Saturday, October 31, 2009

Light As A Feather, Thick As A Brick

Tomorrow my little brother is scheduled to leave for a solo sail from San Diego to his home in Maui, in the 44-foot boat he just got. It's something he's wanted to do for years; they've been wanting to get their own boat for years as well. Despite everyone making jokes about him pulling his own teeth and taking out his own appendix en route, I'm not in the least worried, just excited for him. Both my brothers are great sailors, though I never got the hang of it. He stays cool under any circumstances, it's only about a month tops, and teenagers are going solo around the world. If anyone who knows who I really am wants to follow him on his blog, let me know, and I'll send you the url.

Meanwhile, I fucked up my ankle running on the stupid Crescent Trail today, so goes to show. Bumming because I want to do this simple parks fundraiser 8K in a few weeks. Plus I've been living on red wine, steak, pizza, and chocolate for about five days straight and feel like I could roll down the trail like a big rubber ball if I don't get some major miles in soon. DH says as he gets older, he may be able to run with me more often, because he'll be able to be as slow as I am. I told him not to aspire to too much; not everyone can function at my kind of speed. It takes a unique tolerance for boredom and infinite patience to perfect the 20-minute trail mile.

Plus, I'm a solo type.

But a healer at the dinner tonight told me the place that was hurting is at a meridian, so I'm hoping the Singing Acupuncturist can work some magic on it next week.

Came home choco-and-wine buzzed after the trick-or-treat extravaganza and lit the candle at the Dumb Supper for the ancestors, set out with my daughter before sundown. Greens, gingerbread, beer, peanut butter crackers, chocolate; all the things the ancestors like to eat. In my buzzedness, had a terrible yen for some Jethro Tull and downloaded a dozen songs; thank the goddess DH got home or it could have gotten really ugly. I already would have been jigging around the kitchen playing the air jazz flute if it weren't for my ankle. Forgive me for planting such an image in your no-doubt fevered brain. Blessed Samhain and Happy New Year; that which is remembered, lives.

Photo: There's supposed to be a pretty wild movie that goes with Passion Play. If anyone knows about it...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ten Titles In Search Of

Don't say I never gave you anything.

1. The Cabaret License

2. Shake It Til the Metal Ball Rattles

3. Rampant

4. We Need More Skulls for the Steps

5. The Surveyor's Marks

6. Pinking

7. Polar Mambo

8. Heather Waits for the Signal

9. The Garam Masala Incident

10. An Acute-Angle Sandwich

These came out of a run this morning, except for #9, which came out of an actual conflict among me and my sisters-in-law, and #10, which I've had in mind to write for going on 10 years. I'm slow.

Clip: Purportedly from the Solid Gold TV show--but then where are the damn dancers?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

So To Speak

When I imagine that at my age I cannot be shocked, I learn I am wrong. I may have a passing familiarity with many terms in the Urban Dictionary, but when after a recent post it came to my attention that there are pages and pages of erotic fan fiction based on the character of "Professor Snape" from the Harry Potter books, I was shocked.

Obviously, first, because erotic fiction based on kids book characters, ewww, yuck, gross, stop. But a two-hour cruise of Teh Internets, purely for research purposes, alleviated those fears slightly, as all the authors take great pains, so to speak, to spell out that all fictional participants are of legal age and fully consenting adults. But still. All I can think of is, oh, that poor Alan Rickman, such a good actor, and this...oh, and poor Ms. Rowling. High price indeed for fame and fortune.

I know how the game works; long long long ago, I wrote erotica for a while because I thought it might be easy money, which it wasn't. Easy, yes, but not much money. You shape your stories based on whatever the paying anthologies and contests are calling for--vampire lesbians, rough trade interplanetary warriors, etc. This practice may have led to the writing of a short story of an encounter between a certain secretary of state and the wife of a Nobel Prize winner (not the latest winner, go back a bit), and also one that was a magical realist story set at a bass fishing tournament (it was an attempt at an environmentalist homage to Carl Hiaasen, which, looking back, I doubt he would have appreciated, but one does what one can). I ain't saying. But this world pays more for a 70-word web page blurb about an "IT Solution" than it does for 1,000 words of high-quality erotica, which is just one among many indications that this world is heading in the wrong direction.

