Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Just Take Away Everything That Doesn't Look Like A Statue

That's the joke, right? How to be a sculptor? Take a slab of marble and cut away everything that doesn't look like David...

When I open up a book or story project after a pause of more than a couple hours, I usually reread what I did before, which means I rewrite as I go, which means that chapter one of any book I work on is the most heavily rewritten of any part of the book, ever. Even when I trash 500 pages and start over. And it's the same kind of process: I'm cutting away and rearranging things that don't give me the story and mood I've got in my head - if you're really lucky, you might get 80% of what you were looking for when you started. That happened for me, once.

The rest of the time, I'm lucky if all the characters in the story end up with the same names they had in my original vision.

Cut it all out, tear it all down, build it up again, clearing up the image in your head as you go.

"It's not that."

"Definately not that."

"Oh, that's just shit."

And you start over again.

I love what I do.

P.S. It's so sweet being back from the break and hefting around my 30lb free weights again - my arms are once again looking Mighty... Oh, and I finished another Amber book. Almost done with The Origins of War. I'm way behind on my nonfiction (though I did recently finish, and recommend, War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, which I'll discuss later).

A Woman A Day...

I love this crap:

"He defied the 25th century with a woman who was NOT HIS WIFE—and a WIFE who was NOT A WOMAN."

It's probably why I write what I do...It's like a screaming, pissed-off sort of response. With better fight scenes.

And, in response to my Hysterical Holiday Breakdown Rant, Jenn sent me this. For, you know, perspective.

Over the River and Through the... Whatever

Will be sporadic today, as my boss dumped a big pile of crap on my desk yesterday afternoon and told me to turn it into something that makes sense (during the busy days, I sometimes suspect that this is really what my job title should say: Bringer of Coherence to Crap). We're gonna get slammed soon. It ain't gonna be pretty.

Had a good MA class last night, a nice ride home, some reading in bed, & etc. Working on finishing up some war books that I need to return and/or renew this weekend. Will be churning through some line edits tonight and finishing a pesky chapter of Jihad (I really need to change that title), all willing.

But, for now: work. Ha.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Fun For Your Sidebar

Our Nuclear Neighbors

Some cocktail party tidbits stolen from The Cat's Blog


The same countries with VETO POWER at the U.N. Security Council

ISRAEL, INDIA, and PAKISTAN have NUCLEAR WEAPONS too. But "we are not supposed to know."

Israel is considered an undeclared nuclear weapon state, and is believed to have 100-200 nuclear weapons. It could deploy these weapons on 255 aircraft (50 F-4E and 205 F-16), 100 missiles and three submarines.

For more, go here.

I find this fascinating. When will Israel, India, and Pakistan get seats on the UN Security Council?


Yea. That was supposed to be a rhetorical question.


"A free society is one where it is safe to be unpopular."
-- Adlai Stevenson

via Soapbox Blog

Live Your Life Anyway

Fascinating peice comparing the behavior of abusers in domestic relationships and the actions of the Bush administration toward most Americans:

Any battered woman in America, any oppressed person around the globe who has defied her oppressor will tell you this: There is nothing wrong with you. You are in good company. You are safe. You are not alone. You are strong. You must change only one thing: stop responding to the abuser. Don’t let him dictate the terms or frame the debate (he’ll win, not because he’s right, but because force works). Sure, we can build a better grassroots campaign, cultivate and raise up better leaders, reform the election system to make it failproof, stick to our message, learn from the strategy of the other side. But we absolutely must dispense with the notion that we are weak, godless, cowardly, disorganized, crazy, too liberal, naive, amoral, “loose”, irrelevant, outmoded, stupid and soon to be extinct. We have the mandate of the world to back us, and the legacy of oppressed people throughout history.

Even if you do everything right, they’ll hit you anyway. Look at the poor souls who voted for this nonsense. They are working for six dollars an hour if they are working at all, their children are dying overseas and suffering from lack of health care and a depleted environment and a shoddy education. And they don’t even know they are being hit.

I think he goes a little heavy-handed here, but it's something to think about - particularly the part about not making concessions: about living your life anyway, even if you're getting beaten over the head for it. That's what strength and bravery is all about.

Some people call that arrogance and stupidity: until 56 million other people get up and stand next to you.

I am a good woman until somebody tries to lay a hand on me, until someone tries to push me away from the life I want to live so that I fit better into their conception of the way "things are supposed to be." That's when the gloves need to come off.

I'm not letting myself get pushed into the "way you're supposed to be" box ever again. That's the stuff miserable lives are made of.

Some Happy Thoughts

Here are some textbooks disclaimers for evolutionists and other miscreants (via Jed)

And all I have to say about the latest National Organization of Witches stir is: Buy yourself a T-shirt.

Also, there's a very funny and terribly touching "How the Grinch Stole Marriage" ditty up over at Ex-gay watch, just in time for the holidays. Please read it.

More later.

I'm Back. Now, With Better Music

My favorite line from Thanksgiving:

"Careful what you say to her. She'll be blogging about it on Sunday."

My best response to the yearly "are you dating anyone?" question:

"No, I really like my life. I don't want to bring in anyone else who'll ruin it." (this statement illicited much laughter from the widowed and divorced)

Favorite ironic moment:

Talking about my aunt's gastic bypass surgery, my dad's interest in getting gastric bypass surgery, and how much it sucks to be fat while surrounded by three tables worth of food for 20 people.

We could have fed a small village in Peru.

My favorite response to said moaning about weight:

"We're the women built for populating the West."

I also packed up a bunch of CDs and story materials that'd been lodging at my parents' place for the last six years. So now I've got better music at work and more work to work on.

Here we go again.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Headin' Down the Highway...

A jet plane, actually...

I'm outta here at noon today, heading out to the West Coast for holiday debauchery (I wish). Currently listening to Snow Patrol's "Run" on repeat.

Packed up my plane books: The Origins of War, Zelazny's The Hand of Oberon, Chris Hedges's War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, and Mary Renault's The Persian Boy, which I've been savoring slowly, over many months, like a fine wine.

Ready to fly. I'm a nomad by nature, and I've gotten ancy this year - money troubles have prevented me from doing much traveling. I think it'll be a good break before all hell breaks loose. I've got a shitstorm of stuff to take on once I get back.

Will be working on Jihad and Over Burning Cities on the plane. I'm like 80 pages short of where I should be - when having trouble, revert to old-fashioned yellow notepads. They can work wonders.

Will be blogging and checking e-mail sporadically - apparently, my parents' computer crashed, so I'll be trying to wrest e-mail privileges from my gamer-brother and his hip customized machine. If you've ever tried to part a gamer boy from his machine... yea, definately sporadic access.

Fuck Unity

Why didn't we protest like this?

Oh. Yea. Cause we're united.

Also, there's a movie coming out that addresses the genocide in Rwanda in `94 - and the movie doesn't look half bad. Check out the trailer. There's a great book about the genocide here.

And, from the director of Hero, and starring Ziyi Zhang (who is just so incredibly cool) comes - "A feast of blood, passion, and silk brocade," called House of Flying Daggers. You better bet I'll be in line for this one.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Oh, the Humanity

It's writers like these who make the rest of us look bad.

You know what the best part about being a bleeding-heart liberal is? As long as these nutty people don't hurt anybody or try and pass legislation on my bedroom activities, I really don't mind sharing the world with them. They're wacky and insane, sure, but I don't feel that they'll physically harm me. If nothing else, I find them wildly entertaining.

The problem, I think, comes when they don't believe in sharing the world with the likes of hippies like me. That's when the shit starts to fly, and you get dems in black hoodies slashing people's tires...

Try and put your hand on me, and I'll lay you out. That's the line.

A History of Sports Brawls

I'm not sure what came over me, perhaps it's living in Chicago, and knowing how insane sports fans are here, or perhaps it's my interest in the history of organized forms of violence, but I went ahead and checked out the video of the basketball brawl down in Indy.

The Evil Kameron part of me was like: "Dude, that's so cool."

I pulled my liberal self together and banished the thought. Check out this history of US sports brawls at SI.

As somebody with a background in the history of warfare, I'm fascinated by violence in sports when instigated by what are "supposed" to be "passive participants" (though every sports geek will tell you otherwise). I'm wondering, with the red/blue divide in the country reaching an all-time freak-out level, will we see more fan brawls at sports outings and more sportsmen blowing each other away?

I mean, afterall, we're all just taking a cue from Our Fearless Leader.

I want data.

The Obligatory Hysterical Holiday Breakdown Rant

"What a wonderful life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner." - Colette

Because I'm not superwoman.

Skipped kickboxing last night.

Bad sign.

Wandered aimlessly downtown, renewed my worry and angst about being too big, about not losing enough weight, about not being smaller. Felt like I was spiraling into some sort of...

