Annie Mason

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  • Interview with the Virgin Blogger: Annie Mason

    Annie is one of millions of people who will soon move on from chat rooms and list-serves to blog communities. She is a writer, a correspondent. She has been online and engaged for a long time but this month, July 2024, is her initiation to the peculiar domain that is Blogaria. She has her own blog: Confessions of a Rageboy Addict, and she has signed on for the group effort at Blog Sisters.

    So what about it Annie? You ready for the indecent exposure of a Sandhill Trek interview?

    I must admit I do feel a bit underdressed for the party. You have artists and writers and dancers and I am a humble working woman. I have political opinions and I read as much as I can get my eyes across, but many of the authors and written works mentioned were unknown to me.

    Yes, I have a first edition copy of Faludi’s Backlash in my library and of course I know the mother feminists and I am a card carrying member of NOW and the ACLU, but my main objective in life at this moment is getting my teenaged daughter through the Ophelia years. I am trying to imagine what you might ask that I would have an erudite opinion about that someone might feel enlightened by reading. The lady doth protest too much?? I’m thinking about it ;-) . I suppose I should send you the essay I wrote for my tattoo egroup on how I first decided to become inked. It included some really good pictures. Oh, or the story I sent to Chris Locke about the all night spades game in the barracks QC room.

    That one was really a gas. The editorial piece I did protesting the passing of an amendment that would give a piece of cloth the status of a human? You may have opened a Pandora’s box that you can’t easily close.

    How do these interviews usually operate?

    So what happens is you say yes, give your consent for me to use anything you say in the emails we exchange, then we exchange some emails, then I edit them into a piece, then we get our fifteen clickthroughs of fame.

    This book just out from Rebecca Blood… everything you need to know about setting up your own blog and more. I got mine at Borders last night. Buy the book and set up a blog while we’re doing this “Interview with a Weblog Virgin.” I can maybe help you with some of the blogger details.

    Where to begin, where to begin? Distinguishing features, scars, moles, body art?

    I didn’t get my first tattoo till I was 45. I missed the 60′s. Literally. I knew they were there and I saw all the fun on the nightly news, but I led a terribly sheltered childhood. Then there was the summer of 1970, the beginning of my sophomore year in high school. Watershed, what a beautiful word for having ones teeth kicked in with a baseball bat, I could’ve had a V-8. Believe it or not, it was Stranger in a Strange Land. Of all the clichéd phenomenon I could have stumbled upon to open my shuttered eyes to what could be, not Freidan, not Ms, not any of the woman warriors of the present, but an alien male of the future. I dig testosterone. But, I digress, what was it you wanted to know?

    Where do you live?

    Gulf Coast, just a stone’s throw south of Houston, 11 miles from the big water, sand, man o’ wars, and sharks. Landlubber at heart, love walking the shore, but the water can stay where it is, I like something solid under my feet.

    What do you do for a living?

    I work for a MAJOR chemical company, remember the people who brought you agent orange? There is a swath of land out of sight of the regular person driving down the freeway, but in full view of the contractor parking lot, studded with nude dead trees where they probably first tested the stuff. Such a soul chilling monument to still be standing some 30 years later. I doubt that most of the baby engineers working here now know what that petrified forest really is out there. I wonder why they never plowed it under.

    Chemical plant operator, a token female in a coven of tough guys. I’ve been there 11 years and only in last few years have I been grudgingly allowed into the club, I might just last out after all. I have put up with more male chauvinist pig shit than a human should have to endure, but ah, that aroma of male sweat in the morning, reminds me of . . . A male paycheck at the end of the week. What can I say, this is equality at its bedrock, 8 hours work, 8 hours pay, no gender bias here.

    I was a Caustic Soda Operator at Dow’s Pittsburg (California) plant in the sixties. Didn’t hate it, but thought if I went back to college I could get off shift work. And it’s true, “twenty years of schooling and they put you on the day shift.”

    So, where is that tattoo exactly, and how did you get it?

    Superficially, you could say that it goes back to the first tattoo I ever saw… It was on the forearm of this biker guy I was dating in 1974. It was just too beautiful for words. It was the Harley motorcycle wheel face-on with the wings out the sides. This part was outlined and colored in, but between the wings was a luscious sunrise beginning at the tire with bright yellow and shading out the rainbow dawn to an indigo fading out at the tips of the wings. This was unlined and looked for all the world like it had been airbrushed onto his skin. From that day on, I knew I wanted ink, I just didn’t know what image. And there were some real deep down reasons for the tattoo too. First was the character Patty in SIASL, I felt an alter ego kinship with her at the time. And there was my dad. He died just before Xmas 7 yrs ago and all his funeral flowers were poinsettias. It was a way to remember the man who taught me that all humans deserve consideration no matter what is on their outside, he always looked to a person’s inside first.

     The not-rose tattoo...

    And the poinsettia symbolizes so many things for me, my birthday is December 25, my favorite colors, the part of the world I live in, and most of all, the gift given in time of need. The legend of the poinsettia is so deeply moving to me, the angel who turns weeds into flowers so a girl who has given so much of herself that she thinks she has nothing left to give, will not have to be empty handed on Christmas Eve. Somehow the angels have never left me empty handed, no matter how much I give away to others. So the poinsettia it was to be. I picked the picture that I liked best and we found just the right guy to do it, Harley from Tiger Claw Tattoo in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Bones went with me, held my hand, told jokes, told stories and he and Harley kept me laughing and distracted while the magnums danced on my shoulder blade. I suppose that is why I eventually married the guy, Bones (Doug) that is. You know someone is dedicated if they can stand the yelping, the blood, and the hand squeezing that nearly broke his knuckles. What a guy!

    This is a bit like going to the shrink without having to write a $150 check at the end of 50 minutes, refreshing.

    When and how did you run into that foul mouthed fellow we all know and love as Rageboy? The EGR ‘zine scene seems a little off the beaten path from the chemical plant. And how did you get online in the first place? You’re a long time subscriber to EGR… what drew you to that scene?

    Honestly, you wouldn’t know it to look at me, but I’ve been around computers for near 30 years. My mother, a woman I admire, but somehow don’t like very much, managed a credit bureau back in the early 70′s. She came home one day with a self paced IBM manual and began teaching herself how to use a punch card system. It was one of those huge monsters with reel to reel tape. They had to take out the lunch room to install the memory.

    In the late 70′s I went back to college with my GI bill and became a member of a group of sci-fi fans. There I met a brilliant man (he is a robotics engineer somewhere in Maryland the last I heard) who had one of the first Apples. The hard drive and keyboard were one unit and it ran on cassette tapes. The monitor was an old 13″ B&W TV. We used it to play D&D. Oh, and Pong. Someone else acquired a Tandy from Radio Shack and eventually there appeared this beautiful thing with monitor, hard drive, and keyboard in one portable (if heavy) package. My friend, Caroline, was already into writing for and publishing ‘zines then, still hard copy of course, but you should see her media stuff now. I published a nasty book review in one of her early ‘zines. It must have been around ’83/’84 when I first heard of the Internet. I was with David, the guy with the Apple, when he signed up for his first internet connection, the long distance land line fee was murder. Now here I sit typing you email, but I must admit, at the time I found the whole thing, well, techy and, let’s be honest, boring. He talked bits and bytes and rams and ROMs when all I wanted him to do was shut up and come to bed. Guys and their toys….

    Years later, I watched as the computer thing got bigger and better and more interesting. It was fairly easy to keep up with the technology from friends and fellow workers and I began to see the possibilities, especially for my daughter. The wave of the future and all, you get on the train or it runs you down. So, 5 yrs ago I finally made the great leap of faith and bought my first PC, a Gateway 166. Hey, it was amazing. It sat in my house and connected me to the world. Who knew?

    Well, apparently everybody else but me. I jumped in head first with both feet, I think my dad used to say that, and began the big surf. And that is how I first ran into the Rageboy, our beloved Prince of Rant and Rave. But, for all I have scratched my burnt out brain, I really don’t remember WHERE. I do remember that little eyeball icon and clicking on it, and I do remember spending an afternoon thinking, “damn straight! this is my kind of guy, intelligent, sharp like a straight razor, funnier than shit and twice as stinky.” Somewhere on that web page was a subscription to his rants and I signed up on the spot. Several times he touched on topics that cut to my heart and on one occasion I wrote and told him so. The next day, in my inbox, was a reply from the man himself. I was truly floored and I am not easily impressed by ‘personalities,’ but his reply amazed me. He was human and humane and touching. I believe it may have been something about his daughter, she and mine are of an age, but I really don’t remember. From that point on we have corresponded on occasion.

    So that is how I came to be a charter member of the EGR Irregulars.

    He called us into being as cluetrain was emerging and somehow the forum outgrew its creator. Nick, b!x, Dean, myself, and a few others are still here. Though I believe at times the list membership was around 50 or so, the working crew have always numbered around 12 to 15. We made a big thing for a while of outing the lurkers, people who read the posts, but didn’t respond, but that happens so seldom now.

    So you see, even though my career at the moment is not exactly in the line of cutting communications technology, I’ve always been there, involved. The thing is that I always much preferred playing with the techno boys rather than the techno toys. People create the communication no matter what medium or mechanism the communication takes. I find it a means to faster communication, whether better or not, I reserve judgment. Well, I did meet my husband over the net, so maybe I should give it some credit ;-) .

    Wow, 3:15 in the morning, not bad. Tomorrow night I begin graveyard shift and needed to stay up so I could sleep during the day. Thanks for a delightful excuse to play on the computer.

    You’ve been blogging since July 3, 2024 and I wonder what you think of it so far. How does it compare to exchanges on email lists like EGR Irregulars?

    It is more in-depth than the irregulars tend to be. We have been more of a coffee klatch than a forum, but I like us that way. I feel so comfortable with their company, even when b!x is being difficult. The sisters are great. This feels very much like the tattoo forum I used to keep up with. We posted lots of jokes and pictures, but we also traded a lot of worries, support, encouragement, suggestions, and listening ears. What I really like are the links to other blog sites. I didn’t know this was all out there. It is amazing.

    How do you like Blog Sisters?

    Once again, they are wonderful. I very much enjoy input and response from other women with similar points of view. It’s good to feel among friends.

    Your blog, Confessions of a Rageboy Addict, has some personal posts, some funny posts, and some clearly practice and experimental posts. But it has no external links yet. There are two elements that many bloggers think de riguer: first, the inclusion of links to other spots on the web that talk about what you are talking about; second, the inclusion of links to other bloggers. Do you need some help getting that set-up and working?

    Obviously. I haven’t found that Rebecca Blood book at any local shops yet. I am hoping to find it the next trip I make to Barnes & Noble. It is just such a damned long trip now that the speed limit around Houston has been reduced to 55 again for their farce of a clean air initiative. I only went through the basic set up on BLOGGER to get the hang of things and I haven’t updated any personal preferences. Yes, I would like help getting set up for the advanced course in blogging. Now that I can prattle on my merry way, someone may as well have to look and it and read what I have to say, eh?!?

    What other technical difficulties have you experienced writing in your blog?

    The lack of search engine or any kind of listing on BLOGGER seemed a bit odd. I really did want to surf around and see what else there was to see besides the front page and the 20 or so most recent posts. I did find DAYPOP on some of the sites that I’ve found. Is that the only way to look for sites? I’ve never done any webpage building, is that what people have done one some of the really fancy blogs? Do I need web building skills to make something like that of my own blog. I would love to post some pictures, some of my crazy bits of writing, etc.

    New direction… Seen any good movies lately? What’s your all time favorite chick flick?

    “The African Queen” is definitely my all time favorite chick flick.

    First, I don’t really care much for what most people label as chick flicks. I suppose it is the artificial tension they tend to rely on instead of plot or story line. And I especially despise flicks that depend on the death of a woman as the ‘gotcha’ factor. Nicholas Cage goes through all that angst to loose his wings and then a truck hits Meg Ryan. Get real! He’s got how many angel buddies that should have been there and you are supposed to feel sorry for him? For his own selfish needs he took a brilliant surgeon away from people who needed her skills; it’s so much bullshit. Or “Stepmom,” which tells you that mothers and stepmothers can only get along if one of them is dying. Do people really believe that we are so shallow? I find these kinds of contrived situations demeaning and unworthy of women as humans. I much prefer depictions of women as people of intelligence, power, and humor, worthy of admiration. Take, for instance, the scene in” Gone With the Wind” where Melanie goes to the madam to thank her for rescuing her husband. Both of these women realize the severe breech of cultural expectations that they are committing, they both understand the role in life they have been given, but they both manage to convey humanity and dignity in the face of a nearly intolerable situation.

    I know I haven’t gotten to TAQ yet, but my second choice would have been any of the Alien movies. Ripley, now THERE is a woman and those were some chick flicks! She is so damn tough and so damn good. She is my alter ego. You’ve seen the comic strip, ‘Rose is Rose?’ Rose is a regular woman, but when she needs to be tough her alter ego, a tattooed, leather clad, long legged biker mamma, comes out. That’s what happens to me. When I need her, Ripley in her tank top, cargo pants, and boots, pops out to save the day, like when my daughter decided she wanted a python for a pet. It was Ripley that went into the pet store and let the store clerk put a snake in her hands. And it was for sure Ripley that took live mice (damn I hate rodents!) out of a little paper bag and fed that python after we brought it home (ask me about that first feeding sometime, what a circus).

    If it isn’t obvious yet, I dislike the image of women as victims, commodity, barter, or chattel. I admire women who make the best of their circumstances whatever and where ever they are. And that is why I admire Rose in The African Queen. She may be a product of her circumstances, but she is not a victim of them. Her lot in life, a Victorian spinster “uncomely among the maidens,” as her brother calls her, is to be a companion and support to her brother in his missionary work. Yet at her brother’s death she is ready to pack up and move to the next stage of her life with no regrets or self-pity, even when that next stage happens to be Charlie Alnaught. These two characters are brilliant. While Rose loses a bit of her British rigidity and begins to enjoy Charlie’s company, Charlie gains respect for Rose’s physical ability and mental strength and together they rise to the challenge of an impossible situation. All this may sound clichéd and in the need of inspiring background music, but to me The African Queen speaks to the best of what we are and what we can become as human beings. My kind of chick flick J.

    I read your blog about Effinger. I’m sorry for your loss. As part of our ongoing interview, I wonder if you can share some of your thoughts about writing fiction. Do you to plot a story and write it? Or when you write fiction do you start someplace in the story and let the characters drive the action? Or what?

    Ah, thank you for your sympathy. The man was phenomenal and so under appreciated. He also had such overwhelming problems in his life, I’m really amazed that he managed to stay alive as long as he did, but it was never enough.

