strangecharm: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
Sunday, November 29th, 2015 02:51 pm
Right now I'm sending love to the Portuguese woman on the bus who got accosted by an old guy who wanted to talk to her about Nando's.

I recognized how difficult those polite shrugs and vaguely bemused smiles can be. I recognized something in her face and her body language as she had to keep giving answers "yes, piri means hot...piri piri doesn't mean anything, we'd never say that" and "I think it's owned by a South African...it's a South African thing...SOUTH AFRICA" answers are to give, when someone's grabbed onto one thing they think they know about your country and just will not stop.

They ask questions that have no answers -- the questions make all kinds of incorrect assumptions -- but you still have to answer anyway.

I wasn't able to intervene on the crowded bus, but I wanted to. I hope somehow psychically she knew I was sympathizing and it did her some good.
strangecharm: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
Tuesday, November 24th, 2015 01:35 pm
Ten years ago my brother died.

It was in the early hours of the morning on Thanksgiving. He'd been out with friends for a drink, because all his old high school buddies were back in town for the holiday. It was only five miles drive home.

He wasn't drunk, the roads weren't bad, the weather wasn't bad. It was just one of those things.

It bugs me that almost no one I know now ever got the chance to meet him. My life has changed so much that it feels completely disconnected, and I'm going around mourning something no one else understands, a holiday they don't even here, something that I've never really known how to deal with.

I don't have a lot of words, but I scanned and uploaded some pictures a day or two after he died, when we were getting a collection of them together to be shown at the visitation and funeral. Here they are, with what I said about them to my LJ audience in 2005.

Read more... )
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Sunday, November 22nd, 2015 08:27 pm

[twitter.com profile] cybermango made the good point following up to that that this is the UK reaction to most American things, at least in the abstract.

I am so aware that there are worse stereotypes and worse discrimination that I hate to even mention this kind of thing, but it really does upset me. People finding American politics "wacky" while I'm fretting over my aging parents, my queer friends, my friends of color in full-on panic at the state of everything these days...I can't handle that being anyone's entertainment, even in the abstract.
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Saturday, November 21st, 2015 10:30 am
Mornings used to be the part of the day I'd thrive on. Now they're the most difficult.

I don't feel like myself myself any more. I don't recognize me.
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Wednesday, November 18th, 2015 02:04 pm
  1. All of my bras.*
  2. Not wearing a bra.
* Yes, I've ordered some new ones!
strangecharm: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015 09:59 pm
+ I ordered myself some much-needed clothes online. New trousers like the ones I have, and a bright red duffle coat.

- The process of paying for stuff online was so stressful it reminded me why I never do this.

- I don't seem capable of normal, proportionate responses to situational anxiety lately: at the slightest provocation my body goes into full-on attack mode, which the last two days has left me in pain and exhausted before breakfast-time.

- I determined from this I really should go back to the GP to seek out something for my anxiety.

+ I was able to help out friends with a childcare emergency thanks to their toddler being too ill to go to nursery. She was well enough to demand repeated book-readings and throw all her toys over the floor though. I had fun with her and was glad to be useful.

- I was gone longer than I planned to be, so didn't get around to calling the GP today.

+ The weird "edible bouquet" of fruit carved into the shape of flowers, that my mom praised when someone else had one a while ago, has been ordered and will be delivered for her birthday.

- Andrew had to call up the florist because I didn't have the spoons to.

+ Andrew knew to offer because it wouldn't get done otherwise.

+ He also brought me home a ready meal because by this point I was way too tired to make myself dinner.

- I was too tired to make myself dinner because I'd had a couple more anxiety attacks about stupid things this evening (most of the time I'd spent babysitting, I spent convinced I'd left the back door unlocked and I'd return to a house devoid of valuables; of course I got home to find I'd done no such thing...and then I freaked out because the damn dog disappeared as soon as I returned even though I knew he had to be somewhere in the house; of course he'd trapped himself in the spare room, where he was not supposed to be, by being unable to understand doors). It's so frustrating to be debilitated by things I know aren't worth the effect they have on me.

- I ended up having a stupid facebook conversation with someone I know will never learn to stop being a clueless well-intentioned bigot.

+ I did help the mutual friend whose facebook we were arguing on deal with the situation thus caused.

--- I found out I have another bloody meeting on Thursday afternoon, so it's looking gloomy for me being able to see [personal profile] magister before I'm away for the weekend.

+ I'm away for the weekend! A much-needed little break from this daily grind.

So many things...
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Sunday, November 1st, 2015 08:49 pm


Ten fucking years it'll be, in a few weeks, since my brother died.

One of the things I cried about, soon after when all I did was cry, was that I knew this day would come. That a year, then two years, then five then ten...probably twenty and thirty, hopefully forty and fifty...hell with medical advances who knows how many milestone I'll live through? I knew it wouldn't always hurt as much as it did then. And it hurt all the more then, for the consciousness that it wouldn't always hurt so much.

And it doesn't. It can't. Much as it feels like it, the strength of feeling isn't the only indication of the importance of a person. At first the grief is so intense it washes out everything else -- even memory, for me -- but our bodies are not capable of keeping that intensity up indefinitely. Practicalities assert themselves, stray thoughts return, your personality starts to assert itself again after being subsumed like everything else about your life. Eventually you can even get bored.

And gradually you don't wake up crying from quite so many dreams of him. One day you are introduced to someone with his name and you don't visibly wince.

After a long time, the balance tips and it's more remarkable when you are affected by things than when you aren't. When a song on the radio makes your lower lip quiver, when you feel bad at a fleeting moment of jealousy you had about someone else talking about their adult relationships with their own siblings, when someone ask you that innocuous small-talk question "do you have brothers and sisters?" and you have to try not to make the ensuing conversation too dark.

Sometimes now I do feel bad for not feeling bad more, or more often, or in the right way, or something. Sometimes I hate that hardly anyone important to me, outside my family anyway, ever even met my brother. Sometimes I worry that he's become a story, an abstract sketch of youth and loss, rather than someone I never felt I really got to know as a person. Sometimes I feel so damn lonely, having to face my parents aging on my own with no one to call up to compare notes, seek opinion, ask questions, answer questions, fight, keep secrets from our parents with (will they ever know that I don't think they raised any heterosexual children?), wade through the legal stuff when they can't stay on the farm any more...

Anyway, all that is to digress. All I was gonna sa is that it's been ten years, and my mom wants me to write a little verse for their local paper again, and I assured her I would, but I don't have anything I can say -- to that audience. It needs small words and nothing too...demonstrative. This kind of language I'm using here would be baffling and unhelpful to my parents, and small-town Minnesota.

Hell, I couldn't even think of anything when it'd only been five years. Only half as long.
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Monday, October 26th, 2015 10:27 am
Me: "No, Tories who want to leave the EU, you can't follow me on Twitter."

Andrew: "Just tell them you leave the EU every Christmas and every summer; it's always a good thing to come back!"
strangecharm: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
Wednesday, October 21st, 2015 06:44 pm
Andrew shared this review of a book, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, that neither of us have read yet but which both of us are probably more keen on getting around to now. Not just because it sounds like a good book -- it does, but there are so many good books. What makes this one stand out, according to this review, is that it's a nice book. It's not a grimdark dystopia. It's not about a bunch of assholes. It's not an epic series of wars and peril and high body counts. The worldbuilding isn't overbearing tedious entries from an RPG sourcebook but natural and on a human scale: about people's jobs, hobbies food, and so on. Difficulties and even death aren't absent, but they also aren't so common as to be numbing. As the reviewer says, "Numb, I’ve come to realize, is what most modern SF leaves me feeling."

All the things about this book that end up making it seem remarkable in this review say a lot more about what we expect from science fiction now than about this book itself.

It reminds me of something I realized a couple of weeks ago, while watching one of the Dalek episodes, and increasingly whenever I've thought about Doctor Who since. As well as the new Doctor Who, I subsist on a steady diet of Big Finish and old TV stuff too, and I think especially since I've been working my way through the Hornet's Nest stories again, which is Tom Baker at his handwavy, confident, frustrating best, I'm finding all this stuff on telly a bit weird. For one thin I'm sick of "this time the Doctor's gonna die, for real!" (Andrew and James and I happened to catch the last episode or two of Matt Smith's Doctor over the weekend, and all that was about him definitely being about to die forever too, and I just felt weighed down by it, and by how long this has been going on, how interchanageable it all seems, how quickly I get impatient with it because it's tedious and it's tedious because I know it isn't really going to happen that way, so I feel as if I'm always looking over the shoulders of the people earnestly trying to tell me these things, to see when the real story is going to come along.) And I think near the beginning of this series Missy tells the Doctor "You've always been running," i.e. since he left Gallifrey, and my brain just rebels at that idea. The Doctor I'm used to has adventures and gets in scrapes! He's not running away, he's bimbling along. I feel like this repeated assertion that he's always been on the run and he's always about to die are not only getting old real quick but are fundamentally trying to alter the character I recognize as the Doctor, and this is frustrating and, actually yes sometimes anxious-making for me. The Doctor is a unique character, and I fear this kind of thing will make him too much like everybody else. Everybody in this grimdark modern SF.

The genuinely poor effect this kind of thing can have on my mental health brings me to what I thought was the most powerful part of this review of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet: where the reviewer says,
What depresses me–

And when I say “depresses” I don’t mean “I don’t want to think about this stuff,” I mean I’ve come to realize many novels I’ve tried to read have literally not been good for my mental health–
In my case, I think it's been true for more than novels. I think I first noticed this with I Claudius, actually. That was the first time I caught myself thinking this is just about horrible things happening to horrible people...

...and I don't have to keep going with it.
Like most epiphanies, it sounds dumb and obvious when reduced to language, but it was kind of a big deal for me. I'm exposed to a lot of knowledgeable, interesting commentary on movies, TV and books thanks to my friends. Moving to another country and my friendship circles just generally expanding expanding I get older has left me with a ton of things I'd like to understand better. But I've had to learn that some of it I just don't have the...well, the cliché would be to say "the stomach for," but my stomach's fine; I don't have the constitution for a lot of things.

Things like Game of Thrones, which sometimes left friends of mine in such a poor mental state I wished GoT were a person so I could punch it, which I saw strangers in cafés bonding over how harrowing they'd found the most recent episode, were about as appealing to me as setting my own hair on fire. High fantasy isn't really my thing anyway, but to be opting against it for reasons of self-preservation felt weird.

I worried it was just me. Inarticulate concerns that I might just be getting "timid" or "weak" in my old age also sound silly when I find words for them, but they felt real and worrisome. Seeing someone else say that stories they've tried to enjoy have actually been bad for them is...well, I'm sorry it's happened because it's no fun, but I'm glad to realize that I might not just be an increasingly-fragile human being, but that I am ageing into an era in which the genres often most looked-to for escapism -- SF and fantasy -- are instead making grimdark dystopias fashionable.

So this has been a terribly useful review to read, for me as a person, which is a lot more than I expect from a book review! And The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet has shot up to a high priority for me to get around to reading!
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Tuesday, October 20th, 2015 09:24 am
me: I've already been "doctor-who-fan-splained" at this morning, which was entertaining. Apparently I'm wrong cos I'm not "a life-long fan since episode 1" like this guy is. Of course he's called Andrew, too. [I included this because it amused me, having listened to Andrew -- the usual one -- and James talk about different things that one or both of them liked (TV, bands, films) all of which seemed to have exhaustive books published on them by someone who was disproportionately-often called Andrew.]

