Friday, April 29, 2011

Why Can't 'They' Learn to Talk Right?

Right being white, of course.

I didn't make it to the PCA this year after all, having busted my foot and my finances simultaneously (my insurance being the sad item that it is); I had intended to present my paper on RaceFail09 there, talking about why Characters of Color are under-represented in SF/F world and why Writers of Color are under-represented on the SF/F bookshelves and in the SF/F magazines.

I was to be on a panel with other papers on similar topics, including one being given by my buddy Zelda, who has been working for several years now on the effects of ignorance of or prejudice toward Black English among school teachers and administrators on the continued low literacy levels of black children in the Delta region of Arkansas.

Anyway, this paper (correct me if I'm wrong, Zelda!) was about how, rather than hyper-correcting and failing students out of the standard classroom, teachers could use knowledge of Black English to increase literacy in black students (who make a majority of students in the public schools in the Delta).

Sadly, since I wasn't there, Zelda was on her own when she was attacked by an elderly professor who was of the Black English isn't a language school of thought, who accused her of being a liberal professor filled with the bigotry of low expectations. (Not in those words.) She held her own, citing him linguists who know otherwise-- Zelda takes no shit off of no one -- but I feel bad anyway. If I had been there, at least we could have both argued with him.

All of by way of saying: Here, cool, look at this! (Hat tip Heebie at Unfogged)

The "up" as in "all up in my place" is one I have heard not only among my black students, but among my white students too. "Don't come getting all up in my Kool-Aid, now," being my personal favorite. But, as Zelda likes to remind my students when she comes to give the lecture on Black English to my HEL class each semester, most of them, whether they know it or not, actual speak a version of Black English too.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Poetry For A Rainy Day

Questions from a Worker Who Reads
Bertolt Bretcht, Trans. M.Hamburger (Hat tip Unfogged)

Who built Thebes of the seven gates?
In the books you will find the names of kings.
Did the kings haul up the lumps of rocks?
And Babylon, many times demolished.
Who raised it up so many times? In what houses
Of gold-glittering Lima did the builders live?
Where, the evening that the wall of China was finished,
did the masons go? Great Rome
Is full of triumphal arches. Who erected them? Over whom
Did Caesar triumph? Had Byzantium, much praised in song,
Only palaces for its inhabitants? Even in fabled Atlantis,
The night the ocean engulfed it,
The drowning still bawled for their slaves.

The young Alexander conquered India.
Was he alone?
Caeser beat the Gauls.
Did he not even have a cook with him?
Philip of Spain wept when his armada went down.
Was he the only one to weep?
Frederick the Second won the Seven Years War. Who
Else won it?

Every page a victory.
Who cooked the feasts for the victors?
Every ten years a great man.
Who paid the bills?

So many reports.
So many questions.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Yeah, We Just Thought This Was The Future

You've probably heard about this charming incident, where two adolescent women at a McDonalds in Baltimore beat another young woman -- a transgendered woman -- until she had a seizure, because she had dared to use their bathroom; while meanwhile an entire store full of employees and customers stood about, most of them doing nothing at all, some of them laughing, several of them filming the incident?

(A few of them did something: at least one of them called the police; and a manager, ineffectually, attempted to stop them.)

Many people are upset and outraged. As am I.

But I'm disturbed for yet another reason. Long-time readers know my kid does not perform her gender especially well. She has short hair; she does not wear or want to wear make-up; she doesn't wear or want to wear girly clothing. She looks, on first glance, to the ignorant, somewhat boyish. (When we took her to be tested with the homeschoolers, for instance, all the boys thought she was a boy all through the testing, and she never informed them otherwise.)

So when we're out in public and she has to use a public bathroom, she's always terrified that someone -- some girl, she means, but anyone -- will attack her. I've been telling her it's silly, that that will never happen. But now this.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Still Broken

I don't know how people did this before they got wired. Thanks to the net, I can sit here in my giant (if ancient and battered) overstuffed white chair, with my broken foot on a pile of pillows, and my craptop on my lap, drinking gingerale and eating pain pills, and run my classes my remote; I can edit stories via the net and wing them out to various States in the Union and countries all over the world; I can write my short stories and work on my novel; I can check up on the blogosphere and monitor the weather and the situation in Wisconsin; I can edit the proofs of my soon-to-be-released novel (and how fucking cool is that, I cannot even tell you); I can holler at Dr. Skullto bring me more ginger ale and more tea (and sometimes he will even do it) -- none of this except the last two would have been possible, or possible with such ease and speed, fifteen years ago.

Fifteen years ago, I would have been locked in a room with a huge cast and some library books, I guess, reduced to smacking the cat* with my crutches, grumpily cut off from everything, waiting for the mail -- remember mail? -- to bring me bits of data from the outside world.

I still want my flying car, mind you. But the future is cool.

*The cat loves me now that I'm injured. All she wants to do is sit on me and purr. WTF?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Crutch, crutch, crutch

The kitty finds it very puzzling, how I crutch around the house.  She crept up on the crutches when I left them propped next to my chair (I now write propped in a huge pile of pillows, surrounded by all the paraphenalia I need to write with -- cup of tea, books, bottle of pain pills, kitten, crutches) and sniffed them suspiciously: what alien beasts are these?

The bone doc agrees: six to eight weeks until I heal.

You would be amazed -- well, I am amazed -- the things that cannot be done when one cannot walk.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Where's My Pain Meds?

Of course, I was being (mildly) ironic in the previous post, when I pretended not to understand why the ER doc under=medicated me for pain.

More on the charming War on Drugs and what it is doing to our world.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Limping, Broken, Halt

I stepped off a curb wrong yesterday, visiting my parents in Fayetteville, and busted my foot.

A spiral fracture of the fifth metatarsal, according to the ER guy, who gave me, I might add, entirely insufficient pain drugs.

As an aside, what is it with the American refusal to give sufficient pain medication?  I mean, ow.

Anyway, I've got a temporary splint on it, but I have to go to the real doctor tomorrow.  Then, I don't know.  Not surgery, probably, he said. Probably a walking cast.  According to the internets, about six to eight weeks healing time.  (My face when I read that OMFG -- NR?)

Being immobile is not making me happy.

Monday, April 11, 2011

And On A Much Lighter Note!

Strange Horizons is looking for a few good women to do reviews!

See here.

Oh, So That's Why...

We did our taxes yesterday.  Why we are so very broke becomes a little clearer -- between jobs he lost and jobs I did (because the university cut down on summer teaching), we made nearly twenty thousand dollars less this year than we did last.  

In fact, we made so little this year that we qualified for that Working Families Tax Credit gizmo.

Which -- good shit, that's all I have to say.

No wonder I can't afford to buy shoes.

And -- here's the really bad news -- Dr. Skull (that's his official new blog name) needs a root canal and a crown.  Which dentists in Fuck Smith want the money for that up front, of course.  Our insurance (we do have dental insurance, but it sucks) covers some fragment of it -- about half of the first $1200, as I recall, and then nothing after that.  There's a yearly $1200 cap on dental with our charming insurance.

But!  Good news!  I don't actually like shoes!

Surely tomorrow will be a better day.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

How Cool Is This?

Athena got linked on Twisty!

Plus -- yowza! -- Twisty called Athena her new idol.

I think I'd rather get that than win the Nebula, maybe.  

Joys of Homeschooling

I took the kid for her NCLB testing today -- mandatory, but much less painful when you're home-schooling, for I guess obvious reasons.  We're not trying to get funded or get pay raises, so the stakes aren't high.  No real stakes at all, in fact.  And the state, therefore, only tests our kids on reading and math.  The whole test, in fact, only took a couple hours -- from 9:00-11:15.

The less positive, though interesting bit, I suppose, was the mix of people I got hang around with in the parents' waiting room while the kid was doing the test.  As you might expect in Arkansas, almost all of them far-right Xtians; almost all of them had between six and 7,000 children. One of the women sitting on my sofa apologized abjectly to another of the women for only having four children. "I got cancer, there," she said delicately, "after my fourth, and had to have it removed."  The woman she was talking to had had eleven children.  "But three of them are with God," she explained, and then proceeded to describe, at the top of her lungs, in a room filled with toddlers and young children and young adolescents -- because all the kids who weren't getting tested that day, and that was all the kids not in the 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7th grades, all those kids were hanging out with their parents -- this woman described in extensive detail exactly how her three dead children had died.

She also explained how DHS is "owned" by the devil, as is the Fort Smith Police Department.  As are women doctors.  As are Public Schools.  She knows this last because they don't say the Pledge of Allegiance, because it has the word God in it.  

Meanwhile, she had an actual child with her, her youngest, about four.  This child she was totally ignoring.  He kept trying to climb in her lap, and kept asking her for something to eat from the giant Wal-Mart bag she had brought along.  She ignored him as wholly as though no one had been with her at all.  Earlier -- she had five kids with her, three other boys, and a older girl -- the girl with her had been taking care of this little boy, who had started just beating the living shit out of his Down's Syndrome brother, who was about four years older than him, maybe?  She ignored that, too, though it went on for about 15 minutes.  The older sister kept trying to make the little boy stop hitting his brother, but she got no back up.  When she asked the mom for help, the mom ignored her too.  The brother getting beat up did not defend himself at all.  He just let his little brother beat him up.  And I mean this kid was hitting him hard.

One of these kids was in my kid's testing room, the sixth grade.  She said he seemed nice.  Another kid was in there, too: a Buddhist from New York.  She said that one (who gave my kid a pencil when her pencil broke) asked everyone what religion they were.  He seemed pleased to discover my kid was Jewish.  She's the first Jew he has met in Arkansas, he said.

The other kid said he was Christian, but that it wasn't a religion, it was a relationship.

"Which," my kid said, later, on the way home, "okay, that's just sick."

"Yeah, it is a bit," I agreed.

"What," she said, "is he hanging out with Jesus?  Do they go to the mall?  Do they make-out?  What?"

"He's a Jesus 'shipper," I said.

She gave me a withering look.  "Mo-o-om.  That is not what shipper means.  Shipper is someone who says two characters in a work should get together romantically.  Like if someone thought the Doctor and Amy Pond should get together -- they'd be a DoctorXAmy shipper.  Jeez."

"Ah."  I considered.  Then, maybe a tiny bit sarcastically.  "Thanks for clearing that up."

"I spend a lot of time on the internet!  Don't judge me!"

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

You Can't Do Aikido By Yourself

(X-Posted on FanSci.)
Or writing either.
Alone, what am I?
A solitary, wandering cloud, I guess.

But gathered together, in two or three?  I am a writing group!  

Five or six or even seven is better.  Much more than that I have found is too many.

This post here over at Strange Horizons, about a SF/F writing camp for young teens, started me thinking about it.  It was accepted wisdom when I was a young writer that writers didn't need writing workshops, or to go to school to learn to write, or things like writing groups.  After all, you couldn't "learn" writing.  One "was" a writer or one was not.  In order to write, one had to "live," and then write about "life," whatever that meant.

I had a professor tell me that very thing, in fact.  "You don't need to go to school," he said.  "You need to go have a life.  Get a job in a bar, or a restaurant.  Go to New York.  Do something.  Then you'll have something to write about."

And knowledge gained from other writers, knowledge gained in universities, obviously, that's not actual knowledge.

I think about this when I sit down each Thursday night with my writers in my Fiction Workshop at the university; and when I gather with the Boston Mountain Writers every Sunday afternoon in my living room, or up the mountain in Zelda's living room.  I remember how I felt when I was a young writer, 20 years old, sitting down at the long table in my first Fiction Workshop, how exhilarating it felt, even though I wasn't very good yet, even though I didn't know what I was doing and didn't really have anything to write about yet -- to be with other people who took writing seriously.  That was what I needed.  Other writers.  

If we were living in Paris in 1920, maybe we could have found them by hanging about the coffee shops.  Since we're not, we're getting it from writing groups, and writing workshops, and from the blogosphere.

So long as we do get it.

Gathering experience isn't enough. We've got to gather writers around us as well.

That's how we learn to write.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Update on Wisconsin

Last night as I got ready to brush my teeth I was singing one of the songs from the Wisconsin protests, and the kid said, "What? What? Why are you singing that? I thought they lost!"

 "What?" I broke off singing. "No! Why would you think that?" 

"Because! That Walker! He passed the bill."

 "Yeah, but it was an illegal bill."

 I realized I had not been keeping her up to date, and came out of the bathroom waving my toothbrush. "Judge Sumi enjoined them!" I declared. "And that idiot Walker said nu-uh, he didn't have to! And Sumi said he did too! And now--" 

"So they didn't lose?" 

"And now the protestors are recalling 16 Republican senators! And fighting to get their judge on their Supreme Court! And they're still holding rallies! (Including Zombie rallies). And the Teabaggers are trying to mount counter-rallies, but no one is showing up! And--" 

"Are you saying they didn't lose? Is that--" 

"And Fox News is losing viewers like crazy, but mainstream media still acts like nothing is happening, they're covering Charlie Sheen and shit like that, but out on the blogs it's the Revolution Starts Now --" 

"Are we winning? Are we?" 

"The arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice."