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The Chasm

Staring into the unfathomable abyss that is the Grand Canyon, my first coherent thought was a renewed appreciation of domesticity, i.e. everything the Grand Canyon is not. There is nothing soft, easy, or uncomplicated about it. The very name "Grand Canyon" is a misnomer. Not the "grand" part, it's certainly that; but this is no more a "canyon" than New York City is a hamlet. What started out ages ago as a simple riverbed has grown over time into hundreds of fissures at different depths veering off and doubling back in every direction. "Canyon" implies a slit in the Earth's skin, this is more like the shrapnel damage from a grenade. We were told the gap was unfulfillable, the width was unbridgeable, the river at the bottom was all but unnavigable, the traverse was perilous, the environment at the bottom was wildly different from the environment at the top, and the trip back up was four times harder than the trip down. I challenged none of these assertions; I was saving my strength. After this stop I was going to meet my mother for the first time.

My second thought was about how hard the land had fought the water. The earth had not simply lain there and been washed away. It had resisted time's efforts at every turn, and thanks to its resistance it was still standing -- as a monumental, awe-inspiring wreck. Were it not for the human tendency to turn anything unusual into beautiful, inspirational metaphors we would be overwhelmed by the destruction endured by the earth in that savage, millenia-old elemental combat. I know something about that kind of resistance; growing up it was my specialty. Not the sort of active rebellion that brought retaliation; I got hit often enough already, thank you very much. But passive resistance, enduring the unendurable because there was no choice, that I know to my core. I have come so far, endured so much, my soul has been etched and corroded with so much pain, how could anyone else possibly understand me? I 'm not the unblemished babe she left behind. I wish I was. I have this primal, instinctive ugre to fall sobbing in her arms and have her kiss away my tears while I tell her, "You know how they told you how they were going to give me to good people who would take good care of me? They lied." I have dreamed of that moment for so, so many years. But now that it is upon me I don't know how I could do that to someone, anyone. There's too much to tell, so much more than a body should bear. Time and again even a tiny fraction of it has proven too much for other people and I watch myself transform in their eyes to something resembling the Great Stone Face of New Hampshire, something that time and erosion have etched into a thing remotely resembling a human being but not really human. I am so very tired of not being human. I have no idea how to be human.

The land had endured by being patient. I must be patient. I had to keep it together no matter what.

And -- I did. I kept it together all through our first meeting, because that was what she obviously wanted. And at the end she shook my hand and said it was nice to meet you and seemed flummoxed when I said we were going to be in town for a few days. And we kept it together through two more days of talking only to break down crying on the phone while we were pulling out of town. And then we drove back to Mississippi and I spent the next six weeks in bed from exhaustion.

Now -- I have no idea where we are now. I don't know how to navigate this unfamiliar terrain. I talk about awful things that happened to my friends and its brushed aside. I mention something mildly unpleasant that happened to me and it's "OMG That's The Worst Thing Ever!" and everyone starts talking past me instead of to me and I'm going, "For real? How y'all gonna handle the bad shit?" I'm lost in the back country and I have no idea how to find my way.

Isil and the Confederacy

It's interesting how the Obama Administration is using the Lincoln Administration's playbook to handle ISIL. Both the Obama and the Lincoln Administrations insisted that their adversaries were rebel insurgents, not a legitimate state, in spite of the fact that they held huge swathes of territory where they functioned with at least a semblance of a government. And the Obama Administration's plan for dealing with ISIL is an updated version of the Lincoln Administration's Anaconda Plan.

The only thing that will defeat ISIL is the majority of Muslims rejecting conservatism. That's hard for any non-leftwing group to do. It's going to be a long war.


So now my desktop computer is so outdated it can't handle LJ,and I'm posting from a tablet I'm still learning how to use. Oh boy.

Doctor Who: Sleep No More

Q:  What do you get when you cross a bad horror movie with a bad Classic Trek plot device?

A:  Why would anyone want to know?

I feel so sorry for Capaldi, this must be a nightmare for him.  As for Gattis and Moffet, four words:  Don't they look tired?


The Zygon Indifference

Well, that was irksome.  In addition to the other numerous problems with the script, no Isis metaphor has a chance of working if it doesn't capture the petulant outraged entitlement of the majority of the recruits.  "It's not fair" doesn't come close.  Capaldi, Coleman, and the other actors did their best with onion-skin material.


Elena Kagen is the Supreme Marvel Fangirl

The Supreme Court Quoted Spider-Man In a Ruling

A Spider-Man comic— specifically, "Amazing Fantasy No. 15: Spider-Man"—now has a special place not only in the hearts of America's nerds, but also in Supreme Court precedent.

The Court very rarely overturns its own precedents—even though it can and even when doing so would have helped out a guy who just wanted to make a few bucks off the Spider-Man toy he invented.

And to explain that principle, Justice Elena Kagan on Monday turned to the superhero himself, officially citing the comic book in which Spider-Man made his debut. "What we can decide, we can undecide. But … we should exercise that authority sparingly," Kagan wrote.

"[I]n this world, with great power there must also come—great responsibility," Kagan added, attributing the line to Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in the 1962 comic.

Specifically, the Court said Marvel—the creators of Spider-Man—did not have to keep paying royalties to the inventor of a toy that, in the Court's description, "allows children (and young-at-heart adults) to role-play as 'a spider person' by shooting webs—really, pressurized foam string—'from the palm of [the] hand.'"

The inventor, Stephen Kimble, patented the toy. Then he tried to sell or license the patent to Marvel—the creators of Spider-Man. (Kagan: "Kimble met with the president of Marvel's corporate predecessor to discuss his idea for web-slinging fun.")

Marvel passed, but then started selling its own, similar product, called the Web Blaster. Kimble sued, Marvel settled, and Kimble received a royalty for future Web Blaster sales.

"The parties set no end date for royalties, apparently contemplating that they would continue for as long as kids want to imitate Spider-Man (by doing whatever a spider can)," Kagan wrote Monday.

Kimble's patent expired in 2010, and Marvel wanted to stop paying him royalties. The Supreme Court has previously said that companies in Marvel's position can quit paying royalties when a patent expires. Kimble asked the Court to overrule that decision, arguing that it's stifling innovation.

The Court, led by Kagan, declined. It's a big deal to overturn a precedent, Kagan wrote, and this case didn't rise to that standard. Even if patent law does discourage innovation, she said, that's Congress's problem. In the meantime, the law clearly limits patent protection to 20 years.

Or, in Kagan's, words, "patents endow their holders with certain superpowers, but only for a limited time."

House Update May 2015

At five years in we started on the dining room.  We routed and put up a chair rail, so our two-tone walls finally make sense.  We painted the chair rail and all the matching trim.  We repaired the built in cabinets, which had numerous internal flaws.  In the process we found where a secret compartment  had been installed in the 1920s, only to be taken out by the renovations of the 1970s.  We painted the outside of the built-ins to match the chair rail and the trim, lined the shelves, rehung the doors and installed new hardware.  There had been a misguided attempt to drag the interior into the Modern era which it resisted fiercly.  We gently took it back to the time of the bungalow, and the house looks much happier.

Then we fixed up my adoptive parents' faux-Victorian china cabinet and moved it into the dining room, where it fit the china-cabinet space perfectly.  To be honest we had looked at some Craftsmen-style pieces, but the modern reproductions are too big for the space and the originals are too expensive.  But what matters is that after 27 years of marriage I'll finally be able to unbox the good china.

There's still the curtain hardware and some decorative pieces to install, but at 5 1/3 years the majority of the work on the dining room is done.

Second Opinion

We had biscuits today.  My helpful six-year old starts to get the butter.  "We don't need it, we'll use this instead," I said, putting down a trial batch of honey butter I had just made, on the theory that old-fashioned snack food had to be healthier than modern commercial snack food.

"What's that?"

"It's a surprise.  Try some and I'll tell you what it is."

"I don't what that!  I want the regular!"

"Have a taste."

He licks my finger.  "I don't like that!"

He keeps protesting as the honey butter gets further down the table and more used up.  Finally he cries, "Oh, all right!", flounces to the end of the table, and gets his biscuit slathered.

By the time he's set himself back down in his seat, the biscuit is gone.  "I like that!  Can we have that all the time?"

That may be a new turnaround time for new foods.  As for the rest of the family, a three-way arm-wrestling contest nearly broke out between my husband and my teenage daughters over the last drop.  I think this one's a keeper.

Catching Up With the Flash

It's spring 2015, which marks the 10th anniversary of the new Doctor Who and more importantly for parents, the 10th anniversary of the return of new, good family-friendly programming to our screens after a very long absence.  The fact that I can still count all the currently-running live action shows that fit that description on the fingers of one hand is a pain, but it's a big improvement over the way things used to be.  A recent entry to that list is the 2014 version of The Flash.  We're up to episode 8, and my family adores it.  We're trying to watch the other episodes this week to get caught up.

The Flash brings a lot of good stuff to the table and lays it out in a very pleasing arrangement.  First off is the source material.  I was delighted to learn that this show isn't just about the Flash.  It draws from the late '80s Flash, Firestorm, and Captain Atom comics, with just a hint of Suicide Squad thrown in for flavor.  These were some of the best super-hero comic books ever, not cutting-edge but right behind it, with a level of polish and self-confidence to their work that has seldom been matched.  They're in a completely different class from the dog's breakfast that DC is putting out now, about which -- no, I won't say, "the less said the better".  Textbooks need to be written about what DC is doing now, and taught from in classes on "How to Screw Up Your Franchise:  Don't Try This at Home".

As for the TV presentation, it's nice to see that WB/CW has put their 18 years experience at making superhero TV shows to good use and removed most of the problems that plagued past attempts.  It's even nicer to see that they're finally putting their expertise into a family-friendly show.  Keep that up and we may rear another generation of fans in spite of DC Comics.

There's a lot the show does right, and most of that is a combination of confident writing and directing paired with an impecable cast.  I could rave for hours about casting director David Rapaport's genius in hiring the perfect actor, time after time.   And since the slow dibbling out of multiple sub-plots which takes turns on the main stage was originally invented for comics, it's the perfect format for this story.

But it's the most contemporary element of this show that really stands out to me.  The Flash is set squarely at the end of the War on Drugs.  In the Henry Allen plot, the show deals frankly with the fact that there are parents in prison, that their children have to grow up living with this fact, and that there are all sorts of accomadations that have to be made for those children.  I can't think of another era in which this situation would have been such a small, ordinary, background detail.  It's heart-breaking, but for the sake of those real-life children I'm glad it's out there so they won't feel alone.  Now we just need to see "Cameron Scott" working in Central City's medical marijuana dispensary (He's here!  Bette Sans Souci was living with him!) to finally bring that misguided war to a close.

I'm looking forward to seeing more of this both refreshing and delightfully familiar universe.