Archive for the 'worldchanging' Category

the winter soldier

So I did a podcast! I can’t bear the sound of my own voice but if you can, you may endure it here. I hasten to add that Sumana and Brendan are delightful and so are their voices. Like most of the people I know, they were bewildered by how completely I succumbed to Captain America fandom last summer, and wished to inquire further.

I’ve complained often, most recently in the context of Pym, about how never I or characters resembling me show up in fiction. This was a feature, not a bug, for many years. Books were windows, not mirrors. But representation is important, and eventually the lack of representation of genderqueer financiers who grew up on mining asteroids started to get to me.

Of course, when I eventually encountered myself in fiction, it was as a traumatized amnesiac supersoldier, so go figure. I mean that literally: I had to go and figure this out. It took me months to unpack why it was Bucky – and not even really MCU Bucky (lovely and brilliant as Seb Stan is) but the Bucky of chapter 2 of part 2 of Feather’s epic novel Your Blue Eyed Boys, Bucky sitting on a roof panicking because something good has happened, because he has made a human connection. (I misremembered in the podcast: this scene takes place after he hooks up with Steve.) What, exactly, about this did I recognize?

The full answer is beyond the scope of this blog but the short answer is trauma. When I was in my late teens and early twenties, a period that future rachaeologists may term my Nightmare Phase, I ran away all the time: I panicked, I fled, I lost my fucking shit. I did not know why. I thought I was just broken. Spoiler! I was, but not innately. I was a product of a society that had no better use for me than to try (and fail) to wipe my personality and shape me into a weapon.

Back then I did not have the names I have now for my child-abusing church or my rape factory of an undergraduate university. I fell for the cover story, which was that Australia was egalitarian and a worker’s paradise. It took me a long time to notice the blindingly fucking obvious, which is that Australia is ruled by cruel and complacent old money undertaking wholesale environmental destruction, and that every institution depends on the unpaid labor if not outright exploitation of women and people of colour.

This is the point at which Liz always likes to jump in and say, that’s not just Australia. Which is true. But my metal arm has the Southern Cross where Bucky’s has just one red star.

Anyway so, I have spent the last nine months or so reading up on why some people (Spoiler! Me.) have crippling anxiety and are hypervigilant and kind of agoraphobic and don’t know when they are hungry or tired or whether things hurt. Trauma is not the defining fact of my life by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a model with explanatory power, like how for example people lying to children about important things makes me feel dead inside.

Still, as Salome always reminds me, mine is a very mild case and even the things that happened to people I love were not the worst things, and have proved to be largely survivable. The only real gift of suffering is compassion, and I hope that the fucked-up things that happened will make me more patient, more empathetic, less apt to judge, more able and willing to listen.

The name winter soldier comes first from Thomas Paine’s These are the times that try men’s souls, and second from the investigations into war crimes in Vietnam, instigated by the veterans themselves. To be a winter soldier is to own the shitty things that you have done and to believe in a better world even when that seems impossible. In this sense, Steve is a winter soldier too. He’s the America I want to believe in: the supersoldier who remembers how it felt to be skinny, the superpower that remembers what it meant to be a colony. I am the mining asteroid and I am the weapon. But that’s not all I am.

happy birthday, sarah

I still can’t really write about Dad (although as Mary wonderfully pointed out, he’s been a hero of this blog all along.) So I will write about my sister instead, shown here adoring ponehs.

She and I weren’t especially close growing up, which I get. There are six years between us, I was irksomely hero-worshippy and she had her own complex shit going on. I do still remember a note she wrote me when I was 19 and went to Tasmania for six weeks on an archaeological dig, saying: “I always knew you were going to have great adventures.” When I got accepted to Trinity she gave me a blue plaid Onkaparinga blanket to keep me warm in the Irish winters. It’s still my go-to for snuggling on the couch in San Francisco. I bought another like it to keep me warm in Barraba, and she has it on her bed when I’m not there.

But our timing was sort of perpetually off. Our lives diverged. She was pregnant when I came home from Dublin, and she had her babies while I got my first job, my first apartment and my first car. She moved to Brisbane around the time I moved to San Francisco and our parents set off in their Winnebago to live the nomad life. Our brother Alain shared her house and helped raise her kids while our brother Iain and I made the annual schlep to Burning Man.

When Mum and Dad settled in Barraba, Sarah packed up her whole family and moved there, with the tacit understanding that she would become their caregiver as they aged. Dad was diagnosed in January of 2013; Mum in August of 2013; Mum died in February 2014 and Dad, of course, four weeks ago. It’s been a brutal couple of years for all of us, but the burden fell disproportionately on her. She and I reverted, hard, to stereotype. I was the out-of-town career woman who flew in to deal with bureaucracy and demand answers from doctors. She was the one who dealt with everything else, day after day after long, crushing day.

She did it with such patience and strength, I can’t even tell you. Sarah was Mum’s best friend and constant companion. She maintained Dad safely in his home and independent long after anyone else thought it was possible to do so. Small wonder that even when he had forgotten the rest of us, Dad’s eyes still lit up whenever she walked into the room. It was her stubborn advocacy that earned them both a merciful death in palliative care with their pain humanely managed. Sarah alone was with both our parents when they took their last breaths.

I couldn’t have done it. I am awed by her unstinting love and grace throughout. Fortunately there are compensatory upsides to going through Hell side by side with another person. I was on the phone the other day laughing my head off, and afterwards Jeremy said: “Was that your sister? I thought you were talking to Salome.” Funnily enough I had said to Salome a few days earlier: “I used to call her because she was my sister. Now I call her because I want to talk to her.” And then I started to cry, but from happiness for a change (as well as because I cry at the drop of a hat these days.) It has all been a fucking ordeal, but Sarah has been magnificent. I’m so proud of her and grateful to know her.

And, as it happens, she is turning 50 today. Why don’t you all go do something awesome that she would do: tolerate a pesky little sibling, lift some weights, swim a kilometre, snorgle a kitteh, devour a book, teach a child to read, manage an art festival, play the ukulele, be an amazing friend, donate to cancer or dementia research. As for me I will raise a glass to the greatest woman I know. Happy birthday, Sarah.

falling into the fire, by christine montross

“Sometimes holding all the blackness they feel is the only thing you can do. That’s not nothing. And sometimes it is enough.”

I question my intuition rigorously and routinely, but I rely upon it nonetheless.

Don’t just do something, stand there.

If I am to abide with these patients, then I must accompany them to that place among the rocks, to the sweating wall. I must face with them the uncertainty of what lies beyond. I must stand at the edge with them and peer over into the fathomless depths. If I tell my patients, as I do, that this life can be a tolerable one, that they can face their fears and their traumas, their visions and voices, their misery, then I must look at what I am asking them to endure and I must look at it full in the face.

How do we do it? How do we bear the unbearable realities of our human lives? Someday I will die and leave Deborah, and our son, and our daughter. Or someday each of them will die and leave me. How do we reckon with this inconceivable a loss?

adventure time 5: ai weiwei on alcatraz

We chose the most beautiful morning imaginable.

Even @karlthefog had come out to Alcatraz.

The flock of kites in prison made me think of my Dad.

The Lego portraits made me think of playing with my brother as children.

Each portrait is of a prisoner of conscience.

I was ashamed at how few of the names I knew.

It’s a powerfully angry and compassionate body of work.

We are all one family.

claire’s first day

…at her new school, so completely San Francisco that it started with a drum circle. There was a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new community center, then the traditional school opening ceremony with music and singing, and for the first time there was a space big enough for all the parents to attend.

The first graders looked so wee, and the eighth graders so hulking. I hope Claire makes friends; I hope they love her for her shiny awesome; I hope she is happy.

I thought, a school like this would have changed my mother’s life.

impro, by keith johnstone

I kinda wanna copy out the whole first chapter, but will restrain myself somehow –

As I grew up, everything started getting grey and dull. I could still remember the amazing intensity of the world I’d lived in as a child, but I thought the dulling of perception was an inevitable consequence of age – just as the lens of the eye is bound gradually to dim. I didn’t understand that clarity is in the mind.

On Gifted And Talented Education (GATE) as the gateway drug to being a massive douche:

I tried to resist my schooling, but I accepted the idea that my intelligence was the most important part of me. I tried to be clever in everything I did.

On school as trauma:

My ‘failure’ was a survival tactic, and without it I would probably never have worked my way out of the trap that my education had set for me. I would have ended up with a lot more of my consciousness blocked off from me than now.

On the importance of writing about something other than what one has read – ironically, the exact opposite of what I am doing here:

I had expected that there’d be a very gentle gradation from awful to excellent, and that I’d be involved in a lot of heart-searching. Almost all were total failures – they couldn’t have been put on in the village hall for the author’s friends. It wasn’t a matter of lack of talent, but of miseducation. The authors of the pseudo-plays assumed that writing should be based on other writing, not on life.

On aging disgracefully:

I began to think of children not as immature adults, but of adults as atrophied children.

Reminds me of something – what was it – oh right –

Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy…

complicity

The brilliant Sumana made this exact point to me two weeks ago:

Butler creates woman protagonists (such as Lilith in the Xenogenesis trilogy) who are seen as traitors for consorting with their enemies or oppressors. Her stories have the capacity to make the so-called traitor’s motivations understandable, often showing a willingness to negotiate as the product of a stubborn sense of hope for the future that can take the form of a commitment to nurturing a new mixed race.

From the book I cannot put down, Ann Cvetkovich’s Depression: A Public Feeling. Cvetkovich has also introduced me to Jacqui Alexander’s phrase “radical self-possession,” an idea that instantly caught fire and ran down every blood vessel and nerve in my body like music or healing grace. I asked myself what radical self-possession would look like, and Future Rach (who drops by occasionally to give me hints) said:

“Like me.”

elephant sanctuary

There are only two in the USA: the other is in Tennessee. This one was founded by Pat Derby, an Englishwoman descended from Shelley who found herself in Hollywood training cats, bears and elephants for shows like Lassie and Daktari. She hated the violence and cruelty of the industry and exposed it in a pretty wonderful, if bleak, book cowritten by Peter S. Beagle, who also wrote The Last Unicorn. She died in February.

The sanctuary is only open twice a year and you have to buy tickets in advance. It’s up in the Sierra foothills and it was a scorchingly hot day. Six hundred people came. I grumbled about the heat and having to wait in line for a shuttle, and then the shuttle came and we were taken to a picnic area where there were two Asian elephants to the left of us and three African elephants to the right. Gypsy, Wanda, Mara, Maggie and Lulu.

There are massive steel fences around their enclosure but the enclosures are vast – acres upon acres. That they wanted to visit with us at all is astounding to me. We were kept at a safe distance, about twenty feet, but we were in the presence of elephants, and this is an ungainsayable thing. I’ve seen elephants before but I don’t think I’ve ever seen happy elephants before. We were there for their entertainment as much as the reverse. They made eye contact.

I believe of them now, as I believe of whales and octopus, that they are sentient. How they must suffer when they are caged or in chains.

Maggie, one of the African elephants, lived in an Alaskan zoo with only an Asian elephant for company. The two have different vocalizations, but Maggie speaks both languages. Gypsy and Wanda came to the sanctuary at different times from different places but are now inseparable. Archival footage of circuses revealed that they had been friends before and had remembered one another for decades. Lulu, rescued from the San Francisco zoo, was the most reticent of the females. She wanted to be near Maggie and Mara but she didn’t particularly care for us. Up on Bull Mountain we saw Nicholas and Prince; Prince also prefers to keep away from humans.

But Nicholas swam for us, and dug a log up from the bottom of his lake. Another animal again in water, his bony head like a hippo’s, the water pouring off his gleaming skin. Graceful and at peace.

It was everything I love most passionately about California: the dry hills, the circling raptors, the ridiculous mule deer, and the people who pour out their lives trying to fight injustice and make safe spaces and be kind.

there was something about anarchy, i remember that much

Kirsty is a force of nature. I’ve been meaning to go up to Edinburgh since Alex and Ioanna moved there from Ireland years ago, but the details eluded me. When I mentioned it in passing to Kirsty the whole thing was organized in what seemed like sixty seconds. I flew in early for the London conference I come to every April, and Kirsty and I caught the train to Edinburgh.

