Circus Manduhai; on the Global Frequency

So this morning J tells me that there’s a circus performance at our local library. Woo-hoo!

I should explain.

Circus Manduhai is the small family circus of Chimgae Haltarhuu. She’s one of the coaches at Circus Juventas, one our whole family likes and respects. Circus Manduhai performs around the Upper Midwest at all sorts of local shows and venues. Starting last year, though, Chimgae and Circus Manduhai started Mission Manduhai, to “use free medical and dental treatment, circus performance, and music to attract local country folk to raise awareness of domestic abuse in Mongolia.” Chimgae and her family travel back to Mongolia and try to teach women to recognize and report domestic abuse. (Here’s a local interview with Chimgae talking about her history with domestic violence, and Mission Manduhai.)

Circus Manduhai was performing at our local library this morning. We could not resist, and all piled into the car to go see them. The show was a delight. Foot juggling, juggling, contortion, hand-balance, rolla bolla, block juggling, and the grand finale — hula hoop! It was a great deal of fun. Chimgae — who, among other things, teaches the Toddler and Kinder classes at Circus Juventas — solicited young volunteers from the audience for almost every act.

We snorted when K volunteered, and Chimgae selected her to stand on another troupe member’s shoulders. It was just about the very definition of “picking a ringer,” a term we explained to the children in the car. After all, Chimgae is K’s Contortion I coach this term, and knows PERFECTLY WELL that K can stand on someone else’s shoulders without falling off. Chimgae also picked M, to try Rolla Bolla, which he did about as well as you would expect — which is to say, he had a great deal of fun being very bad at a very difficult task.

It was fun to see Chimgae perform. She was panting a bit at the end, after the hula grand finale. She told J after a different performance that she’s not as young as she used to be, and the act has gotten somewhat harder! I am unsurprised by this.

If you go look at the links for Circus Manduhai, see if you can find your way to giving them a few bucks. (Yes, you will have to write a check and use a stamp, I know.) But they travel rural Mongolia giving away dental and health care, while trying to change the world one person at a time. Changing the world one person at a time is how the world changes. It’s what we’ve got. And these people try to do it with juggling and hula hoops. How cool is that?

A few things

1. After last week’s disastrous end of class, today’s trampoline class went well for M. Thank goodness.

2. I would like to draw your attention to a couple of podcasts –

SF Squeecast, a celebration of things that make us go squee.

Fantastic Fangirls has a couple of new podcasts for your enjoyment.

3. I’ve been pondering wisdom today. Like, the AD&D stat, Wisdom. When I was a kid, I was convinced that Wisdom was a useless stat, because it was the same thing as Intelligence. That once you were smart, experience didn’t matter. The older I get, the more I laugh at younger me.

4. At CONvergence I will be on the Whedonistas panel and at the signing for same, both on Friday. I will be at the Chicks Dig Comics panel on Sunday. Come find me and say hello!

Kids, CONvergence, and fatality aviation accidents; things in a list

1. Re-entry from the kids having summer camps last week, back to having normal routines, this is going about as well as you’d expect. J tells me that both children appear to have forgotten all math-related skills in a week. I’m not looking forward to my school-teaching days this week.

I hold my breath, leaving M at summer camps. He loves them, but situations where he has to negotiate interactions with his peers are awfully tricky. Unpredictable. Liable to end in punching. Yet the past week seemed to go okay.

2. We’re cleaning the basement. Slowly, painfully, clearing things out of the playroom that don’t get used or that the kids have outgrown. We pawned off an ancient and decrepit hide-a-bed couch. Getting it out of the basement resulted in only superficial injuries, yay.

3. There was a fatality crash this weekend. Not my immediate area of control. It’s fascinating, watching the consensus narrative be constructed. The pilot had been in a crash eight years ago, in which he was flying and his wife and two daughters were killed, leaving him and his son alive. This crash the pilot killed himself and his second wife, leaving the same son, now sixteen years old, critically injured. The narrative we are constructing here at work is that the pilot was at fault both times, killing his family twice. I do not know if that is true; the local news where he died is saying that the previous crash was attributed to pilot error, but I haven’t seen the NTSB report. I asked our Quality Assurance guys, and they haven’t seen the NTSB report from last time, either. We don’t know. Eyewitness reports from the field at this current crash seem to indicate the pilot was doing things in a non-standard and hazardous way.

It is easy to blame the dead guy. It’s easy to say he’s killed his family twice. That narrative fosters the belief that the accident was preventable, and that if WE were the pilot, WE would not have done whatever he did, and WE would have kept our families alive. It’s so easy to be afraid of the unknown and uncontrollable, and so easy to say that it must have been his fault. I know I’m not immune to this sort of thinking. I want to believe that the hazards of the world can be mastered by me, if I am vigilant and responsible and work hard and do the right thing.

Fatality accident statistics beg to differ.

Only half of aviation fatality accidents are attributable to pilot error.

4. I started watching the British tv series Misfits on Hulu. Teenage criminal offenders accidentally get superpowers. It’s a … It’s a weird little show. Dark, gritty, not funny or light-hearted. I really am enjoying it.

