Saturday, September 26, 2009

still life (flash fiction)

He watches the girl behind the bar with something approaching awe. The compact motion of her hands in the sink. Lift glass, swirl sponge-on-stick, rinse, place on towel to dry, over and over without a single motion wasted. The bartender pulls another Guinness and sets it on a napkin in front of him. He wishes for a cigarette. No smoking in bars seems like the act of a sadist. It's 3 o'clock in the afternoon on a Wednesday. Outside the window, the streets are teeming with an impressionist blur of people. Michael Donnelly ignores them. Enjoying the cool, loamy bitterness of his drink, he draws stick-figure cartoons and when the girl comes to wipe down the oak bar, he slides them to her. She laughs, tucking a strand of blue hair behind her ear. When she moves to hand them back, Michael shakes his head, "I made them for you, keep them." She smiles, a tinge of wariness in her eyes. He imagines she gets hit on by customers, probably with alarming frequency. A half-hour goes by, and he's on his third Guinness when the door to the once trendy, now shabby bar, creaks open. It's not Lucy, and that's all that matters.

At four o'clock, he pays his tab. He leaves a twenty-dollar tip. He asks the girl her name. She still has the wary look of a caged cat as she replies, "Jill." He smiles and thanks her.

Walking in the impersonal intimacy of the subway, he wishes everything could stop. If it can't go back to the way it was, let it stop. He feels like he's treading tar as he moves through his life. It's all too slow and too exhausting. Nothing matters. Get up, feed the cat, go to work, eat dinner. Except he didn't go to work today. He hasn't gone to work in 3 months. He wanders, instead. The library, the museums, the bar. He carries a notebook sometimes, writing things down that he wants to remember, that he thinks the world should know. Mostly, he thinks about Lucy.

She'd give him that look, if she saw him now: brow arched, hands on hips, the tiniest smirk tilting a corner of her mouth up. His smart-ass Mona Lisa. It took him a year to go in the subway again, two to enter the station where it happened. Three years in, entering the car only makes his stomach drop ten feet, instead of a hundred.

Climbing the stairs to his apartment, he takes a drag on his cigarette and wishes for cancer. The key in the deadbolt brings the cat running. Not as quickly as the sound of a can opening, but quick enough. Entering rooms mottled with the dregs of sunlight through blinds they only put up so they could fuck in every room without giving the neighbors a show, he sighs. The small, softly powerful body winding its way around his legs is the last trace of Lucy in his life.

After wolfing down a tuna melt and mixing the juice into Pineapple's food, Michael Donnelly sits in his chair in the gathering dark with a gun in his hand and wishes that suicide were that easy.

Friday, September 25, 2009

fever in the blood, parts 1 & 2 (poem)

Part One (illness)
skin feels dry and tight
like something becoming leather
in desert scorching heat
mouth unquenched
despite swallowing an oceans' worth
eyes burn with an unnameable fire
as if
the eyes of a witch
at the stake
the wicked bacilli in the blood
at war with the white knights
A crusader's errand
to stamp out
the pillaging of my body

Part two
Mouth becomes arid while palms sweat
skin burns with anticipation
nonsensical words from lips glossed
cherry red
thirst compels
as liquor loosens the
social inhibitions
and a highly-colored flush
suffuses the cheeks
bright eyes given depth in dark rooms
echoing laughter born of longing
as a girl
turns to a boy
neither of them young enough for that anymore
turns to him
and tells him she love him
asking why
living with the fever between them
barely contained

G20: What's it good for? Absolutely nothing.

A summit that should last a week, lasted less than 48 hours. Somehow, this seems wrong. A global economic summit with 20 of the world's leaders and the one big piece of news is Iran has a weapons-grade nuclear production facility? Again, this seems wrong. I missed the fireworks except as a voyeuristic witness from a distance. Twitter, the texts from friends, the news - these were my windows to events that are at such a remove from my life as to be ludicrous. 

 Anarchists are idiots. No, really. Destroying property and frightening people just leaves a bad taste in the mouth of most of us. We don't want anarchy. We want a better life, a better country, a better world. Anarchy offers us nothing. Is anarchy going to fix a broken health care system or put food on the table? No. Most of us simply want to be heard by those who decide the fate of nations. 

 Many of the protesters were peaceful, law-abiding. Exercising their right to free assembly and speech. (How free that assembly and speech is when it's confined to a free speech zone, that's up for debate.) Nonetheless, we had cops outnumbering protesters 3 to 1, and still we end up with businesses smashed up, people terrified, and an atmosphere of mayhem. 

Grow up. If you bring a gun to a protest, you don't want to be heard. What you want may be anything from suicide by cop to hurting other people, but you don't really want to be heard. If you bring a gun to a protest, you're saying, "FUCK YOU." 
I suspect that much of the damage done last night was exacerbated by students at the University of Pittsburgh. Bored jocks and frat-boys who took an opportunity to act up. Way to go, people. You hurt businesses where you live or go to school. Good job!

