Sunday, March 31, 2019

Happy Trans Day of Visibility!

I love my trans son, who is a brilliant artist and an amazing person.


Taxes Paid

No big surprises -- I wasn't expecting to get money back, after hearing from everyone else at around my income level, and indeed I did not. But at least I didn't have to pay anything. (We got a tiny refund, less than $50, from the Feds, and a slightly larger one from the state.)

Was there a tax cut? Yeah, you couldn't tell it by me. I've been getting about $30 extra a month on my paycheck, but then I also got a 1% cost of living raise. $30/month is about right for that, after taxes. (And no, a 1% raise does not begin to cover the rise in the cost of living here.)

So Trump's big tax cuts are going to someone else, not people like me (in the 3rd percentile, or solidly middle-class).

And I bet you can guess whose receiving those giant tax cuts, too.

Vote the GOP out in 2020.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Conversation at the Library

I stopped by the library, to pick up the half dozen books they were holding for me.

The big library in our town is maybe five miles away. It has the most books, so I put books on hold when I want to read them, having them sent to the library which is two blocks from my house.

All the librarians there know me, since I'm in there two or three times a week, either picking up books and looking for books or bringing books back. Also, the Kid used to hang out there a lot when he was in high school, and he always volunteered to work there summers.

Anyway, today the new librarian, who I liked a lot, was there. She got my books and checked them out for me, asked, "You read so much. You must just go home every night and read."

"I do," I agreed cheerfully. "That's pretty much all I do, read books and write them. But what can I do?" I added. "There are so many books!"

"Same!" she said, and we beamed happily at each other.

One reason I'm hesitant to move out of our current house (which I would love to do, to move into something with a lower rent which is closer to the school) is how much I would miss having this library within walking distance, right across the street from the post office, and also the local grocery store, only maybe a tenth of a mile further on. Also! Our dentist is like four blocks in the other direction.

If it only wasn't so far from where I work, this would be the perfect house.

(So far: eight miles. I can get to work in ten minutes, if the traffic is light. So ignore my whining.)

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Spring 2019

It's going to be nearly 80 degrees today. We're going straight from winter to summer here in the Fort.

Spring? That's for the nice people.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Mueller Report v. Jussie Smollet

It's funny to watch MAGA Americans scream about the Barr letter and then one second later start screaming about Jussie Smollet.

And by "funny" I mean "entirely predictable."

Jussie Smollet is "getting away with it" because he's rich and privileged and can buy lawyers. Jussie Smollet demonstrates that it's one law for the rich and another for the poor.

The Barr letter, on the other hand, why, that's just justice being done at last. And besides that look at those liberals cry! Hurr-hurr.

I'd ask them if they can see the contradiction in those positions, but there's no point. If they could look at evidence and apply reason and logic to it, they wouldn't be Trump supporters.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Glenn Beck's Overton Window Ch 8-12

In this section, we almost get some plot.

But then Glenn Beck's ghostwriter decides to give us more characters making long speeches filled with conspiracy theories and other nonsense instead.

Chapter Eight

Noah finally goes inside the bar, though it takes him a page and a half. This book is even more overwritten than Trigger Warning

Once inside he finds -- oh, this is a shock -- that the crowd is not the redneck mob of "old white people of limited intelligence" that "the media" had led him to expect.

Instead, what diversity!

[It was] a mix of everyone—three-piece suits rubbing elbows with T-shirts and sweat pants, yuppies chatting with hippies, black and white, young and old, a cowboy hat here, a six-hundred-dollar hair- cut there—all talking together, energetically agreeing and disagreeing...

This is the same drum J.A. was banging in Trigger Warning. Liberals are the real racists, conservatives welcome anyone, conservatives don't care how rich or educated you are, blah blah blah.

And maybe MAGA Americans even think that's true, because (after all!) they have black friends, and they have a gay cousin, and there's even this old Spanish guy they talk to sometimes, sits next to them at the football game, he's as nice as anyone!

But while MAGA Americans will accept people who aren't like them, and even become friends with people who aren't like them, they're still racist and prejudiced against those people in the aggregate.

It's like a friend of mine tells me, about her conservative father. He's hired black people, and worked with them. But those people are different, he tells her. His black people are good black people. Not like those criminals and lazy takers, up there in St. Louis!

I don't hate women, conservative men will tell me. Didn't I marry one? But those Feminazis, they're cancer.

My gay cousin is fine. But LGBT people in general? They're freaks!

Back in the bar, Noah notes that a folksinger is playing, up on the stage. Some "1960's era folk song," which Noah sees as a good PR move, since how could they be racist or violent if they were singing the same songs Martin Luther King Jr sang?

This would work better if we knew what song the folksinger was playing. Possibly Glenn Beck's ghostwriter doesn't know any actual folk songs.

Noah runs into Molly -- literally. We learn for the first time that she has a "slight Southern accent." Also, she notices that Noah is wet from the rain, and immediately devolves to caretaker mode, as your good woman will. She takes his coat, finds him dry clothing (yes, in a bar), and introduces him to a "gentle giant" named Hollis, who I hope will be a main character, given the amount of time we spend with him.

Hollis is also from the South, is wearing working class clothing, and has "perfect etiquette' and stereotypically terrible grammar. (None of them working class southerners know proper English.) In these chapters, by the way, we'll meet five people from this political group. They're all white and all of them except Hollis are middle class, and not noticeably educated. But so diverse.

