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Black Panther and building empathy

This is somewhat related to my last post. I nearly wrote the following as a comment on FaceBook, but came to my senses in time. I have a long-time online friend, a Black woman and an academic who specifically studies minority representation in YA and kidlit, who is excited about the upcoming black Panther movie. I almost wrote a comment that I think this movie is important to white people too, and instantly I could hear her saying, “Oh my God, we finally have this, are you going to make even this all about you?”

So I backed away from the keyboard and out of her space. I think it’s okay to say this here, though, in my own space and where it’s not derailing any other discussions.

I am taking it as axiomatic that we need more diversity in books, movies and TV, and that a primary reason is that kids need to be able to see some heroes who look liek themselves or someone they could become. Not all their heroes, but some – if a girl sees that it’s always a boy in the spotlight, a Black kid sees that it’s always White people who do the important things, a kid with a disability sees only able-bodied main characters, only cisstraight characters, only physically attractive characters, only, that is, people who are Not Like You, how much does it hammer home the message that you are only good enough to be a supporting character (if that) in your own life?

So yeah, that’s important and I get it. I think it’s a two-sided problem, though.

The other side is the kids who are male, white, straight, able-bodied, well-off or whatever. How much do those kids get the message driven home, not only that they can be heroes, but that their story is at the center and everyone else is there to support them? (Judging from our current politicians, quite a bit!) We’re all born solipsists, but we’re supposed to grow out of it as we grow up – at least to the extent of realizing that sometimes we are there as supporting characters in someone else’s story. What’s a better way of learning empathy and the importance of other people than falling in love with a story and identifying with a character who isn’t like you?

I think that is what Heinlein was trying to do by revealing that Johnny Rico is Filipino in the final sentences of Starship Troopers – the book, not the execrable movie. I don’t think he succeeded, though – because inside his head, Johnny is no different than any of Heinlein’s middle-American teenaged heroes. The differences between the US and the Philippines, the residue of having first learned to think in Tagalog rather than English, haven’t affected him visibly at all – and the first is in first person, so those would be visible. The whole point of learning empathy is not learning to be colorblind – not in this real non-Utopian world – but in understanding how other people’s experiences shape them, and how their differences from yourself are as valuable as the ways in which you’re alike. I mentioned The Kane Chronicles in my last post; I don’t know how Rick Riordan’s legacy will last compared to Heinlein’s (maybe it will, but it’s harder when you come into a crowded field rather than one in its first big lowering) but in the Kane trilogy and his following series, Riordan does a better job on this. Carter and Sadie Kane are siblings, but their different skin colors have shaped their lives in different ways. Similarly in his series after that, characters aren’t just painted different colors; they’ve been sculpted by their experiences in multidimensional ways.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

I’m still a little ambivalent about a Black Meg Murray in the upcoming Wrinkle in Time movie. My feelings against it are easy to explain: in my totally book-biased opinion, movies made from books, especially beloved ones, need to stick as close to the book as possible. If I am recalling correctly, Meg has mouse brown hair that turns to a rich chestnut as she grows up. I don’t think her skin tone is discussed; her eyes are said to be beautiful but I don’t remember offhand if their color is mentioned. So based on all that, I’d be fine with her being biracial. Further, her mother is likely to be white (or biracial herself) having auburn hair, which oculd actually add a level to the story line. At the beginning of the story, she gets a lot of flack because her husband is missing; it’s easy to imagine the gossip being even meaner if he’s Black.

Also, sorry, Calvin is Irish-American, period. It’s canonical in the third book, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, as well as in the description of his red hair and freckles.

The argument for changing their race is also clear, though: we don’t have enough places for kids of color to see themselves and for white kids to see their real selves in someone who doesn’t look like them – and that goes double in older books. L’Engle had a terrible time getting the book published; maybe it would have been impossible with a Black MC. (Andre Norton managed it at least once – but it wasn’t her first book.)

