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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 11:50 am:   

I'll be touring with Gwyneth Jones & Eileen Gunn in a whirlwind tour of the west coast in October to promote Gwyneth's new novel, Life, Eileen's new collection, Stable Strategies for Middle Management, and my own (relatively new) collection, Love's Body, Dancing in Time. After the tour, the three of us will attend the World Fantasy Con in Tempe, where Gwyneth will be Author Guest of Honor. We hope to keep an online log of the tour as we go (though we know better than to make any promises). I've never done this before, but I suspect the pace will be grueling. (We'll be traveling by road & mostly crashing with writers we know along the way.)

Here's the tour itinerary:

Oct 16-- Third Place Books (Lake Forest Park, WA )
Oct 17-- University Bookstore (Seattle, WA)
Oct 19-- Wrigley-Cross Books (Portland, OR)
Oct 20-- Barnes & Noble (Eugene, OR)
Oct 21-- (travel)
Oct 22-- The Avid Reader (Davis, CA): with Kim Stanley Robinson
Oct 23-- Borderlands (San Francisco)
Oct 24-- Dark Carnival (Oakland)
Oct 25-- travel)
Oct 26-- Dark Delicacies (Burbank, CA)
Oct 27-- Mysterious Galaxy (San Diego, CA)

Oct.28/29/30 World Fantasy Con, Tempe, AZ
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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Saturday, October 09, 2004 - 07:06 pm:   

I'm going to try to keep a log of the road trip with Gwyneth Jones & Eileen Gunn & post it here. (If, that is, I'm (a) able to connect & (b) I have the energy to make entries.) I expect it should be interesting, not least because we'll be hanging with several writers along the way (some of whom have graciously offered to put us up.) The road trip will officially begin on Tuesday, Oct. 19, when we pick up the rental car & drive down to Portland for our first bookstore appearance. But the tour proper will be launched Saturday at 6 p.m. at Third Place Books. & Gwyneth will be arriving about seventeen hours before that.

For everyone living in the Seattle area, take note-- the event on Sunday afternoon at the University Bookstore should be something special: Nicola Griffith will be joining Gwyneth, Eileen, & me.

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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Wednesday, October 13, 2004 - 05:19 pm:   

I need to make a couple of corrections to the schedule above:

--The October 17 event at the University Bookstore in Seattle will include Nicola Griffith in addition to Gwyneth Jones, Eileen Gunn, & myself. Nicola will be reading from her new collection, With Her Body, which has just been published as the second volume in Aqueduct Press's new chapbook series.

--The October 20 event at the Barnes & Noble in Eugene, OR, will include Leslie What in addition to Gwyneth Jones, Eileen Gunn, & myself. I heard Leslie read from her new novel, Olympic Games last July and can promise that it will be a pleasure to hear her read.

For the University Bookstore event we are planning to keep our readings short so that we'll have time to have a panel discussion besides answering questions from the audience.
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Posted on Friday, October 29, 2004 - 05:45 pm:   

Okay, so I lied. But I had good intentions! The truth is, after all this time on the road, I only just now figured out how to get my wireless card to interact promiscuously with other networks than my home network. (It feels a little like an adulterous relation. The security set-up on my computer was profoundly disapproving when I told it I wanted the connection. I don't ordinarily anthropomorphize my laptop even though it is named Mary Shelley, but whenever it starts fussing at me, I begin to imagine it's been structured with moral principles-- ones suitable for computer life, of course.) Also, though I took notes for part of the trip (mostly while in the backseat of the car, with my laptop on my knees), it's been hard to find the time & to divert the energy to make them fit to paste in here.

I'm at the World Fantasy Convention in Tempe now. (I'm due down in the lobby in half an hour.) I was so sick of living out of a suitcase that the first thing I did on taking possession of my hotel room was to unpack. Happily, after experiencing such traumatizing weather in Southern California, the sky here is clear, with a few wisps of mare's tails romping merrily across the firmament & the sunset casting a warm pink wash over not only the dramatically stark mountains at the horizon, but also the white cylinders of what looks to my midwestern-bred eye like a grain elevator (but may, of course, be something else entirely) occupying the middleground of my view.

If I have time, I'll post some of the notes that I made along the way. Alan Bostick asked us, at our Berkeley reading, whether we'd had "madcap adventures" on our road trip. "Madcap" implies a certain screwball comedy element, so probably I'd answer that question with a "no." But the trip could by no stretch of the imagination be called "uneventful"...
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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Sunday, November 07, 2004 - 12:08 am:   

I've been home for almost a week, but apparently some part of my psyche is still processing the road trip, since several times this week I've woken (either in the middle of the night or at around six or seven in the morning, when it's still dark)-- or rather partially woken: believing I was awake while being still, if fact, caught in the dream-- and wondered where the hell I was, being convinced I was still on the road. In each instance, as I tried to work out where I might be, I gradually became aware of my surroundings, viz., my bedroom, & realized I was home, lying in my own bed. Which came to me as a tremendous relief. Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of this recurring dream is that while on the road I always knew where I was, regardless of when, in the morning or night, I woke. I never once experienced that sort of disorientation. Which is to say that the dream offers a representation of being on the road that needs some fancy explication. On Tuesday night I had the dream twice. I can't ever remember dreaming in this way about any other travel experience I've had. & no, I haven't yet been able to interpret it.

Looking back through my notes with the idea of posting bits of them here, I found a page of handwritten notes on last Saturday's Arizona Republic, a copy of which was left outside my hotel room door. My notes read: "On the front page of The Arizona Republic there's an article titled 'School Safety, Voter Rights May Collide.' In Arizona, one-third of all polling places are located in public schools. Citizens voting at polls located in public schools may face illegal measures because Arizona's State Superintendent of Public Instruction, one Tom Horne [or is it Howe? My notes are a jagged, messy scrawl, probably because I intended to post to one of my Nightshade threads that day using the newspaper text to assist me-- not realizing, of course, that I'd be too busy for the rest of the WFC to do any such thing.], has advised district and school administrators to `consider implementing emergency-response plans during Tuesday's election' on the grounds that the students need protection from a `potential security risk' (something Arizona's students have not needed during previous elections, not even in post-Sept. 11 2002)." The story continues on A6. My notes quote the article: "Horne [or Howe] said the memo was prompted by an Oct 6 federal Dept of Education notice advising school officials nationwide to take precautions after Chechen separatists slaughtered 331 people in early September in Beslan, Russia." At this point in my notes, I interject a few comments: "What do Chechen separatists have to do with Arizona schools? Or any US schools? This is clearly a bogus "concern"-- just an excuse to keep anyone who feels in the least bit marginal (socio-economically, racially, or ethnically) from voting. The article quotes a local ACLU official, who notes that for 100 years such special monitoring has been unnecessary & urges school administrators not to overreact. There's not a word in the article suggesting a connection to all the other GOP attempts around the country to impede voter turnout."

So now, of course, I'm wondering whether (or how many) district and school administrators took "emergency measures" to monitor citizens wanting to enter public schools in order to access their assigned polling places. & whether any superintendents of public education in other states sent out similar advisements, & if so, how this impacted voters' experiences at the polls.

It is striking that the regime of violence and fraud and an array of dirty tricks that characterized southern electoral practices in the pre-Civil Rights era has, since the election of 2000 (when so many irregularities were uncovered months after the election, irregularities preventing African American citizens, in particular, from casting their ballots) become not only pervasive, but massively and creatively orchestrated, using federal, state, and local bureaucracies to interfere with the voting apparatus wherever possible. It's no wonder that as electronic voting machine "errors" (always favoring Bush, for some reason) come to light, many people (like myself) will have a tendency to suspect that the Bush administration has secured a second term by nondemocratic means this time, as well as the last.

Besides wondering about how many civil servants actually followed the lead set them by the Oct 6 memo from the US Dept of Education & besides being struck by the GOP's widespread adoption of previously excoriated tactics (which also, when designed to serve racist ends, are technically, at least, illegal under the Voting Rights Act), I'm also bemused by how differently I am now thinking about these tactics intended to obstruct even the semblance of democratic practice from the way I viewed them when I wrote those notes a week ago. [Check out Anita Hill's piece "Questionable Tactics by the GOP" in today's Boston Globe. It makes the same connection I just made.] A week ago I assumed that the civil servants as well as the companies taking over certain privatized functions for profit (such as purportedly registering voters, "cleansing" voter rolls, providing or servicing electronic voting hardware & software, etc) were all cynically motivated by the desire to perpetuate the Big Bush Gravy Train that is joyfully looting & bankrupting the middle class. (It's interesting, isn't it, that the US is apparently destined to go the way of the USSR-- bankrupted by military spending, & looted-- though in our case, the looting is going on during rather than being followed by the bankrupting part of the program.) But after several days of reading reports on why so many states on the election map came out red, I now realize that cynical greed alone can't suffice to explain why so many people who were raised from childhood to pay frequent & active lip service to fair voting practices at least for white people (which is about as far as democratic practice has ever extended in this country) have been engaging in skullduggery on a massive scale without the faintest prick of conscience.

I remember how, teaching classes in the History of Western Civilization back in the mid-1970s, I found it impossible to get more than a handful of students to understand that what makes fascism work isn't merely evil leaders, but unlimited consent & support from a substantial portion of the population. My students kept assuming that the WWII Germany & Italy consisted of evil people, victims, & dupes. They couldn't believe that really "decent" people could have actually supported such heinous policies because they couldn't believe that people who weren't inherently "evil" (from birth, I guess!) would consent to the policies of evil leaders except through fear or ignorance. On Wednesday, I realized that I (as well as the textbook) failed because I hadn't emphasized the crucial significance that religion played in Nazi German & fascist Italy (&, later, in fascist regimes in South America). (Since religion was an essentially private institution back in the 1970s, my students still might not have gotten it even if I had.) Since Wednesday I've been reading reports about how crucial the Christian evangelist vote proved to be in Ohio, especially. & then this morning I read John Dean's article, "Understanding the 2004 Presidential Election: Beyond the Polarized Electorate, and the Republicans' Superior Turnout." Dean cites an "an important and incisive October 21, 2004 report by the Program on International Policy Attitudes and the Center for Intentional and Security Studies at the University of Maryland, entitled 'The Separate Realities of Bush and Kerry Supporters.' " The report, which was funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Ford Foundation, hypothesizes that "not only is there a culture divided between Bush and Kerry supports, but they seem to inhabit separate realities - and different views on religion's role in voting are only one dissimilarity between their two disparate worlds."


The report's findings are stark: Bush and Kerry supporters agree that the U.S. should not have gone to war if there were no weapons of mass destruction or if there was no support of Al Qaeda by Saddam. But - like the colleagues of the caller mentioned earlier - other Bush supporters have closed their eyes to the reality that, in fact, there were no WMD, and there was no Al Qaeda connection.

According to the report, Bush supporters have similarly rejected the reality that world opinion was against Bush - believing, contrary to facts, that it actually favored Bush. No neutral observer could possible [sic] dispute that, as a factual matter, world opinion strongly opposed, and continues to oppose, the United States's actions in Iraq - and would have preferred Kerry to Bush as President.

Indeed, Bush's own argument has been that he is unwilling to hold an international referendum on his policies - not that he would prevail were such a referendum held. The only supportive countries he has cited in the debates, among the "Coalition of the Willing" are the U.K. and Poland.

Why Are Bush Supporters Resistant to Well-Established, Non-partisan Facts

The report shows that Bush supporters seem to simply ignore information they don't like - even if it is confirmed by the Bush Administration itself! They continue to believe in arguments even Bush and Cheney themselves have dropped - the WMD, and the Saddam/Al Qaeda connection, respectively. And this may be because they get their information from unreliable sources.

The report, according to Dean, blames this will to ignore facts on the trauma of September 11. Clinging to manifestly false big lies are a familiar story, of course. Still, I would argue that whatever the root social psychological cause, the instrument allowing large numbers of people to effectively violate the once- widespread poli-cultural values they were raised with without suffering even the faintest twinge of conscience is extremist religious fervor. But since any public criticism whatsoever of any variety of Christian religion has become taboo, this manipulation is unlikely to be challenged-- certainly not by the Democratic Party. (Only the Islamic religion may be criticized for such abuses.)

Hmm. While my discussion of anti-democratic practices may seem to have little to do with my road trip, the fact is that everywhere we went the election was the prime topic of conversation (though there was also some discussion about whether the Boston Red Sox would succeed in breaking The Curse-- which they did, while we were still on the road). I don't think I've ever seen so many political yard signs (though the density of them diminished considerably in southern California, especially in San Diego & suburbs). So the above isn't totally irrelevant to the tour...
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Nancy Jane Moore
Posted on Sunday, November 07, 2004 - 08:20 am:   

Let me finish hijacking this thread, Timmi. (Though much of my thinking on this subject was developed while I was traveling around Arizona while you were on your tour -- perhaps we can pretend it's tied in on that ground.)

Garry Wills had an op-ed piece in this week NY Times in which he noted that more people in the US believe in the virgin birth of Jesus than believe in evolution. That just underscores the place of fundamentalist Christianity in our society. (And when you think about it, isn't evolution much more miraculous than one birth in which the method of conception is in doubt? My Aikido teacher keeps reminding us that a seed is a miracle -- it holds the potential for making a huge tree, for example. That at least somewhat intelligent life -- I'm giving humans the benefit of the doubt here -- evolved from single-celled organisms that themselves came out of some mix of elements is pretty damn amazing in its own right.)

Fundamentalist religion, rather than religion alone, is the core problem here, regardless of whether we are talking about Christians (both Protestant and Catholic), Muslims (of all variations), Jews or Hindus. Fundamentalists work on the assumption that their religion offers the only true salvation and that all others are damned or outright enemies of the true faith.

Fundamentalist Christians take the Bible literally, despite the fact that they're reading translations of translations of translations (sort of like the party game telephone) of work that was selected for political reasons by Roman religious leaders in the 4th Century. The bumper sticker around here reads: "God said it. I believe it. That settles it." The real flaw in that expression is the first sentence. Even if you believe that various people were inspired by God (and while I wouldn't necessarily call that inspiration "God" I have no argument with the notion that some have been inspired by experiences outside of normal life), there is no way of knowing whether the ways in which these inspirations were written and passed down even approximates their mystical experience.

But that bumper sticker expresses far too clearly the level of analysis that fundamentalists put into their religious thinking. Which is to say, they don't think about it at all and they reject anything that might make them question it, like evolution or the teaching of another religion or even the moderates within their own religion.

That lack of thought was an obvious player in our election (I'm willing to believe in fraud but unfortunately I'm also willing to believe in stupidity). It plays right in with accepting Bush's outright lies -- and I don't think he ever completely took back his lies on weapons of mass destruction or the tie of Iraq to Al Qaeda.

And of course, it's equally a problem with the fundamentalist Muslims: If you take the fundamentalist POV of Muslims and Christians and put them up against each other, how do you end up with anything but a war? (And likewise fundamentalist Jews or Hindus -- in fact, although Christians and Jews are ostensibly on the same side of these fights at the moment, I'm not convinced that you couldn't come up with a similar fight there. The history of anti-semitism in Europe is just one example.)

I do think it's time liberals in the US stopped tiptoeing around fundamentlism of all stripes, though particularly Christian fundamentalism, since that's our biggest problem. Respecting people's right to religious beliefs is one thing, but the fundamentalists are hijacking the political process to cram their beliefs down our throats. We need to shut down such nonsense as the teaching of "creationism" in the public schools -- it's been almost a hundred years since the Scopes monkey trial. It's tricky, I know, but I'm not sure we can compromise with it successfully anymore.

I was just thinking that William Jennings Bryan, a great populist, represented the anti-evolutionists in the Scopes trial, and said something to the effect that "I have all the information I want to live by and die by," referring to the Bible. When it comes to economic issues, our ideas and those of many of those fundamentalists are aligned, but our moral values are quite different (and we certainly have strong moral values). I'm not sure how to fix this problem, but it is certainly a problem.

