Archive for July, 2012

Certain Dark Things: On Cheating and the Media

July 25, 2012 2 comments


I wonder what would’ve happened if Twitter had been around during JFK’s administration. Would there be twitpics of JFK in his underwear, illicitly (and accidentally) tweeting them to Marilyn where the whole world could see it? Would there be grainy photos of Marilyn and John meeting at a hotel? (Probably not. Because no one messed with Frank Sinatra or his friends. But still.) If tabloid journalism was so rampant and ruthless when Hepburn met Tracey, what would’ve become of them and their relationship? Would the constant media attention have broken them apart? Would one of them have broken underneath the scrutiny? Hepburn and Tracey were an iconic couple, certainly. But Tracey never left his wife, and Hepburn avoided his funeral out of respect for his family. Imagine the tractive headlines. Would they have called Hepburn a slut? A homewrecker? A whore? (She, being progressive and strong, probably wouldn’t have cared.)

These days, anything and everything seems up for grabs; a person’s worst day is fodder for a story. The end goal, it seems, isn’t to tell a story worth telling. It’s to move copies, while trading on sensationalism and heartbreak.

Yesterday, I read a headline that Kristen Stewart cheated on her longtime boyfriend and costar, Robert Pattinson, with the director of Snow White and the Huntsman. Rupert Sanders is, unfortunately, married. This all came out in a hail of hastily snapped photos, finger-pointing, and shame. US Weekly ran the story first, and shortly thereafter, KStew issued an apology – and Sanders filed suit. Everything about that was difficult to read, because that is someone’s worst moment. That is someone’s worst day. That is the sound of the world crashing, swallowing up so many things.

Which is why I say: leave the worst moments in shadow.

People screw up. People fall in love. People fall in lust. Slips and shit happen. Pretending otherwise doesn’t make you better than anyone else. It doesn’t make you more moral or well-positioned upon the throne of judgment. It doesn’t automatically give you a white hat, while handing someone a black one.

These are people. And no one is perfect. Certainly not celebrities who live their lives under a microscope. When something bad comes to light, in a layperson’s life, the world does not point fingers or gasp. The world doesn’t even really notice. Some people immediately involved might. There will, inevitably, be rumors and gossip. But chances are, our follies won’t end up in a newspaper. They won’t end up online or on tv. We get to live out our mistakes in relative private.

In the pursuit of selling a product (like a magazine), humanity is often forgotten. There’s no integrity is dragging out someone’s secret, just to sell something. There’s no honor in it. There’s only greed. (Hello there, Gordon Gekko.)

The reaction that I’ve seen to the Stewart-Sanders debacle is almost as obnoxious as the magazine that broke the story. People are judging, finger-pointing, and generally reaching for the smelling salts. Because CLEARLY this is the first time someone’s had a fling with their director/costar/makeup artist – WHATEVER. Clearly, this is the first time in history a person has had a moment of weakness that ended up a walk of shame. Clearly, this is the first time someone’s ever slept with someone else’s spouse. Surely we are above all that, us good little puritans (who, btw, had a rather liberal view on sex).

(Yes, that I unadulterated sarcasm.)

Imagine your very worst day. Recall that time you sent naked photos to an ex or a stranger. Remember cheating on a test, on a boyfriend, on your bar exam. Remember getting high, getting a bad tattoo, saying terrible and untrue things to a good person. Remember lying. Remember doing nothing when someone got hurt right in front of you. Remember the underside of your humanity: your flaws.

We are, every one of us, flawed. The difference is that when you and I do something wrong? It doesn’t end up all over People magazine. It isn’t enough to sell copies. Yes, it’s a business, but a business isn’t without integrity. It’s not without honor. It’s not without compassion. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be.

Do I, personally, give a damn about Kristen Stewart? Not exactly, no. I don’t know her. She never hangs out at my house. And neither of us has braided the other’s hair. But I can look through the persona and see the person. I can feel for her, because she did something bad – and there’s a big garish spotlight on it. The spotlight doesn’t just hurt her; it hurts everyone involved, even those indirectly involved – like Sanders’s family. Like Pattinson. Shouldn’t they be able to tackle this – a personal issue – out of the public eye? God, yes. This has no bearing on their art. It has nothing to do with making movies. And yet, we care. And yet, it’s everywhere.

Leave the worst moments in shadow.

(Nota bene: yes, there’s irony here, because I’m WRITING about the issue. Let me acknowledge that. But instead of writing about Sanders being an asshole or Stewart being some kind of bitch – I’m not commenting on them as PEOPLE. I’m not sensationalizing their pain.)

unfathomable horrors

July 22, 2012 10 comments


There are times where I think I don’t know anything. Everything I thought I knew just seems…wrong. In those moments, the world feels a little hollow, a little bit more quiet than it should be. When I saw the news about the Aurora shooting, that is how I felt. Like the earth had tilted sideways. Like the sky had dropped into the ocean.

Things just feel bad. Wrong. Horrible. Because that’s what happens in the wake of a horrific event, even if you’re not directly affected (those who are directly affected go through unfathomable horrors). When Columbine happened, I was in high school. I wasn’t anywhere near that particular high school, but you could feel the aftershocks of the tragedy, the unease that rippled through the States. It didn’t matter if your high school seemed safe. You didn’t feel safe. There were bomb drills and bomb scares after that. There were whole days mostly spent out on the school lawn, far away from the building, because someone had a CD player in their locker. It was clicking, but nobody knew what it was. After the shootings, everything looked different.

Now, in the wake of the shooting in Aurora Colorado, the world feels wrong again. It feels broken. People are hurting and outraged. Lives have been lost. It’s a senseless, shocking horrible, awful thing. There aren’t enough adjectives in the world to describe such an event. The same kind of feelings occurred after the 2011 Norway shooting. You look around at the world and think, “What in the HELL is going on?”

In the days that followed, people have said some strange things. Mayor Bloomberg of NY took to the airways and made an odd statement about the presidential race (that this is what the candidates should be addressing, which I thought was kind of a weird thing to say – especially given the lack of emotional distance people might have to the situation. Although, I DID agree with his general statement that it isn’t enough to talk about the issues; they candidates need so outline what they plan to DO about the issues). More strange than that, though, are the people who are making this tragedy about something other than the tragedy itself. I’m overusing that word, I know. But the thesaurus is kind of lacking in applicable suggestions.

The shooting isn’t about gun control. It’s not about religion. The shooting isn’t a political platform. It’s not a soapbox or a starting point. It’s a singular, horrific incident. It is the act of a (most likely) mentally ill individual. Yes, guns kill people. Yes, people kill people. And perhaps it should be more difficult to obtain a gun. I don’t really care to comment on that. Because while THIS man had weapons, he also had handmade bombs and teargas. His apartment is, apparently, a wide array of booby-traps and sophisticated bombs. Things that he made himself. Hypothetically, he might’ve caused just as much harm (or more) if he had not had guns.

Because the assailant, the murderer, this man? He is not well. I don’t know much about his story, except that he was a PhD student. The media hasn’t really offered much in the way of personal background. We don’t really know his motivations or suspected motivation. But a well-balanced, sane person? Doesn’t walk into a theater and shoot people. Someone who isn’t suffering from some form of psychosis doesn’t booby-trap his own place of residence. And you can’t legislate the crazy out of somebody.

I think that we need to stop and take a minute, here. We need to see this event as it is, process it as it stands: a senseless act of violence. Libba Bray commented on this situation better than I ever could, “And it is a loss, not just for those families, for that community, but for the larger world, for we are all touched by such terrible acts.” And advising, “Empathy and compassion might just be the most bad-ass moves we’ve got.”  If you haven’t read her post, please do.

People died. People were hurt. This is what we should focus on: the people

the things that keep us are the things that we have kept

July 17, 2012 4 comments

Anaïs Nin once wrote, “We do not see things are they are. We see things as we are.” And she’s right. Our experiences, point of view, and opinions color our perspective. It is the difference between denotative (the dictionary definition) and connotative (the emotional definition) of a word. A college professor once gave the example of a forest. He said that you talk about a forest, and most people picture green trees and a pleasant place. And that is true. But for him, the connotative meaning evoked an emotional response, because it made him think of a kid who he grew up with, a boy who hung himself from a tree in the woods. For him, that forest was never just a forest. It had ghosts, shadows, and a sense of foreboding.

There is, according to Jameson, no neutral word (blanking on his first name; I have to dig out my Norton lit theory book to reconfirm). And that is also true. Everything means something. But if we perceive the world as we are, I wonder how that changes our relationship to words. By most standards, an effective piece of writing usually makes us feel something. It evokes an emotional response. For instance, if I read a story about foxes, I think of Ted Hughes. Then I think of Sylvia Plath. From there, my thoughts harken back to their relationship, both romantically and in regard to their writing. I am a heap of my graduate school research sessions, soul-deep in philosophies, and most likely quoting from Birthday Letters. Most people would simply see the story itself, enjoy it as it is, and that is the end of it. (Note: my association between foxes and Ted Hughes means absolutely nothing in terms of story interpretation. Just wanted to make that clear.)

