Tuesday, June 30, 2009

And one more for good measure

Serge Lutens has just announced a new addition to their exports line - Fille en Aiguilles, a "woodsy-oriental fragrance in which pine needles meld with vetiver, frankincense, fruit and spice notes." The mixture of anything pine-like with frankincense gets this woman all a-flutter.

Photo note: This is a bell jar of Lutens' Mandarine Mandarin. I only posted it because I find it beautiful. All the bell jars are beautiful, and someday (someday!) I hope to own one. Just one, mind you. One will be enough. Having just written the words "I want" once again, well, it's getting a bit ridiculous. If I was writing about handbags, one would certainly judge me harshly, but since it's perfume, somehow it makes it slightly better, for it's a form of art. Right? Then again, handbags, shoes, jewelry, all these objects are also art, at their best, so. . .

Never mind. The craving for "stuff" is always problematic.

Monday, June 29, 2009

surrounded by water, I'm thirsty

Okay. I'm on my third attempt to write this blog entry. This is the first time that's ever happened. I don't know how many entries there have been on this blog, but I know it's not a small number, so I have to give myself a pat on the back for hundreds of free flowing words.

So, the topic tonight is perfume. Not the analysis of perfume, but the amount of it. I catalogued my collection of fragrances yesterday and I have 197** different scents in my possession. Don't be too shocked (though a few of you, I know, may be saying "is that all?"); most of this collection is stored in tiny 1 milliliter vials. But still, I was surprised that I had that much.

I'd been thinking lately that I really needed more scents to smell. I wanted more. And I still do.

Oddly, my desire for more came after discovering I had in my possession a gem I didn't realize I had - Parfums de Nicolai's Vie de Chateau (thank you, Nika). I spent a sultry day repeatedly reapplying it, not because it was weak, but because I was in love with its top notes. I kept lifting my wrist to my nose, ooh-ing and ahh-ing and generally driving Dick crazy with "aw, smell this - it's intoxicating!", over and over again. It didn't intoxicate him. "It's nice" was about all he said (half-heartedly).

The thing was, even though I was happy that I'd finally found something new that moved me so, all it did was make me wonder why I hadn't smelled everything put out by Parfums de Nicolai. A few days later, I found an old vial of half-used Annick Goutal Neroli and re-discovered how much I liked that. Then, I started thinking of how I had not collected many green scents since my disenchantment with the reformulations of Chanel Cristalle and No. 19. I was craving bright scents, clean scents, flowery scents. . .maybe it's because we haven't seen any sun in an entire month. I don't know. My desire for more, more, more, was (and still is) a bit obsessive.

So, I catalogued and discovered I had more. But still not enough. White florals? There's good ones out there, certainly, but I eschewed them right from the start of my interest in perfumes. Rose? I found one I loved (Yves Rocher Rose Absolue), tried a few, hated them, swapped them away and then stopped bothering.

I want to try all the "girly" stuff I once couldn't care less about. I want something pink, with bows on the bottle. I want to sniff the old tried and true scents. I want to try more of the scents that are hated by perfume snobs. I want to try every single Madini, every Serge Lutens, every Frederic Malle, every. . .well, everything. And that crazy Thierry Mugler comfret of Perfumes based on the movie. . .at $750 (if you can still get it) for scents that smell like rotting flesh (and more!)*

I want every vial of fragrance I can get my grubby little hands on. And I want it now.

I really don't think this is about perfume.

I don't know what it is about. Really.

I have never been a collector. Is this what it's like? If so, there's something rather awful about it. Sure, it's fun, and collecting vials is not an expensive habit (thankfully). Swapping with strangers, who sometimes become friends, is wonderful. But this grasping, well, it doesn't feel right. It doesn't feel good craving something so strongly.

Maybe if it was love of another human being it would feel okay. But even if I'm not spending copious sums of money, or even hardy anything at all, it feels like some kind of crazy materialistic need that's suddenly spiraled out of control.

Last week a fragrance board went a little crazy with all the C.O. Bigelow stores going out of business. Now, I thought C.O. Bigelow was an old pharmacy that I used to get my prescriptions at in New York City. I live in rural Maine. No, C.O. Bigelow is a chain of fake apothecaries (or something, I haven't seen one). Many of them are going out of business and they were having huge sales, putting L'artisan and Annick Goutal perfumes out for 75% off, and while they didn't do this on line, they were taking orders over the phone. I came into this late in the game. Hundred dollar bottles of perfume for 25 bucks?! I got on line and found the phone number for every C.O. Bigelow store in the country and called them: "What do you have left?" Nothing. Nothing. Then, finally, one gal gave me a long list of Goutals, all in the worst American mispronunciation of French I've ever heard. Listening hard, I realized I didn't need or want any of them, but someone else I knew did. I sent her a message. One store left on the list, though. . .uh oh. . .it's past 9:00p.m. in Illinois! I call anyway: "Yes, we've got lots left. Call in the morning." I'm so excited. They've got L'artisans left!

