politics


I swear I have knit things and baked things and done things, but I just can’t seem to bring myself to blog about them. Mostly because I’m not really sure how much any of you all want to hear about cupcakes, which I didn’t even make entirely from scratch–though I did use a Newman’s Own chox bar in honor of that great man. Delicious.

To be perfectly honest, I haven’t thrown myself into much of anything lately except grad school prep and following politics and the stock market (more on that shortly). I’m irritated with my old workhorse of a camera, which is nearly four years old; while it was a good little mule back at Christmas ’04, it’s definitely less than awesome today, considering blog photography is so focused on close shots and details. Uploading and processing in Photoshop to get anything remotely ready for the web takes ages even on my MacBook, and I’m entirely too familiar with the Smart Sharpen tool.

Unfortunately, even with my birthday and Christmas coming up, the economy’s far too messy for me to be putting a Canon SLR on my list, especially when I just bought myself a laptop five months ago. Oddly, despite the craziness on Wall Street, I feel an odd urge to Go Buy Things today, though. Just not a $600 camera.

Brief shoutout review: I’m reading the ’06 Year’s Best SF, and I have to say that Robert Charles Wilson needs to write more about the Dominion universe he’s created in Julian: A Christmas Story. Like, he needs to do it yesterday. The combination of 19th century mores and style with a post-apocalyptic setting that is not steampunk? I can totally get down with that.

ETA: If I had adequately Googled, I would have found that Wilson is in the process of expanding Julian into a full novel.  Ace!

I’m eagerly following the election, despite how painful it is to get slammed right and left with campaign ads–the blessing of living in a swing state, I suppose. I’ve watched all three debates, but I haven’t found the time to get over to the Obama campaign office and get a button and yard sign because I’m sure they’d make me call people or something. Trust me, Barack Obama does not want me calling people for him. And while I don’t care to go into politics too deeply at the moment, I was pretty much appalled at what I heard about some people at the McCain/Palin rally here yesterday. Apparently the MSM is lying about polling numbers, apparently Democrats are all socialists, and we are all doomed. I’m down with people being conservative. But I’m not down with people talking that level of crap about the media. Is the media biased? Definitely. But flat out lying? That’s just crazy talk.

Oh, and the WBC is here protesting gay rights, which is ridiculous. They don’t have anything better to do, clearly…not to mention that we started a GSA at my high school without any flap back in ’01. Clearly suburbia is not their target.

Anyway, though I’m doing Nanowrimo in November (god help us) I’ll still be twittering like crazy. And probably knitting up a storm, now that the chill’s upon us and the frost is on the…well, no pumpkins at my place yet.

For some reason, Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle has been more successful at getting me into foodie consciousness than Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser combined.  This is probably because of the guilt.  It’s pervasive, partially because it’s somewhat prescient of the current downward spiral of American ag and food production, and partially in a ‘we did this project and before that ate free-range grass-finished meat for years, you could at least make a vague effort towards not causing our inherent destruction’ way.

Unfortunately, I live at home and my mother does the food shopping, in the old school coupon and sale flyer way, so I’m afraid, Barbara, this is a little more difficult than you anticipated.  The farmer’s market’s on the other side of town, we’ve had a crap season, and I can’t even talk Mom into buying fair trade coffee.

P: Do you think we could maybe cut down coffee consumption a little and buy fair trade coffee?
M: [looks at P like she has suddenly grown a second head, possibly a hippie] No.
P: What?  Why not?
M: I need my coffee.  And we don’t drink that much anyway and we go through it fast.
P: But…

Implied in the above conversation, but not actually stated, is ‘expensive’ and ‘pain in the butt’.  I’d really like to be a child of the revolution, but as long as I get fed on a discounted basis from House Of Mom, it’s not worth the effort.  Besides, while the idea of supporting local businesses is a very good one, there’s some evidence to show that pound-per-pound, the carbon footprint of a Wisconsin tomato at a farmer’s market here in the urban world is similar to the carbon footprint of one that’s been flown from California en masse…

Okay, okay, the truth is, I don’t have the willpower to give up eating nearly everything we have at home, or to fight the good fight with my mother over why we should start a whole new spending and consumption plan in a time of economic turmoil.  I fail at locavore and activism in my own lifestyle.

Maybe driving my car less makes up for some of it?

Anyway, the book’s good, but it’s preachy, and it’s stuff I’ve heard before.  Even so, I’ll be over here in the flagellator corner.

Right, I’ve come to the conclusion that the headache I had all last week and continuing onward into this one is not, in fact, humidity-based, but is instead the result of either a nasty allergen or a nasty bacterium wafted this way by one of the…god, I stopped counting…nine or so thunderstorms since last Saturday afernoon.  Either way, it’s lodged itself in my sinuses and will not be assuaged by ibuprofen, decongestants, or Excedrin, so my guess is less allergen and more bacterium.  I’m not even snotty, either, it’s mostly just pressure.