Chapter Nine

Nothing much happens in this chapter.

More time in the bar, and Noah talks to Molly. We find out Molly doesn't drink (because she's a good woman), and Noah is a 'human lie detector.' Okay, bub. There's a scene where he points out someone who's spying on the group, I guess for the eeevil media, though that's never made clear.

This spy is white too. So diverse.

Also, we meet Danny Bailey, a YouTube star who is here to get a speech. Hollis says he's trouble, Molly says he gets people "fired up" about the wrong things. Certainly the speech he makes in Chapter Eleven is full of silliness.

Danny is also white.

Chapter Ten

But first Molly's mama speaks. We don't find out she's Molly's mother until later -- it's a Big Reveal. We do hear that she's about 55, and that the "honest beauty" of her younger days has "mellowed and matured." That's all we're told about her, because whether a woman is pretty or not is all that really matters.

She gives a long speech explaining how certain people (progressives, as she reveals) have hijacked America and are "perverting" it, replacing "equal justice with social justice," those bastards.

Also lobbyists. They're evil.

Also, America was founded as a "representative Republic," but no one is representing the people in this bar. (Wild applause.)

Also, the Founding Fathers meant us to get along with just the Constitution, and it's only 14 pages long, but look at these law books! Full of so many laws! And so complicated!

Also, too many taxes. The IRS is exactly the same as the Gestapo.

Also, Martin Luther King Jr. wasn't interested in Social Justice. He wanted equal justice.

This seems to be the big point Glenn Beck is trying to get across, that Martin Luther King Jr. would have been with the MAGA Americans, not with the progressives. All that tells us is that neither Glenn Beck nor his ghost writer knows anything about Martin Luther King Jr.

Molly's mama calls for them to "transform" America, but not with violence. Peaceful means only, she declares. Hmm. Does the NRA know about this part of her argument?

This argument, though, is not aimed at MAGA Americans, who believe all of their violence is perfectly legal and perfectly justified. They're protecting their rights; they're standing their ground.

But those Black Lives Matter people, rioting and resisting arrest and shouting bad words, that's just behaving like a mob.

Molly's mama finally shuts up (this is the second lengthy speech in the novel, and not the last) and Molly asks Noah what he thinks. He tries to be polite, saying that Molly's mama seems like she means what she says, but Molly insists on his real opinion. He says it just seems pointless, that politics never accomplished anything.

Molly demands he tell her why he's here, then. He admits he came because he wanted to get to know her. Then she tells him these politics here? Those are her. And flounces off.

Way to win hearts, Molly.

Chapter Eleven

Jake drinks a lot of beer. Hollis comes to sit next to him and cheer him up. Hollis also doesn't drink. I think that's code for Good Guys in this book. Bad guys drink alcohol. Good guys drink Coca-cola.

Danny Bailey gives a long and stupid speech. His basic points, the government is lying; unemployment is high; we're putting too many people in prison (hey, even a stopped clock); and there's an eeeevil plan to put certain people in 'military labor camps.'

What people? Danny Bailey explains that the eeevil government is keeping track of everyone who owns a gun, everyone who home-schools, all returning veterans, everyone who opposes abortion, everyone who opposes immigration, everyone who owns a copy of the Constitution -- all the right-thinking citizens, in other words. All of these people will be rounded up and put in work camps.

The government already has a plan in place, Danny Bailey insists. Executive Decision Number 51! All they need is an emergency, a manufactured emergency, and the arrests begin!

But we can fight then! Danny says. We can win because our hearts are pure!

Noah scoffs. A silence falls, and everyone turns on him.

Dramatic chapter break.

Chapter Twelve

Danny mocks our hero, calling him "Ivy League," and inviting him to get up on the stage if he has so much to say. Noah demurs, but you know he's going to do it. Deprive Glenn Beck's Ghost Writer of the chance to write another long speech? He wouldn't dare.

Noah gets up on the stage and says everything Danny and Molly's mama has said is true. Powerful Secret Cabals control the USA, Rich Men own the country and the government, the Bill of Rights is meaningless, and a New World Order is indeed about to be implemented.

But the people in this bar can't stop it, Noah says, because they're dupes, distracted by in-fighting and conspiracy theories. (The New World Order isn't a conspiracy theory?) Also, they've been infiltrated by agent provocateurs. He points out some in the crowd -- a guy wearing a "Born in the JewSA teeshirt," a white supremacist, a "Birther," a "Freeper," and a Holocaust Denier.

Those aren't real members of this political group, see. Heavens, no. Conservatives aren't racists! These are false flags, they're infiltrators sent by those powerful cabals (run by Goldman Sachs and other Globalists, gee, I wonder why this guy was wearing an anti-Semitic teeshirt, no idea).

But because of these infiltrators, Noah says, no sensible American will join this crusade. Why would they, he demands.

According to the network news, you’re all borderline-insane, ignorant, paranoid, uneducated, hate-mongering, tin-foil-hat-wearing, racist conspiracy theorists. 
Which obviously we're supposed to believe is not true. I can't think why, since everyone we've met so far from this group has been paranoid, uneducated, racist conspiracy theorists. (To be fair, I doubt that Glenn Beck realizes all his talk of Globalists and Seckrit Cabals controlling the world is a racist trope.)

Noah concludes by inviting anyone who wants to punch him outside for a fistfight. Okaaay, that's normal.

