I was thinking about…

I was thinking about writing a thoughtful, insightful entry on the death penalty this morning, sparked by an article I read called The Pendulum Swings Wildly. Then I realized that I'd already done one intense entry in the last month, and I think I should ration them, to give y'all time to recover. So I'll save that argument for another day, and simply point you all to the article above, and note that my sympathies lie with the speaker.

In other news; observed an undergraduate fiction class this morning; interesting and illuminating. I'm thinking that class observation should be more a part of teacher training here. I'm going shopping with Thida and David, to buy Thida an interview suit and let David and I do our various wholesale dry goods shopping at Costco. I'm practicing today, dammit, and having a guitar lesson (David is progressing quite rapidly in his piano :-) Happy teacher). I'm calling Lisette tonight. I'm wishing I had less work piled up. I'm a little tired. I'm very hungry (I get to go home and eat in half an hour).

I had a really pleasant morning, drinking tea and talking to Roshani in between getting up, grocery store trip, and walking to campus. It was raining, which somehow makes me more visual; the colors are so much more intense. A man jogged by the front of my house, a man with a beautiful back. I'm not generally one for heavy muscles, but imagine this man, short blond hair, slightly wavy, sweatshirt pulled off and tied around his waist, rain falling on his naked, muscled back. The muscles moving and shifting underneath a sheen of water as he runs past; so beautiful. Mmm.... I just caught a glimpse, but it brightened my day; aesthetic appreciation of a beautiful human form. Well, mostly aesthetic.

I was just seeing things this morning, in a way I don't normally notice. Roshani was telling me about how when she lived with her friend Gabrielle, a photographer, Gabrielle would stop as they were walking, stop to take a photo of some strange image, some moment. Normally, the world kind of washes over us, in waves of images and scents and sounds.

That's one reason I love rain. It focuses things. The blather of sound is muffled, so you can concentrate. Light is richer, softer. Even the scent of wet grass and leaves; scents are stronger in the rain. After the rain stopped, I was staring out my window, staring at the black sheet of road. All around were green trees; evergreens and some deciduous plants that were hanging on determinedly to their green. Against the black glistening road was a single crimson maple leaf, sharp-pointed, perfect. I don't know how it got there -- there aren't any maple trees nearby. There was no other red in the view; just greens and browns and black and light, and this simple splotch of autumn red.

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Overslept again;…

Overslept again; unsurprisingly. I'm inclined to let me body get as much sleep as it wants these days, considering how hard I'm driving it otherwise.

Goals for today: Reach Carol Queen about interview; book plane tickets for holidays; do some catch-up work on journals for class. Doesn't sound too bad, huh?

Not much else to say this early in the day -- I haven't even had my tea yet...

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Tired, my dears. …

Tired, my dears. Unsurprising, since it's 9:45 p.m. I got *so* tired last night; luckily David rescued me from a meal of cold pizza and made me ginger-carrot soup with French bread instead. Yum. I can get the recipe from him if anyone wants it. I was so exhausted afterwards that I basically sat on his couch for two hours and stared at the wall, until he dragged me home and told me to go to sleep. At like 9 p.m. I slept until 7 a.m., and I gotta admit, felt much better today. Been working like mad lately, but that should stop soon. Classes end in less than a month, thank the goddess...

Had a good time this evening; the local Clarionites finally got together and we started a monthly critique workshop. That should be helpful, especially since next spring I won't be taking a fiction workshop; I'll be studying creative non-fiction instead, which will hopefully be interesting (I'm not sure what it is, which is probably a good reason to take it. :-)

Anyway, too tired for any deep thoughts tonight. For those of you in Bakersfield, CA or Cincinatti, I'll be having radio interviews there soon. Bakersfield this Saturday night, and Cincinatti next Tuesday or Wednesday morning. Will let y'all know when. Another exciting thing is that someone who writes for the L.A. Times is trying to talk his Features editor into letting him interview me. That would be way cool. :-)

