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Sunday 18 November 2012

[Suzanne's Travels] Homeward Bound

It's 8am on Sunday morning. My flight back to Brisbane is Tuesday lunchtime.

I'm finding it difficult to sum up the "feel" of this visit: on the one hand, I have been reminded again of
* the incredible advantages of the wantok/tambu systems,
* the generosity of spirit overall and
* the joys of communal living;
on the other hand, I have been reminded again of
* the incredible bonds & disadvantages of the wantok/tambu systems,
* the frustration of dealing with "PNG time",
* the unbelievably annoying aspects of communal living and
* despair over whether or not it is remotely possible to do something which will genuinely (eventually) bring change to the underlying & perpetual potential for violence & corruption.

As I write this, it's 8am & I'm sitting on the front porch of my niece's house. My 9yo cousin E1 is up; one of my tambus (T1) has left for work (security guard) & one (T2) just arrived home, the worse for wear after falling asleep (drunk) at a bus stop & being mugged; my nephew D & 1 other wantok (Y) are asleep on the porch; my 2 aunties T3 & C who look after the house, & the wantok (L) who is the Official Babysitter to The Destroyer (my niece's 21-month-old daughter E2), are still asleep inside, as are my niece G & her husband R and (thankfully!) E2 herself. That's 10 people in a 4-bedroom house, and the numbers fluctuate throughout the day/week.

Last night there was a massive kerfuffle round the side of the house & I went out on the back porch to see what was going on. (First, I have to explain that the downstairs of the house is split into two flats: one 1-bedroom currently occupied by an American MK (M) on a Fulbright scholarship, the other a 4-bedroom rented by 5 sisters from Kimbe.) So, a man - who one of the sisters was acquainted with at Uni this year - had come to the house on Friday, when said sister (J) had expressed concern that he even knew where she lived and had told him to leave. He came back, drunk, last night. F, the only other sister at home had opened, & then immediately shut, their door - he shoved the door open, an altercation ensued & then he punched J in the head & split open a 1" long gash at her temple. So the kerfuffle was 9 of our lain (pronounced "line", means - at its most basic level - "family") all turning out to confront this guy. He was so drunk that he didn't even react when he was poked (or, as I call it, "stabbed") twice with a sharp machete/bush knife by T1, & eventually had to be physically carried to, & thrown out, the gate because he would/could not leave on his own. J said not to call the police because of how difficult it can be to get them to do anything without bribing them. M provided butterfly bandages to hold J's cut closed; I applied 2 of them after 15 minutes of J holding ice against the wound, then a carful of people (R, G, C, D, F, J) left to take J to the hospital for stitches, and I went to bed.

Variations of this scene happen over and over and over again in PNG, every night, and it's why I'm involved with the Domestic Violence group here. J is lucky enough to live in a private home with a group of people & access to a car to go to the hospital - many/most women don't have that option. The police corruption is another subject entirely.


"I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.". -- Edward Everett Hale

Saturday 10 November 2012

[Suzanne's Travels] "...a fire within you..."

"Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit light a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it.."

Wilfred Peterson

"I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.". -- Edward Everett Hale

Friday 9 November 2012

[Suzanne's Travels] Ringworm! Yay!

This is the father of (some of) the 9 puppies. He and the meri dog both have round patches of missing hair, but it's taken these 2 active lesions for me to convince mine hosts that letting their 21-month old anywhere near the puppies is probably a bad idea.

Wednesday 7 November 2012

[Suzanne's Travels] Where am I?

I was asked, "where are you?", and so was reminded that I'd never quite explained that!

I'm in PNG right now - been here 6 weeks, going back to Brisbane on 20 November. I'm looking for work up here so that I can be actively present & involved in the PNGns Against Domestic Violence (FB group) legal and practical work to break the DV cycle in PNG.

Donations to the group gratefully accepted via PayPal at this email address, or via direct deposit (accounts in PNG and Australia)!

Monday 5 November 2012

[Suzanne's Travels] (non-comprehensive) smell snapshots of PNG

* acrid tang of mosquito coils
* delightfully fatty hot artery-clogging lamb flaps
* nastiness of kumul (boiled celery/pumpkin greens, fennel etc)
* clean, fresh rice
* filthy, never-bathed dogs
* rain on dust
* overarching fecundity
* lingering death (the cat doesn't like the mice's heads)
* choking wood smoke
* rancid pig fat
* bland boiled chicken
* tang of fresh ginger

[Suzanne's Travels] That persistent whine...

Nothing reminds you more that you're in the tropics, than being in the loo (toilet, bog, dunny, "bathroom") at 2am with one rogue mosquito that you just can't seem to locate. No malingering!

Saturday 3 November 2012

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Saturday 1 September 2012

So this happened. A GOP delegate from Pennsylvania, Mark Harris, visited DisneyWorld in Orlando with his wife before carrying on to attend the Republican National Committee shindig in Tampa, and blogged about this outrage:
During our time at Epcot we visited the different countries. It was neat seeing each country and the employees were from that individual country. Then we visited America . . . one would think you would find American employees. We were offended to find a person from Mexico working in America.
What does this even mean? Do you mean "Hispanic" or "Latino" (or other PC term for "a person claiming to be American despite clearly not being white enough to qualify")? Or an actual citizen of the country of Mexico, working at the 'Murkah stand?

If the former, I assume you read "Jorge Estanza" or something on his name tag; if the latter, how do you know he was Mexican? Since you're not the police and this didn't happen in Arizona, you can't have asked him for proof of citizenship...?

I'm going to have to go with the "you're racist assholes" explanation.
Mark spoke up and told them he was highly offended after visiting the other countries and seeing employees from that country and then come to America and find a Mexican. He was very civil but his point was well made.
The post drew some unwanted attention to the couple... two days later, they posted this:
As noted, only in the country of the United States, within Epcot, was a staff member representing and working, who did not have a name tag representing that country. I would say being offended may been too harsh, disappointed or dismayed may have been a better choice of words.
So... wait, I'm confused. First off, the name tag thing again: the employee's name tag stated that s/he was not from America? Or it just contained a name you found too ethnic? Either way: still racist assholes.

Also - in two days you went from "highly offended" to "disappointed or dismayed"? That's a hell of a turnaround - and, frankly, not a terribly credible one.

Man up, random politician from Backwoods, PA! If finding "a Mexican" working at the America stall at DisneyWorld genuinely "highly offends you", then don't try to walk it back - stand by your convictions! - lest you appear to be spineless racist assholes.

Saturday 25 August 2012

Explicit Violence", by Lidia Yuknavitch

This is such a fantastic essay that I'm going to reproduce it here in its entirety. It's long, but stunningly worth reading.

August 22nd, 2012

In a bar, with friends, listening to a man I’ve admired for years saying this: “Enough with the sob stories, ladies. We get it. If I hear one more story about some fucked up sad violent shit that happened to you, I’m going to walk. You win! You win the sad shit happened to me award! On behalf of my gender, I decree: We suck!” Laughter. The clinking of glasses. Again the secret crack in my heart. Stop telling.

The first time I saw my father’s specific sadistic brutality manifest in physical terms, I was four. My sister was flopped across his lap, barebottom. He hit her thirteen times with his leather belt. I counted. That’s all I was old enough to do. It took a very long time. She was twelve and had the beginning of boobs. I was in the bedroom down the hall, peeking out from a faithlessly thin line through my barely open bedroom door. The first two great thwacks left red welts across her ass. I couldn’t keep watching, but I couldn’t move or breathe, either. I closed my eyes. I drew on the wall by my door with an oversized purple crayon — large aimless circles and scribbles. Not the sound of the belt—but her soundlessness is what shattered me. Still.

The second time I saw my father’s naked brutality he came at my mother – I mean the second time I physically witnessed my father looking more animal than man, his embodied rage – he threw a coffee mug at her head. Hard. He once tried out for the Cleveland Indians as a pitcher. That hard. He missed, and the mug punched a hole through the wall in the kitchen. My sister was long gone—the escape of college. Afterward, there was dead silence in the kitchen. I know because I held my breath. Even air molecules seemed to still. I’d recently written a fifth grade school report on hurricanes.  It felt like we were in the eye.

My father never struck my mother. She told me it was because she was a cripple. My mother was born with one of her legs six inches shorter than the other. She said, “He wouldn’t dare hit me,” the lilt of a southern drawl and vodka in her never-went-to-college voice, some kind of messed up trust in her too blue eyes. Instead, he molested his daughters.

Our legs were perfect.


Purple crayon.

When I was sixteen a boy older than me asked me out on a date. I was as sixteen as a girl could be. Barely able to breathe with the incomprehensibility of my own body. The heat and pulse and lurch.  When he drove me home, and parked outside my house, we kissed. Because I was stupid and sixteen I thought we were alone. I got out of the car, and leaned back in through his open driver’s side window to kiss him some more, my mouth, his mouth, wet heat and tongue of youth sliding into youth, and my father, who was standing behind me there in the dark, grabbed me by the ear and dragged me all the way back to the house. My ear became more than red and hot. Then ringing. Then pain. I thought he would pull my ear off. Briefly, I saw the boy step out of his car—did he mean to save me? I shook my head wordlessly, no. Or maybe it was just in my eyes through the dark. No. He got back in his car.

That night my father hit me with language. Slut. Over and over again.

Purple Crayon.


The second time I was molested I was twelve. I was on an out-of-state swimming trip with my swim team. Nebraska. Even now, I understand, the hormonal chaos of all of us half-naked in the pool every day of our lives, six to eight a.m., four to six p.m. pushing our corporeal truths up and out—I understand how hard it was for our bodies to find forms for things. A seventeen year old boy named Robert asked me to come sit by him on the plane and share his Walkman earphones—to hear a song he liked. He had one in his ear and he put the other in my ear. The song was “Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty. As I leaned in closely, he reached up underneath my tank top and fondled my barely there tits. I kept stealing glances at the airplane barf bag. But I didn’t move. I remember being terrified to move. Not the terror of violence. I didn’t think he’d hurt me. It was the terror of my own body. My nipples responding to this thing that made me want to throw up.  Or just die there in the seat of the airplane. Crashing, crashing. Wishing for it. “When you wake up it’s a new morning/ The sun is shining, it’s a new morning/ You’re going, you’re going home.”

