tweets for 2019-10-23

October 24th, 2019 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato
  • RT @ABC: Thick petroleum sludge continues washing up on beaches in Brazil, coating the coast of Suape with an oily deposit, as locals helpe… ->
  • RT @AGildedEye: Have we considered that it's possible that Munch was just trying to paint a spaniel, but he was a bit shit, and then people… ->
  • RT @TheDweck: Matt Gaetz has resting “do you know who my father is” face https://t.co/HOKULz5FrH ->
  • RT @AOC: What’s worse: since many of the flash mob already sat on the committees, they *knew* how serious a breach it was to bring devices… ->
  • RT @MykeCole: Just got the following message from a friend of mine who is a senior NCO handling SCIF duties.
    I don’t have an answer for t… ->
  • (More below the fold…)

tweets for 2019-10-22

October 23rd, 2019 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Book Review: Orpheus Girl by Brynne Rebele-Henry (2019)

October 22nd, 2019 7:00 am by Kelly Garbato

An important story, but not without its failings.

three out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free e-ARC for review through Edelweiss. Trigger warning for homophobic violence, including gay conversion therapy and sexual harassment/assault, and suicide.)

Like Orpheus, I’m going to hell and I’m looking to save the girl I love. Because Orpheus? She’s a girl. A girl who likes girls.

For as long as Raya can remember, it’s just been her and her grandmother. Gram’s husband died in a car accident when she was twenty-seven, leaving her to raise their two-year-old daughter Calli on her own. Calli got pregnant her senior year of high school and ran off to become an actress three years later; Raya hasn’t heard from her since. Raya’s only glimpse of her mom is on tv, where she plays the goddess Aphrodite on daytime soaps. She and Gram are alone together, lonely planets hurtling down parallel orbits of abandonment, each defined by the same absence, the same loss.

Making matters worse is the fact that Raya has to hide her true self: from Grammy, from her friends and classmates, from church, from the small town she begrudgingly calls home. It’s 2004 in Pieria, Texas, and Raya is gay: a girl who likes girls. And this is a time and place where teenagers like her often disappear without a trace.

When Raya and her best (and only) friend Sarah are outed by a (violently homophobic and misogynist) classmate, they’re sent to a gay conversion camp called Friendly Saviors, where things quickly go from bad to worse. At best, the prisoners undergo grueling physical labor, humiliating talk “therapy,” and milder forms of physical torture; at worse, they are drugged and electrocuted into compliance.

Orpheus Girl is not for the faint of heart, and comes with some strong trigger warnings. This is a tragic queer story tempered by a tentatively hopeful ending. Our heroes manage to persevere, though they do not emerge from hell unscathed.

As much as I want to see more shiny happy stories starring queer characters, I suppose you could argue that there’s still a need for the sad and horrifying narratives, to shine a light on the many atrocities happening in there here and now. (And yes, while there has been a state-by-state legislative push again gay conversion therapy, as of this writing gay conversion therapy on minors has been banned in just 18 states, as well as DC and Puerto Rico. According to studies by the UCLA Williams Institute, more than 700,000 LGBTQ people have been subjected to gay conversion therapy, with an estimated 80,000 kids at risk in the future.)

I’m always on the lookout for good books, of any genre, with LGBTQ protagonists, and Orpheus Girl caught my eye both because of the author’s young age, as well as her background in poetry. While the narrative is compelling, Orpheus Girl feels like a debut novel, and not in a good way. There were so many little details that distracted from my enjoyment of the book. To name just one example: Raya is able to lift Hyde’s truck keys on the first try, even though she has zero background in pickpocketing or general thievery. Nor does she possess nerves of steel: when she later manages to steal said truck, she immediately flips it 180 degrees, while still within earshot of the camp. So, yeah, I’m not buying it.

Additionally, the characters lack depth and nuance: aside from their fashion sense, Raya are Sarah aren’t really distinguishable from one another, and Raya’s primary personality trait seems to be “orphan.”

