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20 posts from January 2008

January 31, 2008

Late to the Game

This is pretty awesome.

January 27, 2008

Avoiding Sensitive Conversations

There are times that I know I am not as good a person as I could be, but I don't really care. I know that I could exert myself more in this direction or that, but I don't care enough to.

But there are also times when I genuinely wish that I was a better person--more concerned about others and less about protecting myself. That happens around conversations about race with clueless white people. I have a lot of friends of color who really draw my admiration for their boundless patience and kindness for this type of conversation. I have none of that patience and kindness.

What I do, and a lot of others do this too, is as soon as someone says something awkward or insensitive, I either bowl them over with a rapid-fire critique of what they said, or I clamp my mouth shut and look away. In the latter case, I'll refuse to pick up the conversational ball, and just leave them hanging with the stupid thing they said, knowing that they did something wrong, but not knowing what.

Later on I'll have to recognize that I missed the opportunity to educate someone ... or at the least, to loosen someone's ignorance. And all arguments that it's not my job to educate people about race sound somewhat tinny. It's exhausting, having to teach people things that it's their own responsibility to learn by themselves, but I'm there, and I'm spending the time with them anyway. So what's my problem?

(For those of you who genuinely don't know what my problem is, this is the nutshell: all poc have to deal with having their ideas and viewpoints invalidated to their face. A good example of this is when people ask me what my ethnicity is, I tell them, and then they dispute what I have told them about myself. Another example is when, say, a black blogger posts about his/her *personal* experience as a black person in a white-dominated world, and a bunch of white trolls tell them that they're  whining or simply dispute their understanding of their own *personal* experience. A major component of racial privilege is that the privileged are always right, and the Others are always wrong, even when the Others are talking about themselves. So getting into a discussion of race with ignorant white people is basically an exercise in asking to be invalidated and patronized about something you know more about than the person invalidating and patronizing you.

Another issue would be, of course, having to batter down someone's defensiveness about their own lack of racism just to have a conversation that you've had fifty thousand times already. You're pushed into a discussion that is tedious and fraught for you, and then you have to fight just to have the conversation in the first place, and just to get basic respect for your viewpoint. No, thanks.

I just had such an experience, from the other side, recently when trying to talk about class issues. I work for an organization that serves low-income people. Our clients have to fall below a certain income level to be eligible for our program. Yet all of our office staff positions--which pay well and carry excellent benefits--require a college degree and a high level of skillsets. So we're by definition a bunch of middle/upper middle class people serving a bunch of lower middle/working class people.

Our org culture emphasizes customer service, so our staff tends to get along very well with our clients. But there are inevitably a number of interactions which reveal class differences. Some of the projects that I am responsible for themselves raise interesting questions about class viewpoints and ways of proceeding with various tasks. But we're too busy at work--and probably too wary of engaging in such fraught discussions--to get into more theoretical conversations about class differences. We proceed at a very pragmatic level.

This weekend I met a woman at a party whom I had met before. She wanted to participate in my org's program but didn't qualify, so she had ended up going to another org. We were talking about various interesting things we'd noticed about the people involved in these programs and the programs themselves. I embarked on a thinking-out-loud moment about something I'd been thinking about but had never had the opportunity to talk about with someone who understood the background of this kind of work.

I wanted to say something about the strangeness of middle/upper-middle class workers serving low-income workers and helping them to become financially self-sufficient when the "higher" class workers, employees of a large organization, weren't financially self-sufficient themselves, but did earn more based on their high skill level. This was going to lead to some thinking-out-loud about how a higher socio-economic bracket meant access to a higher-paying state of dependency, and how popular programs promoting self-sufficiency for the poor were popular with many people precisely because they meant that we didn't have to deal with the question of how to give greater access to "dependent" but high-paying jobs to the poor.

I got about halfway through the first thought when the woman froze me out. She did the same thing to me that I do to clueless white people who say something stupid or offensive: clamped her mouth shut, looked away, and jumped into someone else's conversation while I was still talking. I don't know what it was that offended her: if I used the wrong word, or if she mistook where my comment was heading ... or if she didn't mistake where my comment was heading but just didn't want to go there.

And I'm not sure it really matters which it was. I'm pretty sure that this isn't the usual thing that people talk about when they talk about class differences (if they ever do), so what she thought she was protecting herself against was probably not what I was getting at. But if she did know where I was going with it, it may not be such a bad thing that she didn't get into it. Someone who is working her way through a difficult and time-consuming program to increase her own skills and self-sufficiency, doesn't need to waste any energy considering that the people who are helping her might be avoiding difficult discussions about access.

And if I used a offensive word or phrasing, I obviously don't know I did it.

Clearly I wasn't going to get the interesting discussion about class and access out of this woman that I was hoping for in any case. But what bothers me is that I don't know where I can go to get this discussion. I can't talk about these things at work, I'll be much more wary of talking about them with people I don't know well who are involved in these projects, and my friends who are up for such discussions aren't involved in this nonprofit field, so they can only talk about theoretical things. Yet I spend half my working day on this type of work. I don't have access to discussions about class differences.