The journey was gorgeous and fascinating. “Green and pleasant land,” I tweeted as we left London, then “dark Satanic Mills!” as we crossed the midlands and I saw four huge power stations (Eggborough and friends maybe?) belching steam into an otherwise cloudless sky. As we sped to Scotland we saw Durham Cathedral, the Angel of the North (which I have loved since first seeing pictures of it and which came as a completely unexpected treat), beautiful steampunk Newcastle, Lindisfarne like something from a Miyazaki film or happy dream, the sun sparkling on the mouth of the Tweed at Berwick, and the looming bulk of the Torness Nuclear Plant.

Motion sickness got to me after a while. (The hangover from the night before probably didn’t help. That was Grant’s fault.) I thought I was going to hurl all over Waverley Station. I took my first steps in Scotland trying not to puke and telling myself “Don’t mention their accents don’t mention their accents,” so of course when I called Alex I blurted out “you sound very Irish.” I guess at least I didn’t vomit?

When I had recovered myself somewhat Kirsty and I had fun storming Edinburgh castle, and when we finally did make it to Alex’s house the awkwardness of nine years’ separation did not survive its first encounter with a pretty decent Sangiovese I’d brought out from California. Alex made osso buco. It was delicious. Ioanna is delightful and their daughter Lena is so best. We figured out how to fix capitalism but I didn’t write it down, so that’s a pity.

a thing a month

As part of ongoing efforts to live a more makerly, human life, I resolved to make a thing a month this year. Not a vasty thing; something small and manageable. In January, I cross-stitched a little constellation embroidery for each of the girls. In February I hand-wrote a letter to a dear friend.

This month I will try out the Kintsugi repair kit that J gave me for my birthday. It repairs ceramics with a mixture of glue and gold dust. I will test it on some of our table china, and when my technique is alright, I will fix a chip in the beloved bowl I brought home from Avanos, in Turkey.

When I first read about Kintsugi, I cried. The chance to be more beautiful in the broken places feels like a gift, like grace.

books of the year: stories of friendship and hope

I didn’t have a fantastic year in reading, to be honest – I think the Kindle threw me off and that my patterns of acquisition and consumption have yet to rebalance. Here are some books I read that I liked very much:

Nonfiction

Fiction

I guess it wasn’t such a terrible year in reading at that. There are two books, though, that I want to push into your hands in an overbearing yet adorkable bookseller-or-librarian-ish way: Constellation Games and Fair Play. Please read these books. They are very great.

It feels like cheating to recommend Leonard’s book when I have known and loved Leonard for ten years, but I must have read Constellation Games four times this year and gotten something more out of it each time. It’s a first contact novel and an existential love story and it did more than any other single argument to make me believe games are an important art form, but it’s also incredibly funny and moving and Curic the two-souled purple otter is my new favourite fictional character. For its part, Fair Play is about two seventysomething women living at opposite ends of an attic having conversations about pictures and books. Yes, Tove Jansson is the Moomin person. This book is based in part on her life with her wife.

Why these two? Because I am 41 years old. Because I love animals and nature and am living through a mass extinction I helped cause. Because I am a pacifist living in America, and a progressive anarchist who spent my teens as an evangelical Christian assuming I would die in a nuclear holocaust. Because for my first quarter-century I was much troubled by despair. It’s only in the last decade or two that I have had the luxury of time to tinker with my diet and my neurochemistry and my cognitive behavior to try to make a habit of hope and not horror. Because it’s the Northern winter solstice and that means all the festivals of lights, all the songs and candles in the long darkness, and what all the festivals mean is that physics is real: this will be the longest night of the year, and that tomorrow at dawn one shaft of sun will light up the corbel-vaulted room inside Newgrange [or insert your neolithic solar calendar of choice]. And then everything will start to feel a little bit better. It doesn’t stay dark. As Bill Bryson says, life wants to be. Life doesn’t want to be much. From time to time, life goes extinct. Life goes on.

Constellation Games and Fair Play are quite literally stories of friendship and hope, not in the movie trailer way that makes you wince but in a clear-eyed, fearless way that is able to talk about betrayal and jealousy and irreconcilable differences and the cold empty vastness of space. They are both, in fact, books about how to be a friend, and how to be hopeful. We are chimpanzees with doomsday weapons, adrift on a rock in an immense dark void. We have to take care of each other and we have to believe that things can change for the better. So, you know. RTFM.

a memorable fancy

Last night Claire and I went through her favourite cookbook and picked out the gnocchi, lasagne and baked peach recipes for her to make. Today after wushu we went to Lucca, the awesome Italian place on Valencia and 22nd, for pasta flour, amaretti and parmesan. (Some dulce de leche and tuna in olive oil snuck into my bag as well.) At the farmer’s market we found stone fruit, onions, spring onions, cilantro, kale, potatoes and Colin, who always has the best neighborhood gossip. At Good Life we bought meat, carrots and lemons. Right now I am baking paleo quiche (savory custard tarts in pancetta crusts) and the girls are about to make lemonade to sell at the street party around the corner.

