Monday, September 18, 2017

Katyaboggled

Great Zot in drag Heaven. Katya is Annie Lennox.



(Go to 1:00 below for the Lady Herself)



And now, if you'll excuse me, I really, REALLY need some purple eyeshadow and matching lipstick.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

More Space Nerding

Played this for my mom yesterday, we had a little fun. I am grateful, fortunate, and so glad my parents raised me with constant interest in nature and science, as well as art and people.

And here we have almost all of that, wrapped up in one clip.




Also: any questions why I love Star Trek?

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Collection

Look. I don't do the online crush thing, I really don't. But scrap the romance attached to "crush" and give me some leeway to crush away, because John Davis Frain just came up with the BEST TITLE EVER for a flash fiction piece, AND it all hinges on an Oxford comma. Glorious - go and enjoy this spiffy, quick read. And the click beyond? Special bonds with Mr. Schroedinger. Dead or alive. So. Many. Science jokes. Loving it!

(And, John? I swear I started this Collection post days before you stopped by and commented!)

We do not want to make public health recommendations based on five sponges from Germany

Who else loves to read the latest science or health/medicine headlines while indulging in many grains of salt? Have you ever joked about how eggs are healthy now, but used to be vicious little cholesterol time bombs? Or fat is good, but bad, but what'll it be next week? Welp, here's the latest - on "regularly cleaning" your kitchen sponge ... or not. Thanks go to NPR for actually looking at the science without taking too long a trip into the deep weeds.

Prayer where the gods moved the Earth. In another blow to the myth of The Dirty, Stupid Past, we find that ancient Greeks not only could identify tectonic zones, but may actually have sought this real estate as a sort of direct conduit to the worship. To caveat the point: this is another one of those may have done theories. I encourage anyone reading the link to do so critically (and not just because it's Newsweek), because correlation is not causality.

... and just a little more of the not-so-dirty, not-so-stupid past - a map drawn in the 1500s, which turns out to be accurate to modern satellite mapping. So, nearly half a millennium ago, we were not utter morons. Only our tools have changed. GO SCIENCE!

Still. It's an intriguing theory, and I am sometimes more interested in intriguing ideas than empirical proof, when it comes to history. Even those ideas I tend to dismiss, I can still enjoy thinking about. Even writing about. I mean: how irresistible, for a writer? To contemplate the characters, the place, the time - where earthquakes and the fear they engendered were manifestations of the divine? And this, fella babies, is why I say I am not an historian. It gives me the out to indulge creativity ...

Friday, September 8, 2017

Collection

(W)ealthy people manage their discomfort with inequality, which in turn makes that inequality impossible to talk honestly about — or to change.

Ooohh, this is interesting. When wealth is treated like dirty laundry - the elite distancing themselves from being elite. I am reminded of the little old lady guest star on Taxi, who expressed that she was "filthy comfortable." A well-written and considered piece on making class divides invisible. (Interesting too is the point that the women interviewed for this piece appear almost afraid of husbands finding out what they disclosed, even anonymously. "He would kill me.")

(T)he wholesale adoption of garbage disposers in all five boroughs could, in theory, significantly reduce waste, cut costs, and offer the city a highly efficient, alternative renewable energy source.
... and they weren't even LEGAL there until the nineties!

Am I the only dork who finds the environmental science of garbage disposals genuinely interesting? Probably not, as this is an article about it. The sheer volume of waste we produce - NYC's stats are startling indeed, not least in the financials - is stunning, and yet we really do not think about it much. Even as a single-person household, I feel like my volume of refuse is small, even in the recycling bin - but the proportion of it that is food IS terribly high. This owes to the fact that when I need to stop eating something, I do better to dispose of it than to save it for later, because later is all too often sooner than it should be. Oh the twisted psychology of American weight and trash ...

Speaking of weight, how about this piece of science? "A gallon of water weighs about 8.34 pounds. And by one estimate, Harvey dropped 33 trillion gallons of water--" ... and it turns out that upwards of three hundred trillion pounds of sudden weight gain can deform the crust of the Earth itself.

Let's not even ask where the bubble in the wallpaper might be. (Not in China, though the water-weight research there might be instructive for us, even though the context was the filling of a dam and not a massive storm.)

What can we learn from a refrigerator light bulb thirteen billion miles from Earth? Find out now, Voyager.

Women clad mostly in soft towels, softly filtered. Women smiling at salads. Stock photography: you've come a long way, baby. NYT has an interesting, inspiringly hopeful, look at this year's trend. The bits about babies and how images are used/by whom are not exactly progressive, but at least it's not all pearly-lighted, calm, blank naked shots anymore.