Oh, yes: holiday depression.

I don't often give thanks during the holidays: the holidays are my time to reflect on all of the things that I'm doing wrong, and all of the ways that I could be a better person.

And I felt completely aimless. What the fuck am I doing with my life? I should go back and get a Ph.D. I'm wasting all this brain power at a mediocre job that pays me well to use my MA skills to print shit out for my boss all day, to copy and collate and call contractors. I need to apply for another job. I need to write more shorts. I need to write better books. These fucking books aren't going to pay off for ten years. Why am I still doing this? Why is it my primary work, my primary project, when I won't see returns for a decade? And what about the boxing? Am I going to take this shit seriously, or not? What the hell am I doing, skipping a whole week of classes? Why don't I have any friends here? What the hell am I hiding from? Am I some kind of freak? Am I broken?

I fly home for the holidays on Wednesday, so Monday was really my only chance for a class this week, and I lost myself to apathy and stirred around downtown guiltily with $29 in my account and an Old Navy Card. And there's that, too: I'm going home for the holidays, which is always stressful as hell, because the whole time, we go out to eat and complain about how fat we are. That's just the family dialogue. That's just what it's always been. I've got an aunt who just had gastric bypass surgery. I've got a cousin who's up for trial for committing a felony. I've got a sister whose life is full-up with a child and a restraining order. I've got a bevy of relatives who measure my worth by the width of my ass. I'll never be thin enough, I'm not using my smarts enough, the writing is nothing so much as perverse masochistic scribbling of doom, and old friends back home who expressed interest in seeing me over the holiday have gone totally silent (how many have leapt over to this blog, I wonder?). I need a Ph.D. I need to be in better shape. I need to make better use of my time. I need to live up to my potential. I need a holiday.

And in the midst of my anger, my self-loathing, my freak-out about wasting my precious time, my youth, steaming toward 25 without seeing any kind of investment panning out in the near future - I realized that I could just stop.

That is, I could stop trying to be better.

It was really an option. To just stop. To go home and have a food binge, stop going to martial arts classes, stop trying to sell stories, stop looking at volunteer opportunities and French classes and angsting about not doing enough and just... stop.

And it was that realization that shook me, because it's just that attitude that I've been violently rebelling against since highschool. It was why I jumped off the bridge at Molton Falls. It was why I moved to Alaska. Why I moved to South Africa. It's why I'm here, carving out a life on my own terms.

Yes, I could stop. And I know exactly who I would be if I stopped. I'd churn back into the binge-eating, drinking too much, smoking too much, and attach myself to some abusive loser who could confirm all of my worst fears about myself. I could go back to living in a shitty apartment in the ass-end of nowhere, and get my phone cut off, my electricity cut off, get evicted and crapped on and start thinking up really great ways to *really* make everything stop.

But, see, I've been there. Done that. I'm very lucky in that I hit what I saw as rock-bottom at 18, six months after abandoning high school and running the hell out of my house. I was eager for life to start - and I made the big mistake of relying on somebody else to help me get it started. The lucky thing about hitting bottom so young is that you really have nowhere to go but up. And you've got a really great shitstorm to compare everything else in your life to.

"Am I doing better than I was then? Yea? Great. I'm on the right track."

But every morning I get up, I could choose to stop. And I know that person, and I don't want to be her. I know exactly where I'll be.

Maybe that's what's really hitting me full-on right now. There's this person I always wanted to be, this image of myself I had in my head. I wanted to be a writer, to travel, to have degrees, to know things, to meet people, to have friends in all sorts of odd places. I wanted to have stories, I wanted to speak in a loud voice. I wanted to be strong. Independent. Smart.

And I'm looking out now at what I've done, what I have, where I live, what I think... and I'm seeing in my life the sort of person I want to be. I'm seeing that and still living in mortal fear of the person who's still at the core of me, the one who allowed herself to stay in a shitty relationship, the one who used weight to punish herself, the one who didn't believe she was a real person because it didn't seem that anyone ever saw her.

I chugged home on the train and came home to find another reject from Sci Fiction. As per the usual, it's the rejections that tend to finally release the day's pent-up shit (likely because I only retrieve them at the end of the day). I sank to the floor in my hallway and burst into tears. Not just those slow leaking tears, but those full-body, Greek mourning wailing sobs that echo through the whole house. It's like taking all of this pain you've been holding inside of yourself and giving it a voice, making it tangible and real. I sobbed and sobbed, clutching the rejection letter, half disrobed of my work clothes, and let myself be sad.

It's a funny thing, with this sort of pent-up pain. If you give it voice, if you surrender to it, it sometimes eases up. It bleeds out of you.

I retreated to bed, cried some more, skipped dinner, took a couple Tylenol PM, and surrendered to darkness.

And this morning, I woke up.

And I started again. Because I start again every damn morning.

What's the difference, I always wonder, between the person I was and the person I want to be, the adult scribbling pages and typing up tidbits on blogs and backpacking around Europe?

There's only this difference, every morning: you get up and you start over. You let yourself have a hysterical little freak-out, and then it's over. You don't feel bad about it. You don't carry it around with you. You don't let it make you feel weak or crazy.

You just let everything bleed out of you - all that hate and anger and fear - and you start over. And the next time it builds up, you find another way to channel it.

Go to law school. Move to Tuscany. Spend six months living in some backwater in New Zealand. Go help AIDS orphans in Africa. Volunteer your time at a homeless shelter.

Only remember that you'll be the same person in all of those places, doing all of those things, and that's OK, cause now you'll also be the sort of person who does those things.

The fear and despair never really go away. Sometimes I think I'm the most cowardly person I know.

But living it up is about being afraid and holding the course anyway.

Every damn day.

...with a day off now and again for holiday hysterics.

Old and New Beauties

My buddy Greg Beatty has a poem up at Strange Horizons about sleeping beauties - check it out.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Gamer Girls

Cory Doctorow's got a new short up at Salon.com - about gamer girls and kicking ass. Highly recommended read:

Anda didn't really start to play the game until she got herself a girl-shaped avatar. She was 12, and up until then, she'd played a boy-elf, because her parents had sternly warned her that if you played a girl you were an instant perv-magnet. None of the girls at Ada Lovelace Comprehensive would have been caught dead playing a girl character. In fact, the only girls she'd ever seen in-game were being played by boys. You could tell, cos they were shaped like a boy's idea of what a girl looked like: hooge buzwabs and long legs all barely contained in tiny, pointless leather bikini-armour. Bintware, she called it.

But when Anda was 12, she met Liza the Organiza, whose avatar was female, but had sensible tits and sensible armour and a bloody great sword that she was clearly very good with.

Watch him go with this one - sugarfree zones around the schools, book and meal tokens, school weigh-ins, unionizing gamers... I love this guy.

Not Pissed Off Enough to Rant, Today

So, I'm not pissed off enough to rant today.

Saw a mediocre production of Equus last night (It's such a great script that it's difficult to imagine a truly *bad* production of this show) that didn't really piss me off. Got a bunch of crap on book one finished, and today I've just got one last Roh chapter to lengthen, and then I'll have fit in all the new plot elements I wanted to add to clean up the pacing. Today I'll be working on Jihad, which is so behind it's not even amusing. I really want to have another finished book in hand next year that I can start peddling. I need to pick up the pace.

Expressed interest in some volunteer positions at Planned Parenthood yesterday, and also applied to the local city college (automatic admission) where I'll signing up for a French class on Tues/Thurs, all willing. Gotta keep busy...

So - unless I find something amusing to share, I'll see you all tomorrow.

Snapshots From my Worklife, 5

Got an e-mail circular from the lead A/E guy here at the Workplace of Silliness - looks like we're going to get 2 proposals we've currently got out that are closing up right now. One of our clients also just gave a glowing review of our A/E guy working in Iraq, so we've got kudos with them.

More document formatting, less writing for me. Ha.

Along with said e-mail, we were forwarded a snipped and scanned PDF of this lovely trite piece of crap about how evil it is to "foster a negative attitude."

Us? Negative? Hell, I'm the least cynical person here... Like all Americans, we deal really well with conflict resolution.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Today's Diversions

Bush, Rumsfeld, and Powell take some time off to model for the Banana Republic catalog...

Matt Cheney's got a post up about some of the flack Strange Horizons appears to be taking for publishing a soft SF story... that's about the sexual relationship between two women. Though I agree that the story would have been better placed in an erotica anthology (and for erotica, it's not all that great either), I applaud SH for taking it on - if nothing else, it leads to discussions like this about what the hell SF is. Ideally, this story should have been weightier, and explored some issues, really gotten me in the gut - instead, it was like "Huh. Time travelers. The Love That Cannot Speak Its Name. Prostitution. What's the point?" As someone who was drawn to writing SF/fantasy because I felt it was the best place to explore worlds that were *really* different (including social roles), I've since become frustrated with just how narrow and conservative most of the genre really is. Like Matt said: "Science fiction, the literature of yesterday's future!" (to be fair, there are a number of writers doing great stuff - Kelly Link being a good example, but they get flack for it, and haven't been as commercially successful as they should be. Read her collection Stranger Things Happen).

