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Archive for the ‘Jugular’ Category

By Anonymous

 

 

As unaccountable as feeling, as inevitable, inconvenient and beautiful as tumultuous weather, a circumstance has arisen in which I am envied by a woman far more successful than I.

The Woman Who Envies Me, or let us call her WWEM for short, like a radio station, decided at some point that my life, my spirit, I don’t know what, I don’t know what, I don’t know, my circumstances, were, in their beauty, a source of personal torment to her, a sign of the complete arbitrariness of the universe in the handing out of sweet things, and began to torment me mercilessly, even as she tormented herself, with outbursts in my direction. As we were frequently thrown into artistic situations together, working on the same movie, being in the same play (both of us are comedians and actors), she would never come to the workplace intending to torment me. Rather she would be overtaken by this feeling of envy, never the master of it. Envy has no master! It operates with a terrible independence, diminishing the spirit even as it enlarges and bloats the sense of self! Once, during a rehearsal, the WWEM shrieked, without warning to herself or to me that anything was coming:

O who do you think you are! With all that! With all that! Just because you went to some Ivy League school! You think you’re all that!

I was obliged to point out to her that it was she who had attended an Ivy League university; I had been a high school flunkie who barely got into any college, and would be shaking a cup in front of the F train were it not that my father had been a professor at a college that felt more or less obligated to admit me.

Another time, having attended a solo show of mine at a New York theater, she followed me around the lobby of the theater after the show whispering frantically in my ear, wherever I walked:

fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you

The woman in question is a known screenwriter and actor, a mother, a wife, the author of two successful books, a person of financial means and connections, and enjoys excellent health.

Except for her envy.

The beauty of this story, the lesson for me, lies in its mystery. It is quite clear that she envies me desperately (the symptoms are all there; I recognize them from my own inner life). If I could find her in a moment of quiescent spirit, I could try to ask her why. There is no doubt in my mind that the answer would educate me deeply. No doubt whatsoever.
 




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An anonymous writer received honorable mention in the Out of The Blue Films, Inc. ENVY Contest at red Ravine for the short story Envy.


Congratulations, Anonymous, from Out of The Blue Films, Inc. and red Ravine!




__________________________________________________________________________________________

red Ravine is not liable for any actions by Out of The Blue Films, Inc., nor the Film. red Ravine has no legal responsibility for any outcomes from the contest.

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By Eileen Malone

 

 

I’m phoning you, pick up, I say aloud
I know you’re there, I’m driving by your house
damn it, I see your car parked in front
there is no answer, not even a machine click
then I remember that you are dead

how I begrudged you winning first prize
when I couldn’t even earn an honorable mention
getting published when I was rejected
then the delirious joy when it was my poem
that they chose over yours, hah!

on and on we went, an abbreviation
of small black-winged envies
drunkenly sucking each other’s blood
holding us connected enough to scoff
and mock the achievements of other poets
deigning them lesser, mundane, trends

all we wanted was to one-up each other
but you one-upped, repaired your glory and died
and oh how I miss you, my beloved rival
your relentless push that I pushed back

now before whose earnest tight-lipped face
do I wave my award winning poem?
who do I phone, fax, e-mail, brag to?
no witness, it seems, matters as much as you did

for you, beloved rival, all that poetry
it’s as clear as a mathematical formula
all of it, even the unfinished, dismembered
it was all for you, and I never knew.

 
 




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Eileen Malone received honorable mention in the Out of The Blue Films, Inc. ENVY Contest at red Ravine for her poem Beloved Rival.

You can find out more about Eileen at her website.


Congratulations, Eileen, from Out of The Blue Films, Inc. and red Ravine!




__________________________________________________________________________________________

red Ravine is not liable for any actions by Out of The Blue Films, Inc., nor the Film. red Ravine has no legal responsibility for any outcomes from the contest.

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By Charis Fleming

 



I watch from across the room as the tow headed boy climbs into her lap and snuggles next to her chest. Absentmindedly she reaches into her blouse to loosen a bulging breast, the liquid already spilling from the nipple onto the back of her hand. He quickly latches on and suckles and grins as he gulps down his nourishment, already a boy in love with a boob.

She wipes the back of her hand and inner wrist against the cotton T-shirt and turns the page on her Parenting magazine. I supposed I nursed her as casually once upon a time, but I can’t quite remember the joy I know I must have felt each time she came to me for sustenance. My current feeling of neglect crowds out that piece of history.

I do remember gazing into her cherubic face as she pigged out for the first 14 months of her life, the last couple of months of which I spent wincing each time she utilized my elongated nipples as teething toys. She’s all grown up now and doesn’t need me for anything anymore.

When she was just a toddler she’d stand between me and her daddy, her little head halfway up my thigh, her arms pushing against me and him, the strength of her need to be center stage forcing us to step back from each other and notice her presence there between us as we tried to embrace. She never tired to separate him from his second wife and often boasted of her step-parents as being wonderful additions to her resources for learning life lessons. I felt inferior next to the perfect step-mother.

Now, 35 years later, I gaze at the duo, daughter and grandson, and I want more than anything to tell them both how left out I am feeling. I want them to know if it wasn’t for me, neither of them would exist as they are. I wanted to claim all the credit for her intelligence, poise, grace and beauty. I wanted her to recall the carefully selected man I’d married whose genetics mixed so well with my own that she could not have avoided becoming a magnificent being if she had tired to in some way. I wish her father could have survived his bout with pancreatic cancer to see the beautiful boy named in his honor.

I wanted to scream at her to pay attention to every minute detail unfolding before her. My head longed to urge her to enjoy the sensations her body was experiencing, to wallow in the amazing act of producing milk and then feeding a child, giving a little human life then sustaining that life with nothing but her body as the sustenance manufacturing facility. How could she take these precious moments so nonchalantly? I watched as the fine dining of baby at the breast continued. I wanted to tell them both I was still in the room, beg them to find a way to include me at feeding time.

The boy, sated and re-energized climbs down from her lap while she fumbles to latch the nursing bra. He crawls a beeline to my feet, raises his body against my shin and beams me a special smile as I pick him up and snuggle my face into the fresh milk smell of a perfect baby’s neck.

“Hey, Rat-boy,” my daughter chides, “I do all the work and Grandma gets all the lovin’? What about this old cow over here? I’m sacrificing mammary perkiness here and you scoot over to hang with Grandma? Thanks a lot, ingrate!” I feel her eyes lock on mine as we both cling tightly to the vast well of love we want to claim from this child.

Perfect off-spring of my perfect off-spring. Her green eyes subtly smile into my hazel orbs causing my face to split wide with a loving grin. Life doesn’t get much better than this.
 





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Charis Fleming received honorable mention in the Out of The Blue Films, Inc. ENVY Contest at red Ravine for her untitled essay.


Congratulations, Charis, from Out of The Blue Films, Inc. and red Ravine!




__________________________________________________________________________________________

red Ravine is not liable for any actions by Out of The Blue Films, Inc., nor the Film. red Ravine has no legal responsibility for any outcomes from the contest.

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By Jill L. Ferguson

 



At the age of four his feet first crossed the stage,
miniature violin tucked under his chin, audience rapt
from the first symphonic note. He held and released
each tone picturing it hover like a bird in flight,
closing his eyes into the sound. After the applause,
words he did not understand swirled in the air:
prodigy, virtuoso, artiste. Parents brought
their children to see him. Look at Paul play.
See how he feels the music. Why can’t you
play like Paul? You’re not serious enough.
You need to be more like Paul.
He hated when
parents said that. He wanted kids to like him.
He was just doing what he loved; it was nothing
special. But throughout his childhood after each
of his recordings, more and more parents wanted
progeny like Paul, and more and more of his
classmates shunned him. Playing the violin became
his Damocles’ sword, so he tried the drugs
the other kids dug. He smoked the pot and popped
the pills, snorted the lines and licked the LSD into his
system while welcoming oblivion. Then back in his dorm
he consoled himself with Schubert and Rachmaninoff,
Brahms and Beethoven. On stages far from campus
he still made mad love to the violin. And afterwards,
he ignored the parents’ prodding of their youngsters,
connect with complete strangers, and drown out the
evening’s envy with drugs, drink, and destructive sex.
He repeated the pattern again and again as seriously as he
practiced any symphony or concerto. Then, during orchestra
rehearsal one day at the age of 23, he was called
to the clinic. Now, he caresses his violin
as his lifelong lover, and he is positive
no one should want to be like Paul.





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Jill L. Ferguson won the Out of The Blue Films, Inc. ENVY Contest at red Ravine for poem/prose Like Paul. As 1st Prize winner, Jill received an Amazon Kindle.

You can find out more about Jill at her website and review books she has authored and co-authored at this Amazon link.

Congratulations, Jill, from Out of The Blue Films, Inc. and red Ravine!




__________________________________________________________________________________________

red Ravine is not liable for any actions by Out of The Blue Films, Inc., nor the Film. red Ravine has no legal responsibility for any outcomes from the contest.

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By Barbara Rick

 
 
Envy*, THE DOCUMENTARY (the movie you wish you made)

 
 
 
We at Out of The Blue Films, Inc. want to spread our appreciation around, nice and thick, for ALL those who have in some way contributed to The Out of The Blue Films ENVY Contest at red Ravine. Whether you sent in work, considered it, or even just envied the idea from afar (you know who you are), thank you!!

To you who scraped your souls and held a magnifying glass up to your hidden agendas—brava!
 
We received inspired works of fiction, essays, haiku, poetry, drawings, photographs—even a comic sketch script that we think would make a really funny short film—from writers and artists around the world.

We are all 21st century pioneers in the wild west of social networking, in particular, using technology to not only create a conversation about new work but to help create the work itself! This is the hot topic at the flurry of film panels I’ve been attending the past couple of weeks up at The Toronto International Film Festival, here in NYC at Independent Film Week, and at pre-launch parties and screenings at the venerable New York Film Festival.

Michael Moore was even talking about it onstage a few nights ago at Lincoln Center in a Q&A following his new film, Capitalism: A Love Story. No ENVY on my part, by the way, nosiree. (Me: lying like rug.)
 
 
 
 

∞ ∞ ∞

 
 
 
And, now, the winner:
 
Jill L. Ferguson of San Carlos, California for her poem/prose Like Paul, a painterly snapshot of the disastrous effects of ENVY on a young and talented violinist. Jill receives 1st Prize in The Out of The Blue Films, Inc. ENVY Contest at red Ravine: an Amazon Kindle.
 
We fell in love with this line:
 

He held and released each tone picturing it hover like a bird in flight, closing his eyes into the sound.

 
You can find out more about Jill at her website and review books she has authored and co-authored at this Amazon link.

On Thursday, October 2, red Ravine will post Like Paul in its entirety, so please come back and read this winning entry.
 
 
 
 

∞ ∞ ∞

 
 
 
 
Our judges found much to love in all the entries; it was tough to narrow it down to a single winner.

We also wanted to include excerpts from a few honorable mentions:
 
 
 
Charis Fleming’s searing essay on a mother’s flash of ENVY at her breast-feeding adult daughter and grandchild.

I gaze at the duo, daughter and grandson, and I want more than anything to tell them both how left out I am feeling. I want them to know if it wasn’t for me, neither of them would exist as they are.

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
Eileen Malone’s poem Beloved Rival.

on and on we went, an abbreviation
of small black-winged envies
drunkenly sucking each other’s blood

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
By a fourth writer, who wishes to remain Anonymous, a short story about WWEM or the Woman Who Envies Me.

The woman in question is a known screenwriter and actor, a mother, a wife, the author of two successful books, a person of financial means and connections, and enjoys excellent health. Except for her ENVY. The beauty of this story, the lesson for me, lies in its mystery. It is quite clear that she envies me desperately (the symptoms are all there; I recognize them from my own inner life). If I could find her in a moment of quiescent spirit, I could try to ask her why. There is no doubt in my mind that the answer would educate me deeply. No doubt whatsoever.

 





Last but not least, Patricia Anders in Calabasas, California submitted an evocative drawing depicting ENVY.

This and each of the honorable mentions will be published wholly in separate posts next week.



∞ ∞ ∞





Please work with us at Out of The Blue Films, Inc. to broaden and deepen the connection seeded here on red Ravine.

Here are three things you can do to keep the conversation growing:

  1. “Fan” us at facebook.com/Outofthebluefilms and tinyurl.com/ENVYonfacebook and tell us how you’d like to get involved with Team ENVY.
  2. Follow us and bring your friends (!) to our pages on twitter: ENVYthedoc, brickdoc, OuttaTheBlu.
  3. Meet us at our new blog.envydoc.com.


There, and here at red Ravine, we’ll discuss some of the ways we might use some of the entries in the film, flash you glimpses of the film and our creative process, behind-the-scenes action (and procrastination), funding dramas and successes, as we march ever forward in the making of this multi-disciplinary mega-platform documentary film project which will tell the true story of ENVY. Asking you for input, ideas, and to share in the exhilaration of it, all along the way.

Thank you to ybonesy and QuoinMonkey for an amazing experiment in creative collaboration! Remember to check back later this week to see the full winning entry, and next week for the honorable mentions.

Gratitude to all!

 

 

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red Ravine is not liable for any actions by Out of The Blue Films, Inc., nor the Film. red Ravine has no legal responsibility for any outcomes from the contest.

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By Bob Chrisman



I possess no physical evidence to offer in defense of my father. Family stories and my own fragmented memories comprise what little I know of him. Fifty-seven years have blurred much of what I remembered, but I will bear witness for him.

At a trial, the court clerk would instruct me to raise my right hand. “Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” I would hesitate before I answered. I don’t know the “truth.” I only know my truth. But the court doesn’t want to hear my doubts. The only answer to the question is, “I do.”


BOB IMG_1781

My Father – 8 Months Old, circa 1914, Missouri, photo © 2009, Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.



On February 28, 1914, my father, Len Chrisman, became the first child of H.T. and Annie Chrisman. In September of that same year, H.T.’s gall bladder ruptured. The resulting infection killed him. My father never knew his father, not even from stories, because his mother didn’t talk about the man.

Several men courted the Widow Chrisman. A local banker, my father’s favorite, asked her several times to marry him, but she refused.

When she remarried in 1920, she chose a widower, William Hecker, who had seven children. By all accounts, including some from his children, he was a very angry man. Mr. Hecker stipulated one condition for the marriage. “You must promise that you’ll never favor your son over my children.” She promised, and she never broke a promise.

BOB IMG_1780

My Father In His Baby Carriage, circa 1914, Missouri, photo © 2009, Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.

My father rarely talked about the mother of his childhood. I remember him saying, “She married him because the children needed a mother. She felt sorry for them.”

The step-daughters resented her. Ruth, the oldest, had already married and left home. Fern and Gladys soon followed their oldest sister’s lead. The remaining daughter, Myrtle, who was my father’s age, loved both her new stepmother and stepbrother. The teenaged stepsons, Ralph and Glenn, took after their father. They hated my dad because he had been an only child with a mother all to himself. The remaining step-son, Everett, died in 1926. My father rarely spoke of him, except to say, “He died too young.”

Early in the marriage they lived in western Nebraska. One day the boys roped my dad and dragged him behind a horse through cactus patches. “I never cried. Mom pulled the needles out of my bottom and back with a pair of pliers. I didn’t cry then either. I never let them have that satisfaction.” His voice remained flat as he told the first part of the story, but cracked when he said. “You know, my own mother didn’t say anything to Dad Hecker or to the boys.”

A high school teacher offered to send him to college and pay his expenses. My father wanted to go. “Mom and Dad Hecker listened politely. The last thing he said was, ‘A brilliant mind like his shouldn’t go to waste.'”

BOB IMG_1782

Widow Chrisman & Her Son, circa early 1900s, Missouri, photo © 2009, Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.


“Mom answered as soon as he finished, didn’t even take time to mull it over. ‘None of the other kids went to college. Len doesn’t need to go either.’ It wouldn’t have cost them anything. I left the room because I was so mad at her.”

Her decision doomed my dad to a lifetime of farm labor and blue collar jobs. He worked at a dairy. He worked in a foundry, a meat packing plant, and finally in a grain mill. He never fit in with his fellow workers. He read too much, thought too much.

My father met my mother in the mid-1930’s. She lived down the street from his parents. The two became friends. In the late 1930’s he traveled to Oregon to pick fruit because local jobs didn’t exist. His traveling companions were his future brothers-in law. He wrote letters to my mother. She saved them, called them “love letters” even though they contained no obvious expressions of love, other than “Love, Len.”


I asked my mother why she married him. At that time, he had been bedridden for five years. “Did you love him?”

She dodged the question. “I promised myself that I would marry someone like my dad.”

“Was Daddy like him?”

“No, he was nothing like my father. I felt sorry for Len. He needed me.” I cringed. My heart hurt. She hadn’t loved my father. I didn’t ask any more questions because I didn’t want to know the answers.


BOB IMG_1787

My Father Dressed For A Tom Thumb Wedding, circa early 1900's, Missouri, photo © 2009, Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.


In 1942, my sister was born. My father loved her. She was his special child.

In 1943 his stepfather died, but not before he secured a promise from his wife to watch over Ralph. My father never understood why she agreed to put up with someone who had treated her so rudely, a man who cussed and swore about everything. Maybe she felt sorry for him because his vision was so severely impaired. Whatever the reason, she took care of him until her death 32 years later in 1975.

In 1952 I arrived. Unexplainably, my mother laid sole claim to me. She excluded my sister and father from taking care of me. I was her child. The possession of my life had begun.

For the first five years I slept next to my parents’ bed in a crib, then on a tiny rollaway bed. Our four-room house didn’t have any extra rooms. My father added two rooms, moved my sister to a new bedroom and moved me into her old room.

He lived his early life abandoned and betrayed by the people who loved him or should have loved him.  He had no protector, no father. Long after he died I complained to my mother about the kind of father he had been. “Don’t be so hard on him. He never learned to be a father because he never had one himself.” My father and I never had a chance to have a normal father-son relationship. That’s all the truth I know for now.




About Bob: Bob Chrisman is a Kansas City, Missouri writer who frequently writes memoir about his mother, her three sisters, and their influence on his life. This is Part II of a series of three about his father. Part I, My Father’s Witness, was published on red Ravine in August. Bob’s other red Ravine posts include Aunt Annie’s Scalloped Oysters, Hands, Growing Older, Goat Ranch, Stephenie Bit Me, Too, The Law Of Threes, and In Memoriam.

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By Bob Chrisman

 
 

May 2, 2009 was the twenty-fifth anniversary of my father’s death. He died physically that day, but he had died to most everyone a long time before that. In March 1969 he punched the time clock as he left work. He felt a numbness speed through his left side. He stumbled to a doorway to brace himself and waited for coworkers to find him.

They brought him home because he told them to take him there, not to the hospital. They carried him from the car, up the three sets of stairs and into the front room where they sat him on the sofa. My mother called an ambulance. “I’m going with your father. You drive up later.”

My world crumbled that day when God answered my prayers and struck my father down. I hated him for a variety of unclear reasons. He didn’t love me. He wanted nothing to do with me. He wasn’t good to my mother. Despite all these vague, but strong reasons, the guilt built inside me. I asked myself repeatedly,  “What have I done?”

The doctors ran tests. They diagnosed a relatively small stroke and couldn’t understand why his physical condition didn’t improve. He had retained his mental faculties.

They transferred him to the university hospital in Columbia. My mother took the bus every weekend to visit him…a four-hour ride each way. He improved a little. I saw him one time there. He took his walker and accompanied me down the hall when I left.

When he came home months later, the ambulance people carried him up the stairs to the house and placed him in a wheelchair in the front room. His entire life centered on the front room and his bedroom. In three years he lost his mind.

 
 
He didn’t know me anymore. His son flew an airplane for a living. One day he said, “My son doesn’t come visit. I think you’d like him.” Even though I hated him, I wish he had remembered me. It hurt that he created another son who he admired.

He thought my mother was his mother. His repressed anger at her burst out. She told me the first time it happened. He screamed at her. “You keep me a prisoner in this bed.”

She bowed her head. “I’m embarrassed to admit that I threw back his covers. ‘If you can walk, then get up and walk.’ I stood where he couldn’t see me and watched as he struggled to sit up. He couldn’t. He couldn’t even roll over.” She started to cry.

“I couldn’t bear it so I covered him up. He had that scared look that people get when they realize how bad things really are. I couldn’t look at him. I ran to the back porch and cried my eyes out.”

 

For several months, he visited the circus in his mind. I would sit on his bed and he would ask, “May I have some cotton candy and peanuts?” He would ramble on and on about the men on the trapeze and the elephant.

Next he moved to his paranoid phase. My mother (who he still thought was his mother) had joined a conspiracy against him. “Get the gun. Shoot her. Get the gun while she’s out of the room.”

“Daddy, we don’t have any guns in the house. Never did.”

“Yes, it’s in the second drawer. Now, go get it.”

I looked in the drawer. I carried the drawer to his bed and dumped its contents. “See, there isn’t any gun. We never had a gun.”

“The bitch hid it. They know I won’t stand for her abuse.”

I put the drawer away and left the room. I never told my mother about that incident.

 
 

People forgot him. He became a fixture to me like a piece of furniture that held painful memories. I avoided him, didn’t talk to him for almost 10 years. Why bother?

The afternoon of May 2, 1984 he died. By the time I made it home, my mother had removed all signs of his illness…15 years boxed up and carried to the basement. The hospital bed disappeared. The commode vanished. I felt like I had entered a twilight zone. “Where is all the stuff?” I asked.

“Your uncle helped me take it all to the basement. Your father’s dead. No use in keeping those things around.”

People who attended the visitation the night before the funeral acted surprised. Some of them had known my mother for years. “We thought she was a widow. We didn’t know that your father was still alive.” In many ways she had become a widow in March of 1969.

 

We laid him to rest at the cemetery in Gower on a gray, cloudy day. The minister conducted a short, graveside service. I waited for someone to lower the casket into the vault. No one appeared. The mourners left for their cars.

The most profound sadness filled me. Once again he had been abandoned by the people who said they loved him. I hadn’t loved him for years, but I couldn’t leave him all alone. I wanted to stay with his coffin until they lowered it and covered it with dirt.

My mother yelled, “Get in the car. The ladies of the church have a lunch waiting for us.”

I looked at the box that held the body of the man who had been my father. The sadness kept me from leaving.

I felt a hand on my shoulder. “What’s wrong with you?” My mother pulled on my arm.

“I don’t want to leave him here by himself. Can’t we wait until they lower the coffin into the grave? He must be lonely.” I could barely speak for the tears.

“Don’t be silly. He isn’t here.” She pulled me to the car.
 
My last memory is this: his gray metal coffin rests on a shiny chrome frame, the canopy of the viewing tent flaps wildly in the wind, clouds move across the gray sky and shadows run over the green grass and tombstones. I wish I could say his death ended our troubled relationship, but it didn’t. More of the story remained to be told. I must recall it now to bear witness for my father.

 
 
 

Bob Parents Gravestone IMG_0942 auto

R.I.P, Gower, Missouri, January 2009, photo © 2009 by Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.

 
 
 

About Bob: Bob Chrisman is a Kansas City, Missouri writer who frequently writes memoir about his mother, her three sisters, and their influence on his life. This is his first piece about his father, Part I of a series of three. Bob’s other red Ravine posts include Aunt Annie’s Scalloped Oysters, Hands, Growing Older, Goat Ranch, Stephenie Bit Me, Too, The Law Of Threes, and In Memoriam.

 

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Shit Lit

Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, former reporter for the Albuquerque Tribune, has churned out another book as part of her moneymaking machine. This one’s called The Husband Habit. Because I forced myself to read it, I know it’s about Vanessa Duran, a chef at an upscale Albuquerque restaurant. And—wouldn’t you know it?—she has the unlucky habit of unknowingly dating married men. What is a thirysomething to do? Swear off men, that’s what! Of course, that’s when a handsome man enters the scene. I wonder what happens?

 

~Erin Adair-Hodges, Alibi, July 9-15, 2009

 
 
That is the title and opening paragraph to a short review of Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez’s latest book, The Husband Habit. The review appeared in Albuquerque’s Alibi, a weekly alternative newspaper.

Now, negative reviews, and especially downright mean ones—I mean, “Shit Lit”??—tend to function in the same way that positive reviews do. They catch your attention and make you want to find out what all the fuss is about.
 
I’m familiar with Valdes-Rodriguez. She hails from New Mexico and is widely known for the outrageous success of her first novel, The Dirty Girls Social Club. But before that book came out, I worked with her father at the University of New Mexico. He’d been my professor, then later an associate. (He and I once led a group of travelers to Cuba for a tour in the mid 1990s, during a brief time when travel to the island was allowed for academics and journalists.) I remember him boasting that his daughter had landed a job with the Boston Globe and was making more than he was. Clearly proud, he spoke of her often.

I moved on to a new job and didn’t hear of Valdes-Rodriguez again until her father sent me an email telling me that she was moving back to NM to start a family. She then called to inquire about jobs at my company, although she made it clear that she was a writer and wanted to work in that field.

The next time I heard about Valdes-Rodriguez was when her debut novel came out. What interested me most, more than the book itself, was the story behind it. Here, from the Encylopedia of World Biography, is the reason I was fascinated:
 
 

After Boston, Valdes-Rodriguez moved on to the Los Angeles Times in 1998, where she covered the Spanish-language music industry. She also married and became pregnant, and she and her husband decided to move to her home state.Her letter of resignation to her LA Times bosses was a lengthy e-mail screed that made it onto the Internet, and gained Valdes-Rodriguez a certain measure of notoriety. In it, she excoriated the paper’s editors for grouping the diverse nationalities of Central America, South America, and the Caribbean under a single umbrella term. “‘Latino’—as used in The Los Angeles Times—is the most recent attempt at genocide perpetrated against the native people of the Americas,” she asserted, according to a New York Times article by Dinitia Smith.

Not surprisingly, Valdes-Rodriguez had a difficult time finding another job in journalism thanks to that letter. She scraped by, doing freelance public-relations work for Hispanic entertainers, and had to rely on Medicaid to cover the cost of her son’s delivery. But when she submitted a proposal for a nonfiction book about Hispanic pop divas, the editors who read it asked if she had written any fiction instead. Valdes-Rodriguez had been working intermittently on a manuscript for several years, and decided to leave her infant son at home with her husband and head for the local Starbucks. “The staff thought that I was strange because I was there all the time,” she recalled in an interview with London Daily Telegraph writer Marcus Warren. “I would be there 10 to 15 hours a day for two weeks.”

The submitted manuscript sparked a bidding war among publishers, who had long sought a “Latina Terry McMillan” to jump-start fiction aimed at Hispanic-American female readers. Valdes-Rodriguez earned a $475,000 advance on the book’s royalties when she signed with St. Martin’s Press, though that had not been the highest offer tendered….

 
 
 

alisa valdes-rodriguez

 
 

Someone loaned me a copy of The Dirty Girls Social Club. It was a fast read, and I could understand how it made headlines by rejecting the notion that there was such a thing as a homogenous Latino population. Valdes-Rodriguez went on to publish several other novels, some aimed toward young readers, although I’ve never read anything more by her. While I admired her for busting the myth of the Latino label, I didn’t find her writing to be epecially deep.

But even given my lack of enthusiasm for Valdes-Rodriguez, the Alibi review of her latest novel seemed brutal. Perhaps the reviewer was trying to get back at the author; The Husband Habit is set in Albuquerque and apparently mentions the city’s “juvenile alternative weekly.” Still, these snippets from the review strike me as being over the top:
 

The novel’s slight attempt at being something more than a cut-and-dried romance comes in the form of Vanessa learning that her snap judgments of the handsome man (Dave? Steve? I can’t bear the thought of picking up the book again to find out) were wrong.



There’s more to hate: The cartoonish boss, the drama involving Vanessa’s parents that seems to be important but is later completed dropped, the lines like “Men totally suck.”



…I’ll say this: I’d rather snort a basket of dog farts than have to read this again.

 


There does seem to be more than your average amount of controversy surrounding Valdes-Rodriguez. An incident from earlier this year had to do with her apparently coming out as a bisexual in an email interview with GLBT website After Ellen, then later denying it. The website’s editor explained the debacle in a column titled The Woman Who Cried “Bisexual.”

And if you do a Google search of her name, you’ll find several other unflattering items, which I had not read until I decided to do a post about the mean-spirited review. I’m not particularly interested in a rehash.

All of which leaves me with this. When I first came across the Alibi review, I asked myself, Is it Envy?? That would make sense. Valdes-Rodriguez did and continues to do what most of us only dream of. But now I’m left thinking that maybe it’s Earned. I don’t know. I suppose it could be both. In fact, it very well might be both.

If you figure it out, would you let me know?




______________________________________________________________________________________


Postscript: Speaking of Envy, don’t forget the Out of The Blue Films “ENVY Contest” at red Ravine. Read the essay Cracking Envy (Or How I Learned To Stop Romancing A Deadly Sin) and then go to the Contest Submission Guidelines to learn how to participate and compete for an Amazon Kindle.

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ootb avatar 90 pxls widered Ravine -- a writing & art community blog

red Ravine -- a writing & art community blogootb avatar 90 pxls wide

 
 
Whom and what do you ENVY? Who has envied you? What’s the difference between jealousy and envy? How has ENVY impacted your life?

Barbara Rick, a Peabody & Emmy award-winning filmmaker/journalist based in New York City, and president and founder of Out of The Blue Films, Inc., explored these questions and more in Tuesday’s essay at red Ravine, Cracking Envy (Or How I Learned To Stop Romancing A Deadly Sin).

Now it’s your turn! The Out of The Blue Films “ENVY Contest” at red Ravine has officially launched. This is a call for entries to share your essays, short stories, poems, haiku, watercolors, oils, photographs, and music about envy. One of you will win a new Amazon Kindle. And any and all entries, or excerpts of them, could end up in the groundbreaking documentary on ENVY from Out of The Blue Films, Inc.

Is ENVY the worst of the Deadly Sins? How does it look and sound to you? Can you touch, smell or taste envy? To get the juices flowing, you might want to read a bit of history at WRITING TOPIC – THE 7 DEADLY SINS. Then do a few Writing Practices that you can turn into a polished piece. 

Below are the details you’ll need to submit your work. Contest ends at midnight, August 15th, 2009. Don’t miss this opportunity to feature your work in film. Or the chance to win an Amazon Kindle from Out of The Blue!

 
Amazon Kindle (from amazon.com website)

 
 
_______________________________________________________

Out of The Blue Films “ENVY Contest”

 
 

Submission Guidelines

ENVY is the latest project from Out of The Blue Films, Inc., in keeping with the company’s longstanding mission to tell inspiring stories that explore, articulate, educate, and celebrate humanity. Below are the guidelines for the Out of The Blue Films “ENVY Contest” at red Ravine.
 
 

♦ What To Submit

All original writing and artwork is accepted for prize consideration. This includes, but is not limited to, essays, short stories, poems, haiku, watercolors, oils, collages, drawings, photographs and music. We will accept entries in most formats, but prefer doc, rtf, txt, pdf, jpg, tiff, wav, mp3. Please limit your writing to 1000 words or less, and keep all attachments under 5MB.

 
 

♦ How To Submit

Send all entries electronically (do not send originals). If submitting more than one work to the contest, please send a separate email for each. Write ENVY CONTEST in the subject line, include the following information in the body of your email, and attach your submission:

 
Full Name: (If you prefer to remain anonymous please put the word ANONYMOUS in caps, after your name.)
Email:
Address:
Type of Submission: (short story, essay, poetry, photography, drawing, oil, collage, haiku, watercolor, audio, other)
Format of Submission: (doc, rtf, txt, pdf, jpg, tiff, wav, mp3)

ALSO INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT: “I have read and agree to the terms and conditions of this contest and I certify that this is my original work.”

 
 

♦ Where To Submit

Send all submissions electronically by August 15th to Out of The Blue Films, Inc. at contest@outofthebluefilms.com.

 
 

_______________________________________________________

Terms & Conditions

The following conditions apply to the ENVY Contest sponsored by Out of The Blue Films, Inc. Before submitting, please read the Terms & Conditions:

 

June 11, 2009

Out of The Blue Films, Inc. and/or Barbara Rick, Inc. (together, “Producer”) welcome you to submit any writings, artwork, photographs, poems or other materials created by you (all of such materials being “Materials”) for possible inclusion in Producer’s documentary (the “Film”) currently titled and whose subject will be “ENVY”. By submitting any Materials, whether via this website or otherwise, you agree as follows:

1. Producer and its assigns and licensees will have the perpetual, non-exclusive, royalty free right and license (without the obligation to pay you any sums or other consideration), throughout the universe to use all or any portion of the Materials in the Film and in the distribution, advertising, sale, licensing, commercial use or other use thereof in any and all media, whether or not now invented (including theatrical or television exhibition, viewing via DVD, the internet, on cell phones or other devices), and in the exploitation of any and all ancillary and subsidiary rights relating to the Film, including merchandise, soundtracks and books based on the Film. Producer need not return any Materials, however as between you and Producer all underlying copyright and intellectual property rights to the Materials will remain your property. Producer’s sole rights to the Materials will be the uses described in these terms.

2. You waive any claims against Producer and its officers, directors, principals, employees and representatives, assigns and licensees for any alleged or actual infringements of any rights or privacy or publicity, moral or other rights resulting from or relating to any use of the Materials contemplated by these terms, and you warrant and represent that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to the Materials and that the use of the Materials by Producer, its licensees or assigns will not infringe or violate the rights of any third party.

3. It shall be entirely in Producer’s discretion whether or not to make use of any Materials in connection with the Film. Should Producer wish to use any of the Materials in connection with the Film Producer will notify you that it plans on doing so (but Producer will have no obligation to make such use regardless of a notification). If the Materials do in fact appear in the Film you can receive on-screen credit under your real name or a pseudonym, whichever you prefer. You may also not be credited at all if you wish. If the Materials are to be used you should send an email with your credit preference to: info@outofthebluefilms.com.

4. An Amazon Kindle will be awarded as a prize to the person who submits what Producer deems, in its sole discretion, to be the best Materials. The criteria to be used for making such determination will be up to Producer, the decision will not be subject to any appeal and Producer need not explain the basis for its determination.

These terms shall be governed by the laws of the State of New York, and any suit or action relating to these terms may be brought only in the courts located in New York County.

PLEASE NOTE that (i) by submitting any Materials you agree to all of these terms, and (ii) Producer reserves the rights, at any time, to revise these terms, and the terms as so revised will apply to any Materials submitted after the time of revision.

_______________________________________________________

red Ravine is a vehicle for the promotion of this contest. red Ravine is not liable for any actions by the Producer, nor the Film. Any submissions are made directly and solely to Producer and not to red Ravine. red Ravine has no legal responsibility for submissions nor for any outcomes from the contest.


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By Barbara Rick
 
 
envy 1
Envy Green, New York Botanical Garden, 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by Barbara Rick. All rights reserved.
 
 
 
It’s a hard, rotten knot of a word. Sinister. Secret. Has a way of gripping me by the throat and squeezing my soul of rational thought, patience, and generosity. Keeps rolling in like a black wave. ENVY.

After a crushing professional disappointment a while back, I found that I was brooding. Dark and long. Gnawing on the ‘injustice’ of it all. Sneering as I licked my wounds.

I became aware that I — as spiritually evolved and as peaceful a meditation warrior as I like to believe I am — was hobbled by something much bigger and darker than myself. Something slithery, lizard-like and primal. I was on to ENVY.

Touching its long thin tail. Up to my shins in it. And if it was giving me this much trouble, wrestling with me backstage in my accomplished, prosperous, abundant life, chances are it’s doing a number on everyone else as well. 

So I began digging, peering back through human history, and what I saw knocked me out.
 
The story of Cain and Abel, for starters. That’s when Cain, a farmer, turns on his shepherd brother because God liked Abel’s gift better. Cain, who by all accounts hadn’t even given much of a gift, was enraged anyway and ‘set upon’ his brother in a field. At the root of this first recorded homicide? ENVY.

Treatment of the Jews in the Holocaust? Not just the scapegoating, but the Germans preferred to actually lose the war than let up for a second on the extermination campaign against the Jews. ENVY, again.

Driving those planes into the Trade Center towers on 9/11? Yes.

Hostile, implacable, illogical, petty, deadly ENVY.
 
What a juicy, throbbing idea for a new documentary! We are intensively at work on this as we speak at my company, Out of The Blue Films, Inc. Seeking and receiving support and insights from some of the best minds in the world on this subject; scholars and artists musing, informing, inviting, seducing others to look at something most dare not. This film will be a bold, insightful, humorous exploration of the causes and consequences of this most corrosive human emotion.

Why and how is ENVY at work? It has a chameleon nature. First you see it, then you justify. It’s the squirming worm under the rock of history, hiding from the light. Exposed occasionally and brilliantly by Shakespeare, Dickens, immortalized in Salieri’s encounters with MozartIago’s loathing of OthelloCassius’ for Caesar … Claggart’s Billy Budd.

Viscous and vicious… elusive… a most urgent threat: between siblings, neighbors, nations. The evil eye. Often confused with jealousy, which, our ENVY scholars tell us, is often easier and softer for many to admit. Jealousy involves three people, and the fear of losing something you already have, while ENVY is typically between two people: that painful, searing feeling you get when someone else has what you long for and fear you might never get.

It’s the most shameful of the deadly sins, the mother of all others, writes Chaucer.

The driving, writhing force beneath most beloved fairy tales from Cinderella to Snow White. Scholars agree it casts a long, long shadow on humanity and its greatest power is that we are afraid, unwilling, or unable to look at it. Its care and feeding in secrecy under our dark collective psyche is the most damaging of all.

So we are calling it out, conjuring it up, exposing it to the best of our ability.
 
 
 
 

Trapped, Tucson, Arizona, near the Santa Catalina Mountains, 2005, photo © 2005-2009 by Barbara Rick, all rights reserved

Trapped, photo © 2005-2009
by B. Rick. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 
We’re asking you, and others: Whom and what do you ENVY? Who has envied you? How has ENVY impacted your life?
 
 
 
 

London, 2005, photo © 2005-2009 by Barbara Rick, all rights reserved

London, photo © 2005-2009
by B. Rick. All rights reserved.

 


We’re using unique storytelling techniques to tell this dark, dangerous and ultimately triumphant story of human good over human evil — embracing the worst of ourselves to coax out and harness the very best.

What long and twisted roads has ENVY chased you down? When did it sneak up and scare the daylights out of you? Chain your heart and mind? How did you escape? Or didn’t you?

Please share with us your essays, short stories, poems, haiku, watercolors, oils, collages, drawings, photographs, and music. One of you will win a prize: a bright and shiny new Amazon Kindle. Any and all entries, or excerpts of them, could end up in our revolutionary and groundbreaking documentary. No promises, of course. Remain anonymous if you wish, that’s fine.

Shine a light on your ENVY. Chisel at it with your pen or paintbrush – splash some sunlight on your darkest corners. Walk together with us, deep into it and out onto the other side. It will be a hell of a ride.




________________________________________________________________



TOPIC – ENVY (A PRE-CALL FOR ENTRIES)




The  Out of the Blue Films, Inc. ENVY Contest at  red Ravine avatar officially starts in two 

days, on Thursday, June 11. That’s when we publish here at  red Ravine avatar    

the  Out of the Blue Films, Inc. ENVY Contest Submission Guidelines. Your writing or

visual entry may be selected as the winner of an Amazon Kindle.



So come back on Thursday, June 11, to read the ENVY Contest Submission Guidelines. We’ll tell you What creative forms are accepted and in what formats, and Where to send your entry and How. We’ll also provide the Terms & Conditions for the ENVY Contest.

Don’t miss your chance to win an Amazon Kindle, the reading wireless device that you hold in your hands like a book and that can carry in its memory thousands of titles that can be downloaded from the Amazon library — so you can read anywhere, anytime.



________________________________________________________________




Barbara Rick is a Peabody & Emmy award-winning filmmaker/journalist based in New York City. She is president and founder of Out of The Blue Films, Inc., creators of exceptional documentaries on important social issues that ignite positive action and promote open dialogue.

Recent films include ROAD TO INGWAVUMA (ing-wah-VOOM-ah), which chronicles the unique delegation of some of America’s most respected artists and their families to post-apartheid South Africa, and IN GOOD CONSCIENCE, one American nun’s battle with the Vatican over the rights of gay and lesbian Catholics.

ENVY is the latest project from Out of The Blue Films, Inc. in keeping with the company’s longstanding mission to tell the most inspiring stories that explore, articulate, educate, and celebrate humanity.





red Ravine is a vehicle for the promotion of this contest. red Ravine is not liable for any actions by the Producer, nor the Film. Any submissions are made directly and solely to Producer and not to red Ravine. red Ravine has no legal responsibility for submissions nor for any outcomes from the contest.

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Strange Bird, self-portrait, May 2009, pen and ink on graph
paper, doodle © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.
 
 
 
Sitting on a United Airlines flight, San Francisco to Hong Kong, I am relieved to find the middle seat empty as the last passengers take their seats. The plane starts its slow taxi to the runway. I buckle my seatbelt.

This is Economy Plus, a section touted for its extra five inches of leg room, which on a 14-hour flight impress me about as much as the dinner selection of chipped beef or poached fish.

Before the plane lifts from the tarmac, Frank in the window seat asks about my nose. We have already introduced ourselves, and I have already answered his queries about my ethnicity and where I’m from.

“Where’d the nose come from?!”

The question jars. Does he always ask about physical traits of people he’s just met? Are those breasts real? So, how’dya lose your leg?

“It’s Apache,” I say. A lie, although I’ve always thought that my great-grandfather, José Inocencio, looked like Apache chief Geronimo. The bump on my nose, which forms a contiguous line with my cheekbones, definitely comes from José, as does the hook.

I stick my beak back into my journal. I’ve been working on a doodle I started almost two years ago but never finished. One of the side benefits of being held hostage on a plane for 14 hours is that I get to finish what I started and start a bunch of new stuff that I won’t finish.

“Whatcha workin’ on?” Frank asks. For all his annoying questions, he seems genuinely interested.

I open the book so he can see the picture of a fish walking down a city street. Frank is a lawyer, which is about all I know of him. He notices that a sign on one of the buildings in my drawing says the word LAW. I flip the pages to show him other doodles, and when I land on a picture of a bird next to the word Anxiety, I tell him that I did that one for a piece I wrote about Anxiety.

“Do you have anxiety,” he asks.
 
And with that question, I divulged to a man I’d known only as long as it took to reach cruising altitude that I sometimes suffered from anxiety, that my mother was also anxious, and that I tried anti-anxiety pills but weaned myself off of them.

Then I opened a fresh page in my journal and sketched the outline of what would become my next doodle: a half-woman-half-bird sitting in a cage, naked except for a cape of feathered wings. 
 
 
 
 
bird boobs
 
 
 
 
This tendency toward self-disclosure—I’d like to think it’s a positive trait that comes from my mom. Mom was, still is, the kind of person who’s easy to be around. Troubled friends of mine or my brother’s when we were teenagers often sought refuge at our house. Mom fed them tortillas off the griddle or hot rolls with butter. She asked a few questions of the kids; mostly she let them be.

Uncle Henry, who is married to Mom’s sister Erma, used to visit Mom on late afternoons. He taught Drivers Ed after coaching track at an Albuquerque high school. Many times I walked home from the bus stop to find some pimply kid slouched behind the steering wheel of a car in our driveway. Who knows how long Uncle Henry had been inside, drinking coffee or tea, eating a snack, and talking to Mom?

Mom also has a way of telling it like it is. She’s unlike most women I know of from her generation. Rarely private, never proper. She’s our own Dr. Ruth; she’s told some of us, her daughters and granddaughters, that married couples ought to have sex “about three times a week.” I won’t go into why she once received a ceramic jar labeled Mom’s Farts.

Mom can be riotously self-deprecating. For Father’s Day a year or two ago, we all watched Dad open the usual array of gift cards: Lowes, Borders, Barnes & Noble.

“You shouldn’t get him gift cards,” Mom chided. “Why didn’t you give him something useful, like a hoe?”

“I already have a hoe,” Dad objected.

“Who, me?” Mom asked, at which point they looked at each other and burst out laughing.

We’re on the look-out now for HO-themed presents: Christmas gifts wrapped in HO-HO-HO paper, and a HO-HO-HO t-shirt found at a store in Denver, which we got for Mom this past Mother’s Day.

My mother (and my dad, for that matter) has always been transparent. As a former boyfriend used to tell me, “Your parents are WYSIWYG.” What you see is what you get.
 



bird boobs




There is such a thing as over-exposure. I don’t always know where to draw the line, although I’ve gotten more discerning each year that passes. I won’t hesitate to pop in the earbuds and keep to myself if I feel the need to stop emitting honesty.

For example, I could have told Frank that besides inheriting her anxiety, I’m also prone to Mom’s tendency to bloat after sitting in one spot for too many hours.

Speaking of which, on the return flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco, there was no Frank, but there was an Indian man hopping from foot to foot and doing knee bends in the waiting area near the bathroom.

It was the middle of the flight, shades drawn and the plane completely dark to simulate nighttime. I made my way past sleeping passengers, their legs, pillows, and headphones spilling into the aisle. The toilet was occupied. I looked to the Indian man and asked, “You in line?” He nodded and kept running in place.

We waited for what seemed like a long time, being as how the man wouldn’t stand still. When the door popped open, he hesitated, then looked at me.

“You go next,” he said. He’d finally stopped moving.

“Are you sure??” I asked. Maybe he was about to pee in his pants.

“Yes, yes, I’m sure! I’m going to be a loooong time, and after I’m done you won’t want to go in there.”

“Ah,” I said and made for the door.

I didn’t know whether to thank him at the time, although looking back, I’m really glad he shared.






Disclaimer To Frank, In Case He Ever Sees This

You truly were a nice seat mate, nose question notwithstanding. I should have mentioned that I’m known to write about people on planes. At least I didn’t draw you.

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warbell slight contrast

 
Warbell (from the POISONED WORLD series), mixed media on wood, 47″ x 48″ x 3″, 2006, painting © 2006-2009 by Cathy Wysocki. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
Cathy Wysocki’s pieces fill the main gallery of the Harwood Art Center in Albuquerque. Gripped: Excerpts from Poisoned World does exactly that. The works of art, many three-dimensional, come at you from the walls, grip you by the shoulders and shake you out of whatever state you might be. They collectively caution you to never deny nor forget Suffering in the world today.
 
 

Cathy Wysocki paints discomfort and dark worlds, twisted and refigured. Like a visionary chronicler of the times, her expressionistic and surrealist imagery is dramatic & disturbing, conveying a beauty in the horror portrayed.

~Spring/Summer 2009, volume 14, issue 1/2, Harwood Art Center

 
Struck by the raw power and originality of her work, we were curious to know more about Cathy. Who is she, what has been her journey as an artist, and what moves her to produce the art that she does? We sent Cathy a list of our most pressing questions, and she wrote back with answers.
 
 
 

Nineteen Questions with Cathy Wysocki

 
 

Q. How long have you been painting?

A. I have been painting — doing mixed media work — for 30 years.
 
 
Q. How has your work evolved over time?

A. I think my work has evolved over time through my expanded use of media and text within my paintings and the growing complexity of the imagery, but more importantly, I have gone from a more personal mythology, let’s say a micro-cosmos, to a more universal, world view, a socio-political macro-cosmos.
 
 
Q. Who are your influences?

A. Living in the world is THE influence. But if you want to know who…key influences…I’d say foremost would be the Buddha because of how the teachings have illuminated my path in the world. Then I would say my husband and friend for 29 years, Wayne Hopkins, who is an incredible painter and printmaker — dedicated and always pushing the edge. He has been an enormous supporter of my work/vision. Also, my brother, Michael, had a very strong influence on me during my high school and college years, introducing me to a bigger world and a way to freedom for my creativity and ideas, setting me on my path.
 
 
Q. What living artists do you most admire?

A. Sue Coe, Louise Bourgeois, Neo Rauch, Anselm Kiefer, Thomas Hirschhorn, Lee Bontecou. Unfortunately, there are many more dead artists that I admire/connect with, such as Edward Kienholz, Leon Golub, Jörg Immendorf, Francis Bacon, Philip Guston, George Grosz, Otto Dix…well…all the German Expressionists, the Surrealists, and Art Brut artists: Adolf Wölfli, Martín Ramírez, and Carlo Zinelli, to name but a few!
 
 
Q. Describe a typical day.

A. An ideal typical day is waking up at 5 a.m. to read a Buddhist text while I drink a cup of decaf coffee. Then practicing sitting meditation for 50-60 minutes. After which I walk my dog for 45 minutes, come home get the caffeine brewing, get the music pumped up, and start working — stopping later to put on more coffee, have toast/breakfast, then back to work until about 3pm. I am much more productive in the earlier part of the day.
 
 
 
 
 
El Bruto, mixed media on wood, 59" x 72" x 8", 2009, painting © 2009 by Cathy Wysocki, all rights reserved
 
 
 
               Unrelenting, mixed media on wood, 61" x 72" x 3", 2009, painting © 2009 by Cathy Wysocki, all rights reserved
 
 
 
                              Enough, mixed media on wood, 50" x 63" x 7", 2008/2009, painting © 2008-2009 by Cathy Wysocki, all rights reserved
 
 
From the POISONED WORLD series, El Bruto, mixed media on wood, 59″ x 72″ x 8″, 2009, Unrelenting, mixed media on wood, 61″ x 72″ x 3″, 2009, and Enough, mixed media on wood, 50″ x 63″ x 7″, 2008/2009, paintings © 2008-2009 by Cathy Wysocki. All rights reserved.
 
 
 
 
 
Q. What drives your art?

A. Initially, my art is driven by my intuition and imagination, but that is factored into living as a sentient being in a world of suffering.
 
 
Q. What messages are in your art?

A. Currently, my series of work is called POISONED WORLD and it is about the three poisons in the world referred to in Buddhism — greed, hatred, and ignorance — and from them the consequences that abound and devastate. It is my hope that my work can bring a startled awareness to such issues as war, shameless consumption and waste, complacency, self-absorption, and to inspire reflection, compassion, and action.
 
 
Q. Who are your favorite writers?

A. Right now I am reading 2666 by Roberto Bolaño and I think his writing is unbelievably great. Idiosyncratic, insightful, dense, sharp, witty, dark — all characteristics I love in a writer. Other favorites are Franz Kafka, Thomas Bernhard, Kurt Vonnegut, Gogol, Dostoyevsky, Flannery O’Connor, Kenzaburō Ōe, and Ajahn Chah and Ajahn Buddhadasa for Buddhist writings.
 

Q. Favorite foods?

A. All things vegetarian.





Count Rade and Princess Ula, mixed media on canvas, 24" x 18", 2002, painting © 2002-2009 by Cathy Wysocki, all rights reservedMagnolia, mixed media on canvas, 18" x 14", 2001, painting © 2001-2009 by Cathy Wysocki, all rights reserved


From the FLOWERS, ROYALTY, THE COSMOS, & MORE series, Count Rade and Princess Ula, mixed media on canvas, 24″ x 18″, 2002, and Magnolia, mixed media on canvas, 18″ x 14″, 2001, paintings © 2001-2009 by Cathy Wysocki. All rights reserved.





Q. Where do you go for inspiration?

A. That depends on the series I am working on. As for the current series, POISONED WORLD, my inspirations are found in observing the consumer culture around me, the devastation of our planet, and the sadness, anger, conflict, and injustice in our society. To compound and intensify that inspiration I read books and articles, as well as watch documentaries on such topics as corruption and corporations; the former Bush Administration; the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; genetic engineering and food; human, animal, and water rights. Music is also a big inspiration — Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Perfect Circle, John Lennon, Leonard Cohen, The Kronos Quartet, Messiaen’s Quartet For The End of Time. So I guess you could say my work is the bare bulb shining the light within the depths of the darkness.


Q. You’ve been told your work has an “Outsider” quality. Do you consider yourself an Outsider artist?

A. I would say I am a self-taught artist. The art classes I took in college were free-form, I didn’t have any technical training in painting, drawing or sculpture, and I just followed my own vision, did my own thing in my own style, often obsessively. I was not, and am not now, concerned with art trends or commercial viability.


Q. Do you feel inside or outside the art scene (New York City, San Francisco, etc.) and does it matter where you are relative to that scene?

A. I definitely feel outside the art scene here in New Mexico. It does matter because I would like to get the work out there — to broader audiences, more responses, more dialogue — which could be New York, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Berlin. Who knows where my audience is?!





Corparboreal 26, mixed media on wood, 14" x 9", 1999, painting © 1999-2009 by Cathy Wysocki, all rights reserved Corparboreal 16, mixed media on canvas, 36" x 32", 1998/1999, painting © 1998-2009 by Cathy Wysocki, all rights reserved


From the CORPARBOREAL series, Corparboreal 26, mixed media on wood, 14″ x 9″, 1999, and Corparboreal 16, mixed media on canvas, 36″ x 32″, 1998/1999, paintings © 1998-2009 by Cathy Wysocki. All rights reserved.





Q. What are the pluses and minuses of living the artist’s life?

A. The plus of living an artist’s life is the freedom to create and express your visions. That plus is so huge it is plural! As for a minus: having to generate an income!


Q. What is your favorite city?

A. I don’t think I have a favorite city. I loved San Francisco when I lived there many years back and I love New York City for all it has to offer culturally. Vienna also left a very strong impression on me as well. I need to travel more!!


Q. If you could live anywhere, where would you choose and why?

A. I don’t have a specific place at the moment, I am in search of it, but I do know there would be an ocean or sea nearby, lots of art museums and galleries, and some great vegetarian restaurants and cafes!


Q. How old were you when you knew you wanted to be an artist?

A. Early on, around the age of four, I had a very rich internal world — active imagination in thoughts and words. However, up through junior high school I didn’t really express myself visually; it was in words and speech. In high school I found the freedom, invention, and originality in visual expression. It became a necessity.


Q. Did your family support your chosen vocation, and if so (or not) how did that affect your path?

A. No, they did not support me being an artist. Perhaps that gave me a stronger drive, subconsciously seeking their approval or support? Regardless, I knew what I was meant to do. Doing something else for their sake would be a false life.





Coming or Going, What's the Difference, oil on wood, 48" x 48", 1991, painting © 1991-2009 by Cathy Wysocki, all rights reserved 


                                                             Altitude Without Dimension, oil on paper, 44" x 30", 1990, painting © 1990-2009 by Cathy Wysocki, all rights reserved


From the BIRTH, DEATH, & REBIRTH series, Coming or Going, What’s the Difference, oil on wood, 48″ x 48″, 1991, and Altitude Without Dimension, oil on paper, 44″ x 30″, 1990, paintings © 1990-2009 by Cathy Wysocki. All rights reserved.





Q. Where do the themes in your work come from?

A. Earlier on I mentioned where my current body of work derives from, but some past series have dealt with such issues as the cycles of birth, death and rebirth inspired by the deaths of both of my parents; a series called CORPARBOREAL, images of tree beings inspired by all the walks with my dogs in the woods of New Hampshire and Massachusetts; and a series of paintings with short tales that I wrote called FLOWERS, ROYALTY, THE COSMOS & MORE. It sprung from finding a collection of old fruit packing labels, and it was about compassion, generosity, right choices. Those are a few examples.


Q. What comes next? Or are you still steeped in the current themes?

A. Yes, I am still currently immersed in the POISONED WORLD — not that there won’t be some toxic offshoots that may metamorphose into another body of work!





Gripped by Cathy WysockiAbout herself, Cathy writes: I was born and raised in northwest Indiana. With great excitement I departed to the West Coast for college. First to Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles for a few years, then I transferred to San Francisco State University for a change and to get my BA. My time in California was transformative, clarifying my personal vision and actifying my presence in the world. This was in the late 70’s.

A friend of mine suggested a move to Boston to get studios. Another change. I figured I could always get back to San Francisco. Well, my friend never got there, but I ended up in Boston and the environs from 1980 until 2003, another transformative time, solidifying and strengthening my creative discipline.

In late 2003 I moved to New Mexico. Yet another change in location. New Mexico is fine, but I feel another change in location coming within about 10 years. California?

During my time in San Francisco until the present in New Mexico, I have always worked in my studio and exhibited.

I have had several solo shows, most recently in May, 2009, at the Harwood Art Center in Albuquerque, NM. I have also exhibited extensively in the Northeast and Southwest in group shows at museums and galleries. Recent group shows I have exhibited in: “Mass Consumption,” Mesa Art Center, AA; “Binational,” Museums Of Art in El Paso, TX and Juarez, Mexico; “Cautionary Tales – A Visual Dystopia,” 516 ARTS, Albuquerque, NM; “Originals 2007,” Harwood Art Museum, Taos, NM.

Cathy’s latest show, Gripped: Excerpts from Poisoned World, closes today at the Harwood Art Center in Albuquerque. However, you can keep apprised of Cathy’s works by following her on Flickr.

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Goodbye Teeth, Em's tooth almost fully dissolved after almost 48 hours soaking in a bath of Pepsi soda (one can), photo 2009 by ybonesy, all rights reserved

Goodbye Teeth, What’s left of Em’s tooth after 48 hours soaking in a Pepsi soda (one can), photo © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




This has been a rough week as far as Em’s concerned. First we had to tell her that there is no tooth fairy and that, in fact, we had in our possession all the teeth she ever contributed to the making of new stars in the sky (that’s what tooth fairies do with teeth, you know). Second, she had to take two of those teeth and set up a science fair project to look at the Big Question: Which will dissolve a tooth faster — Mtn Dew or Pepsi? And third, she had to watch before her very own eyes as one of her teeth dissolved within two days in a can of Pepsi (something she used to be supremely fond of drinking whenever we let her).

(She also had to get her teeth cleaned last week, but the dentist and his staff were so excited about her science experiment — the doc predicted that Pepsi would dissolve the teeth faster than Mtn Dew — that they paid her oodles of attention and gave her extra stuff from the goody chest.)



Em started with two almost equal-sized teeth of hers that she had to get pulled a few years ago due to crowding (not because of tooth decay)

Em started with two almost equal-sized teeth of hers that she had to get pulled a few years ago due to crowding (not because of tooth decay).

 

The Pepsi tooth after the first or second check, still pretty much intact.

The Pepsi tooth after the first or second check, still pretty much intact.

 

The Pepsi tooth after about half a day of soaking.

The Pepsi tooth after about half a day of soaking.

 

The Pepsi tooth cracked and broke after about 24 hours of soaking, photo © 2009 by Em, all rights reserved

The Pepsi tooth cracked and broke into two pieces after about 24 hours of soaking.




So, I’m giving up my occasional Pepsi or Coke, plus every other carbonated drink, for that matter. (Shoot, I was just starting to like Arizona Iced Teas!) I hate to be such a goodie-two-shoes, but that little floating string of a tooth, the one that resembles goldfish poop…well…it’s grossing me out more than you can imagine. (It grossed out Em so much that she didn’t even take a photo of it to include on her science fair project board.)

Jim says that during this week’s Science Fair, all the parents will be dragging their kids over to see Em’s project and all the kids are going to glare at Em for doing it.

I don’t know. I don’t think it will have much an effect on anyone’s drinking habits. Now, if we printed a few wallet-sized prints of that stringy tooth, that might make a person think twice before drinking a soda.

How ’bout you? Still gonna pop the top?




___________________________________________________________________

Postscript: Over a week after the Pepsi tooth dissolved, the Mtn Dew tooth was still intact. We finally threw it out but took this last photo for posterity.

I guess the moral of the science project is: If you must drink a soda, go for Mtn Dew instead of Pepsi. Less wear and tear on the teeth. 🙂  (Wish I had a smiley face icon with a missing tooth.)



Mtn Dew tooth, Ems tooth after almost two weeks soaking in a can of Mtn Dew, still going strong.

Mtn Dew tooth, Em's tooth after almost two weeks soaking in a can of Mtn Dew, still going strong.

 


-related to post Less Than 1 Calorie Per Bottle

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Forbidden Fruit, range of wines to be tasted at Casa Rodeña in Albuquerque’s north valley, March 2009, photo © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





My definition of torture: A half day off from work to go to a company-sponsored wine-tasting event. God, am I a whiner or what?! Well, at least I’m not a wino, which I definitely was on the road to becoming.

My fondness for wine started in 10th grade. Annie Greensprings and the apple-based Boone’s Farms, so-called pop wines that peaked—in popularity only—in the 1970s. I was 15 or 16 and for one short summer steeped in the fake ID business. Yes, my boyfriend Corky and I, and Corky’s best friend, a wunderkind with graphics, set up a New Mexico drivers license processing station in Corky’s bedroom. Droid painted an exact simulation of the New Mexican goldenrod yellow and brick red background, Zia symbol and all. (This before the Department of Motor Vehicles went high-tech, with holograms to certify authenticity.)

In 11th grade I was invited to Elizabeth Z.’s dinner party. Elizabeth was a year older than me. She served lasagna in fancy plates on a linen-covered dining room table dotted with bottles of Liebfraumilch, a German wine that was almost as sickly sweet as Annie Greensprings. Yet, it had a name that looked nothing like the way it was pronounced, and the sophisticated Elizabeth was endorsing it. I figured it was the wine choice for people of good breeding and immediately co-opted it as my own favorite.

My love of wine and my continued devotion to cheap wines in particular, got stronger the year I moved to Spain. There wine was like water. You drank it starting at about 10 in the morning (at least people in my neighborhood did). We took our first break of the day, dropped into the little bar for a quick copa de vino tinto, a glass of red wine, and ate a little plate of peanuts or olives, or maybe if the tapas were good, a nice-sized serving of ceviche or a cured-ham-and-hard-cheese bocadillo.

Pepe, the guy who owned my favorite bar, La Llave, which sat one small step across the cobblestone road from my apartment, liked to share with me his private stash of wines made of apples or plums. They were sweet and fruity and reminded me of the time Dad tried his hand at making wine in the garage, one year when he grew too many Concord grapes.

In Spain I took to buying myself bottles of Cortesía, a sweet white wine, probably similar in taste to a Reisling. In addition to hanging out at La Llave, I often sat on the rooftop terrace outside my bedroom and indulged. When I got to finishing off about a bottle a day, I realized I had a wine problem. I noticed a small shake in my hands as I lit my first cigarette of the morning, and it became harder to convince myself to wait out the hours before breaking out that first glass of wine of the day. 

As the year progressed I became increasingly bewildered about what I was doing with my life. I’d gone to Spain to write, make art, and learn Spanish, but by eight months into it, I’d dropped out of all my classes, became part of and then later stop going to a still-life art studio, and spent most of my time in La Llave or holed up in my room writing letters, doodling, and drinking wine as I pondered my next step.







Fortunately, my body protested to my wine addiction long before my brain did. For about 15 years after returning from Spain, I continued to drink wine. I eventually learned about and started drinking good red wines. I mostly loved reds on the dry side—sauvignons, zinfandels, and pinot noirs—although I would also imbibe in the occasional chardonnay.

I never became as heavy a drinker as I’d been in Spain, although I had intense wine cravings. I allowed myself two glasses of wine each evening after work, and if I went to a party I allowed three, and on the rare occasion, four, assuming it was a long party and the drinks were stretched out over several hours.

Then what I call “my wine allergy” kicked in. Here’s what I noticed:

  • Morning aftertaste: The morning after having wine, even after having only one glass, I could still taste the wine on my breath. It seemed as though the wine were sitting in my stomach, and that all I had to do was exhale and there would be a lusty, boozy smell. It made me feel like I’d already been drinking from the moment I woke up.
  • Face blushing: Suddenly, the very first sip of wine caused my entire nose and the area just on either side of it to blush. My sinuses and lips would heat up, and I knew that whoever was looking at me was now seeing a red-nosed reindeer version of me. There was nothing I could do to stop it from happening. Eventually, halfway through the glass, my face would go back to normal, but the blushing was intense and embarrassing while it was happening.
  • Smell intolerance: Wine, even expensive bottles, took on a rubbing-alcohol scent. I stopped being able to discern a fruity bouquet or any aroma save for the overwhelming smell of something flammable. A friend could walk up to me, her goblet exuding its eau de vin, and all I could smell was something akin to ethanol.
  • Taste intolerance: Same thing finally happened with taste. It all tasted bad to me, like wine from a bottle that had been uncorked for months. My wine connoiseiur friends insisted I try good wines, assuming I was drinking the cheapo stuff (again!). It didn’t matter. Good wine, even great wine, tasted like hootch to me.








People tell me it’s the sulfites. I tell them I don’t know what it is, but secretly I believe it’s divine intervention and my body warning me that there’s not too big a step between me and alcoholism. My body can’t process liquor. The good news is that the allergy killed all cravings for wine. Just the smell in the wine-tasting room was enough to send me outdoors every once in a while.

I can still go to wine-tasting events, watch everyone swirl their glasses and check for “legs” while I eat more than my fair share of olives, salami, and cheese. When they inhale the wine’s bouquet, I sneak out, creep around the place and snap a few shots.

But I’ll let you in on a secret. Now my drink of choice is beer, and to tell the truth, I don’t think there’s a whole lot of difference between wine and beer as far as my body is concerned. Already I’ve noticed some of the same “wine allergy” symptoms starting to appear.

So this is where I stand: on the edge of accepting that I’m not made for any of it. Maybe I started too young, or maybe I got the low tolerance gene that resulted in goofy-drunken-relative stories that both my parents have from their respective families (the great uncle who always showed up to parties drunk). I was a heavy drinker for the one year I was in Spain, but what little I drink now has a big effect, too big an effect, on my system.

I’d like to declare right here that I’m giving it up, too, before my body forces me to. And maybe I will, with all of you as my witnesses. I’ll let you know, but believe me, I just raised the ante on myself.





NOTE: Alcohol addiction is no laughing matter. I’ve actually been kicking around declaring myself alcohol-free for over a year. Somehow I can’t reconcile the fact that I don’t drink very much, yet my body still has an intolerance. It’s probably an excuse, but I think I’d be laughed out of Alcoholics Anonymous if I let it be known that I was trying to wean myself off of a beer a night.

Still, wean myself I must. And, if like me you are even slightly concerned about your own drinking, check out the sources below. You and I are not alone.




Resources

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stress incontinence

yellow rivers by I.P. Freely, doodle © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




I had a flashback the other day. I had to pee badly, so I ran into the bathroom, unzipped my jeans, peed, wiped, flushed, and walked out of the bathroom while pulling up my pants. Suddenly I saw my mom, 30 years earlier, doing the exact same thing.

She did it all the time. Ran into the bathroom, peed, walked out while pulling up her pants. No closing the door. Just pee and run.

One time I had just come home from school with my boyfriend and two friends in tow. We walked through the front door, turned the corner toward the kitchen, and there was Mom, heading out of the green bathroom off the entryway while pulling up her Bermuda shorts over white nylon panties, the toilet flushing in the background.

She must have said something like “Oh my!” but all I remember is, she was embarrassed, I was deathly embarrassed, and my boyfriend and two friends were speechless.

Yet, that was such a “Mom” thing. She never closed the bathroom door when she peed.

And now, I seem to have inherited that trait.



tinkles 2tinkles 2tinkles 2tinkles 2




Besides the obvious aspects of our peeing proclivities (the fact that we don’t wash our hands when at home and that we’ve fallen into this loosey goosey don’t-care-if-someone’s-in-the-next-room groove whenever our pants are down) I’ve gained another insight from this flashback.

I realized that I never bother to close the door when I pee because, frankly, I don’t have time. I’ll be standing at the sink washing the dishes and then, BOOM, it hits me. I have to pee! (In Spanish, they say, “Me estoy meando,” which literally means, “I am peeing on me!”)

Maybe it’s a familial thing. Maybe it’s from having babies. Maybe it’s the last thing I ought to be sharing about myself on the blog, but for whatever reason, once my brain registers “I need to pee,” my pee seems to scream, “I need out!”

Sure, I can wiggle and squeeze and even do what my sister (who used to work with toddlers) fondly calls “the pee-pee dance.” And in a professional setting I somehow manage to hold it until I reach the bathroom. But when I’m in the comfort and safety of my home, I have a tendency to push the envelope and barely make it to the bathroom.

So I’m thinking, if I have this problem, I bet Mom also had it; ergo, Mom never closed the door when she peed because, like me, she suffered from stress incontinence.



                       tinkles (one)
                                                                              tinkles (one)



There are other signs, too. Jim plays this trick on me whenever we shop for groceries where when we get to the aisle with toothpaste and shampoo, he waits until someone is within earshot and then yells, “Honey, don’t forget your Depends!” Then he zooms off with the cart in the other direction, leaving me facing the person who’s just come down our aisle.

And there was that one time I got a coughing fit at the grocery store. I was eight months pregnant with Em, and Dee was about three years old. With an almost baked eight-pound baby pressing down on my uterus, every time I coughed I peed just a bit in my pants. (Actually, I was wearing leggings over a maternity top.) Fortunately the coughing finally stopped, allowing me to finish up our shopping and head to the check-out line. 

There we were, standing in line. One lady was in front of us, one man behind. Being shy around strangers, Dee clung to my legs. I could feel her little hand probing around the spot where my leggings were soaked, so I tried to push her away, but before I could she looked up at me, eyes wide, and said, “Mama, you peed in your pants!”

I tried to ignore her but that only made her think I couldn’t hear, so she backed up a bit and yelled this time.

“MA-MA, you’re wet DOWN THERE, you PEED in your PANTS!”

I bent down and whispered in her ear that if she stopped talking and went over to find the kind of gum she liked, I’d buy it for her. As she disappeared around the point-of-purchase display, I looked at the three people staring at me—the cashier, the woman checking out, and the man behind me—shrugged, smiled, and gazed back down at my cart.


 
                                                                                               tinkles (one)




Truth is, though, I don’t think I technically suffer from stress incontinence. I mean, stress incontinence is a pretty serious issue, and once you get to reading about the many incontinences there are—stress, urge, overactive bladder, functional, overflow, mixed, transient—well, I’m not ready to go there. 

My little problem? A bad family habit of peeing and fleeing. Or fleeing, peeing, and fleeing. That’s all.

I just need to listen to my body and get to the bathroom more frequently. And I need to start closing the door before my girls inherit our trait.

I know. My apologies. Too much information.

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Peace Be with US, a flag flies for peace during the rest of the election season, October 1, 2008, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




…don’t say anything at all.

Please.

It’s my plea to all passionate participants in our national elections.

If you can’t say something nice—about McCain, Palin, Obama, or Biden, and especially about and to their respective supporters—don’t say anything at all.

I’m tired of the bickering. The rage is wearing me down. I am a passionate person myself, and I don’t shy away from making my opinions known, but frankly, I can’t handle any more nastiness.


…you should just shut up and quit showing how stupid you are…

      -one commenter to another, on progressive The Huffington Post


…if anyone is a blathering idiot, it’s you…

      -one commenter to another, on conservative Michelle Malkin


Every morning I get up, grab a cup of coffee and scan my bookmarked websites to get the latest news on the presidential elections. I check all the usuals: AlterNet, The Huffington Post, Daily Kos, msnbc.com, CNN.com, Politico, RealClearPolitics, and Washington Monthly. It soothes me to go to these sources as most have stories with a “blue-state” bent. News I can hang on to.

I don’t claim it’s a balanced approach—it’s not—but for someone like me, who can feel the anxiety rise every time I think about what might happen November 4, reading articles that confirm my world view keeps me calm. I get how venting about “the other side” can serve as a release and a way for like-minded people to bond. I find satisfaction there, too.

Well, I used to.

Even as much as I am guilty of seeking that kind of validation, I can honestly say I have finally OD’d.

I’m turned off by the meanness. Bloggers, pundits, columnists, candidates and their campaigns all set off the brawls with their claims and taunts. Then the spectators jump in. Behind the cloak of internet anonymity, they turn into hateful, rageful people. They attack. They say things I can’t imagine they’d ever say in person.

Internet rage has been around for as long as the internet has been around; who hasn’t received a flaming email at least once? But civil discourse has gone out the window, right at the time we need it most. We are losing our capacity to see one another as humans.

Right now, with tensions as high as they are, the last thing we need is to beat one another down. Right now, today, we need kindness and compassion. I need kindness and compassion.

Tonight is the vice-presidential debate. It promises to be a slugfest. Palin and Biden will be ferocious, and if they’re not, the internet and spin machines will fill in on their behalf. I, however, plan to swim against the current, and I’d like you to join me.

Before, during, and after the debate, I invite you to come here and say something nice about Palin or Biden or both. Anything. No sarcasm. No underhanded compliments. Find something you honestly feel the candidates have done well, even if it has to do with how they look. 

You’ll still get mad at the candidate you want to lose (or the one you want to win) and probably reach a point where you can’t believe what you’re seeing. I’m not asking you to be a saint. But find one nugget. See if it helps shift something inside.

I know this is silly. I know it’s more about me than it is the rest of you. But the way I see it, a lot hangs in the balance and it isn’t just who wins in November.

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Wired, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Wired, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




F. Scott Fitzgerald was born September 24th, 1896 on Cathedral Hill in St. Paul, Minnesota. I wrote a post last year celebrating his birthday. When I reread it last week, I made a note to drop a comment there, a Happy Birthday wish. Then I watched Bill Moyers Journal last weekend, and the short comment took a longer turn.


Moyers began the Journal by quoting a few lines from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, about his protagonists, the Buchanans:

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.


The characters were fresh for me. I saw The Great Gatsby at the Guthrie Theater a few summers ago. Moyers continued:


It’s happening all over again, except this time Tom and Daisy are the titans and speculators on Wall Street who took the money and ran. Their bubble burst, as it did in the roaring twenties, leaving the mess for you and me, our children and our grandchildren, to clean up. The big bad government — so despised in Wall Street boardrooms and beltway think tanks — has stepped in, hoping to save capitalism from the capitalists…



Here we are — cleaning up the mess. I was reminded of our recent Writing Topic, Where Do You Go In Times Of Crisis?. We are a two-tiered culture, steeped in debt: a wealthy culture that privatizes gains and socializes losses; a poorer culture of working class, middle, and lower income people, forced to take more and more personal financial risks to stay afloat.

Bill Moyers Journal digs into some of the deeper social issues behind the current financial crisis. And how everyday people — people like us — are going to pay a heavy price. I’m not good with numbers. I don’t understand the details of financial wizardry. But his words made sense to me, and inspired critical thinking about the future of finance in this country.


Fitzgerald, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Fitzgerald, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Fitzgerald, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Who wins and who loses? New York Times financial columnists, Gretchen Morgenson and Floyd Norris shed some light on that question. And Moyers interviewed former Nixon White House strategist, and political and economic critic, Kevin Phillips on the “7 sharks in the tank with the economy.” Phillips, author of Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism, said financialization has made us dependant on an industry that’s lost half its marbles, and strapped us with debt unprecedented anywhere else in the world.

The experts also talked about how the state of our money union does not play politics. Reaganomics may have started the economic downslide. But Democratic and Republican administrations have both contributed to the problem. According to Phillips, “the flush of the Democrats (the labor movement) carries a lunchbox; the new soul of the Democratic Party wears a pinstripe suit.” And neither of the current candidates is addressing the reality of the situation. Campaign promises are not going to bail us out this time.


Face To A Name, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Face To A Name, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Face To A Name, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


The show has the perfect climax — a personal essay on the decision to tear down Yankee Stadium. How the new stadium will be subsidized by the public with tax-free bonds. How the greed and disregard for local community trickles down to neighborhoods, cities, and towns across this country:

And so this Sunday evening we will bid farewell to dear old Yankee Stadium, and await the new colossus to rise from its ruins. It will cast its majestic shadow across one of the country’s poorest neighborhoods, whose residents will watch from the outside as suburban drivers avail themselves of 9,000 new or refurbished parking spaces. Never mind all the exhaust, even though in this part of town respiratory disease is already so high they call it “asthma alley.”


I thought of the new Twins stadium in Minnesota, the same stadium that we the people voted over and over again not to build. Its skeleton now rises like a Phoenix from a giant parking lot behind the Target Center, and towers over a small downtown shelter that feeds and houses the homeless.

I can’t help but wonder — is anyone going to step up and take responsibility for all this debt? How have American lifestyles and personal debt contributed to the problem? Where are our priorities? When will we get back to supporting what is important and vital to a culture – community centers, education for children, the Arts, having enough food on the table, and enough money to live through old age.

Have you been able to save for the future? How is your retirement growing? It might not surprise you to know — not all of us are struggling. (Are we really entertaining a bailout?) I was stunned by this list from Moyers:


  • Lehman Brothers – in the last 5 years of his tenure, CEO of Lehman Brothers, Richard S. Fuld, Jr. earned $354 million
  • Merrill Lynch – the current chair who has been on job for 9 months, John A. Thain, pocketed a $15 million dollar signing bonus. His predecessor, the retired E. Stanley O’Neal, pocketed $161 million after the company reported an 8 billion loss in single quarter.
  • Bear Stearns – former CEO James Cayne sold his stake for more than $60 million after the Bear Stearns stock collapse
  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – former heads, Daniel H. Mudd & Richard F. Syron, received 24 million combined in severance packages on top of their salaries


Retreating back into their money. I think there are more than 7 sharks in the tank with the economy, and someone has surely lost their marbles. The question is — who’s counting?




           Face, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    West, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

               Face, West,  The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota,
               October 2007, all photos © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey.
               All rights reserved.



So we beat on boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

-last sentence of The Great Gatsby, inscribed on the tombstone of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre at their grave in Rockville, Maryland


VIDEO LINKS:

BILL MOYERS JOURNAL Headlines of Gloom or Doom? Wall Street Woes Around the Globe – September 19th 2008

KEVIN PHILLIPS – discussion with author of Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism, and former Nixon White House strategist and political and economic critic (great sense of humor)

WINNERS AND LOSERS – segment with New York Times business and financial columnists Gretchen Morgenson and Floyd Norris as they discuss who wins and who loses in the financial turmoil

YANKEE STADIUM: A BILL MOYERS ESSAY – great essay on the demise of Yankee Stadium and how it relates to the current economic situation



-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, September 25th, 2008

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