Ultimately, the one useful piece of information I was able to pick up, is one you won't hear too much about. The G20 is essentially replacing, in phases, the G8. These are the people who decide foreign aid, trade rules and climate standards. 
We need to be heard, before it's too late. 
We can't be heard over the noise the anarchists generate. 
The G20: What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Say it again.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Art, commerce, fear and the creeping spectre of censorship

Artists make art. Sometimes commissioned, sometimes with the intent to sell, sometimes for ourselves. Censorship abrogates a fundamental right to free expression. When the state censors expression because it does not like what artists create, we see the strangling repression of ideologies in action. Just because you don't find Robert Mapplethorpe's photos, or Andres Serranos' Piss-Christ to your taste, doesn't invalidate them as expression.

 Art can be difficult. Sure, some art is deliberately difficult, for the shock value. I'm not a fan of  a lot of art, because I think it's pretentious twaddle. I'm allowed to think that. Am I better for having seen the pretentious twaddle nonetheless? Yes, I am. The ability to make aesthetic choices and  express ourselves through the art we make or choose, requires development. All art, whether we like it or not, whether is makes us want to retch in revulsion or transports us to a state of bliss; contributes to society. Art isn't just about beauty, though.

  The intersection of art and commerce is a grey zone. Art becomes a commodity. If someone wants to pay us for it, there's a temptation to repeat ourselves. Performers become product, the product of an artist's work becomes an object instead of the subjective experience it's often meant to be.

The problem is: When art and commerce collide, sometimes the people with the checkbooks think they get to tell artists what is and isn't acceptable art.

(There are occasions when this is true, but they are narrowly defined. A commission is one of them. Performers, depending on milieu, are often contracted to perform in a specific fashion. As I said, narrowly defined.)

When the people with the money try to tell the people responsible for creating what they like to call, "Product," what that product should be, a line is crossed.

Whether it's a canvas or a script, a book proposal or a sculpture, if you agree to what the artist either proposes or has already created, that's the end of the story.

 At least, it should be.

We live in uncertain times. Publishing houses are running in the red, reality television reigns because it's cheaper than paying writers, and god help you if you're in a non-traditional form. Visual artists and sculptors are hanging on by a thread, in most cases.

Those that pay for art or the creation of art want known quantities and familiar aesthetics. They want stability and stagnation in lieu of the real.

Risk means the potential for loss. The people with the money, don't want to lose it.
It's completely understandable and completely useless.

Art is always a risk. Always. If you're doing it right, it's a walk on a wire without a net.
Art is about exploring and revealing the soul. It's the journey. It's the surprises and horrors that we confront every day. Art is a point of view, shared. Art is bleeding on the page with grace in order to express something. Art is always subjective and it's not always pretty.

Homogenized and sanitized creation is product. It's not art. Is there a place for it? Yes.
You want a Thomas Kinkade print to put on your Grandmother's bedroom wall, fine.
You want Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys, (or whatever the equivalent is,) for your kids, great.
You want the next sequel to the blockbuster, I'm cool with that.
It's not art.
It's entertainment, etc. It's product.
It has its place.

Think of this: A museum, filled with Thomas Kinkade and Anne Geddes pictures, Cherub mantle-hangers... Do I need to go on?
A library or bookstore filled with nothing but R.L. Stine, the Princess Diaries, Twilight and Novelizations of films and TV shows.

We need ART.
The human consciousness, spirit, soul... whatever name you put to it, we need Art.
It transports us, allows us to transcend the drab little lives we sink into out of necessity.

Great art can show us the passion and fury, the grief and joy, the beauty and horror that lie beneath the surface in all of us. They reflect our humanity like a magic mirror. How we see and interpret art is like a Rorschach test of the soul.
It teaches us, it moves us, it inspires us. Real art can lift us out of ourselves and show us worlds we never allowed ourselves to dream of.
The making of and embracing of art is an act of fundamental rebellion.
It is standing up in front of the machine and saying, "NO. No, I will not be crammed into the convenient boxes and definitions you want me to conform to."
It is fearlessness transcribed into poetry and prose, splattered on canvas and filtered through a camera lens, it is film and theater where performers are stripped down to the bone.

Art isn't imitating life, it is reflecting it.
We need it like oxygen, like water, like food and love and shelter.
Without it, we become dry and empty husks in the shape of human beings.

The current economy and the vampiric shadow of the morality police, (i.e., the ultra-conservative, ultra-religious noisemakers,) threaten to create an environment as oppressive to art and expression as Savanarola, the Inquisition and McCarthyism.

It is economically convenient for the distributors of art to impose limits on art, for the marketplace. That doesn't make it right. In fact, expediency is often a sign of what is most definitely not right.

The accountants are always in the wings with their anxiety-chewed fingernails and a tally sheet telling them the risk is too great.

There is no place for censorship in art. Not even when commerce is involved.
Especially when commerce is involved.
Art is not a product.
Remember that and act accordingly. The future of our culture and consciousness is at stake.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Tripping the time fantastic: How I learned to love Doctor Who.

(Partial Credit goes to @ItsMikeandIke, for lively conversation, also @ButMadNNW. Most importantly, my two favorite Whovians: @MelindaKitty and @Ree923. Go to twitter: Learn it, live it, love it.)
Disclaimer: I am a rabid New Who fangirl. This is important to know. I will quote, reference and possibly drool over New Who episodes at the drop of a hat. Really. No, REALLY REALLY.
Why? Read on, my friends...

My first recollection of Doctor Who: c. 1970's airing episodes with the fourth Doctor, (Tom Baker.) I've convinced myself that it was on PBS, but Wikipedia disputes the timeline, (Strangely, this seems appropriate.)
This is how I learned to hate Doctor Who: Being made to stay awake long past my bedtime and forced to watch Monty Python and Doctor Who. These shows are inextricably linked together in my memory. I was about 4 years old. My father, (Aussie ex-pat,) made me watch these shows. While I liked Monty Python, because it was quite silly, Doctor Who earned my derision for decades. It was too cheaply produced, too strange and to me, the Daleks were frightening merely for the sound of their voices. Fingernails on chalkboard to my ears. It is however, quite possible that my parents' subsequent divorce and the attendant miserable fatherless childhood were also negatively associated with the Doctor.

Poor Doctor.

Flash-forward to 1996.
Paul McGann. That hair was ridiculous. I'm pretty sure I only saw part of the movie because of... Baseball? Yeah, I'm pretty sure it was baseball. Fox screwed the pooch on that one.

Onward to 2005...ish.
I'm pretty sure I had the flu, or pneumonia, or some other vicious, nasty bug at the time. Channel surfing with a 103 degree fever when you're on the verge of a NyQuil coma can lead to strange and unusual experiences.
This was one of them.
The first episode of New Doctor Who, that I ever encountered was... The Doctor Dances.
I was immediately sucked in by Christopher Eccleston. (Brief digression: I've watched everything I could find him in since I saw Shallow Grave. Remarkable stillness and that voice... Shurrup.)

So, I caught the tail end of a BBC America Mini Marathon in a state of near-delirium and those two episodes changed my life.

Eventually, I caught a few more episodes on Sci-Fi (now SyFy because someone in marketing is an idiot, but really good at selling ideas,) and grew to love David Tennant's Doctor as well. Fact: I did not see the first 3 series in contiguous form until BBCA started re-airing.

Viewed as a whole, the newest incarnation of what was once merely a cheesy and ridiculous pop culture artifact, is far better than most American attempts at science fiction on television. We tend to focus on science fiction as background noise to: action, horror, romance, drama. Doctor Who is far more a series with science fiction as metaphor. Although conceived as a way to impart a bit of science and history to children, back in the 60's, this iteration is far more about holding a mirror up to society. A reflection of human faults, heroism and the choices we make. The science and history are still there, too.

I'm now a few sloppy paragraphs into what should be an epic dissection/love letter to Doctor Who, and I'm not really covering either point. (Bad writer, bad. *smacks with rolled-up newspaper* *whimper, cringe*)

Why, precisely, did I learn to love the Doctor?

I'm getting there.

My point, is that there are many ways of looking at the Doctor. Some people like the romantic tension with his companions, some like the monsters, some like the continuity of a childhood favorite.

Me, I love it all. I love that we can go from 51st century earth, to Volcano Day on Pompeii. I love that the Doctor can have dinner with a Slitheen in Cardiff, or snog Madame Du Pompadour. I love that the lines of race and gender and sexuality begin to disappear. (Although I draw the line at Gods Love and Monsters with the implied fellatio by a head in a block of paving. That's just icky.)
I love the stoicism/bemusement of the 9th Doctor, the childlike glee/ferocity/sadness of the 10th, and while I'm still undecided about the 11th Doctor, I'm sure I'll watch anyway.

There's heart in this show, there's a moral center and it's quite funny.

It's also terrifying.
Dalek, Blink, Silence in the Library, and of course, the creepy image of a small boy with a gas mask-head asking, "Are you my mummy?" All of which have imprinted indelibly on my memory.

Then again, there are also utterly brilliant moments of absurdity: " You're my favourite, you are, you are the best! Do you know why? 'Cause you're so THICKYou're Mister Thick Thick Thickity Thick Face from Thicktown, Thickania.
And so's your dad."

You kinda can't beat that. 
Especially in context. 
Go watch. 

I'm also pretty sure I've never seen that much double-entendre packed into the word, "Dance," as in, "The Doctor Dances," episode. The varying pronunciations and inflections are a choreography unto themselves. 

I've rarely found television that carries its own mythos, let alone survives more than 40 years of near-continuous production, the way that Doctor Who does. It's always been something of a magnet for people who are idealists and dreamers, artists and activists, humanitarians and humanists. I suspect it will continue to draw that sort of viewer for years to come. There are endless controversies over canon and accuracy, the interpretation of each regeneration...

The Doctor may not have a name, but he is a part of our collective consciousness and culture. 
Yes,  "The angels have the phone box." Yes we're, "All sonic-ed up."  Yes, "Bananas are good."
As philosophies go, we could all do worse than asking, " What would the Doctor Do?"
This is merely a window into how, when and why I learned to love the Doctor. 
Go get your own. 

