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I know, I know, I haven't been around much. Mostly I've been working on GIFT OF POWER, now into 21 chapters (I hope my editor gives me places I can cut!). I'm also reeling a bit from two weeks of interrupted sleep. Our cat Scooter had a hematoma in his ear which had to be patched (with staples!), which means he's been in one of those ghastly plastic collars for two weeks. He was so miserable hanging out in my office (where he yowled and dug at the door all night, waking me repeatedly) that we installed him in our bedroom, to the dismay of the other cats, who use it as a quiet, shady place to sleep during the day. The problem? Scooter talks to me whenever I wake up, and when he isn't talking, he's trying to scratch--except he scratches the collar. This wakes me up, when he can talk to me again. So I'm a bit slap happy.

The 4th was quiet at our house. Sunday we went to watch Bollywood movies with the Covilles, this week's movie being "Jal (Water)." It wasn't a Bollywood song and dance fest, but a powerful movie about desert people in Gujurat, India trying to survive with wells, and a water finder who tries to find water. There are some white naturalists who come to try to save flamingos that nest near their lands, prompting the question, "What about the people?" It poses questions about water not only in India, but worldwide, and the water finder's story is beautiful. The desert people are amazing, and their women have a fair amount of power in their daily lives.

Oh, and I plowed through Robin Hobb's Soldier's Son trilogy that starts with SHAMAN'S CROSSING. Nevare is raised to be a soldier from the day he was born, but an encounter in his teens with the magic of the Speck people, who are resisting his nation's eastward expansion, tangles him and all around him in Speck magic, deployed by the ancestor he encountered against the nation of his birth. The magic ruins his career, his relationship with his family, and even his exile as he lives with half of his spirit in the Speck world, where the people are trying to drive his people out of their lands forever.

Hobb is never kind to her characters, and she doesn't make her heroes inherently likable, but Nevare's journey through the class upheaval in his world, the business of arranged marriages, attitudes toward weight in both peoples, and relationships with women, are all fascinating. Hobb shows human beings at their absolute worst without putting me off, and she is deft at moral quandaries. I recommend this trilogy for anyone who likes complex world and character building, class struggles, and a somewhat more even form of battle between Euro-type invaders and native people who want to keep their homes.

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Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church

edited to add: If anyone has word of vigils or community gatherings, feel free to post them here.

As I type this, they've caught the young man who shot and killed nine people who had gathered in this church for a prayer meeting. He sat there with them for an hour, and heard them speak, and then he got up and began to shoot.

The gun rights dance has already begun, as has the gun control outcry. Fox is already casting this as a war against Christianity, not yet another chapter in the long and ugly history of race in this country. They even have a pastor who urges his fellow pastors and their male parishioners to arm themselves to protect women and children against future assassins.

Things to come: the mental health of the suspect, a 21-year-old white man. The arraignment, the trial. The late-night-tv standup routines making light of something as unspeakable as the death of four Black girls in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, AL in 1963.

Our country has grown monstrous in my lifetime. The military-industrial complex the students on college campuses protested has become our biggest import-export, with the gun being its shining badge and camouflage its hipster wear. Our filmmakers spend billions pouring more and more action, more explosions, more violence, more death onto the movie and tv screens every year.

We have become the Great Satan, so busy making money off of killing throughout the world or supplying those who want to do their own killing that we can ignore the slaughters worked upon us internally. No group matters enough to make the killing machine take responsibility for its weapons: not women killed in a gym, not children in a school, not parishioners in a church.

Am I cynical? Am I jumping the gun, thinking the outrage spawned by this latest mass murder will die down to a collection of grumbles, apart from the meetings of the true believers? Maybe I am. I was a liberal for a long, long time, a liberal and early on, a protester. I have seen so many ventures for change, big and little, sink to the ground because beyond a certain point, our infrastructure only cares about money, not blood. Not life. Not people. Not change. From where I stand, they ought to have the Koch brothers on the twenty-dollar bill. They're the symbol of the level at which things really matter.

Oh, and Fox? This was a RACE murder. Don't call it anything else. How many churches do you think that kid passed, in Charleston SC, to get to Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church? How many Christian churches did he pass, and pass up, to get to a historic Black church?

I add this excerpt from an article by Jelani Cobb, Church Shooting in Charleston, in The New Yorker Online, because I think it explains which this shooting at this church is so vile, and Fox's attempt to hijack it out-and-out obscene:

"The African Methodist Episcopal Church, founded in 1793, is the oldest denomination established by black people in the United States. It owes its origins to white discrimination against black Christians in the eighteenth century, and an incident in which black churchgoers were interrupted while worshipping and directed to the segregated section of an Episcopal church in Philadelphia. For black Christians, the word “sanctuary” had a second set of implications. The spiritual aims of worship were paired with the distinctly secular necessity of a place in which not just common faith but common humanity could be taken for granted."


