So, i ask you, my friends, what do you do when you can't sleep?
A friend asked me what i thought of Shaw’s line that in a democracy we get the government we deserve. An interesting concept that. But, i think, largely wishful thinking. I’ll digress for a moment on the way to explaining why. This is one of those cases where you have to take the long route to come back a short distance correctly.
I spent a very little time in Mexico many years ago, working with a religious group that built houses for severely impoverished folk in a small town near the US border. The system worked a bit like Habitat for Humanity except that there were church services involved. I was at the time, as now, a stalwart atheist, but it didn’t seem to me worth abandoning the chance to do good work simply because i differed in ideology from those providing the opportunity. Perhaps that was lazy of me. But i have many good memories of the trip, the work, and the people i met there, and there’s a playground, a house, and a foundation built in part by my hands. All in all i count it worthwhile. I tell that to tell this.
One day we were putting up a wall on the house of a woman with several children – all of whom wore immaculate white clothing – clothes much whiter and more neatly kept than those of the mostly rich college students who were building her new home. She fed all twenty of us from her tiny one-room corrugated shack with its particle-board door that hung askew on rope hinges, leaving the carefully swept dirt floor exposed to view. Best meal i’ve ever eaten.
There was a man helping us, who worked with the mission – a Mexican man who spoke no English. He spoke at some length with great intensity. One of the girls translated for me what he struggled to convey. What he said essentially was this: You are good people. America is wealthy and powerful, because its people are so good. You come here to help us, we who are poor. If the people in Mexico were good, like Americans, God would bless us with riches also. But there are many bad people here. Many sinners. So we suffer.
I don’t think poor people are nicer or meaner or kinder or crueler, just because they are poor. I do not believe that man suffered because he or his countrymen sinned. I don’t believe that woman and her children deserved her little shack, nor that i deserved the big pink house i grew up in. I think i have a lot, and they have a little, because of measurable discernible economic, social, and cultural forces. I don’t think the Mexican government or economy is in its current state because the citizens of Mexico haven’t earned better. And if i think that there, i have to think it here in America as well.
(more on this tomorrow. it got long, and i hate to bore.)
The Memphis Police Department isn't so crazy about the MPD Enforcer 2.0 blog, which has been notoriously critical of the department's activities. As part of a recently-filed lawsuit, the MPD has subpoenaed AOL to try and unveil who is responsible for the blog, a move that has rights activists concerned over the threat to free speech.silly officer, dissent is not for you.
leaving aside mockery, i haven't read the blog (though i will now). i suppose it's possible that the MPD and the city of Memphis are on the right side of an issue for a change.
nah, probably not.
turns out, not surprisingly, that another career to put on your total dick shortlist is gun instructor. owning, carrying, and using a gun are not activities which require you to be a huge jerk. unfortunately nobody told the guy at my pistol class that. he appears to be under the impression that the best way to teach small women who've never handled guns before to use them calmly and accurately is by standing an inch from their left ear and yelling. worked so well on the lady next to me that she literally could not pull the trigger. she was so scared and anxious that her hand locked up. that's right. he petrified her. brilliant.
before Saturday, i never fired a pistol. when i was a girl, we had some shotguns, but no one ever used them for anything but author pictures. Stanley had handguns; he never used them for anything besides shooting up the garage door opener. guns were taboo in the pure sense -- not to be touched or talked about. but i'm small, and this is not the safest of cities. when liz decided to take this handgun course, i thought i probably should too.
in preparation, Michael took me out to the range on Saturday, where we discovered that i like shooting. i'm not any good at it, but i didn't expect to be right away. mostly i'm proud not to be a twitchy, flinching beast. it seemed likely, since i'm ordinarily terrified of stuff flying at my head. cartridge casings are an exception to the rule. one smacked me straight in the forehead early on and i laughed aloud. who'd a thunk?
anyway, i'm happy as hell he did take me out, not only because we had fun and he taught me good habits rather than letting me grow bad ones, but also because, if tonight's class had been my first time picking up a gun, i'd never have picked up another one.
i was sick as a dog on sunday. turns out i'm allergic to gunpowder and lead something fierce. but i was happy with the thought of going back out there, even so. tonight, i am instead fair dreading tomorrow. only four more hours and our crazy gov't may give me a concealed carry permit, so i'm going. but if i shoot that hollering man, i expect you all to be character witnesses at the trial.
i was worried that it would be too scary, but turned out it's a lot of fun. loud, but fun.
came back with a brutal headache though. whether from the heat, noise, or chemical fumes i don't know.
off to bed now to read about frigates.
On election night 2004, i felt like a teenager waiting by the phone. America did not call. Instead America chose a lying jackass with no sense of humor and a wallet full of credit cards, as women often do. Even so, America deserves better.
Two days ago i stood on the Hoover dam in awe. I did not go there expecting to be moved. I went expecting a big pile of concrete, some water, big electrical lines. What i saw was evidence that the America i grew up believing in – an America of hope and strength in adversity, of towering men and women, of foresight and compassion – did at one time exist. And if it did once it can again.
People haven’t changed much since we first began recording stories. As best i can tell ancient peoples were in all important ways just like us. Sometimes that is a sad thought, because it means the terrible things in our history -- the Holocaust, the Salem witch trials, leg warmers – will all one day come around again. But standing on the Hoover dam, star map at my feet, looking up at those two giant men with their upraised, straining wings, the thought that everything will happen again suddenly seemed not a death sentence but a promise of coming joy.
Let it be soon.
Sometime in the last two weeks this happened. I know it did, not because my brain retained any imprint of the event whatsoever, but because a couple of days ago before i went to sleep Nikka says to me, "Don't forget we have to pin my costume."
Confident, i reply "We did that already."
But oh no. "Your pins weren't symmetrical."
Crap. "You never mentioned it." I counter, with great certainty.
Alas, she had. "I talked to you about re-doing it days ago, you remember. You said 'Sure. Of course. Not right now.' But we need to do it soon."
Dammit. Perfidious brain.
Thus, for much of yesterday, i've been stabbing myself with pins, cussing vilely, and forbidding Nikka from any motion up to and including breathing.
This is not because the project she set for me was a large or difficult one. It is because i am not a god damned Boy Scout. I am not handy. I cannot sew, pin, or tie to save my life. The last time i had to make a knot, i melted the nylon rope together with a big fucking lighter.
There are useful skills i've acquired. I can replace my RAM, video card, and hard drives. (I don't, under normal circumstances, but i can.) If your car won't start, i can give you a jump or possibly even fix the battery (given essential tools like a paper towel, a coke, and a hammer). Provided the tire place hasn't used one of their damned hydraulic wrenches to drive my lug nuts deep into hiding, i can put on a donut without crushing my car, my jack, or myself. I've even replaced my spark plugs and spark plug wires, although not on this car, since nowadays they seem inaccessible, covered by what appears to be a robot.
Nevertheless, sewing and all its accoutrements upend me, their alien wiles elude. In my world, needles are the pointy devices used to shoot you full of B12. Thimbles belong strictly in novels, plays, and old ladies' display cabinets. Clothing is held together by some incomprehensible mix of thread and alchemy. Buttons fall off, and are replaced quietly in the night by elves. (Admittedly elves who look exactly like Nikka, but still.) As for cuffs, you might as well say, "Wizards did it." The process is as mysterious as a bad fantasy novel. I take the pants to a man; he nods sagely and covers them in strange markings, then carries the article into the bowels of his shop, where small women with nimble fingers do something, while murmuring softly to themselves in a language i don't understand. A week later i return and my offering has been transformed from giant garb into clothes for ruby. It may not be advanced chaos theory, but it's fucking impenetrable to me.
My great-grandmother made intricate quilts, mostly Dutch Girl. My grandmother made endless smocked, embroidered dresses for her first grandchildren, my cousin Madolyn and i. But my mother cuts patterns and wishes she could sew. While i just wish i could sew a button.
Not too long ago these inabilities would have been key failings. In Victorian London, or in a less fortunate situation even now, being a puny woman who can't sew, cook, or care for children would have made me worse than useless, a burden to be supported. Luckily, i live in a time and place where the skills i have are more useful to me than the skills i lack. Except for yesterday, when a knack for pinning two pieces of cloth together without needing stitches afterward would have saved me a least a pint of blood.
Mr. Withers was a man interested all his life in interesting things. Peculiar praise at first blush, perhaps, but think about it. All his life this unassuming, yet charming man, diminutive and unerringly polite, carried his camera to every fascinating event which crossed his path and often when they weren't gonna cross his path he went to them.
Why did Mr. Withers cross the road? To get to best, the most important moments of his time.
The Times ran an obituary, which you should read if you've no idea who i'm talking about.
I first heard of Ernest Withers when Stanley was going to write a biography of Waylon Jennings. Because, you see, in addition to chronicling Negro League Baseball and having taken pictures of just about every important moment in the Civil Right movement (including Jesse Jackson's handprints in Rev. King's blood on the balcony of the Lorraine) Ernest had also taken a pile of pictures of Waylon back when he too was an interesting fella living in Memphis.
Later, I had the great pleasure of meeting and talking with him. A storyteller in the best school, he remembered everything -- the context, the little personal foibles, the details of tragedy, heroism, and farce that he'd seen along the way. The world is a poorer place without him. And the pictures, perfect thought they are, are small consolation of the loss of the man.
although, basing the whole season on the premise that evil is much, much sexier than good was a bit of a risk...well, maybe it wasn't. but only because Whedon seems to do a really angsty good by default. i swear good can be sexy, even more so than run of the mill evil. it just usually isn't written that way. more's the pity.
giles and xander both learn to kick ass, making them both better all around. (and sexier)
seth green! oh how i love him.
still no floppy hair.