The next day. I wait until 10:00. Pick up the phone. No one is answering! Isn't it 10:00 in Illinois?! They open late?! How dare they?!

All they've got left is Vanilia, which I hate.

Later that day, I look at the same fragrance boards. There's a three-hour sale at Beauty Habit! What's the code?! What's the code!!??

Then my internet connection goes dead. Hold on. I've got a copy of a Beauty Habit receipt from December in my documents folders. So, I call them; "You've got to become a follower on Twitter to get the code." My connection is down! No!

This is craziness. I've got better things to do then chase down perfume sales.

And, I'm beating myself up for not buying that bottle of Goutal Neroli I saw at Marshall's over the winter.

This post does not have a nice tidy ending with a moral. It doesn't even have an ending.

Photo note: A glimpse of the Annick Goutal shop in Paris. Just because it's pretty (and there's lots of bottles, which is a good thing, right?).

*If you haven't seen that site, go! It's a lot of fun, with good music, too.

**As of July 1st, the number is 201.

An eye for an eye, a bullet for a tv

I have a right to shoot someone who steps unto my property. In my view of things, this is simply horrible. What if that person was an old friend whom I didn't recognize? What if it's a new friend who I could have made?

But, sure, this unknown person, the nefarious other of our collective fears, is probably someone who wants to take my stuff, rape, or kill me, so I really ought to be hyper-vigilant and get a gun. Anything less would mean I'm some kind of liberal wuss who thinks the evil doers can just get away with whatever they want.

In a discussion about the inevitable end-times, when there's not enough to go around and I'm sitting here hoarding my last cans of soup, I should not even think of sharing. I've got to survive at the expense of others. Again, if I don't shoot that neighbor, they'll be drinking soup and laughing over my dead body, right? "Ha! That silly liberal city gal didn't have enough sense to shoot me! She offered me some soup. Now I've got her house, her soup, and her TV!"

Well, folks, you're welcome to it all. I am not killing you over a can of soup or a television set. Is this dystopian vision really worth killing for, anyway? Not to me.

I'm no wuss. I've been in a few dangerous situations, and they've all turned out well. When I picture all of those situations, if I'd reacted with violence, I probably would have wound up dead, or at least seriously harmed.

When I was followed home by a pack of drunk young men who forced themselves into my apartment building at 4:00am, I don't think their intentions were gentlemenly. If I had had a knife, a gun, or some mace, would I have been safer? I think not. Packing a weapon of any kind would have caused me to think of it as the line of first defense. I would not have had to think of anything more than how to use it, instead of thinking about how to diffuse the situation. Now, don't get me wrong: There are some situations that can not be diffused. But, the majority of situations can be, and when we're walking around in a state of defense, we tend not to see that. A threat is perceived and it becomes an opportunity to act out of our fears. If one is really concerned with safety, no matter what we see in movies, it is not the safest way to be. On guard all the time, afraid of the other; violence breeds in those waters.

The night those young men followed me up to my apartment, I remained calm. One thing about people in predatory mode is that they get off on fear. If you show them none, there's nothing to push against. It's mental Aikido. The attacker attacks nothing and is thrown off guard and off balance.

I looked those four men in the eye, slowly. I looked them up and down. Then, I asked them, "What do you want?" Luckily for me (yes, some of it was luck), they had consciences. If they meant to rape me, which I believe they did, they could not say it. They had followed me, pushed me into my building, pushed me into my elevator, and I did not feel or show fear. I did not yell at them. I did not cry. I did not even judge. I suddenly saw them as the ones who were scared. Not I. They were trying to prove something; their manhood, their power. . .who knows? But whatever it was, it wasn't going to happen.

I kept my gaze steady and continued to act as if I was going to invite them in as we rode the old elevator to the top floor. By the time the door opened, at least one of them was shifting his feet and staring at his shoes like a little kid caught stealing a lollipop. I walked out of the elevator and turned to them. I said something that I don't recall. I might have even said, "Are you coming or not?" I remember being slightly haughty, but not enough to make them mad. I remember feeling like smiling, but that would have been too much.

I don't know why most people think those who follow the path of non-violence are "suckers." No one has taken anything away from me. I know one person who's been mugged four times (at least) and has four broken noses to show for it. Each time, he refused to give up his money. How much did he have on him? Not much, I imagine. But it was "the principle of thing" for him, like it is for so many. I would not die for a couple of bucks, or any other inanimate thing. Yes, I'd defend myself if someone was trying to kill me, and if someone was trying to kill someone I know, I'd do whatever I could to save them, including sticking a knife in someone's back. Standing by watching is itself a form of violence. Taking a pure stance on anything seems to me to be a sure-fire sign of wrongheaded thinking.

I don't walk around in a state of fear, and for that I am glad. It's not because I live in bucolic Maine. It's because that in spite of the fact that there are some truly bad people out there, I believe most people are essentially good. Even the person who means to do me harm. And I believe if that person can see that I see them that way, the possibility of violence decreases automatically. That's been my experience.

Every man your brother, father, or son. Every woman your sister, mother, or daughter. If we all saw with eyes like these, the world would be a much more peaceful place. Impossible? Right now, it seems so. But I can always hope for the future.

Image Note: Instead of posting a photograph of Buddha, Jesus, Gandhi,or the Dalai Lama (or some dirty hippie flashing a V-sign, to all those who think this is simply airy-fairy stuff), this is a photograph of an unsung hero to me, Lawrence Apsey, who founded the Alternatives to Violence Project, of which I was once involved. For more about him, and the Project, go here.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cephalopods (I really do think everything is interesting)

I just watched an episode of "Nature" about cephalopods. I was transfixed. Why on earth do we need "special effects" when we have creatures such as these living in the waters of our planet? Above, one of Ernst Haeckel's beautiful prints. Below, a video of the Indonesian Mimic Octopus:

Friday, June 26, 2009


I've been having trouble sleeping lately. Waking up at 2 or 3 in the morning and going back to bed when the light comes up; waking up again, late, near noon, feeling like crap, or feeling too sleepy to stay awake by 8:00pm, staying up anyway, and then noticing at 2 or 3 a.m. that I'm still awake, going to sleep, sleeping (again) until 11 or so. . .or just sleeping a few hours. . .sudden bursts of intense energy. . .it's all jumbled, as if my body has forgotten what a sleep cycle is exactly. My body is confused.

This confusion has seemed to loosen my brain up some. That's called sleep deprivation, or being in a half-dream state, I suppose.

Anyway, in this state, I seem to be nearly obsessed with the death of Michael Jackson. I'm not mourning; I'm thinking. I'm thinking about nearly everything about him, whoever he was. I just read an article where he's called the "man who was not there".

Everything about the enigma who was Michael Jackson points back at us as a society, almost scathingly. He has been worshiped and he has been made the object of ridicule. Last night I found a webpage where we can see his facial transformations through life. There's no love there in the snarky comments, but why the fascination?

America simultaneously hates and loves it's freaks. It always has. The circus sideshow freaks, the sad clowns, Howard Hughes, every town's eccentric, the weird kid in school who's remembered fondly, the fact that biographies of injured souls are the most popular form of reading, the tabloids at the supermarket, and now all the sites that proliferate the web. . .We love our celebrities, but we seem to love even more watching them turn into monsters, or become just like us, with jiggling cellulite at the beach, bad marriages, lousy choices, their inevitable fall, and if they don't fall, we lose interest.

We both love and hate success. We're jealous. We need proof it isn't what it's cracked up to be. Haven't we had enough proof?

We love the confessions of the powerful, the politicians who've cheated on their wives or are secretly gay, or whatever their transgressions are. Why on earth are public confessions of "sin" more important than the news of the war in Iraq? It's insane.

Yes, I know I'm all over the map. It's fascinating to me how Jackson's death has got my mind spinning.

His surgery, symbolic of so much, and yet we know little truth about the whys of it all. What drove this man to obsessively change his appearance? But, it is that different than the ordinary, almost mandatory, plastic surgery that female public personalities eventually must have? Growing old gracefully for a woman in public is impossible. The illusion of perpetual youth is required. Yet, we practically spit on this man Michael Jackson, who mirrors our society's obsession with youth, albeit in a distorted fun house mirror way.

We are bombarded by messages that scream at us to regain our lost youth, coddle our inner childs, stay perpertually young. It's a given that we all want to stay 21 forever. Pick up any popular magazine and count the ads for facial creams that promise firmer, tighter, softer, dewy, touchable, blemish-free, spot-free, ageless skin. Feeling okay in one's old skin is not allowed.

I suddenly am thinking of someone I once knew well, whom upon seeing Janet Reno on television, would always say "They shouldn't allow woman who look like that on television. It hurts my eyes." Or Rush Limbaugh, who expressed gladness that Hillary Clinton didn't win the nomination, for who wanted to see a woman age in public, as presidents always do?

Michael Jackson was more female than male, at least from my point of view, and though he was a star, his vulnerability to all this seemed huge. But what do I know? I did not know the man, of course. Did anyone?

And if he had a painkiller addiction, so has Rush Limbaugh and who-knows-how-many Americans. The drug companies don't really want us to know how many. With all our drug laws, the drugs most abused in America are those prescribed by physicians. Vicodan, "hillbilly heroin", is so bad for the body that it is illegal in Europe. Yet, here in America, it's nearly as handy as aspirin. The doctors prescribe and prescribe and once you are hooked, you are shamed, or if you're famous, you just get another doctor (or your maid's husband) to get you more, and when that stops, you get some publicity, a stay at a upscale clinic, and possibly a book deal.

Yes, I'm all over the map.

