Friday, July 30, 2021


 Honestly, at this point it's like socialism. MAGA Americans have no idea what it is, but they've been told by Fox News they should hate and fear it, so 

I mean...


Thursday, July 29, 2021

One of My Favorite Poems


A Voice from Under the Table

Richard Wilbur

(From The Kenyon Review, Winter 1954, Vol. 16, No. 1)

 How shall the wine be drunk, or the woman known?

I take this world for better or for worse,
But seeing rose carafes conceive the sun
My thirst conceives a fierier universe:
And then I toast the birds in the burning trees
That chant their holy lucid drunkenness;
I swallowed all the phosphorus of the seas
Before I fell into this low distress.

You upright people all remember how
Love drove you first to the woods, and there you heard
The loose-mouthed wind complaining Thou and Thou;
My gawky limbs were shuddered by the word.
Most of it since was nothing but charades
To spell that hankering out and make an end,
But the softest hands against my shoulder-blades
Only increased the crying of the wind.

For this the goddess rose from the midland sea
And stood above the famous wine-dark wave,
To ease our drouth with clearer mystery
And be a South to all our flights of love.
And down by the selfsame water I have seen
A blazing girl with skin like polished stone
Splashing until a far-out breast of green
Arose and with a rose contagion shone.

“A myrtle-shoot in hand, she danced; her hair
Cast on her back and shoulders a moving shade.”
Was it some hovering light that showed her fair?
Was it of chafing dark that light was made?
Perhaps it was Archilochus’ fantasy,
Or that his saying sublimed the thing he said.
All true enough; and true as well that she
Was beautiful, and danced, and is now dead.

Helen was no such high discarnate thought
As men in dry symposia pursue,
But was as bitterly fugitive, not to be caught
By what men’s arms in love or fight could do.
Groan in your cell; rape Troy with sword and flame;
The end of thirst exceeds experience.
A devil told me it was all the same
Whether to fail by spirit or by sense.

God keep me a damned food, nor charitably
Receive me into his shapely resignations.
I am a sort of martyr, as you see,
A horizontal monument to patience.
The calves of waitresses parade about
My helpless head upon this sodden floor.
Well, I am down again, but not yet out.
O sweet frustrations, I shall be back for more.




I mean, look at this bullshit.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

This One Trick!

 I'm working on my budget, trying to make sure we can get to the end of September (which is when I next get paid), and I had an epiphany: we just need to stop eating.

If we just quit eating, we'll have plenty of money.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Arkansas Covid -19

 I'm sure this is just fake news, though. Or all the people in the ICUs have comorbities. Or they're old and would have died anyway. Or whatever absolute batshit the MAGA crowd are spewing at the moment.

Meanwhile, our legislature, working to protect freedom or something, has made it illegal for any state-run facility to require masks. That includes schools. It's also made it illegal for any public place -- including hospitals -- to require their employees to get vaccines, or to penalize those who refuse.

If this was just killing these whining, ignorant losers who have swallowed every bit of propaganda put out by Fox News and QAnon -- if it was only their lives they were risking -- that would be one thing. But these heaps of garbage are also risking the lives of the immunocompromised, some of them my students, many of them children.

What is it that the Far-Right say about that? Well, those people are weak, and we should let them die.

Eugenicists at heart. Or they would be, if they had hearts.

ETA: Bet you can guess who this vile loser voted for:

Monday, July 26, 2021

UGH More July

Last night we had a nice thunderstorm, which dropped a ton of rain.

Today walking outside is like walking into a steambath. Except with blistering sunshine. 

Tomorrow, the high will be over 100 degrees, as will the next day, and the next.

Heat Dome over central US, which is to say over ME


I spend some time every day browsing my calander and counting down the days until summer is FINALLY OVER. Which means end of September, here. So nine more weeks as of today.


Saturday, July 24, 2021

Solid Truth


What I'm Watching

I finally watched On the Basis of Sex, as I noted a few posts ago. And Dr. Skull and I have been watching Rake, which is an Australian TV show about barrister, as well as life, politics, and sex in Sydney. (You can watch it on Netflix.) 

It's funny, and also appalling. The main character, Cleaver Greene, is an enormous jerk, who also happens to be brilliant in court. The supporting characters are great, though if I were any one of them I would have ditched him much, much, much sooner. Good writing and acting. Also, occasionally it gives us a look at the US through Australian eyes.

Shows/movies I have tried to watch and given up on after less than 20 minutes:


The Lovely Bones

The I-Land


Some of them were too stupid, and some too boring. The Lovely Bones made me queasy. YMMV. We have finished watching Rake, and may try Ted Lasso next -- I hear good things about it.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Re My MAGA at the Lab

 Apparently this is a new bit of performance art from the Trumpists?

