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SITM—#Yesallwomen and Some Men Too

New post up at Somewhere in the Middle—#Yesallwomen and Some Men Too. My own take as a transman on the need for the #yesallwomen movement, and a difficult situation I encountered recently.

Comments and feedback welcomed.

Vegetables Are Fun?

Dramatis Personae
Nezu — A nerdy, bear-shaped guy who would much rather write stories, watch anime, and surf Tumblr than cook or exercise.
DK — A taller, slenderer nerdy guy with similar preferences to Nezu. Nezu's housemate and close friend.
Ki — A fit and active woman, good friends with DK and Nezu, who despite her own fondness for writing and watching K-dramas and surfing Tumblr, manages to make time for and enjoy exercise and cooking. She generally despairs over the tragic bachelorness of Nezu and DK's daily diet.

[scene: a conversation]
Nezu: Ki, you will be so proud of me! I have eaten a large bowl of vegetables. Well, lettuce and cabbage and carrot and cilantro salad. Does that count as vegetables?
Ki: I'm very proud. Those are all vegetables.
Nezu: Yay! I wasn't sure if being in a salad invalidated them somehow.
Ki: Salad is generally composed of vegetables?
Nezu: I guess this is true!
DK: ... Nezu, what do you think salad is?
Nezu: Well, lettuces and stuff. I wasn't sure lettuce counted because it's not very nutrient-rich. And carrots taste nice, so they might not count, either.
Ki: Lettuce is like the preeminent vegetable.
DK: This explains much.
Ki: Although iceberg lettuce is not very nutrient-rich, it's true. Romaine is much better and much tastier.
Nezu: This was bibb lettuce, I think, and the salad did have cabbage. Cabbage is inarguably a vegetable. Maybe I need to rethink vegetables. I defined "vegetable" as "food that doesn't taste all that nice that you have to eat anyway" when I was a little kid, and never managed to redefine it.
Ki: Yeah, vegetables are fun!
Nezu: I'm not sure I'm ready to go that far, but at least if I am allowed to define salad as vegetables, I'll stop feeling like I never eat vegetables.
[end scene]

So really, what's my deal with vegetables? I was one of those kids who disliked most vegetables. In fact, I found out as an adult that I'm a supertaster with more tastebuds and a greater sensitivity to bitter flavors than the average person. Supertasters generally don't care for vegetables much. When I was a kid there were a limited number of plant-based foods that I liked, most of them sweet fruits and bland veggies.

(The exceptions were, strangely, spinach and broccoli. Ordinarily those two veggies are anathema to supertasters, but my mom allowed me unlimited lemon juice on those. Despite my aversion to bitter, I am an absolute fiend for sour, always have been. I'll delightedly eat lemons and limes out of hand, and used to beg for those little lemon-shaped squeeze bottles of juice as a treat.)

But in general the vegetables I liked as a kid, my mom explicitly told me didn't count. Corn? Not really a vegetable, but a grain. Celery? a snack, not a vegetable. Potato? Starch, not vegetable. Baked beans? Starch again. Only things like green beans and peas and squash (ewww squash) counted, and I detested them. (Still detest peas and squash - yuk!) Salad, when we had it, which was rarely, wasn't called a vegetable. It was salad, its own special class of food, and again, because it was made of lettuce, didn't really count.

So I've spent my life with the belief that I disliked vegetables, and that if it comes from a plant and I like it, it's not a vegetable. But recently I've encountered vegetables in several settings where I really enjoyed them. Edamame and oshitashi at a Japanese restaurant, baby bok choy in some Chinese takeout, roasted green beans with bacon at a friend's house, lightly steamed carrot coins mixed into mashed potatoes at home. (Ok, that was bachelor food again, but it was healthy bachelor food, and we made the mashed potatoes from scratch.)

