St. Dodo

Jun. 28th, 2015 11:41 pm
rinue: (Default)
Yesterday, I needed an Italian name starting with U to complete an acrostic and theorized "Urso" might be one, or "Ulle"; today I looked and yes they are. But more importantly so is Ursomaro, which my heart tells me means either "war bear" or "sea of bears." I did not manage to sort out which one, but did discover it traces back at least as far as a Belgian abbot in the 700s who was appointed by Pippin II and became a saint - St. Ursomaro of Lobbes, who trained St. Dodo.

I could have made all that up, but I did not. That is my main accomplishment this week, discovering St. Dodo. I also wrangled with a customer service department over a lost shipment; saw Stephanie and Ben for dinner, neither of whom I'd seen in a year, an possibly pointed them to books they'll like; loaded and unloaded the dishwasher several times; drew a skeleton; sent out story subs; sent in my passport renewal; and got the go-ahead to write an article. Yet could I ever achieve the heights of St. Dodo, the Venerable Dodo, let alone the Syrian Orthodox saint Mor Dodo, about whom there is mor information?


Jun. 28th, 2015 05:13 pm
rinue: (Star)
Yale researchers have a theory that conflicting emotional expressions are a sign of mental health and reslience - that it's a self-correcting mechanism to protect you from extreme emotional states. In that context, crying at a wedding makes sense, as does laughing at tragedy. It seems crazy to the people around you, but it's the CNS equivalent of smacking on a tourniquet.

My reaction to the Supreme Court's "gay marriage is marriage" ruling has mostly been "well, of course." But also extreme, fierce sadness, as though I've been living in occupied territory as an invisible background noise in every moment; finally liberation has come and it's safe to collapse. It feels strange to join in the celebration and say "we did it," because although I'm bisexual I have for the most part not borne much discrimination that couldn't be as equally traced to being a woman or being an artist or being an outsider or being young; my oppression has been almost entirely the need to smother my own empathy for friends and strangers who had to struggle for no reason. Nor is it my triumph in the sense of something I caused; I can flatter myself I've moved the needle for a few people as part of a larger shift in public opinion, but this is like saying I contribute to the composition of Earth's atmosphere. I do, but not with statistical significance.

I suspect "hooray, fireworks!" would be a better reaction, but I feel awful. I feel so angry. I feel so angry on behalf of my friends, and also for myself, now that I don't have to make peace and forgive. Which of course is still what has to be done. I think I am not very good at parties.
rinue: (Default)

Thursday July 10

8:00 PM The Games We Play. Erik Amundsen, Yoon Lee, Alex Shvartsman, Romie Stott (leader), Gregory Wilson.
Video games and tabletop games are an influential part of our imaginative lives. Are there times when you're reading a book and feel the game mechanics too clearly beneath the prose? Or do you enjoy imagining what a character's stats might look like? We'll look at tie-in books (like R.A. Salvatore's Chronicles of Drizzt and David Gaider's Dragon Age prequels), book-based games (like The Black Cauldron, Lord of the Rings, and the Mists of Avalon–influenced Conquests of Camelot), and the pleasure of reading gaming sourcebooks.

Your comments on this item: "I proposed this one. I've invented and run a number of tabletop-type rpgs and some of my friends are video game designers who also write fiction. I'm nerdy enough to have read some videogame tie-in works (and quite a bit of fanfiction) and boardgames appear in a lot of my work. Plus as someone with an econ degree, game theory is never that far from my mind. I have to be careful when I design magic systems or write horror that I don't quantify it too much and make it overterrestrial." (I got scooped by The Guardian, who like me recognize the awesomeness of Joshua Newman's Shock.)

9:00 PM If Magic Has Always Been Real. Karen Burnham, Lila Garrott (leader), Max Gladstone, Romie Stott, Walt Williams.
Regarding the challenges of "the world we know, but with magic!", Monique Poirier wrote, "If magic has always been real, why did colonialism and genocide roll the way it did?... It couldn't possibly be the world we know without all the painful, fucked up history. And what good is magic if it can’t have altered that?" Naomi Novik's Temeraire books address this by keeping many elements of history familiar but dramatically changing others. In Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire Mysteries, paranormal entities have always been there, but they hid from ordinary humans for safety and therefore lacked the ability to influence the course of history. How do other authors of historical fantasy and urban fantasy balance the inherently world-changing nature of magic with the desire to layer it on top of the world we have?

