I love men.

It’s part of a much longer TED Talk, but one of the things feminist political activism did for me was allowing me to love men, as they are; not to fear men; and to recognize that little boys are raised with their own BS expectations and demands for conformity as well as the weirdness about girls and other creatures. I dismantle the patriarchy by loving men, helping them know the rest of us better, and accepting them even when they don’t or can’t accept the rest of us — or themselves.

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Spring 2019: My Media Diary

This memo exists because it’s only March, and 2019 has already been the longest year on record, with February clocking in at the longest month of this or any year.  New Year holidays from any calendar are celebrated in my house as fresh-start milestones, and 1/1/19 did not work.  Turning over to the Year of the Earth Pig didn’t do it for me, either.  So I just celebrated Nowruz a new way: some inexpensive impulse purchases that were fun but still practical; buying small quantities of excellent cheese; keeping the house clean but doing a few special extras to improve our general lot; and re-reading an old favorite book.  (The book was Bingo, by Rita Mae Brown, and let’s just say we aged in different directions.  But the book is decades old, Miz Brown’s craft was still being honed, and I will forever love the world of Runnymede.)

The trials and tribulations of the beginning of the third year of the Trump administration are abundantly documented elsewhere, and my personal issues are heavier than usual, but better tolerated (for now) — due in part to my current most-effective escape mechanism: television.

UMBRELLA ACADEMY  was released on 2/15, and it was an unexpected groovy treat.  Klaus, Hazel, and Number Five are helping me keep the faith.

RuPAUL’S DRAG RACE (S11) premiered 2/28, and oh, did I ever need it! We just saw Ep3 and I agree with Ross:  Miss Vanjie is so fun to watch.  Even when she’s struggling, she is hilarious, gorgeous, and scene-stealing.  Even the stunning Scarlet Envy, who was everyone’s favorite to LOSE (except mine; she reminds me of Julie Newmar as Stupefyin’ Jones in Lil Abner) has risen.  Everyone is doing better than expected, except for poor darling Soju, who died but still inspires.

TIN STAR came back on 3/8.  It was a long wait, but the show is *so* lovely on all fronts, I don’t know which way to run.  Easy to pick out Tim Roth because of his stellar resume, but I’m pumping the setting as a character: the northern Rockies, my home.  This show gets (ahem) ten stars.  It alone will justify the Amazon Prime membership.

AMERICAN GODS returned 3/10.  Hella better than Season 1, at least judging by the first episode.

BILLIONS on 3/17 was a different story.  This show is always a thrill, but Things Changed at the end of the last season.  Feel free to call me immature, but I don’t enjoy Wendy as a Carmela Soprano type, unethical and okay with it.  I don’t enjoy Chuck as a powerless buffoon, struggling to be relevant with his parking pass, empty without his court and his vengeance. Of course, I would watch this show for Wags alone.

I also don’t enjoy Taylor as an adversary for Bobby — I always enjoy mentorship story lines and thought that one had farther to go.  But I sincerely appreciate that Bobby continues to refer to Taylor by their preferred pronoun, even though they are now enemies.  Modeling behavior in TV is the way a lot of Americans learn changing mores.

QUEER EYE dropped 3/15.  The first couple of episodes weren’t my favorite, but it was such a pleasure to see the gang once more that I paused it after Ep3 to space it out.  I do want to give a special shout out to Bobby, since we seem to share Exvangelical trauma, as evidenced by his Bible Belt version of naughty pics.  I fully respect his choice, and Tan is not wrong about his eyes.  I can vouch for the glory of a Missouri boy who wants to drag you into the tall grass, but you’re both in church, and all he can do for now is give you that hadouken look.

Looking forward to so many things:

4/5: CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA

4/14: GAME OF THRONES, which deserves a separate post on Things I Need To See Before The End, including the knighting of Brienne, and the knighting of Podrick; the confirmation that Varys is a Targaryen; the glorious death of Lady Mormont; the terrifying return of Sexy Jesus (aka Jaqen H’ghar), because a girl needs to hear that voice one more time; and all the family reunions, like coming home for your own funeral.  (I would also be intrigued to see Tyrion find out Tysha was not a whore, and to see if he let Jamie live after that.)

5/19: HAIR (the live musical)

5/31: DEADWOOD (my favorite series of all time, probably, including Rome, The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, and all the other glorious small-screen gems, ahem, and please let it not break my heart with a failure of writing.)

