ezekielsdaughter: (writing)

I actually entered the last 3 minute fiction contest as a challenge to myself.  The challenge was to submit a short  story in the form of a voice message.  (web site:

http://www.npr.org/series/105660765/three-minute-fiction)

The winner was very inventive.  She realized that the voice message did not have to be from the recipients point of view.  Instead, she wrote a story with the many recording and re-recordings of someone trying to frame a very personal message.  The re-recorded nature helped to give the story a feeling of progression and movement.  When I review my own story now, it just lays there.  Lesson learned.  Here is the link to the winning story.  And my lame story follows.

Winner:

http://www.npr.org/2013/03/09/173722517/sorry-for-your-loss

My entry:

Stardust or History

Jennifer --It’s Kai.  Are you there?

I know that you told me to call you before I left.  And I know that you did not mean at two a.m. when you are still at work--even though you’re probably packing up by now.  I know why you wanted me to call; so that you could talk me out of what I’ve already decided to do.  By the time that you get this I am stardust or maybe I am waking up in first century Rome.  The experiment would have worked.

You want to demand why.  Maybe you’ve dragged your coat back on and grabbed your wallet, your keys.  Stop, listen.

The Institute insisted that I study both Latin and Greek because no cultured person spoke only Latin.  I did it, sitting in those old wooden student desks in a dusty room without a hint of Adderall or even coffee.  Every evening, I worked pine splinters out of my thighs; every morning, the caffeine withdrawal was a wooden stake between my eyes.    Ironically, I still don’t know how either Latin or Greek was actually pronounced at that time.

It was you who taught me how to weave, and I wove my own cloth.  I studied many a book of costumes, made my patterns, and sewed my robes by hand.  I have the wounds to prove it.  There is silver and gold worked into the fabric and I am taking an extra roll of it along.  I am to be a merchant’s daughter.

This is a one way trip.  Stardust or history.

Professor Enitan will play the part of my father, the merchant.  He has the harder task, of course.  We are in hope that people will forgive his poor ability to speak the language because of his obvious foreignness.  There were African traders in Rome at the time, but most of them were from the conquered territories that they called Libya.  We shall be from the Kingdom of Meroe which Rome did not know.  Everything depends on Enitan’s ability to blend into the Forum Magnum as a proper tradesmen.  I am, I know, only a bargaining chip.  He will not sell me but it is possible that he may negotiate position by marrying me to another trader.

I can see you, standing stunned as you hear this.  That I would agree to be traded away like a brood mare to advance a historical experiment.  Are you the same woman that insisted that I read Jane Austen?   That I take heed of a woman’s place in the world and the way she can control her own destiny?  Enitan has promised that I have approval rights.  I laugh when I imagine some Italian-American congratulating himself that he is descended from Hannibal when it is only the genes of a grad student from Alabama that he has detected.

If you’re in the bedroom, the only light is a spear of yellow sodium from the lamp post that you petitioned for.  Because you didn’t feel safe, even on the north shore above New Orleans.   You’re the reason why I chose library science.  It was a safe choice for the future.

This is not safe.  I don’t want to be safe any longer.  This is more like those alternative tales of Genesis that you introduced me to.  Where God destroyed hundreds of worlds because mankind remained childish and never grew up.  In desperation, God plants a new tree in the center of Eden.

Tomorrow, go to the market and buy figs in my memory.  I’ve left the garden.  I plan to make my own future.

ezekielsdaughter: (BookShelf)

It’s a perilous thing to write a review so soon after finishing a book, but I shall try.   First -- Why does the book exist?  The writer begins with a humiliating search by security at Israel’s airport by personnel who are confused by her heritage.  She is light-skinned, considers herself black and has what they fear is an Arab middle name.  She’s in search of Zion.

After this intro, we are introduced to her upbringing.  She is the child of an African-american professor and a white mother who is unfortunately almost invisible in this text.  Not feeling at home in America, she envies her Jewish best-friend who had the same feeling and eventually emigrated to Israel.  While in Israel, she discovers the Beta Israel and hears about the Black Hebrews who live in Dimona.  The idea of the book begins here; she will travel the black Diaspora to ask whether any of those myriad places became their Zion and their home.

It’s an interesting trip that that approximately ten years (If I have the dates correct).  While she finds some people satisfied with their lot, she finds many more dissatisfied and eager to explain why “this” place is not Zion.  Zion is somewhere else.  From Israel, the book takes us to Jamaica.  From Jamaica to Ethiopia.  From Ethiopia to Ghana. From Ghana to Bay St. Louis where her father’s father was lynched.  Along the way, she meets many elders that advise her and confuse her.  Instead of major figures, she spends a lot of time with everyday Jamaicans, Ethiopians, and Ghanians.  She comes to her own understanding of home.  And funny enough --which I saw a mile away--she finds out that the “arab” middle name is actually jewish, the result of a liaison between her great-great grandmother and a german jewish merchant.

I enjoyed the book. Occasionally, I was amazed by what she claims not to know of black or world history.  I wonder if this was done for effect so that she could elicit a story from her host’s point of view.  On the other hand, she is very well versed in the story of the African liberation movement.  She moves among the poor and lower middle-class people of each country with no trace of being the ugly American.  (People occasionally told her tales about Americans complaining about the lack of air conditioning in the middle of a poor African country.)  I was envious of her ability with languages.  I appreciated the fact that she had to save up for these trips; it made this search sound realistic.  I only wish that the book included some of the many pictures that she mentions taking.  I found the book a page turner even though it is non-fiction. Each frustrated attempt to find Zion draws us to the next one.  Unlike her, we can make this ten year search in a matter of days.

ezekielsdaughter: (writing)

I had a therapist tell me (some time ago) that I wasn’t depressed, I was just sad.  Interesting.  It makes me wonder how she could possibly know.  Especially, if depression is a chemical imbalance.  After all, she had done no blood tests.  Therein followed a number of sessions where she offered suggestions to alleviate my sadness.


This is all to say that I find myself, unaccountably, sad.  Tears for foolish reasons.  Waking from dreams of frustrated searching.  I could blame it on Valentine’s Day--no guy--or a birthday--57.  But, in my gut I know that’s not the case.


Loneliness, maybe.  That was part of my analysis for the therapist.  Another reason is that I find myself staring at a 300 page novel that needs revising.  The only way is to withdraw from the world--other than work--and finish the thing.  But I am already starved for human contact.  The novel or friends?  Friends or the novel?  And what type of novel results from someone with little contact with real friends?


ezekielsdaughter: (writing)
In honor of this week's Torah portion.



CSI: EGYPT



Yes, I know who you are: the eldest son

of our distant Theban lord.  I am here

to serve.  Who

did you say you were looking for?

Tall guy, named Thutmose.

That could be Moshe, I guess.

Hard to tell from that picture

It’s just a profile.

His hair is longer

He has a beard, not like you Egyptian folk.

And those short linen pleats? Perfect

for the chariot, I guess.  Not so much for the brush

of the wilderness.  He wore wool

like the rest of us shepherds.

What do you say he did?

Kill a man and bury him in the sand!

Damn--sure he had a temper, but

I can't see it.  He’s married to the boss's daughter

He's a straight up guy but not

here any more.

No; he didn’t run because we heard you were coming.

Fact is, he went back your way.  

Maybe you passed him on the road.

Yes--he went back to Egypt

He has people back there.

And you know how important family is.
If you hurry, you might find him

before the long night catches up to you.

ezekielsdaughter: (BookShelf)
ezekielsdaughter: (Default)

It’s still a mystery to me, post Katrina, post Isaac to walk past a pair of trees one week and one week later to find one tree accompanied by a pile of sawdust.

Where is that thing that we called “alive” in the case of the sawdust, nee’ tree?

All of the components are still there, even if radically rearranged.

ezekielsdaughter: (BookShelf)

I did not pick this up after seeing one of the movies based on a PKD story.  For a while now, I have been reading what a great writer PKD was and I resigned myself to thinking that I just came along too late to appreciate his writing.  

I still think that in some of these stories.  "Adjustment Team" is in this book, and, heresy-of-heresies, I don't think it is far better than the movie "Adjustment Bureau" .  The movie adds a central plot line of a love story that isn't in the short story at all.  But then, the short story has this irritating imitation of a woman that is the main character's wife.  Yes--it appears that directors are constantly adding love stories to PKD's work.  Most of the men in all of these stories are sometimes happily, sometimes unhappily,  and sometimes boringly married.   These are people of the 50's and 60's who find themselves in an altered world.

But not too altered.  And that gives me a few diamonds.  In "Foster, You're Dead", one father is refusing to buy the latest bomb shelter for his family.  He wisely guesses that the now that the security of the country has been privatized--every community must protect itself--the selling of shelters has become just another capitalistic ploy.  As soon as he buys one, the powers that be announce that the enemy has developed the means to penetrate that model.  Everyone will have to buy a new one.

