An Open Letter to PT Black: On the subject of Ender's Game

All right, PT, you asked for it! :-) I like Rebecca Onion's "delay watching Ender's Game for at least two weeks to game the numbers" solution quite a bit, as I've been wrestling with the selfsame issues. Should we boycott the Ender's Game movie because of Orson Scott Card's vocal opposition to gay marriage? Card rankles. He's an ass. His positions are indefensible. Even more than whether or not I see the film, I'm with you: I'm concerned with how his subjectivity impacts my understanding of/ enjoyment of the original.

I'm about 90% on the side of "the author's opinions should not impact your enjoyment of the work." But that's very different from "the author's opinions should not impact your understanding of the work." Or is it?

I keep coming back to feminist standpoint epistemology, and the way that it has encouraged feminist critics to identify themselves as specifically as possible (age, race, gender affiliations, nationality, economic background), instead of invoking the "universal narrative voice". The argument is that such a voice is inherently hegemonic, in that it ties a complex social experience to a fictitious unseen authority designed to bolster the impression of the text as "truth", rather than leaving space open for the reader, and encouraging interaction with the author as a fallible human and with the text as a cultural artifact.

Card's story is all about authority. It is all about tapping into these Western cultural pseudouniversals. Ender is the Underestimated Genius Cis Male Child. His battles are epic, grand. And because Card shies away from gay male sex (which would be an obvious topic to address in the mostly-male military environment he depicts), his work does not give voice to the issue. Much. Though there's always Shen, an Asian recruit mocked "because he wriggles. Look how he shimmies his butt when he walks." Whether or not Shen is gay, he's doing gender wrong, and Ender defends him against his attackers.

Who are we as readers? Because of the cultures you and I are in, we respond wholeheartedly to Card's story of a young genius, and we root to see Ender succeed. It is a success story, and the terms of that success, and of our own enjoyment of a very specific type of victory, are what is interesting. How can we annoy Card by using the text to interrogate our own stance as readers? (Marxist resistance?)

On the face of it, Ender's Game is a military success story in which a puny, absurdly young male genius, Ender, outkills all the brawny alpha males that compete with him. All the while Ender protests that he doesn't want to be a killer. ("I didn't want to hurt him! Why didn't he just leave me alone?") Ender is figured as the "happy medium" between his sister Valentine (mild and wise) and Peter (his equally intelligent but cruel older brother). Ender is a rare third child in an overpopulated world. His birth was requisitioned by the military (the International Fleet, or IF) precisely because they hoped for a happy medium between the first- and second-born geniuses. From birth Ender is groomed to become the leader of the upcoming invasion against the "buggers". The buggers, an alien race, led a previous failed assault against the human race, and were stopped only by the last-minute intervention of a genius soldier named Mazer Rackham. The buggers are coming back for more, and against their superior numbers and technology, the military believes the only hope for humanity is another singular genius like Mazer Rackham. The military's lackeys, including the remote but occasionally sympathetic Graff, do their best to create what they perceive as the best conditions to make Ender the ultimate killer and savior of the human race -- incidentally along the way setting Ender up for a miserable existence. Ender is both the Chosen One of the establishment, and the one with the establishment against him -- a neat hat trick. In the long run the government's strategy is proven to be "correct" by the success of their venture -- in a hyped-up video game that turns out not to be a simulation at all, Ender succeeds in eradicating the distant and unseen Other in an act of inadvertent genocide. Yes, you read that right, inadvertent genocide.

A quote: "Of course we tricked you into it. That's the whole point," said Graff. "It had to be a trick or you couldn't have done it. It's the bind we were in. We had to have a commander with so much empathy that he would think like the buggers, understand them and anticipate them. So much compassion that he could win the love of his underlings and work with them like a perfect machine, as perfect as the buggers. But somebody with that much compassion could never be the killer we needed. Could never go into battle willing to win at all costs."