[personal profile] magister So what were you wrong about?

me: My jokey thing about how Time Peers is a better name for them than Time Lords cos it's gender-neutral. Apparently Time Lords is already neutral because the inquisitor in Trial of a Time Lord, etc.etc. yawn. But then I reminded him that Missy corrected someone the other week who called her a Time Lord and Romana calls herself a Time Lady too.

me: He especially irked me cos the original post was my friend Chella saying "I would love to play The Doctor one day, but as long as Moffatt is in charge, I'll automatically be cast as one of his interchangeable pointy-faced older brunette nemesis crone vixens." Whether that's fair or not, it's clear women need progress among human writers of Who at least as much as we need in-story progress among Gallifreyans. But I don't think the Andrew could understand that.

[personal profile] magister Don't think the Inquisitor is ever referred to as either time lord or time lady - not sure it's ever specified one way or the other. Anyway, it's 6 years into the programme before the term time lord appears and then another 9 years before you see one who isn't male, so not sure what difference watching since 1963 makes.

me: Andrew said too that he didn't think she was ever called a time lord or lady. I think it's telling that this other Andrew just assumed/remembers it that way.

[personal profile] magister Yeah. There's nothing to disprove his theory, therefore he assumes it supports him.
strangecharm: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
Tuesday, October 20th, 2015 08:10 am
My crash course in Canadian politics courtesy of Plok continues (it was more fun in the freezing Blue Bell beer garden last November, but e-mail will do while we're 6,000 miles apart), this morning updating me on the context for the election results. Canada sounds like a pretty good place to be right now! But since me and mine are elsewhere, I was hoping by the time I was halfway through his e-mail that basically what he said at the end of it would come to be:
Anyway, it is my happiness to say that insignificant Canada has maybe been here a bit like Bilbo talking aloud to the ravens so that one day soon one of your Bard-like countries can successfully plant an arrow in Smaug's heart. Y'know?

Like: you could say "look at Canada, Canada's FINE, Canada's doing BETTER THAN EVER, for God's sake Canada just repaired all its *roads*...!"

Anyway that's the hope.

Good morning!
strangecharm: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
Wednesday, October 14th, 2015 08:56 pm
...you borrow a jumper that has holes cut at the end of the sleeves you can put your thumbs through, and after a couple of days of this keeping your hands much warmer than usual you wish such alterations were available on the NHS so all your jumpers could keep your hands cozy.

...after turning off your lightbox, you notice it's hot but not so much it can't be touched so you rest your hands on it a while to warm them up (yay for seasonal disorders! this is the worst time of year for me in so many ways).

...you do the dishes just because it's an excuse to put your hands in hot water.
strangecharm: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
Wednesday, October 14th, 2015 07:26 am
I just slept for twelve hours. I hope that makes today a bit easier than recent days have been.

I'm bored with everything being a struggle.
strangecharm: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
Tuesday, October 13th, 2015 04:44 pm
As the weather gets cold, I realized that almost all my tights are so full of holes their very structural integrity is threatened.

And I must have put all my leggings away somewhere safe because I have no idea where they are and haven't spotted them in any of my many attempts at re-organizing the bedroom.

There are only two pairs of trousers I'm really happy wearing these days.

The pair of shoes I wear almost every day are falling apart beyond the ability of super glue to fix them.

One of my bras broke yesterday and the old faithful one I'm wearing today is starting to hurt and pinch so I imagine it's not long for this world.

All of which adds up to the disgusting yet unavoidable conclusion that I'll have to go clothes shopping soon. Which I hate so much, but I'm clearly going to be uncomfortable until I do!
strangecharm: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
Sunday, October 11th, 2015 01:20 pm
I realized the other day, as you do on a bus when you aren't thinking of anything much, that it's almost exactly a year from now that my U.S. passport, the one I got soon after I moved here, expires. For years I'd been hoping that, by the time I had to replace that one, I'd have a British one to go along with it.

For various logistical and personal reasons, it'll make my life substantially better if I can get British citizenship by about this time next year.

I was and remain immensely grateful for and touched by all my friends' offers of setting up and contributing to a crowdfunding thing to pay my fees for applying for British citizenship, even though I had to turn them down because Andrew wasn't comfortable taking money from our friends.

But he came up with a solution that sounds like fun. He'd feel much better about my getting the money from people if I sing for my supper, and suggests I write a book about being an immigrant and all that kind of thing. Which I'm happy to do anyway, because I'm still faced with a lot of surprise that I didn't automatically become a citizen when I married a British person and similar huge misconceptions about how the UK treats non-EU immigrants.

I've already written a lot of stuff about this of course, and I'm going to look into what of that I can re-purpose for a book, as well as adding in other stuff I never wrote about and whatever else needs to be part of the story, like some of Andrew's incandescent responses to immigration rhetoric, and other immigrants from outside the EU if they'd like to share a bit of their stories too: this is about a lot more than my story and I'm aware that compared to many I've had a very easy time of it despite feeling mentally, emotionally and financially hollowed out by the whole process. Which of course is not over yet.

Andrew's done a Kickstarter for one of his own books, and has kindly agreed to sort out all that side of it out for me, and I will let interested people know more about this as soon as I can.

In the meantime, he says he's happy to start setting that up today, but he needs "a title and a picture" first. Not necessarily a title for the book, he says, but for the project. "Like, 'Holly's Immigration Adventure,' or 'My Struggle.' " Neither of those seems quite right to me (too jolly, too fascist) but my own best idea so far is 'Baroness of the Moon' which I don't think is very good, either.

So, feel free to help crowdsource the title too!
strangecharm: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
Tuesday, October 6th, 2015 09:58 am
...you have a dream about randomly snogging one of your friends (the kind where even in the dream it makes no sense and upon waking you feel a bit like you should apologize to your friend for your subconscious) and then in the dream you ask them "What does this mean?" and they start talking about how to talk about this with all the existing partners.

strangecharm: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
Monday, October 5th, 2015 01:32 am
Completely coincidentally, but I like to think in compensation for the fact that last year's randomly-chosen birthday gift from Andrew's wishlist was something horribly Monkees-related, his present this year included CDs of The Nest Cottage Chronicles, the first of which, Hornet's Nest, is a Doctor Who story that's loomed large in my mind for a few reasons.

First, it's a Fourth Doctor one, and there's a lot to love about those. I love listening to Tom Baker telling me stories (I've got a version of him reading "A Christmas Carol" that I listen to every year, even though it always makes me cry and I hate crying). He's joined here by the marvelous Susan Jameson, whose Mrs. Wibbsey is a perfect foil to the whimsical, adventurous Doctor.

Next, it was something Andrew bought as mp3s ages ago, but some of the mp3s got lost in the computer at some point, including the first story of Hornet's Nest which left me less inclined to listen to the ones we did still have. Seeing the "Hornet's Nest" folder on my computer every time I look at the Doctor Who audios -- which is often! -- always left me with a little twinge of annoyed sadness, so it's lovely to have the complete set of something I've been missing s much.

And third, it's written by Paul Magrs. At the time I first heard it I don't think this meant anything to me, but it was probably one reason Andrew included him in a trio of Doctor Who writers I liked without knowing it. He's been subscribing to Big Finish for years, and I gradually got more keen on being in the room when he was listening to the stories, but my interest never went any further than that so I never knew who wrote what. But it seemed there were patterns in what I told him I liked, some writers kept turning up, so he was able to say, "You like Jac Rayner, Paul Magrs and Nev Fountain."

Only much later than that did I learn Paul Magrs lived in Manchester, and later than that that he lived in Levenshulme. Andrew said he saw him at Levy train station one day, but didn't want to go say hello in the fannish way.

But since Andrew's bizarre means of introducing himself when he was telling at what turned out to be their polling station -- Paul and his partner asked who Andrew was after he asked if he could see their polling cards and Andrew said "I'm a writer with Obverse Books," the publisher of his Doctor Who spinoff spinoff novel, also one that Paul's worked with and is friends with the people in charge. And then we met Paul for coffee to get him to sign one of his books as a present for Alex and Richard's wedding, and we've been out with him and sometimes his partner to the pub a few times since. So now I have to remind myself that the smiley interesting person I know is the same one who's written books I've read since, which I find surprisingly difficult! I'm not used to this, I guess.

I do really like his writing style, even if it has to be in an entirely different part of my brain from the part that really likes him. He's got a knack for descriptions that seem very vivid and evocative, his characters are easy to empathize with even when they appear to be the baddies. I had bizarrely (for me) vivid memories of some of the moments in Hornet's Nest -- the frenzied dancing on a dark stormy seaside pier, miniaturized in the dollhouse, and the eerie taxidermied animals -- long after the vagaries of computer storage meant I couldn't listen to them any more.

Best of all, though, was a line that actually made me laugh out loud and comment upon I when I first heard it. Dealing with one of the aforementioned creepy taxidermied animals, the Doctor says "I cut open the badger's brain with very tiny brain-scissors." Such a Doctor-y thing, scissors for all occasions and eventualities! And of course Tom Baker delivers the line in his matter-of-fact way that ensures any question of how silly or surreal it might be evaporates in the throat before it can be uttered. It's stuck with me as an epitome of what I expect from the Doctor.

I've listened to the first story again tonight -- the one with the brain-scissors, and it's as least as delightful as I remembered: it's a story that acknowledges that time has passed for its companion (no-longer-Captain Yates) but takes for granted that the Doctor is the same despite having been elsewhere for a long time -- Yates says he's heard that the Doctor "had changed, and then changed again" but here he is, without explanation, just as he was when Yates was a much younger man. My subject line here is something Yates says to the Doctor, almost accusingly, as he's trying to come to terms with this. I really like that; it's easy to understand why Doctor Who doesn't make as much as I wish it would of the implications of its time-travelling hero: only one actor is going to play the Doctor on the television at a time, but this is one of the constraints audio stories (and, even more so, books) need not have. But even then, most of the audios feature stories as if they were in continuous fashion, not with the long break here that sets this story off in a slightly disconcerting way that works really well for the eerie, grim story that we're about to be told.

The story's set near Christmas -- it actually starts on my birthday -- and there's something claustrophobic about these shortest days of the year, something unsettling about this time of year when life is outside its normal boundaries -- liminal, my academic friends would say, where the usual rules don't apply and things that are usually not allowed may even be encouraged.

No spoilers, because I hope you all go listen to the story now.
strangecharm: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
Sunday, October 4th, 2015 01:16 am
This is a good point, but its use of "blind" to mean "doesn't know/doesn't care" about something did made me laugh.

It's used as a parallel to the I-don't-see-race type of "colorblindness," which is not a stance that -- however well-meaning -- supports the racist status quo but also bugs me because it is using "blind" in this sense of ignorant/uncaring.

A lot of our language does this: we talk about people being "blind to the consequences of their actions," or even "double-blind" scientific trials, where "blind" always means someone doesn't know or doesn't care about something.

Obviously there are far bigger problems in ableism, including the one written about here (though whether autism should rightly be considered a "disability" as such is a whole other can of worms I won't call up because I can't put it down). But the words we use are important in subtly shaping how we think, and what we think there is to think about.

I swear, everyone who thinks they have to get right up in my face and ask "do you know where you're going?" when I'm at a bus stop, everyone who thinks they can sneak in front of me in the queue, everyone who's amazed I choose my hair and my clothes to look the way the do, everyone who addresses questions to the person I'm with rather than me directly, has been influenced by this kind of metaphorical thinking that blindness implies ignorance or apathy.

But anyway, there's nothing except the title here that mentions any of that, and it is making some good points about how pretending autistic people aren't autistic is the opposite of the kindness some well-intentioned people believe it to be. Frankly, most of the autistic people I know think it's better than being neurotypical, or at least it would be if we stopped imposing our neurotypicality on them.