Thursday, September 30, 2010

William Shatner Loblaws commercial

I also remember an ad he did in the '70s for Shirriff Instant Pudding with Mini-Buds, in which he tasted the pudding with a histrionic "MMMMMMMMM!!". Maybe the lowest point in his career.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Burning/bright


“In the very essence of poetry there is something indecent: a thing is brought forth which we didn’t know we had in us, so we blink our eyes as if a tiger had sprung out and stood in the light, lashing his tail.” Czeslaw Milosz



“Art is theft, art is armed robbery, art is not pleasing your mother…the true self is aggressive, rude, dirty, disorderly, sexual; the false self which mothers and society instruct us to assume is neat, clean, tidy, polite, content to cut a chaste rosebud with a pair of silver-plated scissors.” Jeanette Winterson



“There are hardly any exceptions to the rule that a person must pay dearly for the divine gift of creative fire.” C. G. Jung

Four's company



Unless y'all've been buried under a tree lately, you'll know all about this new "reality" show on TLC called - what the hell's it called? Oh yeah, Sister Wives. Might as well call it Bob and Carol and Alice and Alice.

See, polygamy is fun now. It's cool. It's an alternative lifestyle, like composting and recycling and community gardening. Except that it's even more rewarding (or so certain people insist).

We have this guy named Kody Brown (not his real name - heh-heh) who lives in Utah, natch, and long ago married three rather large long-haired blondes (not that he has a "type"). They insist they all married this guy before any of their children were born, but then, hey presto, thirteen of them popped out (or should I say twelve and a half - one is still in the oven). This is not so much a family as a litter, a la the Duggars, the Gosselins, and that other family, the one that popped out the quints.

What's this fascination with raising such a mess of kids, anyway? Why is it being presented as such a barrel o' fun? It must be a modern-day version of the carnival side show. And what do you know - one of them really IS called Chrissie (well, Christine), though she's a little too stout to pass for that airhead on Three's Company.

We don't use the term "bigamy" any more - it's one of those words you have to blow the dust off of. Like polygamy, it's illegal as hell in Utah, as it is everywhere else. And the Mormon church is dead-set against it. Does it ever occur to this Kody guy (and who spells it with a K?) that he's not only living in sin, but living under the constant threat of arrest? Is breaking the law really the best example to his mass of kids?

But Kody has all that covered. In interviews, he literally says things like "shucks" and "dang it", insisting with sociopathic sincerity that he's merely obeying the laws of his religion. Having three kinds of nooky to choose from is faith-based, I guess, though I find that hard to comprehend.

Never mind: these wives all smile, smile, smile, and insist that their way of living is a free choice. Incredibly, they say it's up to their kids to decide what sort of life they will lead, but this flies in the face of the entrenched fundamentalism and profound, ruthless patriarchy of "plural marriage".

But there's a "surprise" here. Not content with all that vanilla, Kody wants a little chocolate in his life (or in the bedroom - though he complains of not having any "space" of his own, poor baby. I guess his only space is in these women's vaginas.) The impending addition of a fourth wife to the harem, a slim young brunette this time, seems stage-managed, almost a stunt for the cameras: or is that why the producers agreed to make this show in the first place? Is this impending shift of family dynamics going to make for good TV (bitching, hair-pulling, rrairrrrrrw!), or will it all be a whitewash of forced smiles and sweet sisterhood?

One of the worst Mormon/polygamist sayings is "Keep Sweet", and it might as well be embroidered on a sampler on the wall of every room (and how many would that be? Each wife has her own self-contained apartment, though nobody explains where they'll stash Wife #4). The truth is, Kody, who complains all the time about how tired he is (all that crawling from room to room?), will now have four flavours to choose from every night, with his only problem being keeping his "schedule" straight. It must be nice to be able to ejaculate on cue. Meantime, these sweet sisters have to grit their teeth and wait for their turn.

They're the unpaid help in the harem, programmed from birth to obey male-imposed rules in a patriarchal culture that withholds any control over their intimate lives. Though one of the wives (which one? Damned if I know, they're all blonde/bland) insists they don't "do weird" (i. e., Mormon orgies of four people rolling around on a king-sized bed), the whole premise of the show is more cringe-worthy than that last episode of Hoarders, where the old lady's house was so fouled with cat-shit that it had to be gutted to be made inhabitable.

So why do I watch these things? There isn't much on that's watchable besides Mad Men. And I will admit I have a fascination with the bizarre. I had no idea there was such a significant polygamous subculture in the States: I thought it was the province of crackpots who lived out in the desert with fifteen wives and a shotgun.

But is this Kody guy, this smarmy long-haired creep who oozes a sense of entitlement, this lone rooster in the henhouse, any less off-putting? While the family tries to figure out where to put the new wife (maybe Kody will build a shed for her out in the back yard), I contemplate the dynamics of other polygamous cultures in which the first wife always has the upper hand, the most power in a nearly-powerless situation.

Each succeeding wife has less control, and the last one, the little sister, has practically none. She is merely a sex toy for the husband, who has grown tired of all these breeding cows mooing around the place.

OK, so how long until she gets pregnant? Stay tuned.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Those dancing feet






















Gosh-damn, what do you write about on a Monday?
A Monday after a particularly choice grandmother weekend, making videos of old ads (for 7-year-old Caitlin loves watching vintage commercials for Chatty Cathy and Tiny Tears, then staging her own demented versions), plunging into cookie dough up to our elbows (or should I say "cookie DO", in keeping with the newly acceptable and even universal spelling of "donut"), and general chasing around. It was good, it was exhausting, they're home now, and I have the Mondays again.

But that's OK. Because there's always something to write about, isn't there?
If anybody follows this blog, they'll catch on to the fact that I like to probe the layers of my collection of old books like an archaelogical dig. Yellowed paperbacks are my favorite, because for some reason I seem to remember more about them, even books I read decades ago.
This one was published, gulp, thirty years ago. I couldn't believe it came out in 1979, but there it was. It has the strange title of I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can, a memoir of Valium addiction, withdrawal and "psychiatric triumph". Oh, sign me up!
It's even more interesting to note that I marked up this book plenty with marginal comments and underlines, and highlighter so old you can barely see it any more. It sort of soaked through to the other side and marks passages that aren't relevant at
all.
At the time of the Valium disaster, Barbara Gordon was a successful (read: Emmy-winning) TV documentary producer with a wonderful life. Wonderful enough to inspire this description of her marvelous live-in lover, Eric:
"Eric made love like no man I had ever known. He was strong, tender and totally uninhibited. He touched, he felt, he laughed, he talked. As I fell asleep in his arms, I silently thanked my guardian angel for all my happiness, for the richness of my life."

Right. At the same time that she's rhapsodizing about how swell everything is, she's experiencing sweating, hammering panic attacks every day that force her to swallow copious quantities of Valium. Eric's little flaws (total financial dependency, no friends at all, two mentally ill ex-wives and a child he is forbidden to see) just sort of blur by her.

And yet, even consuming an astonishing 30 milligrams of Valium a day, she is able to function so well at work that she wins national awards.

This is a curious memoir, and I was only to find out later that Gordon took huge liberties with the facts, moving events around in time and changing a lot of what she calls "details". When she goes cold turkey on the Valium, her doctor reassuring her it isn't addictive, she describes violent spasms of withdrawal:

"My scalp started to burn as if I had hot coals under my hair. Then I began to experience funny little twitches, spasms, a jerk of a leg, a flying arm, tiny tremors that soon turned into convulsions."

Still she insists she doesn't need to taper off. She wants to do this, womanfully, in one go. Eric cheers her on and feeds and supports her and listens to her endless weepy monologues about her unhappy childhood.
At first. And then. . . and then, inexplicably, things change. More to the point, Eric changes - into something unrecognizable.

This hideous metamorphasis into monsterhood happens after five years of cohabiting in apparent bliss. Barbara describes him as "nearly six feet tall, with a head of thick black hair, graying slightly at the temples, a gentle smile, a marvelous mixture of man and boy." Well, maybe this woman was more drugged-out than she thought, because (according to her book) this marvelous man-boy would soon be verbally slicing her into pieces, cutting her off from her friends, tying her to chairs and punching her in the face.

The rest of the memoir deals with Barbara's rescue, in the nick of time, by two of the dozens of wonderful friends she has (though they do seem to disappear in her times of greatest need). She ends up in a series of mental hospitals while doctors try to figure out what is wrong with her. They look right at the Valium and don't see it. Then, as now, that's the way psychiatry works.

Or doesn't work. What happens with Eric is even more disturbing: he wages a hate campaign against her, telling her friends blatant lies designed to throw them off-balance and poison them against Barbara.

Eventually she finds a wonderful, understanding therapist and spends months pouring out her childhood woes in true Freudian analytical fashion. More interestingly, she falls in love with a 25-year-old psych ward burnout with a prison record (involuntary manslaughter) from Riker's Island. My my, how this woman picks them!

All this is leading up to something I saw in a library in the early '80s: a book called Prince Valium, written by one Anton Holden. This was "the other side of Barbara Gordon's million-selling memoir", Holden's attempt to set the record straight. Instead, it ends up more twisted than ever.

Turns out Barbara's boyish boy friend "Eric" isn't a failed lawyer at all, but a film producer working in the same medium as Barbara. He's moderately successful, mainly for the Vixens in Chains kind of movies that drip creepiness. But he's smooth enough to hide his icy sociopathic core, especially from someone as infantile and utterly dependent as Barbara.

Holden insists that the dates in her memoir conflict wildly with reality, with a year passing between certain episodes instead of days. He paints himself as her would-be saviour, completely defeated by her narcissism and impossible demands. It becomes apparent pretty quickly that what this guy really wants is a piece of the action: he'd like to rake in some cash and fame of his own, while whitewashing what really happened between them.

But what really happened between them?

I wasn't there, but I can't see how a forty-year-old successful career woman could fall for a brute with a shiny surface, a man so parasitic he reduces his partner to voraciously chewing pills to deal with her anxiety: without her even knowing it. This is the thing that rattles my teeth.
Until her kindly saviour/psychologist enlightens her about it, she seems to have no idea at all that "Eric" is sucking the life out of her. He's so practiced a user, so smooth that she thinks she's happy.

I've never known a person consuming 30 milligrams of Valium a day who is happy.
Or even alive.

OK, so more is known about Valium withdrawal now, and many say it's because of Barbara Gordon's book. I won't say much more about Prince Valium now, though I may be commenting more on it later (I've just ordered a used copy. It's not hard to find, though I doubt if he broke any sales records: the book is too creepy, and loyalty to Gordon too strong).

The movie version of I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can, starring the then-hot Jill Clayburgh, drew only a tepid response, mainly because it lacked the edge and twisted, complex dynamics of the original. Liza Minnelli, whose then-husband Jack Haley Jr. once presented her with a gold-plated Valium tablet, eventually ended up in rehab.

Mother's Little Helpers weren't so innocuous, after all.

Gordon describes Valium not as a tranquilizer, but "a leveller". I'd say she got it wrong. This Eric/Anton/boy/man/incubus levelled her long before she ended up in a locked ward with a 20-something boy friend who had killed somebody. I wonder if she's still alive today (she'd be over 70); what happened with Anton Holden, if there were any legal ramifications; if her subsequent books made any money. One of them, Jennifer Fever, was about relationships between older men and younger women. Might as well title it, The Sky is Blue.
Contrary to what most people seem to think, the Valium didn't screw up Barbara Gordon's life. Going off the Valium didn't screw up Barbara Gordon's life. Not even Eric did. It was her own bad choices. Even addicts choose the poisons they put into themselves, and only they can choose to stop.

And nasty, brutish partners don't fall from the sky.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

And now, for something. . .

It's only Thursday, but surely the weekend is at hand (?). Until then, something to cheer your soul. I love these: I'm watching the old Trek series again (this comes around every 5 years or so), perhaps prompted by the extremely hokey Weird or What? series on History Channel, starring the ubiquitous William Shatner in yet another of his interminable parodies of himself. Bring it on.

STAR TREK BLOOPERS 1960`s

Shatner visiting Nimoys house (the original)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How does it feel?

I think I mentioned yesterday that I was going to sneak away to see a movie: The Town with Ben Affleck (written, produced, starring, etc. etc.). Unless you like shoot-'em-ups, extreme violence, hateful language and interminable car chases, don't go. I only went to see Jon Hamm, who was dishy as ever (but he might as well have had a sign on him saying, "Good Guy". In fact, he did wear a shirt that said FBI).

But it was afterwards, as I navigated Vancouver during the busy time, that I had my memorable (sort of) experience. Normally I dodge panhandlers, for my own safety as much as anything else. They are ubiquitous on the street, and reach out to you with baseball cap in hand and "Spare change?" on their lips. Others sit cross-legged all day behind damp slabs of cardboard with mini-histories of personal disaster written on them in black marker.

But there's another sort of public approach: people asking the time, or for directions. Usually, these requests are on the level. People simply want some information, and are generally polite and grateful for the help. I'm hopeless about directions, since I don't live in Vancouver and am one of those people who has nearly no sense of direction. But for some reason, people always seem to come up to me.

The man approached me and immediately stood closer than I would have liked, bending toward me. He was short, with stringy receding hair and nondescript clothing. The first thing he said was, "Please don't tell me you're a tourist." I told him I wasn't, but didn't live here.


He seemed to have a legitimate question about getting somewhere. He told me "as an American and a teacher, I don't know my way around here." He had a map of the downtown in his hands. I didn't feel right, but couldn't put my finger on why. I gave him my muddled explanation and said, "Please confirm this with someone else. I don't want you to end up in the wrong place."

At the beginning of this encounter, the "American teacher", a stranger in a strange land, said something about having two questions, but the second one (I was trying to get away from him by now) wasn't a question at all, but something along the lines of, "About five blocks that way, there's a Blenz Coffee, and you better stay away from it. I just had my wallet, my passport and my. . . "

You could feel a breeze from me speeding away.

Even though I was standing in the middle of the sidewalk with people flowing all around me, I was shit-scared. With his ingratiating, slightly oily manner and offputting vibes, I wondered if he was going to pull a knife on me or something. I only knew I had to scram, so I quickly inserted myself into the pedestrian flow and turned into a side street as soon as I could.

So what caused this reaction? There were several things, and I only really understood them in retrospect.


He did not have the manner of a person who had just been robbed. There was none of the anxiety and fear and anger a normal person would feel. He gave off a slippery geniality. Not only that, he didn't lead with his problem, but softened me up first with his claim of being lost, a ploy to incite sympathy.


He kept saying he was "an American and a teacher". He said it more than once, maybe even three times. Why would I have any interest in this? Maybe because teachers are, well, sort of admirable, or at least respectable/harmless. The impression he was trying for was being powerless and disoriented in a foreign country with no friendly people in it.

But he had a detailed map of the downtown in his hands! Why did he need me at all? The map was frowsy and used, with yellow highlighter all over it. Not a tourist map at all. It was a prop.

His appearance didn't match his supposedly-respectable description of himself. For one thing, he had terrible teeth. I mean, really terrible. A front tooth was missing, and the rest weren't yellow so much as brown. They weren't the teeth of an American teacher, no matter how ill-paid.

I was both proud of myself for escaping the scam so quickly, and ashamed that I let him take me that far. I've heard the stolen wallet/new in town/hungry children thing before, and my radar is usually good enough to spot the swindle. (If you steer them towards the Salvation Army hostel or other resources, they look offended and walk away. My daughter used to try to give them McDonald's coupons, but usually they didn't want them.)

No doubt this guy would have hit on the next available person, asking for "directions" and hoping for an "oh, that's terrible! Let me give you $20.00 to tide you over" sort of thing. Or, better yet, a trip to the ATM to take out some serious money.