To this day if I hear “Baker Street,” which is mercifully almost never, I can vomit.

To this day, I would rather have taken ten plane trips sitting next to Robert than live with my father growing up.


Coffee mug.


Barf bag.

The first time a man came at me with a fist I was eighteen. I passed out. Not from his fist though. I’d passed out drunk. When I woke up all my clothes were on the floor, my legs were spread eagle on his bed, and I was wet and sticky and sore between them. There was a bruise between my shoulder and my breast. He was snoring, asleep back in bed. I stood up and watched him sleep. I remember thinking he is beautiful. He had long blonde feathered hair and an astonishingly fit body. He did Karate. Competitively. In fact his power and beauty were what made me go home with him from the bar. I mean I went out of my way to catch his eye, wag my ass, throw my huge mane of blonde lioness hair around. I pretended I didn’t know how to play pool—which my father had taught me when I was ten—so he could “teach” me. He had blue eyes. Standing there watching him sleep, my legs shaking some, I thought, he is beautiful, and I am not, I am stupid, and drunk, and I deserve this and more.

Then I called my roommate from college at 3:00 A.M. and she and her boyfriend came to get me. I couldn’t find my underwear. I waited for them in the dark and cold morning on the front lawn. He came out before they got to me and punched me in the jaw—not hard enough to call the cops, not soft enough to keep my ear from aching, saying, “You tell anyone you crazy little bitch, I’ll find you.” He smiled. He handed me my underwear.

I waited for my roommate to pick me up. I heard a dog bark. I smelled cow shit from Lubbock stockyards. I picked at a scab on my arm like a kid.You’re no victim if you are a drunk ass slut. I didn’t cry. I swallowed it whole.

I didn’t tell anyone. In fact, later that year? I went home with him again. On purpose.

Purple crayon.

Coffee mug.



The second time a man hit me I was in college. The man was a poet. A pacifist. A hippie. Somehow I believed things like that could matter. But he had a hair trigger rage in him. His father had been career military and hit him all through boyhood. The rage in him sat like the crouch of dead dreams in his fingers. Poems came out. And that shot to the bridge of my nose. Probably that’s what drew me to him. It was familiar.

Twice in my life I’ve been homeless, both times the result of emotional trauma. Both times I woke up under overpasses with no pants or underwear, vomit everywhere, a throbbing pain between my legs extending to my asshole. I’m assuming I was raped. But where do you put the story of rape when there’s no man to blame? I put it the only place I knew how to. I put it back into my body.


Barf bag.


Purple Crayon.

I’m trying to tell you something here, but it’s starting to sound like what I’m saying is that I deserved these violences. Let me be clear. I did not. No one does. Ever. But when women tell how it is for them, when they self narrate their ordinary lives, it’s instantly sucked up by the culture—there’s already a place waiting for the story. A place where the story gets annulled.  It’s 2012 and I’m still reading about what the girl or woman was wearing that night. Or how she should hold aspirin between her legs. Or how she shouldn’t say the word “vagina” on the floor of congress. Or how a friend at a bar wants the sob stories to end. What I’m trying to tell you is that violence against girls and women is in every move we make, whether it is big violence or small, explicit or hidden behind the word father. Priest. Lover. Teacher. Coach. Friend. I’m trying to explain how you can be a girl and a woman and travel through male violence like it’s part of what living a life means. Getting into or out of a car. A plane. Going through a door to your own home. A church. School. Pool. It can seem normal. It can seem like just the way things are.

To be honest, the first reason I understand the complexities of male violence against girls and women is that I went to college and read a shit ton of books—and even that wasn’t enough education—I went to graduate school, where finally, finally, the books that I read and the films that I watched and the art that I experienced and the teachers that I had showed me just how not normal male violence against girls and women—or boys and men—is. Ever. And yet at the same time, the more conscious I became, the more I also understood that the pervasiveness of that violence has saturated the entire culture. It’s both omnipresent, and unbelievably invisible in its dispersed and sanctioned forms. So many times the cult of good citizenship covering over the atrocities of girls and boys. Mothers who go numb. Counselors who ask the wrong questions. Coaches and priests and teachers whose desires are costumed and sanctified by their authority. Neighbors who go blind and deaf. Paying bills. Drinking lattes.

The second reason I understand is that I am alive. Still. Differently.

It wasn’t that I did not understand the violences against me were wrong. I did. Even at three years of age. It was that I thought I deserved it, and possibly worse:  that deserving it, I could withstand it. Mightily. Heroically. You see? As a righteously indignant defense. I could take it. As good as if I was somebody’s son. It was a choice.

When my father raised his hand to me in our garage at eighteen, I said, “Do it.”

When the poet punched me in the nose in my pick-up truck at a stop light, I said, “Get the fuck out of my car or I will kill you.” And I meant it.

I’m telling you this because I know I’m not the only one who came of age like this. Up and through male violence. I’m telling you because there are all the things that need to be done “out there” to stop it. But then there are also all the things that needed to be done in me. To stop it.

Listen, these are not the sad stories. Worse things happened to me. Those aren’t the sad stories either.  These stories don’t carry the pathos to signify culturally in my culture. These stories I’m telling you are commonplace. That’s the point. They just happen and you live them and as you go you have to decide who you want to be.