    Writing fiction, hmmm, let’s say that I have never really written true fiction (is that an oxymoron?). I have embellished the truth or I have ghosted fiction that other people have written. I do not have the mental stamina for even a novelette. I believe it is a mental phobia or maybe something traumatic in a former life (maybe I was murdered with a typewriter in the middle of what would have been a best seller. The problem is that I see this huge thousand mile journey and cannot take the first step. I have done outlines for other peoples stories, I have proofed, rewritten, created dialogue, brought in authentic detail, and made awkward wording sound like human speech. I think it is a talent and an art that I would like someday to exploit for money.

    As to stretching the truth I have a wonderful example that I have to share. Eight or nine years ago, at work, each work team had to do an improvement project to earn our end of year bonus. It had to something that every team member worked on. We had to have a written plan, cost sheet, team list, and team member function. The plan had to show the work orders placed, progress to date, and management of change implementation. All of this had to be put together in a presentation format and turned in to the production manager. For two years running nine out of twelve people got their bonus because of two people who actually did some work and me. My writing skills put together a project report complete with cover sheet, plan objective, outline, team member assignments and contributions, in a lovely color coded folder that would have impressed any project manager. Those two projects were literary works of art. I know, I know, it was a little bit on the far side of the truth (hey, it was nearly fiction), but we either all got a bonus or none of us got a bonus and I am never one to pass up well earned money.

    How a written work comes to me, usually as an idea and usually full blown. Maybe that is why it seems so overwhelming. A friend and I came up with what I thought was a great idea about 20 years ago when Jaws was still scary. We have a horrible riptide here at our beach and the parks service puts up big wooden signs every year to warn people. A few weeks later remnants of those signs can be found in fire pits on the beach and year after year people drown in the rip tide. The idea was a rock reunion concert at the beach and follow the actions of a few people, Jaws-like, park ranger, roady, a family with kids, and an older fan. The tide is particularly strong that Memorial Day weekend, the ranger is trying to move the venue, the locals want the tourist money, yada, yada, yada. We really thought we could make the tide out to be very predatory in description and maybe, just maybe get a few people to think before swimming in the ocean. I believe the idea was great, I could just never get past the part where one has to sit down and write forever and ever.

    I even had to come up with a trick to do college theses, reports, and rhetoric. I would only work on one paragraph at time then pin it on my bulletin board, done. Then at the the conclusion I would look at all the paragraphs and be ready to retype the whole gargantuan thing. Of course, this was all pre-word processor, so all the mistakes, and I make thousands, had to be hand corrected. Maybe now I wouldn’t be so intimidated by a larger writing project. Who knows, I might still have an idea or two left in this old brain.

    I don’t know many women who have chosen a path that includes military service. How did you hook up with the Army, would you do it again, and what were some of the best times and the worst times you can remember about those days?

     Be all that she can be...

    Long, long ago in a life form far, far away…. It’s hard to say just exactly where the idea originated from. My father and all five of my uncles were WWII vets and I loved to hear my father’s war stories. He used to tell us that the Japanese surrendered because they heard he was coming. In truth he was trained for and was on the ship over for the land assault that would have taken place on Japan had the bomb not worked. En route he was transferred to the Philippines. The pictures he had of the base, of the beer drinking squirrel monkey, the GI’s with their big grins all seemed so exotic. He made it all sound like a wonderful, exciting adventure. All right, I watched Vietnam on the tube in the 60′s, but I was a sheltered small town girl. To me it was just so unreal, even the riots, sit-ins, and protests were only something on the TV. I don’t think I really equated what I saw on TV with my dad’s war stories.

    So in high school, when the recruiters came around for career day, I thought those women in uniform were the drop dead toughest babes I’d ever seen in my life. They were so stand up, so much their own person, so real, I think I fell for the image. I wanted to look that righteous. Besides, I knew I wasn’t getting any more education after high school unless I could pay for it. The GI Bill was a big selling point. Oh, and the recruiting speech, man you would have thought boot camp and military service was a cross between girl scout camp and

    Disneyland all rolled into one great theme park adventure. Those recruiters can sure lay it on thick and heavy. So in the summer of 1973 I signed on the dotted line, raised my right hand and swore and for the next three years kept swearing, a blue streak. A big news flash here folks, recruiters lie like a big dog. It’s their job description.

    For the benefits I received, yes, I would do it all over again, my GI Bill, my guaranteed home owners loan, the VA Hospital, etc. For the good times I had I would do it again, but kiss my rosy pink ass if I would ever go BACK again. I have this real difficulty with unquestionable authority, something the military frowns on.

    The worst times, every morning at 5:30 AM. I am not and never have been a morning person. Pusan, South Korea, middle of winter, 22 degrees F, and a wet wind blowing off the Pacific, standing formation at 6:00 AM, shaking so hard I really think my bones are going to crack, snot is freezing to my wool scarf and all I can think is, “I volunteered, I volunteered, I volunteered . . . ” The quonset hut we worked in at the port was heated with a steam radiator and some days I would still be wearing gloves to type. I’m from the Gulf Coast of Texas, if it gets down to 32 degrees for a day or two between December and March we really think we have had a bad winter. The mornings, the cold, and the war stories were the worst of all. Almost ever guy I worked with or dated was a Vietnam returnee. We’d go to the NCO club, buy a beer, dance a while, drink another beer and then he would begin to talk.

    I must have had a sympathetic face. The stories were gruesome, bloody, terrifying and would get worse as the night wore on. There was a night when I got cornered by a helicopter pilot who couldn’t seem to stop the horror from pouring out of his soul. It was four in the morning before I could get myself away from his horror and his grief. I never got closer to Vietnam than South Korea, but for years afterwards I would have the most horrifying nightmares of bullets and snakes and blood. It’s hard to let all that go.

    But let it go I did or I would have made myself totally crazy. I did what every one else did, drank, danced, smoked, and had some riotous good fun. The best times were the camaraderie, damn, I wish I still had that story that I sent to RB. It hinged around this all night game of spades and this guy asked me why I had joined the military. Women get that all the time. I looked at him with all the sincerity I could muster and told him, “It’s like this, man, I got this guy in trouble back home, so I had to get out of town.” There was this glorious nanosecond delay before his brain caught up with what I had said. Oh, it was rich, it was too good. For some reason I have always enjoyed the company of men. They are so earthy, so gritty, and so dumb! (Aw, shit, can I say that here??)

    Ok, maybe not dumb, they just take themselves so seriously, like “we’re fighting for honor, justice, and country!” Tell the truth it is more like, “adrenalin, testosterone, and pussy!” But for all their territorialism, bravado, bad attitude, and crass behavior, the guys were the best times. The people I met, the places I went, the things I saw, and the perspective I grew are all irreplaceable. Would I do it over again, yes. Would I do it again, not only no, but hell no! When I got to the end of my three years, I gave back all my uniforms, kissed my friends good bye, told my reenlistment officer to kiss my ass and I gladly went home. They even offered me one of the first female openings in West Point. Not on your life. But I did my time and there is a part of me that is proud of my service.

    What did you do when you got home? Were you pleased with the finishing school touches the army gave you? Did you feel ready to dive into civilian life?

    Finishing school, I like that. That is what decided me against West Point. I would have to had to take a year of military prepatory school, similar to ROTC, I suppose, before I entered the Academy. Five more years of unquestioned authority and then I owe them two years service for every year of school? It would have been 1991 before I saw the light of civilian day. That would have been every Ronnie Ray-gun inspired warlette plus Desert Storm. I still get a slight whiff of that alternate reality and breath hurricane sighs of relief that I didn’t accidentally step down that path.

    But, what did the military do for me? I can curse in five languages. More than that I believe it inured me to the xenophobia most people I know seem to suffer from. I have been a ‘rich American,’ me, the woman from Smallville, daughter of an East Texas dirt farmer’s son. Start the background music, please. We grew up on a less than poverty level income. The military was a step up for me and here were people who considered me rich when I was making $320 a month before taxes. I remember sitting in a bar in downtown Pusan, double dating, with two GI’s and a local woman. The guys went up to the bar to get drinks and I tried chatting with the woman, her broken English and my piss poor Korean. Stupid me, I asked about her family and she began to cry.

    Typical story, she was sold into prostitution for the money to send her elder brother to college. She can work off the ‘loan,’ but she is forever a non-person to her family. For a 19 yr old it was a baseball bat to the glass house of growing up American. But I also came away with the very real understanding that I cannot impose my culture just because I don’t like someone else’s. But that is politics, not finishing school.

    Coming home was like one of those sitcoms on TV. Here are my Ozzie and Harriet family still at home in sweet Smallville and I honestly feel that they are in need of protection from me. A few weeks after I got back I found out that a recruiter was after my brother. After talking to the kid and finding out what bullshit he was being sold I was eating gravel and it just so happened that the next time the recruiter called I was the one who answered the phone. I feel sorry for that guy, after three years of bad blood I let him have it with both barrels. I chewed on his ear nonstop till he quit making any noise and told him I’d have his ass if he ever got near my brother again. It wasn’t till I hung up the phone that I realized mom and my brother were there in the kitchen with me. Ooops. Anyway, my brother didn’t go into the military.

    Sometimes I think that civilian life wasn’t ready for me yet. It was really frustrating going to interviews for factory jobs and being told that I could apply as a secretary. So I took my GI Bill and went to school and worked more part time jobs than I can count or remember.

    Business Management, the 80′s mass production degree, it’s still tucked away somewhere with all the rest of my pretty pieces of paper. It was my finishing school degree courtesy of Uncle Sugar.

    You were talking about the Korean woman’s experiences and you said: “I cannot impose my culture just because I don’t like someone else’s. But that is politics, not finishing school.”

    But sometimes I wonder if the cheese-burgerization of world culture wouldn’t be worth it if we could reduce the overall human suffering. There are kids sold into slavery in places like Benin, so that the cacao plantations can have cheap enough labor to assure Hershey and Nestle a good profit margin on their chocolate bars. Should the US be the world’s policeman, if only to set right this kind of injustice?

    The world’s policeman or the world’s (what do you call those men who come around to your little shop and promise you ‘protection’ if you pay them ‘insurance?’) bagmen? Is that it? Do a few outrageously wealthy white men need such a huge profit margin that they will set up such a plantation system that requires slavery? Isn’t that the major problem with the depletion of the S. American rain forests today. They are hacked, slashed, and burned away so a poor farmer can grow “market” crops, graze “market” cattle, or bloom “market” flowers so we can have a $6 bouquet at the supermarket, have fruit and veg out of season, and get cheaper beef prices? Have we improved their lives or ours by convincing them to destroy their natural resources? Were they any worse off before we showed them satellite TV and convinced them that their lives were empty before the 700 Club beamed itself into their ‘godless’ lives? Have we done them a favor by foisting McDonald’s avarice meals on to their unenlightened world view?

    Somehow, I don’t think so.

    This is a true story. Think about the last time you were in a sports shoe store and remember the price you saw on the newest Nike swoosh icon shoe. Years ago Nike had its factories here in the US where they paid a fairly decent living wage to workers ($7.50 to $10.50 an hour – apprx).

    Later, management realized that they could make a much higher profit by moving the labor portion of shoe manufacturing to S. Korea where they paid their workers approximately $2.00 an hour. However, S. Korea does appreciate it’s workers and has a law about increasing worker wages after a certain amount of time. Nike wasn’t at all pleased with this policy so they once again moved their factories, this time to Indonesia, where they employ teenage girls working 10 hour days at an abysmal minimum wage under horrific conditions an hour. Now look at that multimillion dollars sports representative advertising contract and the price of that newest ‘gottahave’ shoe. Have we done those girls a favor, have we improved the quality of their life, have we policed them very well?

    Here is just one news article, but I think it says what I want to convey of Nike abuses.

    I cannot change the history of our species that feels compelled to claim inhabited land and indigenous peoples just because we can. Let’s talk ‘manifest destiny.’ No let’s don’t, I would have to write a tome and I don’t have the time. I have a three quilt tops I’m working on for winter solstice presents and I’d never get them finished. Yes, I eat, drink, consume, and exploit more cheaply made products from all over the world. Were they not cheap I could not afford them, probably couldn’t be playing with this wonderful PC, but there are many things that I would do without to curb our abuse of other cultures. Someone mentioned the other day that when we were in the midst of WWII, Roosevelt told people to conserve and make do to help the war effort. Now, while we are contributing to a 5000 year old war over religious and political, monetary, and power abuses, Shrubbery tells us to keep spending, spend more to keep the economy stimulated to help the war effort. I wonder if he means help the war effort or help a handful of obscenely wealthy white men to support their profit margin.

    I do support a child through CCF (education and love are wonderful things). Also the Heifer Project whose aim is supplying farm animals and farming staples to individual families. The promise the family makes is that they will in turn give the first born or first harvest of their animal or crop to a neighbor who in turn promises the same. This improves a family’s life and supports a community without any more interference than the training to properly raise and care for the animal or crop. A phenomenal program.

    I get the impression that you think there should perhaps be some CONTROL on the markets. And I see you also support personal initiatives like the heifer project. I am working with some people on “forgiveness” as an early step in international conflict resolution. I hate the idea that the aristos didn’t learn a damn thing in France in the 18th century. Do you think we will have to bring back the guillotine or do you think these matters can be resolved peacefully and democratically?

     Don't mess with him...

    (PS, I think the mob word you were looking for is “button man” not “bag man.” In fact I know it is.) Peacefully? I don’t recall any redistribution of wealth that ever took place peacefully. I’m really surprised that this last transfer of power in our country didn’t degenerate into violence. Maybe it is a good thing that we are so accustomed to this tradition that the farce of the last election didn’t cause a civil war. I would still like to see retribution for the voters in Florida who were illegally deleted from the voter registration roles because their names or birthdays were close to those of felons. I don’t want to see the perpetrators necessarily executed (maybe put in stocks or have their computer privileges revoked), but it would be satisfactory to see them admit to what they’d done and publicly apologize. Despite the intervention of the Supreme Beings, I hope someone is still pursuing this in the courts.

    Back to the market place. Do I think there ought to be controls? How to restructure thousands of years of abuse of the monetary system? The structures in place now for global business concerns are so convoluted and interbred, it’s had to even begin to tell what the mutated offspring are or who they belong to. Shell on top of shell and these wonderful new accounting methods. I am just not mathematically inclined enough to understand it all.

    But I would like to see more safeguards in place for the regular workers. What happened here at Entex is despicable and unconscionable. I believe that any funds allocated to the employee should be federally protected and not subject to the financial whims of the company. I believe these funds should be protected much as the FDIC protects the money we place in banks. I also believe that upper management bonus’ should never be tied to money savings made by firing employees and that any bonus’ given out for savings, increased sales, gains, etc. should be something shared equally with all the employees. I would truly like to see a company put its money where its mouth is when that frivolous statement is made about ‘our employees are our best assess.’ And while we are on the subject of companies, please, PLEASE stop with the stupid corporate speak. If you are firing someone, say so, leave off the bullshit about ‘outplacing’ and ‘downsizing’. And we all know what ‘outsourcing’ means so just say you are hiring contractors or moving to an overseas labor force. Can we please have a meeting instead of taking one and eat lunch instead of do lunch. I get so damned tired of major managers speaking for 15 minutes in corporate buzz words and saying absolutely nothing. SPREK ENGRISH!!!

    I like the idea of forgiveness. It is a huge benefit to the forgiver. I’ve come to believe that if I am the only one hurting that forgiveness is essential for my peace of mine. But I believe that apologies with meaning are important if one knows one has done wrong. It’s never enough just to say ‘I’m sorry’ and go on as if nothing has changed. And it’s really hard to forgive a person or institution that makes no effort at change or improvement. However, I truly admire any effort being made to intervene in international conflict considering some of these conflicts are hundreds, even thousands of years in the making and involve such deep religious and cultural differences.

    Who do you need to forgive, and why? Who do you hope can forgive you, and have you moved to seek their forgiveness?

    And here I was thinking you were still going to ask me what other SF writers influenced my thinking and beliefs ;-) , just in case: M. L’engle, of course, Jane Langton, she wrote “Diamond In The Window,”

    Cool, I’m reading Jane Langton’s “The Escher Twist” right now. (“A Homer Kelly Mystery”) but about forgiveness…

    U.K. LeGuin, M. Zimmer Bradley, not a true SF writer, but in the ball park, Herman Hesse, his novel ‘Demian’ in particular, George Alec Effinger, and especially, Ray Bradbury – Something Wicked This Way Comes is a classic among classics and hugely influenced my self esteem, being able to understand something of what real love and courage are in the face of wickedness and incidentally leads into forgiveness.

    I wish to forgive my mother for being a product of her generation and not being able to break out of the straightjacket that it placed around her. She is such an intelligent, talented, funny woman, but she cannot get over feeling that she is not worthy of any compliments and she is incapable of giving a compliment without a criticism hiding behind it.

    She is so crusted in her shell that it is near impossible to see the person inside anymore. I love her dearly, but I really can’t stand to be around her much because she is so negative and painfully self deprecating. I forgive her for being what she is, that doesn’t mean that I have to like it.

    I forgive my father for being a practicing alcoholic until the day he died. Dad was not the greatest guy in the world, but he did what he could. He was also a product of his family and times, but he made an effort to move beyond what he had come from. I will always admire and respect my dad for telling me that all people, no matter what they looked like, what color they were, what their religion was, where they came from, their gender or gender association are worthy of respect.

    This was in the early 60′s when the town we lived in was still lily white and the schools were still segregated. And he walked his talk. His friends were from all walks of life and he would tell us kids that we would treat his friends with the same respect that we treated our parents. I never realized until years later just what a great man my father was. We never heard, nor were we allowed to use any unkind names (we couldn’t even call each other stupid) and I was in high school before I ever heard anyone use the ‘n’ word. I couldn’t believe people would say such a thing out loud. He was an intensely strong influence on how I perceived people and the world around me. I forgive him for never being able to keep a job more that four or five years in a row. I forgive him for being unfaithful to my mom. But most of all I forgive him for dying before my daughter could get to know him as anything besides the old man in the nursing home who didn’t recognize her. I love you, dad.

    I forgive George for not loving me enough and I forgive myself for not having the courage to challenge him. I forgive him for dying before I could say goodbye.

    I have yet to be able to forgive my sister for her obsessive drive to be some perfect example of the ultimate mother, wife, daughter-in-law, & christian, without bothering to be a human being. If she were any more holier-than-thou she’d probably be sporting stigmata and reveling in the experience. One of these days, maybe I will be able to step beyond my dislike for the heavy handed way she preaches her own perfection and be able to see what motivates her and maybe be able to forgive her. On the other hand, I would someday like to be able to apologize to my sister for not being able to love her the way she is and simply leave her be. For the time being I am content to love her children and to make the effort to keep in touch.

    I apologize to my ex-husband for expecting him to fulfill all my fantasies of what a husband should be and I forgive him for remarrying the day the ink was dry on the divorce papers. He just couldn’t make it by himself. I have extended this apology. I met up again with him and his second wife several years after the divorce and the very first thought through my mind was, ‘thank goodness SHE has to take him home and not me!’ The thought was so funny to me and I had such a deep feeling of a weight shifting off of my chest that I was able to smile and be friends again with no feeling of animosity – even though he did sell my car and buy a sports car for himself in his father’s name and then want my driver’s license number so he could still get insurance as a married person – the bastard ;-) .

    I wish I could apologize to Su and Deb for changing into a different person than I was when the three of us were inseparable. Now I don’t know where they are. And I forgive them, too, the door is always open.

    I cannot forgive the Republican Party for not being able to find any better candidate to run for office than the shrubbery. There had to be SOMEONE other than a wealthy, illiterate, uncaring, derelict from duty, party boy to put in the White House. I understand that they were hell-bent on getting a GOP candidate back in office, but the shrub?!?

    This guy is going to shoot his own foot while he swallows it and we, the people, are going to end up being the ones hurt. I cannot apologize for the way I view this excuse for a human being.

    And, after all, I forgive myself for not being as patient, understanding, loving, defending, caring, a mother as I want to be. I’m just so tired. I apologize to my daughter for the same. She just hugs me and says I am the best mother for her no matter what. That’s all I need.

    Thank you, Frank, for a place to prattle. It is my favorite pastime and second best talent.


    If we weren’t both happily married, I think it would be fun to explore your first best talent.


    10:08:44 PM comment [0]


    Genesis of the Interview with Annie Mason

    For me, it started with the cats… I’ve read and enjoyed Annie Mason’s list serve chatter on the EGR-Irregulars list that b!X started years ago. One morning this month, the following exchange took place:

    Someone said to Annie: “Invite me for coffee.”

    She replied:

    I will have to dig out the coffee machine from behind the blender, toaster, and stack of pre-used dished, but you have a standing invitation. Of course, to sit anywhere we’d have to shove my quilting stuff aside to find a spot at the dining table or shove laundry off the sofa and books off the coffee table (who would have thought that’s what it’s used for). But after you’ve nestled in with a cup and gotten comfortable the cats would have to come investigate the new aroma, check to see if you have the proper cat lap, and make sure your ankles are territorially marked as they think they have final approval. You are welcome any time.

    Annie (the Anti-Martha!)

    Ps. Do you take anything with your coffee? I’d have to borrow sugar from the neighbor, but I do have milk or coffeemate.

    This lead me to respond to the list: “I’d advise using the coffeemate and skipping the milk… judging from the similarities in the rest of the house, I’m betting Annie’s fridge runs on the same inventory control system as mine (oldest stuff in the back, removal on failure of sniff test).”

    And off list… “Annie, do you have a blog?”

    To which she replied:

    Interesting question. No, this forum is as close to a weblog as I get, no website, webpage, nothing. This free floating community is my most cherished outlet for stream of consciousness sort of train of thought. How did I get here? Oh, right, some four years ago or so I came across Rageboy on another site, hit on it and have been hooked ever since. Then sometime in late ’99 Rage got us together on this forum. We all watched 2024 come in from New Zealand to Vietnam to Oz to France to England to New York, to me and finally to the West Coast waiting for SOMETHING to happen. I stayed over on graveyards at work to babysit the computers and lab equipment ‘just in case.’ The only thing we lost was a total chloride machine. B!x and Nick and Dean are still here, Al chimes in, didn’t we have a running list of who and where we are? I miss Hope and ADVice and birdlady and the rest of the guys. Rage still sticks his foot in the door sometimes just to stir things up, but he is pining now. Or writing, off in his own world again. So this is my weblog, my virtual cup of coffee. And you are right about the ‘fridge,’ sniff first or suffer the consequences ;-) , although milk doesn’t stay around long enough anymore, the teenager drinks it like it was koolaid. Hell, look at the time, gotta get the litter boxes changed before the trash pick up gets here.

    Annie (and the menagerie)

    …and later that same day this came through:

    At least I can admit that I had to go and look up ‘blog’ before I replied. I’d heard the word bantered about but never bothered to ask, probably just another one of those computer acronym words people like to drop into conversation to show they are up to the moment. Now, thanks to you, I am on a web page with thousands of blogs and fascinated at the idea that people leave their daily diary entry out for the interested reader. I can now peruse Aaron Hillis’ wish list on Amazon and I don’t even know the guy. He has interesting taste in books and music, though.

    Do you have a blog?

    Annie (the timid voyeur)


    Let me show you mine!!!

    I have been interviewing people for the last month or so, and getting lots of visitors to read the interviews. Direct links to these interviews in reverse chronological order…

    Halley Suitt
    Andrea Roceal James
    Jeneane Sessum
    Denise Howell
    Elaine Frankonis (b!X’s mom!)

    I was thinking, since you’re such a literate email person… well, perhaps after you’ve looked at these you’d consider doing an email interview? I try to be edgy and suggestive and leave it to you to set boundaries. When you set ‘em I respect ‘em. The format is q&a via email, then I edit a compilation that isn’t necessarily fully inclusive, nor is it necessarily chronological. I’m developing the style as I go along.

    Whad’ya think? Sound fun? Maybe?


    … and we were off and running. Later that week she had a blog up at blogger. It’s still rudimentary from a features and functions perspective, but from a prose point of view, it’s all Annie. Tune in tomorrow for what turned out to be a fascinating interview!

    Those of you who have been reading know that since the five interviews listed above, we have also been graced with Tom Shugart, Dorothea Salo, and Gary Turner. Adding Annie, that makes nine people who have so far been willing to put up with my bullshit! And no physical injuries have resulted either! At least not for me. I don’t know what Fiona might have done to Gary after she read his interview.

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