Imagine having a life this pathetic. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

RBG: The Film

 I finally got around to watching On the Basis of Sex, the biopic about Ruth Bader Ginsberg's early career. As a piece of biography, or a lecture on women's history, it's fine. As a bit of dramatic art, meh.

I mean, it's okay, and the final scene in the courtroom does what it's supposed to; also the history of how Ginsberg gets to her arguments in Moritz v. Commissionar is also (as far as I noticed) accurate. But frankly, it ends right where the most interesting part of the story begins.

It's also interesting that everything the State was arguing in Moritz  was not wrong -- making women and men equal under the law has, indeed, led to women having careers, an increase in divorce, and so on. A different world was, indeed, created. Our economic system has yet to catch up to that new reality, sadly.

I suppose it's worth watching for anyone who has no concept of what the status of women used to be, previous in 1970. 

I could have done with less focus on Mr. Ginsberg too. Just saying.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Arkansas July


Aw, jeez, it's going to be 100 degrees next week.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Trump's America

So this morning I had to go have blood work done. This is due to the cancer I had a billion years ago -- I'm on medication for it to this day, and every six months they need to draw blood to make sure my liver and kidneys are still happy and my thyroid levels are nominal. It's annoying, but better than being dead, at least so far.

ANYWAY. The mask order has been lifted here, which if you've had a look at new cases in Arkansas, that's pretty hilarious, and totally to be expected. Also our state legislature has just passed yet another ridiculous law, saying that no workplace in Arkansas, not even hospitals, can require its workers to be vaccinated. This has empowered our Trumpists, who see the law as evidence that their militant ignorance is justified.

ANYWAY. The medical building where the lab is located has a strict masking policy -- no one can come in without a mask. Most people seem fine with this. (I'm fine with it, even though I'm fully vaccinated, which means technically I shouldn't need a mask anymore.)

But about ten minutes after I arrived this morning, a Trumpist arrived, maskless. The lab tech pointed out the sign. The Trumpist argued, saying the masks do nothing, saying she didn't "have" to wear a mask, saying it was her body, her choice -- all the Trumpist arguments. The tech tried to explain that this was a medical building, that people came in here who had lowered immune systems, and that policy was --

"Shut up!" the Trumpist snapped at her. "You shut up and let me talk!"

The tech shut the door in her face and left.

"Rude bitch," the Trumpist said, and other unpleasant things, looking around at us as if waiting for agreement, or applause, or who know what. We all gave her stony stares, and she huffed and stomped away.

Meanwhile, did you see Trump's bizarre interview

Saturday, July 17, 2021

What I'm Reading Now


Nigh Vo, The Beautiful and the Chosen

Do you want to read the Great Gatsby told from Jordan's point of view? And with magic? Also gayness? This book is for you!

It's wonderfully written, as is the original, but Nick is bisexual, sleeping with both Gatsby and Jordan, and Jordan is an adopted Vietnamese sorcerer, and Gatsby has made a deal with the devil, which is how he got his immense wealth; he's also (like the original) not quite what he seems. I re-read the original recently, checking in as I do every few years to see if I hate it as much as I did in high school. (I do.) I recommend reading this one back to back with that one, so you can get all the Easter Eggs.

A lot of fun, and very much worth a read, even if you don't like fantasy.

Laurie King, Castle Shade

This is another in the Mary Russell series, about the adolescent Sherlock Holmes befriends in his old age and makes into his apprentice (and later marries). It's all right, though not the best in the series. Sherlock and Russell go to Roumania and deal with what might be vampires (but isn't) causing a ruckus around a castle owned by Marie of Roumania. I like these books a lot, but this one, I have to admit, feels like King is just going through the motions. Start with The Beekeeper's Apprentice

William Patterson, Robert Heinlein

This biography of Heinlein (the dean of science fiction) got mixed reviews when it debuted, back 2010 (first volume) and 2014 (second volume) and I can see why. It's not bad, exactly, but it's clearly an apology which ignores facts Patterson thinks might show Heinlein's feet of clay. 

It's also appallingly biased, not just toward Heinlein (who never makes a mistake or acts badly, at least according to Patterson), but against anyone to the left of Reagan -- I lost count of the number of times Patterson went off on rants against "Leftists" in America and their idiocy. This wasn't Patterson talking about what Heinlein had said; this was Patterson's own opinions, inserted into the text. This, for instance, in the second volume: 

...there had been imbedded in Roosevelt's New Deal the seeds of this current Leftist that was softening the brains of otherwise bright and well-intentioned people...(116).