When I was thirteen, in Jr. High, my best friend Emory was beaten and sodomized in the boy’s locker room at school by some sadistic members of the football team. Because he was gay. Or at least that’s what they were aiming at. In truth, Emory had not yet finished discovering his own sexual self. Like my sister, Emory suffered rectal damage the rest of his life. They used a baseball bat. Emory says, I’ll never be in any kind of relationship. Emory says, my chance at being with anyone, a family, feeling OK, died that day. Emory was also a swimmer, and so after swim practice, sometimes we’d sit in the parking lot waiting for our moms to pick us up and drink vodka from a flask an older girl swimmer had bequeathed to me. I never knew what to say about what happened. I didn’t even understand it until we were adults. I’m only glad we are still in contact – writing. The tether of words when the world isn’t safe like it was supposed to be.

The boys who committed this brutality were never charged. Emory couldn’t bring himself to tell anyone, and anyhow, at that time, there were no laws on the books to protect us anyway. Also, he was instructed by his father’s lawyer that the term “rape” was not available to him in this situation.


Purple crayon.

Barf bag.

I’m a writer. It’s all I really know how to do, besides being a wife and mother. I consider myself a success story. Because I am alive I mean, and because I think writing and books and art are the reason. As a writer, I’m not so sure I see much difference in the storylines for women and girls who enter the field. I see that some art is rewarded for being “universal,” and it is written by men. Other art is deemed confessional. Or sentimental. Or too subjective. And it is written by women. I see that straight white men are published in prestigious venues more often than women. I see that women are told by editors and agents and publishers to take explicitly sexual or violent or subjective language out of their work unless they can bend the language toward the culture in a way that will sell. These are gendered terms, laden with a force as real as my father’s. I write my heart out. I do. For better or worse. I write my heart out because my heart, well, she was almost taken from me. Every year of my life until now. It’s something I can “do.” A verb. Something that has at least a chance of interrupting another girl or boy’s story with other options. Write. Make art. Find others. It’s a choice.

Listen, I know this is a bit of a dreary story. But whenever I get told that, by friends, or agents, or editors, or publishers, I think, if this dreary story is hard for you to live with, how are we supposed to live with you?

When my father was thirty, he had all of his teeth pulled. Just bad genes with regard to teeth, I guess.  Early dentures. When he came home from the surgery he turned all the living room lights off, became part of the couch, and turned the television on. It was a horrible week waiting for his mouth to heal. I don’t know how to say it—things went too dark and horribly submerged. If my mother or I spoke, he yelled, but we could barely understand him. Laughter and crying kept getting caught and confused in my throat. My mother made soup. Mashed potatoes. Ice cream. I drew on the walls in my room. It was like his rage had gone underground, under the beds, the house, the dirt. But we could feel it, pulsing.  Pervading everything.

They sent his teeth home with him. I never understood that. I just know I stole one. A molar. Off white as a baseball and like a wrong pearl. I have it still.

Sometimes I think about the children that didn’t come out of me. Four. Three of them were zygotes. The zygotes were sucked out of me in what can best be described as a process involving a hoover upright old-school vacuum. That’s what it always looked like to me. Though medical technology has advanced since I was in my teens and twenties.  And yet it’s 2012 and I keep reading about ideas like forced sonograms where the newly or barely pregnant woman is made to watch. I saw a congressman interviewed who actually said, “Well, no one can really be made to ‘watch,’ the woman could just close her eyes.’” While a camera wand is shoved up her. It makes me think of the film A Clockwork Orange.  It makes me think how yes we are forced to watch, every day of our lives, we are forced to watch how our culture still doesn’t get what it means to live every moment of a life in the body of a woman.


Purple crayon.



The zygotes that did not become children—I think about them. Who would they be? Would they have lived? It’s a question I feel I’ve earned the right to, since one of the children who came through my body died—nothing wrong with my body or hers, sometimes babies just die. Though for more than a decade I believed it was my body that killed her. My body I’d made into a war zone to mirror the culture as I saw it. When Christians in particular talk to me about “killing babies” and abortions, in my head I think, trust me, I know the difference between a dead baby and a zygote. Once a white Christian woman with shellacked blonde hair and the smallest green eyes I’d ever seen told me I was going to hell on my way in to Planned Parenthood. I thought to myself, lady, I’ve been there and back. Only it was called “family.”

Those zygotes, would they be boys? Girls? Would I have survived? I had no money during that part of my life. I stole food and did things I’m not proud of so that I could eat and have shelter and go to school. I also worked three jobs. And still I needed food stamps, just to stay alive. What would they have eaten, the three zygotes, where would they have lived? Would there have been a man under the beds, house, down in the dirt, his rage and violence waiting? Would I have let him in the door, his face so familiar I couldn’t recognize it?

I carry deep shame in my body for the zygotes. I don’t know a single woman alive who is “happy” to have had an abortion. Or two. Or four. And it’s not just me. Other women. Republicans. Democrats.  Unaffiliated women. Atheists. Christians. Muslims. Buddhists. Armies of us walking around carrying our body secrets. Our shame over the zygotes. Or maybe there’s something deeper than shame—maybe there’s a second self I had to kill in order to live. The Lidia who believed she deserved it. Could take it. Should. It was a choice.