It’s so rare that I find myself being more or less the mother I’d hoped I would be…

i am an anarchist

I read Leonard’s book and identified completely with his crunchy Granola post-scarcity, zero-coercion aliens and their fluid overlays for getting things done. I said to Danny: “I think I may be becoming an anarchist,” and Danny, because he is perfect, ran off to find a pamphlet to push into my willing hands.

The pamphlet is perfect. It is Kevin Carson’s “Resilient Communities: Society After State Capitalism.” The first essay talks about local economies, including farmers’ markets and barter systems. The second essay talks about the historical roots of such local economies: Pompeiian villas and labor cooperatives.

I started to realize that I have been a practising anarchist for quite some time. Consider! I like: credit unions, hackerspaces, Mechanics’ Institutes, small-press books, community gardens and California commune and other DIY architecture. I dislike: large banks, surveillance, inequality, institutional racism and sexism and the police state.

I’ve been thinking a lot about money, both professionally and politically. Despite the overwhelming centrality of venture capital to the technology industry, my standard (good) advice to engineer-entrepreneurs is: “bootstrap. Run off revenues. Never sign a term sheet.” The more I read Keynes, the less I think of money as stored value. Money is something else.

This is important. Carson brings up Schumpeter, who distinguishes between “the money theory of credit” and “the credit theory of money.” We live in a world ruled by the money theory of credit. That is, when you borrow money from a bank or VC, it is assumed that loan comes out of a pile of cash placed in the bank or fund by account holders or limited partners. The credit – the loan or investment – is funded by the money, which exists. Right?

Wrong. Schumpeter’s credit theory of money turns that logic on its head. “It is much more realistic to say that the banks ‘create credit…’ than to say that they lend the deposits that have been entrusted to them.” What does it mean to create credit? Think about what “credit” actually means. It is a measure of trust in a relationship. Money flows from the social contract.

That’s why Keynesianism worked, especially after WW2: people were too afraid of the consequences of not trusting one another, and so they credited one another with enough goodwill to build the Interstate Highway System and the National Health. It worked right up until Reagan and Thatcher made hate fashionable again.

Carson takes up the argument:

“Capital” is a term for a right of property in organizing and disposing of this present labor. The same basic cooperative functions could be carried out just as easily by the workers themselves, through mutual credit. Under the present system, the capitalist monopolizes those cooperative functions, and thus appropriates the productivity gains from the social division of labor.”

Far from “storing” “value” in the form of “money”, banks and venture capitalists subtract credit from the social contract by adding (mostly worthless) extra layers of abstraction between individual actors. The mortgage crisis began with liar loans and banks selling off mortgages: anything to distance themselves from the consequences of what they had done.

Vast wealth is hoarded money, stagnant credit. It is more disgusting and a bigger threat to mental and public health and aesthetics than the hoarding of physical goods.

So that’s where I am. Still supporting Obama because of Affordable Care, but adamantly opposed to extraordinary rendition and detention without trial. Not exactly soured on electoral politics, but empowered to say A Plague On Both Your Houses! because finally able to imagine an alternative: a society in which we help each other, listen to one another and share what we have. In short, I am an anarchist.

because i love you

Here are a couple of unicorn chasers.

Tintin author Herge was a super-problematic dude in many ways, but he was exemplary in at least this one: he made friends with a Chinese scholar and he listened to his friend and he let that friendship change him and his work. That’s all you can ask of anyone, really, so: props.

This conversation between two Asian-American foodies about cultural appropriation is a privilege to overhear, and also contains these handy hints on not being racist:

Danny Bowien is a guy who NAILS it in terms of messaging. He does funky hybrid party Chinese food that I think we’re all honored to be the inspiration for. Danny hit me on twitter today wanting to put my Hainan Lobster Rice on the menu, do it! I love that people like Danny and Kareem Abdul Jabbar are interested in our culture in an inquisitive and honest way.

