Saturday, November 29, 2003

Friday Five

Yeah, yeah, I'm late again. What can I say - it was a busy week.

The special Thanksgiving Version of the Friday Five suggested by Marvin.

1. You've just sat down for you favorite holiday meal and you hear a knock on the door. It's Freddie Mercury in a tight white T-shirt and a gold lame halo—he offers to sing for his supper. What song(s) do you request and why? (Not necessarily Queen songs—since Freddie joined the heavenly choir he's been expanding his repertoire.)

How 'bout "Your My Best Friend"? And if we can get the rest of Queen in there, definitely a little "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Killer Queen".

2. A certain relative or in-law so-and-so—the black sheep of the family, the one who drinks all the beer but never bothers to pay for any—shows up later in the evening. You know the one (assuming it isn't you, of course). What is his (or her, let's be fair) special talent that you secretly envy?

The endless supply of "second chances."

3. You've been feeding the family dog beneath the table. Fido's digestive tract isn't what it used to be. Which tasty morsel was it that stank up the joint?

Gotta be the sweet potatoes.

4. Between dinner and desert one needs a pause for digestion and reflection. In what special aid to this process do you like to indulge? Madeira, port, ye olde Sheep Dip, Longbottom Leaf, or something else?

A little port never hurt anyone, but in my real life it's more likely to be decaf coffee.

5. It's time for dessert. You've pudding and hard sauce but no brandy to set the former on fire. But there must be fire. You search the house for a substitute: what will you find and use?

At my house, vodka. At my parent's, tequila.

See the sidebar for all the Friday Fivers.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

The Holiday Ramp Up

This is the part where I admit that, for me, the holiday season begins on August 2 with my birthday, followed by: Alec's birthday, Adam's birthday, my mom's birthday, and Halloween. So, as far as I'm concerned, we're already deep into the holiday season (which is not a justification for the Christmas decorations that have been up since well before Halloween.)

Anyway, tomorrow I'll begin my baking frenzy. I'm going to my mom's house, where I'll make 2 pans of cornbread (it has to be made the day before, because you have to have stale cornbread for the stuffing), and pecan and pumpkin pies. On Thursday, I'll go over early to help my mom make the stuffing. While the turkey cooks in the roaster, we'll make candied sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, hot rolls, corn pudding, and (just to piss my brother off, because he loathes it) ambrosia.

And after that it's officially Christmas baking time - fudge and divinity and sugar cookies are the necessities, and I'm planning on doing several batches of almond shortbread as well.

All of which should pretty much cancel out my recent weight loss, but hey, you only live once, right?

Saturday, November 22, 2003

New Friday Fivers

Welcome to:
Morgaine - Eclectic Waves
Rik - Grey Area's Journal
Fionna - Fionna's Journal

Friday, November 21, 2003



They voted Rupert off! I can't believe it. I'm still going to watch, but now my motivation is to see how badly those lying jerks can be humiliated. I do hope that the "girls alliance" gets off the ground. Anyone who would trust Burton or Jon is an idiot. I'd love to see Christa or Sandra win it all, even though Sandra stupidly voted for Jon (what was she thinking? Even if Lil hadn't voted for Rupert, he still would have been voted off thanks to Sandra's inability to control her totally understandable Jon-hate.) Really, at this point, I think I'd like to see Christa win. If not her then Sandra, Tijuana and Darrah, in that order.

Why did they do two immunity challenges in a row where the tribe basically got to pick who got immunity? This one had more of a skill element, as well as the possibility of inadvertently hitting a friend's target (as Sandra discovered), but it was still the same basic premise. I prefer more clear cut challenges where the survivor who performs the best wins immunity.

Did you see the dirty looks Christa and Rhyno exchanged during the tribal council? I'm dying to know what went on between them - clearly it was something significant, and I'm surprised that we didn't get to see it. Rhyno looked a million times better with his beard. All cleaned up, he's nothing special. It's funny, I think this time the survivors are looking better the longer they're away from civilization. All those guys look much better with beards and the wild, savage look seems to suit all of them. Sandra in particular is just gorgeous now, where she seemed very plain at the beginning.

I think Lil is probably a very nice person, but she's also a big ol' whiner. I'm completely over her angst about the backstabbing and lying that are necessary to play the game. Did she watch the show before she applied to be on it? Didn't she know it would be like this? Either try to play by your personal code (something I think Rupert was trying to do) or play to win, but either way quit whining!

It's about to get bad at the Balboa camp. Burton is convinced he can take on Rupert's "provider" role, but he's given no indication that that's true. And it looks like the only ones doing any work are Sandra and Christa. People are going to start to drop the pounds in a major way.

Friday Five

Nanette's Topic: "I work in the music business. Glamorous as this may sound, we are actually just two women in a home office in South Austin. Hipness, youth and cool factor are a common topic of conversation between me and my boss, i'm 35 and she's 39. We often remenisce about our cool groovy old days when we actually went out to see the kind of bands we work with and go to the clubs we talk to everyday and it dawns on us that we are sooo way out of the cool scenes we envision ourselves part of still.
soooo, the topic is - what 5 ages would you like to be and why., either to re-live or that you imgine would be ideal in the future. Hey, if you are so inclined and have a moment to spare, what about throwing in 5 ages you would NEVER want to be again, and why"

1. 33. Yeah, life is crazy right now, but in general I have time to spend with family and friends. I have the family I've always wanted, a great group of friends, and enough money to do (most) of the things I want to do. I feel like my identity - my tastes, my preferences, my priorities - has solidified and I finally feel like a grown-up. And instead of talking about how I'd like to be a writer, I'm actually writing.

2. 22. Adam and I were newlyweds, living in Birmingham in a tightly knit community of friends. We had almost no money, but we also had very few expenses. We lived in a funky apartment in the Bohemian part of town, walking distance from our favorite bookstore, our favorite bar, our favorite restaurants, and most of our friends (Gina lived in the building next door). We threw crazy parties, met our friends once a week for supper club and had lots of free time for reading and hanging out. The lack of money was a serious bummer, but it's funny how often I dream about this period of my life.

3. 18 -19. I attended a small liberal arts school, where I got to explore all my intellectual interests, and do lots of theatre. I fell in with a wonderful group of friends very quickly. I met Adam on the first day of classes and we started dating almost immediately. I was on a scholarship, so I didn't have to work - I spent all my time reading, studying, doing theatre and hanging out with my friends.

4. 26 - I had survived graduate school and so had our marriage. I found a decent paying job, not in my field, but doing interesting work with good people. Adam was also making decent money. I was pregnant with Drew and we were excited about the prospect of a new baby.

5. 40 - I guess I'm an optimist, but I just have this feeling that things will continue to get better. When I'm 40, the kids will be 13, 10, and 7. They'll all be in school, and old enough to do really fun stuff with. If things go as planned, I should be well on my way to re-establishing my career, and we should have significantly more disposable income.

5 ages I never want to be again:

1. 9 - We moved back to the states from Canada and it was a very hard transition for me. The kids at my new school were much more sophisticated and socially advanced than the ones I knew in Edmonton - the girls were already boy crazy and wanting to wear makeup, while I was still playing let's pretend and pretty much ignoring the boys. Physically though, I was ahead of the curve, and so my body was starting to mature - I was awkward and uncomfortable and had a very hard time making friends. Because they didn't have my school records, they initially tracked me with the "slow" kids, so I was bored stiff in school. It was bad, *really* bad.

2. 13 - Same sort of thing, only it was Junior High, which only compounded the problems. We moved to Birmingham, leaving Little Rock, where I had finally made some friends, and I had to start all over again. Most of the kids at my school came from well-to-do families, and I felt like a complete misfit. Again, because of school records, I wasn't tracked in the gifted classes I'd been taking at my old school, so I had no way to connect with the other freaks and geeks.

3. 24 - I was in graduate school, in a department where I got little respect or assistance, Adam was miserably depressed, our marriage was shaky, and we had no money. I had an unplanned pregnancy, which we were actually very excited about, which ended in a late miscarriage. I spiralled into a serious depression, which was complicated by the death of a close friend in a car accident. My addictive tendency and the horror of my life brought me the closest I ever want to be to alcoholism.

4. 29 - This was another transition year. I had a difficult pregnancy with lots of health problems. Adam and I were working different shifts and never saw each other. We had serious child care issues and had to change our child care situation several times. I had a hard recovery after my delivery, recurring mastitis, and undiagnosed, but in retrospect, quite bad, postpartum depression. I quit my job after Franny was born to stay home with the kids. Adam was working a difficult schedule, neither of us were getting any sleep, and our income had been more than halved. I still don't know how I survived.

5. 17 - My circumstances weren't so dire, but I was a teenager with all the hormonal craziness and angst that implies. I didn't like myself or the way I looked, and I let my low self-esteem and my raging hormones direct some misguided choices. I wish I could tell my younger self not to get so serious with one guy, to date around, and not to feel like a boyfriend, any boyfriend was better than being alone. I wish I could tell her to spend more time with her girlfriends and less mooning over / fighting with her boyfriend. I wish I could tell her to expand her horizons and not let a stupid high school relationship limit her choices. (But of course, then you get into paradox land, because I wouldn't want to give up the life I have now, which is a direct result of some of the choices I made when I was 17.)

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Angel 5.8


I'm so glad I wasn't spoiled for this. I can't believe they brought Lindsey back! And he's in cahoots with Eve. Wow.

Not nearly enough of the flashbacks. If they're going to bring back Juliet Landau, I want to see her do more than play beard for Angel and Spike.

The present day plot was dopey. Did anybody not get that Angel and Spike were being set up? Angel's whole "are you sure you know what you're getting into" speech, with all the "clever" references to what Spike's already been through, was seriously anvil-y. Dude, I get it - the cup is a big metaphor for the soul. Give it a rest already.

I missed Wesley (apparently Denisof was on his honeymoon with Allyson Hannigan when this was filmed). Did Fred seem a bit jealous of Spike and Harmony, or was it just me? I can't get enough of Harmony calling Spike Blondie Bear - that joke never gets old. "Fritz-berg" tee-hee!

Overall, not bad, but not as good as last week. Defintely looking forward to the next episode though.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Stop the World. . .

I want to get off.

There's just too much to do, and not enough time to do it in, and it just keeps piling up, and I just want to stop everything until I get caught up.

There's house stuff, and stuff for my job, and writing I want to get done, and It. Just. Never. Ends.

Ok, taking a deep breath now. I'm going to try and take Ann Lamott's advice and take it "bird by bird."

Austin Mama

This week's is fabulous. In keeping with last week's Friday Five theme, C. Jeanette Tyson writes evocatively about food, family and the holidays. There's also a moving essay by Michelle Peterson about single parenthood which manages to perfectly convey the absolute terror you feel when your child goes missing, even for a few minutes.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Alec, the Baby of the World

As I write this, Alec is lying on a blanket next to me, staring up at the fan and cooing and laughing. On Sunday I saw a friend's baby who's 3 weeks old - the difference between that tiny newborn, and big, fat, alert Alec was astounding. Today's big news is that he's found his thumb, and it appears to make him very happy (for those keeping statistics, we had 1 child who sucked his middle two fingers, one who never sucked fingers, thumbs or pacifiers, and now one who looks to be a thumb sucker). Also, he's about this close to rolling over onto his tummy. He gets about 9/10's of the way there, but he hasn't figured out what to do with the arm that's underneath him. Once he gets that part, he's golden.

I hope to post some pictures soon, so everyone can appreciate the cuteness that is Alec.

Sunday, November 16, 2003


Visit A List a Day for links to media lists. Recent lists include 40 Best Directors from The Guardian, a list of Edmonton drivers who've accumulated an excessive number of speeding tickets, and 25 tips for better tv watching. Great fun if you enjoy lists.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

This Comes as No Surprise

I believe you belong in Pride and Prejudice; a
world of satire and true love. A world where
everything is crystal clear to the reader, and
yet where new things seem to be happening all
the time. You belong in a world where your
free-thought puts you above the silly masses,
and where bright eyes and intelligence are
enough to attract the arrogant
millionaire/prejudiced young woman of your

Which Classic Novel do You Belong In?
brought to you by Quizilla

The Campaign to Lynch Jessica Lynch

In one of it's most scurrilous moves yet, the right wing has rushed to blackball former POW Jessica Lynch after it became common knowledge that the details of her capture and imprisonment were manufactured to boost support for the war. Subsequently, several important things have been revealed:

1. Lynch, while she did not behave inappropriately, did not engage in the heroic battle initially described in the media
2. The Bush administration planted these stories, knowing they weren't true, and then made no effort to correct them despite overwhelming evidence
3. Her rescue was a carefully staged media event
4. It seems probable that she was beaten or tortured and raped during her captivity
5. There may be topless pictures of Lynch floating around
6. Random house will apparently do anything to sell a book, including publishing lurid descriptions in the new Lynch biography (penned by Rick Bragg, who is a damn fine writer, but is known for dubious ethics - you'll remember him from the NY Times attribution scandal) of Lynch's rape, despite her discomfort with these revelations

What can we surmise from this? According to the right, it all means that women shouldn't be in the military. Because women are childbearers. For the record, let me explain that I'm going to be equally distraught if any of my children are injured or killed. It won't be worse somehow if it's my daughter. Please spare me the patronising "women and children first" attitude - it takes two people to make a baby, unless the woman is actually pregnant at the time, her role is no more essential than the man's.

In the article linked above, author Amber Pawson makes some audacious claims on behalf of the right, e.g. "Leave it to feminists to drop a girl when she doesn’t fit their agenda. Leave it to conservatives and soldiers to still remember her." Oh yes, I'm sure it was an honor for Lynch to have her ordeal used as one of the most cynical manipulations of public sentiment in recent memory. She's being remembered and honored when her rape and her status as a potentional childbearer are used to justify excluding other women from military service. She's being honored when conservatives discuss in disgusted tones the possibility that she allowed topless photos to be taken of her.

I've discussed this before, but one more time, for those of you who are slow: Men can be raped too. Male prisoners of war are raped, although cultural attitudes towards male rape contribute to this rarely being discussed. Rape is awful. Being beaten and tortured is also awful. To act as though rape is a "fate worse than death" is to perpetuate outdated and insulting ideas about women's sole worth being sexual and procreative - oh wait, that's exactly what Pawson is insinuating stating.

Pawson also claims that she couldn't find any feminists who publically supported Lynch. Obviously she doesn't read my blog.

I'm a pragmatic pacificst. I realize that war is sometimes necessary, although I will never support a war of aggression. I also realize the importance of a standing military, and I appreciate the sacrifices our military personel make to defend the American Way of Life (especially our right to disagree with our government).

To exclude women from the military is to weaken our armed forces by eliminating many people who want to serve and who have skills and intelligence which would enhance our military. Brute strength, which is the primary physical difference between men and women, is no longer essential for most military jobs. Even in those where it is, there are many women who are stronger than many men, in every other area women and men are equally qualified to serve. If you remove all the women from the military, it will be necessary to fill those positions with less qualified men. Let's think about that for a moment, shall we? The right is advocating that we weaken our standing military and make it a considerably less effective force.

On a more personal level, there are many benefits which acrue to those who choose to serve in the military (and rightly so). Pawson mentions that Lynch joined up for the tuition benefits, historically a huge factor in allowing lower income men and women to move up the socio-economic ladder. Military service also serves to forge connections and contacts which former soldiers take into civilian life, and which can prove beneficial in myriad ways, from hiring and promotion to politics. To deny these benefits to women is to raise the bar for women in a significant way.

Lynch is a hero. There should be no debate about that point. The way she's been used is shameful and disgusting. The next time some conservative claims that only the right supports the military and military personel, remember their treatment of Lynch and take it all with a great big grain of salt.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Welcome Julie!

Rock and roll diva and provider of good links, Julie, now has her own blog and will be participating in the Friday Five. Check it out!

Friday Five

Adrienne's Question:
Lately, I've been thinking about food. It's something I think about a lot, granted, but this is more about food and place. For me, these conenctions are intense and evocative. The question: if you could travel back to any place you've lived (or, in a pinch, visited) and have just one meal in each location that reminded you of the time you spent there, what would your top five stops and dishes be?

1. Birmingham, AL - Ribs at Dreamland. I no longer eat mammals, but this is just a fantasy right? So, pork ribs, white bread and iced tea. Damn, I swear I could smell the bbq sauce just then. Evocative you say? Alternately, bbq chicken, onion rings, iced tea, and a big slab of chocolate pie at Johnny Ray's.

2. Taiwan - Sweet and Sour Pork and rice. I don't actually remember the time we lived in Taiwan (we moved back to the states when I was 2), but my mom learned to make sweet and sour pork there from our maid / nanny, and we ate it all the time growing up. Whenever it was served we always talked about my parents' memories of Taiwan (a place I'd love to return to). Please don't confuse this sublime dish with the gunky, neon orange stuff served in Chinese restaurants - it's an altogether different thing. (Oh, and what I said before about fantasy food.)

3. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada - Alaskan King Crab legs. In Edmonton we had access to very fresh seafood, and we ate it with amazing regularity. Prior to that we'd lived in Abilene, TX, so this was quite a change. Alternately the winter food my mom made us after we'd been playing in the snow - hot cocoa, grilled cheese sandwiches with slices of Kraft singles, and Campbell's canned chicken and noodle soup.

4. The Cotswolds - Tetley's Tea and shortbread. Yeah, I ate lots of wonderful food in England (despite the stereotypes about British food), but the thing that I most associate with England is plain old tetley's tea and a shortbread "biscuit" as provided by the sweet lady who ran the B&B we stayed in.

5. The Florida Gulf Coast - Fried shrimp at Captain Anderson's seafood restaurant. When I was in high school, my parents took us to Destin at least once a year for a family vacation. Usually, we went at Spring Break and again later in the summer. And we always ate at least one meal at Captain Anderson's (one of those silly looking boat shaped restaurants, but when the seafood is this fresh, who cares?).

Honorable mention: a frozen Zero bar from the snack bar at the base pool in Little Rock, AR - I think I ate one every day, all summer long, from the time I was nine until I was 13.

See the sidebar for the evergrowing list of participants.



Every time I think Jon couldn't get more obnoxious, he does. On the other hand, Jeff Probst clearly dislikes him every bit as much as the rest of us do, and he can't even be bothered to try and hide it, so there's that. What was the line last night? "And another challenge Jon can't finish." Hee! Of course, nothing will ever be as funny as "Are you loaded?" delivered in that disbelieving, contemptuous voice.

My man Rupert continues to do well. Is there any challenge he hasn't excelled at? It just goes to show that competence is sexy, because Rupert is not what you'd call conventionally handsome, but he's gotten much cuter to me as the show's gone on. Giving the breakfast to Burton, and urging him to take Lil was awfully nice of him. Of course, it may have also been incredibly naive, since Burton spent the entire time convincing Lil to vote with him against Rupert and his alliance.

What was that bizarro challenge with the pirate trivia and the coconuts? So, basically, answering the questions right gave you the privilege of choosing who you didn't want to have immunity?

The editing in this episode was crummy. I realize that they always mislead us, because they want the results of the vote to come as a surprise, but usually after you see the voting you can figure out why people voted the way they did. Rhyno getting voted off wasn't really a suprise, the fact that it was unanimous was shocking. First of all, I think they must have edited to make Rhyno look like a nice kid, and carefully omitted some interactions, because it seemed to me that there was some vehemence in the voting that we wasn't adequately explained (e.g. he and Christa obviously had some bad blood between them, but we never really saw why that was). Second, all the discussion of voting that we saw last night made it look like Rupert was going to be a target, but he won immunity in a game where the other players pretty much decided who got it. If everyone was really out to get him, then they would have loaded him up with coconuts so that they could vote him out. Unless they didn't want to be that obvious about it, because of the jury? Nah, I don't buy that any of these players are thinking that far ahead.

I hope that some of this is explained in the next episode. All I can figure is that now there's a girl's alliance (Sandra, Christa, Tijuana, and Darrah), a former Drakes alliance (Rupert and Jon) and an Outcasts alliance (Burton and Lil) and Rhyno didn't get in good with anyone, so it was easy for everyone to agree to gang up and vote him out, instead of angering one of the other alliances. On the other hand, it's possibly that Sandra and Christa are playing the Morgan girls.

I'm still pulling for Rupert, but I think it would by hysterical if the girl's alliance voted all the guys off and all the finalists were women. And if Burton or Lil won it would be cool. Really anybody but Jon will be ok. If Jon wins I will lose all my faith in humanity.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Random Thoughts About Angel 5.7

Spoilers for those who aren't caught up in the ME timeline! Avert your eyes, Will and Merideth!