Before he can leave, though, Molly's mama stops him to tell him how wonderful his speech was. They have a lot in common, she says, they should talk.

But eagle-eye Noah (who I'll just mention does not even remotely resemble the guy we met in the breakroom, hitting on Molly) notices that Bad Police Men are showing up at the doors. They need to get out of here, he tells Molly's mom. Bad things are about to happen.

Then one of the crowd (obviously an infiltrator) pulls a gun and shoots at Danny. Storm-troopers, I mean American Police Officers, rush in and begin hitting everyone with billy clubs. One pulls Molly's hair.

(Historical note: Back before Black Lives Matter started saying some police officers were dangerous and racist, and that their powers ought to be checked, Conservative Americans had no trouble criticizing the police. It's only since Ferguson that the police, as far as MAGA Americans are concerned, have become too Holy to criticize.)

One starts to bash in a Good American's head. But Noah reaches out and stops him. Because Noah is Ninja like that.

Seriously, has the ghost writer even met Noah? When did he become a Superhero?

Same time he became a powerful political speaker, I guess. When the plot needed him to be.

Noah gets bashed in the head.

Dramatic chapter break.

I hope we get to the damn concentration camps pretty soon.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

What I'm Reading

Spring break is almost over. We drove the kid back to school this morning, and this evening I've been working on edits of a short story. I really like Spring Break. And winter break. And summers. I'm a very slow writer, and I need long stretches of time in which to write. That hardly ever happens during the school year, so I end up writing scrappy bits and pieces. Not the long slow days of writing I need to work well.

Here's what I read over Spring Break:

Kate Hope Day, If, Then

This is a weird and well-done take on the multiverse novel -- only marginally science fiction, a story about people slipping between different versions of their own lives.

The novel takes place in a small suburban town in northern Oregon which is built near a volcano which is supposed to be inactive. (Spoilers: it's not.) The volcano's rumblings and eventual eruption are connected with the ability of the people living in its shadow to slip between worlds.

As befits a multiverse novel, there are multiple points of view -- the four main characters are four people living in the same cul-de-sac. There are a massive number of minor characters, but Day writes so well we never lose track of who is who.

The main point of view characters are a surgeon, a new mother/philosophy graduate student, the surgeon's husband, and a realtor who moved home to be with her sick mother, who has since died. All of them are having doubts about their lives, and the decisions they have made that have created these lives. Tumbling through the different worlds helps them sort out these doubts -- and there's a really cool plot twist about halfway through the book which I won't spoil here.

I love the descriptions of Oregon, and the writing, and the musings of the philosophy grad student on how multiverses might work and why.

Definitely recommended.

Francis Liardet, We Must Be Brave

Set in England, this book is told from the point of view of Ellen Parr, its main character. It skips around in time, from the 1930s, when Ellen is an impoverished child, to the early 1940s, when Ellen and her husband take in a child, Pamela, whose mother has been killed in the Blitz. The latter half of the novel deals with Ellen in her old age, in the late 1970s.

The early part of this book is the best -- the 1930s and 1940s. Ellen's story, especially as it becomes entwined with Pamela, is engaging, and the historical details as wonderfully done.

Also, the relationship between Ellen and this six-year-old she has taken in and comes to love is very well written.

The latter half of the book is not as interesting, sadly. I think Liardet takes a wrong turn when she sends Pamela off to Ireland. The forward momentum of the story dies at that point, although the ending redeems it a bit.

Worth reading for the first half, though, I think.

Starhawk, The Fifth Sacred Thing

This book was given to me by one of my students some time ago now. "You'll like this," they said, and I do, even though many things about it are antithetical to my worldview.

Specifically, it's about a city run by witches -- not fantasy witches, Starhawk obviously believes witchcraft is real and effective. She also clearly believes in the power of crystals, and how people can manipulate crystals with their mind. I'm willing to believe in witchcraft as a form of medicine, as in these plants to this to fix that. But witchcraft as someone's power to heal people with spells and their mind-force, yeah, no.

That said, if you can accept this, The Fifth Sacred Thing is a pretty good book. Set in the near future, it's the story of a multicultural pacifist city-state invaded by White National Christian Dominionists who are definitely not pacifists.

How to fight an evil empire without resorting to violence? This book gives an answer.

Kate Mascarenhas, The Psychology of Time Travel

As all y'all know, I love time-travel stories, so I had great hope for this one. And it's not terrible. But it's also nothing special -- there's a locked-room murder mystery at the core of it, but given that we have time travel, I'm not sure why that's supposed to be a mystery. Why does it not occur to the police, who live in a world with time travel, that someone might have jumped into the locked room and then jumped out again?

To be fair, maybe this was explained at some point. The multiple points of view sometimes left me muddled in this one.

And it does appear that the people travel about in time-travel pods or something like that. But that brings up another point -- there's a bit about psychology here, in that time travel messes with your circadian rhythms and thus can set off manic or depressive episodes, and also have other deleterious effects. But there's not much about actual time travel.

I mean, we get some world-building, and that part's pretty good. Time travelers, for instance, often meet up with their younger and older selves and... do things. Go to their own wedding, for instance. Have sex with themselves. (Audrey Niffenegger already had that, in The Time-Traveler's Wife, though.)

But what are the time-travelers doing? In Connie Willis's time travel books they're historians, and they're visiting historical events as research. In Kage Baker's books, they're slaves to the Corporation, and they're recovering and hiding valuables lost in the past, in order to make the Corporation richer. In this book, we get some vague hand-waving. Apparently there is some historical research being done by someone. And some people are making money somehow?

But none of this is ever detailed or explored. Instead we get the murder mystery, and also a detailed examination of the character of the murder victim, who runs the Time-Travel company. Also a lot about who is dating who.

One interesting touch is that almost all the characters are women. We have a few male characters, but they just show up as husbands or boyfriends or students of the women. I liked that part.

Also one of the main love stories was F/F, so that was nice. Still, this is not what I'm looking for in a time travel novel. Other people seem to have liked it better.

Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls

I read this as an adolescent, once, and never read it again. But it was on the shelf at my library, which is my new standard for reading books, apparently.

Having re-read it, I see why I never read it again.

Not that it is all bad. The writing, especially the descriptions of mountains and storms and pine forests, is really nice. And the basic plot -- a demolitions expert is sent up to join a band of guerrilla fighters in some mountains in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, where he will enlist their aid in blowing a bridge at a precise moment -- isn't terrible.

I even support his decision to have Robert Jordan muse about Republican politics for pages on end, and the endless scene when Pilar is talking about what happened when her comrades took their village from the Nationalists. Among other things, Hemingway was trying to write a true story of the Spanish Civil War, and to do that, he needs to get into ideology and the reality of what happens in and after a coup.

On the other hand, Hemingway lets the ruminations over ideology and politics get out of hand. If he were writing a political tract, maybe this would work. And it almost works now, because he was careful to make his main character, Robert Jordan, an ideologue.

Robert Jordan is a professor of Spanish from Missoula who took a sabbatical to come fight in this war. His grandfather fought in the American Civil War, and in the wars against the American Indians after the Civil War, and he passed down to young Robert a belief in the holiness of war. This was complicated by Robert's father, who -- according to Robert -- was a coward. The evidence given for Robert's father (who he calls 'that other one') being a coward is that (a) he let his wife bully him and (b) he committed suicide.

On the other hand, what is Robert doing, but committing suicide in a much more elaborate and destructive manner?

At the core, as I've said, this book has what could have been a good plot. But it's buried under first the ideology and second a very silly love story. I don't believe for a minute that Robert would take up with Maria, not on a job like this; or that the partisans would let him take up with her; or that she would want to take up with  him.

There's a taint of White Savior running through the book. This is why we're supposed to believe the partisans who have been protecting and caring for Maria for all this time stand back and let her take up with Robert.

Pilar is a pretty good character, except for all the whining about not being pretty. I don't believe for a minute that Pilar, as she's written, would give a shit about her looks. That's Hemingway, who thinks that at their root women are just decorative, so of course an ugly one is useless.

On the other hand, this book taught me a new word, which is rare at this point in my life: aneroid. (It's not a very useful word, sadly.)

Ira Levin, A Kiss Before Dying

This was Levin's first book. It's a mystery novel, rather than fantasy or SF, which are the books he became famous for. And it's a pretty good one.

First published in 1953, A Kiss Before Dying is set in the pre-Roe v. Wade world, the one the "Pro-Life" crowd wants us to return to. Its main characters are a young man who is total sociopath and a wealthy family, one who made its fortune in copper mining and manufacturing.

The young man comes from the working class, but aspires to wealth and power. He begins dating the youngest daughter of the family, and realizes, when he gets her pregnant, that marrying her for this reason would destroy any hope he has of winning the wealthy father's approval.

He does attempt a medical abortion of the fetus (and twists the young girl's arm until she agrees) but when that fails, what can he do but murder her?

The best part of this book is the look at the world of the early 1950s, plus the very cool plot twists. Also, like all of Levin's books, it's very readable, and very short. Definitely light fiction, despite the grim-dark elements.

Friday, March 22, 2019

The Kid

The Kid goes back to school tomorrow morning. Today we went out to buy a special pencil sharpener, made for water color pencils.

As we're leaving the house, the Kid glances down at my feet. "Are you wearing socks with sandals?"

Me: "You can pretend you don't know me."

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Glenn Beck's Overton Window Part II Ch 4 through 7

This is my read through of Glenn Beck's The Overton Window, presented for your entertainment only. The first installment can be read here.

Chapter Four

When we left the book, Noah's daddy, the eeevil Arthur Gardner, was lecturing incoherently about how easy it is to destroy democracy with advertising, or something. (Seriously, the main problem with this novel is the incoherence of the writing. Often I can't even decipher what Beck/Beck's ghost writer is trying to say.)

Chapter Four starts with Noah in the hallway outside the boardroom. His daddy has sent him out with a list of phone numbers. No names -- this is so mysterious, Noah thinks. Because I guess this is his first day working for his father.

He calls the phone number and issues invitations to a meeting with his father. He marvels at how rich people have assistants to answer their phones, even at six o'clock on a Friday afternoon! Why, maybe even they'd have people answering their phones 24/7! How incredible would that be?

No one gives a name at any of these phone numbers -- because that's how conspiracies work, I guess -- but Noah hears someone speak off the line during the last phone call, and realizes that it's the "next U.S. treasury secretary, assuming the election went as forecast." Right now this man was the President of the Federal Reserve. (Gasp!)

Then Noah goes into his father's private kitchen (if there's a private kitchen, why was he eating Tootsie Rolls in the employee breakroom) and burns the slip of phone numbers. As one does, in a conspiracy.

Chapter Five

Nothing much happens in this chapter. Noah takes a stroll down some hallway somewhere in the big corporate office building his father owns, and narrates for us the exhibits there, which showcase the past work done by his father and grandfather and so on.

But first we get this odd story: No clocks are allowed at Doyle & Merchant (the name of his daddy's PR firm). Once, a woman had glanced at her wrist watch while Arthur Gardner was rambling speaking. Not only was she summarily fired, but Arthur banned all watches and clocks from the business from that point on.

This is what I mean when I say Glenn Beck has no idea how businesses work. Can you imagine running an organization of any size, never mind a global PR firm, if no one had access to a clock of any sort? Do we just show up for meetings when the whim takes us, or what?

Anyway. Among the PR triumphs that Doyle & Merchant have pulled off over the past hundred years, we learn, are the state lottery; pet rocks; teeshirts with Che Guevera on them (what saps, wearing teeshirts featuring "the century's most brutal killer"); and the First Gulf War. Also, D&M has done the PR work to elect every President except Jimmy Carter and Nixon.

If I ran an evil empire like this one, I don't know that I would put displays of my evil deeds out on public display like this. That doesn't seem like a good way to run a conspiracy.

Noah feels what might be guilt. Apparently the work D&M do is news to him. He decides to go meet the uppity temp worker, better known as his One True Love. Though apparently he's forgotten he's in love with her. Now she's "a naive young woman" who needs to be taught a thing or two. (Sometimes Noah talks like he's 12, and sometimes like he's 62.)

Chapter Six

Nothing much happens in this chapter. (I think I'm going to be saying this a lot.)

Noah catches a cab instead of taking one of the D&M limos (why would he? Also, would he? He's the son of the richest man in the USA. Is he going to be riding in cabs?)

The driver of the cab is an immigrant from the "Middle East." While trying to drive them out of a traffic jam, the driver runs them into a military checkpoint (one in the middle of New York City, apparently) and they both get pulled from the cab and interrogated. Noah is released once he remembers he's the son of the richest man in the country. This takes him awhile, mind you.

The cab driver remains in custody. Noah feels what might be guilt over this, as he walks away. Vague guilt seems to be Noah's main emotion, when he isn't channeling a cranky octogenarian.

We don't find out why the military checkpoint is here, what the interrogators wanted, or how they knew Noah was in the cab -- as they seemed to have. They also know he's on his way to this patriotic meeting, which might be why they stopped him? Except that doesn't make sense. Why interrogate Noah? Why not grab up the organizers of the meeting? It's not like they're hiding. They're putting notices on bulletin boards all over town, in fact.

Chapter Seven

Nothing much happens in this chapter.

Having lost his cab driver, Noah decides to walk the rest of the way to the meeting. Because that's what the only sons of the richest and most powerful men in America always do.

The most powerful descriptor gets added in this chapter. Arthur's not content to be rich, Noah tells us, he also wants power.

Most of this chapter is Noah walking and thinking things we already know -- his father owns a PR firm, it's a powerful PR firm, people are dupes who can be manipulated by PR forms, fap fap fap.

At the end of the chapter, he reaches The Stars'n'Stripes Saloon, which is where the meeting is being held, because of course it is. And it turns out to be filled with "Right-Wing nutcases" and "knuckle-draggers," as Noah calls them now.

I'm sure he'll learn better soon.

For the record, we're 18% of the way into the book, according to my Kindle. Almost nothing has happened.

This seems to be a feature of Reactionary books -- lots of padding.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Wednesday Linkage

Happy Vernal Equinox!

It has been unseasonably cold here for the past several weeks, but yesterday was a lovely day, low 70s and sunny. Today is rainy, grey, and cold my favorite weather. Also, I have five more days of Spring Break left.

Plans for today: buy new shoes for the Kid, and then go observe squirrels on campus (this is for his anthropology lab. Squirrel Lab, they call it).

Have some links!

Remember how Florida voted to re-enfranchise felons? Yeah, don't worry, the GOP has that covered.

Here in Arkansas, our voters approved a minimum wage increase. Our GOP legislatures respond by cackling "Will of the people? I'll show you the will of the people!"

Utah GOP defines woman: A woman is a person who serves the purpose of receiving a man's seed. (Hat-tip Nicole and Maggie)

On the other hand, in Canada, a court rules that your daddy can't interfere with your medical treatment. (Predictably, this has transphobes throwing screaming tantrums. Of course your children are your property! How dare the courts say your power over their bodies has limits!)

An example of reasoned discourse from the anti-Trans people

And to take the taste of THAT out of your mouth: American Boys

Always check your sources. Also, stay away from the National Review.

Dunning-Kruger in the wild. This person knows nothing about AAVE, or about the teaching of English. Also, no shock, they're also a giant racist.

Nice reviews of my story, "History of the Invasion Told in Five Dogs."

Image result for Happy Vernal Equinox comic

Monday, March 18, 2019

Review of Rosemary's Baby

Live on my Patreon, and available to the public, a review of Rosemary's Baby, with notes on Levin's other seminal work, The Stepford Wives.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Reading Glenn Beck's The Overton Window Ch 1-3

MAGA Americans love to talk about "the Overton Window" nearly as much as they like to talk about Saul Alinsky, so when I saw this book by the infamous Glenn Beck available for free via my Kindle, I snapped it up.

Time for another read-through of a silly book by a silly writer. Though from what I understand, Beck didn't actually write this one -- he paid a ghost writer to write it for him. Which is just sad. Because this book is terrible.

It starts with an introduction, in which Beck assures you this this book is not fiction, it is (dum dum) faction.

Beck defines faction as fiction based on facts. (1) That's pretty much all fiction, you potato, and (B) yeah, no, not this one.

The rest of the introduction is Beck lecturing us on how he's not an ideologue and this book isn't about being Right or Left wing, and it has nothing to do with who is President now, this is just about the Truth. (Who was President then, by the way, was Obama.) This could really happen, he asserts, and it could happen any time, not just when that, no matter WHO has seized control.

Beck know critics will try to silence him, by saying his book is silly or terrible, because that's always what happens when people try to Speak the Truth. He doesn't care, though. He's going to Speak the Truth anyway.

Then we cut to a prologue (yes, this book has both an introduction and a prologue) in which an obvious lunatic named Eli Churchill is talking to what I guess is a reporter, via a payphone.

(Me: Oh My God.)

I mean, seriously, when was the last time you even saw a payphone? I had to explain to my students what one was when it showed up in a 1985 movie I was showing in class.

Anyway, this guy is reading from an enormous sheaf of papers, trying to tell the reporter what he has learned.

"Could you just tell me?" the reporter begs. This is a faction, obviously, since in reality the reporter would have hung about about 20 minutes earlier, when this raving conspiracy theorist first began to rave.

Churchill says all that money that got lost in the budget (this was a scandal Conservatives were pretending to be outraged over in the early years of the Obama administration) wasn't lost. It was being used to build something.

“I’ve seen the place, one of the places where they’re getting ready for something—something big—planning it out, you know? I got a job inside in maintenance, as a cleanup man. They thought I was just a janitor, but I had the run of the place overnights."'s like a building?

But no, because in the very next breath, Churchill says it's not a building.

“They’re building a structure…Not like a building, but like a political and economic and social structure.” 
Okay. So how do "they" hire you to scrub floors in a political and social and economic structure? And how exactly do you have the "run" of a structure like that, overnights?

Never mind, it doesn't matter, because right then someone shoots Churchill.

Eli Churchill had enough time left to begin a quiet prayer but not enough to end it. His final appeal was interrupted by a silenced gunshot, and a .357 semi- jacketed hollow point was the last thing to go through his mind. 
That's what passes for clever writing when you're Glenn Beck's ghostwriter.

Chapter One

Here we meet the main character of the novel, Noah Gardner, who were's supposed to think is adorable. He's so sexy and "puckish" that he sleeps with a different woman every weekend. Though only because he lowers his standards. He'll even sleep with a six, apparently. What a man!

But now that he has reached the advanced age of 28, he wants to give up his slutty lifestyle and settle down with a real woman.

Luckily one shows up. She's working at a temp at his ad agency, and despite that she's a temp, she's dressed....well, I don't know exactly how she's dressed. Glenn's ghostwriter says she's not following the dress code. Also that she's a "free spirit."

Is she wearing overalls? Jeans? a mini-skirt? Thigh boots and mesh stockings?

No idea. Also we don't know what she looks like except that she's really hot. But it's an "aloof and effortless hotness" which "dares" men to bring it up. You know. That "effortless hotness" real women have.

Also she has a perfect "line," something Noah's artist friend talks about.

Noah falls in love in 5 seconds. Literally. This is true love, he knows, just from looking at her "effortless hotness," and that perfect "line."

Chapter Two

So he hits on her. Guess how.

"Need some help?" he says. She's pinning something to a bulletin board, so obviously she needs his help to do that. I mean, she's just a girl. She shoots him a contemptuous look and continues to try to pin whatever it is up all by herself.

And now we get a description!

You won't be surprised to find that "effortless hotness" means not much makeup. Also her "abundant" hair is pinned up in a loose bun with two crossed pencils. And she has -- I know this will shock you -- green eyes.

He goes over to help despite her dismissal and finds she is posting an "amateur" looking notice about a political meeting to the bulletin board. The header lets us know this meeting will be held by a political group called We The People.

If you love your country but fear for its future, join us for an evening of TRUTH that will open your eyes! 
Oh my God. It's a TEA PARTY novel.

There are about fifteen "guest speakers" listed, all associated with groups like "The Guardians of Liberty" and "Founders Keepers." One is a YouTube start with 300,000 followers!

The "Effortlessly hot" woman is Molly Ross, as Noah discovers after looking at her name tag (after a long lingering look at her cleavage, where he spots a tattoo of what might be an angel). Molly says she doesn't expect anyone from this place to come to the meeting, since PR firms aren't interested in The Truth.

Also she knows who Noah is.

“Noah Gardner. Twenty-first floor, northwest corner office. Vice president as of last Thursday. And a son of a … big shot.” 
“Wow. For a second I wasn’t sure where you were going with that last one.” 

Oh look. More Humor!

Noah turns out to be the son of the owner of the PR firm, which I guess is why he's sitting around in the break room eating Tootsie Rolls (I kid you not, that's what he's eating). You'd think the son of the owner would have his own office and his own staff and better taste, but not in this Factional Universe.

Anyway, Noah says he plans to go to her meeting. Why? Because he's patriotic. Very patriotic, in fact. Not because he's stalking Molly or anything.