Your comments on this item: "For the last 10 years, I've intermittently worked on an alternate-history fantasy novel set during WWII. It's the hardest thing I've ever written because with almost every sentence I struggle with the question of how a world that works SO DIFFERENTLY could have come to a point in history that is so similar to ours. But I also have to set that aside and say "because this is the story I'm telling, and this is the reality I want to examine, with fantasy elements to allow me to work allegorically.""

Friday July 11

6:00 PM Solarpunk and Eco-Futurism. Michael J. Daley, Michael J. Deluca, Jeff Hecht, Rob Kilhefer, Romie Stott (leader).
In August 2014, Miss Olivia Louise wrote a Tumblr post proposing the creation of a new subgenre: solarpunk. Solarpunk, sometimes called eco-futurism, would be set in a semi-utopian future visually influenced by Art Nouveau and Hayao Miyazaki, and built according to principles of new urbanism and environmental sustainability—an "earthy" handmade version of futuretech, in opposition to the slick, white, spacebound surfaces of 1980s futurism. Solarpunk blogs have since proliferated, as Tumblr users like SunAndSilicon create and aggregate concept art and brainstorm solarpunk's technological and societal shifts, enthusiastically building a shared-world fandom with no single owner or defining central text. For some, building solarpunk is an escapist fantasy. Meanwhile, in San Francisco there have been meatspace conventions to develop some kind of manifesto, with the hope of eventually moving realworld society in a solarpunk direction. What, if any, are the precursors to this kind of grassroots genre creation? Is it an inevitable outgrowth of fan-funded niche publishing through crowdfunding? Is solarpunk's locavore pro-tech optimism in the face of climate change a distinctly Millenial backlash to Gen-X dystopias? And can the inevitable contradictions of a crowdsourced utopia survive the rigors of critical reading?

Your comments on this item: "I proposed this one."

7:00 PM Modern Gods. Amal El-Mohtar (leader), Natalie Luhrs, Romie Stott, Ian Randal Strock.
Corporations, multinationals, and governments (or seats of office) can be like modern gods: they exist solely because people believe in them and build up rituals to affirm and perpetuate that belief. Non-governmental entities often have political power, and they can theoretically live forever if they can find ways to remain relevant. They fight with other "gods" and may be broken into multiple demi-gods, a place from which they rise again or simply fade away. How do portrayals of gods reflect our interactions with the godlike legal and corporate entities of the modern world? When works such as Ken Liu's The Grace of Kings, Max Gladstone's Craft sequence, and Daniel Abraham's Dagger and the Coin series explicitly address corporations, systems of government, and economic systems in fantastical settings, how do those stories resemble or diverge from folklore and fantasy about more literal gods?

Your comments on this item: "One that leaps to mind immediately is "the spectacle" (proposed by Guy Dubord in a 1967 treatise), which subverts and commodifies rebellions to return people to passivity. Derrida and other French theorists also wrote about this, and it absolutely reads like SF but is philosophy."

Saturday July 12

2:00 PM The Definition of Reality. Anil Menon, Kit Reed, Kenneth Schneyer, Sarah Smith, Romie Stott (leader).
Many forms of entertainment conflate fiction and nonfiction. It's well documented that so-called reality TV is highly staged, directed, and manipulated to highlight conflict and manufacture happy (or tragic) endings. A number of memoirs have been revealed to be fiction. Some still want to believe professional wrestling is real. Fiction provides plenty of conflict, coherent narrative arcs, and satisfying endings, so why do we also demand those things from our nonfiction? Does believing something is "real" make it more entertaining? Or is this an expression of our dissatisfaction with the loose ends, bewildering occurrences, and interrupted stories of our own lives?

Your comments on this item: "There's an entire film festival devoted to work that blurs the lines between documentary and fiction; when done artfully, it sometimes happens because you can't (or can't legally) see the real thing, or have to make a choice about which of a few competing eyewitness accounts to believe so that you can move forward in the story. There's also increasing attention to the prose style called "Creative Nonfiction," which uses fiction techniques to tell heightened autobiography. I think also of Joyce Carol Oates' "Dark Water," which is fiction that doesn't really stand on its own but absolutely relies on your knowledge of the Chappaquiddick incident. Meanwhile, there's a tendency for audiences to obsessively believe that fiction is "based on" something in the author's real life, and to use an author's fiction to psychoanalyze the author. Although I want my reference nonfiction (newspapers, textbooks, trial transcripts) to be unimpeachably nonfiction, I think there's a lot of blurriness that's inevitable when you try to condense reality into some kind of orderly narrative, and it makes for a lot of guessing about what's "real.""