After my mild grousing yesterday? I loved this episode. Of course, I love Wesley so much that I'm bound to enjoy any episode that focuses on him. Alexis Denisof gave a really wonderful, subtle performance. It's amazing to think about what the writers have done with that character through the years, and as unlikely as it seems, he's made the character's arc totally believable. This season he's playing a very interesting mix of the pre-Connor Angel-worshiping!Wes, and the bad-ass!Wes that we saw last season. Of all the actors, he's doing the best job of communicating the ramifications of the season 4 ender in his performance.

I'm feeling very confused about what, exactly, everyone remembers. Wesley appears not to remember any estrangement from Angel, but he does remember dating Lilah and having to chop her up. Do Fred and Gunn remember dating? How does Wes explain his bad assness, if he doesn't remember being banished from the fold? So far this season, I've felt slightly disconnected from the characters (less so this episode) and I think part of it is this feeling that I don't know exactly what's happening with their character arcs, since I don't know what they remember from the previous couple of seasons.

Loved the continuity with Wesley and his daddy issues (what is it with Whedon and fathers?). In fact, all the continuity was nice. (Spike's oh so casual comment about people having sex with robots? Bwah!) Totally adored the opening sequence with JohnWoo!Wes. I want an icon of him flying through the air, both guns blazing, that says, "Thanks Wes, I'd love a gun."

I know lots of people hate Fred, but I've always liked the character. Sure, she's a bit of a Mary Sue, but so was Willow, back in the day - they're characters I can identify with (geek girls) and they work well as entry points into the universe. I think Xander served this function a bit as well. Anyway, I like the incipient love triangle between Wesley, Fred, and Knox. I'm so convinced that Knox is evil. Also, I totally hate his new haircut - he was cute before, and now he's, just, not.

Not liking the continued use of Spike as comic relief. I didn't like that Wesley didn't really kill his dad - that felt like a cop-out, although, on the other hand, it did give us that nice moment at the end, with the phone call. I've been defending Eve, but she annoyed me last night in her total uselessness (other than being the exposition queen, since the WB has apparently banned "Previously On"s as smacking too much of the serialized arc format they're trying to get away from).

Still squeeing over the previews. Juliet Landau! Fanged Four backstory! Something emotional and real happening with Spike! Can't wait 'til next Wednesday. I think I can safely say that I'm hooked again.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

It's All My Fault

Merideth's a fangirl and apparently it's all my fault. . . .

Grab Bag

A little bit of this and that:

Al Gore's speech in response to the limits Bush has placed on civil liberties. A very articulate, well-reasoned, and terrifying presentation.

Check out this very cool new on-line literary magazine, Literary Mama, it reminds me of the old Salon section "Mothers Who Think," in that it's ostensibly for / about mothers, but it's actual appeal will extend far beyond that group. Also, it's a really beautifully designed site.

Go out and buy the new Bitch magazine - several great articles about families, and an interview with homegirl made good, Pamela Ribon, author of the very funny, Why Girls Are Weird. While you're at the newstand, you should also buy this month's Brain Child, which is my new addiction. A parenting magazine for people who think! In fact, it's pretty much the print equivalent to "Mothers Who Think."

Monday, November 10, 2003

Snapshot of my Life

I think I may have broken something in my foot. My ankle doesn't really feel sprained anymore, but there's an ugly bruise across the top of my foot, and when I put weight on it, I feel this sort of sickening, not-right, pain. Let's hope it's just a bad sprain, shall we?

I'm spending way too much time writing and not enough time maintaining my life. I think Adam's about to get tired of it.

I've gotten all wrapped up in Survivor again this season, after not watching it for several years. This will come as no surprise to those of you who know that the theme this season is pirates. I'm rooting for Hagrid lookalike, Rupert, to win.

I'm also watching Angel, but it's not really doing much for me yet. They revamped the series to such a huge extent that it feels like watching a new show with some of the same actors, and they've also gone to more stand alone episodes, which doesn't work well to keep me hooked. On the other hand, James Marsters is just as beautiful to look at as ever. (Let's pause to contemplate the fact that he is 40 years old! He and Johnny Depp are making 40 look FINE. That's all I'm saying.)

I'm not reading as much as I'd like. I need to pick up a copy of Motherless Brooklyn, which is our next bookclub book. I've heard good things about it and I'm looking forward to reading it.