So I'm trying to rethink vegetables. Also servings. The package of salad mix I used for the aforementioned meal claimed it had 3.5 servings. It made one meal for me. Add in the half-pint of raspberries I'm eating now, I'll have almost my whole five recommended servings for the day. If I made a smoothie with the strawberries in the freezer and a banana, I'd be over quota for the day, all on things I enjoyed eating.

This is revolutionary.

New short post up at Somewhere in the Middle: Jared Leto Won an Oscar and I'm OK with That, about the kerfuffle some people are raising over a cisgender straight man winning a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for playing a gay trans*woman.

Also recently posted there: Trans* Language in Brief, a primer on basic trans* terms in response to the new gender options available on Facebook.

Comments (and disagreements) are always welcome and encouraged, as long as you keep it civil. :)

Why Is There So Much Gay in My Fandom?

I write fanfic. Epic, world-expanding, side-character developing, backstory-building, alternate-universe exploring fanfic. Something I hear with fair regularity from people both in and outside fandom is, “Why are so many of the characters in your stories gay or bisexual? Why are you making this canon character gay or bisexual? Why are all his friends gay or bisexual? That’s totally unrealistic.”

[TLDR: It is so realistic. Queer people form social groups; deal with it.]

There are a lot of potential answers here, among them the fact that I’m queer and I want to write about (and read about and look at artwork portraying) characters like myself. I could go on at length about how queer fic subverts the cultural bias against male intimacy, and is a direct result of a sexist system that casts almost all the interesting characters as male. I could discuss heteronormative bias in mainstream media, and the vast reservoir of het fandom that exists in parallel to queer fandom. I could point out that actually, I write quite a few straight characters into my stories, too.

But there’s another answer that’s just as, if not more, important: It’s totally realistic.

I’m queer in real life. And in real life, so are the majority of my friends. I have straight friends, for sure, but I have a lot of queer friends. Lesbian friends, gay friends, bi friends, trans* friends. You know why? Because people with similar interests and life experiences tend to form social groups. We hang out together because, in part, we have queerness in common. In a world where our queerness makes us the “them”, when we’re together, we’re the “us.” That makes a huge difference to our psychological and social well being. In many cases we know each other because we are queer. That’s how we met—at an LGBT event or social gathering place. And then we found out we shared other things in common, and we became friends. Or we met at work, and found each other because we shared queerness, and that led, again, to a discovery that we had other things in common, and we became friends.

When I write about a bunch of queer characters all hanging out together and being friends, dating, and having sex with one another, I’m not inventing a fantasy social structure that doesn’t exist in the real world. Queer people really do hang out, form social groups, date each other, have sex, and set their other queer friends up with dates with each other. The fantasy element is that it’s these characters, in this particular world. And that it’s not such a big deal. It’s not just tacitly assumed that everyone is straight until proven otherwise.

So why is there so much gay in my fandom? Because just like in real life, there’s a fair amount of gay everywhere, if you look in the right places.

SITM—A Man By Any Other Name

New post up at Somewhere in the Middle—A Man By Any Other Name, about the day last week I had my court hearing and legally changed my name and gender.

I did it. It's done. And boy am I happy!

SITM—Transition: Expensive but Worth It

New post up at Somewhere in the Middle—Transition: Expensive but Worth It. A two-year retrospective on my transition, and some details about the next (and most annoyingly bureaucratic and unnecessarily expensive steps) in the process.

As always, comments and feedback are welcomed, encouraged, desired, etc.

Morning Page: Discipline

Discipline for doing daily journaling, it turns out, is something I don't have. I have, instead, occasional bouts of intention and follow through, followed by long spans of distracted spending of my time on other things.

But you know, they say the thing about trying to cultivate good habits is not to beat yourself up for your failures, so instead of wringing my hands over the number of times I've started and stopped the habit of morning pages, I figure I'll just get on with things and try again, while motivation is with me.

They also say to make goals specific and achievable. So my goal with morning pages is to write them weekly. And if I manage to do more, yay, but if I achieve at least one a week, I'll have succeeded.

Also I intend to ignore the whole "morning" thing. And to let myself write whatever the heck I please. And to be aware that I have an audience, and not care. So there, discipline.

So on my mind today is health, Or lack thereof. I'm on the next to last day of a two week course of prednisone, and while it was a huge win in terms of being able to breathe, I am feeling so inflated it's not funny. My belly is protuberant like a beach ball and my cheeks are chipmunkish. And while part of me knows it's a side effect and that I've been ill, another part feels indolent and unattractive. Especially because darksideofstorm, my much loved housemate, started a new fitness program the very same week I got so sick, so while he's off exercising and slimming down and looking fabulous, I'm blowing up like a puffer fish and wheezing and lying around being pathetic and envying him his athleticism.

Which adds to my unattractiveness. Petty jealousy is hardly the stuff dreamboats are made of.

Maybe if I can make myself go to the gym during the day while he's at work, I'll stop feeling so pathetic. There's that discipline thing again, too.

I wish I was one of those people for whom exercise is its own reward, but it's just not. I don't enjoy it. I want to enjoy it. I want to be one of those people who says they feel emotionally better when they exercise regularly. I want to be one of those people who can tell a difference in their health and energy when they exercise regularly. I'm not. From what I can tell, when I exercise regularly, I get a tiny boost of emotional well-being from being able to say "I am doing this thing I don't like because it is good for me, see I am a responsible adult," and that's it.

Maybe I need to get back into Fat Acceptance and adjust my thinking that way.

Years ago, I subscribed to a FA magazine that I don't think is even published anymore. It had photos and essays of fat people doing active things, being happy, wearing clothes they liked, and generally not bowing to a culture that says fat is pathological.

In the last ten years, fat has become the new boogie monster. It's medicalized and stigmatized like crazy these days. Newspapers decry the "obesity epidemic" but always with that edge that says it's the fatties' fault—they make bad choices, eat bad things, don't try hard enough, don't care enough, and while we're at it, they're bringing the rest of society down and costing us money. A thin lifetime smoker who gets lung cancer and emphysema gets more sympathy than an active but fat person who gets diabetes. Nevermind that more than two-thirds of North Americans are considered "overweight or obese". Seriously. Two-thirds. What that means is that "normal" weight isn't the norm. The norm is to be fat.

I look at my round belly and feel disgusting and hopeless. And I look at athletic people and think: I can never be that. I feel less than. A second-class citizen at best.

Aaaaand now I've depressed myself. Maybe stream-of-consciousness writing is not such a great idea after all.

I'll remind myself that I once thought it was unattainable to transition, and that turned out to be false. It took money and effort and time, but mostly what it took was a willingness to believe that I could be a man if I wanted to be. And now I am one.

So there's that.

Maybe when I stop being so wheezy. Maybe even if I don't stop being so wheezy. Maybe next week. Maybe I will try one more time to make exercise a habit.

Alive and an Uncle!

I stopped writing here because of... reasons. Reasons I'm currently unsure of. I suspect laziness. Also busyness. Anyway, here's a synopsis:

January and February: Lived in Orange County temporarily and directed the workshop production of Upstairs. Also did graphic design for the production, created the logo and t-shirts, created the original wordpress website (now supplanted by the above) and learned to deal with LA traffic.

March and April: Got sick, recovered, and started planning for the New Orleans premiere of the play. Worked on website, reviewed script changes, did some casting, etc. Also watched Game of Thrones.

May: Started ANBU Legacy, a new collaborative writing venture with Fallen Leaves writers DK (darksideofstorm), Ki (kilerkki), and GM. It's an AU set in a Konoha where the Yondaime defeated the Kyuubi— and lived. Like Fallen Leaves before it, Legacy is focused on the young men and women of ANBU, who took the vow to defend the Hokage and their village at all costs. It is my new shiny happiness.