Taboo

It's dangerous ground.

Writers sometimes find ourselves in territory that is upsetting, criminal, perverse, perilous. We address not merely human behavior, but the least-traveled corners of our minds, many of them deep in shadow. Sometimes, the shadow is time itself: an historical author, writing about a period with scant or no primary resources to research. Sometimes, the shadow is more elusive, and all the darker: those places we don't want to look.

Sometimes, the shadows are simply what we cannot bring ourselves to understand, because what lies outside the light we have is too disturbing.

You can't get to civilization except through human sacrifice.

I come from a family of teachers - scientists and historians, both vocational and avocational. My brother is an anthropologist and archaeologist. I obviously have a strong affinity for the study of history, even as I avow strenuously that this makes me no expert. With me, it's the difference between learning and interpreting.

With me, it's the realm of feeling.

Writing is a striving to understand.

And so (and yes, being dried up and childless undoubtedly affects this), having recently had a conversation in which the quote above played a thematic part, I have of late been trying to understand human sacrifice. Child sacrifice.

That I have a character from (post-sacrificial era) Carthage plays in, but the more immediate dynamics of her life are unrelated to this practice.

That no reading on the subject you can find with casual ease seems able to address it without the use of the word "bloodthirsty" - and why that frustrates me - is much more the crux.



We've lost much of the concept of "SACRIFICE", in modern America. The word is bandied about, and people even give of themselves; I don't mean to say the practice, the impulse, is dead.

But the sacred tenet of SACRIFICE - the actual blood, and giving-up and giving-over - this is something we all but revile.

Americans today, meat-eating or not, consider the idea of killing an animal and offering it to G-d antiquated beyond all propriety. It is offensive to such a degree we unthinkingly find it actually immoral - pagan - barbaric - every word of which I choose carefully, and y'all can see with an easy click what I think of "barbaric" in particular, and any cursory reader must be able to guess what I think of "pagan". The judgment is so deep even the words we've loaded up with pejorative meaning are only tools to load the concepts we apply them to.

It's all denial. The need to distance and to Other a thing, so that we may prove our credentials in fitting the current definition of morality, or rectitude, or just fitting in.

The very idea of understanding taboos has become outre' - to understand barbarity is to know it, and to know it is to be guilty of it. And we don't like to claim, to admit, culpability.



There's a screed in there on contemporary politics, but that is not today's text.



And so, we have avidly removed ourselves from the deeply human impulse to (blood) sacrifice.

It's cruel.

It's ignorant.

It's extraneous (and not merely in secularists' minds).

It's GROSS.



But the lightest gloss of real study of human sacrifice - of child sacrifice - is not one of BLOODTHIRST: it is the revelation of what a society, what an individual, values most highly.

One of my recent readings of Carthaginian child sacrifice stated that parents gave up their children as lightly as if it were nothing. Even provided the queasy observation that child sacrifice worked for the city as population control, and actually conferred benefits on the society there over time.

The fact is, population control may have been some sort of benefit of child sacrifice.

But no society kills off its young without any greater justification than that ... even if it does factor into wider dynamics, to kill our fellow citizens, to kill our offspring is no light matter - no matter of logistics, especially in a city known for centuries for its wealth and culture. A parent might expose a child for many reasons, or sell into bondage, or abort, or kill with their own hands, in desperation and penury. But the development of ritual and sacrifice are not matters of immediate need, and centuries of religious practice are not explained by civic planning, by mere bloodthirst.

Religion is developed in OFFERING, not murder. Sacrifice is transactional, but with the Divine, not with mankind, not with our neighbors. We develop faith and religion with our neighbors, but its practice is pointed elsewhere.



The simple idea of giving up what means the most to us is washed out at the time we live in now. And not the objects we think we love, and imbue with emotion, but things more ineffable, more genuinely powerful.

Things with life. Things with souls.

Sacrifice is the commitment to our god(s) to give up a part of our hearts, perhaps something that grew from the deepest loves we have known. In the case of a child, the very living fruit of consummation, which itself means so much to us, in all its good and ill and hardship.

The sacrifice is TREASURE.





The seed germinating in a shadow, in this writer, in the dark loam of my mind and my own heart - is a story of sacrifice.

Of what it means to consign love itself, and life itself, in worship.

Of - not the thirst for, but the *price*, the bone-deep value, the cost we set on giving to that we adore. Of the dust on the fingers, the stones on the ground, the orange, windy sky, and the young eyes ... of giving.

And how that is forgotten. And those fingers will be remembered only for barbarity. Bloodthirst.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Collection

Well, crap on a damn cracker, it's 1982 all over again. Ya know, even I thought this was a bit old fashioned. Shame to be wrong. But apparently, women still have to invent men to stand behind while they actually get things done.