However, I note that African American voters who are also fundamentalist Christians are not taken in by Republican efforts to drape themselves in so called moral values, even when they agree with the religious position, so I'm not sure it's impossible to reach similarly placed white voters. Some of the problem is pure spin -- the Republicans have been doing a much better job of using phrases that catch on and redefine the discussion in a distorted way.

One other religious thought that hit me while I was on vacation: I was listening to classical music and they were playing a piece called the Reformation Symphony (I forget the composer). Incorporated in it was the music to Luther's "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," and I found myself singing along -- I spent much of my youth in church choir. Think about the words:

"A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing.
A helper he amidst the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe.
His craft and power are great
And armed with cruel hate
On Earth is not his equal."

I started thinking about how the words -- even the words I disagree with -- from all those childhood hours in church are engraved in my brain. If I combed through the Episcopal hymnal (1940), I could probably find dozens of images that are just second nature to me.

I find two major things to argue with in this song. One, the idea of a "bulwark never failing." There's no such thing. All fortresses have a weakness. Rigidity will only go so far in protecting you; flexibility is much more crucial. But rigidity underlies most of our defense posture today.

The other is that humans aren't capable of standing up to evil by themselves. The song is referring to Satan, but it's easy enough to see Satan in, say, Muslims (or Christians if you're a Muslim). The idea of religious war is just beneath the surface.

Add movie and television images in with the religious ones, and you have an American public that easily accepts Bush's pronouncements. I keep thinking about westerns and John Wayne, the one brave man refusing to back down. Now I've always personally liked the image of the sheriff refusing to give into the lynch mob -- the individual standing up against the mob is an important positive image in my mind -- but some of the others just give support to the concept that rigid thinking will keep you safe. And these are movies, damn it -- the fights scenes were choreographed. They're not what really happened.

As for the trauma of September 11: I actually think much of that is hype, too. I don't think most of the US population is very affected by it at this point. They've accepted the security theatre in the airports and they're willing to buy arguments that their civil rights need to be eroded to keep them safer, but they're not really thinking about the real threats out there. They're just buying the hype.

I was pretty damn traumatized by Sept. 11 myself, but then I live in Washington, DC, and work about 6 blocks from the White House, and my sister lives three blocks from where the World Trade Center used to be. It struck me very forcefully that people I love, not to mention myself, could die for reasons that had nothing to do with us personally. That is something I find very terrifying: If someone's going to murder me or mine, I want it to be personal. I think that reaction was shared by a lot of people in the NYC and greater Washington areas. I suspect in the rest of the country that fear was more abstract, although we all shared the television images.

I would note that the people who live where Sept. 11 actually happened voted primarily for Kerry. NYC and DC, along with their suburban areas, were strongly Democratic. I haven't seen a breakdown of the county by county vote in Virginia, which unlike Maryland, did go for Bush, but I suspect Kerry did well in the Virginia counties just outside Washington (the Pentagon is in Virginia) because the Virginia vote was close and southern Virginia was solidly pro Bush.

That is, most the people who are support Bush because of Sept. 11 are those for whom it was abstract, instead of personal. It's just another example of buying into the hype and spin.

Well, this thread is now thoroughly hijacked!

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Josh Lukin
Posted on Thursday, November 11, 2004 - 10:20 pm:   

Reading around, I find that
1) The lockdown of the vote-counting in Warren County, Ohio was precipitated by a "terra" threat that the FBI now denies having conveyed
2) An article --I think linked by a weblogger at Seeing the Forest-- that explains how Rove specifically worked through churches: evidently the misinformation revealed by the PIPA study was promulgated from the pulpit, with ministers repeating specific talking points even as the administration disavowed those very claims.

What was the thread about again?
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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Friday, November 12, 2004 - 03:29 pm:   

I just about invited y'all to hijack the thread, so I can't complain. But what I've done is start a new thread about the tour-- not a log, obviously, but some description of the tour with a few reflections, at


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