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May. 11th, 2006 08:28 pm


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I got really pissed off reading slashdot today. Man, slashdotters sure are *confident* in their ability to get another job, and in their certainty that people in unions - people like my dad, their nurses, their teachers, their firefighters are just total lazy ass fuckers only in unions so they don't have to do any "real" work.

I think I am a masochist.

I really want to see Death and the Compass for two reasons: 1. It's got Doctor Who in it! 2. It's based on one of my favorite Jorge Luis Borges short stories.

I finished Mind of My Mind by Octavia Butler a few days ago. I was on a Butler kick for the past few weeks, rereading the Xenogenesis series, and Wild Seed, then I bought Mind of My Mind. I'm starting to see common threads throughout the two series, and remembered just how much I loved her protagonists - the thing they all have in common is that drive to survive. I remember this being somewhat of an obsession for her; people in her books compromise themselves and their morals a lot, in order to just live.

Right now I'm reading Women Romantic Poets, 1785-1832. It's the era of Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats. Where Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats are all very emotional and idealizing the pastoral and concerned with the "sublime", Women Romantic Poets are overall a pretty hilarious lot, with one moralistic exception. There are poems in the form of Scottish drinking songs, poems about classist prejudices, poems that make fun of the rituals of "romance", and domestic poems about raising babies. The Scottish drinking songs are my favorite so far.

My apartment almost looks clean.
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Got my new cell phone last week. It looks so cheap, but then again it was free. I haven't even added everyone yet; I gave up by the time I got to J. I love my plan though - nights start at 7PM! AWESOME.

Yesterday Mark decided to roast a duck. We used a recipe from the Anthony Bourdain Les Halles cookbook, so yes, it was a French recipe, and it took him nearly half a day to do it. It was delicious - of course, it didn't taste anything like Chinese roast duck, but the sauce was very sweet, and the meat came out pretty tender, and the skin - YUM. I took some pictures - maybe I'll post them up later. We froze the leftover duck fat, and maybe we'll cook it in something else - duck confit, anyone?

I also went to the San Carlos Library annual book sale. I took advantage of their $5 bag sale and got myself a ton of books - some Terry Brooks, Al Franken, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Alice Walker, Connie Willis, Samuel Delany, etc, etc. I also got the Hillary Clinton autobiography, and today someone left out the Bill Clinton autobiography. The Bill Clinton autobiography is 957 pages long. I have no idea when I'll get to them.

Right now I'm in the middle of re-reading Octavia Butler's series Lilith's Brood. It always sucks me in - whenever I read it on the train I only know that I'm in San Francisco because the train stops completely.

In other news, Mark's sister had dinner with my family for the first time, and she took everything in stride, much better than either of us predicted. My relatives all thought she was very pretty, and kept telling her that she was "beautiful". She played with Kaitlin, sat next to my mom at the dinner table and listened to her burp really long and loudly; I showed her the chicken feet soup (which I don't really like, but she'd never seen chicken feet before).

Today a bunch of restaurants were closed for Day Without Immigrants. Most of them had signs up, and there was a pretty large demonstration downtown. On the way home, I saw a bunch of them with their signs sitting next to the train station, with tired looks on their faces. I wish I could have gone, but I'm backlogged, and taking on the resigned person's tasks, and some of that stuff goes back pretty far. It's pretty empty in our department, since there's only one other person who's actually there full-time.
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Rowell, Charles H. "An Interview with Octavia E. Butler"

ROWELL: At the end of your interview with fiction writer Randall Kenan (published in Callaloo, Vol. 14.2, Spring 1991), you said, "I don't feel that I have any particular literary talent at all. It [writing] was what I wanted to do, and I followed what I wanted to do, as opposed to getting a job doing something that would make more money . . . it would make me miserable." As I think of the number of books of fiction you have created and the many awards you have received (including a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship) for your work, I begin to wonder, what did Octavia mean when she made that statement to Randall?

BUTLER: It's a problem that I have quite often encountered with would-be writers--and I'm sorry to say especially black would-be writers. So many of these would-be writers are afraid they don't have the talent. And I actually wrote about this in an essay in Bloodchild and Other Stories (1995). But what I mean, I guess, is that I had to learn my craft. And I mean I had to learn it, bit by bit, by doing things wrong, and by collecting years and years of rejection slips. But I kept writing because I liked doing it. The quote that you read is a bit condensed from the original. I did have lots of jobs. I worked at all sorts of things. Anyone who has read my novel Kindred (1979) can find a number of the kinds of jobs that I had, from blue collar to low grade white collar, clerk typist, that kind of thing. And I did these jobs because I had to live, but always while I was doing them and between jobs I wrote, because it was the only thing I actually cared about doing. All the other jobs were just work to keep a roof over my head and food on the table. I felt like an animal, just living in order to live, just surviving.
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I have a dentist appointment in about an hour. I hope I don't have any cavities.

Things have been really quiet for me lately. I've been feeling really restless, though, and I feel like I ought to be doing something useful, but I have no idea what. Maybe I should start drawing again. I can't wait until my boss gets back from maternity leave; as soon as she does I am taking two weeks off to go somewhere.

I've read a lot in the past couple of weeks, mostly because I finally started using my library card. Books I've read:

Parable of the Talents, Octavia Butler - This book freaked me out. This is the sequel to Parable of the Sower, and it's mainly about the heroine of the first - Lauren Olamina, through the eyes of the resentful daughter she's been separated from for most of her life. Lauren Olamina, in the first novel, starts a new religion called Earthseed, and this second novel is a continuation of that journey. It's classic Butler - stark prose, powerful ideas, and a protagonist who is hellbent on survival.

