  She gazes back at me, intently.

"What the shit scene are you trying to write now?" I ask her.

"Do you think you could or do you think you couldn't?" she demands, exasperated.

My daughter the goth writer.  Ai.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Hey! Good News!

Crossed Genres has accepted one of my short stories.  Does this rock or what?  It's a Martin story, one of my favorites, with a plot and everything: Lunch Money.  Coming out in December. 

If you're not familiar with Crossed Genres, it's a fine online SF magazine which each month publishes a different genre crossed with SF.  In December it's Action/Adventure crossed with SF. Martin shoots it up on an asteroid!  Be there or be square!


Demons! Demons!

Clearly I should not have eaten that Halloween candy.  Bad things are infesting my world.  First my dryer busts, now my computer (the one at school, not this one) went blue screen.  Also, we're stony fucking broke.  Also other hard stuff is happening as well.

Maybe I need an exorcism.  Can atheists get those?


"Yes, my child?"

"Can you come over and expel the demons I don't believe in?  How much would that cost?"

"You don't...."

"Yes, I'm an atheist.  Do you charge more for us or less?"


"That's too bad, since I'm stony fucking broke."


"Hello, Father?"

"Maybe you should try the Wiccans, child.  Do you have that number?"

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Bad Economy Blues Part II

Krugman's column in the NYTimes today is worth reading -- well, it almost always is, but today especially.  He's talking about the need for more stimulus.  The bit that's been done already has helped some, and, as Krugman admits in the column, that's nice; but nowhere near enough.

What I keep hearing from Washington is one of two arguments: either (1) the stimulus has failed, unemployment is still rising, so we shouldn’t do any more, or (2) the stimulus has succeeded, G.D.P. is growing, so we don’t need to do any more. The truth, which is that the stimulus was too little of a good thing — that it helped, but it wasn’t big enough — seems to be too complicated for an era of sound-bite politics.

Of course, we've got the Teabag fringe, wailing (now, not when Bush was running us into debt paying for that useless war) about how our grandchildren will be SADDLED with DEBT!!!1!; but, as Krugman also notes, this is classic pennywise thinking.

Deficit hawks like to complain that today’s young people will end up having to pay higher taxes to service the debt we’re running up right now. But anyone who really cared about the prospects of young Americans would be pushing for much more job creation, since the burden of high unemployment falls disproportionately on young workers — and those who enter the work force in years of high unemployment suffer permanent career damage, never catching up with those who graduated in better times.

And, as I'll point out, to anyone who isn't living in that Winger (we'll just make up the planet we want to live in, where global climate change isn't happening, and the Iraq War is being won, and Reagan Was a Great President), things are dire out here in the actual world. Yesterday I had the third student of this semester alone drop out of school b/c she could no longer afford to be a student.  This one was a junior -- the other two had been underclassmen.

Rent and debt and food and health costs and fuel prices are so high these students are not able to stay in school.  It's not tuition.  It's the cost of living.  My freshman who quit mid-semester said he just couldn't spare the time off work.  (He works at Sonic, by the way.)

We're eating our seed corn.  For what?  To pay for a useless war?  To make health insurance executives even richer?  To prop up some demented old white guy's notion of what this country should be?

When will this be enough?

Sunday, November 01, 2009

All Hallow's Eve

The kid was going to skip Halloween this year, because what's the point, she said, gloomily, no one does it for the costumes anymore, they're just interested in the candy, and I can't eat the candy anyway (which she can't, given that nearly all candy is made with corn syrup these days and she's got the corn syrup allergy).

But after she and Herr Dr. Delagar carved the pumpkin (a cat pumpkin, and very impressive indeed) and it was out on the porch and our first few Trick or Treaters arrived (we only got about a dozen all night, because Trick or Treat is EVIL in Pork Smith, the local Pentecostals preaching violently against it, and most people not participating, to the extent that the city has developed a code system -- if you are participating, you turn on your porch light and put out a pumpkin, and if you aren't, you don't: I'd say one house in six, if that, was participating in our neighborhood last night).

Anyway, after about 20 minutes, the kid got restless and began looking very gloomy.  "We can still go out," I told her.

"I don't have a costume," she said.

So we built a costume -- a hat with ears, and I painted a nose and whiskers, we put a skirt over her leggings, and she was...well, I guess she was the Crazy Cat Lady.

We had an excellent time wandering the neighborhood, knocking on the cool houses -- despite the preaching, many people had gone all out, decorating their houses, and those who had pumpkins, had fine ones.  Also it was a chilly brisk night, cold and clear, with a nearly full moon: Halloween weather.  I told her about Halloween when I was a kid, when we roamed the streets in packs, without any adults around, and every house gave out candy, none of this "we don't believe in Halloween," because anyone who didn't give us candy got TP'd or their trash cans knocked over.  Hah!

"Not that I'm in favor of that behavior," I added hastily.

Now the kid is eating the candy she is allergic too.  I have warned her she will be sorry.  She says she'll be sorry later.  Right now it is good candy.

Yeah, she's growing up.