Wrapping Up the Week 03July2022

Intro

I biked around the neighborhood Friday morning and realized there are three different shops offering tarot readings along a little stretch of Florida Ave. The most physically distant is about a quarter mile from here, and the closest is a half block away. There’s also a new bar that has tarot Tuesdays a couple of blocks from here. Weird how this little stretch of neighborhood has solidified into a cool little hodgepodge of quirkiness. I was telling friends Friday night that I want to get readings from all the local shops. I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone read my tarot before.

And that’s as exciting as it got, which I suppose is a good thing considering the world continues along its own execrable path. At least if I turn away from the screens, the world immediately surrounding me continues to burble up weirdness and hope.

Here’s a look back at some stuff that caught my attention this week.

Art & Illustration

Books & Reading

Cartoons & Comics

Cartoon/Comics Blogging

Columns & Essays

“For almost a decade, I told everyone I encountered – students, cousins, baristas at the coffee shop I frequented – that they should do the same. “Follow your passion,” I counseled. “You can figure out the employment stuff later.”

“It wasn’t until I began to research this widely accepted career advice that I understood how problematic – and rooted in privilege – it really was.”

Horoscope

Humor

Movies

Music

News

I assume you already have your preferred news source(s). Here are sites I use to supplement my news diet.

“At no point does the article actually explain how it was that Christian Dior supposedly “pioneered 75 years of feminist fashion” or even try to make that argument, outside of the headline — which is good because that would be an extremely difficult case to make.”

  • Popular Information – independent investigative journalism.
  • WikiNews – Wikipedia has a news page. It can be kind of hit or miss, but I always use it when I’m following a breaking news story.

Politics

“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.”

Scholarly Article of the Week

“FB use is primarily determined by two basic social needs: (1) need to belong and (2) need for self-presentation.”

Spirituality/Personal Growth

TV

Writing & Creativity

Coda

Wrapping Up the Week 26June2022

Intro

It is full-on summer here. Fortunately, it was overcast most of yesterday and I was able to get out in the garden and away from screens.

When we moved into our house our back fence didn’t go all the way to the property line, leaving about a five-foot gap between the fence and the alley. Over the years this space filled up with trash. Like, serious trash. There was a bumper from a car underneath overgrown vines and weeds. Also, a rolled-up carpet. Not to mention years’ worth of soda cans and beer bottles and chip bags.

Shortly after we moved in, I hired someone to clear out as much as they could, and after about a year we built a new fence, capturing all that space that had once been an alley dumping ground. My current ‘gardening’ is digging up that reclaimed space to turn it into a suitable place for a bench and an extension of the garden. Yesterday’s work wasn’t so much working with plants and soil as it was slowly removing chunks of concrete, a brittle shower curtain, a small rotting rug, black calcified rubber hose, shattered pots, dead bush roots, a rusty tool set, etc. I got a lot of work done, but there’s still a lot of work to do.

As I was digging up all this stuff it occurred to me that that’s a suitable metaphor for our current situation. We’ve done a lot of work but there’s still a lot of work to do.

Art & Illustration

https://www.juxtapoz.com/media/k2/galleries/70873/1.png

Books & Reading

Cartoons & Comics

Cartoon/Comics Blogging

Health

Horoscope

Movies

Music

News

I assume you already have your preferred news source(s). Here are news sources I use to supplement my news diet.

  • Wonkette – I love the cursing and share their love of Molly Ivins.
  • Popular Information – independent investigative journalism.
  • WikiNews – Wikipedia has a news page. It can be kind of hit or miss, but I always use it when I’m following a breaking news story.
  • The Daily Brief offers an overview of ‘top’ stories, but their choice of news organizations can be a little arbitrary.

Puzzles

If you’re looking for something to supplement your Wordle addiction, here’s a ton of online games from the gang at MetaFilter.

Scholarly Article of the Week

Abstract: “Scientific advances at the turn of the new millennium brought radical new insights into just how microbial our world is and the extent to which microbes influence our lives: from notions of the body (human microbiome); to their distribution in our living spaces (microbiome of the built environment); playing an integral role in ecosystems services in our cities (urban microbiome) and are fundamental to biogeochemical cycles—our world is irreducibly microbial. This paper asks what it means to dwell and design in such times and proposes an ethics for biodesign: which employs the insights and tools of the biotechnological age to generate new, ecologically beneficial forms of design, where microbes are the new “workhorses.” Exemplified in the Living Architecture, ALICE and IM-CITY projects—these biodesign case studies explore how working with microbes can help us contribute significantly to the (re)enlivening of the world by establishing a culture of life—based on mutual thriving.”

TV

Writing & Creativity

Coda

I have lots of opinions about the state of the world, but really nothing novel or particularly helpful.

Goodbye to Tolerance
by Denise Levertov


Genial poets, pink-faced
earnest wits—
you have given the world
some choice morsels,
gobbets of language presented
as one presents T-bone steak
and Cherries Jubilee.
Goodbye, goodbye,
I don’t care
if I never taste your fine food again,
neutral fellows, seers of every side.
Tolerance, what crimes
are committed in your name.

And you, good women, bakers of nicest bread,
blood donors. Your crumbs
choke me, I would not want
a drop of your blood in me, it is pumped
by weak hearts, perfect pulses that never
falter: irresponsive
to nightmare reality.

It is my brothers, my sisters,
whose blood spurts out and stops
forever
because you choose to believe it is not your business.

Goodbye, goodbye,
your poems
shut their little mouths,
your loaves grow moldy,
a gulf has split
the ground between us,
and you won’t wave, you’re looking
another way.
We shan’t meet again—
unless you leap it, leaving
behind you the cherished
worms of your dispassion,
your pallid ironies,
your jovial, murderous,
wry-humored balanced judgment,
leap over, un-
balanced? … then
how our fanatic tears
would flow and mingle
for joy …

Retrospecting

Since the equinox.

We got Zorro’s cancer diagnosis around the first day of spring. He died at almost exactly the mid-point between the equinox and the solstice. I didn’t mention it before because it felt too much like fishing for condolences, or worse, using his death as a source of content. But in looking back over the last season, Zorro’s death was by far the most meaningful day of the past quarter year. He was one of my best friends.

During spring my niece and her girlfriend visited, both sweet and smart and generous, and I desperately want the future to be kind to them, but I suspect it will be like anyone’s life, a complicated tapestry woven with threads of pain and joy, sadness and hope.

Some other things that happened the last few months —

  • We got a new washer and dryer. It’s moments like this I really feel my privilege. In my twenties and thirties I was a laundromat regular. Not only did not imagine owning a washer & dryer, I definitely never imagined having enough money to be able to just go out and buy those sorts of appliances when the need arose.
  • Did a lot of yard prep and made the garden beds ready for the okra planting. The yard and garden are looking great!
  • I bought a new car! Something else that really highlights my middle-class life. Instead of getting something old and affordable, I bought something relatively new that brings me a spark of joy.
  • There was a full-moon eclipse. I stayed up to watch it. Turns out the gap in the oaks in my backyard were positioned perfectly for me to watch the earth’s shadow cover the full moon.
  • I went to the beach and,
  • I caught a cold.

Looking back over this past spring, the span that stands out the most outside of Zorro’s death was my long break from work between May 26 and June 12. During that time something shifted in my psyche. For the first time in a long time I was able to look at my life and recognize the awesomeness of it. It’s easier now to see what I have instead of what I don’t have.

I don’t think that moment happened magically or without work. I think the work I’ve been doing for the past few years led to that moment. All the therapy and meditation, the exercise and education, helped build and strengthen the emotional and psychic muscles I needed.

Similarly, my grief about Zorro is distilling into memories. Memories of the time I had with him, instead of the constant, persistent, heart-wrenching grief of his absence.

I think my deep job-related unhappiness triggered in me a grief for a life I didn’t have. A life I imagined I might have some day; a life I once yearned for so deeply, but a life that didn’t exist. It took some time to process that grief, partially because I didn’t recognize it as grief. I recognized the loss, the absence but I didn’t recognize it as a loss that could be grieved, and transmuted into something else.

In time the grief I hold for Zorro, and the grief I hold for the life I’ll never have, are both woven into the complex tapestry of my own life, those threads intertwining with the threads of love and joy that are also my life. Lately I’ve been much better at seeing the whole tapestry instead of focusing on the coarse threads of despair.

Adios, Zorro. You made my life better.

Wrapping Up the Week 19June2022

Intro

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about conclusions. My attention is so distorted focusing on beginnings (in stories as well as life) that I neglect endings. In real life I love Mondays, New Years, the new moon, the beginnings of seasons, etc. I don’t really acknowledge or reflect on Sundays, the last day of a season, or the last day of the year. Looking through a stack of stories recently I realized that I have the same mindset when it comes to writing stories. I’m full of enthusiasm for openings, but get bored, or neglect to really reflect on what makes a strong conclusion. For the next few months I’m making endings and conclusions the focus of my creative practice. This shift in attention is also why this this weekly blog feature now has a new name. I’m one of those people who think of Sunday as the end of the week, and Monday as the beginning of the week, so this Sunday post is a reflection on what caught my attention in the past week. Syndicated Sundays is now the Wrapping Up the Week.

Art & Illustration

Books & Reading

“‘Pablo has confessed his love for me. I was stunned.’

“We are, too, when we learn, a few lines further down the first page of Rosalyn Drexler’s third novel The Cosmopolitan Girl, that Pablo is a dog. The narrator, Helen, lives in the Hotel Buckminster in Manhattan. The hotel has a strict no-pets policy, but Helen has trained Pablo to walk on his hind legs and dresses him up in a man’s suit, wig, and hat. Pablo is “an intelligent dog, well coordinated and faithful” — which goes without saying, Helen reminds us.

“He can also carry on a conversation and enjoys having Helen read to him from the newspaper. They share their most intimate thoughts and dreams. “I dreamt I was lying in the courtyard dead,” Pablo confides after a troubling night sleep. Helen promises to ask her mother what the dream means.”

Cartoons & Comics

Cartoon/Comics Blogging

Currently Reading

  • Spear by Nicola Griffith. I’ve never been much for Arthurian legend, so a lot of the subtext of this story goes right by me. But I love Griffith’s work, and will read anything she publishes. I’m liking it so far.

Horoscope

Humor

“In 1972, the government drew up plans to construct a deportation facility off the coast of Ireland that could house as many as 70 million people – the entire population of the UK, if need be. The intention was to make it an exact replica of the United Kingdom and call it Bad Kingdom. Nobody, it seemed, fulfilled the increasingly stringent criteria of what it meant to be truly British.”

Movies

Neptune Frost now at the cinema. Creative Independent interviews filmmakers Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman.

Music

  • Bandcamp Daily
  • Brooklyn Vegan has a daily post of new releases. I need an AI app that can rank these based on my tastes, so I can check out a few new songs every day. As it is, that’s a lot of new music!

News

I assume you already have your preferred news source(s). Here are news sources I use to supplement my news diet.

  • Wonkette – I love the cursing and share their love of Molly Ivins.
  • Popular Information – independent investigative journalism.
  • WikiNews – Wikipedia has a news page. It can be kind of hit or miss, but I always use it when I’m following a breaking news story.

Scholarly Article of the Week

“Hearing voices no one else can hear (‘auditory hallucinations’) occurs in a range of psychiatric conditions and can cause significant disruption and distress. Although antipsychotic medication was long considered a primary treatment response, psychological interventions are increasingly promoted to support recovery, with both service-user accounts and professional guidelines acknowledging the value of exploring voices’ content and emotional meaning. Talking With Voices (TwV) forms part of a new wave of treatment strategies which emphasize the interpersonal aspects of voice-hearing by directly addressing the relationship between hearer and voice. However, in addition to talking about voices, a central component of TwV is speaking directly to them, wherein a therapist poses questions to the voice and the client repeats its responses verbatim.”

Spirituality

Tuesday is summer solstice (for those of us in the northern hemisphere). Wiccan celebration of summer solstice is a reminder that change, as expressed in nature, is inevitable.

Wikipedia Post of the Week

Coda

That’s some of the stuff that caught my attention this past week. It’s going to be a hot one this week, so stay cool and drink lots of fluids.

Full Moon Story: Finding My Breath

(The following is a work of fiction.)

A large and clearly exhausted woman wobbled at my front door. As I opened the door she lowered herself onto a sturdy plastic chair and asked if she could sit. Her feet expanded around her purple sandals like freshly baked bread. Her left hand fanned her flushed face, and her hair could have been a wig made from a wrung-out mop.

“Is Faye here?” She clutched a wad of cash tightly in her right hand.

Faye appeared at the door and thought to offer the woman some water.

While I’d been at work she’d bought our large chest of drawers that didn’t fit the new, smaller, house we were moving into. Faye posted the dresser for sale on a neighborhood list on the condition the buyer take it away ASAP.

I learned later that the woman sitting on the porch arrived with three young children in tow but needed Faye’s help to load the dresser into the bed of a battered Ford truck. Noting the precarity of the cabinet, and the youth of the children, Faye volunteered to ride in the back of the truck and steady the cargo. Faye also helped unload the cabinet at its new home.

Faye helped. Faye is kind. In those days I was cranky all the time, and doubt I would have been so generous.

As the woman drank her water we told her we’d recently moved and about the repairs we wanted to do to the house. Tomorrow, we expected a handyman to close the many open holes to the crawl space under the house to limit the intrusion of neighborhood critters.

“Houses have to breathe,” she stated firmly.

“When I bought my house I called a man to do some repairs and he wanted to seal it up. Some of it I agreed to ‘cause you want to keep the critters out, but sometimes you have to say no because houses need to breathe just like people and animals. You can’t close ‘em up too tight.”

We agreed that houses shouldn’t be sealed too tight and needed to breathe. I pretended to care about what she said but I wanted her to leave so I could change clothes and pour a cocktail.

She spoke compulsively, stories interrupted stories. Every sentence reminded her of something else she wanted to share. We listened agreeably, on the surface anyway, but when I saw her settling in, getting comfortable to follow the story no matter where it led, I interrupted and said I wanted to change my clothes, I had just arrived home from work. Faye piggybacked on my escape and said she needed to start preparing dinner.

The woman laughed at her own verbosity, and apologized. She handed Faye the damp folded bills, and thanked us for the dresser. She teetered down the steps and across the weedy lawn. I worried with every step she might pitch over.

Years later I am practicing mindfulness meditation, hoping it will help with my troubled sleep. My mind skitters when I lay down at night and I’m working to calm it by following my breath. I focus attention on the in-breath, then the out-breath. Now is not the time to think about the past or the future, but only of breathing.

As I focus on my breath, I hear the gentle rasp of the dog breathing. I hear the steady rhythm of Faye’s breath. As my breath slows, drawing me into sleep, I hear the gentle, quiet breathing of a house at rest.

END

Afterward: I had a choice between a long story with demons and angels and other supernatural whatnot, and this shorter story where the fantastic is more subdued. I chose the shorter because I think it’s harder to read longer stories on the glare of a screen. I think this story is fine, but the sentences don’t sing like I want.

Syndicated Sunday 12June2022

Intro

I’m back from summer vacation. It was terrific. I feel rested, rejuvenated, and ready to go. Mostly. On Tuesday I woke up with a cold. I presume it’s a cold instead of the other thing because Jennifer had it before me and she tested negative for covid and for the flu. It’s a little annoying, but *shrugs* whattayagonnado?

Art & Illustration

Books & Reading

Book ReviewHow to Eat the Future: The consultancy-futurism Jane McGonigal offers in Imaginable is part of the problem it is meant to fix by Cameron Kunzelman.

I was a big fan of Jane McGonigal’s Reality Is Broken when it came out in 2010. I am less of a fan today. C. Thi Nguyen offers a compelling critique of gamification in “How Twitter Gamifies Communication,” a suitable companion piece to the review of her new book by Kunzelman. And while Kunzelman is critical, it the kind of criticism that makes me want to read Imaginable. My gut instinct is that McGonigal’s new book will be scarcely different than the scores of other corporate forecasting books regularly published.

Cartoons & Comics

Columns & Essays

Currently Reading

  • We Can’t All Be Astronauts by Tim Clare – I started Tim Clare’s “100 Day Writing Challenge” last year (I don’t do it every day) and really connected with his style of teaching (a melange of self-deprecation, self-care, and unpretentious erudition). His memoir is about a young man desperately yearning to be a successful writer, but coming to grips with the reality that his path is not going to unfold as imagines, no matter how fervently he wishes. Through this journey he copes with severe depression, spiraling self-doubt, and finding the first steps toward self-acceptance.

Health

Horoscope

Movies

Music

News

  • NOAA National Hurricane Center – I set my browsers to open pre-set pages upon opening. It’s that time of year to add the NHC page to track hurricane activity.
  • Wonkette – I love the cursing and share their love of Molly Ivins.
  • Popular Information – independent investigative journalism.
  • WikiNews – Wikipedia has a news page. It can be kind of hit or miss, but I always use it when I’m following a breaking news story.

Obituary

Scholarly Article of the Week

We’ll call this one scholarship-adjacent. Long introduction into the life and thinking of Magnus Hirschfield.

“Years before the Weimar Republic’s well-chronicled freedoms, the 1904 non-fiction study Berlin’s Third Sex depicted an astonishingly diverse subculture of sexual outlaws in the German capital. James J. Conway introduces a foundational text of queer identity that finds Magnus Hirschfeld — the “Einstein of Sex” — deploying both sentiment and science to move hearts and minds among a broad readership.”

Spirituality

Writing & Creativity

Coda

That’s it for this week. With any luck I’ll have a story up on Tuesday.

Summer Break

I added some vacation days to last week’s long Memorial Day weekend and ended up with a 17 day stretch of summer break. Yay! (Actually, I was at work for two of those days, but they’re behind me now.)

Today I’m working in the garden, and tomorrow I’m heading to the beach. In between I might hang out on the hammock, or lie on the couch and read a book. I made some progress on the non-fiction fairy project yesterday, and started baking a new story. It’s amazing how much being away from work improves my attitude. (Although, quick aside, some major changes at the job actually give me a sense of real hope for the first time in years. The future looks, if not bright, at least well lit.)

One thing I will NOT be doing is spending much time staring at screens.

June’s full moon story is complete and just needs to be edited before I post it on June 14.

Syndicated Sunday will return on June 19. Hope your June is starting out well!

Mood

Most protest music is rightfully angry or devastated or poignant or didactic. I love the following for it’s chillaxed reminder that no matter how mellow you’re feeling, it’s a good day to fight the system. This is currently my morning anthem.

I woke up feeling great
The birds are in the trees
They’re singing me a melody
La la la la fuck the police

My head is on straight
My heart is in peace
My soul is incredibly
Ready to change history

It’s a good day
To fight the system
(To fight the system)
It’s a good, good, good day, yes,
A good, good, good day

We’re never gonna stop
We’re gonna make it count
When when one of is tired out
The other one will hold down

We’re gonna spread the love
We’re gonna spread it ‘round
We’re all over in the city now
And way down in the underground

It’s a good day
To fight the system
(To fight the system)
It’s a good, good, good day, yes,
A good, good, good day