Cranky Lightning

I’m at the Quiet Lightning reading in a VERY CRANKY mood ready to liveblog. It smells like pot in here and I’ve had a gin and tonic and about 100 hipsters with scarves on are blocking my way to the bathroom so get ready for me to bitch like hell and become even more unpopular. So far halfway in I’ve wanted to slap everyone except Bucky Sinister. The format is a nice idea, rapid fire switching readers with no introductions and MC-ing or writerly apologias for work to come. The writers hop up on stage and read in order as declared on the event’s handy postcard flyer. At least in theory. The organizers make a tiny perfect-bound anthology every month and as we all know, the perfect-bound book published by someone who isn’t actually yourself is the Holy Grail, and regular readings are good, so I guess this is a literary scene now.

two handfuls of baby owls

Alia V. read a very annoying memoirish “fiction” about being the Spanish-English interpreter in a doctor’s office while a mom explained that her physically and developmentally disabled 9 year old son has a huge penis and is hitting puberty early. Alia intermittently rambles about her own teenage son and how they don’t talk about anything, then goes back to obsessing on and sniggering about the 9 year old’s huge penis and laments with “irony” that Pablo will never have a lover so his gift is wasted. The audience actually “hmmmmed” as if she had said something profound instead of bigoted and ignorant. Whatever, heinous ableist HIPAA-violating wench, even if it’s “fiction” you can blow me and I see why your teenager doesn’t talk to you. What a waste of ink.

Bucky Sinister read a sweet amusing well structured piece of prose, Grey Side of the Moon, about leaving arkansas on the tornado and saying Fuck You Dorothy for going back to your grey land while meth girls with homemade tattoos and dudes with cat whiskers die for technicolor. He did not quite say that but close to it. “Dorothy walks into Rainbow Grocery wearing ruby red Doc Martens. I’m looking for the good witch. Everyone raises their hand.” Oh Bucky you are so punk rock and I’m sorry your friends fucking died from ODing and AIDS. The audience laughed in all the wrong places. I even liked the Fake Tits Haikus in the middle. You know how some people can write about their lives like “Oh, I did so many drugs. Body fluids. The end.” and it’s so pretentious because the bit past “the end” is probably “and now I am a Ruby developer and complain loudly if my pumpkin latte is not quite right”? Bucky’s stories don’t do that. Instead they make me feel the world right here is simultaneous with the rest of the world. Bucky is good. You should go to his Wednesday night comedy show at 8pm at the Darkroom.

Jonathan S. earned my instant tired loathing for some kind of fake-ass audrey hepburn Bostonian theatre class accent mixed with other accents all horribly dominated by jim morrison-like doggerel recited in the portentious tones of the Slam Poet as the audience Hmmmmmmmed. Humdrum poets! Quit that! go start a band or something! Fuck! People Hmmming all over like something deep was expressed. OMG someone just shit out a little rabbit pellet of emoto-philosophy in rhyme! Quick! Everyone hmmmm!

Ian Tuttle. A sweet poem to the road, like a route 66 paean, too young and earnest to be annoying. I liked his Death Valley poem and think he has a nice line break once in a while. Suddenly I worry that some MFA program will ruin his soul. He could stand to go listen to my friend Arntsen’s bursts of geographical brilliance. And either pack more density of ideas into a long poem or take it somewhere; ie think of it as a narrative.

Ali Liebegott did the forbidden intro about being a paleontologist or something. The sweetest dinosaur that ever lived. I pretend he was a cardigan wearing painter, an effeminate dinosaur, a friend. When people weren’t assholes, because there weren’t any people. Okay this is fucking great. Hahahhahahah. Got me. Then an excerpt from a novel called “Cha-ching”. About her boss that called everything “you fucking faggot”. The faxed prices of semiconductors entered on a prehistoric computer. Reminds me of zines about “unworking” from 1992. “I pretended to be Nawal El-Saadawi….” Ahahaha . I just snorted out loud. That was pleasing. Insane bookkeepers and swishy nylon sweatsuits with a booger-eyed white terrier and the desperation of scarfing breakroom donuts. Dude I’m flashing back to my 80s and 90s temping days. “My life was sad in Yonkers.” Not like fake-edgy, but actually reality-bending! Someone remarks that Leibegott is the poor man’s Michelle Tea, which seems a bit unfair. Anyone who pretends to be Nawal El-Saadawi while being oppressed by data entry is good enough not to be compared all the time to Michelle Tea.