But the thing that bugged me the most is how compressed the timeline is: just three days after she’s sent to prison (I can’t in good conscience call it a camp, let’s be real), Raya’s worried that Grammy has already married her new suitor and moved on. When I say “new,” I mean as in they literally just started dating weeks before Raya was outed. And then we find out, a month later at most, that she totally did! I don’t know about you, but it takes me three months to hang a new poster. WHO MOVES THAT FAST.

Orpheus Girl is an important story, for sure, but if you’re looking for a book that confronts the horrors of gay conversion therapy, you can probably do better. Just off the top of my head, I’d recommend The Miseducation of Cameron Post.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

tweets for 2019-10-21

October 22nd, 2019 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato
  • RT @SenatorBaldwin: This is a disturbing report of suspicious trading in our futures and equities markets.
    It's worth having SEC, CFTC, D… ->
  • RT @pulte: I'll give $10,000 to someone random who retweets this in next 48 hours (you have to be following me so I can dm you, 18+, ends 4… ->
  • RT @JayCaruso: Good lord. There is no server. The DNC email was cloud-based spread out over 140 network servers. The idea there was this lo… ->
  • RT @bestofamericans: https://t.co/MkZFhwTx43 ->
  • RT @dog_rates: This is Willo. She likes to awoo while she eats. Tonight’s meal was worthy of a gentler, but perhaps more meaningful, second… ->
  • (More below the fold…)

tweets for 2019-10-20

October 21st, 2019 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

tweets for 2019-10-19

October 20th, 2019 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

tweets for 2019-10-18

October 19th, 2019 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

tweets for 2019-10-17

October 18th, 2019 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

tweets for 2019-10-16

October 17th, 2019 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

tweets for 2019-10-15

October 16th, 2019 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Book Review: Full Throttle: Stories by Joe Hill (2019)

October 15th, 2019 7:00 am by Kelly Garbato

A bit of a mixed bag, but there are a few unforgettable stories in here.

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free e-ARC for review through Edelweiss. Trigger warning for child abuse, domestic violence, and racist, sexist, and homophobic language.)

“What do we smell like?” Saunders asked.

“Like cheeseburgers,” said the wolf, and he barked with laughter. “And entitlement.”

(“Wolverton Station”)

“I can think of worse ways to go than with a good book in my hand. Especially if it was one I had no right to ever read, because it wasn’t going to be published until after I was dead.”

(“Late Returns”)

“If there’s one thing prettier than a sunset,” Iris says, “it’s seeing little shits cry.”

(“All I Care About Is You”)

I am consistently bewitched by Joe Hill’s writing, though I have a strong preference for his long-form fiction: The Fireman is lit, NOS4A2 and its companion graphic novel, The Wraith, are the stuff of deliciously horrifying nightmares, and Horns is probably one of my all-time favorite books. (I say “probably” because there’s some stiff competition out there, and my top ten list is dominated by Margaret Atwood, Octavia Butler, and Philip Pullman. But top twenty-five, maybe? The Treehouse of the Mind still gives me chills.)

His short stories are a little more hit or miss for me – although, even at his “worst,” Hill’s writing is still entertaining enough. Full Throttle is no exception: of the thirteen stories here (some originally released as Kindle Singles, others all-new), a handful are kind of meh, one or two contain some major disappointments, and a few are so impossibly shiny that I’d recommend the book on their merits alone (“Late Returns,” I’m looking at you). Even the intro, which I’m just as likely to skip, is sweet and sentimental and brimming with insight, and you will find yourself devouring the notes and salivating for more.

“Throttle” with Stephen King – 3/5

After a drug deal gone horribly wrong, a motorcycle gang is cornered and run down on Route 6 by a mysterious tanker truck, adding a little extra truth to their motto (“THE TRIBE – LIVE ON THE ROAD, DIE ON THE ROAD”). Perhaps fittingly for this King-Hill collab, father-son drama ensues. This story has a pretty strong King vibe to it, and is enjoyable enough, though not necessarily memorable.

“Dark Carousel” – 4/5

It’s August 1994, and a group of semi-delinquent teens are having one last hurrah at the Cape Maggie Pier in Maine. This being a Joe Hill tale, everything goes sideways when they disrespect an enchanted (cursed?) carousel, the denizens of which come alive at night. Pro tip: keep an eye out for the Charlie Manx/Christmasland reference, which makes this story a little more delightfully macabre and adds to the world building like whoah.

“Wolverton Station” – 3.5/5

I read this story when it was first published as a Kindle Single and enjoyed it just as much the second time around. An evil, bloodsucking corporate type is unperturbed when a wolf steps onto his train; after all, protestors have hounded (hardy har har!) him throughout his London tour to promote the first Jimi Coffee store in the UK. But the massacre in the next car over rather gives him pause (paws!). A fun story, but yet again I found myself craving a bloodier, more definitive ending.

“By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain” – 3.5/5

This Nessie-inspired story (with shades of a middle-grade version of “The Body”) also started out as a Kindle Single. I didn’t really love it two years ago, and I don’t think my feelings have changed much since then. A young girl named Gail and her friend Joel discover the body of a dead pliosaur washed up on the shore of Lake Champlain. Given that she’s got a wild imagination, it’s never quite clear if Gail is a trustworthy narrator, which makes for a rather unsatisfying story. I found myself wanting to read more about the malfunctioning but well-meaning robot child Gail from the story’s earliest pages, tbh. But, still: DINOSAURS!

“Faun” – 3/5

This story about one percenters who pay to hunt fantastical creatures in another dimension – accessible via an unassuming little door, located in the attic of a musty farmhouse in Rumford, Maine, but four times a year – showed a ton of animal-friendly promise. Big game hunting, am I right? And while it is indeed fun to watch fauns, whurls, whizzles, orcs, and ogres hunt the hunters (though more gore would have been both nice and well-deserved), the ending is deeply unsatisfying. Fallows’s “breath of kings” quest plays into self-serving, speciesist tropes about how nonhuman animals willingly “sacrifice” themselves for us, whether to be food or trophies or research subjects. Hard pass, bro.

“Late Returns” – 5/5 f’in amazing

If you pick up Full Throttle for just one story, let “Late Returns” be it. Adrift after the loss of his parents and his job as a long-haul trucker in one (very long!) day, John Davies falls into a part-time job driving the local library’s Bookmobile while returning a copy of his late mother’s last loan, Another Marvelous Thing. During his travels, ye ole Bookmobile sometimes slips into other times, giving ghosts the gift of one last good read before their souls pass on to wherever it is that they go. “Late Returns” is a love letter to book nerds, a salve for the grieving heart. Bittersweet, magical, and filled with compassion, it’s a story that’s woven itself into my own cobbled-together atheist approximation of a religion: something warm and comforting to hold onto.

I mean, damned if the bit about Harry Potter doesn’t make you bawl your eyes out.

“All I Care About Is You” – 5/5

Set some time in the 22nd century (maybe), a down-on-her-luck Iris Ballard celebrates her sixteenth birthday on top of the Spoke – not with her friends, but with a Clockwork boy named Chip who she’s rented for the hour. This story is lovely…until it isn’t. I loved the world building – the stuff about Murdergame is fascinating, and the reflections on being a professional victim, astute – but I don’t know how to feel about the twist. It seems appropriate, but bleak AF.

“Thumbprint” – 3.5/5

Another Kindle Single, this one about Abu Ghraib. Mallory Grennan has been home for eight months, staying in her childhood home, hers now that her father has passed. She lives a pretty unassuming life, tending bar and working out. She’s left the war behind…or she had, until the thumbprints start showing up: in her mailbox, under her door, on the windshield of her car. Someone is stalking her, and she’s ready to confess. A not-so-subtle commentary on the inefficacy and inhumanity of torture.

“The Devil on the Staircase” – 3/5

The son of an Italian bricklayer discovers the stairs to hell. Spoiler alert: the devil is him. This is perhaps the most experimental story in the book, and I didn’t really take to the formatting.

“Twittering from the Circus of the Dead” – 4/5

Held captive by her family on the road trip from (literal) hell, a teenager tweets her own demise, at the hands of demented zombie carnival owners. “Twittering” is fun and snarky and crafty and I’d love to see Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone take on it.

“Mums” – 3/5

Jack is thirteen when his mother dies, supposedly in a tragic, alcohol-fueled accident. “Supposedly” because Mrs. McCourt was married to a gun-crazy, conspiracy-theorist Separatist from whom she’d tried to flee just months before. Though Mom was a large part of Jack’s world – whittled down to Mom, Dad, cousin Connor, and his wife Beth, all of which take turns homeschooling him – he swallows his father’s lies and forgets her easily enough. That is, until he buys a package of seeds from a wizened old street vendor, and the resulting Mums resurrect his mother, in a manner of speaking.

This would be a pretty cool revenge story if not for Jack’s paranoia. Also, can we put the brakes on the violent schizophrenic stereotype? It’s tired, played out, and only further marginalizes people with mental health issues.

“In the Tall Grass” with Stephen King – 3/5

There’s something monstrous and alien in the Kansas grass! And…that’s kind of it. The film adaptation is in production, so that should be interesting.

“You Are Released” – 5/5

This story answers the question, what would it feel like to be cruising at 37,000 feet when World War III breaks out?

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

tweets for 2019-10-14

October 15th, 2019 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato
  • RT @justinbaragona: Chris Hayes backs Ronan Farrow:
    "Ronan Farrow walked out and within two months published an incredible article that n… ->
  • RT @emrazz: 58% of murdered women are killed by a current or former partner. When a gun is in the home (whether it her’s or anothers’) she’… ->
  • RT @dog_rates: This is Pyles. He got a new fit for his ski trips this winter. Absolutely serving. Puppared for any chilly happenings. 14/10… ->
  • RT @dog_rates: This is Moby. He has Cerebellar Hypoplasia, which just means he wobbles. His wheels help him get where he wants to go and no… ->
  • RT @them: “How do I top lesbians?” Larson asked. “We can show you,” the internet responded. https://t.co/0WR1UT82Hr ->
  • (More below the fold…)

tweets for 2019-10-13

October 14th, 2019 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato
  • RT @onetailatatime: That face when you get aderpted. https://t.co/YhHIxwVEFx ->
  • RT @AnandWrites: Many 2020 candidates sound good. But some peddle real change; others, fake change.
    Here's an infrared lens to tell them a… ->
  • RT @AnandWrites: Every week for the past year, I've heard this critique of my critique:
    "But what about Bill Gates?"
    Maybe, they say, it'… ->
  • RT @LouisatheLast: Every once in a while I think about how the misinterpretation of "survival of the fittest" is one of the most dangerous… ->
  • RT @kurteichenwald: An ISIS flag has – literally – been raised again in the Syrian countryside. The ISIS flag. Flying again.
    Can you Trum… ->
  • (More below the fold…)

tweets for 2019-10-12

October 13th, 2019 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato
  • RT @13spencer: Watching Elizabeth Warren debate Trump will be like watching a nuclear physicist explain gravity to a giant jar of spoiled m… ->
  • RT @ewarren: You’re making my point here. It’s up to you whether you take money to promote lies. You can be in the disinformation-for-profi… ->
  • RT @JoshuaPotash: Today at the White House:
    Protesters calling out Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds.
    https://t.co/0TJC7Urdg8 ->
  • RT @jsidman: My brother is on a @united flight from LA to Boston and saw this guy boarding with a shirt that reads “Rope. Tree. Journalist.… ->
  • RT @AuschwitzMuseum: 12 October 1944 | In a transport of Jews deported to #Auschwitz from #Theresienstadt ghetto was a Duch born Klara Bors… ->
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tweets for 2019-10-11

October 12th, 2019 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

tweets for 2019-10-10

October 11th, 2019 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Twenty-Two Little Ralphie Things

October 10th, 2019 9:00 am by Kelly Garbato

2013-05-09 - Waiting for the Vet to Arrive - 0050

Dear Ralphie,

You were my very first real dog, and also the first dog I lost; you were the beginning, and also the beginning of the end. (Dramatic, who me?) If I sound a wee bit morose, well, a) this is me you’re talking to and b) I have my reasons, dammit. But this is your birthday, so I won’t indulge. All of this is just a very roundabout way of saying that I miss you like heck, and I wish we could go back to those early days, when both our lives stretched out, seemingly endlessly, in front of us.

I’d return to one of the many occasions I got poison ivy walking you along the trails next to our apartment. Or the first time we met, when you were so a-scred you ran away from me (but were snugging me in the backseat by the end of the drive home. Where, upon our arrival, you promptly pooped in the kitchen.) Your first Christmas with us, or perhaps the first 4th of July, when your allergies manifested in a grotesquely swollen belly (inching dangerously close to your wiener.) Or even when that paranoid BluePearl tech insisted that the Kong fragment stuck in your stomach was MOST CERTAINLY a cancerous tumor on the x-ray. (It’s funny in retrospect.)

I miss you so, so much: both as the unique and funny and stubborn little person you were, and for all that you represented. After you and Kaylee passed away, I tried to find meaning by fostering. And it was great. But I’ve been on a hiatus for entirely too long, and so meaning is increasingly difficult to find. It’s hard, my little pooh bear. I wish you were here to make it a little less so.

I’ll always have the memories, though. You certainly made sure of that.

Love you to infinity and beyond,

Mom

2016-07-14 - Ralphie's Adoption Day

(More below the fold…)

tweets for 2019-10-09

October 10th, 2019 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

tweets for 2019-10-08

October 9th, 2019 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Book Review: Commute: An Illustrated Memoir of Female Shame by Erin Williams (2019)

October 8th, 2019 7:00 am by Kelly Garbato

My feelings are all over the place on this one.

three out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free e-ARC for review through Edelweiss. Trigger warning for misogyny, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and drug use.)

shame is an instrument of oppression.

The first time Erin Williams was raped, she was sixteen years old. Her assailant was a guy named John, the older cousin of a friend who dragged her away from a beach party and into a neighboring yard. She was drunk, and it would be decades before she had another sexual encounter – consensual, forced, or in the so-called “gray area” between – while sober.

Commute: An Illustrated Memoir of Female Shame is a graphic memoir that follows Erin during a typical weekday commute: wake up, get ready for work, walk the dog, take the train to work, put in a day, hustle home. During this time, we witness the dozens of microaggressions that are part of existing while female in a public space. She also reflects on her sexual history, which includes both regrettable drunken hookups with random dudes as well as a string of sexual assaults and rapes. We also follow Erin through her struggles with alcoholism and her decision to become a mother, thus reclaiming her body in a sense.

The result is mixed at best. Some parts worked for me, while others didn’t. Her thoughts on mansplaining, the acrobatics we as a society do to excuse away the boorish behavior of powerful men, the dehumanization and objectification of women, male power and privilege – these are all things I can get behind. However, she kind of lost me when she started talking about “gray areas,” and about her own (alcohol-induced) culpability in her own assaults (or regrettable hookups, or whatever she chooses to call them).

To wit: the chart on page 258 that seemingly ranks sexual assaults from the typical stranger in the alley boogeyman (“murder,” “coma,” “head injury,” “other injury,” “stranger”) to supposedly less clear instances of…I don’t even know what (“please just let me finish,” “it won’t happen again,” “I already said I was sorry”). As if that’s not bad enough, the headline reads, “We’re rarely all victim. For a long time, I thought rape was sex. Where, exactly, do you draw the line?”

I can tell you with 1000% certainty: at absolutely none of these points. None of these scenarios = “the line.” Everything Williams has described here constitutes rape, and in none of these cases do the people on the receiving end share any responsibility for what some human piece of trash chose to do to them. Period. Full stop.

Honestly, the whole thing is appallingly reminiscent of Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment of 2013. I can’t even with this.

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m getting incredible frustrated and worked up, all over again, just writing this review. Williams’s observations elsewhere are generally pretty insightful, which is why I’m having so much trouble wrapping my head around the victim blaming. Perhaps she’s still grappling with internalized shame and self-blame, or maybe I’m just misreading her commentary? Yet we live in a society that so openly and unabashedly hates women, including rape survivors, that it behooves her to get it right. Like crystal clear, you absolutely cannot misinterpret my point right. Sadly, this is not it.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)