So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

31 March, 2008

Carnival!

The first Feminist Carnival of Sexual Freedom and Autonomy is up at Uncool. It has an approximate fuckton of links to all kinds of interesting stuff, including a few submissions of my own.

In case y'all needed an afternoon of reading.

29 March, 2008

Dear Amazon.Com: Fuck You Too

Newsflash for the day: Big corporations suck, and the bigger they are, the more enthusiastic they are about sucking.

Now that we've brought up the tactile properties of water, the religious habits of the Pope, and the common defecation locations of bears, more specifics.

You've probably heard of Amazon.com. Hell, I link 'em occasionally when I'm posting about books here and have a searchbox on my page until I post this and start revamping my layout to remove it. Turns out, they've taken the notion that their position in the forefront of the online book market means they can strongarm presses that use print-on-demand technology. Specifically, they want all of those presses to print using Amazon's POD service rather than whatever they are using now, at least if they want to be listed on Amazon.com.

This is going over about as well as one would expect, especially since the POD publisher that Amazon acquired is deemed not as good (more expensive, fewer features) than the alternates that various small publishers are actually under contract with.

I work for Immanion Press, a small press that uses print-on-demand technology for its publication runs as a freelance editor; I have also been published in one of their anthologies, and intend to pitch at least one project to them in the future. They use Lightning Source, mentioned in the Angela Hoy article. I've bought books from Asphodel Press, which uses Lulu.com as a printer. I don't know what printer The Bibliotheca Alexandrina, a small pagan press devoted to the Graeco-Egyptian pantheon, uses, but they'll be affected by this nonsense too. (I'm listing specific pagan presses because I actually have more direct contact with them than others. This has made The Wild Hunt, a pagan blog; I haven't seen it in the fiction-writing world yet, though if it makes Making Light I'll edit in a link from here.) I also know a variety of writers working in small-run science fiction, fantasy, and romance lines, at least some of which use print-on-demand.

I want people to be able to buy my books. I want people to be able to buy my friends' books. I want people to be able to buy the books of worthy others, too.

Please join me, one of my employer's senior editors, Lupa, Celtic recon author Erynn Laurie, and a variety of other people in bitching out Amazon for being monopolistic bastards. As soon as I get this posted, I will be removing all the Amazon affiliate stuff from my blog design and possibly drafting them a nasty handwritten letter about what assholes they are and sending it to

    Amazon.com, Inc.
    P.O. Box 81226
    Seattle, WA 98108-1226


Jerks.

28 March, 2008

Crazy For You

There's an interesting and largely unfortunate consequece to being up-front about damage, and it's why I rarely am.

It's the way it exposes things. Generally, the exposure is in the form of, "You're reacting that way because you're broken in this way." And if one's disclosed having been hurt in the relevant this way, well, there's glory for ya, catch-22 style.

Back when I was dealing with the jerk who was pulling the "What horrible thing happened to her that she doesn't believe she deserves monogamy" schtick, when he was prying and going at 'did you have an abused childhood? were you molested?' and all the things that were looking for someone to blame, I didn't talk about things. Not just because I know that talking about, say, my mother in any other circumstances would get the usual borderline-description-response "Oh, that's perfectly normal, you're the crazy one", but this time would be siezed upon as some reason to justify my responses. Not just because talking about the assault is hard, and I don't want to hand over little bits of the rough stuff in my head to someone who just wants ammunition to hurt me with.

But because sometimes, the reactions aren't a pathology. I don't need horrible-things-happened to explain being poly or kinky, as I don't consider them broken states in need of correction.

With real people worth talking to, it gets harder, though.

Especially when getting aftereffects of The Crazy One.

"You're reacting that way because ..." and wham, off to the races.

Any response can be characterised as belonging to The Crazy One, if one's dissected one's past enough. Especially if there is any genuine damage in there to deal with. And if it belongs to The Crazy One, it's my responsibility to deal with; it doesn't necessarily bear on reality.

Only sometimes I really am just that upset.

And after getting a "You're reacting that way because ..."

... I spend hours taking myself apart, trying to figure out if I'm delusional, if I'm The Crazy One and didn't notice it, because maybe someone else actually knows why I'm reacting better than I do from inside my head ...

... because ...

... what if I am The Crazy One?

... what if ...

... if ...

22 March, 2008

Cambyses Returns

In about 525 BC, a Persian named Cambyses took the notion that he would conquer Egypt. This campaign led to a possibly-urban-historical-legend about his strategy: knowing how much the Egyptians honored cats, he gathered animals in among his front ranks so the archers would not shoot for fear of hitting them, held cats to their shields, or even simply had the image of the cat painted upon his army's shields, discouraging the superstitious (who generally believed in the near equivalence of image and reality) from striking them. In any case, this bit of psychological warfare is credited with Cambyses's conquest of Pelusium.

