Thursday, September 30, 2004

Hee Hee Hee

Just got a nibble from one of the NY agents.

The secret is to keep rewriting your query letter again, and again, and again. The more the query looks like the inside flap of a China Mieville novel, the better.


Sending 50 pages. Let's see what happens with *this* set...

Today's Alaska Pic

When I was 12 years old, I told my friends and family that I was going to go live in a little cabin in the woods in Alaska and write books. I ended up in Alaska a lot sooner than I thought I would. I bought a one-way ticket to Fairbanks (from Portland, OR) when I was 19. I'd never been there before.

What changed my the-next-80-years-in-Alaska mentality was going to Clarion. I was 20 years old, and I thought, "How can I settle on Alaska when I haven't really seen the rest of the world yet?"

Turns out, you can write books *anywhere.*

So this is my odyssey. See the rest of the world. And go. Back to Alaska.

Get myself a couple of dogs.

And a cabin overlooking the Kenai River. Yea.

Dept. of Public Good

I get nervous when I hear my boss on a conference call, talking about the 22 agencies in the Department of Homeland Security.

I really don't want to work on a project for those people (hello, DHS browsers!).

More Fighting. More Classes. Yeah!

Had a great class last night. I've managed to figure out how to get to my MA school in time for the 6:15pm class (leave work at 4:55 and catch the bus from the train to the school, instead of walking that mile-and-a-bit). So I lose some walking time, but gain the kick-ass 6:15 class that I was always walking in on after it already started, where I'd stand around warming up for my 7pm class and marvel at how everybody managed to keep up.

The 6:15 just rocks. It's a cardio and technique class, which basically means you're doing 2 min jump roping, then 2 min of rotating bag work (working a specific combo or kicking technique during each round), then 2 min jump roping, then a minute of abbs, then back to the bag.... You do this for 45 min. Most people then stay for the boxing class after that, which is the one I usually take on Weds.

I was really wowed at myself this time around. Is my technique perfect? No. Was I tired on the third round of jump rope? Oh yea. Did I feel, at some point, like I might die? Well, actually, no. Our last round was partnered situps where we'd pass medicine balls to our partners as we came up into a situp. I powered through it up until those last three reps, when I started losing steam. I was partnered with a purple belt, who nodded curtly when we were done. "You did good," she said.

It helps, of course, that I clock about 150 situps in my 20 minutes of free weights and stretching every damn morning.

It was the first time I'd done a class where I actually *felt* fit (again, comparing myself to myself and not to the people in the class who've been doing this four days a week for the last two or three or five years). I am not, in the words of my roomie, a Supah Ninjah - but after three months, I feel confident saying that I feel really powerful.

The funny thing is, this new upburst in strength and stamina (I felt I did really well during Monday's class as well), comes after a really slacker week. Last week, my boxing class got bumped for a "special" pilates class (to advertise the new Saturday instructor), and I not only didn't go jogging last week, I didn't even go bike riding. I halved my exercise time, but felt a big upsurge in stamina this week - exactly the opposite of what you'd think. There's something to the whole, "Down Time," thing.

I also went ahead and signed up for unlimited classes (I was on the 2-day-a-week schedule before). Starting next week, I'll be going in Mon, Tues, Weds, and Thurs.

Yes, I realize I told myself I wasn't going to do more than three times a week, but I figured saving my Saturday was worth tacking on another day during the week. Also, by taking the 6:15 class, it means I'm home before 8:30pm every night, so I do have some down time to eat dinner, prep for the next day, and read before bed.

Once I get comfortable with the four-days-a-week routine, I'm going to work at staying for the second class on Mondays and Wednesdays. But that's a ways down the road. We'll see how I hold up with back-to-back classes first.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Cause I Don't Have to Rant When I Post A Picture


One For the Road

And, one for the road, because I should really be working on chapter 27 (yes, I'm STILL working on chapter 27):

Guys Pissed About Gender Roles

And, after being pissed at Brin, I have to point out some guys engaged in serious critiques of society and gender roles. Because, you know, we get too bogged down looking at extremes:

Here's an excellent guy-compiled list of male privilege. As a (white) man,

1. My odds of being hired for a job, when competing against female applicants, are probably skewed in my favor. The more prestigious the job, the larger the odds are skewed.

2. I can be confident that my co-workers won't think I got my job because of my sex — even though that might be true.

3. If I am never promoted, it’s not because of my sex.

4. If I fail in my job or career, I can feel sure this won't be seen as a black mark against my entire sex's capabilities.

5. The odds of my encountering sexual harassment on the job are so low as to be negligible.

6. If I do the same task as a woman, and if the measurement is at all subjective, chances are people will think I did a better job.

7. If I’m a teen or adult, and if I can stay out of prison, my odds of being raped are so low as to be negligible.

8. I am not taught to fear walking alone after dark in average public spaces.

9. If I choose not to have children, my masculinity will not be called into question.
41. I am not expected to spend my entire life 20-40 pounds underweight.

42. If I am heterosexual, it’s incredibly unlikely that I’ll ever be beaten up by a spouse or lover.

43. I have the privilege of being unaware of my male privilege.

And though I disagree with Hugo about some stuff, every once and a while he'll nail something for me:

The problem with the men's rights movement is that they confuse men's unhappiness with oppression. They assume that if men were in control, they would be happy, because patriarchal oppressors ought to be happy. Therefore, if a man isn't happy, he isn't oppressing. Newsflash, folks: Just because you don't know you're privileged doesn't mean you're not. Just because there are aspects of your power and privilege that you find alienating and burdensome doesn't mean that you are any less a beneficiary of an oppressive system! Both men and women do need liberation from rigid, traditional, gender roles. The difference is that collectively, men are the architects of the system while women are merely forced to live within it.

Does He Mean What I Think He Means?

First, a warning: This is slapdash.

Imagine me in the background, emitting a long scream as I frantically spit and type.

That's about how I felt reading this fucking thing.

Now, trying to be....

I'm trying to be, you know, really objective here. But does Brin mean what I think he means? Now, I'll be truthful, here. DB is on my shitlist, for wild talk of feminist cabals and a seemingly blinding confusion about why some feminists might find Glory Season offensive.

Do I disagree with everything he says here? Um. Not… quite… all. Am I addressing this article steeped in my own personal biases? You betch’a.

So, dip your toes in, but, in the words of the Secrete Feministe Cabal: Don’t Tell DB!

I've decided that I’m not going to be off-put by his article Neoteny and Two-Way Sexual Selection in Human Evolution: A Paleo-Anthropological Speculation on the Origins of Secondary-Sexual Traits, Male Nurturing and the Child as a Sexual Image. But hey, for the hell of it, let’s look at some of these winning arguments:

May we stipulate that women do often vie over men?

Sure. Of course. I’m not going to argue over this. And men often vie over women, as he mentions later. But for some reason, he seems more interested in the peculiar adornment of women. Understandable. It is indeed odd that in most of Today’s Societies women spend more than men on adornment (watch your numbers, fellas, as the media reach becomes ever more visual, you’re getting on board real quick. Plastic surgery, couture, and skin product sales among men are on the rise. Oh, wait, Brin’s arguing biology so these numbers must be wrong. After all – HUMAN WOMEN ARE HARDWIRED to read women’s magazines). If you continue reading this article, you’ll find that Brin seems to want to posit that this is a biological, unavoidable thing, and that all human societies work this way. Biologically speaking. Women naturally claw each other apart in search of “suitable mates.”


If you ignore history, sociology, and anthropology, you can make really great arguments like this. This is why these are considered the “softer,” more “feminine” studies: not sciences, of course. Because they tell you that half of what you get often has to do with the set-up of the culture you’re raised in.

This really pisses people off. Particularly people who’ve got that Assumption of Privilege mantle.

In one contemporary society, the United States, nearly all of the most popular magazines for women trumpet articles advising their readers how to stay competitive in what is portrayed as a desperate struggle to find and keep a mate. American women spend many times more each year on cosmetics than the nation appropriates for space research. (If we add fashion, diet food, plastic surgery, and related activities, costs compare to the defense budget.)

I’m sorry: “women’s magazines”? Anyone who uses unnamed women’s magazines as research material shouldn’t have a Ph.D. They should have been kicked out of graduate school.

I'm consistently disappointed at how narrow-minded most spec. fic. writers are when it comes to theorizing about alternative family structures/gender roles (I include myself here, believe it or not – one of my Clarion compatriots once pointed out the “subtle misogyny” I’d unintentionally zipped into one of my stories – I was raised in this society, too). Maybe because many of the hard-core SF guys are 1) guys in a guy-affirming society 2) more interested in chemistry and biology than sociology, because it’s easier to use “hard” sciences to “prove” social Darwinism.

Le Guin's biggest strength is her background in anthropology and her interest in sociology (though I’m sure she’ll be the first to admit that she writes with her own biases, too). The reason you get some interesting stuff is cause she looks around not only at monkeys and elephant seals, but, you know, PEOPLE. Yes, Brin, she looks at PEOPLE, and the "different" (Read: non-American) societies they create. So you get the freer sexual practices in the Trobiand Islands, the property rights of women in the matrilocal Minangkaba culture, conceptions of androgyny and the ritual of taking on gender roles by aborigines in the Pacific, and societies where *men* make use of adornment and/or feats of skill and dancing (like, you know, all that makeup and plastic surgery in those "women's magazines") in isolated African and South American societies.

And, for the record, I prefer Russ to Le Guin. She’s more radical, and less read.

2 Granted, contemporary America is an extreme case,

No shit.

and even women in secure marriages work on their appearance for a complex of other cultural reasons. Still, no one can reasonably dispute that female humans often do engage in zero-sum contention over an apparently limited supply of suitable males....

“Limited supply of suitable males.” Dear god, what if we run out! What will women do? Heaven forbid they stop hating one another and work together and get really great-paying jobs and then maybe men might have to start adorning themselves to get any interest at all from women who find the idea of being talked down to really tiring. Gosh, what sort of strange society teaches women to hate themselves and each other and vie for male attention because men have (until recently here, and still, in some countries) property rights, access to higher-paying jobs, and more freedom of movement?

Oh, a heterosexist patriarchy. That’s right. Silly me. I forgot. I kept forgetting those examples of, you know, other HUMAN SOCIETIES that have DIFFERENT SEXUAL PRACTICES AND GENDER POLITICS than mine.

Right. Of course.

The presumption goes that human mothers need long-term, dependable partnership to help them carry big-brained, dependent children across the hazardous, exhausting stretch from embryo to maturity. And while some human societies have used brother-sister alliances to fill this need, or communal role-sharing, the majority have left mothers primarily dependent on continued loyalty and aid from the fathers of their children.

I totally agree. Women should have long-term, dependable partnerships in order to help them nurture and raise children.


But instead of comparing societies where communal childraising works and ones that haven't, Brin’s talking about the necessity of male-female pair bonding in the raising of children. He's talking biology and making the arrangements of childrearing hardwired. He ignores societal difference and potential difference. Is there a biological disadvantage for groups of women to raise children? Or families and friends. Or groups of friends. He’s not even talking about two or three men getting together and agreeing to raise a female friend’s child.

Brin argues that the absence of male father-figures is wrecking the upbringing of children, that women with children who don't pair up with a man are more likely to live in poverty than those that do (I'm ahead of myself here - read the article, or scroll down the next big excerpt to see what I'm referring to here). Yes, this is true. But he's thinking inside the happy-hetero-pair bonding box that even Le Guin has been known to teeter about in (particularly in her earlier work). Women *do* need help raising children. Babies are born essentially helpless. It's difficult for women, in a society not created to support mothers, to raise children and support themselves at the same time.

But Brin puts this essential problem of single mothers and poverty on the shoulders of biology. He blames the inherent, biologically instinctual philandering of men, and the stupid women who irrationally “choose” to bear their children (better hope these same women have access to abortion/contraception and the ability to fight off the attention of men they’re not attracted to). Men just can't help it (don't men find this offensive?). They're naturally looking for lots of partners, and women are naturally just looking for one.



Um. Excuse me. Doesn't the average marriage last only 7 years in the US? I'd argue that most people are serially monogamous, which is much more biologically advantageous to both sexes. Do we have a lot of long-term friendships? You betcha. Do they all include sex? No. Do some? Sure.

And what's allowed for serial monogamy in women in the US this century is the advancement of women's rights. When women's sexuality is controlled, it's a lot easier to keep up the illusion that women only ever interested in having sex with one man (let alone a couple of women). Alpha Male Number One. Go Team Go. Using "women's magazines" to prove that all women in contemporary America are crazy about finding death-till-you-part male mates is just bad reasoning, lazy "research," and fucking offensive.

Oops, sorry. My claws are showing. Let me compose myself. Ahem.

To put this in perspective with nature at large, consider the extreme case of the elephant seal....

I still have problems with Brin using "women's magazines" as supporting research while comparing the mating habits of men and women to elephant seals. He uses the mating habits of other primates to compare those of contemporary American society. Don't get confused and think he's talking about any other society, because he's not. The only researcher he quotes at length is Hrdy, who has done some great work on primates, but she doesn’t study people. Just primates. But wait. I'm getting ahead of myself.

Here's Brin's solution for alleviating the poverty of single mothers in our contemporary society and aiding them in the raising of glorious offspring:

A better remedy might be to help women and girls learn to judge better -- to tell apart the various types of men -- and to distinguish a sincere promise from mere words aimed at an immediate end. In other words, use the tools of science to help young female Homo sapiens do what most females of other species do -- choose as well as they can, despite the complexities of modern context. For many, this could make the difference between a successful, happy life and eventual abandonment in poverty. Indeed, the pages of most women’s' magazines seem obsessed with exactly this effort -- floundering chaotically toward alchemical prescriptions for choice-directed happiness. This effort currently receives virtually no support from feminist intellectuals, who consider the approach ideologically anathema, holding that woman should not base her happiness on marriage or successful mate-choice, even though such success, when achieved, demonstrably leverages improved lives for women and children in all contexts and at all social levels, and furthermore that same success can be perfectly compatible with actualization in career and other areas of life. In other words, a woman who chooses a mate well is also more likely to succeed in areas beyond home and marriage.

The problem is: women are just fucking stupid.

Again, he doesn't give any stats to back any of this up except those still-unnamed "women's magazines."

Brin could have suggested that perhaps women - if socialized in a society that encouraged female cooperation instead of competition, and paid women and men equally for their labor - could form partnerships with one another and pool their resources and raise their children together with friends and family in a supportive network, with or without the aid of the man she had sex with. Instead, Brin says women should be more careful about who they're fucking.

Now, while I certainly believe in cautionary fucking, and while I refuse to carry to term a child who's got half the DNA of a total loser (and, ideally, I wouldn’t be fucking a total loser – but we’re forgetting that telling good people from psychos is a Charles Manson problem, and we’re completely ignoring forced and coercive sex), I'm reading in Brin's solution more of the "blame the woman because we've taught men that it's OK to split when they've spurted some semen" thing. And I see this so much that I get tired.

Is a woman who chooses a good mate more likely to succeed?


Does it matter if that mate(s) is(are) male or female?


People who have extensive social networks do better emotionally and financially than those who don’t.

Certainly we should put even greater effort into social conditioning, to try altering the ratio of "storks" to "reindeer" among human males. No doubt education can change the proportionate distribution of types. Unfortunately, those who expect a complete panacea out of socialization are likely to be disappointed. What good will it do to exhort boys not to act like elk, if they see elk-style men having success?

Read: boys are too smart to be socially conditioned!

Even if a program teaching girls to make wise choices were implemented and highly effective, there would still be a rub; for so long as the goal is "one man for each woman" the rules of a zero-sum game continue to apply. There will be winners and losers, and the spectacle of females fiercely competing for quality mates will continue.

To reiterate: women should be socially conditioned!

What bugs me here is “females fiercely competing for quality males.”

Basically, if you read the whole article, you’ll find that Brin argues that, like primates, men are all naturally philanderers. So really, if women just want some quality male sperm, that’s pretty easy to get. What women are apparently supposed to be competing over is a monogamous mate to help them raise said child.

Here’s my question: Why does it have to be the sperm donor who helps her raise her child? After all this talk of men and monkeys, Brin insists that it’s in women’s best interests to secure a mate.

But, why?

If women were equal, why would they HAVE to compete for a “quality male”? Can’t women have good friends of both sexes that help support her financially and emotionally? Why does it have to be a hetero guy?

If women are equal, if they make the same amount of money for the same work as men do, are allowed the same property rights, and etc. why would women have to rely on a live-in sexual partner?

In our society, men have to at least be financially responsible for the children they father because they’ll tend to take off and leave a woman without a social network to fall back on. It’s a problem with male socialization as much as it’s a problem with the US’s complete disinterest in supporting women.

The question Brin never asks is: what do men get out of monogamy? What do men get out of settling down with a “quality woman”? Anything? Any answers?

Sure, he says that maybe some guys will figure out that it’s more “biologically advantageous” to hang around and make sure your offspring survive into adolescents, but really, Brin’s look at human sexuality… ignores the humans.

Sex isn’t all about procreation. It’s not all about splitting DNA. Sex and touching among human beings is social. It helps create social networks. If a guy doesn’t secure himself a social network, he’s as dead in the water as a woman without a social network.