For those interested, Nick Mamatas has also shown up in the comments section of that post, and sparks will fly.

And you may be interested in this double-speak Forbes article about how Americans are living longer, healthier lives... yet 69% of older Americans are "overweight", which is EVIL. Yet, we're living longer, healthier lives... yet...

Yea. C'mon you guys, when are you going to fess up and tell us that most people have an 80lb "healthy weight" range, not a 10lb one, and people's set weights and metabolisms are very different? When are you going to admit it's more important to move your ass than to have less of an ass?

Bah. These people exhaust me.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Thoughts for Singletons on a Friday Night

My roomie has a date tonight, and I'm sitting here watching Rocky movies, eating Thai food, doing line edits and arguing with myself again about what a lame person I must be to be sitting here finding some kind of happiness in line edits and Rocky movies. Aren't I incomplete? Isn't there something wrong with me? All the magazines say so. The TV says so. They say how I'm supposed to be, and how I'm supposed to feel, and I'm supposed to feel lame, sitting here at home by myself, doing line edits and watching movies.

I should go out tonight. Go to Second City. Go around the corner to the Green Mill. Really should go out tonight. Should do something.

I should be dating.


Scratch that. Go back. Rewind.

Me: We've discussed this.

Evil Kameron: You're a freak.

Me: Whoa. Hold on. First: you're channeling all the bullshit pressure again. You were totally fine until your roomie started dating. You're internalizing social expectations for the way women are supposed to live. Step back, deep breath. Are you wholly comfortable yet with the idea of being in a relationship? Are you secure enough in your sense of self that you know you wouldn't let it be subsumed by the desires of someone else? We've been down this road before, honey - if you want to be strong, if you want this life, if you want to be happy right now, this is how you have to play it. Once you've got your stuff together, once you're more comfortable in your skin, with who you are, we'll have this conversation again. That's what the journey's about, honey. That's what the traveling is about, the writing is about. That's everything. And until you have a handle on yourself, you can't go dragging anybody into your life.

Evil Kameron: But isn't that really cynical? Why the hell are you sitting around here on a Friday night eating Thai food and doing line edits on some fantasy book nobody's ever expressed any interest in and watching lame Rocky movies?

Me: Cause it's the one day a week I get Thai food, I'd rather write fantasy books than do anything else, and I've got boxing class tomorrow.

Evil Kameron: So this is the life you chose for yourself?

Me: Yea. For now. This is a journey, like all the rest of them. And when you're traveling, you'll have some lonely Friday nights. That's what makes you love the crazy, people-filled nights all the more.

Evil Kameron: Dammit, you're getting all philosophical and Old Woman Wise again.

Me: It's called perspective. I know what it is to be in the corner, in the shitter, in poverty, without anything or any hope for anything else. This world, this night, these things I've chosen - I'm so fucking lucky to be here. I'm so happy to be here.

Evil Kameron: Get yourself a drink. You have another 680 pages to work on.

Me: Damn straight.

Evil Kameron: Bungee jumping in New Zealand next year?

Me: Count on it.

Evil Kameron: Dorky guy in tow?

Me: Don't push it.

Have a great weekend, all.

Teaching Gaiman

And, one more before I get started on these 700 pages of line edits (arg): check out Matt Cheney's reflections on teaching Neil Gaiman's American Gods to his highschool AP English class.

I just think it's damn cool he got away assigning a real book - with swearing and vagina dentate and non-white people and non-Christian mythology and everything.

I would have killed to get assigned books like this in highschool.

Random Linkage, My Chiklits

Charge `em by the pound. Yea, that's right, fat girls. What the hell is up with places like Eddie Bauer and L.L. Bean that don't charge you for plus sizes? Who do they think they are? Hey, let's start putting a "woman tax" on shirts. Afterall, if a woman's got breasts bigger than a B, she should be paying extra, lousy bitty.

And here are some local blue-state hysterics who are pitching fits about the idea of the existence of Bad Ass coffee. No, no, they're not even protesting by just not going to the place (you know, boycotting is the usual sort of protest for this thing) they're just pissed that the damn place even exists. Messes up their cozy view of the world, apparently. Only good asses live in their world.

Speaking of boycotting and freedom of speech, Jeff Jarvis has been doing some research into the big bout of FCC fining bullshit that's been going on this year (showing a white woman jumping into the arms of a black quarterback still rankles, apparently). Want to know how many of the 260M Americans in this country it takes to get a show fined and send all the networks into a censorship frenzy?

About three.

Over a million women had to march on Washington to get the government just to *think twice* about further tampering with reproductive rights and enforcing the ban on partial birth abortion.

But three people can scare the media into censorship.

Stand up. Write back. Send letters to the FCC saying that you're against the censorship of free speech. Even 30,000 is more than 3, last time I checked. But then, this administration has fuzzy math.

Enough, Already. No, Really, ENOUGH.

I did a bad thing last night.

I rented and watched Enough with Jennifer Lopez.

Oh, gag me with a spoon.

To be fair, I knew this was going to be a wretched movie, but I'd heard she learned a bunch of Krav Maga for it, and I've had a higher-than-usual interest in fighting movies since I've started learning to fight. I enjoy watching training sequences now and going, "I've done that! I know how to do that!"

And I've also begun to understand why my buddy Patrick - who's a fifth-degree black belt in Kenpo karate - gets so frustrated with fight scenes.

"Enough" is one of those domestic-abuse movies that's obviously been written and directed by a man.

"What, you mean, he'll just hit her, and she'll be a stay-home mom, and he makes all the money? That's not scary enough! How about he has serial affairs, too? No, no, MORE, EVIL! How about he hires thugs to pose as FBI agents and go after her? How about he taps her phones? No, more! How about we find out that he conspired with a friend to get her into bed in the first time! Yay!"

Oh, puleez.

Want to know the scariest moment in the movie? It's not when the pseudo-FBI agents come after her, or when some other guy is tracking her, or whatever else totally over-the-top crap happened that was thrown in there to make the guy REALLY SCARY. It's the moment when, after he's hit her, he goes into her purse and takes her keys and her wallet.

Really, that's scary enough. So is canceling all of her credit cards and closing her accounts. That's what it's all about, keeping control over women. That's why women owning their own property was such a big deal of a law to change, and why so many men balked at it for thousands of years. That's why women still aren't allowed to drive in some countries. Take away the money and the transport, and you control people.

So, unfortunately, instead of being a woman-training-to-kick-ass-and-finding-the-strength-in-herself-movie, this movie was just a really poor knockoff of Sleeping With the Enemy (which was way better, in my opinion), only really disjointed, over-the-top and bordering on the frickin' ridiculous. I started fast-forwading through the husband-stalking-the-wife scenes, and about 2/3rds of the way through the movie, I realized I wasn't going to get much Krav Maga, and the point of the movie wasn't about the awesome realization of her power as a human being or anything. It was just about killing her husband.

"Oh, crap," I said to my roomie, "it's going to be one of those two-and-a-half-minute training sequences, isn't it? The one's with the music, where she learns how to move like a super ninja in three days?"

And, lo and behold:

All the Krav Maga we got was one of those two-and-a-half-minute training sequences with a nameless trainer, complete with the music.

And, BAM: Jennifer Lopez is a super ninja.

No, no really: she goes into the husband's house and climbs around in the rafters and sets up this fighting trap for him, and moves all the guns around and closes her eyes and figures out the number of steps to all the furniture, and brings a bag of gear so that she can scamble cell phone signals in the house. It's like the Karate Kid, only without all the actual, you know, training and self-discovery and shit like that. And, obviously, without any attempt whatsoever at realism.

That's right, two-and-a-half-minutes of Krav Maga, and a former waitress has becomes James Bond.

Me, screaming in the background, "What the fuck is this???"

So Jennifer Lopez the Super Krav Maga Ninja kills her husband with her Krav Maga super powers, and the police arrive, and tell her she's lucky to be alive, and then super ninja and her daughter go back to Seattle to shack up with the nice dorky guy she broke up with in high school and should have married in the first place.

The End.

What a lame movie.

Good Women Are Thin Women

Amazon.com is sponsoring a series of rather dull, boring short movies that then try and "make money" by advertising products seen in the short. They've got one up with Minnie Driver called "Portrait" in which the office fat girl - who's seen eating in *every damn scene* - at a modeling agency gets her photo taken at a Glamour Shots type of place that says she'll have her "inner beauty" revealed by the photographer.