Now, The Cute Cat Theory Of Internet Activism. The critical points:

Web 1.0 was invented to allow physicists to share research papers.

Web 2.0 was created to allow people to share pictures of cute cats.


and

Hypothesis:
Sufficiently usable read/write platforms will attract porn and activists.

If there's no porn, the tool doesn't work.

If there are no activists, it doesn't work well.


And so long as activism is conducted on media that are being used to share cat pictures, it is much harder to censor, without the sort of deliberate backend that is set up in China (discussed in the link). Because if someone blocks all of YouTube, say, someone's gonna bitch about not being able to see turtles chasing cats.

(Hattip to Darker for the initial article, plus some really amusing expressions when I tried to explain Cambyses.)

18 March, 2008

The Only Thing That We Done Right Was The Day We Begun To Fight

I was just reading this article about being multi-ethnic and thinking of the shape of things. Not just the overt play of racial politics in this election, though that's a part of it. Thinking of the people I know who get called "biracial" (some of whom object to the term because they are more than bi), my cousins who straddle the Yankee blueblood heritage I know with black kin who still bathed in a tin tub in the kitchen with water boiled in a kettle when I was a kid, my friend who taught me how to take care of her hair so that I could write about it, the intersections of intersections. The fact that had I been born to parents like mine a hundred years ago, I would be "multiracial": white and Irish and Slav.

My family watched the movie Across the Universe last night, which was full of many things, and I find myself thinking of the sequence that began with the 12th Street Riot, with a black boy singing, softly, "Let It Be", as he huddled behind a car. And the flow of it, the song taken up by a gospel choir for the twinned funerals of that boy and that of a soldier killed in Vietnam.

And I'm too young to know that turmoil personally, but I knew enough to tear up. Knew enough in my soul steeped as thoroughly as it is in Keep On Walking And We Shall Be Free, in Long Time Passing, in How Many Ears Must One Man Have Before He Can Hear People Cry. I know the music, at least, well enough to have a passing familiarity, and the movie's cosntant backdrop of violence was the more real for it.

And it's with that in my mind that I read the speech Barack Obama made, addressing the issues of race, of black church, of so many other things. And I think of Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Est├ęs writing "Michelle Obama: Those Who Say: "I Ain’t Voting For No Nigger"", and of Orcinus's refutation of the Obama campain as a "cult" as the insidious drivel that it is.

And I get to the part of the speech, after all the pain and broken lives and the memories and legacy thereof that's in my head to think about today are cited, this:

Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.


And more like it, but education was first listed and so utterly dear to my heart, my pet issue.

And I say, from the depths of my heart: Hold on. Hold on.

I think, also, that I'm here because of Ashley.

14 March, 2008

How I Didn't Lose My Virginity

This is a story I've never told in full before.

A long time ago, I had a friend who was in love with me. A bit troubled, in a complicated sort of way. A little suicidal around the edges.

The fact that I wasn't in love with him, wasn't able to be in love with him, was driving some of the darkness. And we were close, so very close that the person he had to turn to with, "I feel like killing myself over this girl" was me, the girl.

I love him as a brother, you know. My dear little brother. Who needed me, in ways that I could not truly give.

And I sat there on the cusp, thinking about who I was, what I am. Do you know the word "hierodoule"? The breakdown of the etymology is "temple/sacred slave". A nicer word for temple prostitute, really, the women who, for reasons of faith, were vessels for sexuality in the home of the gods. I thought about that sort of thing, not in words so coherent, not in words at all.

I offered, and he agreed. And we talked, anxiously the way young people with no experience would do, trying to make plans, anxious and nervous and, for me, razor-edged. He did not know that I had been assaulted; it was well before I could even dream of telling anyone about that, it was all folded away in me.

A few days later, he decided to turn me down. He laughed and said I could get the point off the Purity Test for "offered a pity fuck and been turned down".

I was relieved, deep in that broken heart of mine. And I made him swear that if he was going to kill himself, if he decided to do it, that he would come to me first, and we would have sex, because I would not let him die without the surety of being loved. Even if it wasn't the way that he wanted.

He promised. I think he knew that it was the only way I would let him release me. The only way I was not the hierodoule, right then, was to make the vow that he could call upon me for that, that he could come to the temple, if he needed it.

These days he's, so far as I'm aware, happy; living with a woman who our mutual friends tell me is wonderful and very good for him; I am reasonably secure that he will never call in that vow.