Kim A. gets a lot of frat boy cheers from the crowd. Her poem is called Blues for Robert Johnson. That inspired dreamy voice. I swear i will never fucking do that… shoot me if so. It’s an okay poem. With harmonica. Why does everyone read in that VOICE? Shooooot me. What if people just went around always talking like that? It’s like I imagine the elocutionist sounded from Anne of Green Gables. I could read this paragraph like a slam poet elocutionist and people would applaud it. She plays the harmonica charmingly! I applaud the harmonica part. Then a poem about the great penis famine of 2008 and a dick-tater joke. Penis blues. I feel impatient for this audience. This poem would get an A in a creative writing class. I feel fairly certain she’s grownup enough to have written something much better than crowd pleasing BS. Now a train song on the harmonica, very good! Awesome! Robert Johnson would approve.

Intermission. Starved-for-pussy 60 year old silver foxes in black turtlenecks with 20 years out of date pickup artist techniques consider me and back slowly away. Correctly spotted, old dudes! I do not get invited to any tantric zen sex poetry workshops by any of the facelift set. They found other prey. Instead I talked with Monica Storss my new neighbor & a poet who just moved into a boat called Bohemia and who was sporting an epic tiny velvet hat with peacock feathers and jewels on it, and her awesome cleavage; talked with Sara Moore who is also a literary translator, and Charlie Jane. I gave them all inside-out books. Saw Stephen Elliot but did not manage to get across the room to say hi. People were talking vigorously and having a nice time! Books were for sale at a table near the bar.

Baby owls in a little hutch animated gif

2nd half

Andrew D. A chapter from his novel about a homeless man on ecstasy. Written in 2nd person. “You can feel the ocean. This is the moment. This is home. Not where you grew up in Montana.” If you go back to Montana, turn to page 37. If you stay here by the ocean, turn to page 129. The elocutionists’ intonation. I wonder what this would sound like if I just read it out loud as I do books at bedtime to my son. That might improve it. The intonation stretches out vowels and weirdly de-emphasizes the ends of sentences. It’s half an octave higher than people’s normal voices. It has a little sing-song to it as if an echo effect is about to repeat each line for a disco chorus. Anyone who writes about “The Homeless Man” as a sort of metaphor character should be fucking slapped. It’s like the magical negro. But metaphorical homeless guy. When did “homeless man” become this particular placeholder rather than “hobo” which had something a lot different to it while perhaps over-romanticizing the jumping on boxcars aspect of poverty at least you could make a good blues song out of it yourself, rather than hanging out on the sidewalk waiting for some haight street aspiring novelist to dehumanize you in immortal, boring prose.

Lauren B. “First, do not be beautiful.” Trauma! Drama! Dating! Do not be a nice young writer lady who dates married guys while you both pretend not to be damaged and maybe sort of don’t have an Affair. We are not all Anais Nin. We mostly regret this. It’s fine to try. I will never understand heterosexual women.

Peg P. Nice boots. Yes… yes the protocol IS that you are supposed to launch into your reading. OMG, not kiss ass on the organizers. We already applauded them. Okay read something. We applaud the organizers for her again. Whatever. Shut uuuuuuup. Read it! Story about some young heterosexual college people in some town somewhere smoking weed. I think they are about to go bowling and have some trauma on a lacy bedspread or a backseat. The mic has screwed up and half the audience is rowdily unconcerned while the other half, who have produced their own readings and shows and music for untold ages, itch and sigh that it is not rocket science to run a mic. Uh oh! What will happen at the bowling alley! Check, check, one two. Check. Start over! Tony and Joey down by the schoolyard, redux. Here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson. Exposition. Exposition. I expect someone will be named Vinnie next. Scenery description. Glass ashtrays. We are in a pizzeria’s back room smoking some weed. Rather than some kind of saturday night live gang rape scene in the back seat of a car we are suddenly in a conversation about Jane’s poetry. Existential moment. Sex is mentioned only obliquely. The mary sue insertion college student is still talking about her poems. Mary Sue Waspy Snotbag is now gawking at some working class italian lady’s house decor like she’s never seen a cut glass candy dish in all her born days. Maybe you had to be there. I’m glad I’m not a writing teacher. I have lost track of who Courtney and Zach are but I so don’t care. OMG Tony will not have sex with her right in the bedroom while his mom is calling from downstairs. I was right about the lacy bedspread. Write what you know I guess! The end!

Charlie Jane reads a story about Audrey and her unrentable donut-shaped apartment after her breakup with Mary. The chain of their broken promises. “We’ll only eat candy we make ourselves!” Not. Audrey sits down at the computer to search for new roommates and is addicted to internet porn. She finds “master doug and lady bee” who want a live in part time sex slave, french maid, and nanny. Her vanilla ex doesn’t understand. “Maybe you should go to a Munch!?” says Mary as they continue to codependently call each other, post-breakup. The suburban squalor of Master Doug and Lady Bee’s cul de sac house in Alameda. I didn’t think you’d have so much stuff! I hope you can fit it into your hutch! Sara and I are cracking up. The maid uniform is from the Halloween store. Audrey longs to be subsumed in lifestyle D/S and scoured clean of her doubts. But suburban slavery doesn’t transfigure her. At least not yet. Creepy and funny and sad!