Oh, yeah, if you hadn’t heard, I now live in a Federal Disaster Area.  I find it interesting that FEMA decides this based on estimated damage costs.  Do they take cost of living into effect?  My guess is no–considering that damage here in Milwaukee County was, in comparison to other places, fairly low.  And so that means people in Shorewood who had a few trees fall on their half-million dollar homes could get better assistance than a whole small town in, say, Dodge County, that had every last basement flooded, or that people with a summer home washed away in Lake Delton may get more help than a farmer in Sauk County whose entire crop was flooded out, just because of overall cost.

It’s all a tragedy.  It’s just that some animals are more equal than others, I think.  If someone could prove me wrong on this, please do, as I really really wish this wasn’t the case.

In happier news, I learned how to grill bratwurst this weekend (because it did NOT rain, praise be), despite my fear of being in close proximity to Stuff That Could Burn Me.  I do a pretty darn good brat, actually.  Unfortunately there are no pictures, but you can take my mother and brother’s word for it if need be.  The fact that yours truly was the grillmeister on Father’s Day makes my feminist heart go pitter-pat.

What also makes my feminist heart go pitter-pat is Yonmei’s review of this past week’s Doctor Who episode (warning, spoilers!) at Feminist SF – The Blog.  Actually, feministsf.net as a whole is a fantastic resource; I kept running into it but didn’t really register it mentally until Liz Henry mentioned being a contributor.  I think I may fangirl.

Actually, I have a lot to say about Doctor Who, women in filmmaking, women in SFF, why the Guardian sees fit to enable Steven Wells, and so much more.  But I’ve used up my rant for the time being.

Unless Steven Wells googles himself and shows up here, in which case: unless you can clearly delineate the source of your hatred for my hobby, Steve-o, kindly stuff it.  You violated Godwin’s Law twice, and that’s pretty lame even if you’re trying to be funny and all punk rawk or summat.  I’ll try not to yawn at your Angry Young Man shtick, ’cause your beloved country got that over and done with fifty years ago, yo.

A few pieces of random mental flotsam:
– finished a pair of socks.  I am such a slow knitter, omg.  I started them in JANUARY.  Grah.  Also managed to ball up some Araucania Ranco in one night by hand.
– total hits to date on Newton’s Third exceed 250.
– the weather is not very conducive to productivity of any nature.
– I’m going to get a pingback on my link of myself above.  That’s kind of annoying.
– whomever gifted Genuine was a very kind person.  Kind of person I wish I was, actually.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about labels and identity lately, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m pretty centrist on the topic.  I’m centrist on a lot of things, actually, which is scary because I almost always have an opinion.  It’s just that the opinion is, in some way, a compromise.  I’m not sure what this says about me as a person, but I can tell you that despite myself, I’m anything but a diplomat, considering how I react when I do have a non-centrist opinion.

At Smith we were always taught not to label others for several reasons.  These were namely because you could get it wrong, because labels were political in both positive and negative terms, and because it was best to let someone label hirself and work with that only if ze indicated wanting to be labeled.

The trouble with that is that it’s an ideal that I don’t think any human is quite able to follow.  You try your hardest, but the little sorter in your brain will keep working, whether that’s due to race or gender or class or age or size or even clothing style.  It’s evolutionary psychology, really, and while it isn’t prejudice in and of itself, it’s the root of that problem.  In a lot of cases people can blur the categories (which leads to retaliation), but sometimes you get stuck with a label for life.  I will never not be white,  I will never not have been born and socialized female, and I will never not have been raised American.  At this point, those labels are pretty well stuck on.  And they’re strong, labels–they both provide reasons for irrational dislike and provide political strength.

Which is probably why, despite having been rather keen on compartmentalizing into understandable boxes (I’m far more literal a person than I let on, I’m afraid), I find myself to be hypocritical, because in terms of many other areas, I don’t want to be boxed.  The extant boxes don’t work.  I wish I could be, sometimes, because it makes for strength in numbers and less thinking about opinion.  But I can’t let that shuffle me into places where I don’t quite fit.

So it’s an impasse.  Labels cause a lot of problems and often aren’t adequate, but at the same time it’s a human thought process that’s hard to change.  And what I didn’t quite understand when I was younger, despite being told, was the method of solving this: acknowledge labels, but dump the baggage that goes with them, and see the greater picture of each person.

You’re probably all reading this and saying no, really? but I’d just like to point out that sometimes we all need to come to these decisions on our own.  It’s easier said than done, after all, and I’ll be trying to sort it out in myself and be more aware.

I’ll be over here with my agnosticish, socialism-is-good-but-only-in-theory, both-radical-and-sex-positive-feminism-don’t-get-it, help-people-without-destroying-yourself mindset, and my flame-retardant suit.  All of which are topics for another day, perhaps.

I got a hundred and sixty hits yesterday.

It’s not a lot, considering the size of the intarweb, but it’s the most this wee blog’s ever had in a 24 hour period, and it also means there’s over a hundred people out there in the world that read what I had to say in a burst of righteous pedantic fury.  But I never pretended to be anything but just another small-time blogger, standing on some cliff and hollering, hoping the wind would pick up my words.  So thank you, people who read.  I appreciate it.

Someone who got a lot more hits on the topic, and rightfully so, is Angry Black Woman.  This post is the second most hit on wordpress.com today, and it deals with the situation in far more extent than I went into, but it’s not for the shrinking violets.  I do hope that ABW does, as she promises in a post today, come up with a good guide for combatting vicious net attacks.  I talk a good talk, but I’m still chewing on how to actually act on my own proposal.

In that light, I’ve decided I need to post more actual thought on this blog, thought that isn’t rambly slice-of-life, because either my domesticity isn’t very interesting, or I can’t write about it in a compelling manner.  Probably both.  Any ideas or suggestions, both in terms of reclaiming the power of feminist fandom, and in terms of what you’d like to hear me talk about, are welcome.

This post is not about knitting or food.  If you read this blog for either, and don’t care about anything else, the following may or may not be of interest.

It turned out to be good on me that I missed WisCon this year, for one because of the plague that went around, and for two because of all the Hot Mess that’s happened because someone decided to play spoiler and ruin a good (not quite perfectly safe, but a better place than the world usually is) space.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, my Smith bud Sheana has a decent synopsis and links from an outside perspective.

I should say this: I am a middle-class white able feminist of average weight, and my gender identity isn’t particularly interesting.   But I know and love people who aren’t, and I respect their causes both individually and as they dovetail to my own.  And I have been ragged on for various identity issues enough in my time that I do not want to stand around while more good people, talented artists/writers, and their kids no less, get very nastily dumped on so that someone out there on the intarweb can have momentary lulz.

So generally speaking, to RM and those who perpetuated this, I hope you get the karma you deserve.  There’s not really anything else I can say that’d penetrate that armor of loathing you all have on, so y’know, whatever.  I trust that in time, the universe straightens things back out to neutral.

What this has made me think about is something that has been bugging me throughout the last few months, in terms of politics and feminism and fandom–from the Wright fiasco to the OSBP to the Seal Press issue.   When crap rains down on us or our friends, should we fight back, or should we not say anything because we’re better people than they are?  The latter is how a lot of liberals operate most of the time.  If we ignore it, the problems will go away because we’ll have shown that we have the moral high ground.

Unfortunately, only using the moral high ground only works for the Doctor and then only some of the time.  And I’ve fallen into this trap before myself.  The answer isn’t violence, of course, and the answer isn’t anger, exactly.  We’ve got to fuel that anger into productivity.  Gandhi led his people on a march not for freedom, per se, but for something the people wanted and needed that they weren’t getting, and in doing that, in saying that things were wrong but not acting in returned pain, they ended up getting salt.  And at the same time they ended up with a step towards a greater goal of equity.

Obviously none of this works out perfectly, and we have plenty of problems with phobias within our own community of feminist fandom.  But the answer isn’t to sit on our hands when something like this happens.  We should rise to the occasion, both as it illuminates our internal issues and outwardly in defense.

The question now is where to begin, and how.  But don’t just let it slide.  Don’t say it’s not your issue.  It’s everyone’s.

I realised today that yours truly, who took competitive civics (in the fall-winter of ’00-’01, no less) and AP US Government in high school,* has no clue what happens at the Iowa caucuses, in terms of process.  None.  This is a little scary, as I consider myself at least slightly educated, and this is a rather important event.

So when I heard about it on the radio this week, I was completely boggled.  The truth is probably that your average citizen doesn’t care how it works as long as it does and someone gets whatever place.  But since the whole process strikes me as completely off-kilter, I’m providing a link to a FAQ about the Iowa caucuses.

What that FAQ doesn’t mention is that, in an odd reversal, the Democrats’ caucus process makes NO SENSE.  It consists of standing in different parts of the room and badgering  people from different parts of the room into supporting your part of the room…er, candidate.  Then the organizers decide which candidates are ‘viable’ and then the supporters who aren’t can pick a viable part of the room, or merge and make one of their candidates viable.

So, in a nutshell, the Republicans write things down on a wee ballot.  The Democrats play a game of political Red Rover.  And this has all come about in the last forty years.  Riiiight.  Your political system at work!

At least you don’t have to worry about hanging chads.  Just castigating Chad for doggedly supporting Kucinich.**

* Other things I did in high school: a production of The Music Man.  I spared you all from more than the subject line, when it comes to giving Iowa a try.
** This blogger would stand in the Obama part of the room. As it were, I hope to simply mark a ballot.

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