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Lydy's Anarchist Revival Meeting

27th August, 2018. 11:39 am. Long Form Essays Make Me Crazy

So, there was a link in my Twitter Feed to this article about child abuse at Catholic Orphanages. Here's the link, in case you care: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/christinekenneally/orphanage-death-catholic-abuse-nuns-st-josephs

I tried to read it. I could not make it all the way through. Not because it's long, but because of the way it's structured, and because of the graphic abuse described. To be clear, I do not have PTSD, and I do not have flash-backs when reading graphic accounts of abuse and torture. But at some point, my brain just nopes out. It does this before I get traumatized (thank you, brain).

As these pieces are wont to do, it starts with a graphic, personal vignette. Then the piece weaves together other people's stories, the account of at least two different law suits against the orphanage, brief tangents about other orphanages, all of it punctuated by stories of graphic abuse, and with an underlying theme that maybe some of this didn't happen. The one thing I know about human memory is that it is profoundly malleable. False memories are a thing. I am less clear on recovered and repressed memories, but it wouldn't surprise me. People lie, and people attempting to tell the truth get it utterly wrong. The article kept on holding out the promise of sorting all this out. But the structure of it, the constant interweaving of graphic stories of abuse with other bits of personal history from one of the nuns, one of the lawyers, some of the children remembering abuse... And the structure made it such that trying to skip the really graphic bits made the whole article become incoherent. The story was written so the that the through-line was not uncovering the truth, but the stories of abuse.

Dear reader, I do not need this in my life. I just don't.

This style of writing is pretty common. Start with an intriguing personal anecdote. Pull back, suggest a wider context and big themes. State a question or thesis. Pull in close to the personal, pull back to the general, rinse, repeat. Even when the detail isn't about terrible horror, I find this structure really hard to read. The personal details often strike me as irrelevant, or derailing. There's a real lack of causality in this structure that just makes me crazy. If the totality of the story actually answers the question or supports the thesis, I am often unable to tell by the end, even if I get there. It often seems to seems to me that the detailing of the subjective experiences is used to undermine rather than support an objective conclusion. And this shit just makes me crazy.

Possibly, I am just a bad reader. But I really hate this style of reportage/essay.

P.S. If anybody can tell me if the story that I cite above actually comes to a conclusion about how supported the claims of abuse are, I'd be interested. After the mass grave in Ireland and the stories of the Magdelen laundries, I'm inclined to believe almost anything about Catholic run orphanages and charities, but that doesn't mean that every story is true.

Make Notes

18th August, 2018. 9:00 am. Slow Burn and Idle Maunderings

I've been listening to the podcast "Slow Burn." The first season chronicled the Watergate scandal, and how it led to Nixon's resignation There's a lot of stuff there I didn't know, and some stuff they left out that they shouldn't have, but it's a good, interesting listen. I had no idea about Martha Mitchell. The second season is about Clinton's impeachment, and before I listen to it, I want to try to remember what it was like at the time, without reference to notes and histories. I want to set down my vague memories before I get a lot of facts. Conservatives have been beating their chests about how we failed to hold Clinton to account, which is painfully and obviously disingenuous, but I am curious about my opinions now, and want to contrast them to what I think and feel after I have a better look with more detail.

I was in my mid-thirties when this all went down. One thing I never really focused on was how young Monica Lewinsky was. I think I was thinking of her as roughly my age. (I did look this up: she was 11 years my junior.) A young, pretty woman wants to sleep with the most powerful man on the planet? Seemed like a no-brainer, to me. Moreover, Bill Clinton had tons of charisma. When I considered the question, "Would I sleep with this man?" the answer was an absolute and resounding "In a hot minute." And the answer would have been the same if I was Lewinsky's age. My early twenties were full of unwise sexual liaisons, some of which were enormously rewarding, others...less so. I would also say that I did not focus on the power imbalance. She was an adult, he was an adult, and well, ya know. I kind of assumed, or maybe hoped, that Bill and Hillary had a secretly open marriage. Certainly, there were a lot of stories about how Bill liked to tom-cat about, and I assumed that the two of them had somehow come to terms with that.

I had certainly heard of the Genifer Flowers story, but I didn't pay it much attention. I just don't care about adultery, to be honest. Either he and his wife will work it out, or not. Do not care, and do not want to know. Also, there had been (or were still happening? not sure of timing) a whole series of increasingly entertaining peccadilloes from tv evangelists, which warmed the cockles of my heart. The Jimmy Swaggart downfall was just downright funny. But if the most prominent members of Reagan's Moral Majority were being hung out to dry for moral failings, it didn't seem to me that anybody should be throwing asparagus at Bill Clinton.