Charlie Getter. He likes to yell. We’re radioactive! I prefer the yelling to sing-song daydream twee-land. He’s preaching it. Walls fall. A couple of people call & respond and go “Yeah” at the right points. Gravity! Why is this place so messy! Rant on! This man has been in church with some snakes. Or can fake it from watching it on TV. I don’t care if your stock options have risen to 300 dollars a share because we are on a mountain and gravity expands and contracts like the heaving chest of a sleeping puppy! And we might be its dreams. Yes you heard me. A puppy. You probably heard Mr. Yelly too. New poem. (recite-yelled.) The ocean. Landlocked places. The audience attends! Bolivia… well actually Bolivia is sort of not landlocked or it wasn’t and it does have that one patch of beach. He does not like Kansas either and is probably Bucky’s friend. At least this is not boring, and has an Idea. I like more density of ideas though, and something that is more of a new idea. Or at least one new idea slammed into an old idea. However, cannot help but clap for walls falling and the awesomeness of oceans. Unless you’re Bolivia.

Thus ends my critique.

I’m curious to go back to Quiet Lightning and see what new writers pop up! I wish for this event to take its own format more seriously. The publishing venture is impressive & a good thing. I enjoyed that many of the stories and poems were San Francisco-centric with recognizable Bay Area landmarks and culture at their heart.

Next reading of any sort that I go to, I’m going to record the “hmmmmm” noise so as to make fun of it better.

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Rebel Girl! Riot Grrl nostalgia show

This is coming up tomorrow and you’re all welcome to come! I’ll be reading some fun, fiery rants and giving away a few zines and vintage “riot grrl outer space” buttons.

I believe there will be accordion-playing as well!

riot grrl nostalgia reading

The National Queer Arts Festival & San Francisco in Exile Present:
REBEL GIRL: a riot grrl nostalgia show
Thursday, June 11th
The Garage
975 Howard, San Francisco
Show at 7:30; Doors at 7pm
Tickets: $10-20

Buy Tickets on-line!!: www.brownpapertickets.com

More details about the performance and the performers are at:

http://www.queerculturalcenter.org/Pages/QFest09/Rebel.html

All Star, All Grrrl Cast!:

Gina de Vries
Chan Dynasty
Melissa Gira Grant
Liz Henry
Nomy Lamm
Zuleikha Mahmood
Melodie Younce

Join the National Queer Arts Festival and San Francisco in Exile for a
Riot Grrrl Revival — where you can once again dress in your leopard
print thrift store finery, scrawl SLUT across your midriff, toss that
Huggy Bear 7″ on the turntable, and make a fanzine extolling the
virtues of veganism + vibrators. It’s Revolution Grrrl-Style, Now! —
with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Past and present zinestars and
grrrl revolutionaries will tell wax nostalgic about the old days, and
let you know what they’ve been up to recently. Zines and cupcakes will
be available for purchase.

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Manifesto overload – May 1, Modern Times Bookstore

Steven Schwartz and I are hosting a Manifesto reading for SF in X (SF in Exile) at 7pm tomorrow night, May 1, at Modern Times Bookstore. It will be ALL MANIFESTOS. Come by and join us in raucous, fiery polemics!

While you’re there, buy lots of books at Modern Times, which is a great neighborhood bookstore that supports progressive politics and activism.

Declaimers:

Annalee Newitz – Cyborg Manifesto
Danny O’Brien – Futurist Manifesto
Daphne Gottlieb – a wild rant of a poem, and the SCUM Manifesto
Liz Henry – bitch mutant manifesto
Naamen Tilahun – an original manifesto
Nick Mamatas – a short story to set you on fire
Steven Schwartz – Dadaist Manifesto
Zuleikha Mahmoud – Femme Shark Manifesto

Manifesto!

With excerpts from the following extra fantabulous other manifestos:

Dada • SCUM • Provo Bicycle • Slut • Communist • Futurist • Unabomber • Art of Noises • Infernokrusher • Dogme 95 • International Werewolf Conspiracy • Surrealist • Bitch •
Vorticist • Turku • GNU • Femme Shark • Raver • Genderfree • Bitch Mutant • Headmap • Cyborg • Cluetrain • Anarchist • Yippie Voting • Up Against the Walls Motherfuckers • Declaration of the RIghts of Man • Bauhaus • LOL_MEME Bill of Rights • Cannibalist • And some too new to make it into this list!

Doors open at 6:30, reading starts at 7. $10-20 sliding scale, no one turned away for lack of money.

AND! The party moves to Zeitgeist afterwards for Sarah Dopp‘s birthday.