My father’s tooth is in a pink plastic box that was my mother’s. Inside it too, a lock of my hair and two of my baby teeth and that little bracelet they used to give babies that spells out L-I-D-I-A. I’m the one who put my father’s tooth in there after my mother died. I don’t know why. Sometimes I get it out and look at it – hold it in the palm of my hand. So small. The man who terrorized us. His DNA. So large the culture that let him.

I am a survivor of sexual abuse and male violence. I’ve had three abortions. I also had one baby girl that died the day she was born. I have a husband and a son now. My husband plays cello, and makes films and writes, and in the evening he hits the heavy bag; he’s proficient at Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu.  My son can’t throw a baseball properly to save his life. His favorite color is purple. He draws and draws. Me, between them, I am alive, unflinchingly.

More from this author at

Friday 27 April 2012

AUSTRALIAN CRIME REPORTING v. English as she is spoke

Just a few notes, addressed to The Media:

(1) OK, here's the thing: at some point, the phrase "shot dead" tripped and fell head first into the Media-way, and - instead of driving over it until it was just a grease stain - the media pulled over, picked it up and took it home. "The woman was shot dead" - NO! Gah.

Look, it's not hard: has anyone ever been "stabbed dead", or "drowned dead", or "beaten dead", or "suffocated dead"? NO! Because that implies that the person was ALREADY DEAD, and *then* was shot/stabbed/beaten/suffocated. The phrase you want, Media, is "shot and killed".

(2) This one is far rarer, but it made the mistake of crossing my path soon after an instance of (1): "a man was killed today in Melbourne, after being hit by a train." Now, that right there? THAT is a bad day. First he gets hit by a train, and then later he is killed! That is one unlucky guy.


Sunday 8 April 2012

Dobson Using Debunked Myths Against Planned Parenthood

Dobson: Planned Parenthood Based on 'Evil' and 'Wickedness'

Best line:

Hawkins [...] explained that Planned Parenthood is an all-powerful "abortion Goliath" that only cares about making money by getting girls pregnant, tricking them into getting breast cancer and ultimately coercing them to have abortions.


Thursday 5 April 2012

Pet Interpretation

Our dog has learned to hate suitcases. If there's one on the coffee table or on the bed, he slinks away miserably. I think he might be an Indigo dog (*snark*).

We were all away for ~2 weeks for a funeral, by the end of which the dog was apparently refusing to eat. My parents left again 4 days later, on a holiday they'd been planning for ages. That was 3.5 weeks ago. The dog has been... Clingy. Follows me around biting my toes (this means "I love you" in some secret doggy way).

They get home tonight. The way my head's been, I'll be asleep... until the car doors shut, & the dog has a mental breakdown, which goes something like this:


The worst part? My mum leaves again on Thursday - going to a grandson's 1st birthday. I may have to get the dog some doggy Xanax.

Sunday 1 April 2012

CLAYTON'S JOB-HUNTING: the job-hunting you do when you're not job-hunting

[that's an awkwardly long & cumbersome title; I'll think of a better one later & then probably forget to update it here anyway.]


ME: "Dear Sirs: your website content is apparently edited by monkeys, drunk on fermented coconuts. Herewith are three examples from one paragraph on your site."

REPLY: "Oh, my, that IS bad! Um... do you want a job?"


I used to send websites quiet, polite emails, about how there were some errors they might like to know about, FYI, just helping out, etc. Being nice started to annoy me, so now I send nasty emails instead.

Since I started doing that, this is the third time I've had a job offer. 

I swear, I'm going to write a book titled, "Snark: How Insulting People Can Work For You".

Ben Pobjie's Wonderful World Of Objects: "Are Women Funny?" and other questions to ask if you are somewhat slow

Ben Pobjie's Wonderful World Of Objects: "Are Women Funny?" and other questions to ask if you are somewhat slow

Brilliance leaks from his every pore, and some snark gets caught up in there as well. Go, read. I think it's funny, although apparently I may not have the gene responsible for recognising humour. But it FEELS funny.

Sunday 5 February 2012

Killer Ring | GeekAlerts

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." -- Albert Einstein

Thursday 19 January 2012

Amazing Paths, Some Calming, Some Adventurous

Before anything else, I'd like thank Karen V., who sent me these,  and to apologise to the owners as I have no copyright info on any of them. 

Amazing Paths...

















May the path your life takes in the next year lead you to fun and adventure, love and peace.
Happy New Year!



Wednesday 18 January 2012

"The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson

This is one of the best - and most disturbing short stories I've ever read. Enjoy. 

<blockquote>The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green. The people of the village began to gather in the square, between the post office and the bank, around ten o'clock; in some towns there were so many people that the lottery took two days and had to be started on June 26th. but in this village, where there were only about three hundred people, the whole lottery took less than two hours, so it could begin at ten o'clock in the morning and still be through in time to allow the villagers to get home for noon dinner.

