- Boo to everyone who says one mustn't engage with strangers in public: a woman browsing next to me in the men's sock department at M&S turned to me for sympathy because we were obviously both looking for the same non-existent warm knee-length socks. We indulged in brief mutual commiseration and then she gave me a reusable M&S voucher for 20% off almost anything in the shop that was valid for four days. And when I'd finished with it I passed it on to a friend too.
- Black history in early Roman London proven by DNA analysis: the Museum of London has been having the DNA of Roman Londoners reconstructed and analysed. Of the first four results one woman was a Briton; one man had maternal links with Eastern Europe and West Asia; one teenage girl had maternal links with Southern and Eastern Europe but had grown up in North Africa and probably also had Sub-Saharan African ancestry; and one man had maternal links with North Africa but had grown up in London. These four early Londoners, whose selection was randomised by the passing of time, prove London was ethnically diverse and multicultural from the moment it began to exist as a city.
- I've always liked DIY tech solutions. 'Gobsmacked' inventor wins US prize for eye-driven wheelchair [@BBC]: A man with motor neurone disease has scooped a US prize for inventing a device which allows people to control wheelchairs using only their eyes. The Eyedrivomatic developed by Patrick Joyce, from Wells, Somerset, allows quadriplegic wheelchair users to steer, recline and change speed. His wife woke him at 0400 GMT to tell him he had won the top Hackaday prize of $196,000 (£128,000). Mr Joyce, 46, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2008. Mr Joyce has spent two years developing the device, alongside his "test pilot" Steve Evans from Thames Ditton in Surrey. It links existing Eyegaze software, used to control computers using eye movements, to a joystick on the controls of powered wheelchairs - it is attached to the control pad using "non invasive" velcro, so can be used on loaned wheelchairs. Mr Joyce, who is terminally ill, can still control his wheelchair himself, but Mr Evans can only move his eyes. As well as using the Eyedrivomatic to move around, Mr Evans has also successfully attached it to a Nerf gun to fire foam darts at his children. [... Mr Joyce] added: "I doubt Eyedrivomatic will be commercially developed. There are liability issues that would probably prevent it happening. But ... I designed it to be easy to build at home."
I wrote this tune a while back -- an ominous twist on a childhood classic. More recently I put words to it. Even more recently than that, I posted it to Facebook and forgot to post it here. main web page for it / MIDI / PDF of sheet music prettier than the PNG below
Comet, Comet, Shining
variation on "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" (or "Ah vous dirai-je, Maman")
copyright 2015 D. Glenn Arthur Jr.
creepily, 50-55 bpm or thereabouts
Comet, comet, shining bright,
What news do you bring tonight?
Do you portend civil unrest
Or is it time for me to invest?
Comet passing in the sky,
As mortals below you live and die,
Omen foul or omen fair,
I am glad your kind is rare.
I have another new tune (a more interesting one, I think) coming Real Soon Now. (The last 10% of the tune is taking 90% of the time.)
The mainstream narrative of Thanksgiving is not only based on a history of violence and genocide, but also historically inaccurate. Chescaleigh Ramsey breaks it down in the above video.
Indigenous communities in Guatemala beat back two hydroelectric projects that would have flooded rivers in their territories.
Shonda Rhimes’ work has been instrumental in getting abortion stories told on television.
Another win for the fight to end family detention.
Naomi Klein lays out what’s at stake now that the French government has banned upcoming climate protests.
Yesterday afternoon, Baroness Liz Barker lead further calls for action on trans prisoners in the House of Lords. For those not following the story, this follows a public outcry over Tara Hudson being placed in a male prison and then, last week, the death of Vicky Thompson in Leeds who had also been placed in a male facility. This is far from a new issue, being one I wrote about back in 2010 and that stretches back to at least 1996, when Press For Change were campaigning about it.
Having had longer to get briefed on the issue, the House of Lords gave the government a much tougher time than in the Commons, although the government still failed to give any substantive answers.
Suggesting that it would be “inappropriate” to place pressure on people to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate when the current policy does exactly that is also a very odd response, and we know that trans communities were not consulted in the creation of the current policy, based on an old Freedom of Information request.
Stripping the extensive parliamentary niceties and paraphrasing heavily, the exchange went much as follows with commentary in italics: (The formal transcript is also available on Parliament’s web site)
- Liz Barker: (LibDem) In light of the death of Vicky Thompson, will the Government review the Prison Services’ treatment of trans prisoners?
- Edward Faulks: (Conservative Minister) We can’t comment on Miss Thompson’s death while investigations are ongoing, and the policy is currently under review.
- Liz Barker: (LibDem) Recent events have shown that placing trans women in male estates is dangerous. Does the Minister agree that trans prisoners should be housed in the estate of their acquired gender in the first instance and moved to another estate only following a thorough investigation that rules out all other safe alternatives?
- Minister: The National Offender Management Service policy suggests people are housed according to their legal gender under the Gender Recognition Act, but a degree of discretion is allowed to the Prison Service.
- Michael Cashman: (Labour) What urgent steps will the Minister take to review the location of all trans people in prison and to move them to appropriate prisons according to their acquired gender, to avoid a repeat of the tragedy that befell Vicky Thompson?
- Minister: The important thing is that there is no generalisation here. Individual assessment is carried out by the Prison Service. It is after that assessment that they should be assigned an appropriate part of a prison.
- James Hope: (Crossbench) Does this policy also apply in Young Offender Institutions?
- Minister: The policy applies throughout the prison estate, including the youth estate.
- Paul Scriven: (LibDem) There has been an eight-month gap when the current guidelines are no longer applicable because they are past their expiry date. If those guidelines are being updated, what open invitation has been given to trans support groups to help the Government update the guidelines?
- Minister: The noble Lord makes what he may think is a clever point, but the policy remains current until cancelled. We take account of trans communities view when drafting policy. (The accusation from the minister that Lord Scriven’s point is “clever” is rather ill-judged, given that the question follows a death and that evidence to the commons Trans Equality Inquiry includes a submission from someone in prison specifically stating that the expiry of the old policy has caused problems. We also know that trans communities were not widely consulted in the creation of the current policy, based on an a parliamentary question from Caroline Lucas and a Freedom of Information request.)
- Jeremy Beecham: (Labour) will the Government’s review extend to the size of the prison population, and will the training of prison staff be extended in time and depth?
- Minister: Prison officer training has been extended to include equalities provisions, including trans issues. The original prison service policy is an impressive document, but there is room for continual improvement.
- Jonathan Marks: (LibDem) One difficulty under the existing system, with giving priority to legal gender, is that trans people who turn out to be offenders may be the least likely to apply for gender recognition certificates (GRCs) under the 2004 Act. Will the government review take that into account?
- Minister: The decision to apply for a GRC is an intensely personal one. It would be entirely inappropriate to in any way place pressure on somebody to go through that process. (Suggesting that it would be “inappropriate” to place pressure on people to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate when the current policy does exactly that is a very odd response)
Liz Barker has also written about the issue for the Huffington Post.
The full exchange is worth watching and is below and also on the Parliament Live web site.
The Contessa seems sincerely affect’d by the intelligence that we propose to return to our native shores, even weeps a little over me and declares that do I ever return to Naples, her palazzo is entirely open to me. She also conveys to me certain messages and packages for exiles in London. Sure she does excellent work for the revolutionary cause, while appearing to the world as a silly old woman of high rank that takes doating fancies. I kiss her very fondly and say does she ever visit London, I shall make her known to my circle, that includes the sister of the Duke of M- and his new Duchess, and go about to give a soirée in her honour. I also promise to send her some English novels, of which she is very fond, for she reads English quite fluent tho’ speaks it but haltingly.
She sighs that perchance her travelling days are over, to which I laugh and say sure she is quite ageless. We part as excellent friends as well as conspirators.
I think I have gone about to convince Roberto that while a mad English milady may be very fine for an episode of amuzement, such a one is perhaps not what he would desire for any longer acquaintance. For I make scenes, that now we are shortly to depart, he offers to neglect me, sure, he only made up to me in order that I might convey messages for him. (I mind me of Miss A- as a model.) I also complain that he has never endeavour’d to introduce me to his mother - at which thought his colour turns somewhat sickly.
In between making scenes and scolding, I become very passionate towards him, to such a degree that I daresay he would be glad to call upon the aid of the Royal Navy. I am in some confidence that he will not think of me with any great wistfullness and will be very glad of some convent-bred bride, tho’ 'twould not surprize me did he in future go boasting in masculine company concerning our amuzements.
Altho’ I confide that he will be reliev’d to see the back of me, he nonetheless expresses himself very civil concerning the aid I have given to the cause: no doubt he considers that I may yet be of use. I also express myself entirely pleas’d with the way he deals with the various business to do with my late husband’s estate. Thus we part on good terms but without lingering longings.
Marcello also seems affect’d by our intentions to leave. The villa now, indeed, belongs to him, tho’ he most civilly says that do we ever wish to visit again, we are all most entirely welcome.
