Monday, March 21, 2005

Poppy Says: "Whereis'm," when she wants to know where something is.

Poppy Says: "Purple, Mama." Whenever Ruby asks what color I want the basement. "Maybe Green. Or Purple." And Ruby says: "I was asking your father, sweetie."

And because I have no decorating sense, I shrug and answer: "You heard her."

Poppy Says: "Let's play ring around the rosy, daddy." Because she likes to fall down, with great theatrical pratfalls that we worry will split her head open like an over-ripe cantaloupe even if we know that, more often, bumbles bounce.

Poppy's bed was changed into a kid bed today. She was small enough to fit the crib, no problem, but there was a scratch on her nose the other day that she blamed on the kitty, even though I was pretty sure she hadn't gone to bed with it. So when I went into her room at 7:00 AM, she'd already turned on the lights, and was busy shoveling her books into bed. She was going to read to goat, but she decided she preferred breakfast instead.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

So, all of February and most of March lie fallow behind me.

My commitment to the writerly life is about as stable as an ice sculpture in May, right now.


Legends from Darkwood, by Christopher Reid. This made me laugh. Squeaky hard. It has a delicately balanced sense of humor that is just this side of wrong. Mmmm. Tasty magical beasts!

Amulet of Samarkand, by Johnathan Stroud. More recently Arrowsmith, a graphic novel by Kurt Busiek.

I should have liked both of the above unreservedly. They were good reads, dealt with alternate histories influenced by magic, and had fairly rigorous internal consistency. I always enjoy Kurt Busiek's Astro City. I really should have liked Amulet: I love stories about Djinni/Demon stories.

But I found myself holding back from both stories. In Amulet, the main characters are like night and day: One is flip and colloquial, one is a little prig. Neither are likeable, although it's obvious who Stroud thinks should be sympathetic: the human and wizard-hating Djinni Bartimaeus. He's witty and personable, if you can get around the fact that he doesn't care if you live or die. His master, a child prodigy wizard who defies his master to try and frame a rival wizard, is a pretty good example of why children shouldn't take themselves too seriously. Don't feel bad for the master who is betrayed: he too is a coward and a jerk. In fact, every male in the novel is some kind of prick, and every female a dupe, so despite the fact that the plot itself is an interesting synthesis of faux-history and magical technologizing, you have no reason to follow the plot to the end. There's nobody to root for: let them kill each other.

Arrowsmith was a whole nother thing: The main characters are very likeable. In Astro City, Busiek always created characters who's humanity emotional reality accented the fantastical situations they found themselves in. He does the same thing in Arrowsmith (which I keep wanting to spell Aerosmith).

I keep getting distracted by his plot however: it is a mythologization of World War I, with the Prussians creating magical gasses that raise the dead, and Gallia and the United States of Columbia dropping salamander bombs on Churches where dark pacts are cut for military advantage. All great fun. But when the storyline dwells on the title character's problems: friends who are disfigured or killed their first day of combat, watching the aftermath of a terrible bombing... I keep thinking that real people faced these same situations in the real world. His treatment of the problems struck me as trivializing.

I found myself thinking that he would have been better off telling the same story in a more fictional world: China Mieville's New Croubazon stories often parallel difficult real world problems: the labor movement, institutionalized poverty, racism, indentured servitude, the provincialism of a free society. He sets them in a world very removed from our own, though, which I think reduces the sense of owning the problems. I would like to see Arrowsmith can eventually overcome this sort of weird reverse glamory.

Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. This is not genre fiction, which I guess makes it better than 95% of what I read. And it really is well written. But I can't help thinking, much like I do when reading Daniel Clowes comics, that whiny men with weak decision making skills are as much a staple of literary fiction as the opposite in genre fiction.

You Have More Than You Think: This is a good book to read if you don't think about money at all.

Everything's Eventual, by Stephen King: I've always liked Stephen King's short stories. The title story in this collection, I think, is an interesting synthesis of his psychic mythos, conspiracy theory, and the sort of cosmic horror note's he's been trying to hit more often recently, in things like From a Buick 8, that is weirdly thorough despite its short format. I think it's a very new kind of genre, and would make a great D20 Modern game. Many of the rest of these stories were very good. The only one which the literary mainstream saw fit to reward was fairly dull.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Warmer world growing colder

The following was originally written on Feb 7th, and sat on my opinion until I was sure it was only mildly nasty:

I've been fumbling around with some issues in my head that I just made concrete with a visit to, of all places, Glancing at the science headlines, I saw yet another article about global warming: "Glaciers shrinking in a warming world." haven't' read the article yet, hope to later this evening. But it sort of summarized a kind of phenomenon in my head.

I'm not worried about the world getting warmer. I'm worried about it getting colder. Not literally. No fear of that. Ideologically. My country seems to be taking a decided, completely unbiased in it's bias, fully spin controlled, culturally immoderate, turn to the right.

I was thinking about this today because earlier a coworker was razzing me about the liberal media.