Anyway, my skim of the Snape archives revealed a lot of British-flavor bodice-ripping softcore Mr. Rochester memes, starring somewhat spirited but pure woman and head-game, so to speak, playing, brooding, authoritative man. The other one that pops up, so to speak, ok I'll stop already, is the Heathcliff meme, in which the woman is just as nuts as the dude. These are also the most common romance novel models. I felt a twinge of nostalgia, because the Mr. Rochester model used to be my specialty. Oh well, another art chokes, so to speak, ha ha!, and dies. (Which last word, if you're doing Olde English softcore, could also get a "so to speak.")

And no, I will not provide links. Poison your own damn search history.

But let us go a little deeper here, you said you'd stop doing that, and explore the origins of the archetype. I'm a Stones person, a George Harrison person, and a Jane Eyre person (as opposed to a Beatles, John, Wuthering Heights person). The real Jane Eyre, of course, is as absolutely whack and wonderful as anything by the Brontes, and much more feminist and in touch with reality than her sister's book, relatively speaking. The story makes no sense, but everything she says is revolutionary. You can hear how smart and above it all that poor innocent 'Bama Charlotte believes she is; she fends for herself with such effort and ingenuity; she practically ends every third sentence with "unlike YOU bunch of dumbasses and hypocrites." What's funny is that what appeals to Jane about him isn't his "Byronic" brooding and smackdowns, but his willingness to talk to her as an equal in intellect. But it's the Byronic parts that live on in the model.

And that's not even touching the whole madwoman in the attic racial-social thing. I love Wide Sargasso Sea just as much.

Fully by chance, I came across this hilarious, weird piece from the Daily Mail years ago that's a perfect primer on Jane Eyre, "the sexiest novel ever written" and "simply the best novel ever written by a toothless parson's daughter from Yorkshire or anybody else." One correction, though--Charlotte Bronte did not "die of disappointment" after her marriage; she most likely died of dehydration and exhaustion after weeks of prolonged morning sickness, something that still happens today more often than many realize. From all biographical accounts, she really, really wanted to hang on to life and have that child.

So here's a dramatic chunk, when Rochester's doing his usual head games, trying to trick her into going for him by saying he's going to send her away, and she's like "fuck your horse, buddy," but so honest! She's freaking blazing! Emphases mine.

"I grieve to leave Thornfield: I love Thornfield:- I love it,
because I have lived in it a full and delightful life,--momentarily
at least. I have not been trampled on. I have not been petrified.
I have not been buried with inferior minds, and excluded from every
glimpse of communion with what is bright and energetic and high. I
have talked, face to face, with what I reverence, with what I
delight in,--with an original, a vigorous, an expanded mind.
I have
known you, Mr. Rochester; and it strikes me with terror and anguish
to feel I absolutely must be torn from you for ever. I see the
necessity of departure; and it is like looking on the necessity of

..."Do you think, because I am poor,
obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think
wrong!--I have as much soul as you,--and full as much heart! And if
God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have
made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave
I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom,
conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh;--it is my spirit that
addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave,
and we stood at God's feet, equal,--as we are!"

"As we are!" repeated Mr. Rochester--"so," he added, enclosing me in
his arms. Gathering me to his breast, pressing his lips on my lips:
"so, Jane!"

..."Jane, be still; don't struggle so, like a wild frantic bird that is
rending its own plumage in its desperation."

"I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with
an independent will, which I now exert to leave you."

Also keep in mind that sex with the governess was seen as every man's right and every wife's nightmare; that it was about the only job a woman could get if she wasn't on the street; that any governess could end up on the street for saying three honest words to an employer; that women who asserted equality could be jailed and force-fed or put in insane asylums. What on earth gave that toothless parson's daughter the idea she could write such things--under a pseudonym, of course?

I am not toothless, and I do not write fan fiction, and that's enough disclosure for the day.

