Saturday, December 27, 2008

Every one of us is unique

I've been challenged to see that certain ideas I have about life are not universal. I've held a core belief that if you cut away all the baggage, we're all pretty much the same underneath. I don't want to give up this belief. It's been a big comfort to me. It has softened me, lead me to always try to scratch under the surface of others' actions to find what's good, even in the worst of times.

Here's the assumption that I'm looking at today: that in the face of death, people see the truth about life. I've always felt death challenged each of us to see what we're afraid of and of the ways we don't live and love fully.

The bitter makes the sweet so much sweeter. Or we say to ourselves, "Oh, why did I think so-ands-so's little quirk was so damned annoying. Big deal. I love him/her!"

But, no, this reaction to death is not universal. It's not as if I thought it was automatic; I think people need some prodding now and again (and that includes me). My last entry was an example of this.

I suggested saying "I love you" to someone whom you don't say it to. To me, death shows us that our fears, many of them, well, it's high time we threw them out the window. Life is too short to be ruled by anxieties about what others will think or the myriad insecurities that plague us. How many times have I heard a person say, "Oh, my father (mother, sister, brother, friend) died and I never once said I love you?" We carry grudges, resentments, and disappointments on our backs for years. Those burdens are hard to bear. They hurt us. They hurt others. Putting down that load is such a relief. Don't get me wrong - laying those burdens down is not easy. For some it may be. But for others, that burden, whatever it is, has become such a part of themselves that it's as hard to slough off as their very skin. And like skin, our burdens are often our protectors. Who wants to be exposed and vulnerable?

When my mother died, in the midst of my grief, I had such an epiphany of the beauty of life. In spite of the bleak depressions I suffer from, that epiphany never left me. Sometimes I think it has, but no, it never has. It has kept me alive, in fact.

Today I am very sad, very depressed. Some of this comes from wishing life was different than it is, at this very moment. That is what gets most of us into trouble, I think. My life is the way it is, right now, and right now, I can't do much about it. I ought to look at my cat more. Watch the birds. Have a talk with a friend. Be honest and not pretend things are different than they are. It's not the end of the world.

Painting note: Jacques-Louis David The Death of Marat 1793
To me, this has always been one of the most beautiful paintings of death. I'm sure, to many others, it's depressing. Well, as I wrote, each one of us is unique.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays

Hope you are having a wonderful holiday, whatever you are celebrating.

Please remember life is short. Anxieties keep us from so many things, like expressing our feelings openly. Say "I love you" to someone whom you never say it to.

With that, my Christmas lecture is over. To my loyal readers, hey, I love you. I mean it.

A bit of Handel's Messiah:

Paiting note:Lorenzo Lotto Madonna with John the Baptist and St. Sebastian 1522

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A bit of pink history (warning: excessive unedited rambling ahead)

"When colors were first introduced to the nursery in the early part of the 20th century, pink was considered the more masculine hue, a pastel version of red. Blue, with its intimations of the Virgin Mary, constancy and faithfulness, was thought to be dainty. Why or when that switched is not clear, but as late as the 1930s a significant percentage of adults in one national survey held to that split."*

When I was in my twenties and having terrible migraines due to stress, I went to a psychologist who was obsessed with getting me to wear pink. How this would help my migraines was (and still is) beyond me. In spite of the fact that his office was but 20 minutes from New York City, then the capital of the all-black wearing world, this bit of style news had not reached Dr. I-forget-his-name. Besides his ridiculous assertion that my choice of wearing all black was an indicator of a morbid state of mind, I only remember a few things about this man, whom I saw once a week for a year. He hardly spoke, and spent a little too much time making distracting sucking noises and scrunching up his face. I just tried to make the same sound I remember, but wasn't able to do so. It sounded like he was trying to extract something stuck between his teeth. The strange movements of his mouth indicated to me that he may have been also trying to find that bit of something with his tongue. That, I can imitate, and the act of doing so makes me think of him. Seriously, I would have preferred he use a toothpick or excuse himself for a moment to go floss. But I suspect that there was nothing stuck between the good doctor's teeth. It was just a habitual act, and one I would imagine annoyed more than one patient.

Most of the sessions I had started with at least fifteen minutes of silence. He didn't believe in starting a conversation, even with the smallest of talk, such as "How are you?" No. He was most assuredly a tabula rasa kind of shrink. I knew nothing about him besides his propensity to make sucking sounds and the probable search for foreign objects in his mouth. He always wore a sharp looking suit and combed his jet black hair straight back, giving him more the look of a gangster than a psychologist. Maybe he led a double life. It never occurred to me until now, but I'd venture to guess he did not, and that I only suspect so because I watch the TV show Criminal Minds, which may lead me to believe any one of us is a potential serial killer.

For one year, I sat in near silence with this man. Finally, I decided to call it quits and he said, "Now you're ready to begin therapy. Would you like to start coming twice a week?" I had to laugh, for I then realized he was pretty much quoting the last line of Portnoy's Complaint. My answer to him was a definate "No thank you."

Besides his annoying sucking sounds, he really irked me with his pink-wearing prodding. I finally caved in and showed up one day wearing a dusty pink suit. I remember he thought this was some kind of breakthrough, though I'm thinking that was the day I started thinking I was wasting a good deal of money paying this silly man to badger me with gender stereotypes while I still continued to suffer from killer migraines. The suit did nothing to help my headache. It was ugly, unflattering, and a terribly dull, too pale shade of pink, a color which I've come to enjoy quite a bit, and not in the least because I've embraced my girly-girl side. There are pinks that are quite strong. It can be an intense color, unlike the insipid light pastels that grace many a baby girl's bedroom walls.

It's quite funny, thinking back, that I decided this fellow was completely useless as a therapist when I realized he couldn't see that my pink suit was just ugly. I have a vague recollection that I considered it a test of some sort. If he just approved of my ability to comply and nothing more, then I considered him a failure of a therapist. I had such odd notions about aesthetics; in truth they were terribly snotty and elitist. A person who couldn't judge the difference between shades of pink or see that I had intentionally worn something atrocious was not someone I could trust. I shouldn't have trusted him after the first fifty minutes of teeth sucking, but I was pretty insecure at the time, in spite of my snobbery.

I really was a jerk when I was young. I certainly can be a bore now, but I hope, at least, that I can recognize it when I am. Then, I did not, or when I did, I rather enjoyed myself. That kind of behavior is the behavior of the truly insecure, and I'm sometimes surprised to see it in people who are over thirty years of age. Snotty posturing is okay when you're in college or younger, but afterwards, well, one should really see a (good) shrink if you're still acting out of such insecurity.

I've seen quite a few terrible mental health professionals in my life, sad to say. At the age of fifteen, I was forced to see a therapist and this man gave me some of the craziest advice you can imagine. If it was today, he could be sued for telling a teenager what he did, which was "Go out and get laid. Smoke some pot like everyone else." Huh? Thankfully, he did not suggest I do this with him. And thankfully, if he had, I probably would have slapped him across the face. Yes, I've been known to do this, though it's been over ten years since the last time I've had the need. The last time, I felt awfully bad about it. I knocked the poor guy's glasses off, and that seemed far worse than a little slap for being a pig.

Please note that I'm not advocating hitting people. Diplomacy is the best option, but I think there must be something primal and old-fashioned in me that overrides my normal judgment when confronted with digusting commments made by men. And I fully admit to having a double standard. Women have made inappropriate lewd comments and such to me, and none of them got slapped. Maybe that's because they aren't as much of a physical threat. That's the only thing I can think of. Well, these days this stuff doesn't happen any more, so I don't have to torture myself thinking about it.

Phew. This is what came out of thinking about the color pink?

Here's a good place to stop and take a break. A cup of tea perhaps? The subject is about to change, not once, but twice. Two breaks may be in order. Or you can come back. One needn't read an entire entry in one sitting. You wouldn't eat an entire pie at once, would you? If you said, "oh sure I would!", then proceed. . .

Since I'm babbling and rambling, I might as well tell you about some of my day. I won a Christmas gift basket, which included a 22 pound turkey and all the food needed to cook up a feast for a family of six. I had forgotten I had bought a raffle ticket on Election Day. When I answered the phone and heard it was the woman from the Town Office, I thought, "Uh oh." I do owe some taxes. But no, I won the raffle. Now, I don't need a big turkey, but I suppose I could have used the rest of the groceries. I asked the woman if she knew of any families that were really in need that might be better recipients. She seemed surprised that I wasn't all excited about winning. I was surprised that I won something, no doubt, but it didn't seem right to accept it as there was a high probability that some family with children would appreciate it more than I. So, I asked her to please give it to someone else. I have to admit (do I really?) that I would have liked to personally deliver it, but that's really a selfish desire on my part. It doesn't take all that much largesse to give away an unexpected raffle prize. I do hope that it makes someone's holiday a little nicer.

