Belligerent Hippie Soundtrack

22 September 2001

All week, when I turn on the TV and hear some prefab patriotic hit like Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA," my brain responds with a little belligerent just-post-hippie patriotic sountrack of its own. I start with "This Land Is Your Land," of course. I've read a couple articles about the divide between "God Bless America" Americans and "This Land Is Your Land" Americans. I don't think the divide is nearly so sharp as people believe it is. But I do like "This Land Is Your Land," and not just because I've sung it at Arlo concerts with the entire audience.

Then there's a snippet of "Born in the USA" and one of Neil Diamond's "Coming to America," neither of which I actually like, but both of which pop up in my head, because I was a little kid in the 80s, and because of my "aunt" Kathy's Neil Diamond obsession. Anybody else immediately recognize the difference between "Cracklin' Rose" and "Sherry?" Anybody else know all the words to "Solitary Man?" Hail, fellow sufferers.

Anyway. My favorite "patriotic" song of the moment is Paul Simon's "America." It seems most appropriate: most of the people I know are "looking for America," right now, are trying to figure out what they can stand behind and what they can mean when they talk about their country, how to reconcile contradictory notions of it. But it doesn't provide any fanfares or easy answers, so I can see why it's getting passed over in the rush to play "American" songs.

There's a reason nobody ever puts me in charge of pageantry.

Hee. At Avi's party awhile back, he was talking about how personable one of the women he knows is (I only know her distantly), and he said, "Mark my words, she'll be SFFWA president someday." And Tim and I looked at each other and said, "Cool! Better her than me!" It was kind of weird, like the people at Gustavus who thought being department head was an honor, when mostly it was whoever they could sucker into it.

I slept until 7:30 this morning, so you know I had to have been tired. Some people can push their bodies, especially at 23, and not feel a thing the next day. I'm not one of those people. Yesterday was pretty nasty, but I'm doing much better now. I'm just a little snozzly, is all. The only reason I'm not halfway through Blue Angel is that I was too exhausted to keep reading last night. I haven't picked it up yet this morning, because I wanted to get this written and the newspaper read first. I have a feeling I'm going to want to read straight through on this one. Joe Haldeman had commented in his journal that he thought it was very well done, and that he recommended it to anyone who had ever hated a writing professor. Well, I never hated my writing professor, but it sounded a bit different, so I grabbed it at the library. So well done so far. Not particularly new material, but very, very well done. Hmm. Maybe I should just read books outside my norm if they have "blue" in the title. Sounds like a sensible plan.

Maybe I'm still more tired than I'm letting on.

Anyway, I finished Birds of America by Lorrie Moore yesterday, and most of the people in it made no sense to me at all. They were utterly baffling. They were consistently baffling -- one person's crazy and pointless actions would be in line with the rest of her crazy and pointless actions. But still quite confusing. Their assumptions were quite clearly not my assumptions, and it made me wonder if it's just a demonstration of how far from normal I am, or if it's a demonstration of how far from normal Lorrie Moore's characters were. It doesn't mean I couldn't enjoy the stories. I just read them with a mild confusion.

At the library, I picked up 50c books in their ongoing book sale -- a Patricia Wrede and a bunch of Father Greeley mysteries I hadn't read before. I figured if Mark and I read the Greeleys and were entertained but not enchanted by them, we could pass them around the rest of the families. I also got a dozen research books -- well, ten, and two that are purely for fun. Started reading Portraits in Silicon, which is quite useful for the Not The Moose Book. It's a series of bios of people in the computer science industry, but they're short, pithy, and technically focused. Quite unlike the rambling personal biography of Turing I read. It has useful numbers in it, like how many relays were in EDVAC, how long it took to build, etc. These are numbers I need. I won't be using them directly -- it won't be the kind of book with the little sidenote, "With the first plans drawn up in 1945, EDVAC had...." But one of the main characters is going to need to build at least two primitive computers, and he's going to need to tell people what he needs to do it and what the capabilities are. So I need to know those things, too, at least in general estimate.

Oh, the other thing I intend to do today: I'm going to put a new scene in the middle of the first three chapters of Reprogramming. This is why I hadn't sent them out yet -- there was something wrong with them, not in terms of how appealing they are, but just in terms of how well they're going to fit with the rest of the book. But I couldn't say what, so I kept editing the rest and kept thinking, and now this morning I know what it is, so I'll get that done and see how it looks.

Plenty to do, much of it good.

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