I seriously CAN NOT.

Oh, but wait, there's more.

The majority of women came from outside the area, probably from Bohemia or Central Germany, while men usually remained in the region of their birth. This so-called patrilocal pattern combined with individual female mobility was not a temporary phenomenon, but persisted over a period of 800 years during the transition from the Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age.

So, women on the move formed a major part of the fundamentals of European culture and history. Literally "go" women!

... and more ...

GEE. I wonder why sexual harassment is so common in SFF events. Any questions about it?

Okay. How about another look at gender stuff, but a much more interesting, curious, and historical one? On the gender crime of witchcraft - a good, not-too-long, and wittily written piece about the evolution of its association with women.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Voyager's Golden Record

Have you ever heard it?

Because talk about a click beyond. Please take this trip.

It is record of the gloriousness of our very planet, and the finest accomplishment of which humanity is capable. Not merely the sounds - all of which share some piece of Earth's magnificence - but the Voyagers, the record, the images. Sharing life.

Here, the official tracks, courtesy of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory archive (not created by JPL).





Also, we need to make t-shirts that say, "Out there, our concepts of velocity become provincial." (Meanwhile, every sound on the record is provincial! Though some might disagree about The Laughing Man.)

Here is MIT's unofficial copy; for those of you who know what HiFi means, it brings with it the enjoyable pops and cracks of the albums we played on those. Which has an Earthling charm of its own.

PBS's as-usual wonderful special on the 40-year-old Voyager twins.

Collection - the Deconstructed Edition

The Atlantic has a splendid essay on being a fashion historian and costume curator. "There’s something transgressive about touching other people’s clothes—especially dead people’s clothes." An arresting conclusion: "dress codes and sumptuary laws are free-speech issues" ... This is a wonderful read sociologically, historically, personally, or just as an exercise in curiosity about the how-it's-done of historical curation and study. (The click beyond - Balenciaga - a designer I find fascinating, deconstructed, without breaking a single stitch.)

The first draft is for the writer. The second draft is for the editor. The last draft is for the reader.

Another Atlantic essay, this time from Tom E. Ricks, deconstructs (most literally/literarily) the process of an author fundamentally revising a book. On getting out of the way of the story; you can almost hear how much better the revision is than the original, in the way he talks about the process. Bonus - all the surprises, after the first one, are good ones.

Respect and responsibility are the two most important words in this article about the limitless ways people destroy artifacts in their bids to make every moment about themselves. Here is the question I have yet to see answered in any of the articles about this heedless piece of dolt-ery: have they contacted the family who orchestrated this defacement, and will there be any financial responsibility for them? If I walk in a store, "if I break it, I bought it." What is the responsibility when we break our own cultural history? The crossword-puzzle example after the headline lack-of-details makes me especially cross. (Personal bonus: I accidentally typed mement within the link above. Might be the the right word, in the end.)


Saturday, August 19, 2017

This is what I have




Right now, I am sitting on my little loveseat with Gossamer, as he sleeps. He's doing that cat thing, where he's got one paw up against my leg. Just touching me. I reach down and take one of his little back feet in my hand, and his body is utterly relaxed. There is trust with him so complete that having his foot grasped in his sleep doesn't even faze him.

Most people know, it's no small thing to get this level of trust with a puddy. And it's not just me that he trusts; this isn't just a bond between two creatures. This is a boy so secure in his safety in his world that he just doesn't worry about little things like a random touch when he is *asleep*. The most vulnerable possible moment. And his relaxation is that complete.

Penelope used to be the sort of pup who would wig out and bark if there was an unfamiliar car parked in the neighborhood when we took our walks. I mean, her back would go up, she was afraid of everything. And a bit of a protector, even then.

She is still wary of the unfamiliar, and will always be exciteable with new people. She is a dog. But the animal she is now, compared to the little baby bag of wiggles I adopted? She is magnificent, and I love her more all the time.

The things I am proud of in this life have always related to the people I love, and who are generous to love - and even respect - me in kind. It means the world to me that any animal I was ever blessed to live with felt safe like this. When Sweet Siddy La used to try to live in my armpit because she was afraid of storms ... this big, strong, brave girl - was turning to ME when she felt fear? I was the thing she trusted to keep her safe?

Holding a limp, warm cat's paw in your hand is so much more than a little gesture of affection on a Saturday afternoon.

Loving my pets. It's not just an "aww they're so cute" thing in my life. It is an honor. It is the deepest kind of pleasure.

It's also fun, pretty much every day of our lives. Little Poobahs.