On the perfume front, I discovered that I really miss having some Serge Lutens' Bois de Vanille. It's such a soothing scent, even if it smells pretty much like cotton candy (though I try to convince myself it's "a sophisticated cotton candy"). I keep thinking there must be a cheap-o perfume that smells like this, but I haven't found one. When I discovered that indeed there wasn't a drop left of the stuff, I decided to re-try Louve, and once again was taken with how truly ordinary this scent is. It's opening is overly sweet, even painfully so. Every time I've tried it, I recoil to the point of not being able to tell you (or understand myself) what in the world I am smelling. It's screams at me to close down my senses. What's truly strange is that less than a half an hour later it's so banal a scent that I don't even notice it. To me, it smells like talcum powder for tweens, a truly drug store perfume smell that I still can't identify. A hint of candied cherries? Oddly, I neither like or dislike it. That is the definition of banal, I suppose.

So, I crave the smell of sweet vanilla and turn once again to Hanae Mori's Butterfly, a truly unsubtle scent. But it satisfies my craving. It's like getting Edy's when I really want Haagen Daz iced cream. Or maybe not. I'm probably just trying too hard. And come to think of it, I keep dismissing the Hanae Mori scent, for no reason that I can think of. Maybe I still am a bit of a snotty elitist. No, the Hanae Mori is not as good as the Lutens' Vanille, but the Lutens Louve is a fairly wretched, pointless scent and I'm not constantly writing about how lousy it is. Poor me. I'm so positive that a Lutens is good, while something I can get at Macy's can't possibly be, that I am missing the fact that I've been enjoying Butterfly over and over again. I must give this some thought.

Well, my dear reader, if you've made it this far, you deserve some sort of award. For what, I'm not entirely sure. There were other things I meant to write about today, but it's been another weird day that feels like it's been a week long. So, I'll save whatever else I have to write for another time. Maybe next time, I'll be more terse. Lately, that's been almost impossible. I will end this entry here. Abruptly. There's no conclusion, for this entry is one big mess. I could delete it with one keystroke, but I won't. This big mess is rather like my life at the moment. Well. No wonder that's what I'm writing!

I just realized that the impetus for this entry was never even mentioned. I should have a good laugh at my expense. I stumbled upon a fun little thing called Instant Flowers, an on-line tool to create pretty somewhat cartoonish bouquets. It's quite a bit of fun. Unfortunately, their save-to-blog feature doesn't seen to work. I suggest giving it a try. It's a sweet, nice diversion.

Painting note: Henri Matisse Woman in Pink 1923 On my laptop screen, she looks like she's wearing coral. What do you see?

*I had read about this years ago, but don't remember the source. This quote is from Peggy Orenstein's New York Times article "What's Wrong With Cinderella?"

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Clouded mind, snowy night

I just saw a photograph of two young boys on the blog of a person I do not know. There was something so charming about this photograph. I can't say what it was exactly. The happiness I saw in their eyes? Earlier this evening, I saw a photo of Dick's mother with one of her daughter-in-laws and grandchild. It was a beautiful picture, yet whatever meaning it had did not get through to my clouded mind.

I suppose I wasn't ready to let go of the clouds.

These strangers, two boys in Finland, woke me up. My thanks to Zen-The Possible Way for sharing a family portrait and some nice, simple words.

I had a strong urge to delete many of my recent posts. I've done this before and felt good about it. I felt much better after I took down my cranky posts about Sarah Palin.

Yet, this time, I'm leaving the evidence trail of my anger, hurt, fear and plain ol' crankiness. It's not truthful to my life or myself to only post about "the good things" or to only post about finding what's good within the bad. Anyway, judging "good or bad" is in itself problematic. I'm not talking about moral relativism here, but something far simpler - life itself.

Saying it doesn't hurt when one bangs a toe against a big stone would be a lie.

Life is filled with its ups, downs, pains, and joy (I take it you already knew this). Some call it the "great catastrophe." I love this phrase. Indeed, that's what it is. One big great wonderful mess. It it weren't, how boring it would be!

I'm sorry if I've been overly negative of late. Not remembering to post about the joys in the midst of pain is the fault, not the voicing of pain. But I'm human, you see, just like the rest of us.

Someone objected to my saying I felt rage the other day. Why should they object? I wasn't raging at that person in the least. But, I know anger can be scary. And I know that oftentimes people who identify strongly with belief systems that put a big emphasis on compassion and at-one-ness sometimes want to push away any negativity. Sheesh. I shouldn't just call out the self-consciously compassionate folks! We're all the same, even if we're different. (Wow, I'm just full of self-evident remarks this evening, aren't I? I blame the snowstorm.)

Getting back to the person who objected to my feelings, I was encouraged to find what was "underneath" my rage. Well, that was easy - it's called fear. But, I won't disown my anger or my fear. Even the Dalai Lama feels anger and fear. I'm sure he feels these feelings way less than the rest of us, but he suffers too, at times, from what we label "negative emotions." As he says, he is a "simple monk." I have to admit that I think he's a particularly special simple monk, but I think I get his point. He's human. We shouldn't forget that and think he is any "better" than the rest of us, no matter how much we respect him. He is not an idol, nor does he want to be idolized. But as usual, I digress.

Sometimes I think we should do away with naming emotions as negative or positive. They just are. Repressing ourselves, judging our feelings, in my opinion, can lead to them leaking out in ways that hurt ourselves and others. If I feel anger, which I certainly do, I try to say to myself, "I'm feeling angry. Hi anger! I recognize you."

But when I think, "Oh my. I'm feeling angry. How horrible! Go away!", I get into trouble. And I don't think I'm the only person who winds up suffering from this trap. Push away the negativity and it just keeps coming back. It wants some attention. Emotions are like little children. Ignore them and they'll eventually throw a temper tantrum.

All my anger wants is some acknowledgement and maybe a pat on the head.

Meanwhile, a storm is raging outside. It's -10 degrees and snowing hard. Earlier this evening, there was thunder, which is unnerving during a snowstorm. I have a doctor's appointment in the morning, which I may or may not be able to get to. I've been waiting for this appointment for weeks. I could worry about what'll happen in the morning, but I'll refrain. There will be shoveling to do, and I'll not be able to contribute to that chore. I could feel guilty about this, guilty enough to do it anyway, but with whatever is wrong with my back, shoveling is the last thing I should do. I will accept help and let myself sit in my warm house while others do the work. I will probably struggle with "negative emotions"; guilt, frustration with not being able to take care of my own chores, fear about whether I'll be able to shovel in the future, and self-doubt about my perceptions of pain.

Ah, life is complex. Yet, it's also so simple. We do what we can do. I wanted to write a happy, positive post. It seemed time. But I'm still pensive. Tonight, I'm affirming myself. I say "it's okay, whatever it is."

We can practice compassion, but I want to remind myself, and you, that compassion should also be extended to oneself. Okay folks, give yourselves a big hug. Or maybe we should have a virtual group hug. Aw shucks.

Painting note: Odd choice! I googled "exuberant painting." This, "The Death of Chatterton" (1856), by Henry Wallis, came up. I was most curious as to why. Here are some reactions to the original showing of this painting at the 1857 Art Treasures of the World Exhibition in Manchester, England: "Such was the clamour to see the The Death of Chatterton that it had to be protected at all times by two policemen. One viewer of the painting was so overcome by its rich detail and exuberant colours that she approached it, stating she wished only to straighten out Chatterton’s ruffled bedclothes." A letter published in the Manchester Guardian as the exhibition was closing said that the painting “tended to overawe and exalt the mind.” Wow. The kinds of art that get that type of attention nowadays are things like "Piss Christ."

Sunday school

Making a case against homosexuality by using the bible is ridiculous. I'm sorry, but if you're going to use the bible for justifying any opinions or behavior, please be consistent and follow all the laws. Who gave you the ability to cherry-pick God's word, anyway?

I presume you've forgotten the entirety of Leviticus, so here's a half dozen laws and punishments that you better get cracking on:

You shall not interpret omens or tell fortunes. (Lev.19:27)

A man or a woman who is a medium or a necromancer shall surely be put to death. They shall be stoned with stones. (Lev.20:27)

The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me. (Lev.25:23)

If a man lies sexually with a woman who is a slave, assigned to another man and not yet ransomed or given her freedom, a distinction shall be made. They shall not be put to death, because she was not free. (Lev.19:20)

You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material.(Lev.19:19)

And you shall not take a woman as a rival wife to her sister, uncovering her nakedness while her sister is still alive.(Lev.18:18)

Painting note:Rembrandt "The Angel Prevents the Sacrifice of Isaac" 1635
“Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Genesis 21:2)

Abraham and Isaac - a whole 'nother kettle of fish. What would you have done?

Bob Dylan's brilliant version of this Biblical story:

My suggestion? Dispense with the invocation.

What with all the flap about Rick Warren being scheduled to give the opening invocation for Obama's inauguration, I keep asking myself "Why is there a invocation in the first place?"