At work, she's looked down on by all the thin-bitch-women who've screamed their way to the top, and she's always walking three steps behind everyone. She's a sloppy dresser, hesitant, unnoticed, and flighty. Did I mention she's eating ALL the time? Nobody seemed to realize that lots of overweight women actually don't eat in front of people - yea, there are binge sessions at home, but most of them don't consist of enough food to take up THE ENTIRETY OF THE COUCH AND COFFEE TABLE. And hello, jerk-offs, skinny people binge too: they either have happy metabolisms that slough it back out, or they vomit it up. Don't throw your fat girl stereotypes at me.

So, after having her photo taken, our heroine wakes up the next morning, and ta-da!!

She's thin.

Yes. That's right. Her inner "goodness" has shone through and sloughed off all the fat that was hiding the "good" thin woman inside of her! Now, she goes to work wearing stylish clothes, tosses her hair a lot, flirts with guys at the watercooler, gets a better job, and becomes the envy of the thin-bitch-women.

Imagine me screaming in the background, "What the fuck is this???"

As someone who's gone up and done the sliding size-scale from a 12-22 (since I was twelve years old - yea, that's right I was a size 12 at 12, again at 16, again at 20, and likely will be again at 25 - see a pattern here?) and back again, once, twice, working on three times down the size loop again, I can tell you this: I'm the exact same person at a 22 as I am at a 12. I guess this must mean that I'm not a "good" person on the inside, as I'm not thin and blond, and really don't have much desire to be.

I think what always offends me so much about thin actresses going around in fat drag is that the women who do it may have a deep, deep fear of being fat, but they've never *been* fat. They don't realize that life goes on, that you're the same person, that the world doesn't end. For most actresses in Hollywood, and in the minds of some ridiculous amount of women, being fat is the absolute worst thing that can happen to them. How can you have people who think this giving us the popular media idea of fat women? How can you so blantantly tell people that "goodness" means being thin, and "badness" means being fat?

And how come fat girls have to dress like shit, and walk five steps behind everybody? Why can't they laugh out loud and dress really great, and not be flighty and stupid? Why do they have to show fat women gorging themselves at work all the time?

These writers and directors and actors need to move the hell out of Hollywood and go write something from the real world.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Further Hysterics

So, one of the guys in the office just forwarded all the women in the office this stupid urban legend thing, passing it off as him being this concerned male citizen of virtue. You know this one, the *677 cell phone feature (in CANADA) that'll save a poor helpless woman who's got an unmarked police car on her ass and thinks it may be a nefarious villain out for rape and plunder and not a real police officer.

This is a lot like the traumatizing story I got of the rapists who would hide underneath your car at shopping malls holding knives, and cut your ankles to distract you while they pinned you to the hood of your car and raped you. For some reason, my young adolescent self never realized that the sheer physical dynamics involved in him cutting your ankles and then *sliding out from underneath the car and managing to disable you before you screamed, bit, gouged, and ran away* would pretty much prevent all but the stupidest attackers from trying this bit of menacing.

My well-meaning mother sends me these hysteric stories all the time. If you get them forwarded to you, check out truthorfiction.com to get the real deal.

Now, while I appreciate (though am exasperated by) these forwarded e-mails from my mother, I'm irritated and more than a little angry to find myself receiving one from a co-worker whom I rarely work with and barely know, whose social life is nil and work life lackluster and who suffers from a severe Napoleon complex.

Put me and this guy in a fight, and I can tell you right now who'll win.

I want to shake this guy and tell him I've got a Master's degree and have trekked 160 kilometres into rural Africa. I can lift some ungodly amount of weight, jog three miles, and have a whopping amount of anger just ready to be directed at a potential attacker.


Here's the deal, right... the guy was thinking he was doing his helpful male protector thing. He was alerting all of the women in the office that maybe that unmarked police car behind you isn't really a police car (yea, cause *guys* would never fall for this sort of thing), and you should be really hysterical about it, because BAD THINGS happen to women EVERY DAY.

And yes, I agree. Bad things happen every day. What I hate is the automatic assumption that because I'm a woman, I'm going to be the victim of a crime, and I need special consideration, and the guys in the office don't need to know this stuff, cause only 77% of the murdered are men. It's automatically assumed that I'm weaker and stupider and I need more protection. Is rape a woman-specific crime? Mostly, yea: but it's these goddamn I'd-rather-die-than-be-raped stigmas surrounding it that keep women silent about it and keep men doing it, and keep us all in so much fear of some stranger's swollen flesh that we send hysteric e-mails to each other instead of saying, "Yea. Just bite it off." Then report the fucker. You'll have a great DNA sample.

Yes, on the domestic abuse and sexual assault front, women are abused more than men, and it's bullshit, and the abuse needs to stop, and women need to stand up to it, and we live in a society that doesn't give most women the tools, skills, or resources to do so. But men are more likely to be the victim of a car jacking than women. 77% of murder victims are men. And, to top it all off, crime rates have been falling steadily for the last 20 years.

And I'm still getting hysterical e-mails.

Yea, there's still crime, but the pressure on women to be good or get violently assaulted for it is largely social. We're more likely (in the US) to be threatened with a crime or sit around in fear of a crime than to actually experience once.

As somebody who's spent a year and a half in South Africa terrifed out of my skull by rape rates/crime rates & etc. and *still* traveled alone through East London to King William's Town to Alice - the heartland of nowhere - and *still* came out alive... well, I can tell you that this fear bullshit is crippling and false.

Learn how to fight. Hold yourself a little taller. Don't take shit from anybody. Don't let anybody invade your personal space.

I stand by my earlier assertions: if more women knew how to fight back, more men would think twice about fucking with them. I'm a big believer in this one (this ideal could change, of course, I'm young). But as long as men and women are raised up believing that women exist as pretty ornaments instead of friends and partners, I'm going to keep getting these well-meaning e-mails that talk down to me instead of treating me like an equal.

And treating me like an equal means forwarding that hysteric message to everybody in the office, not just me.

And being a decent co-worker is about checking stupid fucking truthorfiction.com before forwarding said co-workers THIS BULLSHIT.

The end.

Dynamic Personalities

This one is fascinating, from New Scientist:

Students who thought of Superman volunteered much less of their time than those who thought about other superheroes. Furthermore, Superman-primed subjects were significantly less likely to show up at a meeting for volunteers held three months after they were initially asked to participate.

The reason, believes Nelson, is that asking people to compare themselves to an exceptional individual makes them realise their shortcomings. Whereas thinking about a general category encourages people to identify the strengths they have in common.

What I want to know is, was there any difference if they primed them for Superwoman instead of Superman?

The Fighting Life, etc

So, almost six months into fighting classes, and I'm still loving this kicking-ass thing.

Had a good class last night. Wore a newer sort of shirt that really, only waifish petite women should wear (says the media - smaller straps, more breathable material, tight-fitting), but damn I was comfortable, and when I got a look at myself in the mirror, I didn't look ridiculous so much as I looked scary. My upper body is starting to get slightly impressive, and I'm a lot denser than I used to be. Still, I'm big. I can hurt people. I always wonder if bigger-than-average guys (height and weight) internalize the Fat Kid label as much as women like me absorbed the Fat Girl label. I always suspect that big guys were told they were just Really Impressive.

So I'm looking forward to Wednesday classes more this time around (format changes every month, to keep our bodies guessing) because we're doing bag work and no jump roping. Worked on krav maga drills, broken up by squats, push-ups, and plank position feats of fancy requiring good balance and a really strong core.

I've been looking at my Saturday morning pilates class as a low-intesity warmup before boxing class or just a great way to start my Saturday morning (on the days I skip the boxing class that follows it), but after a couple of pilates classes in addition to my usual routine, I've really noticed a difference in strength levels. I wonder how much of it has to do with just breaking up my routine and doing something totally different.

My leg strength is also finally starting to catch up to my upper body (yea, I have no problem carrying my roommate around the house on a lark, but doing wallsits for a minute is still painful). I was doing front leg roundhouse kick drills last night, and it's this really elegant thing - you've got your left foot turned out away from where you're kicking, and you take up your right leg and snap it at the bag, pointing the toe, and wallop with the front of your pointed foot. Then snap back, bring the pointed toe to the floor, then do it again.

It requires a lot of balance, which means a lot of strength in your legs and abs, and last night was the first time I'd done the kicks where I consistently felt really elegant doing them. Sure, it's still like, "Wow, I have this huge body," (I've actually stopped comparing myself to most of the women in class except the Amazons, and started comparing myself to the men of my same belt rank - we're closer in height/weight and of course, experience level) but this time around it was, "Wow, I have this huge body, and I can really make it do this elegant, powerful stuff."

Looking pretty when you wallop someone is a great added bonus.


Ain't No Goat

I don't understand what a bunch of hysterics find so scary about some rural 17-year-old kid who says that yea, mom and dad, I think guys are pretty hot.

I mean, *I've* been a rural, 17-year-old-kid who was like, "Yea, mom and dad, I think guys are pretty hot (and that chick in speech class isn't bad either)."

And you know, I don't consider myself very scary.

Certainly not scary enough to warrant this sort of behavior from Westboro Baptist minister Fred Phelps and his hysterical flock. This guy rallied up and shipped out some good Christian folks and sent them to picket this kid Michael's home town - and his local church - to tell him he was a demon freak and all of the people around him who hadn't stoned him to death were evil sinners and going to hell.

What happened to "Jesus loves everybody" and "Don't judge lest ye be judged" and "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone"?

Are these people Christians, or hate-mongers?

The town's response to this is telling - you can't bring in "foreigners" to a small town and have them try and alienate the town and one of their own because they accept somebody the way he is... well, no, his town doesn't really accept him the way he is. They keep hoping he'll change, which is why they keep letting him back into church. But let's ignore that for a minute, and just say that you can't get a bunch of people riled up and send them out after a small-town kid, cause you'll get a backlash. You'll get locals saying stuff like, "Stay away from our homos."

He's ours. Not yours. Fuck off.

It's a starting point, I guess.

In truth, the best part of this article for me, and the part that I really connected with, was when The Human Rights Campaign offered to fly Michael into DC to attend their national dinner. Michael went with his sister Shelly, after getting his mother's very hesitant permission to go. And, in DC:

The next day there was a luncheon and sightseeing of the monuments. A lesbian couple with a 3-year-old daughter took Michael and Shelly to dinner in Dupont Circle. Walking around the gay neighborhood, Michael was in awe. "It was like being around family," he said. "Seeing all those successful people, that could be me."

As somebody who's from a small town, it was this bit of the article that really struck me. That realization:

There are other ways to live. Things can be really different.

This isn't all there is. Everybody doesn't marry the guy they dated in high school, have a miserable or lackluster marriage of obligation, and spend their lives raising kids that they may not really want but feel are expected to have.

You can know these things on a rational level, but until you actually see it at work, it remains about as tangible a reality as the North Pole. Sure, you know it's there, but you can't see a way to get there, or how it being there would affect you. Except insofar as it affects the weather, and magnetism, and the tilt of the earth, and...

The first time I walked into a gay-friendly neighborhood, I was twenty years old and attending Clarion West in Seattle.

My realization happened quite suddenly. I was walking around, mapping out the local neighborhood, looking for the grocery store, the pharmacy - and then this odd thing happened. I looked up and realized I was walking down the street next to same-sex couples holding hands.

And no one was jeering at them.

Nobody looked furtive or harassed. Happy couples ate out at the sidewalk cafes. Groups of women in practical clothing ordered real food and laughed and talked in big voices. Men held long conversations with each other about personal relationships and clothing.

Now, I'm one of those illusion-of-heterosexuality types who identifies as hetero, but is probably a 3-3.5 on the sliding scale of human sexuality. That is, I mostly go crazy about boys, and I identify as straight, but I've been known to goggle at the occasional girl. So really, as a self-identified "straight" person, I shouldn't have felt this huge relief I felt when I was walking around. I should have just been like, "Wow. That's cool."

Instead, I felt, for the first time, like I could totally relax. It was a bit like going to a science fiction convention (bear with me here), where everybody's a fat dork, and has these really fascinating sexual relationships or lack thereof, and it's all OK.

As I grew up, I stumbled into the "fat girl" stereotype, and the "fat dork" label that I draped over my head and started to internalize. I recognized that I was bigger and taller than most women. I didn't wear makeup. I didn't know how to flirt. I had the braces/glasses/headgear thing going on. I lived on books. People were always making fun of me. They were stealing things from me. They were throwing stuff at me on the bus.

Like most people, I got rid of most of my dorkly attire as I got older, lost weight and got even taller, but I still had this feeling, this feeling like, "This isn't the right world for me. What other people want isn't what I want. I don't want what I'm supposed to want."

I didn't want to get married. I wasn't thrilled at the idea of having kids. I wanted to run around the world with a backpack. I wanted to live in a little cabin in the woods and write books. I wanted to ride motorcycles in Rome. I was a lot more crazy about hopping into bed with people than women were supposed to be. I was still too big and too tall, to be a woman. That's what the media told me. That's what seeing all these hetero couples and their screaming children told me. I was wrong to not want these things.

But walking down that street in Seattle, in that neighborhood, with all those comfortable people, it occurred to me that I had found a safe place. Nobody would likely ask me why I wasn't married. Nobody would say that since I wasn't dating I must be a lesbian (and if they did, they wouldn't say it like it was a *bad* thing). Nobody would call me a fatty or say I read too much or ate too much or sneer at me for talking about feminism. Why not? - cause I believed that most of these people knew *exactly* what it was like to be hated for something about yourself that made you comfortable and happy.

Oh, sure, nobody's a saint - there are lots of people, no matter their sexuality or skin color or nationality or religion or whatever, who have a deep fear and resentment for stuff like fat and dorkdom - but again, no matter what the rational part of my brain was saying, the rest of my body was comfortable, relaxed, and yes, relieved. I could just walk. Nobody here would hurt me. That's what my body told me.

I get that same feeling browsing at the Women and Children First Bookstore in Andersonville, and dining next to four women on a double-date at Andie's. It's that thought, like:

I can say liberal things, and talk about female revolutionaries, and sit here looking the way I look, and nobody's going to pat me on the head and say I'm a silly girl, or the wrong kind of girl, or tell me I'm going to hell cause I'm not married.

I'm OK here.

This is what I don't understand about people who hate. People who seek to attack others who have done them no harm, who are not thinking to do them harm, and then start screaming at them and throwing stones - the way I felt screamed at in a town that always felt too small for me.

I like to think of myself as being really accepting of people, because I know what it's like to feel suffocated by a world that doesn't seem right for you. But I can't understand the need to hate. I can't understand standing on a sidewalk and screaming that some 17-year-old should die and his whole congregation is going to hell cause they "let" him into church, and love him for being a person.

Yes. A person. You know, like everybody else.

All I can figure is that these are very, very, terrified people who believe that if others exist who are different than they are, then those people threaten their own belief about the lives they've chosen. After all, if there are people in the world who your version of the Bible says shouldn't exist, how can you be so absolute in your faith? If there really are places where you don't have to grow up and get married and kow-tow to a physically superior husband who makes more money than you do, then you might have to question why *you're* doing it.

There are a lot of men and women who are very happy with the cozy nuclear family lifestyle - though not nearly so many as the cultural illusion would have you think. I respect stay-at-home mothers more than I respect many people, because I have an understanding of just what an incredible undertaking it is to bear and raise children. But there's a fear that came true for a lot of conservatives in an explosive and very public way in the 70s: there's a fear that if women, especially, are given another way of living, that they'll take it. That they'll jump ship, and start making up lives of their own.

Wouldn't that be terrible?

These rebel women would threaten your way of life with their very existence, because god wouldn't strike them down, their children wouldn't all be deformed, they wouldn't get into some disfiguring accident, and no, Massachusetts wouldn't sink into the sea...

And then...

And then...

Who's left to hate? Who do you blame for your own unhappiness? Who do you blame for your own dissastisfaction? Who's carrying all the sin in the world?

Back in the day, little communities started the new year by transferring all of their sins to a goat. The goat was then sacrificed to god or the gods, purging the town of it's yearly sins and feelings of ill-will.

And you know what? I don't wanna be anybody's fucking goat. And my friends and neighbors ain't goats either.

I think that all of us dangerous women and rebel men hold up a mirror - I think it scares the shit out of people.

I think we should do more of it.

There are other ways to live. We're making them, and we're living them.

And yes, I do believe that other people need to hear about them.

Because my heart bleeds for all these 17-year-old kids in these little towns, the ones who don't know that there's another way to live, and so stay home raising goats.

There’s another way to live.

Things can be really different.

And yes, that's an OK thing. The world will not explode. Nobody's going to abolish happy hetero twosomes. Nobody's going to take away your Bible. Another person's happiness doesn't threaten yours.

What I want out of my life doesn't affect the lives of Phelps's hysterics - unless some of those hysterics see my life and realize they don't much like their own lives. Unless seeing me and my buddies living as single (or unmarried-partnered/married-open relationship/poly/same-sex partnered), successful, strong women who can lift 120lbs and knock somebody out with a right cross means that they start to question Phelps.

I suppose I can understand, then, what a shepherd like Phelps finds so terrifying.

He's afraid his sheep will turn into people. He's afraid they'll start thinking like people.

Random Odds and Various Ends

So, which of these is the Washington Post article, and which is the satirical Onion article? Sorry, these are getting uncomfortably close for me.

