Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Collection

This piece from CNN is kind of a wonderful look at what it's like for freshmen representatives. In this age of political horrors, it's important to remember that some people really do want to serve. And this look at first-timers is encouraging, and the excitement is one source of hope.

Are you a photosensitive sneezer? It’s funny; I am, but not in the way this article seems to describe this phenomenon. I can only sneeze when looking at a light if I needed to sneeze already; it doesn’t just happen spontaneously because bright light appears. (Bonus points to Scientific American for the phrase “for the trait to be expressed” AND for getting a “shed light” in there. I get the light-sneeze from my mom, and my mom does love a good (bad) pun, so this is a suitable turn of phrase. Heh.) I do prefer my phrase “photosensitive sneezer” to the term “photic sneeze reflex” – but their other article on the subject includes ACHOO as an acronym, which has a “Happy April Fool’s Day from Scientific American!” feel to it, so I can at least appreciate the whimsy. The pointer toward light-induced seizures and migraine are especially curious.

We need to help people, and computers, to avoid being distracted by unimportant, attention-grabbing, information.

SA also has a great piece on the road to pseudoscientific thinking. Is it paved with good intentions? Could be … Could also devolve into magical thinking, which is just as unhelpful to us, intellectually. The best part, though, is; it is UN-learnable.

The results are IN on the Pen and Goss (or Rex and Simone) flash fiction contest at Janet Reid's blog. I note with some fascination that she points out that a lot of entries were "constrained by reality" ... a hint to the Reidership?

This is not-Rex indulging not-reality.


Speaking of Janet's blog, I haven't linked it in ages except to show off my wee and timorous beasties. The decision to seriously contemplate self-pub, I think, may have colored my collection-linking tendencies, which disappoints even me. I haven't even *read* BookEnds' blog in too long. So how about a great link today, on textbook bad agenting? However I end up publishing, in the end, it's always good to learn, and Mizz Reid is a good teacher. She's also a great cheerleader, reminding authors that we are NOT beggars at the banquet of publishing.

You should never be made to feel that you are somehow a lesser part of the publishing process.
--Guess Who?

Okay, and *sigh* - I'll go there, as the kids probably haven't said for years, and get to the question of Nazi-punching. My feeling is this: no matter which side of the political or ethical/activist spectrum you fall on, this is YET ANOTHER DISTRACTION. Distraction has become the modus operandi at the highets levels of government and across all media (journalism and well beyond), and this is in its way just as frightening as any ideology.

Still. I don't mind too much that ethics allows for a little schadenfreude (why yes, I chose THAT particular word for every reason you might imagine) - in that, if we're not actually punching the Nazi, we are not required to remorse that one was punched at all.

I'll close out THAT thought, and this Collection, with two quotes ...

"To delight in a kind of comeuppance when someone is hoisted by his own petard—when someone who advocates violence against others meets a kind of of nonlethal violence—to enjoy hearing about that, that's not a crime. That's not an ethical transgression. That's asking more of human beings than they can resist."

"(W)hy are you writing about this relatively trivial question rather than something important?"

Exactly.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Aieeeeeee!!!!

Count on me to be LATE to the party the day Penelope and Gossamer star in Janet Reid's latest Flash Fiction contest!!!!





My entry ...

If it weren’t for that knee in the dog’s ear, this might be a perfect yin and yang.

The knee may make it possible, though.



The one Janet used ...
Aww.


SO MANY excellent stories about these two. CarolynnWith2Ns's entry, the very first, is splendid. I'm also taken with Donna Everhart's. Pen and Goss themselves got a nice laugh at Theresa's, and Penelope looked hopeful when she read Susan's. Katie's is poetry, literally.

So I thought I'd share ... the REST ... of the story.

They were theoretically snuggling with me. But the space heater is just out of frame. Pen was licking the heat off of Gossamer's pearl-like head, and Goss doesn't really mind because (a) tongues are warm and soft, and (b) he can sleep through anything he likes.

More often than not, it's actually Gossamer snooting around in Penelope's ears. Sometimes he comes away making the flehmen face because apparently it gets pretty fascinating in there.

They are not super cuddly, but they know each other real good and I think would be lonesome without each other.

Today, Goss is nestling in a box, and Pum is at my feet.

And now my feet really need to go get back into the cleaning.


***


Edited to add - these entries just keep getting more fun! I love how many people have named Penelope Rex, which is VERY likely to become her next nickname. And Mark Ellis named Gossamer Simone, which I further adore. Simone's such a great name. So is Rex.

