Saturday, September 26, 2009

An Open Letter to Andromeda the Cat

Dear Andromeda:

You and I have been together for about 9 years. I remember when I adopted you in December of 2000, at the Noah's Ark shelter in Ledgewood. I was still married then, and had 3 other cats living in the house. All of those cats have died since then, but I remember how you had to hold your own as a kitten among all of these not-so-friendly faces. And you did pretty well.

Of course, while you were cute and cuddly, you also broke a couple of lamps, and decided to use some of my LPs as a scratching post. (Yes, those same LPs that Mommy has kept locked up in a cabinet in the living room to avoid you getting your little claws into them. And then you pissed all over the bottom of the cabinet and ruined it. I guess you showed me!). This led to your former Daddy making the comment that you were "a little shit". While he wasn't always right about things, he was certainly right about that.

You are now almost 10 years old. Cats are senior citizens at 7, so you're getting up there in kitty years. I remember last year that you were a little butterball. I have no idea why, as you hardly ate any food, and if snacks were offered, you usually refused them. Almost 3 years ago, when Ariel, the last of your original "brothers" died, you were the last cat standing. Every day I came home from work and you cried and cried--it was clear that you were lonely, even though you and Ariel appeared to view each other as putrid compost heaps during your last few years together. So, Mommy broke down and adopted another cat to keep you company. Shiva is a nice cat, and I know, he does push you around a bit (guy cats can be like that), but you seem to like him--you'll eat next to him, sleep near him on the bed.

The one thing you don't seem to want to do is share a litterbox with him. Ever since he came into the house, you've always pooped outside your litterbox, on the floor. There are two BIG litterboxes, and I keep both very clean. I've gotten used to that, though--a little pile of normal poop is not difficult to clean up--I just need to keep disinfectant wipes handy in the bathroom all the time. Not thrilled, but not a deal breaker.

Then you put on that weight, and when I started teaching 2 night classes during the week last Fall, you started pissing on the bathroom floor. I can assure you that I got no joy out of coming home at midnight and cleaning up cat piss. It also meant going through tons of paper towels and having to buy special cleaners. You see, Mommy's normal cleaners contain ammonia, which is also the chief ingredient in cat piss. Not good to clean ammonia with ammonia. You may enjoy the smell, but Mommy does not. I took you to the vet, who gave you a clean bill of health after $500 worth of tests. She then gave me some "kitty prozac" pills to give you, but I never did. Your siblings were always good about taking their medicine, but you--well, let's just say the vet would have to prescribe some prozac for Mommy as well if I had to start trying to medicate you every day. But fortunately--miraculously--you stopped pissing on the floor, and went back to your litterbox. You still pooped on the floor, but didn't piss. I could live with that.

Over this year, you've lost a ton of weight--now you're a scrawny little thing with the appetite of a 70 pound dog. This probably does mean that something is wrong, but all other indications have been fine. Until this summer, when you started peeing on the floor again. And now it wasn't just the bathroom. Now it's the living room floor as well. The bathroom floor has a special non-porous tile that I put in especially for such urination events, as it doesn't absorb odors. However, the living room floor is an old pine floor from the 1850s. I've had the wood treated, but it still tends to be a bit more porous. I have avoided taking you to the vet, because frankly I don't have another 500 bucks for tests.

This week, I have thrown out the aforementioned cabinet that once held my LPs and other things. Did I mention that cabinet cost over $300? No matter--you like to piss right next to it, so the aroma of cat pee is permanently embedded into the feet, and it's too heavy to move and clean. So, out it went, along with the rug you destroyed. I have spent this morning pouring gallons of Nature's Miracle onto the floor, letting it sit, and mopping it up, even pulling all the furniture out of the living room to do it, in the desperate hope that this lingering odor of cat pee will go away. The bottle says it could take up to two weeks. We will see.

In the meantime, I'm going to level with you. You're a sweet kitty and I love you. But I cannot live like this. I am spending a small fortune on special cleaning products, and I am going through almost 4 full rolls of paper towels a week. Every day when I wake up, every night if I get up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night--and every night that I come home from work, I am cleaning up cat piss. And I am losing my mind. I can't take it anymore.