Depression and suicide rates go down for married men. Married men live longer. They have more sex. The reason men get pissed of when women “use” them as fuckbuddies is because it messes with their conception of the sexual paradigm: she’s supposed to need you, not the other way around. It’s not “just” sex men get out of sexual encounters. Any guy who tells you that is selling something. It’s about being looked at with affection, feeling needed and appreciated, and touching another human being. If it was really all about the orgasm, we’d all sit around alone in bed and stop calling each other.

Articles like Brin’s bug me because they ask stupid questions. I read an interview with Hrdy when she was asked about what the biggest difference was between male and female scientists. She said there really wasn’t one: except in the sorts of questions they asked. She and a friend were sitting with a couple of male colleagues, and one of the men said, “We should do a study to find out if women are more interested in sex in the days before menstruation.”

Hrdy and her female colleague looked at each other and laughed. They didn’t need to know “if.” They wanted to know “Why?”

Guys like Brin ask: what can women do so that children in this society are raised better?

They don’t ask: what can society do to enable the best possible environment for children to be raised in?

Guys like Brin ask: What’s the biological reason that a human female generally has to compete with other women to get a mate?

They don’t ask: How is society enabling hetero men in pursing their choice of mate, and teaching men that their desires supercede those of their intended, justifying actions such as rape and coercive sex?

Guys like Brin ask: Why are women using women’s magazines as aids in beautifying themselves for competing against each other for quality mates?

They don’t ask: Why aren’t more men striving to be quality mates?

There’s an assumption of audience going on in these old-white-guy hard science papers that’s off-putting.

When was the last time Brin listened to a woman instead of standing around in a crowded room talking about himself? (in this instance, I speak from personal experience, standing in a room with Brin)

Tripe like this bugs me.

Good Things

Bridget Jones is back.

And... a total Kameron movie: theatre, genderbending, and illicit sex.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Living Vicariously

I know a lot of travelers like this.

War. Booze. And Unrequited Love. ::snicker::

"You must remember this, a kiss is still a
kiss". Your romance is Casablanca. A
classic story of love in trying times, chock
full of both cynicism and hope. You obviously
believe in true love, but you're also
constantly aware of practicality and societal
expectations. That's not always fun, but at
least it's realistic. Try not to let the Nazis
get you down too much.

What Romance Movie Best Represents Your Love Life?
brought to you by Quizilla

War, Booze, and Impossible/Unrequited Love. Doesn't get much better than that!

Calm Before

Fall is my favorite time of year. All those pumpkins, falling leaves, coat weather, dry and sunny days. I pick up my pumpkin on Saturday.

A Softer World

I love this guy. He oozes cynicism.

Check out:

Political Assasin
Robot Boyfriends
Abortion Party
Robot Wife
Terrorist Cell

Stuff That Pisses Me Off

If America were Iraq, what would it look like? This is great.

And, from the Guardian: "Poll Giving Kerry Lead Stirs Controversy." Funny, how it's only the polls that give *Kerry* a lead that stir up controversy, huh?

And, you gotta give props to Southern Africa:

MANZINI, Swaziland - Bus conductors in Swaziland vowed on Friday to assault and rape female passengers who wore miniskirts, sparking outrage among women’s groups in the conservative African kingdom.

“We will teach these women respect. We will fix them with our brush handles,” Simon Ndwandwe, a bus conductor from Manzini, said at the bus rank on Friday.

A bus conductor calling himself only Licandza said: “Women who wear miniskirts want to be raped, and we will give them what they want.”

What I love about stories like the above is the bullshit factor. All those skimpy skirts - those men just couldn't contain themselves. Men are such uncivilized animals that they can't contain their lustful urges when staring a woman's legs. Oh, don't feed me this bullshit. It's not only insulting to women, it's insulting to *men*. Call it what it is: asserting male power over women so that men can feel better about themselves. And if you think rape is "no big deal" (something tells me that the sort of guys who say that wouldn't be so quick if asked whether or not they thought being gang-sodomized was their idea of a great time) consider this: the HIV/AIDS infection rate in Swaziland is 38.6% - the highest in the world next to Botswana, who gets the prize with 38.8%.

What always interests me with these gang rape cases, as well, is that many men actually find that they can't get physically aroused, so they end up using things like the above (broom handles) or bottles or something else lying around to assault a woman. I've read of this happening in Vietnam as well, when US soldiers felt that they had to participate in gang rape in order to seem like "one of the guys." The problem was, they really didn't get off on it at all, and couldn't "perform." It's not about the sex. It's not about feeling lustful cause you can see a woman's legs.

Anyone who says it is is lying.

Snapshots From My Worklife, 4

Going out to lunch with the guys is always a fun affair.

It doesn't happen often, as I'm a woman and a glorified admin., but when it does, I have a good time. Last week I went out with Yellow, Blaine, Dee and Jose (one of the architects). We went out to this italian deli (their favorite spot), where we got these olive-oil soaked sausage rolls heaped in cheese and jalapeno peppers. They came in 6in, 9in, and 15in sizes. Blaine, being the ex-football star, got the 15in. The others not only ate 9in subs, but opened up a couple bags of chips, and we all chowed down while Blaine and Yellow and Dee gossiped about all the other guys in the office and talked about how incompetent they were.

I was sitting there with my own 6in oil-soaked sub (which I actually didn't even finish), enjoying the nice full, heavy feeling of eating a greasy spoon meal, and watching these guys eat. It was weird. I imagined sitting at a table here with a bunch of women, and watching them eat this stuff with such reckless abandon. It's something you just wouldn't see unless they were, maybe, a group of truck drivers, or very young. When you see women out together, they're like as not either eating salads or splitting dishes with one another.

Nobody's ordering a 15in sub.

It's not like these guys are skinny. They're all pushing middle-age (Yellow's the youngest, at 33), and every year after 25, the average person gains half a pound of fat and loses half a pound of muscle as the metabolism decreases. Again, this isn't "all," just "average." So these are big guys I'm sitting around eating with, and being there, just... eating, and watching people eat without reserve was sort of... well, it was different. It made me realize how little I hang out with guys anymore (my friendship circle in Alaska was almost exclusively male).

Here I was sitting with guys who were about my size (Dee, Jose, and Yellow are either my height or within an inch or two, and though Yellow pretends to be in good shape, he's got a little pot belly he likes to hide by wearing baggy flannel shirts - women aren't the only ones with image problems, I suppose, but I doubt that pot belly keeps him up at night), and I suspect that only Blaine weighs significantly more than I do, like, by 20lbs or so (Dee and Yellow might weigh a little less than me, but again, not by more than 20lbs or so).

It was the first time I didn't wish I was any smaller. I felt totally average. I liked feeling like these guys were physically my equals - if not in terms of upper body strength, then in terms of mass.

And I thought - why do I still have to feel the female compulsion to be smaller, when it's so obvious that I'm not and never will be anything close to the 5'4, 140lb female average? I want to eat the occasional sausage roll, subsist mainly on eggs and meat and mixed vegetables, and not feel guilty when I go out for Chinese food on Fridays. I just couldn't imagine any of these guys ever feeling bad for eating Chinese food. Why? Because women are supposed to be more forgiving in their assessment of datable men (the guys in my office are overwhelmingly hetero)? Because men are *supposed* to be big? Supposed to take up more space? Be stronger? Be stronger than what, exactly? Why are women who're the same size as guys so scary?
Ha. My worklife.

Fighting & Stuff

Had a good class last night. It was the second "special class" of the month, that is, our usual scheduled programming was replaced by Muay Thai. It was fun, and I had a great partner. She was a frickin' Amazon (5'10 about 190lbs), and after assuring me I wasn't going to hurt her, I pumped up the amount of power I was using in our headlocks and knee strikes, and when we broke, she was hopping up and down and grinning, "We're both really strong!" she said, "This is great!"

So, we kicked the crap out of each other, and I suspect I've got some bruises. It was great.

In any case, I've also found that the monetary difference between "unlimited classes" and "two days a week" for our MA school is $24. For some reason I had a whole other set of monetary increments in my head. I'm definately switching to full-time classes next month.

Monday, September 27, 2004

What Men Want?

Hugo's got an interesting discussion going over at his blog about men's expectations of women's compulsorary smiling, cheerfulness, when men walk around the room.

Check it out.

Here's my response:

I'd agree that, as a woman, you're likely going to measure your smiling/friendliness level depending on how comfortable you feel in a given location (and likely how old you are). I'd also agree that, as a woman, you learn very quickly to gauge your behavior based on the level of threat you feel. Is that right? Does it suck? Sure. But we do it. Because that's how you survive.

