a garden in riotous bloom
Beautiful. Damn hard. Increasingly useful.
other gardeners 
omnia_mutantur: (Default)
 I don't want to complain about being tired.

But I'm tired.

I didn't get enough sleep.  I don't get enough sleep.

I have the best intentions, I intend to go to be in bed by 9:15 the nights I go out, and 9:45 the nights I do.  But night comes and I want to fuck around on the internet, I don't want to be done with the day.

I've been trying to compile a list of all the books I've ever read and it's comforting in some odd, achievable way.  I might not read as much as I used to, but I remember reading at least 1450 books.  I may not feel like I'm accomplishing things (I am, I am, I am.  I create order, I nurture things (people) both large and small) but I've done this at least. 

I credit libraries with keeping me alive (along with Funnyface and my fear of being a mess/burden), the weight of all these unread books keeping me tethered.    I used to believe the physicality of books I surrounded myself with kept me real, kept me armored.  These days I'm trying to reduce the objects I collect (accrete?) and I'm letting go of more than I bring in, so maybe this list is like recreating this armor, just in a more portable form.

But like the memory game I keep playing on my tablet, it soothes and it is hard to put down.

I need time, time to clean, time to go to Michaels and buy frames, and I need time and energy to think, to make plans for myself, to learn what I want next, what I want out of 40.  and I'm the one overscheduling myself, I'm the one absorbed in foolish games, I'm the one who can't control her own emotions because she doesn't sleep enough and wastes the evening crying when there are so many more interesting, more useful things to be doing. 

I'll reconcile this eventually.  But for the moment, my self care starts with going the fuck to bed.
9 February 2016 16:50 - Brief medical update
rachelmanija: (Default)
The test I wrote about, which I was told to have immediately on a "you might need emergency surgery!!!!" basis, of course came back negative. (Well, it found some stuff - at my age, if you look closely enough at someone's body you'll generally eventually find something - but probably nothing that could be causing any symptoms.)

That same doctor also told me I needed to IMMEDIATELY schedule two very expensive, time-consuming tests for a type of cancer I had already been checked for two months previously in a different manner, because she found something that she thinks the two-months-ago test missed.

Me: "Do you seriously think this is cancer? Because there's that completely benign condition which I already told you about, which I've had my entire life and which causes the exact thing you found…"

Doctor Five Alarm Fire (reluctant): "No, I don't think it's cancer, it's probably that benign thing. But you need to get it checked immediately, because it MIGHT be cancer!"

She also strongly implied that I was in immediate risk of dropping dead of a heart attack. "Go to the drug store, buy baby aspirin, and start taking it TONIGHT!"

Considering that the disease causing actual symptoms, whatever the fuck it is, almost certainly does not involve either my heart or the possibly cancerous parts, I'm thinking she was maybe a little alarmist. (At that point, my heart had already been checked repeatedly, by multiple methods, and appears to be fine.) I think THREE completely unrelated and extremely serious diseases are just a bit unlikely, considering that I have now been scanned and tested to hell and back and no one's ever found much of anything.

The good news is that I found a GP I actually like, who is additionally unlikely to give up and refer me out for both professional and personal reasons. (She's a friend of a friend.) She has basically the same theory on the probable nature and cause of my illness that I do, which of course endeared her to me, but since she's a doctor and I'm not, she came up with a quite detailed plan for 1) investigation with that in mind, 2) treatment of symptoms in the meanwhile, 3) consults, 4) back-up plans in case the first investigations don't find anything. Very methodical. I'm encouraged.

(She also thought the Three-Alarm-Fire doctor was being a bit alarmist, on all fronts.)

Incidentally, this is something like the fourth time in the last seven months that a doctor has outright said or strongly implied that I might be dying or in imminent danger of dropping dead. This is naturally doing wonders for my general stress level.

Comments closed to prevent a deluge of "Get the cancer tests done IMMEDIATELY!" I want a second opinion on that. Those particular tests often lead to painful, unnecessary, invasive procedures that find that oops, it was the previously-known, benign condition after all.)
9 February 2016 18:08 - recent tea
yhlee: hexarchate Andan blue rose (hxx Andan)
Thanks to [personal profile] isis for the lovely card and the tea sampler! =D I have already tried the Yogi Chai Rooibos and Turkish Licorice Mint, and like them both, especially the latter. But really, tea! Where is the bad?

Republic of Tea's Caramel Apple is nice with a bit of honey and a splash of Lactaid. (What. We tend not to buy regular milk because I can't process it, and the dragon drinks chocolate milk by preference, which I avoid like the plague.)

Tea~ =)

I have an order from Penzey's Spices incoming because I needed to restock things to brew cockamamie chai. =) It's kind of frightening how quickly I burn through green cardamom pods when I put my mind to it. (I love green cardamom. Is there a green cardamom perfume anywhere? *wistful sigh*)

What have y'all been enjoying lately?
yhlee: wax seal (hxx Deuce of Gears)
Hexarchate coloring page: Moroish Nija (for [personal profile] sovay)

Download link for full-res version for printing and coloring!

and behind the cut, Shuos Jedao coloring page )

By the way, if anyone actually does color any of these coloring pages, I'd be delighted to see scans/pics. =D

watercolor dragon )
9 February 2016 14:50 - Fallen London
yhlee: Shuos Jedao (Hellspin Fortress) (hxx Jedao 1x10^6)
The Feast of the Exceptional Rose!

I find myself in desperate need of:
- a Singed Playing Card
- a Buttered Chess Piece
- a Watchful Doll

for thematic reasons (my character is Jedao). I'm happy to reciprocally send stuff. Anyone? =D

Also generally open to reciprocal-gifting offers, including for Fate; I restarted a few months ago so this is a new character and doesn't have all the loot the old one did. :p

ETA: I'm good now! Thank you all. =D
9 February 2016 14:11
yhlee: Alto clef and whole note (middle C). (alto clef)
My article Writing and Music Composition is up at SFWA's Blog. Feel free to comment here or there. :p
9 February 2016 14:17 - Miscellaneous book recommendations
coffeeandink: (world domination)
So far I have obviously been terrible at posting more this year, but I do have some posts in progress and may even finish one someday. In the meantime, a bunch of older books I like have come out as ebooks, so I thought I'd recommend them:

  • Sarah Smith, Perdita Halley and Alexander von Reisden mysteries
    Series of historical mysteries, set in the turn of the (twentieth) century in Boston and Paris, featuring a blind pianist and a scientist with a troubled past. Elegant prose, sophisticated characterization, and very good on the lingering effects of childhood trauma -- when I do read mysteries, I tend to read for character, prose, and mood more than puzzle, and these are no exception. The Vanished Child is about a man who bears a great resemblance to a child who vanished many years ago, and how and why he impersonates the lost child. The Knowledge of Water shifts location to Paris and involves a writer very clearly based on Colette, plus a plot to steal the Mona Lisa; A Citizen of the Country focuses on early attempts at film-making in France.

    You might want to try these if you like Barbara Hambly's Benjamin January mysteries.

  • Kristine Smith, Jani Killian series
    Sf. As the series starts, Jani Killian has been on the run for over a decade. She was once considered one of humanity's brightest, a student at the alien idomeni institute in an attempt at alliance-building, which went drastically wrong in a clash between conservative and radical idomeni idealogues, for which Jani is partially blames. Smith's world-building is different from the generic default in interesting ways: neither her humanity nor her idomeni are unified fronts; Jani is from a Colony world whose antecedents seem to be Acadian and Hindu; one of the most important professions is "protocol officer," or paper-pusher, the authentication of information being one of the keys to interstellar commerce.