Photo: From the latest BBC miniseries. Because as much as I love Orson Welles, and as good as he is in it, I just can't get with him in the role.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Voices in the Mist

Night's work done, time to have a glass of sake and decompress. I hate looking at old work. In fact, I rarely revise anything. Once I write something, I'm kind of creeped out by it and bored by it, and it's all so disappointing--improve it? How? Not because it's perfect, but because it's hopeless. I also get this weird feeling of "who wrote that?" as if someone else had taken over my mind and voice. So to avoid that, I rarely look at it at all.

Which makes an evening like this, once DD is in bed, dull and taxing, and more of it to come. I'm turning a series of old poems into a play in the hope that they can be useful somehow. On top of that, with our computer limping into senility, I now have to go through some 70,000 old emails, with all the mixed feelings that entails. I want to save some things, like emails from friends, those to my daughter from my mother, for instance.

Plus decide which poems, stories, outlines, drafts I need to save and keep somehow. Plus I guess I'm supposed to gather up things and try to publish them, but it's a horrible exercise--for all the reasons given, and larded with futility; publication is unlikely, even if publications themselves weren't keeling over daily.

I guess I should be glad that actual revising, cutting, pasting, tossing, changing--none of that is difficult. I don't have any sentimental attachment to what I've written. Maybe because I never feel like it's mine, like I really wrote it, anyway? And some 25 years of newspapering gets you used to being chopped up. This makes me unpopular in writing workshops, for instance, where I say unintentionally mean things like "you could just kill that middle section." Another side effect--if it's not from the past week or so, it's like I haven't written anything. I always hated it if I went for a week without my name on something new. A lot of poems I've just written on this blog, cold, and never looked at again. I'll have to sort through those and gather them up sometime, too, I know, I know. I know if I'm going to be a grownup writer, I'll have to show more respect for The Work, but it's a drag. I have so little time left, but even less time to waste in making excuses this way.

So going through old poems goes against my nature, but I know, even if it's to no use, it's something I'll have to learn to do, as a karmic exercise. It's just like sifting compost. I hope it will build up some muscles, at least.

Speaking of something new, the Post redesign--fail. Appalling in its willingness to scoop up scraps from other dying newspaper carcasses and paste them onto its thinning skin--an NYT logo here, a WSJ engraving there. It's like someone costumed out of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. And everywhere, column after column of underpaid people telling me I have to go out and buy overpriced vodka at some damn club. Glad the City Paper called them on their shit, but it's not like that's a hotbed of ingenuity either. Sigh. Nobody has any new ideas.

The crap happening with the LA Sheriff and TMZ is proof that the "new models" are no solution--unless you have a strongman with lots of money and lawyers sworn to watch your back, you'll be at the mercy of anyone who wants to sue, take your notes, whatever. Journalists at "new model" media will have to not only buy their own health insurance, but buy something akin to malpractice insurance, not to mention save up bail money.

Better drink up and clean the kitchen. Tomorrow: Write something new, even if it's just a wheeze of exhaust.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Severus, Severus Awaits You There

We've made our way to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in print and to Phoenix in DVD. Because you don't get to see the movie until you've read the book. Before checking Half-Blood out of the library, DH wondered if it were too grown up for our 8-year-old, with all the dating and kissing and such. Now I'm wondering if it's too much for me, and we're only a few chapters in. I mean, if you've read it? What do you think? What am I supposed to think, with Dumbledore spouting lines like "let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure"? It really is Oscar Wilde's birthday, isn't it?

And the scene with Snape plying the sisters with wine and they're all kneeling at his feet and taking the Unbreakable Vow or something? Do I just not get out enough, or is that not kind of hot?

DH always accuses me of having a thing for Snape, and as usual, he knows my inclinations. I know most people would cast their lot with Gary Oldman, but I'm a contrarian. A supernaturally talented Goth guy who got beat up in high school--what's not to love? Let's qualify that a bit: Goth guy who's in pretty good shape and doesn't wear too much makeup.

But of course I'm also thinking about this.

Well, Phoenix was so phoned-in it's not surprising my eyes and mind went wandering after serving the pizza on movie night tonight. On the shelf next to the TV is a jug brought back by BA and KennyMac from London, evidence of hopes of better days; the idea is you put coins in the jug and when it's full, we would have had enough to go to the World Cup. There are strict instructions from the craftspeople who make these jugs that the vessel must be shattered with a hammer in order to bring in good luck and more money. But the jug will be spared. Besides the economy and layoffs, I'm dismayed at the practice of removing South Africa's inconvenient poor from the premises so as not to rattle the tourists. Look for something similar to go down in Rio around the Olympics. As much as I love Brazil, the love isn't blind.

This New Yorker article on the Parque Royal favela in Rio tells of a drug lord who allied himself with an evangelical pastor who admits he pretends to cast out demons from the assorted dealers of the island. Like any tyrant, the drug king has attempted to limit freedom of religion and has has forbidden practice of candomble, as well as umbanda and macumba, and even Kardecism and spiritism, which actually are based strongly in Christianity, saying they are all akin to devil worship. They are also religions that acknowledge and respect African traditions and are creative, original, uniquely Brazilian in detail, culturally connected and powerful and, surprise, even have strong woman as leaders and practitioners. But the drug lord says these religions are devil worship, and you can be hacked to death if you're caught at them on his watch.

"The writer pointed out the contradiction between Fernandinho's religious faith and his continued life as a drug trafficker. He asked, “For you, where is the dividing line between right and wrong?” Fernandinho smiled, and said, “Who's deciding?”"

Anyway, the jar is too beautiful to smash.

Monday, October 12, 2009


When you try new things, you learn more about yourself, like that you suck as a DJ. The only way I could have sucked more as a DJ is if I'd woken up at 7:30 a.m. and started blasting Ram Jam's "Black Betty" from a 40-foot tower of speakers. Somebody beat me to that one.

(As usual, names changed not out of some creepy George Bush homage, but because innocent people may not want to have their real names associated with my fake name in public.) What happened was the Handyman got offered an extra-long set at this sort of um festival thing I go to, a mini-Burning Man, and he asked if anyone wanted to help, and I was all me, me, pick me! Except that my computer skills are barely at a functional level, I'm actually afraid of most technology because I'm sure I'll just break something expensive, and the music I like is kind of like, well, music not many people like.

You'd think I'd have realized this the night before, seeing people dancing in 40 degree weather in their underwear to real DJs. Like DJ Sequoia (whose real name I'll use in case you want to check him out when he plays around town, and you do), who had this whole lineup of cute Princess Sparkle Pony Go-Go Girls crowding the stage to dance to his music. Or while drifting off to sleep as brilliantly deranged mashups created by the Handyman and Handsome Handsome D played into the dawn.

Nope, I went on ahead with it. So it was later in the afternoon that I stood on the stage in front of the Handyman's computer, which has one of those knobs on it instead of an old-school mouse, the thing some people call a nipple but which is known around the Cougar household as a "clit." It was appropriate for that computer, because said knob was bright red. It also began to behave in the elusive manner for which its titular organ is notorious, and I rubbed and clicked away for a while, getting nowhere and eventually freezing the computer, which then began to play the Monsters of Folk song I wasn't even sure I wanted to play in the first place. Again. And someone yelled "You suck!" and I wanted to cry. Except that I was wearing a devil costume with booty shorts and a belt whose buckle was in the shape of red sequined lips, and it's illegal to cry in an outfit like that, and I am a law-abiding woman. DJ Sequoia came up to help, and then the Handyman came back, and then he and Handsome Handsome D started doing more of what they'd been doing the night before, and all the humans and woodland creatures were again happy and playing and dancing, and I grabbed a friend's abandoned hoop and spun my troubles away.

Apart from those few minutes of dead air, it was a lovely weekend, and I can't wait to go again and try something else new. And it was very kind of the real DJs to be so patient with me.

[Exit singing:] "I woke up this morning...and my thumb was gone..."

Photo: Duty-free heliotrope. This is how dumb I am about computers--the blog thingy wouldn't let me put pictures up for a while because I hadn't agreed to terms of service in a while or something like that. I just forgot to click a box.