Danny’s the chef at my new favourite brunch place, so: yay.

yo, this is racist

I do get that it’s totally my fault for reading the Sydney Morning Herald (which I remember from my childhood as a fun, sophis window into the adult world, but which today (possibly without its even having changed!) reads as a gross crawly-bumlick to wealth and power, as unrepresentative of most of Australia as Fox News and the NY Times are of most of America.)

Nevertheless!

When St Pauls College (last seen waving a flag for rape!) holds a party at which the white guests are served by Indian waiters in colourful dress in celebration of the “colonial” theme, the appropriate headline is not: “Was this uni Raj night racist?” The appropriate headline is “Fire everyone responsible for racist uni Raj night.”

And! If you are the principal of one of the major private schools, and you say aggressively racist shit like this:

Dr Paul Burgis, the principal of PLC Sydney, where 34 per cent of students are from other cultural backgrounds, said there was a huge level of exposure to, and acceptance of, other cultures at the school.
”It would almost be offensive if I, as a principal, was to talk about it: ‘Why do you have to raise it as an issue? We’re past that now, we’re just friends’,” he said.
”At a school like PLC it’s almost an invisible question.”

…your racist ass should be fired, rehired only to write an essay explaining exactly why making cultural difference “an invisible question” is itself part of a set of racist strategies, promoting whiteness as the cultural default and problematizing any person or experience that deviates from that racist-ass norm, and then you should be fired again, with no pension.

You know what’s offensive? What’s offensive is that people like Paul Burgis are awarded doctorates and given influential jobs in education when they exhibit ignorance of the most basic facts about institutional racism or systems of oppression or the cultural transmission vectors for all of the above. How do you even wade self-importantly into a discussion of race and privilege in Australian classrooms and throw around a word like “invisible” with no apparent awareness of its, you know, meaning?

To be fair Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man, a book about the racist use of invisibility, is ONLY SIXTY YEARS OLD AND NEWS OF IT MAY NOT HAVE CROSSED THE PACIFIC YET.

DEAR AUSTRALIAN JOURNALISTS, NEWSPAPER EDITORS AND PRIVATE SCHOOL PRINCIPALS: YOU MIGHT WANT TO READ THAT BOOK, IF YOU GET A MOMENT.

IN CLOSING: AARGH.

why be happy / are you my mother

Yes, they are both meditative middle-aged memoirs by great lesbian writers. Both dramatize the writer’s complicated relationship with her mother and both name-drop Woolf and Winnicott all over the damn place. And YES YOU HAVE TO READ THEM BOTH. I don’t care. Cancel your calls.

Henry James did no good when he said that Jane Austen wrote on four inches of ivory – i.e. tiny observant minutiae. Much the same was said of Emily Dickinson and Virginia Woolf. These things made me angry.

I love them at least in part because the NY Times gave Bechdel a shitty review that boils down to “These women! How dare they think their inner lives are interesting?” Therefore reading these books is exactly the same as jabbing a burnt stick into the eyes of the Four Boresmen of the Aborecalypse (Mailer, Bellow, Roth and Updike. Could those guys HAVE more cockish names?) And if that doesn’t make you want to read them I don’t know what will.

I was very often full of rage and despair. I was always lonely. In spite of all that I was and am in love with life.

I remember curling up in Books Upstairs in Dublin, right outside the gates of Trinity College, and reading Dykes to Watch Out For like it was going to save my life. I can’t have been in Ireland for more than a week. And I never connected with Winterson in the same way; I’ve never even seen Oranges. But this book! This book. It took me apart.

I know these are ways of surviving, but maybe a refusal, any refusal, to be broken lets in enough light and air to keep believing in the world – a dream of escape.

oh, and happy birthday grant

I guess it’s nine years since the Iraq War began. FP has an only slightly half-assed postmortem. I’m not claiming any superpowers of prescience when I say that the disaster played out exactly as I expected it to. I was, after all, only one of at least ten million people who were against it from the start, and that’s only counting those who felt strongly enough to march against it. Everyone I knew was at that march, if not in San Francisco, then in London or Sydney. I had six-week-old Claire with me, in the tie-dyed rainbow footy pyjamas my mother had brought with her from Barraba.