The children assembled first, of course. School was recently over for the summer, and the feeling of liberty sat uneasily on most of them; they tended to gather together quietly for a while before they broke into boisterous play, and their talk was still of the classroom and the teacher, of books and reprimands. Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example, selecting the smoothest and roundest stones; Bobby and Harry Jones and Dickie Delacroix-- the villagers pronounced this name "Dellacroy"--eventually made a great pile of stones in one corner of the square and guarded it against the raids of the other boys. The girls stood aside, talking among themselves, looking over their shoulders at the boys, and the very small children rolled in the dust or clung to the hands of their older brothers or sisters.

Soon the men began to gather, surveying their own children, speaking of planting and rain, tractors and taxes. They stood together, away from the pile of stones in the corner, and their jokes were quiet and they smiled rather than laughed. The women, wearing faded house dresses and sweaters, came shortly after their menfolk. They greeted one another and exchanged bits of gossip as they went to join their husbands. Soon the women, standing by their husbands, began to call to their children, and the children came reluctantly, having to be called four or five times. Bobby Martin ducked under his mother's grasping hand and ran, laughing, back to the pile of stones. His father spoke up sharply, and Bobby came quickly and took his place between his father and his oldest brother.

The lottery was conducted--as were the square dances, the teen club, the Halloween program--by Mr. Summers, who had time and energy to devote to civic activities. He was a round-faced, jovial man and he ran the coal business, and people were sorry for him because he had no children and his wife was a scold. When he arrived in the square, carrying the black wooden box, there was a murmur of conversation among the villagers, and he waved and called, "Little late today, folks." The postmaster, Mr. Graves, followed him, carrying a three- legged stool, and the stool was put in the center of the square and Mr. Summers set the black box down on it. The villagers kept their distance, leaving a space between themselves and the stool, and when Mr. Summers said, "Some of you fellows want to give me a hand?" there was a hesitation before two men, Mr. Martin and his oldest son, Baxter, came forward to hold the box steady on the stool while Mr. Summers stirred up the papers inside it.

The original paraphernalia for the lottery had been lost long ago, and the black box now resting on the stool had been put into use even before Old Man Warner, the oldest man in town, was born. Mr. Summers spoke frequently to the villagers about making a new box, but no one liked to upset even as much tradition as was represented by the black box. There was a story that the present box had been made with some pieces of the box that had preceded it, the one that had been constructed when the first people settled down to make a village here. Every year, after the lottery, Mr. Summers began talking again about a new box, but every year the subject was allowed to fade off without anything's being done. The black box grew shabbier each year: by now it was no longer completely black but splintered badly along one side to show the original wood color, and in some places faded or stained.

Mr. Martin and his oldest son, Baxter, held the black box securely on the stool until Mr. Summers had stirred the papers thoroughly with his hand. Because so much of the ritual had been forgotten or discarded, Mr. Summers had been successful in having slips of paper substituted for the chips of wood that had been used for generations. Chips of wood, Mr. Summers had argued, had been all very well when the village was tiny, but now that the population was more than three hundred and likely to keep on growing, it was necessary to use something that would fit more easily into he black box. The night before the lottery, Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves made up the slips of paper and put them in the box, and it was then taken to the safe of Mr. Summers' coal company and locked up until Mr. Summers was ready to take it to the square next morning. The rest of the year, the box was put way, sometimes one place, sometimes another; it had spent one year in Mr. Graves's barn and another year underfoot in the post office. and sometimes it was set on a shelf in the Martin grocery and left there.

There was a great deal of fussing to be done before Mr. Summers declared the lottery open. There were the lists to make up--of heads of families, heads of households in each family, members of each household in each family. There was the proper swearing-in of Mr. Summers by the postmaster, as the official of the lottery; at one time, some people remembered, there had been a recital of some sort, performed by the official of the lottery, a perfunctory, tuneless chant that had been rattled off duly each year; some people believed that the official of the lottery used to stand just so when he said or sang it, others believed that he was supposed to walk among the people, but years and years ago this part of the ritual had been allowed to lapse. There had been, also, a ritual salute, which the official of the lottery had had to use in addressing each person who came up to draw from the box, but this also had changed with time, until now it was felt necessary only for the official to speak to each person approaching. Mr. Summers was very good at all this; in his clean white shirt and blue jeans, with one hand resting carelessly on the black box, he seemed very proper and important as he talked interminably to Mr. Graves and the Martins.

Just as Mr. Summers finally left off talking and turned to the assembled villagers, Mrs. Hutchinson came hurriedly along the path to the square, her sweater thrown over her shoulders, and slid into place in the back of the crowd. "Clean forgot what day it was," she said to Mrs. Delacroix, who stood next to her, and they both laughed softly. "Thought my old man was out back stacking wood," Mrs. Hutchinson went on, "and then I looked out the window and the kids was gone, and then I remembered it was the twenty-seventh and came a-running." She dried her hands on her apron, and Mrs. Delacroix said, "You're in time, though. They're still talking away up there."

Mrs. Hutchinson craned her neck to see through the crowd and found her husband and children standing near the front. She tapped Mrs. Delacroix on the arm as a farewell and began to make her way through the crowd. The people separated good-humoredly to let her through; two or three people said, in voices just loud enough to be heard across the crowd, "Here comes your Missus, Hutchinson," and "Bill, she made it after all." Mrs. Hutchinson reached her husband, and Mr. Summers, who had been waiting, said cheerfully, "Thought we were going to have to get on without you, Tessie." Mrs. Hutchinson said, grinning, "Wouldn't have me leave m'dishes in the sink, now, would you. Joe?" and soft laughter ran through the crowd as the people stirred back into position after Mrs. Hutchinson's arrival.

