Friday, October 31, 2008

The gift thing, once again

A friend told me that my post about giving away gifts was confusing, and she's right.

There's one slot left, so here's the deal:

You leave a comment on this post, even if it's just the word "yes". If you want to receive a gift from me, you must post an offer to send three people gifts on your blog, myspace or facebook page. You link back to my blog when you announce you're giving away gifts.

It's like a chain letter, but instead of a promise, you actually get something.

Was that clear? And if you answer yes or no on this post, you've agreed to participate, so the first one to respond is the winner!

Image note: One form of tsutsumi, the Japanese art of gift wrapping.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What is the opposite of fear?

I had to google this question. There really is no word that is the opposite of fear, if fear is used in a general sense. Courage may or may not be the opposite of fear. It's a dictionary antonym, but one can be fearful and courageous at the same time, so I don't buy it.

Come to think of it, all emotions are like this. Our language is so inherently dualistic that we don't believe this is true. One either loves or hates, likes or dislikes, approves or disapproves (etc. ad nauseum). But, it's not either/or. There is always both and sometimes they occur simultaneously.

I decided to post, not to discuss language, but to rant a bit about my evening. I was somewhat disturbed to see that there was not one Obama lawn sign between the 18 miles from my house to the town where I was going. There may have been twice as many McCains signs as last week. I'd guess that at least half the houses on this road now have these signs up, and that's a lowball estimate.*

I heard a well-spoken woman state unequivocably that she suspects Obama is secretly in league with the Taliban.

I was told by someone who knows everyone that Obama signs are disappearing in the night on every rural road around my area, and that most people are sick of replacing them. Shock was expressed when I stated my sign is still intact, after three nights.

Then I idiotically listened to Sean Hannity on the radio, where I heard Rudy Guiliani state that the Obama campaign was waging dangerous class warfare. If anyone is doing that, it's McPalin.

And to top it all off, as I was trying reassure myself that things are going to turn out alright, I get online, only to read that McCain said today, about Joe the Plumber, that he is “an American hero, a great citizen of Ohio and my role model.”

Are the good folks of Canton, Ohio really lapping this stuff up?

So, I'm nervous.

Listening to Hannity, Limbaugh,Glenn Beck and the rest of the hate mongers on talk radio or TV, I am increasingly appalled. I used to listen to this stuff for entertainment. Well, that was then.

Now? I can't understand why people choose fear and hatred over whatever the opposite of fear and hatred is. The opposite of hatred is love, and perhaps that's what the opposite of fear is, too. Hey, all you radical Christianists (who are not reading this, I would imagine), what do you think Jesus would say? What happened to "love thy enemy"? And I know that there's something in the bible about not speaking ill of others, but I can't place it right now.

I know I'm a bit over my limit of ethical boundaries, given posts like this one. But what's it driven by? Fear.

Case closed.

*Yes, I've been told that lawn signs don't win elections.

Image note: Hmm. Picasso again! Read this short bio to learn more about this simple drawing. It's got an intriging history.

I wanted to use an image of the "dove of peace" but by page four of google results, I got sick of looking at ugly new-agey art. Hence, Picasso. Maybe I should rethink my attitude towards him.

Now it's real

I just got off the phone with the Sheriff's office. Don't worry - I'm not in any trouble.

Well, maybe I am. Earlier in the day, I had called and said I was writing about police procedure and wanted some information about police reports and committing suspects to mental institutions. The office took my phone number and said they'd get back to me. Here's how that second call went:

"Hi. I'm writing a novel, which will involve some police procedure, and I'm wondering if I can talk to someone so that what I write will be accurate."

"Oh, that's great. You should call back tomorrow and talk to the Chief."

"Really? I don't want to put anyone out. I'm sure you guys have more important things to do."

"You call back tomorrow and the Chief will be happy to make an appointment to talk to you."

"Can I just drop by and pick up some paperwork to look at? I'll be in town this afternoon."

"We don't just hand those things out to people without knowing something about them! You call back tomorrow."

"Okay. I'll do that. Thanks."

Gulp. Am I so committed to putting real looking police reports and commitment papers into "my novel" (see - I don't believe I'm really going to write one) that I will go meet with the Chief of Police? I think I will. They've got my number (literally) so I think I better. Otherwise, who knows, they might think I'm a whackjob planning a murder.

Which I am.

Image note: "Car 54, Where Are You" a TV show that aired from 1961-63.
I got this image from the official Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade site, of all places.

I guess I just like signs

Okay, I know lawn signs don't win elections. I just like seeing them, is all.

I think it's also because, in spite of my poll watching addiction (and the even worse addiction to reading every word Andrew Sullivan has to say, who's responsible for posting this photo), I still don't quite believe the polls and the pundits. So, seeing a good amount of McCain/Palin signs makes me worry at bit.

But, I just like signs. You should see my kitchen. It's full of them. I want to put up more, but Dick said "there's enough!"

Somewhere in Downeast Maine (that's the northernmost coast, for those from away*, is a guy who's had a 12 foot long "IMPEACH HIM" sign for the last eight years. The lettering was all awry and he was constantly patching it up, 'cause a good many folks ran into it (both intentionally and not).

*"From away" is what people who are not from Maine are called. That includes me, who's lived here for almost 20 years. Even if you were born here, you are considered by hard liners as from away if your parents were born elsewhere. This is an old Maine explanation for that:"If a cat had her kittens in the oven, you still couldn't call them biscuits."

Addendum: For one the arguably greatest signs in the state of Maine, click here.

My poll watch addiction

I will certainly have time to write 1667 words per day after November 4th. I spend at least two hours a day looking at poll numbers and analysis. This has been going on for months, escalating a little bit every day (so the time spent in this activity sort of snuck up on me), and lately I've been spending even more time on FiveThirtyEight, Pollster, and RealClearPolitics, checking for updates, hoping there's a bit of new analysis, just staring at charts. . .yes, I am powerless over my addiction to polls and my life has become sort of unmanageable. Well, not really. I only hope I don't wind up hooked on polling numbers about how people feel after the election. It certainly is possible. I mean, addictions are hard to break, right? Lose one and another comes along to replace it.

Here's the picture of the state of the race here in my state, Maine:

Unfortunately, this graph doesn't fit the window properly, but you get the idea.
I have to ask myself, once again, why all the McCain/Palin lawn signs? What's up with the Obama supporters?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Obama TV special (or whatever it was)

I was outrageously sleepy last night, after two hours of sleep on Tuesday, and my attempt to write about the Obama TV special, infomercial, or whatever you want to call it was curtailed. I actually fell asleep in the middle of typing.

Now I have a terrible headache. Oh well. I'll write anyway.

I had to work rather hard to find any commentary on the TV show. Every political blog I typically read was oddly silent on it, as if it just didn't happen.

I tried to find information on how many people watched it. Couldn't find it.

I did watch it, though originally I hadn't intended to. I was afraid it'd be so hokey that I'd want to throw up. It was hokey, no doubt about it; the music was so sappy at the beginning that I was nearly offended, but as a whole, the thing was good. Obama narrated a good deal of it, showing "typical" American families (all in battleground states, of course). He didn't come out and say it but he was saying "I can feel your pain." And y'know, I do believe the guy. I have always been suspicious and cynical about any politician, but I think he's different. I think he's a true rarity. He may sometimes play a little loose with the facts to present them in a palatable sound bite, but that's (unfortunately) neccessary in order to keep people listening.

But why is the blogosphere and all the pundits, who have analyzed every word and deed in this election season, so silent on last night's event? It was an event.

Here's what I think: Most of them didn't watch. Most of them didn't approve and preferred to keep silent. The television, once known as the "idiot box" or the "boob tube", is something beneath contempt for many people, especially writers (or at least the ones who don't write TV shows). And the infomercial, well, it's the lowest form of television (and I will agree with that).

But, here's the thing: It's hard for people like me and the blogging heads to believe, but a heck of a lot of people are just getting interested in the election. With less than a week to go, it's finally time. And there are those who were never going to be interested at all. Don't forget this: a large population of these United States doesn't even bother to vote.

But if they watched this TV show last night, they might. They might not vote for Obama, but they might have had their interest piqued. Of course, I'm just guessing.

The "show" was good. I didn't see myself in any of the people in it and at one point I said to Dick, half-jokingly, "Obama's whiter than me" (and if that's a racist statement, call me out on it). I also quipped, "You'd think there were no single, gay or child-free people in America." So, if I was being cynical, I'd say the whole thing was pandering. But it sure didn't feel that way.

