One of the reasons I stick around Livejournal (aside from pure laziness) despite its myriad issues and the ongoing spamming is the Great
community, where members post various poems that have inspired or amused them. I'm familiar with most of the poems and poets, but not all, and every once in awhile, the community introduces me to someone I have inexplicably completely overlooked. As in this week, where someone posted this poem from poet Alice Duer Miller:

What Every Woman Must Not Say

“I don’t pretend I’m clever,” he remarked, “or very wise,”
And at this she murmured, “Really,” with the right polite surprise.

“But women,” he continued, “I must own I understand;
Women are a contradiction—honorable and underhand—

Constant as the star Polaris, yet as changeable as Fate,
Always flying what they long for, always seeking what they hate.”

“Don’t you think,” began the lady, but he cut her short: “I see
That you take it personally—women always do,” said he.

“You will pardon me for saying every woman is the same,
Always greedy for approval, always sensitive to blame;

Sweet and passionate are women; weak in mind, though strong in soul;
Even you admit, I fancy, that they have no self-control?”

No, I don’t admit they haven’t,” said the patient lady then,
“Or they could not sit and listen to the nonsense talked by men.”
The poem cracked me up, so I did a bit of internet hunting and discovered that Guterberg had posted an entire book of her satirical poems on women, voting, and elections. The great -- or depressing -- part of this is just how much of these poems, published, if Wikipedia is correct, in 1915, still ring true nearly one hundred years later, but many of them still made me laugh out loud, so I thought I'd pass the link along.

In other news still feeling exhausted this week, which in turn seems to be slowing down all of my words and turning what I want to say into mush, quite unlike Miller's crisp satire.
Over at Black Gate a commentator whined, among other things, that "… fantasy fiction is in desperate need of is good adventure stories free of contemporary politics. There is no shortage of politically driven fiction of varying quality."
Ordinarily, given some of the other things this commentator said, I'd ignore this, but I keep seeing people bring this up, and it makes me want to scream. Or, you know, blog.

Look, almost all art, or attempted art, is, on some level, political in nature – even if unconsciously so.

Let's start, for example, with a very quick look at Hollywood films set in the medieval era. (I know. Calling many of these "art" is a stretch, but I'm using "art" in the sense of something created by a human for decorative or pleasurable, as opposed to purely functional, purposes, i.e, music, paintings, film, fiction, poetry, and so on. It's not the best of definitions, but go with me for a bit here, at least for this post.) Nearly every single one of these films has something in common: it features at least one, and usually several, aristocrats who have become utterly corrupted by power, often to the point where they have become physically corrupted (Braveheart, with its two elderly male rulers literally rotting to death, is the best example of this, but the trope appears everywhere.) Frequently at least one or two younger, good looking characters stomp around talking about how we all have to think for ourselves, making nasty comments about aristocrats, and delivering stirring speeches about the importance of independence. Aristocracy, state these films firmly, is inherently evil, so evil that it will make nearly everyone associated with it evil as well.

Here's the problem: this does not, in any way, shape or form, represent widely-held political thought in the medieval era.

Medievals certainly revolted – usually over taxes, or food issues, or religious concerns – and certainly hated various specific kings/monarchs/authority figures. But the general idea of the aristocracy being inherently corrupt, a system that inevitably leads to evil, was not universally held. Rather, many (not all) medieval argued that the aristocratic system was divinely inspired, ordained by God, and part of the natural order: coming from God, the aristocratic system was inherently good, and only the flaws and failures of men turned it to evil. Many believed that the very act of revolting against an authority figure was in itself evil, since this meant going against something ordained by God. True, many people making this argument were themselves authority figures, but this argument was still made. Then as now, not everybody believed the same thing, and I certainly doubt that everyone in the Middle Ages believed in the divine right of kings, but, in general, medievals were not, as a group, running around shouting for political freedom and independence.

