228 posts categorized "personal"

October 30, 2014

Street Harassment Dudebro F.A.Q.

 

I'm sick right now, but the kerfuffle around this video has driven me back to blogging.

I'm so exercised over some of the comments I've been seeing that I've actually been commenting on YouTube, oG help me, so I've created an F.A.Q. to respond to the comments, apologia, and excuses most frequently made by dudebros on this topic. (Btw, a lot of these are drawn from comments I've already made elsewhere.)

 

But the so-called "harassment" in the video is mostly just guys being nice and saying "Hello" or complimenting her! Why are you feminazis so opposed to mere human interaction?

You think that because you've never been the recipient of said "niceness" or "compliments" so you don't know where they're headed.

Street harassers do not expect women to respond, much less to actually develop relationships (*extreme eye roll*) with them. What they expect, and want, is for women to feel vulnerable and powerless before them. Why else would a man follow a woman who is totally ignoring him for five minutes? Why else would a man stand on the street and call out to women who all totally ignore him, for hours? If he wants an interaction, he's failing and being humiliated, but if he wants her to feel scared and creeped out, and gets off on the power of that, then calling out to her and following her makes total sense. That's why he does it.

Most or all of us women and girls have started out our public adult lives by being greeted and "complimented" by such men and taking the interaction at face value. Most or all of us have responded with a pleased or confident "hello" or a "thank you" back as we've walked past. And what happens then? Please note again what I wrote directly above. The catcall is not intended to create friendliness or confidence in the woman, so a friendly or confident response does not get the guy what he wants.

So what happens then is that he immediately becomes aggressively sexual, asking the woman out, plastering her with increasingly sexual and intimate "compliments", making sexual suggestions, even sometimes crowding her or touching her. He does this until she is forced to start ignoring him or responding negatively -- either one will do, because both mean that she has started to feel vulnerable. Then he either lets her go, having made his point, or he caps it off by calling insults after her in a purely angry and aggressive tone of voice. Nothing makes a woman feel more vulnerable than a man angrily yelling "bitch! cunt!" at her in front of a bunch of other men who do nothing.

All women in cities have experienced this (unless they've never gone out alone). And all women who have had this experience a few times know that the only way to deal with it is to ignore it. Any response only escalates the situation. A guy who will stand on a street corner and yell at women who pass is a guy prepared to escalate until he gets what he wants. Women know subconsciously, in our guts, what is meant by a catcall, and we respond appropriately. You men, who have never had to deal with this type of situation, have absolutely no idea what catcalls are about, and have no right to try to tell us that we're wrong.

 

I agree that the dudes following her are creepy (what's that about?) but everything else is just people being friendly! (Add in "you fascist cunt" or dudebro insult of your choosing here.)

Again, it's not one thing or the other; it's not a nice interaction or a gross imposition. It's a continuum. Some guys will only say "nice" sounding things, if aggressively. Some guys will say really gross and aggressive things. Some guys will threaten, some guys will touch, some guys will follow, some guys will hit. You never know until the incident is over how bad it will get.

I've been grabbed, groped, butt-slapped, followed for blocks, had disgusting sexual practices suggested to me, had my body examined and described in great detail, been told I was beautiful, been told I was ugly, often by the same person in the same incident, been called a bitch, whore, cunt, sweetheart, baby, girl, had my biraciality praised, then insulted, and my racial makeup broken down and praised, then insulted piece by piece, been pursued around a subway car by someone taking upskirt photos, been rubbed up against in public transportation, been flashed, masturbated at, crotch-grabbed at, lurched at from out a darkened doorway (to no purpose except the entertainment of the lurcher), etc. etc. It all feels the same. The only difference is in how threatened you feel; but you feel threatened no matter what, because they are all threats.

The problem is not that we're too stupid to understand the difference between a real interaction and harassment. The problem is that there is just so. damn. much. harassment.

 

This video is so stupid! 10 hours and THAT'S all that happened? What a whiner!

I actually agree that the video, as it is edited, is not effective. The point of the video is not, and should not be, the type of harassment she's receiving, but rather the sheer volume of it. The video says that in 10 hours she had over 100 incidents of street harassment. Unfortunately, the video doesn't show it, and I think that's a huge missed opportunity.

Because there are really two points here: the first is what I detailed above: a "hello" or a "compliment" are not what you think they are. But the second point is the sheer volume of such encounters. Over 100 incidents in 10 hours? That's 10 incidents per hour, or more than one incident every ten minutes. Try to imagine that, dudebros. Try to imagine having to field "hellos" and "compliments" and demands for your attention from aggressive men every ten minutes of your life. (And it's not just on the street, but we won't get into workplace harassment here.) I know you guys have your own street interaction issues: check-ins and body checks and dominance play. But at the frequency of more than one every ten minutes, every time you leave the house, every day, for the rest of your life? I don't think so. Try to imagine it. Just try.

 

Aw, that's just New York. They're all assholes there. I'm from a small town and nobody behaves like this. We're all friendly to each other. 

I would imagine in a small town, where everyone knows each other and reputations really matter, there would be repercussions for harassment, but also for unfriendliness. Cities are different. There's no penalty for being unfriendly, and none for harassment, as evidenced by the reactions of men to the video, and even to this post. 

And also, men's and women's experiences are different. Most men simply don't know the type and amount of harassment that women experience every day -- because we don't tell them (because of the way that men typically react when we do tell them) and because it usually doesn't happen when we're *with* other men. It's not just "Hellos" or fake compliments.  The last time I counted, I rarely went a week without an incident, and often didn't go a day without at least one incident. I haven't set foot outside my door without headphones on and blaring since 1999. And my experiences are not unusual

I'm sick of men telling me what to think about the behavior of men they don't know and have never seen in action. You will never experience the street the way a woman does. You will never know what it's like to spend all day, every day, for your entire adult (and teenaged, and tweenaged) life braced for a verbal assault that inevitably comes. I don't know what it's like in small towns; I've never lived in one. But I know what it's like for a woman in a city. And I can tell you uncategorically: the quality of life for women in cities would be improved at least 1000% if no strange men EVER talked to us except if they had legitimate business. Once again, there are thousands of places and situations to meet people and socialize, and street harassers do not harass to socialize or meet people.

 

#notallmen

Believe me, we are all of us women aware of that. Not all men harass. Not even most men harass. Not even a majority of men harass. Not even a large minority of men harass. We know. We know better than you do, because we're the ones who see the harassment. We're the ones who walk past 100 men who don't even notice us, before encountering the daily asshole who harasses.

But #allwomen are harassed on the street, unless they don't walk alone, or don't live in a city. I challenge you to find a single living woman who has ever lived in a city and walked in the city alone and never been harassed. All. Women.

If you do not harass, good for you, I guess (or rather, good for us; you shouldn't be praised for behaving the way you're supposed to), but that doesn't change the fact that the relatively small minority of men who harass manage to do it to all women. And this conversation is not about how horrible you are. This conversation is about how to stop the harassment that you are not committing but other people are. So stop making this all about you.

If you would like it to be about you, maybe make it about how from now on you're going to be more aware of what is happening to women in front of you in public and how you're going to take action to stop it.

 

I have to (be the fifty thousandth person to) point out the elephant in the room here: all the guys harassing her are black. It must be part of their culture (or replace with racist insult of your choosing.) But the rest of us aren't like that (stated baldly or by implication.)

In case you were wondering, what you just said was racist. *Gasp!* How dare I?

It doesn't matter if your comment was "All n****rs!" as I saw several times on YouTube or "I noticed that all of the harassers are African American. I think it's part of the masculinity-building in their culture " (or, as some people called it, "hip hop culture.") Doesn't matter. Either way, what you're saying is that it's racially inherent for black men to be misogynist, and that is not true.

What is true is that:

  1. this is a huge can of worms and deserves its own post, which I might write later;
  2. there are a lot of folks who've written (probably way better than I could) about the topic so you should read them; 
  3. race doesn't just affect who harasses, but who is harassed and how severely; and
  4. the race argument is just a racist version of #notallmen.

 

But wait! Am I not allowed to talk to women AT ALL? How am I supposed to meet women?"

Yes, if walking up to a total stranger in the street is the only way you can meet women, then there is something seriously wrong with the way you're living your life. Street harassment is not about meeting people! It's about expressing power on total strangers, so that you can feel powerful at someone else's expense, without there being any repercussions for you.

If you are idiotic enough to believe that men harass women on the street to try to find girlfriends and you've been trying to emulate them, that might explain your lack of success with women. So, YES, YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO TALK TO WOMEN YOU DON'T KNOW ON THE STREET ANYMORE. If you can't meet women at school, work, church (if you swing that way), volunteering, through your friends, through your interests and hobbies, at shows, on the internet (like everyone else), or even, as a last resort, in bars, then you are a huge loser, and women trying not to be harrassed in the street has nothing to do with your problem. Jeezus.

January 03, 2014

What I Read in 2013

  1. Touch of the Demon Diana Rowland
  2. When Lightning Strikes Meg Cabot
  3. Code Name Cassandra Meg Cabot
  4. Safe House Meg Cabot
  5. Sanctuary Meg Cabot
  6. 1-800-Where-R-You Meg Cabot
  7. Prophecy Ellen Oh
  8. The Crown of Embers Rae Carson
  9. Mountain Echoes C.E. Murphy
  10. Frost Burned Patricia Briggs
  11. Midnight Blue Light Special Seanan McGuire
  12. Altered Jennifer Rush
  13. The Love Song of Jonny Valentine Teddy Wayne
  14. Kitty Rocks the House Carrie Vaughn
  15. Secret Identity Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen
  16. The Unwritten Vol. 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity Mike Carey and Peter Gross
  17. Witches Incorporated K.E. Mills
  18. Wizard Squared K.E. Mills
  19. Wizard Undercover K.E. Mills
  20. Bitten Kelley Armstrong
  21. Raised by Wolves Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  22. Trial By Fire Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  23. Taken By Storm Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  24. Every Other Day Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  25. Nobody  Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  26. The Squad: Perfect Cover Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  27. The Squad: Killer Spirit Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  28. Full Moon Rising Keri Arthur
  29. Kissing Sin Keri Arthur
  30. A Game of Thrones George R. R. Martin
  31. A Clash of Kings George R. R. Martin
  32. A Storm of Swords George R. R. Martin
  33. A Feast for Crows George R. R. Martin
  34. A Dance with Dragons George R. R. Martin
  35. Magic Rises Ilona Andrews
  36. Kitty in the Underworld Carrie Vaughn
  37. Blood of Tyrants Naomi Novik
  38. Ender's Game Orson Scott Card
  39. Divergent Veronica Roth
  40. Insurgent Veronica Roth
  41. An Unsuitable Job for a Woman P.D. James
  42. Death Comes to Pemberley P.D. James
  43. Chimes at Midnight Seanan McGuire
  44. The Bitter Kingdom Rae Carson
  45. Redshirts John Scalzi
  46. Legend Marie Lu
  47. Prodigy Marie Lu
  48. The Selection Kiera Cass
  49. The Elite Kiera Cass
  50. The Prince Kiera Cass
  51. The Giver Lois Lowry
  52. Gathering Blue Lois Lowry
  53. Messenger Lois Lowry
  54. Midnight Riot Ben Aaronovitch
  55. Moon Over Soho Ben Aaronovitch
  56. The Thing About Luck Cynthia Kadohata
  57. After the Golden Age Carrie Vaughn
  58. Omens Kelley Armstrong
  59. The Gathering Kelley Armstrong
  60. The Calling Kelley Armstrong
  61. The Summoning Kelley Armstrong
  62. The Awakening Kelley Armstrong
  63. The Reckoning Kelley Armstrong
  64. The Rising  Kelley Armstrong
  65. Parasite Mira Grant
  66. Champion Marie Lu
  67. Homeland Cory Doctorow
  68. Whispers Under Ground Ben Aaronovitch
  69. For the Win Cory Doctorow
  70. Pirate Cinema Cory Doctorow
  71. Tantalize Cynthia Leitich Smith
  72. Eternal Cynthia Leitich Smith
  73. Blessed Cynthia Leitich Smith
  74. Diabolical Cynthia Leitich Smith
  75. Feral Nights Cynthia Leitich Smith
  76. Gameboard of the Gods Richelle Mead
  77. Succubus Blues Richelle Mead
  78. Succubus on Top Richelle Mead 

Sigh. There were a lot of unfinished reads that I didn't note here. And a LOT of re-reads, which I also (mostly) didn't note. Even so, you can tell I'm reading about two books per week. Gobbling, actually. Many of these I couldn't remember at all. My memory has gotten really really terrible. Probably not helped by all the gobbling.

So, new rules: after gobbling one and before gobbling another, I have summarize the book in this here blog. So I don't forget, and so that, maybe, when the next in the series comes out, I don't have to go back and re-read the previous ones. Argh.

June 07, 2013

Doctors Bad, Doctors Good

I wanted to write about something I was thinking about last night. I've been very frustrated throughout my life by the quality (or lack thereof) of the doctors I have to deal with.

To recap: I'm a type one diabetic with Hashimoto's -- both for about 32 years -- plus vitiligo, and a couple other smaller autoimmune isshooz, not to mention allergies. I've also recently (last 3.5 years) acquired chronic fatigue syndrome, which is suspected to also be an immunological disease. Basically, my immune system has fucked. me. up.

When you have diabetes and hypothyroid, your type of specialist is an endocrinologist (in the US, anyway. Germany is another story.) Endocrinologists (or Diabetologists in Germany) are doctors who deal with a lot of chronic and/or lifelong patients, and that necessitates ... well, let's let Wikipedia tell us:

Endocrinology involves caring for the person as well as the disease. Most endocrine disorders are chronic diseases that need lifelong care. Some of the most common endocrine diseases include diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism and metabolic syndrome. Care of diabetes, obesity and other chronic diseases necessitates understanding the patient at the personal and social level as well as the molecular, and the physician–patient relationship can be an important therapeutic process.

You'd think that something that makes it into Wikipedia -- and has its own subhead, no less -- would actually make it into the real-world practice of endocrinology, wouldn't you? But really? Not so much.