Discussion is an essential resource; discussion with people who know what they're talking about is an even more important resource. As much as I and other poc resent being treated as a public accommodation in discussions of race, we are sitting on knowledge and experience that are an important--nay, essential--resource for truly informed and intelligent discussions of race. If someone is spouting ignorance, it's because they have not yet availed themselves of their access to such resources (you know, like libraries and the internet.) I wish I could be more of a resource to the people who actually need it. Maybe that would have a higher impact in changing the world the way I profess to want to change it.

And I'm not just saying this because I got smacked down this weekend. This certainly wasn't the first time it's happened to me and won't be the last. But these moments are a reminder of something I feel--perhaps less strongly--when I'm on the other side of the equation and just. can't. take. another. stupid. discussion. about how cool and funny political incorrectness is.

Ya know?

January 25, 2008

Teen Movies

Justine may have memed when she posted about her favorite teen movies. Because I love lists I'm gonna post my favorite movies from when I was a teen. Most of these aren't considered "teen movies," although, now that I think about it, most of them are about teens.

1. My Beautiful Laundrette--rocked my 16-year-old world on pretty much every front. Two pretty boys (but not prettyboys)  in London. They grew up together but stopped being friends when one (the white skinhead one) marched past the other's (the Indian immigrant's son one) house shouting racist slogans one day. They find each other again when the skinhead's gang attacks the Indian's uncles's car one night. They express their love by stealing the uncle's drug money and investing it in a laundromat, togevver. My introduction to Hanif Kureishi (who wrote the screenplay), Stephen Frears (who directed), and Daniel Day-Lewis, who played the skinhead.

2. A Room With A View--my favorite romance, ever. Introduced me to E.M. Forster--who meant something completely different by the book than the movie ended up expressing, but whatever--and confirmed Daniel Day-Lewis as my favorite actor when, a year after seeing both of the above, I finally realized that that was the same guy

3. Harold and Maude--there are two kinds of teen: the ones who think high school weirdoes should be pretty girls in glasses, a la Rachael Leigh Cook in She's All That, and the ones who know that high school weirdoes are awkward geeks like Bud Cort, whose predilection for funerals isn't supposed to be attractive ... and isn't. Awkward funereal geeks need romance, too, though, even if it's with an 80-year-old concentration camp survivor.

4. Flashdance/Footloose--these are basically the same movie for me. I fantasized about being Jennifer Beals and being with Kevin Bacon. And I danced alone in my room a lot to Kenny Loggins.

5. Purple Rain-- if you don't know, I can't tell you.

6. Some Kind of Wonderful--where the tomboy in love with her best friend actually gets the guy. I hated the way she held herself and dressed even back then, but that's exactly the concept.

7. Heathers--I might have just left teenagerhood when this came out, not sure. I was definitely in college, but it put the cap on my teenagerhood and got me my revenge, too. Big Fun

8. A Fish Called Wanda--made me almost piss myself laughing.

9. Dirty Dancing--how can you not love this movie?

10. Beetlejuice--Winona Ryder used to be so cool.

12. Say Anything--"If you were Diane Court, would you fall for Lloyd Dobler?" Why yes, yes I would. And I own him on DVD.

January 22, 2008


Have I ever catblogged? I don't think I have. Now I have.

January 21, 2008

MLK Day Meme

via Chrome Kitten.

Hope you had a good one.

January 18, 2008


A Dangerous Time, people. I have exactly 666 comments on this blog. Somebody break the tension!

January 16, 2008

It Must Be A Fake


'Cause if it's real I'll just diiiiieeeeee!

Hybridity is never this neat ... is it?

via Cute Overload, of course.

Theme for 2008

As my boss said on the work blog I edit:

A wise colleague told me this week that she doesn’t make resolutions, she creates a theme for the year. So here is our theme for the year; GET THE MESSAGE OUT!

Which gave me to think. I've made my goals/resolutions for the year, but what is my theme?

Well, it'll have to be something about enjoyment, about working hard and achieving goals, about realistic expectations but high ambitions, and about building home and family (further). That's complicated. I don't know if I can fit that into a single slogan.

So maybe not a slogan so much as an exhortation: ... be present? Build community? Work hard? Live happily?

No, there's too much going on for me to balance this year (and every year) for me to reduce it to any one single thing. I suppose that at the moment I'm incapable of a simple life. I don't even want a simple life, although I'd like one that doesn't defeat me with its endless, crying minutiae.

So, no theme for 2008, unless it is: Get It Together! But that's the theme of my LIFE.

January 15, 2008

Skratch Kids

Holy Shit. This is super viral right now, but ... damn.

Reading Update

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

Still catching up on YA. I'd heard a lot about The Chocolate War when I was a kid but never read it because the jacket copy made it sound so boring: a kid defies a secret society by refusing to sell chocolates? Yawn.

But then I read a question on Yahoo Answers about whether or not there was any existentialist YA fiction and a buncha people mentioned The Chocolate War, which I found really interesting. And it was ... the book I mean.

Actually, I don't want to write about it right now. I have too many other things to write about. But a recommended read to anyone who hasn't.

Passing by Nella Larsen

I think my friend Tisa may have mention this to me first during her visit to SF in late Fall. We were talking about biracial and passing texts. In any case, I looked up the book at some point, and then acquired it used at another point. Okay, the provenance of the book is boring.

Anyway, it's about a light-skinned black woman, Irene, in the twenties who can pass for white. She's married to a black doctor--a handsome man who can't pass--and lives in New York black society. While visiting her family in Chicago she stops off in a (white) tea room to refresh herself--a privilege you understand she allows herself frequently--when she runs into an old neighborhood friend from childhood, Clare, another woman her age who can pass.

It is revealed in their conversation that Clare disappeared from the neighborhood after her janitor father died, and everyone assumed she had become a prostitute or a kept woman. Instead, it turns out that she's gone over to the white side and married a man who doesn't know she's black. Clare takes Irene back to her hotel, when Irene meets Clare's extremely racist white husband. Clare's husband insults Irene unknowingly, when he makes derogatory racial remarks to Irene, who has internalized a strong black identity (it is suggested, although never stated, that Irene does so to anchor herself to her community, given her ability--and propensity--to pass.)

Two years pass and the two women meet again in Clare's world of New York. And the shit proceeds to hit the fan when the logical extension of the choices and behavior of each play out.

This book was amazing, fascinating, smart, beautifully written, and ultimately disappointing. When I say "beautifully written," by the way, I, as usual, don't mean the kind of cheap lyricism held up by contemp creative writing workshops. Larsen is earnestly literal about making her meaning clear--in the way of her contemporary D.H. Lawrence--by often describing moment-by-moment what a character's internal reactions are.

But you discover that she leaves just as much out, and deliberately, revealing more about a character's feelings than that xtr herself would reveal, but keeping the xtr's deepest, most shameful secrets, except in gesture and deed.

Larsen's ability to dramatize racial ambiguity is the best I've ever seen--and not the less astounding for being a project few have tried with any ambition.

But the novel's climax and end come far too quickly and are too melodramatic for my taste. It felt wrong to end with such a scene, and it also felt abrupt to end without revealing any denouement. But still, a strongly recommended read.

January 14, 2008

The "Missing Black Woman Formation"

Not to be down on Scott Westerfeld, whom I consider a friend on the skiffy side of the blanket, but his recent blog post about the "Missing Black Woman Formation" (hereafter referred to as MBWF) needs some complications added to it.

The MBWF concept is explained by one of the characters of Scott's YA novel So Yesterday thus:

“You know, the guy on the motorcycle was black. The guy on the bike was white. The woman was white. That’s the usual bunch, you know? Like everybody’s accounted for? Except not really. I call that the missing-black-woman formation. It kind of happens a lot.”

Scott then goes on to point out that we're living through a MBWF right now, posting a picture of our current Democratic presidential front runners (Edwards, Clinton, and Obama, natch). He underlines this by posting a photo of Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus from The Matrix.

Okay, but not really.

There are a number of problems with this, starting with how complaining about a missing black woman only works for commercials (which is mostly what the So Yesterday characters were talking about.) Commercials are 30-120-second gestures in the direction of a brand. You have time to say one simple thing, so that's what you say.

The black man inserted into a white couple says, "Our brand is diverse!" whatever that means. The missing black woman, if she were to appear, would say, "We're selling to blacks and whites equally!" which is not what most commercials want to say. Most want to say, "Hey, liberal white guilt dollars! Flow this way!"

When you get into broader pop culture, and especially when you get into the bizarre mix of current mainstream reality, branding, idealism, fearmongering, and passion play that is the contemporary presidential race, the MBWF has nothing interesting or true to say to the matter anymore.

Gloria Steinem proved this in the NYT op-ed that Scott (and everybody else) linked to. By Shakespeare's sistering Obama (dang, can't we get some new feminist tricks?) Steinem sought to prove that women have it worse than blacks, but only managed to give every reader a case of  SIWWTABIDKW (something is wrong with that argument but I don't know what), which is usually accompanied by a terminal case of the squirmies.

What was wrong with that argument, by the way, is that you can't compare apples and oranges (or sexism and racism), and you can't predict society's behavior towards the intersection of the two except by, as Steinem did, assuming that each must be overcome separately before the intersection will become penetrable (Frex: we needed an Albright, and a Powell, before we could have a Rice.)

So, a listing of problems with MBWF as applied by Scott:

Flip through a magazine and check out the ads. In any group of three or more models, one invariably will be black. (If there are six or more models, one will be Asian and one Hispanic.) Same on TV. In any commercial for beer or snack food, one of the guys on the sofa is always black. This probably misrepresents the incidence of interracial hanging out, but it isn't just tokenism. It's a harmony fantasy, buried deep in the collective conscience.