Of course a Black girl can connect to Meg as written, just as I did – even though I didn’t live in a big house in a small village with Nobel-prize winning parents. And that would be fine, for one book ….. but not for a girl who has to see book after book after book after book about kids who don’t look like her, or see kids who like her only in there when there’s a specific plot reason for it rather than just because they are humans and this is what that particular human happens to look like.

What would be optimal, clearly, is to go back in time and change society so we inherit more diverse books. Since that’s not happening, well. I’ve got my Meg, in the book, the one I first went to Camazotz with. And my prejudice for sticking to the book is pedantry, far less important than a girl who is still building herself and looking for the books (and movies) to do that with.

(I still kind of wish they’d picked a biracial Meg, though, with brown hair – and given Daniel Radcliffe green contacts when he played Harry Potter. But I might be OK with a Harry who had the canonical black hair, green eyes … and Afghani roots.)

For anybody who’s wondering why I haven’t brought up the far-too-many movies who cast black characters with white actors or even make them white characters, yes, I’d hate that too. I’m just very much not a movie person; I’m only noticing these cases because they’re books I already care about. Make a movie of, say, The Kane Chronicles, and you’ll see me royally pissed off if they don’t get *both* Kane siblings’ physical descriptions and skin colors right – especially as their matter to the plot.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

Succumbing to the lure of the Kitchenaid

This past weekend was completely wasted, with us being ill – not sure if it’s flu or a cold, but Ted was pretty much bedridden Wednesday through Friday. It hasn’t hit me quite as hard (same temperature, it just doesn’t seem to fell me in the same way) but I’m still taking today as a sick day. We wasted much of the previous weekend too, with both of us having headaches that might have been precursors to this. There was one bright spot to that weekend though: I succumbed to the hype and bought the KitchenAid stand mixer I’ve wanted for years. Stupid, really, as I don’t do that much baking and the thing I do most is no-knead bread – it takes under ten minutes to start a batch and I mix it in 60 seconds with my hands. Still, it was a pretty good deal – $249 at Costco for the version with 590 watt motor and lift bowl. (A.k.a. what’s marketed as the Professional line elsewhere but it didn’t actually say that on the box – maybe they make a cheapie model specially for Costco? Oh well, if it doesn’t last as long, it cost a lot less.)

Unexpected uses so far: 1. it shreds chicken beautifully. 2. I found out while washing dishes, you can blow bubbles with the paddle attachment and dish soap 🙂 Also. I’ve just taken a batch of olive oil cookies out of the oven. 10 minutes to make, 15 to bake, 5 minutes to clean up. Not bad. (Though my cookies stayed lumpy, not flattening like the ones in the recipe photo.) ETA: maybe I should have flattened them, to make them come out drier and crisper after baking. As it is, they’re not bad, but definitely oily in texture and the olive flavor is noticeable.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

giving thanks in the right places

An old friend of mine (the kind you’ve known all your life but really only talk to on FaceBook) was just in a bad car accidenct. She’s fine, if a little sore; the car was crunched and will probably be totaled.

She’s saying “only God could have saved me,” and that maybe a close friend who just died was watching over her. (Side note: it’s astonishing how many Jews and Christians engage in ancester worship, believing that dead family and friends watch over them – I’ve even seen things (though not from this person) like “Mommy and Daddy, please help the Eagles win today”) But that’s totally not what I see. It’s common to have a car totaled in a crash that the driver nad passengers ‘miraculously’ walk away from – and also to see cars totaled from what seem to be relatively minor accidents. That’s because they are designed to crumple and absorb the impact, to keep it away from human riders. A new sedan can’t take the punishment that a ’57 Chevy could – but those inside it are a lot better protected.

Gratitude is a good thing, but I don’t think people realize how often they ought to be grateful to the engineers who design the things that keep them safe.

(Of course, if you want to thank God for steering those talented people went into that field and had the opportunity to make a difference, go for it – that’s when you’re in the realm of opinion rather than fact, and yours is as valid as anyone’s. I’d rather be thankful for free will and a society that allows us to use our talents, but that’s only my opinion – and there could still be a role for a deity in there.)