Molly makes what is supposed to be a sparkling joke about Noah and the Ark, and we're out of there.

Chapter Three 

Oh, here's some plot, finally. 

Chapter starts with a faux document from Homeland Security, all about how the collapse of the economy is causing "radicals" to rise up, and how a "contingency plan" needs to be formed to deal with them.

A list of radicals includes one or two radical liberal groups, like "Earth First," but mainly it is groups like The Tea Party and homeschoolers and "anti-abortionists," as well as gun-rights activists, Anti-Immigration groups, Christian Dominionists, and White Nationalists.

You may not remember this, but during the early years of Obama's time in office, a report did leak saying that the FBI and Homeland Security judged that White Nationalists and other conservative activists were a danger to the country. Conservatives had a screaming tantrum, because obviously white nationalists and anti-abortion groups weren't a threat.

The document goes on to talk vaguely about "enhanced interrogation" and "extralegal detention" of members of this group, before being abruptly cut off as we switch to a meeting in a boardroom, being led by Noah's daddy, Arthur Gardner, who is 78 years old even though his son is only 28, and who has -- I think, the writing is hard to follow here -- been hired by Homeland Security to run a PR program which will convinced "the public" that this leaked report isn't true.

No problem, Arthur says. In fact, it's already done. (How? Well, he just told the Washington Post to say it was fake. Problem solved.)

Then we have a 15-page long speech from Arthur, in which he snarls and screams at everyone in the room, including the people from Homeland Security, telling them that the truth is whatever he says it is, that he's rich, that they are cowards and fools*, and that the world is about to be destroyed by a financial tsunami.

Here he tells a story of an actual tsunami which he watched, standing on the roof of his big hotel in Sri Lanka. Lots of people died under the giant wave. He found this very interesting.

We're supposed to think Arthur is a monster -- I know, because a few pages later he name-checked Saul Alinsky along with some other evil people, like the founder of the Washington Post -- so I guess him watching hundreds of thousands of people die just for fun is supposed to reveal the depths of his villainy.

Apparently Arthur is also the one Churchhill was talking about, back in the prologue, since we also learn here that he is building a "structure," a "new framework," which will last after the USA has been washed away in the coming tsunami.

There's tons more. But my God is the writing terrible. Glenn Beck's ghostwriter apparently thinks that people stand around spouting speeches is good writing. It's not. Also, why would a super villain like Arthur Gardner reveal his plans in a boardroom filled with sixty or seventy people? Including some from Homeland Security?

I mean, is he an idiot?

Noah leaves halfway through this rant speech, and who can blame him.

So far this book is both badly written and very slow. Also, it's clear neither Glenn Beck nor his ghost writer know how actual big corporations work.

That's as much as I can take today. More later!

* ETA It occurs to me that Noah's dad is a pretty good picture of Donald Trump, right down to the world salad and the bullying. I wonder if this is intentional? I know Trump wasn't running for president in 2010, when this book was published, but he was already pretty well-known.

My Birthday!

It's my birthday again.

I honestly forgot until suddenly dozens of people were wishing me Happy Birthday on FB.

So happy birthday to me!

What are we doing for my birthday? Nothing! That's how I roll. Any excuse not to have a celebration, that's my motto. I'ma drink coffee and write. Later probably I'll go to the dog park with Heywood and the Kid.

Dr. Skull did get me several nice presents, though, including a bottle of fig-infused balsamic vinegar.

Image result for Happy Birthday comic Nathan Pyle

(Comic by Nathan Pyle. If you haven't discovered Nathan Pyle yet, boy are you in for a treat.)

Friday, March 15, 2019

The Cats Lurk

My cats, Jasper and Junti, have taken to climbing to the very top of our bookcases and staring down at us haughtily.

Spring Break

Mine started last night at 8:00 PM (after my Fiction Workshop) and the kid's started today at 10:00 (after his anthropology lab). We drove up to fetch him home around noon today, with the obligatory stop at the fancy grocery before we left town.

(Fort Smith, where we live, has only two grocery stores, Wal-Mart and Harps, and Harp's is only slightly better than the Wall. So if we want something fancy, like chocolate that isn't Nestle's, we have to wait for a trip up the mountain.)

Now Spring Break is officially begun. What will we do with it? I'ma write a ton. The kid will draw a ton. Also we must do a Squirrel Lab, which is something attached to the anthropology lab.

The kid is considering doing an anthropology minor. At lunch, we all received a lecture on tarsiers, and what is important about their eyes. As all y'all know, I was briefly an anthropology major in college, so I enjoyed this lecture immensely.

Image result for tarsiers
Tarsier at night

We'll probably also go to the dog park at least a few times. Also I am reading many many book. More on that later.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Pop Up Ads Are Evil

Even though I've got ad software and popup blockers on my computers, there are still a number of sites that -- when I open them -- immediately bombard me with bullshit pop-up ads.

I shut such sites down immediately, because nothing they have to say can be worth dealing with clicking off or (worse) enduring the flashing videos at the edge or even center of the screen. And I assume most people do the same.

So how can anyone who designs or runs a site think this is a good strategy?

I'm guessing they get the revenue whether anyone sticks around to read their posts or not. But wouldn't people who build these annoying ads track that sort of thing?

I used to read -- for instance -- Rod Dreher and The Hill. But now I avoid both, because of these ads.