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The passing of the great Christopher Lee

When I told my husband, he said, "He can't die, he's Dracula."

I've known his work all my life. Long before others discovered him as Saruman in "The Lord of the Rings" I knew him as Dracula, and Scaramanda in the James Bond movies, and Sherlock Holmes. He had one of those voices that made me swoon, and I could recognize it anywhere.

Here is his obituary. I would love to see the movie on Pakistan in which he played Jinna.

He was 93, which is a good age, but I will still miss him. May you thrive and see old friends and make new movies in the Summerlands, Sir Christopher Lee.

The man with his knighthood.

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My beloved Spouse-Creature, Tim Liebe, had been an elections inspector for about ten years. For 7 or so of them he did duty as a Republican, because there weren't enough Republican volunteers to do the job--he's a Democrat, but he registered as a Republican so somebody would show up from that party--inspectors are supposed to be 50/50 from the two parties, and the Board of Elections won't accept independents, which is what I am. I finally threw a major tantrum, told him the Republicans could carry their own damn water, and he switched back to the party he actually votes for. Somehow they've rustled up enough Republicans to meet the requirements since then.

The point is that in all of the years he's done this, he's rarely seen anyone younger than 60 working at the polls. This is a REAL problem, folks. He recently published a plea to Facebook, and I thought I would re-post it here, in the hopes that the drive to do this public service for a few bucks and the future might take root. Please feel free to re-post!

Here's Tim in his own words:
"I just went to Election Inspector training this evening - which had been delayed two weeks because not enough people had shown up to fill the earlier class! The class, and the work, isn't difficult (I aced the test with only one wrong answer!) - it's tiring because you have to get up in the middle of the night and work until about 10 PM or so, but I find actively participating in the Democratic Process to be very satisfying. You even get paid a little for your time, if you want that.

What I'm trying to say is - why not check with your local Board of Elections, and see if THEY could use Election Inspectors and are still offering classes...?"

The old folks can't keep holding down the fort, people! Help with the process, please!

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Do you hear the people sing?

Only this isn't the song of angry men--it's the song of some really angry women! Hats off to the filmmaker, too, who gives us an education into the law concerning these matters and some things to ask/take down in the event we see someone's civil rights being pawed!

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In the wake of Sansa's wedding night

TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of rape

Even though rape is what I expected of Sansa's wedding to Ramsey Bolton, reading about it online today tells me that I'm done with the HBO "Game of Thrones," where naked women are draped around like so many shawls, where women are traded like so many baseball cards, and there are scenes like, well, Sansa's wedding night. Danaerys' wedding night. Joffrey's parents. (Still not totes sure about that one, but it's here for those who are.)

And no, those who say "It was really like this," it wasn't like that in the real world. Women were a family's assets--you don't batter or rape an asset unless you're an ill-mannered slug, like the ones we have in the modern world. History is full of women who planned and worked and schemed and were their family's top generals in the battle to survive and climb upward. Men fought for money, but women kept the purse.

Anyway, as I started out to say, io9, as part of the discussion of this episode of "Game of Thrones," posted the eminent John Scalzi's intelligent and sane take on including rape in a story line just to stir things up. Scalzi is not only a fine writer of science fiction with a unique angle (OLD MAN'S WAR was his first novel), but he is one of the most rational (and funny) voices on the interwebs. I share what he has to say here, because I regard his thought processes quite highly, and think you'll like this one.

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I took a Pride and Prejudice quiz to see what character I would be, and they gave me Mary! Remember, the bluestocking who pretends to be smart and forces her musical performances on everyone?!!!! I can't show my face around here for a while!

(Actually, I'll be away at the Romantic Times convention in Dallas, TX for the rest of the week, but the shame of being rated Mary Bennett buuuurrrrnnnnnssss.)

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RT Booklovers Convention!

Hey everyone - Tammy's assistant sliding in to remind y'all that she's going to be in Dallas, TX for the RT Booklovers Convention from the 13-16th! The convention itself runs through the 17th.

Click here for her convention scheduleCollapse )

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What are people watching?

Person of Interest: I love Harold, John, and Fusco, don't see nearly enough of Root or Shaw this season, haven't recovered from the loss of Taraji P. Henson (no matter how wonderful the part in Empire is for her, and it is). Camryn Manheim isn't given nearly enough to do for the show's main female character this season (Root's only popping in and out). And I don't see enough of Bear, for that matter. Obviously the show still has me hooked.

Justified: I'll be relieved when it's over, frankly. I love it up until the last season, when the quality just seemed to be in a spiral of kooky characters and the bigger world intruding on Harlan. I hate what Raylan and Boyd are doing with Eva; I feel like the writers have wrangled things to the point where one or the other has broken character to handle her as he has, stealing all the agency she built up after the first season. Rachel is great, probably because the writers have her in a position where they can't screw her up. Mary Steenbergen is just getting in the way, and Winona remains a throwaway.

Gotham: I know. It's bad, it's gritty, all the women but Fish and Cat are plot puppets; the men whip between good/bad and bad/good so fast the viewer gets whiplash, and Jim and young Bruce are so rigid in their view of good and evil that you just want to sock Jim and get Bruce a female role model like a cook or something before he goes completely south. I love Alfred in this light, and oddly, Penguin, and Ed (though his wacko turn in the episode I just watched made me sad). I don't like Cat--like I said, she's a plot puppet like Barbara and Fish, saying whatever the writers want her to say instead of acting like a complete person.

Chicago Fire: You would think, at my age, that I would cease to be a sucker for Dick Wolfe TV, but I'm not. The funny thing is, in this show I don't really like any of the characters for themselves, except the chief, but I love the entire house as an ensemble. I think this is the best united ensemble cast Wolf's people have ever put together, and even when they move people in and out, its integrity holds. I'm fascinated by the workings of the ambulance teams, Squad, and Truck, and the lives of the people who intersect with the firefighters and paramedics. Yes, I wish that one of the top dogs would marry, but I also understand that this is a really hard life for those who live it and those who intersect with it, and it's hard on their relationships as well. And the show is a thrill ride, let's face it.

Orphan Black: now, see, this is why I can tolerate a few shows which short their female characters, because this one is all about a fistful of female characters! They are clones, all splendidly and apparently seamlessly rendered by the superlative Tatiana Maslany and accented by a wonderful cast of men and women, including her gay BMF/foster brother/brother Felix, played so excellently by Jordan Gavaris, her foster mother Mrs. S., and her daughter Kira. They've just introduced a clone line of males this season, who give me the utter creeps, but I'm sure Sarah and her sisters and Felix can handle them. I hope.

The Bletchley Circle: Back during WWII, the Germans had a super code machine called Enigma. One of the biggest secrets of the war was that it wasn't a man who cracked Enigma: it was the women code writer/transmitters who worked at Bletchley Circle. Now the war is over and like Rosie the Riveter, they've put away their rivets--demobilized and been shunted off to girly jobs--until one of them notices a numeric pattern in a series of murders reported in the daily paper. That season covered that case, and the second covers first the murder case in which one of them is locked up and second the murder of a black market goods dealer. The four main women are very different, one a cranky Scot, one a wife and mother who wants to forget what she was, one a cheerful goodtime girl, and one a secretary in Scotland Yard. The men are bluff and uncaring sometimes, kind sometimes, and even attentive, depending on who they are and their relationship to each of the women. It's well worth watching if you like period mysteries (and I do).

So You Think You Can Dance: every summer, and this year it begins June 1st with a new theme, it looks like. I get together with Julie and the Covilles to watch this. We always have our favorite dancers and favorite choreographers--it's a bright spot in every summer! It makes me look at physical activity in different ways, and in the ways dancers can express emotion, too.

Project Runway: this one I watch with Tim and Julie and sometimes my brother-in-law. Again, we have our favorite designers, but we also live for Tim Gunn, Heidi Klum, and Nina Garcia. I have learned such an incredible amount about sewing, clothes, color, and fashion from this show, as well as about human interaction!

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Every spring I become a couch birdwatcher, courtesy of the Cornell Bird Labs and the Peregrine folks in Harrisburg PA. (Cornell is an expansion--I used to just watch the peregrines, and there's a stork cam in Germany which isn't up yet because it's still wintery there.) If you look at the bar on the link, you'll see other nest sites to check out, but I'm posting the Barn Owl Site

Barn Owl cam

for starters, because Peep #1 has hatched! (And there are more to come)

I love spring. I love this spring, after this last winter. I normally love gray weather--it's easier on my eyes--but even I got depressed this winter. Now I'm out looking at random flowers and actually smiling at the sun. And adding new bird cams to watch the peeps hatch. I hope the stork cam comes online soon. The storks don't know it, but their nest is so big that sparrows nest in the underside.

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