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Showing posts from January, 2016

Saturday Serial: The Count of Monte Cristo part 5

One of the things I always liked about David Bowie was that he was the first major pop star to come out in print, and he still managed to stonewall and tap-dance his way out of identity politics for forty-five fucking years.

For those who were not around at the time -- I wasn't -- and are less obsessive than I am about tracking down old industry rags, the article that started the whole uproar ran in January 1972, in a magazine called Melody Maker. Originally a wholesome look at the socially-acceptable pop music of the day, in the late '60s it took a turn for the grown-up. Relatively speaking, anyway. It was fanwank, but slightly older fanwank than you'd expect from Tiger Beat. (Or whatever they publish that in now. Last time I knew was back in high school; my sister subscribed to a couple of them.) It didn't aspire to serious reporting like Rolling Stone, or to being culture critics like NME today; it was just aimed away from teenyboppers and more at readers in their l…

WARNING: 100% RAMBLE. Now with gratuitous links!

Moggie and I were indulging in a fit of college nostalgia the other night when the question came up of what, exactly, it was that made Bowie come off as so androgynous? I mean, physical characteristics aside, most of what makes people seem 'girlish' or 'boyish' is socially constructed gender performance, and varies from culture to culture. It's an interesting exercise to try to pin down exactly what it is that triggers the impression, particularly since my calibration can be rather badly off at times. I've spent the past twenty years watching anime. It's all in what you're used to.

Answering this, of course, required me to knuckle down and watch many hours of things with David Bowie in them. The terrible sacrifices I make for research.

(Yes, I'm linking everything. You're welcome.)

You could point to a million things as explanation when Bowie was dressed up as a Martian drag queen, obviously, but it seems to have been largely behavioral, since i…

Monday Mystery: The Utility of Glitter

Locard's Exchange Principle is a basic tenet of forensic work. You can read a more in-depth explanation at Wikipedia, but the most common, briefest way of putting it is: Every contact leaves a trace. It's what forensic examiners deal with when they speak of hair and fiber evidence, fingerprints, footprints, even the traces left on bullets by the rifling in the barrel of the gun they were fired from. Everything you see on CSI, is a depiction of some aspect of Locard's observation.

In light of what I've had on my mind the past couple of weeks, I feel it only appropriate to point out that glitter provides an excellent, and woefully underappreciated, demonstration of this.

Glitter is well-known to performers and crafters as 'the herpes of craft supplies'. It sticks perniciously to everything, but not quite well enough to keep it from flaking off everywhere. You wear the stuff, you leave a trail wherever you go. There is a fine haze of glitter all over everything I …
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I woke this morning to a cold draft coming in around the edges of the window glass, and snow collecting in the street. I watched it for a bit, strangely dizzy. It occurred to me eventually that this might be because, since I went out a few nights ago, I've had toast with cream cheese and jam, four crab rangoons, most of a bag of miniature peanut butter cups, one sandwich, a prodigious amount of flavored vitamin water, and a quantity of various drugs, for both medicinal and recreational purposes. I went grocery shopping the other day, and then didn't eat any of it.

I'm debating whether I should fix this or not. A few days won't kill me, and I feel sick right now, not hungry. I haven't bothered to put my glasses on. There's a fine wash of film grain over the world. The Winamp visualizer and the winter outside seem equally real. The wind whisks ice crystals off the roof next door, and goosebumps curl across my back in sympathy.

I have to make something for Jazmin&#…

Saturday Serial: The Count of Monte Cristo part 4

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There has been too much death around me lately.

I'm still crying over the rat. It takes a while. Every time. I keep telling myself that she had the best life I could give her. It takes so little to make a rat happy -- a warm dark place to sleep, water, food that appears at random, friends to nap on or groom behind their ears. My back was wrecked for a week, after I sat up with her pressed against my shoulder all night. I'm 34, I'll creak along to 80 or 90. Six hours out of the middle of my life is nothing. Six hours at the very end of hers was everything.

Circlet lost one of its authors under heart-rending circumstances. I never dealt with her directly, but Cecilia talks to everyone, this one perhaps a bit more personally than most. She's written about it here. Cecilia is the only person I know who routinely has arguments with people to convince them she should be giving them more money, and that's just cold impersonal cash. I don't even know how to begin with …

Saturday Serial: The Count of Monte Cristo part 3

Author's Note

No article today; I'm performing at Arisia. For the past week and a half, I've been catsitting at a condo an hour away from my actual home, and teching a show in a rehearsal space an hour and a half away from my actual home, in the opposite direction. I spent like six hours on public transit yesterday. As Boston does not (yet) have wifi on the bus, there is a limit to what I can get done. 
On the bright side, if you're at the convention, you have three chances to see me in person! We're on the 'music, dance & theater' part of the Arisia schedule; more info at mrshawking.com.
I had been wondering for a while when exactly we stopped calling chemicals things like "oil of vitriol" and started calling them things like "sulfuric acid". It's very romantic, but less than useful for, say, figuring out what the hell you're working with.

The question was answered incidentally, as so many of my questions are, by Oliver Sacks, in his memoirUncle Tungsten, which is a charmingly off-kilter remembrance of his childhood in England and the many, many hazardous things he did with chemicals back then, because apparently the concept of safety hadn't been invented yet.

The answer is that we changed over in the late 1700s, due in large part to the efforts of a French chemist, one Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier. He knocked it down to Antoine Lavoisier, the name by which he is best known, after the Revolution. It didn't last long, unfortunately; he was unlucky enough to be born into the nobility, so as soon as the proletariat got around to making…

Monday Mystery: The Golden Suicides

On July 10, 2007, a 40-year-old woman named Theresa Duncan lay down in her New York City apartment, took an overdose of medication, washed it down with bourbon, and died. Ten days after that, her long-time romantic partner, 35-year-old Jeremy Blake, drowned himself in the ocean off Rockaway Beach.

All but the very fringiest of conspiracy theorists agree that both deaths were suicides. That's not in question.

Duncan was well-known as the co-creator behind a handful of video games meant specifically for girls. They were whimsical and engaging, and involved exactly zero princesses. For the past two years, she had run a blog called The Wit of the Staircase, full of cultural observations and critiques. Blake was a graphic artist working in digital media whose credits included an album cover for the musician Beck, a consulting position with Rockstar Games, and a number of gallery showings. They supported each other passionately, obsessively, and poured their time and energy into fundrai…

Saturday Serial: The Count of Monte Cristo part 2

I've just frittered away several hours watching ladies on YouTube tie hijaab.

I am unqualified to comment on the appropriateness of wearing headscarves to express solidarity with Muslim women. My childhood was WASPy as, aside from the fact that my parents are vehemently secular. Instead of being too lazy to go to one church on a weekly basis, we were industriously committed to not going to all of them. I used to wear a scarf wound around my head to keep the snow out of my hair in Flagstaff, and got honked at by redneck chucklefucks, but that's as far as I've ever gone.

If you ever had any doubt that people everywhere are fundamentally the same, let me dispel it by pointing out that those headscarves are fashion pieces. They're no different than any of the clothes you go shopping for. "The Man" makes you wear pants when you leave the house, but you get to pick the pants, and for the most part you try to pick pants that make you look like a competent, attractiv…
My latest new task for the publishing house is to build them a database. This sounds like exactly the sort of thing that is not in my job description, except that my job description is either 'marketing consultant' or 'porn fairy', depending on whether you look at my CV or the business cards Cecilia told me to order myself, and it is entirely fictional. The thing she actually pays me to do is have a brain, and use it. I was baffled as to how I got hired straightaway after a single phone interview, until I realized that Cecilia spots the weird genius kids the same way I do, which is by talking to them for about five minutes and realizing that they have not been confused by any of the weird genius things she has already said.

I am trying to cobble together this database out of a lot of things that are almost, but not quite, entirely unlike actual database pieces. Which I suppose is fitting, because I am almost, but not quite, entirely unlike a person who is at all traine…
No mystery this week. Was tending the rat. Last night, Yuki, the rat who bit fingers and hated being scooped up and cuddled, demanded to be taken out of her cage. I tried to settler her in the box, or on my lap, but she was having none of it.

NO, went the rat. UP, goddamnit. UP.

She pressed herself to my shoulder, over my heart, and refused to be set down. The T had stopped for the night, so I sat there with her, under the collar of my shirt, until the trains started running again. I was afraid she wouldn't want to stay in the box, and considered riding all the way down to Heath Street with a rat tucked inside my winter coat.

I remember when I brought the three of them home the first time. I was on my way back from a gig in Allston, and there was a Petco on the way. I had some cash and no rats, and thought I'd be better off the other way around. I picked out the fat one and the speedy one, and then decided I couldn't leave the runty one behind. It was cold and the bus wasn…
Yuki seems to have rebounded to the status quo. I'm spoon feeding her wet cat food and she's going 'oh goodness I don't know if I could possibly eat another WAIT I DID NOT SAY YOU COULD TAKE THAT AWAY', which is perfectly normal for a rat who believes that she is the center of the known universe.

...okay, not exactly. I just tried to put her back into her cage and she flipped out. Box on sofa with Mommy good, apparently, own house by self not good. She still doesn't like being held, but she doesn't want to leave me. So we're near the end after all, just not quite there yet.
Woke up to Yuki having breathing problems. Was expecting this soon; we've reached the point of rat hospice care where I just move the cage to a spot right beside my bed, in case she wants attention. Stole a boot box from Jazmin and gave Yuki a sedative and now figuring how how to get her to the clinic in a way she'll hate least.

I still owe them for Edelweiß. I called and warned the receptionist that I had no money. They are the MSPCA and I am showing up at Emergency Care so I'm pretty sure they'll take care of Yuki anyway, but someone will probably be upset with me afterwards. Story of my life.

[Edit: Fuck. Giving me some sedatives too, so I can get us on the fucking train,]

[Edit2: I don't think I can do this to a rat who is still with it enough to bitch about being put into a box. Fuck fuck fuck.]

[Edit3: False alarm, maybe kinda? I think something woke her up and made her freak out, which made her start trying to scale the cage wall, which made her realize she …

Saturday Serial: The Count of Monte Cristo, Part 1

Everyone's very amused these days when they ask me what I do for a living and I'm reduced to sort of waving my arms around and saying, "You know... stuff!" It's a precarious living, but truthfully, I wouldn't be doing any better anywhere else. Were I to land in a place that had no market for weird freelancers (*coughArizonacough*) I would still be living paycheck to paycheck and worrying about rent, but I'd be stuck in a terrible phugoid cycle of craptastic jobs. I'd spend long periods unemployed and looking desperately for someone to hire me to work hours I could actually stay conscious for, doing something that at best I would have no particular feelings about, and I'd stay there until one of those things wasn't true anymore. Then, when I either stopped sleeping or started having catastrophic panic attacks at the thought of going into work, I'd either get myself fired or quit. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I may be chronically short on money, b…