One morning I come across him standing in the room that was the late Marquess’s study, looking very mournful. He sighs and says he greatly misses his dearest master here, where everything reminds him, as he did not in London where everything was strange. I say to him that should he find it necessary to quit Naples for a time he must know that he will always be welcome to take refuge in London.
I make mention of various continuing matters to do with the Marquess’s estate, such as that certain portions of the annual income that has been left to me for the purpose will be passt along. I also convey to him Euphemia’s request concerning the very excellent olive oil that is made in this part of the world, that she would be most exceeding gratefull could he see his way to sending us a good quantity of after the pressing each year, also some olives. Hector has also desir’d me to remind him to keep his left up and mind that defence is as important as offence in the pugilistick art.
Marcello gives a little laugh, then throws himself to kneel at my feet, takes my hand and kisses it and declares that he will ever be at la bella signora’s service.
That is most extreme kind of you, Marcello – please, rise, sure you go about to embarrass me quite – and do I ever find myself in requirement of your talents, be assur’d that I will let you know.
I look down at him, and add: I apprehend that matters are very different here from what they are in England, and I would not forbid you the use of your stiletto should it be necessary in the cause, but I should be in hopes that you would give due consideration to the employment of other methods and stratagems before you deploy it.
Marcello rises to his feet, and declares that my wish is his command, and indeed, his late master had made some such similar request of him. But that there are times when philosophickal arguments will not answer.
Indeed they will not, says I. I confide, I go on, that Guiseppina is one of your confederates, and that her reputation as a strega, that I understand to be what we would call in English a witch, tho’ of course in England we no longer have any superstitious beliefs in witchcraft, is most materially usefull in keeping the local peasantry away from the villa. I have given her a suitable compliment for her kitchen services, but should there be anything else proper that I should give her, or if any sudden need should arise, I should much desire than you would tell me.
Marcello indicates that la bella signora hits off the matter very precise. He adds that he has already spoke to il bello scozzese about the possibility of setting up a secret printing press, and perchance persuading Alf to come and teach him the business.
I am about to say Alf? and then mind that this must be the journeyman printer of the brotherhood that was so very helpfull in the matter of Mr O’C-.
(I do not reveal my amuzement at the appelation of il bello scozzese but sure I shall go about to teaze Sandy with it.)
That is a most excellent idea, say I, for I had rather Marcello was getting his hands black with ink than red with blood – sure I am really become quite fond of him tho’ my mind will be much easier does he remain in his native parts.
After this interview I go out to the terrace, where Lord G- R- and il bello scozzese (that indeed shows the signs of sunburn from neglecting to wear his hat) are drinking wine. They are quite sighing with relief over having at last dispatcht the late Marquess’s collection, that was a tiresome business requiring considerable amounts of bribery and the intervention of the British Consul. Sure they wish they had thought of seeing whether the Admiral might have been able to contrive sending the cases under naval escort.
Hector brings me a glass of wine, and I look over the olive groves. Sure this has been – in spite of the business with the Junker - a most agreeable change. But now I am entirely hankering to be at home, even tho’ I know that this will not be reacht until we have undergone an exceeding tedious journey at an adverse time of year.
I find my mind making a pretty picture of my darlings and their family in this place – sure I think the children would like it most extremely - and tears come to my eyes, for I miss them so much. But then I think of the dangers from the sun, and the risques of diseases, and really, 'twould not be the best of ideas.
I must ask Euphemia whether she will let me send copies of her fine Neapolitan receipts to my dearest one.
O, pretty fellows with fine eyes are all very well, and the dear Admiral will always be a great favourite, but indeed they cannot compare with my very dearest belov’d F-s, that are the darlings of my heart.
Also I long to see how Flora does.
Last week was a big deal. I fell in love with Justin Bieber, something I never thought would happen. I am not alone in these feelings (though I am significantly less thirsty, because my sexuality is not inclusive of Justin Bieber no matter how much he apparently looks like a lesbian).
My new found love for J. Biebs happened distinctly because of the lineup of music videos for his latest album Purpose. I could not (and still cannot) stop watching “Sorry,” and being enraptured by the incredible dancing done by the not over sexualized women of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. There was even some size diversity! Bieber literally was not in the video. Nor was he in “Love Yourself,” which featured two people of color doing some amazing dancing melded with everyday life. He also did not make an appearance in “Company,” which featured two more people of color flirting through dance, but then did a weird rewind thing and ended up showing a room full of scantily clad women gyrating seemingly with no plot. And then there was “The Feeling,” which starred someone who resembled Bieber and a whole lot of racial discomfort with four Black men beating him up (probably representing “the feeling”). The optics are probably unintentional, but it was strange.
The videos are a bit of a mixed bag, but I cannot escape the fact that a lot of what is happening in these videos is subversive as hell, featuring racial and ethnic diversity, women of different sizes, and depictions of atypical expressions of femininity. I am so on board with most of this. I believe this is progress when it comes to combatting a music industry that commodifies and sexualizes women’s bodies, normalizing that behavior for our society.
And then, I saw Justin Bieber perform “Sorry” at the American Music Awards. To say I was unimpressed is an understatement. He sang well, and for all intents and purposes, performed the song well. But for the first time since falling in love with his new album and a bunch of his videos, I had to see Bieber. In that process, I was reminded exactly why I disliked him in the first place.
The way his pants sag and his oversized t-shirt hung low on his body; how he moved across the stage with a distinct swagger, it wreaked of appropriation of hip-hop culture – Black culture. This isn’t new for Bieber; many people have pointed out the hypocrisy of labeling Black men thugs while Bieber did deplorable things and was still treated like…well Bieber.
Normally, I wouldn’t be so incensed, but this week, I have no patience. Seeing him strut across the stage appropriating mannerisms belonging to a culture that is not only not his, but one seemingly marked for extinction by the police industrial complex is not just an insult, it’s personal.
As I struggled to determine what my own masculinity looked like, I would sag my sweatpants around my house, and my athletic pants in public, to which my parents responded, “Pull your pants up, ya thug.” Looking back on those interactions, I can absolutely see the respectability and class politics laden in their response, and I also know that in a KKK surrounded rural, Indiana town, my father desperately wanted to keep me alive.
Though I did not fully comprehend that reality during my formative, middle school years, as an adult, it is difficult for me to ignore my father’s position. He had every reason to worry. When I talk about Indiana, and the KKK coming to visit during my parents’ first summer in Culver, folks typically roll their eyes because KKK and “white supremacists” are the stuff of legends. With rising racial tensions, however, their activity has been more visible.
In Minneapolis, the horrible, and yet not all too surprising happened: masked, white civilian men firing upon Black protestors. With another Black man, Jamar Clark, killed at the hands of police, organizers in Minnesota have been protesting at the 4th police precinct, where they have been met with mace by police officers, and now bullets by civilians.
Minneapolis and Minnesota more broadly, hold special places in my heart. I attended college in Minnesota, about 35 minutes from the Twin Cities. I learned so much about myself while living in Minnesota, and am proud that the first ballot I ever cast was to elect Mark Dayton as Governor. What is happening in Minneapolis shatters the perception I have of a place that has been a “safe space” for me over the years. The consequence is that I have been questioning most of what I hold to be true.
When I fell in love with Justin Bieber, it was because of my optimism, the part of me that watches movies and writes about the “fun stuff.” Part of why I love writing about and discussing pop culture is that I can see the progress we’re making as a society. There were zero commercials featuring same-sex couples when I was a kid. The same was true for multiracial families. Shows with queer characters and not just queer baiting (cough Xena cough)? Not gonna happen.
The landscape has completely changed. There are lots of shows featuring LGBTQ characters (some better than others); Jessica Jones explores trauma in a humane and responsible way; and of course Orange is the New Black kicks so much ass. Of course, nothing is perfect, but we have certainly come a long way.
That truth I carry, one that makes writing and, if I’m honest, living fun for me is constantly undermined by the truth of what it means to be Black in the United States in 2015. How can I grasp at a progress narrative when my Black siblings are dying at the hands of those who should protect them?
I am reminded of James Baldwin who said, “To be a negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time. So that first problem is how to control that rage so that it won’t destroy you.”
I am unsure of how to solve that first problem today. Perhaps tomorrow will be better.
Header Image Credit: The Nation
that the conductor has Parkinson's.
He enters the stage, stands for a moment
facing the audience,
his hands by his sides, tapping air.
Then he holds them together, an act of gratitude
—we are gathered, we can do this—
and of firmness, each hand forcing
the other to be still.
His expression, darkly bemused,
the good news/bad news:
I've lived long enough to lose so much.
Or maybe he's staving off our sympathy,
don't clap because of this.
Then he turns his back to us, begins his work.
Mendelssohn's Scottish Symphony.
No baton, and from behind
his body is jerky as a boy's,
jumpy with excitement.
His hands shake when they scoop
the sections of the orchestra,
as though pulling a weighted net
from the sea. Still, I wonder if this work
is easier than taking on the ordinary
objects of a day—
buttons, keys, and pens.
I am an old man
he must think when he looks
in the mirror,
briefly naked before trading
the bathrobe for the tie and tails.
And when he turns to us again
after the last movement, he looks both
old and young, his face washed
of the expression in the program photograph,
clearly taken years before,
one eyebrow slightly raised,
his smile more satisfied than happy.
Now he shows us his innocence,
if innocence is what the face
unconstructed can be called.
What else can he do,
while his fingers tap their useless code,
while the audience, in rows, rises from their seats,
still clapping, what can he do
but show us who he is,
a man standing too close to the edge,
edge no one can call him back from.
2. Tomorrow is my early day and I'm not looking forward to that, but I am looking forward to coming home early, so hopefully I won't have to stay late! (Plus it is nice to get in there and get stuff done before there's a bunch of people bothering me.)
3. We had the most hilarious kitten moment tonight. I really wish we had been filming! Chloe was up on the shelves by the mantle and she can jump from there to the love seat now, so she made the jump just fine, and landed next to Carla's foot and then was just super startled by the foot! She just paused in shock for a moment, with this horrified look on her face, and then jumped up onto the back of the love seat. Describing it just really can't do it justice. If we'd been filming, we would have had a hit cat video on our hands for sure.
4. Apparently some people are trying to bring back Glitch? It's called Children of Ur now and if you sign up with the same username you can even have your old avatar! It's really slow and buggy right now and not especially fun to play, but omg I am so excited about the idea of this game coming back!
The post I've been procrastnating and dreading. Ugh. I need help. Again. Still. I have not made much progress on longer-term solutions yet, and in addition to Charles' crowdfunded project to get me a washer and drier and maybe some paint, I could use help with stuff that's due and stuff that's overdue and stuff that's run out, if folks have a bit to spare...
High on the list are cat litter and cat food. (I should schedule the annual veterinary checkup too if possible, but that can be put off a while.) IIRC, there were some offers of cat-funding help if I ever needed it, when Perrine showed up twelve and a half years ago (wow, that long already?) and I wasn't sure I could afford a cat, and I'll quite understand if some folks want to earmark gifts as specifically for cat upkeep. (I know a three pound bag of Nutro Max Cat Indoor Adult kibble and a dozen of the tiny cans of Fancy Feast last about a month, but I need to track how long a carton of clumping/scoopable clay cat litter lasts.)
Also at the top of the list, my ISP bill (I'm $60 behind with another $50 due at the start of next month), the ~$150 I owe Sheepie for groceries she got me before I realized just how tight money was about to get, and gasoline to get to gigs and rehearsals and doctors.
Donations of (vegetarian) food and Prilosec (and paper towels and toilet paper) would be most welcome as well, though I can get by a little longer on the non-diabetic-friendly stuff in the house and baking soda for the tummy issues, I'm already beyond what I feels reasonable to ask for.
Relatedly, I'm looking for things I can do to earn cash -- the fibromyalgia makes my body too unreliable to do much on a fixed schedule, or guarantee as many hours a week as most regular jobs demand, but on average I could probably manage around fifteen hours a week, doing projects that can be worked on a bit at a time at home. (Some weeks I might be able to put in thirty hours without hurting myself; during a flare I might struggle to do anything useful for an hour a day.) I'll post more thoughts on that subject when I'm not all frazzled from finally forcing myself to write the plea above.
1) I got new reviews on very old drabbles I have written. It's nice to see people still read them and actually like them... ^^
2) Boyfriend is in town this afternoon, and he's taking me out for lunch. :D
3) If all goes well, boyfriend and I are going out this evening: out for dinner (maybe with one of boyfriend's BFF) and after that to see a ballet. If they don't decide to cancel it, seeing it's in Brussels... *crosses fingers*
This would not be my primary machine; that remains a Windows desktop.  I would largely be using it when I need to code (text files--Choicescript, in my case) or do writing on the go (Scrivener? open to alternatives since my understanding is that Scrivener projects are not intercompatible between the Mac and Windows versions anyway), plus light internet (read: the ability to enjoy Yuletide while visiting in-laws for Christmas). Not really concerned about being able to watch videos or whatever.
 We still haven't figured out what's causing the intermittent BSOD, which worries me.
In concept I like the portability of the smaller size but I'm worried the keyboard will feel too small. On the other hand, it wouldn't be what I use all the time, and when coding at home  I'd be plugging in an external keyboard (my trusty Kinesis Advantage).
 Because of the desktop's crashes, I don't trust it with my code anymore. The current Windows laptop is slow and heavy and very annoying--it lags sometimes when I type too fast in a text editor, for God's sake--but it doesn't crash.
I think I should like to name such a laptop Kujen. In fact, maybe I could name all my devices Kujen. Many instantiations! 
 Ridiculous hexarchate joke that about six people will get.