You are going to the vet on Tuesday. I am hoping for one of two things--either she finds a UTI and gives you an antibiotic that will clear things up, or you will be so freaked out by the vet visit that you'll stop pissing on the floor. If she finds cancer, I'm afraid it will be adios for you--you've clearly passed the stage of "manageable". If she finds NOTHING wrong with you, and you continue to pee on the floor--then you're being adopted out to a rescue agency--I'll pay the damn $200 fee. Maybe you'll be happier somewhere else. Or, I could do the thing that would make me feel the worst--have you put down even though you're healthy otherwise. I hope it doesn't come to that.

So, Andromeda--if this is all "behavioral", I suggest you get the fuck over it and fly right. Because you're not going to be happy with any of the alternatives. Got it?

With Much Love,

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Guide to Brigid For the Romantically Perplexed

I was having a late lunch between errands at a restaurant recently, and a funny thing happened. While talking to the waiter, he alluded to the fact that he considered me something of a "character". Why? Well, what kind of strange person goes to a restaurant by themselves, and doesn't sit at the bar? Well, of course I don't sit at the bar. Sitting at the bar implies that I'm trying to pick up someone. The last thing I want to do is talk to the sort of folks that hang out in bars, at least in the United States. I doubt we'd have much in common, and I'm not looking for romance. I'm just looking for food.

But that brief exchange made me think about my habits. As I've mentioned before, I'm divorced, and I have no qualms about going certain places by myself. Restaurants are one of them. I know people who can't stand to go anywhere by themselves. I don't think that's a sign of anything except your own discomfort with your own company. Frankly, I'd rather be alone by myself than alone with someone else. Yes, I do date men, but those dates are few and far between. You might interpret that fact to mean that either a.) I have some significant flaw that keeps me from getting dates, or b.) that I'm a lesbian. Neither of those things is true. I do get propositioned from time to time, and my usual response is "no." At the same time, I would very much like to have another relationship. So, what's up with that?

Given the frustrated and puzzled reactions I've had regarding my behavior with the opposite sex, I now bring you: the Guide to Brigid for the Romantically Perplexed. I realize that I don't always play by the same assumptions and rules as others when it comes to relationships. So, if you're a guy and uncertain as to whether or not I'm interested in you, consider these few guidelines:

1. I do believe that a woman can be "just friends" with a guy. I'm a very friendly person, but that doesn't necessarily mean I'm interested in you beyond that.

2. When I do happen to go to a bar or restaurant by myself, I'm not looking to hook up. I usually just want food or beer, and time to read my book or work on my writing. If you talk to me, I'll be polite, but I really don't want conversation if I've got a book or a notebook in my hand.

3. There is rarely a middle ground for me. Either I could dig getting together with you, or don't even think about it. If I'm interested in you, I will respond positively to bad jokes, stupid pick-up lines, and any other clumsy attempts at courtship. If I don't respond, or I roll my eyes and walk away--don't sweat it, I wasn't interested in the first place. If you ask, "What can I do to make you interested?", and I'm not interested already--the answer is "Nothing."

4. I do not "hook up". That doesn't mean that I expect a lifetime commitment out of every relationship. But I can't just have sex with you and pretend it doesn't matter tomorrow. Sorry.

5. I do not respond well to "games". If you run hot and cold with me just to test me, I'm apt to walk away even if there is interest. Playing games is a way of trying to gain control, and I see no reason for either person to try to control the other. Level with me.

6. If I like you and you're married, all bets are off. I don't interfere with marriages.

7. If I like you and you have a girlfriend, I don't assume all bets are off, but the ball is in your court. I will never push someone already in a relationship beyond friends, even if I seem flirty at times. If you want a relationship with me enough to leave your current girlfriend, that is your call. I don't like women doing that to me in relationships, so I don't do it to them. It doesn't matter if I think they're an angel or a skank--if you've decided you want to be with them, I'm not questioning your decision.

8. I tend to be closer friends with men who are married or who are gay. That is because I feel there is little (or less) danger of them trying to get involved as more than friends.

9. Signs that I am interested in you include: making a huge effort to come see you (i.e., traveling a great distance, rearranging my crazy schedule for you, etc.), accepting your gifts on Facebook (this only applies after March 2009--I accepted all gifts before that), making an effort to communicate with you somewhat regularly (something I don't necessarily do, even with my own family). I may also tease you and appear critical, though in a joking way. I only do this regularly to men that I like. Occasionally I do it to others. But not regularly.

10. Signs that I'm not interested in you: Not replying to your flirty e-mails, not accepting your Facebook gifts, and basically being polite but not responding at all to any flirting attempts. Don't assume that no response means something is possible. I'm just trying to be kind and spare your ego. I may also think you make a great friend, and want to preserve the friendship.

