Thursday, January 25, 2007

Books Read

Almost a Woman by Esmeralda Santiago

A 13 year old girl moves to Brooklyn from Puerto Rico with her family. Esmeralda chronicles her own coming of age, her time in the High School for the Performing Arts in Manhattan, her first relationships. Liked it alot.

Olla-Piska: Tales of David Douglas by Margaret J. Anderson

When I visited the coast recently I saw a sign for the David Douglas Park I had cause to wonder how important David Douglas was to our local history. The day I came back to work, a youth librarian shared her delight with this book, so I checked it out. Funny thing, I read through this book for children (in the form of diaries from several people) about a Scottish botanist searching for new plants in the Pacific Northwest, yet I did not see the punch line. Think Christmas trees from Oregon. Fir trees from the Northwest? Yeah...that Douglas. Liked it.

Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony by Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl books are a must-read for the lover of fairy tales with a twist stories. In the first books, Artemis is an evil genius that seeks to harness the power of the magic of fairies for himself. All the creatures of myth live underground and not only have magic but far superior technology to humans. (Stop reading this if you haven't read them but want to.) In this the 5th book he's one of the good guys (but still not completely trusted) and entering puberty and finding himself interested in another evil genius, female. Demons enter the pantheon of the Artemis Fowl world. Liked it alot.

Winter Count by Barry Lopez

I can't remember where I saw this as a recommended read. Short stories that read like poetic non-fiction journals, vignettes that indicate years in a winter count, like a tribal record. Unusual happenings mark the years, like a river disappearing and reappearing, blue herons in New York, cosmic white buffalo. Each story had its own picture, as winter counts do. The book was ok, a quick read...but I'm more tickled about learning about winter counts. I get the idea that there's a lot I could unpack from the book if I had the time, just as winter counts refer to a more detailed oral history.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

"Night" by Elie Wiesel

Night by Elie Wiesel

I read this for my library's book group. I confessed to another groupee as we met across the circulation desk that I was reading it in fits and starts. I told her I was reminded of Field Notes for a Compassionate Life, in which one person the author interviewed said it should be a law that no one can read or see anything about the holocaust. It is forbidden to speak of it, until one reaches a certain age when it is mandatory that every citizen visit the National Holocaust Museum. (I tried searching in that book at Amazon but couldn't find that passage again.) We would all be so horrified that we could never collectively do such atrocities again. As it is we become inured to the violence, the horror. We see so much of it, it becomes ordinary. I think that's how people manage to be complacent with such atrocities. The oppressed are seen as non-human. They become animals played with for sport. I don't think I've read a first-person account since Anne Frank, and of course Anne's diaries were left behind when she was taken to a camp. Just as everyone should face this past in the museum to keep it in the past, this book should be read by all, to keep us from doing it again. (Our book group was cancelled due to weather...hopefully will be rescheduled.)

Elie Wiesel talks about God dying. He had been a child attracted to the mystical, with a special connection to praying. Reduced to animals scrabbling for food, trying to appear healthy enough to avoid "selection," people would forget to say the verses for the dying. He witnessed sons denying their fathers to survive, resolved he would not leave his father behind, only to ignore his father's calls when he did die. I wonder how Elie found God again. I suppose that may be in the other two books of the trilogy.

When war reigns supreme, those who have no conscience and a severed connection to others, the sociopaths, the psychopaths, gain power. The compassionate go underground or die. Even within the orderly system of the German camps, people managed to help each other some, managed to slow the work down, some, managed to spread the word on strategies to live.

Right now I sit in a cafe, an old veteran interrupted me. "I see you have a peace sign. Do you believe in peace?" I said, "I do." "Do you know why the United States brings peace to the world?" uh oh. this could get difficult. I avoid the question. "Sir, I'm sorry, I'm busy." "Nobody's invaded our country because we have a strong military. If you don't have arms they come in and take you over." It's more complex than that, what can I say? People count on certain societal rules to maintain the peace. Elie and his family and neighbors were warned of the camps, but they didn't believe. The world let them happen. Was it because they couldn't believe such systematic killing was possible? The US was friendly to Germany in the beginning. Companies did business with the Nazis.

So here I am contemplating evil, and along comes this article On Evil from the New English Review (via ChezBez). It has happened again, and again I ask, how do people so divorce themselves from each other that such killing seems to create hardly more of a bump in their consciousness than the cutting of wood or baking of bread? The Hutus slaughtered the Tutsis in Rwanda, the author says, "In that slaughter, in the space of three months, neighbours killed without compunction those with whom they had been friendly all their lives, only because they were of the different, and reputedly opposing, ethnic designation."

How could I have a conversation with that grizzled old veteran? When this aspect of human nature is encouraged, the loving kind can indeed be mowed under while the warmongers slaughter them. Yet someone encourages it, and that someone's power has more to do with money than with ideals or defense. He mutters, continuing his argument to himself as he gathers his things and heads out the door. He needs to believe his time in the military was for a noble cause. Other veterans, indeed active troops, believe we don't belong in Iraq. We are the aggressors, and the tinder that continues to fuel the strife there. Yet how could I not have a conversation with him? Isn't it by not talking that people could be herded into cattle cars? Isn't it through our disconnection to others that violence continues? What I could have done at least was listened. Instead I had this list of tasks to do, looming in the background, didn't want distraction while I got caught up...not that I got caught up anyway.

I'm thinking if I make it to New York again, it's about time I visited the Holocaust Museum. I'm thinking next time I wear my sparkly peace pin I'll be ready to listen. I'm thinking I have no clue to the horrors of this kind of violence. They were made to run miles in the snow, if they stopped they died. They had to trample or be shot. It is because of this that people say this was the "good war," but I wonder how it got that far in the first place. How do otherwise ordinary individuals accept and approve this collective madness that attempts to exterminate an entire people? It's too easy to blame it on a monstrous icon. It happens too easily I think because many people keep disconnections alive through many other smaller violences. As long as we think the only protection is violence, like the old vet, then we continue to reap violence.

My Haunts

I may not have been posting here much, but I've been a little more active at a few of my haunts.

I am completely in awe and smitten with Chelsea Girl who writes Pretty Dumb Things. I read through her thread on her days as a stripper in New York. I started reading the rest of her blog from the beginning. She has an incredible vocabulary and knows how to use it. The writers that truly impress me, and she's one, are those whose description not only accurately conveys a vivid picture, it does so in a completely new way that gets right to the heart. I don't really like the title of her blog, the only negative thing I could say about it. I adore her sincerity, but the title seems sardonic and self-deprecating...maybe I'm not getting it. I'll post comments there, but mostly consider myself a sycophant, the not-crazy kind.

My friend Sean manages to post several times a day, sometimes his own stuff, many times other stuff floating around the web. Cute youtube kitties, and hilarious quotes from the uber-fundie Christian boards. For some reason his girlfriend has taken a serious dislike to Rosie O'Donnell and I got into it with her, and then with Sean here. Rosie's getting a lot of press lately for her view on The View.

For the record, it is my belief Rosie's getting that negative press because she's effective in getting her progressive anti-war views said. Her "feuds" in actuality were nothing more than her doing her job, expressing her view on The View in a respectful and sometimes comedic way. She's incredibly generous, usually hides how much so, kind, and loving. She actually was able to say some Senator should step forward and impeach Bush. That America needs to show the world, and have it in the history books, that we as Americans were not okay with the way he's managed his presidency. I guess that particular clip isn't making the rounds in YouTube or on ET.

I continue to find Tom Paine a good read, honest and exploratory. His wife has now joined the reading list. Good conversations happen there. Too often I think Tom experiences me as a gadfly, he's often quoting me as having a problem with him or his lovely wife C. Sometimes I think the way he expresses things puts more of a defined boundary on things than he intends. I am glad he appreciates the dialog. I stretch myself on understanding love and relationships there.

Finally, I no longer haunt the Yahoo group spiritualpolyamory. Sadly, the moderator went banishment-happy, and I've been banned. I responded, and was accused of being passive-aggressive for saying "nutcase" in this missive:

Dear Chris,

You've lost me on this one. You made a somewhat extreme statement, and M made a somewhat extreme statement in response. People have various skill levels as well as cultural differences in addressing disagreements. do you really want one kind of culture in this group?

Usually in open forums like this it's possible to speak the truth, iron out the wrinkles, and learn better ways to deal with differences. Now M has learned exile, and D may wonder if you're a nutcase. There'll be those who read extreme hostility in M's challenge, and agree with your action, and those who wonder, where'd that come from, the language wasn't heated at all to them. So we all learned we must speak a certain language if we are to be included or we could be excluded. Is that how we're going to make the world a more peaceful place?

Chris responded, prompting me to check if I was still a member of the group. Nope. Banished.


My moderator choices aren't determined by what feels "comfortable" to everyone. It's impossible to please everyone.

It's not about matching extreme statements. Her statement was attacking and equating my comment with racial generalizations.

I don't perceive it as my responsibility to make the world a more peaceful place because I can't control what others are acting out. But I do see it as my responsibility to set energetic boundaries.

Monica and Dawn created their experiences, and are not victims.
Yes, if people want to be included in this group they have to use respectful languaging.

I perceive your comment about "nutcase" as passive aggressive
and so I say goodbye to you as well.

This isn't going to be a place where I absorb the negative energy of others.

To backtrack, here's what M said that got her bumped. For the record, I thought this was rather innocuous:

I challenge this statement and wonder how a rational person can state that poly people can handle intense concepts more than non-poly people? That is like saying Mexicans can handle spicy food better cause they are from Mexico. Being poly does not automatically make a group of folk more anything. Poly is an
intensely personal thing and folks within the community run the gamut of personality types... just like in the non-poly world. We are not better.

I've heard since this swift culling that other dissenters have been banned, and at least two people let me know how they responded, one choosing to leave the group. Sadly, we all liked being there because of the combination of spirituality and polyamory. Good conversations were had. I'd always had a feeling Chris had a bit of the narcissist about him, but I let it be, figuring he was a writer and that's par for the course. I've told people his book on polyamory was concisely written and a good introduction. He has some odd ideas, see unification dot com. Not that we don't all have some odd ideas. But now, even if he wanted us back, I would be reluctant. Who knows, perhaps he is trying to cull all who would not be sycophants.

So, I'm checking out the Loving More yahoo group. And

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Meme in Q

Tom Paine, 270 year old poly-wannabe over at Polyamorously Perverse, has hit me with the meme for

Ten things that begin with Q (and when I follow his meme assignment, I find it is Ten things I love that begin with Q)

Q?!? I said. Then I remembered they don't all have to be words that will fit the letters I've drawn in Scrabble. Of course I can think of things I don't like that begin with Q: quizzes (most of the time); quagmires (especially the ones the dynasty heading our country gets us into); quakes (well, bad ones...I did like the ones I've experienced here in Oregon); quarantines; quarrels; quibbles, quicksand.

1. Quintessence: The pure, highly concentrated essence of a thing. I admit, the first word that popped into my head was quintessential. When steered me to quintessence, I knew I wanted the noun. I wonder how the hot new game 20Q (based on an old game of wits) would do with that one. It is the fifth essence, the spiritual underpinnings of the four ancient elements earth, air, fire, and water. It resurfaces as a word in physics, the hypothetical dark energy that could explain the observations of an accelerating universe. Do you think instead of God, we could start saying "quintessence?" The quintessence of life is love, I say.

2. Quips: Where are they when you need them? I enjoy a witty remark. I just rarely have them ready when the moment calls for one. I'm not so fond of the sarcastic family of quips, just the quick witted funny remarks.

(about time I got going with this, holidays are over, no more excuses...I admit I'm cheating some, couldn't think of these just by mulling...I need I turned to my handy Google searching.)

3. Quest: When I escaped Wisconsin and began attending college, I started realizing I didn't know who I was, really. Where did my own opinions come from? What opinions were my own, really? I remember saying to someone during those years that I'd realized I was on a quest to understand human nature. St. John's College does that to you, thankfully. I'm still on that quest. I understand a lot more about myself and others than I did then. People tell me I do pretty well with that, and I do trust my understanding. Still though, people are mysterious. Even while I might think I know motives, or could predict responses, the complexity will always be a surprise. So, the quest continues with the knowledge that experiencing human nature unfolds every moment, there is always some new discovery, and the key to getting to the heart of a person is loving action.

4. Quakes: As mentioned above, I don't like the bad ones. But so far I've experienced mild ones here in Oregon and they were fun, nobody killed. First, early 90s, felt like a rolling ship under me. Second, late 90s? I was working in the library and was embarrassed to think my chair was breaking under me. No, only a quake rolling the earth under me. Third, more recently, a big loud bang, like some giant clapped his hand down on our roof. I immediately checked the web at Steve's suggestion and found the epicenter was near Battleground, Washington. Fourth, like a big truck rumbling by, the slight shaking of the building that comes with that, epicenter close to Longview, Washington. With all, nary a picture fell off the wall. I'd heard I lived right along a fault on 21st Ave, but I can't tell from this map which one it is. Every once in a while we have to do an earthquake drill at work. I find these amusing, as every earthquake I've experienced has been shorter than the time it took for me to realize it was an earthquake. I imagine even the bigger ones will not give me the time to find that safe spot (which keeps changing. Doorways...yes, no. Desks...yes, no. Walls...yes, no. I think I'll just "duck and cover").

5. Quarks: Especially the charming and strange ones. I think. At this point my knowledge of them is purely a concept.

6. Quasars: Hmmm. I think Q brings out the science geek in me. Third science word in a row. Follow that link for cool geeky info on quasars.

7. Queer: Not a science word, a label, and a label that has been taken back proudly. I'm not very queer, sorta queer, would glad to be considered more in the queer camp than not.

(oh, I'm getting so close, but tired of sitting here cogitating. Damn you Thomas Paine. These are the times that try men's souls.) Ah yes, I had this one in mind, but forgot I had it in mind...the fuzzy-headed holidays intervened:

8. Questions: I learned early in my study of peaceful conflict management years ago that often people take questions as accusations, or as aggression. Too many questions make people think you're grilling them. I learned it is OK to ask questions, but to be keep a compassionate connection, keep the inflection low like a statement, rather than raise it up for a question. It's good to question. Question authority. Question habituated notions of self. It takes skill to ask questions, and to receive them gracefully. I welcome questions. I will often answer them even if uncomfortable. I tend to forget I don't have to answer every question posed to me.

9. qwerty: I like that the order of the letters became a word, first qwerty keyboard, now qwerty. I depend on qwerty, I never look at the keyboard to type.

OK, I quit. I've failed. I give up. No more memes please! I'm sorry I hit you with that one! I'm not sending this one on to anyone's too much like a quiz.

Maiden Voyage

It is a new year and I have a new computer. My beloved Steve shared his wealth with me by taking me shopping for a laptop for Christmas. (Yes, I am Buddhist and he is an uncommitted atheist, but we still celebrate the universal practice of giving.) A while back he'd asked me if I'd like a laptop. I said something like, "A laptop? Yeah, sure I could use one, I suppose." He took that to mean I wasn't particularly excited about the idea. But how do you respond to the prospect of an expensive gift when you don't concern yourself too much with having things? I started to think of the ways I could use the flexibility and mobility. Sometimes I spend a lot of time at my computer and I don't get out of the house all day. With a laptop, I could go to a neighborhood cafe and be among people, and stretch my legs with the walk to get there. As I am doing now, sitting in my favorite coffee shop (Stumptown), taking this my maiden voyage of blogging while sitting in public. A month or so after Steve asked me what I wanted for Christmas. "I thought you were getting me a laptop?" He said, "You didn't seem very excited about getting one." We dispelled that notion and now here I am.

I like my HP Pavilion dv6130, Intel inside of course, duo core processor. That stuff means more to Steve than to me, but what I like is the wide screen and the touch pad mouse. For those of you who care: Duo Processor T5200 (1.6GHz, 2MB L2 cache, 533 MHz FSB); 1024MB system memory; 120GB hard drive; LightScribe Super Multi 8X DVD R/RW drive with Double Layer support; Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950 with up to 128 MB shared video memory. (I only know that because it's right here below the keyboard.) I worried about the laptop mouse, thinking they looked so fragile and would wear out quickly, but this one has a metal pad. It's so easy to use the scroll bar on the side, and I've learned the easier way to use click-and-drag.

But enough boring electronics talk. A big thank you to my best friend and lover, my sweetest of sweeties. If we had to cut coupons and buy cheap beans to get by, he still would be the best, but it sure is nice not to have those worries, and to receive perks like this.

Let's see, what's been on my list to talk about? This is not my maiden voyage in a cafe, but first for blogging while out and about. My first wireless experience was Friday at Sckavone's. That's my day I get off work early. I hadn't felt hungry around lunchtime, but was ready for a veggie burger or something and they also have happy hour. I hardly ever drink, but sometimes the lark of the happy hour experience appeals to me more than the drinking itself. I noticed as I went to the fish store next door that Sckavone's now had wireless, so it all added up. Later it occurred to me that it's now perfectly acceptable for a person to be alone in such a place, it's not automatically seen as "Oh, how lonely." Now, all one needs is a laptop, and it's perfectly legitimate, really almost required, that you be alone. Not that I worried about such things anyway, but I thought here's yet another way in which computers connect us and bring us in a more public space, rather than than isolate us from each other.

Sometimes mysterious things happen with my new computer. My palm brushes the mousepad as I type, and suddenly the cursor is in a different spot. Or I think I'm nowhere near the pad, but the web page has suddenly scrolled to the bottom. On that day, when I connected to the wireless, my yahoo messenger logged in with me as visible. I never do that, have the settings on 'invisible' and rarely sign in. Once upon a time I did that stuff, and met some people online. They've apparently faithfully kept their eye on me, and I was promptly pounced upon by a young man from Chicago who's sent me dozens of offline messages over the past year or so "You online?" "You there?" I was flattered and while I meant to write some other email, decided to chat with him. A few minutes later somebody else found me too. Here I was trying to eat, telling the one he could talk to me but to be prepared for long silences, that I had stuff to do. Told the other I had stuff to do and made myself invisible again. T. in Chicago talked me into running my webcam. He only could because I wanted to try it out's right there at the top of the widescreen monitor. My food came, the webcam sucked my battery dry, and that ended the conversation, 1 hour online. Today I am testing the battery (but brought my cord) to see how long it lasts without webcam. 2 hours and still going.

So T. in Chicago is polyamorous and for some reason really wants me to be his long distance girlfriend. I'm bemused and baffled, why me? I don't know him, he doesn't know me, apparently doesn't read this (though maybe he does and pretends not to). Maybe it's a case of liking the chase. I've pretty much been uninterested in long distance friendships, much less ldrs. He used that term, ldr, and I had to ask what that meant, what with shuffling food, computer, vodka-spiked raspberry italian soda. I've replied several times to his offline messages, said that if he really wants to get in touch with me, he needs to email me. Hasn't yet. I don't understand why some people will never use email, only IM, unless there's something to hide. He was at work. Maybe that has something to do with it.

He tells me he wants to meet me, asks would I ever be in Chicago. In my slightly vodka-spiked state I tell him he is in luck, I have family in Wisconsin, and I wish to visit my Grandma more often as she nears the end of her life. Another present Steve gave me is an upgrade to my Art Museum membership. I now can go to several museums around the US without having to pay admission. When Steve gave it to me, he said, "Now when you travel, if you travel, you can go to these museums. Some of them cost a lot." And I said, "Well, maybe that will be a reason to travel." I've already been thinking of visiting Wisconsin again, my Grandma keeps asking. I could go to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, visit a friend of Steve's, and visit this insistent younger (16 years younger) man, and drive to Wisconsin for family.

I'm not so closed to the idea of a long distance relationship anymore. I still talk to my friend in New York. That's not quite what you could call a relationship, but I'm still waiting and seeing. I used to think an ldr would be expensive, that I didn't have time for such a distraction, that whether friend or lover, somebody that I could see close by was more worth my time. I've lost a lot of my judgements about love and the possibilities of love. Similar to my thoughts on monogamous thinking, I was judging ldrs with the same stamp of monogamous thinking. Maybe some relationships don't take so much effort, maybe some have short sharp bursts of flow, and long slow hidden waves of ebb. Ebb and flow can be very different for different interconnections. As I said to Steve, I've thought perhaps the reason why I persist with Mr. NY is that I don't have to be too serious. Rather than too expensive, an ldr can be an excuse to travel. I am thinking about visiting NY again despite the long plane many sights there I haven't seen, and maybe I could meet Mr. Paine, or even better, Mr. Paine and his lovely wife.

(time to plug in, 7% battery remaining. 2.75 hours on battery. Hmmm, suddenly the screen is brighter.)

I went to Darklady's Pirates and Ninja NYE party. Not all fun and games (though I did have fun, yes sir)...I got the cloakroom off to a good and orderly start, and met more of the volunteers. Have I mentioned before how gratified I am to witness the willingness of volunteers for these parties? Much harder to get such commitments with peace and Buddhist stuff. ....nothing like sex to unite us all. Make love not war! (I just noticed a guy reading the paper but actually trying to look up my skirt without me noticing.) I couldn't think of a costume, so I wore a sweet new top with see through and velour pattern and skirt, nothing under. I told people that when I can't think of a costume, half-naked works. They liked that. A young woman reminded me later, "Hey, it's the half-naked lady." There were a lot of beautiful big buxom women in kimonos, and dashing, randy pirates. It didn't occur to me I could just do something Japanese for the "Ninja" part. Not that I had something like that anyway. I got into a conversation with a couple of other Darklings about how we couldn't imagine going to a regular party or club on NYE anymore. "What, we can't get half-naked? What kind of boring party is this? Where's the play space?" What if we went and did that anyway? It's not illegal in Oregon, we discussed, just as long as we don't create a traffic hazard. Inside I knew though Darklady's party would still be it, may it live long, because as a large woman, I feel quite welcome and sexy at her parties, and I have made some good friends I could count on in hard times. Oh, and for hard times....