This package, this commodity, that was Michael Jackson points directly back to us, a nation of confused souls, who pay more attention to "American Idol" than the war that is still killing people daily. Last night, there were memorials aplenty for Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, while somewhere in the world, another "nobody" was blown up, shot, stabbed, starved to death, died in their sleep, unmourned, uncelebrated.

What a mess.

Photo note: Wali Sultani, a man who suffers from mental illness, in his cell in Afghanistan (read here).
I could have picked from a million images of suffering. Somehow, the image of this man, shackled because of mental health issues, resonated. Would a makeover make him feel better? In America, it seems we seem to think so.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Public mourning, public celebration

I've written about this before, but it's come up again, as things tend to do, over and over. This evening, as I watched television footage of people gathering together in cities, because Michael Jackson had died, I felt another loss, the loss of any public life.

I've felt this before; on 9/11 and the days after, when Obama was elected, and sometimes, just when there's been enough snow to close the schools.

I didn't grow up in the country, as any of you who've read this blog before must have picked up on by now. I grew up in New York, in it's near suburbs, in the projects for a short time, and in the city proper the minute I finished High School. The city is in my blood.

I may love the countryside, the quiet nights, the frogs, the trees, the birds at my feeders, the pace, all of it, but my heart is that of a city person. When something happens in the larger world, my urge is to leave my house and be with strangers, to take to the streets for solace or for celebration.

Earlier today, when I saw the news reports, I looked out the window unto the garden that I love, and for one moment I loathed it. The trees do not care about Michael Jackson's death. The birds would not being singing "Billy Jean."

I was brought back to the early 80's and how I could look out my window in Brooklyn and see boys doing Jackson's moves on the street. And then I moved further back in time, to when I lived in the projects and won a dance contest - me! the shy girl who never spoke! - the Jackson Five were singing ABC 1 2 3 You and Me. . .Why did they give this white girl a prize? I couldn't believe it.

So, tonight I had an urge to sit on a stoop in New York, where I'm sure I'd hear Jackson singing, or maybe see someone donning a white glove in memory of him. In spite of everything I've directed you to in the last post, and a near-revulsion at what I imagine Michael Jackson may have done (and what he'd done to himself, and others had done to him), he was a part of my life. I'd never given it a thought.

Outside, the frogs and crickets are doing their thing. Tonight, I'd give anything for a bunch of weeping neighbors, a stoop, and an old boom box, a ghetto blaster, blasting away. Shut up! Turn that thing down! Nope, not tonight.

Photo note: Check out Lyle Owerko's "The Boombox Project."

Michael Jackson

I was surprised at how sad I was when I heard he died. I have nothing to say about it,at least not now, but Ta-Nahisi Coates does. It seemed oddly fitting that my last second-to-last post featured Prince, and how music does what it can do. . .so go, read Coates, and watch the video. . .it's heartbreaking, really.

I had forgotten how good the guy was.

Addendum: Earlier this evening, I tried in vain to articulate to Dick the tragedy of Jackson's life and what it meant. Andrew Sullivan indites us all, to some extent. Read that, too.

Some people know how to get to the point. I'm not one of them.

Opinions (we all have them)

When I was in art school, I was the little dictator of my tenement apartment. On the day my room-mate and I moved in, I said to her, "I'm in art school and I'm very sensitive to my environment, so I will make the decisions about what the non-private space looks like." Well, I may not have said that exactly, but I was quite firm about being the judge and jury of all things visual outside my poor room-mate's bedroom door. She seemed fine with it.

I remember I had decided this had to be announced for she had put two owls made out of coconut shells up on a shelf in the living room. They were hideous to my eyes. It was plainly obvious to me that she had not a shred of taste and changes must be made. How she stood my attitude is still beyond me. But then again, in my home, right now, I am the final arbiter of all the public space. When Dick put out a picnic table on the deck today and I came out to move the benches around, he said something to that effect, that matters such as these were in my hands. Where to put up a painting or even something as trivial as a laundry basket, well, the ultimate verdict is up to me, the little Hitler of all things aesthetic.

I am absolutely assured of my taste and I don't care if anyone disagrees with me. I feel I should be ashamed of this position, but I'm not. If someone wants my opinion, I'll give it freely, and I don't hedge for a second. Now, if it's something they've made or it's in their own home, I probably won't, for I think it's none of my business. I will usually only offer my bewilderment, for why should they even care what I think? Whatever you like is fine with me. Just don't put it in my house or try to sell it to me.

When I used to teach embroidery classes, I would always have the women (no, there were never men) choose their own colors. It was the single hardest thing they would learn to do in the class, and it always shocked me. Women who apparently could get up in the morning and pick out their own clothes were often reduced to paralysis when presented with an "artistic" choice. So, I would ask them how they picked their clothes, or their sofas, or the colors of the walls in their homes. I assumed (correctly) that not many would have used a decorator (but so many would if they could afford it, I'm sure). The answer was always, "because I like it", and so, I'd say that art was nothing more than that. Sorry to all those art-schooled of you out there, but in the end, it does come down to that.