I'm not happy with the pick of Warren, of course, as I disagree with his position on Prop 8 (amongst other things), but I believe having a benediction is the problem. There is no religious leader who would not bother somebody's sensibilities. This is a simple instance that proves that the separation of church and state should be taken seriously. How not to alienate groups of people? Leave religion out of it, as it should be.

Here's your Consitution factoid for the day:

Article I, Section II:
"Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:--"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Nowhere does it say that one must say "so help me God". Please note, also, that one can choose to either affirm or swear and that the "swearing" is not upon anything, or even to God. Article I, Section II is a purely secular statement. Read it as many times as you will; you will not find any religious promises in it anywhere.

Here's some quotes that I think are worth reading, though not specifically about the inaugural:

"[N]o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." Article VI, Clause 3 of the Constitution.

(The object of Article VI, Clause 3 was) "to cut off forever every pretense of any alliance between church and state in the national Government." U.S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (1833).

And now, some words from former Presidents:

"The United States has adventured upon a great and noble experiment . . . of total separation of Church and State. . . . The offices of the Government are open alike to all. No tithes are levied to support an established Hierarchy, nor is the fallible judgment of man set up as the sure and infallible creed of faith. . . . Such is the great experiment which we have tried, and . . . our system of free government would be imperfect without it."-John Tyler

"The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature. . . . [In] the formation of the American governments . . . it will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of heaven. . . . These governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses."-John Adams

More quotes here.
Large repository of first and secondary source materials on the separation of Church and State here.

Painting note: "General George Washington Resigning his Commission" John Trumbull 1824
"The citizens of the United States . . . have the right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience. . . . [T]he Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support."-George Washington

Addendum: This wikipedia entry on the history of Presidential inaugurations is quite interesting. John Quincy Adams was sworn in on a book of U.S. law. That seems most appropriate to me.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The seven weird random things meme (skip to the rules if you don't care about scent)

Two days ago TMC tagged me for this meme. Okay, I wasn't up for it. First of all, I was feeling like crap physically (as if you didn't know that). But more importantly, Dick's mother passed away on Thursday evening. Blogging about anything seemed completely inappropriate, and even right now, not writing something meaningful about her or about the preciousness of our oh-so-short lives seems absurd. Yet, I think back to when a friend of mine's father died, and how we played Boggle for hours on end. A bit of fun is neccessary. Anyway, Dick's mother wouldn't have liked anyone sitting around moping.

I had a long blog entry that I was in the middle of when I heard the news. I just looked it over and decided, nah, I'm not posting that. It was too "heavy" (a word I detest, but I'm feeling lazy) I feel like writing, and I've little to say that isn't too personal. Yes, you heard correctly; I actually do think that some things are too personal to blog about.

Scent Interlude: Thank you, Serge Lutens, for Chypre Rouge. It has helped cheer me up in the last few days. Luca Turin says there's no such thing as aromatherapy, but I respectfully disagree. I found wearing this scent to be truly helpful when I was down. When I'd bring my wrist to my nose, I would have a moment of pure pleasure. Now, that's not what aromatherapy is "for", but I consider it excellent medicine if one can be transported out of oneself while in any sort of pain. I also disagree about Chypre Rouge itself. In the Guide, Chypre Rouge is described as a "disaster" and "reminds [one]. . .[some] smells in nature serve to repel rather than attract." I'd plead that my sense of smell is impaired, but I've liked Chypre Rouge since the first time I sniffed it. Unlike some, I don't care a whit if The Guide and I disagree. So, maybe my nose is untrained and stupid. It's not my job to sniff perfume, nor am I suggesting that you go out and buy or even try Chypre Rouge. I hear most people don't like it, actually. Dick seems to, but he also said something mysterious the other day about my smelling like something akin to manure. I wish I could remember what it was! Now, that's not something one wants others to think, is it? Great, a scent that smells like you've pooped your pants or smell like cow dung. Hey, there's Bulgari Black, which is meant to smell like a rubber fetishist's dream. Maybe there's a scent for coprophiliacs that I haven't heard of yet.

I'm sorry if I've offended anyone. I would imagine I have.

I don't think Chypre Rouge smells like manure. It smells, to me over-ripe fruit, honey, dates, prunes, a touch of desert sherry, a big pinch of curry garam masala (quite a specific mix of curry spices), and yes, a bit of flowery dirt. It smells like a freshly made fruitcake (which, while much maligned, can be wonderful). Perhaps it's not the scent of sherry, but of rum. My nose for alcohol isn't all that good. I've never had mead, which is honey wine. I'm now most curious.

Well, the scent interlude is over, and I have no idea what I came here to write about. Oh yes: Seven weird and random things about me.

The rules:

* link your original tagger(s) (done above, click on TMC), and list these rules on your blog.
* share seven facts about yourself in the post - some random, some weird.
* tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
* let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs and/or twitter.

Okay, here they are (and I'm thinking, is there anything that isn't random and weird about me? And what, exactly, does "random" mean in this context?)

1. Number one has to be, at least tonight, the fact that I love Serge Lutens Chypre Rouge, even though it is supposed to be lousy.

2. Since I've already mentioned Bulgari Black (which is supposed to smell like rubber and talcum powder), I'll admit to owning a latex tank top. It's way too small for me now, though I haven't a clue where and when I'd wear it if it did fit.

3. I didn't learn how to drive until I was two weeks away from turning 30. I passed my road test on the first try. When the tester said I had passed, I gave the guy a kiss on the cheek. I am not a touchy-feely person, so it surprised me as much as it did him. So did my passing the test. I thought I'd fail, for I still hadn't mastered the art of parallel parking. But the little gods of motor vehicles was shining down on me that day as I slid the car oh so beautifully next to the curb.

4. My dream job is being a stand-up comedian (and having a talk show).

5. I bicycled 75-100 miles a day every day for two months when I was 15 years old and spent months in training. This isn't weird, but it sure doesn't sound like something the person who writes ths blog might do. I also wanted to race on a track, but that never wound up happening.

6. I was fascinated with doing standing broad jumps when I was a kid. It seemed amazing to me that one could actually go all that far without running first. I was terrified of high jumping for no apparent reason. I couldn't explain it and still can't. I would run up to the bar really fast and then stop dead. I failed gym when I was in the 8th grade and was grateful that you didn't get held back on account of that.

7. We had to wear gym uniforms at the Junior High School I went to. We had to put our names on the breast pocket, either by using a cloth name tag if we had one, embroidering it, or using a waterproof marker. I embroidered my name. That's not accurate: I embroidered a fake name. It was Gertrude Singer. I knew who Gertrude Stein was (though I'm not sure if I knew what she actually did) and liked her name, but I didn't want to steal it outright. I got in trouble for this bit of silliness and for the fact that I didn't wear white socks. I had taken my white gym socks and tie-dyed them just to be contrary. I suppose this may have contributed to my failing gym class.

Okay, that's that. Now I have to tag seven people to announce seven weird and/or random things about themselves.

I'm going to change things up somewhat. I'm not tagging anyone. I am, once again, asking those who never leave comments to finally just do it. I am also going to post this link on Twitter. So, you can leave your lists in the comments section, you untagged folks. If you have a long response, you can e-mail me (see my profile), and I'll give you your very own post. How's that for an offer? Somehow, I have a feeling that the response to this is going to be poor. C'mon you folks, prove me wrong!

You're it! And again, you know who you are. . .

If you do have a blog, link back. Otherwise, you could ask the next person you speak to "What's something weird about you?", but that might be a real conversation killer. I would imagine the response might be, "Um. Huh?" Then again, you might find out something really interesting. Don't forget to report your findings!

Painting note: Detail from a painting that you can learn more about here. I was too lazy to read the entire article or to look for something else. And no, it wasn't straightforward. Most odd.

Reason for the image? It's a conversation. I doubt any of us look like this, but if you do, please mention it in your "seven weird and random things about me meme".

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Never had my nails done. . ."

I'm coming late to this game. Lady Sovereign's "Love Me Or Hate Me" came out in 2006.

Not brilliant, no, but I gotta love this:

"I'm fat, I need a diet.
No, in fact I'm just too light
And I ain't got the biggest breast-s-s, but I write all the best disses.
I got hairy armpits, but I don't walk around like this.
I wear a big baggy t-shirt that hides that nasty shit.
Never had my nails done.
Bite them down until they're numb.
I'm the one with the non-existent bum,
Now I don't really give a....Ugh!
I'm missing my shepherd's pie
Like a high maintenance chick missin' her diamonds.
I'm missin' my clippers lighters.
Now bow down to your royal highness.
No I don't own a corgi,
Had a hamster, it died cause I ignored it.
Go on then, go on report me,
I'm English, try and deport me!"

Thanks, TMC, for the Lady Sovereign tip. Check out this week's Sing-Along Thursday with "A Little Bit of Shh" over at Return to Rural.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Open letter to doctors and the D.E.A.

Warning: If you are easily upset, worrisome, or offended, do not read this.

Dear Doctors in the U.S.A. and the Drug Enforcement Agency,

Please explain something to me. Why do you deny pain medication to people in pain? Yes, I know you are afraid we may become addicted. Let me ask you a question: SO WHAT?

Next week, I'm seeing a new doctor. I was told that their office doesn't prescribe pain medication. Think about that for a moment. Isn't that crazy? Well, it's not, because the DEA has made it very difficult for doctors to prescribe pain medication. My old doctor told me that this was a big problem. They have to register with the DEA. They have to report patients that they think may be misusing or selling their medication to others. Doctors did not set out in life to become cops. My old doctor hated being in this position. And most doctors feel the same, so that some have decided to opt out of prescribing pain medication entirely.

Honestly, until today, I thought the case for not prescribing because of addiction, at least, was a good one. I've changed my mind. Doctors tell patients not to worry about taking loads of medications for life. Pills for depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc., ad infinitum. Well, if it's for life, how come that's not an addiction? Almost everything can be controlled to some extent through lifestyle changes, but no, only pain seems to be singled out for the big lecture. Listen, I used to do everything one is supposed to to manage pain. I meditate. I get enough rest. I used to do yoga and excercise. Why did I stop? Too much pain. I don't like not doing yoga and exercising. Did I choose that? No. So, you who judge, I'm sorry, but fuck you.

And what if it is an addiction? Is it wrong to want something to relieve pain? Let me tell you this: there's a doctor around these parts who does colonoscopies and he undermedicates his patients. I had a colonoscopy from this guy and I was screaming for mercy. You would, too. I met a few other people who'd had the same experience. What did the doctor say about this? "Well, if you have a high tolerance for pain medication, you'll have to withstand some pain."

Ah, now we're being punished! Like it isn't bad enough living with chronic pain. This is sadistic, truly.

Every day I have to think, "Can I tolerate this?" Okay, I have times when the pain is background noise. That's most of the time, and I can deal with it. But it isn't now, and if I want some relief, here's what I have to do: I have to go to an emergency room and make a fuss. I can't just state how I feel. I have to prove I'm not just a drug addict. The hospitals and doctors call people who do this chronically, "drug seekers." I'm wondering just how many of these people just might be people in pain. Not mental pain, but physical pain. We are not getting treated properly. Period. I read the boards on fibromyalgia and arthritis sites. Noone is being treated properly. I won't say it again, I promise.

Please, DEA people, why do you make such a problem for us? Don't you have better things to do, like keeping drug dealers from shooting people or something?

I'm spending my day trying to keep calm. Laying on heating pads, distracting myself. I can't concentrate much. I can't even knit, something I love doing. Writing seems possible, for some reason. Maybe that's 'cause there's already a dialogue in my mind. I dunno. I'm feeling kind of stupid today. Pain does that.

I'm really quite angry. I've been brainwashed, y'know. I used to take painkillers on a regular schedule and I stopped because I thought "I am a drug addict." Then I tried to get some help to deal with going off of them and coping with chronic pain, but I was laughed at! Really, my old doctor and another doctor thought it was a regular laugh riot that I thought I was a drug addict. I was told, "Do you realize just how much of that stuff other people take?!" So, I didn't get any help. I wound up faking that i took too much to get some help, but that wound up as a disaster, 'cause they put me on Seboxyn and it made me feel horrible. I wasn't a drug addict after all, 'cause if I was the Seboxyn would have worked. It didn't.

So, I screwed myself royally. Now I'm on the drug seekers list. I am pissed off. No, I'm enraged.

I'll admit I tried some marijuana the other day. Y'know, all these people in pain use pot to help them out, so I figured I'd try it. It sure didn't work for me. I suspected as much, but I had to try. It made it worse, far worse. Everything that's background noise came screaming to the fore. What kind of pot do you folks who smoke medical marijuana smoke??!! I'm not sure I believe you.

Why the hell are drugs illegal anyway? Could someone please explain this one to me? Isn't it a social problem? Didn't prohibition prove that prohibiting substances only turns people into criminals and increase crime? You think people would be shooting each other in the streets if it weren't for illegal drugs? It's totally ridiculous.

It's about morals. I don't recall any passage in the bible that said "thou shall not take an opiate but thou can take a tylenol, which is far worse for your health and causes liver damage."

And lastly, people show up at doctors like Kevorkian's doors because they can't stand the pain. So, it's better to kill yourself than get some pain relief?

This society is insane. I'm sorry. I'm angry. I'm really, really angry.

Image note: American Opium Smokers-Interior of a New York Opium Den," drawn by J. W. Alexander from Harper's Weekly, 1881. Is this what people are afraid of? For your edification, most people who are in pain will have more energy to do things, not less, if properly medicated. I'd sure get up from my heating pads if I was. I recall two summers ago I could do gardening. Last summer, I could not. So, you tell me which is more "moral."

I know I'm a practicing Buddhist, but sometimes one has to speak truth to power, and that might entail some cursing. Cursing, I believe, is not breaking any vows. If I'm wrong, tell me.

The smell of fire

Christopher Brosius did make a scent called "Roast Beef." However, according to him, he never meant to sell any.

On the other hand, this year you can get your meat-loving friends the new Burger King Flame body spray. You must click the link. It's very funny. If Burger King wanted to generate some attention in this lousy economic market, they've done a fine job. Hey, now I'm curious. For four bucks, I'm dying to know what it smells like: "Behold the scent of seduction, with a hint of flame-broiled meat."

I must confess that I love the smell of meat cooking over a wood fire. I love the smell of burning wood, too. I have a small bottle of fragrance oil called "woodsmoke." I don't really need it, since I've got a woodstove burning constantly during the winter. During the summer, we do barbecue a lot, always with wood.

I love the smell of burnt things. That doesn't include plastic, which I accidentally lit on fire last week when I was steaming some broccoli. That smell permeated the house for a day. But the smell of burnt leaves, paper and most anything natural is just lovely. I may also like it overmuch because of childhood memories. It's odd, out of a tragedy comes a love for the smell of fire. My parent's gallery burnt down in one of the biggest fires in Long Island, New York history. After the fire was out (a week later), my father put everything that was salvageable into our basement. I don't know why we kept it all. It was rather creepy, some of it. There was more than one sculpture of a human being that had become half a body. The figurative paintings were quite macabre with all their melted paint. A lot of the stuff was much more interesting melted.

I like fire. I don't like it if someone gets hurt or loses their house (just wanted to make sure you understand that!) Everyone loves fires in a fireplace, don't they? Many years ago, when I lived in New York City, there was a huge fire on Broadway in a huge old warehouse. It was unusually cold out and the water that hit the building was freezing. It was an incredible sight: flames bursting from windows and gigantic icicles forming below them. It seemed unbelievable that it was even possible. It felt hot, standing across the street watching; those icicles seemed to defy the power of the flames.

I'm not a firebug. There were plenty of people watching this fire. It was extraordinary and noone was in the building, so one could watch guilt-free.

Well, all that on account of Burger King's "fragrance." Don't forget to click the link. It is a hoot!

Photo note: "Crisp Fire Safety is here to help you to meet your Fire Safety obligations."

Addendum: I had said to myself "don't write." Eh. My writing is not up to snuff, but it makes me feel better. Fire deserves a more well-crafted piece of writing than this one. Another time, perhaps.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Music soothes the savage something or other

Bach's Christmas Oratorio is not considered one of Bach's better works. I love it. It never fails to make me feel happy. Bittergrace Notes gave me the gift of music today, and now I return the favor. Sorry, video embedding of John Eliot Gardiner and the Monteverdi choir is not allowed. But you can listen:

Painting note: Domenico Ghirlandaio
Madonna and Child Enthroned between Angels and Saints 1496


I'm not sure what they're doing in this picture. It didn't work,so they don't do it anymore. What does work?

You'd think with all the drugs on the market for depression, that something would work. But most people I've known with intractable depression have had little relief from their meds.

Today, I give up. Maybe I need one of the outdated methods shown in that picture. A good session of hair pulling? Hey, maybe it works.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ripoff update

I got a response from the Maine Governor's Office on Energy. Word to everyone who lives in Maine: You are not protected from price gouging.

The only protected customers are those who receive governmental assistance for heating costs. And here, the protection is only this: If you are out of the fuel needed to heat your house, a company must deliver to you. The company has a right to charge whatever they want.

I received a reply from "my" government saying "I understand your frustration." Oh sure. I am not frustrated, sir, I am angry.

Easy instructions for a post-apocalyptic scarf or shawl

Buy some 100% wool in a plain weave. A yard is 36 inches long. I'd recommend buying two yards for a shawl. Fabric is sold in 45 or 60 inch widths. Wool is often sold in the wider width. So, you can buy a yard, cut it in half, and sew the two ends together. Don't worry if your sewing is awful; it'll add to the post-apocalytpic look.

How to dye your wool: You don't need to bother with "real dye". After the apocalypse, that stuff will be hard to get anyway. I recommend using tea bags or coffee grounds. If you have a black walnut tree or know where one is, collect some black walnuts. It makes fantastic dye.