Maybe it's a defense mechanism? At least on Rod's part. Only the most zealous of readers (that's not me) will bother to put up with the bullshit?

The Hill, I think, just wants the money.

Of course, maybe that's Rod too.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

My Kid and HRT

So the kid has been on T for just over a month now.

All y'all who have been reading me for awhile know the kid has had issues with anxiety, depression, self-loathing, and worse for years -- since hitting puberty, in fact. (Which in retrospect should have been a clue.)

After one month on T, these symptoms have vanished. He sent me a message today saying, "WTF? I'm happy because I get to be alive. I'm HAPPY. Is this how cis people feel all the time?"

So yeah. If you're one of those ignorant potatoes who think trans people should have, I don't know what the fuck, more and more and yet more therapy to convince them they are actually cis people, you can fuck right off.

And when you get there, fuck off again.

I'm trying to get the kid to write something about this, and if he does, I'll post it here. But he's an art student, as he points out to me all the time, so maybe not.

My Kid Pre-Puberty -- That's some of his early art behind him

Monday, March 04, 2019

Next Book to Read Through

So I'm looking for the next book to do a blog-read of, since Trigger Warnings was so much fun (for certain values of fun).

My criteria is that the book must be conservative, must be stupid, must have been highly recommended on at least one MAGA American reading list, and must be available free on one of my two book platforms, Amazon or Scribd. (I ain't paying for a stupid hateful book.)

The two that are top in my running now are True Allegiance by Ben Shapiro, which looks like it's another Good Man With a Gun book; and Finding Mr. Righteous, by Lisa de Pasquale, which looks like a MAGA attempt at a romance novel.

From the first dozen pages, the de Pasquale book looks like it might be less boring. Both are pretty stupid.

Anyone want to vote? Or make other suggestions?

Sunday, March 03, 2019

I Got Better

The illness (whatever it was) has mostly gone. I've got residual ear aches and a persistent cough, but my strength has returned and I'm not sleeping 12 hours a day, plus a two hour nap.

Meanwhile, here's what I'm reading:

Image result for the harpole report by jl carrJ.L. Carr, The Harpole Report.

This one's by the same guy who wrote A Month in the Country, which I loved. I liked this one almost as much. It's made up of letters, journal entries, news articles, and school log entries, interspersed with 'explanatory' notes from some unnamed locutor, and follows the main character, Harpole, through his year running a primary school somewhere in England. Set sometime in the early 1970s, it's interesting, among other things, for the picture it gives of 1970s village life in England.

It reminds me a little bit of the Miss Read books. A great deal of fun, if not much plot.

Joyce Carol Oates, The Hazards of Time Travel.

As you know, I'll read almost anything about time travel. So when I saw this one on the shelf at our library, I picked it up, even if it was by JCO. I have tried several books by Oates, and liked none of them.

This one too I cannot recommend. The set-up: We're in a future about 30 years from now, in which the forces of Fascism or whoever have removed all liberty, blah blah blah. Every moment of everyone's life is watched by cameras and so on. Everyone is an agent of the state, just waiting to rat everyone else out. Any deviation from the accepted path (laid out by the state) results in people either being Deleted or sent to a kind of prison.

The prison turns out to be time travel. Our main character is sent to Zone 9, a mediocre liberal arts university in the Midwest, in 1959.

I mean, so far, not terrible. I had hopes. The first bit, the set up, was both cliche and over the top. But now that we're in 1959, maybe something cool will happen.

Nope. Instead, our main character, an 18 year old girl who has grown up in an oppressive regime, gets a crush on one of her professors, who's about 30. The rest of the book is about their (not very interesting) love affair.

Also some stuff about Skinnerism, which probably had some sort of thematic meaning, except I was too bored to care by then.

E.K. Johnston, Exit, Pursued by a Bear

Image result for Johnston, Exit, Pursued by a BearI'll admit I picked this one up mainly for the title. It's a YA novel about a cheerleader who gets date-raped at cheer camp and learns to deal with the resulting infamy and trauma. Very topical, in that everyone blames her for being raped. And nice writing. Also, I like the ending.

But not really my sort of book. I didn't like the main character or her friends very much, and I didn't much like how the narrative more or less endorsed the main characters belief in this one correct way to perform the female gender.

Esi Edugyan, Washington Black

This was interesting reading, though I don't think I'll ever read it again. It's a slave narrative, more or less, following Wash, a slave on a sugar plantation in the Barbados, from age six through young adulthood.

Wash is rescued, by a fluke, from the cane fields when the brother of his owner recruits him as a kind of page and assistant. Wash follows Titch, the brother, through a couple years of his scientific pursuits, helping his gather insects and butterflies from the forests around the cane fields, and helping him build a kind of blimp. Wash turns out to be talented at drawing and then painting, which Titch finds useful, to record his entomological finds.

When they have to flee the plantation (Titch's brother is both sadistic and insane), Titch takes Wash with him. This latter half of the book, post-escape from the cane fields, is more interesting than the first half. Wash travels the world, with and without Titch, with sojourns in the Arctic, Canada, Amsterdam, Africa, and England. The book turns into a sort of picaresque novel.

And the writing is good. But it's a very, very grim book. Don't read it if you're at all depressed, that's all I have to say.

I also read Rosemary's Baby, and a couple other books by Ira Levin. But I'ma write about those in a separate post.