At the end of the broadcast, when it cut to a live rally in Florida, I turned to Dick once again and said, "Who could be against that?" And I wasn't referring to Obama as "that" (or that one). What's that? Politics based on positivity, in spite of hard times, people coming together from all walks of life, optimism, a healthy type of patriotism and trust in one another. An end to cynicism.

It must be a heavy burden to carry around a lot of hate and anger. Don't folks want to put that burden down?

Painting note: Painting of Wailuku and the Iao Valley, Maui, by the 19th century American artist Edward Bailey

I wanted to post a really hokey American landscape painting or photograph, so I googled "amber waves of grain". Somehow, I stumbled onto this, a painter of the 19th century Hawaiian landscape. I am intrigued. And so, since Obama grew up in Hawaii, and this image is copyright-free, here it is. Link is to info about Baily from the Maui Historical Society. He's got no Wikipedia entry.

Very creepy

I just tried to access my page on nanowrimo and got this message:

"The login cookie that your browser just provided is incorrect. One possible cause of this error is that your web browser cookies have been stolen and used by someone else to impersonate you at this site."

Why didn't they suggest another possible cause? If there's one possible cause, I think there must be another one.

Anyone know what it might be? Or, if you're stealing my identity, I'm warning you, it won't get you very far, so please give it back.

Writing assignment

Yesterday, most oddly, both Dick and I posted about Stephen King and Dickens to the Web. Thinking I should give this weird coincidence some meaning, I picked up a copy of King's "On Writing" at the library.

I heard this was a good book. In my faulty memory, I seem to recall that his writing it started a change in how critics saw King. His writing advice is good. So, tonight, when I woke up at 2:00am and realized I wasn't going back to sleep, I read almost two chapters.

I had thought Baty's idea of throwing out the idea of plotting a novel was probably some sort of ruse used for the insane task of writing a novel in thirty days. The idea fits in with the whole NaNoWriMo gestalt (oy, I wrote gestalt*).

Well, it turns out that Stephen King doesn't put much stock in plotting, either (and you King haters out there are probably saying to yourselves, "Well, that's why his novels suck", though you probably didn't use the word suck, but some more intellectual descriptor).

Of his own plots, King writes (and I'm paraphrasing here), they go something like this:
Writer is stuck in a haunted house.
Two people are trapped in a car.
Woman is accused of murdering someone she did not.

And that's it. Not being able to sleep, I followed his directions for this book's one and only assignment. I wrote whatever popped into my mind after reading the sentence "estranged ex-lover kills girlfriend". I may have forgotten the original sentence, but I'm too lazy, at 4:54am, to go get the book from two feet away.

The upshot of this is that I wrote 1462 pages words before I felt even slightly stuck about where to go next. NaNoWriMo's challenge is to write approximately 1660 words a day in order to write our 50,000 word novel. I have been thinking I'm crazy for thinking that's going to be a piece of cake. It won't be after day three. I'm sure of that. But I do know, after tonight, that it is emminently doable. And I don't need a plot.

The kicker for me is that I need to cross off "love stories" from my list of dislikes. Now I'm only down to two things I don't like in novels! I found it surprisingly fun to write about the beginning of a doomed love story, as I did when I prompted myself with a variation King's writing prompt, "Ex-girlfriend and possible suspect in death of locally known small town jerk tells all."

What was I wrote any good? Beats the heck out of me.

*Here's the Merriam Webster definition of gestalt, which doesn't get at the real meaning of the word in most contexts (in my humble opinion): A structure, configuration, or pattern of physical, biological, or psychological phenomena so integrated as to constitute a functional unit with properties not derivable by summation of its parts.

Painting note: Pablo Picasso "The Lovers" I tried to find a date for this, but couldn't, oddly enough. I'd guess it was pre-1901 because of its style. Correct me if my assumption is wrong.

I don't know that much about Picasso besides the fact that he had a huge ego. My parents both loved Picasso, and there was a print of this painting in my house when I was young. I didn't like it then, and I still do not. If these are lovers, they are surely wooden. And her hand - ugh!- I don't mean to be so picky, but it screams "please paint over me!" I have honestly never understood all the fuss about this artist. If you admire him, I invite you to write a guest piece about it.

Addendum (and yes, I'm still awake at 6:00am, when I should be waking up, not going back to sleep): I just changed my NaNoWriMo profile page. It now reads that I'm writing a book in the Mystery and Suspence category. I didn't really know what category to put it in. There will be a murder. There will be a suspect. Does that categorically make it a mystery?

So, it's come to this: "In a small rural town, a jilted lover kills her ex, twenty five years after the fact. She does not remember doing it, is a completely unreliable narrator, is clearly unfit to stand trial and has a zillion comspiracy theories about the murder, all of which sound plausible if you don't know the suspect well. But that's small town life. We all know something terrible about one another and when push comes to shove, we can make a lot out of that when we don't know what's really going on. Psych reports, police interrogation reports and snippets of letters will be included. Fun for me! And fun for those who like psychologically twisted stories. But there will be no graphic violence. The killer loves the deceased more than her own life, but like many of us, mistakes possession and jealousy for signs of love."

And I thought I didn't want to go near the subject of love. Ha!

Note: Don't hold me to this story. I've already changed my modus operandi once.

Addendum: Um. The novel will be about the same thing as the writing prompt. Cut me some slack - I was running on two hours of sleep. However, I think I'm going to stick with this story. The beauty of it is this: it is not a great idea. It's not even a good idea. In fact, it's a story that's been told over and again since, well, forever (without the psych reports and all). Maybe there's a reason for that. Such a bare bones "plot" is like handing myself an empty coat hanger and a check for a few thousand dollars - I can put whatever I like on it. Restrictions? None. Possibilities for depth and breadth of story - pretty darned big. So, I'm going for it. Make the most out of the least. I like that.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I put up a lawn sign

It was starting to bother me that pretty much all I see are McCain/Palin signs around these parts. It was also starting to bother me that I had some fear around putting up an Obama lawn sign.

Yesterday, I threw caution to the wind and put up a sign. Afterwards, Dick told me that someone nearby had someone smash up their Obama signs and make quite a mess of their yard. I thought I was just being paranoid. Oh well.

Image note: Robert Rauschenberg
I do not know the name of this print nor when it was done. I found it through Google images and there was no information. It has little to do with the post, though there's JFK, so it's got a political feeling to it, of course. My major desire for the image that accompanies this post is the desire to make up for yesterday's "Pinhead" photograph.

Monday, October 27, 2008

About what I like. . .Horrors!

I am a bit embarassed by my list of "likes" in novels. One would think, from reading this list, that I was a fan of horror. I'm not, though I have enjoyed both Clive Barker and Stephen King. I have been an unapologetic King fan for decades, and when made fun of for it, I'd say "He's the Charles Dickens of our age." Go ahead and scoff: Salon agrees with me. When the Reader's Guide to Comtemporary Authors was released in 2000 and I read "It's impossible to know whether King will share Dickens' literary respectability a century from now, but it's not inconceivable", I felt vindicated.

Clive Barker, on the other hand, was once a purely guilty pleasure. He's best known for the movie "Hellraiser", which I tried to watch, but found so horrific that I stopped watching after five minutes (if not sooner). It's odd, but I do like horror movies, as long as they are Korean or Japanese. Anything else, I can't stand. They scare and repulse me.

My taste in fiction is eclectic, and this list doesn't reflect it well. I love 19th century literature, but I didn't put that on the "like list" because I'm not going to write a 19th century work of fiction. I do occasionally like historical novels, but if I want to read about the past, I'll go straight to something written in the time period.

I like authors who write beautifully, in many genres, but I'm not going to be writing anything that's remotely beautiful, so I went for the cheap shots. That's not quite fair, for Joyce Carol Oates has written some beautiful novels about some truly awful human beings, and Ruth Rendell excels at writing about flawed characters, murder and all sorts of dysfunction.

I've read just about everything by Dennis Cooper, and well, I'm not sure his work actually does have any redeeming value. I've never known what to think about the extremities of depravity and hopelessness that he writes about. Yet, his portraits of disaffected drug addled teenagers read with enormous and unflinching truth.

These days I don't read much fiction, to be honest. I mostly read non-fiction. I've always loved reading about science, if it's been dumbed down some for non-scientists like me (though saying Oliver Sacks dumbs things down is a bit off base, don't you think?) I read a lot of books about Zen Buddhism, and some of them I read over and over again (see my Amazon sidebar to find out which ones).

