9 hours ago
Saturday, February 29, 2020
It's the last day of February, and 73 degrees here, sunny and still.
This is the point in the year that always depresses me. Summer is barreling down on us, with its merciless heat, humidity, and bugs. Cool weather is gone for the next seven months -- maybe eight, thanks to climate change. Time to huddle inside, in the dim air conditioned habitat, moody and brooding and waiting for dusk before we leave the house.
Worse, it looks my summer classes won't make again, which means we'll be even broker than usual.
On the plus side, at least we're in a house with plenty of shade and good air conditioning. Also, I've found a little park near the new place, a walking trail that runs along the river. So I'll be able to get exercise this summer, at least.
Wednesday, February 26, 2020
This one is topical, though it was actually published a few years ago. A flight attendant, Jiselle, marries a pilot, who then strands her in the rural midwest, with his three children. (Later it becomes clear he married her mostly because he needed a babysitter.) Shortly after he leaves, a flu pandemic sweeps through the world. Jiselle finds herself bonding with the kids and dealing with surviving a plague.
Well-written, with good characters. If you like stories about pandemics, this one is worth reading.
Ann Napolitano, Dear Edward
A 12 year old boy is the sole survivor of a plane crash that kills nearly 200 people.
Based on an actual event, this is an interesting read. About half the book focuses on the crash itself. The rest deals with the media storm and the trauma suffered by Edward and those who had to deal with the crash, as well as relatives of the dead.
Napolitano takes us aboard the plane before it crashes, lingering in the hours before the crash, letting us get to know the passengers who will die. That's a good tactic, but this is -- nonetheless -- pretty much just disaster porn.
Read if you like books about disasters.
Annette Hesse, The German House
Set in Berlin in the 1960s, this is the story of a woman -- an oblivious citizen of Germany -- who gets hired to translate at a war crimes trial.
Among other things, this is a good study of how willing "good citizens" are to turn a blind eye to the atrocities happening around them. Eva Bruhn, the translator, and her families and her neighbors all lived near Auschwitz. Eva drew pictures of the smoke rising from the crematoriums. But all of them have erased the events from their memories. And except for Eva, who is translating the experiences of Polish survivors of the camps, all of them refuse to admit anything happened. (Eva's sister claims the survivors are lying to get a big payout from the government.)
This is a book in which the guilty not only escape unpunished, but escape to prosper and live happily ever after. A fable for our time.
Sarah Pinsker, A Song for a New Day; Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea
Sarah Pinsker wrote one of my favorite short stories, "And Then There Were (N -1)," which is included in her short story collection, Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea. She's also released -- in the same year, almost the same month! -- her first novel, A Song for a New Day.
The latter is another pandemic story, although this one deals with the aftermath and the irrational fears which have warped the country. Congregating in groups of more than a few people is now illegal and highly disapproved of by society in general, which is a problem for any musician who wants to play for an audience.
Pinsker's novel follows some of these musicians, as well as an agent for the giant corporations that profit from these irrational social fears. Good, solid speculative fiction, with good writing and well-drawn characters.
Kate Bolick, The March Sisters
A slender volume of critical essays about Little Women. If you like the book or the movies, you'll enjoy this. The critics include Jane Smiley and Carmen Maria Machado.
Suzanne Walker, Mooncakes
This is a graphic novel about two best friends who were separated in childhood but have now reconnected. Spoilers: One of them is a werewolf. The other is a witch. The witch has Lesbian grandmothers who are also witches, and who run a bookstore. Trouble is brewing in the community (supernatural trouble) and the community comes together to deal with it.
Fun and well-written.
Monday, February 24, 2020
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Jews and trans people
This is very cool
Trump's America is filled with transphobes
I got Very Low on this quiz, mostly because I'm Very Broke
Flu Pandemics (science)
cis ppl: why has the number of trans people grown so quickly? is it just trendy?— Gay Rat Sascha 🐀 (@confusedophan) February 22, 2020
trans ppl: our numbers haven’t grown, just the amount of people who are comfortable coming out has grown because we‘re more accepted now.
cis: we may never know. it’s a mystery. must be a trend.
Thursday, February 20, 2020
Sunday, February 16, 2020
A short story from my kid
The system is broken
27% of American adults
Capitalism kills hundreds of thousands of people a year
Here's why you shouldn't support the GOP, the party of conspiracy theories and xenophobic lies
Friday, February 14, 2020
Sunday, February 09, 2020
So today my kid is on his way to Tulsa with his roommate -- driving there in a car, like the two adults they are -- and I am here in my little writing nook feeling, well, pleased.
My kid has his own place. He makes his own medical appointments. He cooks his own meals and pays his own bills and when he wants to go to a concert, he books tickets and off he goes.
Look at this. I raised an adult.
Friday, February 07, 2020
Over on Twitter (yes, I know, we're doomed already), Sarah Nicholas put forth what ought to be a commonplace opinion: if you want to be a writer, you should be reading current fiction.
Please I beg of you if you want to be a published author read one effing book published in the last 5 years. Just start with one. I'm BEGGING.— Sarah ★★★★★ Nicolas (@Sarah_Nicolas) February 5, 2020
That's not an outlandish idea. In fact, it's one I spend at least ten minutes of every writing workshop trying to get my newbie writers to understand. I can't tell you how many times I've had a writer who is trying to write a science fiction novel who has literally not read a single science fiction novel. Ditto for literary fiction (they haven't read a novel published in the last century), ditto for mystery novels, and so on.
You have to read -- and read a lot -- if you're going to write. And you have to read current books, things being written now. Mind you, I love Jane Austen and George Eliot as much as anyone. But what they're doing in their books and what (say) Ann Patchett or Naomi Kritzer is doing -- those are centuries apart.
I can't tell you how many science fiction recommendation threads I've been on where writers recommend nothing but books written in 1960 or before. As if Asimov or Heinlein were the sole source available. Sometimes they'll mention Le Guin as well -- rarely, but sometimes. Now mind you I like Le Guin and I've read everything Heinlein ever wrote. But come on. The field has moved on since then. If you don't know that, your writing is going to be...odd, to say the least.
And of course there are "writers" who don't want to read at all. Anything. They play video games or watch movies instead. Nothing wrong with video games, but they're giving you the background to write games, not books.
If you're going to write, (1) read a lot -- and feel free to read older books as well as the new stuff. But (2) you have to read the new stuff.
I mean, this is not a hot take. This is obvious stuff. You would expect, then, Sarah Nicholas's tweet to have attracted no attention what so ever, given it's a commonplace.
So much outrage!
Sexual harassment and death threats, obviously -- that's what she gets for being a woman on the internet -- but also comments such as, "Well I only read the classics," and "Don't tell me what you read, you SNOB," and "Well I won't compromise my vision to be trendy," and "that's creative bankruptcy," or "that's a corporatized mentality" and "But I want to create aaaart, not best sellers."
I mean, God save us.
Thursday, February 06, 2020
The damage done
I mean, no one is really expecting anything else
Just a little list
Might be the problem
America -- SO GREAT
Your typical TERF -- and, sadly, more and more often your typical "Christian."
How cool is this? (Probably only really cool if you're an English professor)
Brookings on the SOTU speech (The Brookings Institution is a non-partisan think tank -- well worth following: they put out succinct but data-filled papers on crucial issues of the nation.)
See also this
Wednesday, February 05, 2020
Last night, Trump gave the Medal of Freedom -- the highest civilian honor available -- to Rush Limbaugh.
Previous winners include Georgia O'Keefe, T.S. Eliot, Elie Wiesel, Aaron Copeland, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
What has Rush done to deserve such an honor?
- Invented the term feminazis
- said women who use birth control are sluts
- Promoted creationism
- said that evolution can't be factual, since apes in zoos don't "evolve" into human beings
- denied climate change, because "God wouldn't do that"
- promoted the anti-vaxxer position and blamed immigrants for recent measles outbreaks
- mocked Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's disease
- mocked a Chinese president in a racist segment
- told a black caller to "get the bone out of her nose"
- said that "all newspaper composite" crime photos look like Jesse Jackson
- claims that Democrats deliberately keep Latinx and black voters poor and ignorant in order to create their base
- calls AIDS the "only federally protected virus"
- denies that AIDS has ever spread to the heterosexual community -- claims it's "just" a gay disease
- claims that, in sexual relationships, guys know that "no means yes" in most cases
- Likewise, thinks consent is nonsense -- guys don't need and shouldn't seek consent before sex with women
- Defended the Christian terrorist group, the Lord's Resistance Army
- Spent years railing against those addicted to drugs, calling for harsher prison sentence, while himself abusing drugs pretty much non-stop
Said this about Sandra Fluke (among other, even worse things):
What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We're the pimps.
He also frequently makes the claim that there are more trees in America now than there were when the Europeans first came to Plymouth. This was how I first became aware of his existence. My previously rational brother, who had started listening to Rush, came to my room to explain this to me. As someone who was even then being educated in how to judge and evaluate an argument, I looked at him like he had two heads. (No, there are not more trees now than there were then. See here for more.)
Rush was an early proponent of this sort of thing -- telling huge and obvious lies, which then people who should have known better would at least pretend to believe. Many people actually did believe his lies.
His success, because it turned out there was a market for people who preferred lies that made them feel better over facts and truth, led directly to Fox News and such vile hate-mongers as Tucker Carlson and Alex Jones. And that, as we know, led directly to Donald Trump being elected president.
In other words, Rush has done far more than most people to destroy this country.
But of course Trump gave him the Medal of Freedom.
We have always been at War with Eastasia, after all.
Rush Limbaugh broadcast an actual 21st century minstrel koon show back in 2007, 'Barack da Magic Negro.' Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian award a US Pres can bestow. Black folks shipped in from all corners to stand by as Trump honored this. #SOTU was a racist spooj dream. pic.twitter.com/ovpcMUZPDi— Jeffrey Wright (@jfreewright) February 5, 2020
Sunday, February 02, 2020
Dr. Skull and I are doing this thing where he picks one movie to see and I pick one movie to see, and we alternate.
Back when we were first hanging out, we went to like 3 or 4 movies a week. It seems like there were more movies worth seeing then, but probably actually we were just less picky. Now I don't want to see a movie unless I'm sure it's going to be an excellent movie. Then, as I recall, we went to almost every movie.
On the other hand, "every movie" wasn't the same three movies, remade and remade and remade: A superhero movie; a remake of a kid's cartoon from the 1990s; a woman-gets-raped-and-murdered-and-a-man-takes-revenge movie.
Which seems an odd thing to complain about, since this time the pick was mine and I picked Little Women, which, yes, is a remake of a kid's movie, remade and remade and remade. On the other hand, it's Little Women. I'll admit I didn't love this book as a kid the way I love Alcott's Little Men but it's still one of the formative texts from my childhood.
Also, Dr. Skull had picked Midway last time, so it was my turn.
Also, it's not like we had a lot of choice. Here in the Fort, you can see a Jesus movie or you can see women-getting-raped-and-murdered movies or you can see (usually very bad) kid's movies. Midway and Little Women are anomalies.
All of this to say that Little Women was surprisingly good!
I guess I shouldn't say "surprisingly," since every review I've seen (except those written by MAGA Americans making culture war points) has said how good it is. But still, I was surprised.
You probably need to know the source text to like the movie as well as I did, but given that, it's probably the best Little Women movie I've seen. About halfway through I heard Dr. Skull sniffling. (He hadn't brought tissues. I had, of course. I mean, Little Women!)
The actors are all very good, by which I mean the women acting in the movie are all very good. Men are only in this story as sidekicks or objects for the women to react against. Mr. March, for instance, is gone for almost all of the movie, off being a chaplain in the Civil War; though he does have one of the movie's best lines, near the end. And Jo's love interest is basically a cipher.
But the women are wonderful, and they are, after all, what the story is about. Also wonderful scenery -- it's a beautiful movie, visually.
Very much worth watching. And a must-watch for those who love the book.