Thursday, October 8, 2009


(New images from the rejuvenated Hubble, including a butterfly nebula, multi-wavelength pictures of far-flung galaxies, a densel-packed star cluster, and a "pillar of creation". Click on image to enlarge and examine more closely.)

Every Thursday, I post a very large photograph of some corner of space captured by the Hubble Space Telescope and available online from the picture album at HubbleSite.

With the recent extremely successful in-space repair of the 19-year-old Hubble telescope, some of the Early Release Observations are blowing folks away. NASA's press release states "Topping the list of exciting new views are colorful multi-wavelength pictures of far-flung galaxies, a densely packed star cluster, an eerie 'pillar of creation,' and a 'butterfly' nebula.'"


The clouds and the stars didn't wage this war
the brooks gave no information
if the mountains spewed stones of fire into the river
it was not taking sides
the raindrop faintly swaying under the leaf
had no political opinions

and if there were a house
filled with backed-up raw sewage
or poisoned those who lived there
with slow fumes, over years
the houses were not at war
nor did the tinned up buildings

intend to refuse shelter
to homeless old women and roaming children
they had no policy to keep from roaming
or dying, no, cities were not the problem
the bridges were non-partisan
the freeways burned, but not with hatred

Even miles of barbed-wire
stretched around crouching temporary huts
designed to keep the unwanted
at a safe distance, out of sight
even the boards, that had to absorb
year upon year, so many human sounds

so many depths of vomit, tears slow-soaking blood
had not offered themselves for this
The trees didn't volunteer to be cut into boards
nor the thorns for tearing flesh
Look around at all of it

and ask whose signature
is stamped on the orders, traced
in the corner of the building plans
Ask where the illiterate, big-bellied
women were, the drunks and the crazies,
the ones you fear most of all: ask where you were.

~~Adrienne Rich


Tuesday, October 6, 2009


(Mt. Borradaile region, Arnhemland, Northern Territories, Australia; photo by Art Wolfe)

For the first time in months, I woke up today with Ginny Bates' voice in my head again. Hence, here's a very special treat, a conflation of two different novels: A scene I meant to put in Ginny Bates but never got around to, concerning Myra's writing Skene. This is all there'll be on this topic at this point in time. Still, it was delicious to step back into the house on Roy Street for an afternoon.

For those of you new to this blog, I'm referring to my Great American Lesbian Novel, Ginny Bates. If you are new to reading GB, go to the section in the right-hand column labeled Ginny Bates to read background and find out how to catch up. You can do the same to read Skene.

Late December, 1994

(Margie is 6, Gillam will be 4 in another week)

David arrived two days before New Year's, planning to stay through Gillam's birthday. That Saturday, when Pat and Patty offered to take the children to a local street fair and David said he was going to the Temple for Havdallah, Myra asked Ginny to stay home with her.

"I've finished a fleshed-out first draft of Skene, complete with revisions. Before I start on draft two -- well, I need you to read it" said Myra. "It's over 300 pages now, a time commitment to get through." She looked anxious.

"I'll be honored" said Ginny. "What are you going to do? I need you not to hover."

"Cook, I guess. Get a head start on special dishes for New Year's Day" said Myra.

"Then I'll go upstairs and read on the deck with the heaters on" said Ginny, "because if I'm anywhere near the kitchen I'll feel your eyes on me."

Once the children were bundled into coats and caps, and David had shufled out the door in his tallis, Ginny took the manuscript held together by an industrial-looking binder clip, kissed Myra's cheek and said "I'll be back from your imaginary world whenever the power of phonics lets me finish."

Myra made a brine mixture in two different containers, one for goose and one for pork short ribs, and set tomorrow's meats soaking in the storeroom refrigerator. She picked crab meat, an activity she didn't much like, and carried the shells afterward to the platform bird feeder for the carnivores to squabble over. She made cornbread to eat and for stuffing, stopping to have a snack of one wedge crumbled into a glass with buttermilk poured over it. She then began trying to once again create a perfect barbecue sauce for the ribs, a puzzle which she never quite accomplished to her satisfaction.

Ginny came downstairs at one point too early to have finished, refilling her teapot and taking some of the cornbread back with her, a finger held up to her lips to stall any questions from Myra. Once the barbecue sauce was simmered and cooled, Myra gave up on cooking and went instead to her study, reorganizing her map drawers. She was on the floor, surrounded by a confusion of charts, using her giant magnifying glass to hunt for ice movements which might tell her where the tent with frozen bodies of Scott's expedition might have drifted to, when she heard footsteps in the kitchen. Juju was under her daybed and scrambled out with anticipation at Ginny's approach.

Myra caught only a glimpse of Ginny, however, before there was a heavy thud against the side of her rolltop desk, followed by a shower of pages as her hurled manuscript fell out of the binder and snowed everywhere. Juju scrambled back under the daybed with a scrabble of nails on wood. Myra gaped as Ginny shouted "You fucking moron! Infidelity on paper is not excused by creative license!"

She was clearly enraged, her fists doubled and held stiffly at her sides, her face flushed. Myra thought she could see Ginny's lips trembling. Feeling unsure of her own muscles, she got to her feet and sat in her desk chair, stepping carefully around her manuscript.

"I thought you'd be upset" she said in a tone she tried to keep from being wimpy.

"Oh did you now!" said Ginny. "What fun you've been having, writing all those sex scenes that are clearly about you and Allie fucking your brains out -- in a future world, where there's no consequence for it because hey, the character based on me is right there joining in the sticky action. You are NOT going to publish a book full of your fantasies about Allie, I won't have it. Not that Allie will stand for it either, but I'll leave you before I let you humiliate me this way."

Myra felt ice in her chest. "It's not me and Allie having sex. You're reading the characters wrong."

"Oh give me a fucking break, Myra. You're clearly the main character who writes verse, and I'm clearly the zaftig muralist who had to chase her down, and then there's the tall black hero whose name is almost identical to Allie's, tell me how I've read that wrong?" Ginny kicked a path through the pages nearest her to fling herself onto the daybed with an alarming creak of wood. Juju scooted out the foot and headed for the other end of the house.

"Well, yes, the first two are right. And there are some -- okay, a lot of elements in the third partner of their relationship that are based on Allie. But I always think of her as another aspect of me. She's -- well, it's that heroic thing, I can't make my character a hero, at least not so overtly. I mean, I'm already stretching it by making her writing so crucial to everyone else's existence, I'm sure some critics will snicker at that. But I'm also an activist, Ginny, and I long to save the world, feed the world, take bold action that everyone admires without question. So I put those parts of me into the third character. And they're all non-white, Ginny, you can't use skin color to tell who's what, this is a culture post-race and post-gender." The last sentence was in a didactic tone that Myra instantly regretted, sure it would set Ginny off further.

She was right. Ginny pounded on the wall, screaming "Don't you dare act like I'm the middle-class dummy who can't get what's really going on with regard to race! Not right now, not when the issue is about you writing porn involving you and our best friend!"

"You need to stop going off the deep end, Ginny. I set it up so we'd have private time to talk. Why don't you call your healer or whatever you call her?" said Myra. She was stinging from the description of her hard-to-write sex scenes as pornography.

"Has Allie read this?" demanded Ginny.

"No. You're the only person who's read this draft in its current form" said Myra.

"But Chris has read something more recent than the last version I saw, right? Did she read any of these fuck fantasies?"

Myra hesitated. "One or two, yes."

"Oh boy, I bet she ate that up with a fucking spoon!" said Ginny, back to scream level.

Myra stood, closing her throat against the nausea in her gut, and began slowly picking up sheets of paper. Ginny watched her incredulously for half a minute, then stomped through the kitchen to their bedroom and slammed the door. A short while later, Myra saw the red light on her desk phone light up, meaning someone was making a call out. She kept stacking pages on her desk, stopping to go empty her bowels at one point, washing her face with cold water, then returning to rescue her manuscript.

She decided to put away her maps before trying to reassemble the pages in correct order. She had just finished this chore when the front door opened and she heard Margie shouting "We're home! I made a poodle from balloons, where are you?" The two children skidded into view seconds later, followed by Truitt and Carly. Gillam was wearing a crown made of slender blue and red balloons. Myra looked over their creations and said hello to Patty, thanking her for the afternoon off in a voice that sounded hollow to her own ears.

