Cuteness and work

Here’s one slice of cute. They don’t usually sit together, but Plushie kind of slid into that position after I got up and removed my lap from around him.

The other slice, while I didn’t get a photo, was that this morning when I opened the door to clean cat dishes off the deck, Wisp plopped herself down on my feet and just lay there, inviting me to scratch her belly. I’ve always been nervous about getting that close to her claws, but she seemed to want it, so I did … and she liked it! We still have to find a way to catch her, though (I suspect doing so will set her back to Suspicious, but it needs to be done).

Now, as to work, a pretty good week. Despite having the Oberlin alumni picnic last weekend, I managed to get in my three hours of Sunday writing. So it looks like I can stick with this approach for a while and quit earlier in the day on weekdays.

I have now rewritten Undead Sexist Cliches through Chapter Eight, on abortion and birth control. Now I just have to work on Chapter Nine about the concept of the “sexual marketplace,” and I can start with the next draft, which will add footnotes as well. I also forced myself to read some of antifeminist Mona Charen’s Sex Matters to get some examples of bad sexist language (among other things, Charen blames feminism for making women cry “date rape” if they have bad sex. No, it doesn’t make any more sense in the original).

Working on the book took more time than I expected, so I didn’t get as much fiction writing done as I’d hoped. But I worked on Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates and it’s starting to have an ending. Not a great ending yet, but closer than it was. I keep feeling the urge to set it in the early 1980s but I’m not sure why. I suppose I could just use 1983 as a backdrop but I can’t help thinking there’s something I’m missing. Perhaps it’ll come to me.

Tuesday, I went to the writers’ group and afterwards we went out to Motorco in downtown Durham. It’s a much better place to eat than our usual after-group hangouts and as we’re eating outside, it’s much easier to hear conversations without the background babble building up as it does in enclosed rooms. But due to limited parking in the area and lack of familiarity, I opted for Lyft. This proved more expensive than I expected, and when I called for a pickup at 10:15 PM it took longer to get a ride than I’d anticipated. Perhaps I should switch to my own car next time, but then again I really hate navigating unfamiliar places in the dark.

Oh, and I began thinking seriously about a cover idea for Questionable Minds. I got several suggestions on FB from my friends; I’m thinking a Victorian street with maybe some kind of psychedelic coloring (reflecting the paranormal elements) but I’m not quite sure what people to put on it. Jack the Ripper lurking? Or maybe have an arm wielding a scalpel and Simon’s arm grappling with it, imposed on the street scene? I’ll give it some thought, but I’m on the way there. And I found some street scenes that might do the trick, like this public domain 1867 photo by Thomas Annan below (courtesy of wikimedia commons)

#SFWApro. Dog photo is mine.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Short Stories, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

Images of kittens, and a goat!

So when we went to the vet to stop Plushie chewing himself, there were some kittens up for adoption in the front lobby.

I am impressed how sharp their claws are even at that age.So much as Trixie wanted to inspect them closely, I restrained her.Then last weekend, we attended the annual Oberlin alumni picnic for Raleigh-Durham. Great food, good company, and also our hosts have a goat!

#SFWApro. All photos are mine.

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Shootings and shooters

There’s nothing I can think of to say about Dayton, Gilroy or El Paso. So I’ll just link to people who are more articulate:

Connor Betts, the Dayton shooter, expressed liberal views but he kept a rape list of women he resented (being liberal and sexist are not incompatible) and tried sending a creepy anonymous letter to an ex-girlfriend (“I don’t remember the exact words, but it was something to the effect of “Welcome to the neighborhood. You can’t outrun your past. Signed, Your Neighbor.””). He was also into the sexist “pornogrind” music scene, though his band mates say they’re shocked he took it literally. Whether his misogyny ties into the shooting or not I have no clue, but it’s remarkable how many shooters have abuse, misogyny or anti-woman violence in their pasts. Or not so remarkable. And it appears the Gilroy and El Paso shooters may have had issues with women.

Patrick Crusius, the accused El Paso shooter, was obsessed with the Hispanic invasion Trump keeps saying is swarming over the border, though Crusius said his views predated Trump. Certainly, Trump’s not the first Republican to scream about it, though he has pushed it hard. As Michelle Goldberg says, our president is a white nationalist who inspires terrorism. Aided and abetted by pundits who insists that while they are not racist themselves, they think we should listen to the racists.

Republican opposition to taking action on firearms is not playing well with a lot of voters. Neither is Trump’s racist rhetoric. For devoted Republicans, though, El Paso, like Dayton, is the work of liberals. Possibly even a false flag or Antifa. Some of them think even restricting mentally ill people from purchasing guns is a plot against white people. Antisemite Rick Wiles thinks it’s a Jewish scheme to kill Christians. Ohio State Rep. Candice Keller blames Dayton on pot, gay marriage and Obama. YouTube crackpots offer more crackpottery.

NYTs Charles Blow says it’s more than just the shooters: “I think a better way to look at it is to understand that white nationalist terrorists — young and rash — and white nationalist policymakers — older and more methodical — live on parallel planes, both aiming in the same direction, both with the same goal: To maintain and ensure white dominance and white supremacy.” Small wonder that,as the NYT notes, there’s more resistance to cracking down on white supremacists than on Muslims.

It’s as if people are getting fed up that the response to school shootings is to institutionalize them. But don’t worry, gun worshippers, Brett Kavanaugh’s got your back.

As for the idea of not giving the killers their ten seconds of fame, No More Mr. Nice Blog says it’s not working.


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Brainwashing for charity: Doc Savage’s Crime College

People who know very little about Doc Savage still know about the “crime college.” It even turns up in Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, wherein someone remembers Doc planning to lock all the criminals on Earth away on a desert island where he would use brain surgery to turn them into decent citizens (this is an inaccurate recollection). The crime college was where Doc performed those operations, though only crooks who crossed his path — he never went out and tried to actively wipe out crime. A lot of modern takes ignore the whole thing rather than deal with the implications (Marvel’s Bronze Age color and B&W series) while others mention it but just to show that it’s not such a cool idea. (meanwhile the Shadow goes right on gunning crooks down and nobody questions that — but I digress)

The concept of the college didn’t start out full-blown. In Doc’s second adventure Land of Terror, we learn Doc doesn’t turn crooks he captures over to the cops. Insted, he sends them to a private mental hospital where they receive years of intensive psychotherapy to turn them into honest citizens. Two novels later, The Polar Treasure refers to the hospital performing brain operations that wipe out their memories. The inconsistency isn’t based on Doc switching methods, as The Purple Dragon shows he’s been erasing memories since 1929.

Philip José Farmer suggests in his Doc Savage bio that Doc simply lied to Lester Dent, then decided readers would be okay with it (the hook for Farmer’s bio being that Dent’s stories were fictionalized versions of true events). As I don’t subscribe to that theory, even though it’s fun, I don’t have an explanation. It’s an inconsistency, but not a huge one; I can live with it. I am curious why Dent decided on the switch; perhaps cutting-edge brain surgery fit his concept for Doc better than a relatively realistic method did.

The Annihilist claims it’s not brain surgery but glandular surgery. There’s a particular gland that influences our sense of right or wrong; in criminals it’s out of whack, but Doc uses a combination of drugs and surgery to reset it to “moral” as well as wiping their memories. The bad guys are interested in getting the secret, then using it to turn bankers and others into sociopaths who’ll happily collaborate in crime.

This is much less convincing pseudoscience than brain surgery. It’s also the only time the novels mention this mysterious gland rather than reformation through surgery alone. I’m guessing Dent, like many series authors, got an idea that didn’t work with regular continuity, so he bent it for one story (and it is a heck of a story). I considered whether maybe it’s just a mistake and the crooks don’t really understand the surgical work, but Doc confirms that the crime gland exists and so does the treatment to turn people evil.

It’s possible enough people learn about the crime college in this book that the story spreads. That would explain how the crooks in Purple Dragon and The Flying Goblin know about it, though not their knowledge of who’s locked up there and where some of them have begun their new lives. The criminals in The Talking Devil know enough about the college to stir up rumors about Doc performing some kind of monstrous experiments on unwilling patients. What Doc is doing there is blatantly illegal (kidnapping, among other things) and unethical (medical ethics do not allow brain surgery without informed consent)but apparently the stories about the college never became substantial enough anyone in authority wanted to push the issue.