  • Cherry Wilder, The Rulers of Hylor series
    Unusually fine fantasy trilogy (published as YA in hardcover and adult in paperback) from the mid-eighties; makes a lot of standard fantasy tropes seem fresh by the excellence of the prose and the maturity of the characterization. Each book focuses on one of a group of first cousins, the children of three beautiful sisters called the "Swans of Lien," and the dynastic struggles in the continent of Hylor. Nicely variable in style as well: book one is third-person limited past, book two is first-person limited retrospective past, book three is omniscient present tense (slipping into past). Each book can be read independently of the others, although they work better together. There is an overall arc (regarding the sorceror who manipulates the lives of all three cousins) that only becomes clear in Book Three; earlier than that, you get the benefit of the varied points of views, in which a mysterious and ominous figure in one book is a dearly beloved friend in another, or a brilliant military victory becomes a tragic defeat.

    Wilder died some time ago; the books are being published by the Frenkel Literary Agency, so ... there's that. :(

And one new one for lagniappe:

Letters to Tiptree (ed. Alisa Krasnostein and Alexandra Pierce) is a collection of letters by contemporary sf writers to James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon), plus excerpts of Tiptree's correspondence with Ursula K. Le Guin and Joanna Russ; it's on sale for $.99/£.99 pretty much everywhere, including the publishers direct. I'm partway through, absorbed, interested, argumentative, and inclined to put it on my Hugo nomination ballot for Best Related Work.
9 February 2016 09:00 - Move Any Mountain
ceciliatan: (darons guitar)

Mirrored from the latest entry in Daron's Guitar Chronicles.

(Hey folks, help me out: get a stopwatch or a phone that counts seconds and take this quick survey to let me know the loading times for you for DGC: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/W7NWDPG! -ctan)

I’ll give you one guess who the first person was I called about the drumming gig.


It never occurred to me he would say no.

Read the rest of this entry » )
8 February 2016 22:45 - [art] tonight's sketches
yhlee: hexarchate Andan blue rose (hxx Andan)
Tonight was Pathfinder card game night at Little Wars. The dragon and I both sketched (mostly life drawing for me, dragons for her).

Comments welcome.

Inked everything in Platinum Carbon Black because this stuff clogs like the devil if you let it dry up in the pen, so I basically have to use it every day once I've got it inked. (I don't use it in my vintage pens for this reason.)

Also, as a bonus, because I suck at color [1], have a hexarchate coloring page of Hexarch Nirai Kujen!

Here's the high-res version for printing.

[1] My clever scheme is that by making this a coloring page, adding color will be someone else's problem! Yeah, I don't know either. *g*

actual life drawings beneath cut )

I'll take up to three requests for coloring pages (basically, character lineart; I can't do really fancy backgrounds yet).

1. hexarchate: Moroish Nija (for [personal profile] sovay)
2. hexarchate: Shuos Jedao (for [personal profile] davidgillon)

No guarantees! But you might get something fun. =)
8 February 2016 18:21 - New Dice Tales post at BVC
swan_tower: (Default)

My blogging series at Book View Cafe continues with Dice Tales: What happens in a game? Comment there!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
My flash story "Skerry-Bride" is now online at Devilfish Review. It was written in November 2013, right after I had first heard Moss of Moonlight's Winterwheel (2013) and right before I saw Thor: The Dark World (2013); I had jötnar on the brain. The story marks my second successful engagement with Norse myth in fiction, after "A Wolf in Iceland Is the Child of a Lie." Considering the Fimbulvetr 2.0 currently trying to take place in Boston, I find its timing rather appropriate.

In other writing news, Aqueduct Press' page for Ghost Signs now includes reviews, and Rich Horton thinks "The Boatman's Cure" is worth nominating for a Hugo.

I should probably go outside and shovel something. The Cape has more snow, but this is not small change.
rachelmanija: (Naruto: I am trying to break your heart)
I wrote part of this in a comment to another entry, but thought it might of general interest to Hamilton and/or Sondheim fans, of whom I luckily have many on my f-list, so I pulled it out and expanded it. Er. A lot.

Hamilton makes fantastic use of repetition, especially of the repeated phrase whose meaning changes with context. The most striking uses of this are “I am not throwing away my shot” (sometimes just “my shot” or “shot”) and “Wait for it.”

The historic Hamilton occupies a specific spot in American common knowledge. In my experience, before the musical came out, if you asked the average American who Alexander Hamilton was, you’d get something like this: “He lived during the American Revolution. He was… Uh…. Secretary of the Treasury, I think? Something like that, anyway. He was shot and killed in a duel with another politician, Aaron Burr. [That is probably the only thing the average American knows or recalls about Aaron Burr.] Oh, yeah, and he's the dude on the ten-dollar bill.”

What both cracks me up and gladdens my history nerd heart about the sheer unlikeliness of the entire existence of this musical is that previous to it, Hamilton was not one of America’s iconic political figures, like George Washington or Thomas Jefferson (or, in terms of people who weren’t president, Harriet Tubman or Martin Luther King.) Nor was he obscure enough to be cool. He was in the exact "One of those dead white guys" zone where people interested in his period know a lot about him, because he really was important, but the average American knew exactly what was in my paragraph above, and no more. (If they’re a leftist, they may have the impression that he sowed the seeds of making America a plutocracy but probably didn’t intend that. Or that may just be me. If I recall correctly, my grandfather hated him for exactly that reason.)

But in popular consciousness, he was just above the level of someone like Paul Revere, where everyone can spit out “The midnight ride of!” upon mention of his name, and then, “Uh… He warned everyone that ‘The British are Coming!’” (Wikipedia has this note in his entry: "The British are coming" redirects here.) And that’s it. In general, no one who isn’t otherwise interested in that period (or economics/the Coast Guard/etc) has thought of Alexander Hamilton since high school. Whereas Americans who are otherwise not knowledgeable of history often have actual opinions on, say, Thomas Jefferson. (If you’re younger than me, you probably heard a lot about his slaves. If you’re my age, he had a sort of demigod status in high school history classes, which makes his takedown in the play especially hilarious.)

You notice that the duel figures prominently in common knowledge. People who know who Hamilton was at all always remember the duel. This is probably because 1) duels are cool, 2) Hamilton was the only important person in American history who was killed in one. (I guess unless you count Button Gwinnett. But I’m pretty sure nobody counts Button Gwinnett except autograph-collectors and people who enjoy unusual names. For the former, his signature is the rarest of any of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. For the latter, just FYI, a dude named Peru Italian Blackerby Ping served in the Kansas state senate in the mid-1800s.) Anyway, just in case you don’t know or forgot about the duel, Hamilton tells you about it right in the opening number. Miranda does not want that to be a surprise.

Burr shot and killed Hamilton, and every time you hear the word “shot,” that goes through your mind. And like any good tragedy, you know what’s coming but you want to scream, “No! Don’t do it!” So “wait,” in the sense of “stop,” also brings the duel to mind.

OMG, this got long )
ceciliatan: (default)

Oh my god. I just figured out what the central overarching meaning of the entirety of David Bowie’s life’s work is. All of it. It all fits. And I can’t figure out why I never saw this before.

My god. It all makes sense.

No, I’m not on drugs. No, I wasn’t even trying to figure it out. But since Blackstar came out I’ve been pondering the meaning of the video and lyrics, and especially since Bowie’s death I’ve been re-pondering it over and over, and listening to The Next Day, and other Bowie albums and songs, as well as listening to a radio documentary about him (narrated by Tim Minchin), and Amanda Palmer & Jherek Bischoff’s string quartet tribute, and other things as comfort in the wake of grief, using the music to try to fill up the inexplicable hole that was left in my psyche.*

Tonight I was watching the DVD “Best of Bowie,” which I’ve had for years (got as a fantastic Christmas present) and I usually watch piecemeal. Tonight I tried to watch it chronologically, starting at the beginning, but now I’ve paused to start this essay because the video for “Space Oddity” is the key to the entire thing.

Here it is. Here’s the secret that’s been in front of our eyes all this time:

In all of Bowie’s work, outer space is a metaphor for fame itself.

Maybe a million semiotics and pop culture theses have already been written on this subject: I don’t know. All I know is I never realized it before now, and now that I’ve seen it, I can’t unsee it. And the more songs I analyze the more I realize it fits.

Let’s start at the beginning, or pretty close to it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mirrored from blog.ceciliatan.com.

8 February 2016 09:30 - Thoughts on Steven Universe
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)

One of the things I love about the internet and social media is finding new things to geek out about. In the cartoon realm, last time it was Avatar: The Last Airbender. This time, in no small part because of Amal El-Mohtar and Sunil Patel, it was Steven Universe. I’m going to try to keep this post relatively spoiler-free, but no promises about the comments.

Steven Universe Characters

How to summarize this show… It’s fantasy that morphs into science fiction. It’s a team of superpowered women (the Crystal Gems) and the titular character Steven, who’s half-Gem, half-human. It’s got action and humor and music and surprisingly complex worldbuilding and relationships and character development. It’s a show that embraces diversity in multiple dimensions. It’s at times over-the-top goofy, and then turns around and delivers stories as emotionally powerful as just about anything else on television.

There’s plenty of action, an evil space empire, monsters of the week, and lots of pulpy SF/F-style goodness, including a full-on dystopic society, clone-type servants, spaceships, robots, swords, teleportation platforms, an altered Earth, etc.

It’s also subversive and refreshing, challenging assumptions about family and romance and friendship and trust and gender and sexuality and beauty and love and so much more.

So after ConFusion, I came home and binge-watched the available episodes, catching up to the mid-point of the second season. Here are some of the things about this show that make me happy…

Body Acceptance/Positivity:

Rose QuartzLet’s start with Rose Quartz, Steven’s mother. Rose was the leader of the Crystal Gems, who eventually fell in love with a human and gave up her physical form so Steven could be born/created. Not only is this woman portrayed as a warrior and the leader of the rebel Gems, she’s consistently treated as beautiful and beloved. Greg (Steven’s father) falls hard for her. The other Crystal Gems love her dearly. She’s beautiful, powerful, strong, and competent, and none of this is ever questions.

Then there are the rest of the Gems. Pearl is very slender. Amethyst is shorter and heavier. Steven himself is unapologetically plump. The whole show gives us a more realistic range of people’s shapes and sizes than anything else out there, and that’s never used as a source of cheap laughs. Every character is treated with respect for who they are, and every character is shown to be both strong and important to the team.

Crystal Gems

Race and Gender:

Sometimes people who argue that they’re “colorblind” about race will say something like, “I don’t care if you’re black, white, or purple.” It’s an obnoxious refrain, but it makes me wonder if the creators of the show deliberately decided to make the three Gems black, white, and purple. Steven and his father are white. Steven’s love interest Connie is Indian. (And also a pretty badass swordfighter and a great character in her own right.) Here are some of the secondary and background characters from the show:

Steven Universe Characters

As for gender, the show deliberately flips the usual script. Instead of a bunch of male Avengers and Black Widow, or a bunch of male Ninja Turtles and April, or a bunch of male Smurfs and Smurfette, we have a team of women and Steven. But the show goes deeper, challenging gender norms and roles on an ongoing basis. Steven is unashamedly emotional, celebrating and crying and running around with his feelings on his sleeve belly button gem. When Steven and Connie fuse (it’s a Gem thing), they form Stevonnie, who goes by gender-neutral they/them pronouns. Stevonnie is accepted for who they are. Garnet at one point describes them as “perfect.”


Garnet: I love youI love that these characters have so much love and respect and affection for one another. They still argue and butt heads and get angry at one another at times, but underneath it all is so much love and caring. Whether it’s everyone’s love and protectiveness for Steven, Steven’s love for…well, pretty much everyone and everything, Steven and Connie’s developing relationship, the wonderful dynamic between Steven and his father, the pain of Pearl’s love and memories about Rose, the perfection that is Ruby and Sapphire… I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but it just makes me happy to watch.

Also, did I mention the canonical same-sex relationship?

Ruby Sapphire

Other Thoughts:

  • Lots of good, fun music. My favorite is Garnet’s song, “Stronger Than You,” from the Season One finale. (Possible spoilers at that link.) But I like that music is just a part of their lives, particularly Steven with his ukulele, and Greg (Steven’s father), the former sort-of-pro musician.
  • The only episode I ended up stopping was the crossover with Uncle Grandpa. Though I loved the “our ship!” joke. Love a show that’s aware of fandom.
  • The writers do a great job thinking about the implications of different kinds of Gem technology and their society. The exploration of fusion for good and evil is particularly wonderful. And powerful. Garnet’s reaction to discovering homeworld had experimented with forcing Gem fragments to fuse without their consent…whoa.
  • Redemption arc! :-)
  • Watching Amethyst’s development and growth through flashbacks, particularly seeing her more feral aspects through Greg’s memories.
  • All of Pearl’s backstory and struggles and stumbles and growth and development. The more you learn about her character’s history and place in Gem society, the more amazing a character she becomes.
  • Plenty of silliness. I approve!

In Conclusion:

It’s an impressive feat of storytelling. Highly recommended.

For those who’ve seen it, what do you think? What do you love (or not love) about the show? What all have I missed here?

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

sovay: (Claude Rains)
I can see I will have to watch It's Always Fair Weather (1955) from the top, because I turned on TCM1 and first there was Gene Kelly drawing a crowd on a New York City street by tap-dancing in roller skates (even in New York City, people notice that) and then there was Dolores Gray in a nightclub performing "Thanks a Lot, But No Thanks" while literally dynamiting her would-be suitors off the stage (sample lyrics: "Thanks for losing your mind / But I've got a guy who's Clifton Webb and Marlon Brando combined") and I just want to know what the rest of the musical looks like. Cursory internet research indicates it was a commercial flop whose cynical theme of post-war disillusion played weirdly with its exuberant dance numbers, but none of that sounds to me like a reason not to find out.

For better or worse, it turns out that I recognized Dolores Gray from seeing Kismet (1955) during the period of my childhood when I watched all the movie musicals available to me, including the ones I can probably never watch again.2 When I went looking for her other work, I found this performance of "I'm Still Here." The presentation format looks like the Tonys, but Yvonne de Carlo originated the role of Dorothy in Follies (1971) on Broadway, so it must be the Oliviers—Gray played the role in the first West End production in 1987. And she knocks the song out of the park. I know it's identified with Elaine Stritch, but Gray might be my definitive version.

[edit] My mother just sent me Donald O'Connor dancing in roller skates. This world is a beautiful place.

1. I am spending the night in Lexington so as to be able to shovel out my mother in the morning. The current forecast thinks it's going to snow until Tuesday.

2. Fortunately for people who want to watch just the barn-raising dance from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), it's on YouTube.
7 February 2016 20:29 - AFKcon returns!
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)

February 20-21, 2016

AFKCON is a small convention for friends (over 18) who love games, comics, movies, books, and more. Offering everything from panels to cosplay, we want to bring the experience of sharing what you love to life.

This year we'll be meeting in Guelph at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Conference Centre!

We're pioneering a new convention style called a CrowdCon. If you’d like to run an event, demonstration, game, or panel, just log in and check the Events page to sign up today!

I will be participating!
James Nicoll is a book reviewer, blogger, game editor, cat-rescuer, and prior local hobby store owner.

He returns to AFKCON to have the following discussions:
- Tanith Lee and Why people should read her.
- So You're a Reviewer and You Went a Year WIthout Reviewing Women: How to React?
- Things you should never do at a Con or Party: Event Survival Skills 101
6 February 2016 21:22 - [art] more sketches
yhlee: hexarchate Andan blue rose (hxx Andan)
Let's try this again (Notepad++ crashed on me, goddammit).

Mostly people; one of Cloud. Comments welcome.

Read more... )
6 February 2016 18:37 - agonizing over a decision
yhlee: Alto clef and whole note (middle C). (alto clef)
Poll #17298 to do or not to do, that is the question?
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 10

Should I purchase Orchestral Tools' Berlin Strings and SFX French Horns?

View Answers

Yes--you have the money now, the exchange rate isn't awful, why wait?
8 (80.0%)

No--it's not like you have time to compose when you have writing to do anyway.
0 (0.0%)

Something else I will suggest in comments.
1 (10.0%)

Tookie the talky ticky!
1 (10.0%)

(The total would come to something like $1,100, part of which would be defrayed by birthday-money. I don't...consider this a small expense, but getting decent strings would enable a great many endeavors if I only had time that I could pull away from writing.)

Oh, for the curious: Orchestral Tools: Berlin Strings, SFX French Horns. If I had even more money to throw at musical endeavors, I would also look at Berlin Woodwinds and, for orchestral sketches, Metropolis Ark 1. Alas.

ETA: This poll brought to you by the fact that I could buy two iPod Touches with birthday-money but still feel miserable over not being able to make music. :] Ah, First World Problems.
6 February 2016 15:20 - Hamilton - that song
rachelmanija: (Staring at laptop)
I really think this song works best if you hear it the first time not knowing it's coming. So I'm spoiler-cutting the entire entry. Once again, "Hamilton" refers to the character in the play, not the historical person, unless I say otherwise.

Read more... )
rachelmanija: (Default)
Due to being sick, by the time I even heard of Hamilton, the Broadway hiphop musical about Alexander Hamilton, it was the hottest thing ever and its fans were pushing it with so much zeal that I was actually put off. I figured it could not possibly live up to the hype.

Also, except for Sondheim, I'm not a huge musical theatre fan, and though I am a history nerd, I'm not much into American history in general, except for the Vietnam war and to a lesser extent the 1930s and 1940s. I find Hamilton's period particularly uninteresting. Hamilton would have to be a staggering work of heartbreaking genius to get me to like it at all. Previously, Gore Vidal's novel Burr, which is indeed pretty great, was the only work set in that period which I liked or even did not find excruciatingly boring.

So I am a little hesitant to put up a post which is inevitably going to make non-converts feel the exact same way I did, and make them even more reluctant to try it. However…

I consider Sondheim to be the genius of American musical theatre. In my opinion, no one has ever even come close to matching him, so far as my personal taste is concerned. Sweeney Todd is my favorite of his plays, and I also think it's objectively his best, insofar as that can be objective. I say this not to say that Hamilton is like Sondheim (though it does have noticeable Sondheim influences) but to explain my own personal standards when I say that Hamilton is the only musical I have ever heard that I think is as good as, and I already love as much as, Sweeney Todd.

I now see why Hamilton is so popular in fandom circles, and why its fans are so enthusiastic. For one thing, no one is going to listen to the whole thing if they don't like it early on, and it seems to be something that either people love or are totally indifferent to. So you only hear from the fanatical fans - everyone else didn't even finish it.

That aside, Lin-Manuel Miranda pretty clearly identifies with his own character of Alexander Hamilton. (When I mention Hamilton, I mean LMM's character, not the actual historical guy.) He wrote him as an immigrant and a writer, a man who came from nothing and fought his way up, a man who ran off at the mouth and was told off for thinking he was the smartest in the room (because he often was). He wrote Hamilton as writer, and as a misfit whose intelligence annoyed others even as it made him notable. No wonder so many fans identify!

I have never identified with a fictional character as much as I identified with Hamilton in certain songs and lines. One song in particular is not only a beautiful song, but is about the defining act of my life - the one moment, if I had to pick just one, that sums up the core of my self. It's a song about what makes me who I am.

I've written about that too, but Miranda wrote it in music, which I could never do. He wrote lines that I could never write, not because he's a better artist than me (though he probably is, and I say probably because, like his Hamilton, I do generally think I'm the smartest in the room so I'm not sure) but because only he could write them, just as only I could write what I write. Lin-Manuel Miranda's surely never even heard of me, but he wrote my soul into a song and put it on Broadway.

I assume that's because it's his soul too. I think it's the soul of a lot of writers and artists. Though the particulars are directly applicable to me in a way that's really unusual, and I would not be surprised if some of you have been biting your tongues not to say, "Rachel, you HAVE TO listen to Hamilon because you will identify SO MUCH, let me link you to this one song that is SO YOU."

I heard that song and I was glad that I lived long enough to hear it. I felt as if, had I died the day before, what I would regret most was that I never got to hear that song. I felt that way when I saw Sondheim's Assassins and Sweeney Todd, when I saw The Kentucky Cycle on Broadway, when I saw the first X-Men and Lord of the Rings movies, when I went to Japan for the first time and saw monks practicing kyudo in Kita-Kamakura and autumn leaves falling at Eikan-do temple.

Again, this isn't about my taste and whether it matches yours - it's about that shock of joy at something you experience for the first time, and fall in love with at first sight. It's as if you exist solely so you could experience that moment.

I'm not going to name the song because I managed to be unspoiled for the show, and so it came as the most amazing, poignant surprise. Maybe it will be for you, too.

(I'll talk about it later, in a spoilery post, along with other spoilery things. Obviously the historical events are known; I'm talking about artistic moments, and there are many delicious surprises there which I don't want to ruin.)

If you are unfamiliar with Hamilton, I think watching these two videos will tell you if you'll like it or not. I think if you don't like these, you probably won't like the rest either. I suggest that you watch the videos in this order. They both should actually be watched, as one is a performance and one includes lyrics.

