Thursday, May 31, 2012


For those of you who have not kept up (what's the DEAL WITH YOU PEOPLE, can't you FOCUS) I've got bone spurs in my shoulder again.

No, that's not right. I've got bone spurs, again, in a different shoulder. The other shoulder.

Whatever. I'm in too much fucking pain to be coherent. Or to spell, apparently. This fucking spell check keeps getting sassy with me.

I've got a medical appointment with my doctor for June 14, with is approximately an eternity from now, but I'm fairly certain I will be given insufficient pain meds, if I get given any pain meds at all, because that's how Arkansas is with pain drugs these days.

I know, from the last time this happened, that after I have surgery, the pain will, after the six or seven weeks of healing it takes, go away. So -- what are we talking? Two weeks to the appointment, a month or two for the requisite tests, a month or two to schedule the surgery, about two months to recover...

Yeah. An eternity of this.

Then I'll be fine.

I actually was doing all right until this afternoon -- I was planning to hold out until January, when our medical savings kicked over. But I was shutting the door of the car to come home and turned my arm funny and OH MY CHRIST, I don't know what I did, but something popped and tore in my shoulder and so much for that plan.

In case I haven't mentioned it lately, let me remind you: I hate American health care.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Why I Love Athena Andreadis

Here, go read her new post, "That Shy, Elusive Rape Particle."

The churners of both grittygrotty “epic” fantasy and post/cyberpunk dystopias are trying to pass rape-rife pornkitsch as daring works that swim against the tide of rampant feminism and its shrill demands.

When people explain why such works are problematic, their authors first employ the standard “Me Tarzan You Ape” dodges: mothers/wives get trotted out to vouch for their progressiveness, hysteria and censorship get mentioned. Then they get really serious: as artists of vision and integrity, they cannot but depict women solely as toilet receptacles because 1) that has been the “historical reality” across cultures and eras and 2) men have rape genes and/or rape brain modules that arose from natural selection to ensure that dominant males spread their mighty seed as widely as possible. Are we cognitively impaired functionally illiterate feminazis daring to deny (ominous pause) SCIENCE?!

There's more.

American Epics Movie Review II

Then this evening I watched Apocalypse Now, which I had never actually seen altogether (I had seen bits of it, since Dr. Skull watches it about 17 times a year), as it is another movie I am considering for the American Epics class.

Having seen it, I am still not sure about showing it. It is definitely an epic. And it definitely fits the class. I'm just not sure I can sit through it twice.

I don't know if I've ever had this experience -- it's a piece of work that I know is good, but that I find aesthetically revolting. Watching it literally made me ill: I have a migraine now.

I think I also find it morally repelling, too, though I can't exactly pin down why. The use of people of color as objects to make a political point? (Unless I'm mistaken, no Asian in the film has a role except as a savage, an Other, someone to be shot at, exploded, attacked. It's true black Americans have actual roles -- that's nice -- but there's also an extended scene where black soldiers are used as savages, complete with face paint and magic connections to the universe.) The excessive violence against POC? The absence of women except as objects?

Kurtz's little speech, there at the end, about judgment being the enemy that defeats us?

I ...I remember when I was with Special Forces... seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to inoculate some children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there, and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms. And I remember... I... I... I cried, I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out; I didn't know what I wanted to do! And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it... I never want to forget. And then I realized... like I was shot... like I was shot with a diamond... a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought, my God... the genius of that! The genius! The will to do that! Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we, because they could stand that these were not monsters, these were men... trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love... but they had the strength... the strength... to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men, our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral... and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling... without passion... without judgment... without judgment! Because it's judgment that defeats us.

Yeah, that might be it. I know the movie tells us that Kurtz is crazy, so it has an out -- it can claim we're not supposed to think this is right -- but the movie is also playing him as a hero: the only man who is fighting this war right. (That's what the French dinner part is about; that's what Willard says on his trip up the river.) Kurtz is the man who is a God. He's outside the normal bounds, he doesn't have to play by the rules. So when he tells us this is the right way to act (in war), the movie is telling us that's right.

The movie approves, even if it also lets Willard kill Kurtz: it likes Kurtz's ethos. It wants this kind of warrior.

I think I probably will show it, because it's an American epic, and an American POV. But man I hate this movie.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Teaching American Epics

Last night, doing prep for American Epics, I watched John Sayles' Matewan, which I had never actually seen before, mainly because it is so hard to find. I actually had to buy a copy in order to watch it.

