Virginia Foster Durr and the Salvation of Alabama

A review of Freedom Writer: Virginia Foster Durr, Letters from the Civil Rights Years , edited by Patricia Sullivan.

Virginia Durr (1903-1999), a stalwart of the civil rights movement who preferred to keep out of the spotlight for personal, pragmatic and political reasons, was a hero on the grand scale, as was her husband Clifford Durr (1899 – 1975).

Having both been born and raised in Montgomery, Alabama, into reasonably prominent families, the Durrs moved as newlyweds to Washington DC, where Clifford, a lawyer, worked in the FDR administration during the heady days of the New Deal. Virginia, in addition to giving birth to and raising five children, one of whom died in infancy, became active in progressive politics. The Durr family lived near the capital city for nearly twenty years, and then, for reasons that reflect well on both of them[1], they returned to Montgomery, where, at great personal cost, over the next twenty five years they became two of the most prominent white activists for the rights of African Americans. The more one learns about this remarkable couple, the more their courage and unshakable decency leave one awestruck.

Through all those years in Montgomery, as Virginia became sucked up in the vortex of the epochal changes in social relations in the South, she wrote letters. Some of her letters were to famous people she knew quite well (Eleanor Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Hugo Black, Jessica Mitford); others were to people you’ve probably never heard of. Her letters were by turns hysterically funny, profound, amazingly politically astute, eloquent, angry, or philosophical, but they were always passionate and always written in as distinctive a literary voice as you’re likely to encounter anywhere. They are marvels of English expository writing.

Freedom Writer, published in 2003, includes about 100 of such letters, presented in chronological order, grouped into four sections corresponding to periods in the civil rights movement. Patricia Sullivan (whose book Lift Every Voice, a history of the NAACP I reviewed here) edited the book. She provides a 26 page biographical introduction and introductions (of four or five pages each) to each of the four sections, in which she explains the wider context of the time. Sullivan also provides the occasional footnote to identify people or events referred to in the letters, and dozens of short introductions to particular letters that help the reader understand the context that the letter’s recipient would have. There is a short epilogue.

Virginia Durr was a remarkable and historically important woman, and Freedom Writer is a magnificent book. I cannot recommend it highly enough. You should buy a copy and read it right now.
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Cage Match! Late to his Own Funeral!

So today’s my day in the Blog Tour De Force Cage, and I overslept! Oy! What a way to start one’s mixed martial arts career! So, without further ado, here’s a big hello and best wishes to my esteemed opponent Kimberly Kinrade and her poignant story, poem, dream collection about a love gone violently off the rails, Bits of You & Pieces of Me.

Blog Tour de Force Cage Match

Hope I don't get my lights punched out

Representing me in the ring is my Acts of the Apostles, a nanopunk biopunk cypberpunk thriller in the “Neal Stephenson meets Flannery O’Connor and Michael Crichton and Joseph Conrad” tradition, or as Hemos said on Sashdot oh so many years ago, “What Tom Clancy would write if he were smart”.

I’ll update this post as the day goes on, after coffee, but I think I’ had better get this up on my site soon, lest I lose this match by default!

Everybody who comments here today gets a free ebook version of Acts. Be sure to leave me an email addy. One lucky reader gets ebook versions of all three of my books, and a signed, printed copy of any one of my titles. More anon! Let the pummeling commence resume.

UPDATE 4/21: My day in the cage is over. I’m grateful for all the love in the comments. It was quite a showing of support. Alas, I did get my ass pretty roundly & soundly kicked by new Champeen Kimberly, but all in all I’m happy with the turnout. I’ll be sending out coupons today to people who posted yesterday. You can redeem them for a free ebook version of Acts of the Apostles from in the ebook format of your choice. Free ebook giveaway is now over; if you missed out feel free to buy a copy. They’re cheap!

“I felt like I was in Church”

That’s a line attributed, if I recall correctly, to Eddy Vedder when asked about how he felt the first time he played with Neil Young (whose “Cortez the Killer” is playing through my headphones right now, now that you mention it, as it often does when I’m digging into basso philisophico depth of my own poor over-mined skull).

I didn’t feel like I was in church when I met uber-scientist George Church in his Harvard Med School lab/office six weeks ago, but I did feel a little bit awed and of course impressed. Turns out Church is a nice guy and we had a lovely chat. (How we met & what we talked about is a story for another day; all you CCD buffs might want to brush up on The Bremser Spam; that’s a hint.) I left behind a set of my books, and, somewhat to my surprise, he read them, and what’s more, liked them, and we’ve since become email buddies and we talk about this and that — subject to time constraints, of course, inasmuch as I’m an unemployed sometime novelist and he’s a world-famous scientist in charge of several important projects at various laboratories, not to mention being on the boards of too many companies to count, so sometimes I don’t have as much free time on my hands as he does. Continue reading

Defcon Leaning

Looks like I’ll be heading to the mother of all hacker conferences, Defcon 18 in sunny Las Vegas 2.5 weeks from now. I’ll be attending parties and tech sessions, trying to not get hacked, and, mainly, selling my famous geekoid hackerific novels from a table in the vendor area.