Lin-Manuel Miranda performs an early version of the opening number at the White House

My Shot

The entire thing is streaming for free at Spotify.
rosefox: Lots of hearts with lines connecting them and the caption "Love begets love". (love (expanded))
On Wednesday night, X watched Kit while J and I had a date. Tonight J watched Kit while X and I had a date. I'll do the same for them next Wednesday. This is yet another reason to be grateful to be in a three-parent household.

We all seem to be "hooray, a few hours off from babycare" parents rather than "miss the baby even if just for a few hours" parents. I'm relieved that there's no mismatch there; it would be very awkward if one of us was trying to talk about work or movies or whatever while the other one pined and tried to log into the babycam from their phone. We all love Kit and love spending time with Kit and also are very glad to get breaks.

J and I went to Dassara Ramen for our date, a favorite of ours. They had their wonderful lamb ramen on the menu, so of course I got that, and we split an order of shishito peppers that made us miss Japan. We mostly talked about J's work and workplace stuff, and my theories about how there should be way more film and television adaptations of romance novels. The night was drizzly and cool, and we walked up Smith to Fulton and then over to Nevins to get the subway home. I got dairy-free ice cream at the vegan juice bar around the corner--there are two kinds of Brooklyn vegan juice bars, the hipster kind and the Rastafarian kind, and this one is the Rasta kind, so the ice cream came in a plastic half-pint deli container but only cost $4--and then we snuggled and smooched for a good long while. It was really really nice.

X and I trekked into Manhattan to go to Senza Gluten, since all the Brooklyn GF restaurants we might want to go to are actually less convenient to get to. X had their first postpartum beer, a bitter-sharp IPA that made me make the sucked-a-lemon face. We joked a lot with the server, who was so nice that X left them a thank-you note. I had lamb again, come to think of it, in a ragù over cavatelli. We walked up to Union Square in the bitter cold. In the station, we tipped some human-statue buskers who repaid us with some very talented dancing; we just missed our train while watching them, but that was fine because we were enjoying being together. Down on the platform we kept having tender sincere moments interrupted by blaring announcements, but that's what we get for having tender sincere moments on a subway platform. It was really really nice.

When I was growing up in a family of four, it often split into factions: two against two, or three against one. I don't ever want my family to be that way. But I love that we can divide and reunite, in all our various configurations, because all of our twosomes deserve time together.
6 February 2016 01:48 - We'll haul for better weather
sovay: (Morell: quizzical)
My day was much more stressful and snow-filled than I had been hoping, so tonight I walked into Davis Square (in a record twenty-one minutes, despite snow and ice) and saw The Finest Hours (2016) at the Somerville Theatre because I knew the story of the Pendleton rescue and I wanted a movie with the sea in it. Very short reaction: it is about seventy percent the movie I was hoping for. Casey Affleck is great; I knew that from The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), but I have especially high standards for a diffident introvert at the center of a crisis who rises to the challenge without developing cinematic leadership skills. It was a nice discovery that when Chris Pine's not being alt-Kirk, he can actually act. I like stories of heroic engineering; I like stories of tricky seamanship. I like that neither of the protagonists is the traditional square-jawed type, good at rousing speeches or inspirational charisma so much as just getting on with the job. The romantic conflict is not just a whole-cloth fiction, it doesn't play well with the rest of the script and throws off everything from pacing to tone and I felt very badly for Holliday Grainger, who has an ideal face and voice for 1952 and is so much better than her part. John Magaro has a small role, but between it and Carol (2015), he's on my list of up-and-coming character actors to keep an eye on. Eric Bana's scenes feel like the leftovers from a deleted subplot. A full review will have to wait until I've slept and taken some painkillers, because the Diesel accidentally served me a salt caramel latte instead of a salt caramel hot chocolate and although I took only one sip before tasting coffee, I still have a kind of fringe migraine with a painful buzz at the front of my face and light sensitivity that's causing some odd visual effects. [livejournal.com profile] derspatchel walked me most of the way home in case the rest of the migraine came on and I fell over. It hasn't so far; I spent some decompression time reading entertaining bits of the internet with [livejournal.com profile] rushthatspeaks (I really recommend this oral history of The Apple (1980) as well as the comments). I still don't feel good. I should not spend much more time awake.
rachelmanija: (Default)
My medical status continues to be a non-stop parade of bad news, and no one still has any idea what the hell is actually causing my symptoms. The latest was an alarming finding (delivered in a probably over-alarmist way by the doctor, who implied that I might drop dead at any second - I have since been told that this is wildly unlikely)... which may well have nothing to do with my actual symptoms. In other words, I may have TWO quite serious medical conditions, one asymptomatic and discovered by chance, and one causing severe symptoms and still undiagnosed. Obviously, I am hoping that the one is actually the cause of the symptoms, but it probably isn't.

[Unless you are a doctor, any amateur diagnoses or advice will be deleted with great prejudice. DO NOT EMAIL THEM TO ME, EITHER. Without exception, they have been both unoriginal and useless, in addition to NOT WANTED. I am not naming the alarming finding in the hope of warding off that. If you are a doctor (or a nurse, etc), feel free to email me and I will tell you so you can give it your best shot.]

But what I am actually here to describe is something of possibly general interest, which is a very unusual medical test I just had, which was an MRI of my abdominal veins and arteries.

I have now twice had doctors say, "You must do this scan INSTANTLY before you drop dead/need emergency surgery!" only to do it and then find that no one's rushing to get me my results if a weekend's approaching. Guess maybe it wasn't such an emergency after all?

That was a truly challenging test. They dress you in a hospital gown, put a needle in your elbow, put heavy weights on your stomach and chest, drape totally inadequate blankets over you (the room was freezing), then slide you into a narrow tube. It lasts over an hour-- I think mine lasted about one hour, fifteen minutes. (It was done both without and with contrast, which may have been why it was so long.)

I asked if I could listen to music, but they said no, because I would be getting constant instructions to breathe in a specific rhythm or speed, and also to hold my breath. It turns out that when I am trying not to stress out (possibly also because I have done a lot of meditation) I tend to breathe very slowly. So I was mostly being told to speed up. And also to hold my breath for up to 30 seconds, often multiple times and in quick succession. With weights on my chest and stomach. In a tube with a completely white ceiling about four inches from my face. For over an hour.

So there I am, trying to breathe fast (as instructed) but without hyperventilating, WITH WEIGHTS ON MY TORSO, right after holding my breath for 30 seconds at a time, three times in a row in quick succession.

I think, "I could really use some music to psyche myself up for this… Well, I'll play it in my mind."

Me (in head): I am not growing old in Salem's Lot!/Success is my only motherfucking option, failure's not!/You can do anything you set your mind to, man.

Radiology technician: "Hey, you just changed the rhythm of your breathing. Can you make it faster and more evenly paced, please?"

A few minutes later, while I was really hitting the wall for basically the same reason, I tried again:

Me (in head): I am not throwing away my shot! I am not throwing away my shot!

Radiology technician: "Can you breathe faster, please?"

Me (in head): I’m takin this horse by the reins makin’/Redcoats redder with bloodstains!

Radiology technician: "Can you breathe slower? This test has thirty minutes to go - I don't want you to wear yourself out."

Me (gives up on musical inspiration.)

Me (thinks): "This will be a great new way to torment DJ when I write his third book." (He's my character from "Werewolf Marines," who is actually a DJ, uses music in his head to psyche himself up, and also has ADHD, hyperactive variety.)

Meanwhile, there were intermittent but frequent and extremely loud banging and screeching noises. It sounded exactly like someone was hammering on the tube.

As I said, it was a genuinely difficult test, and I know it wasn't just me because I am not used to finding physical/mental challenges of that sort difficult. For instance, I'm not claustrophobic. But after an hour plus of lying absolutely still in that tube with the roof four inches from my face, with weights on my chest and stomach, unable to think of anything but the test because doing so messed up the test, while breathing in a way that I would use to induce a panic attack in the office so I can teach people how to cope with panic attacks… I was getting a little claustrophobic.

When I got out of there, my gown was drenched in sweat. I think 90% of that was from physical exertion. Breathing fast and deep with weights on your breathing apparatus is hard.

After the test, the radiology guy told me that it was probably the second-hardest MRI to do and it was especially tough to have it as my first one.

"What's the hardest?" I asked.

"Well, this is pretty rare… but there's a cardiac MRI where people have to hold their breath for one minute."

I asked, "Can people really do that? Cardiac patients can do that?"

"People always think they can't do it," he said. "But then they really put their minds to it, and they find that they can."

You can do anything you set your mind to, man, I thought.

He then added, "Sometimes they can't, though. And then we do it for 30 seconds, have them take a breath, and do another 30 seconds. But you did great! We got perfect images!"

But after all that, it will probably be yet another insanely expensive test that shows nothing. (I won't get the results till Monday, probably.)

It's either unfortunate or just as well that I politically opposed about 90% of all American military interventions since WWII, and also have an issue with following orders that I personally find stupid or pointless or are issued by people whose intelligence I don't respect. Because I am really good at following difficult orders. Hopefully I will not have cause to discover whether or not I can hold my breath for one minute if I really set my mind to it, man.
sovay: (Rotwang)
There is a quantity of snow on the ground. I am not yet sure if I will have to shovel it out of my mother's driveway tonight or tomorrow. I suppose it depends on whether my brother's family gets their power back.

1. While looking for other images of Mayakovsky last night, I found this photograph from rehearsals for his satirical play The Bedbug (1929). I think it is my new favorite picture of Shostakovich. He looks like a cross between Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd.

2. Courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] strange_selkie: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner 2. "And from the sea, all glistening / Rose a goddamn sharknado."

3. Courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] handful_ofdust: Ernest Thesiger embroidering. I think the single most random fact I know about Thesiger is that he co-founded the Disabled Soldiers' Embroidery Industry. What the actor doesn't mention in the article quoted was that he himself was wounded in the First World War, although not permanently disabled. Anything else I was going to say on this subject was just blown out of my mind by the discovery that the owner of the site from which both the photograph and the previous link were sourced is someone known to me from my time posting way too much about Dr. Prunesquallor on a now-defunct Mervyn Peake message board between 2001 and 2003. The tip-off was "Ernest Thesiger as a Source of Inspiration for Dr Prunesquallor," published last October in the final issue of Peake Studies. I remember talking about Dr. Pretorius. The site owner made beautiful portrait art of Peake's characters and I wrote 1500-word blocks of character analysis. My God, the internet is small. Maybe it's just small if you like Ernest Thesiger and Mervyn Peake.

I was going to post some other things, but I think that one took the cake.
5 February 2016 11:01 - Cool Stuff Friday
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)

Friday is the droid we’re all looking for.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

5 February 2016 02:35 - "The screaming meemies"
rosefox: Batman is holding a baby while a woman says "Don't you have ANY idea how to hold a baby?" (baby-anxious)
When you have a baby (or are about to have a baby and are reading up on babies), you start to see the word "colic" everywhere. It's rarely defined but always made out as something dreadful, or at least extremely unpleasant--and worse, it's portrayed as incurable and inescapable. Some babies are just "colicky" and nothing can be done about it.

This turns out to be not at all true. As far as I can tell from doing a whole lot of reading on the topic, there seem to be two kinds of colic: indigestion, and emotional meltdowns. Kit's had both, and we were able to identify them pretty quickly and treat them pretty straightforwardly. Kit is a very easy-going and good-natured kid, so that may be a factor, but hopefully this info will still be useful for other parents whose babies are not quite so chill.

1) Indigestion. "Our baby screams a lot and arches in pain when fed breast milk or standard formula," we said. "Well, some babies are colicky after feeding," our pediatrician said. Aha!, we thought. "Colicky" means "is upset about digestion pain". And indeed, when we stopped feeding Kit breast milk and regular formula and started using a super-digestible formula (from Honest Co., and we recommend it very highly--Kit spits it up even less than the supposedly ultra-gentle Similac Alimentum, and it's half the price), and made sure not to feed Kit more than their tiny stomach could hold, the colic went away. Kit still fusses a bit about 10 minutes after eating, and then farts a couple of times and settles right down. If we give a teaspoon or two of Colic-Ease every day, there's no fussing at all.

The pediatrician pointed out that since Kit wasn't vomiting up the meals, we could keep feeding breast milk (and the immunity benefits thereof) as long as we had a high tolerance for the screaming, until Kit got to be about three months old and the stomach developed enough to be able to digest the milk more easily. He did this in a very neutral way, which I appreciated--matter-of-fact, not pushing us one direction or the other. X and I stared at him with identical expressions of horror. It's not the screaming itself, but the idea of causing our child preventable pain, several times a day, for months. We considered dosing Kit with antacids, but our pediatrician shares our hesitation to put a very young baby on daily medication when there are non-medical options to pursue. So we switched to formula with some wistfulness but no regrets. That said, even if you're very dedicated to exclusively breastfeeding, there are ways of treating indigestion-type colic, and anyone (especially anyone not your doctor) who tells you that it's full-stop untreatable is probably wrong--any given attack of indigestion colic may just have to run its course, but a lot of those attacks can be prevented. Kit's always been an expert belcher and farter, so gas build-up isn't an issue, but if it were we could use simethicone drops and the Windi. Some babies have allergies to things the breastfeeding parent is eating, and a change in diet can help. There are lots of things to try.

2) Emotional meltdowns. T. Berry Brazelton defines this type of colic very clearly in his Touchpoints: Birth to Three, which is an excellent book that I think all new parents should keep on hand. Brazelton identifies it as coming from overstimulation during the day, which is why it reliably occurs in the evening. Since it doesn't have a physical cause, physical treatments (feeding, changing, gas drops, etc.) don't work, and soothing techniques like swaddling and pacifiers are of limited use. [twitter.com profile] other_alice pointed me to a site about "the PURPLE crying period", which looks like much the same thing.

Brazelton advises making sure there are no physical problems to address and then leaving the baby alone in the crib to scream out their feelings, self-soothe, decompress, and sleep without further stimulation; in his experience, this can reduce the average duration of a colic attack by half. The "PURPLE crying period" site mentions a study in which babies cried less if their parents carried them around more often, as part of everyday life, rather than only picking them up when they were crying. So as with many things, the appropriate approach depends on you and your baby and your parenting style.

On Tuesday night, Kit had an emotional meltdown colic attack. It was pretty awful. But I realized that it reminded me of panic attacks, and then I knew what to do, because I have had many panic attacks and gotten pretty good at dealing with them. I held Kit gently and warmly, turned the lights down (installing dimmable LED bulbs and a dimmer switch in the baby's room is one of the best decisions I've ever made), rocked slowly in the rocking chair, and murmured quiet soothing things in a voice full of sympathy. I didn't try to offer a pacifier or stop Kit from screaming or thrashing, though I did loosely confine Kit's arms to keep either of us from getting punched in the face (and because Kit seems to find that sort of swaddling-by-hand very soothing, despite not liking actual swaddles). After a few minutes, the screaming and thrashing stopped and the baby fell asleep. Maybe ten minutes later, the cycle repeated once. And... that was that. All better. Pretty much the same thing happened when X was watching Kit Wednesday night while J and I were on our date night, and X did similar things and they were similarly effective. The key was that we both understood what it was like to feel overwhelmed and need to flail and yell, so we could stay calm and supportive while Kit vented. And we both know that while panic attacks feel like they're going to last forever, they do eventually end, and then everything is okay for at least a little while; so we could hold on to that knowledge instead of falling into our own panic and ending up trapped with the baby in a feedback loop of distress.

Apparently some colic attacks can last for hours. We're very lucky not to have seen that yet. At that point I probably would put the baby in the crib just to give myself a break from being up close with the screaming for all that time. But I'm hoping that gentle soothing and sincere sympathy will be enough to help Kit escape the multi-hour misery cycle.

Obviously this is all our personal experience; I'm not prescribing anything. Do what's best for you and your child. Just remember, this too shall pass--possibly with some gas. :)
omnia_mutantur: (Default)
 here's my house-fantasy, or some of it.
It's either a duplex with, or within sight of Delight's house.  Like a tin-can-on-a-string kind of distance. There's a fenced in yard for a possible dog to play in, and a firepit, and a compost heap (which will probably end up being for Delight's garden) maybe even a herb garden.  I've got a brightly colored front door, with a screen door for when I want to let a breeze in. Or we'd have houses that connected by means of some sort of cloister, a covered path outside between our backyards.
My kitchen would be epic. It would have some sort of flooring that doesn't involve white tile and stain-attracting grout. There'd be a separate pantry with a door that I can hang my aprons on one side and my spices on the other. There'd be a place for recycling and trash that was the appropriate side for the amount of each my household generates. There are cupboards everywhere, with elegant not-brass-colored hinges and handles, and one with divisions for all the tall things like cookie sheets and cutting boards and lids.   The counter would be black and white in some rock-like pattern, but in a green material that doesn't attract stains or require any particular sort of sealant applied religiously. The backsplash would echo the counters. There would be enough counter space for three people to work in the kitchen, and each appliance would be logically separated from the other appliances, so using the stove didn't mean the fridge couldn't open, and accessing the pantry didn't block the trash.  
The stove would be gas, the fridge would be standing with side by side freezer and fridge, but I'd also have a small deep freeze, either in the pantry or in the basement.   It would have a dishwasher.  It would have space for a bookshelf full of cookbooks, and a bay window where I got to hang all my strange glass baubles.    

I'd have two bathrooms, possibly 2 and half.  One would have a giant soaking tub, the other large standing shower.   One would have a double-sink, there would be a whole linen closet in one. There would be interesting lightfixtures, involving branches or prisms.
In my basement, I'd have space for cat litter, and a laundry station, which would include a washer, a drier, a sink. a cupboard for all the sundries laundry requires, and storage.  Shelves for Light's less-used games, bookcases for all the second-tier books that I can't yet give away.   There would be bins for things to donate, and bins for things that require some sort of special disposal.  There'd even be a bin where sad electronics lived, awaiting their eventual fate.    Hell, maybe we'd put a treadmill and a place to set laptops to watch while using it.
There'd be an entrance way immediately off the front door where you could hang your coat and sit down and take your shoes off, with a basket for incoming mail for me to sort and take action on.   There would be a dining room with a giant table and comfortable, probably mismatched chairs.  There would be a room with a couch and game consoles and squishy things, and most of the stuff would be set up so I could close it all off and have this double as a playspace for small children I'm aunting and be childproof.
Basically, it would be big enough so that three people would always have designated places that their stuff went, and four cats wouldn't be too too much of a burden on the space. I've got my books, and my desire to craft things, Light has his board games, and I believe both of the boys just naturally incline towards mess.  Or are at least much less order-focused than I am.  

And (of course), I'd like to still be near a bus route.
yhlee: Avatar: The Last Airbender: "fight like a girl" (A:tLA fight like a girl)
Contes et récits de l'histoire de Carthage by Jean Defrasne, read-along: Ch. 1: Des bâteaux venant de Tyr...(through p.12).

Vocabulary I had to look up:
Read more... )

And I'll stop there, at the bottom of p. 12. Sorry I'm so slow! I have to stop a lot for vocabulary.

I love Élissa and cannot wait to find out what she does next (I mean, I've been told, but it's still fun reading along!).
4 February 2016 16:36 - No, We’re Not All Disabled
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)

ETA: SF Signal has removed the post and posted an apology.

ETA2: Casil has also posted an apology on her website.


I’ve really appreciated the Special Needs in Strange Worlds column at SF Signal, but the most recent entry bugged me a lot.

We Are All Disabled,” by Amy Sterling Casil, strikes the wrong note for me right from the title. Because in neither the commonly-used nor the legal sense of the word are we all disabled.

I struggled a lot five years ago when we were meeting with the school about my son’s IEP, which included a goal of having him participate in activities with “non-disabled peers.” It felt like a punch to the gut. Through the gut, even. On the other hand, there are day-to-day tasks my son struggles with as a result of his autism. There are things his peers can do that he’s not yet able to. Some of those challenges are because our world and culture are set up for neurotypical people. But formally recognizing his struggles and challenges was the first step to helping him learn to overcome them. My son would not be getting the support he needs if the school system simply took the approach that we’re all disabled.

Everyone has limits and flaws, yes. That doesn’t mean everyone is disabled. Claiming otherwise dilutes both the terminology and our efforts to make the world more accessible to those with disabilities. Who needs accessibility policies if we’re all disabled?

Casil describes herself as empathetic, saying this is “a severe, lifelong disability that could have cost my life on several occasions.” I’m not familiar with the idea of being empathetic as a disability, so I’m hesitant to say too much until I’ve learned more. She says she sees more, and that being empathetic is like having “opposite of autism.” She goes on to talk about an encounter at a convention, where a member of the audience came up to ask her a question after a panel:

“Do you think they’ll come up with a cure for autism?” he asked.

“It’s possible,” I said. “A lot more likely than for something like Down Syndrome even though there is no single cause for autism.”

My son Anthony was born with Down Syndrome. This young chap would never know that, nor would he care if he knew.

I hope my son never feels this way. I think he’ll be able to be a wonderful father, if that’s what he wants. But it’s that last sentence that really made me stumble.

“Nor would he care if he knew.”

Why not? Because autistic people lack empathy?


Autism is not the lack of empathy. I’ve watched my son cry over other people’s pain, both in real life and in fiction. I’ve read and spoken to other people with autism who clearly demonstrate empathy and caring. Why would you assume someone with autism wouldn’t care about your son’s condition?

Empathetic is not the opposite of autism. The myth that autistic people lack empathy or emotion is not only untrue, it’s actively harmful.

Casil continues:

The young man wouldn’t meet my eye. He said, “My wife and I both have autism. We want to have children but we don’t want them to have it.” Uncharacteristically for someone with autism, he touched my arm. He was so very frightened!