A 38th

Jun. 27th, 2015 06:54 pm
rinue: (Yes Thanks)
It seems like at least one in every ten lifestyle pieces I read is about New York City - rent in NYC, relationships in NYC, dogs in NYC, gardening in NYC - and today I had the charitable thought "hey, NYC is really populous. Maybe it's not weird that it's still the place every single writer is expected to write about, even though it's really too pricey a place for writers and you can hang out with publishers on the internet." So I did a search, and it looks like NYC's population is 8.4 million. So many people!

But the U.S. population is 318.9 million, so still no.

On the subject of writing, two poems by me are up at Punchnel's, "Counter Rant" and "People Yelling In German."


Jun. 26th, 2015 04:18 pm
rinue: (Default)
I've been seeing a therapist every week or two since mid May to get my stress response under control. I've mentioned before, maybe a lot, that my day job as a captioner is intensely stressful. The task itself - live to air highly abstract no-error multitasking with no concession to physical limitations - is stressful in a way that's only comparable to air traffic controllers, although in my case a plane won't crash. It also requires emotional suppression I can't compare to anything else; it's literally my job to keep an even, pleasant done while repeating whatever I hear, no matter how highly charged it is. Today, I've already captioned parts of two funerals. My last workday, I spent 4 hours on MLB Network, starting minutes after everyone there got the news their coworker Darryl Hamilton had been murdered.

Essentially, it got to the point where even when off work I was no longer able to calm down or relax or respond to things in a normal emotional way, like I had one sensitivity knob stuck at maximum and the other one jammed all the way down. If something minor happened that I didn't expect, I still got a full adrenaline surge, where all my blood moved to protect internal organs and my focus got laser so I could take care of the threat immediately. Even when it wasn't a threat or particularly urgent. Meanwhile it's been difficult for me to be emotionally present or even mentally present, because (1) feelings cause errors and (2) something absolutely gutwrenching is about to happen, so you should be ready for that. On top of which, I'm socially isolated and low on sleep, so it's been difficult to tell whether my appraisal of any given situation is reasonable or totally bizarre.

Basically, what's been established in therapy is that I'm a reasonably sane person who definitely needs to quit my job, but in the meantime and at least shortly afterward need to figure out how to re-groove my nervous system so it doesn't flood as easily. The main strategy for which seems to be meditation of literally any kind, just reminding my brain that it can be receptive instead of active. To my surprise, although it makes sense in retrospect, the best "meditation" for me has been practicing Italian, where I'm not only deliberately turning off my analytical mind and letting thoughts in the "wrong" language (English) float off the surface and not interrupt me. I have called this child mind, and apparently that was accurate. On days when I do it for even five minutes, I feel much better than days when I don't. It makes more of a difference than whether I exercise or get sunglight or enough sleep.

However the most interesting thing about therapy is how much it reminds me of piano lessons. You practice on your own all week, then show up and say "this is the work I did and how I'm interpreting this piece," and the piano teacher says "I agree with you about what you're doing well and what you aren't doing as well. Practice some more." Occasionally a small adjustment. The similarity makes sense. The metacognitive element is similar. The cost per hour is similar. But I haven't heard anybody make this comparison before; it's fairly different from the way psychologists are represented in our culture.
rinue: (Default)
It's never felt right to say I have a delicate stomach: the human digestive system and its microflora are nothing short of heroic and miraculous. The sheer variety of stuff it can rip into constituent pieces and use as both fuel and new tissue staggers me. When I say "holy crap," I mean it.

But sometime between three days and a week into most travel, I spend a few hours in and out of the bathroom. It's not food poisoning; as far as I can tell, it's my guts saying "ma'am, we were optimized for a certain situation and it seems you want us to switch inputs. We're enthusiastically retooling." And then everything is fine.

I am not currently travelling. I am in my house. But Ciro is cooking dinner instead of Mom. Sure enough, three days in. I don't know whether it's like this for everybody.
rinue: (Default)
I had a routine physical two weeks ago and the nurse measured my height at 5'5", which means either I was slouching or I've shrunk an inch, and I know I was slouching, but what if I've also shrunk an inch?

For this and other reasons, I've been paying more attention to my posture, which for the past year I would characterize as "keyboard slump." This is a deviation from my norm; I was trained on piano before I started typing, so I've traditionally held myself piano style in front of a computer, plus I have a long history of being shorter than most of my friends, which doesn't making slouching advisable. (I'm not particularly short, but I tended to be the youngest in my class, and then spent a lot of time surrounded by the Richardson Boys, average height 6 feet.) Aside from which, you don't become a film director unless you're determined other people ought to listen to you; proper posture helps convince total strangers you're commanding, which has always been relevant to my interests.