I’ve loved manifestos for ages and ages. They don’t pull any punches or pussyfoot around. No qualifying maybes, no disclaimers, no apologies, no hedging your bets. Take a position and state it with extreme fervor. Say it like you mean it! Rant and declare!

A few years ago Steven and I talked about editing a manifesto zine or an anthology, and that’s still a possibility. For this reading, I’m excited that so many of the manifestos being read or excerpted are feminist ones!

Here are two of my favorites, done in beautiful flyers – the Why Cheap Art? and Cult of Done manifestos.

Cult of Done Manifesto

Why Cheap Art? manifesto

Hurrah!!!!

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Reading in Seattle this Friday, Apr 25


Liz Reading at Queer Open Mic
Originally uploaded by Liz.

I am road tripping up to Seattle this week! If you are there please come see me at this event ! I would love to see you all and would love the support. April 25, 8pm, Annex Theatre, 1100 East Pike Street.

You will hear me say the word “Lezzie” in a Texas accent. Also, I promise to wear leather pants. There will be bubbling, and silliness, and insane talk of poems and roadside geology and the roots of the Klamath Mountains. I will pop a wheelie for you and you may pat me on the head and tell me I am brave (JUST KIDDING about the patting).

I will not have my child with me, but you can bring yours, as long as you keep them out of the bar area and don’t mind them hearing some intense stories of playground bullies and maybe some cussing, plus you realize my story is about being queer, queer, queer. All the stories are AMAZING and are written about elementary school and early middle school experiences & with that audience in mind!

Get info & buy tickets here: Can I Sit W/You reading

Tickets are priced at $5 and $12, which means you can choose how much to donate. Money all goes to my hometown Special Ed PTA.

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K’vetsh in August

I do love this literary reading and tonight is a big crowd for Heathen and Zara Thustra, so I might as well blog it. Also, my leg hurts a lot tonight but I don’t want to go home yet, so blogging is a way of concentrating on something other than my annoying body. A fine trick – I recommend it.

The hill here on Mariposa is forbiddingly steep and difficult for a wheelchair and I could not do it alone. So my car is parked up that hill! Eeep!

Meliza kicks off! Mexico City visiting the map and multiplying x times y. 66 poem or prose poem series. Sarah Dopp is reading! Awesome recitation of long poem! “I lost it slowly…” Jon Longhi now reading short piece… “When Chaos was in college he steered away from all earthly possessions… … and whenever Chaos jerked off, he used it as a come rag.” Heh! I lost track of what the thing was, but it was pinned with a thumbtack to a poster of Jesus. Then, pants on fire while on the toilet, stoned! Oh, Jon. Our MCs go on and on about “My Dumps” by Peaches which I can testify is great, but first you must watch “My Humps” video AND the My Humps cover/parody by Alanis Morisette which Peaches parodies. Emchy reads from fabulous new chapbook which I have a copy of (just got it have not read it.) Tara Jepsen and Michelle Tea go on about the TV show “The Wire”. I love Tara’s comedy…. and the couple of short films I’ve seen. She and Michelle’s energy is good… Featured reader now, Zara Thustra. Who is dressed and tattooed very charmingly… Sabina reads her autobiographical piece on gay “halfghans. alvin orloff. novel excerpt. I could just keep listening to Alvin’s story of Martine and her fans in the dive bar in the Tenderloin… Oh no, Emchy’s heart pen is missing! We ahve a pen thief. There is a band local called Lesbians. (Really?) ONe more open mic… Carrie or Keri… with a long thing in the voice of a “Minnesota woman” whose husband leaves her. It was sort of dull but that was the point I guess. Heathen Machinery reads! Ways to kill the baby! Awesome. Pulling the belly button thing off with a pop like a can of Schlitz. Poisonous dog poop safety pin injection! Rad. I am very happy as everyone in the room is squicked. The crib bars and the dildos! OMG THE AWESOME! Her aunt and chihuaha and collecting sand dollars. Also strangely disturbing. Another story of her and her cousin and their playing “house” and stuffing dwarf oranges up their nostrils. Then, the wedding and imagined “You!” declaration. Heathen is excellent! No wonder there is a crowd. And lo, it was not all hypeass smoke & mirrors.

Nico reads with a disclaimer about using this reading as motivation (failed) to write some new poems. The piece Nico is reading is more prosy sounding to me. Indians and Pilgrims at Thanksgiving dinner and having a hamburger in some deli… Our MCs do a thing about “Massholes” and Massachusettes and trashy moms fistfighting and mini golf courses on Route 1…

Charlie Anders reads a very hilarious personal ad email. Justin read about penguins, vultures, and love… Fran reads a good poetryish-in-places story about dyke bars.

We ducked out before the end – It was running very late!