But I still feel it at times, recognising as I get to know someone the power to heal, the weight of the hierodoule, the path that I would have had my feet upon if near-rape hadn't broken me and bent my sexuality and made me too afraid to be able to offer that touch, to be able to actually do that work when the recognition is there. I've told people in the past that I had that inclination, occasionally, talked about it, without ever saying why, without ever outright stating that trying this maybe saved a life, even failing at it saved a life or at the very least healed one, because I was willing to try, because I was willing to offer.

And I wonder about that other world, sometimes.

And I wonder about this one, where people say that sex workers clearly had to have suffered horrible things to do that job, when I know that it's only because horrible things happened to me that I didn't.

My liege made a comment once that the only way he could see me being sexual was when it was personal, when it was intimate, and the hierodoule sobbed, quietly, in the place she might have been if only if. Like I cry now, thinking of loss and salvation and missing my little brother, who doesn't answer his goddamn email. Heh.

12 March, 2008

Missing Children: Started in Georgia, May Be Heading For Indiana

A three-year-old and two-year-old twins have been kidnapped, apparently by their father, from their home in Columbus, Georgia.

Sylvia at Problem Chylde has photos of the kids and kidnapper and more information.

gah! Why didn't this post when I tried to post it earlier? Anyway, here's the FBI poster on the guy, too. (From Donna.)

10 March, 2008

Marinated Spicy Baked Chicken with Chard and Sweet Rice

Yes, I have other things on my mind, but I scored a critical success on my food roll tonight, so I'm going to write about that instead. This is a low-preparation-effort but high-planning dish.

The night before: marinate the chicken in buttermilk. How much buttermilk? Enough to cover it, I don't know. This is why it's high planning; one has to think to marinate the stuff in advance.

Preparation for chicky:

Line the bottom of a baking dish with chard. I think I had five or so leaves of it, and I stripped out the stems and lined the dish with the leafy bits. (Stems are saved for making stock with next time we have roast chicky.) Chop a yellow onion (I actually used a sweet onion) and three or four garlic cloves and layer them over the chard. Add a half cup or so of olive oil. Pour the chicken (and the buttermilk) on top of that, spread it all out. Coat the top surface of the whole shebang with a teaspoon of cayenne, and a tablespoon each of cumin, coriander, and whole mustard seed. If you can see the meat, there isn't enough spice on it.

Put in the oven and bake until done. I'd lost my original recipe for this so I played it entirely by ear, and I eventually wound up cranking the heat a good bit in aggravation, which did it no harm.

I know from past experience that this recipe will rehabilitate freezerburnt chicken; I blame the buttermilk.

When done, I pulled out the chicken onto a plate so people could cut off what they wanted of it, the chard into a bowl, and left the onions floating in the jus (to be fished out with a slotted spoon).

Sweet rice:

Standard-issue rice preparation in a pot (twice as much water or a little more if brown rice, low heat, lid); added some honey, some shredded ginger, and a pinch or two of saffron.


The meat is nicely spicy, and the coating is such that spice wusses like my husband can scrape most of it off and still enjoy the meal. I like the sweet rice as a balance for the pepperyness (honestly, I like the sweet rice in general; I nicked that out of one of Steven Brust's Dragaera novels).

06 March, 2008

A Social Disease

So I spent my therapy appointment talking about "Baby Madonna" and related.

She doesn't think I need to forgive myself. She thinks I need to ... externalise the victim-blaming, the disgust at self, the sense of failure, into a framework in which what I have is a piece of shared experience of a cultural failing -- not just the assault itself, but the framework by which the people who have had such experiences are further beaten down and abused by the response and expectations, by the thump of falling off the madonna pedestal and the crush of having it land on us afterwards.

That this internalised self-hatred is a taught thing, a cultural thing, a social disease. And I don't need to forgive myself for suffering its symptoms; I need to recognise that it's an illness. And then move to treating that illness.

I ... am scared of collective experience. Not just because the I'm Every Woman feminists make me sick, not just because of the horrible essentialising I've seen of that sort of thing, but because the meaning of it gets out of my hands. It feels like opening it up for someone else to tell me what having been assaulted meant to me, did to me, broke in me, because it's a more generalised thing than just me.

And I wouldn't talk about it, not for years, because I was afraid of being just another faceless victim whose experience was a statistic, who was taken and ruined and discarded into the "broken" heap. In the hope of avoiding the social disease that I seem to have caught anyway.

So I find myself asking: What does it mean, to be a part of collective experience? To be suffering the symptoms of a cultural cancer? It can't mean the universalising bullshit, or that I can be used as someone else's political blow-up doll, the victim, boo-hoo, let's all have a good cry about our collective victimisation, not if it means anything beyond reiterating suffering

It has to mean something about sorting out the boundaries between self and other-than-self, distinguishing shame from what others want me to be ashamed of, if it means anything worth trying. Finding a way of sorting out what pain is my own thing, and what pain is because this ... construct ... has hooks under my flesh.

