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Shame vs Guilt?

Thursday 31st March, a grey rainy morning, bringing out all the candy-colours of spring. Good to have a little rain. Last night, in the cold dusk, I opened my window to listen to the blackcap, singing and singing, piercing sweet.

So Diana Wynne Jones is gone, and that's sad, but what a good life to celebrate. She played a very fine innings, seems to me. Wrote a lot of great books, had many friends, many fans and will be missed by a lot of people.

Still following, irrisistibly, the story of my long ago celebrity acquaintance, Fukushima. I find the report that the "troubled" reactors will be scrapped the most heartening for many days, and maybe the first rational move. Worryingly radioactive seawater. Is that news? What on earth did the people, near and far, expect? I was moved, yesterday, to look up the old saw about Japan, and shame vs guilt culture, famous and influential mass psychology paper of the post-WWII period. Self congratulatory, of course, but anyway here's a link: (of course Islam is now the un-American culture with the massive flaw, but I can't help that. Still think there's something in it.) Moved further to propose that nations and sovereign states that practice Shame Culture should be banned from using Nuclear Energy. The two just don't mix. Ironically, shame is supposed to be the strategy in collectivist society, guilt the practice where the individual is the perceived social unit. But collectivism is just where shame doesn't work! Pretending it didn't happen, so as not to lose face, is a very sensible response eg in the case of an individual with a self-esteem issue, not so great in the case of full or partial meltdown in a wrecked reactor.

Guilt is good. Guilt takes responsibility, and gets things fixed. What's wrong with that?

What's that you say? Japan no different from the rest of the world, really. Not to mention all corporate culture is exclusively run on shame culture lines? Oh, well, okay. That's a bigger problem.

But guilt is still good.

The Killing: Forgotten dreams

Monday 28th March, a cool grey morning, sunshine breaking through by lunchtime. Nursing another cold, weak of will, I have just spent the whole morning reading New Scientist and answering a journalist's questions about gynoids.

And that was The Killing. And what do you know, after all that gripping, sombre and ingenious misdirection, the butler did it & didn't I say so? You ask Peter, he'll tell you. Sara Lund could have saved herself much trouble and grief if she had called me, soon as I'd seen the first episode.

Gwyneth, help me out, so I can go to Sweden and not rip my life apart. Who did it?

Lund, look no further. It was that weevilly-looking bloke, with the crumpled soft face and kind of cringing manner, who works for the Birk Larsens like some kind of family retainer. What's he doing there? He's a fifth wheel, the tell-tale extra body who can be hanging around for no other reason but to be the murderer. He's your man.

The Cave Of Forgotten Dreams on the other hand, retained its mystery. Who were they, what were they doing in that cavern, 32,000 years ago: leaving barely any trace of their occupation bar the cave lions, the horses, the rhinos, the auroch, the bison. Was there simply no barrier between the new-born mind and hand, could everybody draw like that? Or was this a genius, creating in ritual dedication? Was it just Bent Little Finger, and maybe a mate or two, whiling away the time while caught by a snowstorm or something? Or has the blanket of crystal deposited by the millenia smothered a more detailed, purposeful story? I had my doubts about the "bison embracing the sex of a human female", just couldn't see it; on the other hand I waited in vain for someone to explain the reddish skinny elephant, apparently standing on its back legs, with sort of dusters on its feet... Bewildered by the editing that seemed to have been done by a kid on work experience, I will treasure the final image for a long time: the cave painters were human beings. I am as an albino alligator, with fabulous yellow eyes, drifting in a synthetic radioactive swamp.

That's so cool! I embrace this vision!

Eve Teasing

Friday 25th March, another beautiful Spring day, clear skies, very warm.

Well, well, "Eve teasing" as a BBC human interest news item, it must be a slow day, oh wait, no it isn't. Funny how things come round again, like unanswered questions. So why do women "dress provocatively"? To defend themselves against the catcalls, of course. High heels to make them look bigger, because men are taller, duh-uh. And by the height of the fashion you may judge the level of unease. The rest of the costume? It's supposed to placate, signalling that you accept your status as sex object, and to intimidate, signalling you're a really well-endowed sex object.

Do these strategies work? No!

Will women ever try a different approach? Well, one solution is to ditch the "I am sex on legs" armour, dress for your own comfort, convenience and pleasure, and accept any polite signs of appreciation you may still collect with goodwill. This is not infallible but has worked fairly well for me, and practice must make perfect, because I find it works better and better as the decades go by. There's also the full chador. Highly reccommended, by those who habitually use it (with the added value that you can wear the tackiest, tartiest kit you like, underneath!) . Unfortunately, this package includes getting stoned to death for being raped, etc, which makes some women wary.

Will men ever give up this often-not-so-covert aggression? Of course they will! Peer pressure would easily do it. But don't hold your breath

Other answer: they do, from time to time. Men and women on the street both, for a while, realise what's going on, and treat each other with more respect. And from time to time, for a while, those who know that permanent warfare is incompatible with democracy and justice get a hearing. I've seen that happen, too.