So in other words, it's the story of a young boy whose entire existence is contingent on the will of the distant, dispassionate, survivalist International Military. Everything is justified by the genetic will to survive. (The text is peppered with references to genes and biological determinism. Ender asks if the military school's all boys -- the answer? "A few girls. They don't often pass the tests to get in. Too many centuries of evolution are working against them." Or Graff, on fighting the buggers: "When it comes down to it, though, the real decision is inevitable; If one of us has to be destroyed, let's make damn sure we're the ones alive at the end. Our genes won't let us decide any other way. Nature can't evolve a species that hasn't a will to survive.") Ender's "success", and the subsequent approval of the IF, is in fact the culmination of a monumental mind-rape of a child soldier whose every motion has been controlled from the get-go. His will has been stolen from him. At the same time it's also the ultimate paternalistic approval story, because at no point is the real establishment undermined or even proven incorrect, even though Ender battles against many lesser morons. Even Graff's efforts to go easy on Ender are proven to be incorrect, and the brutal strategy of the "higher-ups" wins out.

And yet in some ways Card has written a book which destabilizes itself. People from all walks of life enjoyed and identified with Ender. Some of them are the people that Card hates most. And perhaps he even encouraged the thing he fears most -- identification/ empathy with the underdog, the people forced outside the cultural norm. It's actually one of the things feminist criticism encourages us to do -- rather than throwing away the hegemonic texts, destabilize them. Find the cracks, the throwaway words, the points of identification. Own the texts. Instead of permitting the original author's views to pollute the text, pollute it yourself in his (in this case) view by an uncomfortable identification. Tell your story with it! You see where I'm going with this. Power and pollution! Foucault! Identification!

In many ways I'm supremely uncomfortable with the fact that I enjoyed the story as a fifteen-year-old reader. Wholeheartedly, unreservedly. However, I can refigure my point of identification with the text, and this is the truth -- the specifics of Ender's success meant nothing to me. As far as my enjoyment was concerned, as a fat, Jewish, female feminist reader, I rooted for the underdog. I rooted for someone on the outside who learned to be the best. Someone with the odds stacked against him. I was interested in the smart details of gravity-free strategy gaming. I supported every victory of mind over brute force. Irony, I know, considering the outcome.

To my fifteen-year-old self, the monumentally offscreen and distanced nature of the war's climax scene only served to underscore its irrelevance to the primary narrative which interested me -- the young geek's win. To myself now, that displacement is in fact the locus of some of my most profound discomfort with the text. A 25-paragraph genocide is followed by an encounter with a single remaining hive queen cocoon who simultaneously reinforces Ender's innocence, the justified nature of his attack, and apologizes for the crimes of her race. Like Ender, she didn't mean to kill -- she just did not perceive humans as intelligent because they did not communicate mind-to-mind like buggers. Ender becomes the Chosen One all over again -- as the destroyer of her race (and it's no accident she is female), she looks to Ender to permit her to be born so that she can repopulate her species. It is unexplained how Ender, as the single killer of their race, is the sole being able to "hear" her telepathic communications. She welcomes the new influx of human colonizers with forgiveness as "guestfriends" and encourages them to populate the now empty worlds left by the killings (incidentally solving humanity's overpopulation problem). Of course her permission and welcome aren't necessary as Graff has become the new Minister of Colonization, saying humans will colonize "as soon as we get the reports back on the bugger colony worlds. I mean, there they are, already fertile, with housing and industry in place, and all the buggers dead. Very convenient." Convenient indeed. Ender becomes the "Speaker for the Dead" and gives the queen a human voice.

Ender's sister Valentine reminds us that Buggers aren't very interesting: "Ender, what's done is done. Their worlds are empty now, and ours is full. And we can take with us what their worlds have never known -- cities full of people who live private, individual lives, who love and hate each other for their own reasons. In all the bugger worlds, there was never more than a single story to be told; when we're there, the world will be full of stories, and we'll improvise their endings day by day." So despite the idea that Buggers were tragic equals (if only a kiss had been the first action instead of a kill), in fact they are the ultimate colonized, offering an almost Biblical rebirth for humanity. At the same time, Ender becomes the bearer of any hope for resurrection.

Yes, a most uncomfortable text. And so we get back to understanding vs. enjoyment. Is it possible to understand Ender's Game, and to enjoy it? Difficult. And yet, underdog readers are no stranger to taking parts of texts and identifying with them, finding spaces for resistance inside of texts. . . and I think it can be done. . . And if it brings Card's pernicious subjectivity to the forefront of our thoughts, all the better.

Thoughts welcomed!

An Illustrated Rant about the Rules

Hey look, you can find a shiny new version of The Rules for sale on a bookshelf, even though it's 2013. And look, they're "Not Your Mother's Rules", according to Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, who, unsatisfied with the success of their 1995 bestseller and follow-ups, still want to indoctrinate you. After all, The Rules aren't anti-woman. They're supposed to protect and empower women, by capitalizing on some sort of essentialist "Male Nature" that makes men want only what they can't have. Not that the chase isn't fun, but there are enough real obstacles to love without inventing fake ones. . .
There appears to be a unicorn in the way.

So let's take a moment to consider the guidelines. I guess I have the two main goalposts covered: "be a creature unlike any other" (you think I'm kidding? this shit is real), and "always be busy." But I'm not doing those things to trap a man like a butterfly! In fact, being busy all the time is a huge detriment in some ways. You have to make time for other people! (I'm working on it.)

13th century butterfly hunt, 'cause.

Yes to having self respect, having boundaries, knowing how you want to be treated. Don't sleep with a man until the third date? Well, OK, that's a self-protective measure and seems generally sensible. But what about this? "Men love to buy and sell companies as well as extreme sports like mountain climbing and bungee jumping, while women love to talk about their dates and watch romantic comedies." Strange syntax aside (men love to buy and sell extreme sports?), this assertion is retro at best. How is a man supposed to know when a woman's playing hard to get after he calls her four times with no reply, or when he's crossed the line into stalking? This sort of thing promotes rape culture, 100%. I just don't see how pretending not to want what I do want empowers me. Sometimes you just know what you want, and that's sexy too. It shouldn't only be sexy when men do it. (And boy is it sexy when they do!)
Archana Bhattacharjee, mountaineer from Assam, 1979.

And then there's the flip side of The Rules, the heteronormative morass. What happens if you don't follow The Rules and their thousand cultural predecessors and antecedents? The threat is that, on your own, you, a woman, won't find a partner as devoted to you as you are to him (and the genders in this case are unfortunately important), that he won't have been hoodwinked into being attentive ('cause that's a big part of The Rules, the hoodwinking), that he won't be supportive and kind. The Rules seem to be designed to simulate self-worth in a culture that beats women down in every way. Essentially the authors are saying that in order to break the culture, you have to accept and internalize its tenets. (Because "guys are the same all over the world".) The Rules are designed to short-circuit a system that teaches men it's ok not to value their wives, by replacing casual contempt for womanhood with devoted passion via some sort of essentialist gender trickery. But by so doing you thereby acknowledge that the standard is casual contempt for womanhood, and that that is OK -- that it is a woman's fault if she can't play the game well enough to inspire that devotion that transcends what would otherwise be her lot in life, to be overlooked, undervalued, and always forced to fight for every privilege.

Remember these?

The authors protest that The Rules are OK because you only have to follow them at the outset of the relationship, and then a man will value you forever because he had to fight for you. This sounds a bit like a fairy story to me. I mean, I'm all for some fisticuffs if they're entertaining enough (example below), but really? The implication is that if he doesn't care about you, if he sleeps around on your 20th anniversary, it's not because he's an ass or because you slept around with his friend. It's because you didn't make him work hard enough in those first few months, so look back and regret, honey! But real relationships are continually sustained and discovered, and that's a good thing.
Who are these people?