When I first heard of the story of Monica Lewinsky, my first thought was, "No relationship can stand this kind of public scrutiny. What ever they were to each other, this will destroy them." Near as I could tell from the grotesque coverage at the time, the two of them were genuinely fond of each other. I was less clear on how honest Bill was with her, and unclear on what she thought about the harm she might be doing Hillary, but it seemed gross and unconscionable that this was being dragged into the public sphere. It was unique. Lots of presidents had mistresses. GHWB was rumored to have one, JFK was known to have several, and so back in time. (If Reagan had any sexual peccadilloes, I really didn't want to know, because euwww.)

I hate Newt Gingrich with a passion. The Clinton white house had its problems, but most of the scandals seemed, from the vantage of Minneapolis to a person who was not an avid news consumer, to be concocted and blown out of proportion by a person who was obviously dealing in bad faith. He was an evil little prick, and if you want to talk about polarizing politics, well, he's not patient zero, but man is he close. I did not see the White House as scandal-ridden so much as Gingriched.

The Paula Jones story seemed like trumped up nothing. At that time, I thought that you could really only claim sexual harassment if someone refused you advancement because you wouldn't sleep with them, or non-consensually groped you. At the time, I used to say that sexual harassment sensitivity training should really be simplified to "The first grope is free." I...do not hold those views, anymore. At the time, none of the things that Jones said sounded that bad to me, but I was not playing close attention, either. Carville said, "Drag a $100 bill through a trailer park, it's amazing what you'll get." It was an appallingly misogynistic and classist slur, and I am ashamed now that I laughed. The one bit of misogyny that did really irk me were all the people going on and on and on about Lewinsky's weight. There were numerous pundits who appeared to be offended, not that Clinton was banging an intern, but that he was banging an intern that wasn't hot enough. It was intensely gross.

The spectacle of the House Investigation, with Henry Hyde, who had a long-term mistress, Newt Gingrich whose sexual misconduct included banging his secretary and then divorcing his wife while she was in the hospital with cancer, and various other Republicans whose own sexual histories were nothing to write home about was vile. Hypocritical and vile. The various slings that they took at Hillary, at Lewinsky, and their sheer self-righteous posturing made me vow that I would never vote for another Republican, not even for dog-catcher. This is a vow I have kept, although gods know the Republicans make it easier every year.

There was also an allegation of two ... Arkansas cops? ... who allegedly, I'm not sure, took Clinton and his paramour to anonymous no-tell motels on the Arkansas dime, maybe? It seemed deeply far-fetched and not credible. I haven't revisited that set of allegations, but what I've seen of politicians' behavior since then makes it less incredible.

Do I think we failed to hold Clinton to account, upon reflection? I ... think we failed Monica Lewinsky. I think that we let the government and the press victimize her, and I think we should all be ashamed of that. I am less clear about Clinton. I don't think that, at the time, we had anything like the understanding we have now about power imbalances and consent. And if we were going to hold Clinton to account, he wasn't really the best place to start. There were so many other things that were more common-place and worse. If it happened now, things would be different (I hope), but those stepping stones had not yet been put in place. I think that he did misuse his position, but I do not know how coercive he was. I actually care a lot about coercion.

So, I guess we did fail to hold Clinton to account, but it wasn't because he was the president, or Bill Clinton, so much as it was that we weren't holding _anybody_ to account in that way. And the naked partisanship on display had exactly nothing to do with advancing the cause of feminism. It was entirely about playing moral gotcha at the president. The talking points were all about monogamy and marriage, and I don't give a wet slap about that. No one should think that the Republicans were, in any way, champions of women's rights.

So, that's what I've got. I'll revise this after I've listened to this season of Slow Burn.

Make Notes

30th July, 2018. 3:50 pm. More Shawls and RAICES

To repeat:  I knit.  A lot.  And I usually give away what I create, since I do it for joy.  Like you, I've been hugely disturbed by the stories coming from our southern border.  So I would like to ask that if you want one of my shawls, you pledge to donate at least $10 to RAICES, or some other immigrant support groups. The donate link for RAICES is https://www.raicestexas.org/donate/  

Materials cost for a shawl is between $20 and $50, more if there are a lot of beads.  I am not a fast knitter, and I do a lot of ripping and reknitting, so labor time on these is between 30 and 100 hours.  What I'm saying here is, if you're thinking about value, $10 doesn't even cover materials costs.  

All shawls are knit with a wool blend.  If you are allergic to wool these will make you itch.  If you have not very bad cat allergies, these shawls should be fine.  They were washed and blocked in a cat free area, but stored in a room where cats do go -- though they have not been sat upon by said cats.  If you are very sensitive, I can re-wash and re-block, and never take it into a room where cats go before shipment.  

Shipping to anywhere is free.  I will choose a cheap shipping option.  If you need it fast, let me know, we'll work it out.

One last note, my camera doesn't capture the glitter of the beads well, and the colors are not always true.  I'll note as we go along.  In general, the shawls are prettier in person than in pictures.

Please comment to let me know that you want a thing, and I'll PM you and we'll work out the details.

6. Celtic Knot

This is actually greener than the pictures show.  It's fairly simple, except for the knot work.  Kind of subtle, but man was it a pain to knit.  It starts in the round, and I purely hate DPNs.  (So, of course, I have been seeking out patterns that use DPNs, because I'm just that kind of nutter.)  
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7. Flowers for Yvonne

This is a nice, rich shawl.  No beads, just some really lovely lacework. It is fairly large, which means you can knot it or drape it dramatically. And if you ever want to watch me bitch in almost real time about the process of making something, check out my Ravelry page, where I use the pattern notes to whine extensively.  I'm lydydrew, there, and most of my projects go up there, too.  
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8. Perseus

For reasons that are beyond me, the designer thought that this pattern looked like Greek armor.  Dunno.  The yarn is Malabrigo, which means that the colors are marvelous and complex.  And, unfortunately, I can't photograph them for toffee.  The colors are both more blue and more purple than shown, and generally a lot richer.  It's a nice little shawl, and, again, prettier in person.  Sigh. 

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And that takes us to the end of this shawl crawl.  If you have interest in any of these, please let me know.  

Make Notes

30th July, 2018. 3:05 pm. Knitted Shawls and RAICES

I knit.  A lot.  And I usually give away what I create, since I do it for joy.  Like you, I've been hugely disturbed by the stories coming from our southern border.  So I would like to ask that if you want one of my shawls, you pledge to donate at least $10 to RAICES, or some other immigrant support groups. The donate link for RAICES is https://www.raicestexas.org/donate/  

Materials cost for a shawl is between $20 and $50, more if there are a lot of beads.  I am not a fast knitter, and I do a lot of ripping and reknitting, so labor time on these is between 30 and 100 hours.  What I'm saying here is, if you're thinking about value, $10 doesn't even cover materials costs.  

All shawls are knit with a wool blend.  If you are allergic to wool these will make you itch.  If you have not very bad cat allergies, these shawls should be fine.  They were washed and blocked in a cat free area, but stored in a room where cats do go -- though they have not been sat upon by said cats.  If you are very sensitive, I can re-wash and re-block, and never take it into a room where cats go before shipment.  

Shipping to anywhere is free.  I will choose a cheap shipping option.  If you need it fast, let me know, we'll work it out.

One last note, my camera doesn't capture the glitter of the beads well, and the colors are not always true.  I'll note as we go along.  In general, the shawls are prettier in person than in pictures.

Please comment to let me know that you want a thing, and I'll PM you and we'll work out the details.


And now:  SHAWLS!

1. Fairy's Playground

This is knit from hanspun by Beth Friedman.  The yarn has a glitter to it that the picture does not show.  It is, yes, very pink.  And sparkly.  Collapse )

;2. Galadriel's Mirror

This is a pattern from a series inspired by LOTR (the movie, I'm pretty sure and not the books.)  The yarn is this lovely, lustrous grey, it's a wool-silk blend.  The shawl itself is, as  you can see, large.  Downright luxurious.  It was a very complex pattern, with a lot of twisted stitches, which gives it a really beautiful stitch definition.  I'm entering it into the State Fair, so I can't mail it to you until after that.  Collapse )

3. Frost on My Window

That's the name of the pattern, honest.  It's a circular shawl, and alas the picture doesn't do it as much justice as one would like.  But it's a dusky navy, small and light.  An accent piece, it will not keep you warm at night.  

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4. Philosphopher's Stone, but no Harry Potter

I have no idea why the pattern is called that.  There are beads which are a gold and green, really nice, and very noticeable in person, but pretty much vanish when I try to take pictures of them.  This one is much prettier in person than the pictures I could manage. The edge is fully beaded, which gives it a nice heft and flow.  

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5. Water

This is a simple, lovely, asymmetrical shawl.  It was a very easy pattern, but it has these lovely ripply inserts done with short rows.  It's the same yarn as the Philosopher's Stone, and feels really nice.  As you can see, it got a little creased in storage.  
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Make Notes

25th July, 2018. 3:45 am. Gaming question

I don't know if I actually want to do this...but if I wanted to play a video RPG, absolutely not multi-player, questish, on my MacBook Air, does anyone have any suggestions?  Back in the day, I loved the look of Myst, but was not clever enough to solve most of the puzzles, and just bogged down.  I absolutely do not want a first person shooter, and would prefer there be only some fighting.  Fantasy or medieval setting preferred, sf ok, post-apocalyptic right out.  Oh, and I do not want to buy any additional hardware.  I don't care if this is an old game that everyone else is already bored of.  I game so very little, it would be novel to me.

Any suggestions?   

Read 2 Notes -Make Notes

10th July, 2018. 12:04 am. Girls on a Train

I've been contemplating the meme from Twitter a while back.  It's a picture of a drag queen and a woman in a burqa sitting in a subway car in NYC, apparently amiably ignoring one another, and captioned, "This is the future the liberals want."  Which then caused liberals to drag the conservatives in various creative and funny ways.  But I keep on circling back to two things.  The first is that someone pointed out that this isn't "the future" that liberals want, this is the present, that we built.  And the second is, what does it mean to share a country with people who are so horrified by something that they can see with their own eyes that they must assign it to some theoretical hell-scape future apocalypse?  And what does it mean that their idea of a nearly inconceivable hell is my aspiration for our nation?

The vision must, I think, be relegated to a fictional hell-scape of the future, because to admit that it is happening, right now, disproves their point.  They cannot envision a world where two such disjoint views of life co-exist without violence and destruction.  They cannot see how two such things can co-exist at all.  In a very real way, that image is an existential threat, it challenges their entire understanding of how people and societies work, and it cannot be allowed to stand, not just because they hate Muslims and queers, but because the possibility of those things not resulting in destruction is a complete repudiation of how they understand the world at a very fundamental level.

And I think about my Evangelical family, who claim to love me, but hate everything that is important about me.  Who, when challenged, would claim to love the sinner but hate the sin.  Which does not, and cannot work, when what they hate are my important relationships,, my chosen family, my philosophy, my politics, and pretty much every other thing about me which I chose or aspire to.  When you strip away all the "sin" there's nothing really left,  One could argue that I am, at core, my sins.  So what can it possibly mean to love me, but hate my sins?

What does it mean to share a society with people who find the mere fact of other people tootling along in their own way, managing life on terms that are happy and meaningful, to be an existential threat to you?  If they were just content to consign the lot of us to hell, and tootle along themselves, that would be one thing.  But our existence is perceived as a threat to theirs.  

I do not pretend to have any answers.  I haven't found any for my blood family, and so I can't imagine trying to heal the nation.  But I think it's important to understand that our actual existence is what they have a problem with.  

(I want to acknowledge that my problems are not nearly as life-threatening or acute as that which people of color and other marginalized communities face.  But I don't really know how to talk about that well, so I want to say I know it's there, and it's much worse.  Some of it though, may be part of the same problem.  The simple act of being black in this country appears to create an existential threat for white people.  However, there are a lot of nuances there I don't get.)

Make Notes

1st July, 2018. 9:32 am. March

I did make it to the Minneapolis Keep Families Together march.  It was...ok, hot was an understatement.  I accepted a fairly generic sign, and mostly used it to block the direct sunlight.  I had a 32 oz water bottle, and went through all of it, and accepted an additional 8 oz of water from some blessed person at the end of the march with a big-assed bag-o-water on his shoulder.  Bless him forever.   

The march was led by Native Americans in very fancy dress, who danced at the beginning, and it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life.  I do not know what tribe or tradition.  The feathered head-dresses looked like Mardi Gras Indians, but I am no expert.  It was incredibly appropriate.  These people have also known attempted genocide through child stealing.  The sound system sucked, and I couldn't hear the speakers.  I believe that none of them were white?  

The news says that the march was about 7,000 people.  Not a bad showing, perhaps?  Not sure how it compares to the Women's March, frex.  A new spox said something about "trying to get a message to Donald Trump."  Dunno about that.  Maybe some people were.  Me, I was trying to get a message to my congress critters.  I don't think that it is possible to communicate with Trump.

I didn't make it the full way of the march.  I stand less well than I walk, and had been standing for about 45 minutes when the walking finally started.  Then I walked for about 45 minutes.  Things that make me want to keep on walking: drums, music with a beat.  Things  that do not make me feel like walking: chanting.  I find chanting tiring and a bit embarrassing.  I bailed at 4th street, sat on a bus stop bench and watched the rest of the people march past, then went home.  I slept for 12 hours, and don't feel too terrible.  

Other random observations:
 - Banana Boat SPF50 sunblock blocked the sun, but does not come off in the shower.  I am still a bit tacky from the stuff this morning.  
 - 32 oz of water was not enough for 95+ degree weather, but I'm not sure I could have carried much more weight.  
 - I get points for not engaging with the 3 anti-abortion protestors.  
 - I get very emotional at protests, and that may be one of the reasons why I don't like them.  I feel very vulnerable.  
 - The crowd was very, very, very white.  I get that this is Minnesota.  
 - I am generally cheerful about being photographed and filmed, but the guy in an Empire Strikes Back t-shirt that looked very much like a fan or a gamer taking video creeped me out.  That was the first time where I thought about people using facial recognition to try to hassle marchers.  I hope I am being incredibly unfair to Mr. Empire Strikes Back.  

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28th June, 2018. 9:41 am. Families Belong Together March in Minneapolis

It is, gods help me, 2:00 p.m. on Saturday.  Which means I will either be attending on no sleep, or a very short nap.  It starts outside the convention center.  Anyone else going? I don't think I will be safe to drive, but that is a perfectly reasonable thing to do by bus.  I think it's important to show the flag, to put backbone into the Democrats, and gods, I hate marching.  In what is likely to be killing heat.  Anybody have ideas about what to take or not take?  I am strongly considering leaving my phone at home, as I don't have the time or energy to make it cop-safe.  ID, obvs.  Money?  How much?  Water?  I am not strong, and cannot schlep lots of stuff.  

I hate this.  I hate that it has come to this.  I don't know what the most effective forms of resistance are.  I'm going to do this.  

Read 2 Notes -Make Notes

26th June, 2018. 11:04 pm. Possibly too general

I mean, seriously, what do I put in the subject line on the contact form?  But this is what I sent my representative and my two senators.  (I remembered to change the salutation on two of the three emails.  I'm not sure if I get points or lose points for that.)

Dear Congresscritter,

 

It has become clear that as Democrats, we cannot cooperate with the Republicans. I get it. I thought Hillary was going to win, too, and so I understood why you let Garland's nomination languish. Wait it out, fight a winning fight later. This is no longer a strategy that anyone in the party can afford. The results are written in the tears of parents and children, the grinding poverty of the ill, the blood of gunshot victims. Possibly we all should have known back with Newt Gingrich, but I do not hold you responsible for not understanding that. I certainly didn't. Now, though, Trump has made it very, very clear. Cooperation or dissent are not the options, only collaboration or resistance. I need you to stand up, resist. Nothing the Republicans want can be given to them. They do not negotiate in good faith; they take any ground you cede, then complain that you have not done it politely enough, all the while demaning more.

 

I believe that party matters. Party is how you combine political capital to create lasting change. I believe that the Democrats still stand for actual democracy, care about human rights and human sorrow. I am frequently frustrated with my party, but that's politics, and I accept that we cannot agree on all issues. At this moment in time, I do not think we should set aside our differences, but rather that we should only negotiate with ourselves. We can find a way forward, because we believe in people. But in the process, we can never again give way to the Republicans. I believe in party. And the Republicans have shown us who they are: authoritarian by choice, and fascist in inclination.

 

I have too many issues to put in a single letter, so I will stick to this one point: never back down. Do not vote for another Trump nominee. Do not negotiate on immigration. Do not vote for measures which strip away consumer protections, environmental protections, women's rights, do not negotiate on health care. They will betray every deal. There are no short-term advantages, anymore.

 

I will vote for only Democrats this mid-term. I will vote for literally every Democrat I can find. But do not betray me; fight for me.

 

Sincerely,

 

Lydia Nickerson

 

Make Notes

18th June, 2018. 4:11 am. The Existential Why

Over dinner, a dear friend who likes lots of people as individuals, but pretty much no groups, asked why I cared about the continued existence of the human race.  Not wanting to die in a cleansing thermonuclear fire makes sense to him, but I have no children, and I don't believe in the after life, so why did I care about whether or not there were human beings in a hundred years?  

"Right now, there are people who are in deep, meaningful conversations with Plutarch, people who are arguing angrily with Machiavelli, people who are so moved by Sumerian poetry that they want to tell the world, people so angry with Shakespeare they are trying to argue he never existed; and in a hundred years, I want people to be falling in love with Jo Walton, arguing angrily with Herodotus, writing love poetry to Eloise.  I will not see that conversation, but I want it to continue.  It is a great glory, and a beauty that I do not wish to fade from the earth."

Oddly, he thought this was an argument that made sense.  It does not persuade him, but he understands why I think that way.
 

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