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16 posts from May 2009

May 29, 2009

Reading Update

It's been a while since I've done a reading update, because it's been awhile since I've done any reading. But I'm quickly reading through the YA I bought for my niece, so I can have it done before I give it to her (in a day or two.)

The Borribles by Michael de Larrabeiti
Gifts by Ursula Le Guin
Voices by Ursula Le Guin
Powers by Ursula Le Guin
The Night Wanderer by Drew Hayden Taylor

I've heard from a few sources about the Borrible Trilogy but couldn't remember where ... until I read the first one. Then I realized it was probably from a discussion of China MiƩville's influences: you can totally tell that it is. I enjoyed it, but there were problems. The sheer violence of the fight with the Rumbles was pretty offputting. The author was careful to make the Rumbles into large rats that tasted like hay ... both of which put them beyond human respect. But they're still sentient beings whom the Borribles mowed down like, well, hay. Also, if they're that easy to kill (ten Borribles killing hundreds of them with only one casualty) then they're clearly no threat to the Borribles.

Also, the gender dynamic here was pretty annoying. Yes, I know it was written in the seventies, and all the YA of the time followed traditional gender roles. But still: is there any reason to read something with such regressive gender roles if it isn't fantastic in other ways? Out of the ten Boribbles on the Great Rumble Hunt, two are girls. They, of course, are only allowed to fight female Rumbles, and once their female targets are dispatched, they pretty much sit back and allow the male Borribles to save them ... even though one of them is identified as the best shot of all of them.

It's a huge missed opportunity: children who, through being abandoned or ill-treated, become pointy-eared Borribles and remain childlike and wild for eternity--or until their ears are clipped--are a great opportunity to take a new look at gender roles. Because, although there are gender differences before adolescence of course, they're not nearly as pronounced. The difference in strength, speed, agility, and endurance between pre-pubescent boys and girls is nowhere near as great as between men and women ... and in many cases it's nonexistent. Since the Borribles are kept in a prepubescent state forever, they're frozen at that last moment where there's some physical parity between male and female. Differences will be much more nurtured than natured. So it's really too bad the author was too blind to play with these dynamics a bit, but we're all a product of our times, I suppose.

I have the whole trilogy, but don't know if I'll be interested enough to continue reading them.

The Western Shore trilogy by Le Guin was a huge disappointment. It's terribly competently written--she's been writing too long not to know how to do it in her sleep--the stories are too well structured not to demand to be read completely, and the world-building is perfect. But the urgency and excitement of her earlier books is long gone. And ... how do I put this? ... her politics have taken a severe dive.

Interestingly, these three books mirror in structure the original Earthsea trilogy: a young man comes of age, a young woman comes of age aided by the man who was the young man in the first book, and then another young man comes of age in the shadow of the older man who was the young man in the first book. But in the first and third books of this series, unlike in the first and third books of Earthsea, women's roles in this world are studied ... only women have no opportunities to exercise any leadership or break out of their constraints.

It's weird how almost every gender stereotype haunts these books. In Gifts, the girl's talent (women's talent) is to call animals, a sort of Earth Mother type of power. The man's power is to destroy things from the inside, a process that is depicted as unnatural. The hero's power is words and "making" and knowledge, power brought to him by his mother, but that she doesn't share, and that the girl can barely understand, much less share. In Voices, an invading culture imposes its gender dynamics on a subjugated culture, resulting in women being enslaved, raped, or killed if seen out on the streets. The invading culture is clearly modeled on nomadic Semitic cultures; their monotheistic religion clearly modeled on the monotheism of our own deserty Middle East. The subjugated women hate being treated like this, but don't actually complain about their straitened roles ... only about the fact that their entire nation is enslaved by another culture.

In Powers, women and girls are abducted, enslaved, used for breeding, prostituted, raped, and murdered ... and the purpose of all of this in the book is the boy's learning curve. No girls or women escape their roles here, or even try to or seem to want to. In the end, the hero even saves a young girl from forced prostitution; she is unable to save herself.

I'm really disappointed to see that the woman who laid a lot of the groundwork for questioning gender roles--such that my generation of writers could and can create worlds in which women have equal roles and female characters who won't settle for less--has herself reverted to roles similar to those in the Borribles.

