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Announcement

(This message originally posted by yessod )
This post is to announce the successful birth of Julia Mairi Shields at 11:37 AM, 1 October 2009.

She was born by C Section, and both she and diony appear to be happy and in good health. She was 7lbs 6 oz and 20.5 inches at time of birth. Her current favorite activities include sleeping, feeding, and waving her arms about at random.

birthday!

Happy birthday, beloved husband yessod! I love you much more than I can say in person, much less in a livejournal post, and I am very grateful indeed that you were born!

gymnastics geekery

When I was a kid I loved watching women's gymnastics, but then I lost track of it for many years, only to realise in 2006 that I could tell the TiVo to tape everything with 'gymnastics' in the title or description. Thus I got to see the leadup to the Olympics -- Chellsie & Shayla's struggles, Nastia's injuries, the sudden appearance of Shawn Johnson, Alicia's amazing determination to make the team -- all culminating in Nastia's glorious glorious triumph in Beijing. She's been my favourite gymnast since I started watching again, and it was fantastic seeing her win the AA. Along the way I got caught up in the excitement of our men's team, who won a bronze team medal against really amazing odds, with some individual unprecedented individual performances by the alternates who got brought in due to both the team superstars being too injured to compete.

There was then a long gymnastics dearth in the US, inasmuch as nobody over here was broadcasting the international competitions and mostly our gymnasts weren't competing in them. The America Cup was back in February, but it is nicknamed the 'scam cup' for a reason -- the scoring is ridiculous. There were more international competitions as the year progressed, and more American gymnastics started attending them, but still no actual broadcast coverage.

But right now the national championships are going on in Dallas, and Universal Sports is not only broadcasting coverage on their cable channel (which does me no good), but is doing live webcasts! So last night before gaming I got to watch the first day of the senior women's competition, and tonight I'll be watching the men's finals -- and then Saturday there's coverage on NBC, which I will TiVo and watch on Sunday or Monday. It is not quite as satisfactory as the Beijing coverage -- NBC had video of every single gymnast performing in every single rotation -- but OTOH I am not yet sufficiently informed to really appreciate watching gymnastics without some form of commentary to tell me what skills are being done, so in a sense those videos were more conceptually cool than actually useful to me. Anyway, I'm glad to get to see lots of bonus gymnastics from the comfort of my computer chair, and without commercials to boot.

Thinking it over, the real appeal for me in watching gymnastics is neither the skills nor the competition, but the narrative arc of each individual athlete over the years I see them perform. The stories I build are largely satisfying because they're not really about the athletes at all, but instead about my imagination, creating and speculating on top of the realities of their development and improvement. I do this with swimming, too, but to a lesser extent, since it's harder for me to understand the choices a racer makes to try to get better times, while decisions about choreography and adding difficulty/risk to routines versus excellent execution of easier skills -- all of that makes sense.

Any other gymnastics fans out there?

in case you noticed...

Yes, I did just remove a ton of people from my 'friends' list. I will probably remove many more. Nothing personal; I am just trying to impose some order on my online spaces, and perhaps to repurpose my LJ back to its original intent as an actual, you know, journal.
I'd say on the whole things are improving, but locally they are still not as pleasing as I would look.

Improvement the first: Ken's wrist is definitely getting better, and they are pleased enough by his progress that he has two different splints instead of an enormous heavy cast. He is even allowed to take off his splint for showering purposes, so the plastic bag & rubberbands can be removed from the bathroom. He'll get X-rayed again in about 10 days, and if all has continued to go well he should be splint-free at that point.

Improvement the second: My cold is on the mend, such that this weekend I was able to return to sleeping horizontally instead of semi-vertically. My neck and shoulders are pleased.

Sadly, I am now entangled in a huge confusing pile of beauracracy about my car, which is at the very least going to involve a DMV appointment, and might involve much paperwork, faxing things to & from Florida, and all sorts of other hassle. I am hoping, though, that the single DMV appointment next week will cover it. And at least I get to feel virtuous about attempting to untangle the confusion.

There are good things, many of them; there is a soft warm cat in my lap right now, and another one sleeping in the living room. I had homemade clam pasta for lunch, and I get to see friends for dinner, including some I don't see very often. I have made minor progress on cleaning out the library so that another bookcase can be added to it, and in doing some had the chance to luxuriate in my piles and piles of books. There is no shortage of things to read in my apartment, not even if I never go to the library again, except of course I go to the library all the time. I'm currently reading The Misses Mallett by E. H. Young, and an early 17th century poetry anthology (England's Helicon), plus a few issues of The New Yorker because I'm always behind.

In the to-read pile... well, that's another post!
I've been thinking about Tolkien lately, in large part due to kate_nepveu's chapter by chapter reread of LoTR that she's blogging about on tor.com. And thus, while reading John Buchan on Sir Walter Scott's novels, I was struck by this:
I am willing to go farther and argue that, without some such salt of the pedestrian, romance becomes only a fairy tale and tragedy a high-heeled strutting. The kernel of romance is contrast, beauty and valour flowering in unlikely places, the heavenly rubbing shoulders with the earthly. The true romantic is not the Byronic hero; he is the British soldier whose idea of a beau geste is to dribble a football into the enemy's trenches; he is some such type as the Georgian sea-captains who wore woollen underclothing, and loved food and wine and the solid comforts of the hearth when they were not about their business of fighting; or some warrior like old Sir Andrew Agnew at the battle of Dettingen, who thus exhorted his regiment: 'My lads, ye see these loons on yon hill there; weel, if ye dinna kill them, they'll kill you.' All romance, all tragedy, must be within haling distance of our humdrum lives, and anti-climax is the necessary adjunct to climax.
(From: Some Notes on Sir Walter Scott, The English Association Pamphlet No. 58, March 1924.)

I can say nothing about how this applies to Scott, and I don't share Buchan's dismissive view of fairy tales, but it nonetheless struck me that this is something I now love in Tolkien that, when I was a teenager, put me right off of his novels. I couldn't figure out how to understand that mix of the mundane and the exalted; how could a book have both elves and Gaffer Gamgee? My ideal fantasy novels in adolescence were Guy Kay's Fionavar, in which (as I recall from quite a distance now) everything happens at a fever pitch all the time and there's absolutely nothing ordinary about anyone or anything. It's my impression that most modern Tolkien-imitating fantasy fails to imitate that part of it. And from there I was reminded of Pebbles on the Shore a 1916 book of essays by Alfred George Gardiner (writing with the lyrical pseudonym Alpha of the Plough) that I read a few years back. In response to someone claiming that the prime minister isn't taking war seriously, Gardiner writes:

But all the same, so far from being shocked to learn that Mr. Asquith can talk about poetry in these days, the fact, if it be a fact, increases my confidence in his competence for his task. I should suffer no pain even if I heard that he took a hand of cards after dinner, and I hope he takes care to get a game of golf at the week-end. I like men who have great responsibilities to carry their burdens easily, and to relax the bow as often as possible. [...] There is nothing more mistaken than the view that because a thing is serious you must be thinking about it seriously all the time.
Which when I first read it put into sharp focus for me a lot of the humour in LotR, as well as the moments in which some of the characters (in my memory it's most often Sam & Frodo) have a chance to slacken their metaphorical bows, drink deep of pure water, and refresh themselves in body and spirit before returning to their task. My adolescent self did feel like serious things must be taken seriously All The Time. Now, in my early 30s, I am glad for moments of respite, however brief they might be.

anger

G-d, I hate being angry.

I mean, I just hate it. I hate the way it feels in my body, I hate the adrenaline, I hate the way my brain circles around & around the thing I'm angry about, unable to let go of it and think of something else. When I get angry when I'm fighting (in the professional teaching/learning self-defense sense) I can do something about it -- defend myself -- and it goes through my body and dissipates. When I'm angry personally, though, there doesn't seem to be any way to process the emotion.

Writing this it occurs to me that 'hate' and 'anger' are clearly not the same emotion for me, which I find somewhat surprising. But hate feels like a mental judgement, whereas anger is something my body decides.

But now I am distracted both by a rush of physical exhaustion & the need to get ready to take my husband to his appointment with an orthopedist, so --

the flatness of a thousand paper cuts...

Life is being rather complicated.

Yesterday on his way to work my poor husband hit a patch of gravel on his bike & had to jump off to avoid slamming into a metal barrier. This led to much, much time spent at the doctor so that the nasty cut on his chin could get cleaned up and stitched, and then (because the radiology department at our local branch of PAMF was closed, and all of the computers for all of PAMF apparently down) a trip to Palo Alto to get inconclusive X-rays of his left arm (we'll know more sometime today), and then a lengthy wait at the pharmacy to get the antibiotics he needs to take to make sure nothing gets infected. By the time we got home we were both very tired, so pizza was ordered, and I flopped about playing Persona 3 (thank you caelano!) while Ken read on the couch, and eventually the pizza arrived and there was food and I went to bed very early wondering why the heck I was so sleepy....

And then I found out -- I have come down with the cold that has been ravaging my social circle! So I am tired and cranky and full of snot, and even more tired because every time the cat jumped on the bed last night I woke up worried they would walk on Ken's arm. Ken is home at least for today and possibly for longer, but we don't know because his doctor hasn't called him yet, maybe because their computers are still down and so the X-rays are having to be brought over by carrier pigeons. It is a Mystery.

Anyway, things here are okay, but man all of my energy and excitement and desire to write here has been massively derailed, although as always in writing about my derailment I start to remember why it is I want to write here again. I don't know if I'm going to make 35k on my novel before Sunday, though.

How are all of you?

ETA: The doctor has finally called, and Ken has a fractured wrist. Off to another doctor's appointment!