People – like, for example, my Dad – are vaguely surprised, even now, when I say that I consider the Iraq War the most serious failure of my adult life. It’s easy enough to blame the war criminals, Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Rice and Wolfowitz and Feith, and to be sure, it was their fault. They overreached and they betrayed the trust that was placed in them, to put it mildly. They should all be in gaol.

But I knew. I knew there were no weapons of mass destruction. I knew Judith Miller was talking out of her ass and that the Grey Lady was publishing lies. I knew the casualties would be in the tens of thousands, at least. I knew the war would drag on for at least a decade, and that its cost would spiral into the stratosphere. I don’t mean that I had a strong hunch. I mean that I never doubted any of that for a second. Knowing what I knew, why the hell didn’t I protest harder? Why didn’t I fight more? I feel those deaths on my conscience. I always will.

I knew the banks were going to crash, as well, for all the good that did. With those two awesome feats of clairvoyance on my record, you might be wondering what I know now. Well, I’ve known for a while that Romney’s going to get the GOP nomination and that Obama’s going to win reelection. So I haven’t sweated over the outcome of this campaign like I did over the last one. (Pretty cold comfort, though, I have to tell you. The whole women-as-the-punching-bags-of-the-GOP-primaries thing is surprisingly painful anyway.) I’ve also felt the center of geopolitical power shift from Washington DC to Beijing. And I’ve seen the future of work, and unfortunately, it sucks.

mourning trayvon

I keep writing and trashing posts because it is so hard to put into words what I am thinking about. I am thinking about Trayvon Martin and my heart is aching. I haven’t blogged much about Najah because his story is not mine to tell, but he is my best friend’s little kid and I love him as much as I love my best friend’s big kid, which is to say: like my own. And he looks like Trayvon.

I sure as hell used to think I was radical. I sure as hell got treated like a radical, for taking mad radical positions like single-payer health care and progressive taxation. It turns out, though, that nothing ever radicalized me like loving a Black child. I am deathly afraid. Now multiply that fear by everyone who loves every young Black man in America.

I had no idea. I had no idea. I am so sorry.

ETA: icouldbetrayvon (ETA: not that *I* could be; I’m white.)

’tis the season for last-minute tax-exempt divestment

Kiva and Partners in Health still get four stars on Charity Navigator. Hey! So does Donors Choose!

Why are you not already a card-carrying member of EFF? Everyone who works there is ridiculously funny and charming, they throw the best parties OH AND THEY KEEP SAVING THE INTERNET. So there’s that.

You will receive no tax relief for donating to TB Friends or the Ada Initiative, but you will leave the world better than you found it.

Merry happy! Now I abandon your Northern winters for the pleasures of Southern summers, where Christmas is correct!

archie and jackson

Since we last spoke about riding in a frame, I have tried the same technique on Archie and Jackson. (Dudley, Bella, Louie, Archie, Jackson, Mattie, Ruth, Verina, Oliver: why yes, our barn is actually a Montessori preschool in Pacific Heights.) They’re much more difficult than Dudley and harder even than Louie and Bella to get moving off my leg. Dez is right: it takes WAY more leg than you think, and slightly more leg than I actually have. My thighs shake after a serious session at this.

But even with Archie, and more so with Jackson who started the ride completely inverted and did a 180, I managed a few steps of fluid softness. I itch to ride more. The feeling is so extraordinary. The resistance goes away. Freely forward.

When I’ve had enough to drink, I talk about godshatter, an idea I have stolen from Vernor Vinge. I think consciousness is a shard of a mirror, and that our chosen family, our jati (an idea I stole from Kim Stanley Robinson, who stole it from Hindu), is composed of the pieces near us in the jigsaw, so that together we make up a bigger piece of what for the sake of argument let’s call God. (Getting this far takes several drinks.) Obviously I think horses are conscious too. When I ride well, I am part of a bigger and more splendid thing.

Taken all together, that’s what we are. That’s why we love. The idea that we are not all on the same team is the first and most pernicious illusion, but it can be dispelled. (Of course the idea that we ARE all on the same team is another illusion, exploited by the oligarchy for political gain, but that is another ranty for another time.)