5. Work is still busy.

6. CONvergence! I’m going to be at CONvergence this coming weekend, Thursday through Sunday! Thursday and Saturday I will be there with my kids, doing family things. This happens to include running the party circuit Saturday night, collecting snacks and free junk from semi-drunk cabana parties. My kids love doing that way more than I do. Friday and Sunday I will be at the con doing Sigrid-things, like being on panels. Hope to see a number of you there!

why I don’t post so much in the summer

When work is busy, I have less to say about it. When work is slow, I can tell you all about the tv show I watched on my breaks, or this podcast I listened to, or the book I am reading, or the projects I am working on. When work is busy, there’s just work, and it is difficult to explain to people what I am doing all day.

Talking to planes.

Talking to planes with just one guy and a bunch of boxes, packages being hauled from the main depot to the small North Dakota towns, packages full of books or clothes or mail order sex toys or magazines or dvds or the bacon of the month club. Talking to planes full of passengers halfway between Dusseldorf and Los Angeles, sleeping or stretching their legs or wishing they’d put more music on their mp3 player or eating peanuts or trying to keep the baby from crying. Talking to planes with a family and two dogs heading up to the cabin for a week, with their fishing gear and the bickering teenagers and no cell phone reception once they get there. Talking to planes with the coworkers whose turn it is to have the co-op’s plane heading up to the company retreat, with their suitcases and the radio catching WCCO out of the Twin Cities, talking voices warbling in and out of reception as the lakes float by underneath. Talking to the commuter pilots we talk to every single day as they fly back and forth between company factories, a round-robin of parts and V.I.P.s that never ends and never seems to wreck their good mood. Talking to pilots carrying dead bodies of military personnel to their homes. Talking to pilots carrying body parts on ice in a race to get them to the person who needs them. Talking to pilots who speak seven languages, one of which is English. Talking to pilots who speak three languages, one of which is supposed to be English, and maybe is on a good day. Talking to pilots who are bored. Talking to pilots who are nervous. Talking to pilots who are fighting with their husbands when they get home. Talking to pilots who are trying to get next weekend off. Talking to pilots who have just started their careers and have something to prove. Talking to pilots whose only goal is the cold beer waiting for them at home.

And the pilots all need something.

They need a clearance out of the airport. They need a clearance in. They need to know what those clouds up ahead are doing. They need to know how long they’ll get delayed. They need to know where the air is smoother so the flight attendants can serve the drinks. They need to deviate, move to the right about thirty miles, so they don’t get too close to that iffy-looking thunderstorm. They need to climb, to descend, to practice that approach a couple of times before their exam, to turn, to slow down, to speed up, to take a re-route, to avoid those storms, to avoid these winds, to do the next thing and the next thing and the next thing because that is flying.

There is another next thing, until the pilot and the people sleeping and talking and eating and crying and working and humming and reading behind them in the plane are all on the ground safely.

That’s what I do, on these work days I don’t post much. I talk to planes. I tell them where to go, I tell them what to do, I tell them what they need to know so that the pilot can make smart decisions about where they will fly. And it’s a bit tiring. And that’s why I don’t post.

Five things make a list

1. It started raining twelve hours ago, and shows no sign of letting up.

2. There are so many books I want to read, I have no earthly idea when I will get to them all.

3. Due to being sick, I really haven’t worked out in two weeks, and I fear going to the Y this morning will be … challenging.

4. N is out of town for a week, at Brickworld (Lego Convention), and the house is weirdly quiet and empty without him in it!

5. I need to get more Assam White tea, I’m nearly out.

Spoilery thoughts about Doctor Who

I saw “A Good Man Goes to War” this weekend. My thoughts on it are behind the cut-tag.

Continue reading

A few quick things

1. My familial visit went great. My sister’s kids seemed to really bond with my kids, which is a good thing for future visits.

2. My goodness, I am still sick. I’m going back to bed to rest, and read, in the hopes that it will makes working until midnight tonight go better.

3. M tried to cut his own hair this morning, but we caught him in time.

4. K is ALSO sick, poor kiddo. Hacking cough and losing her voice, just like mom.

5. I bought the Complete Novel Collection of Strawberry Panic. I love this stuff, just eat it up with a spoon.

Okay. Time to go rest.

Wednesday is for miscellany, and links

1. My mom, my sister, and her two kids are visiting this week! This is excellent, I haven’t seen my niece and nephew since last summer.

2. M has got to learn to not play games that involve gentle violence. Wrestling, grabbing, chasing, capturing games. He cannot take them in the right spirit. In all of his reports he is playing the game, minding his own business, when someone out of the blue ATTACKS HIM, so he fights back. What actually happens is that M is playing, and so is the other kid, who understandably thinks that a little bit of shoving, hitting, and kicking is part of the game. M feels the blow and immediately tries to punch the crap out of the other kid. Zero to nuclear screaming apocalypse in two seconds.

