# (4) 01 May 2009, 10:58AM: Bad Fanfic Everywhere:
I think the only dreams I remember these days are the ones that just shout their subtexts so loud I can't ignore them. Like the one last night where my mom handed me my newborn baby and I nursed it and felt very happy and fulfilled. (No, I am not pregnant in real life, and have no immediate plans to bear a child.) To cap it off this baby was named Myrtle, rhymes-with-fertile, as I think dream-Stuart pointed out.
I remembered this dream and couldn't stop laughing at how obvious it was.
# (7) 03 May 2009, 04:52PM: DSM-V Candidate:
The pop-psych explanation goes: It's a disorder if it gets in the way of your life or if it's stopping you from doing things you want to do. Example:
"I have a problem: I hate advertising. Under most circumstances I would not consider this a problem, but I'm starting to think that my hatred of advertising is neurotic. I will go out of my way to avoid doing things that I want to do because of advertising."
So I used to think it was just a morally neutral and perfectly healthy quirk that I hated creating new accounts on new services. That's the main reason I'm not on Facebook or Twitter/identica or MySpace or Amazon or...[giant list at footnote 0]
Now, with Facebook and Twitter/identica, it's getting into "revelation that one does not own a cell phone" territory. And I'm missing out on parties and useful work-related gossip because of holding out. So I'll probably join those soon, and I am trying to figure out why I'm holding out.
Today I discovered that the This American Life stage show will be broadcast again, this Thursday, May 7th, and that three New York City theaters will host showings. I rather want to go! But I would rather use their phone system or physically go in person to the Clearview First and 62nd Cinemas (the only theater that isn't sold out) than set up a movietickets.com account and instantly buy a ticket online. I may end up letting the logistics of either option stop me from doing something I want to do.
I used to explain away my reluctance with a Mark Twain quote, "Beware of all enterprises that require a new set of clothes," and say that I beware of anything that requires a new username and password. But if I wanted to, I could use a digital keyring to keep track of my user/pass/site combos. Or a Sherlock Holmes-branded password notebook.
Maybe I'm just a late adopter. I also don't have a portable MP3 player or smartphone, even though I'd find them ridiculously useful. But I really enjoy being adventuresome in the food that I eat, or knowing about cutting-edge technology, or knowing about a cool band or author before the mainstream does.
So my cynical amateur self-diagnosis goes like this: I conflate minimalism with simplicity. I enjoy perceiving myself as nonconformist, and/so I eschew popular things just because they're popular. I join new networks not as an altruistic pioneer, but only when I can leech useful data off existing content providers. And I'm lazy.
But my craving for self-validation (for being so punk and l33t that I'm not on Facebook, oi rock out) will soon lose out to my craving for validation from others (this social animal wants into the zoo!). So unless Mike Daisey convinces me otherwise tomorrow night, I'm probably getting on Facebook. And -- because -- so are you.
...or eBay or PayPal or Pandora or Last.fm or Fandango or OKCupid or the iTunes music store or the BoingBoing comment boards or Advogato or Ohloh or Reddit or LibraryThing or Wikipedia or Ticketmaster or LiveJournal or Yelp or EggRadio or Yahoo/delicious/Flickr or cdBaby or Lulu/Createspace. (For Delicious, eBay, Amazon, BookMooch, cdBaby, Lulu/Createspace, and probably some other services I piggyback on Leonard's account. Maybe this implies that I really want to buy/give away physical goods and save interesting URLs to The Cloud but can't be bothered to initiate an account to do so.)
Counterpoint: I do have accounts with Google, AIM, Jabber, the Miro Guide, Meetup, Tor.com, GeekSpeakr, and LinkedIn, among others.
 There are probably less self-loathing explanations, but like short letters (and blog posts), those take longer to make. To make well, anyway.
# (3) 05 May 2009, 03:10PM: Adjusting:
The last day of April, I decided I didn't want to continue renting an office. Then I stepped outside and saw a perfectly good desk discarded on the sidewalk. So that's what I'm using now. It's IKEA: durable enough to use thoroughly, shoddy enough that we too will find it disposable when we move.
So: working from home. To give Leonard alone time, and to keep from going stir crazy, I'm going out every night this week. Last night it was a Daisey monologue. Tonight it's a scifi meetup. Then: coffee with a new friend, some sort of theatrical/comedy event, and then some Debian thing at a pub for the three remaining weeknights. My MO appears to be: tee and sweatpants all day, then shower and put on a freaking dress to leave the house. Intriguing emergent behavior there.
# (1) 09 May 2009, 12:19PM: Fisher-Price's My First Keysigning:
Last night, at Biella's suggestion, I visited the Pacific Standard. Oh the homesickness! They have a UC Berkeley alumnus decal on the door, and a Moe's sticker on the rear wall, above a pedestal holding an Oxford English Dictionary.
I went for a Debian event, specifically a keysigning. Now this is ordinarily the point where my sister's eyes would glaze over and she'd skip the rest of the entry, and then she'd miss out on the part where I reveal my vulnerabilities, share my plans for work, children, and spiritual growth, and describe the secrets of consciousness and the world to come. Which is sad, really.
A keysigning is part of a way to solve the problem: when you get an email, how do you know it's from the person it says it's from? This is especially important if we want to be able to, say, sign contracts, flirt with cute guys, or gossip without fear that it's an impostor on the other side of the conversation. Not to mention -- wouldn't it be great if, even if someone else saw your email, they couldn't read it unless you wanted them to? I'm of course simplifying horribly, but public-key cryptography and authentication is a way for people to make their communications more secure. (Corrections in the comments in 3...2....)
And a part of that is matching up people with their "keys," verifying that a certain key belongs to a certain person. We usually do that in person, as Zack explains:
This is a process not unlike notarization. If you sign someone's PGP key it means that you met the person whose key it is, face to face, and checked that (a) they are who they claim to be, (b) that really is their key. Assuming that you've never met the person off the net before, part (a) involves looking at government-issued ID; I saw a lot of passports.
I also saw a lot of passports last night; I don't think I'd ever seen a Mexican passport before. I was meeting nearly everyone for the first time, and found myself making small talk based on the visas and stamps in their passports. "Oh, you have the same Indian visa I do!" I have the feeling I met some rather important people and didn't know it. Soon I'll be in their web of trust and perhaps some cool new cabal will open up to me.
My keysigning wasn't as exciting as some, but I've passed through yet another geek rite of passage. (Flailing at a keyboard to make randomness, just like Randy Waterhouse did!) It made me miss Seth.
# (1) 10 May 2009, 12:56AM: Star Trek, Dilbert, Drunk History, And Self-Help Mysticism In One Inconvenient Package:
"This will enhance shareholder value while ensuring continued GAAP strategic focus on a going-forward basis," I quipped in IRC, scaring colleagues. Yes, I can talk like the Pointy-Haired Boss when I want to. Brendan mentioned offhandedly that, after all, technobabble and bizlinga are basically similar. I'd read a parallel observation, on West Wing and Star Trek as meritocratic office fantasies, but I hadn't thought about that aspect of the jargon.
Some administrative technocratbabble would be useful in a Trek spinoff Leonard imagines, a version of TNG that focuses on the administration of the Enterprise. You may not know that The West Wing was supposed to be all the people who orbit the Oval Office, everyone but the POTUS. This TNG would be like that, Riker-centric, lots more of the meaty process and politics stuff we see in "Chain of Command" and "Lower Decks", and the B-plot of "Thine Own Self." Picard is aloof and melancholy because he's clinically depressed, and he's on antidepressants, but the bergamot in his Earl Grey tea reduces their effectiveness, so Riker runs interference. Okay, the bergamot thing is my idea, but basically I'm saying this would be what DeCandido's novel Articles of the Federation started getting at.
Pat was over the other night and suggested Leonard and I could use our nonalcoholic grape juice to fake Drunk Scifi videos, akin to Drunk History. "Lemme tell you, Paul Atreides was one badass m*^$#@f@&%*," I fake-slurred. We could use Drunk Scifi to create a sort of fanfilk of our favorite universes. La Forge gets the recognition he deserves. The Troi and Crusher characters get combined. I'm sure we know someone who looks enough like a young Wil Wheaton. Wait, it's funnier if he's hilariously unlike Wheaton. Leonard in a wig for no good reason.
Kevin doubts that the Drunk History people are just regular folk with some specific pet interest. He thinks they're history grad students. He reasons: when you're severely drunk, what can you tell a coherent narrative about? Your life's work. The domains you know best. He might be right, but I hold out hope that Derek Waters's friends are just undiscovered Sarahs Vowell and Kates Beaton.