Fill a big pot with water, throw in your teabags, coffee grounds or black walnuts (or any combination of the three). Put about 1/4 cup of vinegar in the water if you think you'll need to wash your scarf/shawl often. That'll help keep the color. I don't bother with this, myself, because I find that the vinegar smell is hard to get rid of. I'm not overly fond of it. Others are.

If you want your scarf/shawl to have variations in color, don't stir the pot. Simmer for at least 20 minutes. Leave it in all day. Your choice. Use a wooden spoon to lift the cloth out of the water to see how it's coming along.

If you want no variation in color, you need to keep the cloth moving. But really, it's much prettier with some variation. Don't worry, it's not going to look like tie dye or anything 'cause this stuff will dye it a beautiful sepia color.

There you have it - the uber-hip post-apocalyptic shawl. Hang it on an empty white wall and call it art if you feel like it.

Image note: This is what "plain weave" looks like.

Important note about wool and shrinking: Wool shrinks on account of agitation and changes in water temperature. So, if you are stirring your post, be gentle. And do not rinse your shawl in water that is a different temp than the dye pot, if you want to rinse it. The easiest method for making sure that a dye pot and a rinse pot are the same temps is to use two pots. Put them both on the stove at the same time, with the same amount of water in them. So, when you lift out your finished dyed cloth, you then put it in the other pot. Let is sit there until the water cools off and drain. Do not agitate, wring, or otherwise disturb your fabric or it will shrink.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The chip on my shoulder is covered with a wool scarf

Yes, I do have a chip on my shoulder. It started to form when I was a kid, when I'd go with my father to the homes of clients who had bought paintings. I don't know why he had a policy that he'd hang the paintings for these people, especially since it made him so angry every single time, but he did. Some people would make us come in the back door (the one for servants, if you don't know). Other people would make him stay for hours, unable to make up their minds where the painting would go. Some would argue over whether the painting was indeed straight (and why he didn't bring a level is beyond me). But the single most annoying thing was the people who wanted to return the painting when they discovered it didn't match their sofa.

The chip also widened as I heard about and saw many a fine artist not sell at all, while the worst crap imaginable would be snapped up.

Just now I saw something online that made me want to throw the laptop across the room, but I need my laptop and I'd only be hurting myself. That's the line policemen who talk people down say, isn't it?

What was this horror? A gallery of "scarves". Now, I love plain fabric, so I found the fabric to be quite nice. All the so-called scarves were dyed in shades of gray or light brown. That's great. No problem. But, here's the thing. They were just pieces of cloth. They didn't even have hems. Okay, I get that, too. The unraveling will add a nice touch. It's that post-apocalyptic look, which made watching the Matrix a visual treat (latex and ripped clothes. . .mmmm). But, sorry, I got very angry. A yard of fabric, plainly dyed, does make a scarf, but the idea of selling it, well, it makes my blood boil. It seems like "the emperor has no clothes" indeed.

And I keep thinking, yes, the cloth is beautiful and looks amazing hanging against the white wall of the boutique gallery. But I also can't help thinking of all the craftspeople who can't make a living, who put so much into their work, and then this person just dips some yardage in a pot and calls it a day. I would wear a scarf like this, no problem. I'd make it. And anyone, absolutely everyone, could make this scarf. So, I suppose I wouldn't be all up-in-arms if this "artist" (okay, that irks me too) had given people instructions on how to make one.

This reminds me that I once made the most raggedly look scarf one can imagine and a woman stopped me on the street, asking me if I made it or where I'd gotten it. She offered to buy it off me. I couldn't think of what to ask for it. We were standing in front of a gallery where there was an old lithograph that I liked. I said, "I'd like that for it." So, she bought the lithograph and I gave her my raggedy scarf. The print was almost fifty bucks. I felt like I'd ripped her off, but later that week someone in my knitting group said raggedy scarves were selling in Houston for one hundred and fifty bucks.

Ah, money and art. I have some serious issues with this topic.

Image note: I am not a total jerk, so I'm not posting a picture of said scarves nor providing a link. Instead, here's a labor of love that is quite something, brought to you by the International Fiber Collaborative. The Gas Station Project (hat tip to Mary Jane, knitter extraordinaire).

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

I don't know if I've been naughty or nice. Maybe it isn't very nice that I haven't been all that naughty, but I suspect you don't think of things like that, do you?

Anyway, you must be busy. I still don't understand how you deliver gifts to people who don't have chimneys. If you have some time after the holidays, I'd love to hear how you deal with this issue. If there's a team of elves who answer your mail, please forward this to them. I also presume that you do use e-mail these days. Hope I'm right!

Santa, I didn't believe in you as a child and I'm sorry. Blame my parents. They told me you were a myth when I was very young. But, I've changed my mind. You seem like a nice guy and so does everyone at the North Pole who works with you. I've heard you give bad kids coal for Christmas, but I haven't met anyone who's gotten a lump of coal in my life, so I think you understand that bad kids are just troubled.

Do you give adults presents, too? I'm guessing the answer is no, but I'm not sure. If so, what do you do about people like Charles Manson? Does he deserve a Christmas present? I think he's crazy, so I'm of two minds about this.

The other thing I like about you, Santa, is that you give presents to kids who aren't Christian. Are you a Christian? I've never heard anyone say that you are. I suspect you may be a pagan. You do hang around with elves and that's a dead giveaway. But again, you're a very busy guy and may not have time for matters such as these.

This year, Santa, I realize that I'm wanting more than I've wanted before, and I feel quite badly about this. I don't want to be materialistic. So, I'm not going to give you a list. Anyway, there's lots of kids with lists and they get first priority.

Hope you have a good holiday and that Mrs. Claus and all the reindeer are in good health.

Sincerely, Julie

PS. How come visitors to the North Pole can't find your place? I'm still a bit bewildered about that one. Do you use some sort of cloaking device?

PPS. I feel kind of foolish. Santa means saint, doesn't it? Could you please explain this to me. Your wikipedia page has me thoroughly confused!

Image note: See, even in 1914, Santa Claus went to the homes of kids in Japan.

Where's my free laptop?

I'm sorry I've already deleted the over two hundred pieces of egregious spam I got in the last 12 hours. I could have posted the names of some of them. I applaud these spammers for one thing: they come up with pretty good fake e-mail addresses.

And of course, since they change their e-mail names daily, I can't fully block them. If it weren't for the fact that sometimes perfectly legitimate e-mail winds up in my spam folder, I wouldn't look it over. Maybe I should just tell people that I may not get your e-mail because of the spam situation. Truth is, I may not get your e-mail, I've discovered, because even if I do look through that spam folder, on days where it's filled with over 300 pieces of junk, there's a good chance I'll miss the real mail.

Here's what I have to say to at least 3/4ths of my spam senders:

Where's my FREE STUFF?

I should own at least 1000 laptops by now, according to these messages. Congratulations, you've won a free Dell laptop!
Congratulations, you've won a $1000 Target shopping spree!
Congratulations, you've won a gas card, free movie tickets, a subscription to a magazine, dinner at countless restaurants, a cruise. . .and I'm one step away from winning 10 million dollars or a luxury car.

Wow, I'm overwhelmed with excitement!

I almost trashed the invitation to receive free books from Amazon because I assumed that wasn't real, either, and it was. So, maybe I did win a contest. Do you think I'm going to look over every single one of these e-mails? No way.

Does that mean I may have won a free laptop? Eh, probably not.

I dare one of these companies to actually send me my free laptop. C'mon, fulfill your promise! I have, I admit, years ago, responded to a few of these e-mails, and followed the nearly endless pop-ups for products and services I neither wanted nor needed in order to reach the prize. Of course, like most people, I gave up. I don't need a glucose monitor (though some marketer still thinks I do). I don't want to go to that on-line "university" nor do I want them to send me any information. You know the drill, if you've ever been gullible enough to at least give this a try.

I hear some people have actually gotten their "free" laptops, but they've all contacted lawyers in order to do so. Last time I checked, a lawyer's services were so expensive that it made more sense to just go buy yourself a laptop than fight one of these hucksters. But, it's the principle that's at play here. I understand that.

I'm sure that by writing the word "laptop" many times in this post, I'll get even more spam than yesterday.

Just in case anyone wants to make good on their promise:

I'd like the red Dell laptop, please, though I'd be fine with whatever color you send. I'd prefer a Mac, but I've only received a smattering of prize announcements for one of those. Just in case, I'd like the one with the largest screen, okay?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Response times, amongst other things

Let's see: I wrote a mildly bad review of a Maidenform bra and received an e-mail from the CEO of the company the very next day. I bought some propane and contacted the governor's office on energy and have heard nothing in four days. I would guess it's been about a week since I asked to be on the blogroll of Allmediocre. Someone asked me to submit a piece of writing for an anthology back in July, I did, and I haven't heard back from him since.

Maidenform wins, no doubt about that. It figures. It's the least important of all of them. Allmediocre, well, I see they don't update their blog every day, so I'll let that slide. Anyway, if they call themselves that, I shouldn't expect much. The fuel oil thing? I would have expected something by now. And lastly, the fellow whom I sent two pieces of writing to, well, it's just rude. It's been almost six months, which I'd say is "not getting back to me." Like the girl who is still waiting for that guy to call, I'd have to say, "Gee honey, he's just not that into you."

I dislike rudeness. I really do. It's old fashioned of me, I know, but I think decent manners are nice. If you have to reject someone, just do it, and do it in a respectful way. It you can't get back to someone in a timely fashion, let them know you won't be able to. Hold the car door open for whoever is riding with you. It doesn't matter what gender they are. It's just a nice gesture. Don't let regular doors hit the people behind you in the head. Say thank you and please. It makes a world of difference.

Last week we had our neighbors over. I set the table as if we were having a fancy dinner, which I suppose we were. I noticed the kids were more reserved than normal. I realized that they may have been nervous. I thought it would just be good fun to light candles, serve juice in wine glasses and use fabric napkins, but it sent them the message that they better be on their best behavior. Not my intent. I wouldn't have cared if they put their elbows on the table or burped. After all, it was just supper at my house.

I put my elbows on the table most of the time. I don't know the rules of multiple forks or bother to eat my soup spooning away from me. This stuff is just silly, most of it. It's a way of separating the savages from the cultured.

But, plain ol' courtesy just makes life a bit nicer. Just my opinion.

Image note: From "A Manual of Domestic Economy" John Henry Walsh 1874

Addendum: I am now officially mediocre. See links to the right.
Note that there are sidebar changes. You can donate rice to needy people just by participating in a vocabulary quiz. The link to books on Amazon is gone. Noone ever used it. Too bad, for there were some obscure and worthy books on there. Now I have to do the work of posting on these topics in order to bring attention to some books?! Okay. Make me work, go ahead.


I had thought I was not up to writing anything today. I then wrote a response to an e-mail. It was rather interesting, watching sentences form in front of my eyes. I wouldn't have believed I could string a thought together.

Seeing it was possible to form a coherent thought was reassuring. I'm in quite a bit of pain. Pain blots out so much, makes one's world very small. I've used the word "miasma" to describe how I feel. Here's the dictionary definition:

1. A noxious atmosphere or influence: "The family affection, the family expectations, seemed to permeate the atmosphere . . . like a coiling miasma" Louis Auchincloss.
2. a. A poisonous atmosphere formerly thought to rise from swamps and putrid matter and cause disease.
b. A thick vaporous atmosphere or emanation: wreathed in a miasma of cigarette smoke.
[Greek, pollution, stain, from miainein, to pollute.]

That defintion both hits the mark and doesn't. It's interesting, though (to me) how when I feel quite bad, I have a feeling of contagion, even if I'm not contagious. I just received a call, "How are you feeling?" "Like crap." "I guess you don't want a visitor then." "No. I'd love some company", was my response.

Afterwards, I thought perhaps I should have said "stay away." Why would anyone want to spend time with someone who emanates a poisonous atmosphere? Well, I hope I don't do that. I'm easily distracted and while probably unable to tell jokes today, will easily laugh.

People do keep away from those who are sick and in pain. It makes sense that we would prefer to be with happy, healthy folks. So, us folks who aren't, perhaps need to prove that we can keep our miasma under wraps and be cheerful when people visit. I will try!

I had intended to post this only to write this simple thought: If you're feeling lousy, unable to do much of anything, figure out something that you can do that proves you're not in as bad shape as you think. That's what writing seems to do for me. I felt completely unable to think or form a sentence. I was wrong, and it was very good to find that out. If I had just gone back to sleep and not responded to my e-mail, I would not have discovered that there's still a functioning part of me.

Painting note: I just stumbled upon this artist, Julie Heffernan. This painting is entitled "Self Portrait as Dead Meat II" (2006). For more about her, click here. Harper's magazine seems to have a number of articles about her, but one needs to have a paid subscription to read them. Drats.I am intrigued. I am generally turned off my any art that has surrealism or fantastical elements in it. There is something in this women's work that draws me in deeply. I'd like to talk to her.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

One more reason I don't like celebrity scents (with long afterthought about aging)

I haven't tried Dianne Brill's perfume. I just received a sample. Here's the thing: I don't want to like it. Isn't that awful?

Reason #1. Just read the first sentence of the ad copy:

Diane Brill's lifetime up to this moment provides the inspiration for her signature fragrance.

I am not a stickler about the English language, but honestly, with all the money that goes into developing perfumes and cosmetics, don't you think that this opening salvo could have been better written?

It's such a badly written sentence. I don't know why it sticks in my craw so much. It's causing all sorts of snarky responses in me. What if they left out "up to this moment"? Thus; Diane Brill's lifetime provides the inspiration for her signature fragrance. That's a perfectly good sentence. I suppose it sounds like she's dead. Ah. That's why someone threw that "up to this moment" bit in there. I see it now.

Okay. I'll let that one slide.

But wait, here's sentence #3: Dianne Brill's Perfume is the essence of Ms. Brill's philsophy, which is to deliver a feeling.

This stuff reads like the bad English put out by Japanese companies. Ms. Brill's company is not in this category. What's up with their writers?

As to that philosophy, yeah, I agree. It's really good to want to deliver a feeling. What feeling exactly are we talking about? I suppose it doesn't matter.

Oh sorry. There is a next line, so the question will be answered.

The feeling that you get when you open a present of lingerie, jewelry or exquisite bonbons.

That was it. What feeling is that? It depends, doesn't it? If someone gave me one of those S-shaped diamond necklaces, I'd be speechless and stupefied. Well, that's not exactly a feeling, is it? What if a stranger gave me a diamond engagement ring? I might be scared. If I received a gift of lingerie from a relative, I'd be shocked. Bonbons? Does anyone give bonbons as a gift? Well, I like those Lindt chocolates with hazelnuts inside. I suppose they are bonbons, so if I got some of those, I'd be pleased.

Ms. Brill, am I to believe I will feel all the emotions of a lifetime by wearing your perfume. That is what you mean, right?

Somehow, I think not.

Dianne Brill was the nightlife queen in the early 80's club scene. I remember liking her some, only because she wasn't thin and seemed to be totally okay with that. I was rather saddened to see, that on her website, she gave up being an proud big woman a while back.

I will try the perfume. Oh, how I want to hate it!

Photo note: Diane Brill and Elvira
Bobby Sheehan, 1977-82 (unspecified)

Addendum: I felt a bit disturbed after posting this. It was the photograph that created this uneasy (queasy?) feeling that I have. The black and white photograph above reminds me how innocent "we" were thirty or so years ago. Elvira was someone who was fake. Look at her, how truly fake she is. It's a fun fake, like Dianne Brill or Amy Winehouse's bouffants. And Diane B. back then? Honestly, I love her weight. She looks like a real person, all dressed up and having fun.

Go over to Dianne Brill's website (link above) and look at the photographs of her today. Oh, sure, she "looks good." No, I'll disagree with that statement. It's creepy for someone to look younger at middle-age than they did when they were twenty-something.

Last night, I watched the original CSI for the first time in at least a year. The woman who plays Katherine, whatever her name is, looks younger than when the show started. I watched her forehead during the entire episode. Did it move? Not really. Botox strikes again. So much for having models of good looking older women.

When I was a teenager and my mother started her flipping-out-over-I'm getting-old-and-undesirable phase, watching the changes in her were upsetting. I thought I was just a selfish little brat, wanting my mom to stay the same. In retrospect, I think there is some of that in there, but there was a larger issue. I wanted to see her grow old gracefully, for then I'd know I could do it too. I would have also been less worried about her mental state, but that's another story. I basically missed the last year of my mother's life because of her face lift. She didn't want me to see her until she was all healed.

I kid around about how I'd like to get a chin job, a neck resurfacing, a bit of surgery on my lower belly (and if I think about it, a whole host of other places). Heck, I don't have kids. Why should I be a decent role model? But why should I care at all? This is my body. It's falling apart, both on the outside and the inside. Gravity takes it course, as it should. My grandmother's boobs hung so low that they rested on the top of her apron waistband. That was what grandmothers looked like in my mind. There was something almost reassuring about it.

Why do we have to look perpetually young? Greater minds than I have asked that. I've read about this subject in so many places, yet not one person has written about why the youth standard has become so imperative right now. Maybe it's those aging baby boomers. They were in love with their youth and don't want to give it up. I think that may be part of it, but it certainly isn't the whole thing.

I want to admire old crones, women with creped skin and white hair. Why should any of us spend our whole lives worrying about what we look like?

It's odd. I didn't think I'd be someone susceptible to this. I never thought I was attractive and certainly didn't use my looks, such as they were, to any advantage. Youth was never an advantage to me, anyway. I "suffered" from the opposite problem of many. I actually looked too young for a good amount of my adult life. It was hard to get people to take me seriously. I looked like I was a high school student until I was in my late thirties.

What is the standard? It's Miss America, still, after all these years. That age is neither too young nor too old. Let's call it the perpetual 29. That sounds about right.

A word from me (well, who else?)

Yes, I removed some blog entries. It wasn't that they contained anything oh-so-bad. It's just that I am keenly aware of how my physical state is affecting my mood and I know I'm not thinking clearly.

Thank you, everyone, for your kind words and support. I need to chill. Watching stand-up comedy seems like a good idea right now. So, that's what I'm going to do. See ya!

I leave you with the tenth card in the Rorschach series. I'd be most pleased if I come back and see what you make of this one! Again, I'll post my response if you do.

And to all those who never leave comments: c'mon, leave one. It'll do you good.
If you haven't read Helen and Margaret's blog yet, click here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Embracing mediocrity, again

I have written extensively on this subject. Just read any post about NaNoWriMo (see tags - I'm too lazy to supply you with a link right here).

I found a website that I can realy get behind and now have a link to it on the sidebar. It's See, I'm so lazy right now that I'm going to force you to amble over to the sidebar if you want to see the site. Big hint: the button is green (and I wish it was a different color). Now, the folks at allmediocre didn't even make that a clickable icon, but I did. Is that because they're mediocre? You'd have to ask them. I'm surprised I remembered how to turn a graphic into a link, 'cause I thought everything I knew about html was lost, along with any knowledge I've had of any other languages I've studied.

The sidebar has gained a mediocre link and lost the Amazon begging-for-donations link. Amazon has ended that program, which is just as well. I received exactly $2.61 in donations. I don't blame anyone. What with the zillions of blogs out there, why would you donate to mine? Don't blame me for trying, though. And I thank whoever that one person was for their donation.

It seems fitting that the begging bowl is gone and the admission to mediocrity is up. Sure, like every other blogger, I want to be special, but it's like I used to say about people getting tattoos, "I want to be special, just like everyone else." Well, I do think we're all special, actually.

It's just that I enjoy blogging so much that I really want to justify it with some income. I can justify it by saying (and this would be true) that it's enriched my life. I adore the people I've met through this blog. Truly. I don't know why, but the folks who've left comments here all seem to be people I truly like (yes, I said adore, didn't I?)

That in itself should be enough, and it is, for the most part. Of course, since I'm unemployed, I need some income. But, looking for it in this arena is a pipe dream that an awful lot of other folks have. I might as well just play the lottery every day.

I'm not going to become the next "Things That White People Like" blog turned into best seller. No way. I have no gimmick and no hook. That's a problem. I can't even figure out what to tag my posts. What kind of tag is "something about us", anyway?

I like that tag, but it means nothing in the blogosphere. I just can't help being who I am. I really don't think I'm all that mediocre, but I sure don't fit into a neat little box that can be sold easily. And I did get a 7.3 on (those jerks!) That's mediocrity!

This post is fairly pointless, isn't it? I have some things I'd like to write about, but I'm tired at the moment. I just wanted to bring your attention to the sidebar changes. And of course, Julie has a hard time getting to her point, every time.

Should we worry that I just spoke of myself in the third person? I'm not turning into George Bush, don't worry. I was just trying it out. I don't like it and don't plan on doing it again. Promise.

Painting note: Julian Schnabel, Untitled (Los Patos del Buen Retiro), 1991, oil, gesso on velvet, 457 x 457 cm
What does Julian Schnabel have to do with this post? Let's see: First, he's got one of the biggest egos of any human being I've ever heard speak. Noone can say a negative thing about Schnabel (see this past week's 60 Minutes). I admire his films quite a bit. He's an excellent director. His paintings? My opinion is so colored by that ego of his, that I can't say I have an honest assessment. The prices his work command is another issue (3 million dollars for an eh painting?) Whatever he does is golden. I doubt he's ever thought anything he's done in his life is mediocre. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there's an insecure little boy inside that body somewhere. I certainly have to examine why he irks me so much, that's for sure.

I suppose it's pretty obvious. Last night, I was scratching my lottery tickets while thinking "I hope I win enough to buy a new mattress" over and over again. A new mattress?! Wow, I have big dreams, don't I? But I need a new mattress quite badly and I can't afford it. Meanwhile, Schnabel can sell a scribble on a napkin for the price of the mattress I can't afford. Not to mention all the starving children that need to be fed (big leap of thought here, I know). . .

Is embracing mediocrity a good idea? Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that it seems to free me up to be more creative. But then, I have to believe in what I've done and not call it mediocre, right? I have to practice all this. It's new stuff.

Addendum: I just realized I don't even know if allmediocre has even accepted me for their "mediocre blogroll." Geez, what if they don't? I will surely be embarrassed!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Rip-off Alert

If you live in Maine, please be aware of what happened to us: We received 30 gallons of propane from Maritime Energy, our usual company, on Friday, December 5th. We had to pay in advance, which is a change from the past.

We just got the receipt in the mail. We were charged $4.05 a gallon for the propane. According to the Associated Press, the Governor's office states that the average price for propane in Maine on December 1st was $2.85.

I don't know how many other companies are ripping off their customers. Here in Maine, you can't switch companies easily if you use propane. You use a particular company's tank. It belongs to them. Another company can't come fill it up. I could have asked the price, but I had no suspicions that I was about to be ripped off. If I had known, I would have had to ask them to remove the tank, call another company, and have them install theirs.

Here's what they have to say for themselves on their website: "Maritime's Mission: To provide friendly, reliable service and quality products at fair prices to assure customer satisfaction and loyalty."

Addendum: We'd like to report this to whatever authority one reports such things to. I guess Maritime Energy doesn't use Google Alerts! Maidenform most certainly must. Their customer service is excellent beyond the call of duty and I will write about it at length some time. I wasn't even that "upset" about my non-optimal bra! But, I am angry about being ripped off by my local propane supplier. Have I heard from them? Not a word. I was a bit anxious about posting this. Dick and I double checked the facts above, just in case they had any issues with me writing this. I have written the facts and just the facts, ma'am. Of course, I have also written that I'm bothered by the facts, but there's nothing wrong with that, as far as I know.

Sometimes the superficial is not

Perfume. Just the word conjures up the trivial and superficial in most people's minds. What could beat it, in the category of superficial? Mascara beats it hands down. Those weird contraptions that curl one's eyelashes. Having a discussion about the relative merits of hair gel versus styling putty. . . Oh, the list is endless. What's the most trivial thing you can think of (and what's the most trivial thing that interests you greatly)?

Well, today, perfume lifted my spirits considerably.* I am not wearing something I'm all that thrilled about, but still, just thinking about perfume instead of my personal suffering was a sign that I could transcend my drama. I even got myself to walk a little further than I felt I could go, just to get my hands on some Guerlain Jicky, which wasn't right at my fingertips.

Jicky, which I've written about before, sometimes is a disappointment. It's quite refreshing, but can bring to mind the scent of Lemon Pledge. Once I think of that, like getting a bad song stuck in one's brain, it's hard to shake.

Perfume certainly can be trivial. It isn't to the companies who make it, but I don't care about that. And I don't particularly care for the celebrity scents (okay, I dislike that phenomenom tremendously). But, perfume is somewhat like watching birds for me. The stuff has the power to lift me out of my mood, to transport me to another place, and even to disgust me, which in itself is no mean feat.

It occurs to me, that if I lived in New York City, I might have walked to Aedes de Venustas, even if it practically killed me, to raise my spirits. Unfortunately, a stroll to the Freedom General Store would not have the same affect. Eau de Whoopie Pie? Vienna Sausage Pour Moi? Non!

Hey, I do have a couple of scratch tickets in my bag. I'd forgotten! I got them from my big ten buck win on Friday. I'll go scratch them. I bet I don't even win two bucks, but who knows? If I hit it big, every one of you will get a wonderful gift. I'll be back.

Photo note: How to Use An Eyelash Curler.
I dare you to come up with something more trivial than that!

*As did some wonderful people who helped me when I cried for some help. I can't thank you enough. Really. It's remarkable, really, for without the Web, it wouldn't have been possible.

ADDENDUM: I won five bucks. Not enough to buy a new mattress, unless I traveled back in time. Perhaps I'll figure out how to do that if I stay up late enough.

The color of pain and beauty

According to the American Chronic Pain Association website, I am "non-functioning". I agree.

Is this blog entry a cry for help? Probably.

I'm scared, and that might be worse than being in pain. Hell, I can stand a little or even a lot of pain. But, from reading various articles on line, I am bewildered by the lack of care I am getting, though there are so many people without appropriate care that I shouldn't have a scrap of bewilderment in me.

I have areas of complete numbness in addition to pain. This sounds bizarre, but I can stick a fork into my right foot and not feel a thing. There are other places where I am totally numb, too, but I'm not going to sit here sticking sharp objects into my skin to check them out.

According to what I have just read on line, I have at least three conditions that call for an immediate consultation with a neurologist. Yet, I don't have a doctor's appointment for 13 days, and I know that this appointment is only to arrange for a referral to another doctor. Just knowing this is frightening to me. I'm living one hour at a time, in essence, and there are a lot of hours until the 22nd of December.

