December 8th, 2011

monster house

Poem: "Beggars' Night"

This was the linkback perk poem for the December 6, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was prompted by the_vulture with extra inspiration from an illustration by meeksp. Since it's not finished yet, you can reveal new verses by linking to a specific poem posted from the December fishbowl, or to the unsold poetry list. This poem is now complete! Participants include: wyld_dandelyon, aldersprig, janetmiles, thesilentpoet, zianuray, the_vulture, rix_scaedu, natasiakith, siege, natf, mdlbear, meeksp

"'Beggars' Night" is a free-verse poem about Halloween in the Monster House. The fun begins when the doorbell rings...

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Study Finds Organ Damage from GMO Corn

A study from the International Journal of Biological Sciences has revealed organ damage in rats from GMO corn, across several varieties of corn.  Two of the varieties produce insecticidal substances, while the third is resistant to herbicide and thus builds up a residue of that.  Toxins in edible plant matter -- not such a great idea.

This does not surprise me, giving the sharp rise in food allergies related to corn and/or corn products such as high-fructose corn syrup.  Some members of a population will always be more sensitive to a new hazard -- and someone allergic to a food will tend to avoid it, and thus any negative effects it causes.

Monsanto responded by claiming that the study was based on "faulty analytical methods."  They seem to use that as a synonym for "unprofitably throrough."

By an extremely circuitous route, I have to wonder if edible clay would help.  You can still buy that in central and South America where some poisonous varieties of potato remain popular as food.  The clay absorbs the toxins.  I wonder if people who are eating that clay to make their potatoes safe might also be protected from some of the other toxic things that get into the food supply. 

Brains Before Beauty

Read an essay about gender and the sciences.  There are some cool thoughts about subconscious and socially enforced gender ideas.

As for the test, I don't really trust it.  Those things are usually so raddled with preconceptions that they are useless for measuring preconceptions.  Why?  There's almost never enough information to make a decision or association, but the test REQUIRES that people do so.  You're not allowed to say, "There's nothing here to base a decision on, so I'm going to take the radical step of NOT MAKING ONE."  Bah. 

There are times in life when you have to make a split-second decision on little or no data.  That's what instincts and extrapolations are for.  But we are more than our instincts or our subconscious.  It matters  that the conscious mind can say "I can't tell what job this person has, because all you've given me is a list of jobs and a stack of photos" rather than just arbitrarily making up associations that don't really exist.  You know, I think some stereotypes come from that social pressure to bullshit our way through situations where there is little or no data, rather than trying to get more data.

Fat Women and Sex

Here's an article about fat women, sex, and sexual predators.  It's useful to think about the hazards of sexual interaction because sometimes people do prey on each other, not always in obvious ways.  Size discrimination is widespread and this is one of the nastier examples of it.

But.  This is similar in strategy, though different in detail, to a bunch of other ways men target women they think will be easy.  They'll do it with new widows, with unpopular girls, with abuse survivors -- all kinds of fool things.  And there's something else that is consistently true across these categories: some of those targets know the game, and in that case, a hunter geared entirely for offense because he thinks he's picked a helpless target tends to be WIDE OPEN on defense.  Very nearly helpless.  A savvy target can MANGLE him, verbally or otherwise, before he even realizes that he's under counterattack.  It's fascinating, really; I've seen quite a few women foil such attacks.  I have yet to see a man initiate this kind of maneuver and then manage to block a counterattack.

Sometimes vulnerability is all about perception.

Poem: "The Mouth's Calendar"

This poem came from the December 6, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from meeksp and wyld_dandelyon.  It was sponsored by janetmiles.  This was the kind of calendar I counted by when I was little: what was ripe in the garden and yard, what was available at the farmer's market.  To this day, when I design menus for holiday celebrations, I tend to favor the foods most closely associated with each season for its holidays.  I want to make sure they're in there even if they're augmented by other items.

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Poem: "Truffle Power"

This poem came from the December 6, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by a prompt from kelkyag and sponsored by janetmiles.  You can read more about the indriso form online.

Truffle Power
-- an indriso

A truffle is tiny, concise --
One taste, and it's gone in a trice --
Just chocolate, liqueur, and some spice.

So what holds attention at bay
And won't let it slither away,
Count calories howe'er you may?

It's chocolate, and that is enough.

It's chocolate: that's powerful stuff.


Tell ALL the Stories

This author decided to create a book of Native American stories, small tales with a very local focus.  Not epics.  Not particularly happy stories either.  Not fancy literature.  But the kind of stories that people live and the kind they tell.  Why?  He didn't feel that mainstream stories -- mostly created by people who aren't Native American -- were representational. 

That's typical of Native American literature, actually.  Much of it is as dark and gritty as Indian coffee.  The authors dump a handful of story grounds into a coffeepot and shove it into a campfire.  For hours.  Strong stuff.  I remember that from Joy Harjo and Leslie Marmon Silko. 

The literature is this way today because being Native American tends to make the mainstream culture dump on you.  The reservations are mostly dirt poor, and by "dirt poor" I mean not all the houses have floors or running water or electricity and few of the roads are paved.  Living elsewhere makes it hard to stay in touch with your tribal culture, hard not to assimilate.  There isn't really a low-stress option.

So on the one hand, we're gradually building up a pretty thorough collection of stories about what it's like to be Native American today.  It's good to have stories written by and for and about a particular culture.  People notice things that way which would otherwise get missed.

On the other hand, when a preponderance of stories have a bleak mood because the present is bleak, that can make it hard for people to see OUT of that -- to imagine a more hopeful future, to believe that change is possible, to think about what it could mean for their culture to still exist in a hundred or a thousand years.  That conversation has been had in a number of other focal literatures including women's literature, queer literature, Jewish literature, black literature, etc.  It's particularly true in science fiction, where authors often look ahead and place their characters in dystopic or utopian settings.  I am particularly reminded, however, of something that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said to Nichelle Nichols about playing Lt. Uhura in Star Trek: "You show that black people are still there in the future.  You show that we SURVIVE."

Do you speak of what is true, when it's often nasty?  Do you speak of what is possible, when it may not be manifest at the time?

My answer is this: Tell ALL the stories.  Encourage as many people as possible to write -- or draw, or photograph, or sing, or whatever -- of their experiences and hopes and fears.  Get it all out.  Take it all in.  Write and read widely.  Because life is like coffee with sugar: you can't separate the bitter and the sweet, every taste is touched with both. 

You don't have to be famous or an expert.  You don't have to have an agent or a publisher, although sometimes that helps.  No matter how small or how strange is the story you want to tell, there is something meaningful in it.  No matter how awkward your skill, you have to start somewhere and will get better if you keep going.  No matter how far you are from the mainstream, there are other people out there who have something in common with you and with the tales you tell.  If you're not seeing yourself reflected in what's already published, do something about that.

So go for it.  Tell ALL the stories.

More Sherlock

Here's an article about the BBC Sherlock, series 2.  I'm really thrilled to see them doing Hound of the Baskervilles.  I'm a bit more dubious about the description of Irene Adler.  I hope they don't wreck what they've got going already, by adding that.