I think that one our greatest attributes is our ability to remember. Even, sometimes, in the instances that we’d most like to forget. Because remembering is a way of maintaining the act of being a witness. It’s holding something – a memory, an emotion, a piece of our past – and saying yes, that happened. There is power in that. And by seeing things as we are, by summoning up the words we used or heard, it is like holding on to a heartbeat. It is like taking a hand that is no longer there, feeling the fingers anyway.

We are all the words we’ve ever said, not the ones we’ve kept to ourselves. We are the dodgy moments, the cherished exhibitions, and all the things we’ve ever done for love. Nothing about any one of us is neutral, even when are actions are thus. Sometimes, it is a matter of biding our time. Sometimes, it is a matter of being still. Sometimes, it is a matter of holding on.

For me, the simplest things get me through the hard days: coffee, chocolate, music, good friends and family, and books. When all else fails, though, there is something to be said for recounting a conversation. It’s a few words and scattered sentences, snatches of emotions felt and evoked trailing after the memory. This act of playing through memories, almost like remembering the lines of a play, is a strange, unexpected comfort. Not simply for the memories themselves, but for what they mean to me. There’s nothing neutral about them. They are full Technicolor. It is, I think, a lot like the act of writing a poem, where meaning is found beneath the surface of things and where one thing often means another.

I suppose the point is that everything means something. We owe it to ourselves to try and to pay attention.Nothing about us, or life, is neutral. Perhaps that is a daunting idea: a reality so rife with meaning that it overwhelms. Instead, I’d like to think of it as rife with possibilities. Potential. Sure, that can also come in the form of challenges, but what’s easy is rarely what is desired. Otherwise, we’d all have perfect (possibly boring) lives. Waiting can be the answer to a question we’ve only started to ask. An answer can fall from the sky like a star. A promise can be given without prompting or pretense. Time yields all truths, whether or not we deign to see them. And nothing, absolutely nothing, is out of reach – if we dare to believe.

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” ― Anaïs Nin

“I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls.” ― Anaïs Nin

“To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life.”
Pablo Neruda

Categories: prose, Random Musings


July 13, 2012 4 comments


I am not good at needing people. In fact, the truth is that I’ve allowed myself to need very few people in my life. I’ve always occupied the role of the person people lean on. I’d rather listen than talk, and I talk to very few people. Not just idle chatter, but the important or embarrassing bits. I keep them mostly locked up, tied tightly together, precisely and without air.

At the end of the day, there are only a small handful of people that I trust with my secrets, those that remain unpolished and dull. Brilliant if only for their raw, unrefined nature. It is, I suspect, the same reason that I let so few people see me without a stitch of makeup on. (Not that I’m running around with three feet of pancake makeup slathered up like Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? But I almost always put on a light bit of mineral makeup, because my skin tone’s uneven. And I’m neurotic.) I’m better at hiding things than I am at offering them up.

I can count on one hand the number of people I’d call up in tears. For me, that is enough. I would never want to be one of those people who blather on endlessly to everyone and anyone. My best friend has picked up the phone to incoherent sobbing or me talking as fast as possible, like a verbal band-aid ripping. If I can spit it all out at once, then I can breathe. Then I can be. It’s an imperfect, working theory.

But back to the point: I’m really very unfamiliar with needing people. I sat, the other day, with my phone in my hand, debating on whether or not to make a phone call. It was after a particularly tough day, and while I was no longer a complete wreck, I wasn’t exactly 5 by 5. Still, the urge to just talk things out, to share a bit of drama, was there. I deliberated whether or not to press SEND (shout-out to Patty Blount and her forthcoming book of the same name). In the end, I did nothing. In the end, I sat there wondering what was more important: the immediate or the future. I choose the future. I choose to be a grownup, knowing how much that sucks, sometimes.

And yet. And still. I wonder if that was a lie. I wonder if I was lying to myself. Because I have this tendency to push what I need, or want, to the side – in favor of what someone else might need. But I am also, apparently, terrible at needing people. I suppose if the circumstances were different, and I was less vulnerable, and things weren’t quite so complicated – I’d be better at it.

I sat there with the phone in unfamiliar territory. I figured out all the reasons why not and clung to them like some sort of righteous howler monkey. Maybe it’s just to say look, I can be an adult, when really what I want is to NOT be an adult for an hour. Or an afternoon. Or a whole day. And then I find that way of thinking to be weak, which I dislike. It’s the same reason that I loathe crying.

I am in an impossible situation that is possible, because it is. This willfully annoying paradox stitched together by wayward circumstances? It is temporary. I keep reminding myself of that. That things will smooth out, that they’ll get easier. If I’m just a little bit patient. If I remember to breathe. If I’m more, instead of less.

Perhaps if the need overwhelms me, two days from now, perhaps I will feel differently. Perhaps I will let myself fall in upon myself, without any eye toward the horizon. Perhaps I will allow myself a bad decision. But the truth is, even with everything a bit of a disaster, I’m doing my damnedest to be stronger than I think I can be.

And the only reason for that, darlings, is…

“When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.” ― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” ― Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

“I was born with an enormous need for affection, and a terrible need to give it.”
Audrey Hepburn

Categories: Random Musings

Being an Artist Doesn’t Give You Carte Blanche to Be an Asshole

July 11, 2012 14 comments

Imagine you are sitting in a crowded comedy club. You are purposefully not sitting in the front. You are there to have a good time.

Then the comedian makes a joke. A bad joke. Maybe it’s a joke about murdering a baby. Or killing someone. Or somebody blowing something up. Let’s say he starts ranting about how it’s always funny to make a joke about a kid getting murdered. (I think we can all agree that’s pretty frakked up.)

It gives you goosebumps, but not the good kind.

Maybe you know someone whose child was murdered. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you just watched a story unfold on the news. Maybe you just have a heart and a sense of right/wrong. The comedian keeps talking and talking about it, until you’re too uncomfortable to stay. But you want to say SOMETHING. So, taking a deep breath, you do the only thing you can think of – you heckle. Actually jokes about murdering a child aren’t funny.

After a pause, the comedian quips, “Wouldn’t it be funny if she were murdered right now? Or her kid? I mean, wouldn’t that be fucking hilarious?”

You’re in a crowded room. People snicker and laugh, nervously or otherwise. What do you do? You continue to leave, because you were uncomfortable to begin with – but now? You’ve just been threatened.

Yesterday, a story came to light about comedian Daniel Tosh. Apparently, at the Laugh Factory, part of his routine was to go on and on about rape jokes. When a female in the crowd (who found his material offensive) yelled that such jokes weren’t funny (because she felt that she had to say SOMETHING), he pressed on, singling her out – saying “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her…”

As someone who’s never been raped, I find that offensive. I find that offensive as a woman and human being. I find it unacceptable, because I have friends who have been raped and abused. And honestly? That just isn’t funny. None of it is. Rape is a serious crime. To diminish and undercut the severity of it, especially in this society where the first reaction is usually to lay blame at the feet of the victim (oh, she was asking for it, look at how she dressed, why wasn’t she more careful?) – it is reprehensible.

It reminded of the other week, when I was in a convenience store. A guy got a ticket for his order, and it was 911. He, apparently, was from NY. He asked the girl making the sandwiches if she could just call his name or something else, because the number really bothered him. She agreed, and then mocked him while he went to the register to pay. Her behavior wasn’t threatening, but it was disrespectful and ripe with blatant disregard for humanity. While the situation is completely different, the principle is very much the same: some things just aren’t funny.

The Tosh situation was disturbing enough, until I found out that there are people out there defending the comedian. The argument, basically, is that he’s an artist. It’s free speech. Art gives you license to be offensive.

My response would be: yes, if you are an asshole. (Eloquent, right?) I’m all for art being everything from beautiful to disturbing. But I also do not think that being an artist means you have carte blanche to act like a jerk, to threaten other people, or cross all lines. Yes, there are lines. Sometimes, it’s tough to figure out where they are. Sometimes, one misstep can cost you a lot. See, Gilbert Gottfried and the joke he made after the tsunami. That cost money and respect. Yes, you can argue similarly to Tosh, that Gottfried is a comedian, and he was just trying to be funny. But what the hell was funny about what he said? Nothing. The same goes for Tosh, except some people don’t quite see that.

At point one, I saw a man arguing that Tosh has a right to say whatever he wants. He has free speech. And that’s true. He does. But he also cannot yell FIRE in the middle of a crowded movie theater, unless there is actually a fucking fire. Free speech does, indeed, have decency limits. All things cannot be excused with a shrug, mumbling, “Well, he’s an artist.” You know who else was an artist? Hitler. That didn’t make him anything less than a mass-murdering megalomaniac of epically horrible proportions. I’m pretty sure the Louvre didn’t hang up any of his painting, excusing his tendency toward genocide, because he’s an artist.

*ahem* Back to the point. Another argument was that if you find Tosh offensive, the answer is simple: don’t go to his shows. And yes, that’s a valid point. After this whole debacle, I’m 100% certain that I’d never choose to see him perform live, even if accompanied by Muppets. However, avoiding him doesn’t remove meaning from Tosh’s words (this suggestion was made, verbatim: you, as the consumer, need to educate yourself on who you pay attention to, in order to avoid being offended.). *blinks* What’s this now? In order to avoid things that might be offensive, I have to smart enough to know what to avoid? The condescending attitude aside, what the frak? Avoiding something doesn’t invalidate another person’s actions/statements in the least. What Tosh did, and said, is still very wrong – regardless of whether or not I plunked down money to attend one of his shows. Consider Mel Gibson’s anti-semiotic rant that most of us either read or heard about. None of us were there. We didn’t choose to hear it. We didn’t walk up to Gibson and say, “Gee, Mel, what ARE your feelings on Jewish people?” But what he said was still what he said. Not being there, personally, is irrelevant. Actions and words, especially of a public figure, are a measure of who we are. If something is said, it’s put out into the world – and in the case of a celebrity, it’s pretty much there for all eternity. Gibson’s oeuvre is still impressive; he’s got Braveheart and The Patriot. But he also is that guy who got sloshed and spewed hate speech.

Also, there is the suggestion that Tosh regularly employs black humor. Great. Awesome. I like black humor. There is a wide-spectrum of humors that I appreciate it. But I’ll say it again: threatening someone, like Tosh did, is never frakkin’ funny. What if that person was your sister? Your cousin? Your mother? Your friend? Your wife? That shouldn’t need to be personally contextualized to matter, but let’s do that, anyway. What if that girl who stood up in the club was someone you cared about?

Someone pointed out that she should’ve kept her mouth shut. That the woman should’ve known better than the heckle a guy who is famous for his “black humor.” (Are rape jokes really black humor? I don’t know.) “I definitely wouldn’t heckle someone who has gotten famous off of black humor if I was easily offended by the topic of his bit.” Basically, this insinuates that the woman is to blame, that she brought it on herself, and that if she had only kept her mouth shut, things would’ve been fine. She was, essentially, an idiot. But I’d argue that she was brave, as every person is who takes a stand against something or someone that’s wrong. The kid who stands up for someone getting picked up. The person who helps someone up after they’ve fallen. The woman who puts her foot down and says, enough, this is wrong. All brave things. Because if you stand by and let something slide, it makes you culpable, in a way, for knowing it’s wrong and ignoring it.

Being an artist doesn’t give someone a license to be a total asshat. It doesn’t mean that he can say whatever he wants without consequences. Yes, Tosh has freedom of speech – but you cannot blame people for finding what he said/did offensive. No one is arguing that comedians should be censored by some kind of Oversight of Humor section of the government. But it is important to acknowledge that what he did was awful and that chalking it up to art is nothing more than a shameful cop-out, a misdirection of wrongdoing and responsibility.

Praying to Our Less Practical Selves: Want vs Need


Sitting on the porch, glass of wine in hand, my best friend and I were trying to solve a problem. It was late. There were fireflies, and there was something completely wonderful about talking together that evening. The air had diminished from oppressive to pleasantly warm. There was a slight breeze, and the only noise was the faint hum of a baseball game drifting over from a neighbor’s house. For the record, nights like that are much, much better than therapy.

The discussion, however, evolved into an interesting one, a dissection of want vs. need. It might be a query without an actual answer, an idea without a destination. Because it is difficult to differentiate, sometimes, the precariously drawn line between want and need. Sometimes, one masquerades as the other – and sometimes, what we want is what we need or what we need is what we want. How can you extricate that? I’m not sure I know.

Eventually, we decided that ultimately being a grownup (or pretending to be one) is insanely hard. When you’re a kid, you want simple things: to play, to sleep, to eat, to love, and to be loved. These things are, or should be, readily accessible. But when you venture into the adult world, either by accident or design, somehow those things become more difficult to obtain. Responsibilities encroach on desires. Things demand our time. We get lost in the pursuit of things we’re instructed to do, things we’re told we should do, and it can cause us to lose sight of what we actually need. Throw in a few wants, and the world becomes a confusing place.

We want to be happy. How often do we say that? A lot. But I think that’s a case of NEED, not want. Because in order to be the best version of ourselves, I think we need happiness in whatever measure we can obtain it. Without striving toward happiness, we lose something – some vital part of ourselves that gets bogged down by the weighted clawing of life.

It can be nearly impossible, occasionally, to figure out if something is a want or a need. For me, personally speaking, I am not exactly good at needing people. The list of people I need, honestly, is very short. I realized, recently, that I am not very skilled at needing, because it makes me vulnerable. I’m usually the person people need, for whatever reason, and I’m woefully unaccustomed to the opposite. It throws me off. It makes me uncertain. I start to wonder if what I think is a need is a want and vice versa. Which brings me back to the discussion with my BFF.

I think that we decided that want and need often overlap. That something doesn’t have to be one or the other; it’s an and, instead of an or (shout out to Into the Woods). We can want and need someone or something; we can want and need to do something. Of course, that’s a tricksy spot to be in then, because what then? Where does that leave you? A lot of the time we’re instructed that blatantly going after what you want is either good or bad. It depends on the circumstances and situation. It is a confusing moment, trying to figure out what’s right. No, not right. Right’s too banal, too easy a word. Best. It’s trying to figure out the best solution.

Call or not call? Ask or don’t ask? Say yes or no? Offer or hold back? Try or don’t? Wait or run?

Those questions, by themselves, mean nothing without context. With context, comes emotion. And with emotion, everything whirls around like a hurricane on a tilt-o-whirl. Or, as Lorelai Gilmore said, “once your heart gets involved, it all comes out in moron.” A thousand times YES. For an emotions-based person, it’s a strange plane of existence, figuring out what’s right amid a sea of feelings. If something is a want and a need, what then? How does one come to a conclusion? Flip a coin? Consult a magic eight ball? Read the tarot? I’m not sure I know.

Some things must be considered carefully. Other decisions should be made based on feelings. It is often a strict challenge to figure out which is what, and when, and why. I’m not sure I have the answer, and until I KNOW, I rarely do. The more complicated a situation is, the more cautious I attempt to be. But the secret is: I’m not very good at caution, sometimes. I’m a blundering, heartstruck, foolhardy girl. I’m a dreamer without repentance. I’m a believer. I believe in people and things. Sometimes, that makes me very Pollyanna. Sometimes, it leaves me the fool. Sometimes, what follows is extreme doubt.

But not this time. Not this place. Believing is a thing of strength. I can be strong enough for two people. I can believe more than most. I’m an impossible dream kind of person. (Now, I’ll be signing that song for the rest of the day.)

If something is a want and a need, I think it’s wise to take a moment and be still. Contemplate which is stronger, which is more true, and act accordingly. Because sometimes, even if we need something, the best choice is putting someone else’s needs before our own. It’s not selfless. It’s an act of love, though. It’s saying, I love you enough to do this for you. Inherently, perhaps, we’re selfish creatures, worshiping our inner five years olds, praying to our less practical selves. But actively deciding to do, or not do, something because of our love for someone else? That may be the bravest, strongest thing of all.

fragile things: a reversal

July 5, 2012 2 comments

Below is one of my favorite passages written by Neil Gaiman. Below that is a reversal of sorts, written by me. It’s an exercise in creativity and perspective, I suppose.

“She seems so cool, so focused, so quiet, yet her eyes remain fixed upon the horizon. You think you know all there is to know about her immediately upon meeting her, but everything you think you know is wrong. Passion flows through her like a river of blood.

She only looked away for a moment, and the mask slipped, and you fell. All your tomorrows start here.”

― Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things

Conversely, this.

He seems so intense, so scattered, so loud, yet his eyes remain unfixed. You think you know nothing about him immediately upon meeting him, but nothing comes of nothing. Everything you think is wrong. A mindfulness flows through him like a river of promises.

 He only looked toward you for a moment, and the mask was never really there, and you fell. All your tomorrows have already started.

Categories: prose

A Question of Price and Worth: Rowling’s Forthcoming Adult Novel

July 3, 2012 8 comments

Given the fluctuating landscape of the publishing world, a lot of things are uncertain. Right now, for some people, self-publishing is a wonderful, viable option. For others, the traditional route is the way that works best for them. There are people on either side who proselytize either far end of the spectrum. Forget those people. Forget everything, right now, except the business of bookselling or buying.

This morning, J.K. Rowling’s announced the name of her new novel, and it sounds intriguing. The premise interests me. And I thought, maybe I’ll read it.

Except, then I saw the price. $35 for the print novel and $19.99 for the ebook. Do you know how many frappuccinos that can buy? So, I decided that I’d really rather spend my money on something else, something like food or coffee.

To me, that’s simply too much money to pay for a book that isn’t out-of-print or very old. I’ve purchased first editions of Paradise Lost for that amount. I’m certainly not comfortable shelling out that kind of cash for a book that’s got a perfect spine.

My question, though, is something I posed on Twitter: WHY? It is, of course, most likely about the money. And there are people, judging by the responses I’ve seen, who will gladly pay it. But I have a problem with it, which I’m not exactly certain how to phrase. It almost feels like taking advantage of a reader base. Knowing that fans will pay that much money for a book, it seems wrong. Granted, yes, as a writer – a person wants to make a profit. Sure, it’s all for the love of writing, but a girl’s gotta eat. And yet, I find this whole thing unsettling.

Of course, there’s always the one jerk who sees the pricing issue and starts bashing Harry Potter, citing that books don’t sustain you.

*blinks* No, that’s the exact opposite of true. Sure, you probably won’t gain much nutritional value from NOMing on the pages of Mockingjay, but there are different kinds of sustenance that we all require. You need to feed your passions, your soul, your mind, and your heart. Yes, it’s difficult to do on an empty stomach, and that’s not what I’m suggesting. I simply think that it’s important to tend to all areas of the self, instead of ONLY the gnawing pit that it your stomach. It’s called balance.

Honestly, I didn’t read the whole Harry Potter series. I didn’t really like it. (Put the stone DOWN.) I didn’t like the Twilight series either, although I did read that all the way through, because I’m masochistic. Finally, 50 Shades isn’t my thing – not for the sexual content, but because I do not enjoy the writing. Give me Neil Gaiman, Deanna Raybourn, Jim Butcher, Delilah S. Dawson, Libba Bray, Holly Black, Cassie Clare, George R.R. Martin, Jim C. Hines, Ted Hughes, Nick Hornby, and a whole heap of other authors. These are the writers that current feed my soul, piquing my creativity and curiosity. These are the people (and others I’ve left out – I’m sorry! I need more coffee) who sustain my inner workings.

J.K. Rowling doesn’t do it for me. Okay. No big. She does for many other people. And if her books get people to READ? FINE BY ME. (Hi, Ross.) While I may choose not to buy Rowling’s book, and instead by coffee from The Strange Brew, that doesn’t mean I won’t buy the next Tahereh Mafi‘s book, or Liz Norris, or Sean Ferrell’s. Because you can bet you dictionary that I’m so there. 9 times out of 10, the first that I want to buy is a novel. I’ve got a STACK in the corner, and that’s irrelevant. In the timeless words of the plant from Little Shop, “FEEEEEEEED MEEEEEE, Seymour!”

I think that $35 is entirely too much for a novel, but that’s my choice. I could always do something CRAZY, and borrow it from the library. Libraries are cool, kids. Remember that.

Now, good night, Westley. Good work. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.

things I am grateful for

July 3, 2012 2 comments


It’s too easy, sometimes, to ignore the good moments when things are tough. The difficult bits are the monster in the closet that’s going to goggle you up in the middle of the night. They are merciless and resilient, a cleverly drawn shadow. A jabberwocky — all the more worse because of what your mind twists its existence into. Carroll got that quite right: what we imagine is always worse than what is put in front of us.

But my point isn’t about the painful parts, silences, or whatever — it’s about the things that keep us (okay, me) sane. It’s the silly jokes and video chats (I have to say, I’d like to kiss whoever invented google video chat). It’s the laughing over silly things, “Did you just offer me a box of pudding and some pills? Have you hit your head?” (That really happened, last night, with my BFF. It’s funnier than it sounds, because then she also offered me peanut butter in such a way that had us laughing on the floor.)

I am grateful for the people in my life who know when something’s wrong, who listen even when I say I don’t want to talk, and who tolerate my inability to properly exit a driveway (sorry about the tree stump! And the rock! And my dignity!). I am blessed to have a group of friends, near and far, who are there — even if I rant too much. It’s so important to remember that you don’t have to have the RIGHT words to help; sometimes, you just have to be there.

I know that I can admit to being a total disaster, sometimes, without regretting it later. I can laugh about ridiculous things that happen, because it seems like something out of a movie — except no, that’s real life. And YES, that DID just happen. And no, Tori Spelling will NOT be portraying me in a lifetime movie. Please let it be Lauren Graham. I beg you.

I’m happy to have coffee (occasionally supplied by awesome friends), brand new nail polish, and a few minutes of quiet. I’m immeasurably grateful for the cranberry wine consumed last night, family that loves me (despite my crazy), and the flickers of hope and possibility that are (to bastardize Assisi) are a light against the darkness.

I love the smell of cookies baking, even if I’m making a kind I don’t eat. I love having a garden, even if it’s small — and you’ll always find me with a basil plant on the windowsill. I find it physically impossible to NOT feed you if you set foot in my home, so please have a seat and some coffee. Food, in my house, is just another form of affection. I’m ridiculously lucky to have a group of writer friends who are supportive and helpful in equal measure; you all are a little tribe of awesome. I am glad to have learned so much over the past year or two, lessons too innumerable to list; just know that I’ve been paying attention.

I love saying yes, instead of no. I love laughing at myself. I am continually surprised and amazed by humanity, sometimes for the better. I know that having a sense of humor is often the best defense, and that there’s nothing better than reading a good book by the pool, even if the temperature is just shy of the surface of the sun. I’m grateful for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gilmore Girls, and Once and Again (despite the fact that I’m STILL angry there’s no season 3 DVD. WTF?). I’m grateful for Foucault, unfortunate incidents during Victorian Lit with a lawyer and a grape (don’t ask — or do. It’s a funny story), Shakespeare, Hughes, and Neruda. I’m indebted to my freakishly good memory, the insane depths of my own heart, and the fact that I can still recite the alphabet in Spanish (why do I STILL remember that?).

I could go on, but I’ve blathered enough. Tell me what, and whom, you are grateful for. And if that should be ‘who,’ instead of ‘whom,’ shove it. I need more coffee.

Don’t Be a Tool Bag

July 1, 2012 4 comments

“A BREAKUP is an opportunity to TRADE UP.”

A few minutes ago, someone retweeted that. It was written by account called The Daily Love. It is something that should be set on fire, because it is ridiculous. Yes, I’m seething with complete rage. How is it possible that people still say shit like that? Because I don’t know. I get that after a breakup some survival techniques include the following: over-excercising, getting drunk, eating an entire frozen foods section (should foods have an apostrophe? I’m too annoyed to correct my own grammar.) worth of ice cream, bitching to your friends, and generally loathing humanity. Add wine, vodka, rum, and a sprig of mint – and voila!

However, the hyperlinked statement? That’s not enlightened. That’s not smart. That’s one very speedy way to a) undervalue the person you dated, b) the time you spent with that person, and c) reduce your relationship to the acquisition of material goods. (For the record, people are PEOPLE. Not stocks. Not trading cards. They do not come with receipts or instruction manuals. The kind that DO end up in a film with Ryan Gosling, and they’re not exactly PEOPLE. Savvy?)

Don’t get me wrong: sometimes, we all date assholes. Sometimes, you find yourself in a relationship, and then one day – you wake up and think, Dear God/Krishna/Buddha, what in the unholy hell of the universe am I DOING? I’m not talking about that kind of Come to Jesus (or Satan, as the case may be) moment. I’m not addressing a specific situation. Instead, I’m taking issue with the aforementioned sentiment.

Respect should be paid to the memory of what was. To the good times. To the honest moments. To the small bits of joy extricated from the wreckage. There’s no need to be so callous. That isn’t promoting healthy emotions or love. Or even a semblance of decency or kindness. Instead, it’s taking a shiv to your own past, to something you chose, to a person YOU wanted to spend time with.

I’ll say it again: a person is not a car. You don’t trade in your old one and leave the lot with a shiny, person-like corvette. This is not an episode of The Twilight Zone or Outer Limits. This is life. This is your heart. This is not an iphone upgrade.

When a relationship ends, you’re not trading up. You’re starting over. You acknowledge that it didn’t work (for whatever reason), and you move on. Because dwelling isn’t going to make ANYONE happy. It isn’t going to make you look like a shining example of awesome, either. Saying something like that is immature and classless.

Devaluing the other person makes you look like a complete tool bag. Not a single tool. A WHOLE BAG. So, save yourselves from the complete humiliation of being a heaps of dull pliers. Okay? Okay.

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