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Midland, Texas, United States
I write. I make stuff.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Jean Cappadonna Nichols Rocks!

We’re heading out here shortly to go to a museum opening. We went to one last Friday night that’s going to be hard to top. This was the image on the invitational postcard:

Day Dreamer with Botticelli Barie and Rat Patrol Day Dreamer with Botticelli Barbie and Rat Patrol.

If I could own a piece of art, this would be it. At least right now, this is my favorite. And it’s something I cannot make myself. I love her stuff—I’ll be sneaking out of the photo gallery tonight to go visit her work again.

While most of her pieces were surprisingly reasonably priced--$1800-$4000—this one was $25,000. Obviously not one she wants to sell, and who can blame her? I love what she’s doing, and she agreed to a podcast. Now I just have to get in touch and set something up.

To see more of her work, go here. I really like her website, and the images are wonderfully presented. Prepare to sit back and spend some time looking at everything. I think you’ll be really inspired by what you see.

Or here. This is the only place I’ve been able to find the above image. I’m sure it must be on Jean’s website, but I couldn’t find it.


Magical Mystery Tour

I’ve been working like crazy to start getting this set up, and now I need some help. Now, I’m not begging for everyone to heave the big sigh and go, “Yeah, yeah, OK, I’ll see what I can do.”

No. I can do that. What I’m hoping is that some of y’all out there just absolutely LOVE this sort of thing, ADORE it, never get enough of it. And that it would make your little heart sing to Organize Something. That’s the kind of help I need.

What I’m doing is setting up book signings along the Road Trip.

We’re going on Road Trips (and at least one flight, since I think I was pretty clear in saying I intend never, ever, ever to drive from here to the Pacific Northwest ever again in my life, ever. We’ve done it twice. Twice was once too many times for a drive like that).

So most of it will be by road. Look!


{An Approximation: Actual Route May Vary.}

See those orange dots? That’s where we’re going. We’ll fly to Seattle, but see the ones in Las Vegas, Phoenix, Houston, Wisconsin, Ohio? We’re driving to those. The ones in the northeast—so far there’s nothing official up there, but I figure if we drive that far northeast, we might as well go to NYC, one of my two Dream Destinations—not because I know of anything I want to see there, but just because NYC and Key West are the two places I’ve always wanted to see but haven’t yet. Everywhere else? Been there, multiple times (Santa Fe, New Orleans, San Francisco).

So I’ve been working, and I’ve got book signings for Creative Time and Space set up along the way in Houston, Las Cruces (New Mexico), and Scottsdale/Phoenix (until this morning, AFTER I set up the signing, I thought Scottsdale was a suburb of Tucson, so you can see that there’s ANOTHER reason I need some serious help:  I made arrangements for a signing at a store in a city that’s not even near where I thought it was. Good thing it’s along the way, huh? Good lord.)

So you can kind of see where we’re going. At the end of July, we’re going to leave here and head over toward Dallas then up, somehow, toward Wisconsin, where we’ll be attending a retreat at Valley Ridge. If you live somewhere along this path northward and know of a place—a small bookstore, a stamp store, an art store, a group or club that meets in the Unitarian Church (where the huge book arts group meets in Santa Fe, is why I’m guessing that’s a popular place) that would host a signing/talk/book sale/schmooze-fest for us, that would be fabulous. I’ve done all of these, and they’re all great fun. We’ve done them as panel discussions with various artists, and I’ve done talks, and I’ve done signings where The EGE sells books and I sign them. My favorites involve talking, of course, but I’m open to anything. Because I need something to break up the driving. Driving and stitching is great, but when you’re doing it for weeks with only short breaks for fabulous retreats, it’s really nice to have lots of little events along the way to look forward to. Plus The EGE loves taking photos of stuff like this.

Honestly? We just like meeting and talking to cool people. That’s the long and short of it.

OK! So if you have any ideas and are good at this—and, really, if you’re as bad at this as I am, please don’t bother, really. I don’t want to make you miserable, and I’d really like someone—several someones—who like/s this sort of organizational thing to help set up something in their own towns. Because if you send me a list of phone numbers, I’m still going to have to call up complete strangers and say, “You’ve never heard of me, but. . . .” I hate that, because they never HAVE heard of me. And why should they? I’m not Dr. Phil. And why should they take a complete stranger’s word and say, “Sure! We’ll do it!” So much better if your sister-in-law runs a little bookstore, or if your art group meets down at the bar, or your cousin is Oprah. You know.

Email your fabulous ideas to me. The link is up there, but you can also use ricefz at gmail dot com.

Thanks, sweeties! I hope I get to meet you In Real Life along the way~~♥


Hey, Maggie! You Win!

I couldn’t resist your offer to enjoy the magazine and then pass it on to someone else. That’s just the best. So send me your address, and I’ll get this out to you the next time I hit the post office.


And Continuing On in That Vein. . . .

So some of you are telling me you’d never heard of genital surgery, and so of course I helpfully went and found a site that explains everything you need to know. It makes me so nuts to even just read the intro on the home page that I’m going to share it here so y’all can be nuts with me.

They won’t let me copy and paste, the bastards, so I’ll just tell you what it says:

Specializing in Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery

Welcome to aesthetic genital surgery.

Say NO to:

* Abnormal Puffiness

*Embarrassing Size

*Excessive Skin

*Unattractive Flaws

Say YES to a more feminine you.

It’s that last line that sent me over the edge. A More Feminine You. Goodlordalmighty. So if my hoo-ha isn’t Perfect In Every Way, I’m not feminine? And what exactly IS “Perfect in Every Way?” We’re all wondering here, aren’t we? What is it we should worry about? Color? Shape? Size? Sagginess? “Flaws”?


I’ll tell you what Perfect is here:  perfect is when it’s been cut and stitched and bleached and painted and sprayed and scraped and shaped and sculpted and they can’t figure another single fucking way to make you feel insecure enough to part with any more of your money.

Then it’s “perfect.”

THAT’s what “perfect” means here. It means they’ve needled you and ridiculed you and created ads that make you feel as if every other woman on the planet has this marvelously artistic little flower of a pudenda that every man  and many women adore, a flawless body part that brings her continuous joy (don’t think about adhesions or rash or infection from any of these procedures. No! Put that out of your mind right now!) and makes her life a Thing of Beauty and so you, not having that perfect life, think maybe all will be made better if you save up every single penny you can scrounge from the household budget and hand it over to one of these assholes.

Remember the concept of Right Livelihood? This is not it. Making women feel insecure about themselves does not come under the umbrella of Good Work.

Now. If there were something seriously wrong with someone’s labia—disfigurement, injury, disease—that made life painful or embarrassing, then the doctors and Estheticians who worked to make things better for her would be doing Good Work.

But to spread the idea throughout the land that normal human female body parts OF ANY AGE are somehow not good enough? Something about which we should be embarrassed?

Those people are scum and deserve our censure.

And any sexual partner who compares your labia to those of ANYONE else, let alone someone who is, oh, maybe half your age? I can’t even write here what they deserve.

Pick almost any episode of Wire in the Blood, and you’ll have a pretty good idea. . . .


Make-Up For My Hoo-Ha. Like That’s Going to Happen.

Oh, y’all, please. You’ve gotta give me a break here.

Just when I think I’ve exhausted my repertoire of rants, gotten rid of all my ire about shit like clear heels and tv ads and copied artwork and televangelists, someone (and that would be you, Barbara!) serves me up a juicy little tidbit that just makes my mind boggle. Literally. Never mind that I’m not quite sure what “boggling” actually entails. It’s what my brain is doing right now, thinking about My New Pink Button Labial Dyes.

I cannot believe this shit exists.

OK. Those of y’all who are of A Sensitive Nature—and here I’m thinking of you few men among us and those women Of A Certain Age, meaning “women like me who grew up before labial rejuvenation surgery was something Dr. Goebbels had even DREAMED of yet”—you might want to skip this next part. Not because it involves surgery-- thank you jesus, it does not—but because it involves the (shhhhhhh!) labia. And stuff.

Also known as Lady Business. Hoo-ha. Poonani. Nana. Cooch. Cho-cho.

Wonder where THAT came from? Research. Yes! I’m working on a fabric piece called—and isn’t this a coincidence (and if you DARE say “irony,” I’m going to come to your house and force you to read aloud with me the entire Strunk & White Elements of Style 179 times, front to back, until we come to An Understanding)—VaJay JayVooDoo . Long story we’ll save for later, OK?

Whatever. I now know more slang terms for my Sweet Thang than you can possibly imagine.

