September 16th, 2010



I get the attraction of prayer. When you feel powerless, it is nice to dream of a way of influencing events. Your hands are tied so you use your thoughts. What I don't understand is turning to prayer instead of spells. I don't get looking outside of yourself. Is it because the powerlessness someone feels makes them create an outside force to appeal to? I get wanting to hex your enemies & put circles of protections on your allies, but I don't get asking somebody else to do it for you. It is the intermediary, I suppose. I get animism-- I get thinking of the genius loci, the abstraction of an idea, the archetypal example of a thing. Maybe that is involved with prayer? Praying.

I've sort of been thinking about Socialism. I like Capitalism, since it seems to be the best way to keep things liquid & moving, which is sort of the point. That being said-- you don't want Capitalism to run its course. All that talk of Boom & Bust is well & good, & a fine way of looking at it. Another way of looking at it is to use the scope that unrestrained Capitalists love to throw around-- calling it "Darwinian" & comparing market forces to organic systems. I think that is equally apt, if you follow the allegory all the way through: unregulated laissez-faire Capitalism is like evolution! The thing about evolution is, pretty much everything goes extinct. Evolution blows; you don't want that. The whole point of various biological & technical systems is to get out of the primordial soup! If we're going to go into Capitalism we need super strong regulations-- which brings us to Socialism. State control of the means of production is interesting, but maybe I'm more interested in State control Like, a State bank & a State stock market? Maybe there is even a name for that stripe of Socialism? I don't know enough about economics or economic politics to do anything other than muse.

Television makes sense to me. I mean, on a whole host of levels, from top to bottom. On the bare, basic half-ape level, it is flickering light. Homo has been staring into flickering light from the get go-- & Television is just the most recent level of it. On top of that, it engages the social brain-- the tribal brain, coupled up with the abstraction & displacement of the higher functions. Ross & Rachel are members of all our tribes! The relationships of fictional characters engage your mirror neurons, for extra fun. & then of course there is the fact that it is Art. I'd say the dominant art form of the current era. Sure, there is a lot of pulp, & bubble-gum, & plenty of crap-- but it is a medium, you know? I just don't understand people who take pride in not watching television. I like to compare them to people who turned up their nose at William Shakespeare. "Oh, that fithy bard who panders to the groundlings?"

Monday I ran my Oubliette game, which was full of twists & has spawned a million online conversations-- I am glad to know it sparked interest in all my players. Tuesday Jenny & I went out to dinner at The Park Slope Ale House, where I had cornflake crusted catfish & spinach & onion rings. After that we came home & vegged out; we watched The MTV Video Awards. Lady Gaga swept them, which is good-- "Bad Romance" was without a doubt the best video of the year. That video with Christina Hendricks in space was up for something too, which surprised me; I didn't know that was popular. Also, Florence & the Machine or whoever? I had never heard of her! I like it-- or "The Dog Days Are Over" at least. Basically because-- she's like, Kate Bush pretty much? That is a good style to bite. Taylor Swift couldn't sing her song, which is sort of sad. Kanye is boring; I understand the appeal, but he played the same hand of cards over & over. Usher is not a good singer or a particularly good dancer, but I liked his light show. I'm sort of rooting for Eminem, but long past caring about him. Mostly I was just surprised that there was a joke about Jersey Shore! I mean, there were your usual "they are gross! They have diseases!" sort of stuff, which is par for the course, but when Chelsea Handler announced them & everyone in the audience cheered, she said to the crowd "I don't know why you are clapping, they are the reason they don't play your videos on MTV any more." That was funny-ish, but more shocking was that there are jokes left to make. I thought that well was dry.

Yesterday Jenny had a community board meeting where she had to represent the library, so I was all on my lonesome ownesome. Those things are from seven till midnight?! I came home, ate some stew, & then went to the gym; & good for me, I put in a nice hour & a half. I feel much better about life having worked out yesterday than I did after a lazy weekend. Endorphins are like emotions, right? The mystification of neurochemistry escapes me, I think. A few notes: I'm at an age where I can't tell the difference between teenagers & young adults. Not right away, anyhow. & that means sometimes you check someone out & then go "oh, crap, she's fifteen or something." Not that I'm like, checking out checking them out. Just looking at the girl across from me on the weight machines. Also on the elliptical machine I watched Man versus Food, which doesn't...doesn't seem healthy. Some of it is mouthwatering, like the early parts of the episode, but then when he gets to the VascularBlaster MegaPizza BurgerBomb SugarShake part, it is gross. Plus, he throws his food wrappers on the floor when he finishes, which bugs me. After the gym I went home & I fooled around with music. iTunes tried to kill me! It made some suicidal master mix, when I put it on shuffle-- Elliot Smith to Modest Mouse to The Mountain Goats to The Eels. Sorry, iTunes, but I don't have any gin in the apartment! Instead I went through & made a mix of "singles," of songs I listened to over & over. I was pretty conservative, but I ended up with about a hundred & twenty tracks. Maybe I will try to divide it into electronic & rock & twee categories. That might help. Then Jenny was home & it was time for the little death of sleep.

Then just now? general_jinjur coined the term "kaleidopeople."
blur shotgun

Honey & Locusts. (79)

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal.

Canaan is England!
Victoria's Hosanna:
Lo! Pax Britannia!

The obvious comparison here is to Jane Austen, which leads me to a bit of a confession. Since I went to college for Forensic Anthropology, instead of something like English, I missed "The Canon." I've never read things like Wuthering Heights or Pride & Predjudice or Jane Eyre. I did however read the more modern comparison-- Jonathon Strange & Mister Norrell-- & I find it apt. I haven't read the classics I probably ought to have, but I can tell you that this reads like I imagine them to be like. Shades of Milk & Honey is ostensibly a fantasy novel, though viewed in a certain light it is much more a romance, or a historical novel, or magical realism-- & I think that its charm is the difficulty in pegging it down. Don't be fooled by the Tor mountain on the spine-- this is not a novel of blue glowing swords clashing in an epic conflict. No, this isn't Dungeons & Dragons but rather Drawing Rooms & Debutantes. It is a novel of courtship by calling card, a discourse on the nature of Art, a slow social dance with just a dash of glamour. A mystery of mistaken lovers & family disgraces set amidst (literal) illusions & deceptions. That is the strength of the narrative-- it is a small story, a personal story that takes place between neighbors. You won't be surprised by any of the twists, & if you keep looking for a big reveal, you won't find one-- the reader's jaded modern senses & sensibilities (see what I did there?) unravel the plot before the more dignified characters of the story do. Our hero is Miss Jane Ellsworth, & the author Mary Robinette Kowal manages to pull of the careful teeter-totter such a character requires. A female character set during the height of patriarchy, constrained by social obligations & manners, but self-determined, strong. Without giving into anarchronism, or portraying an iconoclast who defies convention, Robinette Kowal manages to keep the scales level-- Miss Elssworth isn't suddenly given to modern notions of feminism; but there is little doubt to her intellegence & will. Her lot in life is difficult-- as a woman, as a plain woman, & as a talented woman-- but we are given her without apology, without allowances made for our expectations. There is no cheating. She is a "proper lady" operating entirely in her historical context, & a thoroughly compelling character because of it.