Totally worth it.

Based on actual events, Matewan relates the events leading up to the Battle of Matewan, when the coal company's gun thugs came in to massacre the striking miners and found the miners fully prepared to shoot back. The movie stops there, though an epilogue hints at the increased violence poured down on the miners (by both the coal and the state) for daring to fight back.

It's a powerful examination of the struggle to create unions in this country -- who paid, how they paid, how much they paid -- and who the true enemies are. It also shows, very nicely, how they work (successfully) to set us against one another.

Watch it, even if you have to buy it.

Monday, May 21, 2012

See, Here's The Real Trouble With Poverty

It's not that you have to decide between buying antibiotics for your kid or paying the power bill.

It's not that you have to choose between gas for the car so you can get to work or milk for your kid.

It's not that you have to ignore that persistent ache in your side, hoping to shit it isn't something serious, because there is no way you can afford the thirty bucks the clinic charges, never mind whatever it would cost if it is something serious, and forget the hours you would have to take off work to go sit at the clinic.

It's not the little white flash of panic that hits you every single fucking time you put the key into the ignition of your car, because it it doesn't start? You are fucked. Finished. Done. You can't buy another car and you can't afford to get this one fixed and there is no other way to get to work and you will lose your job and your family goes under.

It's not trying not to lose it when your kid wonders, wistfully, why you can't live in a nice house like X does. Or wishes we could go to a museum in town Z, only three hundred miles away, and maybe stay in a hotel? And you know she might as well be wishing for the moon. It's never going to happen. And you don't mean it's not going to happen this year, or not going to happen next year -- it is never going to happen ever, because you are going to be poor like this forever.

And so is she.

No. None of these are the problem.

The problem? The problem is you are not sufficiently ashamed of your poverty.

You fucking loser.

Crossed Genres holding a Kickstarter.

It's a great indie press, which I would say even if I hadn't been part of it for so long.

It publishes plenty of voices that don't get represented in the big markets -- women, writers of color, LGBQT writers -- and Bart & Kay do this almost entirely on their own.

Go here for details, and boost the signal!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Epic American Movies?

I am compiling a list of movies to show in my American Epics class (which starts in about one week, yeah, not that I put things off to the LAST MINUTE).

Since this is actually a class in The Revolution, just disguised as a class in American Epics, I'd kind of like these to be American Epic Revolutionary movies. So far I have a working list that looks like this (in no particular order, and yes, I do know some of these aren't exactly epic or exactly revolutionary):

Angels With Dirty Faces
Grapes of Wrath
There Will Be Blood
The Best Years of Our Lives

Any other suggestions? They have to be American movies, but they can be from any era, and set anywhere.
The Right Stuff

Thursday, May 17, 2012

But It's Not My Fault and Besides....

So John Scalzi wrote another post.

It contained an analogy which attempted to explain straight white male privilege to straight white males.

You may guess what happened next. Yep. The internets exploded.

I will not attempt to address the many layers of FAIL which followed from many SWM and their lackeys. (Though as Scalzi notes here, many SWM did not, in fact FAIL, so, yay. Though, really, my response to that has to be -- as it was when my brother shouted at me that men had "given" women the vote, so what else did we want -- uh, dudes, you want a cookie for that? Seriously?)

No, what I want to address is a response I kept seeing in the comments to the original post: SWMs and their lackeys who kept saying something like this: Okay, even granted I have something like this privilege you say exists -- which I don't accept, and which I didn't create, so it's totally not my fault, even if it exists, I'm just the accidental beneficiary of it, right? So what do you expect me to do about it?

Like, okay, I just happen to get put on third base in every single contest, and all those other folks are stuck in the parking lot, can't even get through the gates. Not my fault! I didn't ask for this privilege. What do you want me to do about it?

And they seem to think that settles something. Like they've refuted an argument. Like they can't be expected to do anything about the problem of the uneven playing field.

The fact is, if the playing field is unequal, and you are getting an unfair advantage -- if, as a straight white male (or a straight while female, for instance) -- over other candidates for a job, or slots in a journal, or publications slots in a magazine, or access to education, you can do things about that.

Do them.

If you run a journal or magazine, actively seek out voices that are not SWM/SWF. And by actively, I mean advertise and email and find writers who aren't SWM/SWF. Because it's a fact that writers give up hope of submitting to a journal when all they see getting published are the same dozen SWM names.

If you're on a hiring committee, do the same. If you run a scholarship, or have access to those who run a scholarship, or if you give grants, do that.

Oh, but this discriminates against SWM! No one is actively recruiting SWM! No one is advocating for SWMs! Yeah, sorry. Only the entire society advocates for SWM. See starting on third base, above. All we're doing here is leveling the playing field. All we're doing here is removing the privilege. I admit it does feel to SWM like being discriminated against. Having to give up the advantage you have always counted on can feel that way. It's why cops get so pissed if we don't cringe and grin and shuffle when they're giving us a speeding ticket -- they're so used to being treated like they're the Lords of the City. Not being granted the privilege stings.

In short: yes, there is something we can do it level the playing fields. It's not even that hard. (Some) SWM men and their allies are acting as though there is nothing to be done. Why? Because they don't want those things done. Why? That's also not hard to understand. They don't want to give up their privilege. Well, who would?

Don't wait for them to give it up. As MLK Jr said, the privileged class never willingly gives up its privilege. We have to take it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Movie Review

I stayed up late last night watching Outside The Law, an Algerian film recommended over on TNC's blog.

It's not exactly 100% successful as a film -- sort of episodic, and definitely more interested in making a political point than in being a movie -- but on the other hand, it's very effective. Wonderfully shot, and some amazing scenes.

Go watch it, especially if you are at all interested (obsessed, as I am) with resistance movements and revolutions. It's on Netflix instaplay.

Oh, fair warning -- it's in French, and Algerian French, I think, at least in part. You'll have to have your subtitles turned on.

Friday, May 11, 2012

American Health Care, I Hate You

So, as long-time readers of this blog probably recall, a few years ago I had my right shoulder operated on, to remove several bone spurs.

Previous to that surgery, I endured months of -- how shall I express this -- amazing agony. Aside from gallstones, I don't think I've ever had anything hurt the way these spurs in my shoulder did. Maybe migraines. But the migraines go away with the right drugs. No amount of pain drugs took away the pain in my shoulder. This pain in my shoulder took over my life.

The surgery -- horrible surgery, the worst I've ever undergone, debilitating, difficult to recover from, painful in its own right -- worked perfectly. My shoulder was fixed. No more pain, 100% mobility, strength, no problems.

Well, one problem: over the past month, I'm having similar symptoms in my left shoulder.

No issue, right? Just go see my physician, get it fixed? An awful surgery, sure, but we know the problem, we know the cure, we know it works, it's clearly not very risky, what's the issue?

The issue is Dr. Skull has a cataract, which will use up the last of our medical savings account for the year. So we're out of medical money. And our health insurance covers only 80% of surgical costs.

So I could get my shoulder fixed, now. And then we wouldn't be able to eat or pay power bills for the rest of the year.

Or I can wait until January -- which is only, what, six months now? -- when the new medical money kicks in; and do it then.

And hope next year there's no medical emergency someone needs money for.

Except the kid needs glasses, and so do I, and so will Dr. Skull, after the eye surgery. Who knows where that money will come from. Our health insurance doesn't cover that.

This must be the wise decision making -- that medical rationing -- that the GOP is always talking about. I get to live in pain for six months, and my kid gets to live half-blind until January, so that the insurance executives can be a couple dollars richer.

Sounds like a fine system to me.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Sunday, May 06, 2012

That's It, Folks

I have done submitted my final grades for Spring 2012.

The semester is therefore concluded.

I spent the day -- most of it -- writing and writing and writing. I love that moment when I know where a story is going and how to get there: when the Muse is chasing me, rather than me kicking her up the hill. (My Muse is a scruffy crop-haired urchin, who is sometimes female and sometimes male, and spends most of its time sulking under the table or in the corner, and has to be cussed at and coaxed into working at all. Lots of coffee works, or failing that, a bit of rum. But today! Hah!)

Toward evening I quit, because the kid turned 14, at exactly 6.27 p.m. We had chicken gruel and cheesecake, and discussed her infancy and early childhood. Also what she had been drawing, locked away in her room all day. She is drawing humans now, because if she is to be a real animator, she feels she must learn to draw humans.

Tomorrow she's going off to spend most of a month with her grandparents. While I will miss her -- Moar writin time for me!