ETA2: We just got a call from the orthopedist, who told him to keep the splint on 24/7 (instead of removing it to ice or shower), and to come in on Friday afternoon (instead of today) so they can see how it's healing & make further decisions. I am relieved to have more of an idea of what's going on.

for me, fear of standing out is a privilege

As you all know, I read LJ extremely irregularly, so it wasn't until yesterday that I came across the complex and often painful discussion about cultural appropriation that's been going on in various journals these last 10 or so days. But when I did I started to read, and then I read, and read, and read some more, and tried my hardest to listen and understand, since this is one of the many (many) things I struggle with fear around in my own (so far completely unpublished, and indeed almost entirely unseen by others) writing.

I'm white. Lots of people didn't believe this when I was growing up, which is another post, but nonetheless I'm quite thoroughly white. The characters I write are also white, because that's my comfort zone, and because I can't really figure out how to do race in subcreation, and finally what is really the core of the other two: because I am absolutely terrified that if I tried to write someone who wasn't white, I'd get it wrong.

I used to feel this fear even talking to people who weren't white, the fear that I'd do it wrong, offend, harm, damage, and that the person I was talking to would get mad at me and think I was a bad person -- and they'd be right. I'm grateful to SFSU for changing this; being one of the only white women in my counselling classes caused me to realise that I could screw up in good faith and learn from my mistakes, even when people were angry at me. Still, in my writing I feel an enormous sense of helplessness. I see the anger that gets expressed when a white person does it wrong, and I am horrified to think of that anger being expressed towards me.

Yesterday I read deepad's post: White people, its not all about you, but for this post it is, in which she addresses some of the comments white people brought up during these discussions. One of her answers had an enormous impact on me, and so I'm quoting it in full:

Statement: I'm a white male, and this suggests that I'm not allowed to write anything but white males.

Response: Physically--White males experience less censorship than any other demographic on this planet. They have easier access to more resources including paper, pens, computers and dictaphones. Not only do they have more ability to access the internet to publish online; they also have the world's strongest publishing industry statistically supporting them more than any other group. Nobody is less prevented from writing whatever the hell they want to.
Intellectually--When you imply that POC are disallowing you from writing something, what you are really saying is their their disapproval affects you to a degree that you are willing to pretend that they have the power to alter your choices. This is disenginous.
Morally--I realise this is hard to understand sometimes, because it is a very fundamental difference between post-colonial and imperial nations, so I'll try to be clear.

When you are part of the dominant culture, you are in a system that rewards your default way of living as being termed 'right', and you grow up thinking that being 'wrong' is bad, and therefore a serious enough offence to either paralyse you, or invoke anger at the name-caller.
When you are a minority or a survivor of an oppressive system, you are used to your identity being termed 'wrong', and you work on the assumption that the systems are all broken. You do not trust power to not be used for oppression, opportunity to not be used for selfish advancement, intelligence to not be used against justice, and discernment to not be used to create bigotry.
We are not used to throwing our abusers in jail after three strikes--we negotiate with our abusers being our bosses and television hosts and school teachers and peacekeeping forces and our clergy. When someone tells us we are wrong, we can't run away or banish them, we learn to live with them, and with ourselves.
Try to put yourself in this mindset when you hear someone saying you were wrong.

I am amazed to realise very deeply that, yes, my fear of standing out -- and my ability to fit in -- are part of my white privilege. It's a privilege I was sometimes challenged on as a child, which might be why I've been guarding it so jealously this last five or ten years, but it's certainly one I have now. Unlike many other people, I have the ability to do it right simply by keeping my mouth shut.

As I told deepad:

[...] I've always taken it for granted that being wrong is horrifying, even deadly. That being told I'm not blending in is dangerous unto death.

Your 2nd response above (to the 'I'm a white male') has given me a new way to look at my own fear, and to see how much of that fear comes from the privilege I enjoy as part of the dominant culture. Your suggestion to "try to put yourself in this mindset" is terrifying and exhilarating to me both at once. I'm going to try it.

And so here I am, trying it. I'll no longer be locking all my (fairly rare) journal posts, although there will probably be the occasional TMI physical condition post that is locked out of a sense of privacy rather than a sense of fear. Imagine my surprise to realise that they might not be the exact same thing!

free self-defense class for teenage girls!

Attention local people with daughters age 12-16!

If you'd like to put your daughter into a self-defense class in San Francisco this weekend for free, contact me by 10pm tonight (via LJ comment or email) and I will gift you one, as I've just found out that I temporarily have that power. No previous martial arts experience necessary, and girls with disabilities are welcome.

This is the class that I have taught many times, although I'm not teaching this particular weekend. I am happy to answer questions about what we teach & how it works & why it's so very cool.

The class is:
December 13-14, 2008
Saturday December 13: 1:30 - 5:30pm
Sunday December 14: 12pm - 5pm

Feel free to spread this information to people you know who might benefit, but I do need to be involved for them to get the class for free, so make sure that they contact me before the deadline!