I had had the thought that, in discussing what I mean to discuss today, I would borrow from the Gettysburg Address and make some declamation beginning with “Eight square and no more years ago,” because it has been so long and because the word-play suggested itself to me for a moment. I know many would get the joke; I know, too, that I do not have the skills and insight to carry that joke through the way it really ought to be done, and I suspect that the joke would not go over so well as I would like. A great many of my jokes go that way, after all, as most know who speak to me for more than a few moments. Consequently, I shall content myself with but a short comment, knowing that the day needs but little from me said about it.
Happy birthday, Mom!
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Today marks the victory of Mexico over France at Puebla, and, in the part of the world where I grew up and where I live again, it is spent as a celebration of Mexican culture. (Admittedly, where I am used to be Mexico, but it wasn’t still Mexico at the time Puebla happened. Oh, no, there was another war going on, and this part of the world was on the wrong side of it.) Given how much of the rest of the year a lot of people here spend decrying that culture, the observance strikes me as odd to disingenuous to hypocritical to appropriative and reductionist, at least as many make the observance. But then, that’s hardly unique to this day, as I think I might’ve mentioned a fewtimesbefore.
For me, the day is something that attracts attention; again, I live where I live, and, for better or worse, I identify as a resident of that part of the world, so the common observances are part of the identificatory markers. And I confess to some hypocrisy of my own; I do love me some tacos, and they do tend to be on special on Cinco de Mayo. It’s far removed from the origination of the observance, and it doesn’t do me any credit, thought it does contribute to my waistline being what it is.
There is this, too: My wife and child are both Hispanic, specifically of Mexican descent. My wife’s grandmother, though born in the US, grew up south of the Rio Grande; her parents hailed from there, if memory serves, or her grandparents did. So they, at least, have the more direct tie, and I am happy to celebrate their heritage with them, even if I do not share it myself. It is part of who they are, even if it is not the part they necessarily foreground; I am rather quite fond of the both of them, so why should I not laud what contributes to making them who they are, so long as it does not hurt them?
But then, given how things are in this part of the world and many others, perhaps they would come to harm from the acknowledgement of their ancestry. Enough people do so where I can see it, and I look in few places and with poor eyesight; there is surely far more of it of which I am unaware.
Funny how that kind of thing can work out.
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Plant in the season Fertilize the fields Reap when the time comes But the rains will fail sometimes And some seeds Despite the best tending Never sprout Or Germinating Become plants that never bear fruit
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O, Stupid God, again I make my plea
That you will turn your gaze away from me;
Let your eyes look elsewhere; leave me be.
O, Stupid God, please do not bless my friends
Save it is with your absence or your end;
Others ask for you to them defend.
O, Stupid God, my labors please ignore
And all the deeds I do, I you implore;
Those that I do, I know, would but you bore.
O, Stupid God, my family please preserve
And from your course against them sudden swerve;
Let them your absence have that they deserve.
Let all the hymns sung to your praise be ceased
And all who suffer at your hands be eased.
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What’s the point of all of this
Sitting in these stifling rooms
Day after day
Learning things our older brothers and sisters learned
Our cousins and their friends
About how the world works
The way things are supposed to be
When it’s clear that
The world doesn’t work that way anymore
If it ever did
Skills that might’ve served once
But’ve been replaced by machines and software
AI putting out paintings and poems
Progressive generation of music
Notes that never could’ve been heard before
All the things they said would make us better people
Given over to machines
While it’s clear we’re being trained as cogs ourselves
Wheels meant to turn and go nowhere
But just feed things through so
Someone else can have them
And be swapped out when we can do no more
Is this really all there is to it all
Making those of us who still might’ve had futures
Something to enjoy
Into the shapes filled by those a few classes ahead
Bullets in chambers to be fired at enemies whose only crimes are
Different colored skin
Different modes of dress
Different prayers lifted up
Or sitting on something someone else wants
But doesn’t want to pay for
Unless they spend the melted and remade metals
They think we ought to be
Coins cast at some problem or another
‘cause cash is king and they want to show off their crowns
Do they really only want us to fill their bodybags
Graves they make us dig ‘cause they won’t lift a shovel
There’s someone else to do that for them
Or their pockets with the work they want done
Don’t want to pay to have done
Any more than they can help
‘cause they don’t think they have enough
Even when they have more than they could ever spend
More dollars than days of their lives and ours
It seems that way
Learning the lessons they leave for us to take
Making us machines they can program as they please
So we don’t question
Or if we question
Keep it to ourselves
‘cause the pasts they push forward
Seem short on complaint and long on compliance
I was just following orders
Doing what the boss said I ought to do
A commoner refrain
‘cause if we say anything
We are weak and entitled
Even if we are the ones they want to carry them forward
And their bags of money
Swelling with what has been stolen
And none of us want to look weak in front of the rest
‘cause we know one of the things we’ve been taught to do
Sharks in the sea and wolves in the woods
Is to find the ones in the herd that struggle
And take them out
And it ain’t like most of us keep ourselves from doing it
Rather than letting it be done to us
You can’t say anything about this
Have to hold the line they give you
So you don’t find yourself out of work
The work you thought you wanted to do
Before you found out what you would have to do
How it keeps changing
Demanding more of you
Offering no more
You’ve got your own kids to feed
Or a cat or something
‘cause we’ve heard the folks your age and older talk about
How nobody can afford it anymore
Who couldn’t already
We listen even when you think we don’t hear you
And want you to be honest even when you can’t
But it ain’t like we’re safe
Seems like we see it every day
On those screens we supposedly stare at too much
But if the world’s so scary as you say
Why do you blame us for turning away from it
Toward something where we have
Something that seems like control
It ain’t like the screen makes us do another drill
Leaves us in a lockdown
You can’t say anything
But we ain’t caught quite yet
We can still speak up
At least a little
Maybe only here
Maybe only now
And if there’s only the one chance to be heard
Before the echoes fade into the void
Or grinding gears drown them all out
Drown us all out
Or the rat-a-tat-tat of clicking keyboards
Beats out the tattoo of our subsumation
Then let us scream and be heard
Even if it’s disruptive now
‘cause we ain’t going to have the chance again
One way or another
And it ain’t like what gets taught here matters after
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Read the previous entry in the series here. Read the next entry in the series here.