I'll stop here. I could ramble on and on, but recounting what books I've liked in my lifetime would take at least 50,000 words or so and be terribly boring. I've got to get back to writing posts here that are about something, and less conversational. Between the election and National Novel Writing Month, I have been all over the map. I hope to return to perfume, memories and odd bits of language fairly soon. Or whatever else grabs me. And as always, suggestions are accepted with gratitude!

Image note: The main character (I think) from Hellraiser. This movie was made in 1987 and had seven sequels. The first one is now being remade. If you liked this movie, please tell me why. I am most curious. To the rest of you, sorry to subject you to this graphic!
The shoutbox will be down until 4:32pm EST. It cuts folks off after there's been a quota of posts. Of course, I could pay for an upgrade, but I'm not going to. Sorry if you've been cut off.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Reminders and suggestions

1. You still can get a gift from me. Read here.

2. Wander over to my links list. Perhaps it's lost in the sea of unwieldy sidebars, but it's worth a perusal and it is fairly short. Some of this week's highlights:

Treetop Zen Center in Maine is offering wilderness retreats at incredibly reasonable prices. Check it out! Have you ever wanted to try camping in the dead of winter? One retreat is in February, and yep, it's right here in Maine!

Kenny Cole had an open house today. If you've never clicked on his link, please take a gander. His work is fun, thought provoking, political, personal and authentic.

Websafe Studio is always worth a visit. Virtual chats, interactive art-making and more. Like Kenny Cole, I find Websafe's work truly moving, for both artists are ones who must create art and do it in their own unique way.

You may be thinking, "Don't all artists do this?" The answer is no. Anyone who's been to art school knows this. I see art every day that is devoid of real life and personal authenticity. So much art with a capital A is contrived, or is a product of an artworld that sees nothing outside of itself. When I see an artist who produces work that is driven by their sheer need to create, I feel I must champion it (but of course, only if I like it).

Friday, October 24, 2008

The novel prep begins

As per instructions, I wrote a list of my likes and dislikes. This has made me re-think the plot that I've been cooking up.

I could only think of three things I dislike in fiction, and even these have their exceptions. The "like" list could have gone on forever. But the top ten are here, in all their sick and twisted glory:

Quirky, deeply flawed,conflicted and/or unsavory characters
Narrators who are clearly out of their mind
Murders or the contemplation thereof
Lists, diary entries and letters embedded into the narrative
A small cast of characters
Sentences that are neither too short or too long
Unexpected plot twists and sidetracks
Dystopian or utopian settings
Characters who have esoteric knowledge
Surprise endings that are reasonable

Love stories
Lots of dialogue
Long descriptions of visuals

Image note: Portrait of The Marquis de Sade c.1761
When I think "sick and twisted" this is the first name that comes to mind. And no, I'm not going to write anything like one of his novels. Even in this day and age, it could get me locked up (just like it did him).
Charles-Amédée-Philippe van Loo

Bribing you to comment

Not really.

On TMC's blog, she started a wonderful thing. Now, "thing" isn't the right word for it, but I am at a loss for words (gasp!)

Here's the deal: She will be sending the first three people who comment on her post a gift. Then, these people will do the same thing.

I was the second person to leave a comment and I thought I should wait until a third person joined in, but thought, "Why?" I love this idea, so I'll start now, and besides, I've been trying to get you folks to comment more! Yeah, it's a bribe (oh, I said not really, didn't I?)

So, if you are one of the first three people to comment, you must send me an e-mail so I know where to send your gift. Then, you have to make the same offer on your blog. If you don't have a blog, you can still do this. Send out a bulk e-mail that includes people you barely know asking them to send you a reply. Or you can stick a note in people's inboxes at work or put up a sign at your gym. There's lots of creative ways you can interact with people you don't know, even without a blog. You figure it out!

Sadly, the blogs I go to the most are not ones that will play this nice game. And that tells me something I should pay attention to. It'll be a good thing when I stop compulsively trolling poll sites, the NRO, and all the rest of the punditry world. Goodbye to all that (but not until the midnight or so on November 5th)!

Anyway, if you forgot what I was writing about (since I got off topic), if you want to join in the gift giving, pre-Holiday season and all, leave a comment. I know there's a lot of silent readers out there! I even know who some of you are!

As to the gifts - no money is needed. Handmade things are great. Re-gifting is good, too (though sending things you hate to others may not be good karma). This is truly one of those things where it is the thought that counts.

When I've traded perfume samples, most people (including me) included "extras" in our swaps. Some people wrapped the samples up in beautiful packages. It was always a treat. My trip to the mail box became something I looked forward to like a little kid. What surprise package was going to be there?

That kind of little joy does so much good for one's life. So, leave a comment. Get some joy.

Image note: Portugese packaging. Who cares what's inside? It's so nice looking! It seems to have something to do with this site, A Vida Portuguesa, which has absolutely lovely graphics, but I'm not sure of anything about it (since I can't read Portugese). Yeah, I know there's Google translate, but I'm feeling lazy.

Not exactly the entry I meant to write about body image

We hear on the news that this is an "obese nation", but consider these statistics:

25% of American men and 45% of American women are on a diet on any given day.

81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat.

The average American woman is 5’4” tall and weighs 140 pounds. The average American model is 5’11” tall and weighs 117 pounds.

"In the United States, as many as 10 million females and 1 million males are fighting a life and death battle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. . .many individuals struggle with body dissatisfaction and sub-clinical disordered eating attitudes and behaviors. . . it has been shown that 80% of American women are dissatisfied with their appearance".

This past weekend, when I was at a meditation retreat, I noticed something that I've experienced before: I did not feel "fat". Now, on Friday morning I felt fat. But after two hours of meditation, I noticed I felt perfectly fine in my body, and about my body. Sure, I could use more exercise. I'm out of shape. I am overweight, but it's not life-threatening. Most people would not call me obese (though those weight charts say that I am). They'd say I'm plump, if they said anything at all. If I lived in New York City, maybe I'd be considered significantly overweight, but where I live, I'm probably about average.

So, I've got some some conflicting external standards. Weight charts that say I'm very fat, a local culture that says I'm okay, a beauty culture that says I'm too short (and Oprah magazine says a person of my height should always wear heels, like I'm going to do that here in the countryside), magazines that show me that I should consider all sorts of surgery, expensive underwear that'll mold my flesh into the right forms, and myself, who completely rejects judging people by their exterior but looks in the mirror and says "ugh".

The ever-shifting nature of how I feel about myself is the piece that interests me. When I feel good about myself, I feel fine about how I look. Having it the other way around, feeling good about how I look determining how I feel about myself, well, that's the road to ruin. Silly concepts like "having a bad hair day" actually do make people unhappy. Sure, it may feel nice having a great hair style and some good clothes on over a thin body, but this is not who we really are. Someone must have told you when you were young, "It's who you are on the inside that counts". Well, I have heard that, but I never believed it. But I do believe that you're as pretty as you feel. This is indeed true.

I once was anorexic. It started out benignly. I went to Weight Watchers, a most sensible program, where I set out to lose 31 pounds. At first I thought the goal weight they gave me was absurdly low, but when I hit it, I didn't feel thin. I stopped going to meetings and started eating less and less until I was down to living on one cup of ramen noodles a day and lots of diet Coke. My refrigerator and cupboards were totally empty. Here I was, a person who once loved to cook and truly loves food, not junk food, but good food, and I felt like I had conquered appetite. I became terribly skinny and I loved how I looked. I could finally stand naked in front of a mirror and say "you're gorgeous". I finally let friends and family take photos of me. And in them, this short woman was so thin, I looked like a model.

What I didn't know is that my doctor was worried. She suggested that I gain seven pounds. It was an odd number and I have no idea where she got it from. I couldn't believe that anyone thought I might be too skinny. I was always overweight. I was teased in elementary school; called "fatso" by some boys every day at the bus stop. Now, people were asking me to eat more! How absurd.

I found out years later that if I hadn't put on seven pounds, my doctor was going to do an intervention and put me in the hospital.

I could never see what I looked like. I thought I was ugly when I was young and I had no reason to think otherwise. I got messages from a lot of important people in my life that I was not good looking. I was told to develop an "interesting personality" to make up for my lack of good looks. What a message to tell a kid! But even if I hadn't gotten these bad messages, I would have picked them up just by turning on the TV or opening a magazine. But, unfortunately, I had noone to counter the BS that this society lays on us about how we look on the outside.

So, that's me, about me, which is totally different than me, when it's about you. I don't care what size others are. If someone weighs 500 pounds, I would worry about their health, but other than that, I really don't notice much what size anyone is.

I have noticed that I see very nice people as beautiful, and beautiful people who are not very nice as not so nice looking. I've found it fascinating how much this seems to be true. What's inside shines through, if that's what we look for in others.

So, it makes a lot of sense that when I'm not centered, that I fall back into self-judging. For whatever reason, I gave up judging others in such harsh ways a pretty long time ago. It's like being really good at giving advice but not applying it to oneself.

I need some jeans. Going into the dressing room is painful. Why should I loathe this body so much? And the disconnect between what I believe and what I feel is just absurd.

This wasn't what I was planning on writing. It wasn't going to be mostly about me. I expected to write an impassioned short tome on loving oneself and the subjective nature of body image. Well, that's in here, buried somewhere. But in the end, it's all personal, to some extent. What's your story?

I vow to reconsider the self-loathing of my body, this wonderful body, this aging and sagging body, and to continue to reject that which my society tells me.

And I'm sure there's more to come.

Painting note:Fernando Botero (b. 1932)
Mademoiselle Riviere, after Ingres, 2002

School update

For those of you who have been following this blog for a while, you may remember that I have been struggling with a terribly boring course at school. I had a research paper to write about schedules and files in a medical office, which I procrastinated doing for three weeks. Not like me at all, but exactly like me when I'm faced with tasks that I deem unworthy of my time.

I finally wrote the paper and reported here that I had written it in about an hour. I thought it was pure garbage. I said I'd get back to you all on my grade and here it is: 100%.

What am I to make of this? There were research papers that I worked hard on, doing excellent research that was far beyond the requirements of the courses. Yes, I got good grades on them, too (but not always perfect grades). Should I continue to BS my way through my classes? Is that the lesson I should take away from this little experiment? No. I'll continue doing what I do, but I have to admit, this does bother me some. It was a test of sorts - would the person grading me be able to discern the difference? Apparently not.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The beauty of the positive message

Watch and listen here.

In eleven days, I'll stop posting about politics. But for now, I can't help myself. Tonight, at my knitting group, those of us who support Obama were talking about the very real possibility that he will win. If we weren't so distrustful of polls, predictions or the vagaries of public opinion, we'd say it was a done deal. But this non-superstitious person is superstitious, just like everyone else. Don't want to jinx it! If there were sidewalks where I lived, I would avoid the cracks like a lunatic.

I've been hesitant, though not too hesitant, to express my partisan views on this blog. I had never intended to write about politics.

But this time, I must. This is the first time I've really cared deeply, and I see that in others, too. When I saw Obama in February, here in Maine, I got a bit choked up during his speech. His are not the politics of division. They are the politics of inclusion. Whether you're for the war or against it, for progressive or flat taxes, or whatever issues that do indeed divide us (and should), it doesn't matter. Really.

What does matter, at this moment in time, as we face such difficult times, is that we have an opportunity to embrace a vision of this country as one that is fair, where we see those who differ from us as friends and neighbors, all sharing one another's struggles.

I don't agree with Obama on all the issues. And y'know? I don't care. When I see the faces of the people at his events, I see the possibility of joy. This is not "political". Some disparage this. They say it's only celebrity. But I say no. It is not. It is the hope that we can be the country we've said we are but have not fulfilled.

I see the promise, in electing Obama, of finally putting identity politics and identity hatred away for good. As a person of Jewish heritage who's stood face-to-face with neo-Nazis, I have been waiting for this day. Obama as president is this: You, those who hate, your time is up.

Photo note: I finally did it. I posted a photo of Obama. I said to myself that I would not. I'm not sure why. I ask you this: Do you believe that a man with a smile as open as his could be a terrorist? I've been getting mailers this week stating that he just might be. Call me a fool, but I trust someone who can smile like that. Sadly, not many people can.

Addendum: Over at FiveThirtyEight, they say there's 94.03% likelihood of Obama winning the election.

Update: Friday October 24th: 96.03%

In which I agree with a Fox News anchor

I don't know her name and, once again, I'm in a hurry. . .but I agree with something a Fox News anchor (female) said, in regards to the 150K that was spent on Palin's clothes. This is not something to make a big deal out of. She said (paraphrasing) that the day we stop paying such close attention to what women wear and how they look, that's the day we should judge the amount of money spent. Those fashionable suits that fit perfectly? They are expensive.

I was at a doctor's office yesterday, leafing through Oprah magazine. This magazine is presumably for "regular women". In it, I saw the "must haves" of this season - jeans and light tops for 300-500 bucks, suits for 3000 (I kid you not). This is the "affordable" clothing, for us, gosh darn it, regular gals. Sarah Palin isn't a regular gal, even if she did graduate from the University of Idaho and peppers her speech with lots of folksy words. She needs to look presidential. That costs some. Let's not get so petty.

But here's my caveat: If she gets 150K for her wardrobe, can the average American woman get say, $1500, in a tax refund for ours? I can't even afford new underwear. Bras are expensive, folks!

Photo note: From a random page on the Oprah Magazine Website entitled "Can I wear brooches without looking like a news anchor?" Such an important question for our times!
Brooches, Fabrice: flower, $485; peacock, $995. Dress, Marni (I can only imagine what this costs considering the price of the brooches).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Coming soon: long ramble about body image

I'm in a hurry. I am planning on writing a long piece about body image and weight issues. In the meantime, how do you feel about your size or weight? Are you comfortable with the way you look and feel, and if so, why? If not, why not? Have you ever noticed that this fluctuates with the way you feel in general or is it completely tied in to what size or weight you are? I'd love to hear your thoughts on these issues. I assure you, you'll hear a lot from me. Coming soon from this blog to you!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Perfume update

I should label this post "Scent, or lack thereof".

There have been very few posts about perfume lately. I miss them, too.

The lack of entries about scent are not because I'm distracted by politics or anything else. It's because I have had few new scents to write about.

I had been furiously swapping fragrances with folks on MUA. Besides trying new scents, I met some wonderful people. Lately, noone wants to swap, at least with me. I have even better things to swap than I've ever had, so I don't get it. Do I have cooties?

Image note: These are computer generated cooties. If you are of a scientific mind, please go to this link and then explain what the heck they're writing about to me. I don't get it.

Thank you, Colin Powell

I've seen too many videos recently showing folks who say they vote on the basis of a candidate's religious beliefs. One woman, speaking of Obama, said she wouldn't vote for him because his last name is Obama. Asked if she thought he was a Muslim, she said "No, but his father was."

I've heard too many people say this is a Christian nation, and reluctantly I write that I've heard too many people say this is white Christian nation (and it should stay that way).

This is a predominately Christian nation. Here's some rough statistics: Protestant 52%, Roman Catholic 24%, Mormon 2%, Jewish 1%, Muslim 1%, other 10%, none 10% (2002 est.)from the interesting repository of statistics on everything,

What about "race"? white 81.7%, black 12.9%, Asian 4.2%, Amerindian and Alaska native 1%, native Hawaiian and other Pacific islander 0.2% (2003 est.) Note: a separate listing for Hispanic is not included because the US Census Bureau considers Hispanic to mean a person of Latin American descent (including persons of Cuban, Mexican, or Puerto Rican origin) living in the US who may be of any race or ethnic group (white, black, Asian, etc.)

I was impressed with what I heard Colin Powell say on Sunday. Beyond his endorsement of Obama, he (finally) had the guts to speak what seems to be the unspeakable at this moment in time, namely, this:

Obama, a lifelong Christian, is not a Muslim, Powell said. But, he added, "The really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being Muslim in this country? No, that's not America".

As to the ugly videos that are all over the internet and television, referred to at the beginning of my post, he said, "Those kinds of images going out on Al-Jazeera are killing us around the world. And we have got to say to the world, it doesn't make any difference who you are or what you are. If you're an American, you're an American."

Good for you, Colin Powell. I thank you for speaking truth to power.

Photo note: I originally had a pic of a distasteful poster here. It was of a collection of guns with the title "Celebrate Diversity". I asked if any of you could tell me why I should remove this image, I would. Well, I couldn't wait. I may post the image at a later date and write about it and why I find it disturbing, but not today. Instead, here's a photograph of a diverse crowd at a Martin Luther King rally in San Francisco in 1968, found here.

Addendum: For a glimpse into the intersection between some of the oldest nonsense (accusations of withcraft!) and technology (your interface) check this out.

Politics, ad nauseum (sort of)

In spite of being on retreat, followed by an increase in time spent in meditation, I am still obsessed with this political season. It's been a roller coaster ride of emotions; excitement, fear, hope, anger and teeth-gnashing (yeah, that's not an emotion, but I like the expression). You'd think that with the extended and crazy primary season that I'd be sick of it all by now, but I'm not. In fact, I'm a bit worried about it ending. Will I have to start following team sports to fill the void?

Anyway, there's quite a bit of interesting poll analysis at FiveThirtyEight. If you like statistics or are making bets on the race for Prez, hurry over there and check it out!

A part of me doesn't believe what I've been reading this morning. It's looking pretty bad for McCain. Here's a few juicy scenario odds:

There is a 0.32% chance of McCain winning all the states Bush won in 2004. The odds of McCain winning the electoral college vote but losing the popular vote are 0.54%.
The odds of Obama winning both the popular and electoral vote right now are 88.4%.

I find this stuff fascinating. Why? I have no idea.

Putting aside my near-obsessive fascination with the minutiae of the campaigns, my thoughts today are with Obama and his grandmother. She is, reportedly, on her deathbed. She may have been the most important figure in his upbringing, and losing her within two weeks of the election is rough. He will stop campaigning for a few days to be with her. I am constantly amazed at Obama's equanimity. I really hope that the McCain campaign doesn't step up it's attacks during this difficult time.

Photo note: A completely absurd and inappropriate choice after the last paragraph. Obama's grandmother is from Wichita, Kansas, where Pizza Hut first opened. Believe it or not, this is the first Pizza Hut building. Times sure have changed.

A path of one's own

Before I left for my retreat, someone said something to me about my "spirituality". I, as always, replied that I had no idea what that concept meant. I don't.

In spite of that, I tell others that without a spiritual life, I probably wouldn't be "okay", or even alive, for that matter. I tell others who are not getting anywhere in therapy that I believe that the answer to their suffering ultimately lies in finding a spiritual base.

So, why do I bandy around a word that I don't understand?

Well, for one thing, I don't know what other word to use.

When I suggest to other people that they find a spiritual path, I don't proselytize for mine. I do recommend meditation to anyone, but it doesn't matter what "brand" that is. Meditation is just plain ol' good for people: it helps settle the mind. Scientific studies have proven it also promotes good physical health, helps people deal with difficult situations and with chronic pain. It doesn't remove problems, but a regular meditation practice inbues anyone with more equanimity than they would overwise have. How could one knock that?

Why do I practice Zen Buddhism instead of Tibetan Buddhism (or any number of other contemplative practices)? The answer is very simple and has nothing to do with relative merits. I like it.

Finding ones' path is like fishing, with us as the fish. We get "hooked" by something that resonates within us. We also may be put off by things that don't, and so we keep on searching.

Here's how I got involved with Zen and why I've stuck around for so long:

One day I was in a tiny bookstore with barely stocked shelves. My companion (now forgetten) was engrossed in reading a book and I knew we'd not be leaving soon. I was standing in the "Religion" section of the store, which had about a dozen books on it. "Everyday Zen: Love and Work", by Charlotte Joko Beck was sitting there and I picked it up and starting reading. I knew something about Zen, but not much. This book was different than what I expected. Its relevancy to everyday life (hence the title) was dead on. Just plain good advice. I bought the book, read it twice, and then went on to read Kapleau's "The Three Pillars of Zen".

Now, the Kapleau book was a totally different animal. I still have mixed feelings about this book which has enticed so many into Zen practice. There's a chapter that has quotes from many Japanese people about their enlightenment experiences. It felt somewhat like a highly evolved infomercial. I, too, could actually become enlightened?! Wow! I'll buy that!

But, there was my big hook (as it has been for many others). I had meditated for years, but it was "just" to be calmer. Now, I discovered there was some really big reward for meditating!

I was also reeled in easily by other things that spoke just to me: I feel very comfortable with Japanese culture and its aesthetics. The austerity and strictness of Japanese Zen Buddhism appeals to me. And lastly, all the crazy stories and writing seemed like an impenetrable puzzle that I wanted (and still do) get to the bottom of.

So, Zen Buddhism had me by my proverbial balls.

I love the Dalai Lama and his teachings. There is much about Tibetan Buddhism that I am very attracted to, but it just doesn't hook me.

There are many schools of Buddhism, each with their own merits, traditions and practices.

The Dalai Lama suggested that Westerners looking for a path not turn to Buddhism so easily, but find that which is the same in the religion of their heritage, I thought, "Yeah, he's right", but there's nothing in Judaism that hooks me at all. I'm not running from it, but I sure have one big obstacle in regards to it: I don't believe in God. Sure, I could see "God" as a metaphor, but why bother when I have found something in which I don't have to compromise anything?

I have great faith in Zen. That's probably the most important thing. There's an enormous amount about Zen that I don't understand. This is fine, and in fact, it keeps me hanging in there with it. My desire to understand, not just intellectually but with experience, is great. But I also trust that the Buddha's teachings are the absolute truth. Of this I have no doubt, none at all. The teachings of the ancestors in the Zen tradition, well, they intrigue me. The teaching stories and methods of "training" that this tradition offers is one that I wrestle with, but I have some reservations and doubts about. This keeps things lively! But, again, I stil have great faith that it "works" (for me).

I think this is key. You know you've found the right path for you when you discover that you have enough faith to engage fully.

Image Note: This Japanese scroll calligraphy of Bodhidharma reads “Zen points directly to the human heart, see into your nature and become Buddha”. Hakuin Ekaku

Friday, October 17, 2008

The real McCain?

Watch McCain give a very funny speech (over at Andrew Sullivan, yet again). Really, it's a hoot.

Now, the question is this: Why is he so lively and engaging at the Al Smith Memorial dinner in (gasp!)New York City? Well, for one thing, it's a crowd of elites. And no, I'm not being facetious. It is. This is where McCain is comfortable, not pandering to his new base.

For the sake of fairness, you can watch Obama at the same event here. I haven't watched it yet. I'm in a hurry to get out of the house.

I'll be back on Sunday. Have fun.

The book, maybe

Wasn't using Photoshop, so not exactly to my specs, but I thought I'd post it anyway.

BIG ADDENDUM: I deleted this book cover from my NaNoWriMo page. I'm re-thinking the plot I had for the book. It had gotten overly detailed, and for something I'm going to be writing in such a hurried way, I would have had to pre-plan too much to stick to the story line. I'm doing this for fun. I need to keep it light.

The proverbial kitchen sink

I've been surfing the web since 8:30. There's so many things I need to do! On top of that, I'm doing a 24 hour meditation retreat starting this evening.

It occurred to me that I'm trying to stuff my head with as much extraneous information as I possibly can in the shortest amount of time. Maybe this is practice for trying to write a novel in a month. Quantity not quality!

For an ex-perfectionist, this is truly incredible. I'm planning on writing a bad novel. I just wrote a bad term paper (and have yet to find out if anyone noticed).

I worry (sort of) that embracing the idea of quantity over quality may be bad for me. But then again, I think that any activity that pulls me further away from perfectionism is a step towards greater freedom. The risk is to stop seeing the difference between degrees of quality, but I suspect that's not a problem (though I may be proven wrong).

But, on the other hand, conversely, (ad infinitum) I am told repeatedly by my Zen teachers that I need to come to the point. So, why am I about to engage in an activity that encourages me to continue to throw out my internal editor?

Because it's fun? Yep. I think that's the answer. Maybe I don't want to be a Zen Buddhist of few words. Hmmm.

Photo note: When I think about the upcoming 30-day novel writing spree, I think it's the "throw the kitchen sink at it kind of writing" (I just made that up - ain't I smart?) Well, here's a kitchen sink. You can buy it here. Where can you imagine putting this particular sink?

Addendum: Since so many folks have been having little contests lately, here's a question: How many times have I changed the name of this post? I don't know what the winner gets.

Poor Joe

Poor Joe Wurzelbacher. One day he's just one of the great unwashed masses and the next he's in the media spotlight.

Don't you think McCain should have a least asked Joe the Plumber if he wanted to be part of the national debate on politics?

