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17 April 2002

I really hope spamomancy doesn't work, because I just got "Become a SEX PISTOL!!!" in my inbox, and I would think that would have to mean something like, "You and your psychotic white trash girlfriend will take heroin and die." Or else "You will have a radio show." Either way....

My back is not doing well. At all. Every time I type more than a few lines (or pour my milk or shrug my shoulders or...) it screams at me. So this entry is going rather slowly.

A pleasantly busy day ahead. I have an 11:00 appointment with Dr. Bill (in Pleasant Hill, which is about 45 minutes north and east of here, near where we used to live in Concord, in case you're not familiar with Bay Area geography). Then I'm meeting Wendy for coffee in Berkeley at 2:00. I plan to come home in between, even though Berkeley is pretty nearly dead north of here, because I don't want to drive quite that much. Also I hope to get a little bit done while I'm home. Not a lot. Just a little. Without my back screaming at me, even.

I should get to work on the Lunar Epoxy story if I'm going to submit it to Oceans of the Mind for their Industrial Solar System issue. Also because Karina said she wanted to read it, but right now I'm a KarinAgnostic. I'm the happy kind, I guess: I'd like to believe Karina exists, I just don't know that we have enough evidence on that point. Anyway, the Lunar Epoxy story is near the top of my project list, right up there with the Not The Moose Book. Had that revelation last night.

Also realized that almost everyone in our writing group is a pretty cuddly person. Hadn't thought of it in those terms before, but I'd call all but one of the regulars "cuddly-seeming." (Hmm. I know Zed reads this sometimes, and I wonder if he would guess the correct exception.) It's a nice trait to have, especially when they're not cuddly in their critiquing, just in their personal demeanor.

Kev sent me a book called Finnish Folk Poetry Epic, which is lovely, quite unlike anything I already have, and it even has parallel translation, which I find very charming in a book. (Sometimes. That translation of Petrarch was not charming. But it was good to know how uncharming it was.) So I will be quite geekily happy for awhile now.

So yesterday with my back out, I worked a little less and finished The Red and the Black and The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents and started reading Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys. The last is quite readable, but not grabbing me like The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay did. I feel sorry for the man, remembering that the headline in the Merc when he was doing a reading in town was, "Wonder Boy," but it's partly his own fault for calling a book that. Sheesh. The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents was the first Terry Pratchett children's book I'd read, and it was pretty good. However, the chief difference I could see between it and his adult books is that it was less funny. Is that the difference between children's and adult fiction? Doesn't seem like it ought to be. Hmmmmm.

Evan Goer go away!

No, really, I mean it! No Evan Goers past this point!

This means you, Evan Goer!

Ahem. Evan is taking a class wherein he's reading The Red and the Black later in the spring, and he's not supposed to read anything related to it before then. Not the back of the book, nothing. So he told me not to talk about it in my journal, and I suggested warnings, and we agreed on that. Also we agreed that I would refrain from calling him names in my "seeeecret" The Red and the Black section. Actually mostly he agreed on that, but I guess I'll go with it, because my favorite name to call people right now is one that he gave me, and that's kind of cheating. So.

The first thing that startled me is how appropriate David Gray music is for listening to when you're reading The Red and the Black. I would have guessed something more "period" would be appropriate, and that's what I'd tried before, but "A Century Ends" and "Sell Sell Sell" really did the trick, and then it didn't matter when I followed it up with Sarah McLachlan's "Surfacing" because I was on the downhill pull. I suppose any album with "An Afternoon's Debauchery" on it is not inappropriate for the subject matter, but I was surprised at how appropriate it did feel.

The other thing that struck me was how neat of an inversion of our social mores it was. The characters had so many ideas of duty that they felt they had the duty to have love affairs with specific people and to carry them out in certain manners. It's that kind of mechanical and stifling behavior that makes our society so wary of the idea of duty, I think -- nobody wants to be "merely" a duty, "only" an obligation. And if you said, "It's my duty to see my aunt while I'm in town," either your friends would look at you like you'd gone mad, or they'd assume that the aunt was unpleasant in some way. But the pleasantness or unpleasantness of a duty really used to be beside the point, and sometimes I think we could use a bit more stifling in some areas, although a bit less in others.

I'm not advocating the society of The Red and the Black -- I should think that would be fairly obvious. But I do think that a little more consideration of oneself as a part of various larger wholes could be a good idea. It seems that a lot of people Baby Boomer age and younger think that "us" is the same thing as "me and you [and him, her, her, her, him, etc.]." I don't think it is. I think there's a kind of "being we" that's more than the sum of its parts. Many times I've heard it claimed that groups are stupid. I don't think that's the case. I think that groups have interference with each other, like waveforms, and sometimes it's constructive and sometimes destructive. But I think the combination of past "duty-bound" societies and modern ideas about mob psychology combine to make us distrust anything larger than one person. I have some of that distrust myself -- but not all the time. I don't distrust a gathering of my friends any more than I would distrust them individually.

Oddly enough, with exactly the opposite basis for it, I think the characters in The Red and the Black would have exactly the same amount of group distrust as the people I run into today. Their reactions would be different, but the cynicism the same.

Hmm. Okay, that's enough for my back for now. I'll talk to you-all more tomorrow.

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