Most of the graduates, from what we see of them, go on to get good working-class jobs. After WW II breaks out, though, Doc starts placing some of them around the world as a spy network (established in Three Wild Men). As the war progresses and adventures become increasingly mundane, the college just fades away, like many of Doc’s more fantastic aspects.

But the memory of it obviously lingered on with fans.

#SFWApro. Covers by Bob Larkin (top) and James Bama, all rights remain with current

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Paperback covers for Tuesday

First, by Bob Maguire

Next a great action cover by Robert Sidney Bowen.A somewhat psychedelic one by Ron Turner.This one by a Stanley Zuckerberg makes me curious about the book, though I’m not sure why.One by Earl Bergey. Nothing says Golden Age of SF like being held at gunpoint by a nightclub dancer in space.And here’s another nightclub dancer, art uncredited.And to finish up, one by Powers.#SFWApro. Rights to all images remain with current holder.

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Quotes about politics, with links

Slacktivist on MLK’s “I have a dream” speech: “These opening statements set the framework for the entire speech, yet neither they nor that framework — the cashing of this check, the honoring of America’s sacred obligation — is usually mentioned at all when people invoke this speech in an attempt to cloak themselves in the mantle of King’s vision or to claim for themselves his approval as a shield against criticism.”

“On paper, Galicia seems to have done everything right, carrying multiple documents with him that proved he was a U.S. citizen. But that apparently wasn’t enough to keep him from landing in a detention center.”

“The grocery store blares Christian music at their customers and donates publicly to Christian causes, but in Perkins’ logic-free mind, they’re staying out of the ‘political fray.‘”

Who could have seen this coming except literally anybody who thought for 5 seconds about how a Trump/McConnell/Ryan government would work and realized that his many statements committing to standard Republican policies would prove more reliable than his vague gestures at populism?”

“Many people think that more immigration into Western countries leads to more terrorism, because immigrants from non-Western cultures are more likely to be terrorists. My research finds a very different kind of relationship. Immigrants aren’t committing terrorism in Western Europe. Rather, native citizens appear to be committing terrorism because of their hostility to immigrants.”

“Trump’s frenetic female supporters use the same technique for the same reason. In praising predatory men and attacking outspoken liberal women, they reinforce their devotion to the dominant group, the group they subconsciously fear because it controls their fate: Republican men.”

“Whether you view Trump as a David or an Antipas, whether you serve at the court of the resplendent king or stand over against the court from the wilderness, one thing Nathan and John the Baptist held in common was that both were willing to condemn unrighteousness in their rulers—even if it cost them everything.”

“ICE has asked for permission to begin routinely destroying 11 kinds of records, including those related to sexual assaults, solitary confinement and even deaths of people in its custody.”

Florida woman lies about being a doctor and about treating victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting: “As to her claim, recited at Soto’s events and to Florida Politics, that she had removed 77 bullets from 32 Pulse victims while working in the Orlando Regional Medical Center on June 12, 2016, she told Aponte: “It is a false statement. I just made it up.””

“It’s control exercised over the one small part of your environment that you still have the power to affect.”

Rep. Katie Porter to Wells Fargo attorneys: “It’s convenient for your lawyers to deflect blame in court, and say your rebranding campaign can be ignored as hyperbolic marketing, but when then you come to Congress, you want us to take you at your word.”

“This makes them suckers for leaders who assure them they aren’t misfits. What’s really happening—and this can be a very beguiling story—is that women toy with them and laugh at them as part of a deliberate ploy to emasculate strong men and keep them from their rightful leadership positions. Because of this, a bitter resentment of women runs through almost every strain of the alt-right.”

“The drug industry — the pill manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers — found it profitable to flood some of the most vulnerable communities in America with billions of painkillers. They continued to move their product, and the medical community and government agencies failed to take effective action, even when it became apparent that these pills were fueling addiction and overdoses and were getting diverted to the streets.”

“I see Trump as a symptom so powerful that it becomes its own cause, kind of like a political hard drug. Let’s pretend that Trump is political meth.”


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From Armistice Day to Bitch Planet, here’s this week’s reading

PEACE AT LAST: A Portrait of Armistice Day, 11 November 1918 by Guy Cuthbertson follows the day from the early morning as hostilities wound down (though some people on the front still died) to the 11 AM armistice proclamation through the varied reactions including prayer, joy, grief for the loss, relief at going home, worries about life on the home front, dismay at the thought of becoming a civilian again, and excitement at such trivial things as church bells ringing and cities lighting up at night (both banned during the war to avoid giving Zeppelins targets). The jubilation the War to End All Wars had actually ended produced countless spontaneous parades and celebrations like the one below on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago, even as some church and government leaders fretted the day should be more solemn (they got their wish: a few years later, Armistice Day would become a much more brooding event). A little monotonous at times (one celebration, followed by another, followed by another) but more than interesting enough to be worth the reading. And lord, it’s depressing to realize we’ll never see anything like this again — I think our culture’s just accepted perpetual war or imminent war is the way of things.

FRAY: Book Two of the Unraveled Kingdom by Rowenna Miller hooked me with its set-up: it’s an alt.France in the years before the revolution, with protagonist Sophie a petite bourgeois struggling to navigate between her brother’s revolutionary activities and her fiance, a prince trying to push for more gradual reform. Unfortunately this didn’t work for me at all: the 100 pages I finished were competently written but despite the tense situation there’s no sense of tension in the storyline — in fact if I hadn’t read the back of the book, I wouldn’t have any idea what the storyline was. And the magic could easily have been cut without affecting the plot, and that’s always a negative with me. So I gave up on it.

JAILBAIT: The Politics of Statutory Rape Laws in the United States by Carolyn Cocca looks at the various pressure groups and political debates fighting around the topic in the 20th century and how they played out in legal changes in Georgia, New Jersey and California. While a lot of this is too dry for me, it’s interesting to see what the laws represent to various constituencies, such as a way to police teen sex, to protect adolescent girls from predators, to stop teen pregnancy, to protect young boys from male pedophiles (an easier justification for protecting boys than the possibility of female predators) and the similar mix of objections (girls will seduce men then cry rape; two kids the same age could be busted; if older boys face charges, will their girlfriends even report them?).

Most of the reviews of the current Immortal Hulk series paint it as a horror comic taking Jade-Jaws in new directions, IMMORTAL HULK: Hulk in Hell by Al Ewing and Joe Bennett felt like a throwback to Peter David’s run on the title. We have a dominant, destructive Hulk personality, Bruce’s deranged Dad serving as an agent of Hell, the netherworld rising (that doesn’t make it horror — superheroes deal with that crap on a regular basis) … But David’s run is one of the best Hulk eras, so the comparison doesn’t mean the book is flawed, just that it doesn’t appear to be breaking new ground. I’m okay with that, though the text ruminations on the nature of evil got old fast.

BITCH PLANET: President Bitch by Kelly Sue deConnick and Valentine De Landro has a less focused plotline than V1, Extraordinary Machine, nor does it really follow the plot threads. Instead we have the women prisoners’ schemes to survive entangled with a grieving father and a familiar face turning up in one of the cells, while back on Earth the revolution starts and the patriarchs prove perfectly capable of backstabbing each other. Good, but I think an extra volume in between the two focusing on the prisoners’ plight would have been good.

#SFWApro. Photo is public domain from the Chicago Daily News via Wikimedia Commons.

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Crime rides the rails! Movies viewed

While I’m sure the films are very far from Agatha Christie, I dearly love Margaret Rutherford’s turn as Miss Marple in four early 1960s movies.  MURDER, SHE SAID (1961) was the first film, in which the indomitable spinster witnesses a murder in a passing train.

Upon discovering she’s a murder mystery fan, Inspector Craddock (Bud Tingwell) writes her off as a dotty old bat. Miss M.’s not about to stand for that, so with the help of librarian Mr. Stringer (Stringer Davis) she tracks the killer to a gloomy old country estate, insinuates herself into the staff and resumes her hunt. But will she expose the killer before he eliminates her as a threat? Craddock and Stringer returned in the remaining three films, while the cast of this one also includes Arthur Kennedy and Joan Hickson, who would later play Miss Marple herself on TV. As fun as I remembered it. “I’ve seen you with your hands like that once before, doctor — around a woman’s throat.”

LADY ON A TRAIN (1945) has mystery buff Deanna Durbin glance out her train window into an office building and guess what she sees? After desk sergeant William Frawley proves as unimpressed as Inspector Craddock, Durbin turns to Ralph Bellamy, the author of her favorite pot-boilers, for help and the game is afoot. This is closer to a straight mystery than Rutherford’s more comical adventure, but it’s also good; the cast includes Edward Everett Horton as “Haskell of the New York office,” George Coulouris as a creepy gentleman and Dan Duryea as the victim’s flirtatious nephew. “I’ve already killed Margo, Josiah, Saunders, my brother and you — I’ll have to start on the other hand.”

Apparently I taped UNION STATION (1950) some years back under the impression it was Douglas Fairbanks’ Union Depot; while not in the same league as that film, it’s a good suspense drama as Nancy Olson alerts railroad cop William Holden (they find each other obnoxious and irritating in a way that makes it obvious they’ll be together by the film’s end) that a kidnapping operation is using his station to negotiate the return of blind Jan Sterling to her wealthy father. The emphasis on cutting-edge police techniques makes it a period piece now, but the execution is solid and Lyle Bettger is a delightfully rotten bad guy (he’d have kicked a dog if there’d been one in the film). “You think you’re going to cut in on any part of that hundred thousand? Only from the cemetery.”

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See? I told you Wisp liked me!

For starters, here’s Wisp graciously receiving my scritching.

This week went well, though I had to take time off Wednesday afternoon for an Alexander technique class. Normally that wouldn’t have affected my schedule that much, but I decided to send the dogs to Suite Paws Wednesday rather than Thursday. That way TYG didn’t need to stay home with them (she’s had a hectic week) and we wouldn’t be picking them up around 6PM Thursday. That left me free to go to a “Published Author’s Chillzone,” a MeetUp a friend from the writing group started for published authors. I’ve been meaning to go for several months, but doggy day care kept getting in the way. This time everything dovetailed. It’s a small group, but fun, though it felt much further away than it really is. Durham has a very odd pattern of development and one long stretch of road felt like I was driving out of the city and into the deep woods. But I had fun, so hey.

I worked on the sexual harassment chapter in Undead Sexist Cliches and got some good work done but not as much as I’d hoped. However I also incorporated my beta-readers’ feedback on the previous two chapters, so that’s good.

I put in some work on the Bleeding Blue short story, and it’s starting to get into shape.

And I did my usual 10 Leaf business articles. Though as sometimes happens, my brain couldn’t quite get into the zone so I took longer than I should have.

And I slept quite well. The temperature’s gone down a little outside and now the no caffeine in the afternoons policy is allowing me to sleep again. Feels good.

That was pretty much it. Satisfying, though not spectacular. Doing three hours on weekends and less at the end of the day is definitely working out — we’ll see if that holds true this weekend, when I actually have events to go to.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

I was a good doggy parent this week

So last weekend, I picked up Plushie’s new prescription for anti-itch pills, which as I noted Wednesday didn’t help. We debated whether to take him in or give the drugs time to work; I made the call to go ahead and we had a vet’s appointment Monday. Result: one shot (poor dog) and by yesterday, a cessation of the self-biting. However he still chews on himself when we’re all in bed at night, so I got out the new cone of shame I just bought. Unlike the regular one we’ve used a couple of times, it’s soft and doesn’t jar when he bumps up against something. Again, good judgment on my part — it proved much easier to get him comfortable with the new cone on his head.

So I’m quite pleased with myself.

We also had to take the medicated shampoo and give him a bath, which is not something we normally bother with between grooming appointments. Plushie found this suboptimal. This will have to keep up, our vet says, just in case, but only once a week.

It’s been a rough week for the Plush One, but I’m glad he’s on the road to recovery.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine.

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