It's a kind of improv, this thing you can do with mastery. The joy always surprises me, and I need to remember it so I don't give up during the grind.
I'm remembering an awe-inspiring riff Tara Copeland improvised in MOTHER about the phrase "Jordan Knight, it's all right," all her New Kids On The Block fandom like the length of the spear driving the point home. Our obsessions get us to this place, where we've gone past crawling and toddling and walking and running -- now we can dance.
# (1) 12 May 2009, 10:09PM: He Meant To Post To Causal Encounters:
For those who don't know: Craiglist has a category of personals called Casual Encounters (not to be confused with Missed Connections, even though Missed Connections often result from accidental encounters that are fairly casual). Folks using Casual Encounters use "NSA" to mean "no strings attached" rather than "National Security Agency". But that's not the only disorienting bit of language in CE.
"Shhhh. Your secretes safe with me...." starts off:
Before you even read on. This is a COMPLETELY discrete experience. If you decide to meet up, our meeting ENDS when either you are I leave one another. This is NOT for an LTR. It is for a no strings attached encounter.
"Secrete" is an obvious misspelling, but I really can't tell whether the author is correctly using "discrete" or just happened upon another appropriate word while spelling "discreet." It's wonderful.
# (3) 13 May 2009, 07:42AM: WisCon Schedule:
The schedule for this year's WisCon (feminist sci-fi convention, Madison, I'll be there May 21-25) is up. I'm on three panels:
- How Should Magazines and Anthologies Review Submissions?, Sat. 4pm
- Was It Good for You?: What stories do readers (especially women & people of color) wish we could see more of and what stories do we wish we never had to read again? Sat. 10:30pm
- SF/F & Higher Ed, Sun. 4pm
Some interesting folk are attending. I already knew Jed Hartman and Annalee Newitz would be there, but yay, Cliff Winnig!
# (1) 15 May 2009, 01:19AM: Learning To Recognize That Reaction; Or, Affect:
Right now I'm looking away, acting like this is happening to someone else and I'm outside looking in. I'm analyzing the situation intellectually and finding irony or amusement or a familiar aesthetic in its informational topology. But once I stop doing that, once I recognize that it's my body that's living this surprising disappointment, once I give up on using thinking as a barrier to feeling, wow it's going to hurt.
And, of course, once you've let pain in, all the clever perspectives and models and lenses, all the rotations of shield frequencies, just help you see the pain from new and interesting angles. The geodesic dome keeps the pain out until it keeps it in, and fresh.
# 16 May 2009, 10:51AM: Inconvenience:
It would be nice if this cold were just allergies. It would be nice if I got over this cold before a sudden business trip tomorrow. It would be nice if CreateSpace had been able to get me a batch of Thoughtcrime Experiments in time for WisCon. But such are the ways of this fallen world.
Update a few days later: Astoundingly, the cold did go away in time for the plane trip, and I got a crate of CreateSpace pre-WisCon. Did the gods of blogging smile on me or something?
# (3) 16 May 2009, 04:19PM: Slapdash Thoughts On Real Estate:
I need to read about property.
Specifically, I need to read philosophy of property. What does it mean when we say, or feel, that we own something? In the free software crowd, this is a perfectly normal thing to want to learn and does not make me any nerdier than I already am.
[This is in contrast to how people reacted to me at Thursday night's Tor.com meetup. To make it easier to make conversation, I wore a reusable whiteboard-ish nametag upon which I'd written my name, my Tor.com handle, and a bunch of topics I'm interested in: Le Guin, Battlestar, Stephenson, Trek, open source, feminism, stand-up comedy, and tax history. (Write on it with a Sharpie, erase with any sort of alcohol. I used perfume.) People invariably looked at it, nodded along, and then asked incredulously, "Tax history?" to which I responded, "That's what makes me a nerd here." Laughter & bonding achieved!]
I need to understand theory of property because I've been trying to understand my own feelings about ownership. For example, I have some inchoate thoughts on analogies among our property intuitions regarding homes, romantic and filial relationships, and intellectual property, especially regarding homesteading/squatter's rights/Lockean "mixing your labor with the land." But right now I want to talk about buying versus renting.