Related posts:

Very cool literary reading: Nalo Hopkinson, Jewelle Gomez, Marta

This is going to be an amazing reading. I hope to see lots of you there! I will probably be late, unfortunately, but will be there and then be at the afterparty at Debbie Notkin’s house.

Octavia E. Butler Memorial Tribute Fundraiser

Nalo Hopkinson
Jewelle Gomez
Susie Bright
Marta Acosta
Jennifer de Guzman
and
Guillermo Gomez-Peña

A fundraiser reading to benefit the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship.
Fabulous fabulists honor one of our great writers and raise funds for the next generation.

Sunday, March 4, 5 – 7 pm

The Starry Plough
3101 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA.
510-841-2082
http://www.starryploughpub.com/

$5-20 sliding scale.

The Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship will enable writers of color to attend one of the Clarion writing workshops, where Octavia got her start. It is meant to cement Octavia’s legacy by providing the same experience/opportunity that Octavia had to future generations of new writers of color. In addition to her stint as a student at the original Clarion Writers Workshop in Pennsylvania in 1970, Octavia taught several times for Clarion West in Seattle, Washington, and Clarion in East Lansing, Michigan, giving generously of her time to a cause she believed in.

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Liveblogging from "She’s Such a Geek" reading

I’m at Modern Times bookstore on Valencia in San Francisco & we’re all being extremely geeky. Passing around this strange blobby white musical toy with spikey shapes… Giggling about the perils of installing LaTeX on one’s Macbook… Me and Corie and Ellen and Cynthia decided that instead of the Geek Hierarchy we should create a Geek Matrix (keeping in mind that “matrix” means “womb”… and not-necessarily-hierarchical network) with different areas or spectra of grrl-geekitude. That way we can avoid feeling that physics trumps sf-geekery, or genetics kicks the ass of Dungeons and Dragons.

There’s a huge crowd – standing room only! Tonight a group of more science and tech oriented geeks will be reading from the book. Annalee talks about the germ of the idea for the book. She and Charlie were at a hacker conference in New York, Annalee was presenting with another woman on a panel, and were introduced by the MC as “the only 2 chicks at the conference.” She stood up and flipped the guy off. When he said it, Annalee had looked out at the audience and saw all the women in the audience get this look on their faces like “Oh, okaayyyy, we’ve heard that fucking joke before.” With that sort of statement the women who *are* there get erased. People aren’t expecting to see them and don’t hear their voices. Charlie was there in the audience… and from that experience we wanted to make the point that we’re here, we’ve been here for ages. And not to let people forget we’re here at the conference and are not the only 2 chicks.

Charlie: Seal Press asked us at the proposal stage to tell them how the other books in the genre did. You know, the books about women who are geeks and stuff? We went online and we searched. And we searched and searched and we searched. And we found like one book, Geek Girl, that sold like 2 copies, from 1992. The only book about female geeks… And we put out our call for submissions and were astonished at the response we got. It got blogged everywhere and people had been waiting a long time for this!

Annalee: Defining what we mean by “geek”. Technical, scientific, cultural arcana. Physicists, biologists, programmers, Harry Potter role playing games. Talking about the ways various areas are male-dominated and what it’s like to be a woman in that environment.

First reader: Kristin Abkemeier. Has a phd in experimental condensed matter physics. Radioactive Banana is her blog. And at sheessuchageek.com.

Kristin: How did I become a geek? Job security…. (Kristin reads her essay from the book.) Her mom tells her she’ll always have a job.. and how her own parents hadn’t encouraged her in science. Kristin loved reading and books and drawing – but was discouraged… Compared to this other kid, “wonder boy John”… And ended up testing into a 7th grade math.

[I must note that I begged my parents to take that same exam in the early 80s, because all the guys I competed with in math class for the top grades were taking it and got to go to a summer school – but my parents couldn’t figure out how I would get to the school, which was an hour away in downtown Houston.]


Next up! Ellen Spertus, Associate Prof of Computer Science at Mills College – & she also works at Google. She’s written for the Chronicle of Higher Education and Glamour…

Her original title for this article was “From Male-Identified Misogynist to Sexiest Geek Alive”. The best way to have status in her household & family was to disdain anything feminine and act like a male.

[God… me too. This is one of the essays from the book that I read just nodding and then shrieking ME TOO over and over!] Went to one of the first computer camps in 1981. The male/female ratio was 6 to 1. Ellen told an Infoworld reporter she was disappointed there weren’t more girls. And was misquoted by that reporter as saying she was disappointed there weren’t more boys.

[the whole audiences hisses and goes “wooooo” angrily.]

Jenn Shreve reads her article…. On growing up fundamentalist… was taught that evolution was evil and wrong… ATM cards and the mark of the beast… Then rejected all that. Took to the Internet immediately… sneered at poeple who couldn’t deal with Pine or HTML. And yet stayed in the Humanities… though I scored way higher on the math than on the verbal sections of the SAT….

*applause*

Corie Ralston – BS in physics from Berkeley and phd in biophysics. Works at Lawrence Berkeley Labs… IROSF, the Internet Review of Science Fiction, as well.

[ I swoon… I totally love Corie… ]

Corie: My unofficial title is “Beamline Scientist” – how cool is that. I’m one of only 3 beamline scientst out of 200. At first my job title was “beam boy.” I lobbied to be called “super duper beam chick” but it never caught on. The filming of The Incredible Hulk took place there.. The synchroton does not produce gamma radiation… but if it did, and you were exposed to it, you would die – not mutate! *everyone cracks up* I love working every day in a place that reminds people of comic books. How did I get to be there? It certainly wasn’t anything like becoming the mutant hero of a comic book. Physics teacher in high school… Reading Heinlein & Asimov etc. without really noticing how every female character in Heinlein books at some point become hysterical and have to be slapped around by the men. (About Asimov:) If you can imagine intergalactic space superhighways why can’t you imagine a female astronaut? (huge applause from audience) I dealt with this by identifying with the male characters.

[GOD… me too.]

Annalee then introduces Charlie Anders, author of the award-winning novel Choir Boy. Writing in McSweeney’s, Punk Planet, Wall Street Journal, Tikkun, etc. and is the publisher for Other magazine & runs Writers With Drinks. Which happens next month at the Makeout room Feb. 10.

Charlie: I’m a policy wonk…

[Kristen whispers to me that “we used to talk about wonks in the Clinton era. Nobody does anymore. Nobody THINKS anymore…”

I want to tell Kristen that that’s exactly what one of Charlie’s novels is about… Clinton-era wonks and their wonkitude. ]

Charlie: Minutae of health care field. Weird complicated things to learn. Managed care. Weird permutation, intricate structures that actually *mattered* to everyone. This was all about hard-charging guys chasing *hard* news. My pursuit of arcane policy issues distracted me from my socially assigned gender role as a male reporter. My gender discomfort finally spiked on the day my inner palace of wonkdom came crashing down…. “We don’t want any of this “what does it mean shit.” ” A bomb went off in my head… New job – my new boss liked wonkitude… Every day was like Christmas… My co-workers were used to me hopping around the office excited, “Wooo! I found a new crazy thing on page 900 of the Federal Register!!” Fast forward, I’m legally a woman, on hormones and with a drivers’ license that says F… ambition… to make a serious wonkish contribution to the world… feminism.. child care and faulty gender assumptions.

Charlie then introduces Annalee Newitz, science writer, contributing editor at Wired, Salon, Newscientist, Techsploitation syndicated column. Editor of other magazine.

Annalee: “When Diana Prince takes off her Glasses”
Geeks – bbses… Wiznet – chat rooms! On the BBS I had a gender-neutral handle, Shockwaverider. Everyone assumes I’m male and I don’t bother to correct them. Cracking… breaking copy protection. I get them to teach me about assembly language and cracking mac software… phreaking… Linux… Linux Cabal. As a journalist… suddenly I realize I’m the only woman in the room full of journalists and one of them is asking me “how did you get him to *tell* you that…” I suddenly hear the implication in the reporter’s voice and respond… “I flirted with him that’s how…” Why didn’t I tell him the truth, I spent weeks hanging out… made Cthulhu jokes… I could have said, if you actually take the time to talk with people and get to know them, they talk with you. That’s my philosophy of reporting. A few weeks later I decide to write a biosci article using only female sources. Each source referred me to more amazing women… Fruit fly gemone searching tool…

[That’s my friend! Well, my ex… really… the fruit fly genome geek… *glow of pride* She’s such a geek!]

Woman from the Audience: Thank you for the book! We want a sequel at least on the web, we want more stories, we want to contribute!

Annalee & Charlie: Yes! Lovely! blog it! Stick it on the web!

Me: Tag it “shessuchageek”

Kristin: We could have a she’s such a geek blog carnival.

Guy from audience: What would you say the environment is today for 15-17 year old girls?

Annalee: The teenager from the book isn’t here tonight

Ellen Spertus: Yes it’s somehwat better… And at Mills… (I missed her answer)

Kristin: Larry Summers did women a real favor by being a jerk 2 years ago… in the 70s it was all “hey women can do anything!” and no acknowledgement that there are factors that affect women… women who say “i need a wife”… child care… atmosphere.. finally being discussed, thanks to larry summers.

Corie: Summers, ex-pres of Harvard … said that there are just fewer women at the super elite end of science… not putting in the 80 hours a week necessary to be tenured… and said there was no sexism in the field…

Annalee: and he said that women’s brains were different. He said this at a conference about women in science. It was what got him drummed out..

Ellen: That’s not the full story.. he had done many other offensive things and that was just the last straw.

Annalee: yes. and since then a lot of money has gone into studies…

[Liz’s note: Here is a great compilation of links and stories about the Summers controversy: Summers on Women in Science, from WISELI, the Women in Science & Engineering Institute at University of Wisconsin-Madison.]

Woman in audience: Is that just in the united states? Now, in other countries the situation is different.

Annalee: Not just, but it’s worse… and in the US it’s worse among white people; white women lag more behind white men… than women do [in other races/cultures/ethnicities]

Woman in audience: Women in India in sciences, engineering… it’s considered to be a ‘developing country” but things are much better there for women in science …

[Liz’s note: Here’s a link on women at IIT in India – and another with stats over several years]

guy in back: You can see it just going to Toys R Us…all the creativity and science is on one side of the story, vs. the other side which is all pink.

*murmur from audience*

Charlie: You can do a lot of creative things with dolls, you know!

Annalee: I’ve seen some amazing women hack on dolls…

Woman from audience: I teach science at a college… photos on the walls… 1890 to today. 1890 to 1940 is half women and half men. 1950s all men. 60s, 70s, 80s, few women – and now, about 1/3 women. WWII and backlash against women… men in the 50s… and the war.

Woman in audience: A comment on that in WWII they were using more women in science and research in RUssia – math and sci education for women but then the women went more into being educators…

Annalee: There’s some great studies of women in computing.. they were actually called “computers”… during the war in the U.S. and no one knew if ocmputers woudl become a big deal…

[Liz: here’s a ink from the IEEE Virtual MuseumWomen Computers in World War II.]

Jason: Do you feel like men’s attitudes have changed or gotten better?

Corie: Men now, male students, are more accepting of women…as fellow students and as their teachers and mentors… than they were when I was in school. They’re more okay with it.

Ellen: My mom was totally wrong that going into computer science would be a bad way to meet men. And now I talk to high school girls… and project photos of good looking comp sci guys … there’s this calendar…. of good looking computer geek guys… and I tell them, “he’s a good cook…”

OMG she just broke me… hahahah! [Which calendar? The Studmuffins of Science ones? Or is there a special computer geek one?]

Guy in audience: Computer geek culture, it’s all about being outsiders, alienation, outside mainstream, not jocks, etc. So why isn’t geek culture more of a clean slate in terms of gender?

[Liz: I could talk about that forever, and would really like to know.]

Annalee: Boys growing up as geeks, unfortunately being called fags, etc. Instead of creating cultures that were more friendly to women and the feminine, a lot of them reacted by creating an even more macho culture, especially in engineering and some of the sciences. There’s a lot of dick-measuring, jockeying. Even the language used in hacking, penetration testing, popping the cherry of the machine. It’s part of the slang. You fuck the ass of someone else’s computer. And of course computers are “boxes”… and we all know what a box is. The jocks picked on us and now we’re a macho enclave…. But that is changing. What’s missing is networking and these men have friends who are men, and if they did have friends who were women there would be better… we can build networks of friendship. Bridges…

Corie: If you’re male and a geek you’re important and smart. If you’re a woman it’s all about your value based on your looks. They don’t get the same sort of treatment in the outside world.

Barton: (from Mills) my perception of what is geek comes from th 50s science fiction and the production that came after that. what do you think about geek as a notion evolving. how is that changning in the future?

Jenn Shreve: the fact that I’m up here shows it’s changing; i’m not a physicist… I’m a writer. But i have a passion for these things and for tech… and that tech is more ubiquitous opens the door… it becomes more acceptable. Now everyone .. takes part in things that were narrow before… like chat rooms… so the definition is changing.

Woman in back: What exactly is a geek? I think of library science geeks…

Charlie: Were you here at the beginning? We defined what we thought geek was

Annalee: We loved the librarians, we had a whole contingent…we could have a whole book of librarian geeks. But it’s not really male dominated… we didn’t include it but we wanted to focus on the areas in culture where people would think of a guy when they think of somone in that area. Comic books, various sciences…

Loren: Back in the 80s I was a contractor. Most of the agencies i worked for were run by women and dominated by women. Best business to be in for women b/c it was the most flexible and had the best pay, flexible hours, for women to be in if they had children. But that isn’t true anymore.

Women in audience : I disagree, it’s a great field to be in to work from home and to make a lot of money if you have kids… as a programmer.

[Note: two other women in the audience came up to me after the reading and agreed that computer science was still the best thing for working at home as a professional and making money.]

Guy in audience: Please come to Google and talk to us about this and how to get this message out more broadly and maybe on a video on Youtube, or something like that. Girls in high school, get it to a broader audience, they would be inspired by it.

Charlie: That would rock! We have a video of another reading and can send you the link… and would love to come to Google.