I've been a diabetic/Hashimoto's sufferer for 32 years, on three continents, in three countries, in eight cities, and under the care of 13 diabetes/endocrinology specialists. Of these, only one was a good doctor (Professor Meissner of Berlin, Germany) and one was a decent doctor (Dr. Bohannon of San Francisco, who isn't really taking patients anymore.) The rest were folks I tolerated so I could get my prescriptions and tests.

So, what, in my opinion, makes a doctor good or bad? Well, I'll tell ya. And, as usual for me, I'm gonna do it with bullet points. Here's a comparison of "Bad Doctors Do" and "Good Doctors Do."

Big Fat Caveat: there are types of medicine which are very specifically fixit. I'm thinking orthopedic surgeons, sports medicine, plastics, maybe all surgery, ... even oncology to a certain extent (although maybe it shouldn't be. I dunno, should we look at cancer as a lifelong illness? Nobody wants to but ...) I'm not speaking to those kinds of doctors, who are being asked by patients and society very explicitly to fix a specific problem which tends to be localized. This is for all the other doctors, and especially the endos, who ought to know going in that their patients are patients for life.

Bad Doctors:

  • Problematize everything and want to fix the problem. I think this might be that the profession self-selects for people who want to fix problems mechanically, people who greatly desire prestige, or both. The media contributes to this by presenting us with narratives of good doctors who want to become doctors because they lose a loved one to a curable disease or catastrophic injury. The overwhelming glut of hospital shows (vs. private practice shows) mirrors our medical system's decline and the rise of HMOs. We're all viewing medicine as a case-by-case practice, in which patients only come when there's a problem, and tend not to come back. And again, the profession self-selects for people who thrive in, or at least desire, this kind of scenario. Thus, when a patient won't/can't live day-to-day according to the doctor's prescriptions for behavior and life-structuring, the patient is blocking their own treatment. Their lives/lifestyles are problems that need to be fixed, rather than human lives that treatment needs to be adapted to.
  • Get frustrated when they can't fix things and blame the patient. If they're fixit guys they just get frustrated, and if they're prestige-hounds, they take the inability to fix things as an attack on their prestige in addition to that. In either case, the problem is a blow to their self-esteem, and they tend to blame the patient either directly (by telling the patient that they're doing things wrong and getting mad at them) or indirectly (by losing interest in the patient and refusing to put themselves out for the patient any more.)
  • View themselves as the subject, and protagonist, of the patient's case. This is probably a rather subtle distinction for the doctor, but it's pretty damned glaring for the patient. In the doctor's mind, the doctor's thinking and actions are central to the case -- because the doctor's fixit action is the action that moves the plot -- and the patient's thoughts and actions, much less the course of their life, is of little to no consequence, because they don't have the medical expertise to understand their own bodies and lives. I think the problem may be that many patients also view themselves as camera fodder for a real-life movie about a heroic doctor. You should read the doctor testimonials on Yelp. The positive reviews read like episode treatments for a hospital show like E.R. or House.
  • View patients as grist for the heroic doctor mill. Yes, everyone is the center of their own universe, and the doctor's perspective is one of a person who is in the office all day while different people come in and out. Yes. But, as a consultant, I had no trouble understanding that I was there to serve a less skilled client with my greater expertise, and that it was not the client's duty to give me opportunities to hone my expertise against their inexperience. The practice of medicine does not use the language of "consultant/client" and that's for a very deeply rooted and problematic reason: namely that our medical system doesn't view doctors as consultants and patients as clients. The subjectivity/objectivity of doctor/patient is all backasswards. Patients are there for them to exercise their doctoring on. A patient who insists on viewing things differently is a difficult patient. A patient whose disease won't behave the way the doctor expects is a difficult patient. A patient who wants to make her own decisions is a difficult patient.
  • Don't listen to the patient. This is a problem with a number of facets. For example, many doctors I've encountered simply don't listen at all. They get impatient, interrupt, look away when you're talking, don't listen. (I had one doctor who stood at the door with his hand on the doorknob during our consultation. I had to call him back twice to finish telling him what was wrong.) But there are also the doctors who make a big show of having long intake interviews and long appointments, and give good bedside manner, but during that time, they're not really listening and it takes you a while to notice. (One doctor, touted as one of the best in the country, really made me feel heard during our intake interview. But when I saw his notes from that interview later, I discovered that he had actually written down the opposite of what I'd told him in the interview. He'd actually asked me yes or no questions, to which I'd answer no, and then he'd written down yes!) There are also doctors who listen to your answers to their questions, but dismiss extra things you tell them as unimportant. They determine what gets considered (by them) and what doesn't, and ignore anything outside of what they consider important. They don't trust the patient to articulate their own disease, their own experiences, and their own lives.
  • Doctor by numbers. This is an extension of not listening. I understand that doctors are trained to operate according to protocols, and that the protocols are established by numbers and probability. I get that it works, especially in triage/emergency situations, or with patients who don't have long-term chronic illnesses and are often appearing with new symptoms for the first time. I get it. But we're talking about chronic disease doctors who see their chronic patients 2-4 times per year, every year, and are supposed to be helping these patients manage lifelong, complex, and mutable diseases. Doctoring by numbers encourages doctors to stick to what's probable and expected and ignore outlying manifestations, and atypical symptoms.

    But for someone like me, whose entire life and course of disease has been atypical, this is a really dangerous way to treat a patient. I've had two doctors call me in a panic (only after taking a blood test) and refer me to another doctor because they had no idea what was going on with me, even though I'd been having weird symptoms for a while and had been asking them to work with me to figure out what was going on. (In both cases, they were simple, small things that they simply weren't trained to know about.) I've had another two doctors simply ignore a huge problem because their protocols didn't tell them how to fix it (which is how my chronic fatigue syndrome went undiagnosed for over two years.) They didn't even try to refer me to anyone else, or make any suggestions about how I could go about figuring out what was wrong. They just gave up.
  • Block communication between themselves and patients. Chronic disease docs need to be available to deal with issues as they come up. Life is lived in between appointments. Doctor's answering services (as opposed to their office staff) used to be perfectly adequate to connect doctor and patient. You left a message, they called the doc immediately and conveyed the message, the doc called you back when s/he could. Easy. I never used to have a problem talking with my doctor within 24 hours of reaching out. Nowadays, with email, docs have something even more simple (and inexpensive) patients could use to communicate directly. But now, docs aren't using either: the answering service, or the free email option.

    One doctor I've worked with used to have an email address, but then shut it down when he said that some patients were contacting him too often. Seriously, who does that? Who cuts off communications with all of his patients because one or two email him too much? (And does he not know how the delete button works?) This doc also takes a week to call back, if he calls back, and half the time, he doesn't. This issue of communication is directly related to viewing your patient as a guinea pig or a dependent rather than a client and decider. If you are a consultant, you can't consult without, you know, consulting. Consultants give their clients their phone numbers and emails. If you're a hero/fixit guy, on the other hand, you're probably thinking at some subconscious level that patients should be seen and not heard. You don't need the distraction and it only encourages them to think their thoughts and ideas and words are important.

Good Doctors:

  • View the patient as the decider. Patient as manager, patient as life-holder, patient as protagonist, patient as client, patient as employer ... what have you. Patient as the agent in the case. The (very few) good doctors I've seen have all been very laid back in the examining room. I think it's because they know it's not their life or health on the line. They're just there to give good advice to grown-ass adults who get to make their own decisions and have to bear the consequences alone. So their job is actually easier than the jobs of hero/protagonist/fixit doctors whose prestige and self-esteem are bound up in making the object/patient/grist/antagonist/disease behave according to plan.
  • Take active steps to empower patients to inform themselves. I can't tell you how important -- on many levels -- it is for a doctor to hand you an article or a slip of paper on which they've written down a book title or a website url. I can also tell you exactly how many have done so for me: two. Referring patients to outside information should be a no-brainer, but I actually think that bad doctors deliberately avoid it because they don't want to have to waste their time fielding the questions and theories that will ensue. There are a lot of other resources -- support groups, trainings, consultants, products, etc. -- that a doctor can offer or make known to you that most doctors simply don't. (In addition to the two mentioned above, only one other doc has offered any of these resources to me.) Perhaps they shouldn't be, but doctors are the primary source and clearinghouse of information and resources. We have no other. If the doctor does not act in this manner or instruct their staff to act in this manner, this service won't exist for patients.
  • Treat the patient as the decider. Some doctors will tell you that there were other choices but that they chose this for you, without explaining what the other choices were. (Yes, this has happened to me, many times.) Other doctors will only present you with one treatment option, and will only tell you there are others if you specifically ask. Most of these doctors won't, or will only reluctantly and angrily, lay out the pros and cons of each option and sit still while you consider and decide. (I once insisted on making a decision for myself and the doctor actually gave me a pamphlet and left the room to visit another patient "while I was deciding," rather than sticking around to lay it out for me and answer my questions. When he came back and found that I, inevitably, had questions, he got impatient. This was for eye surgery.) I can't stress enough that it is not the doctor's job to decide your treatment for you. The doctor has no right to do that. It's the doctor's job to enable you to make an informed decision for yourself, i.e. to consult with you, as a consultant, and lay out your options and their pros and cons. If they have to spend the whole day saying the same things over and over again to different people, well, that's their fucking job, and they get paid a mint to do it.
  • Give the patients plenty of time in appointments -- and make time for follow up phone calls. My wonderful doctor in Germany -- Professor Meissner -- typically made you wait 1-1.5 hours in his waiting room after your appointment was scheduled for. He took his last appointment at 4 pm, but people would be in his waiting room until nearly 7. And he took walk-ins every day and bumped scheduled appointments back for them. No one EVER complained, because everyone got exactly as much time as they needed with him. Sometimes it was ten minutes, sometimes half an hour. BTW, he only had office hours four days/week, like a lot of docs, but when he was there, he was completely there. He was available for phone calls but I never made them because our appointments were so thorough.
  • View disease/life management as a strategy, with tactics, and one that has to be adjusted to fit each life. I'm not sure I need to detail this. It's the opposite of doctoring by numbers. But I guess I would add that they view disease management as a subset of life, rather than something completely separate from life, or something that life interferes with and shouldn't be allowed to interfere with.
  • Ask you about your life, and follow up with detailed questions. Dr. Meissner would specifically ask, and Dr. Bohannon wouldn't ask, but would usually listen when I told her. I'd tell Dr. Meissner when I had a broken heart or when I was going on a trip, or if work was stressful or good. He always knew what was going on in my life in general (he took notes and followed up) and could ground his suggestions for management in the context of my actual life. He knew, and told me, that stress affected me physically, and that the course of my life affected how I approached my diabetes management. And his and sometimes Dr. Bohannon's suggestions for actual disease management tactics referred clearly and specifically to things I'd told them about what was going on in my life. Both of them gave me the party line about what I should be doing, according to protocol, but both listened when I said I wouldn't or couldn't do that, and helped me come up with compromises or alternative tactics to adjust to my actual life.
  • Listen to you and think about the things that you consider important. A good doctor will realize -- and actually tell you -- that you know your body best. A good doctor will empower you to think and talk about what's happening to you and to use their knowledge to improve your own knowledge and understanding. Dr. Meissner took my every idea and thought seriously, even if some of those were quite ridiculous. When he didn't have an answer, he'd say so, and say he'd think about it. And he proved that he had by coming back to me in a later visit with an answer or a study or a suggestion. If I said something silly, he'd explain to me why it wasn't quite right. Dr. Bohannon often snorted or dismissed my silly ideas, but she just as often walked me through the why. Frankly, the bedside manner is a lot less important than the substance. Even brittle, querulous patients can tell when they're being respected and when they're not.
  • Read and study and keep up with the field, and parallel tracks and make this knowledge available to their patients. Dr. Meissner was the head of the national diabetes association. Dr. Bohannon was heavily involved in research. Not every doctor can, or wants to, do this. But I think reading medical journals is less taxing and time-consuming anyway. Why aren't more doctors doing the reading? And if they are, why isn't the reading making it into their practice and their discussions with patients? Most doctors I've seen, you wouldn't even know if they were literate, because there was no evidence that they ever read anything (including your chart.) And it's not just their specialty, and not just medical journals. I've been given articles from mainstream magazines (because they're easier for a patient to understand) and also heard advice from good doctors that was gleaned from patient anecdotes and other sources. Funny thing about docs who listen to their patients: they hear really useful and interesting things they can pass on to other patients. Dr. Meissner would come back from conferences and tell me about the sessions he'd attended and what the takeaway was. Dr. Bohannon talked about what research was currently happening and what the implications of that research could be. They gave me ideas. They gave me grist.
  • Have a "let's find out" attitude. Yeah, one doctor can't know everything. And if your symptoms are atypical (as mine often are) they could mean anything. I get it. But there's a difference between your admission of ignorance causing you to shrug and look away, and your ignorance inspiring you to find the fuck out what's going on. A chronic illness practice like endocrinology is going to have a lot of daily management of disease issues, where the doc has to help the patient adjust a standardized treatment protocol to fit their life. But it's also going to have some of the special issues that are individual and unexpected -- sudden illnesses or creeping symptoms that puzzle both patient and doctor. And these things are often easily diagnosed wrong. I've recently had a lot of experience with docs easily diagnosing something weird that's wrong with me, only to discover later that they were wrong. It's at that "you were wrong" moment that the true quality of a doc comes out. Do they shrug their shoulders and say, "I don't know what to tell you," or do they frown and say, "Hm, let's figure this out"? I can tell you right now which type of doc is the one who's actually going to be of help to you.

Okay, I know that Dr. Meissner operated in 90s Germany, where every individual was required to have health insurance, and there was a national insurance plan, government subsidized, that paid for everything: dental, eye, appointments, prescriptions -- everything. I know he had hella leeway and he fully took advantage of it. BUT. All of the other doctors I saw in Germany (and I saw a lot of them; the insurance allowed me to see as many docs as I wanted, for free, and I took hella advantage) were bad or mediocre doctors. Oh, I could tell you some horror stories. Point is: a good socialized medicine can make it easier for a doc to practice good doctorin', but it's not socialized medicine that makes a good doc. It's good doctorin' that makes a good doc.

One small note, and I know they've done studies on this and the majority feel the opposite of how I do, but: in Germany, doctors call the patients Mr. or Ms. Lastname. Here, until the last five or six years, my doctors have all been older than I am, so being called "Claire" by someone whom I address as Dr. Lastname isn't quite so outrageous. But now that I'm starting to see doctors my age or younger, the relationship implied in that naming inequality is starting to chafe. I'm the fucking client. I'm the employer. Either they give me their first name or they give me equal formality. Who do they fucking think they are?

March 18, 2013

Today's Mantra: It Does Not Help

It does not help to beat myself up for having no energy today, although I "feel fine."

It does not help to wonder if I just got up and put on street clothes would I feel differently.

It does not help to wonder if I'm just being lazy.

It does not help to reflect on how "curious" it is that sometimes "fatigue" means nothing more than a complete lack of will, and all the while secretly think that it's a cover for laziness. (Isn't it?)

It does not help to force myself into the presence of others when I'm in a "bad mood," thinking that I should just "get over myself."

It does not help to know intellectually that a "bad mood" means I'm tired today, but not to act appropriately on that knowledge.

It does not help to behave as if I'm not sick.

It does not help to be stoic. I do not have the energy to be stoic.

It does not help to second guess the decisions I make about being tired. I know when I have energy, and I equally know when I don't.

It does not help to waste time and brain space "regretting" that this time in my life is wasted. I have nothing to regret. I haven't done anything wrong. This is just a more subtle way of calling myself lazy.

It does not help to feel badly about not writing today, this week, this month. I do what I can.

It does not help to think that this is not who I am, really. This is really who I am, now. I am not my disease, but I am my responses to it, among other things.

... and yes, I am acting, slowly, on things that might help. Suggestions, and especially referrals, would help.

March 11, 2013

Check-In

I don't really have much to say. Haven't lately, which is why I haven't posted. But I did promise (myself) that I'd post weekly, and I'm way overdue. So here's what I've been thinking about:

  1. Was told recently by a friend trying to sell an urban fantasy series that the agents say UF is over. It's a depressing thing to say when you've just told somebody you're working on a UF series. Also: do I care if the industry says "UF is over"? If I do actually finish this book and nobody buys it, I'll just post it on the web.
  2. If I got well again, would I go back to being an arts administrator, especially an executive? I have no idea. I know the first thing I would do would be to go away somewhere and get da nobble finished. In fact, my first priority would be to get my writing habit reestablished (something I'm trying to do now.) But would I go back to a regular arts admin job and let it potentially swallow up my writing practice (again)? Hm.
  3. I'm going to cut my hair short this week. This is what I'm thinking. I need a short haircut that doesn't read "guy," and that works with wavy hair. Thoughts?
  4. Trying to get it through to my parents (who are in town for a month) that I can't see them every day. If I do, I can't do anything else. Sigh.
  5. This kerfuffle makes me tired. This fight was already fought. Why was it unfought? Why are we fighting it again? Argh! I love this, which is Kate Harding saying basically: we all have to live in this world and make compromises with the institutions that run it. Being a good feminist doesn't mean you never compromise; it means, rather, that you cop to your compromise when you make one, and admit that you're contributing to the status quo, even while you're explaining why you did it.
  6. And finally, this is this week's happy.

February 15, 2013

CFS Info Gathering

I've been trying to read what I can about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome online but when I google the words, I get a lot of Mayo Clinic and WebMD stuff. Unfortunately, those medical sites only post what can be substantiated by studies, so the nuance is missing. Also, they only use scientific language, so you might not be able to recognize your symptoms.

It wasn't until I googled one symptom "post-exertional malaise" for my last post that I found a series of articles on About.com by a woman with CFS and Fybromyalgia (they often go together, although I only have the one), which is well-written, easy to understand, and describes what I have in a way I recognize. Finally!

Here's the finale from her article "Understanding Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Simple Explanation."

Chronic fatigue syndrome can take someone who is educated, ambitious, hardworking and tireless, and rob them of their ability to work, clean house, exercise, think clearly and ever feel awake or healthy.

  • It's NOT psychological "burn out" or depression.
  • It's NOT laziness.
  • It's NOT whining or malingering.
  • It IS the result of widespread dysfunction in the body and the brain that's hard to understand, difficult to treat, and, so far, impossible to cure.
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a serious, life-altering, frustrating, often misunderstood illness. What people with ME/CFS need most of all from those around them is emotional support and understanding.

Exactly. That's what I keep trying to tell the new folks at KSW (where I worked/work on the board). I think they get it, but it's really hard to be getting to know new people when I'm like this. I feel like I'm coming across as moody, whiny, difficult, flaky, etc.

I was always "difficult," but I used to be more energetic than everyone else, passionate, dedicated, able, profoundly competent. I used to be the one who picked up everyone else's slack.

It's possible now that no one new will ever see me this way again.

February 14, 2013

Post-exertional Malaise

It's one of the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and it basically means that after you exert yourself, you have a CFS flare-up -- a symptom flare-up. For me, it means getting really tired, or just getting really no-energy.

I had a really good three days the past three days. I got up at a reasonable hour, without too much dragging, made myself breakfast, did yoga, went out to a cafe or, on one day, the library, to do research/writing on my UF novel, walked there and back, made myself dinner, and stayed within my calorie limit (I'm trying to not gain any more weight.)

Today started out the same: reasonable get-up, breakfast, yoga, shower ... and then, yeah, I trailed off. I kept trying to get myself ready to go to the cafe and write some more. The cafe has good salads and that was going to be my lunch, and I sat at the internet and surfed and got hungrier and hungrier. But as I got hungrier, I also got more tired ... until I finally realized that I was having the latter half of a bad day. I considered making lunch but realized I was too tired, so I went to the Mexican place two blocks away, doing the CFS shuffle the whole way.

The CFS shuffle makes me look (in my imagination, I don't really know how I look) like a junkie on the nod trying to walk down the street. Have you ever seen that? Where they're so high they can barely put a foot in front of the other? That's me on a bad day. I'm walking, and my brain is going at close to normal speed, so I can tell that I'm moving too slowly, but I simply can't make my legs move faster.

Usually post-exertional malaise happens pretty soon after exertion. (And it's all exertion, not just physical. Having a two-hour meeting can knock me out for the rest of the day as well. So can having dinner with friends, or writing intently for a few hours.) Generally, the malaise comes because I've used up all my energy with the exertion.

But this time, it seems I'm PEMing for the past three days all at once. Interesting.

Also! I found this article from a lupus sufferer that explains how you have to get through your day when your energy is limited. It's called The Spoon Theory. From a website called "But You Don't Look Sick.com" Indeed.

January 23, 2013

When Is the World Unfair to You?

I had a strange and unusual thought yesterday: this whole dizziness thing is unfair.

It's strange because I've been sick for three years and have, bit by bit, been losing my physical conditioning, cognitive ability, ability to work, relationships, and pretty much everything I value about myself or my life. But I guess because it's all been bit by bit, at no point have I stopped and thought: wow, this is unfair.

But yesterday I thought that the dizziness was unfair. ... not on a global scale; nor even on a personal global scale; but rather with reference to the fact that it came now, in January, a couple of weeks after my expected CFS "remission" finally came, and three or four months late at that. I finally was getting some relief -- some energy, some ability back -- only to have it swatted away by the worst symptom of all the symptoms I've had in the past three years: vertigo.

It's funny that that seems unfair to me, but nothing else has struck me as particularly unfair in all of this.

Of course, I've always -- well, always in my adult life -- been aware that all my privileges in this world are unfair in the other direction. Surprisingly, I've never been harshly bothered by unfairness that benefits me (/sarcasm.) I have been struck now and again -- and increasingly as I get older and more aware that I'm not the center of the universe -- by how unfair things are for other people. Maybe that's why I don't usually think "unfair!" about myself.

But I don't think it's because I'm used to thinking of myself as privileged. I just don't think about things with regard to myself as fair or unfair. They just are. I've been sick all my life but it hasn't been enough of an inconvenience to prevent me from doing the things I want to do, so I don't think of my illnesses as unfair. I think it also has to do with the fact that I've never thought about my illness -- or my body for that matter -- as separate from some essential me.

Or maybe I'm wrong. I can't think too well right now because I'm dizzy. :P

Whatever the reason, thinking about the world being unfair to me is a strange and unusual thought for me. I wonder how many people out there genuinely think "unfair!" about their personal circumstances with any regularity.

January 20, 2013

Dizzy Broad

So I promised to post at least weekly and today's the day or I'll have failed in my resolution while still in January.

And I was really feeling better this month, for a whole three weeks or so, but then I got dizzy a couple of days ago. Sigh. That's what my life has been for the past three years: a few good days, followed by weirdness and scaryness. Or scariness.

I've been dizzy before: three times in fact. The dizziness is one of the things that really made me completely consciously aware of how doctors work: according to protocols mostly, and not by really paying attention to patients and taking cases each one at a time. I had the same kind of dizziness (mosty "lightheadedness" not spinning) three times, and each time I got a different diagnosis. Well, the first time it was a virus, and the second time BPPV. The third time I self-diagnosed it as allergies when the BPPV exercises didn't work.

This time, it's spinning, as well as lightheadedness. And it's worse all around. I have the lightheadedness a lot more, PLUS spinning when I tilt my head in particular ways. It might even be allergies, since my nose is a little bit, a tiny bit, runny. But that's it.

Anyway, this isn't very interesting, even to me, but it also does kind of fill my attention and leave room for nothing else. I think I'm gonna go do something. Maybe if I get outside I'll feel better.

January 12, 2013

Nothin' To Do No One To Do It With

There's a funny interaction between having nothing to do and having no energy to do it with. It's Saturday night and I have nothing to do and nowhere to go because I've had chronic fatigue syndrome for three years and can't reliably go out and be with people. So I've stopped looking for things to do, staying on mailing lists, exporting evites and checking my FB events, and making dates with friends and dates.

There's a feeling of relief when I survey the night and realize it's Saturday and I have nothing to do and no one to do it with. I'm not sure if the relief is that I have nothing to do because I wouldn't have the energy to do it if I did and then I'd feel like I was missing out ... or if I'm relieved that I don't have the energy or desire to do anything because I wouldn't have anything to do or anyone to do it with if I did. Not sure it matters.

How do you maintain friendships when you can't do anything social?

I'm thinking about this because I'm feeling better and actually have a little bit of energy right now. I could:

  • MAYBE go to the gym for 25 min.
  • do some yoga at home
  • go out for something specific: a movie or theater show, if it was nearby or somebody picked me up
  • spend 30-60 min at a party if I could get home again right away afterwards

But just thinking about doing any of this (except the yoga) makes me tired. It would have had to be planned ahead of time. And I don't need to do anything. There's a kind of satisfactory balance to this, that's the only kind of satisfaction you can get from this illness.

Part of me dreads getting better, because when my will and desires come back with my energy (if they ever do), having nothing to do on a Saturday night will drive me crazy.

January 08, 2013

How to Stay in Touch with Friends When Sick?

Just had brunch with Praba this morning (at Brown Sugar Kitchen!) and it was the first time in a minute that I'd seen her. That's the suckiest thing about being sick: you don't have the energy to keep up with friends. And with Praba dealing with health issues too, it's even harder for us to keep up. (Although, I have to say, we keep up better than some well friends I know ...)

So we talked about how to maintain -- health, sanity, relationships -- and I told her about how I've been considering lately how to reach out to my friends in a way that actually works for me in this illness.

The first thing is to let everyone know that I'm sick and what the sickness is. What it does to me.

Then I have to figure out what kind of interaction I want with my friends. This is the big problem. Because I lose touch with people precisely because I don't have the energy to talk on the phone, or email, much less meet with them. I want to let my friends know that I need them to take responsibility for contacting me regularly, because I can't be relied upon to do that. But I'm not sure how capable I'm going to be of responding to their contacts.

Sigh. It's confusing. And difficult.

Anyone have any thoughts?

January 01, 2013

New Year's Resolution

I'm not sure why exactly, but reading GGP's account of his two-months' struggle with a rather mysterious illness has just kicked me in the ass a bit. I'm going to make an actual resolution for 2013 ... maybe two.

  1. I'm going to write in this here blog every week. I've been too unmotivated -- lacking in energy -- to write. But I'm going to do it, even if I have nothing to write about. And I'll write short.
  2. Get on top of this stupid disease: go to the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome clinic in Palo Alto. I forget what it's called. But I'm going to go. And I'm going to do what they tell me. And I'm going to try every stupid California new age acupusher thing that crosses my path.

August 26, 2012

Reading Update: Yes, I'm Still Alive, and Still Reading Urban Fantasy

  1. Naomi Novik Crucible of Gold
  2. The entire Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson series (reread)
  3. Seanan McGuire Discount Armageddon
  4. Robin Hobb Assassin's Apprentice
  5. Robin Hobb Royal Assassin
  6. Robin Hobb Assassin's Quest
  7. The entire Carrie Vaughn Kitty Norville series (reread)
  8. Robin Hobb Fool's Errand
  9. Robin Hobb Golden Fool
  10. Robin Hobb Fool's Fate
  11. Holly Black Black Heart
  12. The Hunger Games series (reread)
  13. Kristin Cashore Bitterblue
  14. Patricia Briggs Bloodbound
  15. The entire Patricia Briggs Alpha and Omega series (reread)
  16. Faith Hunter Mercy Blade
  17. C.E. Murphy Urban Shaman
  18. C.E. Murphy Thunderbird Falls
  19. C.E. Murphy Walking Dead
  20. C.E. Murphy Coyote Dreams
  21. C.E. Murphy Winter Moon
  22. C.E. Murphy Demon Hunts
  23. C.E. Murphy Spirit Dances
  24. C.E. Murphy Raven Calls
  25. C.E. Murphy Heart of Stone
  26. Ilona Andrews Gunmetal Magic
  27. Ilona Andrews Magic Dreams
  28. Carrie Vaughn Kitty Steals the Show
  29. Saima Wahab In My Father's Country
  30. Faith Hunter Cat Tales
  31. Kalayna Price Grave Witch
  32. Kalayna Price Grave Dance
  33. Kalayna Price Grave Memory

Well, it turns out that I didn't post about this, but around the time I stopped posting again this past spring, I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Please note, that this is the diagnosis, not the onset of the disease. The onset happened around December 2009.

So, around the time I got the diagnosis, I realized that I actually had a pattern established, and that the disease got worse in the spring and summer and better in the fall and winter. And that is, indeed, what happened again this year.

This year's edition of Summer Slump was both better and worse than the previous years. Better because, unlike the previous two freelancey years, I had a regular, go-to-work job at KSW, and there was no one else around to keep the org afloat, so I had to do it. So I was forced to stay active. Worse for the same reason: I was forced to stay active, so what little energy I had was spoken for, and even that wasn't enough, leaving less energy than ever before for taking care of myself.

You'll notice that I have a lot of re-reads here, and most of my reading has been re-reading or catching up on the latest installments of my favorite urban fantasy series. I think it's a good indicator of my state of mind. Simply no energy to try to handle new input, only rehashes of the old input.

No other commentary. It's too hard on my brain.

Oh, wait, one other thing: my short term memory has grown so bad, from the CFS, that rereading entire series is necessary before I can read the latest installment. Sad.

January 02, 2012

2012 Resolutions

Sigh.

There's basically only one: figure out this health thing and get on top of it.

That includes some sub-resolutions, though, including:

  • Talking to my GP this week
  • Trying out the gluten-free diet
  • Getting health insurance
  • Maybe visiting the Mayo clinic, if my hypothetical health insurance will pay for it
  • Getting acupuncture
  • Doing exercise every day, no matter what
  • Working on going to bed early and getting not only enough sleep, but the right kind of sleep
  • etc.

I'm so boring.

October 11, 2011

Overdue Reading Update

Whatever is wrong with me, it's causing me ups and downs in energy and attention. My focus, attention span, and even memory are all suffering. And I've been finding myself craving comfort reads -- especially things I've read before and loved -- just like when I was a kid.

August and September were pretty bad this year, just like June and July were last year. So I did a LOT of re-reads. I suppose it might be interesting to pick apart what so comforts me about those books, but I probably won't do it.

New reads:

The Power of Six Pittacus Lore
Knightley Academy Violet Haberdasher
The Secret Prince Violet Haberdasher
One Salt Sea Seanan McGuire
Goliath Scott Westerfeld
The Girl of Fire and Thorns Rae Carson
Drink, Slay, Love Sarah Beth Durst
Cold Fire Kate Elliott
Wolf Mark Joseph Bruchac

The Pittacus Lore I Am Number Four series -- about nine human-looking aliens hiding on Earth from their enemies, who can only kill them in numerical order -- is forgettable but fun. I'm going to continue reading. I'm rather enjoying the Knightley Academy series, and will continue, but am hoping that it will get into more complex ideas about violence and whether we really need it. It takes place in an alternate England that has done away with miliarism by law, but Scotland looks like it's militarizing in secret and about to invade. The action of the series seems to want to bring militarism back as an unalloyed good. We'll see.

Seanan McGuire never disappoints. In her latest October Daye novel, we get to see the fae undersea world in San Francisco Bay (accessible through Fisherman's Wharf, of course.) I was wondering when she'd bring half-Fae detective Toby Daye's long-lost daughter into the mix. I was bummed that her daughter won't be appearing in any further books (unless she pulls a really unacceptable retrofit) but was glad we finally got to see some resolution there. The finale to Scott Westerfeld's steampunk Leviathan trilogy was very satisfying, although I have to say I wasn't entirely satisfied by the romance between the two main characters. I can't really tell you why, but it just didn't get to me. But as a non-steampunk reader, I was convinced, and wouldn't mind reading more in the genre.

Rae Carson's Girl of Fire and Thorns was really well conceived and put together ... but I was horribly put off by the Christianity interwoven into the story. It takes place in a secondary fantasy world, and involves a royal marriage and politics, and rebellion ... all the stuff of classic high fantasy. But the main character carries a "Godstone" in her belly, a sign that she is chosen by God (an Abrahamic, monotheistic God) to fulfill a particular task. Her main struggle in the story is with her faith, although there's romance and adventure and all that. Having a real-world faith injected into an entirely secondary world -- especially one where all other societal relations have been recombined -- feels just as icky as a "novel" written to push a political agenda. It's a real testament to how well-written this book was that the ickiness was at war with my continued interest in the story and the characters. A lot has already been written about the fail involved in a kickass fat heroine only finding her confidence after she loses weight, so I won't add to it except to say: "boo!"

Drink, Slay, Love: awrsum! A unicorn stabs a teen-girl vampire, giving her the ability to withstand the sun -- but also giving her her conscience back. Now she has to deal with her scary vamp family insisting she use her new power to lure teens into the vampire lair to be eaten, while she falls in love with a guy who might be too good to be true. Excellent from the title to the unremitting snark of the main character, to the unslacking tension between utter silliness and a remarkably taut metaphor for teen soul-searching.

Cold Fire continues Kate Elliott's excellent, slightly steampunky, Cold Magic series, but isn't as good as the first book. Cat, daughter of some sort of spirit power and a human woman, and married off to the most powerful cold mage of her time, has to escape the clutches of the mage houses and the princely powers with her clairvoyant cousin and half-panther brother, while trying to figure out how she feels about her husband. An alternate history Napoleon is pursuing them, too, with uncertain intent. All of which should be awrsum, but isn't quite. I wish she'd had more time to refine this one, because it's a bit too picaresque for the series' purpose. I think it wasn't intended to be so ambulatory; it's just that she had to wander a bit to figure out where she was going, and didn't have time to clean up properly and restructure once she figured it out. Too long, too rambling, too much getting characters across rooms. Too much awkward dialogue. The punch of high-tension moments (like the main romance finally being consummated) dissipated because the surrounding action didn't heighten the tension. Etc. Still looking forward to the conclusion, but this wasn't a can't-put-it-down read like the first one.

Wolf Mark has an incredibly promising premise: Native American skinwalker black ops veterans dealing with the everyday reality of death and loss, and the discovery of the next generation of its potential for great violence. Unfortunately, the lure of kickassery and silly black-vs.-white simplicity proved too much for it, and the last half of the book devolves into hackery. Even the characters comment on how stereotypical they're being (not a good strategy, by the way.) Yet another good premise bites the dust. Oh, I'll read the next one, if there is one -- it was good, don't get me wrong -- but it could have been great.

Re-reads:

Alanna Tamora Pierce
In the Hand of the Goddess Tamora Pierce
The Woman Who Rides Like a Man Tamora Pierce
Lioness Rampant Tamora Pierce
Trickster's Choice Tamora Pierce
Trickster's Queen Tamora Pierce
Leviathan Scott Westerfeld
Behemoth Scott Westerfeld
The Thief Megan Whalen Turner
The Queen of Attolia Megan Whalen Turner
The King of Attolia Megan Whalen Turner
A Conspiracy of Kings Megan Whalen Turner
White Cat Holly Black
Red Glove Holly Black
Graceling Kristin Cashore
Cold Magic Kate Elliott

I wonder if I should even count most of these as reads. I read more Tamora Pierce than I listed here, but decided not to list it all. She's my go-to comfort read. Dunno why. I guess it's the simplicity and the way good absolutely triumphs. I re-read Scott Westerfeld and Kate Elliott to remind myself of the previous books in the series in which there was a new release. I have to do that now, because my memory has gotten so bad.

And I re-read the Turner and Black series because I saw mentions of them on blogs and got a yen to go there again.

That is all.

August 25, 2011

Not My Fault

Today is a Bad Day. I woke up with my alarm and knew instantly that I wouldn't get up. It took me two hours of dozing off and lazing around and cuddling with my cat. At times it felt a little luxurious, but mostly I just felt the fatigue: the mild exhaustion I knew wouldn't go away with more sleep; the minor fatigue that doesn't actually prevent me from doing anything in particular; that is like fog, that retreats in a vague diameter around you as you drive forward, but doesn't dissipate, and closes in behind you as you go.

It's taken me three years, but I'm finally learning to recognize the Good Days from the Bad, on a granular level. And I'm slowly learning to recognize that Bad Days are Not My Fault. When I started to really slow down three years ago, getting these waves of energy loss and occasional fatigue, I thought it was my fault. Of course, I was still drinking then, so I could blame them on the occasional hangover (although I was becoming surprised at how aging can cause you to get a hangover from one glass of wine.) I was also still drinking caffeine at that point, so I could treat the "hangover" with caffeine.

Three years and a myriad symptoms later, I'm through with the medical concept of blame. Being a lifelong chronic illness sufferer, I actually get blamed by my doctors for new symptoms less than most women. It's not the who's to blame game that I'm over, it's the what's to blame: which illness? Which condition? Which system? What can we blame this on? What is the single, root cause of your current suffering, and which drug can take care of it?

I've been seeing the evidence for thirty years, but it finally all came together for me earlier this year when I got dizzy again. I had started having dizzy spells in 2007 and was told by the ENT that it was most likely a virus that infected my inner ear and there was nothing I could do about it, only wait for it to go away. It did and I didn't think about it again until last year when I started getting dizzy spells again. The next ENT diagnosed it as BPPV, an easily treatable condition that you treat with exercises. I did the exercises, it went away. When I ask the doctor if maybe the previous bout was also BPPV, he laughed and said probably; they just diagnose the virus first because that's the protocol.

This was disturbing, but I didn't think about it until earlier this summer when I was hit with the worst allergies I've ever had ... accompanied by a return of the dizzyness. This time, the exercises didn't work right away, and it didn't matter anyway because I was so fatigued and sick-feeling from the allergies that the dizziness was the least of my problems. When the allergies cleared up -- lo and behold -- so did the dizziness. Then I remembered that the "BPPV" had also appeared around allergy time and disappeared as allergy season died down.

I didn't consult an ENT this time. Instead, I thought about it: what if it never was a virus or BPPV at all, but was always allergies? What if allergies had affected me the way a virus did, so it was essentially a "virus" after all? What if it was both a virus and BPPV? What if there were other factors? What if he only diagnosed BPPV because that's second on the protocol? Etc.

Upshot: the dizziness went away, but I still don't know for sure what the problem was and may never do so. The main point is that the dizziness went away, and if and when it comes back, I know it will most likely go away again, and I just have to manage it until then.

And the same thoughts can be applied to all my problems. There's probably more than just one cause for everything that's wrong with me -- given how many things are wrong with me. I can't wait for the savior diagnosis. I have to just live with what's going on now, and still have a life, even if things don't get better.

Sounds depressing, but it's actually heartening. It makes me feel stronger.

June 28, 2011

On Being Harassed in the Street

Up front I'm telling you that this is about Hollaback's "I've Got Your Back" campaign, to create an online and offline movement to end street harassment. I've donated and I hope you'll consider doing the same.

Boy, it's been a long time since I posted. Actually, the last time I posted was right around the time that I moved back to San Francisco. And I'm so glad to be back.

But I don't tell people that one of the reasons I'm so glad to be back in the city is that the amount of harassment I encounter has gone waaaaaay down. The main reason I don't mention it is that the reactions of many people break my heart. Too many people, upon being told in general that I get a lot of harassment, act uncomfortable -- with me! -- and don't offer me any sympathy, much less engage in any discussion. I'm talking about abstract conversations here, where there's no immediate danger, and all I'm doing is communicating.

It's so much worse, then, when the harassment happens in front of your friends or social circle and they do nothing or act uncomfortable with you, as if you were the one who had done something wrong. I know that those situations can be sometimes scary or emotionally heightened. But think about the general emotional orientation of someone who doesn't, when the scary moment is over, automatically offer help and sympathy to a friend who has just been verbally assaulted.

I mean, c'mon, people! How hard is it to say to your friend who was just harassed, "I'm sorry you had to deal with that," or ask her "are you alright?"

It's those simple offerings that can make the difference between you being part of the problem, and you being part of the solution. Either you kick a friend who's just been kicked, or you blow on her bruise and offer her salve. Why is that such a hard choice?

The immediate sympathy and help is key, but what's an even greater act of friendship is listening, discussing, and helping your friend to process the harassment, to understand it, contextualize it, and help render it less powerful. Treating your friend as a thinking, feeling adult who is capable of understanding what has happened to her, and capable of insight, is a really important part of being an empowered woman in a society that often treats us as meat.

And the greatest act of friendship -- and righteousness -- of all is intervening on the spot, and standing up to the harasser for and with your friend.

This last one -- standing up for your friends -- should be automatic. If it isn't, maybe it's time to think long and hard about how you were raised, and what choices you learned to make to survive. Yeah, I was a bullied kid and I threw other outcasts under the bus if it would save me ... when I was in grade school. But now I'm an adult, and every failure of mine to protect and support my friends when they are attacked is my failure, not theirs. And yes, as an adult I've failed many times, or been weak or stupid in my support. But I'm glad to say that there have also been times when I was mindful enough to succeed in supporting and backing up my friends. And I strive to be that person every day.

I'm thankful for those fierce friends of mine who have done all of these things: Jaime, Patty, Cyndie, Robynn, and others whom I'm forgetting right now. (There have been so many incidents over the years, and when I was younger I deliberately forgot about it when friends failed to support me, so I managed to also forget when they did support me.)

And I'm also remembering people who shall remain nameless -- some of them people I greatly respected -- who stood by and did nothing. And, though I forgive quickly, I'll never forget. As MLK said:

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

You're not alone -- in being harassed, in feeling helpless, in not knowing what to do. But tackling street harassment as it happens in front of you is your responsibility, as it is the responsibility of every citizen of a free state.

Please donate to the Hollaback "I've Got Your Back" campaign, and start (or continue) to get everyone's back on this.

January 08, 2011

Yay!

Hey, my leetle book got onto io9's list of the top 15 books of 2010! Yay! It's good to have friends in high places!

Thanks, Annalee!

January 02, 2011

New Year's Resolutions for 2010

I've done this in the past: made new year's resolutions that I didn't keep. They were too ambitious. I'm going to do smaller ones, that are important, this year. We'll see how this works.

  1. Keep up with my bills. My credit score has gone down, ironically enough because I took steps to pay my bills on time. I used to pay all my bills a bit late. Not three notices late, but sometimes I'd get a late notice or something to remind me. Okay, not "sometimes" but often. So I Took Steps and put all my regular bills on automatic payment from my bank, so that I wouldn't have to think about them. And it worked. I mean, I didn't think about them. The regular bills were fine, but the non-regular ones started seriously falling by the wayside: doctor's bills and parking tickets especially. And those are the two that really don't mess around. So this year, I'm going to pay bills as they come in. No more letting them collect and putting them out of my mind. I'm sure my credit score will start rising immediately, and in seven years I'll be clear of this completely. Sigh.
  2. Exercise. Regularly. No benchmarks this time. No amounts or measurements. Just keep exercising. It's when I get ambitious and want to achieve something with the exercise that I get discouraged. Just get. to. the. gym. Doesn't matter when, doesn't matter why, doesn't matter what I do when I get there. Just go. Regularly.
  3. Finish the damn nobble already. No more fancy processes. No distractions by other projects. Butt in chair. Write. Finish it. This year.
  4. Get insulin pump by April. April is when my COBRA ends. If I'm gonna do it, I gotta do it by then. Maybe I'm still not committed to it, and if not, then I won't do it. I'm still very ambivalent about getting a pump. But I'll resolve intellectually to do it, and my gut (which is, appropriately, where I'll be carrying the damn thing) will make the decision.
  5. Be at peace. I know it's a lifelong, ongoing process, but I'm aiming for it now.

That's all. Maybe too ambitious. Maybe not enough. But we'll see what happens.

November 24, 2010

Exploratory Phase of Writing

When I teach writing, I'm constantly trying to get my students comfortable with the concept of exploratory writing. This is a part of the generative phase of writing, where you're producing a body of text which will become the subject of the other half of writing: revision.

Exploratory writing is where all your plans have broken down or been fulfilled; you've written whatever parts of the story you intended to write and now have to move forward without plans. Or else, if you're an obsessive outliner, you've tried to fulfill your plans, but the sketchy story you had in your head doesn't work out so well when you try to make rounded characters perform it. Or you're writing an unplanned story entirely, inspired by some sort of trigger or idea, and you're letting it unspool organically. Whatever way, you're in unmapped territory, and you don't know where you're going in the immediate future, and you don't know what will, much less what should, happen now.

This is a moment where you have to just let yourself go. You can't start making new plans. You can do research to make you more comfortable with the situation, but there comes a moment when you have to break off the research and just write. And that writing has to be open and experimental, because, as we just noted, you don't know what has to happen.

What happens for me in this phase is that I wander all over the place. I see a shiny thing, and I hare off in that direction, talk about it for a while, examine it, then eventually lose interest or turn it into something else. I'll see another shiny thing, and run off after that, often in exactly the opposite direction, and do what I need to with that. I let my interest level determine my course. Often an idea will lead me to the logical next idea, but the logical next idea isn't as interesting as the original idea. When I get bored, I stop going in that direction and head off in another one.

The goal of all of this is to hit the fire lode, the vein of liquid heat that consumes your conscious mind and takes you off in the right direction, the direction that will make your story amazing for you to write and for your readers to read. You don't always hit the motherlode. Sometimes you only find, so to speak, placer nuggest of fire, and you have to build your story around small, bright moments, knowing that this is a "good" story, but not a "brilliant" one -- by your own standards, that is. ;)

You can see it in my story "Vacation," where the first part of the story is told in short episodes that explore the new world, and the protagonist's relationship to it. This is all exploratory, and originally included a lot more exploratory stuff: how the women in this new world recreate government, how the media changes, etc. But once I hit the scene on the basketball court where the young boy disappeared, I took off. I knew that this was the direction the story needed to go in, and when I went back and revised, I cut out all the exploratory stuff that didn't contribute either to this part of the world, or do development of the protagonist's capacity to do what she does. I left the first part deliberately sketchy and exploratory, because I felt it set up the somewhat choppy rhythm of the story -- which isn't plot and action-heavy, but rather centers around a moment of transformation which proceeds from mosaic emotional logic rather than a causal chain.

Do this enough and you can see the different phases of writing in another writer's work as well. When I started being able to see this more clearly in the work I was reading, it inspired me to want to hide my tracks better. ;)

I'm going on about this right now because I'm in an exploratory phase right now with da nobble. And I'm not comfortable with it. I've just started year nine of work on da nobble (holy shit!) and thought I had left generative work behind me and was just going to revision. But I've hit a very important chapter that just wasn't working. I've rewritten this chapter twice, and have to rewrite it again now. And I'm having to generate. The research I did got me through an important scene, but now I'm dealing with the aftermath of that scene and I have no idea what happens now. Argh!

Now I just have to let-go-let-it-flow. I hate that shit! It's much easier telling my students to do it than doing it myself. I think part of the problem is that I'm out of practice. But part of it is certainly that I resent having to go back into exploratory on a novel that I've been working on for 8 years and have two finished drafts of. I don't feel starry-eyed and excited and in that fresh phase. I feel jaded and worn out. Committed, but worn out, like eight years into a rocky but loving marriage.

Sigh.

November 15, 2010

I'm Reading This Friday!

Fire flyer full color lo-res

October 04, 2010

Migration and Identity

No, this isn't another race post.

You might have noticed a slight change in the look of the blog recently ;). The amazing Derek Chung is redesigning my online personality right now. When he's done, I will not only have a MUCH prettier blog (though my soul will remain as schmutzig as a pig's latrine), but I'll also have a whole website with stuff.

Feel free to express positive opinions about the lovely redesign. And also feel free to tell me if something is uncomfortable or doesn't work right.

That is all.

June 28, 2010

Nobble Reading Thursday!

Hey all, I'm breaking out da nobble for a first ever reading this Thursday. For those of you in the Bay Area, it'll be at a private home in Oakland, so please follow the directions below to get the address.

Hope to see bunches of you there!

DEBUTANTES: A FIRST LOOK AT WORKS IN PROGRESS

with Sita Bhaumik, Samantha Chanse, & Claire Light

WHEN: July 1; doors 6:30 pm; presentation 7-9 pm

WHERE: a very lovely home in Oakland. RSVP at SFDEBUTANTES (at) gmail (dot) com

HOW MUCH: $5 suggested; proceeds go to KSW
(the broke and the forgetful not turned away)

WHAT: Three Kearny Street Workshop artists will present works in progress in fiction, theater/performance, and visual art. It is a complete coincidence that they are all female and mixed race. Tea, wine, punch, cookies, and finger sandwiches will be served. Someone will spike the punch. All proceeds from the event benefit Kearny Street Workshop's programs educating, supporting, and presenting multidisciplinary arts. Attendees are encouraged to bring seat cushions and wear flowered hats.

WHO:

SITA KURATOMI BHAUMIK is an interdisciplinary artist, educator, and writer born and raised in the suburbs of Los Angeles. She is an MFA/MA candidate at California College of the Arts and likes to exhibit at galleries that appreciate good food. She is the art features editor for Hyphen magazine, a community advisor for Kearny Street Workshop, and currently teaches at Rayko Photo Center. You can reach her at www.sitabhaumik.com

SAMANTHA CHANSE is a writer&performer, educator, and arts organizer whose work has been presented with Kearny Street Workshop/Locus, The Marsh, the NY International Fringe Festival, Bowery Poetry Club, Asian American Writers Workshop, Asian American Theater Company, PlayGround in residence at Berkeley Rep, Intersection, Bindlestiff, and others. She received an Individual Artist Commission from the San Francisco Arts Commission, an Artist In Motion residency from Footloose/Shotwell, and an Emerging Artists Residency from Tofte Lake Center. She served as KSW's artistic director & as a Locus co-director, co-founded salon series Laundry Party, and is pursuing a MFA in playwriting at Columbia University in NYC as part of her bicoastal lifestyle. Her solo play, LYDIA'S FUNERAL VIDEO, will be published by Kaya Press in 2011. For more information please visit www.samanthachanse.com.

CLAIRE LIGHT used to be KSW's program manager and is now on the board. She has an MFA from San Francisco State, a little collection of short stories called SLIGHTLY BEHIND AND TO THE LEFT from Aqueduct Press, and a Bay Area-based freelance practice in nonprofit hackery. At this event she will be debuting her novel-in-progress, CHINAMAN TREETOPS, an intensely literary masterpiece about a Chinese feng shui master on Mars.

June 24, 2010

Depressed

Okay, I'm copping to it.

The last in a series of minor -- and correctable -- but relentless medical mishaps finally sent me over the edge and I'm now in full-blown -- if very mild -- depression. You can tell because I'm not blogging, and I'm not reading blogs. ;)

Things are in hand. I am Doing Something About It. But posting will be slow hereabouts for the foreseeable future. (I am still reading, and a constipated Reading Update will appear, eventually.)

Sorry.

April 26, 2010

Reading This Friday!

Hey Bay Area Friends!

I'm doing a reading this Friday with NY novelist Ed Lin, whose second mystery novel SNAKES CAN'T RUN is coming out.

Info:

Friday April 30, 7:00 pm

Eastwind Books of Berkeley
Ed Lin reading with Claire Light and Joel B. Tan
2066 University Ave.
Berkeley, Calif.

(510) 548-2350

Hope to see some of you there!

March 27, 2010

Reading Update and Kindle

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Yummy yummy deeeelicious fantasy! Intelligent without losing the wish fulfillment. So much more tasty than, say, Twilight, since you still get SPOILERS! the incredibly handsome, superpowered boyfriend who reads minds, but the Mary Sue is also superpowered and usually able to beat him, and the whole deal is that they each have to learn to rely on the other.

Also, very well-written, transparent, precise, flowing, no glitches or hitches. That's so hard to do!

Plus, the heroine is actually likable and not an asshole who breaks every girlfriend rule in the book!

Sign me up for the next Cashore book, in advance!

Also, so far this year I've read about 28 books in 12 weeks, which puts me at well over 2 books a week. My rate in the past few years (especially early in the year) has been a book a week. Of course, a lot of this is YA, which is usually a quicker read for me than adult fiction, but so has my reading in the past years been. I think the reason for this is simple: my Kindle.

I had no idea that this would happen, but having all my new reads in one place, in one easy-to-access, light to carry, easy to hold, and easy to read place, has eased my entry into each book considerably. I've noticed in recent years an increasingly tough surface tension around books for me, a resistance I have to overcome to "get through" and get into a book. The surface tension is much less around YA books, which is why I read so many of them: I'll choose them first. For some reason, reading the books on the Kindle has lessened the surface tension around all books considerably, and in multiple ways.

There's the tension you have to get through to start a book, the tension you have to get through to return to a book again and again if the book is written in a more fragmentary fashion, and the greater tension of reading a book you know you will find difficult, or requiring greater concentration than usual. The Kindle has eased all of these. I'm reading a book now which I've actually been reading slowly for a month. I don't have to go back to it regularly, and yet I do; for some reason it's much less threatening to pick up where I left off on the Kindle, and also less confusing.

I wonder if this is all psychology, all on a cognitive level, or some combination of the two. Be interesting to find out.

March 15, 2010

Ten Fashion Basics

Since I've pretty much given up on fashion (my feet have given out and I can't wear cute shoes anymore, and that's where it all begins) I've started reading fashion blogs. I'm sure there's some Psych 101 in there somewhere, but don't bother me with it. Anyway, I'm reading The Sartorialist, Garance Doré, and Jak & Jil blog, aside from Go Fug Yourself.

Garance just posted about her ten fashion basics, which seemed like a fun meme to me, so I'm gonna do that here. Just the fashion basics, mind you, the things I do to (in my mind) look good, not the things I always wear because they're comfortable. Well, actually, I'll post about the comfortable things I wear because I think they look good. I never wear anything uncomfortable. I might not have ten.

  1. Urban Outfitters oversize v-neck t-shirts. I have a jillion of 'em, each in a different color with a different print. These are my staple top because I love the cleverness of the prints and the cut is flattering.
  2. Free People extra long sleeved tops. They have a variety of styles, but the key here is that their thick, long-sleeved tops are all very long in both sleeve and torso length, and are thick enough to serve as pullovers, rather than just shirts. I've been wallowing in these all winter. A bit on the expensive side, but oh, so worth it for the long of limb.
  3. My 2" woven leather bronze belt. This was a score at some mall store in Michigan. I just happened to be looking for a belt to match my copper flats (which have since been retired) and this one turned out to be the solution for all my belting needs. ;P
  4. My Haflinger felt booties. Not at all fashionable, but compare to any random Crocs style, and you have the fashionable option for bad feet. (and my feet are baaaaaad.)
  5. Short jackets: for winter, my vintage 70s Gunilla Ponten (Brutus Rex) jacket, which I got in Berlin about 15 years ago. It's white, quilted faux fur with white ribbed collar and forearm-length sleeve cuffs. The lining is falling out and the faux fur is turning grey, but I loves it, precious! My summer jacket (I live in the Bay Area, remember) is a Sitwell sea-foam blue, collarless, stretch cotton, zip-up, portmanteau between a forties ladies jacket and a motorcycle jacket. Acquired at Anthropologie perhaps six years ago and getting nicely faded.
  6. My current favorite purse (I am a purse whore, so the favorite changes frequently), a red Nicole Lee thingy with brass-colored stuff all over it,  T.J. Smaxx find. (I never claimed to be fashionable.)
  7. An ongoing, never-to-be-concluded search for the perfect jeans. I.e., I wear almost nothing but jeans, but they change frequently. Tend to prefer wide-leg trouser jeans.
  8. H&M wraparound, half-sleeve dresses are my little black dress. I have three of them, in different prints. Come to think of it, I have two more wraparound dresses aside from those. I guess wraparound dresses are my thing. They're very flattering and highly recommended for people who have trouble finding dresses because they don't properly have a dress size!
  9. Necklaces! All kinds and shapes and sizes and colors! I generally go for cheap novelty necklaces from cheap stores, but sometimes I'll lay out a bit more for the right thing. My favorites right now are a stainless-steel-beaded long necklace from Target and a silver leather snap choker from the SF MOMA gift shop.
  10. Knee-high boots, which enable me to wear dresses (I can never find the right low shoes to wear with dresses.) Because of my recently-gone-bad feet, though, only two pairs of knee boots are still working for me, so I'm going to have to rebuild this section of my wardrobe.
Okay, that was a fun, if pointless, exercise. Now you!

February 23, 2010

Birthday Party/Book Release

Yay! As of three minutes ago, I'm officially fort-- er ... twenty-nine. Yay for me!

To celebrate, I'm having a party tonight (Tuesday) apropros of which the following information will be relevant:


Tuesday, February 23, 2010
7:00pm - 10:00pm
Socha Cafe, 3235 Mission Street, San Francisco

Come celebrate my four decades on this earth, and the start of the next four! Also: Help officially launch my new chapbook, SLIGHTLY BEHIND AND TO THE LEFT. I'll also be selling limited edition, hand-printed book jackets by Wasabi Press (see the image to the right and the video of Patty printing covers below!)

There will be readings (by me and others) as well as music and performances and silliness. We'll have a mic, so if you have five minutes' worth of something creative, please let me know!

Plus, we'll just be celebrating the start of a new, more morally prosperous and creatively appreciative decade. Yee Haw!

February 15, 2010

My First Review!

Squeeeeeeeeeee!!!

January 27, 2010

Reading and Interview

Hey all, quick self-promo here:

This Saturday afternoon I'll be doing a reading at the Oakland Library as part of the kickoff for the Oakland Word project, a series of free writing classes at the library. (I'll be one of the instructors.)

Here's the website with info on the program. And here's the event info:

Saturday, January 30, 2010; 1:00pm - 3:00pm
Oakland Public Library (Main) Auditorium
125 14th St
With words and music by:

  • Award-winning novelist DANIEL ALARCÓN, author of Lost City Radio and War by Candlelight
  • Poet and writer TENNESSEE REED, author of Spell Albuquerque: Memoir of a "Difficult" Student and multiple poetry collections
  • Our exceptional Oakland Word instructors, LINDA GONZÁLEZ, CLAIRE LIGHT, CARRIE LEILAM LOVE and BISOLA MARIGNAY
  • Beats provided by DJ MAX CHAMP
Also, Bryan Thao Worra just posted an interview he did with me on Asian American Press, which you can read here.

January 20, 2010

Squeal!

I'm on Amazon! Look! I even have a sales rank 'n' everything! (663,210 ... strangely that means nothing to me.)

January 09, 2010

Today's Photo

Bachcel

Barb has a call for submissions up, for pieces about Paul Celan. 

Made me think of the time in Berlin that Angelika called me at five in the morning because she'd stayed up all night reading, and just found out that Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann, jeweils my and her favorite poets, had had an affair.

There they are, the two to the left, sigh, to the other left, i.e. to the right.

January 02, 2010

What To Get Me: Geographical Shot Glasses

This is the first Christmas that my parents haven't tried to buy me either clothing or jewelry. I trained them out of it, and it only took just under 40 years!

But while I'm thinking of this subject: if you are a good enough friend that you feel you need to give me a Christmas, birthday, or traveling present, here's a tip:

I collect "geographical" shot glasses, i.e. shot glasses with place names on them. I have them from several states and American cities. I have one from a Mexican McDonald's (sort of). I have one from the Korean demilitarized zone (thanks, Kristina!) I used to have one from the Panama Canal Zone before my cat broke it. I have some cool ones from Graceland.

I like old-fashioned souvenir styles, or extreme tackiness. I don't like the attempts at class tourist trap designers keep trying to impose: I spent waaaaay too much time in Graceland shops looking for tacky Elvis and finding only "classy" Elvis. Boo!

So try to remember to pick up a cheap shot glass for me on your travels and put it someplace you won't forget to wait for my birthday or something.

This message is brought to you by my reading of Scroogenomics, which I got for a friend for Christmas, but haven't given to her yet. The book talks about how Christmas gift giving destroys value, since the recipients so often get gifts they don't value.

And please feel free to email me with your own tips, if you're a good enough friend to get presents from ME.

January 01, 2010

What I Read in 2009

  1. Knockout Mouse by James Calder
  2. Happy Hour at Casa Dracula by Marta Acosta
  3. Nisi Shawl Filter House
  4. Ernest J. Eitel What is Feng Shui?: The Classic Nineteenth-Century Interpretation
  5. Midnight Brunch Marta Acosta (2nd Casa Dracula novel)
  6. Bride of Casa Dracula Marta Acosta (3rd Casa Dracula novel)
  7. About Face James Calder (2nd Bill Damen mystery)
  8. In A Family Way James Calder (3rd Bill Damen mystery)
  9. The Plain Janes Cecil Castelucci and Jim Rugg
  10. Jonathan Lethem's The Disappointment Artist
  11. The Year of Living Dangerously by Christopher Koch
  12. Type O Negative by Joel Tan
  13. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
  14. Tamora Pierce's Beka Cooper series, Bloodhound
  15. The Borribles by Michael de Larrabeiti
  16. Gifts by Ursula Le Guin
  17. Voices by Ursula Le Guin
  18. Powers by Ursula Le Guin
  19. The Night Wanderer by Drew Hayden Taylor
  20. Distances: A Novella by Vandana Singh
  21. The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorafor
  22. Dilek Güngör Unter Uns
  23. L. Timmel Duchamp's De Secretis Mulierum: A Novella
  24. L. Timmel Duchamp's Alanya to Alanya
  25. Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth
  26. Pratchett and Gaiman's Good Omens
  27. Epileptic by David B
  28. Austin Grossman's Soon I Will Be Invincible
  29. China Miéville's The City and the City
  30. the first Buffy comics omnibus
  31. The Magicians by Lev Grossman
  32. We3 by Grant Morrison
  33. Sacred Scars by Kathleen Duey
  34. Thirteenth Child by Patricia Wrede  
  35. the fourth Buffy Season 8 Omnibus.
  36. Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen by Marilyn Chin
  37. Friend's MS
  38. (re)Cycler by Lauren McLaughlin
  39. Girl in the Arena Lise Haines
  40. Liar Justine Larbalestier
  41. Exclusively Chloe J.A. Yang
  42. The Child Garden Geoff Ryman
  43. Neil Gaiman's Marvel 1602
  44. Cory Doctorow's Little Brother
  45. His Majesty's Dragon Naomi Novik
  46. Throne of Jade Naomi Novik
  47. Black Powder War Naomi Novik
  48. Empire of Ivory Naomi Novik
  49. Victory of Eagles Naomi Novik
  50. Circle of Magic: Sandry's Book Tamora Pierce
  51. Circle of Magic: Tris' Book Tamora Pierce
  52. Circle of Magic: Daja's Book Tamora Pierce
  53. Circle of Magic: Briar's Book Tamora Pierce
  54. Magic Steps Tamora Pierce
  55. Street Magic  Tamora Pierce
  56. Cold Fire  Tamora Pierce
  57. Shatterglass Tamora Pierce
  58. The Will of the Empress Tamora Pierce 
  59. Slumberland Paul Beatty
  60. Flygirl Sherri L. Smith

So this year I've conveniently color-coded these books so I can see myself what I've read:

  • YA books
  • Genre books (any genre)
  • Lit fic or mainstream fic, can have speculative elements, but more likely to be taken seriously by snobs

So. The stats:

  • 60 books total. That's 1.15 books per week or 0.16 books per day.
  • 27 YA (nearly half)
  • 20 authors were women and 20 were men (!)
  • 10 authors of color (out of 40)
  • 45 had speculative elements or were outright speculative fiction
  • 4 were outright mysteries (among other things)
  • 6 graphic novels
  • Only 6 were re-reads (for a change)
  • 24 had been published in the past two years.
  • 1 book in a foreign language

In addition, as usual, there were a number of books I didn't complete. I don't count fiction/narrative that I don't complete, since you haven't really read a narrative until you've read the whole thing. But I do have a strong tendency, since I left college, to never read a book a poetry all the way through unless I'm reviewing it. So I have a couple of poetry books that I've been walzing around and digging through without, probably, having read the whole things. I'll consider whether or not to include those in 2010.

As usual, the books from the beginning of the year feel like I read them decades ago. And even though slightly less than half of my reading was YA, a good three quarters of it was SF, and most of the YA was SF, so I feel a continuum there, and I feel like 3/4 of what I read was YA. Funny that I still feel guilty about that, as if I should be reading "more serious" books. Fuck that. One thing to go on my resolutions list: stop taking YA not seriously.

I went and underlined the books I felt were really good or from which I learned a positive writing lesson (as opposed to books that were so bad that I learned what not to do from them.) Nothing this year really blew me away, but as you can see, I didn't hit pretty much ANY "lit fic" this year AT ALL, not that lit fic would necessarily blow my mind. I don't know. I guess I wasn't going for my mind to be blown. I think I should do that in 2010 as well: look for books that will blow my mind.

December 16, 2009

White "Privilege"

I'm writing this because it came up in a conversation I had with some friends recently. I don't want to get back into race blogging, but I've been thinking about making this distinction between "rights that not everyone has" and "privileges" for a while. And now that it's actually come up, I think I should put it out there.

In the conversation, my friends, who are white, protested that white people mostly don't use white privilege ... at least the white people that they know: by implication, the "good" white people. I was a bit shocked, and said, in essence, yes they do, all the time. They gave each other the "I'm not going to dispute this with a POC even though she's wrong" look. I couldn't shake off the feeling that we'd been talking at cross purposes ... again.

So I went back later, when there was an opening, and started talking about what I had meant by "white privilege." And judging by the reaction (listening rather than disputing,) my friends clearly had been working with a different definition of "white privilege" than the one that I was using. They also had clearly been working with the idea that "white privilege" referred generally to one thing, and that one thing was absolutely negative, and something all people could do without.

Their definition of "white privilege" seemed to be the one  in which "white privilege" becomes a less murderous version of "racism." Somehow -- not sure how -- all whites have access to white privilege, but only the bad whites actually use it. And when they use it, it's always a negative thing: pushing non-white opinions aside, taking credit for the work of POC, ignoring POC voices, etc. In this definition of "white privilege," the privilege is like an arsenal to which you have a key, but which you don't ever have to enter, much less take weapons from. This is the most basic level of understanding of white privilege.

But there are more levels to this issue. The next level of understanding white privilege, beyond the actively malevolent racism most people think of in the race debate, is "Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack." If you're unfamiliar with this idea, please read the article. In essence, the knapsack is about understanding that white privilege isn't necessarily something you choose, but something white people are born into (in this society) and walk through life with, without ever realizing it. The knapsack demonstrates that there are aspects of white privilege that you have no choice about. The article says that you can choose to give up your privilege, but it doesn't say how. And, really, how do you give up the privilege of, say, "taking a job with an affirmative action employer without having coworkers on the job suspect that I got it because of race?" That's not a privilege you can give up or fail to use, because it's a privilege that is bestowed upon you by others, not one you take for yourself.

There are two dichotomies happening here that are confusing the issue. The first dichotomy is between active use of privilege and passive possession of privilege. Most white allies have no trouble understanding this dichotomy. (If you do, read "Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" again.) But the second dichotomy is between a privilege that is good to have, but that nobody needs, and a right that everyone needs and should have, but which not everyone has.

So, at the third level of understanding white privilege, you have to understand the difference between those things that should be given up by the "privileged" and those things that should be extended to everyone, and NEVER given up. Here's where the term "privilege" gets very confusing, because we associate it, in our hysterically class-phobic society, with upper classes and that great American sin: unfairness. A "privilege" calls up images of yachting, and private tutors, and ivy-covered neo-gothic compounds in which secret societies choose future presidents at the age of 19.

"Privileges," strictly speaking, are things that are either earned, bought, or inherited. They are not "rights." Back in school, our teachers would make a distinction between  what we had a right to (an education, to walk down the street) and what was an earned privilege (a driver's license, permission to leave campus during school hours.) But when we talk about "white privilege," we're talking about a complex of things, not just the one thing. This complex includes (but isn't limited to):

  1. The ability to get away with tormenting and discriminating against people of color in small and large ways: from lynching and job exclusion to racist media representation and social stereotyping
  2. The ability to ignore the complaints of POC about being tormented and discriminated against; in essence, to live in a world in which this kind of discrimination doesn't need to breach your consciousness
  3. Easier access to "privileges" or luxuries, that are more difficult for POC to access, such as admission to clubs and elite schools
  4. Relatively unobstructed access to universally acknowledged rights, such as good health care, decent education, a fair chance in applications for jobs and schooling, decent housing, freedom from harrassment and danger, opportunities to thrive.
  5. General social acceptance of the legitimacy of what you say and do
  6. A sense of entitlement to fair or good treatment, that allows one to take effective action to receive fair or good treatment
If you'll notice, numbers 1 and 2 are simply negative: "privileges" that exist solely in a society in which a racial hierarchy exists. Without a racial hierarchy, numbers 1 and 2 would be impossible. They are solely bad, and are the most obvious form that a racist society takes. It's relatively easy to avoid number 1 if you are racially conscious, and relatively easy to tackle number 2 as well, which many white allies do by simply never disputing POC complaints of racism, and by making an effort to pay attention to racial discussions among POC. (It's a start, anyway.) I think we can all agree that these "privileges," if that's really what they are, can be done away with without further concern (were it only that easy!)

Assuming that number 3 is true (and I'm not asserting this unequivocally), this is where we're dealing with the actual "privileges" of wealth, status, and social power. As long as we are people living in groups, there will be such privileges. It's impossible to get rid of them. I don't argue with people who say that these kinds of privileges are unfair, but I'm also not super-exercised about acquiring them for everyone. I'm more interested in making sure that everybody gets a decent education, than in making sure that everyone gets a shot at getting into Harvard. These are privileges that people can resent, but until everyone has their basic rights and freedoms, these privileges won't--and shouldn't-- be the main business of social justice movements, because they sit above the basic rights that social justice movements are still trying to gain for everyone.

And that brings us to number 4. These things are called "privileges" because not everyone has them. But what they really are is rights. This is where the "white privilege" discussion really starts to get tangled up. Because these aren't "privileges" and they aren't things that white people who have them should give up. You can achieve social parity by taking away whites' ability to discriminate against POC. But you can't achieve social parity by blocking whites' unobstructed access to, say, a good education.

Now, of course, no one is blocking whites' access to these things. But the language of "white privilege" constructs this very simple dichotomy between things whites have that they shouldn't have, and things POC don't have that they should. So when greater access to jobs and schools results in a white person not getting the place they wanted, they revert back to this paradigm of access to a job or school being a "white privilege" that has been taken away by POC. They don't realize that:

  1. it was never a privilege, it was a right;
  2. the right wasn't getting the job or the school acceptance but rather having equal access to it;
  3. and that the right wasn't taken away by a POC, but rather extended to POC in general, thus making the pool of applicants larger and the chances of getting in smaller.

This is where the language of "white privilege" really starts to fail.

Numbers 5 and 6 are more complex still. Having what you say and do generally accepted as legitimate is a good thing. It's one of those things that POC should acquire, without whites having to give it up. But on the other hand, it's also not a right. We don't have the right to be believed. We don't have the right to be considered credible. We don't have the right to have all of our actions applauded. This, above all, is a privilege in human society that must be earned. The injustice isn't that people must earn credibility, it's that in disputes between members of different races, some people automatically have greater credibility and some people have an automatic lack of credibility, in both cases, unearned. In this case, social justice would not be automatically granting everyone credibility, but rather making sure that everyone has an equal chance to earn the privilege of credibility.

This is supremely hard to do because you can't mandate conferral of credibility. You can't tell people who to believe and who not to believe.

And number 6 is even more complex still, because the feeling of entitlement to speak up or act on behalf of yourself hangs, to a great extent, on the possession of number 5: a chance to earn credibility for yourself. POC who grow up being smacked down every time they speak up for themselves, being disrespected every time they act for themselves, will not feel entitled to speak out or to act. A lifetime -- and a community full -- of this experience, results in situations in which whites and POC are discussing or negotiating, and, because of this sense of entitlement, whites always speak up first, setting the terms of debate, and unknowingly using their greater credibility (yes, the credibility is general among whites and POC) to get more of a hearing.

POC antiracists tend to be very conscious of number 6, but number 6 is the one that white allies have the most trouble with. Because the strength to speak out and to act comes hard for everyone. It's an unequivocally good thing to learn to speak and act. And generally, people speak up when their rights are being abrogated in big or small ways, or when they have a chance to get what they really want, at no one's expense. But, at the same time, this is one "privilege" that whites often have to give up to vouchsafe POC access.

I'll give you an example, which I think I've mentioned on this blog before: I helped start and was involved in an Asian American arts festival for several years. The all-volunteer festival organizers were grouped into curatorial teams, with a team leader for each group taking point. The year after I left, a white man, who was friends with a lot of the organizers and spent most of his social time with them, joined the organizing committee, and became a member of the visual art team. When the festival coordinator asked for a team member to step forward and take point, no one did. So this white man, after some hesitation, did step up. It was apparent to him (he told me) that someone needed to do it, and that none of the others were going to step up.

He didn't know that in an Asian American group, you'll never know how much people will hang back, partly out of various Asian politenesses, and partly out of that POC lack of credibility and empowerment mentioned above. Working with a POC organization centered around self-determination is a long process of empowering yourself and others to take responsibility. Furthermore, this festival was specifically designed to give young adult As Ams an opportunity to empower themselves by doing. He didn't know that, when I was the festival coordinator, getting folks to step up to be team leader was a multi-step process, involving announcing it at a meeting where no one spoke up, calling team members individually later and asking if they *might* be willing to take point, then bringing it up again at the next meeting and delicately negotiating among the now two or three people who really wanted to do it, but hadn't spoken up before. He didn't know that, far from being frustrating, the process of empowering young folks to step forward is exhilarating, and wonderful to watch in all its slow, agonizing glory.

But, once he spoke up, there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell that anyone else would touch it. The visual arts team leader is traditionally the person who gets up at the gallery opening and welcomes the audience. And since the gallery opening was the first event, and the official kick-off to the festival, that year we had a white man welcoming a mostly Asian American audience to an Asian American-organized festival of Asian American artists. It was quite a message, let me tell you.

When I talk about empowering people to step up and speak up, it's something they have a hard time understanding, coming from me. I'm a very assertive, step-up-and-speak-out kinda gal, both online and off. But what they don't see -- and what folks in my own community even don't see, is what it took to get me here. I've always been an assertive loudmouth: it's in my nature. I used to walk into neighbors' houses as a toddler and start talking to them in Chinglish, completely undaunted by the fact that they had no idea what I was saying. But early on in school I started getting smacked down verbally, and sometimes physically, by my peers and by my teachers and other adults. I got smacked down for everything: for speaking up at all, for being a child, for being unfeminine, for not being white, for speaking up at the wrong time or for saying the wrong thing or laughed at for saying it the wrong way, for having an outsider's point of view, for NOT having an outsider's point of view, etc. There was always SOMETHING to smack me down about, but it was almost always ultimately about not wanting to hear from me, because I didn't belong. By the time I was ten, I heard my father explain to some strangers whose children I wouldn't play with: "She's shy. She's not really shy, but she acts shy until she's known you for fifteen years." By the time I got to college, I had to learn how to talk to strangers at all, and one of the biggest revelations of my freshman year was that I could go up to people and just talk to them without being slapped in the psyche.

In college I started exploring identity issues by myself. There were a few Asians and mixed Asians around, but they (literally, no joke, no metaphor) ducked their heads and scuttled sideways away from me if I tried to talk to them about any issues. When I tried to talk to my white friends, they very simply and confidently denied everything I said. The conversations usually never got past my insisting that they not call me "that tall Chinese chick" since I was "half-Chinese." (By the way, don't call me that! ;)) "It's just a way of describing what you look like," they'd say dismissively, already losing interest in the conversation.

It took me five years of living in Germany and reading every identity lit and theory book I could get my hands on to find any confidence in my own point of view; everyone denied that my perspective had validity, so why would I think I was right and everyone else was wrong? And I came to the Bay Area, where there were a lot of Asians and mixed Asians, and spent a couple of years on online discussion groups with people like me, before I really felt comfortable speaking up on any of these issues, both within and outside of my community.

It took me, in fact, until I was past thirty to really feel like I could speak up in confidence and dispute other people -- particularly white men -- without getting hysterical or feeling smacked down. And I still get over-aggressive. Over-aggression is the reaction of someone who is afraid that she will be unsupported and attacked when she speaks up. And that fear is justified: it was my usual experience for the first thirty years of my life, and it's only because I'm a natural assertive loudmouth that I was able to (mostly) overcome it.

(Think about that the next time you think a POC is being overly loud, angry, assertive, aggressive, or just generally hysterical. Maybe they are. And maybe they need to be, to speak up at all. And the POC you'll see speaking up and taking leadership positions are often (not always) people who, like me, are natural assertive loudmouths who reconnected with their voices after discovering that they were externally silenced for political reasons. It makes for an explosive kind of leadership.)

Back to working in POC groups: The example of the white guy who stepped up to a leadership position that put him in the forefront of a POC org is relatively rare. But lesser examples of this happen all the time: for example at panel discussions organized by POC groups with mixed audiences. Often, when time comes for Q&A with an all-POC panel, the first audience members to raise their hands are white. It's not that they don't have the right to speak first, but whoever speaks first gets to set the terms of debate, and often gets to set the topic for debate. There are times when it's better to hang back and let the debate go someplace where you didn't want it to go, for the sake of the greater good.

This is what I was talking about above when I was discussing "white privilege" with my friends: those moments of mild culture clash, where whites are doing the unequivocally good things they were taught and empowered to do -- stepping up, speaking out, volunteering, taking responsibility -- not realizing that they are stepping on POC's opportunities to do the same. This is the one area in all of the above where whites would have to consciously give up a "privilege" that is good and beneficial so as to protect the empowerment of POC. 

And it's a hard thing to do, to keep your mouth shut and your rump in the seat, to trust that eventually someone will speak up or step up ... and that if they don't, it's their right--their privilege--to fail.

In breaking this down, I'm realizing that it's not just a battle of definitions we're talking about when we talk about "white privilege." It's a failure of nuance and complexity. And, yes, there is genuine sacrifice asked of white allies here: the sacrifice, in fact, of some of your most precious rights. Because white allies tend to be politically conscious activists who have had to go through a process of empowering themselves to speak and act. For these allies, finding themselves in a world where everyone had the same rights and privileges as they did would be no hardship -- quite the reverse in fact. But giving up -- even only occasionally -- the right to speak and act so that others may have it ... well it doesn't necessarily make sense. And it's not going to feel right.

This is what happened in The Autobiography of Malcolm X, when Malcolm is approached by a young white woman who asks him what she can do, and he says "nothing." He acknowledges later that it is true that she couldn't do anything from within a self-determinist black power movement, but he was partly speaking out of bitterness. And it isn't true that she could do nothing; she could be active for social justice in white communities. This is not the perfect solution. In my world of anti-racism, although we seek to create and maintain safe POC-only spaces sometimes, the ultimate goal is an integrated -- not assimilated -- society that respects and celebrates difference and offers equal opportunities to all. In such an ideal world, no one would have to shut up and sit down, no one would have to keep to "their own" community to be active,  no one would have give up their own power to protect someone else's.

But we don't live in that world yet, and sometimes, compromises that feel wrong have to be made.

That's all for now, except to say that there is a lot of hurt in all of this activism, and there's plenty of hurt to go around. Even when no one is trying to hurt or exclude anyone, the dictates of a certain kind of justice means that sometimes allies have to step back to let Others step forward. Not doing so doesn't mean that they are bad people or racists, but that is sometimes what POC mean by an exercise of white privilege.

December 13, 2009

My Chapbook Is Out! Yay!

Conv-series-26-cover  (Although someone pointed out that, because it's perfect bound, it's not technically a chapbook.)

Yay! My little book, called Slightly Behind and to the Left: Four Stories and Three Drabbles, and is available NOW at Aqueduct Press' website! (Click on the "orders" button and scroll down.)

Right now, for the holidays, the book, usually $12, is $9, so get it now! Also, the book is part of a series called "Conversation Pieces," which you can subscribe to at $80 for 10 consecutive subscriptions (and you can choose which title to start with.) I've read a handful of these titles and they're all worth it, so you might consider a subscription, or make it a gift for the feminist or progressive geek in your life.

OMG, I'm so excited!

November 19, 2009

Writing Update

My NaNoFiMo is back! I did an entire mailbag (mailbag 6) today (that's, like, four short chapters to you.) But tomorrow, when I do the next mailbag, I'm going to get into some serious cutting out of things. And some serious rewriting of things. I think the hardest rewriting of things will start in mailbag 8 or 9. (Can't remember.) So I'll have a little space to run up to it.

Also, because I got stalled, my Mo is going until Dec 11th. I don't know why I chose that. Random, I guess.

Reading Update & Resolution

I just read The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.

Yes, I'm far behind. It was published seven years ago. Yes, that's how long it took me to get past my now-entrenched contrarianism. Yes, I'm that bad: if a book is being hyped, then I simply won't read it. It takes something as deeply in-tune with all of my priorities and isshooz as The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, to get me around the contrarian thing and actually reading the hyped boox.

And no, I didn't have an epiphany reading The Lovely Bones that caused me to realize that by being contrarian I was missing wonderful boox like this one. The Lovely Bones just wasn't that great. In fact, it's a perfect example of one of those boldfaced lie family melodramas in which everyone is a good guy, and everyone, even though they make mistakes, does it for the most noble and loving of reasons. The book proposes a universe in which there is an organized Heaven (which is problematic for me right there), in which Everything Eventually Is Okay, in which families always love each other, even when they fuck each other up (the serial killer's mother loved him, she was just crazy), in which dead people get a chance to fulfill their whatevers before they move on, in which the people dead people leave behind wait around and don't move on until the dead people are ready for them to, blah, blah, blah.

Yeah, and much was made of how this book, that came out soon after 9/11, touched a nerve in American society. You bet it touched a nerve: it told us exactly the kinds of soothing lies we needed to hear about death: that death is always meaningful, that lives are always meaningful, that trauma can be overcome (even after you're dead) and it's your fault if you don't overcome it, that you will live on after death, and that all of your fantasies about being loved and missed after death will come true, and then some.

Also, the whole literary writing style thing? After about the midpoint of the book, it seems the book wasn't edited that well, because there are whole paragraphs where you can't tell who the subject of the sentences is, or what's going on at all. But, of course, it's all Beautifully Written.

What I DID realize was that contrarianism isn't protecting me from this kind of drivel. Sturgeon's Law applies across the board, unless you're reading only canon classics and prize-winners (and even then.) What I AM missing is a big part of the public discourse on literature. I realize that much of the public discourse on literature is about drivel, and taking drivel seriously. But I do need to know what drivel is being taken seriously and why. So my new resolution is to read the biggest hyped books every year. I'll wait to the end of the year to find out which ones were the biggest hyped, but I'll read them. This includes the "literary" stuff (was The Lovely Bones considered literary?) and the Dan Brown/Stephenie Meyer stuff.

Sigh.

November 16, 2009

The New "Life's Too Short" Rule of Consumption

It used to be that saying "Life's too short" about giving up on a book or a movie was a very serious accusation of suckitude. The lesser insult was "I have better things to do."

But now I'm about halfway through my expected life span as an American. I've noticed recently, with books, movies, and even TV, that I'll give up on things much more easily, with the thought that I don't have all the time in the world to read (or watch) crap, and I still haven't read Moby Dick (or seen The Bicycle Thief) or whatever, so I shouldn't waste my time on this. I think it's a function of mid-life crisis.

It's also a real consideration, though. I'm genuinely starting to feel how limited time is and how crappiness is a terrible thing to waste my mind on. But I'm still working on the idea that I should finish every book I start, and still working with the sensation of failure when I don't.

Right now I'm trying to get through William Gibson's Virtual Light, which I picked up because it mentions Thomassons in it. Every time I pick it up, I'm reminded that: a) I still haven't read Neuromancer, b) I'm not all that interested in Gibson or cyberpunk, but really should read at least that one seminal text before I kick the bucket, and c) I'm not really into this book, but feel I should finish it since it's not at all a bad book.

So I think the new rule should be: since I'm going to spend this time reading anyway, but I'm never going to get this reading time back, should I really be reading THIS? Or more precisely, at the end of my life, if I were granted the power to remember every book I had read, would I regret wasting my time on this?

I think the answers are no and yes. So I'm kicking this book to the curb and instituting this as a rule.

November 02, 2009

I'm Reading On Nov 12!

Yep, another reading. Fall is a busy time. Since I'm counting down to my chapbook publication, I'll probably be reading something from the chapbook. Here 'tis:

Kimberly DaSilva & Guests*

Modern Times Bookstore, 888 Valencia Street, San Francisco
November 12th / 7:00 p.m.
 
 
Local author Kimberly DaSilva will read from her current manuscript:  The Same Tide For Us Both, a ghost story about a demon, a mother, and the end of the world.
 
Kimberly’s work has been described as “impressive” by Kirkus and “elegant” by The Advocate.  She has been nominated for a Lambda Literary Award, an American Library Association Stonewall Book Award, as received an ‘also noted’ in Ebony Magazine.
 
Guest readers include a myriad of local writers of color and queer writers.  Come hear:  Claire Light / Natalia Vigil / Jaime Cortez / Carole Simmons / LeConte Dill / Elissa Perry / Kenji Liu / Adam Smyer / Mel Hilario / Mahru Elahi / and Rona Fernandez   all in one place!
 
Discussion between the audience and the writers will follow the readings.
 
*This reading is a product of the San Francisco Arts Commission’s Cultural Equity Grant program.

October 31, 2009

NaNoFiMo

I almost missed the beginning of NaNoWriMo, as I do every year, but I caught it in time, thanks to Justine's blog.

I've never succeeded at a NaNoWriMo-type project, but a few years ago, when I tried to write a No in a Mo (not exactly the Mo of November) I did get more than half of it written.

So I'm going to try (again) to use NaNoWriMo as an inspiration to Get Stuff Done. As in, Get My Novel Done. So this year's November is my National Novel Finishing Month, or NaNoFiMo.

Actually, I'm not going to finish finish Da Nobble; that's not even in my plan. I just want to finish the third draft. Once that's done revision should get easier. Here's how it's going to work:

  • Da Nobble is epistolary (written in letters) and is organized by mailbags. Each correspondant contributes one letter to each mailbag, of which there are 15. There are five correspondants, which gives us a grand total of 75 letters. I'm currently in the middle of the fifth mailbag.
  • Of course, some of the letters are short and some are long; some of the letters require hefty rewriting and some do not.
  • I intend to complete planned revisions on 3 letters per day--that is, three letters that require revisions--until I hit the difficult ones. The difficult ones are the ones that don't just need revision, but the actual incident described in the letters needs to be thrown out and rethought. For each one of these, I will simply work three hours per day on them until they're done.
  • I'll check in daily here.
That is all. Wish me luck!

October 26, 2009

Reading Update and Delish Dessert Hack

Girl in the Arena Lise Haines

Liar Justine Larbalestier

Exclusively Chloe J.A. Yang

The Child Garden Geoff Ryman

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is what they were about, and what their lousy characters were like, and how their authors chose to write them and all, and all that book reviewer kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, the authors would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty critical about them. They're quite touchy about anything like that, especially [name redacted]. They're nice and all -- I'm not saying that -- they're just touchy as hell.

(Xtra points if you get the reference.)

And now to the delicious low-cal dessert hack (have I shared this one before?):

Whip together with an electric mixer two parts nonfat plain yogurt with one part Cool Whip or the organic version, Tru Whip. Cut up strawberries into it, or pretty much any fruit (except citrus.) Outstandingly like whipped cream, but a little tangy, and super low-cal/low-carb.

October 21, 2009

My Views On The New NEA

Hey all,

I was asked to participate on a six-week blog panel discussing current issues surrounding the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the federal government's national arts agency, now that it has installed a new director and will be facing new challenges (in this economy), and new opportunities (under the new president.)

The panel is hosted on Barry Hessenius' Barry's Arts Blog at the WESTAF site. Each week of the project brought in a new panel, composed of different sectors of the art world: 

  1. Former NEA
  2.  National arts leaders
  3. Funders - public & private 
  4. Arts Education leaders, Academia, Emerging Leaders, and Consultant
  5. Private Sector / Stakeholder
  6. Working Artists

We're now at week six and I'm on the panel of working artists responding to questions about how the government can best support and promote the arts in the coming years.

Please do check it out and comment at will!

September 08, 2009

Can't Afford To Wait For The Public Option

I took part in this Moveon.org action about a week ago, in which they had folks take pictures of themselves with these signs saying who in their lives "can't afford to wait" for the public option. Then they made a video of it. If you watch all the way through, near the end you can see the truly unflattering picture of me I took. I'm bummed because I went with the unflattering picture because it was the only one out of about 25 I took that included the whole sign I wrote. Then they went and cut off the bottom of my sign anyway. But I guess it made its point.

Please call Congress today. Really, none of us can afford to wait.

August 31, 2009

This Is My Happy Song


He claimed to be sick of this song already when I requested it in Berlin in 1997. Poor guy. He will never get to stop singing it. Damn, everybody sings along. God, people are scary.

August 19, 2009

Publication News!

Amid the moany-groany there's some good news:

The awesome Timmi Duchamp, editor of Aqueduct Press, has accepted a short MS of mine for publication in her Conversation Pieces chapbook series! Yay!

The book will be called Slightly Behind and to the Left, and will contain four stories: "Pigs in Space," "Pinball Effect" (which will be published as the "gravity" entry here,) "Abducted by Aliens!", and "Vacation." There are also three drabbles (100 word stories) in it, all written for FarThing, although she only took two (beeotch!)

It'll be out most likely by the end of the year, although that's not yet locked down. Open the champagne!

August 14, 2009

Four Years in the Life of John Hughes, Fascist

(I wasn't gonna write anything about John Hughes, but then my friend Joel Tan called for submissions on Facebook for a little Facebook anthology of John Hughes/80s memorials. I will post a link when it's ready.)

At first it seemed like John Hughes was just bad timing for me.

I was fourteen when "Sixteen Candles" came out and sixteen was too far away. I was a late bloomer and had never known what it was like to have a devastating crush on somebody in school. And let's not even talk about Long Duk Dong. I blocked him out and had to be reminded of his existence, frequently. I also suspected that the character I most resembled was Anthony Michael Hall's. Ugh.

When "The Breakfast Club" came out, I was in a brief fresh-faced phase, not popular, but at the height of my high school popularity, only an average student, the first cut from the team, and unable to identify with any of the stereotypes therein represented. A year later, I'd turn into The Basket Case, but by then the movie had ceased to matter, and the dandruff thing just grossed me out anyway. I never got dandruff until after college; it was a distant, adult thing.

When "Pretty in Pink" came out, as I said above, I had moved to a more Hughes-like public school and morphed into the Basket Case, and was watching Stephen Frears/Hanif Kureishi movies and reading Paul Celan. The previous year the movie would have spoken to me. The previous year I was buying skippy little sixties dresses with my best friend and strategizing how to sneak into clubs we never tried to sneak into. Now I was dropping out of school and trying to ignore how the furniture moved every time I looked away from it. Now the movie appeared to be exactly what it was: a cheap knockoff of an outsider life.

I laughed at "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" along with everyone else: it was funny. I never could articulate then -- nor can I explain even now -- the dread feeling in the pit of my stomach that movie gave me. I still feel it. It had a cold, existential edge to it, and the characters, aside from looking like adults, were so unpleasantly alien to me as to kill any enjoyment aside from that of purely cynical entertainment.

When "Some Kind of Wonderful" came out, I was -- miraculously -- in college, with a blonde bob, and my dream of being a drummer blossoming (it was to peak two years later when I actually bought a used drum kit for $60.) But ... I was in college. I couldn't even bring myself to express the wish of seeing the movie in front of my friends. I waited until I got home for winter vacation and went to see it at a second run theater by myself, a throwback to my Basket Case year. I did not allow myself to love it, even though the misfit finally got the misfit and this was perhaps the only John Hughes movie I could ever have loved; I was too grown up.

But, it turns out, it wasn't timing at all. I never fit the schedule; I never fit the mold. I was not pretty and graceful and cool like Molly Ringwald or Mary Stuart Masterson, and strangely, I never quite wanted to be. I was not exactly the white kid down the block, either; and the goofy and neglectful parents of this universe were nothing like my involved, overeducated, transnational pair. The characters I wished myself into were Maria from "West Side Story" and Alex from "Flashdance": parentless, urban, racially ambiguous girls who risked being shot for love, being fired for art. Self-sufficient girls who made up their own minds and were leagues away from the shallow problems of suburban high school popularity contests.

John Hughes movies were themselves the round hole I never fit into. They ruled my teenaged years like bullies, like Reagan, like the eighties. John Hughes fading out of the consciousness of my age group was a fact akin to the mainstreaming of alternative rock and Bill Clinton: the decline of a set of ideas that had poisoned the end of my childhood; the cultural accession of values more closely in alignment with my own; a huge weight off my chest.

I've been moved by the outpouring of emotion at the death of John Hughes, as I was by the fallout from Michael Jackson's death. But I was moved by the emotions of others, not by the deaths themselves. MJ meant nothing to me, but he was harmless. There was nothing in his message (such as it was) that hurt me. I can't say the same of John Hughes, whose shallow examinations of class distinctions in suburban high schools were a throwback to the geography of the fifties and sixties -- when different classes were still being schooled together.

Hughes never understood real power dynamics as they played out in American public schools. His blithe assurance that a drunken party could achieve social parity between two groups with vastly disparate levels of power was the teenaged version of the blithe assurances that if you laughed along with them, bullies would stop torturing you, or if we stopped talking about color, we'd see that racism was over, or if we squirted more ketchup on our tater tots, we'd get the nutritional equivalent of vegetables.

I was so glad to be shut of John Hughes, that I never thought about him from that day to this, except to murmur unconsciously insincere agreement when somebody nostalgized about one of his deathly movies. But now that he's dead, and I have to look squarely at his legacy, that's over for me. Time to let out the dead, grey feeling in my gut that his movies always birthed. Time to wash away the worst of the previous bad era.

Now, how do we wash away the Bush years?

July 24, 2009

Check In

Haven't posted in a while. Was thrown off course by having to track down a NEW health problem (because I didn't have enough already.) But have probably cornered the sucker (doing the test tomorrow.)

Then there will be a week of diminishing fear, a week of understanding the treatment, a few weeks of getting used to it, all coupled with getting back on track with my exercise program.

So maybe in a month's time I'll be myself again. Or I'll be something, anyway.

July 03, 2009

How Al Franken Won Minnesota

In those days, Marilyn earned her last name. She was a dove of a woman, sitting outside your window uttering plump, satisfied sounds while a scrap of paper whirled uncatchable around your making-waffles kitchen floor.

In those days we couldn't imagine Tom and Al apart. They each had a tattoo: Al on his left buttock of Tom's name in lowercase with "A-L" in blockletters in the spaces between; Tom on his right buttock of exactly the reverse. They eddied in love on the window sill, puddled in love on the kitchen floor, humped big piles of laundry love on the living room carpet.

They were blank walls to one another tAoLm and Marilyn. She couldn't hear him past the glare, and he could see nothing sexy in her. The muffs of her side-hairs dampened sound, bent rainbows around her head. All beautiful men were gay; all beautiful women wore four-inch heels and pony tails. The afternoon was solid; the night was silver, the mornings gold.

That day of taping she lost two sequins at once in the dressing room; looking for them on the floor she saw them configured together with the gash of a stargazer lily stamen like this:

:|

and she knew something was going to happen. In the hallways, as the young clipboard women called "time!" and "time!" and "five minutes please, everybody five minutes!" a breath of ice touched her clavicle and a man walked by her, free and free. Three sequin-shapes wriggled down the left leg of his tight pants and fell out onto the floor. She stood over them, reading an "o," an "m," and a "t."

June 30, 2009

ID This Book!

Hey guys,

My sister was given a book as a young teen by a friend, which I read, and I just now remembered. Can anyone tell me the title/author?

It involved a beautiful, dark-haired princess or chieftain's daughter, who was a spoiled brat and had an affair with some dude and got pregnant. He bailed and she shamed her family with her bastard son. The son had red hair, which was a sign of magic, and punishable by death. I can't remember what happened next, but they both ended up as slaves under the protection of some other chieftain and she had to dye the son's hair dark to hide his magic. She ended up becoming the chief's concubine. Meanwhile, there's another slave there (male, of course) who also has magic and he starts teaching the boy.

Don't remember most of the plot, but at some point it comes out that she herself is the one who passed magic on to her son (not the dude who bailed on her) and, if she would only learn it, she could become a powerful magician herself. Or something.

Any clues?

Did a little work on da nobble over the weekend and got through quite a bit today. I only have the last two or three chapters to go now, and these'll go fast. I've noticed, actually, that the beginning third and the end third don't need a lot of work (just minor edits), but the middle third is a mess and I'm going to have to go back in after this pass and rewrite a whole bunch of stuff. Argh. But good. I'm progressing.

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