Sunday, October 31, 2021

Why Can't Conservatives Make Good Art Anymore?

 This would be hilarious if I believed for one moment that they were joking.


Among other things, it's blasphemy; but it's not like these people know their own religion. Or care about it either, except as a way to justify their bigotry.

ETA: I was thinking the "artist" was using Michaelangelo's Expulsion as his source material

but as Bardiac points out, Masaccio fits more closely:

And as my kid notes, this is a fine example of "drawing Joe Biden's dick to own the libs."

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Stolen from Twitter: Do You Know What Your Great-grandparents did?

 I'll admit I don't.

I know my maternal grandmother's mother was a housewife -- she had eight children, six of whom lived. Her husband, my maternal grandmother's father, worked on the railways, but I'm not sure what he actually did. Just that it meant he was away from home a lot.

My paternal grandmother's mother died when she was young. I don't know what she did before that. Her husband -- my paternal grandmother's father -- ran a roadhouse.

My maternal grandfather's parents? I have no idea. I don't even know their names.

My paternal grandfather's mother? No idea.

My paternal grandfather's father I met once. He was a Pentecostal preacher and also a farmer. 

Friday, October 29, 2021

What's This? Could it be Fall?

 Yes, it is finally chilly here! Three days from November, and we have...fall!

But only for a few days. Next week winter arrives.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

What I'm Reading Now

 Alix E. Harrow, A Spindle Splintered

Alix Harrow wrote The Thousand Doors of January and The Once and Future Witches, both of which I liked, so when I saw this one at our library, I picked it up. It's a very slim volume, just 120 pages, following the current practice of marketing novellas as novels, so I'm glad I didn't buy it. That said, it's a good read. Here, Harrow retells the story of Sleeping Beauty from the point of view of a 21 year old born with a teratogenic illness, caused by fracking chemicals in the water supply in her town, who has known since she can remember that she will almost certainly not live past her 21st birthday.

Sleeping Beauty becomes her favorite fairytale, from age six onwards: the girl who sleeps but doesn't die. She graduates early from high school, gets a degree in folklore, and on her 21st birthday pricks her finger on a spindle (her bff set up a sleeping-beauty themed party for her). Instead of falling into a hundred years of sleep, she slides into another dimension -- the one with the actual Sleeping Beauty. 

Among other things, this is a meta-analysis of the fairy tale, and of why we as a culture love such stories. Good writing, and a satisfying conclusion.

Eleanor Arnason, "Laki"

This is a short story, published in the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, so it might be hard for you to find. It's one of Arnason's Icelandic stories, this one set during and after the Laki eruption, which killed a quarter of the population of Iceland and may have caused the French Revolution.

As with  Arnason's Hidden Folk, which is a collection of five stories set in Iceland, this one has a tone similar to the Edda of Snorri Sturluson, selections of which I used to teach in my World Lit classes, and which I highly recommend (both Arnason's stories and Snorri). Here, a family living on an inland farm is driven onto the road by the eruption of Laki, and ends up sheltering in a cave with a family of trolls. (You may say this is fantasy, except trolls are not seen as fantastic in Iceland.) Later, they continue on and end up living with a mean brother and his nice wife on the coast. 

If you love Arnason as much as I do, you will drive to six different bookstores over the course of a week until finally you find one that carries F&SF so you can buy a copy. Worth it.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

What I'm Watching Now: Scott and Bailey

 Scott & Bailey is a police procedural set in Manchester, England. It's free on Amazon Prime; looks like you can get it on YouTube as well. One review calls it the Cagney & Lacey of British television, which, okay, I can see that. But also, no.

Cagney & Lacey, for those of you who don't remember when TV had only four channels, was a police show, debuting in 1982, about two women detectives (Cagney and Lacey) who worked for the NYPD. It was ground-breaking for having woman as main characters, but in every other way it was typical copaganda. Also, both the show and the two women detectives focused heavily on the men in the department, and on their lives. Men were in charge; women were allowed into the department, on sufferance, but they and everyone else knew who the real people were. 

Scott & Bailey had its first season in 2011. The idea of women in the workplace no longer seems groundbreaking (honestly, it never was: my grandmother had a job her entire life, including after her children were born), but that's not the big difference here. The big difference is that women are the center and main focus of this show. We have Scott and Bailey, the two detectives; but we also have Gill, who is maybe 20 years older than they are and the head of the Syndicate Nine of the Major Incident Team, the department in which the series is set; and we have Julia Dodson, head of another syndicate, and Gill's longtime friend and mentor. The show, written mainly by women, accurately portrays the lives of women -- what we talk about, what occupies our attention, the many ways we can screw up our lives, that sort of thing. 

Women aren't primarily or even mostly thinking about men in this show, is what I'm saying. Also, the male characters aren't shown as the norm, or the "real" police, who the women are allowed to pretend to be. The woman are the real police. Some of the men are too, but lots of them are mediocre white guys promoted beyond their level of competence. (Several of the reviews of the show are very pouty about this. Men shown as imperfect? As screw-ups? As people who make women's lives much, much, much harder? How very dare!)

The show also spends some time on men as criminals, and the effect the violence and exploitation and carelessness of men has on the lives of those around them. (There are women criminals as well, don't worry.) In fact, most of the personal problems, the real wearing down of the main characters, is due to the men in their lives: a husband who feels he's not the center of his wife's life; a brother who expects his sisters to continue being his mommy throughout his life; a lover who sees women as objects who exist for his gratification, and resents being called on his bad behavior -- resents it to the extent of violence.

The show lets us see how, rather than being valiant protectors and providers, many men* exploit the women in their lives, demand their support, and become abusive or pouty -- or simply leave -- if their women don't expend huge amounts of energy catering to those men's egos. One major arc concerns a handsome white guy, promoted beyond his capabilities, who goes into a prolonged sulk because his (female) bosses don't praise him constantly, and ends up betraying them.

Anyway, this refreshing view of the world alone makes this show worth watching; but it is also well-written and acted, and I love the accents. It admits that the police screw up, that they lie, cheat, and abuse their power; but only incidentally. This is still copaganda, in other words, so fair warning.

*Yes, I know, not all men.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Dennis Prager Gets Covid on Purpose

 At one time I used to write a lot about Prager's malicious and deliberate ignorance. Lately, what with so many other people on that schtick, he's dropped off my radar. (I have had to gently tell a few students that no, Prager U is not a reliable source.)

Anyway, yesterday the news broke that Prager deliberately contracted Covid-19, believing that "natural" immunity is better than a vaccine. (I did mention his deliberate ignorance?)

I know we're supposed to take the high road and wish ill on no one, but I know people who have died from this disease, or have being hospitalized with life-threatening cases. Prager's attitude is shameful and disgusting.

Since there is no God, and no justice (just us, as Pratchett notes) I am sure Prager will have a mild case and assert to the end of his smug, ignorant life that he was right, and not just lucky.

Other people he infects? Well, that's not his problem, is it.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Apropos my Previous Post

 From TYWKIWDBI, Covid-19 as "red Covid":

I'd point this out to the anti-vaxxers I know, but frankly it wouldn't make a difference. When you've decided to abjure evidence and reason, what do you care about data?

More at the original post.

ETA: See also this

Bad Days in the Fort

Despite the fact that fall has finally arrived -- we are sleeping with the windows open, and sometimes it is too cold in the house -- I am having a bad time lately.

A lot of things: the local public schools cancelled the mask mandate, even though a survey showed most people wanted to keep it in place. Dr. Skull has had both shots and a booster, so he should be okay. It's stressful all the same, and of course not everyone has or can get the vaccines.

I'm so sick of this pandemic, and so sick of the stupid fuckwits who insist on making it a political issue -- killing themselves and strangers so they can own the libs -- and frankly, so sick of this country, which seems determined to cater to the most hateful, the most willfully ignorant, and the most bigoted shits among us.

Further, my students are at the point in the semester where everything is too much for them. On top of that, several of them are having personal crises: parents dying, positive Covid tests, a wrecked car which is their only transportation. That sort of thing. There is not much I can do, but I do what I can.

I've been ill off and on, with migraines and stomach pain. Stress-related issues.

And my kid is having some problems.  This, of course, is the worst. My father-in-law, of blessed memory, used to say "Little kids, little problems, big kids, big problems." It's true. When they're little, nearly every problem they have is something you can handle, by the sheer power of being a parent. Once they're grown, your powers are no longer super-powers. You're just another adult, trying to help them figure things out.

It's rough.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

What I'm Reading Now

Rae Carson, Any Sign of Life

This is probably classified as YA, since the main characters are (were) seniors in HS, but I enjoyed it greatly -- stayed up late to finish it. 

It's the story of a pandemic with a near 100% mortality rate. Our main character, Paige, a high school basketball star, wakes up to find her entire family dead (and being eaten by crows), and slowly pieces together the truth: she has spent the past six days unconscious (her mother, a nurse, had hooked up up on IV fluids before herself succumbing to the disease) while a deadly flu killed everyone she knows and almost everyone worldwide. The cause of this disease turns out to be...unexpected.

Books about pandemics are my jam at the moment, for obvious reasons, and this one has both a great dog (don't worry, the dog lives) and a sweet romance (Paige is not the only survivor). It also has important things to say about strength, fear, and the imperfections of us all. Highly recommended.

Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, The War That Saved My Life

This is a kid's book, if you believe the classification. I'd have liked it when I was a kid, but I don't think I'd give to anyone younger than fourteen or fifteen: it's got some really grim content. The bit where the main character, Ada, helps with the soldiers being brought across from Dunkirk is the best portrayal of that I've seen, but very rough going. 

Set in the opening year of WWII in England, the novel is told from the point of view of Ada, who is a disabled ten year old (she has an untreated club foot) who is evacuated to Kent, along with her younger brother Jaimie. Both Jaimie and Ada have been neglected and abused by their mother, and both are vastly ignorant of what life is like outside their London street. They are assigned to live with Susan Smith, a woman in the coastal village. Susan has suffered the loss of her partner, and is deeply depressed. Watching the three of them, Susan, Ada, and Jaimie, forming a family is one of the chief pleasures of the book. 

There's also some good horse content. And a sequel.

Chibundu Onuzo, Sankofa

A woman, Anna Bain, whose mother has recently died finds a box while cleaning out her mother's house. Instead, she finds some documents and a diary written by the (African) father she never knew -- who left England not even knowing the woman's mother (white) was even pregnant.

Intrigued by the diary, and at loose ends (the dead mother, a recent separation from her husband, a daughter who is busy with her own life), Anna begins investigating her missing father and the people in the diary. These leads her to discover that her father, who she saw being radicalized in his diary, has returned to his own (fictional) country, started a revolutionary movement to free the country from British rule, and then become a sometime lauded, sometime reviled Prime Minister. He's no longer Prime Minister, but he is still alive.

Anna decides to travel to Bamana, her father's country, to meet him. 

Lucid, interesting prose. Chibundu Onuzo was born in Nigeria, though she moved to England when she was 14. This may be why the African section of the book seems a little over the top; or I may just be woefully ignorant of Africa, which is probably more likely. I enjoyed reading this, though.

Maggie Shipstead, Great Circle

I've read several novels over the past few months put together this way -- a narrative thread in the past, another in the present, and then a third in either the future or the deeper past, all tying together. In this case, they tie together in a great circle, hence the title.

In SF novels one of the strands is in the past, and the others will be in the future/far future, or deeper past.

Anyway, this is a non-genre (which is a way of saying it's in the genre "literary") novel, about a young woman who grows up in the early 20th century wanting to be and then becoming a pilot, following in the footstep (or flight paths, heh) of Amelia Earhart and others like her; and of the young actress in the early 21st century who ends up playing the pilot in a biopic of her life.

That's the general plot; there's tons more going on. I liked both the threads in Montana during the pilot's childhood, and the thread in LA during the actresses young adulthood. There are also really short threads about the lives of other characters.

Very nicely done, and a compelling read.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Plus ça Change

The way I run my Comp I classes (at least at present) is by giving them assignments that build to one giant research paper, drafts of which are due in early November. We then work on that draft, with the final draft being due on the day of the final.

Topics are suggested during the first few days of the semester. I tell them that the readings I will give them will cover X, Y, and Z, and that they can make their lives easier by choosing a topic that relates to one of those subjects.

Then all along, through the semester, along with instruction in how to do research, how to tell a credible source from propaganda, how to cite, and so on, I also give them readings in X, Y, and Z, usually but not always peer-reviewed papers from legitimate journals. (I also have to teach them, early in the semester, how to read a peer-reviewed paper. They're all, theoretically, able to read on a college level; but in fact for all their years in high school they've mostly only read high school textbooks and YA fiction. They have no idea how to read something that isn't instantly accessible. TBF, neither did I as a freshman.)

ANYWAY: All this to say that we are now working with this semester's Z, which is Pandemics and Epidemics of the past. Last week I assigned them this article. It's quite accessible, which was a relief to many of them, and deeply interesting (to me) in how reactions the plague hitting San Francisco in 1900 echoes reactions to Covid-19 now.

This paragraph is especially interesting:

Chinatown leaders denied the reports of plague—and, fearful of an epidemic’s economic repercussions, so did others in power. Mayor James D. Phelan sent telegrams to the mayors of dozens of other cities, assuring them that San Francisco had seen just a single, isolated case—nothing more. Governor Henry Gage told reporters that Kinyoun had caused San Francisco’s cases himself, by letting the plague germ escape his lab. Gage even proposed making it a felony for newspapers to publish “false” reports on the presence of plague in the state. 

In case the link doesn't work, the article is 

Conis, Elena and Daniel Roman, "Epizootic," Bay Nature Magazine, Sept 27, 2020,

Saturday, October 09, 2021

High of 95 Today, October 9

 I swear all I do these days is fret about why fall refuses to arrive. Today, for instance, the high is projected to be 95 degrees. WTAF.

Weather guy is promising us fall in a few days. Fingers crossed.

Nothing to do with the weather, but I enjoyed this graphic:

Friday, October 08, 2021

What I'm Reading Now

 Naomi Novik, The Graduate

This is the second book in the series that started with A Deadly Education -- a magic school filled with monsters actively trying to kill the young sorcerers. Class politics and ethical question dealt with here. Is there ethical existence under capitalism, sort of thing.

These aren't exactly fun, but they're very much worth reading. I like that the main characters are three young women who are interested in their own lives, and their own work, rather than being focused like 110% on some guy.  The male characters are great, also. It's not like, an anti-male book. It's just realistic.(Just a tip in general, men who are trying to write women: women don't think about men nearly as much as you think we do. Or at all, some days.)

Also there's a great pet mouse.

T.L. Huchu, The Library of the Dead

A story about someone who can see ghosts -- which I'm a sucker for -- set in a near-future, dystopian Scotland. There's a mystery about missing children, which works as the spine of the book, but I am here for the magic library, the mouthy protagonist, and Scotland functioning without oil or jobs under an oppressive King.

This is clearly the first of a series, and I want more. Huchu had written some non-SF books, apparently. I will have to make due with those.

Tracy Kidder, Among School Children

TBH, I read this one because it was in large print and my library has almost no books in large print that I want to read. (Mostly westerns, romances, and inferior mystery novels.) Especially late at night these days my eyes get tired and it's hard for me to read regular print. Since my iPad died, I'm having to resort to large print or listening to the books available on YouTube.

But Tracy Kidder can certainly write. If you're interested in what public schools were like in Massachusetts in the 1980s, this is your source. Extremely readable, a deep five into a single classroom in a single school and the problems faced by both the teacher and the students.

Kit Whitfield, Benighted

This is a re-read. It's a werewolf book from 2006, which I haven't read since about 2009 (I think?). A quick check of Google shows me that Whitfield hasn't published anything since 2009. I remember she had a kid right about then.

Twitter tells me she has a book coming out soon! That's good news. 

Anyway, Benighted holds up -- it's sort of a mystery novel with werewolves. In this universe, 99% of those born are werewolves. Non-werewolves, or "nons," work for DORLA, which is a formerly religious and now secular organization that patrols during "the moon" to keep werewolves from killing anything, or anyone. The main character works for DORLA. When one of her fellow DORLA workers is murdered, she's involved in finding out who did it and why.

If you like heterosexual werewolf novels, this one is pretty good. (Most werewolf stories are heavily gay and trans coded, FYI.)

Thursday, October 07, 2021

I Don't Know Who Needs to Know This but

 Advice in general:

Don't get your information about Christians from people who hate Christians.

Don't get your information about feminists from people who hate feminists.

Don't get your information about liberals/conservatives from people who hate liberals/conservatives.

Don't get your information about trans people from people who hate trans people.

And so on.

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

False Fall

Today is the first day it's been cool enough to turn off the AC and open the doors and windows. I'm enjoying this brief bliss, since tomorrow the high is back in the 90s. UGH.

The cats are also very happy. They love being able to wander into and off of the screened porch entirely at their own will. (When it's not fall, Junti stands at the kitchen door and screams until I let her out on the porch. What about the cat door, you ask? There is indeed a cat door, but she refuses to make use of it. That is for peasants.)

Sunday, October 03, 2021

The Benefits of Living 800 Yards from Work

 Tomorrow Dr. Skull is driving up the mountain to take the kid to a medical appointment (he usually takes himself, but this one is not on the bus route). I'm teaching all day, so I'm staying here and walking to and from work.

I can do this because the new house is less than half a mile from campus. Highly recommend.

Also the high tomorrow is forecast to be 84 degrees. On October 4. Ugh. 

That's the weather for the next week, though -- highs in the 80s and 90s, lows in the 60s. Apparently winter will not appear in Arkansas this year.

Saturday, October 02, 2021

Review of In the Deep

Nerds of a Feather reviews In the Deep.

This is the same site, and the same reviewer, who looked at Fault Lines a few weeks ago.

My favorite graph:

The novel explores what those seeking profit or advantage will do to those under them to maintain those profits and advantage, up to the use of force. This is all the richer given both Velocity and Bronte's origins with wealth and privilege in the Combines, and that conflict and dichtomy absolutely does get addressed and called out here. In a time and age as I am writing this with the Pandemic, and workers seeking better ways of working and better compensation for same, the message of In the Deep is especially powerful, and relevant.


Friday, October 01, 2021

What I'm Watching

Ted Lasso

Of course. Who isn't? My kid sent me a PM asking, why is everyone losing their shit over Ted Lasso? Isn't it just a show about a soccer coach? I sent back, Ted Lasso saved my life.

I'm not saying it will save your life. I was extremely depressed and feeling generally hopeless, and this show is about persevering in the face of that hopelessness (and about a soccer coach), as well as being about people who do the right thing. Also it's funny. Also, the actor who plays Roy Kent is extremely hot. Also, lots of accents. You know I love dialectical English.

Season Two has started to deal with some darker issues, but I'm still watching. Free on Apple TV if you have a Apple device, or you can buy the season on YouTube.


This is a French series, in French. I heard good things about it, but mainly I am watching it to practice my French. I am up to 524 days on Duolingo, and can understand about half of what's being said on screen. (I keep the subtitles on, but only check them when I get stuck.

It's also a pretty good show, at least so far, about the son of a Senegalese immigrant whose father was wrongly convicted of theft and who is trying to clear his father's name while being himself hunted by the French police, because he also makes his living as a 'gentleman thief.' His name isn't actually Lupin; apparently that's a name he takes from a book series he read as a kid. (I'm only on episode two.)

On Netflix.

The Darkest Hour

Not the one about Churchill. This is about two young software engineers who go to Russia to pitch an app to some business there and while they are in Russia aliens made of wave-form energy invade. Basically a horror-SF movie, but I enjoyed it. Very few Russian characters for a show set in Russia, but I did like the guy living in a Faraday cage with his cat in Faraday armor, that was fun.

On Netflix.

Law & Order: UK

Copaganda. Don't waste your time unless you're really interested in English dialects.

Free on Amazon if you have Amazon Prime.