And yet this trope shows up in all major, studio-backed, American films depicting the medieval era – serious, silly, with dragons, without dragons. (I'm being specific here, because this trope appears in some but not all European/Japanese films depicting the medieval era.) The trope is so strong that even The Lord of the Rings films, based on a British book that did not contain this idea (Tolkien certainly believed that the world was flawed, yes, but not that the aristocracy was any more flawed by virtue of being aristocrats than the typical hobbit; both the aristocratic Boromir and the middle-class Frodo fail.)

And I honestly cannot imagine a Hollywood film attempting to argue for the divine right of kings,

Now, is anyone who sits down to write a silly script featuring a dragon really considering the political implications of the script? Certainly not (although some screenwriters and directors are equally certainly more overtly politically conscious – again, Braveheart -- than others). But, simply because that screenwriter lives in a place where democracy is considered the least evil of the various political systems out there, and because, post the 20th century in general, we have become all too aware of the evils that can follow in the wake of political leaders, that screenwriter is not going to be presenting a positive image of a monarchy/theocracy, even in a script that presents us with a heroic prince/princess.

Contemporary culture seeps into anything a writer/artist/musician creates, whether the creator is reacting to/against this culture, or going against it. This is as true for the dregs of "popular" fiction/movies as for the more "literary" stuff out there (I'm putting this in quote marks because I find these definitions questionable.) Another example from the decidedly low end of the artistic scale: back in the 1970s/early 80s Harlequin/Boons & Mill published several romance novels featuring the woman moaning, "No, no, no," while the romantic hero overpowered her cries of protest and took her to bed – in a reflection of the then-held belief that when women said, "no," they really meant "yes." Harlequin has largely backed off from publishing this sort of thing, largely because now, we have more of a recognition that when women say "no," they really mean "no." (Still not universally held even in the U.S., but we're moving more in that direction.)

Whether art is reinforcing our beliefs, or challenging them (and I like both types, just to be clear – well, not the above referenced Harlequins, but that's another story), it is still created in the context of those beliefs. Expressly political or not, silly or serious, "literary" or "popular," that culture is still there.

And, well, ok, this might be just me, but as a writer, I know that sometimes a discussion about politics or culture does spark a little worm in my brain and ends up as a story – often something that doesn't necessarily seem that related to the original conversation at all. (The most extreme example of this, in my case, is Bonfire and pearls, which partly came from my wanting to write a selkie story and partly from a seemingly completely unrelated conversation about iTunes, ebooks and electronic downloads, which got me thinking about how we pay for art and things, which….led into a seemingly unrelated selkie story. Selkies never came up in the original conversation, but that doesn't mean that parts of the original conversation didn't slide into the selkie story, which, I'll note, doesn't mention iTunes, ebooks and electronic downloads.)

Feel free to ask for silly art, for adventure art, for things that don't seem to have a political agenda. But asking for purely non-political stuff, that doesn't react to or agree with contemporary culture? Not going to happen. Art isn't created in a vacuum.
Last night, Christian activist and anti-porn and masturbation crusader Christine O'Donnell won a Republican primary in Delaware. Suddenly, the U.S. rose to attention (ahem) and remembered that Delaware is actually a state, and not just an awesome place for banks to hide rapacious credit card practices.

I agree with Balloon-juice that we can celebrate this victory in only one way:

In other news, we went ahead and did early voting again today.

Same place as when I last did early voting - the West Oaks library over in Ocoee, near a combined Baskin-Robbins/Dunkin Donuts that seemed to be yelling, quite loudly, "Come! Eat us!" We actually managed to resist the call. (Mostly because you can't take ice cream into the library.)

Quite a contrast from the last time, which was early voting for a presidential election, with lines stretching way, way outside and up a hill and everyone eager and excited. This time, the number of volunteers about equaled the number of voters, and everyone except the volunteers seemed kinda depressed. (In my own case part of this was from realizing yet again that the West Oak library does a much better job of organizing DVDs than the Winter Garden branch does. )

Afterwards, I put on my little "I voted" sticker, and ran into a Potential Voter.

"There's an election today?" she exclaimed.

"Well, early voting," we explained. "The actual election is Tuesday."

"Wow," she said. "I didn't hear about it. So...who do you think I should vote for?"

Since this was primarily a primary election (I'm a registered non-partisan, but showed up for the supposedly non-partisan Orange County Mayor vote since that's all about the bus system) and I had no idea what party she was registered for, this was a slightly difficult question to answer, especially, as it turned out, she was unaware that yes, yes, Florida will be voting in a new senator and governor this year. I went with, "Anyone but Rick Scott," (who may be running the most irritating and offensive television ads, bar none, that I've seen in a history of excessively irritating and offensive television ads).

"I'm really interested in education," she told us.

"Well, most politicians will at least say they're interested in education," said my brother.

Did I mention that in this election, which she was unaware of, we are also voting in new members of the (generally irritating) Orange County School Board?


Jul. 7th, 2010 03:55 pm
Not to anyone's real surprise, Hawaii's governor vetoes same-sex civil unions. Somewhat to people's real surprise, her reasoning:
"It would be a mistake to allow a decision of this magnitude to be made by one individual or a small group of elected officials," she said.
Really? Because I was under the impression that making decisions like this was precisely what government was elected to do. I say this as someone who generally vehemently disagrees with much of what small groups of elected or appointed officials actually decide, and as someone frustrated by the general U.S. tendency to return incumbents to Congress every year even when the general U.S. tendency is to think said incumbents are a group of incompetent loons, but, still.
So as a few of you may have heard, the Republican Party made an admirable attempt to solicit the opinions of Normal Dudes Just Like You on their website, asking for thoughts on a number of topics.

They did not, it appears, reckon on the internet. Here are some responses from the site, copied over before they disappear:

On National Security:

We need to train an army of Ninja Cats. Cats are natural born hunters and predators, and it is known that they indeed have 9 lives, many more than the typical human life (being one). They are also excellent at hiding themselves and would be ideal for sneaking into countries and assassinating communist leaders to lessen the ever growing threat of communism, finding key terrorist leaders and shattering the global terrorist network. In fact they could be potentially useful in the current Korean crisis. Loyal to their trainers, the cats could rain destruction and fear throughout the world, and if ever captured would never tell who they are serving. Finally, after they have solved the worlds problems, they could serve as border patrol and show unflinching resolve at keeping illegals where the...

Enforce the grammatical rules of the English language. Setup an organization, the Grammar Enforcement Agency (GEA) to do this, and fund them well. Bad grammar is a threat to our national security, and is only succeeding in making us appear worthless and uneducated in the face of other English speaking nations.

We should put up a sonic fence around the US like on Lost. If it can keep out smoke monsters, it might work on Mexicans

I think all americans should bathe in Nuclear Waste. This has been shown to be an effective tactic in the past of transforming the human body into something more powerful and superhuman. With a nation of powerful mutants, not only would we prevent ourselves from being invaded, we would have a wildly powerful offense with millions able to fly, shoot lasers from their eyes and take bullets. Ninja Cats would still prove to be a problem.


On job creation:

Americans need equal access to unicorns and rainbows to overcome barriers in the pursuit of sparkly happiness. Traditionally, unicorns have been too rare to truly impact the world and rainbows are too tied to occurrences in nature. Recent technological advances however make these limitations part of our dark past. The democratization of unicorns and rainbows is crucial for the US to be a major player as a world happiness leader in the future. Let the US be a shining light for the world, and let the shining light come from a the horn of a unicorn and sparkle in all colors of the rainbow.

On marine biology:

A "teacher" told my child in class that dolphins were mammals and not fish! And the same thing about whales! We need TRADITIONAL VALUES in all areas of education. If it swims in the water, it is a FISH. Period! End of Story.

And, the winner:

We need to ensure that the Republicans never give us up, let us down, run around or desert us.


More at the site, but be warned: it's crashing under the delighted visits of people having fun with this.


