Monday, April 26, 2010

If the Tea Party Was Black

This is a thought-provoking post asking how we would view the actions of the Tea Party if its participants were black, which actually refers to events that have taken place in the name of the Tea Party and the hateful things that people supporting it have said.

Astonishingly, there are still a few people who bothered to offer comments that boil down to just saying, "Nuh-uh!" How anyone can observe the actions of the Tea Party and their supporters and genuinely claim that in NO WAY are they playing up a racial angle defies belief. Those people have to know they are lying. 

I also find it a little humorous how easily dittoheads accuse someone else of being "whiny" while defending the Tea Party protesters, who do nothing but complain. Maybe because they scream, they don't qualify as whining?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Social Class and Adventurous Youth

Michael Chabon wrote some powerful essays in his recent collection, Manhood for Amateurs, that address the way we try to control and protect the experiences of our children today, compared to how freely and independently our parents allowed us to roam our neighborhoods.

This rings very true for me as I look at my experiences with my own kids and compare them with the routine excursions of my childhood.

But when I walk or drive around my own neighborhood, I do see the occasional individual or pack of kids roaming around, heading to the store, the library, or simply wandering along the irrigation canal in the vague direction of a park or open field. What's interesting is that these kids are almost exclusively young people of color, usually Latino or African.

I say Latino because I hear the kids speaking Spanish to each other and because many of them have a mestizo cast to their complexion and features that is familiar to me from growing up in southern New Mexico. I'd guess that they're probably Mexican American, but that would be assuming more than I know.

I say African, not African American, because there's a small cluster of Somalis living in my part of Boise, part of a slightly larger but still small enclave of refugees who were resettled here in the past decade. So while many of these kids have probably grown up here and speak English, they weren't born here and I don't know their citizenship status.

These two groups of kids seem to have two basic traits in common. First, relatively speaking, they're poorer than the largely middle class suburbanites that surround them. They come from one of several apartment complexes, a trailer park, or a few duplexes occupied by a large number of people. Second, I think that many of them come from families where the parents and other adults grew up in places other than the United States of the late 20th and early 21st century.

I suspect that this combination means that their families have both fewer resources (in terms of time or the money to pay other people for their time) at hand to constantly monitor their children and fewer psychological hangups about leaving their kids to fend for themselves during certain times of the day.

So perhaps these kids have the opportunity to explore and create their own adventures that Chabon argues is denied to middle class American kids in our current culture. And I wonder how that will shape their experiences and attitudes. Are they getting a chance to develop a part of their imaginations that will be stunted in my kids and their peers? Or are they just wandering bored, waiting for a chance to play video games or sign up for a youth sports league?

Now, I'm not arguing that being an adolescent member of an economically disadvantaged minority with the freedom to roam around is the same thing as being a middle class kid with that same freedom. It's not. The middle class white kid has fewer basic needs to worry about and certainly finds it easier to fit in to the surrounding society, particularly in a city as white as Boise.

But our neighborhood is a pretty safe place, and the local branch library is nice, and I see a lot of these kids in and around there. So I hope that they are getting a chance to enjoy some of their unstructured, unsupervised time and indulge in that freedom. Because the irony would be a little hard to bear otherwise.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The other Blog

Just wanted to say that I've added some more poems as well as some personal essays to my other blog, Sand Dreaming of Stars. I'm relatively pleased with them.

So anyone who reads this site should also check that one out. One Hand Clapping will still have the political asides, reviews, and comments on my writing efforts.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Drawing Some Maps

Got a bit stumped with my novel outline over Spring Break, largely because there was no real time or space to think quietly with Lisa and the kids all home, partly because I'm stuck on some point of view issues.*

So I decided to work on setting issues today after running some errands. Wanted to get out of my left brain a bit, so I pulled out some maps I have showing possible configurations of the world's continents 250 million years in the future. Then I started modifying them to create some of the geographic and environmental conditions that I felt would facilitate the formation and style of the civilizations I already had in mind.

Relative success on that front. I have two regions roughly developed.

The one for the Draconic civilization features two large inland seas, a bunch of peninsulas, and a chain of volcanic islands off the coast. Geographically, it's kind of a blend of the Mediterranean with northeast Asia, bleeding into the Central Asian grassland/steppe. This works nicely with some of the imagery and city-state rivalries that I had envisioned. Essentially variants of the Hanseatic League, Peloponnesian League, Venetian maritime empire, and Japanese Shogunate are all in close proximity to each other.

This one for the Serpentine civilization has a huge, Andean or Himalayan-style mountain range with glaciers and a high temperate plateau dominated by a pair of large lakes with no outlets. Then there's a lower mountain range that forms the spine of the rest of the landmass. Within this central mountain range lies another valley with a large, fairly shallow lake.

To the west and south of the central range range are tropical highlands and lowlands that experience coastal monsoons. Several rivers flow into the southern portion. Most of this area is jungle.

To the east is a large, barren patch dominated by rocky hills and flat stretches of sand, broken up only by two long eastward-flowing rivers that are the lifelines of the region. The entire landmass lies at tropical latitude; only the elevation of the plateau region gives it a temperate climate.

The sea to the west is dotted with active volcanic islands formed by the collision of oceanic plates. This configuration puts together the three environs suited to the Aztec/Inca/Maya/Northern India mashup I had been working on.

The next trick is visualizing how these two landmasses connect to each other and then determining the proper scale. I have an idea of what I'm looking for here, but I need to think about the distances involved and the latitude effects a bit more.

Also need a lot of work on the names, but that can be done bit by bit.

Really should work on the city map for Cortado next, as that's more relevant to the actual events of the planned novel.

*My thought right now is to go with a central character POV surrounded by multiple points of view from secondary characters; still trying to balance those out and thinking about whether to switch on a chapter or scene basis within the storyline.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Long, Interesting Talk by Cory Doctorow on E-Publishing

From his blog, Craphound. His talk focuses on the economics of electronic publishing and issues of DRM, copyright, and pricing.

This sort of thing is interesting to me as both a consumer and potential author, though the aspects that relate to being a writer are largely in the background because I've got so very far to go before I become competent at producing viable stories that I could sell.