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

getting back into it

Break’s over, back to work.

I seem to be ramping up gradually; I was completely useless at work on Tuesday, got some stuff done Wednesday, accomplished a fair bit yesterday. Today – well, I’m writing this. (Fridays and Mondays tend to be my slower days.)

Having completed my 14th/16th Holiday Challenge (depending how you count) with 250,000 erg meters, it’s also time to get back to strength training. I can feel I’m weaker than I was a few years back – can’t even do the smallest beginning of a pull-up currently – so yesterday I went to the gym at work. I’m currently feeling a bit stiff around the hip joints; I worked out late in the day and DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) tends to hit about 24 hours later, so we will see how bad it gets. Not too bad, hopefully; my first time back to lifting always tends to leave me sore, so I went easy on myself. I still need to erg a fair bit, because I’m shooting for 15 hours erg time in January (a new Concept 2 challenge).

Plans for the weekend: a fancy dinner downtown, just because we haven’t done that for a while; going to one of the local wineries we belong to, to pick up our club allotment; the inevitable grocery shopping and erging, and casting on a sweater – either Rock the Lobster, for which Ted just gave me the yarn, or Wanderling, which I’ve been wanting to do for a while. I think I’d wear Wanderling a lot more but since Ted picked out the Rock the Lobster kit from Kitterly, I don’t want him to think I didn’t appreciate it! (It has a steek, though. Eeek!)

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

Dec. 28th, 2017

If all goes well, kinahorah, I’ll have completed 25 knitting projects this year. That’s a lot for me. More often it’s around 17 or so; in 2015 I completed 16 and last year only 13. I had no smaller projects, though, except for some dishcloths I knit for gifts. This year I had a nice range of big and small projects:

  • 4 hats (two pink pussy hats, one cabled beret, one baby hat/li>
  • 3 kippot – two color brioche
  • 6 pair socks, one currently still in work but it’s worsted weight and going quickly
  • 2 toys, a doll and a dodecahedron
  • 3 sweaters: two simple and sleeveless, one complex with cables and a hood (I hope to seam that one todayj
  • One lap blanket
  • 3 cowls
  • One very large shawl
  • The annual dishcloths, for my FIL’s Christmas stocking, in memory of his mother
  • So that makes sense of the numbers; if you subtract the hats and kippot, none of which took more than a few days, that would make it 18 projects, a more usual number.

    It’s not that there’s any race to finish, or any prize for making more stuff other than the knitted FOs themselves, but it does provide a look at how I felt during the year, about my knitting and overall. I’m more of a product than a process knitter, so I know I was frustrated last year – I started the year with two big sweater projects and didn’t finish anything at all until March, and I think I had less time for knitting overall. This year I started a new job, and the increased flexibility has not only been a joy in itself, but has also let me knit (simple projects) during the telecons I take from home. I firmly believe this is a help to focusing on the telecons; your hands are busy and there’s just enough going on to keep you from wanting to check your email or all the other things people usually do to distract themselves during long calls, especially during the parts where they are listening but not actively engaging. So it’s a win-win, for me and my company…. as long as I don’t try to, say, turn a heel or do complex lace.

    (Why does spellcheck keep trying to turn telecons into telecoms? When you’re talking about a meeting, it’s short for teleconference, not telecommunication.)

    Obligatory photos:

    Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

annual Chanukah poems

Getting ready to head out to the lake house for the holiday; Ted gets back from Korea today, then we’ll drive up tomorrow. I’ll work from home next week (the real home of my heart, not just the place I live during the week) then be completely off from Christmas through New Year’s Day. I’ve been saying for years that I wish we could celebrate 12 days of Christmas – I love the one in The Dark is Rising, where the Yule Log makes the family’s life a festival for twelve days and nights. But really, I suppose what we do isn’t too far off; we usually manage to make the last two weeks of the year special, and it doesn’t end at Christmas but goes all the way through New Year.

Anyway, as bad as I’ve been about writing here, there’s one annual tradition of mine I didn’t want to miss – here are two villanelles for Chanukah. The light-in-darkness theme might be a bit less closely tied to the holiday than usual; it has been a very, very dark year for a lot of us.

Lighting Candles, Just in Case
When I’ve finished cursing at the night,
I light a flame. The game is worth the candle,
I want to be the one who tends the light.

I may not help myself, try as I might;
when I’ve got all the trouble I can handle
and haven’t finished cursing at the night,

When all is dim, where once it was so bright,
And seems a trudge, where once it was an amble
I want to be the one who tends the light.

I cannot know what others have in sight
my beacon, when their way is rough with bramble;
Although I’m not done cursing at the night,

My flame might show the way and calm their fright,
As might-could-be’s gleam out in its example ….
I want to be the one who tends the light.

Though I’m not finished cursing at the night,
I want to be the one who tends the light.

Because Mr. Rogers’ Mother Said So
The darkness is so very dark this year,
but light is found in unexpected places.
Seek out the helpers – cross my heart, they’re here.

With dross abounding, gold becomes more dear
Though foulness seeks to hide its shining traces –
The darkness is so very dark this year,

But always, when disaster is severe
Humanity unfolds its kindest faces –
Seek out the helpers – cross my heart, they’re here.

Disasters loom, in Man’s and Nature’s spheres
while fear and hatred make their strongest cases –
The darkness is so very dark this year.

Although it’s faint, there’s reason still for cheer;
each setback turns up unexpected graces.
Seek out the helpers – cross my heart, they’re here.

Though darkness is so very dark this year,
Seek out the helpers. Cross my heart, they’re here.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

sliding down to the end of the year

I am not making good progress on my annual Chanukah poem, but the Holiday Challenge proceeds apace. I’m at 93,000m, just a bit short of halfway; that’s behind last year’s pace, but still on track to finish well ahead of Christmas Eve (if I don’t skimp any qorkouts, I should finish on December 18). That’s right where I want to be, or even a little ahead. Last year I think I overtrained; I could hardly persuade myself to work out at all in following weeks, got sick not long after, and was ill a total of three times in the first half of the year (starting at Intel and being around a lot more people may also have contributed).

I’m also feeling productive at work, in a very busy period right now, which is probably also not good for the poem. But I’m hoping to have a very quiet week working from home (the one on the lake) for the week before Christmas, and then I’m off through New Year’s, yay.

Knitting is also proceeding; I finished the lap blanket for my SIL and two kippot for my mom and nephew; I plan to make one more for my brother, and I expect to finish a cowl for me in the next day or so. Pictures … sometime.

I’ve been thinking over 2017; it feels to me that the year has been both worse for my country than I expected and better for me personally than expected. I was expecting Trump to foster a climate of xenophobia, to insist on that ridiculous wall, to posture and to lie and I even expected him to get in a pissing match with other nations. I was expecting Congress to try to shaft the poor and try to kill off Obamacare – not a great program but at least the closest approach we’ve had yet to the healthcare the rest of the world enjoys. I expected Trump to renege on his promise to support LGBTQ rights and I knew that the dominant party in Congress never did. What I wasn’t expecting was for Trump to try to kill everything Obama did for no other reason than that Obama did it – I hadn’t realized he harbored that much personal malice toward him.

On the other hand I wasn’t expecting to change jobs this year, and I wasn’t expecting the stock market to keep booming as it had, so that every time I check my accounts I’ve made more money by doing nothing. I feel good about the job going into 2018; at this point 9 months in, my scope is continuing to grow, where I think in my last job it had started to constrict and it was becoming plain that some of the future growth I hoped for (and had been hinted to) wouldn’t happen. I don’t have nearly as good a feeling about the stock market; it feels like the bubble before a bust to me. I’m leaving my money in there because it’s mostly in index funds and I do trust the market to recuperate in the long run, but even if Mueller has the effect so many of us hope for, it’s likely t trash the market in the short run. (But I’m cheering him on nonetheless.)