When I lived in the NW and later, Alaska, I didn't pay much attention to the "smile" comments (I get these a lot - I'm not a naturally friendly person, and I'm stuck in serious thought more often than not). Most of the "hi"s and "smile"s from Fairbanksans were friendly: men (and women) said hello and passed on by, without demanding any more conversation if I didn't start one; no one followed me, or men sexual invitations. After a time, I became much more relaxed and laid back, to the point where I'd actually take rides with strangers and fine-tuned my "radar" so that I'd take the occasional chance going somewhere alone with a pseudo-stranger. I just didn't find men all that scary. And I had complete trust in my neighbors. If the shit went down, I knew I could count on the vast majority of friendly strangers for help.

Then I moved to a big city. It started while I was overseas, in Durban, South Africa, and I was suddenly being cat-called at, followed, and grabbed at by random passersby. I stopped making eye contact, stopped smiling at strangers, and managed to get these male intrusions on my personal space down to 2-3 a week.

If you think that's just a foreign country thing, wait: then I moved to Chicago. I spend 15 hours a week on the train. The great equalizer. Now I'll get the drunken, "You're very beautiful. Did you HEAR ME? DID YOU HEAR ME??" "Nice peice of ass!" and "Smile!" only once or twice a week. And I do better than most - I'm not little and blond. Not being the cultural ideal of "attractive" you'd think I'd not get harrassed at all, right?

Ha. It's about power.

Age likely has something to do with it as well. I'm still youngish (24). What happens in big cities more often than not (and I can tell you this from experience) is that saying "hello" back to random strange men on the street who say hello will get you 1) followed 2) yelled at, as they attempt to prolong the conversation as they follow you.

Strange men who follow you are scary. Why? Do you watch the news? Do you see the spray of mangled, mutilated female bodies thrust in front of us? Lori Peterson? All the women Manson killed? What about television? What's the proportion of female murder victims to male murder victims on our tv shows and on the news?

My roommate is 5'2, 120lbs. She's from California, and spent her first couple years here in Chicago living in Evanston. When I got here, we moved closer to downtown. She was walking around the corner to pick up videos around this time last year, and passed by a guy coming out of the store. She raised her head as she passed, and smiled, merely acknowledging another person passing her. *HE TURNED AROUND* and *FOLLOWED HER BACK INTO THE VIDEO STORE*. He proceeded to try and make conversation with her. She kept blowing him off. He kept trying to talk. Increasingly agitated, she bundled up her rentals and sped to the exit. *The guy continued to follow her.* As he approached the exit, the woman at the counter called him back (bless her heart), and insisted there were several things she needed to speak with him about regarding his account.

When my buddy got home, she called the woman at the counter to thank her. "Thank goodness you called," the woman said. "I stalled him as long as I could, but when he looked up and saw you were gone, he started swearing and ran out the door. I was seriously hoping you were all right."

My buddy got lucky. It's the only time I've ever encountered anyone in Chicago who stood up for a stranger being harrassed.

That's the worst of the Chicago stories (there are many, many more), but I have a lot of Durban stories too (including an incident at a busstop when two men came up to the thin blond girl next to me and started threatening her with all of the sexual things they were going to do to her, and I turned around and started cussing and screaming at them and telling them they were violating our right to stand there in peace. They were so shocked they just stood there silently for a few moments and then wandered away. "Thanks," the girl told me afterward, "I'm always afraid of standing up for myself because I'm afraid I'm going to get knifed." I was afraid of getting knifed, too), and let me tell you - after that incident at the rental store, my buddy is a lot more careful about who she's friendly with while walking down the street alone.

These are survival tactics. Anybody who says otherwise hasn't lived as a woman in a big city, walking around alone (and in Durban, one *never* walked around at night without a male escort. You just didn't, unless you had a BIG group of women. The rape rate there is 1 in 3).

Is this every woman's experience?

No (obviously, as this little sample has illustrated), likely because of age or geography, women will have different experiences, just as men will have different experiences of interacting with women on the street. What I resent is men's assumption that they have some sort of right to be treated better than anyone else. I don't smile much at women, either.

Is it sexism, to not be friendly to a guy? Do I violate his civil rights by not smiling when he asks it of me? Do I physically abuse him by not saying "hello"? Would anyone ask a *guy* this?

When asked what they fear most about the opposite sex, women will say, "Being raped and/or beaten or killed." Men will say, "Being laughed at."

It says a lot about the rift between most male and female experience, to see those two reactions next to each other. You can sort of see them colliding here as well.

Do men (or women) violate my right to privacy by demanding that I interact with them? I'd argue that yes, they do. You can't force me to interact with you. That's assumption of privilege: believing that the world owes you something.

Women have a right to protect themselves. Scarily enough, that often means being very, very picky about who you're friendly with when you're alone. The legal system is against you.

Should it be that way? Should I be "allowed" to be friendly with whomever I want, without fear of being followed home by some psycho? Sure. That would be great. It would be great to walk down Lawrence in a skimpy skirt at 1am, all by myself, and not worry 1) that I'll be attacked 2) that if I survive said attack and am raped/beaten/mutilated, that the judge won't blame *me* because I was in a skirt at 1am on Lawrence.

There have been a lot of studies done about how many people will "help" you if you're assaulted or verbally abused in a big city. 99% of the time, NO ONE WILL HELP YOU. Or, they'll wait until you're being beaten or raped, and then maybe somebody might slow down and consider what they should do. Maybe.

Why was I so nice in Alaska? Why did I feel so safe?

I opened up the local paper one day to find that a woman who'd flown into Fairbanks for business had been grabbed and pulled into the woods along the road.

THREE CARS STOPPED IMMEDIATELY. One woman grabbed a rifle from the gunrack of her truck, and two men chased down the jogger's attacker before he even managed to wrestle the jogger to the ground. He fled into the woods, and within 20 minutes, there were helicopters searching the area for the attacker.

No offense to Durban or Chicago, but I just don't trust the people here to react in that kind of way. I'm on my own.

I think that if men want to live in a friendlier society, they should take more steps toward eliminating the harrassment of women (Hugo's points here are very valid) in their own peer groups, standing up when someone is verbally or physically harrassed, and refraining from such harrassment themselves.

It's not sexist to not smile at men any more than it's sexist to not smile at women. It's my right.

That said, I think you'll find that everyone is a lot more laid back when they feel safer. And I think a lot of men would be really surprised to realize just how many women walk around hyper-aware of their surroundings and assessing how dangerous the people around them are (particularly the men - we're working on statistics and personal experiences).

If guys want to help change that, go for it - teach other guys how not to be assholes. Evaluate your own behavior. Talk to your female friends about it. Don't get stuck here being pissed off because you feel like it's tougher to get laid because random female strangers won't smile at you. Get over it. Try looking over the fence. You'll find a whole other set of experiences over there. Some of them might actually freak you out.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Gateways to My Blog

On lazy Sundays, I'll often browse through my sitetracker and amuse myself by looking at all the search strings that brought confused users into my blog this week (in addition to the regulars and random "next blog" browsers):

My Darklight post has brought in a few "The Celestine Prophecy was a true book!" types with:

daggoth curses christian
biblical curses> marks of daggoth
marks of daggoth
motorcycle on Darklight on Scifi
"marks of daggoth" (twice)

Then there are the usual "questionable-and-not-so-questionable" attempts to find porn:

tall blonds
mucky women fighters

People looking for info:

africa jogging
gastic bypass surgery WA STATE
cigar dinner

And, the just bizarre:

photo "mary ritter beard "

And, of course, the usual couple "kameron hurley" searches.

I'm always amused at how people get here...

Social Reform (and all that Jazz)

I had a long conversation yesterday with my Republican Atheist brother (now there's a pairing I bet you don't see much) about healthcare, welfare, and Michael Moore. Needless to say, it was a really interesting discussion.

My brother's white, good-looking, and comes from an upper-middle class family. He's never had to worry about healthcare or buy his own car or pay rent (he'll be 20 in December). I totally respect him, however, because though I think his politics are nutty, he comes at them from an informed perspective. He reads both Time and Newsweek regularly, watches CNN, and has been making inroads into the blog forums/online news sources.

He argued that universal healthcare is unsustainable, that France and Germany are seriously reforming theirs (moving over state-funded programs to private programs), and Canada's is in serious financial trouble.

I got to say, well, "What about Scandinavia?"

Of course, Scandinavia does it by taking 40% of your income. But if you don't have to pay for all your public services, your streets are clean, there's only five homeless people in the country, and childcare is subsidized, isn't it worth it?

I knew less about welfare reform in the US, except that I knew about the welfare-to-work programs and the privitazation of welfare. I wasn't certain what our current set-up was.

My brother forwarded me some useful links:

Whitehouse Stance, this link provides info about welfare in 1995, before Clinton's 1996 retooling - but it provides a history of welfare reform)
LibertyNet (overview)

We appear to still be stuck in that tricky welfare-to-work program, which gets people one or two (or three) minimum wage jobs, kicks them off welfare, and keeps them living out of their cars (my brother rightly pointed out that this program was put into place by Clinton). Check out Enrenreich's Nickel and Dimed for more about what these sorts of programs really do for families.

Another one of our debates was about raising minimum wage to a living wage of, say, $11 an hour. He argued that this would cause inflation. My buddy Jenn (we were just speaking of this) pointed out that most min. wage workers spend most of their money at the sorts of places that hire min. wage workers (Walmart, fast-food, local diners, etc), so, say, that my dad (who has a couple of pizza restaurants) would have to pay his workers more money, so he'd have to raise the price of his pizza, right? But... would people who had more money just buy more pizza? Apparently, economists are just as confused about what really happens as the rest of us. Here are some more factoids about minimum wage (updated July 2004).

"Why I'm Not Voting for GWB"

It's still a sad day when most people aren't voting *for* the democratic candidate: they're voting *against* the President (I include myself in this category).

And, of course, I'm pretty stuck on this one: one wants to limit women's health choices. One believes they should have choices. I'm pretty stuck on that issue alone. Not to mention the whole "voting back in a totalitarian regime" thing.

Ha. I'm only half-joking about the totalitarian thing.

via Simon

Friday, September 24, 2004


Today's a writing day. Cleaned up and sent out some stories that have been sitting, bumping up my stories-out count from 3 to 6 (paltry, I know - my highest count was 21 stories out, and that was the year I sold three stories. A good example of the Law of Averages). I have several more half-completed stories I'd like to work on today and see out by the end of the weekend (ha). My goal is to stay at at least 10 stories out. I've been spending too much time on the novels and not enough on shorter fiction.

I'm sure I'll have a rant or two up later, after I hit the post office. Until then, check out Amanda's reaction to the "where have all the fuck buddies gone?" question, and another rant about the "boycott" (read: intimidation campaign) by a bunch of groups in Austin who are pissed off at the building of a new Planned Parenthood (once again, if we were really fighting this mythical "war on terrorism", health-care protestors who threatened to hurt, maim, and kill health care providers would be sitting in Guantanamo. Ha), Katha Pollitt finds Fox news intimidating college voters, and I'm sorry, but, it's just amusing, you must check out the Klingons for Kerry.

Ah, geekdom.

My people.

In other news, I'm listening to The Beatles, and reading The Shapechanger's Wife, which is quite good, though I may rant about it in the near future. I also have a backlash gender analysis of Escape From New York that I really must compose...


Thursday, September 23, 2004

The Usual

Picked up another of the usual sort of rejects from Datlow for one of my shorts, the WMD story. She said there's not "enough to the story" which I can't complain about. There's not. But I like the story anyway.

I've been wondering if there's a form reject for SciFiction (cause I've never seen it), and if Datlow is really signing these, or her slush reader signs for her (I don't think Kelly Link is still reading the slush, is she?). Every reject I've gotten from SF (and I have a great collection) has been typed and signed and addressed to me, and she always asks for more. The language varies (like all editors, there are common reasons for reject, but never identical letters).

So, I take this as a good sign. In another ten years, I might start selling stories there.

Ha. Persistence.

In other news, I'm taking tomorrow off work, because "work" is just a ridiculous term for it.

Such Pretty Boys

I figured they were dumping the talent competitions for the Miss USA beauty pageant because, really, it was always about skin, and nobody gave a damn about world peace. Donald Trump said as much about the jury picks and how so many "reall beautiful" women were "passed over" by "incompetent judges" who, I presume, weighed the talent and bogus question categories over silicone implants.

What bugs me is that this year's skin show is even far surpassing the comfort level of the women being paraded out like cattle at a meat market (I've been to a meat market. I know what it looks like. This is it. And I still have very vivid memories of a man in South Africa turning to me at a party and saying, "How many cattle do you think you're worth?").

"Contestants will wear more revealing swimsuits on stage following a 2-year contract with Speedo, owned by Warnaco Group Inc. . The one-piece or two-piece suits, worn as bikinis by most competitors, leave little to the imagination and have caused some unease among the contestants, most of whom are aged between 22 and 24.

But organizers are playing down the swimsuits, saying the contest showcases the talents and aspirations of today's young women who want to make the world a better place and brighten it with their good looks."

Brighten the world with your good looks, ladies!

After all, that's all we're here to do! Be pretty! Make Nice!

I want a beer.

Where's my parade of male bodies? Men's bodies can be just as overly scrutinized and just as conflated with sex as women's - so what's the deal, guys, where are all the Suicide Boys (not work safe)?

via ddw

Godless Americans Political Action Committee

I had no idea this was a real organization.

Who'da thought?

They endorse Kerry, by the way.

Assumption of Privilege.. and kittens

A day in the live of Thin Privilege

A day in the life of Straight Privilege

White Male Opression Awareness Month! (because I couldn't resist) White men being oppressed! Here and here!

Ahem. Yes. I realize I'm being intolerant and exclusionary, so here's:

Kitten Terrorists. The next wave (this one's for Jenn).

October Surprise!

So, what's your guess for October's "surprise" fear tactic to increase Bush approval ratings?


"It will be revealed that the three token female bloggers the A-list confesses to stealing material from via Bloglines are actually men who work for the DNC." - CC

"All kidding aside, we're going to get another alert that terrorists have crossed our borders." - Trish Wilson

"They won't be imaginative, because something too complex won't have the emotional pull they need.

But it would be cool if it were that McCain will commit hari-kari on the Capitol steps to show his support for the Bush campaign." - Amanda

"Palace revolt. Congressional Repugs see THEIR jobs going down the rathole with Bush. There is a shootout between the Congressional delegation and the Saved. The pragmatics win the soul of Bush. The RNC dumps Cheney "for health reasons" and puts in McCain for VP. McCain accepts on behalf of his friends in the Senate. Everyone wins and the country sinks into the sunset.

I hope it doesn't happen. Don't let any Republicans read this." - Anon

Presidential Debates

The debates are gearing up! Check out the Secret Addendum to the Debate Agreement that both parties had to sign!

TOP SECRET ADDENDUM TO ELECTION 2004 DEBATE AGREEMENT, entered into on September 20, 2004 by President George W. Bush (hereinafter referred to as "Bush") and Senator John F. Kerry (hereinafter referred to as "Kerry")

NOW, THEREFORE, Bush and Kerry hereby agree to the following top secret provisions:

1. Kerry shall be required to answer all debate questions in French.

2. Bush shall be required to answer all debate questions in English.

3. Throughout each debate, the backdrop behind Bush shall feature several U.S. flags, the precise number of which is subject to further negotiation.

4. Throughout each debate, the backdrop behind Kerry shall feature a map of Massachusetts and two life-size photos of Kerry with Jane Fonda.

11. All debate attendees shall be required to sign Bush/Cheney loyalty oaths, including all members of the media, except those employed by Fox.

15. Bush shall not be asked any question that requires him to pronounce the words nuclear, solidarity and/or Abu Ghraib.

16. In the event Kerry is declared the winner of any debate, Bush shall be entitled to a recount.

Gay People Get Married Every Day!!

Hate yourself! Hate who you are! Have sex with a woman you're not attracted to! You'll both love it! Donate money to the church! Pay us for making you think you're a freak!


It's a good reminder, though: gay people do get married. "They" get married everyday. And add to the mistaken assumption of normative heterosexuality, and whatever the hell that's supposed to mean.

At least there are some ad companies refusing to post this thing.

"Some" being the operative word.


Here's a great idea: put cosmetics vending machines in schools, so ten year old girls can have instant access to enhancing their sex appeal and learning how to be "real women" early! I wonder what would happen if boys started using them, instead? Boys wearing make-up would be totally hot. Think, Velvet Goldmine. Maybe they'd mix and match mascara? Use compacts as poker tokens? Who thought this up?

There's a new interview with Stephen King that's worth taking a look at - I was interested in his sudden intensity with the writing of the Dark Tower books, a series that looked to be one of those always-in-progress writer's constructions. I did fully expect that he'd die before he finished them. The accident in 2000 kick-started him into finishing. "I decided that I wanted to finish it. I wanted to be true to the 22-year-old who wanted to write the longest popular novel of all time. And I did: it's 2,500 pages long, maybe longer. I knew it was going to be like crossing the Atlantic in a bathtub. I thought I'm just going to keep on working, because if I stop I'll never start again." The interview also includes, some, uh, bile from Harold Bloom about King's winning the National Book award. I'd never read so much of Bloom's diatribe. It's pretty spectacular. And then, to end on a good, writerly note, there was this bit: "Now he has completed his personal equivalent to The Canterbury Tales and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, can he die fulfilled? `It's always the way. I know what I wanted to achieve and not all of it is on the page. That's the writer's torment.' So why continue the torment? `Let's not go crazy. It's just such a buzz to write. While I'm doing it, there's nothing better in life. It's what I was made to do.'"

That's a writer for ya.

Sidney Blumenthal's got an interesting article about Bush's use of "positive thinking" to undermine reality in the Guardian. It helps explain why he runs into so much trouble trying to talk to international audiences - he doesn't know how to speak to them. He's used to speaking to Americans wearing blinders. "'The liberation is 'succeeding', he insists, and only pessimists cannot see it....Bush explained that, for him, intelligence is not to inform decision-making, but to be used or rejected to advance an ideological and political agenda. His dismissal is an affirmation of the politicisation and corruption of intelligence that rationalised the war."

Wednesday, September 22, 2004


So, there's frozen sugar at the end of the galaxy, the Pentagon is restricting access to web info about how overseas voters can cast their ballots (seriously), check out some free SF stories online (your pick), amuse yourself with new words at Word Spy, and check out Amanda over at Mousewords as she amusingly deconstructs reader commentary on "I had an abortion" T-shirts.

And, for those who haven't checked out at least the "highlights" of Bush's address to the United Nations... you should. You really should. It's worth a laugh or two. You know, I think all politicians are liars and backstabbers and all that, but you know, when I see the President of the United States of America standing in front of the United Nations and making us all look like war-mongering idiots who don't read newspapers and have no idea what the hell the UN does... well, those are the days I really miss hippie Clinton the Rhodes scholar.

Reaction to Mr Bush's speech, which received only moderate applause, was initially sparse. The Swiss president, Joseph Deiss, said: "In hindsight, experience shows that actions taken without a mandate which has been clearly defined in a security council resolution are doomed to failure."

Site Notes

As regulars will not doubt notice, I've been fucking around with my sidebar here on the site. Let me know if all these pics mess up your page download times too terribly, and I'll consider removing a few... I'm pretty happy with it right now. I'll also be adding more links to the blogrolls soon.

Also, Simon alerted me to the fact that I'd somehow disabled anonymous posting during some of my retooling yesterday. Apologies for that. The problem should be fixed.

As an FYI for those back in BG - I plan to be back in the sticks for Thanksgiving weekend (my parents are hosting this year's family shindig). See you all there?

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


Does this even need a caption?


Ahem. Sorry. It's my favorite herb. Mine looks way better than this one, though. Only took me three months and killing four batches of it.

via Sacrosanct

Wheeee! I Love Democracy!

Voter intimidation - how to keep minorities in America from voting.

If you think this is an anomoly, check out this article at Salon. Republican candidates have organized these intimidation campaigns during local elections and presidential elections - not just 50 years ago, or a hundred years ago, but, you know, NOW. Yesterday. This century. Keeping dusky people from voting is practically an American tradition!

It's like the 1950s South. Yeah!

In other news, people are getting way too fucking paranoid, you should all see this movie, the first three Star Wars movies are FINALLY out on DVD (though they've been fucking fucked with by that fuckwad Lucas *again* and I may go on ebay and get *original* un-fucked-up versions if these piss me off too much), and here's a cool interview with novelist Toni Morrison.

All Together Now! "In the Ghettooooooo!"

So, picked up my obligatory reject from Realms of F. for my abortion story, "Two Girls." Though Carina gave me the Blue Form of Death, she included a substantial handwritten note saying she really liked the story, but it had no fantasy element, and I might want to try women's studies mags.

I had to laugh. No fantasy element? A woman gives her womb to her husband and gives him the task of childbearing. He rebels violently. They end up being a barren couple, and as per the social rules of this society, they're stoned to death.

After I laughed, I burst into tears.

I admit, I was having a shitty day. I've got 200 rejections or more to my name right now, and I've been submitting stories for 10 years. I should be used to this. I shouldn't be bursting into tears at rejection letters.

But here's the thing:

I'm already a ghetto writer. I work in spec fic. I find the idea of further ghettoizing myself into "women's studies" deeply offensive.

This story has already been rejected with similiar letters of "I liked this, but.. I can't publish it" from Datlow and Sheila Williams.

I've never written a story that everyone seemed to like, but nobody can publish.

I knew Datlow would like it, and I knew Carina would like it (she's my age, and her academic background is in gender studies), but fuck it all if I can sell the goddamn thing to the print mags. About all I've got left is Strange Horizons, and maybe Talebones, if they can squeeze it in (it's 1800 words).

I don't want to tailor-make my fiction. Everytime I get one of these frustrating rejection letters (the, "you're a competent writer, but..." kind), I interrogate what I'm writing and question what I'm doing. As a competent writer, why don't I just write stories that'll get published? Why do I keep writing S&S stories? (Swords and Sociology) Why don't I just add some fairies to the abortion story?

When I was fifteen, I tried to write stories specifically tailored for the now defunct Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine. I read a bunch of sample issues, bought her Sword and Sorceress anthologies, and tried to imitate the style and subject matter I saw there. The rejections got a little nicer, but I still never sold anything to her, and worse - I was now really miserable writing useless drivel that I really didn't want to write but that seemed more immediately marketable than what I was doing before. MZB went belly-up, and I stopped writing stories tailored for specific markets. It bled all the fun out of what I was doing.

Now I'm back to writing what I want. And I have a deep belief in the idea that if you stick to what you're doing, and you love what you're doing, that the rest of the world will come around. Even if I have to wait around until I'm, say, 80, like Carol Emshwiller.

It's a persistence game. I'll be the first to say that, and the first to get pissed off about it, dammit. How the hell else do you winnow down pools of artists? You beat them over the head until 98% of them give up.

The masochists - er, headstrong - keep at it.

I'm writing what I want to write. Can't get better than that. Except maybe getting paid for it.

Here's to being 80.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Well-Directed Rage

Check it out: a compilation of female bloggers on the web (so the next time somebody starts up with the "where are all the women bloggers" rant, we can have an answer. WE'RE RIGHT HERE).

Also, the House has just passed a bill that restricts (even further) women's access to abortion and contraceptives (if the former doesn't scare the shit out of you, the latter better):

NEW YORK (AP) - In Congress and states nationwide, anti-abortion activists are broadening efforts to support hospitals, doctors and pharmacists who - citing moral grounds - want to opt out of services linked to abortion and emergency contraception.

A little-noticed provision cleared the House of Representatives last week that would prohibit local, state or federal authorities from requiring any institution or health care professional to provide abortions, pay for them, or make abortion-related referrals, even in cases of rape or medical emergency.

Feeling pissed off? Fill out a quite form with Naral's Pro-Choice America and get your voice heard by your local Senator (the Senate will be voting on this bill). It takes half a minute - spread the word to your buddies and get them to petition as well.

Book Fetish

Books I picked up this weekend:

Jonathan Strange and Dr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Iron Council by China Mieville

The Shape Changer's Wife by Sharon Shinn

Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body by Susan Bordo

These all will be, I expect, fucking brilliant. Unfortunately, I'm still backlogged. Currently working on finishing Nick Mamatas's Move Under Ground, which unfortunately isn't a "train book" and has to be saved for bedtime reading (ha). Reading Move Under Ground is a bit like being on drugs.

Transcending Social Mores

As is wont to happen this time of year, the birthdays are coming fast and furious here at the office. On birthday days, two dozen donuts and a coffee cake appear in our breakroom, without fail.

Today, I stared at the donuts. I stare at the donuts every time they bring them in. As I've just done another spate of reading about hungry women, women who deprive themselves, furtive attitudes toward food, the binge and purge cycle, and etc., I carefully went through my own food-obsessed thinking in weighing my decision to cut a thumb-sized piece of coffee cake from the enormous loaf looming aside the donuts.

I resolved to have this one piece, to curb any later compulsions. It was sufficiently small, I reasoned. I was hungry. I had a craving for it. There was, in fact, no good reason not to eat it. It wasn't like I was going to eat the whole loaf. I haven't had a binge eating session in almost a year.

I hid in the breakroom and did not take this carefully portioned piece of coffee cake back to my desk. I ate it standing up. I hoped no one would come in and see me. I busily poured coffee and turned my back when one of the architects came in. I furtively chewed the remainder of my stolen piece.

I returned to my desk, satiated.

And thought about women and food, and how we're not supposed to desire anything, and why is it the only women we see eating in films and TV are the ones who're supposed to be evil, psychotic, or just plain fat (which is a shorthand for so many Evils these days)?

Because good women don't eat. Good women don't get hungry. They've transcended their bodies. They're good little anorectic girls.

I rage about a society that wants me to be smaller and quieter, and here I am, feeling those pangs because I'm not smaller and quieter. Failed woman. All over again.

I'm not a stupid person. I'm in fantastic health. I'm smart.

Fuck transcending the body. My own inability to transcend social mores really pisses me off.

Demon Juice!

So my buddy Jenn says to me on Saturday night, "There's this show on the SciFi channel that the reviewers are comparing to Buffy. Apparently, it's about this woman named Lilith who's half demon who goes around fighting demons. They'll probably play with the biblical imagery. Might suck. Could be cool. Wanna watch it?"

There's a big push of shows preening themselves to "be like Buffy," now that there's absolutely nothing else even remotely like Buffy on television. Reviewers' idea of "being like Buffy" has been distilled to this formula: "Attractive young female with superpowers battles the forces of darkness."

That's about all any of these hyped-up shows ever have in common with Buffy.

So me and Jenn sit down to watch this show. Really, I should have known better. I'd submitted myself to the atrocity that was BattleStar Galactica, because the SciFi channel made a bunch of noise about the number of its female characters (women would make up about 1/3 to 1/2 of the cast), and how they were going to be so buff and cool and independent and new and different. But it turns out that having lots of female characters basically meant the audience of 14-year-old boys (assumption of audience, much?) got to watch more on-screen sex action. Since everybody knows that the only reason you pack women into a cast is cause you can have more on screen sex. For those not really interested in the sex, we got to play the "Woman... or Cyclon?" game. By the end of the series, you've discovered that you can tell the Evil female characters from the Good ones because the Evil ones have sex.

Which means that of the four "progressive" female leads, half of them are robots.

Yea, that's right. Robots. Women are robots!! HAHAAHaaha. Hell, I haven't read the women-are-really-robots story about a bazillion times, have I?

But hey, it's a Saturday night, I don't feel like leaving the house, and this shitty show comes on.

Our Heroine emerges from the thick ooze of a primordial swamp, and our Old White Man Narrator tells us that God created Lilith before Eve, but Lilith "would not lie beneath" Adam, and talked back to him (likely told him he was bad in bed), so God Cast Her Out. And, for some reason, cause she's an evil, headstrong woman who critiqued the size of Adam's penis, she goes on this millennia-long killing rampage, and appears to subsist mainly on human flesh. Mainly male flesh, actually, since she's never shown killing any women, just men and young boys. Cause, she's, you know, EVIL.

She's then tracked down in the "near future" by this band of Old White Male Priests (seriously. They're all men. I thought I saw some longer hair in one of the group scenes, but if some of the young acolytes were female, I don't know, cause we never saw their faces) who have been running after her for centuries (these are the guys who spam your e-mail accounts with penis-enlargement advertisements, which fund their serious work). She's captured, but not killed, so that the old white men can commodify her body and use it for "science," the way Sigourney Weaver is co-opted in the misogynistic monstrosity that was Alien IV (oddly enough, written by Joss Whedon, but I have my own theories about that).

Fast forward, and Lilith is Revealed as a petite, dark-haired (of course) little woman who rides a motorcycle and dresses in leather but walks around and speaks like a passive, inane, brainless child. She's living with some Old White Man (Jenn commented: "That better be her father") who turns out to be a plant from the Society of Old White Men who's been "raising" Lilith since the priests turned her out of the medical facility after taking away her memories. They hope to "tame" her (though of course they use the word, "civilize" and talk about how much they want her to show more womanly "compassion for humanity"). She's given a book by a "mysterious" person who wants to help her "regain" her past, and in that book, she reads about Bible Curses, like those Weird Birth Marks on her wrist that are the "Marks of Daggoth" - five of them - that will disappear upon Every Act of Kindness Lilith performs in the good female nurturing role. She subsequently saves a child from getting hit by a car, and one of the marks is removed.


Wait a minute.

Lilith has been alive for millenia. She obviously figured out once upon a time ago that a single act of kindness would take off the marks one by one and she would not longer be demon-cursed, so WHY DIDN'T SHE JUST PERFORM 5 PERFUNCTORY GOOD DEEDS SO SHE WOULDN'T BE CURSED?

Oh, that's right, cause then the White Men couldn't "save her", couldn't you know, remake her into a less intimidating figure.

Silly me.

While in the medical facility, her demon juice (dark light???) was extracted, and now one of the scientists injects it into himself as a cure for immortality. What he doesn't know is that too much female demon juice will turn him into a monster!!!

The white man becomes a plague-carrying demon, which, if you didn't guess, is going to be the Master Villain that Our Passive Heroine will have to face - a guy drugged up on her demon juice! He couldn't control himself! It's all her fault, because she produces demon juice! Demon juice! Fucking women and their demon juices!

OK. Sorry. I'm getting distracted.

Anyway, so Lilith is approached by the guy who initially shot her and captured her so she could be experimented on by lots of eager white male hands who doubtless took this opportunity to whip out their penises for review (she was only let go, of course, after she gave her "thumbs up" approval of the size of all members).

The guy who shot her is now to act as her "trainer" (because, obviously, after millenia fighting off men, she really needs a man to teach her how to, uh, kill stuff). As for characterization of our Trainer, he's got a brief scene with a blank-eyed blond woman, a woman who gets two whole lines that make up the only other speaking female role in the whole movie. Her lines are made up of such winning constructions as "as you know, we're not married anymore," and "as you know, our son has been dead for years." These are all delivered so that the audience jives that Our Trainer is single, and Suffering after the loss of his son, who was, of course, killed by the Evil Lilith, which encouraged Our Trainer to slaughter that evil bitch.

Once Lilith and our Trainer meet up, we have our obligatory two-minute training sequence, with music, though it appears that instead of a "learning over time" montage, in fact, she's only training to be a demon hunter for the afternoon, and the two of them take off once she's learned how to channel her powers so that she'll become a black woman when she's ready to kill.

Oh, have I not mentioned the black woman thing yet?

Of course! Her magic superpower is "darklight" so when she goes into Evil Sexual Demon Temptress mode, she turns black! Yes, that's right! A black woman, with claws! She's showing her inner bitch! Her True Nature! Everyone knows how sexually dangerous black women are, right!! (imagine if a black actress played this part, and whenever she channeled her "powers of good" she became a white woman - what kind of outrage would that have produced, I wonder?).

So our petite heroine goes out to kill the demon, and gets her ass kicked, though I'm not sure why, except that the demon's, you know, a guy, and she's, you know, a little girl (the fact that she's been fighting demons and men for millenia is, once again, not apparently a factor here. Her success or failure appears to depend solely upon how well she listens to her "trainer").

"I bet she sleeps with him," I said to Jenn. "That's the good deed that gets her curse removed. She's gotta fuck her father-figure trainer and ease his pain with her demon body. Just you wait."

Our heroine pants after her trainer like a well trained dog, (at one point, I finally said, "Why don't they just put a collar on her and stop with all the pretense?"), and then they discover the plague victims who are dying from the plague that the demon is passing onto people, and we get our first crowd shot, and yes, yes, that's right, ladies and gentlemen, there are some female plague victims in the crowd! Whooo! They're the first female faces I've seen in any crowd scene in this whole movie (Jenn insists that there was also one black guy in a scene with the swat team, a brief crowd shot. He appears to be the only brown-colored person in the whole movie). One would think that men reproduced by, you know, jerking out each other's ribs. Though that might be construed by Bible-thumpers as borderline homoerotic, so we likely weren't allowed to see all that rib-jerking on screen.

So, the only way to make a cure for the plague is to get the head of the demon, and fry it up into an antidote. The Old White Male Priests have the trainer bring Lilith back into the Priestly Lair so they can restore her memories of all the Evil she's caused. She's taken to a little room with about four panels of "in memorium" names lit from behind, because, you know, this is the future, and carving them would take too long, and put the movie over budget ("Hey, wait a minute," Jenn said, "Did they REPEAT THE NAMES? Rewind that." She rewound it, and sure enough, on the four panels of the death list we got all in one shot, it was easy to see that the names had been repeated from one master list. "Low budget," I said. Lilith was such an evil bitch, she killed a bunch of people twice).

"See all this death you caused," the Old Evil White Man says.

"I'm so ashamed," Lilith says, crying. "I'm just going to kill myself."

And the Old Evil White Man gives her a "knife" made out of "talus" (isn't that like talcum powder?) that "dates back to the Garden of Eden" and is the only material that can kill her, a cursed half-demon woman.

As she raises the knife, she is once again Saved by her trainer, who convinces her of all the good she can do in the world.

"I'm evil, I've done terrible things, I deserve to die!!!" she says. She's presumably now regained all of her bazillions of years of memories (as the whole reason they brought her in to the death lists was to "give her back her memory.")

So, upon getting her memory back, knowing that not only was she cast out of the Garden of Eden cause God made Adam bad in the sack, but now she's been medically fucked with by these old white men, who captured her, extracted her darklight, wiped away her memory, and likely did countless other unhappy things to her evil demon (read: Female) body while they all patted themselves on the back for capturing the Evil Woman who carried with her the power of the female gaze that men have been trying so hard to shut up for thousands of years.

And instead of slaughtering all of these idiot men, what does she do?

She tries to kill herself.

The fuck?

What kind of fucked-up Lilith demon is this?

Then the trainer tells her to go out and kill something, and I know exactly what kind of "action heroine" this is. It's the one who acts as a passive marionette whose strings are jerked around by men. She protects them, listens to them, doesn't talk back, does exactly as they say, and feels guilt whenever they tell her to. She's a character written, directed, and produced by men.

"You know what's really sad," Jenn said to me after Lilith pulled open a big metal door in an effort to save her now plague-stricken Trainer, "you know they pitched this as a female-empowerment movie."

I have no doubt that they did just that.

In the end, Lilith slays the evil demon with the use of some "Toxic Adhesive" (seriously) and saves everyone from the plague unleashed by the old white guys. Yet another one of her marks of Daggoth burns away, so she's only got a couple more good deeds to do before she's free of the curse. It sure is lucky that she met these white guys. She'll get rid of the curse in the course of an afternoon, now that she's got white men around to train her properly!

After all, it's not *science* that's all wrong - it's women!

Our final scene is a mutual masturbation scene between the Old White Priest and the Trainer, who congratulate one another for the fine work they've done taming Lilith into a good little housetrained terrier.

Next week, she'll be baking cookies!

Now, *that's* a fearsome, empowered female heroine!

Why don't they feed us more of this stuff? Oh, that's right, they do. Every goddamn day. And they'll keep marketing spayed women and incompetent men with penis-complexes as female-empowerment episodes.

After the "show," the SciFi channel saw it fit to further aggrevate us by showing a trailer for its next debacle, its adaptation of Earthsea.

Upon seeing Danny Glover opening up the scene, I said, "Is Ged supposed to be that old?"

"Uh," Jenn said, as the trailer spun out, full of lily-white characters frolicking in the sundrenched flora, "That's not Ged. That's the old guy who trains him."

"Huh. Wait a minute, then. Why is the rest of this preview full of white people? Isn't Isabella Rosellini's character supposed to be the only white person in the whole book?"

"Yep," Jenn said.


"You do realize now why Ellen Datlow will never buy any of your stories, even though she likes them?" Jenn said, pointing at the frolicking parade of whiteys. "She works for *these* people."


This Woman is Wacky

Does anyone else, like, seriously believe that Ann Coulter is insane? I mean, not insane in a rah-rah Bush is great way, which is fine, because there are certainly things about Republicans that half the country likes, and that's cool, cause it's a free country, but... um... why is it that the press loves this insane woman? because she's insane?

For the record, she's also equated Ronald Regan with Jesus Christ. How important is this presidential election in the larger context of the Republic and its history?

Ann Coulter: Insofar as the survival of the Republic is threatened by the election of John Kerry, I'd say 2004 is as big as it gets. Is there one standout issue, and why does it make a difference? What are the most crucial issues?

Coulter: I repeat: The survival of the Republic is threatened by the election of John Kerry. I'd say that's the big one. What would a Kerry administration mean?

Coulter: Quite possibly the destruction of the Republic.

At least she's got the research paper formula down pat: Tell them what you're going to say. Say what you're going to say. Tell them what you said.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Adventures in Booksitting

The adventures of a Barnes & Noble employee:

This is the most fucked up thing to ever happen to me at work: Basically, I am calling a customer because the book she ordered has come in. A three year old picks up the phone and gargles into my ear before handing the phone to her father. I ask for the woman who ordered the book by name and he asks rather suspiciously: "Who is this?" I tell him it is "Barnes and Noble in Northville calling," and he says "Okay hold on." Five minutes (literally) later he yells to his wife (I presume) in an extremely sarcastic manner that "Barnes and Noble is on the phone!" Another few minutes later she picks up, and the other line hangs up. Before I can say anything she whispers in a shrill voice: "I know it's you! I told you never to call me at home!" This catches me a little bit off guard. All I can manage to say is "Excuse me?" to which she replies: "Ohmygod. Ohmygod. I thought you were someone else." I then tell her that her book is in and hang up.

Important: If you are buying something and the scanner doesn't work, and you say "Must be free!" and offer a shit-eating grin, well then shame on you. Presumably you believe the clerk is thinking: "Boy! what a silly guy! Perhaps his background is in improvisational comedy!" But you are wrong. Dead wrong. What the clerk is really thinking is: "If one more person says that today, I will attack with such ferocity that seasoned police officers will weep upon discovering the bloody remains."

Once, while attempting to locate a book on Breastfeeding for an older woman, she caught me off guard by stating matter-of-factly: "It was smart of God to make the baby and the milk come at the same time." Yes. Yes, it was.

It's That Time of Year Again...

What time of year, you may ask? Why, the 19th is Talk Like a Pirate Day!

What, you don't get a paid day off that day? Oh, hell, it's a Sunday! Who cares??

Which Pirates of the Caribbean character are you?

Check out this Pirate Ninja Adventure

How Pirate Are You?

And, for more workday fun try: The English-to-Pirate Translator

How about a pirate name? We all need one of those...

My pirate name is:

Bloody Mary Flint

Every pirate lives for something different. For some, it's the open sea. For others (the masochists), it's the food. For you, it's definitely the fighting. Like the rock flint, you're hard and sharp. But, also like flint, you're easily chipped, and sparky. Arr!

via boingboing

Snapshots From my Worklife, 3

8:15 am - Arrive at work after walking in from the train station. Put lunch in the fridge. Open up my e-mail, update the sitetracker.

8:18 am - Download a copy of games from Play Antz and 3D Morris. The Antz usually win.

9:00 am - read random blogs.

9:30 am - open chapter 27. Snarl at it. Close chapter 27.

9:55 am - open one of the early chapters of book 2. Type a couple sentences. Snarl at them. Close early chapters.

10:00 am - update my blog

10:30 am - nibble on some almonds, have a string cheese or something.

11:00 am - get more coffee. Play Antz again.

12:00 pm - Open chapter 27. Snarl at it. Reread the beginning. Delete something.

12:30 pm - Lose at Antz again. Play 3D Morris. Lose at that too. Download some more free games.

1pm - Lunch. Read a couple chapters of Zelazny's The Guns of Avalon. Go for a walk at the nature preserve across the street.

2pm - print something out for my boss. Harass Yellow about something random (if he's still in the office).

2:01 pm - Lose at 3D Morris

2:30 pm - Write a couple more sentences in chapter 5 of book two. Update my blog. Cruise adding books to my wishlist.

3:00 pm - Open chapter 27, replace everything I deleted

3:30 pm - have some coffee and a protein bar, download more free games.

4:15 pm - read random blogs

4:50 pm - go home.

I get paid for this.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Today's Random Quotes

"Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent."
- Isaac Asimov

"Come to the edge," He said. They said, "We are afraid." "Come to the edge," He said. They came. He pushed them... and they flew.
- Guillaume Apollinaire

"Women have no rights, Don, except what men allow us. Men are more aggressive and powerful, and they run the world. When the next real crisis upsets them, our so-called rights will vanish like—like that smoke. We'll be back where we always were: property. And whatever has gone wrong will be blamed on our freedom, like the fall of Rome was. You'll see."
- James Tiptree Jr.; The Women Men Don’t See

"I worked my way up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty. "
- Groucho Marx

"Everything that used to be a sin is now a disease."
- Bill Maher

"If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it.
- Toni Morrison

At her last exhibition in Mexico, Frida Kahlo told reporters, "I am not sick. I am broken. But I am happy as long as I can paint".


Gmail is having hiccups, so while I wait for it to come back, here's some Onionized "news" for your entertainment:

Female Atheletes Making Great Strides in Attractiveness

LOS ANGELES—In the wake of the Summer Olympics, during which many American women achieved a level of media attention often reserved for men, sports fans are pleased to report that female athletes are continuing to make great strides in their personal appearances.

Point-Counterpoint "I Wish My Life Was Better"

I know what you're going through. Before I created my Total Forward Thinking plan, I knew that the life I was living was not for me. I was renting a cramped, dirty studio apartment. I had a dead-end job. My social life? What social life?! I knew I deserved better, but I was paralyzed by failure. Thanks to the Total Forward Thinking principles, my wonderful family and I now live in a $2 million house that overlooks the ocean. I couldn't be happier!

The Onion's Pool Safety Tips

- Your body is 70 percent water, so don't worry: Even if you were to drown, only 30 percent of you would die.

- Leave a drowned squirrel floating in the pool as a reminder of what can happen when one isn't careful, and is a squirrel.

- Remember, you can't leave young children unsupervised around the pool, the way you do in the house.