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11 posts from February 2006

February 28, 2006

Catz [Updated!]

Those of you who aren't particularly cat lovers should know that there is a slightly sadistic strain of cat-lover -- to which group I belong -- that delights in the cuteness of mild cat torture, like scotch tape on the feet, or firmly gripping a cat's tail in such a way that he doesn't really notice ... unless he tries to go away. On that note ...

I need some amusement after this sad weekend, so, as promised, here are some cat pictures via boing boing.

This artist, Louis Wain, became schizophrenic at age 57, whereupon his kitties became increasingly abstracted. A student studied his art for a look at how schizophrenia might make the real world more abstract.

Those of us with cats know it's not the schizophrenia that did it.

Also here's this video from Japanese tv of a cat that suckles on women's breasts. It's not creepy that the cat does this -- cats know what nipples are and not inhibited about getting a little nippy comfort. What's creepy is that they're letting it.

Finally, some 18th century dude invented a cat piano to amuse a bored monarch. Yes, there were differently pitched kitties who got spiked when a key was depressed, therefore meowing. (Wow, who ever thought I'd write "therefore meowing", ever? I should make sure that phrase is in everything I write from now on.)

*******
UPDATE!

Jose Marquez, being a dog owner and much, much crueler than I, sent me this unimaginably cruel website full of videos of people scaring their cats. It's really, really not okay folks. *giggle*.

February 27, 2006

Octavia Butler

Octavia Butler died on Saturday.

As a reader, you get many, many authors who dazzle and challenge you, who turn you on, who piss you off, or make you think, or reveal to you what a book can be. But if you're a writer, you only get one author who turns you out. It's not mystical; it's a function of timing. At that moment when your metaphorical pen is poised, and the world is about to come into focus for you and begin emitting stories, there will be one author who shows up, smiles at you, and opens the gates.

My friend Russell turned me on to Octavia Butler in early 2001. I had been working in the Asian American arts community for a couple of years and I guess he thought it would behoove me to get another view of what an "ethnic" literature could be. I bought "Parable of the Sower". Two days later I went to the bookstore and bought every other book of hers I could find on the shelves. It took six months of searching local new and used bookstores, but I devoured her entire body of work (except her disowned novel "Survivor", of which there are now three used copies available on Amazon, for $50 - 85.)

Since I first read her, the surface upon which my knowledge and cultural understanding float has been disturbed. The books I read were debris floating across my consciousness: some, like icebergs, with more bottom. Octavia Butler dropped an anvil out of the sky and it did not float. See, everything I had read before her had been a trigger to that fugue state in which archetypes lived and had tea. Octavia didn't truck with fugue states. She reached a broad hand inside and dragged those fairy/robot/hybrid motherfuckers out into the cold light. They dropped straight down through my fears for the future, my bitter, narrow-browed suspicions about the present. They collected on the sea floor, a junkyard, an indication of where the weight is.

For six months, it was raining anvils. When I was done, I sat down and wrote my first science fiction story. It was melodramatic, overblown, clichéd, presumptuous, smug, silly, and pulpy. But it was good. It had one toe on the ground.

See, we can't write an ethnic, a hybrid, a violent, a displacement, a scary story directly. There are too many Thanksgiving tales, and immigrant stories, and freedom stories. There are too many food stories, and wise grandparents, and mafiosi. There's too much rising up, and falling into degradation. There are too many ruts of structure for us to fall into that channel us away from the story we started trying to tell. Too many well-worn channels that pervert our stories into something comforting, confirming, conservative. You cannot write the story you are writing. Octavia's time-travelers and aliens and demons and vampires are not symbols for us, or representatives. They are us, with the bullshit pared away. Her fabulism is the most direct speech.

I only really met her once (and she was kind and gentle and very, very smart, and she invited me and my friend into her house, and gave us books and a little of her company.) But she was my mentor, my model and my muse. She made writers real to me, she made writing real to me. She performed a duty for me that all apprentice writers have to have performed for them: the opener of floodgates. She was mine, I only get one, and she's gone.

