21 hours ago
Tuesday, October 30, 2018
...in 2016, before the election, some my students asked me what I thought of Donald Trump.
This was in the dream-like days when I still believed Americans could not be hateful and stupid enough to elect this conman president, so I laughed.
"'Make America Great Again,'" I said. "What a joke. Make America White Again, more like."
To my surprise, half the class nodded seriously. I saw they liked the idea of that. I saw, in fact, that this was why they were voting for him. The inside of my stomach went a little cold at that moment.
I will never forget the way my brown students and my Latino/a students look at me, the mix of pity and amusement in their eyes. What world have you been living in, tonto? they were thinking.
Not this one. Not this one.
Monday, October 29, 2018
Y'all, I am having rough days.
Partly it is because the country is having rough days. I don't have to outline these for you -- terrorists shooting Jews and black people, lunatics sending bombs, Trump drumming up hate against immigrants.
Partly it is because I've been non-stop ill, and can't seem to recover.
Partly it is because, despite what Trump claims, the economy is not recovering. Oh, it is recovering if you are in the top quintile of income levels. And especially for those at the very top -- for the top 10%, their income is booming. But for the rest of us, our income is flat, which means (since prices of many things, like healthcare, fuel, and college degrees are rising) that our wages are actually falling.
It's getting harder and harder these days, I guess is what I'm saying.
If I weren't so sick, it would be less hard. As it is, ai.
On the other hand, this happened:
Sunday, October 21, 2018
An actual argument I have seen persist among Evangelicals and Trump supporters is this one: Trans people are only .01% of the population (or .03% or whatever number they've been given by Fox News that morning), so why should the rest of us have to accommodate them?
It's an argument I can't believe anyone thinks is legitimate, but let's say you do.
What percentage of the population does a given group have to reach before you'll agree they should have civil rights? The deaf are only .38% of the population. Jews are less than 1%. Filipinos are less than 2%. Do we strip away their civil rights as well?
The USA doesn't base civil rights on how big a group is. Or at least we didn't used to do so.
Wednesday, October 17, 2018
The kid came home for fall break this past weekend, and we bought him new pants.
We bought them from the men's department (we've always bought girl pants before).
The kid just DM'd me: "The pockets in these new pants are SO BIG!"
Me: "Because they're men's pants. Men get pockets. It is misogyny."
The Kid: "I didn't know how good men's pockets were. I always thought I had an adequate amount of pockets!"
OPPRESSION IS INVISIBLE!!
Saturday, October 13, 2018
All y'all know I love Kate Atkinson, who wrote one of my top-ten favorite books of all time, Life After Life. So I was very eager to read her new novel, which is another novel that looks at WWII and its effect on people in England. This one is about a woman who works for British intelligence during the war, helping to run a kind of a sting operation in which Nazi sympathizers and pro-Nationalist people are suckered into meeting with intelligence officer -- they think the officers are working for the Gestapo. It's not a bad novel, mind you. It has some nice moments, and it's well enough written. But it's just an okay book, not the brilliant book I have come to expect from Atkinson.
Virginia Bergin, Who Runs the World
This book won the Tiptree Award in 2017, so of course I'm interested. It's a post-plague novel, which I'm always up for. In this one, a virus killed off most of the men about sixty years before the story opens. The surviving men live in preserves, sanctuaries; the population has plummeted; women are working to save what remains of civilization.
The book is told mainly from the point of view of River, a fifteen year old girl who wants to be an aeronautics engineer, working with planes and (she hopes, someday) space flight. Traveling home with a load of apples, River finds an injured boy on the road. Any boy outside of a sanctuary dies of the virus. But this boy doesn't. What now?
The best part of this is the world-building -- what might a world made by women and run by grandmothers look like?
Colson Whitehead, Sag Harbor
Colson Whitehead is one of the best writers working America today. If you haven't read his Underground Railroad, what are you waiting for?
As opposed to other books I've read by Whitehead, this one is neither speculative fiction nor magical realism. It's the story of one summer in the life of a young man and his friends in the Hamptons. The little town of Sag Harbor is summer colony built by upper-middle class black families, who have been coming to Sag Harbor for generations. Benji -- or Ben, as he wants to be called -- is the child of one such family.
If I was going to put this into any category, I'd call it a coming-of-age novel. But really it is more like a memoir. Told in a series of chapters that read more like interlinked short stories, the novel explores Benji's memories of an experiences in his community. Most of the novel deals with life on the island, though we do get brief references to Benji's life back in the city.
The strength of this novel is Whitehead's writing. Nothing much ever really happens, except Benji and his brother and his friends moving from childhood to adulthood, over this one summer; but Whitehead's writing keeps us engaged.
Hank Green, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
Hank Green in one-half of the Green brothers. He and John Green are famous for their YouTube channels, and John Green, of course, is famous for his YA novels. This is Hank Green's first novel.
It's science fiction, sort of, in that it's about an extraterrestrial multidimensional robot who is sent to Earth in order to see if humans are ready for galactic civilization (more or less). But it is mainly about social media and the power of social media to create and to destroy, to shape the world, in good ways and terrible ways.
It's told from the POV of April May, a young graphic artist whose spur-of-the-moment YouTube post happens to go viral. April and her best friend Andy, who films the YouTube post, are dumped into a maelstrom of fame and fortune, which only becomes worse as April discovered (through crowd-sourcing, mostly) that the subject of her video is an alien artifact.
Hank Green knows all about being media famous, and about the power of social media to help as well as to harm. So that part of this book is really good. He also knows how social media, fame, and fortune work. That part of the book is also really good. The plot, however, is a bit weak. The alien artifact robot is an obvious MacGuffin to hang this story about social media/fame on, is what I'm saying. If you don't mind that, you'll like this book.