6/5: HANDMAID’S TALE, even though it is often too painful to watch, like Orange is the New Black.

6/6: XMEN

6/9: TONY AWARDS

7/4: STRANGER THINGS

And lord keep me alive to see the continuations of

OZARK

SUCCESSION

OITNB

THE DEUCE

HOMELAND

… basically, if I make it to the Emmy’s on 9/22, I’ll declare the year a qualified win based on survival alone.   People need enough wins, early in life, to learn that winning is possible; age can teach the lesson of survival from the other end.  Made it this long, didn’t I?  All I can say is that TV is helping me live right now.  Thank you, TV. ♥

By way of closing doxology, I give you Gay of Thrones with Jonathan Van Ness, courtesy of Funny or Die, by way of YouTube, presented through the good offices of WordPress.  It takes a village.

 

Historic home of the future

Wish the Robert Crais site weren’t inactive; wish there were more pics of the Bonny Doon house, too. What a treat.

science fictional

A 1952 issue of Popular Mechanics has an article about Robert Heinlein’s 1,150-square-foot home in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which he designed for extreme efficiency. For instance, a table rolls between the kitchen and the dining room to make it easy to set and clear tableware and food dishes. Skylights have mirrors to reflect more light into the rooms. Most of the furniture is built in.

“The built-in bed with storage drawers beneath it, the built-in divans that can be converted to extra beds and all the other furniture are built right down to the floors,” Heinlein says. “There is nothing to clean under.

“There are no rugs or any need for them. All floors are surfaced with cork tile that provides a warm, comfortable and clean footing. Nor are there any floor lamps or table lamps. The illumination is built into the house. General lighting for the living room comes…

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Love Unedited

One of the greatest epiphanies or transformations I ever experienced was about love.  Like everyone, right?

For no particular reason, with no context or situation, one day I realized:

I am free to love as much as I want.

I can love anyone I want.

And I love everyone.

 

This sounds silly, but it was a big deal for me.  I grew up in a family of deeply rural immigrant farmers, mostly older women — poor, devout, unfettered by society to a degree that bordered on Lord of the Flies, often mean, certainly teetotalling, absolutely insane.

Tightwads: my great-grandma and her family came to Minnesota through Canada about a hundred years ago.  They built a hotel in Minnesota that burned down.  They moved to Montana across the Dakotas and it was hard to cross the plains.  They settled on the far side of the Rockies on a free land parcel and set up a farm; hard labor even with a passel of kids.  Shortly after the number of kids went into the double digits, my great-grandfather died, leaving a widow under 30 with no money to farm, raise kids, and try not to die, during the Great Depression and with another war in the wings.

I’ve always said you can’t set a Man vs. Nature survival story in western Montana; if you are healthy and able-bodied, you can Boy Scout it (or MacGyver it) and live like a king, so long as you don’t lose your head.  That doesn’t make it easy, however — and being a recent widow with a slew of kids in the middle of nowhere does prime the pump for crazy.  But when your machine is set to Survive, you put emotions last.  Feelings don’t chop wood (although chopping wood does help blow off steam.) Feelings interfere with survival.

Variations on a saying from my childhood:  “If you need a psychiatrist, you’re not working hard enough.”  Says it all, doesn’t it?

After I left for college, my mother moved into my great-grandmother’s cottage, which was the center of a far-flung cluster of houses where her children lived on their own parcels of land.  When I came home one summer and told one of my many great-aunts that I was studying psychology, I got every song in the jukebox, from such classics as, “You Think You’re Better Than We Are Now, I Bet,” to strange laments such as, “You’re Just Going to Move Away and Never Come Back Now, Is That It,” and “Nobody Needs Psychology, They Just Need to Get Busy, When My Third Baby Died I Painted the Barn Five Times That Summer.”

I loved my Aunt Bea.  I’d walk up to her house in summer, and if she wasn’t out working the farm, she would fix up the player piano so I could pretend to play.  She gave me coffee in an antique tea cup with violets painted on, which I adored.  She showed me her root cellar and the rows of Ball jars of pickled beets and green beans and applesauce, shelves of cabbages, bins of potatoes.  Mom reminded me of a time when she was young, and the barn cat had kittens; Aunt Bea killed them cleanly, one by one, at laughed at Mom for crying.  Soft.

Work hard, and life is easy.  Go to church on Sunday, or rest and listen to Rex Humbard on the radio.  Coffee at all hours, and brother Lawrence’s boy brought a salmon; we’re all eating at Ma’s tonight, she’s making potet club now.  No friends, no books, no games, no music, no play, no socializing outside the family.  No hugs, nor other affection.  No “I love you”.  No.

But love there was.  A strange, miserly love from people who had to penny-pinch to qualify as poor.  Food was everywhere, but money was not, and love was weirdly the same.  People married into the family, and died, or left, or stayed silent for decades, like Bea’s husband.  The few married couples showed no signs of affection,  though they pulled very much as a team.  That was the love I observed.  How does one get from my growing young singlehood to that dull and fun-free partnership, and why in hell would I want it?

The instruction I was given in coming of age, compatible with local culture, included:

  1.  Virginity is all you have of honor and decency; protect it with your life.
  2.  Marriage is your first attainment of value, and lasts forever; step on any girl’s neck for the best catch and win him like a prizefighter.
  3.  Motherhood is the noblest achievement and also the minimum requirement to demonstrate that you are a woman.  You can’t be a woman if you don’t have babies.

Love never entered into it.

There were a lot of other rules, but that was the cornerstone of living.  Love / sex / romance / friendship / etc. were all hidden in the same vault, kept under lock and key, protected by the Coldstream Guards.  My mother and grandmother, who had both had spent time away from Montana, with good times in dating and bad luck in marriage, modified my training:  it’s okay to flirt, but not slut; it’s okay to show off, but not seek attention; and it’s very good to make boys jump through hoops to prove their love, because that proves your worth.  Humans do not have the love of 1 Corinthians 13:4; that love is the love that God had for us, I was told, but not the love we have for each other, pffft, that’s not the way it works.

Okay.  Love is jealous; love is mine; love is something precious that I keep locked in my heart (or my underwear) and only dole out in minute quantities to people who work hard and pay the price and let me own them forever in kind.  Love is finite.  If we love each other, there are no boundaries: I get to be mean to you, ignore you, expect things of you.  I give everything to you, but with no generosity; you own me, too, but you’d better not ask anything of me.  We are a single unit, held in tension.

Lifeboat love.

After realizing I did not agree with this, and also that I had no clue what I really did feel or think or believe about love, it took a lot of years of experimentation to figure out a few things.  Sometimes I got hurt, which was horrible; sometimes I hurt others, and my guts still churn to think of it.  (Sorry, my darlings, wherever you are.  We died on the altar of the science of love, martyrs to discovery, and now we know.)

Eventually I realized, through being loved, how love works.  How it should work, if you’re me.

1.  Love is a real and sincere feeling. You can’t fake it; don’t try.  Be honest with yourself!  Shut up all the you-should and the you-must thoughts that get in the way of hearing your heart’s honest truth.  KNOW HOW YOU FEEL. Test it for authenticity.  If any shoulds or have-tos creep in to your internal dialogue, put that feeling on probation until you can test it. Don’t love if you don’t feel it.  But love to the infinite power if you do.  It won’t cost you a nickel, and it won’t hurt a soul.  It can’t.  It’s love.

2.  Love is not necessarily a limited resource.  It’s like water:  no less valuable for being everywhere.  If you can connect with the real love you feel, it’s not something coerced into existence that dies outside the germ-free protective vault you created for it.  It flows out of you; you don’t run out.

3.  And what if you did?  What if you stopped feeling love, for someone or something?  Then so be it.  Don’t force it.  Don’t pretend it’s still felt.  Be honest.  Because…

4.  How you feel doesn’t dictate how you act.  Emotional honesty does not change the rules of engagement.  You no longer love someone?  Okay.  That doesn’t mean you should mistreat them; it doesn’t mean their feelings don’t matter; it doesn’t give you license to be a jerk.  Because…

5.  Boundaries are everyone’s best tool in interpersonal relations.  Check out these values statements it took me decades to find true:

  • I love you whether or not you love me.
  • I can’t force, demand, expect, or require you to love me.
  • My love for you does not materially change based on how you feel about me.

It occurs to me that popular music covered these topics:  Howard Jones sang the first line, Bonnie Raitt sang, “I Can’t Make You Love Me”, and Louis Jordan sang, “It makes no difference what you feel about me / But it makes a whole lotta difference what I feel about you.”  For that matter, “Let your love flow” is more truth than I expected from a Bellamy Brothers song.  But for sheer powerful truth, here’s a quote from Still Life with Woodpecker that should be stitched on a sampler:

“Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won’t adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is to sign on as its accomplice. Instead of vowing to honor and obey, maybe we should swear to aid and abet. That would mean that security is out of the question. The words “make” and “stay” become inappropriate. My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free.”
Praise be to Tom Robbins for that, and for this:
“People who sacrifice beauty for efficiency get what they deserve.”
*   *   *   *   *

It was hard for me to feel rich.  Poor farmers don’t raise rich children, as a rule, and I was raised to scrimp and save and hoard my pennies, and my love.  Being loved, and trying to love others, taught me that I had big feelings in store.  When I started to realize that I didn’t HAVE to be miserly with love, I started to have some success in washing away the bullshit of my upbringing — the social striving, the bourgeois reverence for manners over morals, the harsh character judgments imposed as punishment for cosmetic irrelevancies and superficial traits.

The more of that BS I was able to let go, the more I was able to accept myself.  Radical acceptance with condemnation made me suicidal; radical acceptance with compassion — the knowledge that I always tried to do my best, the acknowledgement that I didn’t always have tools to do well, the realization that this is probably true for most people — struck me like a bolt.

I don’t have to deserve love to be loved.

I don’t have to deserve my love to love myself.

No one has to earn my love.

Maybe being loved will help them become lovable, just as being loved made me loving.  Maybe not.  And that’s fine, too.

“God bless the child who’s got his own.”

 

 

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To the Church that Requested Its Women Fast from Social Media (but Not Men) and Fall Silent at a Time when Women are in Pain from Being Silenced, and During Church Sex Scandals, and Right Before a Utah State Election in which You, the Church, Have Meddled:

The conference messages to women were very positive on the surface, but saying women have great capacity to love, and therefore should focus on avoiding “negative or impure”” media, is saying, very gently, “Women need to Be Sweet, not angry” — as if anger isn’t the appropriate response to injustice; as if anger were incompatible with love.

And if men are less capable of love, why aren’t *they* the ones enjoined to take a media fast, spend more time reading the BoM, go to temple more consistently, etc.? It sounds as if they need it more than we do.

But the church needs us to be quiet and disconnected now more than ever. I think this may be a harbinger of increased conservatism within the church, led by keeping women down. Hope not.

Sisters Quorum

LEAH:

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The Last Golden Age of Illustration

OverTheHill Reviewer

Being Generation X is difficult in the sense that it bridges two eras.  In the early 70s it was before the dawn of home video, videogame, and computers.  These things came onto the scene when we were still kids, and we saw this wave sort of crash over us.  Today we live in a different era, but I’m starting to sort of register what’s been lost along the way.

I think with the rise of digital art (aka photoshopping) and the shift from old media such as books to audio-visual and/or digital media that the art and the underlying sense of value in illustration has been lost.

I think the crossover happened right in the pocket of my childhood from the mid 70s through the 80s.

If you look at the history of the 20th century, the dominant media of the day started out as books, magazines, and then radio…

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Tacitus on Germanic Standards for Women and Child-Rearing

It was not the specific customs, in all cases, but the line: good customs are stronger than good laws.

SENTENTIAE ANTIQUAE

Some of the rhetoric here seems a bit familiar…

Tacitus, Germania 19-20

In that country, no one finds vice amusing; nor is seducing or being seduced celebrated as a sign of the times. Even better are those communities where only virgins marry and a promise is made with the hope and vow of a wife. And so, they have only one husband just as each has one body and one life so that there may be no additional thought of it, no lingering desire, that they may not love the man so much as they love the marriage. It is considered a sin to limit the number of children or to eliminate the later born. There good customs are stronger than good laws.

There are children there naked and dirty in every house growing into the size of limbs and body at which we wonder. Each mother nourishes each child…

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Women’s garb in the Maqâmât of al-Ḥarîrî

Note the headgear!

Miriam's Middle Eastern Research Blog

All images taken from one manuscript of the Bibliothèque nationale de France’s copy of the Les Maqâmât d’Aboû Moḥammad al-Qâsim ibn ʿAlî al-Ḥarîrî, known as manuscript Arabe 3929. The Maqâmât (or “Assemblies”) are 50 stories, written in the mid 13th century C.E. in northern Syria. The prose is written in the style known as saj’, meant to be learnt by rote and recited to others by heart.

