Does this terrible old-man joke ever get less funny? (No.)
The quality of the Shamrock Shake has fallen off considerably, lo these many years.
My aunt passed away early this morning.
The cat is still fine.

Pictured article.
Tomorrow, more.


cats are nice

My cat is fine; she freaked the fuck out at the vet's office and had to be sedated, but her surgery went well and she got to come home later that afternoon (as promised). She lost 24 of her 30 teeth, and so far the only consequence is that her tongue sticks out when she's asleep. She still eats enough food for nine much larger cats, and bites me in the middle of the night with her three remaining canines so she can sleep in the mathematical center of my pillow. She only had the resorptive lesions, also. No sign of stomatitis, which sounds less scary but can potentially be a much bigger deal.

They sent my aunt home to die. Her cancer is inoperable. The oncologists tried to perform a surgery that would've allowed them to start chemotherapy, but the surgery failed and there were complications. When she woke up after the second surgery attempt she formally refused further treatment, and is now at home with her husband and grandkids and various shifts of hospice nurses. My aunt herself was a nurse for nearly 40 years, and she knows what time it is. It's a dismal and heart-breaking situation comprehensively, but she's an 83-year-old woman and OG feminist who spent her life doing more or less whatever she wanted. There are worse things than dying at the end of a performance like that, I suppose. She doesn't really remember who I am anymore, and I suspect that talking on the phone with a random weeping woman distresses her (& she always believed that female hysteria in any form was letting down the side, anyway). I'm not going to tax her with my grief anymore. I just hope she'll be allowed to pass away in her sleep, like a good soldier or a bad cowboy.

There's nothing to be done about it one way or the other (except cry, of course).
Thank you in advance for the kind words I'm sure you'd say to me if I'd turned the comments on, but I'm still short a computer and wouldn't be able to respond to you until the weekend.

My aunt would wish me neither to be idle nor to despair in the moment or aftermath of her timely demise, so once I get my digital shit together I'll go back to complaining about books and you can go back to indulgently pretending you care.

Until then, then.


i thank whatever gods may be

So, as is typical —
  • The prelude: On Wednesday afternoon, my iMac finally ran down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. I would say, It caught on fire!, but that would be melodramatic of me. What actually happened was that it got so hot that steam came out its vents, and it made sizzling noises and then wouldn't turn on anymore. I knew it was on its way out, so I did buy a new computer (this one + a surprisingly half-decent budget UHD monitor that I'll replace with something fancy at a later date, see below) — but it'll be a few days before it's technically usable for anything (I'm installing Linux, shifting files, etc). Right now I'm on my mom's newer iMac. Thanks, Mom.
  • Act One: On Thursday I found out that my aunt, who is the last remaining member of my extended biological white family who isn't overtly villainous, is dying of pancreatic cancer. She will likely pass in the next few months. Reportedly, she finds this outcome preferable to dying slowly of Alzheimer's, which is what was happening before.
  • Act Two: On Friday morning, I discovered that my cat has stomatitis and/or resorptive lesions in her teeth, and has likely been suffering discomfort/outright pain for months or years as a result. She will have to have some or all of her teeth pulled; she gets a full assessment, as well as the dental surgery, this Wednesday. They've told me I get to bring her home later the same day, and that feline dentistry has become a much-practiced art here in the year of our lord 2018.
  • Epilogue: This doesn't really rank up there with the other stuff, but — my Netflix account got hacked by some enterprising Colombian people on Friday, too. In one actual 24-hour day, they'd upgraded my payment package and installed profiles for like nine people. Netflix helped me get the account back in just a couple of minutes, but shit. Did they think I wouldn't notice? I watch Netflix ten hours a day on the weekend. What a bunch of idiots.
Posting will be even lighter than usual, for the next couple of weeks. For reasons.

ETA: I got my new computer working! Using Windows 10. Which is horrible and pushy and ugly. It isn't as awful as I remember it being back in my office-lady days, though. Also I'm worried that my monitor is a little too nice, because everything is so fucking tiny & sharp. And hot.


call when you want, but there's no one home (moron redux)

Aaaaand... did you see this incredibly dumb thing Dave Chappelle said a couple of days ago?

Jesus Christ, what a dumbass. How, exactly, does Dave Chappelle know the precise length of time Abby Schachner stayed on the phone with the large orange pervert? Was it a conference call? Is he judging her by the length of time he stays on the phone with unprosecuted masturbating sex-offenders? Perhaps, during the incident, Schachner thought the big orange comedian — with whom she believed she might be working, like, professionally — had just gotten into the house after a nice long normal relaxing workout, and hung up as soon as she discerned the tell-tale fapping noise of fingers on foreskin amidst all the gasping and wheezing? And how, in any case, is this a question of personal responsibility on the part of the victim? Who the fuck is this idiot, Paul Ryan? How does Dave Chappelle manage, with such resolution, to avoid drawing a line between "a woman, as an eternally-potential victim of sexual assault, has a responsibility to mitigate her exposure to predators" and "a black American, as an historically-persecuted minority, has a responsibility to mitigate their resemblance to the sort of person a police officer might feel compelled to murder"? I feel as though it might be just a simple failure of empathy: "racist law enforcement officials" is an oppressive group to which Dave Chappelle decisively does not belong, but "diseased male assholes who regard women as fuckholes with whom they are perpetually at war" is a label that might fit a little more comfortably.

Women are criticized for believing that all men are potential rapists, and then also criticized for not accepting the hard, obvious fact that all men are potential rapists. We're evil, hysterical basilisks until the exact moment we are required to become innately defenseless weaklings so their alibis will stand up in court. Get fucked, Dave Chappelle.

P.S. — I wonder if Chappelle has ever met Andrew Sullivan? Sully has some very interesting made-up ideas about hormones that he might find very compelling.

P.P.S — I don't expect comedians to be inoffensive, of course. Nor to I expect comedians, or indeed humans of any variety, to agree with all my political positions. I do expect adults of all professions to be able to prosecute a complete thought, though. I also generally prefer that a professional comedian at least make visible efforts in the direction of regurgitating actual jokes when on stage. If I wanted to be pointlessly offended, I would patronize an "offendian."


a medicine for melancholy


The problem is: Paid-for Pocket looks exactly like free Pocket, and also it crashes at the same rate. Probably I should just bite the bullet and excavate the whole archive so I can get rid of the service, which is shoddy anyway (but convenient).

Also, stupid people keep moving my goalposts all over town. Like, did you read this awful thing that famously mendacious racist Andrew Sullivan wrote about getting an injection of testosterone? This man is too stupid to live. Here's a quote:
You need testosterone to turn a fetus with a Y chromosome into a real boy, to masculinize his brain and body. Men experience a flood of testosterone twice in their lives: in the womb about six weeks after conception and at puberty. The first fetal burst primes the brain and the body, endowing male fetuses with the instinctual knowledge of how to respond to later testosterone surges.
First-trimester fetuses have 'instinctual knowledge' of the world, despite not having brains. Excellent. The rest of the science is equally hilarious; Sullivan says, "[t]estosterone, oddly enough, is a chemical closely related to cholesterol," and doesn't bother to notice that all hormones are manufactured by the body from cholesterol. "Pregnant women who were injected with progesterone (chemically similar to testosterone)[...]," what. Progesterone isn't any more similar to testosterone than estrogen, which Sullivan actually goes to the trouble of explaining can be metabolized interchangeably from the same biological components (and then he forgets about it, I guess). Men and women manufacture equivalent quantities of progesterone under normal conditions, please shut up quickly. "The Big T correlates with energy, self-confidence, competitiveness, tenacity, strength and sexual drive," and here "correlates" is doing the work of ten men. "And most of the studies of the psychological effects of testosterone take place in culturally saturated environments, so that the difference between cause and effect is often extremely hard to disentangle," which invalidates his entire premise, but so what. Andrew Sullivan didn't get this far in life by letting a thing like the total negation of his hypothesis by all available evidence stand in his way!
None of this means, as the scientists always caution, that testosterone is directly linked to romantic failure or violence. No study has found a simple correlation, for example, between testosterone levels and crime. But there may be a complex correlation. 
No there isn't. If there were, this statement wouldn't have to be decorated with qualifications like the bumper-stickers on a 1978 Volvo.
It is also controversial yet undeniable that elevating testosterone levels can be extremely beneficial for physical and mental performance. It depends, of course, on what you're performing in. If your job is to whack home runs, capture criminals or play the market, then testosterone is a huge advantage. If you're a professional conciliator, office manager or teacher, it is probably a handicap.
Controversial, but undeniable. I am going to cry. Also:
Since most men have at least 10 times as much T as most women, it therefore makes sense not to have coed baseball leagues. Equally, it makes sense that women will be underrepresented in a high-testosterone environment like military combat or construction.
Sullivan then goes on to note a study undertaken by the well-respected, publicly-funded scientific research center Toys'R'Us.

The entire article displays a pathetic preoccupation with body hair, action verbs, and "assertiveness."

So, here we go:
  1. The side-effects from testosterone injections administered to an ailing body do not, in fact, reflect the effects of global testosterone metabolism in a typical person.
  2. Speaking of ailing bodies, I suffer from PCOS and, before I sought medical intervention, I used to (naturally!) produce massive quantities of testosterone all by myself; I grew a stiff and fetching beard, and curly arm hair, and I was almost totally bald on the top of my head. Also I weighed nearly 300 pounds, and had three periods a month. [ETA: And I had painful, disfiguring acne!] Despite the unfortunate consequences of my all-natural excess testosterone production, I managed not to rape or kill anyone to prove my fitness for mating.
  3. Nor did I harass or attack anyone in a dog park, or mysteriously acquire the belief that I deserved to be stacked at the top of every imaginable human hierarchy and therefore get everything I ever wanted, whenever I wanted it.
  4. Explain that, asshole. 
  5. At the glorious pinnacle of my all-natural testosterone production, was I technically a butch lesbian, a man, or a kind of hyena? 
  6. When I was an inch-long fetus, what did my disorder train me to understand about my future ability to manufacture sex hormones?
  7. Can you explain why my possession of extremely huge quantities of all-natural personal testosterone failed to launch me directly into the Presidency, or any other lofty position? 
  8. And why didn't I start yearning to become a construction worker, or Marine Todd?
  9. I mean, mostly I just sat around having panic attacks and crying all day. And I couldn't sleep for shit! I was good for absolutely nothing. How did I manage to fail my beautiful testosterone so badly?
I would like to mention, before moving on, that Sullivan also thought #GamerGate was a reasonable reaction to women provocatively requesting to be treated as human beings rather than objects. Perhaps you think I'm kidding. "The argument seems to be that some feminists are attempting to police or control a hyper-male culture of violence, speed, competition and boobage. And in so far as that might be the case, my sympathies do indeed lie with the gamers." In the same essay, he blames libtards for the entire problem, because in high school the libtards were too socially-adequate to be bullied, and therefore don't understand how childhood bullying leads naturally to doxing, harassment, and proud misogyny in defense of innocent digital waifus. (Perhaps I should start calling him "the famously mendacious sexist Andrew Sullivan.")

The love on the left for this cretin is inexplicable. I think they just like calling him "Sully."

Sadly enough, I found that wretched article because I read this article, which also led me to read this inexplicable Twitter thread in which a bunch of tragic morons who don't understand what evolution is attempt to defend unequivocal gender segregation by suggesting that human behavior is informed by the culture of chimpanzees. I wonder how far down the road to Chimpanzeetown these fools would like to travel? Cannibalism? Gang rape? Infanticide? Circus tricks? Zoos? This is getting embarrassing. I will say that I'm willing to accept guidance on social engineering from any chimpanzee capable of getting a scientifically-illiterate, disingenuous article about testosterone published in The New York Times.

Your move, Bubbles.


the art of war

My duskglass.net strategy approaches the target from two different vantage points. First, I will examine the novel's language and culture using a critical method based in whatever I am thinking about at the time. Then, I will identify other manifestations of Uskglass-like characters in books that are not Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Also, there's a trebuchet (no there isn't).

The Uskglass parts aren't as hard as the other stuff; I think Clarke's character is such a deep-myth relic that other interpretations of it are relatively common. Uskglass has some direct (that Wikipedia image is an abomination) precursors (that Wikipedia image is also an abomination) in traditional British literature, but I'm currently pursuing antecedents in other cultures — early work has indicated possible involvement by Classical mythology, and maybe even some shady Yahweh influences. These parts are not only less than but also much different from the sum of their accumulation, of course. The transmitted object is not the clean, stable lines of some hypothetical story-symbol, but an atmosphere of mystery. Eventually the mystery usurps, and then erases, whatever was intended to be signified in the first place — and then the story itself becomes an expression of unnameable mystery. Nobody cares about that kind of thing but me, probably; I don't mind. I'm not working for tips. Vague antiquities aside, one of my favorite semi-Uskglasses appears in a recent YA novel called Archivist Wasp, in the person of a seductively nameless ghost who severs the novel's protagonist from the narrative of her own existence and initiates her transformation into the World Savior. Look at this:

The ghost was sitting in her only chair, surrounded by mismatched stacks of paper in various degrees of fire-damage, water-damage, unidentifiable staining, mildew, and general dissolution. It appeared to be reading her field notes.
“Get your boots off my table,” she snapped, and did not quite squirm under the look it fixed her with, or under the ensuing silence as it went back to reading.
Force of habit, she found herself studying it. It was all she could do not to pull out her notebook and start sketching it on the spot. Its clothing was basic and dark, something like a uniform but not one she recognized from any ghost she’d seen before. The gun and sword were in its belt. The ghost turned pages with a trained precision, a spring-loaded sort of predatory grace in which no fraction of any movement went wasted. Between its person and its clothing there was no color to it anywhere; it was all pale and dark, with those gray eyes. Its face was sharp, guarded, possessed of an icy and immaculate calm. Its posture was miles better than hers. It hadn’t moved its boots.
Usually Wasp didn’t find silences awkward and felt no need to fill them with pointless chatter, but this, this was unendurable.
“I didn’t know you could read,” she said.

The ghost cut its eyes at her, pure scorn. “I see they were mistaken.”
It dropped a mocking little bow before her and walked out, trailing what remaining bonds of salt and blood she’d not yet broken, which it had snapped at whim.
I really, really, really like Archivist Wasp. I was going to review a series of YA novels last year, which I thought would be both fun and perhaps surprising. I find the Millennialesque reshuffling of gender norms inspiring, so why not their vision of the bildungsroman? Haha, what a gullible fool I am. After attempting to survive about twenty different popular books, chosen for their genre themes from Amazon, I begged off without even really starting. The worst, most conservative, heteronormative, claustrophobic, depressing, old-fashioned writing in the world is currently happening in the realm of YA novels. All the genre's heroines are exceptionally-ordinary self-inserts who are constrictingly adored by boring (and often violent) hunks. It's hunk after hunk after sad-manbaby 1950s beefcake hunk in the Young Adult World, all rendered in a primary-color paint-by-numbers palette that would strike a frustrated mid-century housewife as uninspiring. But Archivist Wasp isn't like that! Is, in fact, exactly not like that. (The ghost's lack of a gendered pronoun is suggestive, is what I'm telling you.) It was one of two YA novels published in the last 30 years by someone not named Ursula K. Le Guin that didn't make me want to kill myself. I highly recommend it, both for the Uskglass mirror-content and for itself. Best DRM-free $10 you'll ever spend. I hope there's a sequel. (That's a joke.) (Most YA novels are half-a-book's worth of content spread out into 34876 commemorative volumes.) (I would indeed be very happy to read Archivist Wasp: The Second, however.)

Well. I've also been doing a lot of reading, for the last couple of years, that pertains (in my imagination, at least) to JS&MN's literary contexts. Probably my most favorite of the contexts are written by Robert Aickman, who until very recently I believed to be a lesbian operating under a pseudonym. Aickman was not a lesbian, it turns out, but rather a very large, fluffy British cat that, in the 1950s and 60s, gained access to, and somehow learned to operate, a typewriter. I've read nearly everything Aickman ever published; I had to import hard copies of The Late Breakfasters (favorite) and The Model (not a favorite), but I read those, too. The Late Breakfasters is much different than the rest of Aickman's work, most of which he self-identified as "strange stories" because of some German mood-word that the late Mark Fisher was also interested in, and which I don't understand at all but will try to deal with later. Breakfasters has some weird-fiction attributes in common with the rest of Aickman's canon, but I believe it's primarily intended to be a social satire (?). Like Animal Farm, maybe (?), but with people. People Farm? Maybe. It's full of political and cultural details I don't get, or even understand how to unpack, but which Aickman presents in a way that makes them seem both ludicrous and performative. So... satire, right? Who knows. I identified hard with the novel's protagonist, Griselda. I consider that my life has mostly been an attenuated escape from the Geoffrey Kynastons of the world, and a simultaneous, resolute flight toward Louise. Although, unlike Griselda, I was never privileged to actually fuck Louise; I've only ever read about her in books. Still, it's maddening to imagine that she exists in the world somewhere, and I can't get to her. I'm going to keep looking. (I do realize.)

Despite the buildup, this excerpt isn't from The Late Breakfasters. I have discovered that it's hard to excerpt the book and have it look suitably meaningful, because the story is so involved with its own conditions and symbols. This is from "Bind Your Hair," a very strange story that appeared in Dark Entries:

The next morning Clarinda had to admit to herself that she was very depressed. As she lay in bed watching wisps of late-autumn fog drift and swirl past her window, she felt that inside the house was a warm and cosy emptiness in which she was about to be lost. She saw herself, her real self, for ever suspended in blackness, howling in the lonely dark, miserable and unheard; while her other, outer self went smiling through an endless purposeless routine of love for and compliance with a family and a community of friends which, however excellent, were exceedingly unlike her, in some way that she did not fully understand.

omg it me

More when I find it.