May and June: Lived in Hollywood temporarily and directed and co-produced the full debut production of Upstairs. Traveled to New Orleans, LA for the premiere, which coincided with the 40th anniversary of the fire at the Upstairs Lounge, a gay bar in New Orleans, that the play is a memorial to, followed by a one-night-only encore performance in Los Angeles.

Awesomely, DK, stalwart housemate, writing companion, and best friend, accompanied us to New Orleans as our general dogsbody and hassler. He ran box office, helped organize everything, and made the whole trip that much more awesome.

July: Finally got to come home. Celebrated by going to Comic-Con in San Diego with DK, and two other friends, and then getting spectacularly sick with bronchitis, which I still have.

July 31, 2013: Became an uncle! Congratulations to my baby brother Chandler and his wife Leah, and welcome to the world, Harvey Mohr McCallum!

Harvey and Leah
Dear readers and friends,

Before I was ever a writer and editor, I was, and continue to be, a theatre professional. Specifically a director and stage manager. For the last month I've been in Los Angeles to direct a workshop production of a new dramatic musical. I've been immensely privileged to work on all three of Wayne Self's original musicals, including this latest work, Upstairs, about the 1973 arson fire at the Up Stairs Lounge, a gay bar in New Orleans. It’s rare in musical theatre to be able to address such weighty themes; the Up Stairs Lounge fire is as much a part of the LGBTQ rights story as Stonewall, Harvey Milk, the AIDS Quilt, and Prop 8. It is a story that needs to be told, and it needs to be remembered.

Today I am asking for three things:

1. Donate to the Upstairs Kickstarter. We need to raise $10,000 by February 17, or we get none of the money pledged so far. Every little bit helps, even just a dollar or two.
2. If you will be in the San Francisco Bay Area 2/12-2/14, come see one of the three workshop performances of Upstairs.
3. If you know anyone who might be interested in helping us make the New Orleans 40th anniversary performance and an L.A. production a reality this summer, pass along the Upstairs website and Kickstarter information to them. Signal Boost this everywhere you can.


What's this about?

tells the long-forgotten story of a tragic arson fire in a gay bar in New Orleans in 1973. Thirty-two people, many of them members of the then-fledgling New Orleans Metropolitan Community Church, which had been meeting at the Up Stairs Lounge, were killed, in what remains to this day the single deadliest crime against an LGBT population in US history. At the time, the story was almost completely ignored by the news media. Though a suspect was identified, no arrest was ever made.

Wayne's play is an elegant, haunting tale of damnation and salvation, telling the stories of several of the victims of the fire. The characters include Buddy (based on the real Buddy Rasmussen), a bartender who led 35 people to safety, and Buddy's partner Adam. Mitch, the associate pastor of the NOLA MCC, and his partner Horace. Drag performer Marcy and her dresser Reginald. And Agneau, a tormented and self-hating gay man. It is a morality play with a twist, told with sensitivity and dark humor, with a catchy and modern jazz and blues influenced score.

The cast is amazing: professional, insightful, and just tremendously talented. This Q&A with some of the cast members will give you an idea of the caliber of people I am working with.

In two weeks we will be premiering this workshop in the San Francisco Bay Area. Performances are scheduled for 2/12 in San Mateo, 2/13 in Berkeley, and 2/14 in San Francisco, and tickets are still available. We hope to bring an expanded production to New Orleans this summer, in time for the 40th anniversary of the fire, and to bring the show to Los Angeles for a two week run after that. But that will only happen if the workshop performances and our Kickstarter are a success.

As I said at the opening, here's how you can help:

1. Donate to the Upstairs Kickstarter. We need to raise $10,000 by February 17, or we get none of the money pledged so far. Every little bit helps, even just a dollar or two.
2. If you will be in the San Francisco Bay Area 2/12-2/14, come see one of the three workshop performances of Upstairs.
3. If you know anyone who might be interested in helping us make the New Orleans 40th anniversary performance and an L.A. production a reality this summer, pass along the Upstairs website and Kickstarter information to them. Signal Boost this everywhere you can.