This image of of the hero of the story Abu Zayd (on the right of the image) and his wife. This is Image f40 in the manuscript.

This image is Abu Zayd and his wife being arrested. Taken from Image f49 in the manuscript.

Abu Zayd appearing as an old woman. Taken from Image f85 in the manuscript.

Another picture of Abu Zayd as an old woman. Taken from Image f88 in the manuscript.

Abu Zayd appearing before the Kadi. The…

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Starving

I read a news item the other day that clamped my throat shut with rage tears and will not fade from my brain.

Did you see this article?

https://nypost.com/2018/04/19/mckayla-maroney-how-larry-nassar-manipulated-us-with-food/

“I think I would’ve starved at the Olympics if I didn’t have him bring me food,” Maroney said.

Nassar’s simple gestures shielded a disturbing ulterior motive. Maroney claims he would take advantage of the gymnasts’ insecurities, depicting himself as a savior of sorts, in the midst of competitions.

“[He would] buy me a loaf of bread,” she said

It’s not just how deeply fucked up it is to starve children, period; or to do so because they can jump higher when they’re skinny.  It’s not just the horrible culture of child athletes being broken like ponies, and worked harder than rented mules.  The anger about all of this is real, for me; immediate and deep.

 

But it pushed other buttons, stirred some deep pots in my basement hearth.

 

Food is involved.  A child in need of food.

 

An evil man disguised as kind…who won’t feed a child for nothing.  Coaxing trust with a trail of breadcrumbs. Betraying the real gratitude and abusing the trust.  Being a savior but also cutting a kid open, taking a pound of flesh from a kid who has none to spare.  A kid who is hardworking and hungry and trying so hard…cut up for his pleasure.  What kind of monster doesn’t take care of a kid?

 

I’m just so upset about this I can’t even describe it.

 

I never told Mom about the abuse.  For a lot of reasons, but foremost because we relied on Papa (and Grandma) for food and shelter.  We lived in their house and ate at their table; they watched us while Mom worked and commuted.  My step-grandfather was kind to me.  He taught me a lot of lessons in how to be a stand-up guy, so to speak; how to be loyal to friends, how to laugh off embarrassment, how to enjoy hard work.  He taught me how to dance in the tiny kitchen.  He taught me how to joke around, and pushed back against my grandma’s overprotection and fear for me, which taught me to be fearful.  He tried to teach me to be less afraid of bees and swimming and dead things, when I was very little, and he was the only person in the family who made statements of praise or appreciation — not only for me — but it was alien to the culture of my grandmother’s family, which he joined.
He always tried to take care of me.  One time, he was framing a porch addition and a piece of lumber slipped, cutting his head open, and you know how head wounds bleed.  He needed help and ran up to the door, shouting for my mother, and seeing me see him through the side window, turned his back and tried to modulate his voice to calmly convince me that I mustn’t look out the window but needed to get Mom right away, fast as you can.
He started molesting me when I was 8, almost 9.  I started having panic attacks.  I got my first bad grades…then overcompensated and never got a bad grade for years.  And I started eating to feel calm.  Pictures of me from that era show a healthy, smiling outdoor kid with long blond hair turning to a frowning brownette chub, over the course of a few months.  I cried a lot and acted out — sarcasm, tantrums, attention-seeking, other criminal acts in a Norwegian farm environment. Family decided I was envious of my baby sister, who had stopped being a wailing red grub and became a delightful cherub wreathed in golden curls, getting all the positive attention I used to receive.  An aunt gave me a kids’ book about transactional analysis (T. A. for Tots and Other Prinzes, by Alvyn M Freed, PhD) and I read it over and over, not understanding why it wasn’t helping.
What helped was eating.  Lots of reading, too, since I wasn’t sleeping anyway.  Eating was a sensory pleasure and made me calm, through digestive torpor rather than self-regulation. I felt hungry all the time — or what I thought was hunger; I was starved for calm.  I ate and ate and ate.  And I never spoke up.
So when I read about a man who bought a girl’s trust with a loaf of bread, I wanted to vomit my every excess, consumed over decades, ever since I was 8, almost 9.
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