Sunday, August 23, 2015

Loose Threads #5

Three Generations

One is tired but determined.
Another frustrated but obligated.
The third is just a kid, oblivious as her brother who sleeps in the stroller.

She doesn't know they're supposed to have a car, supposed to be going somewhere fast, somewhere safe and sure and secure. Somewhere called home, not Motel 6.

But they have to walk, and it's a scorcher.

One leads with a quick hustle.
Another follows with a steady march.
The third is just a kid, just out walking with her grandma and mom and baby brother.

One picks up a coin from the parking lot pavement, pockets it. Hustles.
The third picks up the blanket that fell from the stroller and puts it inside.

The other scolds her, drapes the cloth over the stroller. It's to keep the sun off the baby, not put dirt and germs on him. Doesn't the third know anything?

It's a stupid mistake. Life is full of stupid mistakes and generations still making up for them.

One cuts across the grass going uphill, but stops for a moment to make sure they're all together.
The other follows, pushing the stroller along the paved sidewalk.
The third stays close to her brother who still blissfully sleeps.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

This Is a Test

Hover* for spoilers: and you'll see the new spoiler function in action.

*sadly, this doesn't work on mobile

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Spoilers! Animal Farm Ch. 10

See all the previous spoilers:

What I've read: Ch 10

Years have passed, old animals die, new animals are born. Some animals are purchased and brought onto the farm, and few--Clover, Benjamin, and others--remember what it was all like in the beginning of the rebellion. The pigs now walk on two legs,  while the sheep bleat  "four legs good, two legs *better.*" They wear clothes and the farm returns to its original title "Manor Farm." A new era of cooperation with humans has risen.

The story ends with the lower animals peering through the farmhouse windows at the pigs and humans dining together, drinking and playing cards, congratulating each other:

"The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again;  but already it was impossible to say which was which."

And that's where it ends. Like, sorry, no hope for you. It is very much fitting for this chilling tale.

I quite enjoyed the story overall and am
amazed something so short packs a punch powerful enough to last for ages. But then this is Orwell at his best. I'd recommend it just for your reading pleasure. It's a good story even setting aside the allegorical references to real life inspirations.

How'd you like the story the first time you read it? What do you think of it today? Discuss, comment, spoil!

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Spoilers! Animal Farm Ch. 9


Boxer dies. He collapses while carting boulders, and the pigs claim he'll be sent to the veterinarian. He's instead sent to a slaughter and glue-making place.

It's such a sad scene. The animals are all wishing him farewell, but Benjamin the old donkey reads the sign on the van. When they realize what's happening, they try to stop it but it's too late. They can't catch up and Boxer is too weak to kick his way out.

Just sad.

The rest of the chapter is boring, parades and pigs being pigs. The story has done a good job making me detest the creatures,  because I'm sick of Squealer's lies.

One chapter left. I don't see this ending well.

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Monday, August 3, 2015

Links 8/3/2015

I suppose if these links have a theme, it is how words, narratives, and rhetoric can affect how you do and don't define your voice and express yourself.

To Be Black and Woman and Alive

Video of a spoken word poem by Crystal Valentine and Aaliyah Jihad. The language is evocative, painful, and their performance is moving. I mean, what are words even? They fail. I only had thoughts after watching this, thoughts of all the black women in the news recently, degraded, devalued, dehumanized and deceased for varying reasons that all echoed in this poem. And that's what powerful poetry can do.

Chosen Ones, Specialness and the Narrative of the One

Thoughts from Aliette de Bodard on these tropes. I find I agree with de Bodard frequently when it comes to this push and pull, this tension we writers have with established modes of storytelling and our own personal inclinations. It can get to be an unending negotiation of examination and reaffirmation of who we are, what we are writing, and why. Are you honing your voice or stifling it in favor of familiarity? I'd also recommend her article about pushing against received narratives, because sometimes you just have to find your core and stake your claim.

Which This Margin is Too Small to Contain

Thoughts from Vajra Chandrasekera on diversity in SFF and the term "person of color". It does read as thinking on paper and I appreciate the thought process behind "strategic essentialism" as a "high-risk high-reward rhetorical move". Rhetoric can be a slippery thing to grasp and master and wield, and it is only as useful as its effectiveness. It stops being so when, as the title implies, it becomes too small to contain the idea, the complexity and depth of the definition of you. H/t to Fields for sending this one my way.