I.e. the MBWF, a white fantasy scenario, is leaving out a much more complicated, and truly diverse, group of people because that would complicate and diversify the white audience's social scene, rather than placating them for having a mostly white peer group. So it's a bit more complicated than just a missing black woman. If we're going to look at negative space, let's really look at it.

  • I'll take the last one second: Keanu Reeves isn't white. He specifically was chosen to play Neo in The  Matrix because he is obviously multiracial. Many people don't know that Keanu is multiracial--not because he doesn't look multiracial, but because he's been offered to us as white since the mid-eighties and most people have never thought to question that. In the mid-eighties, it was because the mainstream consciousness had no concept of multiraciality, especially not Asian multiraciality. But those same people who were incapable of noticing Keanu's halfiness in the mid-eighties have become, in the interim, so sensitized to it that they would notice it in an instant now if they were to encounter a second Keanu. But Keanu himself, name and all, is grandfathered in as a white dude.

It is for both these reasons--the obvious multiraciality and his acceptance by mainstream audiences--that Keanu was cast in the racially radical Matrix. Suitably millenial, the first Matrix suggested that a lot of race mixing had gone on among surviving humans after the apocalypse with its casting of actors of a variety of races and mixtures (including Marcus Chong, Tommy Chong's adopted son, whose ancestry isn't public, but is almost certainly multiracial.) This was deliberate.

Morpheus as the odd black man out in a MBWF is questionable, but his status as a magical negro? not so much. I said the first Matrix was radical, not perfect. (By the way, I distinguish between the first Matrix and subsequent Matrices because the Wachowskis got lazy in the race element, as well as everything else, and let a bunch of black actors stand in for diversity thereafter, i.e. losing grip on the multiracial aspect of the whole thing.)

  • Finally, with regard to our beloved Donkeys, can I just remind everyone that Obama is a biracial child of an immigrant. Far from being a quibble, this is absolutely essential to understanding how Obama has gotten as far as he has, and how he might even have a real chance at the presidency.

As I said, in our new millenium, our mainstream culture has become sensitized to multiraciality, so that we begin to recognize it when it appears in the public forum. But we're not so sophisticated as all that. We recognize it, but we still gawk at it. It's still unusual, exotic ... and not yet re-problematized, as all new, exotic things are.

Obama's clear and apparent multiraciality (one that left him with darkish skin and European features, which earn him the adjective "handsome" even though he's nothing of the sort) put him beyond our immediate racial hierarchy into a biracial status that is still fluid in the public consciousness. If he were just black, he wouldn't be here, but because we don't exactly know what he is, he might still be electable. So there, Gloria Steinem, my lass.

Furthermore, Obama is not the child of an African American descendant of slaves and a white American; i.e. he's not that difficult and problematic product of centuries of slavery and sexual stereotyping. Rather, he's the child of a white American and a black immigrant. A what? Exactly. We don't know what to do about it, because it's an exotic and new story: the black immigrant. But, dudes, immigrant. Undocumented labor issues aside, the American identity is an immigrant identity, and the American story is the triumphal story of immigration and assimilation.

In this context it's much easier to see why Obama, the child of a black man and a white woman, doesn't trip more people's black man/white woman wires. The white woman in this case is the agent of assimilation to an honorable immigrant. As copious recent immigration from the Caribbean and East Africa shows, it's a toss up whether such an immigrant will come down as black or as immigrant in their interlocutor's estimation, when the shit really hits. Clearly this question is decided by what is most beneficial to the interlocutor. If the black immigrant in question is threatening them, then they're black. If, however the interlocutor needs an ally and the black immigrant shows willing, then they're an immigrant.

White America needs an inspiring leader--an ally--to take us away from all this horrible Bush stuff, so Obama falls off on the immigrant side in our popular subconscious, even if the public debate has been hijacked by the word "black." I'll bet a lot of people have already forgotten the recent debate over whether or not Obama is really black or black enough. That fight had to be fought out to get detractors out of the way so that we could talk about Obama as a black candidate without digressions. What no one has noticed is that we're processing him simultaneously at both levels: as a surface black, and a crypto-immigrant.

By accepting Obama as our symbolic representative, even if only for a few months, we are essentially underlining and celebrating our existing core American values: immigration, assimilation, triumph, and pot-won't-melt-in-my-mouth virtue.

And via Racialicious, here's a little sumpin' sumpin' to make you think hard about the intersection between race and gender: a nice, long, fascinating article about transgender people of color.

Robocalls and Dirty Tricks

A Republican operative was jailed for phone harrassment campaigns in which he:

called liberal Democrats and urged them to vote for the Green Party candidate.

... [called] white households asking them to vote for the Democrat, using the voice of, as he puts it, a “ghetto black guy.” He also called union households, using voices with thick Spanish accents.

... jammed the lines — placing hundreds of hang-up calls an hour — to five Democratic offices across the state and a phone bank run by volunteer firefighters.

Add these to the account started by the nasty robocalling Repubs conducted last year, ringing progressive voters over and over with computerized calls that sounded like they came from the Dems. So yeah, it's a win that at least the little guy goes to jail and the dirty tricks are highlighted, even if the shot-callers get off scot-free.

But the whole thing is really depressing, if you step back for a moment, because what it says about liberal and democratic voters is that they:

  1. will only vote if they are left utterly in peace (!), i.e. one day of the phone ringing off the hook will put them off of voting for the person who will increase good and/or reduce harm to their pocketbooks, healthcare, children's schools, etc. One day, folks;
  2. are really really racist and won't vote for a candidate in favor of poverty reduction if they're reminded of the blacks and immigrants who will benefit from said programs;
  3. are too stupid to block incoming calls on their phone bank lines.

Lord help us: do we really want a Democrat in office?

via Racialicious.

January 08, 2008

Hillary As First Woman US President *updated*

Look, the women heads of state that we know about, the famous ones, are either hardcore elected conservatives, like Thatcher or Golda Meir, or daughters/wives of assassinated or simply dead former leaders---inheritors of political dynastic power---like Megawati Sukarno, Indira Gandhi, Cory Aquino, or Benazir Bhutto.

It seems that these are the two avenues to political power for women: align yourself with the political party that would most oppose having a woman leader, and become more hardcore than your compatriots (look at how Meir and Thatcher inspired frequent jokes among their conservative colleagues about their masculinity); or marry into, or be born into, a political dynasty and work your husband's/father's legacy hard.

Sure, there are occasional porn stars who win legislative seats on the strength of their novelty, but no one believes that a woman could be forgiven an early career in entertainment sufficiently to become a national leader the way a man could.

It's clear: women politicians are novelty acts, iron ladies who sacrificed their marriages and family life for politics, or privileged wives and daughters. Liberal or moderate women don't ascend to real power without the power of a political family behind them; they must be linked by flesh and blood.

So comparing the Clinton dynasty to the Bush dynasty, and turning on Hillary with the cry, "no more dynasties!" is not merely disingenuous, but also at its base, misogynist. A feminist moderate liberal like Hillary Rodham would have not a snowball's chance in Hell of getting even a nomination; her only choice would be to pull down the party for a term or two by being cast as a political helpmeet, somebody no one wants to elect, and a mistake that even the thoroughly incompetent Dems won't make again.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, on the other hand, could be president, and Bill doesn't even have to die first. We will only get a woman president through dynastic succession. Yes, it's a dangerous game, but the Monday morning quarterback says that by now we only wish Dubya had let his father (you know, the CIA guy who actually read intelligence reports?) be the power behind the throne.

I don't think that this means we get to look forward to a President Chelsea Clinton in twenty years either. I think, rather, that once Hillary breaks the ice, Chelsea will have too many competitors to really have a chance ... unless she's good.

Bottom line: just like we need a black president to break us through that barrier, we also need a woman president to break us through that barrier.

While we're on that subject, I just want to tell all the "woman president as a symbolic act not good enough" idiots to shut the fuck up. You clearly don't understand symbolism, or culture, or political representation. No you don't. Not one little bit.

Dubya understands it, though. Just ask his lesbian intellectual black woman Secretary of State. Condi is throat-blockingly important, and not in that tinny, Star Trek, meat-tenderizer-symbolic way. Because we've had a Condi, we can have black iron ladies in the cabinet now from here 'til doomsday. And Republican or Democrat, black or white, whore or brassy bitch, do you think for an Iraqi-check-point-second that there could have been a Condi without Bill Clinton did it first? It's a one-upping. A Dem hires a woooman, so the Repub has to hire a queer black woooman.

The White House will be the same. Before a woman of color can get up in there, a white woman has to do it. Before a random white woman can do it, a white woman wife or daughter of a former president has to do it. Its a progression. Hillary is the only likely choice we have right now who's left of right. Pelosi is not electable; please see the two paths to world leadership above.

Which brings me to my third pointish: our first woman president must be a liberal. Yeah, yeah, Hillary's not really a liberal ... shut the fuck up. I'm not even gonna argue that. The UK's first woman head of state was a rabid conservative and look what happened. "Women can be just as disgusting and compassionless as men" is not really a good argument for women leaders.

I want the conservatives scared of liberal women leaders. I want women to wake up and realize that gender representation means ... gender fucking representation. Women allowed to be women in a political office will bring a woman's perspective into hot issues that most of the public agrees on, but that the stupid elite men in power like to manipulate to keep themselves in power. Conservative iron ladies have to spend their tenures scaring liberals, not conservative men. Liberal or moderate women dynastic successors, on the other hand, have to spend some energy proving their femininity to the men of the house, but otherwise are expected to act kinda like women, on steroids.

So ... Hillary. Hillary Hillary Hillary.

Hillary. Not a compromise. Not a lesser evil. A necessary next step.


oh. my. god. I wrote the above before Clinton pulled decisively ahead but then just read this.

Maybe it was the sight of a strong woman finally showing some emotion.