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Midnight ramblings (stream of consciousness)

Knot in my chest anxious for a million reasons that only matter to me and a million reasons that matter too much to everyone and nothing's getting done frozen importuning in a flashbulb frame everything stays the same too much changing too fast for the heart to keep up unbroken and I'm waiting in the wings of everything never sure always a little out of step can't catch my break there's no room with the lump of unsaid choking me like the hands of a lover gone too far why can't I stop thinking about him why do I want him when I shouldn't and I can taste him feel the weight if I blink and smell him on my clothes even when I know it's an illusion of visceral memory it hurts like a seppuku blade yet I lean into the pain because everything he was hurt so damn good like saline debriding a wound I'm broke and miserable in the real world and yet I'm happier than I've been in forever because I've remembered what it feels like to be myself instead of hiding in the shadows of reflected glory and the image of someone that only adds up to a fraction of me now I'm pouring words out with spendthrift ease not caring who sees because I've been invisible in too many ways for far too long do we even know what our reality means and that we make it I keep thinking and feeling surviving all the minefields making chaos seem like normal

Friday, September 11, 2009

Summoning Spirits (poem)

We replay and resurrect
Images sparking emotions
We can only hold on to
En masse
On anniversaries
With the prodding of the media
Telling us
What we remember feeling
Only when reminded

Summoning spirits from their rest

Parading with the flags
Marching in lockstep
To a drummer
Beating out
A dirge
Instead of a requiem
In exultation of the lives lived
The love given
The love received

We raise the flag and raise the dead
In an orgy of adversarial rancor
Accusations cast like confetti
across the airwaves

It's not that we don't feel
It's not that they don't deserve

It's that
To what anyone deserves

Self-congratulation and recrimination
The opposition and imposition
of politics
on grief

We mourn
We mourn
We mourn

We can remember for ourselves
Mourning and lifting up the memories
Of the unavenged dead

We can stop summoning their shades
To generate rage
To encapsulate fear
Like a pill to be swallowed

We can raise them up
And set them free


The machinations

Humanity needs no more martyrs

Monday, September 7, 2009

The last gasp of virginity (poem)

Fireflies shimmering in alternating currents
As his mouth taught me to gasp
In octaves of unapologetic pleasure
With my clothes still on
Mostly on, anyway
Desire compensating for
Shyness of inexperience

Awkward limbs tangled in the backseat of my car
His car
The grass in the park

Pushing thin cotton up
Exposing my skin
To the intensity of a gaze
I wasn't prepared for
Isn't easy

Until the febrile heat
And flush
Make abandon
An inevitability

The dexterous touch of a pianist's fingers
playing over every inch of my skin

Tipping my mouth
Straining towards
The body knows and the consciousness can't define
Chasing the hum
As the denim friction of him
Between my thighs
Made me scream
Into an echoing night

Hours lost in each other

Driving home before dawn

Watching the fireflies fade
Into the light

Sunday, September 6, 2009

true stories (poem)

Lies of omission lying bitter on a bitten tongue
Not telling lies
Not telling truth
The desperation
Imbalance of need
In bloody increments
The marks I ask for
To prove
I'm alive
Bitten flesh
Gone purple-yellow
In places
I can mostly conceal
The words
Like ballistic interference
Where no one can see
Don't want me to love you
This is too fragile
Too tenuous
Tissue-paper thin promises
We recognized as lies
As the saturation of lust
Turned them to

You whisper
I sigh
You take

Observing silence
In the after-hours
to leave well enough
I don't
Know what else to do

Carrying the scent of you on my skin
Your taste in my mouth
Weighed down
By sins
But only telling you the truth

stunned (poem)

Every day brings news of destruction
The million ways the human race
Is trying to die
Fighting the tide
of nihilistic disregard
Learning to stand in the way
No matter the cost

Every pose of cynicism wears thin
Rubbing the skin of my soul raw
I want to not care
I want to be immune
The only time failure is a point of pride
Observation demoralizes in extremis
Take a break from the
Bleeding leading news
Just to catch my breath

I'm lost
A wasteland
Devoid of compassion
Too arid to cross
Is all I see

Oh, but then there are hearts that shelter
The outcast orphans
Safety on the fringes
Where remembering
How to feel

I'm stunned at least 7 times a day
Half a dozen times
In ways
I'd like to forget
The casual cruelty
Faceless and
Whipping me raw

Even when you think it doesn't

It matters
If even once
Just once
I'm stunned
The generous spirit
Who can ill-afford
Risking kindness
On a stranger
Who does it anyway

I'm stunned
In the best of all possible ways

Wishing only
It wasn't

Strange Bedfellows, or:How I learned to stop worrying and love the block

It is a truism that politics makes for some strange bedfellows. I've stopped trying. I used to be willing to engage with conscientious, thoughtful, reasonable people of opposing views. Unfortunately, since the forum I'm speaking of is and it's led by the prerogative of those who follow you... Occasionally, the nut jobs spoiling for a fight find me. I've learned how to block preemptively. It is good. (You have to go to the profile page and click on "block user" in the sidebar. Wheeee.)