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Good morning, my darling…

Good morning, my darling readers. I'm happy 'cause it's raining here (which actually led me to sleep in this morning, and so I'm even further behind in my work, but it's hard to care with the world looking so lovely). I know many if not most of you probably don't like the rain. I must admit that I wish I had an adequate raincoat, rather than a mere umbrella. Still, it's delightful seeing the streets this way. A sheen of water covers everything, from the brown banister outside my window to the stone pathway and brick spiral staircase. The trees are so intensely green, and drops of water hang precariously from the underside of the leaves and banister. The pattering, quiet now, is so calming, and cars sound different as they drive by; sleeker, whooshier. :-) When I die, I'd like it to be on a misty morning, after a raging thunderstorm the night before. There's such peace in those mornings...

I wonder if other people plan their deaths, their funerals. Weddings, of course; almost every woman I know, including the stolidly anti-marriage, have at least once planned their wedding -- it's hard to avoid, given our culture. But deaths? We don't like to think about death, and yet it's fascinating as well. I know as a teenager I liked to invent horrifying, yet noble, deaths for myself. I would run into a burning building and save thirteen children, yet be trapped myself at the end, and go up in flames, and everyone who knew me would wish they'd been nicer to me. Typical teen fantasy, I imagine. I was not a very popular teen, though I was blessed with a few good friends. These days, I'm hoping to live past a hundred; I imagine it depends on whose genetics I get. All of my grandparents have died, some in their sixties. Two had a version of Alzheimer's, and another had multiple strokes. Not good odds, since I'm twenty-six already -- that leaves me only a little more than half my life. On the other hand, my great-grandmother lived to be past a hundred, in full possession of her faculties. She was the only one in the family to be even close to as short as I am (I'm 5'0"), so I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that I've gotten her longevity genes.

When I do die, I'll definitely be cremated. I'm an organ donor, and I've signed away the rest of the body as well, so the doctors will take whatever they can use, and whatever bits of skin and tissue left will be neatly burned. (Am I upsetting anyone? I know people get distressed by this sort of thing, but I never have, especially not when it applies to me. I tend to be very pragmatic about it.) I hope you're all organ donors. I definitely don't want a funeral. They tend to be morbid affairs (they could hardly help it) and I've been to too many, watched too many people sink in on themselves with grief. Rain may be appropriate for funerals, but I wouldn't want someone I loved to have to cope with following a coffin through the rain on top of missing me. Let the undertakers cope with the details, and when the ashes are safely in their urn, let them return them to my friends, who will hopefully scatter them in a garden or on the sea, rather than keeping them sitting maudlin on their mantelpiece. Or if they must keep them on the mantelpiece, let them tell bad jokes about them, and think fondly, rather than sadly, of me.

And when all the details are taken care of, let there be a wake, with wine and songs and even dancing. Let them make speeches, and cry on each other's shoulders. May no one be alone in their grief unless they wish to be. Let there be laughter along with remembrance. The Greyhaven folks knew how to do it right for Paul. I hope my friends are as kind to themselves.

Do other people think of these things? Is it maudlin, or morbid? I don't think so -- it doesn't depress me. Rather the opposite, in fact; I end up feeling very fond of the people in my life, very protective of them. Perhaps I'll call up my sisters tonight, and make sure they're doing okay. I'll remember my mother's birthday tomorrow. I'll purchase some Christmas presents, and carefully wrap and label them. I'll walk in the rain and think how lucky I am to be loved. After all, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow...

1:15. First, a quote: "Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe." - H.G. Wells.

Then a recommendation. I just finished an article in Wayne C. Booth's book, The Vocation of a Teacher. I cannot recommend this book too highly (and I say this on the strength of the table of contents and the single essay). He is careful. He is thoughtful. He is eminently readable and entertaining. He says important things, and if you teach at all, especially at the college level, I think you should read this book. I read this article on reserve, and now I'm going to walk over to Amazon.com and see if I can buy the darn book.