At first people made jokes about how Joe's going to get all kinds of new business from this free exposure. But no, poor Joe doesn't have a plumbing license, and in the world of plumbing, well, he actually isn't qualified to be a plumber. That's a piece of information I'm sure he didn't want broadcast to the world.

Joe, who obviously is not basking in the media glare, owes back taxes and has had two liens against him. And even though he didn't wish to share who he was voting for with the public, we now al know he's a registered Republican.

The plumbing business Joe works for (just him and another guy) will probably face some problems, now that it's known that Joe has no license. What will happen to Joe, the man who worries that his taxes might go up if he becomes more successful? Will he wind up unemployed?

I suppose if this happens, he could apply to be on a show like Survivor, for he's a decent looking and sturdy fellow.

I would venture to guess that Joe is now regretting that he ever asked Obama a question. In a country where everyone wants their proverbial fifteen minutes of fame, it seems ironic that we've found someone who actually does not and shoved him right into it.

Photo note: This is not Joe Wurzelbacher. It is a poster, that you can buy, called "Six Pack". I was trying to find out the origins of the expression "Joe Six Pack" and was completely unsuccessful. So, I bring you a homoerotic guy with six-pack abs. Would you have preferred a pic of a guy with a six-pack a day beer belly? I realize that there's a double standard for woman when it comes to presenting sexy pictures of men. I am positive that if I had headed this post with a photograph of a woman with a "10" body, I'd get a lot of flak. Right?

Morning lecture

I just watched an ad for Udall on Sullivan's blog (which I don't have a link to in the sidebar, merely because he's so popular, 'cause I'm a jerk.)

For those of you who didn't click on the link, the ad shows an Iraqi war vet, quite young, who is using one of those devices that Stephen Hawkings uses to communicate. He thanks Udall for the funds to help those with traumatic brain injuries. Udall ends the ad with, "I'm Tom Udall and I'm honored to approve this message."

Now, some might say that this young man is being used for political purposes. I don't. Politicians regularly use "regular people" as illustrations for their positions (as in "Joe the Plumber", which was both absurd and not very effective).

The Udall ad made me sit up a bit. I had already started to think after Wednesday's debate that my attitude towards the elections was getting to be too sports-fan like. This is not a game, as much fun as it may be for those of us who like this sort of thing.

I feel passionately about universal health care, for instance. Driving home from my knitting group last night, I heard Hannity talk about how Obama wants politicians to decide who's going to be in charge of peoples' health care. First of all, most of us don't have all that much choice to begin with, especially in rural areas such as where I live. We have a shortage of physicians and they all have long waiting lists. The rural health clinics all are short-staffed. The "city" of Belfast, Maine, doesn't even have a health clinic.

Last week I went to the emergency room because I had an excruciating tooth ache. I had no choice. I don't have a dentist and no one would see me on such short notice. My doctor is no longer practicing and I'm looking for a new one. So, it was to the emergency room I went, where I spent over four hours waiting. I knew the emergency room was a stupid place to go for a toothache, but I was hurting. That visit is going to be very expensive, but I'm low income and I won't have to pay for it.

On the other hand, last month I went to eye doctor because I had a pain in my eye, which I need to be mindful of, for I've had two conditions that could blind me if I get them again and they go untended. This visit was not covered by insurance. If I had gone to the emergency room instead, it would have been covered. What kind of sense does that make? The eye doctor's visit was $70. The emergency room visit would have been at least two hundred.

This is a snapshot of free market medical care, the kind that the Republicans think will work better if there's even more competition. Is competition driving the price of pharmaceuticals down? Not in the least. We pay more for medication here in the United States than any other industrialized nation. The Canadian government negotiates with drug companies for better prices. Here in the U.S., we're pushed pills via television ads that say "ask your doctor", as if they are the same thing as a new snack food that my neighbor might tell me is ultra-delicious.

The fear of "big government" espoused by the talk radio folks and the people who listen to them is just ridiculous (in my eyes, obviously). Government is already a behemoth. Then there's the idea that it's "not fair" for people who make more money to pay more taxes. I understand the idea that's behind this - that one should not penalize someone for being "successful". But really, think about a flat tax for a moment. Compare 10% of $20,000 to 10% of 200,000. Though the ratio is the same, 2000 dollars to someone who makes 20K is a lot of money. Of course, 20K is a lot of money, too, but it won't "hurt" as much. Yes, a progressive tax is "spreading the wealth around", as McCain calls it, but the consequences of not doing this are enormous.

Which would anyone rather have? It doesn't matter if you are a Democrat, a Republican or an Independent. If people on the low end of the economic spectrum don't have enough money to pay for health care, home heating and other neccessities, they will be paid for by others, regardless of how the tax system is set up. And the kicker is, just like all the filled up emergency rooms, when they are paid for in a pay-as-needed way (just so we don't look like socialists), they will cost more. Want higher taxes? Just keep voting to end the so-called "entitlement" programs.

If one is truly against help for those who need it, paid for by others, then we should allow people to go hungry, homeless, uncared for and uneducated. Period. That's a true free-market system. Is that what people really want? I've heard some people espouse these ideas and I wonder if they can truly hear themselves. I've heard people with solid educations, people who climbed up the "ladder of success", say things like "let them die", when speaking of those who are on Medicaid. If you didn't earn it by hard work and sacrifice (as if that minimum wage job or two that you may have isn't hard work and sacrifice), you don't deserve to live.

Honestly, I don't think that most people who need governmental help want it to be that way. But not everyone "succeeds". Contrary to the American myth, we are not born equal. Some of us are born with disabilities. Some of us are born with extraordinary gifts. Some of us are born into poverty and some of us are born into great wealth. We didn't do anything to deserve what we were born with or into. And not everyone can climb that imaginary ladder of success that leads to the American Dream of a home with a two car garage and 2.5 children who are all healthy and college bound.

Palin was here in Maine yesterday, to a crowd of 5000 cheering fans. I realized I was afraid of the people who attended her rally. I suppose those people may have been afraid of the 9000 people who came out this past snow winter to see Obama. It's more than time for all of us to come together, with honesty, and look at what we want from this country and from each other. I'm sick of slick ads for politicians, on both sides of the aisle. We do need "straight talk". We need it badly.

So, to end this lecture, I invite all of you to try talking to those who you know don't agree with you. Don't talk about "your candidate", but try talking about an issue, and make it personal. See what happens.

Now, I'm going to eat Breakfast.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Should I or shouldn't I? Answered.

This morning, I signed up with NaNoWriMo. Evidentally, I believe I will write a short novel in the month of November.

I've even got a badge to prove my (insane) intent.

Apropos of nothing: You've got to check out this photo at Andrew Sullivan's blog. I don't usually laugh much before noon, but I could barely stop. Is the photo "fair"? No! Anyone ever take a picture of you midway through a weird facial expression? But, this is a gem.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My last two cents

No more debates. Good. I've had enough. Well, maybe not. It's been like watching sports and soon the season will be over.

So who won? I don't mean the election, even though just this morning the entire blogosphere was saying it was over for McCain. I don't think that's so (unfortunately).

Yes, as you all know, I am biased. I have never been undecided. The only thing I was that I am not now is respectful of McCain, but I won't get into that yet again.

I am shocked, frankly, that anyone thinks this debate was a tie. Yes, McCain was on the attack and Obama was on the defence some of the time, but so what?

McCain scared me. Seriously. He seemed unbalanced, ready to explode. He was practically incoherent on a number of issues.

Sorry, I want a president who is calm and collected. I was afraid that McCain was going to have a stroke during this debate.

I do think, however, that his saying "I am not Bush" (or however he said it) is going to be the soundbite of the evening. He isn't George Bush. This is true, and I haven't found Obama's repeating we don't need four more years of Bush to be a good strategy. Yet, this one line will not make the man president.

As McCain himself said in the last debate, we need a "steady hand at the tiller". McCain is just not that hand.

Image note: I just hope it doesn't come to this.

Okay, that was my last two cents. And by the way, I do believe I'm going to try to write a novel in a month. I've got a couple of ideas, and hey, even Dick likes the the concept. There may even be a plot in the works. Stay tuned.

Big Update: The bloggers weigh in and McCain lost it. Some words: petulant, incoherent, childish. . .another viewer expressed the same fear that he was going to have a stroke. . .who do want answering the call at 3:00am? Well, that's enough. Now, I still think we're going to see a tightening of the race, but I was born a pessimist (even though I espouse optimism at every opportunity). Good night to you. Now, I'm going to read everything I can until I crawl to bed. I'm a glutton for punishment.

Y'know, I loved to watch boxing when I was a kid.

Should I or shouldn't I?

If one needs to write 50,000 words in thirty days, that's only 1500 words a day. That sounds easy to a rambler like me. Now, it may be 50,000 words of total blather.

I did once write most of a novel by accident. It was just a bit of fun. I don't think of myself as a writer. I started writing in the first person, as someone other than myself, and it took over. Well, he took over.

And no, I may have problems, but I don't have dissassociative identity disorder (oh yeah? shut up!) Sadly, that "novel" I sort of wrote, or never finished, is forever lost in an old broken hard drive. But it only had one good chapter, as I recall.

All kidding aside, this writing a novel in a month thing is crawling into my brain. I have no plot, no ideas, no nothing. So why do I want to do it? Ah, the challenge!

It would take away from blogging time, but hey, it's only one month.

Uh oh. Help!

Image note: The Google image search term was "bad novel". This boring photograph accompanied a page called "How to write a really bad novel", which actually did not have the instructions to do just this. Instead, it had instructions on how to write a "coming of age" novel, which, well, might be a really bad novel. I mean, just how many of those do we need? I'm not even going to bother to provide the link. Bad me.

My new lover pays for everything

No, I haven't a new lover. Nor do I have a new lover who pays for everything.

Someone googled those exact words and landed on my blog. Why? I have no clue, for I've never had a new lover who paid for everything nor can I imagine what I wrote that may have even touched on the subject.

I wonder if this unknown person has a new lover who indeed pays for everything and is thinking, "Is this okay?" Or maybe it's someone who wants a new lover who will pay for everything. After all, the answer to everything is on the Web, isn't it?

"How to get your new lover to pay for everything!" That's about as good a come-on as "how to lose 12 lbs without dieting". I tried that this summer and gained ten pounds.

I had a friend who dated a man who was wealthy and did indeed pay for everything. It was right out of "Pretty Woman", except that my friend wasn't a high class hooker gone good. This fellow bought my friend clothes, shoes, jewelry and dinner.

This was before e-mail, so I would get phone calls with inquiries like, "Is it okay that he took me out and bought over a thousand dollars worth of shoes yesterday?" What was I supposed to say? I wanted to say "Will he buy me a pair?" We both loved this little boutique in Soho that sold shoes that looked like they were made in the 1900's. I probably did say "will he buy me a pair", but he wouldn't have. The guy was a total jerk.

Actually, he was way more than a jerk. He started hitting her. He was a control freak. The clothes and shoes buying wasn't so much an act of generosity as a way of molding her. She was his Eliza Doolittle. This guy was a big player in the international banking business. He may have even owned a bank. I don't recall.

All I recall is that she was on the fence about whether to trade in going back to not having all that lovely stuff for autonomy and not being hit once in a while. The truth is, this is not a light story. Our friendship ended over this. I couldn't stand listening and I couldn't stand by while my friend was being abused. Nor could I make chitchat with him at dinner when I could see she was wearing concealer over a bruise on her face.

Stuff versus abuse. I can't imagine even thinking twice about that. But who knows? I've never been seduced in this way. So, I shouldn't judge. I did then. Now, I'm just sorry I lost that friendship (and I've googled her name many a time to no avail).

Image note: Peter Fox boots, still sold in a tiny shop in lower Manhattan. I actually own a pair of these, that I bought (with my own money) in 1985 or so. They have been re-soled twice. They are essentially in perfect shape, though the heels (which are thinner on my pair) are covered in leather and a bit beat up. They now cost 625 bucks! They were pricey back then, but not much more than any other decent pair of boots.

National Novel Writing Month

Well, should I or shouldn't I?

I am so tempted to join the NaNoWriMo, which is a challenge to write a novel in the month of November.

Once I saw that there was a book connected to this "event" called "No Plot? No Problem!" I thought, "Well, why not?"

Why not, indeed. As I write this, I'm procrastinating, yet again, on my I'd-rather-kill-myself-than-do-it schoolwork. If I was part of NaNoWriMo, I could be working on that and not beating myself up as much. I'd still be beating myself up somewhat, to be sure.

This one class is a killer for me. I think back to my days in school, years upon years ago (but not eons), and remember there seemed to always be one class that was a problem, one class that would hang me up. I forgot about that.

I must slog through it. Maybe I should put on my muck boots. I've got all my notes in front of me and a paper to write. What is it about, you may ask. . .FILING. I kid you not.

Please, introduce me to someone who finds the subject of filing interesting. I would like to meet that person. Then again, maybe not.

Now, should I try to write a bad novel in the month of November? The website says, "Quantity, not quality"! That I know how to do!

Image note: At least these filing cabinets (from the UK) are not that beige color that all desktop computers used to be. What a hideous color! I always think that particular beige looks like an off white that's been subjected to years of cigarette smokers toiling away in dingy rooms.

Update: It's now only a bit over an hour later and I've written my paper. That didn't take too long! Now I'm going to type it (yes, I write papers in long hand!). I'm concerned that I've written in "Palinese". Doesn't that sound like a real language? What it means is this: I wrote five pages of nonsense that masquerades as a term paper. Here's the scary part: I've done this one time before and noone noticed. If I was the instructor, I'd fail me.

When I'm finished typing, if it is truly, truly awful, I'll re-write it. You'll know. I'll even tell you all my grade.

Second update: It's 2:33 and I'm done. The paper is not half bad, which makes me very nervous, because whenever I think something I've done is lousy, I get a good grade (or in the sphere of art, others like it). What does that say about me (or others)? So, maybe I'll get a really bad grade on this one.

At least the end of this class in finally in sight. The dark clouds are opening and I see the light! Hallelujah! Doesn't that word look odd in print?

Speaking of Hallelujahs, Palin is going to be here in Maine this week. I will not be going to see her. It'd scare the beejeesus out of me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Last night's headache

Note: I wrote this last night, but Blogger was down (as was I). Reading it now, I think, "Why post it?", but thought it was an important topic, though I need to re-address it in more depth at some point. . .

I've had chronic headaches since I was a kid. This year, I finally seemed to be rid of the chronic-ness (yeah, yeah, not a word, but I've got a headache). Interesting how the medical terminology is chronic versus acute. Acute sounds way worse, doesn't it?

Right now I have an acute headache. Why am I even writing? Ah well. I haven't posted for days and feel a bit of obligation to.

I also wanted to see if I could, and if so, what I would write. My face is killing me. It's really more of a faceache than a headache. My sinuses are in agony. Objectifying my sinuses as "not me" helps, not that it makes much sense, but again, I have a good excuse for not making sense.

I could not do anything today. My ability to concentrate is, um. . .impaired.

When I think of the days when I felt like this every single day for days or weeks on end I can't imagine how I lived.

I remember one time I was in a cab in New York City and my head was hurting so badly I started weeping. The sounds of the city were just too much to stand. I even remember finding the smell of the city too much.

That's a migraine in a nutshell. Smell, sound, light. . .even the smallest amount - too much.

Another time I started to cry from a headache was when I was lying in a tent on a beautiful summer night. It was quiet and smelled lovely. I felt so cheated, really, by a headache, yet again, imposing on my enjoyment of life.

The thing about any chronic pain is not the pain, I think, but the sense of helplessness and one's reaction. If I didn't have to concentrate on anything today, I suppose it would have been fine on some level. It is bearable.

That night in the woods, I felt more angry than in pain and that just makes the pain worse. Thinking about how others react to my, yet again, not feeling well makes it all the worse.

It's the things that are not the pain that make it worse.

Things like beating up on myself for not being up to doing something or not having as much energy as a person much older than myself. Things like thinking I should not be so done in by a simple headache (or whatever the current pain issue is).

When I speak to others who have chronic pain it's always this stuff that's the kicker. The pain seems always to be secondary.

I remember when I had a boss who talked proudly about never taking a sick day. He told me about digging clams when he had a broken foot. Is that right?

Most of us are taught that we shouldn't give in to pain, that if we have down time because of it, well, we're just weak. I am weak. By all standards, I am weak.

I disagree, but that disagreement is totally intellectual, just like my views on the beauty standard.

This weekend, when I saw people I hadn't seen in years, I felt ashamed at how much weight I'd put on. And then I judged myself for thinking this way.