I had mentioned that I'm not really watching CNN in the morning because it seems to get Poppy worked up. Ruby thinks that maybe Poppy is reacting to the newscasters and interviewees: she does mirror people's emotional states. She mirrors everything, really, but anxiety seems to translate particularly well to the fertile medium of her head. So I haven't been watching CNN, because grumpy, catty commentators and guys in combat gear have to be more upsetting than, say, my Tiki-Glass, or the Hulk Head bank in my office, both of which usually set off monster fits. Or maybe not. I could be taking a stab in the dark.

I don't miss CNN. I don't find it substantial, really. Too many small things (Martha Stewart, Michael Jackson, OJ) are over-covered. Everything else seems to be under-covered (I sometimes think their most incisive coverage comes on the Ticker). It's a lot of gabbing and opinion, and I don't want opinion. I'm kind of bring-your-own-opinion.

So my boy, my co-worker, is telling me that I should avoid the "hate spewing liberal media" and Poppy won't get worked up.

Now, I've no idea if he was serious or not. The outspokenly conservative element in the library can be defensive, as far as I can tell because they're outnumbered. They're good natured, but they're all boy's boys, all sports and camping and armchair politics, so their teasing is rough.

But I've heard this criticism before from the right. I know it's an issue for them: Coulter and O'Neill are always whining about how liberals think they're mean. Which is always amusing to me, cause it's usually said at full volume, with an epithet.

But you know what? It's meaningless. Freedom of speech is a social good. They have a right to an opinion. And their opinions, though entirely right, are not all wrong. Personally, I'm kind of immune to the question of who's a bigger meanie at this point.

Here's my problem: Part of their opinion is that they don't want any other opinions around. They don't want to disapprove of gay marriage: They want to legislate the possibility away. There are no liberals, only traitors. Not only do they not want their children educated about sex, they don't want your children educated about sex. They dismiss violations of civil rights and international treaties away as a necessary evil in the wake of 9/11. They want all of our children taught creationism, 'cause they don't believe in evolution. If they don't believe it, it isn't science. And no boobies during the Super Bowl. Not even by accident.

Oh sure, this isn't stoning in the stadium kind of stuff. The right has been patting itself on the back for being kinder and gentler since Bush the first because they're not dragging anybody behind them in a truck. But I will note that the right is quick to cringe into the language of victimhood when brutal, bodychecking legislation like DOMAs or Constitutional amendments to entomb the rights of gays and lesbians are condemned as bigotry. It is, you see, religious intolerance. This is a very dishonest, oily way to turn opinion away from their actions.

Now, does my pal feel this way? Dunno. He doesn't clarify his opinion. Because I'm a glass half full kind of guy, I assume not. In some ways, I don't want to know. Gotta work with him.

And I'm not prone to getting hit by chunks of sky. I don't think the current hyper-republican atmosphere will last much past the next election, but in any case, like the earth-centric vision of the solar system, social conservatism can't last forever. It's not very real. And most of America's ethnic, cultural, and minority groups have enough social capital that they aren't expendable. Especially in a capitalist system, which literally depends on the widest possible buy-in.

But here's what worries me. Although we are a social primate, and generally mean well because we have to get along, there have been enough instances in history where the social fabric was torn so far that it gave way entirely. And really, social conservatives have been getting more than a little frantic and culty. So it's possible that the current ultra-conservative wave could get out of hand, and really hurt alot of people. Taking up the big stick of legislation is sometimes a step before taking up the big stick of persecution.

Which brings me back to my main point, of a colder world despite global warming. And really, the rather myopic way global warming is treated by republicans.

The best argument the republicans can muster about global warming is that it might not be caused by people.

Okay, it might not. Climatalogical change happens by itself, over long periods of time. We don't know that humans are causing it.

The point where it becomes a superstition is where they suggest doing nothing about it. Not altering human behavior at all, because they're too cheap to refit their businesses, and heck, it might not work anyway.

I mean, if you knew for a fact that someone was coming to burn down your business, would you give security the day off and lock the employees inside? After all, they might not catch the guy before he starts the fire. Why make the effort?

This moral absurdity is the same kind of humbug that is displayed by all sorts of conservative social engineering and hysteria.

If you really think that social institutions carry the same weight as natural law, let's test it: you step out the third story window, I'll marry the nice homosexual couple, we'll see who comes out the worse for it.

Neither Spongebob, nor Tinky Winky, are gay. They are cartoons who have never expressed a sexual preference for a same-sex member of whatever singular species they belong to.

If you think it's a different act when we torture our prisoners, you're a one man peekaboo game.
And you're not the only one with children paying taxes. When your son gets the hots for my daughter, I want him to know what a rubber is.

You get my point.

I'm not so concerned for myself. I grew up in an environment where I felt alternately hunted and dismissed. It was called "high school". But I was hoping for something a little different for my kid. I mean, what if she becomes a wretched little progressive like myself? Then how do I explain the world to her? The intellectual faddishness of her countrymen? The cultishness of a country who's definition of liberal is riding up to the center like an inexorable cultural wedgie? How do I explain why our country is so cold when there isn't any snow?