I’ve got two reasons for wanting to attend: (1) I’m writing another hackerific novel, Creation Science, and I want it to feature either some action at Defcon or at the least, some characters (white & black hat) who are Defcon types. So I’ll be doing passive research & keeping my eyes open. (2) I want to sell books and get some notice for my books. If ever there were a target market for them, I think Defcon must be it. Maybe with a little luck I’ll get some notice as the author of what may well be the ultimate hacker book.

Any of y’all as have been to Defcon or who plan to attend this one, I would appreciate your saying hello in the comments. Any advice on how I can meet my two objectives would be especially welcome. In particular, what’s the best way for me to get the word out to the Defcon crowd about my books before I get there?

DNA Robots — another “Acts” technology sighting

According to this release from the BioDesign Institute at Arizona State University,

A team of scientists from Columbia University, Arizona State University, the University of Michigan, and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have programmed an autonomous molecular “robot” made out of DNA to start, move, turn, and stop while following a DNA track.

The development could ultimately lead to molecular systems that might one day be used for medical therapeutic devices and molecular-scale reconfigurable robots—robots made of many simple units that can reposition or even rebuild themselves to accomplish different tasks.

Or for creating the Overmind and repairing and reanimating the thawing head of Fred Christ, the frozen god, according to diabolical villain Monty Meekman, the power behind the throne at Digital Microsystems, Inc., and chancellor of the University of New Kent, as chronicled in my famous novel Acts of the Apostles and famous novella The Pains.

Roman Polanski, you pig, I hope you enjoy your mashed potatoes

The title I wanted to give this post was too long to fit in the header:

And for you, Roman Polanski, a big plate of mashed potatoes, right in the face, you pig. And may your sorry ass rot in jail until you die, and then may you burn in hell, with your apologists, forever. Alternative Title: “Mashed Potatoes”, the story of a tattoo. Or, how my daughter, at age 17, put in jail the man who began molesting her when she was seven and raped her when she was nine years old.

This glow-in-the-dark tattoo is on the left arm of my youngest daughter. It’s invisible under normal lighting, but under a black light in a darkened room it’s easy to read. It memorializes the day she sent her rapist to jail.

It says,

Justice will prevail

Love will overcome

And all the evil will fail

May 23, 2006

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Ted Williams' Frozen Head and me: A love story. Or, life imitates art, gruesome desecration of human remains department.

The creepy-cool illustration by Cheeseburger Brown that appears below is from my novella The Pains. It’s starting to appear here and there about the web as news spreads about the alleged abuse of the frozen head of Ted Williams.

I have to admit that the saga of Ted Williams’ head was much in the news when I was writing The Pains, and part of my intent was to mock the silly Transhumanists who were touting Alcor Life Extension as a sure route to some kind of Star Trekian afterlife.

I don’t have a care what happens to my body after I die, and I’m not much for grave veneration. But I do think that a decent respect for the remains of dead persons is kind of central to any claim to civilization. (How I Destroyed the New Economy, an essay I wrote for Salon a few years ago, tells how my taking part in the desecration of sacred ground on Martha’s Vineyard caused the dot com bubble to burst.)

So I don’t think it’s especially funny that Ted Williams’s head was evidently batted around with a monkey wrench. On the other hand I do think it’s kind of funny (Ted Williams being dead, after all), that Alcor has been revealed to be the kind of grotesque charade that I lampooned in The Pains. I hope this story makes radical Transhumanists out to look like a bunch of fools, and that the Ted Williams story brings overdue attention to Cheeseburger’s amazing illustrations and causes me to sell a bunch of books. It’s already brought me a bunch of visitors from baseball fan sites. New visitors to Wetmachine, welcome! Please check out my books. Better still, buy a few. They’re good, I promise.

Below the fold: The Gruesome Details, according to a former Alcor executive.

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Hey Verizon: You hijack my url, I hijack your customer support

If you get Internet from Verizon (as I do) you’ve probably mistyped an URL from time to time and been redirected by Verizon to their “did you mean” spamo site. If you’re like me, this has probably pissed you off.

Well, Dennis Jerz is like me, and over on his Jerz’s Literacy Weblog he’s written an amusing account of how he got rid of the Verizon intruder, and cost Verizon a few dollars for so doing, just to make things fair.

The blog is generally interesting on other topics as well. Check it out.

Goldman Sachs punked by inside-man code liberator? Please let it be so!

According to this article on the Zero Hedge site (which references a fascinating article from Reuters), Vito Corleone and the Mob, er. . . sorry, I mean the Masters of the Universe at Goldman Sachs may have had some very snazzy software purloined by a software engineer who used to work in their “quants” section– presumably coding highly technical stuff where milliseconds count. The FBI has been called in; an arrest has been made. There are mysterious indicators that something fishy has been going on at the New York Stock Exchange. Billions of dollars possibly at risk. Software uploaded to some site in Germany. Oh, it sounds so juicy. I hope the wildest speculations (see the comments at the Zero hedge site) are true! I hope I hope! For starters, the guy the Feds nabbed is a Russian immigrant.

Conspiracy theories! Hardcore software geekery! Regulatory agency malfeasance! This could be a Wetmachine perfect storm!

Hat tip to Dail Kos diarist bobswern for another layer of analysis and for bringing the Zero Hedge site to our attention.

As to my momentary confusion of Goldman Sachs with a vicious nearly omnipotent criminal syndicate with tentacles in every branch of government, I can’t imagine where that came from.