Guy from audience: Are there any women you know who are into pro sports, except for baseball…

Charlie: Stanford women’s basketball rocks….

Jenn: Sports reporters… very macho culture… I was the only woman and that’s when I’d really feel that only woman int he room feeling.

Annalee: I’ve heard women talk about being a jock and a geek … various sports… prepared them for the endurance to say, program all night.

Charlie: In fact Jessica who was supposed to be here is a wrestler and when people question her geekitude she just beats them up.

Annalee: Yay, thanks for coming, go buy the book!

The guy behind me begs Ellen for a photo of her in her circuit board corset…

[Earlier, as I laced Ellen into her corset I thought of Violet Blue’s article “Web Celebs and My Rainbow-Flag Bikini – which I highly recommend –

A bit of my own geek story, about growing up a computer nerd, women’s networks, and helping out with tech stuff in disaster relief, was in Other magazine # 9 but isn’t in the book (for those of you who asked!) As I liveblogged this reading, taking photos and emailing them to Flickr, browsing on the spot to find links to add for the readers, and chatting in another window at the same time, and posting to Twitter… which is my normal level of blog-geek multitasking around friends, it was funny to field the questions of women around me who were not quite so bloggy or Web 2.0-ish (or “annoying and technopretentious”). At least I amused them!

One reaction I’ve heard a lot from women as I go around talking about the book and showing it off – is that many women who are geeks thought about submitting a story to it, but then kind of sighed and figured they weren’t geeky enough. I’ve heard women a hundred times geekier than I am say this, with geek street cred that would blow your mind. And then there’s an even more complex reaction as women realize that their disbelief in their own geek studliness is part of their own internalized misogyny, and they get angry (at themselves and at the rest of the world) and it’s a very hard thing to look at. The essays in the book are empowering, and make people very happy by letting them know they’re not alone in their geekitude, but some elements of the essays can also get people on a train of thought that is sad, anger-triggering, or difficult — The thing is, it’s a very productive difficulty. I felt the same reaction happening among readers to the Tiptree biography last year.

It was a great reading, the audience stuck around for ages, talking and full of positive energy, getting signatures and telling some of their own stories. I hope we can hear some of those, maybe on the She’s Such a Geek blog in interviews or guest posts!

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Out of My Mind and into Yours

Hey, I’ll be reading and talking on J.P. Dancing Bear‘s poetry radio show, Out of Our Minds, at 8pm this Wednesday on KKUP, 91.5 FM in Cupertino.

J.P. is a poet, translator, editor, and publisher and he’s hosted this radio show for quite a while! He does a lot for Bay Area poetry communities. I don’t know his poetry very well, but I ‘see’ him all the time on the WOMPO Women’s Poetry mailing list.

For the show, I’ll read some poems and probably a few translations. It sounds like fun! Now, which things to read? Some of my stuff is good out loud… the giant robot poem and “moon veil your mirror”. I notice people tend to like stuff with repetition that has a central idea. However, most everything I write isn’t like that, and I love to hear poetry that goes all over the map! My stuff in the last couple of years tends to be very long, complicated, and baroque, which I know doesn’t mean a nice listening experience… but I might throw something long in the mix. It’s what I like to hear (& write).

Wish me luck in getting over this cold and sore throat before Wednesday! If not, then I’ll pretend I’m always husky and sultry on the air.

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New open mic in Oakland; the best Bay Area radio station

BABA SAY

A New Monthly Open Mic
Every 4th Thursday
Beginning August 24th

Live interpretive music for the poets and the soul
Open freestyle jam after the poetry
Always FREE
Word of mouth…so pass the word!
Sign up at 7pm
Bring a horn, bring a drum!
Come enjoy music, community, and the healing art of the spoken word!

At the Bay’s beautiful new art space in East Oakland warehouse dist. The House of Stormz:: 1439 105th Ave @ International
Myspace.com/alpheta

***

I heard an announcement on KPOO (an awesome radio station – with a good blog and streaming audio – **why aren’t they in itunes??** ) for something associated with “Poetry University” and also remember the name “Martin X”, and though I scribbled down the details, I can’t find them. Can’t find it online. Whatever it was, sounded like a really good event, I want to go to it… got to keep looking.

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Main Gallery, RWC

A couple of interesting events coming up in Redwood City:

– Unbound: new paintings and mixed media on the nature of history, memory, and the experience of reading, by Barbara Kirst & David M. Baltzer – July 5th – Aug. 6th –

I missed the reception but will make sure to catch the exhibit next week.

– The Poetic Image – All-Gallery Anniversary Show Aug 9 – Sept. 10, reception Aug. 13 4-7pm. My homies the Not Yet Dead Poets Society will be there! Poetry readings 4-6pm, Open Mike 6-7pm.

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