May 2017

S M T W T F S
 123456
7 8910111213
14151617181920
21 222324252627
28293031   

Custom Text

Most Popular Tags

Jeffy and I don't usually revisit the Thanksgiving leftovers in any big way. Post-dinner on Thanksgiving night, we send as much stuff home with his Mom as possible and then I stand in the kitchen doing a triage, putting away what little we probably will use again, consigning scraps to the trash and then asking Jeff questions like: "Any chance at all that we would ever look at this again?" holding half a turkey wing or a giant spoon of cold mashed potatoes. Or, "Does this item have a future?" And he says, "Maybe in a week when I throw it away!" Et cetera. But this year, I carefully reserved more stuff than normal because I had a Friday night plan already in the works before the Thanksgiving cooking had even begun.

We made a sandwich using some turkey leftovers, stuffing leftovers and the batch of "Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish" that we never ended up using last night.

First, I mixed some stuffing in a bowl with some chopped scallion, a bit of Louisiana hot sauce, and an egg:


stuffmix

The scallions and hot sauce added some freshness and punch while the egg supplied some structural adhesion for the next stage: making this into patties for pan frying!

stuffpatties

And after forming patties, I coated them with bread crumbs, which may seem odd for a product that is principally made of bread already. And which will later be placed between slices of bread. But the crumbs afford a bit of help for achieving a nice crispy finish...

stuffingfry

Which afforded us a second chance to have some of those crispy top and edge bits of the stuffing that are generally a thing of the past after the initial T-giving night serving. I heated some olive oil in an iron skillet and browned the patties for several minutes on one side, carefully flipped them, and then moved them into the 400F oven for about 15 minutes. In the oven, they hung out next to some turkey leftovers which I put in a small skillet along with a scant amount of the leftover gravy, just to give it back some moisture. 

turkeygravy

I wrapped the turkey pan in aluminum foil and heated it while the stuffing patties finished. Also, I placed four slices of wheat bread right on a rack in the oven and toasted them. When everything was hot and ready to go, I slathered all four slices of bread with the cranberry relish (more on that below), added a slice of cheese to each stuffing patty and built two of these sandwiches:

tsandwich

That relish is the famous recipe that Susan Stamberg works into NPR's Morning Edition broadcast somewhere every year before Thanksgiving, and it is unlike most any other cranberry sauce recipe in that it is a totally raw preparation of cranberries, sour cream, sugar, onion and horseradish. This makes it uniquely suited as a condiment for this sandwich, the perfect foil to the richness of the rest of the dish. It has a sharpness, acidity and pungency that cuts right through the leftover-breadiness and makes a sandwich that would otherwise be a Total Abomination into something just right for a lazy post-TG Friday night.
This was the menu...

TGmenu2012

We liked it a lot. As usual, I had a lot of fun with cooking all of it. But I am never all that excited about the actual eating of it all by the time we actually sit for dinner. Because then it's over. But we had a very nice time.

I actually have a leftovers plan in process for tomorrow night's dinner. As it turned it out we never used the Stamberg cranberry relish today because it didn't seem to fit in anywhere. But it's going to make the awesome sauce for some turkey/stuffing panini. 

melonThis is some real first-draft unedited business here, just a segment from my NaNoWriMo project that I came up with to tie into Thanksgiving. I submit it here in honor of the holiday, not because I think it was worth writing for any other reason. It is from the middle section of a trio of interconnected novellas, and so will make little to no sense to anyone in this stand-alone way. But it's got to do with dinner.

"Spatchcock"
from The Curve and the Cairn

Lastain claimed never to have had in her entire life an actual Thanksgiving dinner. Her expression soured after she said this. She pursed her lips over the rim of her glass and sipped her drink. A-R told her that this was an absurd assertion: “Everybody in this country has at one time or another had a Thanksgiving dinner—even if it was a really shitty one. It’s embedded in our cultural DNA.”

            But Lastain persisted that her family had never honored the holiday properly, instead doing things like going to movies and eating popcorn, or running through fast food drive-thrus and eating in the car. A-R wondered if, during these times, she had been thankful for anything. Because, if so, then this too could have been a form of Thanksgiving dinner, albeit a shabby one. She said nothing at first, but peered at him darkly, sipping her drink. Then: “You have always been so snobbish about stuff like this, Arthur. Not everybody’s dad was a celebrity chef, you know. Hardly anyone has a kitchen this nice in their house!”

            “I’m not talking about the food.” A-R reddened, felt his ears get hot, and he looked inside the refrigerator. “I am talking about an unavoidable, deeply encoded cultural norm in America.”

            As if to defuse further clashes between A-R and Lastain, Haider interrupted with his assessment of the holiday and its fare: “Turkey, mashed potatoes, Stove Top Stuffing, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole and sweet potatoes with marshmallows on them.”

            “Barbarism,” muttered A-R, still examining the contents of the refrigerator. Lastain sighed loudly behind him.

            “And you watch football on TV.” Haider leaned back, ass on the countertop, satisfied. Case closed, he seemed to say.

            “Whatever.” A-R sighed and reached for a bottle of white wine. “You two are missing the point. Tomorrow night we will have Thanksgiving dinner together and I will show you how it’s properly done.” He looked at Lastain. “No snobbery, I promise!”

            “Arthur. It’s January.” Lastain pushed her glass forward, hopeful of a refill.

            “It doesn’t matter. Thanksgiving can happen any day of the year.”

           

            A-R wrote the menu with a chisel-tipped Sharpie on a sheet-pan sized piece of parchment:

TURKEY IN TWO STYLES w/natural pan gray

CELERIAC SMASHED POTATOES
CREAMED CHARD AND KALE, gratineed yo!

ROASTED WINTER SQUASHES AND RADISHES

OYSTER STUFFING w/pancetta FTW!

MAMA STAMBERG’s CRANBERRY RELISH!! fuck yeah!

PUMPKIN PIE w/whipped sour cream

            Beneath this list, with a fine-point Sharpie, and in much smaller letters, he wrote his grocery list, checking the pantry as he went for items he might already have. When the list was finished, Hurricane jumped atop the steel island and examined it. “Coeurl,” he said. And, “Mew.”

            “Did I remember everything, kiddo?” A-R bent low to accept a nose-kiss from the cat. Hurricane emitted a loud purr, gazed at his human for a moment, and then leapt away, back about his day’s business. A-R added one more item to the list: cat food. Then he took a picture of the list with his iPhone, grabbed keys and left for the store.

            He decided to try the new supermarket that had recently opened on the former site of a desolated strip mall. It was called Circus of Foods, and rainbow flags flew gaudily, gleefully from its concrete ramparts. Having been raised by two dads, A-R could not see a rainbow-anything without thinking GAAAAYYY. But he doubted that this was likely the store’s proprietor’s intent.

            He passed through the broad entrance, grabbed a cart and turned left into the large produce section. Assessing it’s vastness and variety, he made a mental note to send Chris here—if Chris ever returned from Wisconsin. Celery, carrots, celeriac, garlic, parsley, chives, A-R said to himself, trying to tick off as much of the vegetal section of his list as possible before resorting to looking at his phone image of it.

            A big bin caught his eye. It was heaped with a large red-purple fruit with bright green and yellow fibers growing wildly from its skin. He had never seen anything like it. He picked one up. It was heavy for its size, fist-sized and cool. “It’s fantastic, isn’t it?” said someone. He looked to his right. A boy in the store’s uniform stood there, moving more of the fruits from a big box into the bin. The kid’s blue shirt collar splayed open to expose a necklace: steel charms in the shape of curvy tentacles hung from a knotted leather strap. Cult Cthulhu, A-R thought. But said, “What are they?”

            “They’re called kudzu fruit,” said the kid. He grinned. “They’re delicious!”

            Not on the menu: A-R took two anyway.

            Chopping an onion:

            Arthur-Rimbaud did it first, shedding its skin, halving it from root to stem, sweeping its ends to the side. He laid one half on its flat cut surface and quickly sliced through it in many close cuts perpendicular to where the root had been. Then he turned the thing slightly widdershins and sliced again, rendering the half to tiny dice. “Like this,” he said to Haider.

            Haider had just asked how properly to dice an onion, professing that he’d attempted it and occasionally seen it on a TV show, but had fallen short in accomplishing the task himself. “I’ll teach you,” A-R said, “by making you do it yourself.”

            Lastain sighed. “Oh Jesus Christ,” she muttered.

            A-R glanced at her, said, “We need a ton of onions anyway.” He pulled from the basket another onion “Here,” he said, setting it upon the board, handing Haider from across the steel prep island the ceramic knife, handle-first. “I will talk you through it.”

            “You did that so fast,” said Haider.

            A-R wondered, “Are you left-handed or right-handed?”

            Haider pursed his lips, nodded slowly. “It kind of depends. I’m kind of bi.”

            Lastain snorted behind A-R.

            “OK,” A-R said, “let’s say you were hacking to death a zombie during combat in Ruhrapenthe, in which hand would you be holding your war ax or machete?”

            “The right,” said Haider, no hesitation. He grabbed the onion.

            “Hold it against the board,” A-R said, “on its side. Yes, like that.” He watched Haider position the knife for the first cut. “Now, cut. One slice. Take off that end.”

            “And again. The other end. As close as you can to that root.”

            Haider did as he was told. Next, A-R showed him how to make a shallow cut through the skin from end to end and then peel away the papery layer.

            “I know how to do that, dude,” Haider said, gazing at his peeled onion. “But what I don’t get is how you get it diced without chopping it all to fuck.”

            “You’re making a big mistake,” Lastain said, rather dryly. “Letting Arthur think that he knows something that you don’t.”

            “Ignore her. Listen to me.” A-R grinned at Haider and was surprised that he smiled back. “Now do what I am doing.” A-R grabbed the remaining intact half from his onion and pretended that he had a knife in his hand. He positioned the end of its imaginary blade against the onion’s white flesh. “You put the tip roughly here, just short of the end of the onion, and make one straight slice downward. And then again, as close as you can to the first cut. And so on, et cetera.”

            Haider paused for a second, considered what he had seen, and then botched it entirely by making his first cut in exactly the wrong direction, making half-rings fall from his onion half.

            “OK. Stop.” A-R stepped around the end of the island to Haider’s side. “Don’t freak out. Because I am going to touch you, bro. Don’t go all PTSD cyborg killer on my ass.”

            Haider gazed down at A-R for a moment, as if deciding how to answer that. He laughed. “It’s cool, dude.”

            “It’s like trying to tie someone else’s tie,” A-R explained. “You pretty much have to be standing behind him.”

            Haider frowned.

            “But,” A-R said, “you are enormous, like a furless Chewbacca. So I can’t reach around you from behind and still see what I’m doing. But I can kind of get beside you.” A-R sidled close to Haider, extended an arm in front on him and grasped his knife hand. He took Haider’s other hand with his own left and moved it into place, fingertips against the onion. “Here is where you make the first cut,” he said, carefully positioning Haider’s right hand with his own. “And now. Slice.” Slowly, they did it together.

            Lastain leaned forward, opposite them. “You boys are so fuckin’ sexy right now,” she said. “If you accidentally start making out, I may just wet myself.”

            “Silence, Satan!” A-R hissed. He and Haider made four more cuts together and then A-R released his grip. “Continue, just like that. Try to make each cut as close as you can to the last.”

            Once the final slice was complete, A-R told him to turn the onion half so that he could slice it again, this time perpendicular to the previous set of cuts. “As if you had sliced a zombie from head to toe and then needed to do it again from shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip, just to make sure it was good and really dead.”

            Suddenly confident, Haider did as directed and laid the onion out in fine dice.

           

            The turkey:

            “Doesn’t that turkey,” said Lastain, “take like a thousand hours to bake?”

            “Don't you just stick it in the oven and wait forever?” said Haider.

            “No,” said A-R to Lastain. “Because we’re going to spatchcock it. And no,” he said to Haider, “because we're going to spatchcock it.”

            That’s a preparation, A-R explained, where you cut the bird from throat to ass along its backbone and then pull out the backbone completely, and then flatten the beast for roasting. “But I take it a step further,” he said, tearing through that backbone with a great crunching, once and then again. He cast the long chunk of bony carcass into a steel bowl next to his cutting board. “Because I am also going to completely detach the leg quarters from the breast section.”

            Haider gazed at the bird. Lastain refilled her wine glass.

            “That’s the dark meat,” A-R clarified. “The part that Americans have been conditioned to despise but which is actually the best part, as soon you will learn.” He flipped the breast chunk over, cavity up. “I am also going to knock off these wing tips—” more crunching—“and very carefully take out the rib cage and the entire keel bone.” Haider leaned in closer, more interested.

            “It's like busting down a zombie, isn’t it?”

            “Actually,” Haider said, “it kind of is!” He looked more closely, watching A-R carefully pare the breast meat loose from its bony superstructure. “Except I’d just take that knife and whack the fucker straight through the middle of that sternum or whatever it is.”

            “Perhaps, but in this case I am trying to keep the whole breast-slash-wing section in one piece, just minus most if its skeleton.”

            Lastain wondered why.

            “So that we can still have a brief Norman Rockwell moment,” said A-R, “with something that vaguely looks like a classic intact Thanksgiving turkey out of a vintage Good Housekeeping mag. Before we eat the fuck out of it.”

            This explanation struck everyone as very funny for some reason, and they paused in the food prep for a bout of laughing, followed by a cigarette break. After a few minutes, after Lastain had stubbed out her smoke, she grasped A-R’s shoulder and said, “Though I have been giving you a hard time ever since you suggested this, I think I actually get what you are doing. What you really mean with your cornball spirit of Thanksgiving nonsense.” She leaned forward and kissed him on the forehead. “So, really, thank you for doing this with us today. It is actually, somehow, fun.”

            Gently stunned, Arthur-Rimbaud stepped back. “But we have barely started cooking. And we have not eaten yet.”

            “But that’s not really the point, is it?” she said.

            A-R gazed at Lastain, not sure how to answer.

            Behind him, Haider examined the dissected turkey. “So what’s next?” he said.

Typically I don't like to do too much food prep in advance of Thanksgiving Day itself, preferring to save the fun of it for that day, my favorite holiday and the one day of the year that I can consistently rely upon for being free of day-jobbery. But this evening, Jeffy and I took care of a few things best done ahead, a couple of the more tedious projects that are less fun to do tomorrow. He made a pie this afternoon, a task we are both glad is done already.

Also, he made the doughs for the blue cheese-almond and parmesan-rosemary crackers that we will bake tomorrow. Over the last few years, we have had a habit of making these crackers to support crab dip--a snack for the early afternoon while the main bulk of cooking and socializing is going on. We have made the blue cheese item several times before, but the other one is new. Jeff used some of our fresh rosemary which is still flourishing out on the deck in the autumnal remains of our summer garden. The crackers now rest in the forms of logs of dough, chilling next to the chocolate black-bottom pie until tomorrow morning when we will slice and bake them.

And I went ahead did the bird butchery, spatchcocking the turkey to ready it for a preparation that I will detail tomorrow. Here it is whole:

turkey1

And here it is again:

turkey2

What I have done is removed the back bone, separated the leg quarters from the body, and completely boned the breast (but leaving the wings attached), by cutting out the ribs and wish bone and carefully removing the entire breast bone. In this way, the breast pieces will roast in an almost flat posture. And the leg quarters will get an entirely separate preparation, almost as if the two halves of the bird are different dishes entirely (which they really are, because the two colors of meat call for different sorts of attention to be at their best). That container on the counter behind the turkey contains the bones that I removed along with the neck and the giblets. Tomorrow morning all of this, along with some chunky pieces of onion, carrot and celery and some whole cloves of garlic, will be seasoned liberally with salt, pepper and thyme, glossed with olive oil and roasted in the oven until browned. Then it all gets moved to the stock pot where it will simmer for several hours. The resulting stock later is then used in several places: gravy, moisture for the dressing, and sometimes in the braising of vegetables if we are making something like Brussels sprouts.

Tomorrow I will, as usual, tweet and Facebook our progress, and return here with an assessment of the whole affair. HTG2012 all y'all.
relish-58af5b7e704393e874969428d994a6a2ce4b196e-s2Since the founding of NPR in the early 1970s, correspondent and occasional Weekend Edition host Susan Stamberg traditionally inserts somewhere into the programming just prior to Thanksgiving the recipe for her mother-in-law's cranberry relish, the one famous for its punch of horseradish, its bright pink color and the odd step of making it the day before and freezing it. As the holiday nears, listeners of Morning Edition can expect at any time this recipe to appear. This year, it was inserted into a little skit with Lynne Rosetto Kasper (The Splendid Table) based on her show's "Stump the Cook" segment. 

But just as surely as NPR listeners can expect the cranberry relish to appear annually somewhere during Morning Edition, so too can readers of the NPR website expect to see sour comments about it from crabby people who can't abide a long-running joke. Such as Bruce Boyd, who said: "Yeah, my wife made the cranberry recipe a few years ago and took it to work for their annual pre-Thanksgiving feast... nobody touched it and she had to throw it all out. Enough of this annual running gag already."  And Cesar Zalamero who said, "Ms. Stamberg never lists the most important ingredients of all: Ham and self-indulgence."

This is why I need to remember to never read comments on stuff. But I could hardly help myself because I could feel it in my bones that there must, of trollish necessity, be someone who just can't refrain from bagging on a harmless, amusing thing. Well I got some news for you, dudes: the cranberry relish is actually totally delicious (though I don't think the freezing step is necessary) and if no one was willing to taste it at your house, then you got a houseful of childishly picky people with no manners who haven't heard that it is customary to graciously sample what has been prepared by your host for dinner. This custom generally causes people to discover--even against their will--that they actually like more kinds of food that they thought they did. 

But if you just don't like Mama Stamberg's recipe, how about you just ignore it next year? Because it will re-appear and it will be, for me, the annual reminder that my favorite holiday is just a few days away and it's time to plan the menu.

[I will be posting here later in the week our Thanksgiving dishes, and live-Tweeting and Facebooking our preparations on Thursday morning.]
cairnimThough November 12 is a hopelessly late date to start this year's participation in National Novel Writing Month, I've decided to do it anyway. I am going to give myself a whopping 22,000-word head start by incorporating an already-written novella into the plan...but I won't count that toward my 50K to "win." So what's the point of this massive cheat, then, you may wonder? It's to motivate me to finish a much larger story, which I will take to 75K before declaring NaNo victory, assuming I make it to that threshold by end of the month. But if I do not log 50K in new words before the end of the month, then I will not claim my winner badge (but I still did the obligatory fake cover!).

This is the plan: I will put together a triptych of inter-related novellas involving the same characters. The first part of it will be the already-written "Love Me, He Said, and Turned Away Forever," most of which I posted on this journal in 2011. The second section will be titled "Taste the Blood of Lastain" and will focus on the character Arthur-Rimbaud who was only seen in Skype calls during the first section, and it will cover what he was up to while his counterpart in the other section was having bizarre misadventures. And then the third segment, titled "The Cairn and the Curve",  will involve the reunion of the protags from parts one and two and their confrontation with GREAT DRAMA! And HORROR!

This mostly-new work involves a group of characters that I have been tormenting since my 2009 (winner!) NaNo project The Days of the Dust and the Diane Rehm Show, and which I revisited in an alternate universe kind of way in the short story "The Cairn" (published in Library of the Living Dead's 2010 anthology Zombiality: A Queer Bent on the Undead). But in this new tale of their lives, they struggle in yet another vaguely Lovecraftian alternate universe where Cthulhu cultists are as ordinary as Mormon missionaries and climate change isn't any longer a subject of politics because it's become the giant freaky-deaky regular fact of everyday life.

And there will be zeppelins again, because airplanes can't navigate the Dust.



images33
A little Halloween fun for all my readers and writer-pals. Happy holidays, y'all...

The Exorcist Playset

            Last October, the whole world seemed like a slow-mo image that I perceived through a layer of stained glass, a place to which I was anchored, yet oddly detached. And a weird confluence of public and personal events happened last October, that all had something to do with Hell on Earth. One:  a next-door neighbor, Detective Lance Kinderman of the Saint Louis Metropolitan Police, who’d been probing into the matter of the local “Gemini Killer” serial murders, turned out to be the Gemini Killer himself, the monster who’d stuffed his victims’ mouths full of rosaries. Two: I got an acting job in the tenth remake of an old horror film, my first such job in a few years and one I didn’t much like after all. Three: my recently-deceased brother’s son—Regan, age fourteen—became my legal ward and moved into my home; and, four: the Kenner toy company revivified an old thing called The Exorcist Playset, a toy based on a novel from the 1970s.

            The original Exorcist Playset was a box of plastic and cardboard open on two sides, resembling a bedroom, with a plastic four-poster bed in it upon which rested the action figure of a demon-possessed girl. Levers in the cross-festooned base of the toy would raise and lower the bed—SUPERNATURAL HORROR!—and move dressers and other objects up and down on posts—LIFE-LIKE DEMONIC MOTION! The girl figure was articulated to the extent that you could make her sit up in bed and make her head spin all the way around, though her limbs were mostly immobile. Instead of being equipped with swinging joints, they were instead formed on a skeleton of flexible wire that you could bend a few times before they eventually broke. The press of a button on the playset’s base elicited the scratchy, metallic playback of a recorded voice saying at random such things as “The sow is mine!” and “I am the Devil!” and “The piglet will die!” HEAR THE SHOCKING VOICE OF EVIL!

            Action figures of two priests—one old and one young—could be placed here and there in the room, left feet inserted into pegs in the floor, but they always stood frozen in a sort of holy rigor mortis, one forever clutching a rosary and the other forever wielding an oversized Lucite bottle of holy water. A weirdly agnostic toy, the original Exorcist Playset never promised to resolve the tension of the underlying story, instead leaving its outcome to the imagination of the kid playing with this nearly static scene. In that sense, it was a great toy.


Read more headspinning horror... )
I'm tired of it, y'all. I am sick of people beating up on kids because of who they are and how they were born. Aside from just the general meanness of the stupid, lumpen populus, what really pisses me off is when such unfounded prejudice and jackassery emanates from the vaunted institutions of America. This is why I wish to draw attention to a petition by one Karen Andresen in defense of her son Ryan who, after 12 years of devotion  to the Boy Scouts, is being denied his Eagle status because he is gay. Here are the details.

EicFfqwouNKFHmv-556x304-noPad

What really touched me in Ms. Andresen's appeal was her description of her son's final project toward earning  his Eagle rank:   

A Boy Scout gets his Eagle by earning many badges, completing all lower Scout rank requirements, and carrying out an approved final project. So Ryan decided to build a "Tolerance Wall" for his school, to show bully victims -- like Ryan -- that they are not alone. Ryan worked countless hours with elementary students to amass a wall of 288 unique tiles, all illustrating acts of kindness.

I wonder why exactly it is (other than idiot prejudice) that any organization would oppose a kid like this. I wonder if they sleep well at night knowing that their current behavior reinforces the bullying and bigotry that Ryan and millions of kids like him have been made to endure for no reason. But I am not really interested in hearing their reasons. Their day is done. Society is moving on. They have lost. And that is in no small part due to the courage of kids like Ryan and moms like Karen Andresen. For that reason, they are inducted into the M-Brane SF Pantheon of Anti-Douchebaggery.