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

Rowing, knitting, enjoying

This time of year it’s all about the knitting and the erg. Today I did 18km, the longest bit so far this year; Thursday begins the annual Concept II Holiday Challenge – my 16th, or something like that. It feels harder each year, but I think that perception is just because humans aren’t good at remembering pain. Certainly when I was showering this morning I remembered many post-erg showers when my arms felt just as heavy.

This week I finished and blocked My Find You Fade shawl; it took me 2 months, which is not bad for something that big. It uses more than half of 6 skeins of sock yarn; when I drape it around my shoulders, the ends reach to my ankles. I need to get Ted to help me take a picture of it on – though being so big it’s a little tricky to wear.

Last weekend at the lake house, whence I have moved all my beading stuff, I did some beadwork for the first time in ages – a necklace with some Roman glass and a pair of cobalt earrings.

For gift knitting, the kippah I’m making my mom for Chanukah will be done by tomorrow, the Wombat blanket for my SIL is close to done, and the dodecahedron for my nephew was finished long ago.


I started a pair of socks Thursday, which came in handy yesterday. My husband got home yesterday morning from a weeklong business trip, decided to try out some new woodcarving tools ….and I got home from work yesterday evening to be notified that I needed to drive him to the Immediate Care unit because he couldn’t stop the bleeding. (He ended up needing 2 stitches.) Tomorrow I will cast on one more project, a cowl, and will take that and the socks to my in-laws for Thanksgiving, and I’m still really liking the job, but it’s been a long time since any time off, so I’m looking forward to only two workdays before we leave. Tonight I made a recipe I’d saved in my recipe app long ago but never got around to, Rosemary Ranch Chicken Kabobs – it’s always nice to find a recipe that’s easy and tasty (we have a gas grill and use it year ‘round). It’s a good weekend (apart from the spouse still being bandaged).

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

The weekend’s good thing: driving out to the lake house went well again. Ted had taken the week off, since he’s got vacation time to burn, and gone down there with the cats, though I’m under the impression that he still ended up working more than not. He’s not good at working less. I drove out to meet him, so being bak together was nice, and also the drive does seem to be getting easier. Partly I’m sure it’s practice, but I do think the DARE book has helped too. I listen to one of the audios at the start of each drive, just as a reminder.

The weekend’s bad thing: After a row on very rough water, I was putting my oars down Saturday when I threw my back out – something went twannng! and hurt for a few seconds, and then it felt achy and fragile for a while. It is mostly better – a massage I happened to have scheduled yesterday helped – but still aches it I sit too long. I haven’t rowed or erged since then, but planned to try it last night.

Yesterday’s good thing: my new desk finally arrived! It took forever because Pottery Barn managed to omit one essential piece while shipping it to their warehouse. I don’t think it would ever have arrived, if I hadn’t kept calling and escalating. But it got there yesterday morning, and then I realized that since I was working from home anyway, I could take a lunch break and go get the peripherals I needed, because working at a nonoptimal setup was not helping my back. Ted has an office in our house for his home conputer, plus another setup in a spare bedroom where he has a table and monitor he can plug his work laptop into, but I’d never had a real desk because I don’t like working at a proper desk if I can be on a couch. I wrote my whole book at the dining room table. But now, with early and late meetings, I’m doing enough work that I need a big monitor and proper keyboard, which means it needs everything else for a functional work environment. So now I have my very own desk and all the accoutrements (except I’m still stealing one of Ted’s chairs, because I’m not sure what I want for myself).

Yesterday’s (slightly) bad part: four skeins of yarn arrived in the mail, as part of a traveling swap – the idea is that you take one or more yarns you like, replace them with comparable yarn from your own stash and send it on. But there was nothing in there I liked, so I guess I will be sending on the whole box. (It’s good quality, but not to my taste.)