It kills me that she lived such a lonely life -- such a solitary one -- in which the difference to other people between "lonely" and "solitary" is perhaps dignity and perhaps product, but the difference to yourself is essentially nil. It's nothing like pity or sympathy; it kills me because my novel I'm working on -- at once the most, and least worthwhile thing I've ever spent time on -- points ahead to a selfish, internal, solitary life, with no promise of any rewards beyond those of merely being able to write. There's no promise that I'll have any of her power, any of that iron weight to balance out the self-absorption and distance my life is shaping up to be. How did she do it? Was it all compromise? Was it worth it to her? And who will hold down the ground now?

February 26, 2006

/'bläg/

Blog. Blogger. Bloggy. Bloggage. Bloggery. Blogginess. Blogster. Reblog. Blogissimo. Blogational. Unblog. Exblog. Bloggerino. Blogalicious. Blogtastic. Entblog. Deblog. Exblogiate. Enblogify. Irreblogiable. Neobloggerism. Blogian. Blogese. Laissez Blog. Conblogivist. Blogic. Blogocon. Blogocrat. Blogicks. Blogesse Oblige. Bloggercallafragilisticbloggyalladocious. Blogocracy. Blogix. Blogology. Blogogon. Emblog. Bloggenfreude. Post-blogeralist. Bloggerally. Blogina. Iceblog. Blogginest. Asta la Bloga. Blogitary Industrial Complex. Blogational. Intelligent Deblog. Be-blog. Blogorithm. Ideoblog. Blogworthy. Blog-hard. Reblogative. Blogmatic. Blogiferous. Retroblogging. Blogn't. Blogged. Iblogoclast. Blogosexual. Blogma. Blogshead. Bloggerheads. Bloggish. Bloge. Blogsome. Blogiful. Doubleplusunblog. Interblogensional. Blog, Blogger, Bloggest. Superlablog. Blogess. Blogurt. Blogasm. Bloggenproof. Blogarian. Bloggerjack. Blogolence. Blogulence. Diarrhblogia. Blogerator. Overenblogiasm. Blogshot. Blogline. Blogsel. Blogissa. Orthoblogsy. Lap-blog. Blogstream. Microblogm. Blogos. Bl'g. Blogetic. Bloglet. Blogwards. Blognosis. Blogged-down. Blog-dancing. Blogomy. Blogsen. Blogsucker. Ablog. Naviblog. Blogulous. Blog Justice. Egg-Blog. Blog-of-war. Bloglodyte. Blog Humana. Hors D'Blogs. Blogiful. Pettiblog. Blogicide. Expatriblog. Perblogsion. Post-bloggum Depression. Postbloggial. Bloggibility. Blogitron. Blogular. Reblognik. Blogantor. Blogsor. Blogtegé. Blogilla. Hypoblogia. Hyperblogic. Blogtaw. Blogiolanus. Blogis. Blogworm. Bloggle. Bloghter. Blogist. Blogeios. Bloggetariat. Idée Blog. Inblogify. Blogulet. Blogade. Blogshed. Blogthirsty. Blogless. Blogend. Blog Célébre. Blogasoid. Bloggerize. Caterblog. Blogtionary. Blogalier. Blogalry. Lord of the Blogs. Blogament. Blogeat. In Bloggo Veritas. Blogway. Eublogious. Blogony. Carblogcle. Great-grandblogger. Step-blog. Ablogted. Synesblogia. Blogeroids. Blogtistic. Chiarablogo. Imbloge. Blogs on, Blogs off. Barbaric Blop. Blog-knell. Blogito. Blog I said blog I will blog.

February 24, 2006

Copy, right?

I'm still picking this whole issue apart. I don't like deciding abstract ideals according to reality (what's the point of being abstract if you're constantly referred to reality?) but I find this pretty compelling:

It is right that what’s new and unique in a writer’s work be recognized as peculiarly their own. That’s fine. But copyright is not a statement of inalienable natural right. It’s a social convention, intended to reward (and thus encourage) writers and publishers to produce more books. To pervert it into a claim of perpetual ownership, especially when that claim is being forwarded by large entertainment conglomerates, is the moral equivalent of driving a fence around the commons.

Also compelling is the simple, real fact that most of your intellectual property isn't gonna net you the price of a good meal, so why be dumb about it?

Via Making Light, of course.

February 23, 2006

Today

Today is her birthday ay ...
They're smoookin' ceeegarrrs ...

Borg Eyes

I am Borg. No, I really am.