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Well, back a little…

Well, back a little early from the professionalization weekend, which was often bleak, but very informative. I'm still pretty determined to be a teacher, even though it appears likely that there'll be a two-year community college internship period before I can teach at a four-year college. However, if I publish enough books before then, perhaps I can bypass some of that. The weekend was held at the youth hostel in Sacramento. This was one of the most beautiful buildings I've ever been in, in a lovely town. If you're considering visiting Sacramento, you really should check out one weird globe, they have the best deals on hostels. You just can't get a better deal. I have to remember to check hostels anytime I'm travelling someplace I don't have friends I can crash with. I served on a publishing panel, then attended one on writing jobs outside academics, one on teaching jobs, and a final one on good interviewing and reading/presentation techniques. Very interesting all around, and if you're in San Francisco, you really ought to try swinging by Cafe du Norde and listening to Thea Hillman do poetry slams. The woman is amazing, and a good erotica writer as well. Someone to keep an eye on. 7:10. Just a quick note that Screech is up and running again, with two columns by me. Hooray! :-) I spent much of today on the phone (with Roshani and Kevin), and my room is really clean. Didn't get much work done.
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Great news for me! Got…

Great news for me! Got a letter yesterday announcing that my story, "Fleeing Gods", has been accepted to the Best American Erotica of 1998 anthology, edited by the lovely Susie Bright. :-) :-) :-)

Also, a nice review (very short) from Buzz Review #18, an e-mail newsletter:

Some books are works of art. This book transcends art.

Erotica is hard to review. People are different. Take a chance and decide for yourself. On any level this is a crowning achievement.


A little over the top, but charming, nonetheless.

In other news, today is busy and crazy and I'm going away for the weekend for a professionalization workshop; should be fun. I'll be back Sunday afternoon, so no journal entries 'til then. Had a good conference with Julie (Fiction teacher and thesis advisor) this morning about where my new book is going, and am psyched to work on it. I even practiced some, so I shouldn't totally embarass myself at my music class. I had a pleasant evening yesterday, dinner and music lessons and good conversation with David. Generally, life is good, I'm feeling exuberant, picture me doing a little dance of joy. :-)

Okay, now I'm getting silly. Have a wonderful weekend, my dears.

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Hmmm…what to report? …

Hmmm...what to report? Yesterday was insane with phone calls; I had been neglecting getting back to people, and last night they all decided to take revenge by calling at once. I think I spoke to over ten people in the course of an hour. Glad I have call waiting.

More excitingly (I love making up words), Karina called early this morning, with the possibility of coming out from Australia for a visit in January. That would be lovely, and I hope it happens.

Today is catch up on adminstration day. Schedule a room for my writing workshop, "I Hate the Five-Paragraph Essay". Ask people to be on my thesis committee. Find a thesis advisor. Fill out pertinent forms so I can graduate. Register for next semester's classes. Find out what I'm teaching in the spring (TA'ing probably either British or American survey). Etc. and so on. My Fiction class critiques 7000 words of my erotica today. Meep.

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I should have said this…

I should have said this explicitly yesterday, but I say it now:

Please redirect your browsers (and bookmarks) to http://www.mamohanraj.com/Diary/current.html

The regular current.html will soon be only a memory.

The reading last night went very well. About fifteen people showed up (they only had ten chairs set out, and had to get more :-) and were a good audience. Of course, half those people were friends of mine, but it's nice to have friends. :-)

I read, in order: "Feather", "You'll Understand When You're Older, Dear", "Meditation on Human Relations", "Jinsong", "Blind", "Letter From a Suicide", "Dreams of a Lover" and "Fleeing Gods". That's about a half hour of reading; I'm still fine-tuning, trying to decide what stories read best. I'm pretty good at conversational tone stories, not so good at reading dramatic bits (or dramatizing in general). I'd also like to read "Chantal", but a) it's long and b) it's problematic. Have to judge my audience carefully, I think, though I could probably have gotten away with it last night.

I slept late again this morning, and finally feel rested (although I didn't get the dishes done the way I'd planned). I appear to be going through an odd spate of fall cleaning; clearing out various accounts and straightening things. The house is looking lovely these days, with odd autumnal gourds and red and gold flowers scattered about. I'd like my computer accounts to be similarly lovely. :-)

I hope to catch up with my work for the week by tomorrow morning. I *must* practice recorder tonight, or I will deserve to be severely beaten. There's a part I'm having real trouble with, in a baroque piece, and so I find myself avoiding practicing, which is not the solution, let me tell you. On the good side, I've been practicing my guitar regularly, and am now up to over half an hour of practicing a day, without killing my fingertips, and have learned seven chords. I can play "This Land is Your Land" at tempo (it only uses three chords) and can almost manage "Star of the County Down" (I'm having trouble with the transition to the C chord) at tempo. Lots of fun. David's being very patient teaching me, and I'm enjoying teaching piano again (David's a much better student than my father was :-). He actually practices.)


I was going to just include a short excerpt from a reader's e-mail here, but looking over it, I think it makes more sense to include it all, and then respond to it.

These are some things that came to mind while reading your journal. If you want to respond to them on your pages, could you leave my name safely anonymous? Thanks very much!

[name deleted]

I actually wanted to write something long and polished on this subject, but I never get around to it. I enjoyed your two recent "Lady Sally" columns, but couldn't suspend my disbelief, or pessimism, about such an attitude filtering into the "sex art" business, let alone mass culture.

My sexual history being almost pure vanilla, the only situation I have seen even approaching "Lady Sally" was the one strip bar I have ever been in, in Charlotte, NC. (W/ some college friends on a pep band trip, one of those "what-the-hell" moments.) Once I got past the initial hormonal rush, beyond which sensory overload led to a sharp reduction in arousal, I started paying attention to facial expressions and, well, the _gestalt_ of the place. Three things stand out in my memory:

A mustached Southerner, with a bill clenched in his teeth, encouraging/daring/challenging the dancer to collect it with her teeth. She refuses, smiling. He grins, and tries again. Neither's eyes are smiling, though. There's hostility, anger behind both smiles. I can almost see him thinking "Slut, come on, if you want the bill." I _know_ she can see him thinking it.

A dancer who just can't stand being there. _I_ think she's attractive, but she apparently doesn't fit the "standards" of the bar patrons. (It was a "classy" establishment as far as these establishments go, but that's probably not saying much.) The patrons ignore her, as she forlornly shifts from foot to foot on the stage keeping vague time to the music. Another dancer takes pity on her and puts a bill in her garter. Then she is alone again, with muted despair on her face.

We're here because it's an acquaintance's ("Barry") birthday. "Jeff" springs for a lap dance for Barry, the anticipated highlight of the evening. Barry's a Nice Guy; he's experiencing the club with genuine smiles, wiping mock sweat off his forehead. The lap dancer seems comfortable with him, wiggling and stretching and responding as he gazes appreciatively. This is a mutual performance. The dance ends; Jeff gives her more money. "I'd like one too." This one is different. Jeff sits like a statue, his fists clenched by his sides. The dancer is getting no feedback from him, just his steady, tense gaze. For the first time since I've met Jeff, I feel like _there's something inside him that makes me nervous._ The dancer goes through the motions, looking at his eyes, more wary and reserved. I can't tell where this sense of _fear_ is coming from -- her, or him? The dance ends; she quickly and steadily retreats.

In our culture, how many supposed sex-positive or "erotic" establishments can really exist? What little exposure I've had suggests that power (or the lack thereof) is the defining dynamic here, not sexuality. And I wonder how much of that power dynamic, if any, might have been lurking at Lady Sally's.

*sigh* I do know what this reader means. There is a lot of unhealthy power play going on in these situations, and it can be extremely difficult to avoid that, even with the best of intentions. A friend of mine recently took a Wall Street job, a job which actually entails being taken out to strip clubs by colleagues. He would like to sit back and enjoy the atmosphere, the beautiful women; he'd like to believe that they're being well paid, and that they like their job. He even assumed that the first time he went, and it was only after a conversation we had on the subject that he took a closer look at these very well-paid women, and realized, to his great discomfort, that they really didn't seem to be enjoying their work, that there was a good chance they actively resented him and his appreciation of their beauty and sexuality. It's making him uncomfortable enough that he's thinking of avoiding the strip clubs from now on.

It's hard. It's hard to avoid the power dynamic inherent in paying for a service. And yet I do believe that it's possible to get around. I believe Carol Queen when she says (in _Real Live Nude Girl_) that she enjoyed her work in the Lusty Lady peep show, and the work she's doing now as a prostitute. (She's also a damn good writer, btw -- I just read a beautiful story by her in the anthology _Once Upon a Time: Erotic Fairy Tales for Women_). I believe Selene and Noelle, who I interviewed for my article on professional dominatrixes, when they say they often consider their work a gift. On the other hand, Selene and I have also talked about how sometimes she finds herself utterly repulsed by men, and has a hard time even going home to her boyfriend. Even with the best of intentions, it's hard to be sex-positive (and man-positive) in that kind of job. It's hard partly because our culture is so twisted about sexuality, partly because sex is inherently a complicated thing, and adding money to it makes it much more complicated.

The columns I wrote were certainly idealistic, and maybe it would take science fiction to carry off a place like Lady Sally's. I hope not, though. I hope that a healthy sex-positive working environment for sex workers is possible; I hope that talking about it and advocating it can help change the culture into a place where it can happen. I remain a raving idealist, I'm afraid...

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Well, I moved the…

Well, I moved the journal entries to a separate directory today. That means that tons of internal reference links in the journals are now broken. I will be going through and trying to fix them all, but I may ask for your help in a bit. We'll see. Why am I doing this? 'cause I'm compulsive, and my main directory was getting too messy, and the problem would have only gotten worse over time.

I met David two years ago today. Hard to believe, for various reasons.

The weekend was insanely busy, mostly fun with parties, but generally tiring and short of sleep-making. I need to rest, and tonight's the Good Vibes reading -- oh, did I tell you guys about that? Here:

Good Vibrations, Berkeley
2504 San Pablo Avenue (@ Dwight)
Berkeley, CA 94702
(510) 841-8987

Monday, November 3, 8-10 p.m.
Free, everyone welcome

Off to fix links. I'd talk to y'all longer, but my brain is fried today. Too sleepy. Fixing links is nice and mindless. Hope you had a good Halloween.

11:20. Fixed 1997 links, I think. If any of you feel like checking through the journal entries for 1997 and letting me know if I've missed any, that'd be appreciated.

I'm so weary. I should be reading the three articles I need to read before 2:00, and doing my journal entries on them, but I have truly no desire to do so. My desire is to sleep. I should be nervous about tonight (will anyone come? Will they be bored? Will I make a fool of myself, etc. and so on?) but I'm just too tired. Perhaps that's a good thing. I did manage to make a reservation for my tickets to Connecticut for Christmas, and start pricing Chicago in January. That's something, at any rate.

11:50. Did lots of straightening up in my account, rearranging things. Probably broke lots of links in the process, but when I finish, if I finish, it'll be much easier for me to find stuff. I hope. I moved all sorts of things to a Defunct directory -- hopefully not anything important. I'm filled with the wrong kind of energy today.

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Happy Halloween, my…

Happy Halloween, my darlings. I'll write you a long entry later if I can squeeze out the time, but I'm throwing a party today and the server has been snippy about letting me dial-in, so it may be difficult. I'll talk to you properly soon, I promise.

I do want to say thank you to those who wrote so kindly and supportively of my last entry. Don't worry -- that incident occurred over five years ago; I'm fine these days. Thank you for asking.

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