"Well, now," Mr. Summers said soberly, "guess we better get started, get this over with, so's we can go back to work. Anybody ain't here?"

"Dunbar," several people said. "Dunbar, Dunbar."

Mr. Summers consulted his list. "Clyde Dunbar," he said. "That's right. He's broke his leg, hasn't he? Who's drawing for him?"

"Me, I guess," a woman said, and Mr. Summers turned to look at her. "Wife draws for her husband," Mr. Summers said. "Don't you have a grown boy to do it for you, Janey?" Although Mr. Summers and everyone else in the village knew the answer perfectly well, it was the business of the official of the lottery to ask such questions formally. Mr. Summers waited with an expression of polite interest while Mrs. Dunbar answered.

"Horace's not but sixteen yet," Mrs. Dunbar said regretfully. "Guess I gotta fill in for the old man this year."

"Right," Mr. Summers said. He made a note on the list he was holding. Then he asked, "Watson boy drawing this year?"

A tall boy in the crowd raised his hand. "Here," he said. "I m drawing for m'mother and me." He blinked his eyes nervously and ducked his head as several voices in the crowd said things like "Good fellow, Jack," and "Glad to see your mother's got a man to do it."

"Well," Mr. Summers said, "guess that's everyone. Old Man Warner make it?"

"Here," a voice said, and Mr. Summers nodded.

A sudden hush fell on the crowd as Mr. Summers cleared his throat and looked at the list. "All ready?" he called. "Now, I'll read the names--heads of families first--and the men come up and take a paper out of the box. Keep the paper folded in your hand without looking at it until everyone has had a turn. Everything clear?"

The people had done it so many times that they only half listened to the directions; most of them were quiet, wetting their lips, not looking around. Then Mr. Summers raised one hand high and said, "Adams." A man disengaged himself from the crowd and came forward. "Hi, Steve," Mr. Summers said, and Mr. Adams said, "Hi, Joe." They grinned at one another humorlessly and nervously. Then Mr. Adams reached into the black box and took out a folded paper. He held it firmly by one corner as he turned and went hastily back to his place in the crowd, where he stood a little apart from his family, not looking down at his hand.

"Allen," Mr. Summers said. "Anderson.... Bentham."

"Seems like there's no time at all between lotteries any more," Mrs. Delacroix said to Mrs. Graves in the back row. "Seems like we got through with the last one only last week."

"Time sure goes fast," Mrs. Graves said.

"Clark.... Delacroix."

"There goes my old man," Mrs. Delacroix said. She held her breath while her husband went forward.

"Dunbar," Mr. Summers said, and Mrs. Dunbar went steadily to the box while one of the women said, "Go on, Janey," and another said, "There she goes."

"We're next," Mrs. Graves said. She watched while Mr. Graves came around from the side of the box, greeted Mr. Summers gravely and selected a slip of paper from the box. By now, all through the crowd there were men holding the small folded papers in their large hands, turning them over and over nervously Mrs. Dunbar and her two sons stood together, Mrs. Dunbar holding the slip of paper.

"Harburt.... Hutchinson."

"Get up there, Bill," Mrs. Hutchinson said, and the people near her laughed.


"They do say," Mr. Adams said to Old Man Warner, who stood next to him, "that over in the north village they're talking of giving up the lottery."

Old Man Warner snorted, "Pack of crazy fools," he said. "Listening to the young folks, nothing's good enough for them. Next thing you know, they'll be wanting to go back to living in caves, nobody work any more, live that way for a while. Used to be a saying about 'Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.' First thing you know, we'd all be eating stewed chickweed and acorns. There's always been a lottery," he added petulantly. "Bad enough to see young Joe Summers up there joking with everybody."

"Some places have already quit lotteries," Mrs. Adams said.

"Nothing but trouble in that," Old Man Warner said stoutly. "Pack of young fools."

"Martin." And Bobby Martin watched his father go forward. "Overdyke.... Percy."

"I wish they'd hurry," Mrs. Dunbar said to her older son. "I wish they'd hurry."

"They're almost through," her son said.

"You get ready to run tell Dad," Mrs. Dunbar said.

Mr. Summers called his own name and then stepped forward precisely and selected a slip from the box. Then he called, "Warner."

"Seventy-seventh year I been in the lottery," Old Man Warner said as he went through the crowd. "Seventy-seventh time."

"Watson." The tall boy came awkwardly through the crowd. Someone said, "Don't be nervous, Jack," and Mr. Summers said, "Take your time, son."


After that, there was a long pause, a breathless pause, until Mr. Summers, holding his slip of paper in the air, said, "All right, fellows." For a minute, no one moved, and then all the slips of paper were opened. Suddenly, all the women began to speak at once, saying, "Who is it?" "Who's got it?" "Is it the Dunbars?," "Is it the Watsons?" Then the voices began to say, "It's Hutchinson. It's Bill," "Bill Hutchinson's got it."

"Go tell your father," Mrs. Dunbar said to her older son.