A corollary to #10--I don't care for IMs from strangers. I don't mind receiving instant messages from people I know, but if I've never met you, I might respond the first time out of politeness, but if you keep it up you're not likely to get a reply. When I'm online I'm usually doing my writing or working at my day job, not surfing for porn or cat pictures. That means unless I know you, I'm not looking to chat.

Overall--you don't have to be a rocket scientist to get the whole chemistry thing. The fact that I'm not interested in someone doesn't mean they're a fetid pile of garbage; it just means there is no reciprocal chemistry on my side of things. I am cautious with men I'm attracted to--if I think they're attracted to me, I might be a bit shy, only because I'm not sure if I'm merely projecting my attraction onto them. If they give me a positive sign, and are not in a relationship already, I tend to be more open. If you see me as unsexual and frigid, I'm not--that usually means I'm not interested in you, or I'm holding back for some other reason (usually because you're already taken). I hate when men accuse you of being frigid, and then when you try to be friendly, they accuse you of leading them on. Spare me, please.

I don't go out "looking" for love--I follow my instincts, and if something seems right, I pursue it, albeit cautiously. I think good relationships take time, and I'm content enough to be by myself that I'm not in a hurry to grab myself a man. That doesn't mean that I wouldn't want a relationship with the right person. Who is the right person? I don't know. It would be someone who I have chemistry with (regardless of looks--they would look good to me), and someone who treats me honestly and with respect. My biggest problem is falling for men who are already committed, either through marriage or they have a serious girlfriend. I don't fall for someone too often, so this frequently means I go it alone. If that makes me a "character", so be it.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Found Footage Festival, Vol. 4 (New York Debut)

I've written a couple of blog postings in the past about the Found Footage Festival. For those of you who haven't seen those, and haven't heard of it--Found Footage Festival is the brainchild of Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett, who go to thrift stores, garage sales, estate sales, and other such places to find old VHS tapes. These end up being all sorts of "random" things--exercise videos, business presentations, celebrity instructional videos, etc. All of these are pretty dreadful, and Nick and Joe sort through them to put together shows that include "the best of the worst" of these tapes. There are three volumes of shows out already. Last night was the debut of the Volume 4 show.

I went to see the very first showing in New York last night, at the Anthology Film Archives on the Lower East Side. Brooklyn Brewery offered free beer for the show, which was great except that you couldn't bring beer into the theater, so you had to guzzle it down either before or after the show--and there wasn't much time. Brooklyn Brewery does make excellent beer, so it was a treat nonetheless.

I don't want to give away the whole show, so I'll just mention some of the highlights. Though it's hard to top Jack Rebney, this may be their best show yet. The show is made up of various montages or clips from videos with similar themes. Nick and Joe will give some background regarding the particular montage, and then show it. Occasionally they will have follow-up interviews with people in the videos, or present a spoof of their own related to a particular video or montage.

In this show, they started with Exercise Montage 5, a collection of dreadful exercise videos that included an insanely-babbling Jazzercise instructor, and a Milton Berle workout video, among many others. There were clips of a furniture salesman trying to film a commercial (and to save you money), bizarre celebrity instructional videos (including Phyllis Diller showing you how to have a garage sale), and montages of cartoons, computers, and sex instruction. They also had a slideshow of their favorite covers from various VHS tapes.

Some of the particular highlights: in a segment called "Andrew's grab bag" (named for the man who gave them the videos referenced), there was a man hawking a device called the "Venus II". This is a machine that allows guys to masturbate using this thing that looks like a tube hooked up to a car battery--with instructional video of the inventor using it on himself. Nick and Joe actually met the inventor's son, and then the inventor himself, and they presented an interview with him that they had taped. The Venus II device apparently costs about $1300, and the inventor actually let them take one, and they had it for show-and-tell. Joe confessed to taking a "test drive" with it, and said it was quite nice, though Nick pointed out that using one's hand was probably cheaper, and he didn't see why this was better.

They also had a video dating montage, from a dating service that gave men ninety seconds to record something about themselves to show women subscribed to the service. What they came up with was lame at best. One man went into a litany of what he didn't want from a woman, and one of the things he mentioned was "no hamsters" (?). After the montage, Nick and Joe did the best spoof of the night, making their own version of a video dating service featuring themselves and a few other guys that had me in tears with laughter. They called it "Beggars CAN Be Choosers", and it was absolutely hilarious. Joe, picking on the "no hamster" guy in the montage, repeatedly said, "What I do not want--no hamsters. I don't care if you're black, white, purple, or yellow--as long as you're not a hamster."

The whole show was really hilarious, which is why it was surprising that the guy running the projector fell asleep. In a tweet posted afterwards, they said it was the first time in 5 years a projectionist had fallen asleep at a show, and that he vaguely smelled of rum. The venue was pretty full, and when I left afterwards, the lobby was jammed with people waiting to see the second showing. They said they would be taping the show next week for the DVD, which is due out in November. You can pre-order it at the Found Footage website (link at the beginning of this post), and through October 15 there's free shipping. At the show itself you can pre-order for ten dollars--whether that will be true for all shows I don't know. They also mentioned they will be putting up a website of found videos "that must be seen right away", rather than waiting a year for another show.

So, if you like films that are "craptastic", you will definitely want to check this out, and if you can catch a live show as well, it's worth it.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Since I published the “public decency” post a few days ago, I’ve noticed that a number of other blogs, and the Daily Show, have picked up on the discussion of public civility. Coincidentally, I was watching a collection of old short films from approximately the 1930s to the 1950s the other day, and the last one in the set was about “emotional maturity”. While most 1950s informational films are hilarious (and this one was too), they made a valid point in the film about slowing down, stopping, and thinking before responding to an emotion.

Like all other human beings, I have my emotional ups and downs, and try to control them. Certainly in social settings, we are taught to control ourselves. It goes back to that basic idea of treating others as you would want them to treat you—no one likes someone who goes ballistic or really lays it on thick with the melodrama. But there are other cases where hiding your emotions can be a problem. For instance, when you’re upset about something and afraid to talk to your parent or spouse or close friend because you fear their reaction, it’s apt to break down the relationship. And let’s face it—emotions can hit you like a tsunami, especially when hormones are involved. Trying to fight them can be like trying to bail the water out of the ocean with a coffee cup; it’s better to go with the flow. But the question remains: where does one draw the line between having discipline in controlling their emotions and outright repression?

It’s a difficult question, but it seems to have something to do with awareness. First, awareness of your surroundings. The self-centered only think of their own wants and needs, and don’t consider anyone else’s. If you are interacting with someone, you will filter your communications with them in proportion to your experience with them. For instance—my father is a very conservative Republican, and I am not. I have very strong opinions about the Republicans these days. However, when I am talking to my father, I will be careful not to bring up political topics, or to belittle him for his point of view if they do come up, even if I think it’s absurd. It’s a matter of polite respect. There’s no point in arguing because I won’t change his mind—and he won’t change mine.

The second thing, interestingly enough, has to do with speed. No, not amphetamines, I mean the actual speed of your thoughts and your environment. In the Northeastern United States, we live a very fast-paced life. Because we are rushing from one thing to the next, something is apt to get lost along the way. As a consequence, we may act before we think. In this way, speed is connected to awareness.

I just read an interesting blog post about the relationship between belief and understanding. A study done by Daniel Gilbert and his colleagues in 1993 suggests, as Spinoza did in his philosophy, that in order to understand something, we must believe it. Even if our critical faculties are engaged later, and then we reject it, we initially assume belief. What I found interesting was the assertion “without time for reflection, people simply believed what they read.” Critical thinking does not happen when everything is moving fast.

So—the idea of slowing down, stopping, and thinking before reacting as a disciplined response is a good thing. Certainly we have flashes of intuition, and there are times when we’re forced to think on our feet. Instinctive reactions when there is danger are necessary to survival. But in most social interaction and our day-to-day routines, there is no need to rush our responses. In deep meditation, a state of very intense awareness, time slows down considerably.

This applies to the discipline/repression conundrum, because our emotions are usually the target of our repressions. We have a strong and immediate emotional response to something, and often we forgo critical thinking at those moments. We may be sorry for it later, especially if we hurt someone in the process.

Many gurus and masters have asserted that discipline leads to freedom, in spite of its apparent limitations. Discipline does not have to mean repression. If I get angry at a colleague at work, I can’t tell them off, as much as I would like to in my immediate emotional response. I have to remain polite, or avoid action. Later on, I can write about it (privately), or maybe vent about it to a friend. Frequently I satirize such conflicts—if I don’t take it too seriously, then it doesn’t have to be too serious. But in such a case I don’t repress my feelings; I express them through more productive channels. I would also submit that doing this allows you to think critically about your anger, and come up with the most reasonable response.

The Rumpus just ran an article suggesting that depression may actually help writers. It is now suggested that depressed individuals “dwell on a complex problem, breaking it down into smaller components, which are considered one at a time.” A special depression receptor enhances focus, allowing “depressive rumination to continue uninterrupted with minimal neuronal damage.” (taken from Maud Newton’s blog). In short, they slow things down and look at them with awareness, and writing is often a method suggested for doing this. Neurologically it would make sense that instinctual reactions are generated more quickly than ones that require more thought. Depression often comes from feeling overwhelmed and out of control. It’s not a coincidence that it can be greatly improved by taking time out to slow down and think.

One last thought--Given all of the hysteria in our country these days over the healthcare debate, it wouldn’t hurt for people to slow down and pay attention.

If you got this far, congratulations. It shows that you slowed down enough to read this whole thing instead of giving up after the first two sentences.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

This Week's Amusement

It’s been a rather interesting and chaotic month, that I’ve been surviving by having a sense of the absurd, and maintaining my sense of humor. Here are a few things I saw this week that cracked me up:
funny pictures of cats with captions

Ted Wilson Reviews the World

(This may become my new favorite column in the Rumpus)

The Best Headline Ever

23 More Tasteless Street and Store Signs (Courtesy of I-A-B)

(Sign #14 is my favorite. I want to hang it in the staff parking lot where students always park)

The 5 Most Ridiculous Sex Self Help Books (Courtesy of

The Snuggie Sutra

Yes, this is what it sounds like.

Hmm, these links have taken a bit of an erotic turn. Clean up those dirty thoughts and check out this cut cat picture. It’s exactly what my cats will do to me one day. Apologies for not embedding the image, but it's too big and I can't edit the pixels:

Stop Faking That Heart Attack...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Public Decency

I don’t pay a lot of attention to the news, particularly when it comes to celebrities. If you asked me to tell you anything about an actor or pop-music performer who has become famous in the last 10 years, you can forget it. I am doomed to fail at winning future games of Trivial Pursuit.

Nonetheless, when I open my e-mail, or log onto MySpace, I am besieged by images and names. If they are repetitive enough, I sort of remember them. If the headline seems really bizarre, I might actually read the article, if for no other reason than to see what kind of “not news” it is.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I am fond of finding patterns in events. The patterns may be meaningless, but sometimes they give you an idea about what we pretentiously call “cultural hermeneutics”. (Go ahead—use that term in a sentence today. I dare you.) It’s a fancy term for interpreting culture through its images and messages, particularly in the media.

Today’s pattern might be called, “Public figures behaving badly in public, and/or committing criminal acts.” I don’t mean paparazzi finding someone passed out drunk, or at an orgy, or whatever. I mean in public forums, at public events—places where a certain respectful behavior is expected. Concurrently, these are people who might serve as role models for younger generations, or at least have an influence over some segment of the population. I can divide these into 3 categories:

Sports figures: I don’t know if things have changed, but I’d always learned that the reason one joined a sports team was to learn “teamwork” and “sportsman-like” behavior. This meant winning and losing gracefully, having the discipline to practice for long hours, and behaving in a mature and exemplary manner.

There have always been exceptions to this—the Paul O’Neills, the John MacEnroes—though one could say that they were so dedicated to perfection that their outbursts were more a fit of self-criticism. Then there was O.J. Simpson, who gave us the valuable lesson that a sports hero could horribly murder two people and get away with it. At least society at large had the decency to express their disapproval, and it basically ruined him.

But then consider Michael Vick—after the horrible crime he committed, he still gets signed to an NFL team and has his supporters. When the Olympics were happening, there was a rash of racist behavior, decidedly unsportsmanlike comments between competitors, and questions about performance-enhancing drug use and other means of sidestepping the rules to win. Most recently, Serena Williams had an inexcusable outburst at the U.S. Open. What used to be isolated incidents of unsportsmanlike behavior are now more frequent and more intense.

Pop Singers/”Musicians”/Rappers: I’m showing my prejudice and age here, as I tend to regard most corporate-sponsored “music” as “not music”. Someone recently commented to me that there’s been no real innovation in popular music for about 20 years. One might argue about the time frame, but certainly there’s not much that’s “Top 40” that I would give any credence to as “music” since the start of the 21st century at least.

I understand that “rappers”, much like punks before them, are supposed to have a bad-boy or bad-girl attitude and lifestyle—it somehow goes with the image. Though I have to say it’s really hard to take the whole attitude seriously when you know the person is raking in several million dollars a year. Yeah, I know some will protest the idea of “selling out”, but really—when you’ve got money and status you get away with a lot that the inner-city urbanites you identify with would not get away with (see: OJ Simpson above).

I had always thought that record companies hired special “assistants” to handle their “artist’s” public image. Either the economy has floundered to the point that they can no longer afford this, or the assistants aren’t doing their jobs so well these days. To be fair, they may have bigger idiots to wrangle with. Take Kayne West, for instance. Kayne is one of those celebrities whose name I see flashing on MySpace once in awhile, or in some Yahoo news headline. I don’t know squat about his music or biography, and I don’t care. He appears to be doing rap, and he’s definitely pop, so that puts him off my list of artists to check out immediately. Yes, that sounds old-fogeyish, but so be it.

Yesterday’s outburst by Kayne West at the MTV Music (ha!) Awards basically involved two “musicians” I would rather undergo a root canal than have to listen to (I don’t like country-pop either). But forget about that—this is a major awards ceremony. Regardless of how bad-ass you are or think you are, there is a certain expected respectful behavior towards those nominated for and receiving awards. Mr. West apparently thinks he’s special enough to jump onstage and give his opinion of the selection. Of course, probably no one cares about his opinion on anything, but he apparently has never been taught basic civility and manners. And I mean REALLY basic—maybe we could rule out cannibalism. And what’s interesting is that this is not the first time he’s done it. Each time, he blames alcohol for his outburst. Hmm, let’s see, if you behave like a total idiot every time you drink before a public event—wouldn’t you NOT drink before a public event? No, sorry, that’s too logical and requires some self-restraint. Forgive me. But I have to admit, it caught my attention because it’s flagrant sense of ego and entitlement. “I’m so important, I don’t have to respect you.”

TV “Journalists”: Again, I use journalism in quotes, because very little of it seems to happen these days. Most “news” shows are actually highly partisan, and have more interest in creating drama and spreading party propaganda than discussing actual facts. Yes, I’m talking to you Fox News. Sean Hannity. Glenn Beck. To be fair, there are other news shows that can show the opposite bias, and that’s just as wrong. But Fox News has taken things to a new height of exploitation, of trying to manipulate conservative Republicans, many of whom are seniors and veterans, into believing the lies that they are spreading. People who always believed that the news “must be true” because journalists obviously do fact-checking. Well, maybe they did at one time. But I am startled, disturbed, and fascinated as I observe that in all of the debates about legislation started by Barack Obama, there has been very few facts actually introduced into the debate. Painting Barack Obama as a “Hitler” or “Nazi” or “Fascist” is a very scary projection of their own racist and exclusivist attitude. And what happened to “You don’t question the President in a time of war”, and “If you don’t agree with the President—this is America, love it or leave it”? And don’t get me started on Representative Joe Wilson.

Seeing all of these things, the bottom line for me is this: people have become so narcissistic and self-centered that mature displays of decorum and decency are increasingly being thrown out the window. I’m not in favor of repression, but there is a difference between repressing your feelings and behaving like a mature adult. I hate to say it, but being a public figure demands that you behave in public. Anyone with a sense of responsibility towards and respect for their fellow human beings would curb their behavior in public. That doesn’t mean you can’t protest or respectfully state your views in a public forum. And you can think what you like privately, do what you want in your own home—but when you’re onstage, on the field, at a public ceremony, or on television—you need to show that you have enough class to be there. Yes, I know, with YouTube everyone is a celebrity these days. But not everyone is raking in millions with lots of media exposure. That gives one a level of cultural power that should be used wisely. Sadly, it isn’t, and the message about society that comes out of it is sad, too.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Curb Your Enthusiasm

No, this is not about the television show of the same name (though I've heard it's an awesome show). This is literally about the subject of this post--curbing your enthusiasm.

As a child, I was very enthusiastic about lots of things. My birthday, Halloween, Christmas, going "down the shore" (hey, I'm from New Jersey)--and as I got older, dates with men I had a crush on, and when I got engaged, I was enthusiastic about getting married. I'd been waiting for that last one my whole life.

Some experiences were very pleasant, don't get me wrong. But overall--none of them lived up to the level of anticipation I had beforehand. The event in question was never quite as glowing as I'd imagined, and everything seemed to end very quickly. My wedding--that "once in a lifetime big day" was a catastrophe. The guests had a great time, and aesthetically it was fine--but I had so much anxiety I didn't enjoy it at all. I realized that there was a marriage after this wedding, and I didn't want to be part of it. I had more enthusiasm about the divorce.

I've said before that life is out of our control. Some people have taken issue with that, but I think they misunderstand me. Amma once said during one of her retreats, "Do you want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans." This doesn't mean that we should never plan anything--in order to produce works or goods of any kind requires some planning and effort. But there is a need to be flexible; fixating on the outcome too much will only lead to disappointment. Anything can happen at any time, and if you're too rigidly tied to your agenda, you'll break rather than bend when things get stormy.

I've discussed my May visit to Liverpool to see John Foxx. I think those events are what I look forward to the most these days. I love traveling to the UK when I can afford it. As you know from my posting on that event, there were technical difficulties, and there was concern the show wouldn't go on at all. Afterwards, when Foxx, Karborn, and Steve Malins stood around discussing what happened versus what they expected, Steve suddenly asked me, "What do you think Brigid? Did this show meet your expectations?" My reply was, "I never come with expectations. Whatever happens, happens. And everything looked just fine to me."

While I'm not sure they were convinced by my answer (they may have thought I was being polite), it was the God's-honest truth. Even when I am fired up for something, I make a sincere effort not to think about it at all beforehand. Some people tell me I'm being too negative, but I'm really not--I'm not assuming anything "bad" will happen, I just feel that I'll be happier if I live in the present and let the event unfold however it's going to unfold. Once I've booked my tickets and accommodations, I don't think about it again until a day or two before when I have to pack and get everything in order. When the event actually occurs, I just show up and see who I run into, and how well things go. You may say that the enthusiasm is part of the fun, but I disagree. What goes up must come down. If you're enthusiastic, you're also nervous and anxious, like someone who's consumed 12 cups of strong coffee. And when you finally arrive at the point of the event, or seeing the person you want to see, you either tend to behave like an idiot because you're nervous, or you're too emotionally exhausted to properly enjoy the event. It's like doing drugs--you get really up for awhile, and then comes the miserable crash. I'll pass on that experience.

Holidays are a little different. Those are more of a journey than a destination. Christmas has a whole "season" before it. I think I enjoy that more than the holiday itself. But we're so goal-oriented that we tend to focus on the day itself rather than all the festivities prior to the actual day. By the time you get to the actual day, you're probably sick of the holiday already. But if you view it as a natural culmination of the season, without putting too much importance on that day, it seems to be more enjoyable. At least that's what I've found over the years.

I think on the whole, I've learned this: goals are bad. Not general goals, like wanting to get a university degree, or wanting to engage in any particular occupation. But if you're always focused on a "goal", you are forever disappointed. Even if you achieve your goal, there is a sense of "that's it?" afterwards. All of our goals are necessarily temporal. Making a lot of money, going on a trip, having a nice house--all of these are good things, but they're not going to mean squat in 10,000 years. Think about that. We obviously need to move in some direction, because we are living life, but we shouldn't live FOR temporal things. Even careers--how many people absolutely live for their jobs for years and years, only to be lost when their career becomes obsolete?

There's no need to see all this as negative, though. Human beings like to have a "purpose", so it's good to work towards something. Just pay attention along the way, and be prepared for anything. There are lots of opportunities that you may miss if you're too narrowly focused. A "sure thing" may disappoint you, and what appears to be a loss or failure may actually be a blessing. We end up in the right place regardless of how we got there.

Actually--now that I think about it--I've achieved all the goals I had as a child. All the things I wanted to be when I grew up at one time or another, I've become, with the exception of being a Mom. Pretty cool. And I didn't even plan it that way.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Blog Serendipity

The blogosphere is an interesting place. Pretty much anyone with basic word processing skills can have a blog, and there are thousands and thousands of them. The fact that I have this one and that people around the world actually read it is pretty amazing, when I think about it.

It’s interesting how one discovers new blogs and bloggers. Some sites regularly post bizarre stories or funny pictures and videos from other sites—like,and Nothing to Do With Arbroath. I’d added both of these blogs to my RSS feed reader a long time ago. But through those blogs I’ve discovered others. It’s like browsing online—I came to look at one thing, and discovered another site. When I find myself bookmarking enough articles from a particular site, I end up adding that one to my feed reader as well. I don’t tend to read too many “serious” blogs, though I do regularly scan some blogs relating to my job. News sites are a joke—they are about 95% “not news” (i.e., filler and hype), and I can go to for that, with smartass taglines as a bonus.

I’ve also discovered a burgeoning online literary community. New literature sites are popping up every day that feature stories, poems, book reviews, and commentary. One of my favorites is The Rumpus, and via the Rumpus I discovered another great site, HTMLGiant. There are writers and bloggers within each of these sites, and I find myself looking forward to their new postings. Here are some of the writers I’ve discovered via blog serendipity:

Jimmy Chen (HTMLGiant) – There is a collection of Jimmy’s writings at “The Embassy of Misguided Zen.” The first posting I ever read of Jimmy’s was “I Like Donald Rumsfeld A Lot”. I was sold after reading the immortal line that I really want to use in conversation some day: “I can’t decide whether this is Kant or autism.” He has another post where he expresses his annoyance at quotes by writers taken as the "last word" on writing, and has some quotes of his own. I love it.

Kaui Hemmings ( – Kaui writes “The Bad Mommy Blog” for the Rumpus. This is one of my favorite posts. She is also a published author, with 2 books (Descendants and House of Thieves), and another blog called “How to Party With an Infant”. Her website is here.
I have never been a parent, but I find her bad-ass approach to parenting her daughter to be totally refreshing. I’m not big on reading author interviews, but I will always read one written by Kaui; they are never dull.

Will Durst ( – Will regularly posts to the Rumpus blog, listed as a “sworn enemy to all tyrants”, and writes mostly political commentary. This is satire at its finest, and metaphor that no amateur writer should try to use at home. Check out his latest post on Labor Day here.

Hbee (WFMU’s Beware of the Blog) – WFMU, Jersey City’s freeform radio station (one of the few left), has an amazing blog with a variety of obscure videos, mp3s, and pop culture and subculture gems. I recommend all of it, but my favorite post-ers to the blog are probably Kliph Nesteroff, Swan Fungus, and a newer blogger known as Hbee. His posts are often short and to the point (unlike mine), and he’s got a razor-sharp wit. I’m never disappointed.

Finally—while not falling into the categories above, I had to share a new blog I discovered. The campiness of right-wing Christian culture leaves me speechless:

Stuff Christians Like

I hope you enjoy these writers as much as I do. Now, back to my own writing. Happy Mercury Retrograde, everyone!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

"Senex" Featured in "Writing Raw"

My first novelette has been published online today, as the featured novelette on Writing Raw. While it’s not a paying market and mainly a space for new writers, I’m still pleased with it—it’s exposure, and it’s a publishing credit nonetheless. I’m glad to know that such spaces exist.

The novelette is “Senex”, and if you decide to wade through it (it’s about 10,000 words), I should probably give you some background first. I haven’t broadly advertised this publishing credit to my colleagues, because parts of this story are definitely erotic, maybe borderline pornographic. That has also made it harder to market—the length factor plus the sex factor rules it out for many literary publications. But it’s all necessary to the story, as far as I’m concerned.

The story isn’t erotic for the sake of being erotic. “Senex” is the Latin word for old man, and is actually a reference to the Jungian Senex archetype. For anyone who knows anything about the archetypes—the senex in the story is more of a “senex amans”, an old man who is married to a much younger woman, and hence behaves possessively. (Sometimes the senex amans is cuckolded as well, but that’s not relevant here).

The story is part of a short story collection I’m finishing up, that doesn’t have a title yet. The theme is the archetypes, and what is known as “archetype possession”. These are not pure illustrations of the Jungian types—they are stories about relationships that start out normally enough and become terrifying, or lead to psychological breakdown. Sometimes the relationship is husband/wife, sometimes father/son, sometimes father/daughter—or sister/brother. While not pure illustrations, knowing the Jungian type referred to in the title does help in understanding the story. The relationships between characters reveal deep-seated emotional troubles, troubles that didn’t manifest themselves before a particular event occurs.

I think I’ve said enough about it—if you would like to see the new story in Writing Raw, you can read it here:


Another story in this series, “Anima”, will be published by Dark Gothic Resurrected magazine in April 2010 (only 2 issues a year, and October 2009 is already filled). I would like to see most, if not all, stories in the series published, and later put them forward to a publisher as a collection. 2 more of them are currently being marketed, and hopefully I will have the good news that they are published soon as well. Between that and my December novel-finishing-agent-querying deadline, I should be giving up on sleep between now and 2010. Wish me luck.