SPOILAGE FOLLOWS: The Night Wanderer is a Native vampire story from Canada. So far, so good. It takes place on an Ojibwa rez in ... Ontario? ... where an ordinary sixteen year old girl is experiencing the usual growing pains. Her father, to earn some extra money, takes in a boarder. He turns out to be a 350-year-old Ojibwa vampire, returning to his home for the first time since he left with fur traders to see the great world and was saved from measles in France by a curious vampire. The native vamp is bored with life and returning home to end it all.

He's not really the point of the story, though. This is very much a realistic story of life on the rez, with a single novum thrown in. The vamp is there to keep the girl from killing herself during her long, dark night of the soul ... a job that, in this world, any sympathetic adult who isn't her family could have done. The vamp, while fun, is underutilized. No real argument is made in the book for his inclusion; he could just as easily have been a recovering rapist or child molester, if we really needed someone that dangerous ... only that would have made the book a lot more serious. I guess the point of the vamp is that it injects danger into the book while keep it lighthearted. Now that I think about it, that's fucked up.

While well-written, though, the danger--either from the vamp or from the girl's own self-destructive impulses--is never felt. The girl's character, Tiffany, comes alive, but she never really feels depressed or suicidal, and the climax at the end doesn't feel climactic. That was probably helped by the fact that the final confrontation between girl and vamp happens three times. She runs away from him--rather stupidly, in fact, from both a narrative and a realistic standpoint--three times, and three times he catches up with her and talks to her. There's no need for all of that except to break up the dialogue with action.

But I have to say, it was a smooth read, and very enjoyable.

May 25, 2009

atlas(t) Now On Twitter!

Just created a twitter feed for my mapping blog atlas(t). It's at atlastweet.

May 19, 2009

Argh

Again, no post yesterday or today. I was surprised by how exhausting standing on your feet for ten hours was (duh!) Anyway, I am now in full swing of prep to go to WisCon (and then to Europe for two weeks afterwards) so I don't have the time or brainspace to continue posting on my topic area for the next couple of days. We'll see what I get done after that. Sorry!

May 17, 2009

Memorial Break

Taking a break today to help out at Al Robles' memorial.

Will start up again tomorrow by looking at blog writing that analyzes and shapes racial discourse.

May 16, 2009

Outrage, Pullback, Punishment: The Structure of One Common Antiracist Post

ETA: Please note! This is my personal blog and, although I draw on my experience with the organizations I work for, I write on this blog as a private citizen, and not as a representative of any organization! In these posts it's especially important to remember that I'm not speaking for the Carl Brandon Society, but only for myself.

So, to kick off my out-loud consideration of if and how to "break up" with the antiracist blogosphere ...

I'm going to start with organizing some observations about how racism is talked about on the POC antiracist blogs I've been reading for the past six years and laying out the basic structure of one type of typical antiracist post.

First, most POC A/R blogs rarely take the bull by the horns, that is to say, they rarely take the initiative in introducing topics of discussion and setting the terms for the discussion. Instead, most POC A/R blogs are reactive, that is, they keep watch on what is happening in the world and especially in the media, and respond to incidents or discussions initiated by people out in the world, or by the media.

The way this works is what I call "Outrage, Pullback, Punishment" (and yes, it is a plus that it compresses to "OPP"). How it works is as follows:

Outrage: something racist happens in the world. A blogger or group of bloggers pick up on it. They note it in their blogs and express outrage at it. The item gets passed on from blog to blog.

Pullback: of the bloggers who post on this topic, less than half will express anything other than outrage. But a subset of these bloggers will spend a little time pulling back from the outrage to contextualize this incident of racism and explain why it's a problem. They will go into the history of these types of incidents, they'll go into academic theories of X, they'll give talking points on why this sort of thing is bad for people of color, bad for justice, and bad for the world in general.

Punishment: of the bloggers who pull back and contextualize, an even smaller subset will propose or initiate action. This action is dual: it proposes advocacy of a particular view, action (usually apology and some sort of remediation), and threatens punishment if this action isn't taken up immediately. I call this step "punishment" because punishment is advocated at two places: often the remedial action is punishment of the original offender (as in asking a radio station to fire a racist DJ), and the action threatened if this remedy isn't taken up is usually a punishment as well (official complaint up the chain of command, formal boycott, or bad publicity, and the hanging of the "racist" label on the totality of the offenders.) The action is then picked up by the other bloggers and passed around.

Lest anyone think I'm trying to hurl accusations from a glass house, I'll give an example from my own oeuvre. (I'm actually critiquing all of POC antiracist blogging, including my own, which is part of the whole and speaks the same language.) The recent example is the Avatar casting controversy:

You'll notice here that the structure not only makes the information easy to understand and assimilate, but it also makes the basic conveyance of the information easy to adapt to each blog. Each new blogger who picks the story up simply gives a spin to the same blog post and passes it on.

This structure of communication has been effective in the past for specific purposes. The best example would be the Jena 6 controversy in 2007 where a group of black teenagers were unfairly prosecuted for an assault on a white teenager that was provoked by a series of racist incidents. Originally ignored by the mainstream media, outrage in the POC blogosphere contributed heavily to the story being picked up nationally. Additionally, the "punishment" phase of this story advocated action that was less punitive and more justice-oriented, and resulted in large demonstrations in Jena and all over the country, that have succeeded in bringing about a more just resolution for many of the defendants than would have happened otherwise. Here's a post from the Angry Black Woman which demonstrates OPP and links to other posts you can check out as well.

An earlier example was the Abercrombie and Fitch controversy (2002/2004), which involved first a series of t-shirts with racist images of Asians on them, then a lawsuit (later settled) that alleged that A&F gave visible jobs to white employees and restricted POC to the stock rooms. The online campaign against the t-shirts -- organized with a speed that surprised even participants -- led to real-world protest outside the stores, which in turn caused the company to withdraw the shirt and issue an apology. The t-shirt protest was actually organized via email, list-servs, and discussion boards, more than via blogs. But if you look at the discussion boards link, you'll see one of the origins of OPP structure. The continuing online scrutiny of A&F's racial attitude helped keep pressure on them that contributed to the favorable settlement of the lawsuit.

As has been rightly said since the Jena 6 protests, online social networking has created a world in which effective protest can be organized quickly and nationally to address even local injustices. OPP is a great launching point for these kinds of effective protests: OPP informs and arouses a sense of outrage very quickly, and creates a sort of information tree or hierarchy which people can follow back to a source of organization if they wish to get involved. People are no longer dependent on being reached by recruiters, they can recruit themselves to act. And POC communities, if they know how to leverage the hinges of the Tipping Point, can control to a great extent the spread of their mobilization effort.

This structure of communication also makes it easy for the mainstream media to pick up on POC responses to national incidents. Reporters don't have to dig through a lot of discussion and process its implications to know what POC bloggers are thinking. They just aggregate the most popular bloggers and do a keyword search for the controversy du jour, and bingo, insta-quote. So in this way, POC can come closer to the mainstream media.

All this is great. But.

The negative result of this is that POC A/R blogs tend to accept, without thought or discussion, that the white-dominated media and mainstream culture gets to initiate action and discussion, and the POC A/R online media's role is merely to respond to this discourse, and not to control it or be a partner in shaping it.

This is fine when an injustice happens -- as in Jena -- and must be addressed quickly. These sorts of things happen all the time, so having a structure in place to deal with these things -- to remedy actual injustices as they happen -- is important. But it does not move the discourse on race forward. It unconsciously takes for granted that POC have no initiative in the world. In the call and response of the mainstream media discourse, POC have only a response, not a call. And as we all know, whoever calls, rules.

I say _________, you say "racist"

Mr. Patel!
Racist!
Airbender!
Racist!

If you look back on any effective movement of the 20th century (suffrage, civil rights, Vietnam) their communication structure all had these things in common:

  1. A clear, articulated overall goal towards which all participants were willing to work for years.
  2. A set, but evolving discourse and vocabulary, which the movement controlled.
  3. Media: alternative media organs (papers and magazines) dedicated to promoting this message and discourse; and, over time, allies in the mainstream media dedicated to promoting this message and discourse.
  4. The necessity of responding deliberately and thoughtfully, owing to the lack of instantaneous communications technology. Because everything written was printed and had to be edited and proofread, everything broadcast had to be accepted by media corporations and could be heavily controlled, the message and discourse were very polished, thoughtful, respectful, and carefully tailored to appeal to listeners who may have held a differing opinion.