I'm also always fascinated how the archetypal dog is male, and the archetypal cat tends to be female. Count on me to get that wrong ... ;)

James Sanders made me want to cry, then I looked at not-Rex, gave her a snoodle, and was just grateful I get to be her doggy-mommy. Little beating heart and all.

Friday, January 20, 2017

January 20

Back in December, my brother and I were on the phone, and he asked me whether I was going to take off work on January 20. I thought about it, but really right now the place for me to be is here. There have been some protests locally - and, indeed, I am not so far from DC I could not have trekked up there to join the Women's March - but my job, I hope, has nothing to do with politics. I LOVE my job. And today, it kept me ... well, to use a political term ... occupied.

There's nothing to protest, with my work. When I was a public servant, really - probably even LESS. It might have meant more still than it does here, to man my post, to soldier on.

So, to take off today would only have been taking a day off, and I would not have been with any of my friends, DOING something in the world. Napping with Gossamer behind my knees while Pum snoozes and snores beside us on the floor is not the world's most efficacious piece of activism.

And so I worked.

I worked a LOT, in fact. It was a highly productive day. I reviewed my team's expenses, tweaked only a very few notes, signed off they were ready for approval. I got one of my dreaded piles of notices out, shipped a package for my boss, rescheduled one item, added another, generally spent the day kicking asparagus and taking names.

When, around 12:30, I heard the sound of the national anthem coming from a nearby office, I knew what it was, and just put in my earbuds for a while. RuPaul, of course, and a few of the Drag Racers.

By accident, the new sweater I chose to wear today with my poo-kickin' boots and comfortable, flattering pants happens to be perfect, primary, royal blue. All entendres intended, sure. I decided it is Hillary Blue. Bless her, I was late to be With Her, but my loyalty's confirmed.



So much of today's productivity came early on in the day. It seemed a VERY long work day, and that even knowing I would leave by 3:00 or 3:30 to make a supply run.

Emotionally, I have been neutral - numb, probably. But gratitude is something more than an emotion.

I immersed myself in my blessings today - one of the greatest being my living.

I love my job.



How did you spend Inauguration Day?

Not Done Yet


Monday, January 16, 2017

"Thank you, Eddie Izzard" - or - Tell Me a Story!

Somewhere along August or September of 2015, a work friend and I began making a point of getting some exercise regularly. Weather being what it is at that time of year, we first began by using the walking trails at our office. We work in, essentially, the local swamp. (Well, one of them.) So the walking trails have these awesomely hilarious signs, CAUTIONING the world that this is a WILDLIFE AREA.

The wildlife generally spotted about has consisted of turkeys, deer, and eagles, but one hears tales of snakes and bears (bit of a rabbit), and not far from here I do know there is a finned carp in a pond that'd give almost anyone a bit of a pause, as it is wont to Jaws impersonations. DUH-DUH ...

Anyway.

We started off with walking, but what self-respecting Modern American doesn't eventually retreat indoors, where there is air conditioning and a changing room and nothing but views of the parking lots?

I don't not!

Our fitness room at the office is in fact very nice, with many machines and weighty things and a television I've never used and thermostats that, it is my theory, actually function. (None of the other thermostats in the building would ever dare ...)

So workout pal and I started  using The Room for our "walks", and very early in the going, "walk" really became a misnomer for me. I use the elliptical, and for over a year now I have been attempting this weird thing I like to call actually "meaning it" - and the effects have been overwhelming.

Ohhh no - I haven't lost WEIGHT. That's strictly for amateurs (well, or people who are not women pushing age 50 with a vanishingly short stick). Women who are pushing 50 with a vansihingly short stick and expect to lose weight are mad, I tell you. Mad!

(Okay, actually I have lost roughly 25 pounds. Things still ain't what I'd like 'em to be.)

But what has come of all this work is that archaeologists have discovered traces - the most tantalizing indications - of a long-lost waistline, dating to roughly, oh, seven years ago.

Also, as a person with multiple back and leg sprains to my discredit, I find I am not in incessant pain.

My knees do still make the most comical noises when I take a set of stairs.

But plantar fasciitis and such other wonders have taken their leave of the ruins.



When many people work out, music helps to pass the time. I do well enough with it; Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk" was a serious challenge when I began using the elliptical. But to truly lose the time and find my brain absorbed in some experience other than "this is HARD!" and "I am super sweaty!", I have to be told a story.


Probably the writer in me - or, at least, the reader (which is all "writer" even means, in my case).

Music can set a beat, but only a story can take me out of the workout and mean it.

There was a long, long series of Gayle Waters Waters to sustain me. Indeed, during her tenure literally talking me through many months of workouts, I went from being unable to complete seven minutes on the machine, at level four, through an incremental progression of bumping my levels slightly and increasing time spent at each level. I went from seven minutes at four to ten minutes at five, then fifteen, then twenty - then back down to ten minutes, but at six - then fifteen - then twenty. By this method, I had gotten up to twenty minutes on twelve by election day here in the U.S.

I took a bit of a tumble after that. And I can attest to how quickly pain will happily return to a body not in motion. Pain rapidly becomes more nimble than thou, and will cut ya soon as look at ya. Pain is a punk, and lies in wait.

These days, I'm at a steady level nine, twenty minutes, and the elliptical tells me I'm getting in three miles a day. (These ten or fifteen or twenty minute increments are, ideally, a twice-daily routine.) It's still enough work I haven't bumped up yet, but within a week I expect, I'll have to go to ten.

Gayle has, sad to say, run out on me. I turned to Looney Toons classic shorts for a bit there. I grew up on these, and do still love them (see also, Gossamer).

Somehow, though, they didn't quite work for me. Spectacle more than story? I'm not sure what it is(n't).


Image: Wikipedia (of course)


Enter, Eddie.

Eddie Izzard's brilliantly educated, daft, beautifully made-up standup has been Just the Ticket for me of late, particularly the closer we get to The Inauguration.

One wants to see a more recent show of his, given history's ... fascinations ... since Dress to Kill.

Plus, he is one of the extremely FEW famous people I am capable of finding attractive in anything more than the most ephemeral, useless way. I love to watch his face, and hear his voice, watch him ranging across the stage as he confirms/denies/confirms/ denies/confirms/denies/confirms/no-really-COMPLETELY-denies the death of Engelbert Humperdinck.

Nummy.

I've always had a weakness for a certain British mode of speech (it's less the accent than the gloriously aristocratic carelessness - and, in his case, a rather foxy heedlessness physically). Izzard modulates through many modes, effortlessly. It's gorgeous to witness. Talent and funny, tasty stuff. I also happen to share a birthday with him, so that's fun.

Birthday cake, or death? I'll have tea. (By which I mean, Stoli and tonic, no fruit - no, NO FRUIT, please. Thank you.)

I know for Brits, gin and tonic would be more the thing, but I am a woman all my own, and long ago realized gin is just wretched. I drink it only on the occasion it is necessary to remember that one crush from college, and oddly enough that occasion is nonexistent. And so.


Eddie Izzard is capable of something perhaps even surpassing storytelling. The casting of Sean Connery as Henry VIII (even though he is Scottish), and occasional cameos from James Mason - his rollicking trips across Western history. Holy Jeff. The guy is something more than just a raconteur.

AND he has helped off with ten pounds of ugly fat!

Bonus!

Whatta guy. I should buy him a drink, in thanks.

Gin optional.

Music, too.

Censorship

When I was a kid, Richard Scarry’s books drew me in and kept me, hours on end. His scenes of life were endlessly absorbing, cornucopias of detail and interesting tidbits; when an entire picture is marginalia, you can spend an eternity finding new stories, new characters, new points of interest.

My attention span may not be what it once was – either longer or shorter, and I’m not sure my position on the spectrum is fixed day to day or moment to moment – but my interest in finding stories, characters, points of interest is intact.

So the painting at the heart of this story (and I do hope you will click to it; I don’t want to keep stealing images and justifying it as fair use) naturally arrested my gaze. More than once.

Controversial art
If we refuse to allow people their own perceptions of the things they see – and if we refuse to see how the world appears to anyone but ourselves – we cheat everyone of the opportunity to understand one another. Not just US (white people with privilege) understanding THEM, but  individual people of disparate experience understanding one another.  I am no more “us” than anyone else, and the idea that anyone is is a fundamental problem, perhaps THE fundamental problem – of the moment, and of humanity itself.

I am struck by this painting’s style, because it is strongly similar to the Richard Scarry-esque jam packed street scene of a painting I have (it is not “mine” but my mother’s, but has been at my home for years now) by Fritz Camille, a Haitian artist whose works are brilliant and bright, often contain crowds and buses or trucks – and social terror. Here is a work typical of what I have seen of Camille’s paintings. Here is the one my mom has given into my care.

<<<<>>>>

The point of David Pulphus’s painting, at the NPR link above, is hardly that law enforcement officers are animals; it is that too many people are treated as such; it is that Pulphus wants to hold a mirror to those he perceives as treating himself and people like him as subhuman. The figure in the foreground, on the same plane as a weapon-wielding officer, has a head as inhuman as the officer’s.

Interestingly, like medieval art, the Christ-figure is outsized, proportionately larger than all the others. Nothing in this painting can be seen realistically, and yet this scene is the hardest form of reality. Foreshortening and perspective are distorted in the most distinctive ways; and THAT is the point. We can’t see this scene in a naturalistic way; everyone in it is an “us” or a “them”, inevitably, tragically. “Justice” is the least clear word in the entirety of this picture; actually obscured and broken in half by a figure carrying the word HISTORY, which is stark and clear even as it is also distorted; even bleeding. The musculature and skeleton of every last figure in this painting is painstakingly depicted; the physical strain on each striving or bent or straddling body is palpable. Even the shadow and highlight on a black bird in flight illustrates its body’s work in the act of a plummeting dive, and though the white bird’s body is all but robed like an angel, its wings are reaching. Even the jeans and the clothes, highlighted and creasing with teeming movement throughout, are like modeled sinew and flesh. The energy is incredible.

Look at the PICTURE, look at the scene and its denizens, and take it all in without imputing your implications to it first. Considering the art can put you “there” … and there, the us and them can take a turn, depending on where you stood before you stopped to see.

There is so much more to confrontational art than the confrontation – the point at which all the wrong people will stop, just to be offended. They miss the *invitation* … and the opportunity for more than just more anger.


Update
I created this post as a draft several days ago, and now the news is that the painting will be removed from the Capitol. I have not added the image of the painting I own, but cannot delay this post given the news. (I take note that the piece is described as being "hanged" there. Do with that what you will.)

What do you think of censorship in the arts? In politics?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Collection

I'm not sure I've linked to Reider Amy Shaefer's blog before, but she is a wonderful and witty storyteller. Please enjoy The Incident of the Broken Stick - and a couple other stories! (Other Reiders: when she says she's going back to the reef, does that mean *our* little home on Teh Intarwebs?)

My chocolate-covered espresso beans were getting a bit existential on me this morning, with only a punctuation mark ...



It might have been too much for me, pre-caffeinated: but still it was funny!

All thought of current events aside (and I feel the headline is extremely shoddy/misleading), Vanity Fair has a great historical look at Russia. If you care to think of it as contextualizing the present, that's fine, but in itself this article provides literary and history lessons well worth reading.

Okay, and in closing - this next link is NOT safe for work, and for some readers it might be distasteful in any setting.

The sexual advice column Savage Love has a very interesting look at the psychology of the golden shower, sex more generally, and whether the most famous golden shower in history, currently in the headlines, was about sex at all. (It seems explicitly not to have been; assuming it occurred at all; sources and facts are all still under intense review.) The piece provides an intelligent view on what so far has been referred to as "perversion" - but the reason for it may be much more disturbing than that. It's also an intelligent view of the mental and biological facts of (a) how icky sex is, and (b) how human beings get past that. ON at least two levels, this is truly an intriguing read.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Collection

An uplifting story about a racist incident? Yes, when law enforcement and the mayor back a mother and her family victimized by hate speech. And also yes: the franchise owner has been terminated by Dairy Queen.

“There are, like, 100 pages.”
“I’m deleting Instagram,” 13-year-old Alex said, “because it’s weird.”

Another positive one - the lawyer who rewrote Instagram's Terms of Use in plain English for real users to really understand. I suspect she's way ahead of me here, but this one made me think of Dena Pawling. Also: did YOU know Insta can read your DMs? Yikes.

The other hidden Figures ... his name was Thomas, and he was Assistant US Attorney in Alabama.

It's policy on this blog not to steal images, but this image is simply too important to ask people to bother to click to, and I hope that sharing it here is fair use.



For significantly more, and what this image means, NOW click through. Can Americans even build coalitions anymore?

As obsessed as I am with pattern welded steel swords, it's impossible not to give a nod to The History Blog's look at and links to the even more ancient *bronze* sword unearthed in China - still shining and polished after 2,300 years.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Quote

Even if the good old days never existed, the fact that we can conceive of such a world is, in fact, an affirmation of the human spirit. That the imagination of man is capable of creating the myth of a more open, more generous time is not a sign of our folly.
— Orson Welles