Spoilers! Animal Farm Ch. 8

Chapter 8

No animal shall kill another animal *without cause*, the commandment now reads.

The windmill is completed, but Napoleon's trade deal with a neighboring farm goes bad--they were tricked and Farmer Frederick paid with forged money! No sooner than the animals learn this than they are under attack by Frederick and a group of men. The men blow up the windmill and kill several animals before they are finally overwhelmed and run out. Everyone is dismayed but the pigs initiate celebrations and extra rations for all for their victory in the Battle of the Windmill, and their sorrows are soon forgotten.

After a night of drinking and hangovers, Napoleon decides the farm should grow barley and have a distillery where they had formerly set aside pastures for the elderly to graze. Oh, and that particular commandment forbidding booze has been secretly amended too: No animal shall drink alcohol *to excess*.

This chapter clustered many events together and seemed to run through them as though time and word count was of the essence. Of course, this is chapter 8 of 10, so things will have to wrap up quickly over the next two chapters. I'm concerned this will lead to an abrupt or pat ending.

Anyhow, Clover (the mare) is something of the conscience. She's the most suspicious about the commandments being broken, but she can't read, and when she asks another animal to, they find the altered version and have to concede they misremembered.

Boxer is more questioning but only out of ignorance. "If Napoleon says so, then it's so" is all he needs as reassurance.

In one light, I read the successive pig leaders as one regime getting worse. But the differences between them are there and distinct. Old Major was illustrated as wise and benevolent, prophetic. Snowball was ambitious, charismatic, shrewd. Napoleon is reclusive and cruel.

Squealer is Napoleon's main mouthpiece, and in an aside, turns out to be altering the commandments under cover of night, though the other animals don't understand that.

Then there's the old donkey Benjamin, who seems to know what's up but isn't the least bit inclined to say or do anything about it yet, except to nod knowingly at the corruption around him. He wasn't enthusiastic about the rebellion in the beginning either. You know. Like how some old folk be sometimes. Doubtful he'll be the one to expose the corruption. Doubtful there'll be any exposé, but we'll see. My money is on Animal Farm collapsing under its own unsustainable conditions. Humans may not reclaim it, but I'm not too sure the animals will be able to reorganize.


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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Spoilers! Animal Farm Ch. 7

Chapter 7

Food rationing worsens on Animal Farm, but Napoleon stages things so that their human intermediary won't detect how hard up the animals are, and the outside world goes on believing the farm is doing well. The hens protest giving up 400 eggs a week in trade with humans and they are starved in return until they comply. A far worse fate befalls any animal suspected of colluding with the phantom menace Snowball: slaughter. And many animals are killed after being forced to make false confessions, all mauled to death by the guard dogs. The remaining animals are shocked and disillusioned. To add insult to injury, their freedom anthem Beasts of England is now abolished.

All animals are comrades, indeed. No animal should kill another animal. This is a brutal chapter, not that it is graphic in any way, but the simple, matter-of-fact prose that enhances the absurdity in the beginning now enhances the cold efficiency of this dark turn of events.  The non-response from the animals to this callous disposal of life is all too real and all too chilling.

Does this story even have a hopeful, if not happy, ending? Surely, the dictatorship is unsustainable.  I'm tempted to Google it up, but I'll just read on and see.

Discuss below.

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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Spoilers! Animal Farm Ch. 6

What I read: Ch 6

The animals have need for resources beyond their capabilities, especially in the case of building the windmill. Napoleon arranges for a human intermediary to conduct trade on behalf of Animal Farm.  One by one, the Seven Commandments are broken: pigs living in the house, sleeping in beds, etc. And Squealer, the persuasive propagandist pig, explains it all away. Not sleep in beds? No, no. The commandment said not to sleep in beds *with sheets*.

Heh. So it goes.

The animals are uneasy about all these changes, but as they hate the old way more and none can read or reason well, they can do nothing about it.

I've a feeling Boxer might die. He toils single-mindedly and unquestioningly in all due fealty to the new animal order, wanting, it seems, to be the best Animal Farm citizen he can be. The exploitation of blind patriotism, perhaps?

Add to that unity through hatred of a fabricated menace: Napoleon has now put a bounty on Snowball's head for destroying the unfinished windmill (which really was knocked down by a storm.) An effective ploy, since humans aren't so scary now that animals are working with them, and the animals were mightily dispirited after the windmill fell.

Comrades, discuss below!

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