You're supposed to be meek, understated, and coiffed? You're supposed to practice The Rules on the doorman, giving him a demure, mysterious smile? What if I don't find the doorman attractive? Do I still have to practice on him? What if I don't have a doorman? Am I doomed? What if the doorman is gay? Does the cumulative approval of random strangers who I will never see again have anything at all to do with my self-worth? And if it doesn't, should it? I mean, OK, I love it when I make a man trip over his own feet by just walking past him. It's a kind of power. But sometimes, y'know, I just wanna walk down the street like a person.
Clara Bow winks at the doorman in No Limit, 1931.

"Act as if everything is great?" But what if it's not? What if I've had a crap day? In general my life is luminous and full of beauty, and inside my head I live in a landscape filled with bees that sip on jeweled flowers, I'm sure. . . but I can't share a funny story about how something went wrong at work? I can't admit to having a headache or heartache? This all seems like an extraordinary boundary to intimacy, if I have to lie. If I have to try to seek someone who likes me when I lie.
Who cares?

Women older and wiser than I am insist that The Rules work, and they're worth following, that they can be separated from their essentialist gender underpinnings and used as tools. And you know, tool use is a sign of intelligence. So repurpose them if you want. After all, you're a modern woman and you can do whatever the fuck you want. But after a while, it may be time to consider a new toolbox.

Your toolbox.

Framing Kahlo (again)

Frida Kahlo's closet has been opened after more than fifty years. An exciting exhibit is the result, but the way some of the articles are framing the event ought to raise a few hackles. In contrast, in the film, curator Circe Henestrosa manages to talk about art, ethnicity, and disability, like a person instead of a media machine, thanks.

Quotes to consider, links to follow:
"Despite the disabilities, the monobrow, and the violent depictions of the female anatomy in some of her paintings, Frida Kahlo was a bit of a girlie girl." ABC
"Turns out that despite the pain Frida lived with her whole life and shared with the world through her paintings, she was also a bit of a fashionista." UNVN
"The exhibit is an eye-opener for those who only know Frida through the Salma Hayek movie and from the pained, monobrowed self portraits that you can find adorning college dorm rooms and handbags alike. " UNVN
"Frida used her clothes to hide her disabilities and to say something about her ethnicity." UNVN

I guess I object a bit to the notion of Kahlo's clothes being used to hide -- I think that through them she revealed something deeper, richer, and truer than the given facts. (Human/sartorial cyborgs -- the clothing is prosthetic and promise. . .) "Despite" the disabilities? I don't think that there is any "despite" there. I do agree that there was a reframing -- and that there is an element of "joy and happiness" as Henestrosa says, of pleasure in life.

I'm also averse to the idea that her disability, monobrow, and "the violent depictions of the female anatomy" in her paintings, are separate from and superfluous to her identity as a "girlie girl". (And I could examine all the cultural baggage that phrase implies -- fashion as lesser art etc.) It's as if the disability and the monobrow and the unacceptable truths are the things that separate us from her, because they are difficult, and the fashion permits us a "point of entry". They're trying to frame Frida as a girlfriend you'd be happy to flip through a copy of Vogue with. That might be true (who knows), but getting a chance to exhume her closet doesn't give us an opportunity to "domesticate" her, but instead ought to give us further insight into her day-to-day life, the dozens of incremental choices she made that served to shape the world around her. . . if it is domestic it is in the sense that it's the house that Kahlo built -- to be examined as an architect, a builder.

As to the "pained, monobrowed self portraits", really? First of all, this fashion is depicted in those very same pained, monobrowed self portraits. It is part and parcel of her self-framing, of her identity.

Yes, she became a style icon. But I think that's because people identified with her fierce, uncompromising vision of herself -- not just because she wore some pretty clothes and was a "fashionista". The fact that the exhibit is a collaboration between the museum and Vogue Mexico says a lot and may account for some of the framing -- but why should fashion and art be separate? How tiresome. I do think the exhibit is right to include "examples of how her style has influenced modern design" (ABC) -- she has been profoundly influential.

Also? That painted boot is awesome. I have almost no time right now to edit my response into something dignified, so this is a bit on the stream-of-consciousness side. But still, something I care very much about.

Connecticut's Tragedy

I don’t know if I have what it takes to address this, but I’ll try, as today’s events and politics have brought up strong emotions for me. While traveling recently, I spent an hour in the Las Vegas airport. It was like landing in a casino. At first I was entertained by the glitz for sale, and the hundreds of slot machines from Wheel of Fortune to Star Wars. Then I came across a giant (as tall as two people) ad, advertising the Gun Store. The ad consisted of a picture of maybe seven different assault weapons and a tall, shapely, gun-toting blonde woman and the byline "Try One! Shoot a Real Machine Gun!" Rentals were available. The overall impression of the design was of naiveté – the fonts were blocky and playful. The woman looked like the woman next door. It might as well have been a cosplay or role-playing poster, suggesting dressup as action figures. The woman’s expression was cheerful. The focus on the word “real” was key to me -- what is real? What isn’t real? Why is shooting a “real” gun desirable? What are “unreal” guns? What is the spectre of the gun?

My intention is not to single out Las Vegas. It’s just that the Gun Store’s cheerful attempts to turn a buck turned my stomach. I found myself unable to take a picture of the ad, to record it, to share it via social media. Why? Because it would make it more “real” to me. I have struggled for many years to make this type of thing less real in my own mind, less present, less of a problem. Someone who shouldn’t have had access to weapons in my life was able to attain access with ease. This person was too cowardly and lazy to acquire a gun by illegal means. Yes, it would have been a deterrent.

This person then threatened people I know and care about. Self included. We’re talking years of recovery from a crime that was never committed -- a crime that was merely threatened. An atmosphere of terror that was created and maintained for years because an abuser was able to obtain an 11’ chunk of metal. Was there terror and abuse before that? Certainly. But once that piece of metal was on hand, everything shifted subtly. Life and death became the issue. In order to speak up, you had to be willing to risk escalating a situation to the point where you might be shot. Did that shut me up, or shut up the other people in the situation? No, and that’s probably why I survived. But that’s another story, one I don’t have what it takes to tell right now. I’m sorry, I’m just too tired.

What I’m trying to say is, this person was a model citizen on paper. Does that mean that he would have been able to obtain a weapon easily anyway, even if the government had stronger regulations? Perhaps not. In this case, knowing the psychology of the abuser in question (and I do not think this psychology is uncommon), I know that having to A. pass a written test, B. take a class, C. go to a hospital to have a mental and drug test filed with the police, D. pass a rigorous background check (all required in Japan), might have been a deterrent. Why? Because these actions hint at consequences and accountability -- the bugbear of the abuser. They take the glamour out of the impulse. It’s like being forced to record and be truthful about adultery. Suddenly it seems a lot less sexy. In this case, the system permitted a squeaky-clean abuser to abuse. The system is broken. He’d been looking for a way to shut people up for a long time. And he almost found a solution.

Fortunately for me, I’m happy to be able to say that now I can experience a normal emotion about that -- anger. And what has happened in CT today makes me angry. Very angry. How we express our anger defines us as people and societies. And that is what is real.

Reality, surreality, dreams

Had a very strange dream last night in which I founded a company called QueerSPA, CE, or QueerSPACE. It was a chain of upscale spas offering free health care, good manicures, and for some reason, fountain-shaped cat bathing areas. (I think this last has something to do with the fact that my cat rolled in SOMETHING and had to have his first bath yesterday.)

In that half-lit space between waking and dreaming I was pondering the feasibility of this idea, which seemed like a genius plan, and thinking that, as a woman primarily attracted to men (with some exceptions), I wouldn't be the ideal CEO for QueerSPACE, which in my head was this wonderful space of LGBT empowerment.

But then thought of Adrienne Rich's "lesbian continuum" and all the ways in which women-identified experience is defined -- and under her definitions I'm extremely woman-identified. . . a life defined by strong female friendships, and a life which has moved from matriarchal space to matriarchal space. To the extent that sometimes I forget this is atypical.

I remember once I wrote a story, which, like many of my stories, dealt with the relationships between female characters. The story was workshopped and one of the male workshop participants commented in shocked tones "that there were almost no men in it, and it was all about women, so it was hard for me to identify".

After the workshop I pointed out that almost all of his stories were centered around male characters, with very few female characters (I think the number was actually zero). "But that's different", he said.

I didn't have a second at the time to confront the ways in which that might be "different", but I think the main idea there was that stories about men were not uncommon, and that writing stories about women was inherently politicized. While I was accustomed to reading across gender (in much the same way that science fiction readers are more accustomed to reading across genres), he was untrained in the ways of identifying with female main characters. Really, I had put him out most inconsiderately. On the plus side, the next story he submitted for workshopping included more female characters and was one of his best-received. I don't think it was conscious for him, and like many men who aren't active douches, once the inconsistency had been pointed out to him, he was willing to make a change. To, I might point out, his extreme benefit.

(As a side-note, any science fiction writer who has been workshopped by a group of literary-only readers knows what it is to be on the "other" side of a reading gap. As the minority, science fiction writers have learned to read across their preferences, and perform a mental sleight-of-hand which says "Well, this isn't really what I LIKE to read, but if I accept the story on its own terms, this is how it could be improved." Literary readers are less likely to want to accept the story on its own terms, and wish instead to interrogate the sf writer's abnormal desire to write "unimportant", devalued, and substandard crap. To the extent that, when I once turned in a literary, autobiographically-based story, after submitting many sf and fantasy stories, I was told that "THIS is the sort of fiction you should be writing -- this is what literature really is." Uh, good to know? But don't worry, my many experiences of workshopping were positive on the whole, partially because there's almost always at least one other writer with SFnal tendencies to have coffee with afterwards.)

At any rate, all sorts of questions of identification, identity, logic, reality and surreality, coming up for me right now.

Poem Upon the Occasion of a Cruise


An elderly couple accosts me in the Chicago-O'Hare airport
"It's so good to see you again!" trills the woman
"You sang so beautifully on that cruise!"

I've never been on a cruise in my life
but they are so sure
they smell like Florida
their cheerful sunscreen and hint of powder
for a moment I'm convinced

I was on a cruise
I sang beautifully

This is my first evidence
that I have a doppelganger

She's out there, she's been to Morocco and Prague
Cambodia, Bolivia, and Hungary
but never to Finland
(I'm not sure why, perhaps
she doesn't like her cousins the etiäinen)

like Donkeyskin she travels with her wardrobe in the ground
naked in the Alps alone but when it's dusk
she strikes the earth with a slender dowsing rod
and a gown springs forth
eager like a wellspring

dresses of sunlight and moonshine, and skins
donkey, lizard, dugong, and ladybird
socialite and reprobate

she carries a rod slung over her shoulder with a bindle
made from a giant cocoon spun by an obsessive-compulsive cecropia moth
she conscripted precisely for this task: she paid it in tea

inside the silk the burden varies
sometimes a small cat, or grief, or books, or sex toys
sometimes a collection of phasmids
these small phantoms and apparitions
are her advance army,
also her travel agents:
they cling to leaves they resemble
so closely they can't be detected
and report back with information
on climate, flora and local lovelies (fauna), twilight economies

she strides on seven league boots
a giantess with a laugh the size of Italy,
her boot in the Bermuda triangle
her ass somewhere off the coast of Crete
and apparently, now, an eyelash brushes the tip of Rum Cay

And always:
Her favorite occupation, figurehead,
ship's prow, stinging surf in her face, wind
to snatch away each song as it's sung
each love almost before it begins
each implausibility as it proves true
each truth as it becomes known

Small poem

The paper is its own poem
when it's made of skin, or finely-sliced pears,
or regrets
so much easier, Portia,
to hand you that pound of flesh
expiation and explanation
in one
what mercy can we expect
from ourselves?

fruited plains

Whew! I'm in post-deadline mode, which means scrambling to catch up with all the tasks set aside while deadline crises demanded full attention. There's never a moment without a crisis in publishing. . . it's a good thing I come from a theater background and wouldn't know what to do with myself if there wasn't a crisis.

Lerbylerbylerby is about the level of communication I have to offer. So busy! I'm dancing a lot these days, and still completely in love with my local walk. . . there are blackberries! I love it when people use berries as gerunds. . . "I went blackberrying". I wish it was in more common usage: "I went oranging," or "I went pomegranating". C'mon people, help me out here! Every sentence needs more fruit!

Composite Head, by Antonio Zucchi, 1610

On the waking world, which only appears that way. . .

I keep meaning to share this!

Sometimes when you read certain books together they form a resonance that neither alone could create. . .

Case in point: Marie-Louise von Franz's On Divination and Synchronicity: The Psychology of Meaningful Chance, and Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (which I was reading due to my pleasing encounters with a local lake. . .)

From Dillard: ". . . a greater light extinguishes a lesser as though it didn't exist. In the great meteor shower of August, the Perseid, I wail all day for the shooting stars I miss. They're out there showering down, committing hara-kiri in a flame of fatal attraction, and hissing perhaps at last into the ocean. But at dawn what looks like a blue dome clamps down over me like a lid on a pot."

From von Franz: "Probably we dream all the time, not only in the night but also in daytime, but because of the brightness of our conscious life we are not aware of it."

Wouldn't that be wonderful, if in fact we did dream all day? I spend an inordinate amount of time each morning (and night) bewailing the inaccessibility of my dreams, of half of my consciousness. For someone who loves to sleep as much as I do (and values sleep as much as I do, due to its relative inaccessibility), I have little access to my dreams during waking life. Certainly I live a dreamy sort of existence, with my eye on the glitter at all times, but those labyrinthine plots and distant landscapes I achieve at night? Very hard to recall in the light of day.

I slip back into them when I can. . . it reminds me a bit of the premise of Miéville's The City and The City -- two cities that coexist, not merely beside each other, but actually inhabiting the same locality. In order to maintain this illusory separation each "city" must uphold a pact not to see the other -- a premise which mandates a certain amount of "unseeing". Similarly, half of whatever encodes my experience is written in one bright chemical code, and the other half, which inhabits the same damn space, is written in a different and dimmer chemical signature, visible only when the brighter letters dim. But it is comforting to think that, like the Perseid, those other worlds continue about their business during the day, without my conscious attention.


My Friday: The Birth of Impressionism exhibit with Raquelita, at the De Young. Conclusion: I love the way the Impressionists handled paint, but I'm still a Symbolist girl at heart. If only they'd imported Delville from the Musée d'Orsay instead of Renoir! As it was, the two Symbolist painters represented, Doré and Moreau, held my attention in a way that the more literal Impressionists failed to do. It may have something to do with being a science fiction girl. Moreau's Galatea, Doré's Enigma: these are two rich, speculative works. Enigma even seems to feature a future city in the background. I've checked. . . no online reproduction captures the dramatic lighting (Doré) or the intricate detail (Moreau.)

In the pre-Impressionist vein, Bouguereau's Birth of Venus was baroque enough to entertain me, perhaps because of its anatomically incorrect dolphins (rococco dolphins have a peculiar anatomy not designed by mother nature.) And then there was, of course, Monet's monumental "Turkeys," which holds the distinction of being the single largest painting I've ever seen, depicting turkeys.

Yes! Yes they are turkeys! We celebrate turkeys!

This was followed by a long talk with emotional genius Lyn Prashant, which was then followed by a contemplative stroll in the SF park. . . a little loopy side-trail that appealed to me. The orange lilies were putting on quite a show, and the fog was gusting through the enormous eucalyptus trees in typical San Francisco fashion. I've missed the outdoors, living in Oakland, and am quite pleased with my discovery of the local Lake Temescal.

Saturday, decompression. Then, on Sunday, Spanish brunch at Sarita's. Monday? A me-day. I don't usually get my two days off per month in succession, but this is a nice post-deadline break.