But for medical reasons I had to stop doing core exercises for a while about two years ago, and although I rehabbed myself afterward - maybe you've heard or experienced that in physical therapy, there's a tendency to get things back to 80% and say "you're cured!" I wasn't in formal physical therapy, but I did that to myself, partly because I'm busy. Once I could pretty much get a move on, I did. And clearly continued to compensate by making my small muscle groups pick up the slack from the major ones.

Standing up straight is very tiring. I'm really only moving my shoulders slightly, in a way that should long-term require less energy - good posture being "good" not simply for aesthetic reasons but because it minimizes stress to a human skeletal armature. But I'm asking certain muscle fibers to bear a lot of weight they've gotten out of the habit of holding. At least I'm fixing it now, when it's presumably easier than it would be later, but makes for a weird athletic hobby that's hard to brag about.
rinue: (Default)
I'm from Texas, and vocally so. However, my Dad's side of the family is from Greenwood, Missisippi. That's where the bulk of the Stotts wound up. The Wests, his mom's family, were out of Virginia. Through both of those lineages, I trace back to the Confederacy. I don't think the Stotts had any slaves; I could be wrong, but I don't think they were rich enough. I think they genuinely fought for the Confederacy because of states rights and all that. One of which was the right to be a racist crazy murderer.

If you don't recognize the name Greenwood, Missisippi, you probably haven't read much 20th century civil rights history. Greenwood features prominently, not in a good way. As an example, my grandfather Roy, when he was a kid, was the neighbor of the Klansman who murdered Medgar Evers. Who was not convicted for the murder until 1994 even though everyone knew he did it because he bragged about it a lot and there was ample physical evidence. He was not convicted because the Greenwood Police Department provided him with a fraudulent alibi. Roy's aunt (and for all I know other members of the family) was prominently involved in fundraising for the big Confederate statue in the middle of Greenwood, which was not for her about slavery but about her relatives. Dad's high school job was giving tours of Confederate sites, because he liked (and still likes) history. You would not believe the amount of Civil War memorabilia that is in my house.

I like Dad's family and don't have any memories of them being openly racist; kind of the opposite. Roy for instance spent WWII as an officer in an African American unit, which he volunteered to do - blacks weren't allowed to be officers but whites didn't want to work with them, whereas in Roy's experience they were as good as anybody else. Roy's unit, being black, was of course then put into dangerous cannon fodder advance-guard "set up the infrastructure for everybody else to land" situations. Roy's sister Rena taught in low income schools (which was pretty much every school in Missisippi) and didn't make a distinction between black and white students, which is only notable if you remember how violently Greenwood fought desegregation.

My point here is to say that when people talk about Southern Heritage, I have it. If I want to claim the Confederate flag as my symbol, I can. I can grouch as well as anyone about how it's the battle flag of Northern Virginia and the flags of the whole confederacy looked like this*. (For battle flags, the Van Dorn flag is obviously the best looking one, and you never see it anywhere.) That's how deep in this I am. If you've ever wondered who watches those thousands of hours of civil war documentaries and donates money to preserve the battlefield at Gettysburg - us! It's us. It's my family.

I have a hand-me-down battle flag towel which I use sometimes to clean up things I find gross, the act of defacing it a useful distraction. I sometimes drink out of a Mississippi mug which has the battle flag on it as well as the state flag which has a mini battle flag in the corner. The current Missisippi flag was introduced in 1894 as a fuck-you to reconstructionists. If Missippi actually wanted to be historic, it could use the older 1861 Magnolia flag, which is better looking and was actually flown during the Civil War. (I don't think they flew a state flag before that.) It also naturally has a confederate symbol, the bonnie blue flag, in the corner. But this was not considered sufficiently "in your face." The mug also has other Mississippi symbols on it, like a canon and some cotton and the statehouse and a mockingbird. (Conspicuously absent: a blues guitar.)

You know what I think of as a symbol of the genteel south we're all proud of? Southern hospitality. You know what is not hospitable? Flying a big flag that says "you're not welcome here, and we really want to make sure you know that." If we wanted to act like real southerners, we would take down the flag and talk behind people's backs while smiling and handing out pie and iced tea. That's how it's done. Notably, burning crosses are also a symbol of Southern history, plus they are on fire, yet we do not insist on putting eternal-flame burning crosses in front of or on top of our statehouses, even though they would definitely look cool.

But of course this isn't really about pride or about history. And that is why I propose we offer an exchange, wherein any depiction of the battle flag is repaced with an equal-sized picture of Taz, Calvin peeing, or Calvin peeing on Taz.

God, how awful would it have been if the south had successfully seceeded? That was a terrible idea.

* [24 July 2015] This link originally went to, but that page disappeared a day after the entry was posted - I'd like to think the Museum of the Confederacy pulled down their site in an act of solidarity and support for the flag's removal more broadly, but I have no idea. They seem to have completely rebranded overnight as the American Civil War Museum, which I think they've technically been since 2014 but which was not on any of their branding previous to now.
rinue: (Default)
My approximate feelings about the potential addition of an unspecified woman's image to the $10 bill are summed up by Ester Bloom and Nicole Dieker at The Billfold. Approximate because aside from my dislike of how this has been handled so far, Hamilton is possibly my favorite founding father, and deserving of his own bill, much like Franklin. Those two guys basically invented our paper money system. Even though I love George Washington (and who wouldn't) he is arguably less deserving of being on the money than Hamilton. (He did appoint Hamilton, so credit to Washington.)

All of which is aside from the point, which is that Andrew Jackson will still be on the money. I dislike Andrew Jackson so much that I promised when I was 16 that I would someday open a bar where I might throw out anybody I suspected liked Andrew Jackson. The only part of this plan that has changed is it may be a cinema.

There is no woman I love more than I hate Andrew Jackson. Except my mom. If they want to put my mom on the $10, I think that's a good idea and I'm for it. How cool would that be? Pretty cool.
rinue: (Default)
Because life got in the way, I didn't watch Sharpe's Waterloo today. I am defeated as Napoleon. I did eat Beef Wellington and help someone with their galoshes (not simultaneously).

(I also managed to have orange toenails in homage to Prince William of the Netherlands.)
rinue: (plunge)
It occurred to me yesterday that possibly the worst thing Ciro has ever done to the world is teach me the word détournement. I now claim that all kinds of things that are obviously not détournement are détournement, which since they are not détournement is me détourning them (needless to say in a way that would not necessarily be recognized by other practitioners of détournement). Essentially, I do a lot of found art projects wherein I claim somebody else's behavior was artistic that wasn't, and give it a meaning that is almost entirely unrelated to its actual meaning - I don't mean reversing and satirizing it, I mean not related, I mean entirely transformed in a way that doesn't even slightly comment on the person whose actions I've appropriated. I can't exactly work out how it's unethical but it's clearly enough a transgression that it makes me uncomfortable, which is frankly a large part of how I can tell I'm doing it as art and not humor.

I will write a real entry someday soon I really will.


Jun. 9th, 2015 10:37 pm
rinue: (Best friends)
Not dead; have had several sets of houseguests consecutively such that there has only been 1 day since May 4 during which there were not houseguests. That day was Sunday, when there was a gap between Chad leaving and Uncle Rex arriving. I like having all the guests but tend not to update because I am instead spending that time with guests. If you are in the area, the more the merrier (and it has been).
rinue: (Default)
You don't really know a space until you try to repair it. Case in point, in my gradual process of filling nail holes in the woodwork with wood putty, I've discovered the section of woodwork to the right of my office door isn't nailed to the wall, just carefully leaned against it. It has nail holes in all the places you'd expect, but there are no nails in them. All the woodwork was installed at the same time, which was several years ago. Current (definitely wrong) theory: a clever chemistry trick.

poked hive

Apr. 30th, 2015 01:31 pm
rinue: (eyecon)
For well more than 7 years, Ciro and I have intended to move to Italy sometime about now. We figured that after he graduated college (two years from when we started saying this, when I finished grad school), it would take about 5 years to wrap up some Private Family Business for which I preferred to be near my parents and in a country where I natively spoke the language. (My Italian comprehension is ok, but not when you get into technical and legal vocabulary, and my confidence when it comes to speaking more than nouns is nonexistent.) We've been really public about this - not online, because who cares, but in real life with people who might have their own plans impacted.