And then to add insult to injury, I imagined conversations these people would have, saying things like "Boy, she sure doesn't take care of herself". Are they that petty? How mean-spirited of me for thinking this!

But it makes sense. I grew up hearing this stuff all the time. People would come over the house and the minute they left the judgments would start. So-and-so got fat. So-and-so's husband is probably having an affair. So-and-so's kids aren't doing well in school, did you hear?

Hmmm. From a headache to seeing how the poor modeling of parents has infiltrated my self-talk (as if I didn't know that!)

When I see people like Michelle and Barack Obama, I think, "They are so healthy!" I don't think folks give much thought to how much health and energy play a role in how "successful" people are.

I feel a bit guilty, or something akin to that, for there are others who have far worse health problems than I who manage them with aplomb. And then there are some who don't, so I must remember it's a continuum. I also must remember that it's hard to know what's going on inside of those we don't know well.

I had a dear friend who passed away a few years ago. She had always been sick. Sometimes when I complained about my health to her I'd feel like a complete idiot and major league whiner (which I actually am, in my opinion). She'd say to me, "Pain is pain. Comparing is stupid." Then we'd play cards and tell bad jokes.

Well, pain is pain. Sometimes it just is. Sometimes it's unbearable. It's always a lesson of some sort.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Revisiting an old scent

My first "real" perfume was Hermes Caleche. I received it as a gift from my roommate's boyfriend. I'll always be grateful to him, even though I don't remember his name.

I had a birthday coming up and I remember whining that noone ever gave me "feminine" presents. I always got books and records (I almost typed CDs and then had to remind myself they weren't around then). I believe (but I wouldn't swear to it) that I even specifically stated that I'd like to receive perfume as a gift.

Whatever it was I said exactly, this nice young man gave me a bottle of Caleche. Not only did I not expect a gift from him, for I hardly knew the fellow, but I certainly didn't expect a bottle of French perfume.

I found it an enchanting scent, feminine without being flowery. It became my "signature scent". When I used up my first bottle, I wanted to buy another, and went to a department store. They didn't sell it! The sales woman told me I had to go to the Hermes store or that, perhaps, one of the perfume discounters in lower Manhattan might have it.

I was terribly intimidated by the idea of going into the Hermes flagship store. That place sold little scarves for hundreds of dollars! But I didn't have to, for the woman behind the counter at Altman's was right - I was able to buy some Caleche at a small discount perfume store. I still remember the shock on the store clerk's face as I asked if they carried Caleche. Such an old-fashioned perfume, and I certainly didn't look like anyone who would wear it. The Hermes came in an awfully dull beige bottle which just screamed conservative. I, on the other hand, wore strange clothes I made myself, nearly white facial powder and red eyeshadow. Not your typical Caleche wearer.

When I moved to Maine in 1991, I brought my perfume collection with me. But soon, I realized that wearing scent was just not part of my new life. I could not imagine wearing perfume while attending to my sheep. It didn't fit. Besides, I was so in love with all the new smells of nature, I didn't want anything to stand in the way of that. So, I gave my perfume to the Salvation Army. I'm sorry I didn't keep it, for everything I had has been reformulated.

Tonight, I finally opened up the sample vial of Caleche that I have in my possession. I've been putting it off for months. Knowing that it would be different (and having read all the bad reviews) I felt like revisiting it would be like smelling the scent of dissapointment. I'm in a bad mood this evening, so I figured it couldn't make it worse, but it might make it better. Either I would be pleasantly taken back to one of those lovely firsts in life or I would be, well, dissapointed. But, really, I was expecting something truly awful, so there was nothing to lose.

I opened the vial. My first impression, "No! It smells the same! What were they talking about?!" Ah. I smiled.

It took, at most, a full minute for my reaction to take a sudden turn. That first impression was about as fleeting as they come. Around the time I started to smile, my nose sent me a message, "Hold on a moment. That was a ruse."

And so it was. What has changed? The first moment, so perfectly like the original, turns immediately into baby powder. And not a nice baby powder, but used baby powder. Not a pretty picture. And certainly, not a nice scent.

Oh well.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Apres debate top ten (I had to write something, didn't I?)

1. I have a sinus headache from the Serge Lutens Arabie. My hands are dried out from trying to scrub it off. I like it, but my sinuses do not.

(You may be thinking, um, I thought she was going to write about the debate.)

2. At the one hour mark, they should have wrapped it up. I was bored, and I actually like debates, as painful as they may be. (Maybe that's why I started the post with a comment about Arabie)

3. What are the undecided voters looking for? One of these guys to come up with the most awesome noone's ever thought of it before perfect ultimate solution for everything?

4. If a candidate does go into serious detail about anything, whether it be the economy or the war, they'll sound so wonky that this debate will seem like a blockbuster action movie. The other problem is that there's no instant fact checker or on-screen calculator to tell us, the unwashed masses, whether either one is saying something that's true or even accurate. So, we guess at who's more sincere or more likely to be lying and that, my fellow Americans, is based on image, more than substance. Of course, we need to be more informed, but there's a limit. That's why there are experts.

5. I would have liked to have seen McCain tell Obama, to his face, what his ads are saying (and he approves those messages). It was too civil, considering what's really going on. The only time the mask fell away was when McCain called Obama "that one". I was taken aback, and I'm not all that sensitive.

6. Boy, it was really boring.

7. Okay, anyone who's read this blog knows I'm biased towards Obama, but really, John McCain, you can't have it both ways, talking about experience and your voting record. You stated, unequivocably that "We don't have time for on-the-job training, my friends". How can a person who picked Palin as a running mate say any of this with a straight face?

8. McCain said we need a "steady hand at the tiller" twice. His judgment in this campaign has not been that of a man with a steady hand. See #6, above. When asked about prioritizing, he said he could do three things at once, but he couldn't run his campaign while dealing the the bail-out (rescue), and so he "suspended his campaign". McCain, get your story straight.

9. I feel badly about this. I once liked John McCain. I even voted for him (well, it was only a primary, but still).

10. I'm not so sure those undecided voters are undecided. Maybe they just want to be polled or get on TV.

Bonus #11. I think we all need to read more history. One reason that debate was boring is because the questions were so generic.

Painting note: John Trumbull The Declaration of Independence 1795
I was looking for a good old painting of politicians debating, but got tired. But hey, the point is the same: every person in this painting is Christian, white and male.

Markov chain "poetry" number three

The old down coat
with a heating pad, too.

It’s not going to get hot enough.

That’s poverty.

When we
could use a landslide.

Note: I used the same rules as before.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Open letter to a stranger

Last night I noticed that my blog had a new "follower". I went to find out who it was. I read this person's blog, which was new.

I read, and I heard sadness and pain. Being me, I felt obligated to leave a comment. And being me, I felt obligated to leave a message that contained some hope.

I prefaced it with the comment, "I hope I don't sound preachy. . ." And perhaps I did sound preachy, but I meant no harm, not in the least.

Today, I checked in with this blog and saw there was a new post, which sounded even more sad. There was a comment in the post about people preaching instead of caring. I wondered if that was in response to what I wrote, but I brushed that thought aside, thinking, "Hey, it's not all about me!"

So, I left another message. Then I got an error message. I hit the back button and saw that the blog no longer existed. Hitting my back button again, I wound up at the screen where I saw who my "followers" are, and saw this person was gone. The blog was gone, and (s)he was gone.

I feel badly about this. Very. Whoever you are, I meant you only the best, from my heart. I know how it feels to think noone cares. I know how it feels to be lonely.

But I'm not young, and this makes some difference. And because I'm not young, I'm bound to come off preachy at times. I feel maternal towards people who are much younger than I - it's natural, I suppose. But, I'm like that towards my friends when they're hurting, too. One wants to point out what's good, because there are things (and people) that are good. There are.

It's hard to see that when we're hurting. It's easy to see everything and everyone as all good or all bad.

See - I'm preaching right now. It is wrong?

Whoever you are, I hope you're reading this out of curiosity, and I want to tell you this: I'm sorry. I thought I was doing what's right, but I don't know you, do I? We make these mistakes in real life, saying or doing things for others that we wish someone would do for us, but it isn't always what the other person wants. And when it's on the Web, well, it's even easier to make these kinds of mistakes.

I hope, whoever you are, that if you're reading this, you'll put up another blog. I promise I won't butt in.

Image note: Now seemed like a good time for Egon Schiele, who, for me, captures angst better than just about anyone.