If you think about it, OPP simply cannot exist in a movement in which the above conditions obtain. Chaos and Freedom are the twin faces of the same internet beast. The viral responsiveness and speed of protests like Jena 6 and A&F owes to the Freedom face. The lack of a goal, a message, a discourse, and deliberate or thoughtful response owes to the Chaos face. Although there's more than one argument to be made here, I would contend that the POC Antiracist blogosphere is not a movement, it is merely a community.

As such, it can facilitate the creation of temporary movements (like the Jena 6 protest movement), but it cannot change, or even affect, the national discourse on race. All it can do is respond to it.

In my next post, I'm going to talk about initiatives that do shape, or attempt to shape, national discourse on race, and how these work together with online OPP.

May 15, 2009

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: How To Handle Antiracist POC Communities

ETA: Please note! This is my personal blog and, although I draw on my experience with the organizations I work for, I write on this blog as a private citizen, and not as a representative of any organization! In these posts it's especially important to remember that I'm not speaking for the Carl Brandon Society, but only for myself.

WisCon starts in a week, and, as a result of RaceFail and the more recent resurgence of controversy around race, I've been thinking a lot about the issue of how antiracist action is handled on the internet. I'm going to spend the next week on a series of posts about my thoughts on this topic. I need to clear my head and -- not knowing what to expect from WisCon this year -- prepare my thoughts for whatever comes.

(One quick caveat here: I despaired years ago of getting through to ignorant, privileged whites on the internet through argument, and haven't engaged in that sort of argument for a long time: because it kills me, and because it doesn't seem to do much good. The only thing that works, in my experience, is providing copious resources that someone, who wants to seek and understand, can find and use in his/her own way, so that they can choose to prepare themselves to join a discourse, rather than argue their way into knowledge.

So if I seem to be only criticizing the antiracist POC side here, it's because I am. No amount of tantrums, unprofessionalism, and bad behavior from the privileged side surprises me anymore, and I find it pointless to even criticize it. At the latest, after last year's Rachel-Moss-WisConFail, and the conscious delight privileged white males (and females) took in baiting feminists, people of color, differently abled, and transgendered people, I have refused to engage with such perspectives, which I consider a continuum. I only now engage with "our" responses to such perspectives, or more accurately, with a broader-based strategy to combat ignorance and prejudice in our media and in our society. Doubtless RaceFail blame falls much more heavily on the side of baiters and privileged idiots. But they can't bait those who won't be baited. They can't enrage those who won't be enraged.)

Back in February, around the time I thought that RaceFail was going to die down, I started writing a series of posts on this topic. But RaceFail didn't die down then, nor for another couple of months. The residue of a contentious and conflict-soaked election campaign, and of a devastating economic collapse, the impact of which we'll be unraveling for years, was like jetfuel to the usual flame. Whereas internet blowups usually only last a couple of weeks -- a flash flood -- the almost palpable panic and fear and weariness cracked open the levees we'd been ignoring for so long, and our little corner of the blogosphere was overwhelmed. What started as an initially salutary repeat of a discussion that had never quite been put to rest, soon turned into a community eating itself.

Not coincidentally, February was the time the Carl Brandon Society's Heritage Month book advocacy campaign kicked off. We'd chosen one recommended reading list in January -- immediately before RaceFail had started -- and were trying to put together a second list in February as the tone of the discussion got ugly. The difference was dramatic. In January our members were joyfully and actively participating, just like last year. By mid-February, our list-serv had fallen silent: everyone was too busy at work or in their lives to participate. For the first time since I joined the Carl Brandon Society Steering Committee, our members actually ignored direct requests for participation. And I have to say: I don't blame them one little bit.

Heartsick and anxiety-ridden over the tone the public discourse began to take on, I bowed out of the discussion and abandoned the posts I had started. I did save them, though, and, although I'm even more heart-sick and anxiety-ridden now, I have to talk this out, if only with myself. Essentially, I have to decide, in the next couple of weeks, if I'm going to "break up" with the antiracist blogosphere.