Still hoping for the best for Fukushima, but hmm. I'd be glad to get good news of the guys in hospital.

Safe As Milk, anyone?

Wednesday 23rd March, weather same as yesterday, except no dropping mist at dawn. Clear skies, bright sun. Beginning to wish it would rain.

Publisher's Weekly says Google Book Settlement rejected by Judge Chin, read all about it here: That's most unexpected. I wonder what it means. The big money always wins, doesn't it? Weird...

Maybe because I've spent my life on the Opposition benches, and been proud of this status, I regard opposition as a choice, a vote, a wager, a hat tossed in the ring. Power corrupts, always, but that does not mean opposition to the party in power is necessarily, always, right. It's just that there should be some people pulling the other way from the unmindful, manipulated majority. So now I'm sounding like Adoy again, backwards talking and I'll shut up.

I've returned to my garden. Fukishima, hoping for the best. Global War creep by stealth thing that's going on: not a fan, not following it. Except have you noticed Libya has been moved to The Middle East? To keep all the eggs in one basket, I suppose. And hoping there'll be somewhere for the young men who don't wish to kill for money to run to... Canada? Don't think so. Tierra del Fuego?

Sunday sad, Tuesday happy

Tuesday 22nd March, same pattern as the last few days: a cold night here in Sussex, temperatures grazing frost level; a misty dawn, clearing to bright sun, but still an underlying chill.

Sunday I was sad, despite the brilliant success of Gabriel's Liszt Bicentennial concert, because all our fine young pianists gone away again, and practically all my little tadpoles died overnight. No obvious reason why. Also tired as a dead dog, from the parental stress of all that effortless success. Today I'm happy, because the newts are back, in clear water, looking very fine. (the small pool meanwhile is still churned to zero visibility, so I can't tell what's happening in there). Plus the miniscule company of survivors from my first batch of indoor frog-conservation endeavour are still wriggling merrily, having put on weight and developed frillier gills. I'm going to call them the Liszt Concert Six.

Meanwhile, over on Aqueduct Press, and alerted by David Golding, I see the (re-mastered) Aleutian Trilogy ebooks have appeared & that's nice to know. Job done. Really, I need to have Spirit re-mastered and up there before I reach closure, but I'm getting there.

Found a cool link for Rainbow Bridge (I'm so glad someone noticed the carefully researched sixties/rockstar/occult strand, at last) which I'm posting here to remind myself I haven't forgotten that I still have to re-master and epublish the fifth Bold As Love book too.

There's Life

Wednesday 16th March. Soft spring air yesterday, the garden at last and suddenly taking on colour, suddenly budding and flowery. Today a low sky, dropping mist, I could see my breath.

Two batches of spawn so far, I brought some of the first batch indoors, and already I have dumbells: there's life there. Have failed to relocate the little fish in the "wildlife patch" pool = introduced after the tads grew up last year, to eat mosquito larvae. I left it too late, the warm air has warmed the water, the frogs have become active and the water a muddy suspension. Oh well, opportunistic fishing will have to be my hobby (fish and tads don't mix well). In memory of Link's fishing obsession...

And meanwhile, have the Saudis effectively invaded Bahrain, the tiny state where masses of decent people, both sexes, all dress codes, peacefully came out on the streets to insist on reform? Looks like it

Stunningly callous assessment of the Japanese crisis on The Daily Reckoning (but that's what I hire them for, bless). I'm really annoyed at all the insulting denigration of Japan's twenty years of "stagnating economy". Getting to a good place and stopping there, creating social equality, ending the fallacy of perpetual economic growth. What is wrong with that?

"We don't need to replace fossil fuel with plutonium, we need to USE LESS ENERGY"


Friday 11th March, I get to my desk, and switch on the BBC to find out what's happening in Libya. No, Libya is no longer headlining. There's been a huge seabed earthquake and tsunami, affecting the whole North East coast of Japan. Utter devastation everywhere, and one of the Fukushima reactors is in trouble. At once I'm transported back to 1988/1989, when I was drafting White Queen. I had in mind an alien invasion, but not the Space Opera, "War of the Worlds" variety, with a Deathstar Fleet appearing from nowhere, bent on World Domination with sole emphasis on the USA (or UK, in Wells's day). I wanted to use the best real world models we have, ie the alien colonial invasions from Western Europe into the developed civilisations of Pacific Asia, India, Africa. World domination, in this model, come almost by accident, in increments, over generations, and the natives don't even try to resist, much. They believe the promises, they're divided among themselves, and they've already been weakened by complex homegrown factors. Given the heft and size of our current global civilisation, I think I need to invoke some major, politically neutral disaster, it's better wipe out a huge chunk of our notional capital in the bargain, now what shall it be? An asteroid? The USA and Western Europe must be physically, largely unaffected (except by the slow creep of global warming sea level rise), because I can speak with relative confidence in the voice of those cultures, so I'll need to use them as my venues. Likewise Africa, for different reasons. Did I read Sakyo Komatsu's Japan Sinks, and decide I'd found my catastrophe? Or did I think of Japan, and did that lead me to Komatsu? I can't remember.

So then I spent the weekend, which happened to be unsettling and eventful in my own private life, constantly referring to the live updates, hearing phrases and descriptions (the entire coastal plate, the reactor core may have been exposed, the fuel rods were not fully inserted) familiar to me from long ago, and feeling, creepily, that I was reacting like someone who sees a celebrity in trouble on the News, and cries excitedly "Oooh, Fukushima! I met her once!" But what has struck me most is the sheer ugliness of the sight (same as the wake of the Boxing Day tsunami a few years ago). The whole coastland and for miles inland transformed into a vast, foul, muddy, festering heap of trash, as if the lives of millions of the poorest of the poor of the urban tropics had been swept up and dumped there. And the humanity of the reaction of the Japanese government and people. How their first instinct was to minimise the damage, we're not much hurt, we'll be fine. But that's shock, it wears off, the pain sets in, they begin to realise the horrific extent of their injuries, and the invisible fear.

Nuclear Reactors may compare favourably, on environmental grounds with gas, coal, oil-fired power stations as long as nothing goes wrong.

Nobody would ever, ever build a Nuclear Power Station, if safety was the top priority.

No room for Libya on the front pages, and no hope for those rebels that I can see. Guernica is a very famous picture, but it didn't help to shift Franco, far from it. But from the start, I wasn't hopeful for the Libyan tranche of the Arab revolutions.There didn't seem to be a general will to change the paradigm. The men, and the young men, were just too willing to die, eerily willing to die gloriously in battle, while the women stayed in their houses, not in safety, of course not, but in "honour" bound.

Saturday 12th March, watery sun and haze, the waterlily tulips all wide open in the big blue pot, Gabriel home for the weekend, a buzz of preparation for the Liszt concert, and working on his share of a Fitkin eight-hand piano piece, part of an evening of Fitkin, at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Thurs 24th A vast site specific event, it says here. Should be fun, I'll be there.

Gloom and Sunshine

Wednesday 2nd March, cold but the sun has come out. Hazy sky, faintly blue, suffused with light. Lulu Belle Camellia may have to come indoors again tonight, however. Three frogs have been seen, no further action, no spawn. One of these years...

Sunday 27th in the grey stillness of a shrouded end-of-winter day, we found something strange outside Mayfield (=Maul's field in Saxon times, formerly the capital of the Sussex iron industry you know). A large rectangular pit, still partially clothed in swimming pool blue, a few inches of dead leaves and water in the bottom, the trees around leaning close to grab the open sky. Marked on the map, "swimming bath", wonder how it got here, who swam here, and when did it fall into dereliction. The answer to the first might be the spring close by, running strongly from a metal pipe into a mossy stone basin and spilling downhill to a tributary of the Rother. Spring recently adopted as an al fresco "Celtic Shrine", and declared sacred, which does not mean it was left alone in beauty, no, it means the young ash tree above it had been requisitioned as an eyesore: coat hanger for rags of coloured cloth, beads, twisty things. A notice wrapped in plastic invited us to add our own. Bloody Pagans, litter-louts. Where do they get off? Are we on Celtic ethnic territory here? I don't think so! Oh well, at least they didn't build themselves a lurid basilica. Yet.

But I tasted the water, and it was sweet.

This is richly populated country, since Saxon times. Walking around Mayfield woods and fields you're rarely out of sight of some human dwelling, mainly ancient and fine, or derelict and pleasingly spooky, but still it feels as if you're strolling through an extremely leafy extended garden suburb. Bit like the Shire, maybe, except no grass roofs. Yet. The footing also unspeakably slimy throughout, that's Wealden Clay for you, and sometimes vile (eg getting past the deer feeding station in Wadhurst Park, disgusting lakes of slurry). But there were primroses, the first we've seen, crowds of yellow hazel catkins, fully expanded; amiable sheep. I like sheep, as you may have gathered. Birdsong, non-stop and the sound of water; neither of these disturbing the quiet. A skein of geese went honking overhead, dropping rain and then a cold breeze got up towards sunset, but we didn't mind.

Many thanks to Mr Plashing Vole, for his book order. Universe of Things is in the post, and a donation of £13 has been made to Amnesty International. I have more Universes! It's for a good cause, come on.

Meanwhile, joy it was in that dawn to be alive seems to have segued into a dreary, deadly civil war in Libya, and no good news from Wisconsin either. The tight little group of regular respondents on Common Dream are convinced the anti-Gaddafis are being financed by the CIA, and maybe that tells the whole story.

Meanwhile #non-war news, Gill Spraggs has posted some new links on the doubtful future of copyright, and the issue of Mr Cameron's plan to adopt a US style system. Join the mailing list if you're interested: