Monday, December 28, 2009

Spamalot, aka tweet me for realz or FUCK OFF

I'm following A LOT of people on twitter. Like, almost 400. (BTW: next time you're whinging because a celeb, etc., hasn't replied to you - STFU. Do you have any idea what their feeds look like? n00b.)
A lot of people are following me. (I'm not entirely sure why, but I'm very grateful.)
I get cycles of spam. I get cycles of LURKERS.
Look, if you're marketing - you fail. Completely. If you like me and what not, for the love of all that is holy, just talk to me.
Sincerely. Don't lurk. C'mon up and say hi. Be aware that I don't automatically follow back, which may or may not reflect on the quality of your tweets. If you are spam/troll/conservatrash intent on fucking with me, I will block in a New York Minute, otherwise, join. the. conversation. It's the whole flippin' point of twitter.

I've been getting wave after wave of creepy spam lately. DO NOT WANT. There will be an epic purge in the new year. That's the way it goes.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Voice From The Apocalypse (excerpt from WIP, "Not With A Bang..."

2058  -Andrews, S. N., Maj. Gen. RAMC

It began on a Wednesday. A series of tsunamis that struck cities that were only unexpected in the sense that we blinded ourselves to the eventuality.
It took three years. We know that the first indicators came decades before the fact, and we still haven't figured out how to solve it.  It seems the Earth did. The floods and droughts, the epidemics and famines, the human population culled by almost forty percent. 3 billion people is the best estimate. The mind revolts at the numbers.
  A genocide of neglect and waste.
  There were the typhoons and hurricanes, the tinder-dry areas where fires simply could not be contained. New York, London, the rising seas.
We knew about it all before it happened. That's the worst part. It was expected. We simply did nothing of any consequence until it was far too late.

  The end of the world is a permanent state.
 We train them now, in a history that represented nihilistic progress. We train them to recognize when the dust storms will be the kind to strip flesh from bone, we train them to know how high a tidal wave will crest. We train them to survive what a century of industrialization and thirty years of neglected data wrought.
  We train them to be stewards and survivors, then we teach them how to die.
 I can't remember how the suicide programme started. It might have been when we realised that the famines would be global, when there were reports of cannibalism in other countries. When the water rationing began. So many crops tainted or lost, stock dead in flood or fire, when it became evident that no one was safe or immune from starvation. It seemed like a better option. Mass-produced voluntary death. Who were we to moralise about choosing the method of one's end? We did what we could, the labs were turning out the synthetic nutrition kits as quickly as possible, but we couldn't keep up with the need. There were already more than a billion people walking the razor's edge everyday, when things were still good. When everyone was suddenly in the position of needing minimum nutrition requirements met, we were overwhelmed.
The...concrete devastation, was only part of it, you see. Financial systems collapsed in the panic as New York and London were flooded, California alternately burned and drowned and the rest of the world saw everything get just that much worse than it already was.
 I could list all the statistics and the full timeline, but it's meaningless. What use are numbers when the numbers are too big to comprehend in any real way?
Of course there were contingency plans to preserve governments. There always are.
 We evacuated and set up temporary shelters, but all we did was ensure that a few less people died quickly and relatively painlessly.
I envy the dead sometimes. Thanks to my work, they are the endlessly unquiet dead.
The only question that plagues me is: Am I going to hell or am I already there?
Of course I am.
 Amanda... she has no idea what I'm asking of her. I cannot make this decision. We have the ability and ye gods,  the will is there at some levels, but too many years of uncertainty and the profligacy with lives have made us unfit to choose.
 If my superiors knew what I'm about, there would be summary charges. Treason, they might call it. Treason to a crown which hasn't existed in 30 years and a commonwealth that is merely a collection of borders. I'm done playing dice with the universe.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Honest Scrap Blogger Award...HELP ME

So, you can see my nomination for this, here. I'm at a loss for a couple of reasons. 1. I'm not sure I can think of ten things that no one knows about me. No, really. When I say I'm an open book, I mean it. Sooo... here goes:
1. I love brussels sprouts and liver. I really do. I hated both as a child, and now I love them. My mother loathes sprouts, but I'm making them for xmas dinner anyway.
2. I've never owned a new car and probably never will.
3. It's highly probable that my Grandfather's parents were Jews. I wish we had more records with an accurate spelling of both the family name and my great-grandmother's maiden name, so I could research the genealogy more effectively. We don't, because my grandfather was raised in an orphanage.
4. The 2nd person I ever kissed, was a girl. I was 9.
5. Of the 10 most important people in my life, at least 5 are people I only know online.
6. I've written fanfic, (ok, SOME people know this about me, but so few that it is an actual confession. You can find it, here.) I consider it fiction training wheels.
7. I had a mild case of agoraphobia as an extension of a basic panic disorder, when I was 14-15. I had panic attacks from the age of 7-16. They didn't return until after I was raped, but I'm basically a little high strung.
8. I often describe sensory input by color. Alfalfa sprouts, for example, taste GREEN.
9. I once bought Ty Pennington a beer. He hugged me. It was cool.
10. I staged a full production of the Wizard of Oz, when I was 5. Toto was played by Mr. Blue, my large, blue, stuffed dog.
Whew. Ok, I cheated. Some of these things are known by some people, but not all of them by those who'll be reading this.
Now, the nominations...
I'm going to nominate:

I can't come up with TEN.

a. 'The Honest Scrap Blogger Award' must be shared.
b. The recipient has to tell 10 (true) things about themselves that no one else knows.
3. The recipient has to pass on the award to 10 more bloggers.
d. Those 10 bloggers should link back to the blog that awarded them.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Why does poverty so offend those that are not poor?

I have a theory, which I'll discuss later. Anyone who has read a sampling of my posts, knows that I'm not ashamed of being poor. It's a fact, being ashamed of it won't change it. I manage, I wobble, I falter, I pick myself up and dust myself off. I save and scrimp and feel guilty when I spend $20 on a night at a college bar (that's $20 including food, beer and tip.) I make choices. I buy a pomegranate instead of a bag of oranges. I deal.
Most poor people do. It's not like there's another option. Well, I mean, there's death, but...that's stupid.

Yeah, I just spent a little over 1/6th  of my paycheck on tires so I don't die if it gets a little slick on the roads, which was 1/3 of my remaining money for the next two weeks after bills. Then my battery died. Well, my battery died and then the auto parts place said the word I've come to fear: Alternator.
There was good news and bad news. Good: Lifetime warranty on the one I put in last year. So, the part is free for as long as I own the car. Bad: It's bitterly cold, I don't have access to a garage bay or lift.
Yes. I know how to replace an alternator. I had to learn. Why? Because I'm poor. Duh.
So, I had a minor freak out yesterday, got home and burst into tears after I figured out exactly how much money I really had left. This may not even cover the labor and I haven't even filled up my gas tank or bought my mom an xmas present and we're gonna need food and kitty litter and ohshitwhatthefuckamIgonnado? 
 I get paid twice a month. I don't get paid again until New Year's Eve.

Fact: If you live in a cold-weather climate, someone in your city is going to freeze to death on the streets tonight.
I'm way better off than that. I appreciate what I have.
Enough about me, I just wanted to give some context.

One of my friends posted this on facebook: wondering whose brilliant idea it was to intstate the government program, TracPhone? (sarcasm should be very apparent)

Kristen McHugh 
Actually, it's always been around, it just used to solely fund landline service for low-income households. Now it funds wireless, too.

someone else replied: yeah, dont you think that calling a hospital is like... the first step in receiving heathcare?!?!?
I'm not sure what they mean, but... the thread owner's reply followed: 
I don't believe war should be funded to the level that it has been. But this is not the issue. You have to draw the line somewhere on where the government provides aid and people have to take some level of responsibility for their lives. The person who makes 500 per month is probably getting it from social security or disability and most likelyreceiving reduced energy costs from the utility companies (which are subsidized by the gov't) as well as Medicaid/Medicare and Food Stamps and now TracPhone. There must be some personal responsibility even for those with disabilities. It would probably be a safe bet to say there are more people who abuse these services than those that truly need them. Now Life Alert makes sense as a gov't provided service, not a cellphone or landline.

And, another reply from someone I don't know: 

Amen!~ With freedom comes responsibility. You can't have your cake and it too, although certain people in power would love you to believe that - until they strip you of every freedom given to you by the Constitution! Creating a dependant welfare state is the ultimate purpose of Government - no matter what form - they are all evil.

Now, we welcome the conspiracy-theorists to the party: 
I've heard (no proof) that Cricket is actually a government run company. The idea being they automatically have legal access to all the phone records of people who have no credit for a higher-end service provider (ie: poor people who buy and sell drugs). No credit check for a Cricket.

Major assist in drug investigations. The big boys might be able to afford Verizon, but their clients can't.

Contrary to urban myth, most drug dealers earn the equivalent of minimum wage. All pyramids are built the same way, hence the all-seeing eye that crowns the pyramid on our money. (Is that straight out of "Lord of the Rings" or what??)

Information is the single most powerful weapon you can possess. Controlling information means permanent power.

The Chinese refer to this process as "patient gradualism".

Because we are an eye-candy society, the subtleties of what's happening escape most people. It's important for artists, musicians, writers, etc., to be aware of this stuff as it we who are usually the first to be rounded up. History has proven that even though the "John Brown's" of the world have been crazy, they were also very often right.

Sorry for the rant, topic close to my heart.

A voice of reason enters the fray: 
Actually, Some of the client's I've worked with cannot afford to have telephone service and this program has really benefited them and has helped mental health services keep in touch with them. I think it is a good idea for some individuals.

I do not know when to walk away from this kind of thing. I really don't. Probably because I don't understand it. 
Kristen McHugh 

I believe in responsibility, but to be completely frank, the government isn't doing what it should be, for the population. Yes, some people are abusing progams. However, there are far more people who are not eligible for any benefits, because of outdated measurments. Life Alert wouldn't help someone who has to coordinate medical appointments and transportation, and as... mentioned, mental health services. There's also the fact that many people who are disabled, did indeed, pay more than their fair share into medicare and social security, FOR OTHER PEOPLE. We pay into it, and when we need it, it should be there. I say, anyone who wants to opt out of ever receiving medicare/medical assistance/social security-ssi , go ahead. However, if you can foresee the possibility of ever needing ANY of those things - don't judge other people for needing them now. Someone else's tax dollars will be paying for our Medicare and Social Security payouts, unless the entire system collapses. But what if? What if you have a catastrophic medical condition that maxes out your health insurance and makes you uninsurable, you can't work, you burn through your savings paying for care while you fight to qualify for SSI because you have a college education, and sure, you can't walk or sit or stand for any length of time, but surely you can WORK. You try to work, but get fired because you miss too many days due to medical appointments. You try again, but this job, you earn too much to qualify for medicaid, and not enough to pay for your life-saving medication. You lose your house. You can't drive, even if you could afford car insurance.
These are the kind of people that qualify for programs that you don't think should be funded.
So, do you think they should disappear and die, because they *can't* not won't, but *can't* do for themselves?
Also, medicaid, as it's administered through HMO's, doesn't provide what you might think they do. I used to work for one, and I quit because I couldn't stomach the way they denied care. Profit is more important than whether someone dies.
That's reality.

Here's where things got interesting. 
My friend replies: Health care is screwed, it obviously needs reform. In the unfortunate circumstance of becoming disabled or sick there are things that can and must be done to simplify one's finances and lifestyle. Cutting out unecessary costs and living frugally to survive along with finding non-traditional ways to make cash are a few strategies. Granted, there are sure to be some extreme cases but I would suspect a large majority of people don't think things through before jumping onto the government support train. I have friends on disability who don't "truly" need it. I have family on disability because they refuse to make the life changes needed to lead a healthier life. I just think there are far better programs out there our tax dollars should support. And there are other options for affordable phone calls: pay phones and Cricket. My grandparents have a cellphone they pay for while living on social security and a small pension. My uncle in law is on disability for mental illness and lives frugally in a small apartment but still manages to pay for his phone. If it's worse than that, there are agencies out there to assist. While the government should have the people's best interests in mind, it's not their job to take care of everything.
The voice of reason returns: 

Its hard to know the reality of the situation until you have been around it and seen how the government actually doesn't serve individuals who really need it. The system needs to be reformed. Plenty of people take advantage of programs. You will have that no matter what the program is. There are indivdiuals who can't "just change and make certain adjustment" Some people aren't able to work and have nothing and no one. The system is actually set up in such a way that it is hard to get off of it once you are on. The moment you start making a very minimal amount of money, your benefits are cut. If you need healthcare or mental health care, or if you need coverage becauese you are mandated for treatment, you actually can't work and still receive the necessary benefits.

In addition, some programs make it actually impossible for people to do the right thing. They say, "you have to receive mental health treatment and you have to get a job, while staying in our program" A lot of available jobs don't offer benefits so if the individual gets a job, the benefits are cut and they aren't in compliance with the program.

People do need to take responsibility, as much as is reasonable for their situation. I say that because some people don't have the capacity to reason out what the next step is. I know people who can't and shouldn't work. Not all people who receive benefits are "working the system". I have seen it help people to. 

Cricket still costs money. some people have NOTHING and staying connected is their only lifeline.

I am passionate about this because government support has been an every day problem where I work for over 2 years. Some of the problem is people playing the system. A lot of the problem is people having benefits pulled out from under them before they have a chance to get back on their feet. Then in order to get what they need for themselves and their families they have to quit working and go back on government support.

There is a book I read....that highlights the plight of the low wage worker. Its called "nickel and Dimed and not getting by in America". It kind of blows the whole perception some people have that as long as you get "a job" you should be fine. No one can exist on minimum wage without helathcare for very long. Its not a spectacular book (the way its written) But it gets at the reality of the work situation in America.

Now that I have really beaten a dead horse, I am done! I never write big long political things like this. bleh.

My friend then posted: 
There's no doubt the system has flaws but monies to fix that system are needed and cutting TracPhone to ensure people get proper medical care and "life training" in hard times of disability and sickness, sounds like a pretty good idea to me.

I left my only parting shot, short of saying, "What the fuck is wrong with you?" 
Radical suggestion: Cut the cashflow to corporate welfare (aka Subsidies to agribusiness, oil, etc.,) and stop letting wall street rip us all off, before we tell people who are already stepped on and invisible, falling through cracks every day, to do better with resources they don't have. If you've got relatives milking the system, step up and report them. If you think people you know should make better choices re: health, help them to do it. The bottom line is this, people are more important than money. The programs that help people who really need the help, (granted, some people will always game the system, if they can,) these programs are not only a minute fraction of the budget, but they get cut almost every year.
Telling people that are an inch away from homelessness, to be more frugal, isn't just blithely ignoring reality, it's cruel.
Strip people of their humanity and dignity, and then tell them they're still not debased enough.
Because it is humiliating, people who are on medicaid, even for disabilities that are well-diagnosed, are humiliated. They are treated differently. People who are poor, sacrifice their dignity.
Being poor shouldn't be a crime, but we treat it like it is. 
Not everyone is poor because they're spendthrifts, not everyone's disability is a fraud. Projecting that onto people who don't deserve it, is wrong.
Compassion costs you nothing, this piddly program costs you next to nothing. If you're willing to drop a dollar in the salvation army kettle, this shouldn't bother you in the slightest.
Talking about this isn't achieving anything useful, I'm done. 

Oh, but no, the original author is not done yet. 
People are more important than money. In fact, my ideas are geared towards helping people where it's REALLY needed. Health care keeps coming up over and over again and is a major portion of what influences people's life choices and it MUST be reformed. In fact, there are many government programs that need to be reformed. The fraud connected to Medicare and Medicaid is a huge reason these programs don't have enough assets to truly make a difference in the lives of those who need it. Not everyone who needs assistance fits in the same box, but we have to do a better job in administering these programs. If FaceBook can code an algorithm as brilliant as this, that knows how to present content in a way that is personal and "understands" the user, there is no reason our government cannot effectively deliver benefits and monies to those with greater need. This is by no means an insult towards those who are less fortunate, but simply states that both sides of the spectrum are responsible. "There is only one class of people that thinks more about money than the rich, and that is the poor. In fact, the poor can think of nothing else." ~ Oscar Wilde

And y'know, my friend isn't actually wrong. 
This is what I would have said, if I'd wanted to continue the conversation:
I don't disagree with anything you've just said. The quote is also quite apt. The system is incredibly flawed, having worked in it for a medicaid contractor, I've seen both sides. The corporate avarice and the ingrained cycle of poverty that occurs not simply from lack of money, but lack of hope, lack of dreams, a poverty of the mind and soul that makes financial circumstances not merely unbearable, but inescapable. My personal point of view is that Universal/Single payer/Socialized Medicine both levels the playing field in a meaningful way AND eliminates a large percentage of, "fraud," in the system. Medicare actually runs incredibly efficiently compared to commercial health care. There's also the ethical issue of people making life or death decisions, (at the very least, extreme quality of life decisions,) based on maximizing profits. It would be lovely if we stopped trying to put people into tiny little boxes and addressed needs in a more holistic/whole person way. (Note: part of the reason the cost/feasibility ratio looks so skewed is that as the Insurer's profit margin drives the rates negotiate with providers; providers are forced to inflate fee schedules in order to meet their own profitability goals. Take that factor out and costs go down. Single-payer then becomes easily affordable.) Using the Orshansky model, the Federal government is essentially generating a deflated number of those that live at or below the poverty level. Similarly, unemployment statistics reported weekly are skewed, because they ONLY count those that are eligible for unemployment benefits. The actual number of people who are unemployed is much higher. I'd actually recommend using Google as a paradigm of the personalization and broad-spectrum analysis for that sort of thing. My ultimate point is that the only person who can tell you whether they need a service like Safelink, is the person who really NEEDS it. Someone who is homeless, for example, may not qualify for it. Just because they are HOMELESS. There are too many catch-22s and hindrances already for those who are genuinely in need. I'm not trying to rant at you, but it's too easy to dismiss something as wasteful, when it's not something you, yourself need. It's too easy to see the negative aspects, (waste and fraud,) rather than the necessity and benefit if that's what you've seen.

Here's the problem: Not once, not even once, does my friend ever acknowledge that anything myself or the voice of reason said, might have actually been right. 
Not once. 
The initial post and subsequent replies all have a blithe, snarky, tone to my ears. It's a sort of, "Fuck the poor for costing me money," tone that, I'll admit, I might be a little sensitive to. On the other hand, I spent years working in a hotbed of Republican-fuck-the-poor-I've-got-mine 'tudes. 
Does this person bring up some valid points re: wasteful spending and fraud? Of course. Those are easy points to make, though. It's the same-shit-different-day cant most of us on the wrong side of the poverty line hear from those subscribing to the Ayn Rand school of thought. 
Why does being poor make someone worth less in the eyes of society? 
Why is being poor so offensive to people who aren't?
The SEP (somebody else's problem,) filter blinds people to the fact that they are one catastrophic illness, one layoff in a bad economy, one car crash away from walking in the very uncomfortable shoes of the poor and disabled. 
The paucity of empathy reminds me of the big, bad 80s. Yuppie scum who just didn't want the homeless sleeping on the heating grates in front of their apartment buildings, brownstones, offices. Out of sight, out of mind. Acknowledging that the poor exist, in a conscious, meaningful way, means acknowledging that you could be poor someday. 
Poverty terrifies people. 
Live frugally? I do. I barely leave my fucking house. I can't spend money I don't have, because I don't have credit cards. There's no such thing as living beyond my means for me. If I don't have the money, I don't have the money. 
Do I take a lack of empathy for, acknowledgement of, and dismissal of the poor, disabled, disenfranchised, invisible, etc., personally? Yes, I do. 
What I do not understand, is why people do those things. You've determined that someone who is unable to do the things you think they should, for whatever reason, is less deserving of compassion or a voice. How do you do that? How do you say, "This person doesn't deserve to have the bare necessities of life, because they have failed at helping themselves?" 
When you do that, aren't you essentially saying that they don't deserve to exist at all?
When we objectify human beings and deem them unworthy, subhuman or useless as a class of person, it makes it all too easy to see how Slavery reigned for hundreds of years, how the Nazis slaughtered millions of people, how genocide after genocide after genocide has happened before our eyes while we do nothing. I'm extrapolating, of course. Trying to understand one person's dismissal of the needs of other human beings does not a genocide make.
It's only a comment thread on Facebook. It's only women. It's only the Jews. It's only the lepers. It's only the filthy poor, it's only the savage natives. It's only...It's only... It's only...Somebody else's problem. 

"All the Devil requires is acquiescence... not struggle, not conflict.
Acquiescence." - Mark Frost, The List of Seven

Note: This came up in the search for the quote above, it reinforces my point, in the most revolting way. People really think like this. 

Ok, I rambled a little there, it's late, I'm pissed off  and I'm frustrated. 
Why? Well, the most entitled people in the world, are those that don't need help. 
When they do need help, it's always, "Different," because they're not faking-lazy-playing-the-system. 
They're never poor, even as they collect their dole checks. 
No, they're special. Poor people are somebody else's problem, after all. 

Sunday, December 6, 2009


It's something that's come up recently, this notion of privilege.
Am I guilty of it? Am I privileged at all?
The answers are: sort of, and definitely.

I'm white. I'm fairly educated, (or at least self-educated,) I'm (mostly,) cis-gendered.

I keep coming back to thoughts of my own naivete.
I don't see the world the way I'm supposed to.
That, in and of itself, is a privilege.

I was raised to see people as people. Also, to paraphrase George Carlin: Give the average person 5 minutes and they'll give you more than enough reasons to loathe them.
I just don't have the time or energy to hate people on the basis of externals.
How am I not privileged?
I'm female. I'm poor. I'm both a caregiver of a disabled person and have disabilities. I identify as bisexual because I'm attracted to women, although all of my partners/relationships have been with men.
I'm a rape survivor. I have depression and PTSD.
How do we get past the privilege and start dealing with each other as human beings?
How do we not get bogged down in our differences?
I'm not sure.
I do know that ultimately, the things that divide people who are oppressed, are far less important than what unites us.
I know that keeping us all divided serves those in power and so they propagate those divisions.
I know that we should all work on seeing each other as people first.
If I define myself by either my privilege or oppressed status, I become paralyzed. Often I pretend neither exists.
I have to, in order to function on a day-to-day basis.
I know that one thing I hang onto is a quote from Bill Maher, "Either we're all drinking from the same water fountain, or we're not."
Reducing things to the simplest terms, keeps me fighting.
If any one of us is not free, none of us are free.
What doesn't matter to me in my interactions with people: race, ethnicity, gender, income, education, orientation... Putting ourselves and each other into tiny little boxes doesn't help anyone.
We all have specific vulnerabilities, yes.
Why are our own problems more important than anyone else's? "Because they're mine," To quote Ally McBeal. Yes, in our hierarchy of priorities, our problems take precedence. It's first principles at work.
In reality, oppression is oppression.
Can you imagine the tidal wave of humanity, roaring at those in the halls of power, if we could put our differences aside?
We would be an unstoppable force for change.
We need to start thinking like that. As long as we keep to ourselves and remain fragmented, we are weakened. We are powerless. Just the way politicians and corporations like us.
My rights are not damaged by removing the barriers to others' rights.
Freedom benefits everyone.
Except the power structure.
I'm okay with that, really.
Are you?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving is the gateway holiday

Holidays were always bittersweet. I have memories of about 2 Christmases with both my parents. After they split up, my dad wasn't around much. Ever. The last actual Christmas I remember seeing my father, I was 9. I was in the hospital at the time.

I grew up poor, but not impoverished. I was always encouraged to use my imagination, to play. Many of the Christmas or birthday presents I received were based on creativity. A miniature potter's wheel and clay. Art supplies. A collection of children's musical instruments. My mom was the master of no-money-fun. When I was growing up, the museums and the conservatory, (an arboretum, actually,) were not very expensive or were free. The library and museum being connected was always a wonderful thing, to me.

I never really felt deprived in the sense of not getting what I wanted for Christmas. I didn't really envy my schoolmates in terms of things.

I don't think I even realized we were poor until junior high school. Clothes became the demarcation line. Even going to catholic school and wearing uniforms, there were the Benetton sweaters and the Ralph Lauren Polo Shirts that I would never wear.

Over time, I understood that my mother didn't understand the things I wanted for Christmas, (yes, she always made me make a list.) I wanted books or music. Getting clothes was like torture. My grandfather once gave me a bible for Christmas. I was 7. It weighs 15 pounds. Um... Not so much.
My mother and I have very similar tastes as adults, but could not have been more different during my adolescence.

I rebelled by not rebelling. I became a good little preppie, whilst she got spike purple hair. Confused? So was I.
Eventually, I just started asking for gift cards. Then I started asking for nothing.
Because the level of misery I saw all around me during the holidays began to make me sad. I happened to work for more than eight years on the edge of ground zero for the holiday frenzy: a quarter mile from the mall.
No one ever looked happy. Everyone seemed frayed at the edges at best, on the verge of an emotional breakdown at worst.

Even when I was still practicing the religion I was raised in, I experienced cognitive dissonance at what the meaning of the holiday was supposed to be, compared with the way it was, "Celebrated."
Celebrating the promise of redemption for humanity by spending obscene amounts of money?
My standard answer has become, "There's nothing I need, and anything I want that I don't have is because I can't afford it, therefore you can't either."
What do I want for Christmas?
Peace on earth, goodwill towards men, women, furry creatures and all living things, including the planet we live on.
Serenity. Stillness. Love. Justice. Hope. That's what I really want.
You say, "C'mon, don't you want presents?"
Presents matter less to me than you'd think. I think that after many years of utterly disappointing birthdays, (4 weeks after Christmas, dead of winter, everyone's sick, it's football season, etc.,) during which I was ignored by a majority of my party guests, given thoroughly un-thoughtful presents and generally miserable, I stopped caring so much.
A truly thoughtful present is delightful, but an evening spent with people I care about, having a good time, is better.
I learned that if I really wanted something, I was better off planning for it myself.
That said, yes. Of course there are things I want. A netbook, a 1TB external hard drive, a new MP3 player, (leading contenders are Creative Zen and iPod Nano,) a trip to New Orleans, a trip to Paris, a new car. Someone at my beck and call to repair my house.
I don't have a sugar daddy and I don't have the money.
So what?
It doesn't make me unhappy. Happiness isn't something that can be derived from possessions. Happiness is found in connecting to other human beings, being loved, loving in return. Happiness is part of who we are, or it's not.
I'm happy when I do something I love, talk to someone that listens and to whom I never need explain myself in order to be understood.
I find myself wondering if we weren't bombarded with images and messages of consumption, would we be a healthier species? Of course we would.
I like Thanksgiving. I get to take a breath and look back on all the things I'm grateful for.
I also look forward to the blank slate of a new year approaching.
The month of December represents a helter-skelter of marketing-induced envy, guilt, and shame.
Not being able to afford things doesn't make you a bad person. Saying no to things you can't afford isn't a cause for guilt. That diamond necklace or XBOX isn't going to make you happy. Things don't equal love.  Love is the most important thing.

The last time I saw my father near the holidays, was when I was 30. He gave me a bracelet I've never worn, a couple of CDs I've never listened to and a language-learning audio course.
When I was 9, he gave me paperbacks of David Copperfield, Jane Eyre, 2 language books and an umbrella.
He knew me better then.

Thanksgiving was my Pap paps' favorite holiday. We always did Thanksgiving at my mom's parents. Christmas was at our apartment. I remember when our apartment was so small that my bedroom was literally the cupboard under the stairs and we had no room for a tree. My mom made a tree out of tinsel garland on the back of the door. I remember when we had real trees and we would decorate it together on Christmas eve. I remember when I believed in Santa and swore I heard sleigh bells on the roof. I remember my grandmother making fried dough, (plain, w/raisins, and ugh, w/anchovies,) and unwrapping presents. I remember having the flu for the umpteenth time on christmas. I remember my family around a table, happy.
The memories are what matter. Not the things
I miss my grandparents.
I miss the wonder of childhood.
Experience the wonder and let the stuff fade into the background. You'll remember more and enjoy it for longer.
As for me, I think I'm going to watch The Polar Express this weekend. For the wonder of it.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


What am I thankful for?

This is a question that we often forget to ask. Too much is happening day to day, the world spins forward at an ever increasing rate.
It's been a difficult year. For most of us, economically, we're not doing as well as we'd expected. A lot of people are unemployed. The numbers are way higher than most people would like us to believe. It's nearing 20% unemployed. People are losing their homes, people are filing bankruptcy, having to surrender their pets because they've lost homes and moved to apartments that don't allow them. Food insecurity is at a staggering rate, particularly for children.

So, what am I thankful for?
For starters, I'm grateful that my Uncle Alan made it a lot easier to get the laptop I'd been saving to buy for my birthday this year. I'd been close to having enough saved, but it was a close thing and he made it so that I didn't have to, y'know, decide not to eat for two weeks. ( I really am that broke. I don't make decisions about buying a new face scrub lightly, folks.)
I'm thankful that while the bandwidth sucks, Cricket broadband is cheap and commitment-free. I'm able to stay connected and do what I want. Yay, intarwebz!
That's just the silly stuff. Well, not silly, just not deep.

I'm incredibly thankful that despite my having next to no money to put into it, my beloved '91 Volvo (Susannah) continues to run. She's a tiny steel tank and I love her.
I'm thrilled that while my mum's spinal procedure didn't work a treat in lessening her pain, it didn't make things worse. I'm also thrilled that she's finally getting some proper pain management.
I'm thankful that I've remained relatively healthy aside from migraines.
I'm thankful that when the economy crashed, unlike other people, I was already used to living on a shoestring and therefore didn't suffer too much.
I'm thankful that for all the families that need it, in every community, there are food banks helping people. Look in your cupboards, think of how much food you waste, donate to a food bank. They need the help.
I'm thankful for really cheap beer.

I'm thankful that even though we're in a rough patch, Jon has been in my life through the good and bad of the last 3 1/2 years.
I'm thankful for Valkyrie and Alim, Opal and Eamonn.
I'm thankful for Codie, Ed, Emmeline and Stiny.
I'm thankful for Marie, Melinda, Bek and the friends I've made on Twitter. Risa, Am, Jerry, Melissa, Poppy, Mark, Jessica, Leigh, Clive, Kali, Pam, Nicole, Clare, Emma-Jane, Eyglo, Elyssa, Christine, Deb, Leslie, Jeff and honestly...waaaaay too many to list.
I am thankful that Beth Hommel rescues cats. I lost my dog, Zoe and my cat, Spike, both inside of a few months. I was devastated. I wasn't even thinking of getting a new pet. Jon talked me into adopting a kitten Beth rescued, and now I have Isabella.
I'm thankful for my mom. I have a fucked-up family. I can't have a relationship with my brothers because my father is toxic, but I've got my mom. She is awesome and crazy-making, but she's always the reason I keep going, even when I can barely drag myself out of bed.
I'm thankful for writing and making art of all kinds. It's what keeps me sane.
I'm also very, very thankful for chocolate.
We've all got a lot more to do, to give someone else a reason to be thankful. Taking stock every now and then isn't a bad idea.
I've got a job, a running vehicle, a roof over my head, food on the table, and a chance to share with a wide world of people.
True love and financial security, well, I'll keep wishing on stars for that.
In the meantime:
Have a safe, happy and healthy holiday. Be good to one another. Be kind to a stranger. Live, laugh, love and dream.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Let the apocalypsing, that was quick. Also, the hilarious adventures of the BouncyMouse(tm) and how a sparklepire got me through hellmart with my sanity intact. Ish.

Today was to be the day of apocalypse. In my novel, yo. So, turns out that at least in this draft, without you know, incredibly detailed end-of-the-world-porn and statistics and whatnot, the apocalypse takes about 500 words from a 2nd tier character. (Oh, did I mention I now loathe my leads? The shiny-happy-lovers-who-will-suffer, writing them is so alien. They're, y'know - normal.)

So, what did I do today? Got dragged to hellmart, wherein I searched out the Sparklepire Barbies (ok, I only actually found the Edward doll,) because, as I've mentioned before: A. Yes, Robert Pattison is dreamy and, B. I find Cleolinda's Twilight recaps and analysis, along with The Secret Life of Dolls, to be endlessly entertaining. (Also, incredibly insightful. There are manymanymanymany VERY IMPORTANT reasons, why we should be concerned that this is the stuff young girls and grown-ass women are taking as a romantic model.) I had to see if this thing really, reallyreally sparkled.
It does. It has baaaaad hair and looks basically nothing like poor Rob Pattinson, but, it does freakin' sparkle in the glorious fluorescent lighting of hellmart. I've also decided that carrying a sparklepire around hellmart is a perfectly valid coping mechanism to deal with the grotesquery contained within the big box walls.
(Why do I go there, you ask? Well, it's one-stop shopping. It's not cheaper. You'll see from the link that the toy place is actually five dollars less than hellmart, and it comes with additional swag. So take that.)
Ok, so I'm eventually going to write scenes from the apocalypse from multiple perspectives, but at least I've got my nihilistic sort-of villain/anti-hero/whatev's point of view down. It's remarkably terse.
I also made a pretty damn good playlist of doom to help the mood along.
So, that's good.
Ooh, and my throat is no longer sore from the freaking hellacious allergy attack at work yesterday. (Fact, if you know me IRL, do NOT EVER. No, EVER, leave wite-out open in my presence unless you're trying to KILL me. Not kidding. Wite-out fumes cause me to have asthmatic-lose-voice-quick-choke-to-death bullshit allergic reactions. Idk why, it just does. Also...take it easy on perfume in the workplace, people. You do not need to get your glam smell on for work. Unless you're planning on fucking someone you work with. In which case: Freakin be more subtle, will ya?)

On a super up note, my day contained a good half hour of total hilarity. Deciding against the eek-squeak mousie on a line as being a little to realistic hunting practice for the kitten, (btw, the kitten is not named after a certain adoraklutz kinda psycho heroine, I just saw the name after three days of calling her, "kitty," and she was being a maniac dizzy little thing and I thought, "Dizzy Izzy." So...yeah: Isabella,) but got the BouncyMouse(tm). The BouncyMouse(tm) is neither bouncy, nor particularly freakin' mouse-y.
Isabella likes jingle-y things. (Messrs Jingles I & II, and the jingle-catnip-tiger tail-thingy-that-is-incredibly-phallic.)
It went something like this:
Me: Is-a-bell-a, look at the mousie!
Isabella: Whatevs. Oooh, Squirrel! (i.e., the dog's tail moving.)

Pumpkin: (saunters vaguely into the area of lap wars and preens) O hai.
Me: Pumpkin, LOOK, A BOUNCYMOUSE! (jiggling it in her direction,) Look at the mousie!
Pumpkin: (Doubletake at this pathetic poly-something pretend mouse,) Biatch, GTFO. That's not a mouse. I haz keeelt me some meeces and that's just weaksauce. Like, whatevs. (Saunters over to the sofa and preens some more.)
Me and Mom: Head asplode-y laughter until we cry.
Me: (attempt to lure Isabella again, collapses in hilarity, tries with Pumpkin again.)
Pumpkin: We have been there, done that. (Licks paw in my direction, the feline equivalent of flipping me off.)
Me and Mom: Fall out laughing for another ten minutes.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The inordinate number of things that make me spectacularly happy in very small ways

I don't really talk about them much, I realize that. There are so many wondrous things in the world, that very often get drowned out by the horrifying injustices. As I've been ill recently, these have been invaluable. There's something profoundly wonderful about a cough drop that not only makes the scratchy, icky sore throat go away, but are chocolate. I talk for a living, trust me, they are a reason for tiny little squees of joy.

 Since I'm both a reader and writer, who still writes in longhand on occasion, a properly comfortable, medium point pen and a college-ruled notebook with satiny-smooth paper are a reason for delight. I'm fairly certain I appear quite odd when I flip open notebook covers and run my fingertips over the pages, but the end result is worth it.

Good friends, friends who understand what you mean without having to re-quantify and qualify it.

Chocolate, period, full-stop.
Laughter, from a fizzy giggle to a low chortle and the full-on belly laugh.
The first cup of coffee in the morning, that bitterness tinged with cream and sugar.
A steaming mug of tea on a cold evening, coziness in a ceramic shell.
The cuddly stretch of a kitten into the curve of my neck and shoulder, accompanied by a rumbling, even purr.
Re-reading a beloved book.

I could keep listing things, but ultimately, everyone's got to make their own list. As for what reminded me of all this, that would be Neil Gaiman, who very often blogs about the sort of ordinary wonders that comprise a life. Yes, there are a lot of cool, famous author-y things, too. A lot of times, it's the gentle and everyday beauty that we so often miss.

It's better to pay attention.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A short recap: first week of NaNoWriMo, political upheaval

1. I'm terribly behind on word count.
2. I'm actually getting a sense of inhabiting the world I'm writing, so hopefully, the word count will improve.
3. I'm incontrovertibly naive about human rights. I'm better off, if not happier that way. The human race can be terribly disappointing in its intolerance.
4. Politics is bullshit. Correction, politicians and the acts of politics are bullshit. None of us are better off this way.
5. I have made more, "real," friends online in the last year, than I have IRL in the last 3 years. This is possibly because people are terribly disappointing in their intolerance, among other things.
6. After some personal drama last weekend, I'm actually a happier person. It's important to know what your boundaries are, and to stand up for them. It's often far too easy not to do that.
7. That doesn't mean that you don't love people, even when you can't get along with them. It's important to step away sometimes. It does hurt like hell, though.
8. As a friend reminded me today: "Just make, just do, just be."- Clive Barker. Words to live by. Always.
9. Life is too short to not be who you are.
10. When in doubt, speak the truth.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Health Care Reform - Exclusions and Compromise

To begin, I don't know all of the details of the current bill. As we're waiting on the House vote, two things seem clear: We're not getting anything close to what, "We the People," need, and the politicization of our identities/bodies, marches on.

The Stupak amendment seems to have passed. This seems to prevent any insurer from covering abortion services.
There is also, (not sure of amendment name,) exclusionary language for services provided to transgendered people.

I feel incredibly naive tonight.

You see, as far as I'm concerned: Abortion is a legitimate medical procedure and a decision that ought be made between doctor and patient. Refusing to cover it amounts to nothing less than reinforcing the notion that women are incapable of being autonomous citizens. Thank you, Congress, for once again reducing my value to that of my uterus.

(Note: The House Bill has just passed. It is completely meaningless.)

The fact that transgendered people are excluded, not just the transition-services, but ultimately, completely excluded as a class, troubles me deeply.

We have, I believe a public option that has a trigger. What's the point? Without a public option providing direct competition to insurers, they have no incentive to change.
We've won nothing except a tick in the win column. We beat the fuckers, now what?

This bill isn't going to help most of us who need it. As a friend just told me, "We only got the door slivered open."
Yes. The trick is to keep our collective foot jammed in that sliver of open door and keep pushing it open.
The only real, rational, effective reform possible, is adopting a completely new model. Build on what's been done in France and Germany, perhaps?
We need the safety net of an NHS, but a form of private co-insurance would be fine as well. I don't have a problem with keeping private options available for those who want and can afford them. However, being an ethical human being tells me that access to healthcare is a basic human right.
It's part of what living in a society requires of us.
We are interdependent, we must grant each other at least a minimum opportunity of health and education.
This seems so utterly simple to me. I cannot understand why it is such an anathema to others.
I really can't.
So tonight, while others celebrate the victory, I mourn a missed opportunity. For real reform, for taking our bodies and identities off the table in politics, for meaningful change in Washington. The saddest thing of all, is that it's been four months of political skirmishing, and now there's a win and even the win is meaningless. This bill is not likely to pass the Senate. The health insurance industry is spending 1.4 million dollars a day to ensure it won't.

Shaking the tree: Bad juju and focusing the lens

There is a plethora of information coming at us, 24/7/365 if we let it. It becomes a wall of noise, a tidal wave of data ready to capsize the ramshackle rafts artist sail. We're on an endless journey to find an island of stillness in this raging sea. It's harder than it seems. We're not trained in it, most of us. In fact, we're trained to the opposite.
Lately, it seems as if there is so much energy at large in the ether that is a ravening maw ready to swallow us all whole. I'm learning as I go, with NaNoWriMo. It's an impressionistic map, this world I'm building. I haven't got the feel of it all yet. There are horrible things happening, everyday. Have I suddenly become more sensitive to them? Has the white noise of mundane distraction fallen away and left me raw in the face of the storm?
I don't know.

What I do know, is that there is a very weird sense like something is caught on the tip of my tongue.
There are swirling images just out of the corner of my eye.
Finding the stillness. Focusing the lens. It's a discipline I'm unused to. I'm used to an organic state of creation. It's going to take time to learn to sift through the stream of consciousness in a gestalt way that is productive instead of overwhelming.
The incredibly exciting thought is that I'm recognizing it so much more easily.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Random pretty things: Aromaleigh Mineral Makeup

For anyone scratching their heads over the topic... um... It's the Carnival of the RANDOM. This includes my occasional forays into deeply girlie things. 
I confess: I'm a mineral makeup addict. I have been since discovering Bare Escentuals on QVC in 2003. I have problem skin. It's incredibly sensitive, yet oily-acne prone. When in doubt, my skin will break out rather than hive. 
I'm also a very, very, low maintenance kind of girl when it comes to my, "Look." 

No. Really. 
On the other hand, being a performer means that sometimes I need a really intense look. 

I like products that are versatile, I like looking like myself, but better. Brighter, more perfected, glow-ier. On occasion, elevating into  badass, rock 'n' roll temptress. 

A couple of weeks ago, I was introduced to Aromaleigh via Miss Cleolinda Jones (ok, so it was part of the Secret Life of Dolls, which I have a hilarious obsession with.) 

Back to my point: Mineral makeup addict, temperamental skin, performer, usually low-maintenance look... oh, and for reals, mostly utterly broke. I mean, brokety-broke-broke. I do not have room in my budget for retail regret. I cannot afford overpriced stuff. Period. 

So, I begin to browse. Thinking to myself: Self, you can't be silly here. You're really just looking for a foundation that matches your very Casper-like winter skin tone and maybe a color that approximates the holy grail of colors, (aka Urban Decay Pleather lip pencil in Naked. It is the most gloriously perfect pink-peach-nude-grey-undertone-teensy-bit-of-shimmer neutral that looks perfect on lips/cheeks/eyes... and is discontinued. Which makes me a sad panda hoarding my last little nub. It is not the same as their current lip liner by the same name, don't be tricked.)   


Aromaleigh is like dying and going to heaven for those of us that love the pretty-pretty, hate the chemicals, and are on a budget. 
There are weekly sales!
There are mini-sizes in some things and EVERYTHING can be bought in a sample size! 
There are coupons!
There are rewards points!
Also, even compared to the drugstore brand wannabe mineral lines, these products are really, really reasonably priced. Actually, they're a steal. One of the amazing things about mineral makeup is how long it will last. For eye and cheek colors, it can literally take YEARS to go through even a mini-jar. All-over face colors, foundation/concealers/finishing powders tend to go faster. Usually 4-6 months for a full-size jar. 
The cost is actually amortized into a fraction of the cost of conventional makeup, but the initial layout can be ouchy. 

My favorites so far, (no pix, I may add later.): lipcolor in Darling, it's not quite the holy grail, but it's a beautiful sheer pinky-nude and it smells divine. I'm also loving their eye plushes in Persian Kitten and Rosy Cheeks. The textures are silky smooth, the colors are simply luscious and the prices are to die for. 
I'm also completely astounded that after years of searching, I've found foundations that are as pale as I am. They make pure white. I can use it as a lightener on shades I already have. (I kid you not, I have pasty, ghost-white skin in winter. It's not glowing alabaster or porcelain, it's just flat-out WHITE. You try to match that skin tone without going to clown makeup,) or I can just use it seamlessly on my skin. Yay!
So, Aromaleigh is officially my new favorite thing. It's less than half the price of Bare Escentuals, there are even fewer additives, the color selection is amazing and the service so far is brilliant. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

NaNoWriMo: Day 3

I don't have that feeling of, "YES," yet. At least not for all of it. I'm almost 4k words in and it feels a little like rollerskating on marbles. I feel awkward with dialogue and I'm still getting a sense for my characters. I'm being introduced to peripheral characters pretty quickly. I'm not sure who's important yet and who's not. I'm pretty sure that 2/3 of them are gonna end up dead by the end of reel 2 anyway.  I'm also still sick. The head cold has settled a wee bit in my chest. Not fun. I'm taking the night off. I need to re-center. Also, I've had way too much personal drama going on over the last few days. Shaking it off is like getting rid this upper respiratory infection. It's gonna take a little while. So, day three...meh. There's always tomorrow. Which I'm very hopeful about. Write on, WriMos, write on.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A cleansing breath

No one gets along perfectly 24/7/365. No one. We get on each others' nerves, we've all got little ticks and habits and compulsions that drive other people crazy. What keeps us from killing each other or living lives of hermetic isolation? The need for other people, the recognition that we ourselves are flawed beings and maybe love.

No one can hurt us the way the people we're closest to, can. We learn each others' buttons, like there's buried treasure if we hit them in the right sequence.'s incredibly destructive. We bruise each other daily. In the most casual and unobtrusive ways. We've become a snarky, cynical society. Sarcasm is the forked tongue we speak from day and night. We expect our loved ones' to know when to stop. We expect that if you can dish it out, you can take it. What if these expectations are merely another flawed premise?

What happens when the lines are crossed and you don't know how to go back?
Person A is, by nature, a habitually snarky person. Usually harmless.
Person B is someone who isn't sure when it's a joke and when it's serious. Person B asks Person A to stop being snarky towards them. Person B apologizes, and stops. For a while. This becomes a pattern.
Finally, after Person B turns the tables on a remark Person A has made in the past, Person A makes remarks that are insulting to Person B. Person B attempts to illustrate this to Person A without being confrontational. This is ineffective. Person A repeats the insult. Person B is more direct and expresses their displeasure, indicating that Person A should try that behavior with someone else. Person A objects and replies to Person B in a form they've seen before. By using language that implies Person B is misinterpreting the exchange, Person A in effect, invalidates Person B's feelings. This is something that has happened before. Person B rejects this and indicates they are ignoring these messages and wishes to be left alone. Person A continues to send them. Person B then asserts publicly that Person A should stop contacting them. Person A then indicates they believe person B is  being both passive-aggressive and irrational. Person B merely desires an apology and some time free of contact with Person A in order to feel less hurt and angry.

Person A's continued attempts to communicate with Person B are ignored and erased, as messages begin to indicate Person A has doubts about Person B's mental stability. Ignoring them seems to be the best course, as Person B believes that they will be drawn further into a hurtful situation. Ultimately Person A asserts that they are not angry, therefore Person B should call them. Person B then feels additionally invalidated and upset.

How does this get resolved?
Can it be?
Why is the need for a cleansing breath and an apology cause to question someone's mental health?
Why isn't, "I'm sorry," the immediate response when someone feels hurt by something you've done?
If you know the answers, please tell me.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Out of the starting gate: NaNoWriMo '09

 Today is the first day of my first NaNoWriMo, (National Novel Writing Month. No, I didn't know about it either.) I'm pretty sure I babbled my way through a prologue of 1774 words, (after losing 600 words when I did something silly here.)  At least, through the graces of Paperclippe,  I found the awesome yWriter software. It's free and has lots of very useful tools that I will write more about when I've had a chance to thoroughly explore them. So far, it looks as though it will remove the need for handwritten notes. I'm trying to find a groove, but the basic point of doing NaNo in the first place, is to muscle my way through the process. Regardless of inspiration, regardless of how choppy some bits may be, or the bits I'll need to fill in later, if I can get the bones of this beast built, I'm halfway there. This is the short story I'm using as the springboard for the novel. (No, I'm not including it for NaNo.) I don't know how regularly I'll be blogging about it, but I wanted to get first impressions down. 
  It's weird. It's strange to look at word count as the priority. It feels almost unnatural not to obsess over the quality of the writing. It's exhilarating and enervating and yet... It's wonderful. I've made connections with people on an additional level, because they're also participating. It's an adventure worth having.  If nothing else, by the end of the month, I'll have pushed myself further in the realm of fiction-writing than I've ever dared to go. It's well worth the strangeness. 

So that is the first day. There will be many more. Some wonderful, some frustrating, some grindingly slow. One word at a time, one word right after the other. 30 days, 50k words. 
I'm giddy. 

Saturday, October 31, 2009

I begin to think - poem

Scattered words no more than usual
no less
than stinging
on a screen
no more duck's back water-roll today
I begin to think
I begin to think that these words are enough
I begin to think that I have words
Of my own
I begin to think
I'm worth the consideration
Of recognition

would rather be right than happy
would rather win
than say I'm sorry
would rather be here
I begin to think
And I begin to speak
I challenge
I reject
the hypothesis of misinterpretation
I reject the ideographs of emotion painted on your caveman walls
I say
I say
And you don't
You can't back down or back off and I don't want to be public
but in public
you may behave
I begin to think that
push me too far
too hard
too often
I reject the premise that in being hurt I'm wrong
I speak, finally and set a limit
I say
to the overwhelming amount of
juvenilia couched as humor
And still
don't listen
I begin to think
you don't know
to hear
the things
that matter

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why yes, m*****rf****rs, I WILL play the rape survivor card.

Update: @ButMadNNW brought the Kitty Genovese case and this article by @MarkTyrrell to my attention.
This relates directly to the Richmond High School case. (See Below.)

There are about...four things that have happened in the last four months to make my gang-rape survivor radar, start blipping like the motherfucking Kraken is rising from the motherfucking deeps. (Cover your ears, children. The nice lady is about to lose her shit and get medieval on some asses.)
The most recent, and most innocuous: Natalie Portman's vegan advocacy equates eating meat with rape! Here's what actually happened. Get real. I actually agree with the moral stance posited in the original piece. If someone is a vegan and genuinely believes that eating meat is murder, (annoying as that may be to omnivores,) it is an ethical act for them to speak up. Just as it would be an ethical act, (as stated in the article, before it got mangled,) for someone to, in the face of rape, speak up. Is it a bit of a hyperbolic analogy? Yes. However, it is a rational analogy, regardless of the amperage. 
The second, which is where the maces and broadswords start coming out, is here and here
Last Friday, after leaving a homecoming dance, a 15 year old girl was beaten and gang-raped for nearly two hours. I'm going to let that sink in first, because that's not the worst of it.
While this young woman had apparently gotten drunk and was walking home, then set on by 7 men who viciously beat and raped her, more than a dozen people stood by and watched - DOING NOTHING TO STOP OR REPORT THE ATTACK.  Go ahead and take some deep breaths, because that's not even the end of it. The school officials and security personnel claim that, "It's the parents' responsibility to prevent..." this sort of thing, being the gist of it. She was walking to meet her father, who was picking her up. If you can't be responsible for the safety of someone on school property after a school function, when there are security cameras on-campus and the crime takes two hours to commit, when the FUCK can you be responsible for the safety of your students, faculty and personnel?
That sound you hear, is the sound of my brain trying to turn itself inside out.
The part that makes me wish for a fucking flash-freeze scenario out of, "The Day After Tomorrow," is this: MORE THAN A DOZEN PEOPLE, some estimates say close to TWO dozen...STOOD AND WATCHED. They stood and watched and didn't try to stop it, they didn't call for help, (although some of these jackals wearing human masks did use their cell phones to take pictures and video, apparently.) Someone did eventually tip off security that something was wrong. They found her unconscious near a picnic table. She's still in the hospital.
Do we even deserve to exist as a species if we're not only capable of such horrific brutality, but such terrifying apathy? I say that every last one of the spectators should be charged criminally. Then sued by the girl and her family. For every last penny their parents are worth. Let these hellspawn rot in jail and bankrupt their families. That seems fair to me.

I can speak from experience, if this girl survives the first year, she's got a shot at making it out of the other side of the hell she's going to have to walk through every day. I can also tell you from experience, surviving the first year...I didn't want to. I had someone who depended on me and I stayed alive for her. That's the only reason I made it through that year. It's like spending every day of your life with broken glass covering every inch of skin - inside and out. Just because survival is possible, doesn't make it easy.

Note: What happened to me? Simple. One night, away on a work trip, myself and 3 colleagues, plus one's GF, went out to dinner. We went to the hotel bar. In total, over 6 hours, I had 7 drinks. We had food. I'm not a small person. 7 drinks is enough to leave me relaxed, maybe a little buzzed, but not in any way out of control. There were a couple of guys flirting with me. At one point I walked into the corridor to take a phone call. I left my drink on the table with my friends. It was a stupid mistake that changed my life. After finishing my drink, everything else is pretty much a blur. I didn't remember that I threw up at one point until somebody told me. I don't know how I got back to my hotel room. None of the people I was with, had the sense to take it upon themselves to decide I wasn't ok, and make sure I got to my room safely. Everything else is flashes. Disjointed and horrific snapshots. I couldn't speak, I couldn't move. I may have done both of those things, but I was completely disconnected. There were two men who took turns doing...things, to me. This included violating me with a mini bottle of champagne. There was a third man in the room, watching. When I woke up, I didn't remember any of this. I was just sick and hurt. Ultimately, because I hadn't put all the pieces together by that time, on Monday morning, I sat through a reprimand about my behavior. Someone had assumed I was simply out of control. In a way, they were right. I was out of control. Not because of anything I'd done, but because of what was done to me. I was drugged and raped and no one did a thing that could have prevented or stopped it. It's always somebody else's problem, isn't it?

Which brings me to the circle of hell I'm reserving for women who cry rape.
Unless it happens in a public place, with witnesses, with DNA evidence and a complaining witness who can ID her attacker...rape is one of the hardest crimes to prosecute. Date rape is a he said / she said quagmire that has led to bad campus policy and a lot of women being torn apart on the witness stand. Even intruder rapes aren't always easy to prove. A woman's sexuality is always suspect. God help a DA if they try to prosecute the rape of a sex-worker. At least half of all rapes go unreported, GHB and Rohypnol have made it easy for men to turn women into amnesiacs who aren't even aware they've been raped until all the evidence is gone. I should know, it's what happened to me.

I have a metaphorical t-shirt, "You can't scare me, I've been gang-raped."
Can I still be hurt? Of course. Do I still worry and get freaked by day to day stress? Duh.
But I've survived far worse than most people are capable of dishing out. To them, I say: Go fuck yourselves, pedants. I've seen the big bad wolf, and you ain't it.

Here's the latest in the Ben Roethlisberger case. All of the stories I've read, because, A. I don't think celebs and sports stars should be let of the hook when they commit crimes, and B. The story seemed hinky to me from the start, (google for more, people,) indicate to me, and my survivor spider-sense, that this is a case of going for a paycheck, rather than a case of rape. If you're raped at your workplace, by someone you can identify and you've got security on-site, YOU FUCKING REPORT IT.
Then, there' this: 15 year old girl claimed she was abducted and raped in order to avoid being punished for having sex with her boyfriend.
Are we making the sexuality of young women so anathema that they're willing to cry rape out of fear of the consequences, or are we so numb to rape that it doesn't seem like that big a deal?

The cumulative effect on my brain is simple: We don't take women seriously. We don't sexually empower women. We treat women like objects. Our bodies, our lives are worth less than a man's, we are not entitled to control over them, and we prostitute ourselves and marginalize the very real traumas that are perpetrated every day. Then we act like carrion-feeders.
What the FUCK is wrong with the human race?
I want an answer.
By the way, in my utter rage, I almost forgot this. I can't rant anymore, but this is what our tax dollars are paying for.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

NaNoWriMo prep, playlists and KITTENS!

If I could draw, I'd storyboard my novel rather than outline. The fundamentals of my writing process have always been a little bit of voodoo. I see a word, and it unlocks a door filled with images and sounds, tastes and smells. It's a little spooky at times, but it works. At least, it works with poetry. So far, the outlining is going ok. I've got a fair amount of the structure laid out, I've got a sketch, (figuratively speaking,) of my protagonist and I'm getting a sense of her partner. He's tricky, doesn't like to talk to me much. Shows me things, though. Kind of harrowing things, in fact. I'm covering 30+ years in this venture, I've got a little family tree going, even. That's one part of the puzzle. Do I think I'm going to end up with a fully finished, polished, ready-to-query novel at the end of November? Oh, HELL NAW, I don't. I'm hoping to have a well-constructed and fleshed-out first draft of one.

  Part of my process is music. It's an emotional shorthand, it's a mood-setting device. Music focuses me and calms me down. If I know what sort of music a character likes, it's an immediate in. A man that loves Depeche Mode and Nina Simone, drinking Glenmorangie 12 out of the bottle in the rain and covered in mud?   I can get to know that man. I have to. After I wrote about a page of rough notes on him, I realized that the music I was listening to, was NOT right. I made a playlist, 200 songs, all over the musical spectrum. It's a start. *mutters to self* "Yes, you really do need the fucking hard drive." Note: Take the change jar to coinstar and get amazon gift card towards hard drive.
I feel pretty solid so far. Weird and without a clue whether anything I'm doing is, "The right way," but I'm not so concerned about that. There's a fantastic group of writers who drifted together on twitter, and I'm lucky to count myself among them.

Now...KITTENS. Just one, actually. here's all the info, including a picture of my new kitten, Ani DiFranco. I'm gonna see what she's like, but I really like the name, so unless the kitten seems totally NOT an Ani, it'll stick. BTW, if you can, throw a couple of dollars Beth's way. Vet bills are insane. Give up a latte, for heaven's sake. Also, if you can support your local no-kill shelter. It could be as simple as picking up a big bag of cat or dog food the next time you're at Sam's Club or Costco or whatever, and taking it to them. Not only do the shelters need help, but a lot of people are having trouble making sure they can feed their pets. There are a lot of folks that would love to keep their pets, but are surrendering because their homes have been foreclosed on and they can't have them in apartments; some, are surrendered because their owner lost a job and UI isn't enough to take care of their family AND pet. So, supplies not only help the shelters, but help them help owners. Think about how you'd feel if it was you, ok?

 I did not have any intention of getting another pet. Not now, not anytime in the next 6 months. Losing Zoe, then Spike and knowing that Steppenwolf is not going to make it through another winter... It's a lot to take in one year. When the call went out on twitter, via @bethofalltrades, I re-tweeted and hoped for the best. My friend Jon, nudged and cajoled and irritated me to the point where I looked at the picture of this adorable kitten and couldn't imagine her not having a home. Beth's mom is from Pgh., and is visiting Beth in NY, and now Ani will be hitching a ride to me. Twitter power will not be denied. Saving one kitten at a time, sometimes one person at a time, if we're lucky. I bought Ani's first toy today, it's a squeeeshy sock w catnip, and a bell. The bell may be coming off, as it's on a long elasticized string. I'd prefer it if my kitten doesn't strangle herself. (Seriously, do they not think of these things?)

In other news, I had a total stress crack-up the other day. Weeks and weeks of stress at work, not to mention the underlying 24/7/365 stress of being the head of a household with a disabled parent. (She's got a sharp mind, but the body is in constant agony.) Let's just say that hours of sobbing ensued. I did feel better, which is good. It's like the, "Wall," that runners hit. If you can push through, you end up being in a decent state of mind. The limits of what I can control in the world became perfectly clear. For now.

 I'm hoping that the last quarter of the year starts to show a bit of a turnaround. A new year and a birthday coming up, a clean slate to paint and write and make into something completely amazing. I love fresh starts.
So, new novel, new playlist, new kitten, new year coming.
Things can always change, right?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Shaking the tree of the spirit: Acts of creation

Note: I recommend reading the previous post, and particularly clicking through the links and watching the video you'll find. (The second half, equally powerful is here.)
What do I want to say? Everything. I want to scrawl in abstracted, emotional hieroglyphs on the walls. I want to scream from the roof and show the world my battered and bloodied self and say, "I'm still here. I will not be as worthless as you want me to believe." I want to write furious reams of poetry and paint myself into the weave of the canvas. I want to be heard, I want to show you something that is not tidily packaged and pre-chewed pabulum. I want to tell the truth.

Sometimes, telling the truth is like pouring acid on an open wound.

Sometimes, forming the words feels like an alien act.

Those times are not now.
I always preface by saying, "I'm a poet. I'm not particularly prose-y. This is not my form." I've been rejecting the notion that I'm simply a storyteller. Foolishness.
BTW, if you don't feel incredibly moved and energized as an artist and human being after watching the videos... well, I don't know what to say.
So, last night: Epiphany. I've been dithering about with a sort-of trashy-kinky-angsty romance novel. Well...actually, dithering is exactly the right word. I published my first piece of fiction in January. The novel was meant to be an exercise, the fledgling testing the wings. Ultimately, I'm forced to admit that this is not an authentic effort. It was me, playing it safe. The precise reason I couldn't make myself write beyond the third chapter, is that it would be too safe. I couldn't get excited, I couldn't get my blood flowing to care about writing it.
That was then.
This is now.
That first piece of fiction, written with incredible constraints, sparked my imagination. In moving forward, I'm going back. There are stories in the world of that short story, that are whispering in my ear. I can see them. I can hear the whispers of voices demanding to be heard. I can see the gaunt and wasted bodies of the starving. I can hear the flood waters. I can taste the acrid dust of scorched cities.
There are lives waiting to be revealed on the page. Emma, Cassandra, Jamie and...the others. They haven't introduced themselves yet.
There is joy and agony and acceptance of grief. There is peace and contemplation, there is cataclysm.
There is a world to be explored.
The moment I knew it, I started to zing. A physical tingling of my skin. The kind of sensation I associate with absolute rightness in a situation.
I have no idea how NaNoWriMo is going to turn out. I know that I have to write this. It's necessary. It's not a choice. If I don't write it, I may as well lay down and die.
This is who I am. I'm a writer.

(Note: I began this blog last night, in the throes of my first truly organic experience as a writer of fiction. This afternoon, an interesting thought came up on twitter, from @Lifemapper," I am observing that so many artists associate their life's work with pain. It has to hurt to be authentic? What about true joy in creation? ") 

Much conversation among several of us, ensued. I'm not sure I approached it correctly. This dovetails with the beginning of the post, I promise. 

In my experience, blissfully happy people don't ask that many questions. 
Artists do. 
Questions don't lead to contentment. 
Questions lead to expression. 

The act and inspiration of creation is separate from the personality of the creator. Writing can be: release, exorcism, analysis, exuberant joy, bliss, and any other emotion. It can be hell, dredging up emotions and events from life and observation in order to communicate a character's experience authentically. 
It's just that...every artist I've ever known, has been damaged in some way.
Creating is how we put ourselves back together. 
It's how we let go, how we mend, how we reach out into the cosmos and ask to be seen, to be heard, to be known, to know.