At that level I can't consistently tell the difference between me and my mother, let alone me and this huge crazy scary planet.

03 March, 2008

Baby Madonna

I need to write this, and I suspect it will make me cry.

I'm not sure I've ever really forgiven myself for being fourteen.

And if anyone asks what sort of sins being fourteen might be: I let myself get assaulted. I let someone inflict lasting psychological damage on me, warp my sexuality around fear, take away the possibility of it ever being easy.

And while I have worked a great deal on forgiveness, on self-acceptance, I have never fully forgiven myself for this.

Never forgiven myself for being the sort of fourteen-year-old who could only find a partner three years older and thus well past the explorations of boundaries that are tied up with the experience of being fourteen and learning adult sexuality.

Never forgiven myself for not knowing yet where my boundaries were, none save the last, that kept it to assault from rape.

Never forgiven myself for not knowing how to go back to ground that was secure.

Never forgiven myself for ignoring his protestations of love that I knew were anglings to set up sex in the hope that my lack of responsiveness would make it go away.

Never forgiven myself for not knowing how to say "No", even when I was pinned down with his huge weight and curled into a knot of refusal. Never forgiven the lack of words, lack of articulation, from someone who was only starting to learn how not to be a child. Never forgiven the inability to speak understandings some of which I only achieved years later.

Never forgiven myself, above all, for suspecting "Do you want to come over to my place and watch a movie?" a ruse, suspecting it near enough to be a belief I might even have spoken at the time had anyone asked me, and for packing up my videotape and going in the trust that I would be asked, that time, despite a long, long history of not being asked, of being presumed. For knowing, and hiding in a cloud of denial, of expectation of the civility of directness, of presumed protocol.

For not cutting him off, for not drawing the lines I didn't know, for ...

It never occurred to me before today that I never forgave myself for not being a more competent policing actor on that guy's penis. So of course I couldn't accept the damage that came of falling off the madonna pedestal.

Half a life ago and more, and I never thought of that.

01 March, 2008

The Dog That Bit Us

This post over at PlainsFeminist has me thinking about hair and identity. Which I've written about before, but I'm looking at a different angle today.

A year or two ago, I made a lunch date with a friend to talk about her hair. She had written a great deal about hers, about taking care of her dreds, about the time she cut them off, about being told by a Rasta one day, "Your hair is your roots in God" and what that meant to her.

A character in the novel I was writing at the time was, like that friend, a mixed-race young woman with a strong spirituality with roots that showed in the twists in her coiled black woman's hair. And while the world of that novel is not this one, is far separated from here and now, I wanted to give that young woman honest hair and treat it with respect. I wanted her hair to be her roots in God.

And so we had lunch, and we talked about hair and culture and dozens of other things besides, and somewhere in that novel is a scene where that young woman is taking proper care of her hair, surrounded by a culture full of people with heads draped with meaning in the colour of the ribbons they used to tie it back and not thinking of whether those carefully twisted strands might mean something else too.


Hair is so easy to fill up with meaning. Easier to change than skin or eyes, but nonetheless with its own innate properties that resist too much manhandling. Ephemeral in its way, and thereby able to serve as a vehicle for all kinds of significance, including significances that cannot be acceptably ascribed to something less transformable.

Hair gets political. Even without getting into the standing-wave femmobloggoflamefest about whether or not one removes leg, crotch, armpit hair, hair gets political; ask any long-haired hippie weirdo freak, to paraphrase Arlo. Ask any WOC told her natural hair is "unprofessional". The presumed subtext of defiance that goes with those rows of spikes is political. The comment of a friend that she wishes she had the job security to go back to her natural hair colour -- teal -- political.

When I cut my hair at fourteen it was political. Schoolyard politics, changing an identity symbol to someone-who-was-not-abused, but political nonetheless. And I probably present politics with my not-professionally-done hair (my husband trims it when it needs trimming), as much as I do personal preference, too.

When I didn't put the green streak back in it last fall, too, that was bowing to political necessity.

It's easy to encode things in hair. The vagaries of fashion can conceal things like the racism of declaring black hair unprofessional, if a professional woman dresses like so, goes to these hairdressers like so, gets things done this way. It can be a code writ large and subtle: I belong here, I'm one of you, I have the right hair to get past the door.

The same novel with the young woman and her dreds has a man who grows his hair far longer than the fashion, as long as it will go, simply because it is his, and he is tired of being cut short and thrown away.