This is not the first time I've had to make such a decision. In the year 2000, I had to "break up" with the discussion list-servs I was on in 1998/99, that helped me learn and understand so much about my own identity and community, and that helped me formulate my own thinking about race and organizing and why these are important. Without those list-servs and those discussions, I could not have become an effective community organizer, teacher, and advocate. I would not have been able to articulate to myself or anyone else why building a community voice is essential to racial justice.

But the discussions on those list-servs stayed in one place and cycled around that place over and over again, like a ferris wheel. Staying in that discourse after I had completed a few cycles was not merely annoying, it actually militated against progressive action. It made me anxious and sick to my stomach, it made me angry, and -- whereas initially it had brought me closer to my fellow community members -- it began to drive a wedge between us, emphasizing small differences in opinion, and sucking energy and air away from broader-based action.

I thought I would miss it too much. I said I'd "take a break" for three months and then see if I could go back and take part in a more rational manner. What happened instead was that, within a few weeks, I had nearly forgotten about the list-servs, and had discovered a pocket of free hours that I could now dedicate to more real-world action.

But those were purely discussion list-servs; not only were they not intended for action, but calls for action and event announcements weren't allowed on those lists. Breaking up with the antracist POC blogosphere is a much more complex proposition, because it exists not just for discussion, but also for discourse, not just for expression of outrage, but also for action and organizing. And there are people in this community who are so geographically far away, I can't access them any other way.

So this consideration is not just a "in or out" proposition. Being on the CBS Steering Committee requires me to use online organizing and keep up with what's going on in the communities. Writing for Hyphen blog requires me to participate in POC bloggery. I'm not quitting these organizations, so the question is: how to tailor my participation in online POC antiracist action so as to curtail the negative influence of discussion loops, while keeping me in the loop?

This is what I'll be considering over the next few posts. I probably won't respond to comments until I'm through, since this is a longer thought process than usual, and I don't want to break it off or argue until I've gotten through it. Be advised that anything that smacks to me of attack (in comments) may well be deleted. (That's another tactic I'm going to be considering.)

May 13, 2009

Al Robles Memorial On Sunday

For those of you who knew -- or knew of -- Al Robles, and who are in the Bay Area, please come down to his memorial event this Sunday:

WHEN: Sunday, May 17; 12 - 5 PM

WHERE: SomArts Cultural Center, 934 Brannan Street (btw. 8th & 9th) in San Francisco

WHAT: A community memorial for poet and activist Al Robles. There will be readings, performances, and testimonials from folks from all eras of his life. Plus food and drink.

VOLUNTEERS: We'll need a lot of people to help out. If you'd like to volunteer, please contact me at claire at the domain of hyphenmagazine with a dot com.

May 12, 2009

White House Geekery

Obama_computer

I am so in love with deadbrowalking's Wild Unicorn Herd Check-in. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, read this first. As a response to one of Lois McMaster Bujold's more clueless statements -- that PoC didn't exist before the internet, essentially -- deadbrowalking called for PoC nerds, especially outside the US who were second or third generation nerds, to check in. The response has been astounding.

My eyes tear up every time I go there and see that the list has added another page. If you're a nerd of color, please go and check in!

In other news, I picked this up from the unicorn herd: Barack Obama is a nerd of color. (Okay, well, we knew the last part already.) But what does his using a Mac have to do with it? I thought real nerds used pimped out PCs.


May 11, 2009

Can We NOT Do Racefail Again, Please?

I'm sticking my head out of its hole here (please note: my head is NOT wearing its CBS hat) to make a plea ... and realizing that I'll probably either get ignored, or get my head bitten off. This plea goes out to my fellow active and activist PoC and white antiracist SF/F fans. Anyone who doesn't fit this description, please refrain from commenting below (I will probably delete you.)

Apparently, Patricia Wrede has written an alternate history YA in which American Indians/Native Americans simply never existed, replaced by magical mammoths. If you don't immediately see what's wrong with this, read this list of links. (I also surfed through from this post and found a buncha stuff that wasn't on the links post above.) The posts linked often link to further reading, so go knock yourself out surfing.

Okay. I, for one, think this list of posts offers a perfect summation of what the problem with Wrede's premise is. What I'm asking for now is for PoC and white antiracists to take a REALLY DEEP BREATH ... and to fail to have a massive, collective, monthslong comment thread freakout like the one that happened this January/February/March/April (a.k.a. RaceFail '09.)

