Web Conference

I went to half a day of Web4All, part of The Web Conference. Good talks and demos & I enjoyed meeting people! More after I go to the 2nd day of the conference tomorrow.

Meanwhile – this weekend – I hung up a section of rain gutter alongside the house & planted flowers in it. Too tired to write much. It was very satisfying to figure out how make this strange planter and hang it up properly.

Reasons to like a song

My dad clipped out this article on the woman from “My Sharona” (who is indeed named Sharona) & mailed it to me. It’s been a while since my parents sent me newspaper clippings. It felt nice… Anyway he sent it because i liked that song and used to play the album, which was possibly the first album I bought with my own money, in 1980 (either that or the Freedom of Choice Devo album – I can’t remember).

I also named one of my Breyer model horses “Sharona”. It was a very beautiful one!

Here is the secret, which my dad may or may not know, as to why I liked the song. It was because my cat was named Motor and I could sing the line “Oooh you make my Motor run, my Motor run” and think of my adorable cat, who was named Motor because we lived in Detroit, my dad worked for Ford, and obviously because of loud purring (from reading the book The House of Thirty Cats, I took cat naming very very seriously. You have to name the cat something appropriate to its particular personality.)

I like the song M-bike by PJ Harvey for the exact same reason! Good chorus: “MOTOR! MOTOR!! MOTOR!!!”

I guess the new “sending clippings to your grown kids” is just sending tumblr memes over whatsapp since that what I do to mine.

Inadequate notes on recent reading

Am I ready to read The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley? Do I want a severe mindfuck experience? YES ABSOLUTELY.

*** hours later ***

Holy shit! This is a really good book. Very intense! Makes me think of Delany. Yes, and all the other logical things to think of like The Forever War. (And that Mary Gentle series too…) It’s so tight and beautifully structured & dense. I felt a little tempted to chart it out (maybe on a re-read!) Hurley just gets better & better as a writer.

Next book: Finder by Suzanne Palmer – Super fun space opera! If you like the Expanse I bet you will enjoy this interstellar repo man & his comrades.

The Book of Flora by Meg Elison – Another freaking awesome book, last in the trilogy started off by Book of the Unnamed Midwife. I nommed it for the Tiptree immediately on finishing it. Read the whole trilogy together – Book 1 stands on its own but the second and third books are better if you read them together (so that you don’t forget all the stuff that happened in the Book of Etta, which is important for Book of Flora). It is sort of a gorgeous gulliver’s travels of post apocalypse societies and how people of various genders and queernesses adapt to those different cultures & their rules (and keep leaving to try and found something new). Must add how much I loved the Librarians, and also Cheyenne – I would definitely visit though not join either!

Next book. The Mad Scientist’s Daughter. It’s ok, nicely written, but left me a little flat. It’s a little too easy for the protagonist to be forgiven and forgive herself for her actions and the whole book was so heteronormative that it didn’t grab me. I have another thing to say but it’s a little spoilery that I’ll put it in the first comment to this post.

The Carpet Makers by Andreas Eschbach – Good, so good, but so unquestioningly and unnecessarily sexist. Why must people. So disappointing. (Like Gene Wolfe – such claims to all compassing profundity while having this absolutely ludicrous blind spot for gender.) When you hit the ending bit with the tall blond young woman and the archivist you will scream and mentally throw your book across the room. If you bracket all that and just kind of pretend everything is like some surreal leave it to beaver universe then it’s a nifty book.

Wandering a dream campus

Vivid dream this morning of wandering around a university campus (imaginary) where I worked and went to school. There was a central building for “rehab students” (disabled ones) where you could go hang out. I felt at home there & everyone was nice.

In this dream I was hours early for a class or appointment, and decided to explore. The only reasonable route from the “rehab” building to the central part of campus was shaped like a giant children’s slide wide enough to drive my wheelchair down. There were also enormous grassy hills which I could almost get up to the top of if I serpentined – but then would sometimes slide backwards to the bottom again.

Many other bits of the campus had ramps or slopes which had odd inconveniences. One had an old fashioned metal children’s merry-go-round right at the top of a slope. It was annoying but didn’t stop anyone.

I rode a specially accessible bus around the perimeter of the campus, admiring places I’d never been and didn’t know existed. But the accessible bus was more like a giant station wagon with a bus-sized bed in the back where you could lie down; I had to take my wheelchair apart and unload all my bags and things and battery and shove it into various inconvenient spots and sit on half of it. When I got off it was a tense process of me yelling at the bus driver to please not leave while I was halfway through unloading the unwieldy pile of wheelchair parts and pouches of junk onto the sidewalk!

As I rode the bus I was trying to install an app someone recommended to me on the university’s chat server, with a utility called “bottle” because it was based on code from a bot. The interface required typing with very small virtual keyboard keys which I kept fat-fingering. Finally I got the commands typed correctly & the game installed.

The place where I got off the bus had an entire hillside that was high end shopping and a combination sports stadium and huge bleachers where choirs were performing (many at once, combining beautifully and echoing over the hillside.)

Meanwhile I was looking up fun things to do on campus and found a pool with an exercise class. When I got there – people weren’t sure if they should go in. It was an ocean salt water pool, more like a giant tank at an aquarium, full of seaweed and fish, the bottom was sand with rocks & coral, and you had to be naked to go in. Being me, I took off my clothes and got in, leading everyone else to feel they had permission to do so as well. We frolicked in the water until it was time for the fake tide to turn (they drained most of the water, then refill it slowly). The person running the “class” was a somewhat creepy old guy. I ignored his weird explanations of the naked exercises we should be doing and just played in the water.

Not a bad dream – full of those “somewhat inaccessible moments of frustration” that so often pop into my dreams though.

Points of reference

I tried to hire someone today to take some dusty mildewed patio furniture cushions to the laundromat and wash them. I always feel very apologetic that I don’t just do this kind of work myself (though I mostly do) so I’m like, well I don’t walk super well and it’s bulky so I’d appreciate help. The woman (OK… in my mind “girl” because everyone under 30 now seems indistinguishable from a 16 year old, so I just want to protect them, the sweet babies! but must remember they are totally grownups) shows up in kind of nice office worker clothes complete with adorable little pumps, the kind with little brass chains across the front, and a pencil skirt, and she pets our cat for a bit and then we head outside.

I’m already worried it’s too messy for her to cope with. So I start putting giant cushions into a bag for her so she won’t have to touch them because I’m sensing suddenly that they are DIRTY (??) and then she screams!!!! OMG!!!! SPIDER!!!! and goes into full “eek” body language mode. I’m standing there holding the pillows like …. ????? SPIDER!!! RIGHT THERE! IT’s HUGE~!!! WATCH OUT!

OK so I flick the spider off the pillow onto the patio and she screams again and jumps back.

“I’m so sorry! I don’t… I didn’t think! I just… SPIDERS!! Do you think… there could be MORE SPIDERS. IN THERE. OH GOD I CAN’T”

“It’s OK. We can’t help our phobias. I totally understand. Will it help if I just cancel the task so it doesn’t make you look bad?”

“Maybe if you just… like don’t say it was because of… OH GOD I’m SO SO SORRY Maybe you should say in the task THERE MIGHT BE, you know, SPIDERS OH GOD OH GOD”

“Yeah. OK let’s go back inside. I probably should have called it ‘yard work’ not ‘laundry’, now that I think about it.”

This is how I just went from helpless cripple to gaining about 9 million butch points. Go, me! I am as a rugged, backyard lumberjack, flicking spiders across the patio with the ease and panache of Bilbo Baggins on meth!

New plan, I will wash the smaller cushions and cushion covers in our washer and then figure out how to get the big cushions to the laundromat myself!

Gaily forward

I asked casually the other day if anyone else said or still says, when giving directions, “gaily forward” instead of (or to correct) saying “go straight”. We said this a lot in the 80s and 90s as part of queer culture, and then I haven’t heard it all that much – though I still say it. To my surprise over 100 people answered and said they also did it, still do it, heard it, or are teaching their kids to say it! Amusing! Others seemed to agree the 80s (even the early 80s) was when they started saying it, and there were many more women than men, but that may be an side effect of my age and the concentration of my friend groups. I wondered if it was something which just spread naturally (“like herpes”, Sean said helpfully) or if it had some canonical source – From the early 80s, that would hardly be a tv show, but possibly a movie or a book. I mean even then what fucking book would it be – I can’t see Beebo Brinker joshing about gaily forward in her Packard on a cross country trip, or whatever, can you???? Or some wounded gay poilu giving Stephen Gordon jolly instructions in a World War I ambulance? I THINK NOT. In this FB thread, Vicki suggested it may be from a song by Judy Fjell, who she called into the thread. I got very excited & started listening to Judy’s songs (women’s music, country style, from the early 80s onward).

Just checked back on this and Judy answered – and added she thought it might be something mentioned in a song by Judy Small, though not necessarily as an origin, but documenting something that was commonly said.

OK, that amps up the amazingness even more because a) Judy Small is Australian and i didn’t realize before this she toured all over the US and Canada in the 80s b) She is also the author of one of my favorite amazing songs, The I.P.D., which I first heard on a mix tape Johanna Lee made me in like, 1991 or 92 (lots of womyn’s music sarcastically interspersed with riot grrrl fare and the tribe 8 song that satirically quotes alix dobkin ) and then when the tape broke I went on a quest to find it again every few years FINALLY succeeding (it was not anywhere i could find until quite recently!)

Maybe I’m overly obsessed with this song but I do get particular music running through my head and I need to hear it again – and this one, I could hear perfectly over two decades without having it anywhere outside of my own brain. If that’s happened to you then you know the pleasure of finally hearing it with your ears again!

Adding to my happiness – she also has a Wikipedia page. Also – unexpectedly, her day job is being a judge.

The song that touches on our original topic, “Turn Right, Go Straight” never says “gaily forward” but does have a biting commentary on going straight.