 Things my mother taught me: Refuse to engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed person, never bring a knife to a gunfight and never, ever, ever act stupid to make people like you. Unless they're in a trade you need: mechanic, plumber, electrician. (I fail at this, by the way: acting stupid... Fail. Fail. Fail.)

I tried to play nice. I followed my President's example and tried to find common ground with the conservatives. Actually, this is not hard, in principle: I want less government, (quit telling me what to do with my body, who and how I can fuck and what substances I'm allowed to imbibe as an adult. Kthxbai.) I want lower taxes, (since there are plenty of super-rich people who can afford higher taxes.) I like the bill of rights, all of them. Including the 2nd Amendment. (Really.)
Roosevelt conservatives believe in good stewardship and conservation of wildlife and environment, efficient spending and service. I believe in those things.
Tragically, the party of Lincoln and Roosevelt has been hijacked by xenophobic fascists who don't have the brains god gave a turnip but who think that EVERYONE must do as they say.

Fuck that.
I've gotten cranky after 8 years of being called a traitor and harassment for having an opposing point of view from the jingoistic rah-rah flag-waving contingent.
Uh...'Scuse me: This country was founded upon the principles of dissent, and a revolt against the government in power. Do these people read or understand history? Have they read the constitution?
Equal Protection. The outlawing of Slavery and Indentured Servitude. The anti-establishment clause... Yo, people, get a clue.

I want President Obama to take a step back, think, "Hey, I won. We won. Let's get this done already."
I want him to whip the blue dogs into line, put 'em on a choke chain and get the job done.
I want him to stop trying to placate people who will gladly whip their base into a frenzy that could very well end in violence, just to get reelected and DO WHAT WE ELECTED HIM TO DO.
In the meantime, the only strange bedfellows I'm interested in are the kind the right-wing would like to see in jail for being abominations. I've learned to stop worrying and love the block.

Chemistry (poem)

Prayers whispered and
Left hanging in the air
The scent and sensibility of
Wrapped around our throats
The taste of lime and rum licked off of calloused fingers
Tracing the lines
Bones beneath fragile skin
Freckled like copper confetti thrown on ivory satin
Breath disturbing the hair escaping down my neck
Disturbing my comfortable misery
With a daring glance
Those roughened fingers tangling me
Around them
Falling out of a world I understood
Inviting the bruises
The demure, submissively lowered lashes
Baring my throat
Baring my soul
Baring every inch of everything
I have to lose
To you
No promises
No guarantees
The inevitability

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Happiness, pain, health care, buying local and RAK's

I confess: I'm mercurial and high-strung. Yet...I'm mostly happy. With who I am, with what I do, with the mark I'm making on the world, (however small, it's mine, it's authentic and it's not evil,) I'm basically happy. There are a lot of things I want to do, see, be, experience, share. There are people I've yet to meet, love, argue with, learn from, teach. My mundane life consists of a fair amount of frustration, which I accept because it's the nature of changing the world, and I'm committed. Maybe I should be committed, I don't know. I can't give up on humanity or making things better. I'm a fixer.


A number of my online and real life circle of friends have been experiencing either the onset of or continuation of various illnesses. My mother, who drives me crazy and rocks my world, has chronic illnesses and pain. Epic pain. Pain that makes my chronic pain look like a stubbed toe.

Oh, yeah. I have chronic and intermittent pain.
1. TMJ / Trigeminal Neuralgia: since I was 9. TemproMandibularJoint pain, that intermittently gives me earaches, headaches, face pain, and has been known to lock my jaw both open and shut at about a half-inch width. Mom has it, too. The TMJ is caused or exacerbated by a severe malocclusion. I'm not having someone break my jaw, move it, and wire it shut. Not unless I can get way better insurance and find someone to pay my bills for 2 months.  The neuralgia is... who knows? It makes my entire head and face and neck hurt to the point where I'd go for decapitation if it were an option.
2. Arthritis: Due to injury and hereditary. I've broken the same foot 3 times. It has an S-curve to the left. Shoe buying is a form of torture. My joints from the waist down and my hands are affected. It's mostly like a toothache unless the barometric pressure gets really wacky. I can feel the bones in my foot grinding, then.
3. Sciatic nerve / Scoliosis : I have a slight S-curve in my spine, too. One leg is longer than the other, one hip higher. This is also hereditary. The sciatic nerve...that's the torment from hell. Imagine fire shooting down your leg from your buttock, imagine white-hot ice picks stabbed into your joints, imagine not being able to move a certain way because it will cause you to scream. Magnify it by 5.
5. Migraine: Auras, nausea, blurred vision, light / sound sensitivity and pain that makes me vomit. It's hormonal, mostly. I manage it with ice, darkness, and preemptive excedrine.
I'm not particularly athletic, no. I love dancing, I'm lazy about my yoga and pilates. I'm not disabled. I'm used to it. It's background noise, mostly. The little aches and pains that occasionally become roaring dragons consuming me. Those are the days I take painkillers and a mental health day. Every once in a while I need to use a cane.

I'm 36 years old. Yeah, sometimes it fucking sucks.


I'm still pretty happy. Unlike my mom and other people, my pain isn't jacked up to 11 all day, every day. I can mostly get by with OTC meds. I'm grateful for the rare totally pain-free days, and I'm used to the dull, nagging aches. I wear flip-flops, sneakers and boots. I can track my migraine patterns, I keep my ears covered in the winter to minimize the chances of setting off either the TMJ or Neuralgia, (stimulating nerves and muscles into overdrive is a no-no.)
Every once in a while I talk someone into giving me a massage to work the kinks out. The yoga and pilates help, too.
Since the stupid sciatic nerve kicked up today, I thought I'd share once. I appreciate good thoughts, but I'm so used to it that it it's usually no big deal to me.  I'm not sharing this to gain sympathy, pity or anything else.
It's how my life is.
I'm sharing this, because there are a lot of people dealing with a lot worse and someone needs to speak up. Most people dealing with chronic illness and pain end up being kind of invisible. Doctors can't fix it, so they stop trying to make it better in palliative ways. The government closes down options for palliative care or terrifies doctors to the point where they don't use the options they have for fear the DEA will come knocking.
Not to mention, there are an awful lot of people who can't get care at all. They don't have insurance and with pre-existing conditions, can't get it.
And there are people who don't understand why we need Health Care reform.

 Yeah. It's like that.

Since this is more of a kitchen-sink, stream-of-consciousness-with-a-point post, I'll move on to the next subject.
On the long-ass list of Things That Piss Me Off: Factory farms, agribusiness and the corporate welfare given to such. I went to a Lions-sponsored Farmer's Market at a local high school today with my mom.
Pennsylvania has a program that gives every resident 60+ $20 in vouchers to spend at farmer's markets. I wish they did it for everyone, or maybe expanded it based on income. It would benefit our family farms and help poor people afford more nutritious food. There are a lot of communities without full-service grocery stores, mostly poor ones. There are a lot of people who have to choose between foods they can stretch, and produce. Good nutrition shouldn't be class-oriented. Neither should health-care. (See, I told you I had a point.)
A lot of farmers can't afford health insurance for their families. They end up on SCHIP, or if they're lucky, Medicaid. Eligibility is based on gross, not net income. It kinda fucks a lot of people. You try living on 30k a year in a family of four. It's poverty. Really. If your gross, as a farmer, is $100k a year, but you only net $30k and eligibility is based on the $100k... yeah. I used to have to tell people they weren't eligible.
It sucks big time.

We had such a good time at the market. These are good, hardworking people, trying to earn a living. There were a lot of teenagers. One was a kid, maybe 16. He'd been up working since 6 am, hadn't eaten yet. Looked a little woozy, to be honest. His (I think) sister was working with him and talking about food. My mum, who can't avoid junk food to save her life, went to the baked goods stand and bought some stuff. I'd taken some of our purchases to the car; when I came back, she had this look on her face. After warning me to never leave her alone with baked goods and telling me what she bought, she said, "He looked so hungry."
She looked at me, "Do you think it would be weird if I took him something to eat?" I laughed and told her she was, "Such a mom," and then,  "Go ahead." I walked over with her, and she offered the gob to him, he had a stunned look on his face. As if the idea of someone thinking of a stranger, of doing something kind and thoughtful, without any expectation, was alien. The smile that lit up his face when my mom nodded and stretched her hand further out to give it to him, was beatific.

Those are the moments you can't plan for. When something so simple make so many things clear.

There is hope for humanity. We can care for each other, we can be kind to each other, we can help each other. We can share.
My mom, with her paper sack of pastry and her cane, struggling through the farmer's market to make sure a kid had something in his stomach. Is a snapshot of what humanity can be.

So, yeah: I'm pretty happy.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Seeing with different eyes: How artists experience and translate the world.

This is not a scholarly treatise. This is an opinion and anecdotal evidence. This is not exclusive to visual artists. All of the artists I know, (lots) regardless of media, seem to share the ability to see the world differently.

We're all familiar with the cliche of the tortured artist: the Van Goghs, Rimbauds...etc. I won't belabor the point.
There's some scientific evidence that links creativity to neurological/genotypes common to schizotypal disorders and autism. (Google it. I'm not your momma. Oh, all right: the New Scientist, and Wikipedia. Start there.)

It got me thinking.

Artists/Creatives/Makers... we're not like other people. We don't think in the same way, we don't feel in the same way, everything is both experiential and detached. Polaroids of memory, but more than that. Scent, sound, texture, taste and emotion are all filed away in a little memory box with the Polaroid on the front so we can find it.

I'm lucky if I can find my keys in my hand, but I can tell you everything about the first time I ate a donut peach. I can rhapsodize about the best make-out session I've ever had.
The way desire actually tastes, in that moment of anticipation before you first kiss someone.
(a bitter tang in the back of the throat.)
Some people paint it, film it, photograph it, choreograph it, sculpt it.
I write it and usually speak it.

The best way I can describe it is that, we see with different eyes.

We map the world in 3D and store it for translation.

That's where we add the 4th dimension: Soul, consciousness, mind, self... we must be gods and heroes creating an archway into the worlds we create, regardless of medium.
Call it what you will, it's something that is tangibly intangible. Deus ex machina.

This, "sight," carries over into the rest of the world and the way we interact with it. We question more, we listen. We're drawn to certain kinds of people. We're sometimes self-destructive, sometimes self-aggrandizing, always walking the wire between the freaks and normals. It doesn't matter which group we identify with. We straddle the worlds. We may or may not function effectively in society. There is a broad spectrum. We often wear our personae like masks. Chameleons roaming the earth collecting secrets and stories.

I digress.

I have questions.

I wonder if most of the people I know who create, find that the following is true: Things that seem incredibly complex to, "Normal," people are incredibly obvious or simple. Things that are simple or obvious to, "Normal," people are layered with complexity. Yes/No? Why do you think it is or isn't true?

I started writing this because I know a number of exceptional people who are artists, musicians and writers. We seem to share a common quest, journeying along the path of consciousness. Not all, but many. I'm curious (always, can't help it,) to know if others find it the same. Casting a wider net via the blog to see if it is so.
I'll let you know how it turns out.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Better Living Thru Chemistry: Hello, my name is Kristen, and I'm a hair-dye-aholic

I'm descended from women who dye their hair. My maternal grandmother: shoe-polish black, my paternal grandmother: maintaining the ginger brilliance. My mom is where it starts to get interesting. On her side, we grey in our early 20's. She's been every color from blonde ( Born that way, then bleached in the 60's, baaad idea. Ow. Ow. Ow.) She's been brown, red, black. That was before the color revolution in the 80's. When I was 14, I just wanted to be preppy blonde. Cool, aloof, wanted. My mom had her hair spiked and, "cellophaned," in plum. My mom had punk hair. Talk about taking all the fun out of my adolescence. Thanks, mom.

 I finally convinced her to go back to blonde. This was a mistake. I'm responsible for it. I cut her hair, (thick, wavy,) and I'm in charge of a double-process bleach job.Ye-ah. Thanks mom.

My own adventures in better living through chemistry started when I was about 8. Not color, perms. I wanted curly hair. I had stick-straight, baby fine hair. The irony is that while my mom was born with straight blonde hair, I was born with jet black, curly hair. Which soon devolved to my dad's mom's red, and bleached blonde in the summer. Until I was 10, when it darkened and became the mouse-brown bane of my existence.
(You know those baby barrettes that snap in, with teeth? The ones that aren't supposed to fall out? Yeah, they slid out of my hair like a fireman down a greased pole.)

Perms are a bad idea. Really. Home perms stink to high heaven, melt your hair and don't make it curly, so much as crimped. Ish. (Btw: If crimping irons make a comeback along with 80's fashion - I'm shaving my head.) Still, from age 8-11, I periodically did the perm. Oy vey.

Eventually, perms became a worse idea than straight hair. About when I hit puberty.
Perming is also a family trait. My father had a portrait painted during his Brady-Man perm with Scooby-Doo Fred neckerchief and diamond stud era. Poodle-man reigns!

(I do not have photo of this, but I did once pee on him during this era. He tickled me. I warned him, he didn't stop. Whoops. I do have photos of my parents' wedding. Brown velvet and gold satin. On both of them. If my mom stops threatening to kill me and hack up my body to feed to the dog, I'll post them.)

.....Back after a brief twitter interruption.

My adventures in hair color, or: How I learned that Sun-In is a bad idea.
1.7th grade. Summer vacation. Wanting to be a bit more cool, aloof, preppy blonde and not wanting to ask my mom's permission. (It was the 80's, I was basically a good kid.)
Bright, day-glo-fluorescent-fucking ORANGE hair.
I knew nothing about tones, base color and the limits of peroxide then.
I learned, really fast.

Fortunately, I started my experiment early in the summer. After enough time in the pool and enough sun, I ended up with dishwater blonde. Better.
No. There are not photos. Not anymore.
Fuck off. I burned the negatives.
I didn't try to go blonde again, for 4 years.
Cut to my 18th summer. I'm in a heavy, itchy annoying cast. With pins in my foot. (That's another story.)
I discovered the joy of playing with scissors when washing my hair became irritating and the equivalent of dumping a bucket of water in my lap. Chopped the hair off to shoulder length, bought the, "New and Improved, SUPER Sun-in."
Motherfucking ORANGE again.
You can't recapture the hair color of your youth without a serious investment.
I bleached my hair fo' real this time.
Born Blonde = stripping all the color out until hair is a butter-yellow and then adding, "toner," to achieve the color you want.
This was painful.
This was melted scalp.
This was a week of scabs on my head and big chunks of skin coming off scalp like leprous dandruff.

This...was the 90's.

After that, I ended up going to, "Medium Ash Brown," for the winter. I then discovered you can't strip colors past Light Brown out. (Actually, you can, but it's really, really, really gonna hurt.)

I lived with my natural color for about five years. It was dull and mousy in the winter, brassy and ginger in the summer. I just didn't feel like screwing with it anymore once the goth-y darkness grew out.
Also, I got a real job.
Also, I was broke.
Also, I had a broken heart and didn't give a flying fuck anymore.

Then I turned 25.
Then I found my first gray hairs.
Then I had a bloody quarter-life crisis, experienced the death of dreams and ambitions and said, "What the Fuck?"
Enter: Blonde/punk/streaky/go-to-hell-corporate-barbie hair.
Ok, not really punk. Just long and a good cut.
The streaky blonde over dark brown...that was my rebellion-within-reason. They couldn't fire me over it.
Blue hair = pink slip, I was trying to figure out how not to wear pantyhose.
I like that hair. A lot.
Eventually, I ended up with cherry cola (burgundy brown,) straight-up burgundy (wine red,) and a sort of plummy brown.
Then I left the cube farm.

Hello, Blondie.
I am a: triple-process blonde. Allow me to explain: My base color is chestnut brown, with an underlying red tone. This means that if I lighten my hair even one shade, I get orange tones. Really. To go blonde I: Use a bleach-out kit, (prefer Garnier 100% color, it lifts beautifully.One box. 2 hours. Pinky swear.)
II: Use a color to darken the above color to an appropriate shade of blonde. Occasionally mix two shades to get the mid-shade. Usually med-dark ash blonde, sometimes champagne. One year, totally platinum. (Another year of chopping the hair off. Waaay shorter. Playing with scissors is fun and therpeutic!)
III: high/lowlight, or both, to achieve the perfect blending of tones to ensure that the regrowth is only going to look mildly trashy, and/or will blend out in an unobtrusive way.

I've reached an age where high-maintenance hair is not really a good idea. I don't use a blow dryer, I don't use styling tools and almost no products. I've got my makeup down to a bare minimum that's effective and let's me face the world without feeling as though I look like creamed, chipped death on toast.
I live in jeans, peasant skirts, flip-flops, tank tops, sweaters and boots in winter.
I'm not a prissy, fussy princess.
I. Don't. Have. That. Kind. Of. Time.

Sometimes, if I've been very blonde, I do the Kool-aid color to mix things up. Black Cherry is my fave.
Blue hair doesn't go with my skin tone.

My employer doesn't care.
I'm very good at what I do.
I've gone to work in jammies and slippers.
I have nice jammies.
So, yes: I'm a hair-dye addict.
Given that two energy-juices, a Dr. Pepper and 2 cups of coffee leave me feeling like what I imagine tweaking on meth feels like... It's probably a good thing that my idea of better living through chemistry involves which pretty color I can put on my head.
I forgot to mention: the stick-straight, baby-fine texture... When I turned 30, I got a miracle - wavy hair.
I have no idea how. Really.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Health Care Reform and the Politics of Fear, part deux

I repeat: If anyone has questions about Health Care and why a Public Option (weak)/NHS or hybrid Model, (i.e., France,) is better...Let me know. I worked in Health Insurance, specifically a Medicaid/Medicare/SCHIP HMO for 8+ yrs. I know what I'm talking about. I had a license to sell insurance, which is way more complicated than you think and I passed the test on the first try. I'm not stupid. Seriously. 

Medicare is socialized medicine. So is Medicaid. Medicare, for seniors, is administered in an efficient and humane fashion. Medicaid is for bums, (or so the right-wing would have us believe,) sucking at the government teat and wasting our tax dollars. 

No, Bullshit. Really. 

If Medicaid were administered efficiently, sick people would get the care they need, there would be no stigma attached to it and hey, people who need temporary help might get back to being productive citizens. 
That's just crazy talk, in this country. 

What nearly all the republican, (and some of the democrats,) in congress don't want you to know :The health insurance, for-profit treatment and pharmaceutical industries rank up there with Big Oil, Coal, Agribusiness and Military Contractors when it comes to who has them on a short leash. Campaign contributions...Money *is* speech, according to capitol hill. Riiiiggghhhtt. 
Pull the other leg, it's got bells on it.

You say that NHS/Universal Health Care/Single-payer will DOOM the free market in this country?

Really? Last I checked, you take what health insurance you're offered if you're lucky enough to have an employer offering it and you can afford to pay for it. How is that a free market from the consumer's perspective? Oh, it's not supposed to be free for the consumer... Never mind. 

You say that NHS/UHC/SP will put an undue burden on employers to offer more direct compensation?
Really? How about this: If I'm not spending 30% of my income keeping my ass covered by crappy insurance just in case something really, really bad happens to me, my kid, my partner... I might actually feel better about my salary and I might be spending money on other stuff. Hey, that could help the economy, couldn't it?

I could, (and at some point, probably will,) go on and on and on...
Hopefully, you're starting to get the picture. 
Ask me questions, I'll answer them in a blog. Really.