The good part of today: I was waiting for a conference room and as the people from the previous meeting were walking out, one of them took a look at me and said “Paula???” It took me a few minutes to realize who he was, but we shared a cube once for about six months – a different company in a different state, about a decade and a half ago. It was fun to see him; it’s been a looooong time. Since then we’ve both moved into other industries; all my Six Sigma, expat and author experience have happened since then. Back then, he was a recent grad in his first software engineer job, wearing a t-shirt and holey jeans; now he’s mid-career, with apparently some direct reports of his own. He’s grown up well. It’s been a looooong time – since then we’ve both moved into other industries; all my Six Sigma, expat and author ex

(Unfortunately, the main shared experience I remember was that one of his close co-workers, a fit man in his fifties, droped dead while jogging. So I didn’t want to bring that up!)

The bad part of today is that I may need to back off on some of my social media, because people are beginning to irritate me – and in both cases, it’s mostly other feminists. In one case, someone who has a history of being condescending and spiky said something that felt denigrating to me. I’m not denying that it doesn’t seem to be what she intended, and she herself did apologize a bit if she’d worded it badly, which is all I was ever hoping for, so it’s better not to engage further anyway. But I am bemused at the people who normally are all about “you have the right to your own feelings” jumping out to tell me how wrong I am.

And then there is the “me too” thing. As it happens, I have never been sexually harassed, abused or raped. I appear to be in a small minority here. I realize it’s nothing but luck on my part, having seen women smarter and stronger than I am go through some horrible experiences. Of course I’ve had catcalls, but very few – a couple of whistles, and maybe one disgusting call-out. Of course I’ve encountered systematic sexism. I live in the world as it is. But I haven’t been groped, I’ve never been pressured into sex, I’ve never been threatened, or treated unfairly in overt ways – or the couple of times things might have gone that way, I’ve had people to notice and stand up for me – even when it was as innocuous as girls being required to wear skirts to a fifth grade dance when boys could get away with jeans, my mother wrote a note to the teacher. I’ve had at least one teacher who (I just found out) harassed some other girls – but he didn’t do it to me (possibly because I looked like a child at that age) and I didn’t even know about it at the time. The closest thing to inappropriate touching was a coworker who came up behind me and rubbed my shoulders – and I told him to stop. He wasn’t in any position of authority and our company had clearly stated anti-harassment policies they stood behind, so I had recourse. Or there was the stranger who literally leaned across me to hit on a friend of mine. I was not sexually harassed; I was inconvenienced by rudeness and ignored in a stunning display of bad manners – though I bet my friend feels she was harassed, because he was a bit creepy and kept telling her how much he was like his old girlfriend.

I am going into this level of detail (and have detailed other instances on FaceBook) to make the point that I remember the things that have happened to me. I am not in denial. I am not denying there has been some sexism, and I certainly do think these sorts of microaggressions contribute to the rape culture we have. But it has never risen to the level of harassment and abuse, and I find it paradoxical that I am now being told by avowed feminists that I am not competent to judge my own life experiences.

I think this is an important point. I’ve even seen it drawn as a triangle, with common microagresssions at the base rising to rape, shown as a rare thing, up at the point. I’m somewhere within that base, for sure, but I think it’s very important to make people realize that rape and abuse are not rare. I know woman after woman after woman with horrible stories to tell. Life-changing stories. Violence, or betrayal by people in positions of power and trust, or climates that left them unable to live their lives as they want and take the jobs or classes they chose. It’s epidemic. Yes, we need to crack down on microagressions because they contribute to the acceptance of macroaggression – but I will not be part of anything that allows anyone to assume that all the “me, too” comments are speaking of minor problems. Each woman, including me, has the right to determine for herself what rises to the level of aggression and harassment, and I know enough of my sisters’ stories to know what a huge festering sinkhole this is. I’ve been lucky, and somehow haven’t fallen in. What I want to say is, DON’T push me.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.