Pain renders me stupid. I have no idea what to do. I can see that my physical inactivity is not good for me, but there are so many movements that cause such excruciating pain that I really can't motivate myself to get up off of this sofa and away from my heating pads.

By the way, the judgment of "non-functioning" was the "Quality of Life" assessment. I don't agree that I'm a ZERO on quality of life, but by their standards, I am.

I have nothing further to say (noted later: fat chance of that). I promised there'd be no more diary-like entries. Okay, I'm nearly desperate, so I broke my word. If there's anyone out there with any suggestions, I'll take them. Please don't suggest that I consider euthenasia.

I wanted to find a contemporary artist's work to grace the top of this post. I found an interesting site called the Pain Exhibit. It would not allow me to copy any of the work.

It's snowing outside and is quite beautiful. I watched the birds for a while. The juncos, which were written about so well (as per usual) on Turn Outward yesterday, were a lovely sight in the snow, as they always are. The dark gray of these birds is a magnificent color. It could easily be described as black, but it is not. I find this color quite rich. I note as I look around the room I am in, that I've painted the trim the very same color. This gray is the color of impending storms, slate, dusk, dust, and the tip of my cat's tail. Maybe I'll just post a square of gray. It is also the color of my mood, if you remove the beauty. I am moving in and out of the black hole of despair. The juncos, on the other hand, even if they are dark gray, are the opposite of despair, though who knows what goes on in their little brains. They are plumped up today, looking much bigger than they are. The temperature may have risen to a whopping 18 degrees from the -6 of last night, but the wind is blowing. It amazes me that the birds can survive in this. I saw some goldfinches, which I do not remember ever seeing at this time of year. I just flashed on these little birds wearing tiny down jackets, but hey, they are covered in down, now that I think of it. Duh.

Image note: Cy Twombly Unititled #19 Sorry, I don't know the year. Always loved what I think of his "blackboard paintings". Don't know why. Analysis is hopeless today.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Warning: Art, Sex, Violence (and jumbled thoughts)

I had just spent a good part of an hour poking around Netflix to find some movies to put in my queue. Vague thoughts about the sheer volume of violent films I've watched over the years wafted in and out of my mind. When I finished, I checked in at Bittergrace Notes, where I read Maria Browning's latest entry, on the play "Black Watch".

A word of caution (or an excuse, perhaps): My thoughts are muddled tonight. I am wary of writing, yet the urge is there, and noone is paying me to do a good job, so I shall proceed. . .

Some years ago, I took the 6:00am bus from Bangor, Maine to New York City. This particular bus line shows movies and serves snacks. The movies are usually comedies or Christmas films if it's the season. It's family fare. I don't recall many of the names of films I've seen on this trip, but suffice it to say, there's usually something with Adam Sandler in it. You get the idea.

On this snowy morning, I boarded the bus and immediately fell asleep. Upon awakening, I looked up at the movie screen and saw a rape taking place. It was 9:00am and we were watching "Rob Roy". Here is some of what Amazon's "essential film" review and synopsis says of this film: ". . .the intelligently scripted story takes place in Scotland in 1713. . .a tale of courage and valor destined to become an enduring movie classic." There is nothing to warn us, here (or on any other movie site), of the rape that we will witness.

The protracted rape scene was as beautiful, in my memory, as the rest of the film. How many beautifully choreographed rapes have I seen on television and in films? Too many to recount. I'm not going to mince words: most of us enjoy watching. Not because we like rape and murder, but because this is entertainment. The bad guys are killed, caught or punished, and so, we can feel okay about whatever enjoyment we derived from watching.

One movie stands out as an exception: Boys Don't Cry. The rape scene in this film is gut wrenching and painful to watch, as it should be. When I saw it in the theater, I could see people squirming in their seats. I have met more than one person who said that they did not want to subject themselves to this film or that they fast forwarded that scene when they watched it on DVD. If you haven't seen it, do so. Force yourself to look. Feel the pain and fear. See rape as it is - violence. We should be repulsed.

At the other extreme is the 1989 film version of Hubert Selby Jr's book"Last Exit to Brooklyn", where, if you read this New York Times review (along with every other review I just scanned) you'd be surprised to discover a slow-moving gang bang of the beautiful Jennifer Jason Leigh by a seemingly endless line of men in a vacant lot. As shocked as any viewer may be, I have heard from more than one person, and I will admit myself, to all the flak I may get, that there was something beautifully seductive about this scene of true horror.

Are we meant to feel guilt? I don't think so. When Pasolini's "Salo" (loosely based on DeSade's "120 Days of Sodom") was released, I remember, standing in the theater afterwards with some of my fellow (very young) art students. I felt queasy from watching this depiction of some of the most unthinkable acts of sadism. People were joking around, talking about how much they enjoyed the film, engaging in deconstructing it, completely unaware of what it's meaning might be, of Italian fascism, of Pasolini himself, of anything. It seemed cool to be able to watch this movie without flinching, as if the act of enjoying it was somehow a subversive act. What meaning does this have? That we are so numb to pain? Most of us were punks, and sado-masochistic themes were popular, but there is a chasm of difference between consensual sex play and enjoying rape, murder and torture, even if it is on film. There is pornography and then there is the pornographic.

We watch and read the news, see people beheaded, women shot in stadiums, watch endless shows about forensics. When we read or hear of Darfur, do we know that we are receiving information about reality? I think the answer to that is, perhaps, no.

We applaud films like Hotel Rwanda and Schindler's List, but when there was a Seinfeld episode about Jerry and his girlfriend making out while watching the latter, that was a brilliant piece of observation. Jerry's parents were shocked. But they shouldn't have been. It was just a movie. One of the film's subplots was the abusive sexual relationship of two characters (excuse me if I don't remember their names). It was something we should not have been able to watch, and instead it came off as something akin to an erotic S&M take on the relationship of Nazis and Jews.

Yes, I'm all over the map. I haven't seen "Black Watch". I probably won't. But when I think of all these beautiful men, as they undoubtedly all are, acting and dancing and singing, in spite of our right minds thinking of the horrors of war, we are again turning it into beautiful art.

I think of the boys (yes, boys) I've known up here in Maine who went to Iraq. They left this country with proud families and proud and strong hearts. They came back damaged beyond repair. They are not beautiful. Some of them cannot speak. Some of them do not want to speak. Their eyes are glazed. Their bodies are damaged. Their youth has been taken away. They have done and seen things that noone should have done or seen, and whether you think it was for nothing or for a good cause, it makes no difference. These boys I've known will not be dancing or attending plays. Many of them are just gone. If I were to write a play about them, I'd cast boys of all sizes and shapes, scrawny, brawny, short, tall, limbs missing, acne-scarred, bad haircuts, ill-fitting clothes, and set them on a sofa. There'd be little dialogue. Perhaps a television set would be on. Maybe CSI Miami would be on, and we'd see yet another beautiful woman who has been raped, tortured and murdered. The men who were once boys would not react, for hardly any of us do, and these fellows, a good many of them, are further numbed by prescription drugs, heroin and booze. This would not be a pleasurable play to watch. The conversation: "Pass me a brew, would ya?" "Get it yourself, you lazy douche." Someone might get it together to get up and go to the refrigerator or go take a leak. Maybe they'd watch a football game. It would be a pretty boring play. And it would, hopefully, be depressing. People might leave the theater. After all, we watch plays where dialogue is elevated, turned into art. Everyone is beautiful, or if they are not, they are charicatures of ugliness, beautiful people made into monsters. Reality is banal.

This ends with a whimper and not a bang. What can I say? I warned you that my thoughts were murky tonight. I feel strongly about these things. I'm not a journalist, nor an intellectual. I am unsure how to collect my thoughts. But maybe that's okay. I'm neither a film critic or an expert. I'm just a somewhat regular person who thinks a bit too much, and I have no conclusions to offer you.

So, that's it for tonight. I hope, at least, you'll think about these things. Maybe you'll have a conclusion or thought that I don't. In fact, I'm sure you will.

Painting Note: Artemisia Gentileschi (July 8, 1593 – 1651/1653) was an Italian Early Baroque painter, today considered one of the most accomplished painters in the generation influenced by Caravaggio. In an era when women painters were not easily accepted by the artistic community, she was the first female painter to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence.(Wikipedia)For an interesting analysis of this painting "Susanna and the Elders" (based on a biblical story), go here.

Addendum: All evening I have been racking my brain, trying to find the term for the type of art, such as that of Dennis Cooper, or David Lynch. I looked at these links, and others, to find the term. Is it merely subversive art? I think not. But I can not, for the life of me, conjure up what I know that I know. It is terribly frustrating. Please, someone, help me out here! And then, this discussion will grow. The topic of art, violence and sexuality is one I've been wrestling with for a long time. It's now on the table, but I'm missing a large piece of my vocabulary tonight.