In personal terms, investing 300% of your wealth in one asset seems like dubious personal finance.
So why, in the US in the later twentieth century, did it make economic sense to buy a home to live in? Well, these days, the cost of rent or mortgage is now like half or more of income, on average. The government made interest on home mortgages tax-deductible, so it's like you don't have to pay taxes on the income that you used to pay that mortgage. And on a 30-year (standard) mortgage, interest is like 80 or 90% of the monthly payment.
Sure, renting makes you feel like you're throwing away money every month instead of investing in your own wealth, and your rent goes into the pockets of the rentier class. But given the huge proportion of interest to principal in a mortgage payment, a mortage builds equity pretty slowly, and all that interest goes to the rentier class too. And it decreases the homeowner's mobility, of course, which hits knowledge workers especially hard. (I'm assuming that if you're reading this knowledge work is your lot.) Being able to move to a new city to command higher wages or consulting fees is an economic benefit too.
And house prices are not guaranteed to go up! Like Franklin Mint collectibles, they are not guaranteed to increase in value. And past performance really is no guarantee of future results. Buying a house is making a big, big bet.
But this is where we get to the intangible benefits of permanence, and all those other benefits of "owning" "your" "own" "home." (Heck, even our language is biased. We say "I just bought a house" or "she owns her home" as shorthand for "I just signed a mortgage and intend on owning this house outright eventually" or "she is slow-mo buying her home on the installment plan.")
If I own my house and live in it for a long time, it's a lot easier to raise kids, to run for office, to customize my living space, to feel neighborly, and so on. But what comes from what? What parts of those benefits are coming from choosing a city and staying there, from staying in one particular home, or from having a deed to a piece of land?
When I sleep overnight in my parents' house, or my sister's condo, what is that strange comfortable feeling I get? Do you get that feeling too?
So, just as I want to interrogate my emotional attachment to intellectual property, I want to make sense of my relationships with other forms of property. For example, I am used to living in a house that my family "owns". But what are other options? I could rent a house on a longish lease, to make that commitment that leads to the other benefits of long residency. I could buy a house with a mortgage of shorter duration so more of my money would go towards principal (and thus equity) rather than wasteful interest. I could join co-ops, communes, what have you.
The real shock, the one I have to overcome, is realizing that my reflexes when it comes to home ownership are based on certain historical contingencies about my childhood, the interest tax deduction for homeowners' mortgages, the existing financial and banking institutions, etc. I'm like the RIAA -- mistaking a common business model for What's Owed Me. But the universe does not owe me the deed to a piece of land and a four-bedroom two-bath. Nor does it owe me happy fleet-footed technomad ease in spatial (or social) mobility.
Buying a house to live in makes sense for some people. Will it ever make sense for me? I need to read about property.
# (2) 20 May 2009, 04:06PM: Oh That Sheldon!:
Someday I need to check whether I enjoy "The Big Bang Theory" when I am not on an airplane.
# 21 May 2009, 10:22AM: Recent Quotes:
It is extremely weird to have a past to look back on and think about and learn from now that seems substantial, instead of only a future to look forward to. There's that as well, of course; we're all still young. But more and more the future isn't all there is. Having a past brings me more fully into the present. It's kinda nice.
A compulsion, a life with a goal, how could you tell the difference?
-Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars, p. 223
It seems every time we think technology has moved beyond some irritating limit, new tech comes in and re-introduces it to us. No more 8-bit video, unless you're on a VNC connection. Screens are big, unless you're in a phone. Network is always connected, unless you're in a phone.
If desire is lack, then what is it when you already feel full?
When Hamilton's mother went to school officials about the "counseling" group, the counselor confronted Hamilton the next week, telling her, "You're going to get this treatment your whole life. What are you going to do, stand up every time?"
-ACLU press release, via Kameron Hurley, who answers: "Well... YEAH."
# 21 May 2009, 11:52PM: Madison, Whee:
I've arrived at WisCon 33. Already I've dined with Erika Nelson, Cliff Winnig, and Cliff's wife Deb, and met various other cool-seeming folk. I hadn't expected people would ooh and ahh so much over the paperbacks of Thoughtcrime Experiments! Sort of wish I'd brought more.
# (1) 22 May 2009, 05:38PM: WisCon, Properly Day One:
Ellen Kushner led me to try on lots of free clothes at The Swap and foisted several pieces on me. I am sleep-deprived and thus suggestible. I met Tacit Hydra and we decided to form an emo cover band named Arduous Penguin. My analogies tend to make Jed Hartman laugh. A Madison historical society that had been billed as having a big zine archive had closed stacks spread across multiple buildings, bah, but some Russian scifi editors came on the outing, and I discovered that there are two "Bob's Copy Shop"s on University Avenue, with no corporate relation between them.
When a vegetarian views a menu at a vegetarian restaurant, she's momentarily disoriented by the scope of choice. I could eat...ANY of this. I am feeling a similar disorientation at the world's leading feminist science fiction convention.
# (2) 23 May 2009, 12:31AM: Sold Out:
Wow. Gave or sold a few copies of Thoughtcrime Experiments to contributors & friends, sold several more to strangers (especially after they viewed the flyer I made), and am holding on to a single copy to show off.
I had foolishly thought most people would say, "Well, it's nice that you have a paperback version, and I'm glad I'm getting to browse it, but I'd rather avoid clutter and read it online or on my ebook reader." However, most people here do not live in tiny New York City apartments, and they prefer the experience of reading on paper, and find $3 or $5 an eminently reasonable price for 178 pages. And many come to a con to stock up on paper books, at the dealer's room and at free book tables. I also get the sense that people want to support our effort, and believe that buying the book shows that support. I'm trying to find a nice way to tell such people that the support we want is links, reviews, remixes, and copycat projects.
Skud pointed out that, since Leonard and I technically hold the copyright on the anthology (see p. 2 of the PDF), we could try to profit off it while the CC license (Attribution-Noncommercial-Sharealike) prevents anyone else from doing so. I replied, "We're not going to pull an Ubuntu One."
# 23 May 2009, 10:19AM: Leeching And Seeding:
Evidently my body decided, when I went to England, New York City, and Wisconsin in quick succession, that I just didn't know what the hell I wanted in terms of sleep, food, or brain function. Thus I am sleep-deprived and eating irregularly. This goes against the famed 5-2-1 rule of congoing, which says that you should have at least 5 hours of sleep, 2 full meals, and 1 shower daily.
With regard to brain function, being around smart, friendly people makes me feel glib and clever in my speech, but I autographed a book the other day and misspelled my own name. My first name. I wrote, "From Sunday." It was Thursday night. It's Saturday now. I'm on two panels today.
A few people were astonished that this is my first con. Why hadn't I done a scifi convention before now? Because I didn't feel I had the disposable income, or I hadn't gotten into the habit when I was younger, or I thought I wasn't fannish enough. Because the Bay Area and the internet fed my hunger for being around People Like Me. Because I didn't know it was going to be this much fun. I'm constantly having great conversations with new friends and old. There is no better charge to my self-esteem than to see people I like laugh at my jokes, enjoy my company, and make opportunity-cost decisions to spend time with me -- to find me desirable, in a sense.
My roommates and I involuntarily woke up before 7am and chatted for hours about cons, RaceFail, clothes, comics, software, friends, publishing, DIY, religion, and general geekery. I should, like, eat breakfast and start panelgoing. And shower. 5-2-1.
# 24 May 2009, 04:04AM: Quote of the Day:
"Are you going to be all right?" "Yes, because I have to be. What other choice do I have?" "Well, that fixes everything."
Actually, no, the quote of the day really should be Candra just before the Better Living Through Tech panel, musing on the sounds cell phones make when we don't want them to, but that one really needs to be told vocally.
# (1) 25 May 2009, 12:07AM: The Chart Goes Up And To The Right:
It's like there is some concerted conspiracy to make this WisCon awesome for me.
I was able to say some useful things in the "SF/F in Higher Education" panel.
It's fancy-dress night and I'm wearing the black dress I got for free during the Gathering's clothing swap.
At the award ceremony and Guest of Honor speeches just now, Ellen Klages gave a lovely talk about her history with WisCon, science fiction, and writing, and K. Tempest Bradford's shaking voice spoke more than her words about the joy of reading Nisi Shawl's stories, about the joy of coming home.
And then Mary Anne Mohanraj, author of "Jump Space" in Thoughtcrime Experiments, was named one of the two Guests of Honor for next year's WisCon 34.
