Friday, July 31, 2009

my sister is dead

I am in an unnaturally calm state now. I got the call this morning from my mom. It took me half an hour or more to believe it. My kid sister has always been there when anyone needed her. I've been complimented for writing strong women, and my sister was the first reason why. She was fearless. I try to remember her being frightened of anything in her life, and I fail. She would jump off of buildings and dive from tall heights and do all the things that terrified me.

Okay, not so unnaturally calm now. I wrote something for my mom and sister not long ago. I was not exaggerating.

She was my kid sister, but she supported me in every way I can imagine.

It appears she had a stroke. When she didn't answer the phone this morning, a neighbor went to check on her. Mom and Dad have seen her. Dad says she looked like she was about to smile. That's some comfort.

My parents don't want my brother or me to come up yet. It's hard to respect that, because they're in their 80s and moving slowly, but I've agreed to check in with them each day until they say to come. They have many friends up there, so I'm making the call to respect their independence and hoping that's right. But I'll be phoning them every day until it is time.

If there's someone you love that you haven't told lately, take a moment and do that today. She was my kid sister. I never thought I would outlive her. It's just so very wrong.

P.S. I don't know why I kept referring to her here as my sister. Maybe that made it easier to write this. Her name was Liz.

I hate the past tense so much right now.

a few free speech quotes

Nature knows no indecencies; man invents them. —Mark Twain, Notebook, 1935

In America the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them. —Alexis De Tocqueville

When decorum is repression, the only dignity free men have is to speak out. —Abbie Hoffman

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. —Voltaire

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

moving away from the internet: Facebook and Twitter

I'm not closing my accounts there so people who prefer to follow me via those feeds can, and I'll continue to "friend" anyone who doesn't appear to be a spammer, but I'm pruning Facebook and Twitter from my daily routine. If you leave a comment on the Facebook account, it'll be forwarded to me, and I'm likely to comment in return. Odds are I won't see a tweetback.

I may like Twitter best of the social nets, because it reduces information to Very Important or Totally Trivial. But the number of people who can't tell the difference between the two—

Bad Will. Twitter has no more twits than any other social service. It's fun. That's why I'm not going to follow it anymore.

And I like Facebook because people don't play identity games there. It's nice hearing what people you like are doing.

But a price of being an artist is accepting hard choices, like sometimes staying away from parties you know you'd enjoy.

People retreat to the online world because it's easy to find safe places here. That may be what's wrong with the internet. It should be a place to learn new things, but it tends to be a place to confirm prejudices: racists and antiracists get to agree it's all about race, Republicans and Democrats get to agree it's all about capitalism, feminists and male chauvinists get to agree it's all about gender... The song says the internet's for porn, but it's actually for cliques. Which is sometimes its virtue, but only if you're aware of the dangers of a life of limited experience.

Monday, July 27, 2009

the internet does not want you to leave

I was thinking about whether I hurt anyone's feelings by paring my LiveJournal reading list drastically. Netiquette probably calls for simply moving people into an "unread" category rather than "unfriending" them, but I don't want anyone to assume I've read something that I haven't. As often happens, the honest choice seems like the unfriendly choice. By definition, leaving a social network is an antisocial act.

But I need to move further away from the internet. In the old days, people could move from one continent to another, and friends and family would know they were still loved. Now, the internet says that caring means following every post and tweet.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Will's Wild Rice Frittata

A friend asked for this recipe, so I thought I would share it here, too.

Serves four:
  • 1/2 cup wild rice (If you're lucky enough to have friends in Canada, Minnesota, or Wisconsin, use the real stuff. If not, use the kind that's grown in paddies in California. The next time I cook with California wild rice, I'm going to simmer it in vegetable broth, because the California version isn't as tasty as true wild rice.)
  • 4-6 eggs
  • approx. 1 cup of spaghetti sauce
  • an onion or a few cloves of garlic
  • cheese to sprinkle on top
  • a vegetable or two (I like zucchini, broccoli, carrot, or potato)

Cook half a cup of wild rice. Drain it and put it in a bowl. Dump in your favorite spaghetti sauce and stir it up until it's all moist. Then add eggs, at least four.

In a skillet, fry some onions or garlic in olive oil, and add some chopped carrots or broccoli or zucchini. (If you want a spicy version, add some pepper to the pan when you put in the vegetables.)

Pour the eggs, wild rice, and spaghetti sauce on top. Add the cheese. Turn down the heat and put a lid on the pan.

If your skillet is oven-safe, when the mix is setting, move it under a broiler and cook until it's golden on top.

Mangia!

P.S. If you've never made a frittata, there's a nice little bit of advice here.

Later: I originally suggested a bouillon cube for paddy-grown wild rice, but Bill Colsher's suggestion in the comments is much better, so I changed that.

Friday, July 24, 2009

how a good day begins

The folks who keep their horses on the property that we caretake have gone on vacation for a week. So I fed them and sprayed them for flies and scooped up horse turds. I like shoveling horse turds. If that was a viable part-time job, I would take it. I think most, and maybe all, good people have had to deal with actual shit sometimes.

Also, I put a couple of screws in a table that was getting wonky. I washed clothes and hung them up to dry, and mused on how strange it is to live in a society where being able to hang your clothes is a privilege. (Many neighborhoods have laws forbidding people from hanging their clothes out to dry--for the classist reason that it makes a place look like it's inhabited by poor folks. I would love to know if that bit of insanity is unique to the US.)

Now I am thinking about being a writer. In a good way.

Oh, the title of this post would be "how a great day begins" if Emma was here. I am missing her enormously, but I'm finding it interesting to be reminded of what I like to do on my own. One example: I've stopped drinking coffee in the house while she's away; when she's here, the pot is always full, so I drank coffee all day long. I'll watch to see if there are others.

Monday, July 20, 2009

obligatory 40th anniversary of the moon landing post

I was thirteen-going-on-fourteen on a summer camping trip in Mexico with my family when the moon landing happened. I might not have heard about it for days. When I heard, my reaction was pretty much, "Of course we landed on the moon. That's how the future is supposed to work."

Saturday, July 18, 2009

how to make Chilaquiles Guillermo

For a single serving, because your sweetie is away (*sniff*):

1. Take two or three corn tortillas and cut them into sixths.

2. Onions or garlic? Both is a fine answer, but I went with 4 cloves of garlic and do not regret it.

3. Fry the garlic or onions in some olive oil with the tortilla triangles.

4. Add some broccoli. (Spinach would also be awesome.)

5. Crack an egg into the mix and scramble it.

6. Hey, there's some cheddar in the fridge. Add that, too.

7. Pour in some salsa.

8. Stir occasionally until the egg is cooked and the cheese has melted.

9. Be sad because your sweetie isn't there to share the awesomeness. But plan to fix it again when she comes home.

later:
I typed that while eating the chilaquiles. Now I am full, but I am also glad that I have all of the ingredients to make it again for breakfast.

and later: The second batch was satisfying, but not quite as. Maybe it was just Take Two Disappointment. But I think I threw off the balance by using up the last four tortillas; I should've used two and saved the other two. Also, I used onion instead of garlic, and there's nothing exactly wrong with that, but the garlic really was wonderful. And maybe I should've cooked the tortilla wedges a little longer before adding the other ingredients. When I did it the first time, I turned the tortilla pieces to make sure they were all basted in olive oil. This time, I was a bit hastier.

I may not try experiment three before Emma returns, because she likes dairy products in the house, and my instinct is more vegan. Hmm. Or maybe I'll try a vegan version....

Friday, July 17, 2009

poor, poor pitiful me

Emma left today to help a friend recover from hip surgery. She'll be gone for several weeks. I'll either get a lot of work done or drink a six-pack a day and practice my belching.

The belches will be awesome.

Oh, okay. I'll try to get a lot of work done.

I miss her too much already. After dropping her off at the airport, I returned to my desk and found she had left me a cap that she had crocheted. With a tag saying it's a thinking cap. That was a very dirty trick, and I am all sniffly now.

People in Minneapolis, see that she has an awesome time. (But she's there to write and help a friend, so there shouldn't be too much awesome. Just a bit.)

Off for a couple of beers now. (Tip of the day: To maintain your muscle tone, have a drink in each hand and alternate drinks.)

Actually, someone's showing up for the weekend, so I'll finish prepping the guest room.

And I suppose I should say for those who don't know me, drinking is not one of my weaknesses, and my favorite beer is dark, of which there is none in the house, so I'll just have to alternate working with missing my sweetie.

*sniff*

Monday, July 13, 2009

Shanghai Express and Shanghai Lil

Just saw Shanghai Express. Marlene Dietrich is, of course, magnificent, and the photography is exquisite. The movie itself is a bit inconsistent—this is a pre-Hayes Code film, meaning its subjects are quite mature, but the ending feels like it's from a conventional romantic comedy. Still, that's only a quibble.

For some idiot reason having to do with copyright, it's hard to buy or rent on DVD. *coughbittorrentcough*

Some trivia: Shanghai Express (1932) - Trivia

Shanghai Lil or Lily has had several incarnations. Perhaps the most famous is from the song that Jimmy Cagney performed in Footlight Parade. That's not on youtube now, but here's a 1933 recording by Gene Kardos & His Orchestra:

Sunday, July 12, 2009

what wealth is, the first rich black North Americans, and Chris Rock almost gets it

The word's Middle English, from the 13th century: welthe, from wele. Welfare comes from wele, too; wel faren means "fare well." Having wealth is simply being well, being happy and healthy and untroubled by need.

At least, that's what it should be. What it is for greedy people is the financial value of their possessions.

From Who Rules America: Wealth, Income, and Power
As of 2004, the top 1% of households (the upper class) owned 34.3% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 50.3%, which means that just 20% of the people owned a remarkable 85%, leaving only 15% of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers). In terms of financial wealth (total net worth minus the value of one's home), the top 1% of households had an even greater share: 42.2%.
Chris Rock claims there have never been "wealthy" blacks in America, but there have certainly been rich ones. Some blacks prospered from the earliest days of blacks in North America: Anthony Johnson was the first black slaveowner, William Leidesdorff was the first black millionaire, and Madam C. J. Walker was the first female black millionaire.



What Rock doesn't get is the solution isn't changing the mix at the top of the pile. It's getting rid of the pile.

sexist wealth distribution created among super-rich

via Too Much weekly
Back in the late 1960s...women made up nearly half of America’s richest 0.01 percent. Their share has now dropped to one third. The prime reason? With the explosion of pay at the top of the corporate ladder, executives can now “work” their way into the ranks of America’s richest. In the process, points out the Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality, “the older road of direct inheritance has accordingly been superseded.” Adds the Center: “Until women crack the uppermost echelons of the labor market, we can therefore expect gender inequality in wealth to persist.”

Saturday, July 11, 2009

the greatest privilege of the rich

Teresa at Making Light: Numinous collisions quoted this from The Poverty of Michael Novak:
Novak assures us … that capitalism is not all about greed but is romantic, it involves noble sentiments of the human heart like the yearning for innovation and human creativity. “In actual capitalist practice, the love of creativity, invention, and groundbreaking enterprise are far more powerful than motives of greed,” he writes.
That bit about romantic capitalism nagged at me. This was my first reaction at Making Light:
Someone's cribbing from a note about feudalism. There's always romance at the top of a system.
A few hours later, I added this:
Just found what that reminded me of. I've been reading Tristram Hunt's Building Jerusalem. He says of Sir Walter Scott's feudal fantasies, "It was the close-knit society conjured up in Ivanhoe and the Waverly novels in which the romantic development of individual character stood paramount." Perhaps the greatest privilege of the rich is they can imagine any damn thing they please about how the world is.
The Poverty of Michael Novak is short and well worth a read. I'm very fond of Catholics who understand that Jesus didn't preach obedience to kings, priests, and corporations.

Friday, July 10, 2009

why I love Gandhi

MEANWHILE : Gandhi, for one, would have found it funny - The New York Times
When a reporter asked him what he thought of Western civilization, he famously replied: "I think it would be a good idea." He did not spare journalists either, saying: "I believe in equality for everyone, except reporters and photographers."

Even the mightiest were not spared. In order to identify with India's poorest, Gandhi used to wear a homespun loincloth all the time. Winston Churchill bristled at the thought of a "half-naked fakir" going to meet the British king thus attired.

But that's exactly what Gandhi did at the Round Table Conference in London called to discuss India's future in the 1930's. He went in his loincloth to Buckingham Palace and met the king. Later, when somebody asked him if he felt that was proper, Gandhi replied: "The king had enough for both of us."

Gandhi believed his life was his message, and, as such, he lived simply, usually traveling by the cheapest form of transportation — the third class of Indian Railways. To a reporter's question as to why he did this, Gandhi said, "Because there is no fourth class."

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

two notes for Storytelling 101

1. The opinions of the characters may not be the opinions of the author.

2. The situation at the beginning should be different than the situation at the end. This applies to the three basic plots (action, relationship, and maturation) and to the exploration of ideas.

No, I won't tell you which blogger knows surprisingly little about stories. If she was the only one, I wouldn't bother posting this.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Tom Paine puts it near the Bullseye

His proposal from Agrarian Justice:
Every proprietor, therefore, of cultivated lands, owes to the community ground-rent (for I know of no better term to express the idea) for the land which he holds; and it is from this ground-rent that the fund prod in this plan is to issue.
...To create a national fund, out of which there shall be paid to every person, when arrived at the age of twenty-one years, the sum of fifteen pounds sterling, as a compensation in part, for the loss of his or her natural inheritance, by the introduction of the system of landed property:

And also, the sum of ten pounds per annum, during life, to every person now living, of the age of fifty years, and to all others as they shall arrive at that age.
Prompted by Abiezer

Independence Day


(image via Posters from the WPA)

Wordle - The Declaration of Independence (via Garb)

Today, my heart is with everyone struggling for freedom and justice, beginning here in the USA, but especially with the Honduran people—the golpistas have revealed themselves for what they are: The Field: Honduras Coup Chooses Path of Rogue Narco-State.

"Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear." —George Orwell.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Plato and the Magi

"Leaders like wars because wars remind people they need leaders." —Plato

That's included in a favorite book that's been released with a better title: Journey of the Magi. That link goes to Google Books; I recommend reading the Preface to the New Edition. It reminds me that my wish to visit Iran probably began with reading that book.

John Stuart Mill puts it near the bullseye

"I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it." - John Stuart Mill, 1866

my later drafts

Usually, in later drafts of a story, I trim from the beginning and add to the end. Alas, I can't just shuffle words to the back of the story. (Though sometimes I can. In the story I'm working on now, I explained something too early. Fixed it with cut and paste.)

I think my first beginnings are wordy because I'm figuring out the story, and my first endings are rushed because I'm dashing for an ending. By the second draft, I have a better idea what the ending needs and the beginning can do without.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

understanding our evil economic system

Matt Taibbi's “The Great American Bubble Machine” is at Rolling Stone now. It's the best and funniest and grimmest and simplest explanation of how Goldman Sachs keeps screwing the world for profit. Their next racket, "Cap and Trade", just passed. Guess who Obama's biggest donor was?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009