I had read "Minority Report" report; I will only say that it is more cynical than the original.  And there is no redemption for the pre-cogs.  The technology in the short story is outdated. (That's true for all these stories).  That's where the movie was an improvement.  However, the movie aims for a redemption that the story doesn't give.

I don't have the dates for the stories in front of me, but I wonder if they are post-Bradbury's Mars.  I guess that they have to be.  There are a number of stories set on Mars with Earth colonists.  The Earth colonists also have a running battle with an alien race from Proxima and there are a number of stories about that clash.  The "approximations", an Earth slur PKD tells us, can appear to look like humans and in one story they want to investigate our religiosity.    They save the mind of human who died in an accident, call in their Earth counterparts.  Apparently the rule about rescuing people lost at sea is universal.  The mind of the rescued astronaut is isolated and begins to hallucinate the image of Christ.  The Prox scientists and the Earth scientists have a very different reaction.

In this collection, the stories become more and more like the type of Philip K Dick stories that I've read about.  The characters are unsure of reality.  In some cases, we know that the narrator is unreliable, but there are no other narrators in the story to choose.  A few of the characters are non-white.  Which was a surprise to me until I remembered that this is also the man who wrote "The Man in the High Castle".  I'd definitely recommend the book for people curious about Dick's actual stories.

Evocative

Aug. 14th, 2012 01:03 pm
ezekielsdaughter: (Default)

Sticker on school bus:  "This bus does not "

The rest had faded from view.  This bus does not what?  I've seen stickers that say "This bus stops at all rail crossings" but I don't recall any that say what the bus does not do.  It sounds like a great title for a story.   

ezekielsdaughter: (BookShelf)

“Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline

I was up until 4 am this morning and finished this book.  It’s a first novel by the author, moves quickly, and is often quite enjoyable.

The author was on panels at Armadillocon and everyone was raving about the book.  Even while in Austin, I came quickly to the conclusion that I was not the target audience, but I picked it up at the library anyway.  It was described as rich in details about gaming and the 1980 era.  It’s set in 2044 and the protagonist is a 18 year old man/boy who is living in a dystopian America and world.  The economy has crashed; global warming is in full blossom, but the world spends as much time as it can in a virtual game environment.  The one hope in this world is the will and behest of the James Halliday, the game’s designer who has left his entire fortune to the person able to solve his last puzzle/game.  A culture of game hunters has grown up to solve this final puzzle.  The game designer/business owner was crazy about the 1980’s so that’s where the 80’s trivia comes up.  Everyone is certain that the clues--which have to be discovered first--are hidden in the details about Halliday’s life.  Imagine if Steve Jobs had left his fortune to gamers.   It’s especially a good comparison because Jobs had a business partner, Woz, that left Apple.  Same thing in this novel.  Halliday has a friend who left the gaming company and the friend becomes a critical part of the story near the end.

So--what did I think?  I was up until 4 a.m., so yes I enjoyed it.  However, I will admit that I had to push through some chapters and some paragraphs.  I skipped some of the 80’s stuff.  And the gaming stuff.  Like I said that I am not the target audience. However, it was instructive for me that this two-part story--the love story and the gaming story--ends at the same time.  

There is one major female character and in most cases, she is well served by the writer.  She is intelligent; she resists being only a love interest.  If anything, I would say that her healthy self-interest is a little overwritten.  

There were none of the twists that I kept expecting.  The villain as described in the beginning is still the villain at the end of the novel.  (There are some minor twists that I won’t give away.)

The author leaves himself a chance at a sequel very, very obviously.  I am hoping that he doesn’t actually take the bait.  I find it interesting that most of the recent books with this background--an American dystopia--manage to end “happily” end with the society unchanged but the protagonist obtains the money that he needs to survive.  That’s the happy ending.  He becomes part of the monied society that was previously oppressing him.  The ending is happy because he able to become monied on his own terms.  I am of two minds about this....I regret seeing writers give up the possibility of changing society; I see this ending as more realistic.

ezekielsdaughter: (writing)
Working on a story and wrote a poem instead.

Memory

And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him; for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying: 'God will surely remember you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you.

I carried the bones of Joseph to Shechem
I am carrying them still--
the memory
of a loin cloth for raiment in prison;  the whisper
that the sheerest of linen makes
against parched skin even when
embroidered in gold thread.
I claim this land with his bones.
And exile too.
I will always have a place there.
My coat carries the colors of every
flag on earth; my dust
rides the wind.

ezekielsdaughter: (writing)
Another Sunday at the library.  Another attempt to force myself to stop, look, listen and write.  