Note: Don't bother commenting about how the Boy Scouts are a private club and can have whatever rules they want, like a church. I don't give a damn. This kid was 6 when he joined. Also, my web-space is also a kind of private club with its own rules--set by me--and opinions contrary to what I expressed above are, under those house rules, wrong.
Because I am very busy professionally, and because life is too short generally, I don't have time to research into what the rightwing media must be making of things like this:

Screen shot 2012-09-25 at 2.20.40 PM

This image, pulled from Huffington Post, shows in map form a running compilation of state and national polls that indicate the direction the Presidential race is headed today, and it updates constantly. There are many other poll aggregators online--I just happened to choose the Huff Post one because it's better-looking and easier to read than most. But its conclusions are in line with all the rest. It shows Obama leading with a likely electoral vote total of 332 to Rom's 191 with only NC's 15 votes still in the toss-up category (but, amazingly, with a 76% probability of an Obama lead even in that state that he won but just by the slimmest of margins, in 2008). 270 is the winning number, so Obama even has a lot of room to decline from this and still pull out a victory. 

I assume that the rightwing mediasphere is doing two predictable things: 1) blaming the leftwing mediasphere for distorting the whole thing in Obama's favor; and 2) turning its guns against its own candidate for not running a crazy enough hardline wingnut Teabagger-style campaign. Because, as you know, being a huge crackpot wins you elections, right? That's exactly the case that Bachmann and Santorum made for their own candidacies against Romney earlier this year, and...oh. Nevermind. They lost, totally humiliated by a dull and patrician Mormon who, not that many years ago purported to be pro-choice and pro-LGBT rights. Hmmm. While I don't go directly to rightwing media sources for insight, I have recently heard rightwingers quoted elsewhere making assertions that should be rather alarming for the GOP going forward, if not for the Rom crew this year. Some GOP wonk whose name escapes me said on NPR a couple weeks ago that this would be the last election where their candidate could try to base victory solely on the white-guy vote because demographics will make that impossible very quickly, which is probably some part of why VA appears lost to them for the second time in a row and why NC might be lost a second time. An appeal to new voters is prescribed. But Senator Graham of SC made the eyebrow-raising remark recently that there are not enough "angry white guys" to keep the GOP in business nationally much longer. Oddly, his implicit solution to that problem seems not involve appealing to news kinds of voters but rather literally generating more angry white people by stepping up the reproduction of the white race. In other words, stick with the strategy of being the angry-white-guy party but just increase that share of the population somehow. Then I also heard someone else say that if this Rom thing doesn't pan out this year and goes the McCain way, then this is the last time the GOP is going to fuck away its Presidential chances by running a "moderate." Next time, they're uncorking the serious craziness! 

This all suggests a lot of worry on their part about why they just can't manage to beat Obama. After all, they have spent most of four years building an image of the President as a socialist demon, a Nazi, a radical Muslim, someone born in Kenya with "post-Colonial" views, and other kinds of monsters. This they have compounded with specious claims about Obama's legislative and economic record, and they have arrived at a picture of an incredibly vulnerable, more-vulnerable-than-Carter, incumbent President that is easily beatable. But their problem is that they appear to actually believe their own cartoonish picture of the President. This is the problem with True Believers. Political calculation is one thing, and political hypocrisy is another, and I can respect both as strategies when deployed by people who know that's what they're doing. But people who actually believe crazy shit are dangerous to themselves and others because they can't recognize their own lies anymore. This time, it's totally backfiring on the Republicans and will continue to do so for a long time unless they start to understand this fact: it is not the liberal media and it is not even your douchey, lame-ass Prez candidate who is undoing your electoral prospects this year. It's your cynical, bleak, lousy, depressing, prejudiced, jaundiced, hate-based, and totally suck-ass platform of dumb policy ideas and antiquated attitudes that is failing to win you this election. Go ahead and run with that next time, too, if you don't believe it. In fact, go ahead and make it even worse next time!

I'm a gay Democrat and I like seeing those losers lose! Especially this year!  
At the "top" of my journal, there's a post-dated post that I put there when I started it, as a sort of headline or statement for the reason for this existence of this journal. It just says that it's my personal journal, as distinct from the M-Brane SF site, and it's where I go to make random observations. This little nothing post attracts comments by the score, all of which get automatically screened as spam and never appear on the site. Obviously I know that spammers try to spam within blog comments all the time, but they generally seem to be trying to direct readers to something by placing a link in their spam comment. But on my LJ, I get tons of comments like this:

Subject: Test, just a test

 I do trust all the concepts you have introduced for your post. They're

 really convincing and can definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are too

 short for newbies. Could you please lengthen them a little from

 subsequent time? Thank you for the post. 

 You could certainly see your expertise in the paintings you write. The

 sector hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who aren't

 afraid to mention how they believe. Always follow your heart. "If you

 feel yourself falling, let go and glide." by Steffen Francisco. 

Or this:

Subject: Hello I think you're wrong

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Take care.


What the fuck is that about? What is the purpose? These comments contain no links nor provide any clue as to the posters' intentions. The first is obviously a botched translation into English from some other language. One can glean the sense of it, but why was it written and posted? There is no link to anything, no evident agenda. It's plain weird. The second example could almost be read as a commentary on commenting on stuff on the internet: Hello, I think you're wrong!

Does anybody have any idea what's behind this sort of spam? There has to be a reason for it.

This will be an intellectually lazy post, largely devoid of cross-references, just an off-the-cuff reaction to a big old Fail that I just now happened to detect on Twitter. It seems that Weird Tales, that on-and-off venerable institiution of speculative fiction, which had apparently been having a halcyon age under the editorship of Ann VanderMeer, had at some point changed ownership and editorship, and--bafflingly--its current editor decided they'd print a chapter of Victoria Foyt's novel Save the Pearls. Did you click that link in the previous sentence? If not, go ahead and do it. Never will you see a douchier author pic. 

Anyway, the reason for much brouhaha is that Foyt's novel is heavily larded with racist tropes and language. Unfortunately, I have read more words of it than I'd have ever liked because I read this entire good and damn-long post on Requires Only that You Hate, a vivisection of Foyt's book complete with many quotations from its tedious prose.

Which is what befuddles me about the Weird Tales editor wanting to publish this (they have since backed down, cancelled the plan and sort of apologized, by the way). Its language and concept is so fucking tiresome, even if it weren't also so offensive. I hate, Hate and HATE stories where they "cleverly" flip the real-world convention, such as: women are now the dominant oppressive sex, blacks are now the dominant racist overlords, homos are now the norm and str8s are oppressed. It's trite on its face, it's always more offensive than it intends to be, and it's always a big epic fucking fail. Combine a big trite failed cliche with an author who poses like a poseur on a bunch of leather couches and add Foyt's dead-tired prose, and you got that dumb "Pearls" book. 

So why would Weird Tales, of all venues, want to fuck away their rep on this shite? It boggles. It ain't even "weird" and it's not of pro quality either. I guess to hell with that zine.
I've been off from work for a week, and that's the first time that's happened in years. Everyone seemed surprised/disappointed that Jeff and I didn't have any kind of trip somewhere planned and that I just stayed home all week. But let me tell ya: it is really nice just getting to stay home and not have to do much in particular. On the other hand, I am fairly twitchy by nature and seem to always harbor a feeling that I need to be getting something constructive done all the time (which has been a useful trait in my job). For my days off this week, I'd imagined that I was going to complete a lot of writing. I didn't do anywhere near as much as I'd have liked, but I still did get a lot of it done, and I know where I am going with a couple unfinished projects. Some random features of the week off:

--I took the Cube in for an oil change. It wasn't as painful as I thought it would be, and I while I waited in the car place's rather comfy waiting room, I re-read a story called "Tattooed Love Boys," which I think is my favorite entry in Alex Jeffers' collection You Will Meet a Stranger Far From Home. That book also contains two stories of which I was the original publisher in issues of M-Brane SF.

--We received from Ikea two new couches. They arrived in eight boxes and took much of the afternoon for us to assemble them (and get rid of our old furniture--thanks, Craigslist hoarders!). This was a tough project, but we are very happy with the result. We have never had comfortable living room furniture, and the new couches--two identical items by the name "Karlstad"--are way comfie. We love them. 

--J and I went shopping for throw pillows for the new couches. On the same trip, I bought a case of cheap but very palatable wine at Trader Joe's and have been imbibing liberally of it since.

--Earlier in the week, J and I stocked up some staples at Viviano's, the Italian grocery in the adjacent neighborhood. There I found a new San Pellegrino drink, Pompelmo (grapefruit). It is wonderful! I have drunk three of them so far just as they are, but I suspect it would be a fine mixer with vodka or tequila. 

--At our regular grocery store, I saw in the same visit two attractive lads who have worked there for a while, but never seem to be there at the same time. One is a bagger and the other a stocker in the produce department. Seeing them at once made me wish that they were well-known characters about whom I could write some "slash" fiction. I could still do it, but no one would know who they are. Such a shame. Maybe I can imbue them with supernatural powers, turn them into characters, and then cause them to have their ways with one another. 

--Last night I spent a few minutes on Twitter attacking Congressman Todd Akin (Assbag-MO) who is now our state's rightwing candidate for the US Senate. There are douchebags, and political pieces of shit, and rightwing toads...and then there is Todd Akin. This guy is a card-carrying disaster. He believes that student loans shouldn't exist. He wants the minimum wage abolished. Ditto Social Security and Medicare. No more Federal investments in energy or education. Resignation from the United Nations. The kind of troll that wouldn't have been taken seriously in Senate-level politics even 15 years ago, he is also one of the most homophobic members of Congress, in the same league as Bachmann and King. So unhappy was he with the repeal of DADT, he came up with a new bill to make it legal for service members who don't like fags to bully and abuse their gay comrades. That's how stupid and mean this creep is. Akin's Twitter handle is @ToddAkin, and I encourage tweeps to use it to attack him savagely, with great scorn and bile, from now until Election Day. 

--I remembered once again that spending random time, with no particular point or purpose, with Jeffy is more satisfying than anything "constructive" I could have been doing during my days off, and I am glad that I found a lot of that time this week. 

I go back to work tomorrow, but only for a half-day at most. Most everyone else will be off, so I can get some work done in the early hours and be gone by noon. It's all pretty nice lately.



I found some evidence of my teenage activities (which pre-dated a bit my use of the internet) on a wiki site called Fanlore, a neat repository of info that I'd never seen before.

461px-Alternativewarp13
For a couple of years when I was in high school, I published a monthly Star Trek fanzine called The Alternative Warp, (which has entry here at Fanlore.) In some ways, it's a bit of an embarrassment because there wasn't much to recommend it as far as the quality of its content, but for me and my co-editor and our handful of other contributors (all of us being 14 and 15 years old at the time), it was still a pretty solid effort: monthly publication schedule for almost two years, full-size pages, typical issue-length of 32 or more pages, serious effort at making it look decent (in the pre-computer age, yo), cover artwork of no worse quality than the writing inside. It was a mix of fiction, non-fiction, letters, news items, opinion pieces and other random stuff. It fit well with my general interest in writing and my student journalism activities, and it was good fun for those last couple years of teen-hood right before having a driver license and a car opened up a world of other stuff to do at night.

Much of the article about it on the Fanlore site is text copied from a post that I made on the M-Brane SF site on the occasion of Trek's 44th anniversary when I was feeling old and remembering The Alternative Warp #4, our big 20th anniversary extravaganza (kudos to whomever found that post, it being nearly as obscure as its ancient subject matter!). It's kind of exciting in a dorky way to see it referenced anywhere at all. None of its content ever existed in an electronic form, and whatever extant print copies of it may remain on Earth are surely brittle and warped with age, pages probably stuck one to the other by toner decay, so it's kind of cool to know that something I did way back then is noted in the big online record of Stuff That Happened even if the work itself doesn't survive.

But evidently a couple issues are still to be found in "Box 120" of something called the Ming Wathne Fanzine Archives Collection at the University of Iowa. Evidently Ms. Wathne amassed a vast collection of fanzines in numerous media properties and bequeathed the entire collection to the University. According to the catalog, in Box 120 are issues #13 and #14 of my zine and according to the image credit on the Fanlore page, it is from those copies that the images of those covers were grabbed. #13's cover is copied here. Until today, I had not seen it in over 20 years! I can still interpret the headlines: "New Trek cast" refers to the announcement of the actors cast for Star Trek: The Next Generation, which would start its first season a couple months later; "Awards progress" has to do with a (largely fraudulent) poll that we were running to designate best-ofs in fiction etc. from the zine's first year; "Stamp drive" refers to a rather extensive piece that I researched on an effort by some über-fans (but we didn't say über back than) to get the post office to issue a Star Trek commemorative stamp (which effort also scored me the awesome prize of a handwritten note from Isaac Asimov stating that he didn't know anything about the stamp campaign); and "Brazil review" is there because I'd recently seen the Gilliam film, was obsessed with it, was obsessed with making other people see it, and I wrote a little article about it.

This cover art itself was source of mild controversy at the time, but I assume it won't cramp anyone's style all these years later. It was drawn by an artist named C. Kyle (am about 99% sure that C. stands for Christine). We ran this Kirk cover, and also a Spock cover and a McCoy cover, all drawn by Kyle, in three consecutive months (the McCoy image can be seen on the Fanlore page). After we had done so, we received a gently scolding letter from the late Bill Hupe, who was a huge publisher and re-publisher of fanzines. Hupe was a big deal. We called him a "fanzine mogul" and we dreamed that he would for some reason "buy us out." But he was a subscriber to my zine, and even purchased from us random, stupid merch that we sold to raise extra money (homemade tribbles, for example--which got us another cease-and-desist, by the way, from David Gerrold's assistant). Evidently these Kyle covers had previously appeared in some of Hupe's publications and we ran them without proper attribution. Which was really more the artist's fault than ours for not mentioning that they were not previously unpublished. We just published pretty much anything anybody sent us. But I didn't want Hupe angry with me, so I replied with an apology and ran a statement in a subsequent issue properly crediting the items. And here it is again!
So, in last night's post of random thoughts about Delany's Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders, (the heartrending conclusion of which I'd just reached), I stopped while still wanting to consider to what extent the novel is science fiction and to what extent it is pornography, the genre labels which its author affixes to it (and we already stipulated that it is Real Literature based on the fineness of its writing and the lovely architecture of its narrative).

If SF is still supposed to be that genre where differences between the current real world and the world of the fiction are expressed in terms of scientific and technological changes that may happen in the future (or in an alternate history), then Through the Valley... fits genre-well in that its timeframe reaches into the eighth decade of this century (the Future), and indeed there are a number of science/tech advancements that affect the lives of future people, even if Eric and Shit remain rather isolated from them, quite on the sidelines of it all. But SF has also been far too rigidly, even ideologically, defined as a literature where the entire story and everything about it hinges totally on a principle of science or future tech without the presence of which the entire enterprise collapses and it is no longer, by definition, science fiction. Or: if the same, exact story could be told without the science/tech element, then it's not SF. I have to say that this narrow conception of the genre hamstrung for many years my own attempts to write in it, made me feel I couldn't even try to tell such a story if I didn't have some kind of plausible, ironclad scientific linchpin holding the whole thing together--as if a cadre of real scientists were going to review my work and denounce it as impossible. If SF were to be defined so dogmatically, then maybe Delany's book doesn't make the cut. Because the same story could certainly be told without the futuristic details that abound as the narrative moves later into the century. He could have had the 2030s and 2070s look exactly like our own present year and completely ignored the likelihood that tech and the way people behave around each other may evolve, that cultural norms may shift, that things--as much as they stay the same--will still look different. But that would have been weird, and maybe ridiculous, and certainly detrimental to a story that really must start when it does in real-world years and end when it does in future years. No, what Delany wrote here is SF whether or not it fits a strict Golden Age/Old Men of Science Fiction definition of the genre. And, besides, he's bent the hell out of that old mold for fifty years and is one of the best practitioners of the genre ever. Doubt it? Then read Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, one of the greatest achievements of space opera ever and packed with more "science" stuff than most writers and readers can easily apprehend in a single book. So, science fiction: check.