Following additional messages in the ongoing exchange between Erek and Detozi, these detailing the openings of formal marriage proceedings, “Gone Astray” begins with Thymara rousing on the deck of the Tarman to find herself and the ship out of the woods, somewhat disconcertingly for someone who had grown up in a tree-borne city. Process towards Kelsingra and the current state of the dragons and their keepers are rehearsed, and changes to Sintara are detailed. Thymara’s own aches, pains, and changes also receive attention. Several keepers approach Greft for the use of his gear, which he denies, though to no avail. After a tense exchange, Thymara retires.
Leftrin considers the increasing peril for the Tarman and his crew as the group proceeds past what can properly be called a river, and he guesses at the geography that has led to the creation of the region in which he now travels. More of the local environment is described, and the dwindling supplies available receive attention. Alise joins him, and they confer about their situation. The pair affirm their mutual love, and their conversation turns awkward afterward, taking in Greft and his situation.
Leftrin and Alise walk the deck together, and Alise muses on the changes that have occurred in her. It is noted that Greft has taken his boat, as well as much of the hunting gear and no small part of the ship’s supplies. Given the theft from ship’s stores, Leftrin dispatches Carson to retrieve Greft. Carson asks Sedric to accompany him, confusing the latter, who muses on the shifting shape of their relationship. Carson and Sedric confer about their mission and the situation that obliges it, and they reaffirm their affections.
Meanwhile, Jerd experiences some difficulties with her pregnancy, occasioning some concern from the Tarman as blood hits the deck. Consultation with women on the crew notes that Jerd is likely experiencing a miscarriage and that those who have been engaging in sexual escapades are fools for doing so without the assurance that those who can get them pregnant will stand by them when hardships come. The rebuke is lengthy and detailed, and Jerd is delivered prematurely of a stillborn baby who is taken swiftly away and put overboard. Thymara considers the warning given, and Jerd’s dragon consumes the dead child.
Carson and Sedric proceed in their pursuit of Greft, backtracking under Carson’s honed skills. Gallators think to make meals of them, only to be eaten in turn by Spit. They find that Greft has not fared so well, but has been attacked by the gallators and left to die. Carson eases his passing, and Spit eats the body after it has been relieved of what few valuables are upon it. Sedric is confronted by evidence of his perfidy, purloined by Greft and found by Carson, and he confesses himself to his lover. Discussion turns pointed between the two, and Carson urges Sedric to confess to Alise.
The present chapter opens in another passage that serves to affirm, at least for me, that the setting of the Elderlings novels is more North America than Europe. The “gallators” Thymara and other keepers note encountering are reminiscent of alligators in name and described behavior, for one; the regions through which the Tarman passes call to mind such places as the Florida Everglades and the Louisiana wetlands (hence the image for this post). Other novels have, of course, offered other clues–the presence of raccoons is one that comes to mind–but as I was rereading this chapter, I was struck by it once again. There’s a comfort in being reminded that ideas you had were good ones.
That recognition brings to mind what seems to me to be a strange thought. The Traders were, as is noted early on in the Liveship Traders series, effectively exiles from their former homes in Jamailllia. (There’s more about that in some supplementary materials I will address in time, but I need to get through the “main” rereading first.) The Rain Wild Traders from whom the keepers are drawn are very nearly exiles from even the rest of the Traders. I have to wonder if there is some attempt at mirroring or borrowing from the history of the Cajuns in the United States; to my inexpert eye, exposed only cursorily in my few short years of study at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, there seem to be some parallels, though I am well aware that my opinion is not the most informed that could be found. Still, I wonder if any of the future alumni at the school might be able to explicate that further. (I’d love it if you did and let me know!)
The discussion of the consequences of sex–more for women than for men–also provokes thoughts in me. I know that some of the discussion is entirely true to life; there’s a reason “Mama’s baby, Papa’s maybe” is a current phrase, and I have seen all too many children abandoned or worse by one or more of those who made them, all too many women who became pregnant and remained pregnant and were not aided in it by those who made them pregnant. (And that leaves aside questions of consent, which are many and almost certainly beyond what it is fit for me to address.) It is the case that people who can act as adults–and the keepers, having entered into contracts, seem to be in that place by the standards of the society in which they were reared, so there is at least that much to say–should act with thoughts towards the consequences of their actions. But it is also the case that consequences fall unevenly upon those who act, unfair as it is (and as the narrative, to its credit, makes explicit).
Too, as I continue to read with affect, I cannot help but note that my own daughter approaches the time in her life where such concerns will be hers to consider. She is not there yet, but she grows closer to it, some of it at her own insistence. I hope that, when the time comes, she will not need such harsh reminders. I fear, though, that she will, or that circumstances will conspire to strip that agency from her. The world is as it is, as is the part of it in which we live, and while there is much to commend that place, there is also much of pronounced concern, especially as regards such things…
I do not think I am wrong to worry about my (still-) little girl.
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