Or maybe it was the "guys" beating her up in a weekend debate.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, rocked in Iowa just days ago, scored an upset victory against Barack Obama in the state that salvaged her husband's first run for president 16 years ago.

It was female voters who breathed new life into her campaign.

Weekend polling indicated Clinton and Barack Obama were running about even among women, but the former first lady went on to best Obama among women by 13-percentage points. Women also voted in much larger numbers than men.

What changed during that brief period? Clinton — looking vulnerable and human.

She choked up Monday when asked how she mustered the energy to campaign each day — a startling display from a woman so tough she appears at times to be cloaked in armor.

Many skeptics viewed the unexpected show of emotion as more Clintonian calculation, especially since it came as she delivered a stinging rebuke of Obama.

"I just don't want to see us fall backward as a nation," she said, voice breaking.

oh. my. god. Do I have to look forward to eleven months of this shit? And it was written by a woman. "the sight of a strong woman finally showing some emotion?" "'the guys' beating her up in a weekend debate?" "in the state that salvaged her husband's first run for president 16 years ago?" (just couldn't avoid comparisons with her husband, could she?) Did it have to be only the point about "female voters who breathed new life into her campaign" that gets emphasized? "looking vulnerable and human?" Is she saying that Obama already looks vulnerable and human? Or simply that he doesn't need to to get votes? "choked up?" "startling display?" "voice breaking?" "a woman so tough she appears at times to be cloaked in armor?"

Give me a fucken break. I was right about liberals having to prove their "femininity," though. Sigh.

January 05, 2008

Why I'm Supporting Hillary (for now)

I've been hearing a lot from my Obama-supporting friends about how inspired they are by him and that's truly a wonderful thing. We've had eight years of horrible, divisive, cynical, mud-slinging, non-representational politics, and going into an election where people are feeling hopeful about our political future for the first time in forever--rather than merely going for the lesser of two evils--is life-changing.

I really mean that.

In addition, I hear the arguments against Hillary having caved and supported the war initially, and no, I don't believe that she genuinely supported the war. I do believe that she caved and went with political expediency at a time when the winds were blowing irresistably that way. I don't care that we'll never know how Obama would have voted on that one. Obama's stance on the war if he'd been in a position of power is immaterial.

Because the reason I support Hillary is exactly that she bowed to political expediency rather than follow her conscience and possibly--probably--lose her seat.

Because, and this is really key for me, I'm not naive enough to expect--nor oriented to even wish for--politicians to be idealists. Politicians--executives and their cabinets, as well as legislators alike--are not there to push a political agenda to the exclusion of all else. They are there to find a way to organize our nation and our society that enables all of us to live together, which means compromises all around.

Let me repeat that: the good government enables all of us to live together through compromise, and does not push one political agenda to the exclusion of all else.

Why is George Bush the worst president since Buchanan or Hoover ... or ever? It's not because he's a wing-nut. It's not because he's cynical or divorced from his constituents' reality. It's not because he won't listen to experts. It's because he pushes his political agenda to the exclusion of all else.

It's not just literally sitting down with the opposing party and hashing out a compromise that is political compromise. Listening to experts and tempering your policy according to empirical findings is, in fact, also political compromise. Recognizing that your policies are making you unpopular and risking your party's power for potentially a decade or more, and changing your policies accordingly is political compromise. Realizing that the leadership in your own cabinet is defying you because you might be wrong is political compromise. Bush has shown himself incapable of compromise with Democrats, within his own party, within his own support base, and even within his own cabinet.

Bush is the most idealistic president I've ever seen. He absolutely believes in using the American government to enrich corporations and empower evangelical churches politically. And he adheres to these ideals no matter what.

I've made the point before that Bush would make an excellent nonprofit Executive Director. Because special interests is where the bulldog, uncompromising idealists belong. To get one single agenda across, you need a person who will. not. deviate. These are the people who get petitions signed, turn canvasses to good account, lobby effectively, change laws, free the innocent, save whales, and stop our environment from being degraded. This kind of personality belongs at the head of an NGO, in front of an NPR interviewer, or holding a Nobel Prize. But this kind of personality doesn't belong even in a city supervisor's seat, much less in the White House.

The politician who governs effectively is the one who can see both what the prevailing tide of public opinion is, and what might be good for their constituency in spite of the prevailing tide of public opinion. The effective politician is a slimeball who doesn't subsume her own ego in her politics--forcing herself to follow an agenda to the exclusion of all else--but rather dispenses with her entitlement issues by taking an unethical perk here and there--a real estate deal, a stained dark blue dress--and manages to keep her personal issues out of political calculation as much as is humanly possible.

The effective politician has a strong and extensive network in all parties, has people who owe him massive favors, knows how to twist an arm or use political blackmail, know exactly which hot-button issue to sell out to get what he wants. And this politician, underneath all the wheeling and deal-making, has already picked his battles, and decided which issues are going to get his attention and which he'll be willing to let fall by the wayside. And he'll never, ever tell the public what those are.