As forecast, we wrapped up the critical stages of Private Family Business in November, almost exactly when we guessed we would, and no longer need to be in Boston. So Ciro mailed his citizenship paperwork to an Italian lawyer cousin and enrolled in classes to get a TEFL certification, which he got in late February. He spent March sending out job feelers and updating his resume. The news he got back was basically that he should be able to get a job quickly, particularly if he's willing to work outside of the major cities, but needs to apply in person, ideally before September (when the school year starts). He had a bunch of doctors' appointments in April and we have guests throughout May, so the earliest he could go over to Italy to do that is June.

Tickets have not been bought and it could be later than June. Once Ciro does get over there, maybe he will immediately find a job in a place he likes, or maybe he will spend two months with people saying "we can't tell you until August," or maybe he will look for four months and find nothing and come back here and we'll talk about whether he needs to get experience teaching someplace in the States, or whether there's good-paying work in someplace interesting in South America, or what. Even in the fastest-case scenario where he goes over in late June and finds work almost the second he lands, he'd still need to find us a place to live and get moved into that place, after which I'd need to quit my job in the States and pack and ship whatever of our stuff is worth packing and shipping.

Basically, I feel pretty safe in guessing there is close to no chance I'm gone from here before August, so if people have made plans to visit during the summer I've said the more the merrier. Anything September or later, I'm not commiting to, because I don't have enough information to guess what my situation will be by then. Could be here, could be elsewhere; could be working or not working; could be who knows. I've said to people: September onward, don't depend on me, but don't depend on not me.

On Tuesday, my sister was in town for all of 12 hours. I don't want to say we're not close, because that implies we dislike each other, but we're not in each other's confidence. We talk at holidays, and otherwise on the phone for an hour maybe once every three months, mostly about books or art projects. I don't even know the name of the guy she's been dating for two years, and never met the guy she moved to Peru with (whose name I only found out after they'd moved to Peru). For the record, I'm not the type of friend you generally call to gush about who you're dating; I'm the kind of friend you call to strategize a breakup and be reassured you're killer.

Anyway, she asked me how the Italy timeline is going (because as stated I've been public about this for the last 7 years, and Ciro's TEFL certificate-getting process was in effect while she was visiting at Christmas). I said what I've been saying to everyone consistently, which is that I'm not making solid commitments past September but won't really know specifics until Ciro does, and he doesn't and won't for another couple months at least. Somehow - I'm guessing - this shifted in Mom's brain to "Romie has clear and definite plans and they kick off in September." I'm guessing this because for the last two days I've had to deal with a series of panicked calls from my easily panicked uncle about how I'm moving in a month and didn't tell him (because if Mom told him I'm definitely moving soon that means next week) and total strangers coming up to me in town to gossip about where (don't know) and when (don't know).

So I'm pretty pissed off, because:

(1) This is exactly why I don't like to tell people anything about my life until it's absolutely concrete. [Note that I don't tend to mention when I've finished writing a thing, or even when I've had a thing accepted by a publisher: I tell you when the thing is on newsstands. This is even more true offline.] I do not like to have to countermessage the expectations of people whose imagination is almost inevitably melodramatic.

(2) In this case I've been clear and consistent for seven years. I was telling people in London in 2009 where I'd hopefully be in 2016. At the dinner table throughout the last six months, Ciro and I have discussed (in English) each transitional stage we've completed and our estimates for the next one. During all or at least most of these discussions, Mom has been sitting directly across from me. She adjusted her schedule around Ciro's TEFL classes.

I don't know whether the lesson here is to lock down more and become absolutely secretive because nobody believes facts when I disclose them and it gives me false confidence that I've been listened to, or whether I need to host a daily White House briefing (which I already thought I did) and make sure each of my talking points is repeated back to me.

I get that people like gossip, but goddamn. When I'm trying to get something done that's kind of delicate and scary and ambiguous, I don't need to be grilled about it and I don't need to comfort peripheral players. I can see why it would be cool to know what's up, but asking me is almost exactly equivalent to asking an unemployed person when they plan to have a job. It would be so great if a sick person told you when they plan to get well or a healthy person when they plan to get a cold next, because knowing would make it easier to figure out how much kleenex to have around.

Maybe it's not REL; maybe it's that Mom heard me practicing Italian for an hour because Ciro's in Arizona and I didn't have him to hang out with during that hour. Probably "non ho capito" means "please arrange to collect all of my posessions tomorrow, never to be seen again."
rinue: (inception train)
Ciro, as mentioned, is a few time zones over, and being on vacation has wisely chosen not to be tethered to a computer. Which has made social media a bit weird for me - uncomfortable family holiday weird. Ciro's circle of acquaintances skews more rightwing and reactive than mine does, despite the fact (or perhaps causing the fact) that he's more liberal than I am. I think this isn't due to a difference in philosophy (although maybe it is?) as much as simple exposure, because the same thing could be said of Val's circle of acquaintances; I grew up in actual Dallas and they grew up in the suburbs of Dallas, which means their neighbors they've known since they were little kids are a different group than mine.