I know you guys are tired of it. We all are. I know the ignorant and vicious attempts to block and derail discussion are making you crazy. But responding to them in comments didn't do much good a few months ago ... and I think it'll do even less good now that the clueless are still smarting from the pileups at various whitepeople blogs which caused everyone to freak out and f-lock and delete their blogs and out each other's real identities and and and ...

What good did any of that do? What good will it do to go there again? The best thing that came out of RaceFail was a list of good, thoughtful posts about cultural appropriation that we can point out to people who want to be educated. Unfortunately, as much as people during RaceFail were linking to these great posts, they were ALSO engaging in increasingly angry comment threads with flamers and trolls who weren't interested in learning anything, and wouldn't have learned anything even if they were BECAUSE THEY WERE ON THE DEFENSIVE, AS EVERYONE IS IN A COMMENTS THREAD BATTLE.

So my suggestion -- my plea -- is to avoid engaging in comment threads as much as possible. You can't argue someone out of their ignorance. You can only lead them to water and WALK AWAY, hoping they'll drink after you've gone. There are some links pileups starting already. Let's contribute to them, and then make some private pledges to simply link to the links posts in comments and NOT COMMENT FURTHER.

WisCon is a week and a half away. I DO NOT want to walk into WisCon wondering who has put themselves in the wrong now. I DO NOT want to have to navigate sudden, new schisms having to do with random ignorant comments-thread comments. We DO NOT have to use this opportunity to excavate every ignorant corner of our fellow SF/F fans' racial consciousness. Let's put the info out there and let them do what they want to with it.

(A suggestion: those of you planning your own blogpost about this, please consider closing comments, so that anyone who wants to respond cannot do so anonymously, but MUST respond by posting something on their own blog. This will cut down on a lot of opportunities for people to enrage you from the safety of anonymity. I'm leaving comments on this post open because I'm hoping we can discuss ways and means of NOT engaging in a RaceFail 1.5.)

*****

In other news, (putting my CBS hat on): the Carl Brandon Society is sponsoring a "Cultural Appropriation 101" class at Wiscon (Friday afternoon during The Gathering -- it will only take up part of the Gathering time, so you can still attend.) The class will be taught by Nisi Shawl, Victor Raymond (both CBS Steering Committee members) and Cabell Gathman.

This will be a SAFE SPACE for anyone who suspects they may be missing some of the basics to come to and learn and discuss, and ask the questions you're afraid to ask for fear of being jumped on. We strongly recommend that anyone who feels a little shaky in the basics, or who doesn't agree with what a lot of PoC are saying about cultural appropriation, come and attend this class BEFORE going into any panels on race or cultural appropriation. Forearmed is forewarned.

May 10, 2009

Blogfail Excuse

Yesterday's blogfail was NOT MY FAULT. I was nowhere near a computer between 9 AM and 11 PM, and you can imagine how much that 14-hour deprivation exhausted me. ;)

I was squiring Brian Castro around San Francisco, which was really fun. My inner tour guide got to come out to play, big time. I was probably having more fun than Brian. Then he read at Writers With Drinks (second Saturdays, for anyone who comes to the Bay Area, it's not to be missed) and I drove him straight to the airport. Well, not straight. I took the wrong freeway initially. Annoying.

Anyway, I'm tired out today and have nothing to say and am planning on spending the whole day, minus some exercise time, on the couch watching Smallville. So there. More interesting stuff (I hope) next week.

May 08, 2009

Busy Today


Brian 1 color300dpiWofford2

Brian Castro and Jenifer Wofford in conversation tonight at SomArts.

Now I have to go pick up Brian from the airport. Will be a headless chicken today.

May 07, 2009

International No Diet Day

Damn! YESTERDAY was International No Diet Day, but I didn't hear about it until today. TODAY is Claire No Diet Day.

Just kidding. I'm just saying that because I went to the dentist this morning and, to reward myself, had a second breakfast at a favorite diner nearby. WITH a cheesy YA vampire book. Lotsa naughty.

I just wanna say a couple of things about dieting. First of all, there's nothing wrong with being on a diet. Any healthy eating regime is a diet, whether you're trying to lose weight, keep weight off, or just feel good. In fact, if you're overweight or obese and not trying to eat healthy, you're also on a diet ... just a really bad diet.

If you're alive, you have a diet ... you're ON a diet. It's the kind of diet you're on, the way you approach eating, and most importantly, your attitude towards eating, exercising, and feeling healthy that's at issue, not your diet.

I tell a tale of two friends. One had a mother with an eating disorder who put her on a diet for the first time when she was eleven years old. Years later I had to be careful not to ever initiate a conversation with her about food, exercise, or health. She would get a gleam in her eye, and start spouting the latest diet advice -- in great detail -- as if it were not only gospel truth, but also salvation. If she got a good head of steam on her, she could talk for hours about this stuff. But the details would change at least once a year, with each fad diet. And she never lost weight, because her problem wasn't really what she ate. Yet she continued, year in and year out, to pursue whatever diet fad was happening, and to talk like she believed in it. It was an item of faith. Also, she never really did exercise.

The other friend was dealing with some mental health issues and decided at one point to get healthy. Given her status as a member of American society, she had a lot of false notions about dieting and losing weight floating around in her head. At one point she told me (somewhat hesitantly) that she was trying to diet and lose weight. And she told me how. I gave her a few pointers (you know: make sure you're eating ENOUGH; eat more, smaller meals throughout the day to keep your metabolism up; trade out simple carbs for complex) in an effort to be genuinely helpful. She listened, tried them out. She also found a personal trainer and started going to the gym. Naturally, she lost about 40 pounds over the course of a year and kept it off for another year. She's still struggling with mental health and has had setbacks, but her attitude towards addressing diet and exercise was that it was all part of her overall health.

I'm sure all of you have a friend or acquaintance like the first one. This is someone you either avoid bringing up a particular subject with, or avoid completely. Their attitude to eating and weight is unhealthy, and uncomfortable. And they don't realize it. These are the people that No Diet Day is aimed at, the ones who think diets will solve their weight problem/problems.

Many of you may have a friend or acquaintance like the second one as well, although you might not know it. Usually when people get serious about getting healthy or losing weight, they don't run around telling everyone. They, like Nike, just do it. They'll talk about it a little with close friends, if they think those friends can help with advice or support. Otherwise, they keep it to themselves ... much in the way that most people keep the details of their family lives to themselves: it's nobody's business.

The latter type is the type of person who SHOULD be dieting: because they only diet when they've gotten unhealthy and overweight, and they only diet to get healthy again.

May 06, 2009

Today's Linguistic Pet Peeves

predominately: I've been seeing this one in newspapers! Folks, it's predominantly. Two different words: to predominate, which is a verb, and predominant, which is an adjective. You get the adverb by adding an "ly" to the adjective. I don't know how to make this one any clearer; it gets to the heart of the logic of parts of speech. "Predominately" makes no grammatical sense. That is all.

shrunk and sunk: used as past tense, as in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, or My heart sunk. (The correct setences are Honey, I shrank the kids. and My heart sank.) Shrunk and sunk are past participles. The past tense form of each word is shrank and sank. Shrink shrank shrunk. I shrink the kids every day. Yesterday, I shrank the kids. In the past, I have shrunk the kids, but that time is over. Why does this bother me so much? No idea.

May 05, 2009

Kathleen Duey Twitter Novel

Oh dude.

Oh dude. I know what's going into my aggregator, like, NOW.

Kathleen Duey -- of the awrsome YA novel Skin Hunger -- is writing a Twitter novel live. You can read it on the blog here, or live on Twitter here as it happens.

Already the text has developed a rhythm that comes across similarly to blank verse: you can tell the rhythm's gonna hold up, and it gives the text a stability most prose doesn't have. It'll be interesting to see what kind of content acrobatics she allows that stability to give her.

This whole thing is so exciting I want to pee. Or do one myself.

Via Gwenda.

So The First Thing I Do?

After declaring a daily blogging month? Is to forget to blog the very next day. Yay me.

May 03, 2009

Daily Blogging

Okay, I've been watching my friends who took on the daily blogging thing in April, and I've been really enjoying what they've been coming up with.

Also, I tried out a month's worth of weekly roundup posts and I didn't like them. They don't feel like proper blog posts and I don't feel any satisfaction at doing them.

So I'm going to start blogging every day for a while and see where that leads. Let's give it the month of May.

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