Thank you so much for any support you can give.
Zach McCallum (aka Nezu)
Director, Upstairs

Owldolatrous Press: Nezu's New "Job"

I've been devoting my time for the last several months to a new project: I'm Managing Editor and a contributing author at Owldolatrous Press, an LGBTQI-positive webzine. As editor I'm doing a lot of management and behind the scenes work, as well as copy-editing and some graphic design. And as a contributor, I'm writing, mostly from a trans* perspective.

Here are my articles to date, I'd be honored if you read them, and I'd love to hear your thoughts and responses. Feel free to leave me feedback here or on the Owldolatrous site if you are so moved.

Transgender Narratives: Why We Lie
The media myth is that all transgender people share a common story, but the truth is much more complex and rich. Some of us didn't know from birth, but the pressure to pretend we did is immense.

Tranarchy in Pacifica
Graffiti in a sleepy seaside town seems to indicate there's more to Pacifica than meets the eye.

Wait, I’m Back in the Closet? Coming Out Transgender
By the time Zach started coming out as transgender, he'd been out as queer for so long he'd forgotten how scary the process was. He found the stakes were even higher this time, as he came out again to family, friends, and co-workers, and to a whole new set of people. This time he wasn't just asking them to accept his queerness, he was asking them to change what they called him and how they interacted with him: to think of him in an entirely new way.

Taking on a Full Grown Bully
"If you want to live in a world where bullying doesn’t happen, it is your business to try to make it stop." Zach’s long-held resolve never to stand idly by when someone is being bullied was tested when he and a friend intervened in a street altercation and found themselves the bullies’ new targets.

Nonpliments: How Not to Give a Trans* Person a Compliment
When is a compliment not a compliment? When it's a nonpliment. Editor Zach McCallum dissects that unfortunate old standard, "You pass so well," gives several examples of the nonpliment in disguise from his own experience, and offers a much better alternative. The most important thing to remember is that a true compliment never needs a qualifier. Here’s my favorite: “You look great!”

What's Wrong With Transgender Day of Remembrance
November 20 is a day set aside to honor and remember transgender victims of hate crimes. The statistics are appalling, but what does it say about trans* people that the only day we have on the calendar as our own is a day of grief? Zach McCallum looks forward to a day when we celebrate our trans* siblings lives rather than mourn their deaths.

Introversion Extroversion Overature

Long time no post, right? Let's face it, I don't have the motivation to write a whole post explaining where I've been or what I've been up to, and you probably don't have the patience to read it even if I did. Instead I'm just going to continue on as if we'd never parted company, okay?

So the thing that's been on my mind lately is introversion versus extroversion. Extroverts get their energy from being around other people. They're energized by social interaction and suffer when they spend too much time alone. Introverts, by contrast, get their energy from solitude. They need time alone in order to function and find social interaction draining.

It's a neat little polar axis the world can divide itself along, with the Myers-Briggs people claiming the split is 25% I vs 75% E. Except when it comes to artists and writers and musicians and the other sorts of creative people I tend to hang around with, in which case the balance skews wildly the other way.

Recently, on Tumblr, here, and in other media both social and traditional, I've been seeing a lot of "in praise of introverts" sorts of posts, including this article explaining why extroverts are overrated and this one, covering ten myths about introverts. And there was this one, which recommended the care and feeding of introverts and concluded that the best thing to do was to leave them alone.

One thing that seems to be common to these and similar articles is a defensive attitude, a kind of seething resentment that colors the writing and underlies each point, combined with an attitude of superiority that's downright intimidating. "Screw you extrovert. You're not as clever, delicate, sensitive, or special as we gifted introverts. Give us our space and quit asking things of us. Go hang out with your loud-mouthed, average, extrovert friends and leave us alone!"


I get the defensiveness, because there are a lot of introvert-type traits that get a fair amount of social denigration. I'm sure those introvert authors have been told one-too-many times that they need to come out of their shells and engage when all they want to do is go curl up with a good book, and so they're preemptively snarly when they set out to explain why they don't need to conform to an extroverted world's rules.

But I'm still stung by it.

I'm not an introvert. I'm not an extrovert, either, In fact, when I take the Myers-Briggs test, and I've taken it several times, I come out almost exactly in the middle, equally introverted and extroverted. So on the one hand, I totally get the need for down time and solitude. I have that need. And I get being nerdy, and being gifted, and being different from the mainstream, because gods know I'm all of those things. But I also get needing social interaction, getting energy from it, and finding time with friends invigorating, not draining.

When you compare me to my most introverted friends, I'm a social butterfly with endless energy for going out, staying up, carrying on conversations, and spending time with others. And when you compare me to my most extroverted friends, I'm a recluse. I avoid the phone and don't return calls, I have to be approached and coaxed to go out, and I don't initiate plans all that often.

But the majority of my friends, as I said, fall into the introverted camp, and I'm getting a serious inferiority complex about it. I keep reading these "up with introverts, down with extroverts" articles and cartoons and posts, and I'm starting to feel like the extroverted aspects in myself are flaws. For example, I'm good at small talk and meeting new people, and the fact that I worked hard for those skills, and am worn out after using them for any extended period of time doesn't make any difference. I'm one of the "them", not one of the "us".

I know that a factor here is my disability. I'm not working, and in fact spend a lot of time at home alone, so my inner introvert's need for solitude is amply met most days. By the end of the day, when my introvert friends are coming home from work and getting online, they've had just about enough of social interaction from school or work, whereas I'm sated with solitude. The problem is, that makes me an energy drainer, and I know from all those care-and-feeding articles that I really need to just leave the introverts alone.

So I do.

And I've been doing it now for so long I think some of those friendships might be about dead on the vine. I'm scared to make first contact if I see them online for fear of coming across as too energy-draining, so I wait to be approached. But of course they don't approach because they are introverts, and I know all about the introverted way of waiting for others to approach, because I have that same trait, and I'm just magnifying it.

I really don't know what to do. I don't know how to say, "Hey, introvert friends, if you want to talk to me, let me know. I'm leaving you alone to respect your boundaries but I miss you," without sounding hopelessly needy, and without putting the burden of friendship on them.

And I don't know how to feel better about myself and my oddly even split of extroversion and introversion. So I throw it open to you, if anyone is still reading this: what would you advise?

SITM: The Girl Who Was Secretly a Boy

New post up at Somewhere in the Middle: The Girl Who Was Secretly a Boy about my upcoming surgery.

Comments welcomed and encouraged.


SITM—Gender: Queer

New post up at Somewhere in the Middle — Gender: Queer about the intersection of gender and sexuality, and the possibility that queer is in itself a gender identity.

I love to get comments if you have thoughts on the topic. Don't hold back, all are welcome.


SITM: MIlestones in Masculinity

New post up at Somewhere in the Middle, Milestones in Masculinity, with an update on the transition nearly a year into it.

Bonus photo of sideburns!


SITM: Gender Cafeteria

New post up at Somewhere in the Middle—Gender Cafeteria, where squash and apples are metaphors, and I have the beginnings of an epiphany about being entitled to have a gender.

Tell me your thinky thoughts, if you have them.


Pissing Into the Wind

My stepdad is a birdwatcher and an artist, and he taught me a lot about nature and birding when I was a kid. Every summer we used to go to Pawley's Island, South Carolina, and I vividly recall him being excited about the brown pelicans sailing in single file lines over the surf. He told me that they had been nearly extinct from DDT weakening their shells, and their comeback was nothing short of a miracle.

Last week I saw a brown pelican, and I thought of him. I haven't spoken to him since Mom died in December. To say our fragile relationship was damaged by the way he treated me at the time of my mother's death is an understatement. But Mom loved him, and in my own way, despite everything, so do I. I know Mom wanted nothing more than that her family stay intact even though she had to leave us.

I also know there is nothing to be gained by nurturing fear and hurt in my heart; it's not the kind of man I am or want to be. It was a struggle to extend an olive branch when I was so hurt, and am so doubtful there is hope to rekindle a connection between us, but I decided to send him an email.
Dear Lucius,

When I was walking at the pier in Pacifica on Thursday, I came upon a brown pelican sitting very calmly watching the waves. He was posed so well, and seemed so unconcerned about the people on the pier that I was able to get quite close to him and take several photos. They're not the best pictures in the world, since I only had my cell phone camera, but they are still pretty cool. His feathers were amazing, the way they shaded together in the sunlight, and the pattern they made.

Seeing him made me think of you, as brown pelicans always do. I hope you are as well as you can be, and that you are finding some things that bring you happiness even in your sorrow. I know Mom would have loved the pelican, and I wish I could have shared it with her, too.


Brown Pelican on Pacifica PierBrown Pelican on Pacifica PierBrown Pelican on Pacifica PierBrown Pelican on Pacifica Pier

It's not much of a letter, and to be honest, I'm not sure he'll even answer it. I'm pretty convinced he just hates me now, or again, I suppose, for he hated me when I was a child, and despite the superficial truce we'd managed to establish in the intervening years since I moved out at 14, when the worst was happening and my mother was dying, it seemed that hadn't changed.

It was a little heartbreaking, too, to address the email. He never really had his own email address - Mom was the correspondant in their family — so to send him an email I had to address it to her. I steeled myself, then went and changed the entry in gmail's address book to his name rather than hers. It felt like I was somehow erasing my mother from reality, but I can't face sending emails to her name, or, should he answer me, seeing them come in with her name attached.

I hope, if Mom's spirit is still lingering, paying attention to us, that she's at least happy I sent him this small thing. I hope he'll accept the peace offering. I hope I'm wrong, and he doesn't really hate me.

How tragic that as a grown man I still crave parental affection from a man who never wanted to be my parent, and never hid that fact from me.


SITM: Boy Parts

Humorous new post up at Somewhere in the Middle — Boy Parts, about... Well. It should be pretty obvious what it's about. It's not super explicit, and I'd consider it no more than a PG-13, and probably more like PG, but it does use the anatomical name and the c- and d- words that end in -ck for that primary male sex characteristic, so if you're exceptionally bothered by that sort of thing, feel free to skip this one. But you'll miss out on laughing at me.


Why Don't American's Travel?

A Danish cartoonist recently asked in her blog why so few Americans travel outside their states, let alone outside their country. It's a reasonable question. This is my answer.

I've traveled fairly extensively within the US, but visited only a few countries — Japan, England, Scotland, Ireland, France, St. Lucia, and Canada. Part of the problem is the expense. It costs at least $500 to fly overseas, and that's if you find a really good deal.

It also takes a long time to get there. From where I live near San Francisco, it's eleven hours in the air to get to the UK or Japan, and with the requirement you be at the airport two hours before an international departure, you have to tack on at least three hours of additional travel time from doorstep to doorstep. So you've lost a full day to travel. Then you're several time zones off from home, so you lose another day or two to jet-jag.

You don't want to travel all that way only to turn around and come right back. so you want to stay at least a week, and preferably longer, but Americans are lucky if they get two weeks of paid vacation a year, and many of us don't get paid vacation at all. What vacation time we do get, we often need to use to see family and friends here in the States.

Add to that the fact that the United States is geographically huge. Most Europeans I've met are completely unprepared for the scale of the US on their first visit here. I live in California and my family live in Tennessee. To visit them, I have to take two flights, traveling for eight to nine hours, and costing an average of $400. To drive or take a train would take four to five days. Again, after such a large investiture of time, I want to spend as much time at my destination as possible, and even if my travels have been confined to the lower 48 states (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) I could still be up to three hours off of my original time zone and dealing with jet lag.

Back to the scale issue. I can drive six hours north or nine hours south before I reach another state (well, if I go south I reach Mexico, but you get my point: California is big.) If I drive east, taking the shortest and most direct route across California at its narrowest point, it will take me four hours before I reach the next state, Nevada, and another six and a half hours before I get to the next state, Utah. The east coast states are a good deal smaller than the states in the west, so people in the east tend to travel interstate a little more easily and often than midwest and westerners, but for the most part once you leave the east coast it takes a long time to get from one state to another.

Time which we don't have, because we get such paltry vacations, if we get them at all. And money which we may not have because those aren't paid vacations.

I would be loathe to ascribe Americans' lack of interstate and international travel to incuriosity. It has a lot more to do with those twin bugaboos: time and money.

(here's a good infographic showing US passport ownership statistics broken down by state )

meme meme

Meme stolen from frausorge

If you see this, post a poem.

Her Gaze
by Nezuko, ©2007

My queen I see, enrob'd in fun-fur green,
and corset tight bound round her narrow waist.
Her eyes alight with laughter and high mirth,
her voice calls me to take up her sweet pace.

I sit beside her, rapt enthrall'd am I,
content to be mere ornament to her
who shines with something greater than the good
of all the goods that now or ever were.

And yet she calls me precious, heaven-sent.
How can she find that I, base lump of clay,
am anything like jewels or seraphim?
It is her gaze remakes me in that way.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Pick up the book nearest to you. Turn to page 45. The first sentence there describes your sex life in 2012.

"I got the door closed as his was opening, spilling white light into the room."

That seems somehow promising...


I think collaborative writing has ruined me. Or maybe I'm not really a writer. I mean, I say I love to write, but I have no discipline, and I never finish my stories, and I have a really hard time making myself just sit down and write unless I'm writing with someone else.

I love writing collaboratively because you get feedback and you get unexpected plot twists, and you get to share in the creative experience, and two heads (or three or four) are so much better than one. It's just endlessly exciting. But writing by yourself... that's lonely. I can sustain it for a while, but then I lose interest, and if there's a collaborative project to work on, I drop the solo one.

Of course when there's no collaborative project to work on, that's also lonely.

And when your usual partners are busy collaborating with each other and you're not? Hella lonely.

If I wish I were writing and there's no one to write with at the moment, the logical thing to do, I tell myself, would be to go work on something solo. But somehow writing alone feels oddly painful.

Or I could go find something different, different friends, a different collaboration to work on, but I'm picky as hell about my collaborations. I have ridiculously high standards, and I know it, and screw it, I'm entitled to them. It's just not fun if I'm not also aiming for perfection.

No matter how many times I take the Myers-Briggs test, I come out ENFP. Just a little more extroverted than introverted, but it's enough to mean that I crave interaction more than solitude. I don't like that about myself — it's a weakness and I'm ashamed of it — but I can't seem to change it. I'm only a little less introverted than extroverted, though, so that means I also need a good bit of down time, alone time, recharge time, and that confuses me, since I'm so close to being a properly introverted creative genius, but I miss the mark.

I understand the rest of my attributes. That N? Intuitive. 100%. Head-in-the-clouds, dreamer, theorist, imaginer, connect-the-dots, creative leaps, big-picture kind of guy. F? Feeling. Although that's another one where I'm only slightly more Feeling than Thinking oriented. But that's a matter of being smart and having been raised to value logic over emotion. The truth is, when push comes to shove, I might analyze something to death, but in the end I'll still follow my heart. And the P? It stands for "perceiving" but it really ought to stand for Procrastinator. 100% again. I love to start projects but often don't finish them. I hate to be locked into a plan too early, and chafe at rules and standards. I have a fun ethic, not a work ethic.

There must be some trick to it. Some trick that lets real writers feel satisfied working by themselves. And that gets them to not just start projects but finish them, and do all the hard work it takes to get them published. Some trick I could use on myself.

Also some trick to getting over needing other people to cheerlead and collaborate.

If you know what it is, please tell me.

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