Translation for cave-dwellers: I'm talking about the pathologically aggressive alien species on my favorite Star Trek shows, i.e. "Next Generation", "Deep Space Nine", and "Voyager". (The original, Borg-less series is only good if you were watching it back then, or if you didn't get the memo about the death of irony; and "Enterprise" can suck my ass.) Aside from the lovely sci-fi-iness (and the increasingly good writing and characterization in each show as it went into later seasons), my main fascination with NextGen Trek was its lovely obsessions with multiraciality, as expressable in aliens, robots, and especially mixemup, mixemup cyborgs.

The Borg, did not reproduce, they grew their numbers by assimilating other species. Assimilation involved penetrating the victim's body with knuckle-tubes to the neck (all rape-y and vampiric and knuckle-sandwichy like that) to implant/infuse them with little bitty nanobots. The 'bots built cybernetic implants in the body, which then came bursting all metal-plantlike and horrifying out of the host's skin, reinforcing, rewiring, or just plain replacing the original organs. The brain was hooked up to a galaxy-wide, wifi internet system -- a hive mind -- and the host put into a "maturation" chamber so that his/her/its psyche could be brought to heel through mental enculturation. In return, each new assimilated species' brains were mined for information about their indigenous culture and ideas, and these added to the consciousness -- and techno-cultural arsenal -- of the collective.

Okay, from that description alone you can see how much symbolism and analogy to imperialism, colonialism, multiculturalism, totalitarianism, political correctness, cultural appropriation, sex, rape, blah, blah, blah can be mined in the Borg episodes. The Borg were wildly popular on the show from the time they first appeared in the second season (spring 1989) until suck-my-ass "Enterprise" ended last year-ish, and it's no coincidence that the rise of their popularity coincided with the end of the cold war, and the sudden American need for a new enemy. The Borg tapped into a number of terrifying archetypes, recalled a 500-year history of global expansionism, and shrewdly extrapolated the less desirable implications of all of our New Technology. Plus, they added their name (now a synonym for "fascist automaton") and the phrase "resistance is futile" to our mainstream pop vocabulary.

The concept of the Borg was already satisfyingly complex and, as early nineties history moved on, the show's relationship with the Borg grew more complex. Inevitably, reclaimed Borg characters began to appear, providing frameworks for discussions about: free will and cultural choice (Hugh), the corruption of diplomatic and military life (Locutus), and most tellingly, the painful conflicting values of bi-nationality (Seven of Nine). It's no coincidence that of all the multi-species (i.e. multiracial) characters on Star Trek (Spock, Worf, Data, Alexander, Sisko, Dax, B'Elanna), I identified the most with Seven of Nine. First of all, she was hott. But she, of all the culturally conflicted mixies on Star Trek, was the only one whose struggles did not come with a black and white tagline. She chose, moment by moment, which set of values (and hardware) she would use for which situation; her choices were often counterintuitive to the average viewer. And, as she grew more "human", she reclaimed her Borg virtues more and more articulately and confidently.

In Seven of Nine, culture was manifested physically in her implants, but it was also just culture. That was probably the best thing about the Borg, in its way: how much their cybernetic enhancements could suggest -- and how friggin' cool they looked. Cool and cold, both. They were the one truly frightening visual element in all the NG Treks, a hybrid of zombies, robots, vampire bats and storm troopers. And yet, they were always being talked about -- in voices of horror and fear and disgust -- using the language of virtue and superiority: they could "adapt" and "assimilate", their exoskeletons made them stronger and their inner computers made them smarter and faster. Plus, they had personal energy shielding. But their best visual was their simplest: they had one human eye, and one red laser beam, usually replacing the right eye. When they turned toward the camera at a certain angle, the laser hit the camera-eye in such a way that the whole screen lit up red for a moment. They were mindless drones until you annoyed them, then they turned and pinned you with their laser beam. That's just cool.

I can do that.

Well, not really, but I can do something close to that. See, about ten years ago I was diagnosed with cataracts, a progressive condition where your natural lenses, located behind the cornea, cloud up. Eventually the cloudiness is such that you can't see through it anymore. There's no cure, so what they do is wait until it gets really bad, and then remove your natural lenses, replacing them with plastic implants. That's right implants. Although only by the stretchiest stretch can my lenses be considered mechanical, you can still say that some of my organs have been replaced with technology. Mm hmm. I'm a cyborg.

And, although it sounds like it should be, this ... enhancement is not invisible. When the light strikes me just so -- usually when it's sort of dark and there's a strong light source coming at me from the side -- my plastic lenses light up. So if you're looking at the right moment, you'll see my pupils glowing white. To you it looks like ghostly cats' eyes. To me it looks like being zapped by an albino Borg. Since the operation six years ago, I've grown used to people stopping, looking at me more closely, and going, "What is that? That is so cool!"

But that's misleading, that I've grown used to it only in the last six years. I've been used to it much longer, because all my life, people (even people who know me quite well) have been stopping me suddenly and looking intently into my eyes and saying things like "Your eyes are blue. That's so cool!" or "Your eyes are green. I never noticed before!" Yeah, no, my irises aren't Borg. And the moment of revelation usually has something to do with the light, and the angle at which it's striking my eyes. My irises, like many, many others', are made up of concentric bands of three or four different colors, which means that the light, the room's walls, the shirt I'm wearing, my mood, the drugs I've taken, etc. etc. will affect which color dominates at any given moment, and how it looks to a viewer. (Most of the time they just look dark, though, so don't get all excited.)

The laser-eye moment is the one in which you begin notice something strange about somebody, and then somebody turns towards you and zings you with their full-on "strangeness". But strangeness, or coolness, is all about context: there should be an eye there, not a laser! pupils are black! yours shouldn't be reflecting like a cat's! you're Asian-y, your eyes shouldn't be blue! The power (and popularity) of the Borg culture on Star Trek lay in the delightful shock they produced every time they appeared on screen. As we grew used to this shock, the show produced ever greater shocks: Cubes, Spheres and lollipops! Human, Klingon and Romulan Borg! Jean-Luc Picard Borgified! Baby Borg! I was a teenaged Borg! A hot Borgy blonde with big boobs! Yeah, 'cause once you've invented a sufficiently complex analogy for human hybridity, you'll find that hybridity never ceases to surprise you. Half-breeds are never what you think, when you think it, and it's a narrative just getting through the day with them.

I got one of my Borg eyes laser adjusted at the doc's yesterday, and yes, the laser was red. I was laser-zapped in one eye for ten straight minutes, so half my vision was red red redred red red redredred red, while the other half was normal. And then for an hour afterward I was seeing blue in the one eye. But this morning, just in time for my birthday, I can see again. I can see! Having actual hardware in my face is still exceedingly creepy, but much cooler than not having it and being blind. In fact, the tiny facial manifestation of my cyborg self is rather more cool than not. It gives me something to talk about, something that I didn't much have a choice about (unless I chose to go blind) but something that felt like a choice. I didn't choose the irises, or any of the physical and cultural shit around them, and I can claim and reclaim and boost and celebrate all I want ... at the end of the day, I didn't choose, and I don't get to control when people lean in and notice, hey! you're even more different than I thought!

I chose to get the implants. And as I get older and more pieces fall off, I'll choose more hardware, more and more hybridity -- I'm already looking forward to the next add-on -- and I'll be ahead of the game. I can already assimilate better than you. And with hardware I get to choose what you see. Hardware's where it's at. All the rest is just organics.

February 22, 2006

Tip Jar

Another new feature is that I've added a tip jar to the upper left. This means you can give me munny!

Unless otherwise specified (yes, you can say that you want me to have the munny!), tips to the SeeLight Tip Jar will go to the Carl Brandon Society, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the production of and audience for speculative fiction.

I'm a member of the CBS steering committee. You can read more about CBS here.

Our programs currently include two annual literary awards, and two annual writing workshop scholarships.

ps. I'm actually posting this on November 18, 2007, but I have to put it on the blog's first page for stupid administrative reasons.

February 21, 2006

Welcome Week

Okay, since this is my first week of personal bloggery, I'm making it an all-welcome-week-post-fest. I don't know what that means, except that I'll attempt to provide typical website-style explanatory content. This starts below, with an FAQ.

Frequently Asked Questions

How tall are you?

This tall. If you would like actual numbers, you can upgrade to an executive account for just $195.95 per month (limited time offer)! Minimum membership period one year. Standard nondisclosure agreements apply. Restrictions vary by region and mood. You may be eligible for a discount if you are: my doctor, my tailor, my mother, a very hot man who wants to buy me a pretty dress, the hangglider pilot on my tandem flight who has to make sure we both stay in the air.