The old saw "I don't know anything but I know what I like" is not much different than the schooled version, which might be "I do know something and I know what I like."

It's interesting when people have to collaborate on things visual (or anything else for that matter). Then their tastes and their reasoning has to be examined, and often we don't have any reasons besides those above. However, I often do, but I sometimes have to dig deep to find it.

Dick's trying to come up with a logo for Randome (link at the right) and it's pretty interesting seeing what the designer comes up with, how I react, how he reacts, and how another party reacts. It's all different, and sometimes we are all absolutely right. And at that point, it does come down to taste.

And of course, I am also thinking of perfume. Luca Turin wore Parfums de Nicolais' New York for ten years and he waxes poetic about it. To him, it is one of the perfect scents. I tried some the other day. It didn't offend me. I didn't need to scrub. But, I just did not like it, it did nothing for me, and I'll never wear it again. That's just taste. Nothing more. Nothing less.

I would imagine some people would chastise themselves and think, "Oh, I haven't got any taste!" I don't know why, but I have never done that to myself, and I'm glad for that, even if it does makes me a bit of a jerk.

Painting note: Tamara de Lempicka "Dr. Boucard" 1929

The people of de Lempicka's portraits all look so strong-willed to me. I found it funny that on the site (linked above), "Women in Art History", it says of her "as a child, Tamara was known as self-willed and domineering." I'm guessing that a male artist wouldn't have this in his bio.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Which thought should I follow?

Suddenly, a flurry of thoughts, all begging to be written down, after almost a month of quiet. . .where do I begin?

Do I begin with my journey home tonight from sitting in meditation after a week of intense quiet, punctuated by the sounds of frogs, wind, rain (and more rain), one movie, cars whooshing by on the wet road, the click click click of my cat's paws on the wood floor, the intense need for quiet, more quiet, fear of the loss of the quiet when Dick returned home. . .and then, as I sat for nearly 15 minutes waiting for a cool cup of iced decaf, I heard the sound of AC/DC from the truck behind me and thought, "that sounds good."

I turned the radio on to the same station. Cranked it. Cranked it more. Cranked it until my body was vibrating. I slapped my hand against the side of my car as I waited in the queue for that cup of coffee, and I noticed the guy behind me was slapping his hand against the side of his truck. He blinked his lights. I looked in my mirror and saw a truck full of smiling people (which brings to mind the last time I really saw the people in a vehicle behind me, giving me the finger, all of them). In that moment, everything was perfect. I was glad the person in front of me had some sort of trouble with his order. I would never have turned on the Mountain of Pure Rock. My need for quiet was too deep.

And then it was gone, that need. The next song up was David Bowie's "Major Tom" (is that the right name?) and I sang along at the top of my lungs, laughing at my mockery of Bowie's accent and my always-there wish to sing fantastically; HA! The next song was something awful, I don't remember what, and I fished out my iPod. This was fun! My body was vibrating. I remembered how it felt when I was at the Kripalu Center, years ago, doing yoga one late evening in an empty room, while listening to Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden. I didn't think anyone was around. The next day, the director of the school mentioned to me that she believed I was the first person she'd ever seen or heard of doing yoga to "that" type of music. Then she smiled - she loved every minute of it.

I think I hear Enya sighing.

So, after Bowie was over and that smaltzy ballad came on, I listened to Black Hole Sun and then some White Stripes, and then Closer by Nine Inch Nails. . .ended with Purple Rain, sitting in my driveway, singing falsetto along with Prince, smiling from ear to ear. That there's a perfect song. I don't care what your tastes are. Listen to it sometime, loud, closely. Let your body feel it. Prince is a genius.

Just my opinion, mind you.

My ears are ringing now, and y'know what? It feels good. I feel fine. I want to dance, to sing, to scream out loud, to move. . .but Dick's asleep and the house is quiet, as is the road at 10:32p.m. on a Wednesday night. I'm still moving inside myself, feeling my body, feeling it in a good way, which I haven't felt in a long time. I feel great. No. I feel good. My hands are tingling. I was pumping the air with my fists. Ah, what they say is true: music soothes the savage soul (or is it beast?) Doesn't matter. Not a whit.

Oh, man, I've been asleep to the feeling of being alive in this body for too long. Pain does that to a person. They say exercise is a good antidote, but it's hard to remember when you don't feel like moving. Turn the music on! Then try to sit still. Just try.

I can't do it.

I could go on and on and there's thoughts about yesterday's post that I'd like to address, to answer what a commenter write about, to expand on it. . .oh, there's so much I'd like to say right now, but I'll stop here, I'll stop. . .I mean it. These words are tumbling out (and I'm letting them), tumbling out in a rush of blah blah blah and I figure I'd let you all see that, show you what the inside of my mind is like freed completely. And now, I'll take a breath and stop. Good night.