That's the politician I want, because that's how politics works. I want the politician who clearly shares my general political stance, clearly believes in social justice and has generally the right notions about how to achieve it, but will sell her own grandmother to stay in office, and has dealt with her conscience ruthlessly and early on.

It's these politicians that enable the rest of us to stay on the right side of our own ethics.

I think Hillary is a social justice feminist entitled connected slimeball who once tried to be idealistic in the White House, was smacked down hard, and will never make that mistake again. I don't want to hang with her, and I don't admire her morals, but she has my vote.

January 03, 2008

Other Writahs

It's funny, but I get along best with other writers, particularly fiction writers, on the internet.

I have writers among my friends but most of those are poets, or writer/artists/performers, or playwrights, or whatever. And most of my friends are visual artists or performers or whatever---not writers. And it's not that I don't like the fiction writers I know ... I really tend to like them, even the ones who aren't such good writers :P

Problem is, they don't seem to like me.

Small wonder, given the last sentence of the previous paragraph. I don't pull punches when I evaluate work in public--this very blog is a veritable grave of potential friendships, no doubt. And writers are, in my sincere opinion, more touchy about their work than any other kind of artist. So that could be it.

But I'm not so sure that that's it.

Does anyone else have the paranoid impression that they can't get along with other writers of their genre or discipline? I seem to do best with y'all when having blogversations, which are necessarily distancing. What sayest thou?

Writing & Reading Update

859 words of a new ... story? Wendy Bradley's exercise with starting with the first line of a novel as a trigger. Mine was Maugham's The Moon & Sixpence, which I picked at random from classics in Google books. The first line was "I confess that when I first made acquaintance ..."

There. I'm satisfied with this amount of movement. After not writing for so long I have to build up my muscles again.

My first book of 2008 is a hangover from YA 2007: Christopher Barzak's One For Sorrow. Pretty damned good. A bit of a throwback to late seventies gritty, depressing YA, but there's nothing wrong with that.

The book handles an Ohioan working class family of a type that I thought had disappeared with all the outsourced factory jobs the midwest once had in such abundance. Barzak actually deals with this issue in a particularly effectively creepy way--abandoned industrial sectors of Youngstown literally haunted by the ghosts of workers who were killed, or also abandoned, there.

The younger son, 15 and sensitive, completes the bonding he started with a classmate, but after the classmate is murdered. I.e. he bonds with the classmate's ghost. It's partly a response to the fucked-up-ness of his family, where his grandmother has recently died, his father has lost his spirit and spends his time belittling his family, his mother has been paralyzed in a car accident, and the drunk driver who paralyzed her has moved into their house. But it's also just that great divide all teenagers have to cross, the promontory from which you can start to glimpse the actual life ahead of you and decide if you're going to buy in.

The protag, being particularly far-seeing, almost decides that he doesn't have the stomach for it. The book is mostly right on the mark with this process, but it does drag a bit in several places, the places where the boy's own runaway life is rather dragging. It's hard to make these scenes interesting.

Highly recommended.

January 02, 2008

Writing Update

I'm gonna start doing daily writing updates this year, even if they are just word counts.

Today I added 184 words to an interesting superhero story I started in March of last year which I forgot about and found again on New Year's Eve, when looking for something---anything---to read. I abandoned it because I had no idea where it was going, but I think that means that I can do what I want with it.

What Did I Read in 2007? Updated

2007 is the first year that I have kept track of all the books I have read ... or at least, read through to the end. There were a handful or two of books this year that I put down unfinished and didn't pick up again, but no more needs to be said about that. So here they are, the ones I finished, along with stats. The ones in bold are books that gave me to think, for longer than their stories lingered in my imagination. This is more good than not, but does not mean, necessarily, that these are the best books, or even my favorite books, of the year.

1. Lost Girls by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie
2. Remains by Mark W. Tiedemann
3. Un Lun Dun by China Miéville
4. Colors Insulting to Nature by Cintra Wilson
5. The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller
6. Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones
7. Magic's Child by Justine Larbalestier
8. The Last Colony by John Scalzi
9. Coraline by Neil Gaiman
10. Middle Passage by Charles Johnson
11. Other People's Weddings by Noah Hawley
12. Dark Cities Underground by Lisa Goldstein
13. Was by Geoff Ryman
14. Water Logic by Laurie Marks
15. 47 by Walter Mosley
16. The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon
17. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
18. Dogeaters by Jessica Hagedorn
19. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
20. Cotillion by Georgette Heyer
21. The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer
22. McSweeney's Anthology of Hipsters Writing Children's Stories (I refuse to call this by its real title)
23. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
24. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
25. Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey
26. So You Want to be a Wizard? by Diane Duane
27. Deep Wizardry by Diane Duane
28. The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
29. Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik
30. Crystal Rain by Tobias Buckell
31. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
32. New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
33. The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
34. Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper
35. Greenwitch by Susan Cooper
36. The Grey King by Susan Cooper
37. Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper
38. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
39. Briar Rose by Jane Yolen
40. Trickster's Choice by Tamora Pierce
41. ... And This is Laura by Ellen Conford
42. Siberia by Ann Halam
43. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
44. Trickster's Queen by Tamora Pierce
45. Good to Great by Jim Collins
46. The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman
47. The Subtle Knife by Phillip Pullman
48. Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman
49. Extras by Scott Westerfeld
50. The Amber Spyglass by Phillip Pullman
51. Flora Segunda by Ysabeau Wilce

52. Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin (forgot to put this on the blog when I read it so it didn't make it into the year-end list. Really didn't like it much.)

So ...

  • 52 books completed in total

  • 1 nonfiction book (only one)

  • 2 graphic novels

  • 30 YA or middle grade novels, or novels packaged as such

  • 39 books in speculative fiction genres

  • 21 male and 25 female authors

  • 6 authors of color, as far as I know

  • 10 re-reads

  • 12 series that the books I read were part or all of

  • 27 with strong female protagonists
  • And with that, my YA-reading year is over. This doesn't mean that I won't still read YA, but I'm going to stay programmatic with my reading while reading in a different direction in 2008.

January 01, 2008

2008 New Year's Goals 'N' Objectives

I'm not doing resolutions for 2008 because the word has too much of a "giving up for Lent" connotation. I'm going to do goals and objectives instead. That's less foreboding. (Plus, does the world really need another "why I don't do resolutions" post? If you don't do resolutions, then not-do them in silence!)

2008 Goals and Objectives, with subclauses:

  1. Get writing again. This is the big, important one. I really didn't write at all in 2007, beyond some blog posts and revision on already drafted stories. Some notes and story ideas. That's all. No substantial work on da nobbles and no complete new stories generated. That's the objective. The goals are more immediate:

    1. full draft of a new short story every month

    2. completed first draft of the YA fantasy

    3. completed second draft of da Nobble

  2. Read more challenging and inspiring material. In 2007 I read a shitload of YA. Deliberately. And I'm glad I did ... but I kinda feel my muscles atrophying, and I have a pile of grown-up books waiting for me. Also, nonfiction, hello?

  3. Get on the insulin pump, which will definitely happen. I've taken the first steps already and the thing will appear in January most likely.

  4. Work the blogs. This blog you are reading is easy, because when I don't feel like doing a big, long post about something challenging, I can do my equivalent of catblogging. But that's boring for me and you. Plus, I've figured out the difference between atlas(t) and atlas(t): Galleon Trade Edition, and I want to work both.

  5. Get fit. I.e. exercise five days a week, minimum twenty minutes. No other goals there, because apparently, this is challenging enough.

  6. Lose that 15 pounds. It really just slides off when I eat right, so the key to all of this is wanting to eat right, which means handling stress better. Which relates directly to the above objective and the three directly below.

  7. Get regular massages.

  8. Go dancing regularly.

  9. Regular dinner parties, game nights, and other relaxing, small social events at my house. Yes.

This is more modest than last year's set, but very similar, because, basically, I'm the same person with the same desires and ambitions, which I made no progress on fulfilling last year. Argh.

Happy New Year, all! Please post links to your own resolutions so I can compare and contrast. And then feel badly about my lack of ambition or lack of realism.

Update On Last Year's Resolutions

1. Finish "The Sixth Element," the boringly titled YA fantasy nobble, and begin sending it out. HA! NOT EVEN!

2. Pull another InNoWriMo late in the year and finish the rough draft of the sequel to "The Sixth Element," which will be the second of a trilogy. SIGH. NO.

3. Get my pictures framed and hang them on my wall. YES! ACCOMPLISHED!

4. Buy a car. That is all. DECIDED NOT TO SO THAT ONE WAS A DRAW.

5. Get health insurance. YES! ACCOMPLISHED.

6. Get on the insulin pump. I'm finally psychologically ready and all I need to do is get health insurance first. NO, BUT GOT ON THE WAY.

7. Lose and keep off those stupid 15 pounds. Everybody else fluctuates 5 or 10 pounds. I do 15. That's just me. HA! NOT EVEN CLOSE!

8. Get all my currently finished stories (all three of them) placed. NOPE. BUT I DON'T ENTIRELY CONTROL THAT ONE. DIDN'T PLACE A THING THIS YEAR.

9. Get the two nearly finished stories finished and placed. NOT.

10. Visit my sister. YES. DONE.

11. Go on at least four trips, 'cause there's much to see and people to do ... er ... MANILA, PRAGUE ... WICSCON CANCELED DUE TO ILLNESS ... WELL, I MADE A SOLID ATTEMPT. NO ROAD TRIPS, THOUGH, BECAUSE NO CAR.

12. By this time next year be substantially farther along with my yoga practice and the other forms of exercise I'm currently alternating that with. NOPE.

13. Go dancing at least once a month! I love it every time I do it. Why do we not do the things we love? Who's with me? NO, SIGH.

Three out of thirteen completed, three more partially done, and one a draw. I guess that's not all bad, after all.

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