"Where's Ginny?" asked Patty.

"In the bedroom on the phone -- no, Margie, don't interrupt, she'll come out when she's done. Patty, I'd offer you tea or something, but I'm in the middle of something here..."

Patty looked closely at her face and said "Well, we should be heading home. Do you need help with anything?"

"Nope. Got it under control." Myra waited for a lightning bolt to strike her, but Patty simply rounded up her overexcited children and left. Less than a minute later, Margie lunged her poodle at Juju under the dining table. Juju lunged back and the balloon popped. Margie began shrieking and tried to kick Juju, who strategically kept chair legs between her and Margie.

"You don't get to hurt the dog!" yelled Myra over Margie's racket, pulling her to the stairs for a time-out, then sitting down beside her because she didn't know what else to do. Gillam stood in the hall, looking at them with wide eyes, pulling at his lip with his fingers.

Margie had wound herself down to only sniffling when David came in the front door and she realized afresh that she had nothing to show her grandfather. She flew at Gillam, Myra suspected not to steal his crown but to pop it as well, and Myra had to pull her back by one arm at Margie's outrage ratcheted back to explosion. David picked her up and sat with her in the easy chair. Myra started to tell Gillam to go put his crown in a safe place, before feeling a surge of anger herself at having to tiptoe around the messy emotional indulgences of others.

She went into the kitchen, Gillam at her heels, and asked him "What did you have to eat at the street fair?"

"Cotton candy" he said instantly. "A hot dog, and a soda."

Myra saw Juju from the corner of her eye, swallowing the last fragments of Margie's shattered balloon. She turned her mind away from a late-night rush to the vet for an obstructed canine colon, and instead asked Gillam "Are you hungry now?"

"Is that cornbread? Could I have some with honey butter?" Gillam asked, climbing onto a breakfast stool.

"No honey, but lots of butter. And a glass of milk. I don't know yet what we're having for dinner" said Myra, looking at the clock.

"I want to go get some more balloons!" she heard Margie sob from the living room, then a click from the bedroom door. Ginny said to David "What happened, is she hurt?"

Margie launched herself into Ginny's arms as David tried to explain what he didn't really understand. Myra came out from the kitchen to give a clearer account, adding "Juju ate the balloon pieces", which sent Margie into new umbrage. Over Margie's shouts at Juju, Myra said "They've had sugar and junk food, but I haven't started anything for dinner."

Ginny looked at her coldly, then turned back to David and said "Daddy, we're in the middle of a major fight. Would you be willing to take the kids out to eat, somewhere with vegetables and no more sugar today?"

The phrase "major fight" penetrated through Margie's tantrum. "Who's fighting?" she demanded.

"Me and Mama" said Ginny with a tight jaw. Margie leaned over to look at Myra with interest. "No hitting" she said with a near sneer.

"Of course no hitting" replied Myra. "I'm not a narcissistic toddler, I use my words."

"You certainly do use words" said Ginny in a venomous tone. David stood and said "Let's go, children. I think the cafeteria would be fun, and we can beat the crowds if we hurry."

"I don't want just vegetables" said Gillam, starting for the door. Myra pulled the crown from his head and said "I'll keep this for you on my desk. Put on your wool cap, it's getting cold out there."

As soon as the front door closed, Myra said "I'm not changing my book, Ginny. Read those scenes again, you won't find a single thing that isn't based on how we make love. That's all I have to go on inside me, that's all I ever imagine. If you don't believe me, say so now."

"I'm ready to talk" said Ginny, heading for Myra's study. Myra paused long enough to pour herself a glass of orange juice and put a wedge of cheese on a plate, next to a square of cornbread. She turned off the ringer on the house phone and followed Ginny to the study.

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.



Here's the weekly best of what I've gleaned from I Can Has Cheezburger efforts. There are some really creative folks out there. As usual, those from little gator lead the pack.

A flash from the past: One of my favorite LOLCats of all time: