Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"The Spirits of Bruce Lee, Brandon Lee, and Sara Lee Are With Me"

DH had a penetrating piece of advice this morning, penetrating my skull, that is, with something everyone from BA and My Hot Friend E to the Singing Acupuncturist (who is kind of like the Dr. House of TCM only without the Vicodin) has tried to tell me: "Use the bot."

We saw The Hurt Locker this weekend after I had spent two days writing copy for a similar 'bot product for a military contractor. It was strange watching the company video then seeing the Hollywood-via-Jordan version. Amazing acting. Anyway, the story centers around a bomb hunter who always wants to get in there and do it by hand, all by his lonesome, when he could just as well use the little robot seeker, which really, does a fantastic job, considering.

The point is, when it comes to doing the Pay Work, or doing anything you're doing just to survive, it makes sense to use the bot. Save your own hands for what matters to you. I fall into a trap of trying to do too much for the Pay Work, and before too long I despise my entire being. And nobody else likes what I'm doing, either. As the Singing Acupuncturist puts it: "They will be much happier if they get something without any subtlety or creativity." She's right; DH is right; I will use the bot much more often.

It's been months since I heard about the miracle of the Three Wolf Moon Shirt, but I just wanted to give it some love. The headline is from one of the testimonies on the review site. I know and love people who would wear this shirt unironically. I also know and love people who would climb on this Amazon snark train. I think this is what's known as being "between the worlds," am I right, let me hear a shout-out from you witches, y'all! Last week I bought a t-shirt that reads "SMOKE HOLE CAVERNS" in glitter, with deer and bunnies cavorting around the big bubble letters. I believe its power may top that of the Three Wolf Moon Shirt. I will fast, feast, follow my vision, and let you know.

And another snark site to make one's day, many thanks to the Stay-At-Home-Bitch for publicizing it: Passive Aggressive Notes.

Last but not least, one I wish were updated much more often: Crap Email From a Dude. I would love to submit something to them, lord knows I've got plenty of candidates, but that would just be too passive aggressive.

Friday, July 24, 2009


I don't understand why the police do what they do. I haven't taken any criminal justice classes or had any experience or taken any academy training (though I do know how to shoot a gun, but that's a very small proportion of what a police officer has to learn).

But the few times a police officer has come into my life, he or she has not improved the situation. I really try to avoid encountering them and am usually fortunate enough that this is easy, as I'm a quiet old white lady.

I don't understand why a police office told Henry Louis Gates to step outside of his own house when he had proof that Gates lives there.

I don't understand why a police officer told a crazy boy standing outside my house shouting at me to go into my house.

A long time ago, I got away from an abusive boy. I'll call him a boy, even though he was of age, because he wasn't a man. I got an apartment with my girlfriend. Our names were on the lease. Our names were the only names on the lease, the application, anything.

About six months later he tracked me down. Someone told him where I was living. It was about 40 miles away in a place I'd never lived before, so it took some doing to find me.

He came at night and stood in the parking lot shouting. My apartment was on the second floor. I hollered out for him to go away. So did my girlfriend. Then we turned the lights off and went to our rooms.

He kept shouting that he "just wanted to come in and see me," and a neighbor called the police.

The police came to my door and I told them he didn't live here, I didn't want to see him, and I never asked him to come here. I must not have been clear enough.

The police went down and invited him in. I opened my door to the police again and he lunged at me. In the process, he knocked down, hit, and kicked the officers and broke a lamp and a table (my girlfriend's) and a bookcase (mine).

They finally got him into handcuffs and dragged him out.

A time before that, when we lived in the same house, he assaulted me and neighbors called the police. They advised me to "patch things up."

Now, this was a long time ago, and I'm given to understand things don't go like that anymore, oh, no.

Am I entitled to say that the police behaved stupidly? Or do they have some really smart plan that I am too stupid to understand?

You might say I behaved stupidly ever getting involved with such a person. You might say Mr. Gates behaved stupidly bringing the officer's mama into things. You might say a young man behaves stupidly by walking in a certain neighborhood after dark. You might say that "stupid" is a bad word and people in high places ought not to use it about anyone.

Whatever. But those who say what happened to Gates "would have happened to anyone"? Well, that's just plain ignorant.

Et tu, Brute: Sportswriter Christine Brennan says Erin Andrews' attractiveness is guilty of "encouraging the complete nutcase to drill a hole in your room?" That's just sad. That is just sad. I'm just worn out.

I'm going to go put on a short skirt and have a margarita, but hey, I'll have my big strong husband there to protect me. And then I'm going to go see The Hurt Locker, by Kathryn Bigelow, who you know, she sure has some pretty hair and legs, why is she out showing them off??? Doesn't she get it?

With all my love forever,
Princess Boneslave Hottie McSlutmuffin

Photo: Madame Directress.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know

Spent a long week off: on the beach, lying by the pool, getting my daughter onto a boogie board, running along with her riding her bike on the boardwalk, going to the Asbury Park Candyteria for sour patch worms and Smarties, watching her ride her bike around campgrounds, and standing on rock ledges and steel pipes of about an inch wide, 100 feet or far more from any remotely friendly surface.

We made it to the via ferrata at Nelson Rocks Preserve, and I made it through it. Yes, I know whole Boy Scout troops skip through this rock-climbing course hooting and hollering, but I am afraid of heights to the point that I used to need an escort to make a drive across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. I got over it. I kept breathing.

And I liked it, not least because as with trail running, I had to think with my whole body; where each hand and foot would go next, and whether each surface would hold, and where I was headed. The difference is in trail running, you fall and maybe shatter your teeth, your nose, your knee, your hand; here, a fall means it all goes, maybe all at once.

You're always clipped in--if you do it right--in at least one place, usually two places, to steel cables, which are anchored in the rock and loop along your entire climb. That's the trick. Staying clipped and keeping moving at the same time.

My climbing style was much like my running style: slow. As our guide kindly put it: "Well, you've got the 'being methodical' part down all right."

Superlatives are boring. There's the view from the top; discuss. Because I myself am still too damn high on the experience.

I am catching up with what pissed me off over vacation, and it certainly didn't take long to find anything. Last Sunday by the pool I had only opened the New York Times Book Review to the Letters section last week to find A Victorian broadside against Cristina Nehring's “A Vindication of Love," a book that argues that maybe the human brain, body and heart are intended to cut loose and enjoy some wild, juicy emotion once in a while. That maybe we were made that way, capable of experiencing emotional complexities, for the pleasure of it, and that maybe a proportion of humans are meant to explore these the way others do the sheer faces of rocks. But with all the passion of a wizened Dr. Kellogg preaching against the evils of red meat and the sin of self-abuse, the letter proclaims that:

"Nehring’s central position supports impulsive, unthinking and self-destructive behavior in the service of what she calls love as elevating and worth it for those brave enough to throw themselves into relationships with no regard to how injurious they may ultimately be to the self as well as to those around them.

"Basically, what is described could serve as illustration for a manual of emotionally disturbed living.

"What she doesn’t do is affix a warning label: 'This book may be dangerous to your mental health and your ability to manage your own life; proceed with caution when reading.'

"The writer is an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School."

Well, of course he is. There, there. You're getting yourself all emotionally disturbed, hon. But really, you don't have to worry about a thing! It's not like it will ever happen to you.

And to think the original shrinks were such brave, mythic explorers. Therapists today, you've got some splainin' to do. I blame the health insurance system--those bunch of half-assed mail-order MBAs would never want a human to spelunk his or her self, desires, or experience. Today's therapists just want to patch you up enough to get you getting and spending again. Take this pill so the wheel won't make you so godawful dizzy anymore, little hamster.

Didn't get a chance to read much further, and I didn't have to, because there was this soothing and bright lede to the review, by David Orr, of the Thom Gunn selected poems. There's a guy who knew his way around an emotional ledge, all right. And yes, I'm well aware of how he died. And he wrote poems about that, too. Because somebody has to. Because it's going to happen to all of us sooner or later.

"'All poets, if they are any good,' Charles Simic has said, 'tend to stand apart from their literary age.' The key phrase here, of course, is 'if they are any good'; average poets don’t just stand within their age, they compose it. But we sometimes talk as if ­poets are exceptions not simply when they write well, but because they write at all. According to this way of thinking, the art form demands such devotion to one’s individuality that every poet, no matter how lowly, is a kind of outsider — a Cheese Who Stands Alone. This perception frequently finds its way into depictions of poets in popular culture; it also emerges in the vehemence with which poets themselves regularly declare their opposition to labels, categories, schools, allegiances, booster clubs, car pools, intramural softball teams and so on. Yet when everyone is busy standing apart, how is it possible to stand out? What does real independence look like?"