# (4) 27 May 2009, 07:11AM: Placeholder*:
WisCon 33 transformed me. Like everyone else ever, I need to write up a con report. But like every con report, it'll be extraordinarily lacking because of the tales that can't be told, for reasons of taste, or wrong-medium, or privacy, or you-had-to-be-there. And if I can't tell those stories I eventually lose them.
It's a reason to learn to write fiction.
I've often followed the helpful advice that you should unpack as soon as you return home from a trip. But I need to unpack mentally, and that follows its own timetable.
I'd like to come back next year, and to bring Leonard. But we may be moving to England in the fall to facilitate my work for Collabora, so I'd rather not make promises.
* title to be read in GOB's creepy whisper
# (1) 27 May 2009, 06:30PM: One Of My WisesCon:
One narrative of my Memorial Day weekend is:
I arrived at WisCon Thursday night, made a flyer (PDF, 2 pages, 7 MB) to advertise the anthology (using the hotel's free wireless and free printing), went to the get-together at Room Of One's Own, dined with acquaintances old and new, got complimented in a way that made me blush, returned from dinner, and saw Jed Hartman's arrival blog post inviting people to socialize with him. I had sneakily obtained his cell number weeks prior to pick his brain about editing while sitting in Penn Station, so I texted him. We hit it off incredibly well. My roommates told me too late of the phenomenon of the "con boyfriend" (gender-neutral usage apparently), the person you randomly meet at a con and instantly find yourself spending all your free time with. But they didn't arrive till Friday, so they weren't there to warn me, and I fell into the Jed/Mary Anne/Ben Rosenbaum/Strange Horizons cabal.
This astonished me and I evidently had WisCon-specific Impostor Syndrome about it. This is additionally hilarious if you go back and read about-my-age-now Jed trying not to be a hanger-on at the Westercon where he happened to meet Mary Anne, or another irony-seeking-missile from that same trip:
But the best part [of VRML 97] was that I wasn't just some random stranger introducing myself: they knew who I was, and most of them praised the Handbook to the skies, and all of them were happy to meet me. Major egoboosting for three solid days. It's a marvelous feeling. Sometime on Tuesday I realized that this was exactly what I've longed for all my life in the science fiction world: the ability to introduce myself to people I respect and admire, and have them know who I am because they've seen my work. So this experience wasn't quite the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, but pretty damn close, and possibly as close as I'll get to that particular dream...
Uh, newsflash, 28-year-old Jed.
So flash forward to Sunday night. I'm actually mildly dressed up, literally sitting at the table with these pros (as the field defines them), listening to the Guest of Honor speeches and the Tiptree Award speeches. Jed mentions that a lot of people leave somewhere in the middle, but Mary Anne says she has to stay till the end, but can't tell me why. I assume she's in a skit or a filk or the like.
Evidently my "freakout" of happiness and surprise amused them. I was told the next day, by another attendee, that I had woken his infant with my shout. Whoops. My joy is evident in a snapshot of me & Mary Anne together: "a future WisCon Guest of Honor and her esteemed publisher," captions the photographer, E. J. Fischer. Thanks, E.J.!
Some linkdumping before I run off to Ben's reading (post-con methadone):
Mary Anne's amazing essay on how hard it is to make sexual requests in bed. Among other things.
Jed on short fiction, reminding me of a post-VP essay of Leonard's -- short stories as the garage rock of scifi.
Jed and Mary Anne conversed a while back and Jed noted, "I'd love to see authors giving each other suggestions about themes and styles and experiments to try and so on." Well, a few years ago Ben Rosenbaum helped define infernokrusher, and then Leonard wrote an infernokrusher story that Strange Horizons loved.
On Monday night, Guest of Honor Geoff Ryman sat down at my table at the Great Dane to chat with us and take a break from shooting pool. One interesting thing he said: "genre is a matter of reader strategy, not content." I'm not sure whether or whom he's quoting, but I'll have to read up on related thoughts to help me understand, among other things, why I love scifi and its fans often have characteristics I find essential for friendship.
I guess I accidentally followed Jed's panel signup rule, or spun interesting BS even when in over my head. Susan Marie Groppi and Mary Anne were on a panel with me about reviewing submissions (excellent moderation, Susan!), where she touched on their magazine's interesting gender-balance problem. Leonard's "How To Do This And Why" was invaluable in my preparation.