Patterson also attacked Alexei Panshin, who dared to write critically about Heinlein, and accepts without blinking the weird conspiracy theory about Roosevelt conspiring to create the attack on Pearl Harbor. There's also a lot of slagging on other countries for not being as pure and perfect as (Patterson's imaginary) USA. And about fifty other things.

Not recommended unless you're a Heinlein completist.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Goldwater to Reagan to Trump

 I've been reading William Patterson's biography of Heinlein, which I'll talk about in an upcoming "What am I reading" post; but I've just gotten to the section where Heinlein campaigns for Barry Goldwater, apparently because Lyndon Johnson was an anathema to Heinlien's new political views.

I'm not precisely a fan of Johnson, though I'll note he did sign the Civil Rights Act in 1964, at great political cost to him due to angering the Southern Republicans (formerly the Dixiecrat Democrats, these legislators had switched parties in outrage over the support of the Democratic party for civil rights). 

Goldwater himself was pro-civil rights, but he was also very much a Republican. The Southern Republicans backed him, despite his pro-civil-rights record, mainly due to his opposition to FDR's New Deal, and his outspoken determination to do whatever necessary to take down the USSR -- and whatever necessary included nuclear attacks. Famously, he said in his speech accepting the nomination, "I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

I can see why Heinlein supported him, in other words: like many in those days, he was terrified that the USSR would attack the US with nuclear weapons. Many, many people then believed such a war would be survivable (spoilers: it would not), but Heinlien was convinced that the Russians would then invade and occupy the country. (What country? The nuclear slag that had been a country?) He was making plans, in fact, to become a guerilla fighter in this struggle against the Russian invaders. 

Goldwater's stated willingness to use nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union seemed, to Heinlein and some others, precisely the sort of saber-rattling the US needed to keep the USSR in check. To most of the US at that point in history, it seemed unhinged. We'd just come close to nuclear war in the Cuban Missle Crisis; no one wanted a repeat.

I have a personal memory of the Goldwater/Johnson campaign, just a short snippet. I would have been three years old, but I remember riding in the backseat of our car (a Dodge Lancer) listening to my father tease my mother, insisting he was going to vote for Goldwater, and her scoffing that he wasn't going to do any such thing.

Goldwater -- and this is another reason Heinlein probably supported him -- called for massive cuts in social spending, as well as shifting government programs to the private sector. The TVA, for instance, he wanted taken over by a private business.

But in most respects, he was what we would call a center-right liberal today: he opposed the war in Vietnam, for instance; he repudiated the KKK when they came out in support of him; he insisted on desegregating the Senate cafeteria, bringing his African American assistant in to dine with him.

But he also endorsing using nuclear weapons in Vietnam, opposed legeslatin to outlaw poll taxes, and argued for cutting government spending to the bone. He voted against the Civil Rights Act, because he didn't believe the Federal government should intervene in how states governed themselves (the "states rights"today's Republicans believe in, so long as the states are doing things they agree with); and he argued that government intervention in things like poverty were creating a "moral decay" which would destroy the country.

Goldwater was defeated in a landslide: in 1964, the American public repudiated and were revulsed by his center-right platform.

Sadly, his more extreme views lived on, and both infected and created the current American conservative movement.

Our nation has indeed changed since 1964 -- not to its benefit. In 1964, the American people rejected Goldwater as too extreme, and far too removed from factual reality. In 2016, the American people elected Donald Trump, whose entire unhinged brand was an extremism entirely removed from factual reality.

That's not a change for the better, to put it mildly.

(The famous anti-Goldwater commercial:



Tuesday, July 13, 2021

July in Arkansas

 Good news at last.

Though by "colder," they seem to mean 88 instead of 98. But hey, I'll take it. My power bill was $241 this month.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

July Storms

We had a massive thunderstorm here last night. Lightning crashing overhead, hail and driving rain. Not much wind, but the power went out all over town anyway. It was out here from just past nine until nearly midnight.

Luckily the storm also cooled things off, so we weren't very miserable. And also I have long since learned to keep battery-powered lamps in the house. But Dr. Skull needs power to run his CPAP, so he was up half the night. (It's supposed to have a battery, but it's so old the battery doesn't work.)

Then this morning there is a chicken in my yard. I hope it's just wandered over from someone's house, confused by the storm, because I don't feature adopting a chicken. (We don't have animal control here anymore, since the residents of my fair city voted down funding for the office. Yay Republicans.)

If it sticks around, I'll get on the residents' forum on FB and see if anyone has lost a chicken. Or if anyone WANTS a chicken.

Life in Arkansas.

Wednesday, July 07, 2021


Good news! You can get so many books!

This is called a Storybundle. If you're not familiar with the practice, you pay what you want and get books. If you pay at least $15, you'll get eleven books, including mine!

These are all new books, published within the last three or four years, and all by writers like me, so you'll be helping to support new writers.

More information here.

Monday, July 05, 2021

Breaking the Law

Me, personally, I've got nothing against fireworks. 

I don't especially like them, mind you. If I had to choose between going to a fireworks display, shooting off my own fireworks, or lying on a sofa reading a SF novel, yeah, it's the last every time.

But here's the thing: for the past two years or longer we've been hearing from Rightwing pontificators that all of these are just fine:

  • police beating the hell out of people for being out past curfew
  • police killing someone for selling loose cigarettes
  • police killing someone for maybe being on drugs
  • seventeen year olds shooting people for being in a protest
  • drivers running down those who are marching on the road
  • and so on
because, after all, "those people" broke the law. And if you break the law, you deserve what you get.

Now these same people are arguing that it's fine for them to break the law -- shooting off fireworks in most cities is against the law -- because freedom.

"Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect."

Sunday, July 04, 2021

My Cat as a Kitten


What I'm Reading Now

Spiegelman, Nadja, I'm Supposed to Protect You From All This

Nadja is the daughter of Art Spiegelman, who wrote and drew Maus; this is an autobiography of her childhood and young adult years. If you're interested in the Spiegelmans, or in the children of famous people, it's worth reading. It's mostly about Nadja's mother and her relationship with her mother. I enjoyed it, but IDK if I'll ever pick it up again.

Robinson, Kim Stanley, The Years of Rice and Salt

As much as KSR's ideas interest me (colonizing Mars! A utopian space on the West Coast! How we save the world from climate change!), I always have trouble actually finishing his books. I'm not sure why. He's a competent writer and page by page the books are always interesting. Reading this one, I think I finally figured out why.

This is a novel which speculates about how the world might have developed if, instead of killing 1/3 of Europe in the 14th century, the Black Death had instead killed 90% of Europe. What would happen in a world in which Christianity and Europeans were not a dominant force? In which Christians, in fact, barely existed?

A very cool idea, which KSR approached obliquely. The title, The Years of Rice and Salt, refer to an Asian idea, a division of life into stages, with "years of rice and salt" being the years of adulthood in which we are engaged in bearing and raising children: the monotonous if rewarding years occupied almost entirely by mundane life. 

That's the subject matter for this book. He spends only a little time on the world-shaking actions -- wars, invasions, great men and their great actions. Mostly the book tells us about mundane people: kitchen slaves, mothers, two young girls growing up in Africa. Because of this, the book feels slow and meandering. There's no great forward momentum of the plot, in other words.

The other thread in this book is reincarnation. We follow a handful of characters whose karma is linked by a terrible event in their pasts as they move from life to life, interspersed with scenes in the bardo, where they reflection on their lives and their progression along the great wheel.

This is well worth reading (I finished this one!), but you can't approach it the way you might approach a regulat novel. Definitely a "be here now" experience.

Kress, Nancy, The Best of Nancy Kress

This is a collection, edited by Kress herself, of short stories and novellas written over her long career. As with KSR, I have a mixed attitude toward Kress. Sometimes I love her work, sometimes it annoys me. This collection, though, is excellent. It includes the novella which was later expanded into her most famous work, Beggars in Spain, about genetic engineering to create people who don't need sleep in a libertarian world.

Kress writes science-driven science fiction, but also creates engaging, interesting, non-stock characters, and realistic worlds. Among other things, her aliens are truly alien. This collection contains 22 stories and novellas, including ones I had never seem before. Very much worth reading, if you can acquire it.

Parker, Robert, Early Autumn, The Godwulf Manuscript, Promised Land, Looking for Rachel Wallace

These are mystery novels written from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s. Parker kept writing after that, but I only re-read the early ones, more for a kind of time travel than because I was all that interested in the stories here. The stories here are fine, but it was the look at the 1970s and 1980s that kept me reading.

What a strange time that was. Parker's descriptions of the clothes alone are worth the trip, but also the attitudes toward (for instance) LGBT people, and the unfiltered racism expressed not by our hero Spenser but by nearly every character, as well as the look at bars and entertainment and life in that ancient era in general. The last one, Looking for Rachel Wallace, is about a Lesbian feminist, and quite a read, especially the bits where Spenser gets patriarchal with Rachel. 

Delightful in an anthropological sense.