“There’s a reason God made autism,” I said. I had already come to believe this was true.

First of all, not all people with autism are averse to physical contact.

And while I don’t want to argue with anyone’s personal belief, as someone with diabetes and depression, please don’t ever try to tell me there’s a reason God gave me these conditions. It’s not helpful to me.

Obviously, autism is something that’s both personal and important to me. The way it’s referenced and described in this piece feels ignorant. Not deliberately so — I believe Casil has the best and noblest of intentions. But I wish it had been written with a better understanding and awareness of autism.

Later, Casil returns to the premise of the title, saying:

How can I possibly say we are all cripples? Compared to the reality of – not the universe – just our own planet and the interconnectedness that is life on Earth, the perceptions of even the fittest human are as limited as a blind albino cave salamander … When a physically able person sees someone in a wheelchair and feels “sorry” for them, they should consider the different perceptions that wheelchair enables them to have. They see and hear things those who stand and walk do not. They get to live a different life. Different, not less.

My wife has had so many knee surgeries I’ve lost count. She also has a degenerative spinal condition. Some of the different perceptions and experiences she gets to have are staying inside because she can’t take our dog for a walk in the winter anymore. Taking a ridiculous number of pills each day to help her function. Never getting a decent night’s sleep, due to chronic pain. Knowing that even something as simple as moving a coffee table to vacuum could put her in the emergency room.

Her disabilities are not a thing to be pitied, but they’re damn well not a blessing. Nor are the challenges she faces in any way equivalent to what a non-disabled person goes through in an average day.

I think I get some of what Casil was trying to say. I know and like her, and I’m not trying to attack her. I agree that pity isn’t a terribly helpful or productive response to someone in a wheelchair, and that we shouldn’t see people with disabilities as “lesser.” Likewise, empathy and understanding are important. Acknowledging and respecting other people’s feelings and experiences is important, and we desperately need to do better.

Unfortunately, by misrepresenting autism and trying to generalize everyone as “disabled,” I think this essay fails to recognize or respect people’s different experiences. Instead, it feels more like the essay erases many people with disabilities, as well as their challenges and needs.

And by arguing that we’re all disabled, I think it undermines the spirit and purpose of Special Needs in Strange Worlds.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

sovay: (Rotwang)
When asked some years ago about my favorite Russian Futurist, I predictably blanked, but said that I thought I had imprinted weirdly on Aleksei Kruchonykh because of zaum—I discovered the Futurists through Victory Over the Sun (1913)—and because he looked in all the photographs I'd seen as though he were auditioning for the part of an eccentric clerk in a stage production of Dickens. Exhibit A, which I just ran into while looking as usual for something completely different:


Left to right, that's Kruchonykh, David Burliuk, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Nikolai Burliuk,1 and Benedikt Livshits. Kruchonykh is twenty-seven; he would die in 1968, which I hope he found congenial in terms of the art of the time. I know almost nothing about his later life. There must be a biography somewhere. Anyway, I'm not saying that Mayakovsky's striped shirt and Livshits' flash tie don't have their fine points, but Kruchonykh looks like he just dropped in from his latest play or the last century or both. That makes me notice a person.

[edit] Velimir Khlebnikov beat me to the ghost poem. By more than ninety years, while they were both still alive. Sometimes I love history.

1. Okay, Tumblr thinks the figure at the top of the composition is Nikolai Burliuk; Wikipedia and this article think it's Vladimir. I don't suppose anyone has a source for the photo? I have not been able to trace it.
4 February 2016 13:22 - Roundup of Revisionary Links
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)

Some stuff that’s come out this week…

Right now, territorial restrictions make it difficult to get the book if you’re outside of North America. The publisher is working on expanding availability, but in the meantime, here are a few other options:

  • Book Depository: Offers free worldwide delivery of print books.
  • Wordery: Ditto.
  • ShopMate: This site was recommended on Facebook for Australian residents.

Finally, huge thanks to everyone who’s not only read the book, but been posting reviews at Amazon, Goodreads, etc.

Normal blogging should resume next week, once I recover from New Book Week.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

4 February 2016 10:17 - I wonder
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
if it is too late to arrange for a baked dessert in the shape of a garland for the show? You know, the cake is a lei.
4 February 2016 09:00 - For What It’s Worth
ceciliatan: (darons guitar)

Mirrored from the latest entry in Daron's Guitar Chronicles.

Christian and I went out the next night. We went to a place I had been with Jonathan years before, the Union Oyster House. We got recognized as Somewhat Famous People by the host and shown to a table where we couldn’t be seen from the door. The host, a young-looking guy but with his hair so short it made it seem like he was balding, fluttered nervously, though. “Is this all right?” he asked. “It’s somewhat close to the kitchen.”

Chris patted him on the shoulder. “We both worked in kitchens before we made enough money to afford to eat here. It’s really okay.”

Read the rest of this entry » )
3 February 2016 19:48 - Why is asthma like sexism?
zandperl: We Can Do It Sinfest - Up Yours (We Can Do It Sinfest - Up Yours)
This isn't going to be a riddle, it's going to be my real life experience. Because it includes potentially triggering discussion of sexism, and lengthy descriptions of asthma (which I guess could be a medical trigger), I'm going to put stuff behind a cut for people reading on their LJ/DW friends page - if you're came here directly, each section begins with "My discovery of" and it's asthma first and sexism next.

My discovery of / description of living with asthma… )

My discovery of / description of living with sexism… )
3 February 2016 20:11 - Supergirl the TV show
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
Is it becoming a distaff harem comedy?
3 February 2016 16:09 - Reading and Listening
pantryslut: (Default)
I queered "Jessie's Girl" this week.


And I started reading Jessa Crispin's Dead Ladies Project, and fell in love immediately. I mean, woman has mental breakdown, abandons her life and travels around Europe chasing the ghosts of dead lady artists, reconstructing what it means to have a meaningful life along the way? How could I resist?

Actually I fell in love before I even read the book; I came across an excerpt of the final chapter about surrealist artist Claude Cahun several weeks ago, a chapter that is also a little bit about Kathy Acker, as you will see.

Don't know who Cahun is? That's OK, almost nobody except people like me who spent way too many hours compulsively researching all the women Dadaist and Surrealist artists. (And, in a strange twist of fate, David Bowie, who called her a "cross-dressing Man Ray with surrealist tendencies" and curated a show of her work in 2007.) Not so hard; there weren't that many. But Cahun remains the most elusive. "[E]ven fifty years on she’s still the wild one, that after Cindy Sherman is turned into postcards and even my parents have seen the Marina Abramovic documentary, Cahun has not been incorporated." Cahun's gender-ambiguous name, and portraits, and art, have always held a special secret meaning to me. So I was ridiculously excited to read this essay -- and in the process, learn even more than I knew before about Cahun. "God save us all from identity politics. Cahun was exploding her identity, not defining it."

There are dead gentlemen in here too, notably William James. The book is also enhanced by the memories of my own small perambulations around Europe a couple decades ago, although I think Berlin is the only destination Crispin and I shared.

It's also a good opportunity to indulge in my fantasies of fleeing the country, which are rather complicated now by the inclusion of two biracial kids and a black spouse-to-be. Still, any place where the police force doesn't routinely carry guns around begins to look nicer and nicer as time goes by, just sayin'.
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