Anyway, a few of Ciro's fringy folks have been trollish on his comment boards during this time he's not moderating them. I don't think they know he's gone; I think it's a coincidence, or perhaps that Ciro would normally be here removing stuff and so I wouldn't see it. (I already don't see a lot of it, because I already block stuff.) So I wind up having to think, hmmmm, is there a savvy court-intrigue way for me to signal to Ciro's and my mutual friends that yes we know this person is saying hurtful discriminatory things and we're sorry you had to witness that, without overstepping and being unfriendly to people who are not my friends but are Ciro's, in a way that would upset Ciro.

This would be much easier to handle with his actual family, because roles are more clearly defined.* And also because everyone immediately understands why you still talk to your offensive cousin and doesn't assume that means you agree with him, whereas that question is on the table if the offensive person is the father of the husband of a friend who lives in another state.

I'm lucky generally in that the political differences within even my extended family aren't broad. They are disagreements between left-leaning centrists, centrists, and right-leaning centrists, partly because both sides of my family are suspicious of any form of extremism. The best illustration I can think of is that a couple of years ago my Dad's elderly mother said some factually untrue things about Obama during a few of their weekly phone calls, and he told her she needed to stop watching Fox News, and so she stopped watching Fox News. That was the big drama. Somebody politely fact-checked someone, and then they said, oh okay, won't trust that source anymore.

That does not necessarily give me the tools to deal with overt Facism, or Insurrectionary Anarchists. The only thing I know how to use for that is Theater of the Absurd. (Plus fact checking. I'm too pedantic to not do fact checking.) Which involves acting contemptuous, although not necessarily of the things I actually hold in contempt; and while sarcasm is something I am perfectly willing to do to my friends and enemies, it's not something you do to other people's friends and enemies without permission. My other standard strategy is removing the other person's platform, either by directly silencing them or by creating a more desirable alternative that doesn't include them. Again, obviously, a bit tricky when the key relationship is with somebody not me.

It does not help the situation that "Your Racist Friend" has resultingly been stuck in my head all day, which is probably my least favorite They Might Be Giants song. (Good concept; uncharecteristically lazy execution.)

Anyway, it's been gross gross gross and even though I'm pretty sure I did my best in a bad situation it would feel better if a third party agreed. Because of course I can imagine all kinds of other ways of handling it or not handling it which would also not diminish the grossness but maybe would be preferred? There's not a yardstick for what's appropriate.

* It's also not something I've ever had to handle with his actual family. We all know without having to ask which of us are Republicans and which of us are Democrats, and that we would have a much better time talking about things like what music we're listening to or what weird thing was at the grocery store yesterday.


Apr. 24th, 2015 07:51 pm
rinue: (plunge)
I carried a large ceramic planter up three flights of stairs today, and boy are my arms tired.


Ciro is in Arizona, visiting his mom; he and his small blond traveling companion flew out this morning. I have a pale hope that I will manage to finally paint my office while he's gone; I have a bit of a track record for getting home projects done while he's elsewhere. Last trip, I reorganized the bookshelves, and the one before that I painted a mural the bathroom. The office is a much larger endeavor because it's still plaster and raw wood, so it's not "painting" - it's patching nail holes in the woodwork, then sanding rough spots down, then priming and painting everything including the ceiling, all of which requires disconnecting amble electrical cables and pulling awkward furniture away from the walls, then putting it back.

I can almost certainly not do this without being able to devote the whole of three days to it, which, what are the odds anybody will give me that kind of free time. However, I have been intermittently patching holes in the wood in approximately 10 minute increments for the last several days and have maybe an eighth of that part done. I also decided on a color; I've been trying to find a good French pastel blue/gray/green for years but they all looked sickly or childish in this room; the light's got too much gray in it. Since I don't want yellow, pink it is; you can't fight the light.

Burned my hand yesterday; it doesn't hurt anymore but I don't have full feeling along the side of my right index finger. There's a trend in cookware design right now (and for the last few years) that puts a decorative metal racing stripe through the handle of the pan or kettle; it's fairly endemic. My not-at-all-researched theory is that (1) it originates with KitchenAid and (2) is an effort to semiotically suggest a visible knife tang and therefore desirability. (Full tang knives are longer lasting and higher quality because they're a single piece of metal their full length, which means there isn't a possibility of a literal weak link where the knife could break when you apply cutting force. This quality is not magically transferred to a visibly bolted-on panhandle.)

It's the worst. It's worse than a metal handle, because with a metal handle, I use a damp rag or potholder or other means of hand protection. With these metal tang idiocies, I see black thermal rubber insulation, and it's not until my hand is around the thing and it shifts just so that searing aluminum reveals itself to my flesh.
rinue: (Yes Thanks)
I'm not a good housekeeper at the moment, a stance I took on principle. (That principle being: Triage.) However, in the spirit of spring cleaning, I have been vacuuming about 20 minutes a day, which means so far I have managed approximately 2/3 of the basement. It is easy to pick up where I left off, because you can see the line where I stopped vacuuming.
rinue: (Default)
Picked up a new lens yesterday, a Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX. I've had my eye on it for a while, but was skeptical because it's inexpensive (for a lens), around $200 new. One of those too good to be true deals where I mentally add "for $200" to every five-star review. Ciro and I finally made the trek over to New England Photo, the nearby one-room Nikon shop crammed with used cameras and odd bits of kit, because he's been asked to shoot a group portrait of Mom's choir and a 35 is the right lens for that. (Basically, it gives you some width, a little more than your naked eye, but is still flattering to most faces. It makes rooms seem more expansive than they are, but feels documentary.)* By coincidence, it was the proprietor's birthday. Also by coincidence, he's Armenian and was curious about Gandolfi's new organ symphony "Ascending Light," which we saw premiere last week. (It's excellent.)

Lens is sharp and fast (does well in low light), as promised. It's compact and seems rugged. The only downsides are (1) it's noisy when it shifts focus; you can hear and feel the metal moving against itself, and (2) it vignettes a little (goes black at the corners). That's hard to avoid once you start to get wide unless you're buying thousand-dollar lenses (it takes layers of extremely precise glass to go wide and keep the picture plane flat all the way to the corners, an optics problem that can be summarized as round peg square hole), but I'm hoping it will still work cinematographically - I haven't tested yet, but I suspect the crop that takes video widescreen instead of 4:3 will disappear those corners whether I want it to or not.

There is still snow piled on the ground, but I've hauled the raspberry plant out of the garage and back up to the balcony. It's supposed to be cold hardy to -30, so it's probably safe. Probably.

Dyed eggs, then gold glazed them so they look dragon. Listened to the Moulin Rouge soundtrack while so doing; seemed sufficently color-saturated.


* I use the Nikon D800 body, so my lens measurements are "true". The 35 lens on a digital body with a smaller sensor would give the range of about what a 50 does on my camera or a film camera.
rinue: (Default)
I've been in a three-month struggle with my insurance company (where "with" both means that they are my opponent and that they are battling alongside me) where a database typo has convinced their computer that back in July I had the exact same appointment twice, on the 23rd and 28th (you see immediately how easily a 3 turns into an 8 or vice versa), paid by the same exact check. Since then, other payments have been bouncing (but only from 2014; 2015 is of course a clean slate). Nobody seems to have the authority to remove the obviously wrong double entry. So I check in about every month, they try a new way of deleting it they're sure will work, and then we wait a month to see if that processes correctly. Which it doesn't.

The conversation each month takes about half an hour as I bring somebody up to speed, and I have a little log book with a bunch of dates, names, check numbers, times faxes were sent. Whoever I'm talking to normally makes one or two forays to explain why probably this is all reasonable, because surely that one typo couldn't be blocking these other payments, and I say "no" extremely firmly several times. Then we are all on the same page again and I am apologized to profusely.

Because of who I am, I am also (in my mind but not in my logbook) tracking the amount of time I spend on these calls to figure out my own hourly rate to reclaim this money, although this is obviously work I would do for nothing because it is my patriotic duty in a capitalist society to make sure billing is orderly.

It is probably the most high-adrenaline thing I do each month. I have to drink a lot of coffee afterward to calm down (where "calm down" means create an alternative fiction for why I'm tense). It reminds me of the Tuttle/Buttle mistake in Brazil, but only if in the end Michael Palin turns out to be controlled by HAL.


Feb. 28th, 2015 12:22 pm
rinue: (Default)
Have returned from New Mexico, where my only regret is that I did not drink all the horchata and eat all the green chile.

I partook of tamales and smooth French absinthe, and stood on or by many large rocks.
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