Photo note: A very 80's Prince.

Addendum: This past Saturday was my mother's birthday. My mother died in 1984. The week she passed away, the movie "Purple Rain" had just come out in theaters. The day after my mother died, I had to visit a lawyer to discuss technical matters, and after I did, on a beautiful sun shining high in the sky August day, I stepped into the cool dark of a movie theater to watch Purple Rain. I had loved Prince since I first saw him on the BET channel when I checked myself into a motel after trudging through a record-breaking snowstorm in Trenton, New Jersey, thinking I might die of exposure (which was possible). I have no idea if Purple Rain was a decent movie or not. Of course, I loved the music, but the film? Beats me. I sat in the theater, weeping for my mother. No one noticed, or if they did, I did not notice them noticing me. I wept and wept until there were no tears left. It took me years not to cry when I heard the song "Purple Rain", and tonight, sitting in the car, on the same kind of sultry summer night that my mother died, it felt more than wonderful to be smiling so freely and enjoying the song without any hint of sadness. Now, there are just memories, not all good, but that's okay, for that's life. I wonder if my Mom ever listened to Prince. I have no idea.

Addendum II: Go here to see a grainy video of Prince, live, performing a fairly stripped down version of Purple Rain. Why isn't he cited more often as being the amazing guitarist that he is?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Not the stuff of dreams

I saw a post on Facebook today that bothered me and resisted the urge to leave a scathing comment. But, it has stayed with me, to the point of invading my meditation, a time when I usually have no trouble not engaging with my thoughts. I thought, "I must write about this." And so, I will. . .

One person is sent a photograph of a tattooed stump as a "gift." The recipient replies, "Wow! This is almost as good as midget porn!"

I don't know, maybe I've lost my sense of humor completely, but sending photos of people who have lost limbs to others as gifts seems sickening to me. I've tattooed these people, and their stumps (if they call them that) are part of their bodies. They're not fetish objects. But yes, they are also that, aren't they?

As far as midgets go, they have also been fetishized, and are frequently seen in movie and television dream sequences. I don't get that. I've never had a dream in which a little person comes out of nowhere wearing a top hat. I'm guessing that the only people who dream of unusually short people are those who are themselves unusually short, or those who see them as fetish objects. Either way, those dream sequences are always ridiculous, in my estimation, and I wonder if little people are offended. If you are very short and reading this, please tell me what you think. I'm most curious.

I'm very short, and I wouldn't mind if I was one person's personal fetish, but there's something sickening about fetishizing an entire group of people. I suppose I could draw this conclusion further and say that all women are objectified, and some people would agree, but I don't think that's all that bad. We all are attracted to certain characteristics, and many people like looking at that which we are attracted to. Yes, I'm skirting around the issue of pornography. It's a big subject.

I suppose I can let everyone off the hook about porn, general porn, but when it comes to drooling over that which causes others pain, and not in the sadomasochistic sense, it bothers me greatly. The broken limb, the stigma of being unusually short or tall, or deformed in some way; sexual objectification seems like adding insult to injury. But I may be wrong. For all I know, it's an added bonus, a compliment. I've never asked anyone who has a stump if they minded the jokes, and I've certainly never asked them if they minded the porn.

The first time I tattooed a person who was missing part of a limb, and tattooed what was left of it, I had to get over a certain revulsion. I admit this freely. I think it's fairly natural. But once I did, I felt a certain tenderness in me. There was something more intimate about being allowed to hold that half thigh in my hands, more intimate than an ordinary thigh. And while I felt no longing for it, I can imagine that there are people who feel that way. But I think I may be being overly generous; somehow I think the reasons for longing stem from darker emotions.

There's no conclusion here. Just an airing of my thoughts, and a desire to hear from anyone who has an opinion on these matters.

Now, to bed, where I will imagine I will not be dreaming of anything like that which I see in movies.

Photo note: From "Twin Peaks", conceived and directed by David Lynch - perhaps the "worst offender" of the dwarves-in-dream-sequence motif. For more images from this scene, go here.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

After the quiet, I put on a screaming white floral. . .

It was a quiet, somewhat strange day. It's been raining for who knows how long, and though today's downpour did not happen, the sun never peeked through the clouds. The wind was kicking up all day, knocking potted plants over. It was at turns hot and humid and cool and humid. It was eerie - the kind of weather that portends dreadful weather to come. And so it shall come, as I hear it.

I was at a Zen retreat for a few days, where it was actually noisier than my own home. Dick is away, and is my want when he's not here, I keep things quiet and cleaner than normal. I also take up chanting sutras to punctuate the silence. Surprisingly, I chant from deep within my belly, a loud chant; startingly so. Probably surprising for those who know me, for I'm given to talking to quietly that no one can hear me. Said one friend, once; "Ah, well. I can't hear Julie half the time. I just nod and say hmmm."