I don't know if this guy was armed, or just creepy. Maybe it was the violent Ben Affleck movie that freaked me out, I don't know. But the thing that really gave him away was the black hole behind his falsely ingratiating smile. The vacuum. Street people all seem to have this. It's a sucking void that pulls in anything that isn't tied down. Endless, voracious, insatiable need.

We're supposed to support the homeless, right? But what about blatant panhandlers with phony stories of being ripped off? If we "support" them, we'll end up even more ripped off, and being ashamed that we fell for it. In other words, abused twice.

My husband has a practical, if imperfect solution. "Support the institutions that help such people. Don't get out your wallet, it'll only go on drugs."

As I sped away in the crowd, I couldn't help but remember Dylan's mystery tramp, "the vacuum of his eyes". A void where there should be a conscience. And a human being without a conscience is the scariest thing in the world.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I have a little shadow





































Both my parents were twins. Does that make me a quadruple, I wonder? Though the twin gene has been lurking around in my family history for generations, it hasn't expressed itself in a while. It may well be lying in wait. Grandgirls, beware.

Writers endlessly agonize (OK, this writer endlessly agonizes) about their relationship to their work. Is it a calling, vocation, burden, endless battle, or what? When I try to tell people what I do, it's awkward. I've had every reaction from "nice hobby, but what do you do?" to "yeah, right" to "what did you say?". A few exclaim, "Ohhhhhhhhhh! How wonderful!", as if I work magic, and assuming I have J. K. Rowling's income.

It's not a proper thing to do, at all, and yet so many people seem to want to do it.

I can't remember a time when I didn't write, when I didn't have this shadow dragging after me - or, more accurately, casting cold darkness just ahead of me, chilling my path. Somebody inside has drawn the shades, it seems, and I don't know why.

Is there joy in what I do? That's almost like asking if sex is enjoyable. Well, yes. . . and no. Sex gives us the best and the worst experiences of life, and it's both blessing and burden, something we really can't escape. It masquerades as grotesque whoredom in the culture, and still splashes buckets of guilt on women (and Catholics - sorry, this is just what I see).

Yes, and lousy, schlocky, tawdry memoirs and cheap formula-driven fiction sell like mad, whereas. . . "other" books disappear in six months.

So what is my relationship to my work? (I'm running out of time here, as I want to go see that new Ben Affleck movie co-starring Jon Hamm, who is one of the reasons I go on living). I am beginning to see it as my twin. I've never had a twin, and envy those who do. Identical siblings share the mysterious bond of having hatched out of the same egg. Much of their genetic material is exactly alike, and studies of identical twins separated at birth yield astonishing results: both siblings marrying on the same day, marrying spouses with the same name or profession, owning the same kind of dog (with the same name), having the same address in different towns, and so on.

I don't have such a twin, and my relationship with my siblings long ago devolved into some sort of horror designed to do as much damage to me as possible. I put up with this abuse for so long that I can't keep quiet about it now.

I have this silent twin, except that she's very noisy and won't stop babbling Truth and stuff like that. It's tiresome sometimes, and other times exhilarating. I'm stuck with it, for sure. I can temporarily suppress her, but she pops out somewhere else. Why do I have such a negative relationship with her (or him - it could be either one)?

I brood constantly about whether or not my work will ever again see print. I write about this all the time, ad nauseam it seems. This blog was going to be about the Joys and Challenges of Writing, and instead it's a highly eccentric substitute diary, meandering from subject to subject: but descending into rant whenever the subject of my "vocation" comes up.
I've been down this road so many times, and I know I should just suck it up and be optimistic, because I know I've got the goods. I also know I have a lifelong history of being ignored.

This is when I sit with my twin, and she takes hold of my arm, and drags me back to work.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Is this my new diary?




























So anyways, I'm back from holidays on a pitiless, brutal dripping Monday, Vancouver at its worst. It won't let up for a couple of days, by the looks of it. I realize with a shock that I never write in my journal any more. It just doesn't occur to me. I've been keeping a journal since I was eight. I have let go of so much in my life that used to be meaningful, so much so that I don't dare tot it all up.
So I'm left with projects that might strike others as pretty weird. I'm always wanting to make something, from Wonder Knitter dolls (no pattern for these, as usual: they evolve in my hands) to unusual installations. I had these ice-like rocks, plastic actually, used for accents or decorations, and I wanted to display them. I put them in a glass bowl and thought, ho-hum. It just didn't work for me. So what sort of container could I come up with that would be completely original?
At the same time, we were cleaning out closets and turfing out things (fall cleaning, I guess) that we didn't need or use. We found what seemed like hundreds of old cassette tapes that we never played, or couldn't play due to oxidation and age. So we had to get rid of them, but I began to look at the clear plastic cases and think, hmmmmm. . .
So I came up with these. I've since used crystal hearts in various colors, and will experiment with other things. But what's the point? I don't sell them. I'm not much of an entrepreneur (or however you spell that - it's Monday). Maybe that's why I can't sell my novel(s) and book(s) of poems. I can make the "product", but can't distribute it.
These might be seen as too odd, but the effect I'm after is: what are these things? They look familiar, and yet. . . Or, maybe people would just look at them and say, cassette tapes. How lame. I don't know. The voice of my older sister, forever undermining my creative spirit with caustic, withering remarks, still echoes in my ears: "You're weird, Margaret." "You're crazy!" (said in a shrugging, completely dismissive way. Jesus, how did I get on to this? Just how much damage did she
do?)
One reason I got turned off with my diary is that it had devolved into one big rant. The dissatisfactions in my life were being amplified, I think. I started tearing up the rants, but nothing much was left.
I have love in my life, and that's supposed to be all you need. I still feel creative. But when I presented my five-year-old granddaughter with the little 3" handmade doll I crafted, with the tiny knitted dress and beaded belt and braids, she threw it back at me. I'm not supposed to be upset, am I?
I look in the mirror, and I swear I can't see the kick-me sign. Is it invisible, but only to me?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Roughing it in the bush









































I'm not much of an outdoors person, but I must say, some of my encounters on my Alberta holiday were interesting (especially the very tall Mountie). It's also very hard to catch a moose in uniform. Pretty cool.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Bugle boy

"I tip a wapiti" is a perfect palindrome, and the core of a much longer one I've lost track of. (A palindrome is a large arena full of one-humped camels, or Alaskan ex-governors or something.) Though I have no desire to tip one of these magnificent creatures (after all, the service is terrible!), I wouldn't mind if one of them would tip me, or at least blow his bugle for me.

On our recent driving trip through the Rocky Mountains, the bad faerie rubber-stamped us, and all sorts of stuff went wrong. Nobody died, nothing like that, but still, it was stuff. A long-anticipated visit to a world-class dinosaur museum in Drumheller, Alberta, was aborted by a sign that read, "Closed on Mondays." (Mondays? . . . Mondays???)

A long construction detour stuck us in six-inch mud ruts and coated our vehicle in thick brown slime. "Falling-off-the-bone" ribs from a promising roadside restaurant had the taste and consistency of shoe leather, and the accompanying chicken breast had been precooked, frozen, doused with bottled barbecue sauce, then shoved in the microwave for 20 minutes. (Someone should write a book about disappointing restaurant meals: the prickly, angry sense of being ripped off, the powerlessness of not being able to fix it, the sensory anticipation raised and then dashed, the dismay and even shame at trusting that this place would live up to its promise. Not to mention good old-fashioned visceral disgust at being faced with inedible glop, or - worse - stuff that's edible, but only just.)

Nevertheless, there were moments, Rocky Mountain rainbows glimpsed: and I have always loved rainbows, I admit it. In Banff, we sighted some undersized male elk by the side of the road: like fat deer with bigger horns. Knowing they were out of the running, they sparred half-heartedly for the tourists. But magic lay in wait. After a too-big dinner in the enchanted town of Jasper, we were driving back to our chalet (OK, it was a fourplex, but still very cozy), and saw cars backed up and pulled over.

"Shit," Bill said. "More construction."

But it wasn't. Breathless travellers had their telephotos trained on a huge bull wapiti, with a rack on him like I'd never seen before. He made a show of wariness, his monarch head jerking up from time to time to interrupt his grazing. But there was no doubt that he owned the patch of ground he stood on.

Then he tipped back his wapiti head, opened his mouth and broadcast an unearthly - what was it? A goblin playing an oboe? The smell of rushing wild streams and fresh-cut cedar rendered into sound? A squealing upsurge of harmonics the colour of the aurora, designed to grasp and pull the ovaries of bawling elk-virgins?

Whatever it was, whale-squeal or loon-shiver, his primal music made my hair stand on end. When Mr. Elk casually sauntered across the highway, stopping once to bugle again, we were rapt, rooted, transfixed, and swearing a blue streak because we hadn't bothered to bring the camera to dinner. (Nothing good would ever happen on this trip, would it?) So, no video, no majestic stills, nothing. This would have to be the one that got away.

How does a mere ungulate (how I love the word!) produce such virtuosic woodwind arpeggios? It takes Tibetan monks 50 years to learn how to chant in overtones. And here this big ol' fur rug on hooves is doing it with no study at all. It's artless art. If Felix Mendelssohn breathed into a glass clarinet in a state of total weightlessness, it still wouldn't come close: wouldn't auger the soul in the same excruciatingly lovely way.

Wapiti

i tipa

wipitika

a tika tipa tika

wapitapi

tikatipa

wapataki

tipa

tipa

tippa

tip -

. . . ahhh.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

TRIUMPH OF THE WILL (RECENTLY FOUND DIRECTOR'S CUT)

Historical footage. Disturbing, but an important reminder that National Socialism is once more on the rise.