No wonder Jon Stewart's doing so damn well.

And my, my my - more pulp magazine covers! (not quite work safe)Pagan lesbians and all (definately a freeper's worst nightmare)! I just break into uncontrollable giggling.

Check out more hysterics here. This time, we get this great freak-out quote from a mother protesting the mere idea that there's such a thing as a school dance where men and women are expected to switch social roles. She seemed to believe this meant crossdressing - as opposed to, say, the Sadie Hawkins women-ask-the-guy-out-and-pay-the-tab dances that prep women for real life - you know, life after highschool.

My favorite quote from this hysteric: "It's like experimenting with drugs," Davies said. "You just keep playing with it and it becomes customary. ... If it's OK to dress like a girl today, then why is it not OK in the future?"

It's not OK? Wow. I must live way way too close to boys' town Belmont and Andersonville, then, cause in my world, all sorts of non-compulsory-hetero-social-role bullshit is OK... I really do live in a different world than these 58 million Americans. I really do. More on this later.

I've also submitted my newsfeed to - and been picked up by - Feminist Blogs, a cool compilation of feeds from a bunch of feminist and pro-feminist blogs. Check it out.

And for those interested - I'm currently reading and recommend the Penguin Book of Modern Fantasy by Women. For literary snobs who can't be bothered with "fantasy" you'll find "literary" luminaries in here like Elizabeth Bowen, Muriel Spark, Leguin, and P.D. James. And you'll get to meet swoon-worthy Angela Carter and that most epic of brutal women, Joanna Russ.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Writing Today. Seriously. Yes. Seriously.

In the mean time, you may be interested in amusing yourselves with John Rickards's latest pet procrastinating project - and check out these inspiring passages from John Kerry: the novel.

Ahem. Yes. Anyway. Back into the trenches with King Nathin...

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Take Me to Little Africa!

Today's WTF moment, from boingboing:

There's apparentely a Superman comic from the 1970s in which Lois Lane is turned into a black woman in order to get information for a story she's working on.


"The story begins with Lois assigned to do a story on Metropolis's urban area that Lois refers to Little Africa. It seems that all black people refuse to submit to an interview done by Miss Whitey. Young children, old blind ladies, and even people on the street hate white people. With Superman's help Lois is placed inside the Plastimold and the Transformoflux Pack invented by Dahr-Nel, Kryptonian Surgeon. Apparently this machine is meant to change white people to black people. You have to wonder if Superman uses this machine often?"

Lois is just trying to be a Good Rudyard Kipling White Woman and Help Out the Ghetto Folk, all of whom treat her, like, ummmm... like a black woman in a white neighborhood. So she becomes a black woman so she can "mix" with Little Africa and get her story.

Luckily, our heroine not only gets her story but teaches the Uppity Black Panther-type guy a lesson. Don't hate whitey! It turns out that he and she share the same blood type, and she gives him a life-saving blood transfusion.

What would these black people do, without white people?

This is one of those comics that looks like it was honestly trying to be Good and work on Race Relations... but it came at it the usual way: the white people are all nice and good and trying to work for change and trying to reach out to you, and the it's the evil liberal black people who need to change their angry ways and stop being soooo mean.

A step forward at the time, sure, but it could have used a little more thought.

Squid. Yes. Squid.

I look forward to writing a science fiction short one day where everyone lives off squid and uses them for everyday chores.

I don't need to bother, of course, cause I've finally gotten through Vandermeer's King Squid.

I set myself the task of finishing up Vandermeer's City of Saints and Madmen, which I'd gotten halfway through and then put aside because Secret Life wasn't out yet, and I wanted another Vandermeer to read before I finished the first one. Now Secret Life's been out for months and months (it just keeps sitting in my amazon.com shopping cart, because I keep blowing my book allowance at the Borders across the street, and V's books won't hit the mainstream shelves until next year - it's all special order till then), so City of Saints isn't done, but I'm in the home stretch.

And last night, I suddenly understood all the to-do about the squid. I read King Squid, and the pages and pages of annotated bibliography that follow it (I think the bibliography is longer than the actual story - but, then, the cool thing about Vandermeer is the stories-within-stories). Calamari's just never going to taste the same. If you don't know what I mean, I'm not going to explain it. Just read the book. Obsessive dorks like me will appreciate it.

In any case, I've been wanting to address some themes in a couple of Vandermeer's peices that really jumped out at me, and are big contributers to my interest in his work.

There are spoilers here, so if you'd like to be shaken awake by these endings, particularly that of Dradin, please read Dradin, in Love first, then come back here. It's the ending that did it for me in Dradin and Veniss Underground.

Weird and grotesque as the stories are (in a good way), I approach my reading with a fine eye toward love/friendship/desire between and among the sexes, and you'll find that there's a lot of SF/F crap out there that doesn't take these relationships apart and examine them, or does it in a way that's badly written and boring, or thinks it's examining them and then does the same tired old thing.

Vandermeer's work isn't primarily addressing these issues, either, but I've seen some themes he's working with that I like.

The two peices that interest me the most are "Dradin, In Love" and Veniss Underground; they're peices that deal with madness and desire - and, particularly - the obsessions of a male protagonist directed at the idea of a woman.

In Dradin, Dradin becomes obsessed with a woman he glimpses in a storefront, and his desire for this ideal woman drives him toward the unraveling of his own delusions.

Dradin's overwhelming obessesion with the woman in the window, the obsession that begins to uncover for the reader his spiral from madness to murder to deepening madness... culminates in his rushing to the third floor of the storefront and confronting the woman - only to discover that he's become obsessed with a mannequin. The love of his life isn't a real person.

And that's not even the best part - the best part is he realizes how wonderful it is that she's not real:

"It did not matter that she was in pieces, that she was not real, for he could see now that she was his salvation. Had he not been in love with what he saw in the third story window, and had what he had seen through that window changed his essential nature? Wasn't she better suited to him than if she had been real, with all the avarices and hungers and needs and awkwardnesses that create dissapointment? He had invented an entire history for this woman and now his expectations of her would never change and she would never age, never criticize him, never tell him he was too fat or too sloppy or too neat, and he would never have to raise his voice to her."

Dradin flees the scene carrying the mannequin's head under his arm - escaping the city with his perfect princess, rescued from the high tower.

The total fuck-up of the classic fairytale is just gorgeous.

And it's that moment of utter understanding of the character you've followed over the course of this story - the understanding that he doesn't see people, and doesn't *want* to see people - that left me floored. It's watching a character accept the fact that what he's really in love with is a thing, an idea.

What makes it powerful is reading it while sitting here in a self-obsessed consumer culture, in cities where we don't see each other, in a society that chooses its mates based on their dress sizes and the prettiness of their faces; where a person's moral character is judged entirely by how much fat they have on their bodies and what clothes they wear. We're not complex people anymore: just things.

And women, of course, most of all.

In Veniss, Shadrach's quest for Nicola - the woman who does not love him - also looks like a classic male protagonist going through hell to win the woman he loves. He feels the need to rescue her from what is essentially the organic-punk version of the seven levels of hell.

What makes this story for me, as well, is that in the ending where the Male Hero and Damsel in Distress crawl back up into the light and look out over the city - she doesn't fall into his arms and declare her undying love. They aren't a happy romantic couple at book's end. Her feelings haven't changed. Nor have his. He rescued her because he loved her, and throughout, Shadrach never expects that she will love him. There's no sexual reward for the male lead, no expectation of an obligated wife who feels that she can never leave him because he chose to save her. It was his choice to go after her, and neither he nor she expects that there is a debt for this.

This was probably one of the best illustrations I've seen (as yet - which is telling about how rare this sort of affection is, protrayed in the media) of the love-without-obligation (unconditional love) between a man and a woman who are or have been sexually attracted to one another. You'll see lots of brotherly love in war movies and stories, and mothers' unconditional love for children, but very, very rarely do you see a man risk his life for a woman he's not related to and who he doesn't appear to expect he'll "get" (all that comes to mind right now is Andrew Lloyd Weber's version of The Phantom of the Opera, and in that case, the hounds were closing in and the male lead was a dead guy anyway) Instead, you'll often see this behavior with a gender switch: the too smart/too fat/too ugly background female character (slave girl, prostitute) will sacrifice herself for the smart/built/handsome male lead who doesn't love her, so that he can go on to save the princess.

Along these same lines, another short, "The Cage" (compiled in City of Saints) features antiquities dealer Robert Hoegbotton, who loves and desires his wife primarily because of her helplessness (as he regards her blindness) and her dependence on him.