I'll take that one for $500: For a writer and maybe for others, I think it kind of looks like standing on a very thin, crumbling ledge, but staying clipped in at all times to at least one of two places--to the earth, and to the other humans living on it.

Photos: Fins to the left, fins to the right...for once, I'm not using images without permission. They're shot by DH, and he gave em up free and clear.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Safety Third, As the Cool Kids Say

I might go to the Nelson Rocks Preserve to wind up our beach-to-mountain vacation beginning tomorrow, if it is still open. I am not a climber, but they apparently have a way non-climbers can try. Even if not, they have good trails, and those I can navigate.

Their long, entertaining and absolutely truthful disclaimer is one of the funniest things I've read. I was thinking about it while running/scrambling on the Billy Goat Trail last weekend. People take their kids out there all the time; I've taken mine (very carefully). But the prevailing attitude is either that I'm crazy for going running alone (I have never ever been bothered on a trail run, except by my homeless friend whose interference is confined to reminding me that I am running on land he owns and it is only because he is a generous person that he lets me do it) to well, hell, we can act as dumb as the rocks we stand on cause nothing's gonna happen to us here, right, I mean come on, it's so close to the Beltway! It's like Disney World, right?

Nelson Rocks says nahhhh:

"Real dangers are present even on trails. Trails are not sidewalks. They can be, and are, steep, slippery and dangerous. ... They are unsafe, period. Live with it or stay away....A whole rock formation might collapse on you and squash you like a bug. Don't think it can't happen...

"If you scramble in high places (scrambling is moving over terrain steep enough to use your hands) without proper experience, training and equipment, or allow children to do so, you are making a terrible mistake. Even if you know what you're doing, lots of things can go wrong and you may be injured or die. It happens all the time...."

Just don't wear an iPod when you go running, for heaven's sake. Why you'd want those wires and shit all up in your ears and around your neck anyway, I don't know.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The House of Vampire

"Once you enter the house of empire, you are lost. You are going to be silenced." That's what Howard Zinn said on Democracy Now this morning about Robert McNamara and the impossibility of changing government from within; they went on to talk about Daniel Ellsberg.

But my daughter piped up from the backseat: "What does that mean, enter the house of vampire?" So we went on to talk about supernatural creatures, admitting it when you're wrong, telling other people you won't be in on it when they do something wrong, etc.

Tonight is the first of a series of eclipses, this one in my first/seventh house, the rest in the second/eighth. Does that mean progress?

Here's my Michael Jackson memory: William S. Burroughs' 80-something birthday party, basement of Herb's restaurant on P street, and they kept playing stuff from Off the Wall over and over and over and over. The big sheet cake had plastic cowboys on it; I think I still have one.

I was thinking of the above commercial the other day; "no, no my brother" is something I say fairly often, but I was a little surprised that there are so few references to it out there. There was another commercial I can't find in which he gives the "no, no" line to a guy trying to cut in on him while he was slow-dancing. This is the time of year that puts me in mind of slow drags, close to skin smelling faintly of chlorine from the pool. I felt more strongly the death of the great Curtis Mayfield; while only one radio station did tributes to him, I painted the room that would become my daughter's nursery; equal parts sadness and hope.

Eclipses mean an open door to choose where you want your life to go next; I choose the blue light in the basement and the grass-tinged night air coming in the open basement door, not the house of vampire.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Messing Up the Paintwork

My mind is officially blown; Mercury is in my 1st house, so I'm bombarded with extraordinary information and writing and new concepts. In the spirit of the first item, I hereby am not allowed to simply rant but must actually do something concrete as regards everything I note here.

Sorry to break the news, but you are not Neda: Study shows Facebook activism is for shit. A researcher created a fake activist page about an issue that didn't even exist, and had hundreds subscribe. They were so alienated from actually physically doing something that they didn't even realize the issue didn't exist.

People have long sought to accessorize their souls through loud public expressions of concern; Facebook and blogging and etc. are just new kinds of loudspeakers.

Don't get me wrong; I love, love hearing the thoughts, whereabouts, jokes, metas, madnesses, links, music, video clips, all of it from my tiny group of online friends. Some of my days would be killer-dull without your brilliance.

It's the random naive, simplistic political rants I could do without. I used to have to edit letters to the editor, so I developed this allergy to tortured metaphors and carelessly brandished outrage unaccompanied by any viable solutions or power or effort to execute the orders these writers issued to the world from their safe basements. Nausea, hives, worse.

From the Post:

What surprised Colding-Jorgensen about people's behavior on his site was that the group was "in no way useful for horizontal discussions." Users wanted not to educate themselves or figure out how to save the fountain, but to parade their own feelings of outrage around the cyber-public. "Just like we need stuff to furnish our homes to show who we are," says Colding-Jorgensen, "on Facebook we need cultural objects that put together a version of me that I would like to present to the public."

What I'll do? Keep on doing my volunteering and etc., and not bore you about a single bit of it, dear.

Haven't You Ever Listened to Country Music? When it comes to Mr. Sanford (not Fred, by the way), I'm practicing love the sinner, hate the sin. A man who writes, married or not, adoringly of a woman kneeling over him, holding her breasts, well, I just can't object to that in any way. But I hate the politician who voted against health care for children.

The latest outrage by women about his comment that he's "trying to learn to fall in love" with his wife is misdirected as well. It's common in women's magazines and therapy, as I understand from others, to be ordered to "work" to "fall in love again," plan "date nights," "light candles," "improve communication," blah, blah, a task that sounds far more arduous than sifting compost. As Sandra Tsing Lo explains in her bright and beleaguered Atlantic piece:

Given my staggering working mother’s to-do list, I cannot take on yet another arduous home- and self-improvement project, that of rekindling our romance... what with all the abject and swallowed misery: Why do we still insist on marriage? Sure, it made sense to agrarian families before 1900, when to farm the land, one needed two spouses, grandparents, and a raft of children. But now that we have white-collar work and washing machines, and our life expectancy has shot from 47 to 77, isn’t the idea of lifelong marriage obsolete?

What I'll do: Same as ever, walk the earth like Krazy Kat and let the bricks of love hit me where they may. Often these are thrown, entirely metaphorically speaking, by the person I'm legally married to.

"Jealousy is considered precious, but it’s rarely described as an attribute of narcissism." That's from a great piece on "self-esteem," that much misunderstood term, contributed to by the always-insightful burner Maya. It goes into the mistaken conflation of self-esteem and narcissism, our culture of narcissism and competition, and our refusal to cultivate ourselves and create our own lives according to our true needs and desires.

Maybe reaching that point of positive self-esteem is the moment when we feel we are worth an investment in ourselves, despite the fact that time goes on without us. The death connection can be useful in that it’s a reminder that nobody is inherently better than anyone else, and that what we choose to do with our time is entirely up to us. As is (with the exception of our children) who we spend it with: people who care about themselves and act on it; people who care about us and act on it; or someone else entirely.

What I'll do: Not sure. Have to think about this one for a while.

The more you hate yourself, the more they love you: Really nice piece on a mini-genre in women's writing. Apparently, you'll have no trouble getting published if you choose to write about how much you hate your body or your emotional life. Women's plastic-surgery nightmares and that old reliable I'll Never Find A Husband rant really sell!

This genre has nothing to do with journalists opening a window into what life is like for women today. It does women no favours at all. It is entirely about perpetuating an editor's misogynistic image of what women are like (self-hating, self-obsessed) and making a semi-celebrity out of the writer in the belief that readers like to read journalists whose names and faces (and breasts) they recognize. I have no doubt that the women who write these articles truly feel the emotions they describe. But these women need help; they do not need to be made to feel that their professional USP is to play up their misery.

What I'll do: Shine up my womany-style personal essay, which deals with my romantic and sexual life but expresses no opinion at all about the size or shape of any of my body parts. I don't know how I managed to pull that off in this world. Anyway, finish it out and get it published some damn place.

PS: It was great to hear from wrekehavoc, the tireless, devoted, overqualified curator of Blatantly Bad 70s Music! I thought I was the only person on this planet who'd read the book by the Apple Records House Hippie. What I'll Do: Read more blogs and listen to more bad 70s music.