Obligatory Self Promotion

My November column is up at I'm really pleased with this one - I think it captures the Southern Gothic atmosphere of my disfunctional family rather well. As always, your comments are commanded appreciated.

New Friday Fivers

A hearty welcome to Ritu and a belated but sincere welcome to Jon and Laura.

It's great to have so many people participating. Except that I don't think I'll ever get to suggest a topic again. . . .

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Friday Five

Gord's turn to suggest the topic:

I've just thought of this question, and perhaps it will be torturously difficult to answer, but... I've been reading Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt, a stunning alternate history that raises many questions about history, religion, culture, meaning (and how humans make or find it)... and offers some beautifully thought-out answers or possibilities to these questions. It's a wonderfully crafted novel, and I highly recommend it.

On a more literal level, the novel asks the question: What would have happened if the Black Death had been so virulent, and so alien to Westerners, that it had wiped out 99% of humans in Europe instead of only the mere third of Europe it killed off? The result is a stunning weaving of speculation, understanding of human nature (for European colonialism could possibly have been carried out, differently, by other empires, and surely something comparable would have been if the West had been thus destroyed). I think it's a powerful way of looking at our myths about the goods and bads of Westerners, by examining a human history absent of Westerners.

In any case, I want to save that for my review of the novel. But I will say that it has gotten me thinking about questions of historical inevitability. Consider the printing press: while movable type was a stunning idea and the key to the success of the Gutenberg printing press, the Chinese had already invented a kind of print press with movable print blocks. It's even sometimes suggested that the Western printing press traces back to the Chinese, in the genealogy of technologies. I think it's reasonable to say that, given paper and alphabetical language, someone would have figured out this movable-type print concept eventually. Maybe not for a long time (though we have no reason to think so), but eventually.

To your mind, which five other innovations in history are those which were basically inevitable? Which events do you think were simply bound to happen, and if they'd not happened as they did in our history, would eventually have happened elsewhere or elsewhen, even in the face of something like one of the major world civilizations (along with its technical contributions to the long and intercultural ferment of the development of technologies) having been completely wiped out?

(Please note that these could be technical, philosophical, religious, social, or other innovations. I don't only mean technologies.)

1. Prostitution / Pornography / "Sex Work" - There's a reason prostitution is refered to the as the "oldest profession."

2. Birth Control - Women are going to figure out a way to keep from having one baby after another. I guarantee it.

3. Intoxicants - Do you really need me to explain this one?

4. Weapons of Mass Destruction - War and aggression seem fairly inevitable, and so do weapons races of some kind. In an alternate universe, those weapons might take a different form, but I think humans will always be one upping one another in this department.

5. Democracy - Maybe I'm just an optimist. It does seem likely to me that eventually, in every society, people will get tired of being pushed around and will demand a say-so in how their society is run. Of course, it's also inevitable that some groups will continue to be excluded, only to demand their own civil rights in due time.

Honorable mentions: the baby sling, conspicuous consumption, algebra, "New Criticism," and fanfiction.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2003

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Crazy day. As I was about to walk out the door to pick up Fran from school, carrying Alec in my arms, I tripped over a shoe someone had left in the middle of the floor and took a bad fall. It was one of those terrifying slow motion tumbles where I kept jerking around, trying to keep from dropping Alec. In the end, he bumped his head a bit on the bottom step of the stairs. Head injuries freak me right out, so I called the doctor who agreed Alec ought to be checked over. I picked up Franny (20 minutes late), and then went on to the doctor. He said things looked pretty good but the bump was on the worst possible place on Alec's head, so we needed to do an x-ray to be sure. Back to the car, drove to the hospital, parked, walked to x-ray. About this time, I notice that I must have sprained my ankle in my fall - it's swollen and bruised looking and so sore I can barely walk on it. We walked back to the car, drove back to the doctor's office, parked, etc. Great news from the doctor - the x-ray showed no fractures or problems at all. Most likely there's no problem, but we need to do the concussion drill tonight, just in case.

I should have known Alec was fine, because other than some tears right after the fall, he's been his usual sunny self all day. *And* tonight, for the first time, he really laughed. He's become much more social in the past few weeks - smiling and cooing like crazy, but tonight we discovered that his ribs are very ticklish - tickling him elicits a cute little giggle, and a zerbert warrants a full on belly laugh. It's just about the cutest thing *ever*.