Maybe tomorrow I can talk about the conversations about racism.
# 28 May 2009, 05:54PM: Prepping Myself:
Hmmm, how to push that embarrassingly gushy entry down the front page a bit? I know, I'll embarrass myself talking about sex!
You think I'm kidding?
# (3) 28 May 2009, 07:15PM: A Peek:
During lunch last week with Charlie Anders, Annalee Newitz, Mary Anne Mohanraj, & Jed Hartman,* I mentioned Figleaf's erotic photography. I think Annalee asked me to send her a link, but as long as I'm going on at some length, I may as well post.
From an intellectual perspective, the interesting thing about his project is his interest in supplying erotica for the straight female gaze. There's subtlety involving belts, and sometimes a little tale putting the viewer just offstage.
Figleaf also blogs about patriarchy, consent, evolutionary psychology's just-so stories, masturbation, media critique, sex work, desire, heteronormativity, contraception, taboos, sexual ethics, lust, what have you. He's a straight married man, a parent, and I find his writing earthy and smart. I like his style. Sometimes the photo is less interesting than the text:
So... a lot of guys get a little panicked when their partner asks if this or that makes her butt look fat.
The proper answer, I realized long ago, is to snuggle close behind her, wrap your arms politely around her waist, bury your nose in her hair and inhale her scent, pull your hands back to grip her hips, pull her firmly but not roughly against you, and sigh...
"Mmm, could you repeat the question?"
The variety of Figleaf's approaches to questions of sex -- cerebral, sensual, critical, playful -- comes out in his musings on posturing in porn. "[A]n *awful* lot of the cliché poses we associate with sex would actually be *terrible* positions to be in *during actual* sex." Figleaf thinks about his own experiences, and about culture and customs, and industrial vs. amateur, then addresses the reader:
Let's just say that were we ever to do more together than drink coffee and shake hands you might find me taking you by the hand, or shoulders, or by the hips, or thighs, or even hair and moving you to our mutual best advantage -- I can guarantee that *even if* for some reason there was a camera or audience in attendance we'd still be arranging ourselves for feeling, rather than necessarily looking, our best.
So far in this entry, I've rather conspicuously avoided discussing my brainstem response to Figleaf's erotica. Despite putting in time at Salon, UC Berkeley, WisCon, and the like, I'm still too shy to talk about my wiring on the public Net. But I can share this: looking at Figleaf's entries has trained my eyes to better appreciate the male form, and to better see erotic subtext in the positions of male bodies.
So when Jodi Hilton of the New York Times photographed a supine Randall Munroe in his plastic-ball pit, his inviting eyes cast upwards at the viewer, a nervous smile quirking his lips, one bent denim-covered knee showing and one hidden... sure, that picture was perfectly worksafe. Except it wasn't.
* Funniest moment to them: my face crumpling as I realized Annalee was right about the problematic portrayal of women in Anathem, or our invention of the term "Wunderscheisse" to describe things that are simultaneously annoying and awesome. Funniest moment to me: during a conversation about Star Trek-related porn, one person's offhand comment caused her partner to pause for several seconds in lifting a forkful of food, noodles arrested halfway between plate and mouth.
# 29 May 2009, 03:14AM: "But It Might Work For Us":
Quote Of The Day: "If code is free, why not me? Well, maybe some kind of gated source model..."
# (1) 31 May 2009, 06:26PM: A QuickTip From America's Test Extrovert:
As Seth Stevenson noted four years ago, marketers for car insurance can sell to most of the American populace. Nearly everyone needs car insurance. The market's huge and fragmented, so marketers put ads everywhere.
I live in New York City, where many adults do not own cars. However, most of us do own cell phones. It's a safer bet that any random person I meet at a party will have a cell phone than that she has attended college. Cell phone and telecom ads proliferate on the subway.
When I'm making small talk at a party (second bullet point), or with a person sitting next to me on the bus, at some point someone's phone will make an appearance. Someone checks the time, or silences a call, or checks Wikipedia or IMDB. And you can make a good three minutes of small talk with that. "Oh, how do you like that phone? Do you get good reception? I don't have a smartphone, I'm deciding what to get. So hard to decide, choosing a phone and a carrier and a monthly plan..." and everyone has an opinion. It's the new weather.
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