Within this quiet space is a loudness, but it is not audible. It is called Tom Ford's Black Orchid Voile de Fleur. Basenotes says it contains "Black Truffle, Bergamot, Honeysuckle, Gardenia, Black Orchid, Black Pepper, Lotus Wood, Noir Gourmand Accord, Vanilla Tears, Patchouli, Balsam, Sandalwood." What are "Noir Gourmand Accord" and "Vanilla Tears"?

Never mind. The first blast of this parfume, which I found a 1 ounce bottle of at T.J. Maxx for fifteen bucks, is a big, loud 1980's type screaming white floral. I detest scents of this nature - they are the stuff of headaches and probably the reason why so many places have outlawed wearing scents in public.

But I like this juice. I spray on a very little bit, keeping the spray nozzle right up to my skin. I know that if I overdo it, I'll be sorry later. So, I'm very careful. Just so. At first I'm always surprised. I hate this smell, or so I think. No, I love it. What's going on here?

No headache ensues. I continue loving the scent, but I wouldn't dare leave the house with it on. It's sillage must be strong. It feels illicit. Sitting here in baggy jeans, tousled hair and a baggy sweater, it's a funny contrast to the way I smell. I should be wearing a black dress and stilettos.

The scent does not change much. It just weakens. It leaves a delicious trace of itself on my bedclothes. With all its notes, one would think it would change over time, but it is somewhat simple in its way. I smells like a Good Perfume. Nothing more and nothing less. What's surprising it that I seem to be in love with it, and I'm getting a kick out of that in itself, like falling in love with a person who's got a bad reputation.

And, it is such a contrast to anything that smacks of simple living. I feel like a naughty woman, basking in a cougar's scent whilst lounging about all alone. It feels like enjoying pornography. I was caught in the act earlier when someone knocked on the door. Looking as I do, (no - even worse, for I was wearing a pair of pants held together with a string), I wondered if they thought I was wearing too much perfume, and how strangely, with no makeup and in near to rags.

I see eccentricity in my future. Eh, I think it's already happened. What am I worried about?

Photo Note: Amy Winehouse, with a beehive hairdo and jeans. Seems fitting to this post. I love her singing, her style; I hope she survives her travails.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A long dry spell

Blogs with no new posts do not get read, and sometimes they are forgotten. Unfortunately, I haven't had anything to say lately. Don't get me wrong; I'm not devoid of thoughts. It's just that a good majority of them are either too personal or too poorly formed (even for me) to blog about. I can't promise that I'll get back into the habit of daily blogging, but I'm hoping it will happen, and happen naturally. Forcing it just doesn't work for me.

Maybe it's the weather, or perhaps it's the piles of medical transcriptions I've been typing lately. Or it could be that there's some serious thoughts that are percolating, just waiting to be expressed.

Or it could be nothing.

I just hope this blog hasn't reached the end of it's natural life span. But if that's the case, so be it. We'll just have to see.

And with that, I'm ending this, without even a visual companion.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Getting around to it

When I moved into the house I live in, there was a big mirror in the bathroom that I didn't like. I didn't like the bathroom light fixtures either, but those are more of an expense, so not getting around to doing something about them was a bit more excusable. But why I lived with an ugly mirror for so long is a bit of mystery. Then again, there's a wall in my bedroom that still has the screws in it from the last owner's paintings. So, there's lots of things that I haven't gotten around to doing.

Having a house with eight rooms, two bathrooms, and a separate garage is a lot of work. And it's work that I don't do much of.

I'm used to New York City spaces. Even though I've lived up here in Maine for nearly 20 years now, I've pretty much always lived in tiny spaces, and when I lived in another large house, it was in such serious disrepair that I confined my living to two little rooms. That's what I can handle.

Don't get me wrong - I love my house. I adore the fact that I've got an entire room devoted to sewing and crafts. I love the fact that I've got a meditation/yoga room. I love that we've got two living rooms, each supposedly for different purposes. One has lots of light and the other doesn't and has a TV in it. Oh, that's called a den, isn't it? It's also the winter living room, for it's got a wood stove, and we close off half of the house for six months of the year. But right now, the entire house is open.

Yet, I wind up doing everything in the same room, for that's what I'm used to. The "specialized" rooms wind up being holding areas for supplies. They don't see the vacuum often enough, nor do the stairs, of which there are two.

Now, if you're living in a tiny space, you're probably saying to your self right now, "I wish this woman would stop complaining." I'm not complaining, really. As I said, I do love my home. I just can't quite get used to so much space, even though I've longed for this much space all my life. I have had recurring dreams for years about discovering I lived in larger quarters than I did, and before you go rushing to find the hidden meaning in those dreams, they were quite literal, for when I moved here, the dreams stopped dead. But no, I don't now have dreams of discovering I have less space, though on occasion I do wish I lived in a little one-room cabin which I could keep as neat as a pin with ease. It's hard for me. I love neatness, but I haven't a drop of OCD in me, nor do I enjoy cleaning, so I just live with feeling vaguely bothered by the stairs that needing cleaning, the screws that need to be removed from the walls, and the I-just-don't-like-it-cause-I-don't-like-oak mirror.

So, yesterday I had the brilliant idea of decoupaging the mirror. It took me almost four years to get around to making that mirror nice. The photograph above just doesn't do it justice. Perhaps I'll take a close-up some time. For your information, the stripes reflected in the mirror are not pink in real life. They are exactly the same orange as the handles of Bic disposable razors. I didn't mean that to happen, but it did. My bathroom is becoming most wacky looking, and I enjoy that. That's something great about having a large house full of rooms, for I generally prefer calm, empty spaces without much decoration, but when one can move from room to room, I can have some places where there's whimsy. I just couldn't live with it all the time. And someday I'll figure out how to keep the place as clean as I'd like it. Well, maybe.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Thoughts on Susan Boyle and my little brush with fame

When Susan Boyle suddenly became the most watched instant celebrity on the planet, a part of me was angry. Yet another part of me was pleased, as it started a conversation about our expectations of people who are not beautiful (or even pretty) in our society's overly perfect, airbrushed and non-diverse way. Yet, I doubt any of us has learned a thing from all of what has happened.

Susan Boyle didn't win Britain's Got Talent. Ironically, a dance troupe called "Diversity" won. The ugly ducking didn't win the magic prize. Instead, she had an emotional breakdown and wound up in a clinic - "resting."

The final say was made by the British public, whom had tired of Boyle. News that she could actually swear was met with horror. People were rooting for her, but only as long as she remained "Simple Susan", a woman-child who had been done wrong by society for her looks and learning disablities, but who seemed to have absolutely no anger about her life. Sorry, but only saints would fall into the last category, and when Susan Boyle finally showed she was not a child-woman saint, and that she wasn't going to negotiate the waters of insta-fame with perfect aplomb, that was probably her downfall.

Who's going to be there for Susan now? She is a seemingly friendless, family-less 48-year-old virgin, who has led a lonely life. Word is that she cried out for her cat Pebbles when she was being taken to the hospital. The very idea of this (even if it's not true) is heart wrenching.

Fame (and the public) are fickle. Susan was adored, got too famous too quickly, and had to be taken down a peg. Looking at the video of the last performance, I wonder if she looked too good in her new gown. Would she have done better if she had showed up wearing an outfit that reminded "us" of how we first saw her? Maybe folks had stopped thinking she was such an innocent in that fancy gown.

But her breakdown reminds us that she probably was. And what will happen to her now? I can't imagine she'll go back to her quiet life. She has a recording contract. Life will now be filled with the continuing agonies of the ups and downs of fame, or perhaps no fame at all, when it is plainly obvious that is what she did want, after all.

And why do people want fame? For many, it is a form of revenge, and I think this is true for Susan, too, though I doubt we'd hear that from her lips, in spite of the fact that she can indeed curse. Susan Boyle is not the first famous person to want to prove something to all the bullies she's put up with in her life. She may have had the quickest rise to notoriety of any person, but she's not as rare a story as she may seem.

From my miniscule brush with fame at the age of 22, I can tell you that it is difficult. I had the revenge motive, undoubtedly, but the revenge was not so sweet. Suddenly having your bullies saying they were once your best friends or calling you every day is not much fun. For the sake of graciousness, you must treat them politely, while in one's head one is screaming "Fuck off! I'm no different than when you hated me!"

One time I was alone (or so I thought) in a large theater after a show. I was washing my hands when a person came up to me and started to gush - "You were so great tonight! I love you!" I thanked her, but she went on "I saw you with another band a year ago, and I thought you sucked. You've become so great!" I stood there, fuming inside. A year before this show, I played my heart out. I wasn't hired for the band this woman had just seen for my guitar abilities. I was hired as a performer. I barely played the guitar - I was supposed to act menacing and make as much noise as possible - I specialized in feedback. This was "great"?

I also remember when I was introduced to the CBS Record executive, he said right in front me that he thought I both wasn't good enough looking and didn't look like rock star material. Who talks about people like that right to their faces? People in the "industry", who see others as commodities, which in this world, they are.

This is the entertainment industry. It's a rough place. I got out quickly, for I knew it might kill me. Luckily for me, I didn't believe the love that came from fans meant anything or could make up for anything, but somehow I think Susan Boyle might. And for that, I'm scared for her. But hopefully, the worst is over for her. I certainly hope so.

Photo note: Susan Boyle in the semifinals. Even the lighting says "see what a saint she is?" C'mon folks, she was only a human being.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Coming soon. . .

I haven't had much to say, as evidenced by my lack of posts. Coming soon, hopefully, will be some images, once I figure out how to use my scanner. I've been making little collages on top of playing cards. I'm not sure if they'll scan well, for they are quite shiny. We'll see. . .