But is it also pornography just because it has a lot of graphic sex in it? And it really does have a lot of graphic sex in it, almost, maybe more than is really reasonable even for a novel such as this, so much that the individual scenes occasionally seem far too long and too back-to-back and too repetitive of stuff that happened earlier (but this may be on purpose, pushing the reader to slog through it, because within all this surfeit of bodies and fluid are constantly-discovered little gems about the characters as real people--but you have to work for them, all the while reading about a lot of cocks and cum and snot). It's also a range of sexuality that seems designed to push pretty much every single reader outside his/her comfort zone--even a nearly-no-limits fag like me. The Venn diagram with the deeply purple-shaded area that represents the overlap of every single kink and predilection depicted in this novel's sex-content probably, in real life, contains no one at all (maybe the author himself? But I wonder). So is it porn if its intent/result is not just to titillate, arouse, induce masturbation? As sexy as some of it was to me as I read it, I never responded to it as I might to something tailored as porn for my particular biases and kinks. But if porn is a form or sub-genre within the fantasy genre, then maybe this is a giant accomplishment in that genre.

[Wait, what's fantasy? The intrusion of un-reality? magic? suspension of consensus-reality rules?]

Because in this world that Delany describes, the sex ain't ever bad. It is always consensual and pleasurable--even when among immediate family--and it is always available in the most unlikely locations and at the weirdest times. If you are horny in this world, you will get promptly laid. If you like it with multiple partners at once, they are at your disposal. Any kink you can imagine getting off upon will be available. A truck stop and a giant movie theater are well known as places for public sex among men and they exist openly, totally un-harassed by the law and society (save for some occasional interference from the ineffectual background villain Johnston). Likewise a "Gay Friendly Rest Room" at the market (which scene, by the way, involves some seriously funny comic writing). The protag Eric has a fetish for piss, and so there exists for a while a bar that is designed to make his  fantasies real, almost as if it were put into business years before specifically anticipating his arrival in town. This is why the porn of Through the Valley... is a whole different thing than the porn of Delany's earlier novel Hogg (written way, way back even before Dhalgren but not published until many years later). There's no horror, coercion or brutality in this newer book. Instead, it's a sex utopia. Fantasy, even if it's not your particular personal fantasy. So, if porn is fantasy-about-sex, then this novel works easily, almost silkily and insidiously, within that definition. 

But is a utopia (science-based or sex-based) of any kind, where everything's easy, inherently boring? I think I just read about one that's not. 

Tags:
Finished this evening reading Samuel Delany's Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders. I did this while baking chicken that was later to join avocados and tomatoes and radishes and cucumbers and scallions in a salad for our dinner. I'm glad I didn't finish it earlier this afternoon, when I had the book in my hands while doing laundry. Because then I probably would have been weeping in public at the laundromat instead of alone in my kitchen (Jeffy was away in the front room). 

And I look again at its last page--its very last paragraph, which is this:

--and woke, thinking, in the dark. No. I have a bit more time. He relaxed before the rumoring sea.

And that's not sad at all. It's a relief. But the pages that preceded it, that last awful movement of the shared life story of the two protagonists, those moments before the two together became one alone, were extremely hard to take. I knew what was coming hundreds of pages away and didn't want to experience it, but I needed to know the details anyway because I adored those characters. It's not the common novel that follows two people in life and love from their teens years all the way until their late eighties and end of life in the late 21st century. 

I worked for a couple of years as the cook for a residential (and end-of-life) facility for people with dementia. I thought of them a lot as I read about Eric Jeffers' and Shit Haskell's final days together. I have a grandmother who, at 96 years of age, still lives in reasonable health but has less and less memory as time passes, particularly of anything that happened more recently than three decades ago. And less still of anything that happened today. 

The last couple hundred pages of the book, read over the last few days, which dwell more and more upon aging (and which are almost interrupted from time to time by funerals for and mentions of the deaths of characters from earlier in the book), have made me feel older. No, that's not true. It's made me think about being old more than I normally do. Age--my own aging, if I actually live to be truly old--has always been a dismaying abstraction that I'd rather set aside. But what will it really be like, and what will it really be like for me and my partner should we grow that old together (as I increasingly suspect we will)? The characters in this story, Eric and Shit (I won't sanitize it here by using his "proper" name Morgan--he didn't like it and, at his own insistence, nobody hardly ever called him that) live, in their youths and well into their middle-age and later years, a fantastical (possibly preposterously so), sex life with each other and with others, much of it rendered for the reader in detail that Delany himself always calls not "erotica" but rather "pornography." It's a distinction that I am not sure matters, but this book makes me wonder about it. I think about how my partner and I, together for almost thirteen years now, did not ever have anything approaching that crazy a sex life even in the early days (and know we never will in the future) and I wonder if we missed something. Would we have even wanted, in the most excessive fantasy mode of mind, to have had anything like the carnal world that Eric and Shit had? I don't think so. It's over the top. Theirs is a fantasy--it's speculative fiction. The novel becomes science fiction to some extent later in its course, but it's out-and-out fantasy early on. I think so anyway. But not sure if I have reasoned that out completely. 

There's an obnoxious 1-star review of Through the Valley... on Amazon (note to self: keep up with the policy of avoiding user comments on stuff) in which the poster complains generally about the porn element of the book  (I think because he doesn't think it's "hot"), and expresses incredulity that Delany is a published author of a number of books (revealing that he hasn't heard of Delany's long and broad career) and generally bagging on the quality of the writing. He then goes on to suggest that if one wants to read some REALLY interesting and transgressive shit, then one should read some other authors including Dennis Cooper. Years ago, I happened to select for back-to-back reading Dennis Cooper's Frisk and Poppy Z. Brite's Exquisite Corpse, two fairly contemporaneous examples of creepy and squicky horror/murder-porn involving gay characters. Brite's book--regardless whatever any of its detractors may have said about it--didn't blink. It was a fucking horrifying story with a godawful climax and a horrendous denouement, a total success in its mode. Cooper's, on the other hand, did blink. It ended with a sort of "just kidding" or it "it was all a dream" wrap-up. When I read that one, I wondered if the author had planned something else but then fell too much in love with his protag to let it happen. I guess I don't have anything else to say about that other than anyone who thinks that Cooper is a better novelist than Delany needs to read a lot more books. I respect Cooper's work...but damn, he's no Delany.

I gather that part of the aesthetic intent of Through the Valley... is to fuse the contemporary "literary" novel with science fiction and pornography. That the book is Big L literature is plainly apparent, but whether it is also really science fiction or really pornography might be open to discussion. I might take that up in a later post, but not now (cuz not quite done wiping away tears and snot from how sad those last few pages were!)
My partner and I very, very seldom ever visit the cases of pre-made frozen meal items in the grocery store. We cook dinner from scratch nearly every evening. We are both competent cooks (and I do it professionally), and the time we spend together cooking and eating is a hugely important part of our whole quality "together" time. But occasionally, especially when I have a stretch of evenings where I won't be home for dinner due to work, we will lay in some pre-fab products so that there is something quickly on hand for one person to eat. Jeff likes the Alessi-brand risotto kits that our local stores stock in the rice/pasta aisle. I bring him some chicken and mushrooms to enhance it with, and a decent dinner for him comes together readily. A couple months ago, he needed a quick dinner option and suggested I just grab some kind of "disgusting" (his word) frozen dinner and he'd suffer through it. But, as I assessed the options in the freezer case, I was discouraged because I knew exactly what it would all be like and that it would all be crap. But then I noticed something that I had not seen before, these Tai Pei Chinese-style meals in the form of a frozen take-out box-shaped brick.



I didn't expect it would be totally great, but I also didn't expect to hear from Jeff that it was just about the worst thing he had ever eaten. He had the General Tso's Chicken version. But since that day, hiding in our freezer, has been another one of these that I bought at the same time: Broccoli Beef. Jeff is out of town and I got home early from work today. I have a dinner planned for later, but decided to eat this Tai Pei food for a quick lunch to hold me over. The box describes it as a totally delicious and restaurant-quality food item, and even boasts of a "new and improved recipe." Years ago, it was almost standard for product labeling to boast of being new and improved. But it's always seemed to me that implicit in the claim of newness and improvedness is a tacit admission that the original product had deficiencies and needed some work. And if that's the case with Tai Pei Broccoli Beef, then, damn, I am sure glad I never experienced its earlier non-improved version. Because this is not a good product. 

Of course I knew it wasn't really going to be "restaurant quality," but I'd hoped it would at least approach the quality of the really bad food at a certain Chinese take-out joint near my home. Their stuff isn't restaurant quality either despite it being from an actual restaurant, but it's actually pretty good compared to what I found in this box. The box is filled principally with cooked rice and a small amount of the broccoli beef dish itself (not actually very much of either broccoli or beef), including a weak sauce. The method of prep is to microwave the thing wrapped in all its packaging for five minutes and then let it sit for a couple minutes. I suppose one could eat it out of the box, but I dumped mine into a bowl and found that what I had was a mass of very wet and insipid rice studded with a few bits of other ingredients. After a taste, I went ahead and did what I knew I was going to do anyway: add a huge dollop of Sambal Oelek to it in order to give it enough agreeable flavor for me to eat it and be done with it. 

Whenever I experience a product like this, I wonder why it must be so and why things of this quality are so generally accepted that they continue to be about all that's available in non-specialty food shops. I get it that these Tai Pei boxes are inexpensive. I don't think I paid more than two bucks for it. To sell a product of this kind that cheaply and still make a profit on it, the manufacturer probably can't put anymore beef or broccoli into it than they do. If I were to make this dish from scratch, I'd spend more than two bucks per serving, so I get that part of it. Even an upgrade to the rice might be cost-prohibitive, but I know enough about food production to know that they can certainly come up with a better flavor profile for that sauce without adding cost. Generally it costs about the same to make a really bad sauce as it does to make a good one. Also, if the product actually tasted good, people might like it a lot more, and then they might be able to actually raise the price a bit and still sell even more of it. 

I'm not such a snob that I don't see some value in the concept of heat-and-serve meals, especially for people who are eating alone or quickly. Having been alone for the last few days, I have been a lot less motivated to cook since I don't have anyone to share it with, but I have done it anyway because I just can't settle for this kind of stuff very often, and I don't understand why it needs to be so mediocre all the time. 
Tags:
I am past the half-way point of Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders (Samuel Delany) and still liking it a lot. It's actually become easier to enjoy as it's gone on, but one side-effect is that its characters and locations are seeping into my dreamscape. But what's really weird is that it somehow seems to have somehow seeped into my boyfriend's dreamscape as well, and he has never read a word of the book! And I hadn't told him anything about it either (he finds it intensely tedious if I try to explain to him what I am reading). We were in the living room a few nights ago and I dozed on the couch. During this short nap, I had experienced a fleeting snippet of a dream set in what my mind has constructed to be the house that the main characters live in, a small, shabby thing in a small coastal Georgia town. When I awoke, I told him that I was heading to bed and that I'd just had a dream about this shack in Georgia, a setting of that novel. Then J said, "I had a dream last night that was in some kind of shack like that." Then he described how, in the dream, he became involved with people who were having all kinds of incestuous and kinky sex. I asked him if there as an older white guy there. He said there was and added that there was also a younger mixed-race dude and a young blond guy. In other words, he saw the book's lead characters in their home. Not sure how or why he managed to have this dream, but it's super-weird. I am not aware of any past situation where have shared dream-content like this but now I want to encourage him to talk about his dreams more often. He doesn't like to do that, always says he can't remember much, but I am going to ask a lot more now. 
I haven't been maintaining my pointless journal lately, and it's been driving me crazy. My work life the past few months has been so intense that I have had no time for much of anything. But that's settling a bit--we're entering a mid-season mitigation of insanity--and I am done with regular M-Brane tasks for a while, and I have been carving out a bit of normalcy. Which should really include babbling in this journal and then advertising that I have done so. Just like in the old days. For tonight's post, I have no particular topic other than recapping what's been on my mind outside of work lately.

Reading Books!: Anyone who knows me very well might be stunned to learn that in the year 2012, which is nearly half-over-with, I have read exactly ONE book plus 206 pages of second one (whilst in 2009, for example, I think I tore through about 100 titles). But what a wonderful, huge, weird and totally crazy long-ass book that one was: Haruki Murakami's 1Q84. Clocking in at nearly a thousand pages, this giant hardback city of weirdness, given to me by Jeff for X-mas, engrossed me for months. In usually very short installments. I actually read most of its bulk on laundry mornings at the laundromat. And then I'd struggle to return to it at night on the couch after work. But inevitably doze off from exhaustion, sometimes after having read as little as a single new sentence. At this pace of reading such a long book, in sessions of as little as 30 seconds at a time, it's not too hard to figure out why it took me so long to get done with it. Weird fact: just a few days after I finally finished it, it developed that Jeff's mom had heard about the book from one of her friends (who had listened to an audio book of it, which must have taken about six months to listen to) and so she wanted to read it herself. Wouldn't think it would be her thing. But she borrowed my copy. Haven't heard back yet on how it's going.

Now I am 206 pages into another thick read, Samuel Delany's long-awaited Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders, and I have somehow managed that number of pages in just a few days. Yesterday I glanced over at Jo Walton's review of it on Tor.com and I felt that I share some of the  reviewer's sentiments: it's really hard to enjoy it at first (Christopher is not at all into the lead character's obsession with nose-picking and snot-eating!), but then it sets its hooks in. I think I am going to love it, even though I occasionally have to avert my eyes a bit at an especially squicky passage. Before I glance back it at it and really read it anyway. Delany's a favorite author for me and I love having this thick new volume. For someone who hasn't read Delany before, however, and wants a sense of his whole body of work, this may not be the book to start with. It revisits a lot of the sex aesthetic of a much earlier work, Hogg, and like that earlier work, fuses "Literature" with some of the dirtiest (literally) hardcore pornography that I can recall ever having read. But this new book is not the gruesome and nearly altogether hopeless horror story that Hogg is. It seems like it's coming from a much brighter place. And it's got a character that I am falling in bookworld-love with, its young protagonist Eric who gets more awesome chapter-by-chapter, even when he is making boneheaded decisions (please finish high school, honey!). But then I consider his rationale, and I wonder who I am to say he's not making a good choice. He's going to be another Delany character that lingers with me for a long time after I have finished reading the book. As the story opens, he seems to be in a role somewhat analogous to that of silent Cocksucker in Hogg but with much more free will, and not nearly so much the receptacle and void of corruption that Hogg's lead was. But as the story has gone on, Eric has turned into something else entirely. He is going to stay with me like the fractured Kid and  the sweet Denny from Dhalgren, and the other very scary Denny from Hogg, and Rat Korga from Stars in My Pocket Like Grain of Sand, and Comet Jo from Empire Star. I'll report back on this book later.

Other Junk!:

1) I was greatly victorious at the June installment of the monthly wine dinner that I chef at the Botanical Garden. It was themed to go along with the Chinese Lanterns Festival in progress there now (San Francisco-accented Chinese food with Napa wines). Everything about it--the specific venue within the Garden, my menu, the makeshift kitchen, etc.--conspired against success, but we totally dominated. It was hard as hell, but when it's that difficult and it all goes perfectly, then that's what constitutes triumph.