Emily Griffin, All We Ever Wanted
This one is also about the power of social media to destroy. Our narrator, Nina, is a member of the "obscenely rich," married to a tech millionaire. She and her son and husband live in that level of society where wealth isn't even an issue -- they have so much money that they can't spend it. Her son, at one point in the story, spends a thousand dollars on something, without even letting his parents know, much less asking their permission. Nina barely registers this act.
The plot concerns the son post a picture of a younger girl (he's 17, she's 15) on social media, a picture taken while the girl was passed out at a party. The son denies posting the picture -- he says another girl did it. Now the son is at risk of being expelled from his tony academy and perhaps losing his place at Princeton.
I would have liked this book better if (a) I had cared about any of the characters and (B) if Griffin hadn't written it like a romance novel. I mean, WTF.
Pamela Dean, The Secret Country
I love Pamela Dean, yet somehow I had never read this book -- the first in a series, apparently. It's about four young cousins who inhabit an imagined world (a la the Brontes). One day two of them find magic swords, and they end up in this imagined world. To their chagrin, they now have to deal with the plot they invented. Killing kings is fine in fiction, but when you have to be the prince, it's much more horrific.
I don't like this one as much as Tam Lin, which is one of my favorite books, but it's very readable.
Dorothy Canfield Fisher, The Homemaker
Canfield Fisher is best known for writing Understood Betsy, which is one of my favorite children's books. I'd never read anything else by her, or even known that she had written anything else. This is an interesting novel about a man and a woman who are not suited for traditional gender roles. They are both miserable -- he working at his clerk's job, she being a homemaker -- until he is injured, and she has to earn a living, while he stays home with the kids.
And voila! She loves being a clerk, and is wonderful at it. Everything that made her a terrible homemoker and stay-at-home mom makes her an excellent clerk and later store manager. Everything that made him a terrible clerk makes him a wonderful stay-at-home dad.
This was published in 1924. What I can't believe is that we're STILL fighting these battles.
Nancy Springer, The Case of the Missing Marquis
This is a "chapter book," if you know that genre -- books aimed at beginning readers. It's one of series about the younger sister of Sherlock Holmes, who runs away and works as a detective after Sherlock and Mycroft decide to send her to a boarding school so that she can be turned into a decent young lady.
Each Enola Holmes book concerns a mystery, which Enola solves; there is also a great deal of social commentary, both about poverty in London and women's rights in the 19th century.
These are well-written, and if you like kids books you'll like them. If you know a kid who likes mystery novels, or Sherlock Holmes, they'll like these.
Saturday, October 06, 2018
Did we feel worse when Trump was elected, or do we feel worse now? Tough call.
There are things we can do. First, GOTV. And get your friends and neighbors out to vote, too.
Second, continue to resist. See Camestros Felapton on this point here.
Third, donate if you can -- the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Emily's List, to Democratic candidates running in contested seats. And if you can't donate (or even if you can) volunteer, speak out, make some noise.
Fourth, if you're a writer, or a musician, or a poet, or any sort of artist: keep doing your art. Poets, as Shelley told us, are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. Trump and his snarling rabble seem important; but artists change the world in ways those filthy greedy assfaced motherfuckers never will.
Finally, don't despair, though despair seems a natural reaction. Trump isn't winning, no matter what his supporters believe. He's destroying, and that shit never lasts.
Rise up. Resist. Persevere.
Friday, October 05, 2018
Thursday, October 04, 2018
Monday, October 01, 2018
My kid is in a relationship, and I've been giving advice, sort of. Like, here's how relationships work, here's what you should do, here's what to expect.
This has made me think about how relationships work. Here's my list of the stages of relationships.
(1) You meet your prospective sweetie. At this stage, there is chatting and observation. We are feeling each other out. We are looking for information -- is this person decent? Do they have a bad temper? Do they like the sorts of things I like?
(2) You start doing things together -- eating meals together, going to movies and bookstores, taking hikes or whatever else you like to do. These are still "date-like" activities. They have definite boundaries, is what I'm saying.
(3) You begin hanging out for indefinite periods -- like all afternoon, or all day Saturday. You meet for lunch and then just keep hanging out together.
(4) You go grocery shopping together. You do laundry together. (These are BIG STEPS.)
(5) You spend entire weekends together -- either you stay at their place, or they stay at yours. Sex might start happening at this point, or maybe it was earlier, or maybe it's later. (Sex is important, but I don't think it's a major stage.)
(6) You move in together.
(7) You have a major fight, and figure out that your relationship can survive major fights. (This might happen before you move in together.)
(8) You meet one another's families. You figure out that you can stand their family, and they can stand yours. (It's better if you actively like one another's families, but meh, let's not count on this one.)
(9) You learn that you can put up with your sweetie's terrible habits. Like maybe they always leave their socks on the floor, instead of putting them in the laundry basket. Or maybe they never put away the milk. Or maybe they expect you to make all the medical appointments for both of you. Or maybe they expect you to kill the bugs that show up in the bathroom at midnight. In a perfect partner, you admit, these things could be changed. But in a real relationship, we cut each other slack.
(10) You start talking about marriage, if you're the marrying sort.
(11) You start talking about kids, if you're the sort who wants kids.
(12) You have fights about money, if you're not wealthy.
(13) You buy each other personal items, like underwear or sanitary products.
(14) You realize you've been in a relationship with this person for over a decade
(15) Or two decades
(16) or LONGER
(17) You're an adult in a relationship. What the hell.