I am sitting in the same row as before but closer to the front.  There is actually a man with HIS computer and various books spread out on the desk around him.  He is not so involved that he looked up as I searched for an appropriate table.  By the window and yet not to close to him.  I am very American in that I don’t like being too close to people.  No invitation to talk, please.  I only glanced at him.  Could I describe him?  Not well.  Black, dressed in some type of black top--a t-shirt perhaps.  Close cropped hair.  Brown skin.   Black laptop.  Plugged into the wall strip as my PC is.  Books and maybe notebook on the table.  I am so tempted to get up and browse the shelves to see how close I am.  I sat up and watched spy shows (MI-5 from the BBC), so that may be why I am wondering how accurate my senses are.

Outside, another cloudy day.  The local weather is returning to form as we got rain every afternoon last week.  Often quite sudden.  So we have at present, a few dark grey clouds racing below higher light grey clouds.  But we can also see heavy white cumulus clouds, blue sky and sunshine.  The light is mainly subdued.

Before me now, a somewhat bored teen.  He stumbled to the desk in front me, spread his hands over the desk and leaned forward so that his chin rested between his arms.  After sitting in this uncomfortable position for a while, he got up and picked up one of the oversize books from a nearby shelf and started flipping through the pictures.  Same book for the last few minutes so perhaps the book and location was not as random as I initially assumed.  Indeed, the flipping of pages has slowed and he appears to be actually interested in whatever he picked.



Rain finally, after the dark grey cloud became lighter and less threatening, interesting enough.  Thunder.  Still blue sky over my right shoulder and to the east.  Teen gone after reshelving the book.  Heavy, drenching rain falling almost straight down.  No wind to push it out of the vertical. To my left, rain skates of the slate roof.

seen today

Jul. 8th, 2012 11:14 pm
ezekielsdaughter: (Default)
Seen today....

Dozens of Black women posing in front of an Essence.com logo at the convention center.  Yes, it was a commercial logo; but it was also women of all sizes, shapes and shades saying "look how beautiful I am and I am fantastic".  
ezekielsdaughter: (Default)

One rant: part of what led me back to sewing was the desire for natural fabrics.  When I shop, everything is a polyester blend and feels hot and clingy against the skin.  The washing instructions are cold-water hand wash, delicate, line dry.  I often joke that I expect to see washing instructions that insist that the clothing must be hand washed on the side of river by shoeless, starving woman.  That's how much respect clothing manufacturers have for us.  We have all the time in the world to wash their precious clothes.  

That's not it, of course.  Most of them are made overseas.  Which brings another fantasy to mind.  America has hidden away the secret of making color-fast clothing and reserved it for union-made clothing.  

In which case, I wish they would sell union-made fabric at the fabric stores because almost all I could find was polyester blends there also.  A few linen-cotton blends which I did purchase.  The dress that I just finished is a rayon blend, alas.  There was no light weight linen on the shelf at all.  It's a cold-water wash also, must at least it's a machine washable.

photo

ezekielsdaughter: (Default)

Prologue

In the library, I am finally sitting with a laptop and “writing”.  Putting my butt in the chair as the phrase goes.  Nevertheless, I am eased by the thought that Jefferson Parish apparently has wifi in the library and I can get to the internet.  Even as I promise myself not to feed that addiction for an hour.  Exceptions for dictionary.com and thesaurus.com.    I promised myself to open the file for a story back up when though I am too late to send it to armadillocon’s writers‘ workshop.   Courage....  

Seen today....

From my seat at a desk--which is actually too high for ergonomically--the husk of ant  caught in a spiderweb outside the window.  It is over 90 outside but chilly inside.  The glass is double paned and energy efficient, I guess.  Certainly, I can’t feel the heat when I touch the glass.  I can still see the tan form of the large ant as it waves in the light breeze.  The carnivorous spider is no where to be seen even though older meals hang nearby.  The library platform and floor is raised, so the uncut grass is three feet below the ceiling to floor windows.  The grass is studded with white clover flowers which make it obvious that the grass has not been cut in a week at least.  Above the clover flowers are spindly spires of grass going to seed.  Occasionally, fat wasps dart by right about the grass.  Again, I am glad of double-paned windows.

To my left, books that make it obvious that I am in the south.  “The Real Jimmy Carter.  How Our Worse President Underestimates American Foreign Policy, Coddles Dictators...”  This book is facing outwards on display.  Nearby “The Union Reader:  As the North Saw the War” and “Andersonvilles of the North”.   Maybe I happened to sit in the Southern defensive section of the 900’s.  973 to be exact.

ezekielsdaughter: (writing)

Exercises in description: Seen today.....

Two blocks away, I see an fearful elderly man cross the street.  At first, I think that he is homeless or at least quite poor.  He is walking with one aluminum crutch that is designed to work as one of a pair.  The crutch looks like one of those given to people who have broken their leg, but he is using it as an old man might use a cane.  Sometimes, he inexpertly tucks it beneath one arm as he perches on the median and waits for the widest distance between cars to cross.  When he is closer, I can see that his grey pants are clean and pressed to the point where they have a front crease.  However, his plaid shirt in no way matches the grey pants.  That green plaid shirt is long sleeved--much too  warm for a New Orleans summer day--and is tucked into the left side of his neat pants and pulled out on his right side.  Maybe he is not coming from the train station as I assumed.  Maybe he is coming from the temporary location of the Veterans hospital--wherever that is.  Perhaps a glance at his shoes might have decided me about his status.  However, the traffic light changed and I was away.

ezekielsdaughter: (babyWriter)

Exercises in description

Seen today:

I was driving to work; I was taking the “back way”, driving through the neighborhood where I would pass between the Lapalco bridge.

I passed an old woman.  She was Caucasian and rail thin but not emaciated.  She was pale with disheveled hair.  Her hair might have been styled the day before but it looked as if she had awakened and rushed out to her morning routine without combing it.  She wore a very loud flowery printed lounge coat trimmed in braid.  One hand held a lit cigarette as she stumbled down the street.  One hand held a leash as she dragged an blond overweight chihuahua along with her.  The dog does not appear to be interested in walking with its mistress at all.  Not at 8 am and certainly not in the almost 80 degree temperature that we’ve reached at this hour.  The dog that normally guards his yard on that corner by  barking at every passersby does not make a sound.  Perhaps, he is inside enjoying the family’s air conditioning himself.    

ezekielsdaughter: (writing)

It’s odd watching “The Borgias” on Showtime.  The show is such a mix of legend and history.  They do not perpetrate the tale that Lucretia poisoned her many husbands.  And they make it obvious that she was a pawn for her family.  But they do condemn Cesare for killing his oldest brother when apparently that legend started much later.  The television show leaves another brother out altogether.   

I do remember marveling, when I read Barbara Tuchman’s book, that they were all so young.  Cesare was 18 when he was made cardinal.  Lucretia was married at 13.  A lot of the murders were probably a symptom of hot headed youth.  We are probably seeing the same type of quick tempers in our own streets--without the lace and velvet---and with guns instead of swords. 

 

Exhausted.  Going to bed.

ezekielsdaughter: (writing)

I shouldn't wonder if the local news environment fractures just like television watching has fractured.  I watch MSNBC and CNN but I wouldn't consider watching FOX news.  I'll watch the local edition of Fox 8 Live and the local NBC affiliate, but I stopped watching the local CBS affiliate when they decided that Vitter and Jindal were their patron saints.  

After the daily TP goes away, each segment of their old constituent will find a new news outlet.  Some of them may even be online but they won't necessarily be nola.com.  If I don't subject myself to what I consider the idiocy of Fox News (I am sure you have your own idea of idiotic), why should I read the racist responses on nola.com?  I didn't have a choice before.  Now I will.  The TP/nola.com will find that, just like cable TV, once the audience splinters, they don't come back except for special events.  

Meanwhile, there are the human costs.  I remember when my company had layoffs, long before we were outsourced.  People sat in their cubicles and tried to work as one-by-one co-workers were called into the manager's office and told whether they had a job.  Lots of tears. By the end of the day, the manager's voice was shaky and tearful.  The purges came more often after that; there could be no promises that there would not be further cutbacks.  

ezekielsdaughter: (writing)

It is an odd thing to give “thumbs up” on facebook to reposted articles that criticize Newhouse’s plan to reduce the Times Picayune to three deliveries per week.  I have never liked the paper that much.  I even prefer chron.com to nola.com, that’s is Houston’s online presence to New Orleans’ online presence.  chron.com is searchable, at least.  You had better know an article exact title if you expect to find it on nola.com

It’s the people that I know there that I support.  

However, on consideration, I support the idea of a medium where I don’t agree with every position taken by the editor.  The Times Picayune has always been far too conservative in my viewpoint.  You don’t have to go back too far in time to read outright racist comments in articles produced by the staff, not by the racists who regularly post on the nola.com online forums these days.  But, I would save the TP if only to have a place where everyone has a voice.  Otherwise, New Orleans fractures like the U.S. Congress where no one listens and where each group is shocked when they realize that another group doesn’t subscribe to their inviolate beliefs.

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