I think we've all learned a valuable lesson here. Although I must question the actual loyalty of the Ninja cats.
Boos! Impressions of the British election:

Ok, the mention of the Monster Raving Loony Party, along with the picture, led me to start watching the BBC feed through the New York Times. I came in late and missed bits, so, my vague impressions:

1. I LOVE the way the British announce their results. If you missed it, it goes like this: all of the candidates – no matter how minor – all stand on a stage, and then somebody else reads out the vote totals and then everybody yells and boos and then all of the candidates politely and cheerfully shake hands. We so need to do this here. Complete with the boos.

2. 11:30 PM, U.S. East Coast, 4:30 am London, BBC is predicting a hung parliament. "And that doesn't get you very far, does it?" This is what goes wrong when you are trying to do journalism at 4:30 in the morning.

3. 11:33 the BBC asks Jack Straw, "Who's running this country?" Jack Straw has to repeat the question and then reassure us that Gordon Brown is on a plane and we will see from there. The BBC does not know how to handle this. Jack Straw assures us that there won't be a challenge to Gordon Brown.

I still think Cameron should be a duke, not a prime minister. Maybe he should have a long talk with the Queen.

4. 11:35 pm East Coast, 4:35 am London We hear that 75 people voted for the Nobody party. I approve of this. Nobody boos him.

11:36 pm We learn just why you should never, ever, attempt to expense your porn film expenses. Especially to the British government.

11: 50 pm Another candidate thing comes up. "PLEASE BOO!" I say. On cue, the Labour results are announced and BOO! BOO!

Insufficiently though.

This is followed by someone on the BBC uttering the very unfortunate phrase "decapitate Ed Balls," which I initially completely misunderstand.

11:56 pm The BBC shows us Big Ben dripping with Big Ribbons. I approve.

11:56:30 pm And then sadly says, "We need a government. We really need a government." It is a very sad moment but at least Big Ben looks pretty good with the ribbons.

11:59 pm The BBC mourns their inability to tell us anything.

12:05 am The BBC mourns that it may never, ever sleep, after an interview with a Lord Ashcroft that almost puts me to sleep.

12:09 am The BBC is almost desperate to find out what 's going on and who is running the country. One would think that this is the sort of thing that the BBC should be telling us.

12:10 am I assume the Queen sleeps through this sort of thing, right? Or maybe she's indulging in some insomnia and wishing she had a government with people who weren't saying things like "I'm not sure what's happening."

12:12 am The BBC tries to make the radical argument that the party that wins the most seats ought to have a chance to run the country. Ed Balls thinks this isn't the way Britain Works.

12:13 am The setup in Birmingham makes the candidates look as if they're standing in a police lineup.

12:10 am The BBC makes the mistake of following the lead of CNN by putting up a Colorful Map that can be walked on, and then, they walk on it. BBC, trust us, the last thing you should be doing is following the lead of CNN. Ok, the really last thing you should be doing is following the lead of Glenn Beck (although off topic I agree with Beck that no, we cannot just remove citizenship from people because we think they are terrorists. We didn't remove Timothy McVeigh's citizenship or Ted Bundy's or Charles Manson's. Also, while I'm ranting, the reason to read Miranda rights to terrorist suspects is to make sure they are not going to get off on a Miranda technicality later. But I am severely digressing! Back to Britain!)

12:22 am BBC helpfully informs us that it's dawn, Gordon Brown's helicopter has arrived and they have no idea where Gordon Brown is going or what he is doing but it's been a very long night. I am losing my faith in the helpfulness of the BBC.

12:33 am BBC tries to make up for ignorance with special effects! Result: my unkindly thoughts about the U.S. media are extended to the British media.

12:36 am I would trust these exit polls more if the BBC didn't keep changing them.

12:58 am And another Monstrous Loony Party person in an utterly marvelous red coat and huge yellow ribbon.

1:00 am The BBC shows us unhappy disenfranchised voters. Just like Florida! I feel so comforted, no longer alone in the craziness. I also feel distinctly sleepy and utterly wiped. Even if it misses missing more Monstrous Raving Loony people. So to bed.
From The New York Times:
Conservative leader David Cameron has held his very safe seat in Witney. He was immediately congratulated by the candidate from the Monster Raving Loony Party, who stood right next to him and shook his hand.

Now, if only some United States politicians would admit their affiliation with the Monster Raving Loony Party, we'd be all set.

(Wikipedia has more, probably inaccurate, information about the Monster Raving Loony Party here. I must say that I cannot support their entire platform; I don't think I could exist without semi-colons.)


Apr. 28th, 2010 06:30 pm
I know. I know. I've been neglecting this blog recently. It's not LJ (or Dreamwidth) or a sign that I'm going to leave LJ (or Dreamwidth) although, while I'm on this subject, LJ's recent tendency to suddenly log me out when I'm trying to view your locked posts and trying to force me to watch a pop-up add before allowing me to attempt to log back in is not making me much fonder of LJ. I have a paid account, LJ; stop logging me out of it, and stop trying to sneak in paid ads. Where was I? Oh, right, about to explain that I'm not feeling much like writing anything at the moment, fiction or not. Last week was at least a better week on the fiction/poetry front, but this week…not so much. I'm blaming a combination of fatigue and Mercury, which is apparently in retrograde at the moment, not because this is a particularly good or believable explanation, but it is at least a convenient one.

So, some random thoughts to fill the gap:

1. I realize that we're all supposed to be kinda shocked that Gordon Brown called one of his constituents a bigot, but, I gotta say, I was kinda relieved to hear a politician actually expressing his unadulterated, honest opinion about something. Yay for forgotten mikes.

2. On a related note, I must say that the Brits, as always, hold more meaningful sounding elections than we do. I have decided that it's the accents.

3. I am sorry to say that the ponies that I told some of you about are not ponies at all, but miniature horses, which just goes to show that I should never make any statements about any equine species whatsoever. In my defense I thought they looked like ponies. The peacocks that share their field are, however, actual peacocks.

4. On a related note, I am placing a $3 million dollar imaginary bet on Devil May Care on this weekend's Kentucky Derby. (I believe that if you are making imaginary bets on horseracing, you should bet big. I also believe that since I have lost about 99% of my imaginary horseracing bets, I should never be allowed to make real ones.) No, not because she's a girl horse, but because Devil May Care is one of my favorite Elizabeth Peters' books. Also she looks pretty. I am placing a $2 million dollar imaginary bet on Dean's Kitten because I like kittens. Also he looks pretty. (You may be beginning to see why I am not suited for a career in racetrack gambling.)

5. The Grey One, previously the sort of cat who preferred to hide under things and could easily vanish for days upon end (I'm still convinced she's mastered some sort of inter-dimensional/parallel universe travel, and don't tell me that's against the laws of physics, because I don't think she's interested in obeying those) has suddenly become friendly to the point of becoming a major nuisance, by which I mean, just when I finally come up with a sentence that might work in the novel, she raises her little grey head or her little grey paws in an unnecessarily sharp reminder that my hands are on the keyboard and not on her chin. Hmm. Maybe Mercury in retrograde isn't my only writing problem.

6. Oh, and delayed thanks to everyone who recommended the Whirly-pop popper; I'll just add that yes, you can use it while you're sitting down, which is awesome, and it makes seriously good popcorn. This is also the only popper I've used that almost never leaves behind any unpopped kernels. I'm in awe.
And some of you claim that the U.S. Senate is wasting its time on trivia instead of important stuff:
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I do not actually deal with the economy. I am glad to say that that would be above my pay grade, whereas trying to deal with the mice is probably just about right for me."
More at the link, including some delightful bits about dealing with mice.
Republican Scott Brown wins Ted Kennedy's Massachusetts Senate seat.

That Ted Kennedy.