Holiday/Holy Day


Since this won't align in the centre (er!), I'll just write from the centre too.
The origin of holiday was Holy Day.
Nothing much holy about it any more,
unless you decide to go to the Holy Land,
a trip I've never understood
because it always seems to be undertaken by churchy retirees
who then inflict their pictures ad nauseam, complete with
running commentary:
"Look, there's the head of Jesus!"
Nothing is questioned,
not even seventeen femur bones of Lazarus
or somebody.
I once saw a mummified Pope, but I forget
where it was, maybe
Venice. I loved
Venice
in spite of its stinking waters
and guys in striped shirts with barge poles,
but Florence (Firenze!) blew me away
with its San Marco, its
gold-lined cathedral.
If God lived anywhere,
it was here.
David, a must-see
was extremely tall
with a huge head
and (in spite of all the fuss)
a very small penis
he was out of proportion
because everyone was looking "up"
This year it's a driving trip to Alberta
a place we lived a long time ago
and didn't see:
Moses mountains
bighorn sheep all over the road
moose and elk and the occasional shy white
mountain goat
and even, once,
a wolf bounding out in front of our car
on the highway at night,
its feral eyes lit up like incandescent disks.
I want to get away from it all,
the whining I've done lately, which makes me ashamed,
for surely the only direction is forward.
They say
and maybe "they" are right
that a vacation
(origin: vacate or vacant or evacuate or vacuum cleaner - heh-heh, sorry, I made that one up)
that a vacation, no matter how modest
is a way of hitting the reset button of the mind
Letting a fresh breeze blow through all those sizzling neurons
Eating things you're not spozed to
and not caring.
And that brings me to another subject: in a memoir I read not long ago,
by never-mind-who or you'd
wonder if he really wrote it,
which he did,
the subject said he was mastering the art of "caring
while not caring"
I liked it
though could only get it
with that part of my brain or liver
that gets things
not careless, per se
but perhaps carefree
and isn't that the ideal state
in which to go on vacation?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Buried, but not quite alive






















I don't know why this is, but I've always been attracted to extremes.

I get my fill of it these days, with all these so-called reality shows (all carefully stage-managed by the producers, who don't even bother to stay out of the frame any more), in which a family is torn apart by some sort of unspeakable problem (heroin addiction, crippling compulsions, etc., etc.). Surely the most bizarre of all these human sideshows is the hoarding phenomenon.

I must have really been deluded or something, but I thought hoarding just meant you were a little bit greedy. People hoarded food during World War II, didn't they, and who could blame them? The tins were all neatly stacked in the basement, or somewhere else out of sight. It wasn't nice, you weren't supposed to do it, but there was nothing too horrific about it.

Or some old lady might like to collect Hummel figurines and got carried away, so that there's not much space for her to sit down any more. That's hoarding. Isn't it?

Hamsters are called hoarders, because they like to shove copious quantities of sunflower seeds in their cheeks. Sunflower seeds seem harmless to me.

Little did I know that the hoarding of reality TV means living in what amounts to a waist-deep landfill. Pizza boxes, food wrappers, empty jars and beer cans and anything else no longer wanted is just tossed on the floor. The smell is appalling, and mice and bugs abound. It is as if these people have just given up on themselves, and on life.

As I become steadily more addicted to this awful stuff, I am beginning to notice certain themes cropping up again and again:

The family telling the psychologist/organizer that their "collecting" (not hoarding) is their own business, and not hurting them or anyone else.

Inappropriate affect: constantly smirking, chuckling or joking about the disaster while the rest of the family quietly weeps; lashing out in astonishing, malignant hate and rage at the most well-meaning attempts to help.

No functioning bathroom. No explanation given as to how these people bathe or go to the bathroom (if indeed they do).

No functioning kitchen.

A dead refrigerator full of rotting food.

No useable beds. (One particularly pathetic man huddled on the floor against a wall.)

Almost no place to sit down, and certainly no place to sit together. One partner sits on a box to eat dinner, while the other sits on the only exposed portion of the bed.

"Meals" defrosted in the microwave. Many of these people are very obese, so a lot of furtive overeating must go on behind the scenes.

No place to wash clothes. No place to store clothes, except heaped on the floor.

Okay, so among the problems these families insist they don't have are: disturbed family relations; alienation; a seemingly deliberate, literal pushing apart of loved ones by the sheer bulk of all the crap. Normal bathroom functions, normal hygiene, normal eating and sleeping, all are eroded away to nothing. The outside world is effectively shut out, and the inhabitants are shut in. They have deliberately sealed themselves inside a stinking tomb, and when approached to tidy it up a little, they say they are too overwhelmed to do it and begin to sob about their disturbed childhood.

Yes, I have no doubt that these people had enormously disturbed childhoods, but what about their disturbed adulthoods? Isn't there something they can do about this? For (as they say in recovery circles), if nothing changes, nothing changes.

A few of these profoundly disabled souls seem to have a limited life on the outside. One woman spent three hours doing her hair every morning. (It looked like one of Lady Bird Johnson's more alarming wigs.) The surface of normalcy is eggshell. Once cracked by the intrusion of "help", all sorts of twisted dysfunction bursts through.

Last night was a doozie. There are usually two stories. Though they lived in an urban setting, the first family seemed like something out of the primitive backwoods, isolated in the extreme. The father was a nasty, belligerant old man who insisted nothing was wrong and that the family had a right to live the way they wanted. The mother, her weight in excess of 300 pounds, refused to let go of even a single item, no matter how mildewed, dirty and useless. And the children! One can hardly call them children: they were 38 and 39 years old, and had never left home. The girl, for that's what she was mentally, refused to surrender a rotting old teddy bear because her Daddy had given it to her 30 years ago.

Then there was the other story, about a bizarre child-man who had concocted a story (which everyone believed without question) that he had been knighted by Prince Charles. He claimed to be an orphan from Ireland who had "come over with Father Flanagan" (! Is he trapped in an old Pat O'Brien movie, or what?) This man really was a collector of sorts, but his place was jammed with stuff so weird it looked like the inside of a schizophrenic's mind. There was no room left for anyone to live.

One can guess what really happened. His family probably couldn't cope with the stress of a toddler living in a man's body. He seemed to have the emotional equipment of a three-year-old, dressing up in costumes, playing pretend, and skipping around in his own little universe of kitsch. He had convinced himself all this stuff was worth a fortune (God knows what he had paid for it at all those garage sales!), and was only selling it off because he was dead broke.
(That's another theme. Where do these people get their money? How do they support themselves? Many of them, especially the women, are constantly buying things, like the same top in seven different colors, all left in the bags with the tags on. Or even more useless tacky items, adding to the chaos and collecting thick webs of dust that drape in the corners like macabre Halloween decorations.)

Anyway, this Sir Patrick guy was one of a kind. His Irish accent, not much better than a Lucky Charms commercial, came and went. If this was mental illness, it seemed to fit no known category.

The lowest point for me was when he found an old doll and began to cry. The therapist asked in her usual gooey compassionate way, "Does this bring something up for you?" "Me neighbor's little girl. She doyed. Ah, I loved her so." It was a new low in creepiness: maybe just as well for the little girl. (But for some reason, I was convinced that most of what he said was bullshit.)

Strange people like this used to be institutionalized, or at least hidden upstairs and forgotten. Now they are being flushed out (pardon the expression), and, to some extent, used for sensationalist entertainment. In some cases, they do seem to want help, but it seems to me they are usually being coerced, either by the family or the law. All of these places are extreme fire hazards, and many aren't even intact. If you only have half a roof on your house, sooner or later the whole place is going to cave in.

But it's not enough to need help: you have to want it, and that pathetically backward family ended up being forcibly evicted when their falling-down house was finally condemned. The last shot showed them sitting in a row staring into the camera like something out of Deliverance, with the final caption telling us they were living in an apartment with four of their seven cats and planning on repairing the house and moving back in.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sex! Sex! And More Sex!



Fascinating topics can come from the strangest places.

I like to read in bed at night before drowsiness carries me off. I'm omniverous in my tastes, usuall ordering used books from Amazon for one cent, paying only the shipping and handling. When I saw an ad for a new book about my favorite series, Mad Men, I snapped it up, only to find that it wasn't at all what I expected.

It's about the series, yes, but it's also about a lot of other things, not all of which pertain to advertising and/or the '60s. The most startling chapter deals with Peggy (first woman copywriter at Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Pryce, a single gal with an unconventional lifestyle and an odd but appealing personal style) and her fruitless attempt to obtain birth control pills from a judgemental doctor.

This interlude led the author, Natasha Vargas-Cooper, to take a sharp jag to the right and plunge into the subject of Victorian morality. She dredged up the life of an obscure, oddball pioneer for women's rights, one Ida Craddock. Though unmarried, she took it upon herself to write a series of pamphlets on the subject of sex: specifically, proper conduct in the marriage bed.

Eventually, the repressive society Ida was trapped in caught up with her. Facing a jail sentence for publishing obscenities, she committed suicide. But that isn't all there was to Ida.

She was one of those bizarre Spiritualist ladies, the type who conducted seances, where tables rocked and knees rubbed against each other in the dark. She claimed to have a Spirit Husband who visited her in her bed, and lectured widely on the wildly popular Theosophist teachings of Madame Blavatsky.

But mostly, Ida took it upon her maidenly self to tell everyone how to. . . y'know. . . do it.

Her little books were mighty strange, and in their own way, more repressive than the most tight-lipped schoolmarms of the era. But because they were also fairly explicit in matters that no one ever talked about, many people considered them scandalous and even pornographic.

Here are a few excerpts from The Wedding Night.

THE WEDDING NIGHT
By Ida Craddock

Oh, crowning time of lovers' raptures veiled in mystic splendor, sanctified by priestly blessing and by the benediction of all who love the lovers! How shall we chant thy praise?

Of thy joys even the poets dare not sing, save in words that suggest but do not reveal. At thy threshold, the most daring of the realistic novelists is fain to pause, and, with farewells to the lovers who are entering thy portals, let fall the curtain of silence betwixt them and the outside world forevermore.

What art thou, oh, night of mystery and passion? Why shouldst thou be thus enshrouded in an impenetrable veil of secrecy? Are thy joys so pure (ALL RIGHT, lady, shut the bleep up! Let's get to the juicy part.)

(For) there is a wrong way and there is a right way to pass the wedding night.
In the majority of cases, no genital union at all should be attempted, or even suggested, upon that night. To the average young girl, virtuously brought up, the experience of sharing her bedroom with a man is sufficient of a shock to her previous maidenly habits, without adding to her nervousness by insisting upon the close intimacies of genital contact.

And, incredible as it may sound to the average man, she is usually altogether without the sexual experience which every boy acquires in his dream-life. The average, typical girl does not have erotic dreams. In many cases, too, through the prudishness of parents--a prudishness which is positively criminal--she is not even told beforehand that genital union will be required of her.

Yet, if you are patient and loverlike and gentlemanly and considerate and do not seek to unduly precipitate matters, you will find that Nature will herself arrange the affair for you most delicately and beautifully. If you will first thoroughly satisfy the primal passion of the woman, which is affectional and maternal (for the typical woman mothers the man she loves), and if you will kiss and caress her in a gentle, delicate and reverent way, especially at the throat and bosom, you will find that, little by little (perhaps not the first night nor the second night, but eventually, as she grows accustomed to the strangeness of the intimacy), you will, by reflex action from the bosom to the genitals, successfully arouse within her a vague desire for the entwining of the lower limbs, with ever closer and closer contact, until you melt into one another's embrace at the genitals in a perfectly natural and wholesome fashion; and you will then find her genitals so well lubricated with an emission from her glands of Bartholin, and, possibly, also from her vagina, that your gradual entrance can be effected not only without pain to her, but with a rapture so exquisite to her, that she will be more ready to invite your entrance upon a future occasion.

As to the clitoris, this should be simply saluted, at most, in passing, and afterwards ignored as far as possible; for the reason that it is a rudimentary male organ, and an orgasm aroused there evokes a rudimentary male magnetism in the woman, which appears to pervert the act of intercourse, with the result of sensualizing and coarsening the woman. Within the duller tract of the vagina, after a half-hour, or, still better, an hour of tender, gentle, self-restrained coition, the feminine, womanly, maternal sensibilities of the bride will be aroused, and the magnetism exchanged then will be healthful and satisfying to both parties. A woman's orgasm is as important for her health as a man's is for his. And the bridegroom who hastens through the act without giving the bride the necessary half-hour or hour to come to her own climax, is not only acting selfishly; he is also sowing the seeds of future ill-health and permanent invalidism in his wife.

Some woman have an abnormally long clitoris, which it is impossible not to engage during coition, and such women are usually sensual, and lacking in the ability to prolong the act. In extreme cases the excision of such a clitoris may be beneficial; but it would seem preferable to first employ the milder method of suggestive therapeutics, and for the wife to endeavor to turn her thoughts from the sensation induced at the clitoris to that induced within the vagina, which is the natural and wholesome sensation to be aroused in a woman.

(And here it gets really interesting.)

Do not expend your seminal fluid at any time, unless you and the bride desire a child, and have reverently and deliberately prepared for its creation on that especial occasion. Your semen is not an excretion to be periodically gotten rid of; it is a precious secretion, to be returned to the system for its upbuilding in all that goes to emphasize your manhood. It is given to you by Nature for the purpose of begetting a child; it is not given to you for sensual gratification; and unless deliberate creation be provided for by both of you, it should never, never be expended. This however does not mean less pleasure, but more pleasure than by the ordinary method of sex union. As to the details of how such sexual self-control may be exercised during coition, and without harm to the nervous system, you can learn these from my pamphlet on RIGHT MARITAL LIVING.

Also, to the bride, I would say : Bear in mind that it is part of your wifely duty to perform pelvic movements during the embrace, riding your husband's organ gently, and, at times, passionately, with various movements, up and down, sideways, and with a semi-rotary movement, resembling the movement of the thread of a screw upon a screw. These movements will add greatly to your own passion and your own pleasure, but they should not be dwelt in thought for this purpose. They should be performed for the express purpose of conferring pleasure upon your husband, and you should carefully study the results of various movements, gently and tenderly performed, upon him.

Whew!

This is just about the strangest sexual literature I've ever seen. Though it rhapsodizes about the mystical union a bride and groom can obtain just by, well, getting it on, it also severely discourages ejaculation (while not exactly telling men how to do that), and insists that the bride's "passion" is "maternal" and "affectional", taming it into something sweet and winsome rather than a rocking, moaning, bone-shaking eruption of primal release.

Or something.

This sort of belief was fairly common then, making me honestly wonder how blue men's balls must have been in that era. "Free love" often meant the couple were not married but still engaging in some sort of close erotic contact that never ended in sexual release. Ida insists men can have an orgasm without ejaculating (oh, yes, perhaps a swami who has trained himself for decades!), and that women can have an orgasm without clitoral stimulation. Indeed, she insists the male partner should never touch his wife's genitals with his hand: this "masturbative" action will only incite unseemly appetites. The only proper "wand" to grant her satisfaction is his penis. Period.

This twists sexuality into something that must be rigidly controlled at all times, yet enjoyed as a source of unending bliss. There are so many conflicting messages in this literature that it makes my head spin. Ida Craddock really wasn't an authority on human sexuality by training or study, but by mere fascination, and (perhaps)some illicit experience. Her spirit lover may have been able to rouse her to ecstatic heights (while never touching her clitoris!): so why should she get married at all?

In another passage, she suggests that men should be allowed to ejaculate once every two years and nine months, so that children will be properly spaced apart. "Rounded off," she states, "once every three years."

I just don't get it. The hydraulics just don't work out. Back then, there was this belief that a man's joy juice somehow circulated all over the body and improved his general health. But we now know that it doesn't do that at all. Except for the presence of all those pesky wigglers, it's no more mystical than spit.

As for never touching a woman's genitals or even doing more than "salute" the clitoris (a Monty Python gesture, if there ever was one), how many orgasms would a woman be likely to have? Craddock shared the typical Victorian's horror of masturbation. She believed it would arouse a snarling, writhing, primitive lust in women, so that their genteel rotary actions would escalate into furious animal thrusting and pumping and. . . oh. You must excuse me. Sorry, Ida, I just can't follow your instructions
.

******************************************************
POSTSCRIPT. Every once in a while I look back at what I've written. Bad idea, because then I see my obsessions in all their shabby glory. Lately all I seem to write about is sex (Victorian sex in particular, though that may seem like a contradiction in terms). When I'm not writing about sex, I'm moaning about the fact that my novel hasn't been published yet. It's getting monotonous.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Which one is Meryl Streep?




Which one is Meryl. . . and which one is her "bustier" sister?