I've read some critiques of Vandermeer's characters - mainly that his people feel two-dimensional in their fleshy settings. But I think that I'm not reading two-dimensional characters so much as I'm reading about entirely self-obsessed male protagonists (I'm having trouble finishing Adam Robert's Stone for this reason - self-obsession in shorts is fine, but over 300 or 400 pages, it gets exhausting). What I'm seeing when I read V's shorts are protagnoists who see the people in their lives as things (this is not as true for Shadrach, but I do believe that rescuing Nicola becomes more to him about the gesture than the person, by the end of the book).

There's a strange lack of female POV characters in most of the Vandermeer work I've read, which didn't start to bug me until about halfway through City of Saints (In Veniss, Nicola's POV takes up roughly 1/3 of the book, the other two characters being the men in her life - her POV is neatly and appropriately sandwiched between them, as she exists as the plot-point damsel that drives Shadrach's actions, and - as I recall - serves as her brother's currency).

Most of the characters serving as background are men, and the Ambergris of City of Saints is a very Victorian, men-in-the-streets type of city, though there are offhand references to some dynamic female thinkers, writers, and explorers. Some of them even make a brief appearance, but most of the women outside of the plot-pivot point of the story are the requisite mentions of sisters, daughers and mad mothers (to be fair, all the fathers are pretty mad, too).

In any other writer - like a writer whose endings to Dradin and Veniss would have been more safe and predictable - I'd throw my hands up and start over with somebody else's stuff, but with Vandermeer, you can see him working through all of these different themes, and you can watch them popping up in other stories and being worked through in subsequent books. Madness/lust/desire/obsession - they're great story pieces, and you throw onto that these exotic settings, dense wording, and that underlying sense of the macabre (I had a friend tell me that after reading City of Saints he had nightmares about mushrooms - ) and you're gonna get something really interesting to gnaw on.

I think a part of my fascination is seeing where Vandermeer's going to go next with this stuff. He's just sold mass market rights to the works above, and has a new book, Shriek coming out next year.

He's a writer whose pet themes I like...

Thoughts on War Driving

More fear-mongering here.

Your wireless network could be in danger!!!! EVIL THINGS WILL HAPPEN! Spammers could sit outside your house and... and... SEND SPAM.

Oh, please. Wardrivers are primarily just geeky guys who go around using other people's internet connections, for fun, and marking out for other people where they can get a handy connection to send a couple e-mails or download some songs. Unless you've got shared files on your network, the chances of anything on any of your computers being hacked into by these geeky guys (as if you'd have anything they wanted!) is practically nil.

For those who bother to get to bottom of CNN's stupid article, you get this admission:

Not one of the calls D-Link's technical support line has received over the years has been about loss of information through a wireless hack, spokesman Darek Connole says. "It's like seatbelts," he says. "Everybody knows you should put them on, but if you haven't heard of anyone who's been hurt, you won't do it."

"People are more scared as a concept than as a reality," says Moynihan. "I'm not saying people shouldn't secure their wireless networks, but they are probably more vulnerable when they are receiving e-mails."

Bah. War drivers are welcome outside my house any time - spammers who slow down said network will be charged a large fee.

Cause that's what it's *really* about, isn't it? "Protecting" *your* network, keeping it from everybody else cause you're paying for it and they're not. I'm a big proponent of free, state-funded internet, baby. My tax dollars at work. Can you imagine the stink Republicans would have with that one?

"Our tax dollars are going toward allowing people to look at porn!"

And read blogs. And stay informed of politics. And read Wikipedia.


On Fantasy Sagas

Working on Over Burning Cities this morning, creating files for all of the outlined chapters that are yet to be done, so I can get a sense of pacing. I've got them looking like this: Chapter 10 (RB).doc; Chapter 11 (Roh).doc; Chapter 12 (L).doc -- The letters in parentheses tell me which POV character that chapter should be written from, as per my outline.

Because I've got five different POVs and only two sets of two of them intersect - and then only about halfway through - I can write POV chapters as one long story or narrative until the point where events in POVs merge, then I have to write chapter-by-chapter in order again (I tend to have to work chronologically. Very rarely do I write chapters out of order that are meant to intersect - largely because no matter how good my outline is, I go all organic and weird shit happens and characters pop up that ain't in the outline). So I'm writing up another Zezili chapter, and I wanted to have file markers in my folder to use as a bench marker as to how well I'm doing with my pacing (pacing was one of my biggest problems with book one).

So, as Chapter Title markers in each file, I put the character's name - and I was reminded of George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire, in which each of his chapter titles were character names. Damn, such great shorthand.

And it reminded me to check and see if his latest book is done.

It's not. But he's got a rant up about the election.

Ha. I love all us hippies.

Brutal Women, Babies, and Boy Bands

OK, I hate Condi Rice's foreign policy. I think she's a big bully. But you gotta give the woman props. I do agree with the critique of the choice: Bush is getting everybody in top positions who agrees with his politics (yes. This is a Bad Thing. Surrounding yourself with a bunch of people who have the same opinions as you do means you're gonna come out lopsided and uninformed. Even *I* have been known to troll conservative and moderate blogs) - Colin Powell dissented with him over a number of big decisions, including blowing off the Geneva Convention while dealing with prisoners in Guantanomo. Of course, nobody listened to Powell...

In other news, my Clarion buddy Patrick and his wife Karin are now the proud parents of Garret Jameson, and I am quite happy to say that he seems very cool. So, welcome, Little G! And if you ever find yourself in the position to ask, when we're out of fossil fuel and Condi Rice is president: no, your parents didn't vote for him either.

I have also found a new pet boy band called The Secret Machines who I recommend. I love geeky band boys. I'd gotten numb to boy-bands for a long time, as most of the ones I was seeing all the time were the too-pretty talentless hacks who went on to star in tabloid magazines and reality TV. Vomit. Anyhow, tSM have got a video here, but I think the album is better, and the best part - it's performed and produced as an album, not an amalgamation of poppish songs written by other people. More about them here.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Mixed Bag O' Links

Check out the oh-so-cool Worth1000's "If Pirates Ruled" photoshop contest. It made me quite happy. I'm especially partial to Barney the Pirate and Cap'n Jack reading Oprah Magazine. Frickin' classic.

Richard A. Muller has some thoughts on The Physics of Gluttony and you may be interested in these Little Known Facts About US Presidents. Ha. And here's another one of those I Love People stories. I mean, c'mon - broccoli?

Finally, here are Tim Wilson's thoughts on jam-making jailbird Martha Stewart:

"Boy, I feel safer now that SHE'S behind bars. O.J. & Kobe are still walking around, Scott Peterson's going to be soon, but they take the one woman in America willing to cook and clean and work in the yard and haul her ass to jail."

See ya in a few months, Martha.

Thoughts on Life in a General Way

So, my roomie is dating again, which makes her very happy, and so - as I have a great deal of affection for her - is very good.

Unfortunatley, it also means that my happy illusion of Domestic Bliss has crumbled. I have been in a Deep State of Mourning since Thursday, which is painful and sad but necessary.

I have been ramping up and prepping myself for leaving this stage of my life, of course - that's self-preservation. Nothing lasts forever, no matter how good it is.

I've been going through the internal job postings, considering where I'll go next, and thinking about getting my big bills paid off before summer `06. But these were all diversionary tactics on my part, set into place so that I could continue to pretend that this happy cozy life with my roomie was really a permanent fixture.

Having a dating roomie changes things - not a lot, of course, but enough to burst my self-delusions: she'll be gone a few more nights a week, and we'll likely have an extra houseguest over on occasion - the best part, of course, is that my buddy will be happier, and her being happier is a wonderful great thing. So really, this is nothing.

Certainly nothing for me to mourn about.

I'm just mourning my own delusions.

It's shoved a lot of things into my face that I've been avoiding for a long time -

The first being just how much I've come to rely on my roomie for companionship, conversation, and emotional attachment. I adore her. In my usual way, I've been trying to be appropriately disaffected, that is - I've tried very hard *not* to get attached to her, because I'll be leaving (this is one of the reasons I didn't make many friends in South Africa - it was hard enough leaving behind the good friend I did have there).

Relying on one person too much is a Bad Thing, and I realize I need to fill up my day more, and actively start doing more on my own again. I've gotten too cozy. I am just far too happy being with her.

It also brought to the raging forefront my own anxiety about dating. I just don't do it. I tried again when I first got here, but froze up and started getting anxiety attacks. I don't want to go on dates with strangers. I don't want anyone else trying to mess up my neat life. I want good friends, good food, good books. In that order. If I have to live without sex in order to have a good life free of people trying to mess things up for me, so be it.

When me and my roomie were two singleton young professionals occupying a cozy house filled with books, I didn't feel quite so freakish. If there were couple-things to do, we could do them as a couple, and so I didn't feel lonely or out of place at coupled gatherings.

Now it's just me-the-weird-singleton again, wondering what's wrong with me.

Not-dating has been my way of avoiding getting attached to people. Or - trying really hard not to get attached to people. Like an anorexic who believes that if she stops eating, she can kill her hunger all together, I continue to trick myself into believing that if I don't date anyone I won't get emotionally attached to anyone at all.


This, like the illusion of Domestic Bliss, is also a total lie. I do keep getting attached to people, and when I realize this, I tend to mourn them like they're dead, and I carry with me that burning physical pain in my gut that makes me feel like somebody ripped out my heart and lungs and keeps stomping on them. Because when I realize I've gotten too attached to someone, I have to start pulling away, and getting my life together - seperately again - and it's really, really painful to Change Things when you've been living in Delusion Land for over a year.

It's a good time for me to wake up, because I've been sleeping cozily for too long, and forgetting that my roomie has a huge life and needs of her own that don't include me (yes, yes, of course - but these are things I've tried to avoid thinking about in my Delusional State), and I need to get a much bigger and more separate life as well.

My painful state of mourning is a great reminder of why that is. It's too painful to have so much of your life rolled in with someone else's.

So, there's a Tues/Thurs French class I can start up with at the local community college in the spring semester. There's a bunch of people I've neglected to keep in touch with who I need to write to. There's extra classes I can take at the MA school on Monday and Wednesday and Saturday, and I can add other days if I need to.

I've also been working at cleaning myself up, physically, which improves my mood, my posture, and my self confidence. I've gotten a good haircut, and continue to update my wardrobe. My eating habits are continuing to improve (for better or worse, being In Mourning has killed my appetite), I'm enjoying all of my MA classes and getting stronger, and somewhere in there, my self confidence is finally starting to come back, after a long hiatus.

I feel that this is a good time to stop and rethink things, about where I'm going, what I'm doing. I turn 25 in January, which is a big personal marker for me. I have some ideas about what I'd like the next five years to be like, and it's a good excuse to pause and reflect about the person I've been and the adult I am/becoming.

I realize I need to be physically and emotionally stronger.

I am continually amazed at my capacity to care for people. Spending so much time in emotional turmoil, I learned to set limits on my friendship/caring circle. I really think that I was hoping that I'd finally become emotionally strong enough where I honestly stopped caring about people all together....

But I wouldn't be a real person then, would I?

So, here we go. Get up every morning, and decide then that today, yes today, right now, you're going to spend this day being better. And remember that in the end, you'll be getting up every morning by yourself.

I start over again every morning.

More Thoughts on Fat... and Writing

The NY Times has an article about two shows hitting Broadway that deal directly with body perception, desire, and yes, fat. Eve Ensler of The Vagina Monologues fame is doing a one-woman show that examines her hatred for and later, her acceptance of, her "imperfect" stomach - imperfect because it's not flat as an adolescent's. Imperfect because it swells like, say, a woman's.

More interesting to me (because I've heard less of people dealing with this issue) is Neil LaBute's show "Fat Pig" which is about a man going out with a fat woman and dealing with the jeers, sidelong looks, and complete bafflement of his friends and co-workers about his dating choice. It's not OK to jeer at somebody for dating somebody who's of a different race or the same sex anymore (though it's still done, of course), but fat, being categorized as a disease, is still OK for jeering.

I remember being at a social gathering with some absolutely gorgeous, fashionably thin, intelligent women (I always felt out of place in these groups in South Africa), and one of them saying off hand, "That gorgeous guy at the party, was he dating that fat girl? How can he be so gorgeous and dating a fat girl?"

To which someone replied, his voice heavy with sarcasm, "Maybe she has a really nice personality."

I wanted to find a very, very dark corner and hide in it. It's funny, to find yourself in a group of people who don't "think of you that way," and then catch them out at saying something disparaging about "one of those people." Like being a lesbian hanging out with hetero friends who whip off some derogatory comment, and don't even think to make some sort of gesture toward you like, "you're not one of those people of course." You're so *not* "one of those people" in their minds that they don't even think of you that way.

But as my body gets stronger, my metabolism ramps up, my appetite starts to wane, and I start condensing back down to a reasonably "average" size again (by next year I don't think I'll be able to really identify as a "fat girl" anymore in public [at least until I go on the upswing again] - though I'll always see myself this way), there was something playwright Neil LaBute said that struck me as really interesting:

Like Ms. Ensler, Mr. LaBute has struggled with his weight and body image. In a preface to "Fat Pig," he notes that he recently lost 60 pounds. In the process, he writes, he "discovered the preening fool who was living just beneath the surface of my usual self. Suddenly, the mirror became my friend. How I loved to rush home from a walk or jump up in the morning and study myself, checking to see if I looked a bit thinner." But, Mr. LaBute adds, "I also noticed that I was writing less and less."

As the weight came off, he was "writing less and less."

He gained most of the weight back.

The two times in my life when I've been the most prolific, I was also at my highest weight.

They were also the times in my life when I felt the most out of control, the most anxious, the most depressed, and in the most despair. That's what binge eating is about - exerting control when you feel out of control. And writing, for me, is (among many things) also a release of pent-up emotions. It's a place where I can channel all of the crap that I can't talk about or face up to.

The swing part of this is that what I was writing during my Dark Teatimes of the Soul wasn't necessarily very good. There was just a lot of it. What's ended up happening is that I'll write these 700-1000 pages of shit, and then rewrite all of them when I'm in an "up" period, like Alaska or here in Chicago (I love that I can track my moods/stages of my life by place).

"So," Jenn said when I brought this up, "The ideal writing life would be full of up and down periods."

"Like my life," I said. Ha. "I wonder how many writers, instead of picking up and moving different places to mess with moods and poverty levels, are just bipolar."

I'd guess there are quite a lot of them.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Once More Into The Breach

Writing & other misc. angst today.

See you Monday.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

My Kind of Movie

It's fucked-up that he had to die for it.

If you haven't seen Van Gogh's short film yet, check it out. It's not *quite* work safe - there's some suggestive imagery, and I think you may be able to see some nipples through the black mesh. In any case, I just minimized the screen when it got a little racy (I am, of course, at work), listened to the dialogue, and then maximized it again after a few moments.

In any event, it's my kind of movie.

I really should be writing.


Jenn has coyly suggested that I start all of the fantasy saga titles with prepositions:

To the Wall
Over Burning Cities
Below the [ominous words]
Aboard [some kind of vehicle]
Through [a kind of landscape or country]
With, upon, amid...
Near the End...

I think "Near the End" is the most appropriate.

My fall-back on prepositions likely has to do with taking two undergrad poetry classes where both instructors made us write epic poems where the first line of every stanza started with a preposition.

I suspect I may have turned out a much better writer without a formal education.

Later, My Chiklits

I'm off to go work on said writing projects. I've also been trolling through the internal job postings board at my company, trying to decide where I want to live in the summer of 2006. It occurred to me today that I have a nice cushy job, in a nice cushy city, and couldn't I just stay in Chicago until... until... until I'm 30?

Hell no. I've got a shitload to do before I'm 30, dammit. I've gotta live overseas for at least another year, go biking in China, and hike up to Macchu Picchu. This is in addition to getting books published, getting into supah ninjah shape, and bungee jumping off a bridge in New Zealand. As opposed to, say this bridge:

Which I've already jumped off (yes, I was very sore afterward).

This is a very busy schedule. I think living in Chicago would keep me far too cozy.

Black People Aren't Like Real People Either, That's Why Slavery and Segregation is OK!! - And Other Justifications for Treating People Like Shit

Roey Thorpe, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon, shared a personal story that she believes illustrates the prejudice that a gay person cannot love as truly or as deeply as a heterosexual.

The Portland, Oregon, woman said an employee who was grieving over the death of her husband asked Thorpe, "Do your people feel sad when your person dies?"

"It tells it all," Thorpe said. "I said, 'you saw me as a little less human and for me to realize it breaks my heart.' "

Jenn and I were talking about the disconnect between ourselves and the 58 million people who voted for Bush, and those who voted to ban gay marriage in their states. The fact that for two days, we were so stricken and angry and bewildered shows something of our own disconnect with people like this - people who really honestly don't connect with people who's passions/skin color/political affiliation is so incredibly different from theirs.

I don't see other people's happiness or desires being a threat to me and my way of life. I still can't, for the life of me, understand the freak-out about a couple of women getting married (well, except that they'd then have more financial power, and it would become so blindingly obvious that they could totally get along without men and... oh, nevermind). But the "real" reasons given by opponents have to do with "protecting" their own version of marriage. I'm not a fan, personally, of marriage at all, and I will never get married - but that doesn't give me the right to try and ban marriage for everybody, just because I, personally, think it's a waste of time and resources for myself. Marriage agrees with lots of people. Just not with me.

What kind of person would I be, to try and force my way of life on anyone else? Who would I think those sorts of people were, who wanted to get married? Would I think they were less than people for it?