Let’s Remember: James Baldwin died December 1, 1987

James Baldwin (August 2, 1924 – December 1, 1987) is arguably one of the greatest writers and public intellectuals the US has ever produced. Even when speaking off the cuff without preparation, his answers are more enlightened and valuable than the prepared speches of the polished mouthpieces in Washington. If US leadership in the last thirty years had half the intellect of that man, most of the US’s problems wouldn’t exist.

A novelist, a playwright, a songwriter, essayist, his versatility and intellect knew no bounds. And as a human rights advocate – civil rights, LGBTQ rights, socialism – his words spoke volumes and have become ever more relevant as the US marches backwards.

Biography.com: James Baldwin

The Root: 5 Times James Baldwin Read White America

Pacific Standard: How James Baldwin Gives Our Problem Back to Us

Thirty years after Baldwin’s death, though, America has found itself in a Baldwin renaissance. This resurfacing of Baldwin is ubiquitous, from journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates’ award-winning book Between the World and Me (2015); to director Raoul Peck’s Academy Award-nominated film I Am Not Your Negro (2016); to the fact that, over the past year, Baldwin’s book sales have improved by an impressive 110 percent, according to some estimates. That Baldwin is now re-emerging says lots about Baldwin—but it says even more about us.

There aren’t many people I have said I wish I could go back in time and meet, but James Baldwin is one of them. Unlike many whose personal lives turned out to be flawed or problematic, Baldwin’s name remains untarnished.

Let’s Remember: Marie Curie, born November 7, 1867

Marie Sklodowska Curie (neé Maria Salomea Sklodowska) was born November 7, 1867, 150 years ago. She died on July 4, 1934, of aplastic anemia related to her work with radioactive materials. In 1995, she and her husband Pierre Curie were interred at the Panthéon in Paris, the country’s mausoleum for national heroes.

Marie Curie was a giant in the field of STEM. She is the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two different scientific fields, and members of her family (Curies) won five Nobel Prizes in all. She discovered techniques for detecting isotopes and identified two elements, Polonium and Radium, the latter heavily used in medical treatments.

The Nobel Foundation’s biographical profile of Marie Curie

I would have posted this in November, but was unable to for personal reasons.

Self, Care: My time away has not been voluntary

I have to excuse myself for another long break away from posting. I don’t know what’s worse, problems happening all at once or one immediately after one another. Posting resumes this weekend.

In late October, around the time of the Pride Parade in Taipei, I began having computer problems. Data recovery has taken some time along with finding a suitable replacement computer.  That’s one of the advantages of living in Taiwan – if I buy Acer or Asus and have a problem, the factories and service facilities are less than 200km away.

In November, my sister (sister by choice, Kat, who is also transgender) took me to a women’s clinic (cisgender and transgender) which was willing to start me on hormone blockers which I took for three weeks. This was a huge mistake and I will not be taking estrogen again. My blood pressure and heart rate have been excessively high since then (150-160/90-100) and I can feel the physical strain on my heart. At my last health check in August for work visa renewal, my normal BP was 120/75 and resting heart rate was 60, extremely good for someone age 50.  I found out later that the active ingredient in the estrogen pills (ethinylestradiol) is banned in several countries as unsafe.

The estrogen also gave me my first experience with mood swings. I could avoid blogging and commenting during that time (my personal policy of “don’t write while angry”), but I could not avoid work. I did not do anything inappropriate, but my employer needed a medical explanation from a doctor for my erractic behaviour and emotional outbursts. Not a good situation.

Another medical issue unrelated to the hormones (or is it?) that has kept me from writing has been a return of effects from my concussion in 2011, the inability to focus and complete tasks. Recurrences of flooding, inability to concentrate and lack of patience are common post-concussion afflictions.  At work, I have no choice but to try and focus (do my job to keep my job and work visa), but outside of work it has been difficult. I haven’t even had the energy to socialize, let alone write.

One most bizarre and humourous thing this past month has been an American on facebook (we belong to the same nostalgia group) who began messaging me romantically once a week. If being on the opposite side of the world isn’t enough reason to say no, he’s an eagle-t-shirt wearing, Trump supporting Fred Bircher, “it’s okay to be white” type. WHY would he be interested in a transgender woman? (He knows, he’s commented on specific photos.) I know I should block him, but I’m getting great comedic value out of his messages which have not yet been offensive or sexual.