I only ask because I [have a (friend/cousin/boyfriend's other woman/neighbor)] [met a (woman/girl/anthropomorphic object) the other day] who is [number here] feet [exaggerated number here] inches tall!

I have no response to that because I sincerely don't give a fuck.


How did you get so tall?

I grew.


Where are you from?

San Francisco.


Oh, you grew up here?

No.


Um ... I mean, what's your nationality?

American.


No, I mean what's your ethnic background?

I don't feel like telling you today. Now, examine why you are insulted.


You don't need to be ashamed of your height/your ethnicity. It's beautiful!

You don't need to be ashamed of your ears. Despite what everyone says, that shape and size is beautiful! Just ignore what everyone says! Oh, you don't know what everyone says? Well, just ignore it! You don't need to be ashamed! Your ears are exotic and striking and beautiful! Yay your ears!


And what do you do?

Field intrusive questions from strangers, passive aggression from women, and aggressive aggression from men. I also surf sometimes.


No, I meant what do you do for a living?

That's such a peculiar phrase "do for a living", don't you think? What I do to live is breathe, then drink water, then eat, then wear clothes ... but on a more metaphysical level, what I do to live is think about myself, other people, the world, and our place and position and structure relative to one another. Then I express my thoughts in various ways. Then I attempt to enact some sort of ethical performance (called "life") based upon these thoughts. And I sing karaoke sometimes.


What is/are your karaoke song/s?

"Smooth Operator", and "Dreams" (by Fleetwood Mac). Also, the art director at Hyphen magazine has arbitrarily assigned "Hopelessly Devoted to You" to me. I don't remember why.


What are your favorite books/authors?

If I paint my naked breasts with woad and do an hour-long shimmy over your head to the song stylings of David Hasselhof, will you promise never, ever to ask anyone that question ever again, ever?


What are your favorite movies?

"The Sum of All Fears", "Chronicles of Riddick", "Castaway", "The Net", "Brokedown Palace", "Escape from Witch Mountain", "The Man With the Golden Gun" ... that's all I can think of right now. Oh, and "Parenthood".


What are you like?

Bullshit! Nobody asks that! Nobody ever asks that!


I'm asking now: What are you like?

I'm a bitch.

February 20, 2006

Day Two of Bloggery

... whistle ... *looks around* ...

February 19, 2006

Welcome! and justifications

How scary. My own blog.

Up until this point, I've been hiding behind meaningful, pointful group blogs that are about something. And, of course, sharing the responsibility with other people if it all sucks. This has protected me from the (self) accusation of (further) self-absorption --- from the implication of auto-diddling.

It occurs to me, though, that there's a certain virtue in taking responsibility for your diddly ... and taking it off the more public airwaves of community magazines like Hyphen (for the Asian American hipsters) and Other (for the noncategorizable San Francisco geek-hipsters). I also need to stop imposing off-topic posts onto on-topic blogs. Ya know?

All by way of saying, "Welcome to my new personal blog! I hope you like it!" and "!"

I'm giving myself an out, of course. I'm committed to blogging here between now (my birthday week) and this time next year. If the blog is boring or stupid or I hate it (or any combo thereof), then I reserve the right to wipe it off the face of the Earthosphere. Yeah.

So far, what I will blog about remains somewhat underdefined in my nebulous little big head. Part of it will be about writing ... okay, a lot of it will be about writing. A lot of it will be about terror, i.e. mine, at having to write and not knowing what I'm doing with my life (which is what this year is going to be about.) Undoubtedly there will be some cultural commentary and pseudo-poltical ranting. I will definitely write about racial stuff and gender stuff and probably post pictures of my cat. I will react to books and movies and art and stuff I find on the web. So far, so blog. I may also, at some point, rename the blog "SeeLightienne" and post about fucking initialed power brokers, but don't hold your breath.

I also hope to blog no less than every two or three days. That's "hope", not "promise". See how that works? I promise (myself) to blog once a week at least. Sigh. First posting and the commitmentphobia comes out.

Well, welcome aboard! Let the steward know if you need more towels and barf bags. See you on the Lido Deck.

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