Anyway – no conclusion to make here other than, I am adding this to the things that are part of queer culture, like the (international and cross-linguistic) gay “lisp” which is really a sort of intonation pattern more than an actual lisp.

A low down on the bro down

This conversation in The Stage Mirror spoke to … well to younger me, particularly this bit,

. . .it’s so interesting to me to think about ways in which butchness opened up a new (if not necessarily desirable) type of relationship with straight cis men for you. I experienced something similar-but-distinct, I think, in my late teens and early twenties, as a mostly-feminine-but-with-a-weird-underlying-vibe girl, where I would participate in similarly surreal locker-room type experiences, but at my own expense. Since I wasn’t butch but I was desperate to bro down (or at least get them to like me enough via broing down that I could eventually isolate them and try to trick them into emotional intimacy, like a very needy apex predator desperate to connect with the most vulnerable-looking wildebeest), that connection would have to be founded on either dismissive, dude-style commentary on women in general or myself-as-a-woman in particular. It was, unsurprisingly, often quite painful for me!

Whew.

Major lessening of pain

Every day that I wake up and I’m not in crushing pain it’s so amazing. I run though a little inventory and my arms aren’t burning and aching, my feet and knees have the mildest ache, I can take a deep breath because my spine isn’t fucked up. I do a little tai chi or do some housework or go swim, and feel a *healthy glow*. Fucking bizarre, I love it. Instead of burning willpower like rocket fuel as I try to achieve escape velocity in order to get through daily life, I’m just… chilled out. There’s so much more room. I am trying to keep myself in check so I don’t fuck this up. Gradually building up strength is the goal here! Doing just a bit too much takes me down for a day or a few days or a week, not months…. if only this lasts.

I want to do ALL THE THINGS right now. My huge greed and ambition, restlessness, desires to do everything, to make stuff, to pull marathons (of making stuff obviously not literal marathons) all need to remain CHILL.

Cannot take this good spell for granted so I’m trying to just appreciate it for what it is without being too goal oriented. Slow & steady.

Two excellent essays

From A Future Worth Thinking About (a blog with a great tagline – Thinking about magic, cyborgs, robots, and artificial intelligence–and why some of those words could use changing–since 1982), “Heavenly Bodies: Why It Matters That Cyborgs Have Always Been About Disability, Mental Health, and Marginalization.

And Making Kin with the Machines, which I enjoyed so much I started laying it out as a tiny zine (it would make such a nice small book for a pocket and it is creative commons licensed.) We’ll see if I actually do it or not… maybe… if i get the layout to my satisfaction.

Art expedition

The other day I took the afternoon off and went on an expedition with friends for Tara’s birthday. We went to the Museum of Craft and Design first – two exhibitions, one of large pieces that kind of explored different materials, and the other of ceramic sculptures by Wanxin Zhang. I liked both exhibits. In the first I especially felt happy looking at the giant mat of tangled pink thread by Mi-Kyoung Lee. It was so viscerally soft and fluffy and I thought about how you’d make it and the skill to spread it evenly and get an interesting texture. I could practically feel the process in my hands. The coral-like ceramic extrusions with light behind them were also pleasing – going back and forth and seeing how they changed depending on perspective.

The ceramic sculptures were great. Tara remarked that she doesn’t usually like representations of women made by male artists but these were great. I agreed – he not only avoided the usual annoyances but had something interesting to say in the sculptures. The female figures were profound. Here’s one called Mulan (Pussy Hat II),

mulan ceramic sculpture

I liked studying the textures of the ceramic & how they were finished in some places and then became rough and slabby and thumbed-looking.

The museum curator or docent giving us a tour mentioned that the sculptor often creates people in this pose with their hands somewhat held away form the body but at their sides and that it is homage to the Tank Man of Tiananmen Square as he carried his grocery bags. Once she pointed that out I really saw and felt it! Wow.

We had ice cream, then went to the Minnesota Street Project galleries which are spacious & beautiful. They were setting up a very fancy looking catered dinner in the central space and as we rolled around to all the galleries (keeping in mind we were hot, disheveled, and all 4 in powerchairs and I had my boots off, attractive pedicure in the breeze… perhaps a bit disreputable) we realized that the fancy dinner was for Christie’s which had some sort of special event coming up with the world’s fucking fanciest paintings, which I admired (Renoir, Monet, other fancypants stuff) Also caught a whole gallery of amazing photos by Louis Stettner and a Ferlinghetti exhibit which were mostly trash (but, fine, homage to the beats and hippies…. ok) The only good Ferlinghetti painting was 20K but… weirdly i could have more or less afforded some of the Stettner photos. Then I thought about, if I were going to buy something amazing yet might possibly be able to “afford” it, what would it be? (Answer: Something by Francesca Woodman and/or Sandow Birk.) Fortunately our cyborg bohemianism was welcomed by the fancypants gallery people and I did not (despite great temptation) steal any of the flower arrangements from the catering carts.

It was so lovely spending the day with friends despite that we all nearly died of heatstroke and the bad pavements of the Dogpatch.

crip crew