(Sweet Thang is my favorite, let me tell you. It’s the one offered by The EGE, when I went to him and said, “OK, listen, I need approximately 20 more letters, and I’ve already used “pooky,” so help me out here.” “Sweet Thang” is such a loving, admiring term, don’t you think? “Pooky,” on the other hand,  being the term that was sprung on my by Mendez, my gyn, after a quarter of a century of completely sensible interaction, after he’d lulled me into complacency with conversations involving normal terms like “menopause” and “old.” It frightens me, it really does. I furrow my brow wondering what vocabulary I’m going to need to use if I ever need to describe something like hemorrhoids or a prolapsed bladder. My god.)

Anyway. Apparently there is a problem spreading over the land, a problem involving our pookies, one resulting in discoloration, not to mention uneven---and even unsightly!—labia. Now, the uneven part, the part that isn’t as, say, “perky” as it might be? That’s a problem for surgical intervention. We won’t even go there, because every single fucking time I hear or read about some woman going in and having an anesthetic and allowing someone to cut on her just because—BECAUSE—her labia has “lost its youthful elasticity”—it makes me want to kill someone.

Whom? I have no fucking idea. Someone, though. Whoever first thought of this idea of making women believe that their pudenda (thank you, Whoopie!) or labia or whatever silly-ass cutesie name you call it instead—that it is somehow less than splendid in every way and so should be CUT and ADJUSTED. Grrrrrr.

Anyway, so My New Pink Button:  a “genital cosmetic colorant.” Got that? It’s make-up for your pudenda, is what it is. Why, you ask, would you want to put cosmetics on your bajinga? Well, apparently, age (and isn’t it ALWAYS fucking age that ruins us? Oh, yeah, baby, it always is) makes you “lose color"  down there and makes your Down There somehow less sexually appealing.


I do not know about You People, but here’s the deal:  if I’m about to engage in sexual congress with someone, and he goes a’roaming and then lifts his lovely head up to mine and says, “Umm, not to be rude, but your honey pot seems to have some discoloration about it,” that’s going to be one observant gentleman who is most decidedly not going to be getting any cooch. Not to say cooter. Hoochie-cooch, is what I’m saying. None of it. Nada. Zilch.

Because I’m thinking, ladies, this:  if he’s such an uber-critical sort of man that he’s down there, naked, scouting the terrain, and instead of thinking this is the happiest he’s been since Christmas 1969, he’s thinking, “Goodness, this must be some really old and worn-out scooz,” then that’s one dude who wasn’t really all that interested in the first place, you know? He might as well go down to Carpet City and offer his services in vetting the Berber. Then he could go on all day long about color and texture and spring-y-ness, and everyone would be ultra glad.

Instead of plotting ways to kill him when he comes up for air.

I swear to you, the day I go here and try to match the color of my formerly youthful yum-yum to some cosmetic in a little jar, you have my permission to come to my house and kill me. Because I will be So Far Gone that it won’t make any difference. I will be just one fucking step away from having my wings clipped and my saddle bags sucked (that means having the ageing skin under my arms sliced away and the bulges on the sides of my thighs removed by a hose inserted underneath my skin), and it won’t really matter, anyway, because once I’ve signed on for that, my IQ is going to be sucked right out with the subcutaneous fat, and I’m going to be nothing but a shell with saggy, discolored labia and no hope of finding True Happiness, anyway.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What’s Up with Porn Chic? I Blame it on TV. Or Maybe Hamburgers.

Remember I told y’all about the wedding I went to a couple weeks ago? About the gaggle of young women dressed in skin-tight mini-dresses accessorized with 5” heels and various visible parts of underwear? Remember? I’ve been thinking about that. Someone—I’m sorry I don’t remember who it was—recommended that I read Eccentric Glamour, by Simon Doonan.

book Well, with a title like that, I had to order it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t read it. It wasn’t my kind of book, not that it’s not a perfectly lovely book. I’m sure it is; it’s just that I can’t read what I think of as silly humor. Not that I have anything against silliness! No!

Good grief.

I just couldn’t read the book, OK? What I thought were interviews with stylish women like Iris Apfel turned out to be completley made up.

While I love humor, and I love really funny books, I am just the tiniest, tiniest bit picky about humor. Some people believe that humor is easy—just be silly, say stuff that makes you laugh, make up stuff that you think is funny.

Wrong. Oh, so wrong. Humor is the hardest writing to pull off. I have read tons and tons of books that are supposed to be funny, and very few of them actually are. Often someone will write one book that’s hilariously funny, like Celia Rivenbark, and then will try to replicate that success with a follow-up book, which is as forced and tight as, oh, I don’t know. Me at The Country Club, maybe?

Anyway. The point of this is that I couldn’t read Doonan’s book, but I did get something out of those first pages:  Porn Chic. Because up until I read that, I thought it was just me, getting old and crochety and going, “What the hell is that girl THINKING, wearing that, that thing, whatever it is?” Because often you’re just not sure what it is she’s wearing. A long tank top? Some sort of bathing costume with ruffles? A nightgown?

It’s like when we went to Jaguar Gold Club. Remember that? And I inadvertently got a lap dance? Remember how half the women—and here I mean “girls,” and I’m referring to the Early in The Evening ones, the ones not yet ready for prime time—were wearing outfits that totally confused me:  striped leg warmers with 6” clear heels and something that resembled a nylon pajama top. It was as if they’d gotten some manual cataloguing the results of sexual response research and had gone to Chapter 10: Objects of Male Desire, and went down the checklist:

--lingerie (because lingerie = bed, and bed = sex, never mind that most lingerie is about as sexy as plastic grocery bags (and if those are, in fact, overwhelmingly sexy to you, please don’t tell me) given the scratchiness and unbreathing-non-natural-fiber-y-ness of its construction, not to mention those little metal spikes sewn around the neckline and those metal garter clips on the ends of the chains and . . . . Oh, wait.


--legwarmers (gee, thanks, Jennifer Beal. You know, we could have skipped the whole “Here, baby, why don’t you undress and put on these wool legwarmers for Daddy?” thing if 1) Beal’s character had been, oh, say, a nurse or 2)  the leading role had gone to Kathy Bates. You know?))

--clear plastic shoes. What Chris Rock calls “clear heels,” which is stuck in my head just like “Cracker-ass cracker!” from a TV special we watched one night in a motel room in Phoenix, Arizona, after a grueling many-hour drive through pouring rain, following a convoy of semi’s through the dark and the lightening and the thunder on what we came to believe would be our last road trip EVER. My god. It was such a relief to be OFF that road that we happily sat on the end of the bed, watching him and laughing and eating stale crackers for dinner rather than even think about leaving the room and going out into The Elements ever again.

And so, even years later, when The EGE is driving and Some White Person does something stupid, like cutting in front of us or driving down the highway with their DVD player propped up on the dash next to the steering wheel of their Ford F350 (yep; not making that one up), I’ll yell, “Cracker-ass cracker! Goddamn cracker!” and then cackle like a goober. Good ol’ Chris.

Where was I? Oh, right: Porn Chic. Apparently it’s so popular they’ve given it a name. Albeit a stupid one, because all day long whenver I’ve said “Porn Chic” to someone, they’ve gone, “Huh?” Even the second or third time I said it, speaking v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y and ENUNCIATING. I think they think I mean “Porn Sheik” and are imagining I’m doing research on the private life of Lawrence of Arabia or something.

The thing is, though, you don’t have to be told what Porn Chic is. You know if it you see it, and you see it EVERYWHERE. And what’s up with that? What’s up with looking like a hooker when you’re going to buy laundry detergent? Why are you wearing Those Shoes while you’re pumping gas? I don’t get it.

Frankly, I don’t get the whole Porn Chic look at all, period. I’m guessing it’s supposed to make you more attractive to men (I’m sure there are some lesbians who find this stuff highly erotic, but they’re nice enough not to have told me about it, so I’m going to blame its popularity on Those Men, which here means “men I don’t know”). Like men want to go to dinner with their mother, their step-dad, and someone who’s wearing a nylon nighty, a thong, and see-through shoes with glitter inside?

It’s supposed to make you get more dates? Find a more eligible mate? A better daddy for your potential kids? What? What is it that convinces women to put on these trashy, sleazy clothes that don’t make anyone more alluring and then GO OUTSIDE in them?

It has to be that the magazines and videos and ads have convinced women that this is how they must dress to attract men. And I want to grab them by their shoulders and shake them and say, “No, no, no!” You do not need to dress like a ho’ [and here I went to look up an actual Porn Star’s name to insert, and holy crap! I did not know they could put those photos right out there where you don’t even have to click on anything to see them. Jesus. If I were 12 years old, I’d NEVER leave my room] to interest some guy. And you don’t have to learn all the tricks they promise you on the cover of Cosmo, either. [or on that site I just accidentally visited, either. Although #17 looks like it could be useful if you ever accidentally swallow a grape}

Because, honey, if you’re decently attractive and not the size of a Volkswagen, all you have to do to fill your guy with lust is, well, show up. You know, say “hi” and smile. Unless things have changed a bunch in the years since I was young, it doesn’t take a costume and painful footwear to get laid, if you’re a woman. It’s not rocket science, and it’s not as tough as getting a ticket to the last-ever taping of Oprah.

And then I thought, well, maybe I’m wrong.

Snort. What a concept:  me = wrong.

But let’s pretend. Let’s pretend I’m wrong and that things have changed. And then let’s blame those things on music videos and movies and say that if men have constant 24-hour-a-day access to images of semi-naked gyrating women, they’re going to get bored. They’re going to expect something more from the actual flesh-and-blood woman in their life, maybe. Spandex. Latex.

Clear Heels.

(Why does that always come out “Clear Hells”?)

So maybe that’s it—maybe it’s something else I can blame on tv and advertising, my go-to scapegoats of choice.

But maybe not. Maybe it’s just women’s clouded perception of what’s sexy and what’s just plain-D trashy. So I very helpfully went out there in the cyber mall and found some examples to give you some point of reference:





Oh, wow! Look! CLEAR HEELS!!

Sexy :




See? If you’re wearing something that causes strangers to come up to you in the laundromat and offer you money for “a date,” you’ve chosen the wrong outfit that day.

The other explanation, the one involving hamburgers, is so sad that I don’t like to think about, but you know I do, anyway. I think about how people blame the hormones in  meat for the increased girth of most of our population, not to mention all kinds of things having to do with sexual development and drive, etc. And I’m thinking maybe it’s the fault of the hamburgers:  women eat them and get fat and lose confidence in their own natural alluringness and think that, in order to look sexy, they have to dress like an extra in Barbie Does the Beach. Men eat the hamburgers and get fat and lose touch with their natural libido and won’t even bother to think about sex unless they’re seeing enough of your Lady Business to know whether or not you need to wax.

And that reminds me: when did it become OK for a man to suggest that you need to do that, anyway? Wasn’t there a time when you waxed or didn’t, and the man pretended not to notice one way or the other and was just basically really appreciative that you were even naked? When did they suddenly all become connoisseurs of Brazil and Hollywood, is what I’m wondering. (You can google those your own damn self, coz I’m not risking it again. I’m still dizzy from trying to find you the name of an actual Actress.)

Well. So. You can blame it on tv and videos and movies, or you can blame it on hamburgers.

Or you can blame it on Chris Rock, which is what I’m going to do. Clear Heels, indeed.



And Now For Some Book Signings

Whew. Just got through updating my website, something I do much, much too infrequently. I added information about the first two book signings along the way in the Magical Mystery Tour—which, come to think of it, deserves a page all its own.

But never mind that. That will have to come another day. Because here it is, almost 3 pm, and I’m still in my pajamas and need to go take a shower. I’ve gotten a ton of work done today, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at me. I look like someone who slept in and watched tv ‘til noon and then ate a bologna sandwich and surfed the web, scratching myself and wondering what day it is.

I’ll post again soon with links and info and stuff, but for right now, you can find out all about the signings by going to my website. And she would be ever so glad to have you, as she is so often left abandoned over there, all alone and forlorn.

Brings a tear to my eye, it does.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Nightmares. One of My Own Top Ten. Yikes.

This one is absolutely guaranteed to throw me awake,  sweating, shivering, heart racing. And it starts out so pleasantly, too! Bummer.

I’m driving along a little road through the woods. The dirt road is semi-paved in cobblestones, so it’s a pleasant drive, if a little bumpy. The trees are thick and leafy and green and meet overhead, creating a wonderfully gorgeous shade. The colors are vivid—moss and leaves along the ground, rich brown soil and glimpses of bright blue sky. A tiny little trickle of water burbles across the path. Birds sing. Twigs snap under the tires.

The road begins to slope downward, ever so gently. The trees on either side give way, very slowly, to little hills, and soon I’m driving through a still-leafy canyon, with walls on either side, close enough to reach out the window and touch. More brook water burbles across the path, deeper now. The road slopes some more, and the burbling water is even deeper. I begin to worry a little. More slope, more water. I can feel it against the tires, and I try to see a way to turn around. The walls on either side are too high, but I can see a curve up ahead, and I think surely there’s a pull-out there.

Now, this is as far as the dream goes, because I always panic and wake myself up. But I know what comes next:

I cautiously ease around the corner, the water pushing against the wheels of the vehicle and up over the bumper, and there, as I make the turn, the walls fall away.

Ahead of me, there is nothing, nothing at all, except water. Endless, deep, still water.


Panicked, I throw the car into reverse, turn to look over my shoulder so I can back out, and see a wall of water cresting behind me, many times higher than the car, pausing just for that split second before it crashes over me.

I shudder just typing this.


Meet Joury Nell of Creager Studios

I begged some photos from Jodi so y’all can see the figure—and you’re right:  these are more sculptural figures than they are dolls—that Jodi says was inspired in part by me. Isn’t she fabulous? 3

And I ADORE the hair, of course!



Thanks, Jodi!  

Monday, January 25, 2010

This Week’s Give-Away: Art Doll Quarterly

Hot off the presses, the Spring issue of Art Doll Quarterly (see? it’s so brand-new they haven’t even gotten the new issue posted yet)has my interview with artist Jane Cather (page 40-48).


Go here to see more of Jane’s work. (You can see her fabulous studio in Where Women Create, in the February/March 2009 issue.)

This issue of Art Doll Quarterly is especially fun for me, as Jodi Creager, one of my favorite people ever, writes about Jourey Nell, one of her fabulously intricately detailed dolls, this one a little girl who journals on EVERYTHING. Jodi says the idea was inspired in part by me and my journal skirts, so this is a really cool thrill for me. You can see this wonder on pages 64-67. Gotta love that orange hair, too, huh?

So post a comment, & check back on Friday. You know how it works. Whoever posts the first comment gets to set the tone for the rest of us. Amuse us, inspire us~~have fun with it!

Good luck~~XO

Hey, Mo! You Win!

(Unless, of course, you’ve already clicked “buy now.”)

Congratulations! Send me your address, and I’ll get this book in the mail to you on the next trip to the PO.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Etiquette, Part II: In Which I Once Again Try to Say Something Without Getting Distracted By~~Oh, Look: A Chicken!

While I was taking a walk and Marshalling My Thoughts, I knew where I wanted to go with this, I really did. I had it all nicely outlined in my head.

Well, sort of. I mean, I had an IDEA that kind of flowed without meandering off into the hinterlands. It’s not like I actually had I and II, and A & B, and 1 and 2, then a and b, ad nauseum. No. But I had that idea, I swear.

I should have written it down. But I did not do that. Not for lack of pen and cute little notebook—oh, no! I had those! I put those in my pocket before I left the house!

And in my pocket they remained as I strode out, not unlike some Urban Hiker Type, clad in black hoody and athletic shoes.

I know the idea began with explaining my concept of etiquette, so maybe if I start there, it’ll come back to me. Or not—perhaps it will take us on another journey entirely, albeit one even more filled with Fun & Frolic.

The Purpose of Etiquette in 2010—and yes, there is one—is simply this:  to grease the wheels of social intercourse.

I repeat that often because I like it so very, very much. I love the mental images it gives me, ones of tiny minions in white coveralls and white caps carrying big brushes and buckets of pig fat and clambering up onto huge metal, very Steampunkish gears, greasing the cogs while all about, underneath, couples in various stages of undress engage in myriad acts of sexual license in the street, in parks, on the steps of public offices. On public transport. In line at the post office. But not in the library. Never in the library!

So you see why it’s one of my favorite phrases.

But let’s get rid of all the rules of etiquette that are designed only to prove that the people who adhere to them are somehow richer, more well-educated, of a much higher social class, and ever-so-much-better-smelling than those of us who fail to do so. We can dispense with the calling cards (although that’s such a lovely idea, providing as it does the opportunity for fashioning all sorts of cute little cards with embossing and calligraphy, and, perhaps, bits of ribbon) and the oyster forks and the rules about phone calls (except the ones about not calling anyone before 8 am or after 10 pm unless a mutual acquaintance is severely ill or injured or newly dead). We can dispense with those.

But there are Rules of Etiquette to which we should all adhere. Ones about kindness and courtesy and personal space and hygiene. Even possibly some I might make up myself. There are many, many of these, far too many for us to discuss here, so I’m going to pick out ten of the most important, ten rules that, if universally observed, would make life sparkly and fun for all involved. At least for you and me, anyway. Here, then, without further ado:

1.  When you are in public, keep Your Stuff to yourself. “Stuff” here includes all bodily effluvia, including but not limited to urine and feces, snot, vomit, farts, and also body odor, spit, odoriferous breath, and off-tune whistling. Since you do not own the space you inhabit in public and are sharing it with others, you must contain yourself. All of yourself. This rule also applies to things like packages, bags, food, and music. Keep it to yourself and do not allow it to encroach on others’ space. Yes, it is difficult, but that’s why you have a private space, as well as a public one. Even if your private space is tiny, it’s private, and you can go there and burp and fart and pick your nose to your little heart’s content.

2. Well, #1 got rid of a lot of bad physical behavior, and #2 will eliminate much of the rest: Treat everyone with whom you have any kind of interaction the way you would want them to treat you, in a perfect world. Don’t yell or cuss or take up their space. Do not push or shove or fondle. Do not, for heaven’s sake, engage in frottage! Stifle that urge, and also the one that tells you it’s OK to push your way past people who are in your way/slower than you are/taking too long. Be patient, be kind, bite your tongue if you must. Smile even if it hurts—the more you do it, the easier it will become to get your facial muscles to do it automatically.

3. Now to some nitty-gritty. Respond to correspondence in a timely manner. RSVP, for gods’ sakes. They sent you an invitation; the least you can do is let them know whether or not you plan to attend. Answer your emails, return the phone calls, respond to the texts. If you don’t have time to do these things, you must let people know ahead of time, as in, “Here’s my email address, Sally, and you may use it at your will, but you’re not important enough to me to make it likely that I’ll respond any time in the foreseeable future. Just so you know.” Like that. This is one of the toughest for me, as I always leave The Fun Email, the personal correspondence, for last. Like cake. I do all the work stuff first. So sometimes the wonderful personal emails languish in the inbox for days and days while I take care of work. And that’s a shame. And I’m going to try to do better. Really I am. Am I too stuck in my ways to learn to, at least sometimes, go ahead and eat dessert first? Or, sheesh: to even begin to eat dessert at all?

4. Say “please.” Say “thank you.” Ask for permission to do things that involve other people or their stuff, as in, “Bobby Earl, is it OK with you if I borrow your car for the next couple weeks?” So much better than doing it and finding out later that it was a really bad idea and that Bobby Earl has reported you to the authorities.

5. Here’s one that The Ever-Gorgeous Earl’s daddy taught him. I don’t know if he taught it to the rest of The Boys, but it stuck with The EGE:  always leave any place you go better than it was when you arrived, and you’ll always be invited back. He cleans up after himself, picks up trash, washes dishes. We have actually gone into someone’s house, where we were guests, and cleaned the entire house while they were at work. Granted, this was many years ago, when our zealousness outweighed our common sense. And, granted, there was cat shit under the sofa in the room where we were to be sleeping, so it was kind of one of those deals where we either went out and bought some disinfectant and many, many rolls of paper towels and got busy or cut the visit very, very short, feigned desperate illness, and begged our way onto the next flight home. You’ve been there, right?

6. Give gifts. Thank you, Penney, for reminding me of hostess gifts. Talk about greasing the wheels: nothing makes everyone feel good better than giving and receiving tiny tokens of appreciation. The thing about hostess gifts is that they’re impromptu, small, and easy:  you don’t have to make a big deal out of them and wrap them up. If the people you are visiting are wine drinkers, it’s really easy:  you take them a bottle of your current favorite. Chocolate, a candle, a postcard print of your artwork. Something that demands nothing of them—they don’t have to feed it or cook it or put it together or display it in the den. It won’t take up a lot of space. It’s not like a birthday or Christmas gift, where you have to pick out something that proves your undying love and loyalty and generosity. A hostess gift just says, “Thank you for inviting me.”

7. The best piece of advice ever, ever, ever: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. This works In Real Life, in email messages, on blogs. In comments about podcasts, ahem. If you can’t think of something nice to say, you just don’t say anything. OK, if someone has hired you as a consultant, or if your brother-in-law reallyreallyreally wants to know what you think about his new set of clubs, then go ahead and try to phrase it as tactfully as possible. But otherwise? If nobody asked your opinion and you’re not feeling all gushing with good words, then just smile. Sometimes you can get by with a smile and “Ooooooh!” which can cover a LOT of ground:  “Ooooooh!” can mean, “Oooooh! Another horrid baby!” But if you leave off the last part, the mother is going to think it means, “Ooooooh! Isn’t that just the cutest/smartest least-like-Churchill-looking baby I’ve ever seen, ever?” Quit reading those comments about the people at Wal-Mart and the items at Regretsy. Snarky may sell, but it has no class, no matter how popular it is. Snarky is the trailer park of public discourse.

8. When someone invites you somewhere, Be Appropriate. If they’ve gone to some trouble and expense to provide a pleasant evening for you, the least you can do is go to a little trouble to take a shower and put on some shoes that were not designed to be worn in the bedroom. If it’s a formal event, your insisting on wearing your Levi’s does not signal your cosmopolitan Casual Style flair. Rather, it signals that you don’t give a shit about your host’s efforts to create ambiance and a mood of elegant celebration. There’s nothing more selfish than those who insist on maintaining that air of ultra casualness. You know:  bed head, flip flops, tank tops.  And behave appropriately. Don’t always act like you’re in your own den, picking your teeth and putting your feet on the coffee table.

9. Turn off your damn phone. Holy crap:  is there anything more irritating than someone so 1995 that they still believe getting a phone call on their cell is somehow a sign of importance and popularity?  Hell, even The EGE gets calls on his phone, and he is the world’s #1 Anti-Phone Guy. We all know people who take the calls and then converse loudly, with much laughter, as if what should be their private conversations are events of interest and envy to the rest of us. In truth, there are many, many of us who think, instead, about how needy you must be not to be able to turn the phone off and exist on your own for any amount of time, instead hanging on to that phone connection with your friends and family like some blanky or pacificer. Turn it off. Put it away. Interact with the people who are right there in the room with you. (Twice this week we have witnessed egregious acts of Cell Phone Foolishness: at a political fund-raiser the other night, two different men took phone calls while the candidate was speaking (and yes, it was noticeable:  it was in someone’s living room). They then walked into another room to continue the conversations, but their end of it was plainly audible throughout. The other instance was at Starbucks, with a group of people, and all but a couple of them took out their phones and began texting people who were not there, or calling them, or checking their messages. This does not say, “Look how popular and In Demand I am.” No, this says, “You are so unimportant to me that, even though we are standing here together, I’d rather send a note to my sister-in-law’s manicurist than talk to you.” This is, perhaps, the height of both self-involvement and rudeness. I avoid people who are so tied to their phones they can’t go even 15 minutes without checking them. I figure they have no inner life, nothing going on in their heads—if they did, they wouldn’t be so dependent on that tenuous connection. (Oh! I’d completely forgotten about the phone that rang at the EVENING WEDDING last weekend, a phone that WAS THEN ANSWERED and, omigod, HANDED TO THE PARTNER, who then (no, I am not making this up!) said, “I’m in wedding right now; let me call you back.” Holy crap. It was even worse than the ratty Levi’s.)

10. Don’t gossip. Don’t listen to gossip. Don’t repeat gossip. Don’t read it or tweet it or even think about it. Then you won’t ever be seated next to someone at dinner and stammer around for things to say while your brain is going, “I wonder if anyone told her that I told Mary about her telling me that her husband said his first wife is under investigation for sending that dead rat to his girlfriend?”

Like I said, there’s more. Much more. There are all kinds of little rules that can help make life smoother and brighter and less gratingly annoying. Feel free to add your favorites to the comments. Perhaps, working together, we can reintroduce civility. Or at least not help spread its opposite.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Dropbox: My New Best Friend

Mark Tower, the Duct Tape Guy—remember his flowers? And Christmas tree? told me about Dropbox. It’s like MobileMe but free. This morning my editor and I tested it out for sending photos—I uploaded a photo to the public folder, retrieved a URL, mailed it to her, and she downloaded the photo, lickety-split. Wow. I’d already tried it with stuff amongst my own machines—the PC, iPhone, and Macbook. I can upload something and immediately get it on either of the others—I can even sit and look over and watch it appear.

So if you want to check it out, you can go here. If you go through this link and decide you want it, they give me (as the refer-ee) more free storage. No big deal—I’m not trying to hustle y’all—and the basic service is free. It’s just that I’ve tweeted and told people about Dropbox all week, and then I find out today they’ll give more storage and thought, hey:  it’s a great service, and if people sign up, it wouldn’t hurt anything if they signed up through this link, right? I mean, I don’t think there’s anything creepy and advertising-ish about it. If you do, however, then nevermind and just google it and go that route. My feelings will not be hurt.

But do check it out and tell me what you think if you try it. I love it. Somehow I have less trouble with it than I did with my trial version of MobileMe. Don’t know why—maybe it’s more intuitive? Or maybe I had a cleaner install. Hell if I know.

But I’m loving it. Maybe you will, too.

Celebration Weekend Giveaway: Creative Time & Space

To celebrate the start of a new project, I’m going to give away a copy of the last project, my current book, Creative Time and Space:

New Book Cover

If you haven’t yet gotten a copy (and why not? is what we’re wondering), then this is your chance. Tell me something good (making me laugh is a plus), and I’ll pick someone at the end of the weekend—Sunday night or Monday morning.

A New Adventure Begins~~Woo Hoo!

After many months of thinking and planning and changing those plans and tinkering with proposals, My Lovely Editor Tonia has gotten approval for The Next Book. I am inordinately excited about this. You might think by this point, I’d be jaded, kind of like, yeahyeahyeah, another book project.

But no. I love what I do, and it never gets old. I love pretty much every part of it. Well, you know, except the part where I don’t get checks like, oh, say, those sent to JK Rowling. That would be most excellent, wouldn’t it?

But never mind that. My job is fabulous. And this particular project is the most fabulous one yet because of two things:

~~The EGE and I get to work together. He’s going to be my photographer, which, I just realized, kind of makes me His Boss. Hee!  As if that’s a viable concept. Neither of us is good at either bossing or being bossed. Oh, sure—I’m very bossy and tell him what to do all the time. But the secret is that neither of us expects that he’ll actually DO it—I get to be bossy, and he just goes on doing whatever he was going to do anyway. So the whole Me Being the Boss thing is going to exist only in my imagination. And here, on the blog. Where perhaps I’ll begin referring to myself as The CEO of The Voodoo Cafe or something. (Something that we hope wouldn’t sound quite that lame, is what I’m thinking. . . .)

We’ve already talked about this and know what we want to do, so there’s not a lot of planning on the photography part. We’ve already done a test run on those—remember last summer, when we went to Art Fiber Fest? Got the basic plan for how we want to work this lined out there.

The back story:  years and years ago, before I’d written any books—back when, in fact, I was still trying to publish poetry—we were walking along a deserted part of the river in San Antonio, kind of away from downtown. The EGE was taking photographs, and there was a pair of ancient Levi’s lying under the water, all mossy and looking posed, as if someone had sculpted them there. He took a picture of them, and I thought about writing about them, and we walked along and talked about how Some Day we were going to do a book together, with me doing the writing and with him doing the photography. Many, many years ago.

~~the other fabulous thing about this project is that it will involve  lots of travel. My husband’s total love of travel is another reason I’m so happy about this. He has got to be the World’s Best Traveling Companion. Put him behind the wheel, and he’s completely happy. He likes stopping and taking detours, he likes trying different food and meeting new people. He likes taking pictures of everything from the landscape to the flora and fauna. He doesn’t even get angry about flat tires, which has always amazed me.

Starting in just a couple weeks, we’ll be going to some places we’ve been before and other places we’ve never been at all—up in the northeast. I can’t WAIT for that—last year I decided that my dream of someday going to New York City was never going to happen unless I took some steps, so I bought a bunch of cool maps of NYC and put them over there on the footstool.


Since neither of us has ever traveled that way—we’ve driven to Florida but didn’t go up the coast—I knew we had to drive (we have this kind of half-thought-out idea that we’re going to spend at least one night in every one of the continental states before we die, and we’ve hit all the ones in the west and so have to either branch out east or repeat ourselves), and I knew it needed to be work-related, since I am SO not good at Leisure Vacations:  I like to travel, but I like to travel with a purpose beyond just looking at stuff, you know? Last night someone was talking about retiring at the end of this school year and going on cruises, and I shuddered. She asked why, and I said I couldn’t imagine anything that would drive me nuts more quickly than being on a boat with no work. Now, an art cruise—that would be cool, if I had an assignment and interviews and things to work on. But just a cruise “for fun”? Eeeeek. I don’t gamble (not with my own money, I don’t; I’m not opposed to gambling, but I wouldn’t do it with my OWN money) and I don’t like to eat and I can’t lie in the sun and I loathe group activities like Pilates classes, so what, exactly, would I do on a cruise unless I were working, hmmmmm?

So:  working together on a big project, and getting to travel across the country in the bargain. Sure, I’m going to have to finance part of the travel myself, since there are two of us traveling. And sure, it’s going to be a TON of hard work. But: yay!

I’ll be talking about this a LOT, so I hope you’ll indulge me. And I hope as the schedule firms up and I post where we’ll be that some of y’all will go, “Hey, I’ll be there!” or “I’m only 20 minutes away from that Starbucks!” Because we’d love to meet you, have a latte, take some photos. Road Trips Rock!

And so The Adventure begins~~hooray!

Hey, Blogging Queen! You Win!

Congratulations! How could I not pick someone who wants to learn how to whip her own personal Inner Critic Sumbitch into submission?

Send me your address, my dear~~

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Boy, Are Appearances Deceiving: Cleon Skousen & Glenn Beck

That nice old journal-keeping guy from the video I posted earlier today? The one we all thought looked so kind and wonderful?  Thanks to a couple people who mentioned that, gee, he has quite a history in Utah. And not in a good way.

Seems he was a friend of (and lecturer for) the John Birch Society. And Glenn Beck, Boy Wonder, rec. one of his old books, which then shot to #1 on—20 years after it was published, I think.

Now, I don’t know anything else about him, and it’s still a good plug for journal-keeping. Gotta have some way to document your fight against the damn Commies. . . .


Why Everyone Should Keep a Journal

Annie in The Netherlands sent this link to my art journal group. (Thanks, Annie!) In this short little video, 93-year-old W. Cleon Skousen shows how he’s kept a journal of his life. It’s not an art journal, and it’s not fancy, but it seems so very, very rewarding.

Etiquette: A Primer. Or: Oh, Never Mind.

I grew up in a world where the afternoon of Christmas Day was spent writing thank-you notes. Forget mincemeat pie. Forget football playoff games. I was holed up in my room with a list of gifts and a brand-new-from-Santa-Claus box of cute-but-tasteful thank-you notes and a roll of postage stamps.

Because what was the rule, boys and girls? Why, of course: you don’t get to play with it until you’ve written the thank-you note for it.

[OK. There’s obviously something horribly, terribly wrong with my brain—like that’s a fucking surprise—because, as soon as I write that last sentence: “You don’t get to play with it until you’ve written the thank-you note for it,” I see: “Dear God, thank you for my penis. . . .” which is just one more reason I should stop watching Wire in the Blood immediately, is what I’m thinking here. No, it’s not about etiquette or holiday gift-giving or even chronic masturbators (which would be an excellent name for a rock band, don’t you think?). But it does seem to have a preponderance of sexual predators and pedophiles (both male and female, to be fair) and men who, really, must have been traumatized by some really poorly-thought-out toilet training techniques. Maybe some that involved binder clips or hose clamps. Because, golly! We’ve been watching an episode every night at dinner—which alone is kind of a testament to the unflappability of my upper digestive tract, what with the carved-out human hearts and exsanguination and stuff), and I’m afraid that, if I were younger and more impressionable, I'd be walking around eyeing all you Penis Possessors with just the tiniest bit of suspicion. What was it that Dogbert said?

Unmarried men commit ninety percent of all violent acts. They should all be jailed in advance to prevent further atrocities.”

If I were younger, I’d be thinking, “Smart dog.” Instead of, “How come a dog had a word processor and was writing books when I was still pecking away on my IBM Selectric?”

Envious of a dog. My god.

Where was I?

I think I probably need some close-parentheses here, but I’m not exactly sure how many, so I’ll just put some below, and you can distribute them as needed, OK? Like when I was taking Spanish in college and got a little carried away on an exam (there were a couple of us competing for The Top Grades on Everything, which was pathetic but also a really good motivator), and in a semi-panic I carefully added a string of accent marks at the bottom of the paper with a note asking that they be added anywhere where I might have forgotten to put one.

Anyway:  ))))))

So. Etiquette. I have noticed, as have y’all, that etiquette is about as much in vogue as pet rocks and mullets. I may be one of the three people on the planet who not only OWN a copy of Miss Manner’s Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior but have actually READ IT cover to cover. Oh, yes, indeed.

Why, do you think? If you’re thinking it was to learn The Proper Way to do things, think again. I didn’t need to read it in order to learn about thank-you notes and the proper way to set a formal dining room table (I’ve never HAD a dining room table. Because, um, I’ve never had a dining room. Oh, I HAVE a dining room, or what would be a dining room in a Normal House. But it’s hard to have a formal oak table for 12 when the room contains two sewing machines, a day bed, a 20-drawer bead cabinet, a cutting table and an ironing board). No: I read the book all the way through to see if my mother had lied to me. You know:  was it absolutely necessary to have spent the afternoon writing those thank-you notes? (Yes: page 63; “Note the date on this letter.”) and was it really true that “One introduces inferiors to their superiors”? (Yes, again: page 66.) But I fell in love with Miss Manners because of this:


What am I supposed to to say when I am introduced to a homosexual “couple”?


“How do you do?” “How do you do?”

So it turns out my mother was right about almost everything, damnit. Well, not about black people or whether or not unmarried women who wear red or black underwear are the kind of women who ride on the backs of motorcycles (yes:  this is something she told me, for reals: “Unmarried women who wear red or black underwear are the kind of women who ride on the back of motorcycles.” If only I could remember that vividly all the things she told me about accounting and tax preparation, I’d be golden. As it is, I don’t wear either red or black underwear (I don’t wear much red or black, so why have underwear that doesn’t match my clothes? I’m all about the Matchy-Matchy-ness, even in my foundation garments. TMI, I know. Sorry). And I have ridden on the back of a motorcycle just once, I think, and it’s not an experience I care to repeat, involving as it does both bugs and dust, neither of which I enjoy having in my teeth.)


But in the way of Formal Etiquette, she pretty much had it nailed.

Whew. I haven’t even gotten to My Point yet, and already I’m exhausted, what with the memories and the looking up of page numbers and the scratching of my head—not so much out of perplexity as of, I think, a sensitivity of L’Oreal Copper. You know?

MY POINT: There is a dearth of etiquette in the world. It’s as rare in this age of MeMeMe as the concepts of “privacy” and “modesty,” the idea of not tooting your own horn and letting someone else have the spotlight.

Etiquette is old-fashioned, and people scoff at anyone who thinks there’s still a place for it. Oh, sure, some of the finer points are both superfluous and offensive—the whole idea of “inferiors” and “superiors” in introductions kind of makes my teeth ache—but etiquette, at its core, is about greasing the wheels of social intercourse. It’s about figuring out ways to make us comfortable with each other in public places (you don’t find a whole bunch of Rules of Etiquette for things you do all by yourself in private. OK, except maybe that thank-you note to God, but never mind that.)

Take, for example, the wedding I went to last Saturday. Now, I’m not going to write about the wedding, because it was lovely and romantic, and we had a fabulous time—never mind that The EGE had to put on his black tennis shoes and jog to the church, arriving just as his youngest brother said, “You may kiss the bride”—that’s a whole ‘nother thang—and to tell a story, I would, of course, be going for humor, and there’s nothing humorous about a wedding you loved. So: no wedding story.

EXCEPT: When we got the invitation and I saw that it was a 6 pm wedding on a Saturday night, my first thought was, “Ooooh! Dress-up!” because, you know, I knew that part of the chapter by heart (pp. 364-365: “May I wear a long dress to an afternoon wedding?”

Certainly, and best wishes to you, my dear, for your future happiness (Miss Manners is assuming you are the bride. A wedding guest would of course not dream of wearing a long dress in the afternoon.)”

Tossing out all the silly wedding  rules about  virginity and what amounts to paying some young man to take your daughter off your hands, there is one rule you want to remember:  the wedding is about the bride. Just as funerals are about the surviving family. And everything you do should be done with that in mind.

So one would think that wedding guests would dress appropriately, wouldn’t one? One would think that, for a 6 pm wedding in Midland’s Largest and Most-Certain-To-Get-You-Into-Heaven Church (the kids actually learn this, somehow:  if you go to First Baptist, you’re guaranteed a spot, kind of like a legacy at Old Miss), one with a reception that included a meal, dancing, and wine--you’d think that people would have made an effort to dress the way the bride must have imagined when she designed her ceremony. Right?

(Me? I wore a long dress:  dark teal slip dress with a teal-and-black Asian-inspired overdress with high neck and cap sleeves, shot with some shiny metallic-ish thread for a bit of sparkle, with a long black coat and black heels.)

Many of the women wore solid black. Since it was after 6, this was OK (page  364 says absolutely, positively no black dresses, period; but times have changed, and now black and beads (a big deal, beads) can be worn tastefully after 6 pm (5 pm by some standards), but I had to wonder if they would have worn black anyway, you know? Now, you might scoff at the rule that forbids black at weddings, but there’s a reason:  the bride, walking down the aisle, does not want to look out across a sea of people who look as if they’re at a funeral. As if they’re in mourning, perhaps for her, in the event that she might have chosen unwisely and be walking down the aisle to pledge her eternal fidelity to some goon whose only good feature is that he happens to be heir to a fortune in banking, never mind his string of parole violations or well-documented propensity for tacky public behavior involving cheap women and concealed weapons. So you don’t wear anything that might make the bride re-think her Day of Happiness, and you also do not wear anything that might suggest you’re trying to upstage her. You know, like a skin-tight black dress that ends approximately 5/8 of an inch below what I am today referring to as your “hoo-ha” because I’ve begun another stitching project, this one with the title of Va Jay Jay Voodoo, which is providing me with endless string of additions to my vocabulary. But never mind. A short dress, is what we mean here. Paired with 5” shoes that my friend Ashley refers to as Come Fuck Me Shoes (and I’m so glad she enlightened me, as we’d only ever known Fuck Me Pumps, leaving me at something of a loss for a term for shoes with open toes. You know?)

So there was that poor child, a woman with the body and dress of a pole dancer and the face of British Royalty, if you know what I mean.

And the gaggle of women who walked up the aisle in front of me, dressed in 6” Bondage Footwear, I swear to god, and dresses that were as wide as they were long, meaning “fat girls in skin-tight mini-skirts,” is what I’m saying here.

And what IS it with the whole Bondage Porn Fashion? What? Is it that our clothes have become so loose and comfortable and easy-to-wear that we feel the need to torture ourselves with all manner of buckles and straps and chains to hearken back to the days of cinched waists and bustles?

No? I thought not. And I think I’ll just take a pass on this and not think about it any more. Let me just say:  you don’t see a lot of men sporting the Bondage Porn Shoes.

So. Those women, and then a passel of women in slacks—and not even dress slacks, not even something of silk, maybe with some beading. No: just slacks. And men in jeans. Sigh. Apparently not everyone got that little thrill about sartorial license from the after-6 wedding concept.

And, oh, let me just quit here. I need to go take a walk. I’ve entirely forgotten my point, and I can hear someone out there grumbling about how long this is and how the white font on the black background is giving them a migraine. So why don’t y’all go lie down in a cool, dim room for a while, and I’ll come back later and try again to say something about etiquette, OK? And beg your forgiveness for my tendency to digress.

I’ll go take a walk and try to marshal my thoughts. Which, of course, is exactly like trying to herd cats.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Memento Mori


I found this little snapshot years ago. I knew I’d do something with it, but I had no idea what until I scanned it and started playing with it. The beauty of bad, not-well-focused old snapshots is that you can change them almost any way you want. Make the people happier or sadder or creepier or more like your Aunt Gladys.


I altered it in photoshop, enlarged it, printed it out on fabric. Then I painted it and drew over the lines with a permanent pen, altering their expressions and emphasizing some details while leaving others, like the background, blurry.

Then I cut the letters and red crosses out of felt and cut the skulls out of some commercial fabric and fused everything in place. I layered it with purple cotton and orange acrylic felt (for the batting), put it on stretcher bars, and started stitching.

And stitching and stitching and stitching. I’ve been working on it forever. I’d take it to Starbucks in the evenings, and people would go, “Isn’t that what you were working on the last time I saw you?”

And I’d sigh and go, “Yeah. I’ve been working on this since I was born.”

But now it’s finished, with the little plastic hooks I use to hang it, and it’s in my Etsy shop and ready to go on the wall.

Because, duh!, I’ve already started another one.

Here are some more detailed shots:



the back, with all the stitches and knots:


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

If I Had My Life to Live Over~~Nadine Stair

You’ve seen this before, probably a bazillion times. But every time I come across it, I think, “Uh-huh. I’m going to remember that this time.” I think that, surely, since I’ve read it so many times, this time it will sink in and I’ll pay attention.

And then I realize, yeah, you know:  it kind of has sunk in. I’m doing better than I used to do, even if the ice cream I eat more of is only figurative. So, as a little reminder for all of us:

If I Had My Life to Live Over

~~Nadine Stair

I’d like to make more mistakes next time.

I’d relax, I would limber up, I would be sillier

than I have been this trip.

I would take fewer things seriously.

I would take more chances.

I would climb more mountains

and swim more rivers.

I would eat more ice cream and less beans.

I would perhaps have more actual troubles,

but I’d have fewer imaginary ones.

You see, I’m one of those people

who live sensibly and sanely

hour after hour, day after day.

Oh, I’ve had my moments,

and if I had it to do over again,

I’d have more of them.

In fact, I’d try to have nothing else.

Just moments, one after another,

instead of living so many years ahead of each day.

I’ve been one of those persons who never goes anywhere

without a thermometer, a hot water bottle,

a raincoat and a parachute.

If I had to do it again,

I would travel lighter than I have.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Podcast with Diana Trout, Author of "Journal Spilling"

Everyone loves Diana Trout's brand-new first ever book, Journal Spilling. In it, she offers tips and ideas and ways to negotiate a truce with your Inner Critic. So of course I had to talk to her about it, and about art and about her studio. You can listen to the podcast over in the sidebar there or download it in iTunes, or you can just sit back and click that little button at the bottom of this post. Then, after you've listened to it and gone to Diana's website and her blog, be sure to come back to the Voodoo Cafe and read this morning's blog post and leave a comment for the give away, which is, of course, a copy of the book. Have fun, and good luck!

This Week’s Give-Away: Journal Spilling by Diana Trout

Ah, my little chickadees, you’re in for a treat this week! This afternoon I talk to Diana Trout, author of Journal Spilling:  Mixed Media Techniques for Free Expression, her new book about all things journal. I’ll get that podcast up and ready for you to listen to as soon as I can.

And so of course it’s only fitting that this week’s give-away should be a copy of her book, don’t you think? Absolutely!


You’ll love this. Now, in order to enter the drawing, you’re going to have to do a little homework. You can either listen to the podcast (it’ll be up over there on the sidebar) or go to Diana’s website or blog. (It looks like you may have to get to the blog by going to the website and clicking on “Hub Bub,” OK?) Or, ideally, do all three, of course~~

Then come back here and post a comment telling us what you hope to learn/find out more about/get inspired to do from her book. Got that? No comments just saying “I want the book!” You’ve got to put a little thought into this, please.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

I May Have to Watch TV Today—Aieeeee!

Sometime “around” (you know how that goes) 4 pm EST, Cathy Woolard, of CARE, is going to be on CNN. I had a video of her this past week talking about donating to help people in Haiti, remember?  I apologize for not knowing her exact title at CARE; to me she’s “Karen’s Wife” (Karen, of course, being one of the Women Who Say Fuck), and to us, that’s title enough. Duh. Being the partner/relative/spouse/companion animal (none of us dare call them “pets”)/guru/minion (Roz has minions) of a Woman Who Says Fuck is about all the title anyone would ever want to have to deal with, I think. Empress of the Universe would just be overkill.

Anyway—if you’re a tv person, check out CNN and The Brilliant Cathy. I think of her as a Voice of Sanity and Logic. It might help clear your palate of some of the other nonsense.

Holes in The Karma

Working in the studio, in our house, surrounded by fences and trees in this cozy little world we’ve created, connected to wonderful people via the internet, communicating and sharing ideas and inspiration, I try to forget about the ugliness out there. You know, the toilet paper in the alley, the trashy people fighting across the street. The angriness and ugliness and hatefulness.

I think a lot of creative people do this, don’t you? They make little worlds that are about creating, places where they can work and do that they do.

Last week an artist I know mentioned getting a really nasty email from someone. This person is well-known, has lots of fans, etc., etc., and yet this nasty note, whatever it said, bothered her enough that she mentioned it. And I thought, “Whoa. That was hateful.” And I wondered what possessed someone to be that hateful to this person, who is a very nice, quiet kind of a person. Baffling.

And this morning I get a note of my own, a personal email in which someone took the time to tell me how much they loathed everything about my podcast with Roz and how they’ll never listen to me again.

What purpose is served by these notes? It makes the writer feel good, in some tight, dry corner of their heart. They believe they’ve made an impact, although, since useful constructive criticism is seldom offered, the impact probably isn’t what they’d imagine.

The impact is, instead, this: when you write snotty notes to people like that artist, and me, and other people who put themselves out there in a public way, you’re not making things better for anyone. What you’re doing is discouraging us from sharing. We get enough of those notes of hatefulness, we’re going to think twice about blogging and podcasting and tweeting and commenting on Facebook. Because we don’t get paid for this stuff. Sure, we—I’m going to assume here that I can speak for lots of other people, although surely not everyone—have ulterior motives in putting ourselves out here:  we want readers, and we want people to comment, and we need the stats to show editors and managers and show organizers that what we do is popular enough that people might pay money to buy our books/art/videos/whatever we do. Sure.

But the time and effort we put into the blogging and podcasting and the making of video tutorials does not translate into huge sales of our work. For the most part, it’s a labor of love. For me, it’s part of what I see as my Purpose:  spreading creativity in all its forms.

I’ve written before about how people sometimes say something about how all the comments on my blog posts are positive. Someone once asked me if I get tired of those, if I didn’t wish for controversy. Remember? And I said, “Gee. No. No, I don’t.” If I wanted to stir up controversy? Oh, golly, do I know ways to do that. Lots and lots of ways! But why? Maybe I’m mistaken, but I’m thinking there’s plenty of controversy in the world already. If you want to argue and bicker and snipe, there are lots and lots of places you can go to do that.

OK. I could go on and on here, but here’s the deal:  there is no need to say tacky things to anyone about what they do. If you don’t like their blog post, quit reading it and don’t leave a comment. If I write a post and no one comments on it, that tells me that it wasn’t very interesting to anyone else, and I know that the next time I want to write about that subject, I’ll do it for myself—in a journal or an essay I’ll stick in a file somewhere.

If you don’t like a podcast, don’t listen to it. And if you hate what someone’s doing, don’t download or subscribe to their podcasts. If I have a podcast that has only a few downloads—the stats page goes into great detail about this—I know that’s not a podcast I want to replicate. All I have to do is to find out why it wasn’t successful. We all pay attention to these things because, duh:  why waste our time doing things people don’t find worth their time?

But if you take the time to write nasty notes to the person who wrote or podcasted or tweeted or whatever, you’re not making the world a better place for anyone. You may have valid points about what you didn’t like, but if you don’t offer those in a public forum, like the comments section, where others can read your suggestions and either second them or veto them, so the writer/blogger/podcaster can get some larger view of what people want, then it’s just self-indulgence. And what you need to think about is this: since we’re not getting paid for the things we do, and since it takes a lot of time and effort, there could well come a point for many of us, if there are lots of people like you who feel compelled to be nasty, that we just say, “Why bother?” I know people who have come to this point already. They have a ton of stuff to do, and while they love sharing their work and ideas and getting feedback from people, they do not like waking up on a day when they’ve had bad news from one of their galleries or a workshop has failed to fill or something has been cancelled and finding a hateful little note in their inbox. For some of us, that’s all it takes, the final straw.

So if you like having artists post video tutorials for free on YouTube and like having podcasts you can listen to and like being able to get behind-the-scenes step-by-step photo shoots of works in progress by your favorite artists, think long and hard before you fire off that snotty note. Don’t think we don’t talk about these things; we do. We talk about what’s worth our time and what’s not, what we can offer and what we’re not willing to put up with.

Let’s say that nasty note about my podcast hit me on a bad day, and I said “Screw it.” It was fun for a while, but it’s not worth the time it takes for me to bother with it. And then lets say I blogged about what a waste of time it was, and I tweeted about it. And when people emailed me to ask about podcasting—as they already have—I told them not to waste their time because the effort involved wasn’t worth the response. And lets say that discouraged them, and they decided, instead, to go in a different direction. What if that person turned out to be someone you’d long admired and whose work you love, and you would have ADORED listening to anything they had to say about anything at all? But now, because your note discouraged me, and I discouraged them, they won’t even bother.

Think that’s far-fetched? Nope. That’s the way the world works. We encourage each other, and we discourage each other. When I talk to people and they ask about my experiences with  blogging and Twitter and Facebook and MySpace and podcasting and my editors and various magazines, what am I going to tell them? The good and the bad and the ugly. What’s best for all of us is if the good far, far outweighs everything else.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Self Indulgence: A Rant.

Grrrr. I have been trying to listen to podcasts. Because, you know, since I’m doing some, people suggest ones I might want to listen to. That makes sense, right? I might learn something, which would be a good thing, since I’m pretty much making it up as I go along here.

There are several problems with this, however.

1—I do not listen to things. I do not watch things. When I’m working the only sounds are Moe’s adenoidal snoring and the baying of the bloodhound who lives down the alley and is slowly, slowly driving me fucking insane.

(Yes, I’ve called Animal Control. And, when that did no good, the police department (as a noise complaint), and apparently the next step is to file a complaint. Like this is something I actually want to do, you know? With people who live mere houses away from me. People who do not care that their dog is unhappy and calling for attention/help/a bitch in heat.)

I do not listen to music in the studio except under specific circumstances. I don’t listen to audio books or tv or the news or TED talks or radio or iTunes or ANYTHING in the studio. I need silence, with just the incessant chatter of my brain to keep me company.

(Wire in the Blood had an episode the other night (watched during dinner, which is a whole nother thang, of course) in which The Token Wacko Guy wouldn’t speak and wanted total silence so he could hear the voice in his head (which turned out not to be in his head after all, which is both reassuring but also scary and, anyway, has nothing to do with me, since the only voice I hear in my head is my own, sadly. I keep hoping to channel Richard Pryor, but I’m not sure that’s going so well:  I hear a lot of “motherfucker” in a voice that sounds vaguely like his, but that could just be my own brain having found some secret stash of crack that I know nothing about.))

2. Podcasts suck. No, not all podcasts. Some, I’m sure, are marvelous. Many, in fact. Maybe all of them except the ones I’ve listened to! OK, maybe even THOSE don’t suck; maybe it’s that I don’t understand the Art & Science of Podcasting. Yeah, that’s it. I’m clueless. I’ll concede that. But here’s the thing: if a podcast is supposed to be about Person A, somebody to whom I’d actually like to listen, someone I know or would like to know or who might have something interesting or informative or entertaining to say—if the podcast is advertised (and we use that word loosely, OK?) to be about Person A, and then I go and tune in/download the podcast, and it’s got 13 goddamn minutes of self-indulgent rambling and giggling and self-promotion and odd bits of music by someone who obviously just enjoys the hell out of hearing their own voice amplified over a headset?

Well, honeys. Life is too short for that. I don’t know if there’s anything more annoying on the planet than being forced to listen to someone who thinks their voice is a combination of crack and Audio from The Porn Line—like they’re both sexy and exciting, and that because of this, they don’t have to actually say anything of value.

One word for them:  voiceovers. There are jobs out there that need voices. Please find one. You’ll be happy, we’ll be happy. There will be happiness across the land.

And then there are those podcasts/shows that I’ve bitched about before, the ones where the host talks more than the guest. If I wanted to listen to the host, I’d look for a podcast where someone interviewed her/him. I would NOT look for a podcast where s/he was the host. Right?

OK. I’ll stop here. I’ll just say that I am not going to be spending a lot of hours listening to podcasts. Not any hours, actually. I’ll be missing out on a lot of interesting stuff, and I’ll be missing tips and techniques that would make my own podcasts ever-so-much-more interesting to listen to, but that’s just going to have to be my problem. I’ll keep doing podcasts as if it’s my job to get artists to talk about what they do and stay the hell out of their way while they’re doing it, and everybody else can do whatever they do. Isn’t it great that the world is big enough for that without requiring that I spend my time listening to stuff that makes me grind my teeth? And that they can go on doing what they do and entertaining the people who love to hear them do it?

And then: self-indulgence takes even more sinister forms! Yes! Last night our across-the-street neighbors, who moved here last year from Skanksville, had another fight.

Oh, lord. How to make this short? These are the people who, when they first moved in, would sit out in the front yard and barbecue and use “The N-Word” loudly when we were on the front porch. People came, people left. We haven’t heard that word after the black guy moved in with them. We still marvel over how that one happened. When I forget to Focus, I entertain myself with various possible scenarios, which I will keep to myself. You’ll thank me for this.

These people walk up and down the street to the house down the block that used to be a half-way house and now serves as apartments for an endless succession of people with habits. We know this; a relative lived there for a while. Cops are there all the time. Ambulances. You know. Lots of Drama.

So. Lots of walking back and forth. Lots of sashaying down the middle of the street by the young women who live across the street. And I’m not using “sashaying” as in “I’m an old woman who hates it when women younger than I walk down the street looking cute.” No. I mean, “What the hell is she doing with her butt? Is there something wrong with her? And why is she doing that in the middle of the street?” We’d think they were hooking, but the middle of the Historic District at 10 on a Monday morning in July just never seemed the venue, you know?

They have fights every couple of weeks. Some of the women and some of the men will get out in the yard about 11:30 at night and start yelling and hitting things and cussing, with lights on and with much running back and forth. And then some of us will call the cops. I’ll call, and they’ll tell me someone else has already called. I foolishly believe that, if we call every time they do this, they might, as some point, get the idea that it’s not a good thing to do it out in the middle of their front yard. The Very Religious Hispanic Couple across the street will go next door and try to witness to the skanky white people, but the SWP are way, way too wasted to take it in. Plus monolingual, so it’s kind of a failed proposition all around.

In short order, half a dozen police cars will arrive. Last night one of the guys ran, so they had to chase him. They searched one of the vehicles (parked on the lawn, dontcha know?) and must have found something exciting in it, since they called a huge-ass tow truck, one of those really giant ones they drive the car onto for transport, and that make noise and light all over the street until after midngith.

Yeah, we were watching. You would have been, too.

The point? Their behavior is pure self-indulgence. They like the drama and the excitement and apparently know of no other way to get it.  I’m guessing they don’t have studios. They don’t care that it disrupts the entire block, wakes up the dogs, scares the cat sleeping on our porch, makes the cops go on high alert. No. They don’t give a shit about any of that. They get drunk or high or both (slurring, staggering, yelling) and then go outside for an audience. If they’d do it inside, where no one could hear them, it would save everyone a lot of time and energy. But no:  they’ve got to have an audience and some attention and some Big Drama.

And I want to go over and smack them.

Self undulgence is just another form of lack of self-discipline. I don’t care what your problems are—alcohol, crack, a bad boyfriend, gum disease, limp lifeless hair—whatever your choices are, grow up and deal with them. If they’re making you miserable, get away from them. If you like their drama, fine. But keep it to yourself.

You can do whatever you want to do by yourself, if you involve no one else. Go into your house, shut the door, and go crazy. Yell and scream and tear things up, call your significant other a “lyin’ motherfucker,” I think it was, and fall all over the floor in various dramatic and energetic postures. Go for it. Knock yourself out. Perhaps you might want to videotape it for later enjoyment?

But when you take it out in the street, out in public, out where you’re waking up people and irritating the animals, then you’re just being an asshole. It ceases to be your own business and becomes the business of the people who have to listen to you cussing and worry about whether or not you’re going to Put A Cap in His Ass for real, and the people who have to spend their time coming out and hand-cuffing you and searching your belongings and chasing your friends. You’re bothering lots of people, and that’s nothing but self-indulgence.

[You know, it’s like the toilet paper in our alley yesterday. It was used toilet paper, lying in the alley. Used as in: smeared with fecal matter, is what I’m talking about. I tweeted about this, and various responses bemoaned the sad lives of homeless people who had nowhere else to shit. And I’m like, “Huh?” Because I don’t care how destitute and pathetic and desperate you are, if you’re taking a crap in someone’s alley and then wiping yourself with Charmin (it was, indeed, a thick, embossed, bright white toilet tissue, none of the newspaper-ish stuff from public restrooms that someone might have stolen from the facilities at the public library for just such an emergency)—if you’ve got the toilet paper and are wiping your butt with it instead of, oh, figuring the rabbits who live in your underwear will clean your ass for you, then, by god, you have the fucking presence of mind to PUT THE TOILET PAPER IN THE DUMPSTER. Not doing that is pure self indulgence. For whatever reason, you let it lie where it drops, figuring it’s now someone else’s problem. Which is, indeed, exactly what it becomes.

In truth, I think the toilet paper came from someone’s trash, which means that someone in the neighborhood doesn’t quite understand the concepts of “toilet”and “flushing,” and  that’s a whole nother scary thing. But we won’t worry about that now. Tomorrow, maybe.]

So. What do podcasting and domestic disturbances and toilet paper in the alley have in common? Self-indulgence.

If you’re doing something for entertainment, all by yourself, you can do whatever you want to do. Emote. Flail. Indulge your many impulses.

But when you take it out into the street/alley, you involve others. You have to consider them, think about their wants and needs and the lives they live. You have to put on your Grown-Up in Public face and try not to make other people miserable.

Huh. Doesn’t this all come down to what I preach again and again and again?

Consider Your Audience.

If you do whatever you do for you, by yourself, then you can do whatever you want. But once an audience in involved, things change. You have to consider them, what they want, what they expect.

Well. I didn’t even know that’s where this rant was going, but it sure did, didn’t it? Got there all by its own little ol’ self. So I think I’ll leave it there and go get ready to go to a wedding. Oooh:  dress-up!

But only a little: it’s not my show, now, is it?