Butler also has a new novel out, called Fledgling. I can't wait to read it.

Tender at the Bone, Ruth Reichl - I was actually trying to see if I could find her new book, Garlic and Sapphires, which were about her years in disguise as a critic for the New York Times. This one is a memoir of earlier years, where food helped her cope with everything, from heartbreak to her manic-depressive mother. I think I'd actually read some of the chapters about her mom before, because they seemed very familiar to me. This was a very touching book, but I wouldn't call it great or anything. Reichl writes well, but has a tendency to resort to cliches when she's writing about actual food. I guess it's hard to capture the kind of ecstasy you feel when you're faced with truly sublime food, but maybe I'm just jealous, because she speaks French fluently and had an awesome life. My favorite chapters were the ones about her life during the seventies, in which the politics of her and her friends changed with the economic need, from recycling to dumpster-diving, and she argued to her mother that "ambition was what was wrong with America".

Miss Manners' Basic Guide to Eating, Judith Martin - I am a total sucker for advice columns. This tiny little volume made me feel sooo guilty, but I was also confused by some of the questions she got - like, "My kids are picky eaters and refuse to eat the food I cook for them and always beg for sandwiches. What should I do?" Oy.

The Book of Tea, Kakuzo Okakura - This book is sort of a primer on Japanese aesthetics. Anyway, it's a little bit snarky, surprising given that this was written over fifty years ago, and very elegant, even if I'm pretty doubtful about the accuracy of the information. He talks a lot about the aesthetic of imperfection, of leaving things unfinished so that the imagination can complete them. There's also stuff about Taoism, tea rituals, etc.

Other good things:

I received a t-shirt and print from Yan. I think the shirt fits fine, and I will probably frame the print and put it on my wall somewhere. Right now the walls are blank, and I'm thinking of just buying some canvas to paint on it, or something. Except I know nothing about how to paint stuff, so I might start small.

Demon Days, Gorillaz - This second album is delicious. I'm terrible at describing music, but this mostly instrumental, electronica, hip-hop-ish mash made me really happy and bouncy at my work desk. I'm glad I got it.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, soundtrack - The movie was just totally weird. It made no sense to me and I had no idea what the point was and Bill Murray was the same character he always is. But I thought the Portuguese covers of David Bowie were really beautiful, so I went out and bought this. It's lovely.
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I am slightly freaking out about China's growing economic power. I do not want China to take over the world, especially in its current state. But then I am paranoid like that. And I would really like the U.S. to get a clue, any day now. All that bitching about China not pegging their yuan to the dollar? Hello, hypocrites, you profited off of their cheap labor, and you're surprised they want their money back?

I reread Wild Seed yesterday. Octavia Butler is still one of my favorite writers. There are few people who could write so vividly and concisely, with so many original ideas. I love the way she is one of the few sci-fi writers who incorporate racial realities into her stories; people like LeGuin do it, but they never really go in depth the way Butler does, in harsh lighting, and awkward realizations.

I was thinking (a dangerous thing in this heat) about how with some writers, I forgive them their faults or I don't. For example, I read Piers Anthony for way too long a period in junior high. I liked the escapism of Xanth, and then eventually all the puns and naked 15-year-olds got to me. So I don't really read him anymore. Occasionally I reread The Martian Chronicles, but ever since I found out that Ray Bradbury [Bush]He's wonderful. We needed him. Clinton is a shithead and we're glad to be rid of him. And I'm not talking about his sexual exploits. I think we have a chance to do something about education, very important. and We need enlightened corporations to do it; they're the only ones who can. All the great malls have been built by corporate enterprises. We have to rebuild cities with the same conceptual flair that the great malls have. We can turn any bad section of town into a vibrant new community. I found that I couldn't forgive him for saying those things. And it ruined the rest of his books for me.

On the other hand, I read about Roald Dahl's anti-Semitism, and I found I still enjoyed Matilda as much as I did the first time I read it. Ezra Pound, too. Maybe it's because they're dead that I can sort of brush those things aside. I tell myself that they lived in another time, and they were still considered pretty progressive for that era. Maybe it's because they're better writers.

I don't know; I feel kind of betrayed by Bradbury's views, but when I re-read the Martian Chronicles a few years ago, I should have realized that all those views were there. I just hadn't looked hard enough.

I prefer my literary cranks to be cranky like Kurt Vonnegut.

That chief and his cohorts have as little to do with Democracy as the Europeans had to do with Christianity. We the people have absolutely no say in whatever they choose to do next. In case you haven’t noticed, they’ve already cleaned out the treasury, passing it out to pals in the war and national security rackets, leaving your generation and the next one with a perfectly enormous debt that you’ll be asked to repay.

Maybe they should meet. I'd pay to see that fight go down.

I can imagine it:

Kurt Vonnegut: "Bring it on, bitch!" (Insert random rants about the state of America, about how Bush sucks, etc. Quote stolen from Scrubs.)
Ray Bradbury: "You should learn to read and write before you even mess with me." (Insert random rants about about the state of America, and bitching about the tyranny of affirmative action .)
Vonnegut: "Have you even seen my books? I am more prolific than you are!"
Bradbury: "Oh yeah? I just wrote a short story five minutes ago! Beat that!"

Like I said, heat produces incoherence. Time to go.
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