Not all games are for everyone. I can’t play that faux-argument-easy bickering thing that so many people seem to do well. I get worked up and start crying. So, I don’t damn well play. M has GOT to learn to NOT PLAY.

3. I posted a couple of things to Fantastic Fangirls this week. First is a review of Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios’s Osborn. The second is a great conversation with Marjorie M. Liu.

4. I finished books! A lot of them! And posted reviews to Goodreads, the link to which is in the sidebar.

Poll: Which YA fiction do you mean?

In response to the Wall Street Journal article Darkness Too Visible, a number of people online have written refutations of Gurdon’s main point. Namely, that “that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures.” Jackie Morse Kessler’s response, Making the Darkness Visible, argues that “Ignoring ugly truths doesn’t make those truths go away. Silence is never the answer. Granted, there may be those who will always advocate censorship rather than frank discussion. But the more that people insist on limiting the books we read, the more those books need to be read.”

I was discussing this with J, whose opening statement is that she agrees with Gurdon — YA fiction is unrelentingly grim. She said that as a teenager she avoided YA because it was depressing, skipping straight to adult fantasy and science fiction novels — where things were difficult but there was often hope. After a few more minutes it because clear that when we were discussing YA, we weren’t talking about the same books.

J was referring to a sort of Newberry-Award-Winning type of book. I largely avoided these as a pre-teen. They looked pedantic. Though I did read a stack of about fifteen of these sorts of books one year. My mother, for one of her classes at seminary, brought them home and had to read them. I read them out of curiosity. Bridge to Terebithia. Jacob Have I Loved. Dicey’s Song, that sort of thing. They were okay, I guess. I liked Jacob Have I Loved enough to go read a few other Katherine Paterson books, but I didn’t like those as much. I remember other titles from my junior high school library — I Am The Cheese, A Separate Place, The Cat Ate My Gymsuit. But I never read them. The sample I read was dingy and depressing and full of very mundane problems that didn’t interest me. That’s not my YA.

The YA books I read and loved were … well, let’s face it. A lot more sensationalistic. One favorite was about a group of teenagers out camping in the woods in order to make out, who were all kidnapped and held for ransom. I can’t recall for certain, but I’m pretty sure one of the girls is raped, or her rape is implied. I read books about secret bigamist families, or about orphan girls sent to live with rapist relatives far away. I read the ouvre of Lois Duncan constantly. I ate those books up, yes I did, I ate them with a SPOON.

These books talked about the same things as the more refined, more award-winning books. They talked about pimples, body image, divorce, and step-families. But they talked about those things in a context of HEIGHTENED DRAMA. Wearing the same sweater as your rival looked like the minor trauma is was when your evil and hitherto-unknown identical twin sister arrived in town to steal your life.

Man, I loved me some Lois Duncan.

I read this sort of YA around the ages of ten or eleven. Supernatural and fantastical elements were necessary, it seemed, for me to care about the story. By the time I was fifteen I’d left the YA and teen sections almost entirely behind, save for my passionate loyalty to Tamora Pierce. I read Stephen King, V.C. Andrews, Robert Heinlein, Anne McCaffery, Jean Auel, authors whose books that carried on the themes and rank melodrama of the YA I’d loved. When I think of my actual teen reading it was Valley of the Horses, Dragonflight, Friday, Heaven, and The Stand. Along with uncountable X-Men comics, also dripping with melodrama, heaving with subtextual sexual themes, and containing science-fictional elements. You can’t say I don’t have a type.

When you think of the YA you read, what were you actually reading? How old were you when you read teen lit? When you were a teen, what did you read? When we all talk about the possible value of YA, what books are we actually discussing? And, as a bonus question, what was the first book you read in which you were aware of the sexual content? (Clan of the Cave Bear, by the way.) (EDIT: And S.M. Stirling’s The Cage had the first lesbian sex scene I read.)

Brains, I can has some

1. I’m home from work, sick. Blea. I have COMPLETELY lost my voice. I really cringe when I have to stay home from work every time I get laryngitis. I do not have the sick leave for this, I really don’t. But, if I have to stay home sick, this isn’t half bad. I don’t actually feel very bad, just a sore throat and a cough and NO DAMN VOICE.

2. It’s been a really productive week as far as writing and editing go. I haven’t gotten to the original fiction portion of my agenda yet, but that’s next. I got some really encouraging words from people at Wiscon regarding my work, and it’s motivating. In the meantime though I have worked on reviews and interviews and editing, oh my!

3. My kids are doing well. It’s summer here, all of a sudden, with temperatures in the 90s, so they are wearing tank tops and shorts, or bathing suits. I find I am startled by their physical appearance. I mean, they’re my kids and they are young and I see their bodies frequently. But the tank tops and shorts highlight their future adolescent forms. M gangles. He’s all knobby elbows and shoulders and knees and ankles. I mean, seriously, ANKLES. K is curvy with broad athletic shoulders, and I can see her in three years.

tl;dr — Kids, they keep growing.

4. If I had a fourth thought, I don’t recall it.

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