People began to look around to see the Hutchinsons. Bill Hutchinson was standing quiet, staring down at the paper in his hand. Suddenly, Tessie Hutchinson shouted to Mr. Summers, "You didn't give him time enough to take any paper he wanted. I saw you. It wasn't fair!"

"Be a good sport, Tessie, " Mrs. Delacroix called, and Mrs. Graves said, "All of us took the same chance."

"Shut up, Tessie," Bill Hutchinson said.

"Well, everyone," Mr. Summers said, "that was done pretty fast, and now we've got to be hurrying a little more to get done in time." He consulted his next list. "Bill," he said, "you draw for the Hutchinson family. You got any other households in the Hutchinsons?"

"There's Don and Eva," Mrs. Hutchinson yelled. "Make them take their chance!"

"Daughters draw with their husbands' families, Tessie," Mr. Summers said gently. "You know that as well as anyone else."

"It wasn't fair," Tessie said.

"I guess not, Joe," Bill Hutchinson said regretfully. "My daughter draws with her husband's family, that's only fair. And I've got no other family except the kids."

"Then, as far as drawing for families is concerned, it's you," Mr. Summers said in explanation, "and as far as drawing for households is concerned, that's you, too. Right?"

"Right," Bill Hutchinson said.

"How many kids, Bill?" Mr. Summers asked formally.

"Three," Bill Hutchinson said. "There's Bill, Jr., and Nancy, and little Dave. And Tessie and me."

"All right, then," Mr. Summers said. "Harry, you got their tickets back?"

Mr. Graves nodded and held up the slips of paper. "Put them in the box, then," Mr. Summers directed. "Take Bill's and put it in."

"I think we ought to start over," Mrs. Hutchinson said, as quietly as she could. "I tell you it wasn't fair. You didn't give him time enough to choose. Everybody saw that."

Mr. Graves had selected the five slips and put them in the box, and he dropped all the papers but those onto the ground, where the breeze caught them and lifted them off.

"Listen, everybody," Mrs. Hutchinson was saying to the people around her.

"Ready, Bill?" Mr. Summers asked, and Bill Hutchinson, with one quick glance around at his wife and children, nodded.

"Remember," Mr. Summers said, "take the slips and keep them folded until each person has taken one. Harry, you help little Dave." Mr. Graves took the hand of the little boy, who came willingly with him up to the box. "Take a paper out of the box, Davy," Mr. Summers said. Davy put his hand into the box and laughed. "Take just one paper," Mr. Summers said. "Harry, you hold it for him." Mr. Graves took the child's hand and removed the folded paper from the tight fist and held it while little Dave stood next to him and looked up at him wonderingly.

"Nancy next," Mr. Summers said. Nancy was twelve, and her school friends breathed heavily as she went forward, switching her skirt, and took a slip daintily from the box "Bill, Jr.," Mr. Summers said, and Billy, his face red and his feet overlarge, nearly knocked the box over as he got a paper out. "Tessie," Mr. Summers said. She hesitated for a minute, looking around defiantly, and then set her lips and went up to the box. She snatched a paper out and held it behind her.

"Bill," Mr. Summers said, and Bill Hutchinson reached into the box and felt around, bringing his hand out at last with the slip of paper in it.

The crowd was quiet. A girl whispered, "I hope it's not Nancy," and the sound of the whisper reached the edges of the crowd.

"It's not the way it used to be," Old Man Warner said clearly. "People ain't the way they used to be."

"All right," Mr. Summers said. "Open the papers. Harry, you open little Dave's."

Mr. Graves opened the slip of paper and there was a general sigh through the crowd as he held it up and everyone could see that it was blank. Nancy and Bill. Jr., opened theirs at the same time, and both beamed and laughed, turning around to the crowd and holding their slips of paper above their heads.

"Tessie," Mr. Summers said. There was a pause, and then Mr. Summers looked at Bill Hutchinson, and Bill unfolded his paper and showed it. It was blank.

"It's Tessie," Mr. Summers said, and his voice was hushed. "Show us her paper. Bill."

Bill Hutchinson went over to his wife and forced the slip of paper out of her hand. It had a black spot on it, the black spot Mr. Summers had made the night before with the heavy pencil in the coal company office. Bill Hutchinson held it up, and there was a stir in the crowd.

"All right, folks," Mr. Summers said. "Let's finish quickly."

Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remembered to use stones. The pile of stones the boys had made earlier was ready; there were stones on the ground with the blowing scraps of paper that had come out of the box. Mrs. Delacroix selected a stone so large she had to pick it up with both hands and turned to Mrs. Dunbar. "Come on," she said. "Hurry up."

Mrs. Dunbar had small stones in both hands, and she said. gasping for breath, "I can't run at all. You'll have to go ahead and I'll catch up with you."

The children had stones already, and someone gave little Davy Hutchinson few pebbles.

Tessie Hutchinson was in the center of a cleared space by now, and she held her hands out desperately as the villagers moved in on her. "It isn't fair," she said. A stone hit her on the side of the head.

Old Man Warner was saying, "Come on, come on, everyone." Steve Adams was in the front of the crowd of villagers, with Mrs. Graves beside him.

"It isn't fair, it isn't right," Mrs. Hutchinson screamed and then they were upon her.</blockquote>