I do, however, want to defend his defeated opponent, Ms. Coakley, on one matter: the fact that she misspelled the word "Massachusetts." Look. As someone who has long, long wished that my parents had hopped the border over to the very nice and considerably easier to spell great state of New Hampshire (hi, New Hampshire!) let me assure you: Massachusetts is a very difficult name to spell. Just in writing this post I had to look it up again, and this is a word that I have to enter into documents all the time. (Expectant parents, take my word for it - if you have the option, dive bomb over to New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island, New York - not Connecticut because that one's tricky too.) I admit that it's probably just me, but I genuinely think we can give her a break on this one.
At times, I miss South Florida politics. Particularly for stories like these.
We interrupt the usual fluff on this blog for something fairly important.

Today, the U.S. Senate will be voting on Senator Hutchinson's Amendment #2666, which is proposing to cut NOAA's budget by $172 million and divert the funds to the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program.

Now, to be honest, I don't know much about the State Criminal Alien Assistance program or whether or not we as a nation should be supporting it. But I do know something about NOAA.

For various irritating historical reasons that I won't get into here, NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association has been trundled into the U.S. Department of Commerce (this is why so many ocean-related environmental lawsuits end up being against the Secretary of Commerce instead of the EPA or the Secretary of the Interior). This has not been a good place for NOAA, since the overreaching goal of the Commerce Department is to increase trade and commercial activity, not study ocean and atmospheric activity. You can make the argument - and I do - that ultimately all commerce is pretty dependent upon the oceans, which not only offer trade routes, shipping, oil reserves and fishing activities, along with other commercial activities that I'm forgetting (tourism), but drive the world's weather, which is what lets us, as humans, eat, but nice though this argument is, the Commerce Department is not, for the most part, interested in this particular viewpoint. (This is true under both Democratic and Republican presidencies.)

As a result, NOAA has often been treated as a sad stepchild and/or engaged in activities that most unbiased observers would not regard as positive for the oceans and/or commercial activity on the ocean. Which is not to say that all of their efforts have been unproductive or useless - and here, I'm specifically chatting about satellite monitoring/ocean buoy studies.

The proposed cuts would directly affect the NOAA satellite monitoring program (and by extension the National Weather Service monitoring program), cut funding for the National Hurricane Center and the Severe Storms Prediction Center in Oklahoma, and cut funding for weather satellites. These would be the same weather satellites that help save lives by warning of severe tornadoes and hurricanes.

The language of the actual bill, for those interested: )
Just woke up to the news everywhere that Senator Ted Kennedy has died of the brain tumor he was fighting.

I'm too young to remember any of his brothers, which makes it easy for me to make the statement that his long-term achievements ended up dwarfing theirs: guaranteed family leave; Occupational Health and Safety; COBRA insurance; the Mental Health Parity Act; the state childrens' health insurance program; and for me above all: the Americans With Disabilites Act.

Thank you, Senator.

Sarah Palin

Jul. 3rd, 2009 05:44 pm
I'm too cynical to be surprised much by politics (despite a tiny ongoing hope that Obama will surprise me and actually live up to his campaign promises on GLBT issues, but, let's face it, that is not looking too promising right now) but I freely admit that I'm surprised that Sarah Palin is resigning as governor of Alaska. My cynical side thinks perhaps this is because 1) a major, major scandal is about to break, 2) she's hoping to run on a platform of even less experience in 2012, or 3) she's figuring that since even Michael Jackson's death couldn't shut South Carolina Governor Sanford up, maybe this will.

ON that note, Governor Sanford, please, if you had any actual affection for your wife, your girlfriend, or the general American population, please, please, please, take this opportunity offered by Governor Palin and just shut up. Politicians sleep around all the time. It's not a career ender. Often they even get to become President or powerful Senators or regulars on Sunday talk shows. Heck, I can't even remember the name of the senator out west who was just caught sleeping with a member of his staff because, you know, whatever. But this is just humiliating.

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