2) I am looking ahead with some dread at Jeff's impending vacation to New Mexico to visit a friend. I can't go with him due to work this summer, and I just realized that I have never once spent more than a couple hours at a time alone in our current home and have a hard time imagining its emptiness when he is not here for days. It's gonna freak the cats.

3) Of late, I find it difficult to get out of my head Justin Bieber's "Boyfriend" song. Once any portion of it is heard, it replays in the background of my mind for a long time. What's annoying about this is that I probably would never have been aware of this tune were it not for the fact that the staff in my production kitchen at work constantly listens to a top-hits pop station on radio (later in the morning after they rebel against my selection of the local NPR affiliate) that only has eight or ten songs in its rotation, and one of them lately is this insidious Justin Bieber song. But what's really kind of fucked-up about the whole situation is that I don't really mind! I actually totally love this song! I think I am going to spread the contagion even further now:




4) An upside to having come down with the above-described affliction: I recently had a dream that Bieber was cast as Feyd-Rautha in a new Dune film, and in the dream context this seemed like a totally awesome idea. It still kinda does. Maybe I am still dreaming.

5) Got some new writing done yesterday, about 2000 words of it. This is best one-day achievement in many months. 
One of the downsides of listening to two hours of NPR's Morning Edition every morning while I am getting my workday started is that they break periodically for local station news updates, which here in St. Louis means news of the alternately deadly dull and utterly enraging shenanigans in our state capital. This week, our heavily GOP-dominated state house of representatives passed a dumbass piece of legislation requiring all driver license exams to be administered in English only. As it stands now, such exams can be administered in eleven different languages. This is just one manifestation of the English-only craze that GOP bigots have added to their stock-in-trade in the last decade or two, but it's also one of the very dumbest, and this is the very dumbest justification for it: To paraphrase the bill's  proponents, "it will make the roads safer because if we know that everyone can read and speak English fluently then we will know that they can read and understand the road signs."

What most Missouri Republican state reps (most, not all: 11 of them crossed over to oppose the bill) and five Democratic reps obviously do not know is that road signs are pretty much the same everywhere on the planet! And pretty much anyone who knows at all how to drive a car--even functionally illiterate drivers in any language!--can read and understand them. I have been to a bunch of different countries in my life, and I have driven cars in some where English was not the native language. And I am not fluent in any other language. Yet I was somehow able to master the feat of safely driving in this scary furr-eign language environment, in part because all the goddamned signs looked pretty much like all the equivalent ones in the Good Ol' You Ass of Ay.

I don't know much about the history of traffic control, but evidently at some point after the advent of the automobile, most of the planet agreed on the same basic concept for road signage. Also, the very fact that a lot of new Americans in Missouri--the people from Vietnam and Bosnia and Mexico and Honduras and Afghanistan and many other places who do a lot to make my city a diverse and interesting place to live--have been able to pass driving tests and get licenses while taking tests administered in their native languages proves that the other side's argument is legless. It's about bigotry and political opportunism, using a disfavored group of people--in this case, recent immigrants--to trump a phony threat and use the law the "correct" it and, in doing so, drum up voting fervor among their base and driving wedges between people who otherwise have no reason to quarrel.

It's so obvious, it's almost a cliche to even say it, but almost everyone here is the child of an immigrant. But in Missouri in particular I wonder where the hell any of its white-folk get off bringing up language when so few of them are more than a generation or two or three away from foreign-speaking forebears. This city is chockablock with Euro-descended Catholics, not one of which likely had grandparents hailing from England. And there's plenty of them in the neighborhood in which I work who speak English--when they choose to speak English--with a lovely and obvious Italian accent. And they drive just fine, too. (Well, at least as well as most people in this town do.)

As state rep Chris Kelly D-Columbia said, “This bill has no purpose, except jingoism. I hope the body will rise above its lowest common denominator and defeat this ill-advised piece of legislation.” But the body did not defeat it. Now it rests with the Senate, which will hopefully end it. And if not, our Governor will probably veto it. But even if so, and it dies there, what a waste of time and what an exercise in exposing our state's ugliest underbelly. They do it to the immigrants, they do it to the gays--they are bullies. I hate bullies.

By the way, that image up there is a Chinese stop sign. I have no idea what it "says" but I sure as hell know what it means.



I've really missed babbling in my Live Journal. I've neglected it for months. What brings me back is the news that Washington state is evidently about to legalize samesex marriage (though it seems it must pass through a ridiculous repeal-by-popular-vote ordeal this November). My pleasure at this news has been stifled all day by NPR's reporting on the opposition to this reform, featuring comments from the moronic National Organization for Marriage. Before I get too far into it, let me point you to a much better post about the topic of marriage equality which you should probably read instead of mine: this one from my friend, author Brandon Bell.

In case you came back here after reading Brandon's really terrific and intelligent essay, I'll continue. The National Organization for Marriage is a huge piece of crap. To wit:



That douchebag is Brian S. Brown. According to the NOM website he "
serves as President of the National Organization for Marriage. Prior to coming to NOM in 2007, Brian was the executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut. During the five years he was with the Family Institute, he developed it into one of the largest statewide pro-family organizations in the Northeast....Brian and his wife Susan have seven young children."  So it sounds like Brian S. Brown has enjoyed aplenty the alleged benefits of "traditional" marriage. That's fine with me, but what's not fine with me is that he and his organization somehow think that it's any of their fucking business if someone else--someone NOT like him and his wife--also want to enjoy those traditional values. And that NOM is an out-and-out hate group (almost forgot about that). 

Which brings me, gradually, to my main point and the meaning of the title of this post. A few days ago when I first caught the news on the radio about the action in Washington, NPR ran a segment featuring an openly gay WA state legislator, addressing his colleagues, and very graciously framing the debate in terms something like this paraphrase: "This is an issue about which reasonable people may disagree, and the opponents of samesex marriage are NOT bigots. They're just reasonable people that we're having a reasonable disagreement with." That's not at all a direct quote, but it's the sense of it. 

And I couldn't disagree more. Too often, in the interest of being more "reasonable" than the people on the other side, progressives overreach in assuming that the other side is actually composed of reasonable people reasonably disagreeing with us. NOM belies all of this. There is no rational reason for opposing samesex marriage other than the simple fact that the opponents think that gay people are gross and disgusting and would like us to return to the closet (NOT going to happen),  and they think it's "reasonable" to have the public vote on our individual rights when, generally, it's pretty much unheard of otherwise for basic rights to be subjected to a popular vote. It is entirely founded on bigotry and that fact doesn't change no matter how many flotillas of Bibles to which they set sail in an effort to say it has a "reasonable" basis. These are the ideological descendants of the same people who clung screaming to the past when women got the right to vote a century ago. And just think if women could NOT vote now. Maybe there would have been no political activist career for this lovely:



According to NOM's website, this charmer is Maggie Gallagher
"co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage, which the Washington Post has called the "preeminent" national organization fighting to protect marriage as the union of husband and wife. NOM's formal mission is "protecting marriage and the faith communities that sustain it," but as Maggie likes to put it, "we fight gay marriage—and win." 

But what she is, in fact, is a giant bigot. She is not a reasonable person having a reasonable disagreement with me. The entire premise of their attack--that samesex marriage somehow destroys "real" marriage--is a total canard. It is a lie, a fraud, a cover for the plain and simple and totally obvious fact that these people just plain think that people like me and my partner of 12 years are gross and disgusting and they just don't like us. Well, bitch, the feeling is mutual, because...DAMN! So, in summary, I reject the reasonable-people-reasonably-disagreeing position and instead take the rather more hardline stance that it is none of the fucking business of NOM and their ilk how my partner and I live our lives and that they can take their "traditional" values and fuck right the hell off.  (And that's why I invited all y'all to read Brandon's much more   intellectually rigorous article instead of mine.)


Tags: