The Political Ones

Sisters are doin' it for themselves

[youtube=] This post is #36 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

Not to dismiss the efforts of my writerly gentlemen friends, but yes, I think it's important to especially promote the writing of women and girls, as well as the tools and practices that get them writing. Anyone who has been a girl who is in class with boys (or, sadly, a woman who is in meetings with men) has at some point experienced the horrible feeling of turning invisible. The more girls (and, subsequently, women) learn to trust in the truth of their own voice and perspective, the more they feel the strength make themselves heard, not fucked with or over.

And so, WriteGirl. And so, Rock Camp for Girls, WriteGirls more musical sister.

And so, The World-Changing Writing Workshop, which is open to men, certainly, but was created by two very special freaky and awesome ladies for the benefit of people who might not feel the courage to be heard without the right encouragement. As I've mentioned earlier, all of my proceeds will go towards 50-for-50 for the rest of the campaign, and half of Pace & Kyeli's, through today. (You can also get a pretty sweet deal on it through today. Just sayin'.)

We grow up believing in what we see, and we see what the people who came just before us created. I'm sorry to have created so many distressing images for girls and women via my participation in the advertising-industrial complex, and am working hard now to empower this next generation to grow up smarter and stronger than I by creating a better environment for them to soak in. I agree that the Internet has opened up vast opportunities for women and girls; yes, there are still wretched, unhappy creeps who single out women for attack, but we will not be silenced. We will write and we will talk and we will fight. We will not stand down, we will create and share and spread the tales of adventures and derring-do to nourish the next generation.

And you can take that shit to the bank.

xxx c

The love you take

the author and members of This post is #1 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

Almost four years ago to the day, I went to a lunch that changed my life.

The organizer, Bob McBarton, had been after me (gently) to attend one of his literary "salons" for some time. Every time I read the email announcements, I was tempted: he brought in some really fantastic people to talk books, politics, and culture, around a pretty sweet table.1

But when I'd look at the accompanying attendee list, always lengthy Word attachments, to accommodate the weight of the bios, I'd chicken out. Never mind the guest speakers, even the attendees were luminaries in their various fields, each of them hugely accomplished, and in "real" endeavors, not this b.s. futzing around I'd done in advertising and acting and my silly little blog. They'd published books (multiple books, in some cases) tried significant cases, produced award-winning films, run cities. One of them had overcome physical obstacles that made my Crohn's onset look like a paper cut, and gone on to succeed in multiple high-profile positions in multiple incredibly tough-to-crack industries.

Finally, though, my curiosity got the better of me, and I went. I wound up seated between the mayor of a nearby town and a couple of nice, unassuming ladies in the general vicinity of my age. Of course, I was way too uninformed to talk about the homeless problem with hizzoner, so I turned my attention to the women, Keren Taylor and Allison Deegen, the executive and associate directors, respectively, of a local nonprofit called WriteGirl. They'd spent the better part of the past six years helping hundreds of teenage girls not only get through high school and into college, but become confident, well-read, joyous communicators.

I was talking about changing the world through writing; they were doing it.

One girl at a time.

* * * * *

There's a little test I use when I'm coming up with something, an essay, a song, a poem, a talk, and trying to get at a Truly True Truth: if it makes me either (1), laugh out loud; or (2), burst into tears, it's a keeper. Because as you well know if you've ever lived through a highly emotional time, an illness, a death, a natural disaster, a knock-down-drag-out with your honey, laughter and tears sit so close to each other, they might as well be making out in the balcony.

I have cried at every WriteGirl workshop I've been to. I've also rarely laughed so joyously as I have there, nor felt more hope for humanity. These are amazing girls, all of them. They vary in their levels of introversion and extraversion, boldness and shyness, just like the rest of us, but each of them has been 100% present and committed at every workshop I've been to. They throw themselves into the exercises, even when the exercises challenge them or feel a little weird at first. They show up, week after week, to work with their mentors in between the monthly group workshops. They engage, they ask questions, they play, and they write. Oh, boy do they write, and how. You want to laugh and cry, brother, you get yourself to a WriteGirl meeting.2

No less amazing are the women who volunteer their time to mentor the girls, to organize the workshops, to corral the bazillion details that go into running an organization like this. Need I tell you that money is always, always tight? It is. What Keren and her team manage to do on the money they receive is matched only by the astounding calm with which they manage the constant doubt of where the next buck is coming from.

For once, I want these wonderful women not to worry: I want them to know that $50,000 is coming, and in 50 days, and from you. From us.

* * * * *

Did you know that everyone and his brother's band is doing a Kickstarter-type campaign these days? It's true, look it up.

Well, I'm throwing my hat into the ring. And possibly what's directly beneath it.3

For my 50th birthday, I want to raise $50,000 for WriteGirl. In 50 days. So let's get cracking.

There's an IndieGoGo page you should go to right now. You'll see various giveaways for various contribution levels.

Some of it is new and fun and exceptionally affordable. I had a number of designer and artist friends whip up some custom desktop wallpapers. There are MP3s! Of some of your favorite songs, and some of mine, all from women artists!

Some of it is stuff you cannot get anywhere else. Most pointedly, I do not do any copywriting anymore, but for a price, you can hire me to write your bio. Or your own silly-but-effective anthem, or your own poem that will make you cry. (Or one of the girls will, your choice!)

Or, if you're really loaded and looking for a way to relieve yourself of $50,000 in a hurry, I will dedicate my first book to you. (Which would also mean I'd feel obligated to finally put one out there, so if you're one of the people who've been patiently waiting and you have a friend with 50,000 spare dollars, hit 'em up.)

You can also donate without taking a "gimme," if you're so inclined. Or buy something as a gift for someone else, their own personalized-by-me Field Notes book, for example. An anniversary or birthday song. A love poem. It would be very much in the whole giving-is-getting spirit of things.

Which brings me to my last point: this is not for me, but it is entirely for me.

* * * * *

This whole project has been a combination of long-term thinking and short-term scramble.

Amazingly, so far, things have been falling into place, but that's the angels' work, not mine. Because while I was not too scared to envision myself bald, or even to envision raising what is, and there's no other way to put this, a fuckton of money in an insanely short time, I was too scared until recently to ask for help.

When I finally did, the most amazing thing of all happened: people said "yes." My friend Mike Monteiro said, Yes, I'll make another run of the "Old" t-shirts for you, and we'll give all the money to the girls. (link coming soon!) My friend-turned-client Jean MacDonald said, Yes, you can give away copies of TextExpander, how many do you want? Jim Coudal said, Yes you can have a bunch of Field Notes, and by the way, you might want to customize them, and here's what we use.

My friends Lisa and Heather said, Yes, we'll make a video, and you can stay at our place while we shoot. My friend Jennifer offered up her house for the party, her HOUSE.

My friends Jason & Jodi and Peleg and Judy and Adam immediately pledged financial support, and in amounts that took my breath away. My friend Tim offered up his team to build the website and then, when I waited too long and missed my window, my other friend Gabriel stepped in to save me. Every friend I've approached, Danielle and Dyana, Alice and Eden, Pace & Kyeli, Michelle and Jill, Josh and Donna, plus dozens more I'm forgetting now and hundreds more who signed up for the early notification list said, Yes, we'll help you, and yes, we'll get that money for these girls.

As I've said about myself before, I'm a pretty loquacious motherfucker, but when it comes to describing how this outpouring of love and support have affected me, I am at a loss for actual words.4 They're inadequate, or at least, they are in this form and in this moment when I am, to put it mildly, somewhat knackered.

That I have such friends and in such quantities is remarkable. What is left now is for me to rise to the occasion, to try being just as remarkable.

For the next 50 days, I will be blogging and emailing and tweeting and calling. I will lay aside my fear of asking and ask. Oh, boy, will I ask!

And at the end of this road, whether I fail or succeed at raising every cent of this money, and don't kid yourself, failure is always an option, if I have given it my all, I will receive my gift: to have given my all in pursuit of something greater than me.

But DAMN, I want the money for those girls, too. So let's get crackin', shall we?

xxx c

Things you can do right now to support the "50 for 50" Project:

1Hey, food counts. Just sayin'.

2Of course, if you're actually a brother, you'll have to take my word for it. It's a dude-free zone, except for a few actors who volunteer to play the male roles in the presentation at the end of the screenwriting workshop.

3That's right: if we raise the whole $50K, I'm shaving my head at the culminating shindig. BALD, BABY. To the skin.

4Laughing and incoherent blubbering, however, I have been doing quite a bit. I can barely open up my email these days without bursting into tears of joy. This is a mighty fine thing, although it draws stares in coffee shops.

Life in the silo

drawing of commuter with earphones ignoring panhandler

I believe in the essential goodness of people.

I may forget it here and there, when I'm pressed for time, or not well-rested/-fed/-clothed, or when some deep, emotional trigger gets pulled. But usually, and fairly quickly, I recognize these lapses as such. They're my (temporary) deviations from an essentially optimistic, basically loving worldview, brought on by my own forgetfulness in administering self-care.

What reels me back in varies, but the underlying, foundational bit of knowledge I'm operating from goes something like this:

I do not change the world I live in by reacting to it like a jackass, except for the worst.

This is not a bad thing to keep in mind all the time (along with useful stuff like "breathe!" and "stop!" and "when's the last time you ate, anyway?"), but it's a really, really good thing for me to remember when something awful happens. It is quick and easy to reach for anger, for outrage, for righteous indignation. There they are, all handy and stuff, just like the drive-thru window of your favorite fast-food place. And hey, everyone else is at the fast-food place, right? Damn right! That's why this #$@(!) line is so long! *HONK!* *HO-O-O-O-ONK!*

At a little gathering this weekend, someone reminded me of a great assessment device for making sound decisions: what would your future self want?

Will your future self be happy that you shaved a half-hour off of your afternoon by picking up Extra-Value Meal #9? Or would your future self prefer to continue fitting comfortably in her pants, remaining ambulatory and independent into her dotage, continuing to poop from her factory-installed organs?*

The nice thing about this kind of projection is that it is easily (okay, SIMPLY) reframed to encompass more and more compassion and awareness as I get better at it. Does my future self want to wade through a world thigh-deep in single-use plastic? Or, how might my future self feel explaining to her theoretical nieces and nephews as we all munch dejectedly on our Soylent Green that yeah, we could sure use some of those resources my cohort and I burned through, but man, were those burgers fast-'n'-tasty! And, as you see, so on.

I am not always the best at considering Future Colleen. Far from it. One thing that really seems to help is keeping myself a wee bit uncomfortable. Not in a martyr-ish way, necessarily, although putting a cap on the thermostat, or asking whether you really need this or that important doodad, doesn't hurt. (More on that, and 2011's theme of Conscious Stewardship, to come.)

No, I'm talking about the discomfort involved in stepping out of the silo and bumping up against my fellow man. I dread the thought of socializing. Amazingly, more and more the actual experience usually varies from "pretty good" to "awesome," but even if it's objectively a low-grade Torquemada-fest of enervation or bombastery, if I can muster the right mindset, it's usually enlightening and it's always strengthening.

There are degrees of this, then, too, bumping up against lots and lots of my fellow men, in small groups and the occasional noisy crowd. Meeting them on their home turf. Acting as leader, or hostess. Things that are terrifying, at first, but that one gets better at. No, really. I'm not just a reasonably assimilated introvert; I'm so acclimated now that more often than not, I pass for extravert.

Achieving even this level of comfort took years of assiduous plugging away: Nerdmasters; networking practice, under the kind and patient tutelage of another reformed introvert; hurling myself again and again into scary, unfamiliar circumstances. In other words, not easy, not overnight. But oh, so well worth it.

I know how annoying it is hearing people parrot platitudes like "Be the change!", especially on Twitter or Facebook. Knee-jerk anything is suspect, save perhaps the impulse to throw oneself under a future bus to save one's theoretical niece or nephew. But at almost-50, and having foregone a great deal of potential income in favor of exploring more existential concerns, I think I've earned the tiniest right to suggest that maybe, just maybe, this lack of tolerance thing is kinda-sorta becoming a problem. And that perhaps, just perhaps, we might do well to bring a bit of awareness to it. That's all. I don't have a handy app or pledge page for this; just raising a thought. Maybe we could start small (it's usually best, in my old-lady opinion) by listening more. Literally.

There are all kinds of ways to start. Anything, I think, can be a start, provided you're bringing a loving intention to it.

Me, I'm going to go out and meet up with some people this week. Some old friends, some new ones. Maybe even some weird ones. (It's L.A., so definitely some weird ones.)

Because I have a silo, but I live in a world. Your world, my world, our world...


*On the other hand, if you're opting for the Filet-o'-Fish rather than ripping someone's head off and crapping down their neck, your future self thanks you, as does mine. It also gently and lovingly suggests you bring some attention to this "solution," and start exploring alternatives.

UPDATE [1/10]: A lucid, thoughtful, somewhat charged (he's blunt, folks!) piece by Jon Armstrong on the genesis and implications of the Giffords shooting; his wife Heather Armstrong also has a short but very touching post on what I think is one excellent way to move forward.

UPDATE [1/11]: Another excellent piece by Penelope Trunk on the role mental illness played both in the shooting and the tragic story of Bill Zeller. Link to Zeller's lengthy, sad and well-written suicide note via the previous link, or this MetaFilter post, or directly on this Gizmodo post and Zeller's site (as of this writing, anyway). My favorite takeaway from this horrible series of events came from a comment on the MetaFilter post:

The best I can do with something like this is to remember to always be nicer, because you truly never know what someone may be dealing with inside.

If I could make just that change, I think I could call this a live well-lived.

UPDATE [1/12]: Via Jeffrey Zeldman on Twitter, a very sharp op-ed in the NY Times on the role fear plays in all of this, and a reiteration that this is not a left/right issue, but an issue of thoughtful engagement vs. fear-mongering, isolationism and other insalubrious human tendencies.

Image by sillygwailio via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Frrrrriday Rrrrroundup! #26

two babies in costume staring at each other

An end-of-weekly roundup collecting fffffive of the fffffantabulous things I find stumbling around the web. Keep up with them day-to-day on one of the many other Internet outlets I stop by (or tweet at) during my daily travels. More about the genesis here.

A journalist explains why he is (mostly) giving up being a blogger. [delicious]

A brutal but canny analysis of the "progress" indicated by the types of women gaining "power". (If the obviously sarcastic quotation marks didn't already tip you off, not much.) [Google Reader-ed]

Terrific slide decks that demonstrate the elasticity of the medium. Plus, you'll learn a bunch of cool stuff! [Stumbled via Heather Parlato]

Video proof of the greatest dog ever? [Facebook-ed]


Image by juhansonin via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Overcoming overwhelm one straw at a time

trash piled high on top of a garbage bin

I spent the better part of the weekend immersed in garbage.

The garbage in question was plastic, specifically, the vast quantities of plastic pollution that are turning up everywhere: on beaches, in "far away" landfills,* in swirling aquatic gyres, and yes, even in our bodies. The immersion technique was an all-day event here in Los Angeles, the TEDxGreatPacificGarbagePatch conference.

And even though 12 hours in a room with 100 people is like Death By Extraversion for a freaky INFJ like me, it really was the better part of my weekend. Better even than being treated to a Houston's burger and a Sunday-afternoon matinée of The Social Network by my bestie, L.A. Jan, and that was pretty damned great. Because while it is always shocking and frequently painful to be woken up, to be given the tools of change so lovingly and thoughtfully and brilliantly is overwhelming in the good way.

The facts are overwhelming in the bad way. A floating island twice the size of Texas in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Babies born with plastic in their blood. Birds dead with plastic in their bellies. As a similarly shell-shocked friend and I joked morbidly during a break in the onslaught, you could count at least one slide in each presentation to send you spiraling down the vortex of "We're f*cked."

We may be. but that's not the point. I mean, a gigantic asteroid could take us all out tomorrow morning, but that doesn't mean we should all act like assholes tonight, right? Okay, false analogy. How about this, friends of change: you will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever get done all of the things you want to do in this lifetime; does that mean you shouldn't try?

Change sucks! Change is awesome!

For most of us, most kinds of change require a delicate balance of incremental application and wholesale commitment. Even when I uncharacteristically changed like THAT, chucking my cigarettes, say, or switching to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet 100% in an afternoon, there was always a trail of trigger events leading up to the change itself, and a long, long haul of re-aligning my thoughts and actions afterward. There's backsliding, too, and setbacks. I fell off the 100%-SCD wagon a little, then a lot, but I learned a little, then a lot, and six years later, I'm back on again.

So perhaps it will be more useful to focus on what you can do. It was definitely the part of the day that I found most inspiring, all the stories of people who woke up, one way or another, to the problem and immediately set themselves to the challenge of becoming the solution. Artist Dianna Cohen morphed into activist Dianna Cohen when the discarded plastic she used to make her art started breaking down, and she started to learn what that meant. Beth Terry, accountant, turned into Beth Terry, agent of change, when she saw a picture of a dead bird filled filled with discarded plastic. Teenager Jordan Howard became leader-of-teens, and aspiring teens, and long-retired teens, Jordan Howard after waking up in a class about sustainability. So many inspiring stories, so little time to time to get moving.

One straw at a time.

I am no hero. My house is filled with plastic, as is my life in general. And this, from someone who (usually) carries an aluminum water bottle and refillable hot cup. I'm a little better than I was, and I have a long way to go. Still, because I know myself and my easily overwhelmed nature, I will start small: no more straws.

I became a huge fan of the bendy straw during my hospitalization back in 2002, when they were the only way (outside of an IV, which is NO fun) to reliably get liquid from a container into my body. During my convalescence, they comforted me, having a bendy straw in my water or juice or smoothie not only helped increase my consumption of liquids, but reminded me in a deep, Proustian way of being cared for by my grandparents as a child. I got hooked, and well after becoming well, the bendy straw remained ubiquitous in my drinking life. If it was 80ºF or under, I used a bendy straw to get it into my gullet. Even though I used the same straw for days weeks, okay, MONTHS, I was still aware that it was a foolish extravagance from an environmental standpoint.**

So effective immediately, I am forgoing my very favorite single-use plastic, the straw, at home, or out and about. Yesterday afternoon, I asked for my iced tea at Houston's without a straw, and as you can see, I've lived to tell the tale. I will bundle up the couple dozen remaining bendy straws and see if I can't donate them to some crafty type, maybe one of the people who make this stuff. Right now, I'm test-driving the reusable glass one that came packed in the swag bags, but should I find myself outside of sipping distance, I will not cave. As one of the speakers pointed out, there are people all over the world who are able to take a drink from a glass WITHOUT A STRAW when they find themselves thirsty.

My head is awash with thoughts about what to do next, and I have several ideas for projects around this that I might like to implement at some point. Fun projects that might help spread the word and make it easier for other slower-adopters like me make the change. "More soon!" as they say.

For now, though, I'll leave you with this short collection of places to start looking at the problem of plastic pollution in a way that will inform and aid without overwhelming. As people who've been down this road before said, the point is not to depress yourself; it's to arm yourself for action.

  • Fake Plastic Fish's Plastic-Free Guide :: A really, really long list of mostly small changes you can make NOW to start reducing your plastic consumption. Some are really easy! Some are not, for now! Beth Terry's excellent site also contains lots of great resources on alternative products, plus inspiring stories and great info.
  • Plastic Pollution Coalition :: Collaborative effort between scientists, businesses, social activists, educators and concerned individuals to protect Earth and her inhabitants by ending plastic pollution. Terrific, deep resources, well-designed and laid out.
  • How to Avoid Bisphenol A :: I'm old, but if you're not, or in charge of young people, you ought to educate yourself about this immediately. As in, don't even worry about the straws and the sporks until you get this toxin out of your life.
  • And of course, for the morbidly curious, more depressing statistics than you can shake a spork at, if that's what gets you moving.

If you have resources, stories or other inspiring bits of something to share, please please please do so in the comments, where other people can find them. THANK YOU.


*As was pointed out often over the course of the day, "away" is always somewhere, and much of the stuff we dump "away" ends up right back in our own backyard.

**I am not sure whether my eco-sponsor, Wayne, was more appalled by my use of plastic straws in general, or my highly unsanitary re-use of the same one over and over. What can I say? Even the compulsively tidy have their area of disgustingness.

Image by woodley wonderworks via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Poetry Thursday: Crowdedness and roominess


I hear
there is a magical place of ease
of grace
of flowingness
where one's mind is like water
one's desk is, like, clean
and shit gets done
by the bucketload
without the effort
ever feeling effortful.

I have bought
the occasional day pass
to this magical place
only to be called back
by sudden conflagration
or cold-sweat-panic
to the Land of the Exploding To-Do List

I love the idea
of me as Zen monk
as Mr. Miyagi
as Peaceful Warrior
but not enough
it seems
to do the heavy lifting
or the letting go
which is heavy lifting
of another color

So for now I will simply
observe myself
dealing with crowdedness
dabbling in roominess
and leave it at that
trusting that somewhere
between the waves
of crowdedness
and roominess
I will find my balance
or make my peace
with the lack of it

I'm fairly certain
is just balance
of another color

Image by brtsergio via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

The Road, Part One: Strong opinions, fervently held


The BF and I returned today from a long trip through the desert (and back through the desert). In the home stretch, we were listening to This American Life podcasts, including one very funny one called "This I Used to Believe," which was a gentle slam on the NPR series of a similar name, This I Believe, and which was far, far better than the oft-mawkish (and sometimes just bizarre) original. (Although I will go on record immediately and loudly as being pro-TIB or anything else that gets people thinking and writing thoughtfully about their lives.)

At one point in the show, Ira Glass gets interviewed by Jay Allison, the guy who led the team at This I Believe, and asked what, if anything, he believed in. (This is what happens when radio producers meet other radio producers, I guess.) It was asked in the context of why Glass had never contributed, something which Glass himself claimed to have wondered from time to time while listening to the show, and what Glass came up with I thought was rather interesting: although as a young man he had believed in a great deal, often with a fervor bordering on obnoxiousness, as he grew older, he didn't think he believed in anything, which is something that deeply resonated with me.

I, too, was a righteously indignant, bordering-on-obnoxious believer (although not a Believer) in my youth, by which I mean, "until I turned 41." There was no opportunity I'd pass over to stand up and tell people what I believed in (and, implicitly, what I was POSITIVE they should); after my umpteenth attempt at proselytizing disguised as "sketch comedy", a hilarious (not) piece about a former prostitute who'd given up the game running into her old pimp, where "prostitute" was "copywriter" and "game" was "advertising", a good-natured friend dubbed me "Soapbox Girl." Which, of course, I took umbrage at. Much of my old journaling is painful to look at not for the endless spooning over boys who quite clearly were not, in the parlance of today, that into me, but for the mind-blowing bloviating I indulged in.

Province of youth, I suppose (although there are an awful lot of old bloviators whose humility hormones never seemed to kick in). You get older, and if you don't spend all your waking hours watching stuff on TiVo, reading  crappy novels or going to MLM meetings, you get wiser, too. Or you don't, and maybe you end up an apoplectic old man in a Kingman, AZ, diner raging against The Gays for not letting that nice Miss California have her say (it's her say, right? it's just her opinion, and this is still America, right?) as your wife tries to reason you down off the ledge.

Honestly, who can blame us? It's not like we're raised with lots of "strong opinions, loosely held" teaching in this country (the U.S. of A., for those of you who aren't reg'lar readers). Come to think of it, I'm not sure who is: some of us grow up hearing a lot of lip service to things like "tolerance" and "to each his own," but there are an awful lot of qualifiers. Some things can't be tolerated, as it turns out, because they're an affront at least and an abomination at worst. Gay people, for example, should no more be allowed to marry than black people should be allowed to co-mingle with whites, or women allowed to own property. If you look at it really closely, the one thing you can really believe about holding tight to opinions is that it causes distress somewhere down the line, to someone or another.

I hate to say I believe in nothing, and I'm not even sure it's true. I believe that nothing is permanent, that everything changes. I'm ramping up to a belief in love over hate always, although let the wrong old man say the wrong thing at a diner in Kingman and, as the song sez, see how love flies out the door.

I do know that if I can't see in my heart to see past my own rage and feel compassion for that man, and to understand him and where he's coming from, I'm not ever going to be able to communicate with him. And if I can't be around certain people, what the hell kind of communicatrix am I, much less person?

For now, I say I know enough to know I don't know much. And I'm working on the beliefs thing.

Oh, and Ira? It turns out he does believe in one thing: that the car is the very best place to listen to the radio.

This, I believe...


Image by demi-brooke via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

A brief message from someone I'd like you to sponsor


There's been a lot of ruckus about The Little Film That Could, a.k.a. Slumdog Millionaire, sweeping the Oscars on Monday.

I haven't seen it yet, but then, I haven't seen the movie I'm about to tell all of you about, the one that won just one Acadamy Award, for Best Documentary Short Subject (if they're still even calling it that).

The film is a 39-minute short called Smile Pinki; it was directed by one Megan Mylan. Through the story of one very plucky little girl from a very poor part of India, it documents the amazing work being done because of an amazing charitable organization founded by an amazing ACTUAL FRIEND OF MINE, Brian "Hi, I'm a Saint Who Just Happens to Look Like A Kennedy" Mullaney.

The charity is called Smile Train, and the work they've done, and the way they've done it, is nothing short of breathtaking. Brian talks about the concept in this short video accessible via his bio page, but the topline is this: when they ran the numbers and realized how many more children with cleft problems they could save from a lifetime of agony by training local doctors to do the surgery rather than sending U.S. doctors over to do it, they created a charity whose sole purpose was to do just that. This year, they will hit the 500,000 mark: half a million $250 surgeries, one at a time. There is zero cost to the children's families, and no child is turned away, except for medical reasons (there a few, very rare types of cleft problems that can't be fixed with this particular surgery.)

I've written about The Smile Train before, some four years ago, both here and on LA metblogs. It's time to write again, and a whole lot more. The global financial crisis is killing donations, and Smile Train is no exception. Yes, I know there aren't a whole lot of unworthy charities. But this one is run so well and provides such excellent results, it's more than a vote for these children to donate: it's a vote for all charities to ramp it up a bit.

Besides, they've won an Oscar!

I signed up for the monthly donation program. The bottom end of it, but still. You can sign up to donate, here.

You can watch the trailer (it's great!) and send it on to a friend, here. You can sign up to host your own Smile Pinki screening and fundraiser, here. Or just sign up to be notified when Smile Pinki will be screened near you, or the DVD is available, here.

And of course, all you savvy social media types can blog or Twitter or Facebook it (yes, they have a page; they're smart like that.)

The beauty part of this whole plan is that if Brian & co. can keep this up, they'll actually be able to put themselves out of business within five years. Just five years to get clefts down to the kind of manageable, ho-hum levels they're at here in the U.S., so they can be dealt with like they are here in the U.S.

I don't know about you, but that's my kinda business plan.

Your other ideas for spreading the word are welcome, either via the comments or privately, by email (communicatrix over by the GMAIL with a dotterooski and a COM). They're especially interested in ways they can spread the word in Africa, which has been a difficult continent for them to crack. So any of you with pull at international organizations, or some other kind of in, please do drop a line.

And now, we return you to your previously scheduled program...


Image via shannonpatrick via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Get your motor runnin', Day 20: Worst job in the world


Today was a very, very hard day for stuff getting done. Between watching the inauguration (before, during and after which I cried at least 15 times) and a brutal teeth cleaning (floss early, floss often, young people) I was pretty much a spent rag of a wreck by 3pm.

So while our amazing new President and his amazing wife flit around D.C., graciously giving yet more of themselves to the jubilant and adoring crowds, I will probably knock off early (where "early" is "before 7pm"), head to my friend, Dea's, to pick up my candles, and hang with my boyzzz, The BF and Arno J., for a little corny (sorry, Fionnuala!) beeb costume drama before passing out.

This means that tomorrow will be that much harder, because some of the stuff that should have gotten done today won't get got done until tomorrow.

But there are two reasons that this not only doesn't bother me, but thrills me to my core.

The first is that whatever I'm doing and however hard I work at it and no matter how much it means to me and/or the world, this man, this amazing new President of ours, is working harder at something that's exponentially, geometrically, incomprehensibly harder. And, if past performance is any indicator of future returns, I suspect there will be a minimum of fuss and a maximum of grace about it. And if he can do it with what's on his plate, by gum, I can do it with what's on mine, and then some.

The second is that this man, this amazing new President of ours, is our president. At one point, around the same point that I was, he was just another American kid whose mom wanted him to make something of himself. Only instead of having some piffling gender odds stacked against him, he was an American kid from a single-parent household who was half-black, which, in this country, meant he was black, period, and which, as he pointed out in his glorious inaugural address, means a whole lot to all of us:

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

Yeah, it's kind of corny. But it's 100% fantastic. If you work at something, bit by bit and day by day, you can make it happen. Not always. But it's possible. And he's going to try it again.

If this man is willing to do that with what I think must be the most horrible job in the world, I can damned sure do it with mine.

Who's with me?


Image by marcn via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Live by the cha-cha, die by the cha-cha

keeping it real The BF and I went to dinner tonight with the Happy Couple, an impromptu sort of a thing, as we all worked up a mighty hunger looking at yet another example of moderately-priced Los Angeles real estate. So many abound!

Anyway, we went to a neighborhood joint, The BF's neighborhood, which ain't the 'hood, but ain't fancy, neither. And it's Sunday, right? A day of (putative, anyway) rest. Low-key is the operative word. And the place is hummin', albeit in a decidedly non-partying, non-alcoholic, school-night-y way, because (remember?) it's Sunday! We're eating our beet salad and high-end ribs in our jeans, the people next to us are eating their pistachio-crusted salmon in their jeans, the people next to them are eating their high-end meatloaf & mash in their jeans.

And as we're mopping up the last of the delicious broth from the grilled calamari, in walks Sister Satiddy Night, rocking the cha-cha like she's there four days early for a big Valentine's Day out. Tight, shoulderless dress with boobage. Four-inch heels. Hair. Makeup. The whole, uncomfortable works, including her slightly homely fella in slightly less fancy fella-garb, whom I'm guessing, and I know, I know...I'm totally guessing, was picking up the check.

Now, of course they could have been coming from a wedding. Lots of people have them on Sunday because it's cheaper and hey, if you're being frugal, maybe you're saving by not having a meal, either. Maybe they work regular nights out and this is their big, do-it-up night. Maybe a million things. But on top of it all, that dress is not comfortable. No, I've never worn it, but I've worn plenty of uncomfortable dresses and heels and I know. I know.

The last time I wore a serious cha-cha outfit without getting paid for it was on a particularly pathetic birthday, my 26th, maybe, or my 27th. Between when I dated the Republican and married the Chief Atheist. I had no date, not a lot of friends, and one good, fun, funny, kind male friend agreed to go out with me on my birthday. I'm not certain, but I'm fairly sure we split it down the middle. Outside of a regular relationship, that's how I roll, as my feminist mother drilled into me that to do otherwise was tantamount to selling cooch for steak. Plus he was a kind friend, but a cheap one.

So I was in the cab, which again, I'm fairly sure we split, and I got attacked. Full-on mauled by my good, fun, funny, kind male friend: the whole gimme-baby, Radio Tokyo thing. My umbrage, shock and dismay were at least equalled by his. Why, if I didn't want to act like a ho, was I dressing like one?

A very good question.

Because my boyfriend had dumped me.

Because I was turning 26 or 27 and I honestly thought my stock was falling.

Because that cursed Robert Palmer video came out with the impossibly hot chicks in the impossibly tight black spandex dresses.

Because I was sad. Because I was angry.

Because I hated myself.

Because I wanted people to love me.

Because I could. Because they sold them in stores so regular ladies (okay, girls) could buy them and turn themselves from good-looking people to good-looking objects.

Because I wanted to be pretty. Because I wasn't pretty enough.

Because I wasn't enough.

That's really it, isn't it? Because there are ways to look good without the cha-cha, just as there are ways to be in relationships without compromising your integral self. Good luck finding them in this world, though, without a lot of trial and error and a lot of looking. It is almost impossible to raise a girl in this world with enough self-esteem to say no to the cha-cha, to believe in herself enough to not compromise herself, to know that she can look great without putting the goods on display. I know; my mom tried. "Don't get too attached to your looks," this breathtaking natural beauty would say. "One run-in with a bus, and it's all over."

And then she would put on a little lipstick, because that made anyone feel better.

I'm not advocating the burkha any more than I'm advocating dumping on sisters who, for whatever reason, choose the cha-cha. I know a few for whom it really seems to be an outgrowth of their personality. But I see a lot more of us putting it on, trying to be someone else, someone else who's really, really slutty-looking, because of some bullshit notion we picked up from a million signals around us suggesting that it's a logical, desirable way for all of us to be. That to not choose it is to choose invisibility or un-sexiness or some other undesirable state. And I'm calling bullshit.

If it's in your stars, go ahead, go for the cha-cha. But for god's sake, have a Plan B. Your tits and ass are not a retirement plan. Your pretty face is not job security. Do not get wrapped up in some crazy notion that by putting on the cha-cha, you are investing in yourself.

If nothing else, have a sense of humor about it. Know that it's drag, and own it. Know who you are underneath and own that. I had a dentist once whom I called Dr. Cha-Cha. She was a good dentist and hey, if she felt like pouring herself into a porn-a-licious dentist outfit and fuck-me pumps to scrape my teeth, more power to her. But that is the natural order of things, ladies: work first, cha-cha second. Not cha-cha for cash. Not cha-cha so a dude will buy you dinner and maybe later, a ring and a car and a house.

And for the love of all that is holy, if you do opt for the cha-cha, do it on your own damned terms. To squeeze or push or starve yourself to become someone else's idea of fabulous, for love or money, is a fool's game.

Of course, all this from someone who's not even sure what color her hair is under all that dye. But hey, I never said I was consistent.

Just comfortably dressed on a Sunday night...

Image by edward olive via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

"Thank you, sir! May I have another!?"™, Day 02: Me and the girls get a new teacher

This is Day 2 of a 21-day effort to see the good in what might, at first, look like an irredeemable drag. Its name comes from a classic bit of dialogue uttered by actor Kevin Bacon in the comedy classic of my generation, Animal House. bloggy-cleavage-wolfheadfilms-233252254_ddf28fd384_o

One side effect of carrying around a few extra el-bees is a proportional increase in the chestal area. For the first time since...oh, hell, high school? college? (maybe some of you lurking ex-es could chime in), I have significant boobage.

From the cultural cues that surround us, you'd think this would be a good thing. In most respects, however, it's a colossal pain in the assets. I've always liked small boobs, both from an aesthetic and practical point of view. As have my various partners. (At least, as far as I know. Lurker exes?) Not only did my tiny breasteses look great in and out of clothes, but unlike those of my well-endowed sisters, my own girls required virtually no maintenance from a containment perspective.

No more. I've been sensing for a while now that my old "bras" (aka a wardrobe of dago tees) weren't cutting it anymore. No matter that I wash and dry them on the hottest settings, replace them dutifully each spring, and wear a fresh, tight one each day: I've moved from a barely-A to a big man-handful, and no amount of cotton ribbing and denial is enough to keep things under control. And the few actual brassieres I bought for Casual Mom audition drag are a good six years and 1.5 cup sizes past their usefulness.

Because brother, I hate bra shopping almost as much as I hate bra-wearing. From a physical or political perspective, they're equally annoying. Why the hell should I have to sacrifice time, money and comfort for the sake of propriety, otherwise known as the reigning sex's inability to keep their eyes off the prizes? If I don't mind my tits winding up the low-hanging victims of gravity, how they dangle should be my own damned business.

Alas, I live in a world where others will look, either askance or lecherously, and I'm not enough of a booby buddha to not let it get to me. So for all my feminist decrying, the bottom line is that mainly, I've just been too cheap and too lazy to do anything about it.

Until yesterday. I had an errand to run in that hideous sprawl just east of Los Angeles known as the Inland Empire, home to the biggest IKEA in all the Southland as well as, it seems, some of our more revolting specimens of masculinity. Despite my very obviously being dressed so as to not solicit attention of any kind, baggy cargos, loose, long-sleeved tee and the ubiquitous dago underneath, many of these charming gents gave me the surreptitious once-over. Whatever. Some people really don't have enough excitement in their lives.

Then, in the parking lot of an adjacent mall, one of them openly stared straight at my boobs and, before he was out of eyeline, much less earshot, cracked to his equally vile friend, "See? Like those, bouncing all over the place."

At first, I was incensed. This roly-poly cholo, this marginalized weeble in oversized baby clothes, dares malign me and my few extra ounces of bouncy old lady-flesh? Fuuuuuuuuuuck you, esé. I'm the revolution, baby; I'm an Agent of Change. I'm your mother, your sister, your daughter (well, more like your abuelita, really); how would you feel if some punk piece of trash guero caught one of them in their own vile line of fire?

And just as quickly, the flame of anger burned off and I realized the truth: I was no better, and arguably far worse than they. My lowest-common-denominator thinking, my impulse to objectify them rather connect with any common humanity was as foul as anything I was condemning in them. So what if I wasn't as out-loud-obnoxious about it? That sprung from common sense and an instinct for survival, not anything noble.

Plus, there was the stark physical truth that they had pointed out, however rudely: my containment system was overtaxed, my meatflaps were flopping all over, and if I wanted to continue to fly under the radar, it was time to walk into Ross Dress for Less and, er, take matters in hand. Which I did, albeit in a grumbling sort of way. (If bra shopping is ever fun, it is not under these circumstances.) The universe, sensing my delicate mood, graciously directed me to six models on the tangled rack, three of which not only fit, but set me back a mere twenty bucks total. I did a patented Actor Change™ in the car, and poof!, back under the radar I went.

Teachers: wherever you are, I thank you. I thank you for reminding me that I, too, am a pig, that some hills are not worth dying on and that sometimes, the solution is actually crazy simple.

Two boobs from the barrio put two boobs in a bra.

Nice symmetry, that...

xxx c

Image by wolfheadfilms via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Can you lead an authentic life with fake hair?

pink hair I make no secret of my age. (46, and if you haven't wished me a "happy" yet, feel free to!)

I'm up front about my struggles to get organized, to get happy, to get my bowels in working order.

So why, oh, why am I having such a problem letting my hair go gray?

A little backstory: unlike many of the women on my mother's side, while I had a few stray grays pop up as early as my 20s, I didn't need to start actively coloring to cover them until my late 30s. And I was earning a nice living via acting at that point (with good health insurance...sigh...), so it made sense to make sure my hair matched my face, which for some reason insisted on looking 5 - 10 years younger than the rat's nest on top of it.

But if I'm honest, and dammit, if I'm not, there's little point to anything anymore, I wanted to look chronologically younger for me, too. In the late 90s, I'd just left my marriage of 8 1/2 years for a man 12 years younger than I, who looked 5 - 7 years younger than he really was. And who was also, shall we say, empirically good looking. It was frustrating enough for me and my fragile self-esteem to flit about with The Youngster in public; add to that the subtle and ongoing pressure from him to "look my best" (what is it with these empirically good looking people?) and you have a perfect storm for public deceit.

Well, I'm not acting anymore. And dye, in addition to being not inexpensive, is toxic and time-consuming. What could I do with those extra two hours per month? Those extra 1000 or so cancer-free years days of my life? Or, while we're at it, the extra 750 bucks a year? (A steal in L.A., but still.)

I find myself obsessing over gray hair. It seems to be a trend, or a meme, the ladies lettin' it go, perhaps kicked off by Meryl Streep in the otherwise forgettable Devil Wears Prada. Someone wrote a book about it. There's a Yahoo! group devoted to it, a graying Botticelli's Venus as their icon. (I joined.) There's that idiotic Dove campaign.

I think it comes down to this: vanity.

Not vanity about looking my age, but about looking good for my age. Or maybe just looking good, period. I quit wearing makeup long ago, and I've let myself get woefully squishy around the middle; strictly from a design/style perspective, hair dye saves my beauty bacon. It's the lazy gal's way to look good (at least, until your face and skin tone stop coordinating well with dark hair. I am going to look like a raggedy-ass schlub growing out my gray if I don't work a little harder to look good in other departments, like clothes and fitness.

Maybe that's the thing: put "Pilates body" on the to-do list. Make it a big goal for...say...2010, and get crackin'. Then, once I'm leading the yoga class, shave my damned globey-head bald and wear all black or something.

It's an option I've discussed with my patient, generous colorist. He's amazing, really, basically helping me figure out how and when to fire him.

There are no easy answers to this. I would like to think I'm "there", but clearly, it ain't so. Whether I like it or not, going gray is a political statement in a patriarchal society where a woman's currency is tied to her looks and reproductive status. As is toeing the party line with a box of dye.

I do not like the lies I am telling, and yet, here I am.

Now, where's the way out, I wonder...

xxx c

UPDATE 9/19: I wrote another blog post about aging (and lying about aging) here that may help illuminate some of this thinking.

Image by s.o.f.t. via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

The end of the world as we know it?

xmas display Let's get this over with right up front: I'm a believer in the apocalypse, at least the man-manufactured one that seems, barring a late-Act III entrance from some serious, ass-kicking deus ex machina, inevitable.

Additionally, I must confess that I came to my knowledge/world view late in the game, getting turned on to Kunstler and peak oil and other earthly delights after the vanguard, but apparently before the bulge of the curve. Ironically, I find this unbelievable: how can a political dunderhead like me be early to the party? Is it possible that the majority of my countrymen are more preoccupied, more obstinate, more, okay, stupider than I? For chrissakes, Will Rogers, American icon, pointed out the folly of ignoring the obvious more than 50 years ago; are people really so dense as to not get that, like land, at some point we will have burned through our supply of dead dinosaurs?

And really, really, does anyone actually believe in suburbs as an inalienable right? Of sprawl as manifest destiny? While we're at it, does anyone actually believe in Manifest Destiny anymore? That some unseen power said "Poof! lucky white dudes! You really are my favorites! Grab what you want, pave over the rest and throw up a Starbucks every 500 yards! And get me a decaf Venti soy latte, while you're at it, I'm cutting back on my caffeine intake."

Besides, as Kunstler himself points out in, among other writings, this excellent review (of what looks like an egregiously irresponsible book), for this you're chewing up resources? For 99¢ tacos and "Tuscan" minimalls and 3-Day Blinds and Axe? I'm no purist, I love In-and-Out and I drive my Corolla and I spend most of my waking life in front of a computer that will eventually kill off a square mile of rainforest or something when it hits the landfill, but Bratz dolls? Putting aside the allocation of precious resources to perpetuate several particularly nasty features of the patriarchy, on a purely aesthetic level, they are ass.

Like I said, I'm as bad as anyone else when it comes to much of my consumption, meaning it is thoughtless. I do not think about blood-stained oil when I curse the traffic on the way to my shrink appointment; I'm adding to the problem with almost everything I do, and thinking about the extent to which I'm stomping the world to death with boots, Australian Blundstones, borne to me across the ocean on fairy wings, natch, makes my head throb. How do I change!?! Where do I start!?!

Alertness, right now, is all I know I can do. And I know it is the thing to do in part because practicing it is so alarming. How starkly I am struck by my ability to take things for granted when the power goes out for 26 hours. 26, you see? Every last minute counted.

I've implemented a few things to help me stay aware and awake, which I'll share not to lord it over anyone (who am I to talk?), but in hopes that it might help a few overwhelmed types like me find a place to start:

  1. I've trimmed down my possessions to the point where everything has a place, I can put my hands on most of them without too much thought, and there is plenty of space in between them.
  2. For the most part, I did it by reasonably "responsible" methods of recycling and reducing consumption. On the recycling side, I've increased my reuse of items, paper, mostly, before sending things off to the Magical Recycling Place. (I've always been a fanatic about reusing bags and rubber bands.)
  3. On the consumption side, I simply buy far, far less than I used to, purchasing used items where I can, borrowing where appropriate (e.g. the library instead of the bookstore), buying fewer trendy/disposable items and thinking about whether I can wait or do without before I buy.
  4. Also concerning consumption, I've dramatically reduced the amount of fuel I use by quitting acting (which is mostly auditioning, which is mostly driving) and working from a home office. I live a little too far from the public rail system to make use of it, and buses are notoriously slow here in L.A., caught in the same traffic as cars, so I still drive my beloved Corolla. I've toyed with getting a Prius or a biodiesel conversion, but without retiring my car, I don't know how much good I'd be doing. The only long "commute" I have now is my weekly Toastmasters meeting, 10 miles away in the Marina. My plan is to finish out the year there, then look for a Toastmasters within walking distance of my home.

Not that much, really, but a start. And for anyone who's interested, #1 has improved my life in many ways besides feeling better about not being such a piggy. My stress level is down and my productivity up, if not in all areas of my life, at least in some.

Besides the peace of mind that comes with a reasonable baseline of organization has got to have some salubrious effect on the world, as well, if only in that it frees me up to think more about serious matters. Right?

xxx c Image by C-Monster via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license .


Feminist Kermit

It pains me to confess this, but for a slice of my misguided youth, I referred to myself as a humanist.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. I love skeptics, literally. While I hew to the woo, myself, I'm extremely pro-atheist: they tend to be smart and open-minded, which makes them very, very good in the sack. But I wasn't using the term to refer to my (non-)beliefs: I was (incorrectly) using it to explain why I was not a feminist.

So my embarrassment comes in two flavors: first, that I was a sloppy hypocrite, submitting my beautiful mother tongue to the kind of abuse I'm quick to criticize in others (especially xenophobic chucklehaids who blather on about the importance of us all speaking "American"); second, that I even momentarily abandoned the sisterhood. Mea culpa, ladies, and it won't happen again.

Sadly, oddly, of course-ly, I got careless because I had it so good. As a white, American consumer who came of age after eight incredibly privileged years of private, all-girl schooling and the Second Wave of feminism, I was able to take much for granted. And oh, how I did, from the water that came out of the tap of my own, private bathroom (and the janitor who came running when it didn't) to the assumption, assumption, that of course I would run the agency some day if I wanted to, Dad. Duh. (Rolls eyes, shoves fist into Doritos bag, returns full attention to Bullwinkle rerun.)

Since it turned out that I had even less interest in than I did aptitude for the game of advertising, I quit long before there were any ceilings in sight, glass or otherwise. And being cursed neither with extreme good nor bad looks, I really wasn't exposed to much in the way of overt misogyny. (Well, an old Italian man tried to grab my boobs in a caretaker's shack on Murano once, but I was more startled than offended. I mean, he was like a thousand years old, for chrissakes. It was probably considered a compliment at one point in his sorry lifetime.)

Somewhat complicating matters, a lot of sisterhood-y stuff makes me cringe. No, I'm not one of those Delusional Donnas who says she can only be friends with guys. I like the dudes, provided they're not exceptionally dude-ly. I also like the ladies, provided they're not too lady-y. I'm not a girly girl or a manly girl or a womanly girl, I'm a person, dammit, and as such, I like spending time around other people with whom I share significant areas of overlap. I have friends of all genders (if you met them, you'd understand.) Provided you don't like sports, this could mean you, no matter what you're packing in yer khakis.

But for as apolitical as I usually am, and despite all the nasty baggage that F-E-M-I-N-I-S-M carries, I've had to throw down again. There are just too many he-man woman-hater clubs out there. Hell, there are too many she-man woman-haters. Tune in to my girl, Laura Schlessinger, if you don't believe me. And if you have the stomach for it. (Come for the unshakable defense of children; stay for the potshots against the Great Liberal Unwashed!)

In case you're wondering, it was this Kathy Sierra business what finally tipped me to go public. Say what you want, if you're a dude you can usually say what you want without having vile, violent threats of a sexual nature heaped upon you. But if you're a woman in Man Land, a.k.a. anything besides recipes, lipstick or frilly underpants? Apparently it's only a matter of time. I mean, Sierra writes about marketing and computing, stuff that shouldn't even remotely trigger this kind of vitriol.

There have been a couple of misogynist-flavored comments left here on communicatrix-dot-com. Initially, my first response was to flare up with monstrous umbrage. After months of schooling at the feet of Twisty et cie, though, I think I'll just answer with links. Or, as my new best friends at Feminism 101 say, "hand the newbie a cluestick"...


Bonus linkage:

Feminism 101 FAQs (aka the Introductory/Survey Class, aka a Cluestick)
I Blame the Patriarchy (aka the Advanced Class)
Good take on misogynist mishegoss on the Guardian (via Dave Greten in the comments)

Image by digitaura via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons (By-NC-ND 2.0) license.

better to light a single flame

blackout the rolling blackouts have started and my building is dark or will be when the sun sets

no power for the two old ladies who have lived there since it was built way, way back in '59

not that they have A/C or insulation or even the magic of cross-ventilation

(that's not how they built things in '59 no matter what anyone says about the Good Old Days)

but there is no power for their fans or their ancient refrigerators or a light in the bathroom so they can run a tub of cold water

plenty of power on Wilshire, though-- can't have those personal relocation devices hitting each other

and they say there's so much power at the mall that the air-conditioned merchants leave their doors open to help cool the shoppers

(nice merchants)

lately I swing between wondering if this is the end of the world and hoping it is

there would be a kind of satisfaction in watching the wolves set upon the drivers of SUV Nation and the barons of McMansion Estates and other members of the Clueless Majority

stay here long enough and you'll know what I mean unless you don't in which case, the wolves will probably get you next...

that is if they don't take me out on my way back from Peets where I came to cool myself with stolen dinosaur bones and a strong sense of irony

xxx c

Posted at 9:31pm. I'm home and so is Mr. Watts...for now.

Image by Spamily via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

One place in the world where things are hotter

Israel I'm not a political creature. I don't have the news-junky disease, and I find it effortful at times to keep up with current events. Most of it just makes me anxious and depressed, and I feel like most of the time, I'm serving the world more efficiently by going about the daily business of extracting my head from my ass.

But even if you're a navel-blogger like myself, if you do this blogging thing with even a dim awareness of the world around you, it's hard sometimes to go about business as usual without a small sidebar...a tip of the hat to the horrors around you. And it's getting a little hard to avoid talking about the latest crisis in the Middle East.

A small disclosure: I made my peace with death four years ago when it looked like I might be headed down that path, and not only am I fine with it personally, I'm pretty sanguine about it in general. I mean, let's face it, if everyone decided to stick around forever, the 405 N would get even more crowded than it is now.

I am terribly, terribly afraid of lingering death, though: death by fear, death by lingering disease or maltreatment, death by watching everything around you that you love die slowly or quickly. I've yet to reach the Buddhic level of detachment that has me maintaining an implacable half-smile of calm during the end times as a marauding band of thieves rape me, my entire family and the dog before killing us for the gallon of gas left in our car. Hell, watching the Wal-Mart movie upset me.

But today, I can't complain about the heat or my inability to get things done or my wondering why this summer feels kind of hinky just yet. And I can't put my dismay into words yet, either; it feels like more of a thing for Poetry Thursday, both timing- and format-wise.

In the meantime, I will just send you over to James Kunstler, whose semi-detached, crisp take on events has rung truest to me so far.

And for my part, I will try to be nicer to people on the road today, even if it is hot as hell...

xxx c

Photo by ahhyeah via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license

The Age Thing, or "It Only Hurts When I Lie"

your body is a battleground After my recent stumping for the sisterhood, this is going to sound like a reversalist smackdown, but a story in this Sunday's LA Times (I know, I know, but I like the ritual of fresh comics in bed) set me off. Big time. And I tried to ignore it, really, I did, but here I am, a day later, still cheesed off.

It was more than a story: the Times devoted their entire Sunday magazine to the issue of aging and its attendant hoo-hah in modern society, how we try to stop it, how we try to look like we're stopping it, how we succeed (or fail) at both. Not a lot of insight or exploration into why we chase the dragon, but hey, this is L.A., it's the Times, and that's probably a given, right? Because it's better to be young, dumbass!

Is it really, though? Maybe for hot chicks, briefly, anyway. After that, it's my understanding that things get a hell of a lot worse, and faster, and geometrically so. Farther to fall and frequently, less to fall back on. And I understand about the age bias permeating all aspects of Hollywood culture: there are male TV director friends of mine and hotshot screenwriter friends of mine that lie about their age as much as women.

But it is worse for women, by an order of magnitude; it must be, for all women lie about their age, everywhere. I did it myself for several years while trying to get into bars, albeit the other way around. I routinely do it commercially, by passing for a full decade younger than I am chronologically: as long as they want to hire me to play a 35-year-old mom, (neither of which I am, by the way) I'll play one on TV.

Here's the thing, though: I never actually lie. Two examples. First, when some bonehead in the casting room asks me if I have kids, because you know, as an actor, it is necessary to actually have the condition to play like you do, I say "no." Not "no, but I loooooove them!" Not "no, but my boyfriend does and I looooove them!" Just "no". I mean, you're hiring me to play a mom for thirty seconds; do you really think I'm such a fucking idiot that, during a big, important take, I'll forget how to pass a kid a bowl of Cheerios or something?

Second, in actor-land, there's a little checkbox on the sign-in sheet that says "40+". I check it, and have been for almost five years now. Yes, yes, I wavered in the beginning. After all, I didn't look 40; why should I check 40?

I knew why, which is why I didn't want to check it at first: because it's a lie. Which is exactly why I do check it now. Because if lie, I buy into everything that goes into that lie: that aging is a liability instead of a point of fact; that women have a shelf life with accompanying expiration date; and that a woman becomes somehow less-than instead of greater-than with time.

Which brings me back to why I'm so cheesed off. Now, despite what those commercial auditioners might think, I'm really not an asshole. I have some understanding of the world we live in and the necessity of learning to get along in it. I understand that sometimes, sharing certain truths, like your age or your sexual orientation or your political affiliation, if you're liberal and trying to live in Indiana, might be unadvisable. Sadly, the truth is still an unaffordable luxury for many people in this great country of ourn.

But for the love of all that's holy, when you are trying to pass, do it quietly, and for your own reasons, don't scream it from the rooftops, and definitely don't do it in the context of a magazine story about aging. Irony aside, it's just fucking rude. Insulting, even. And stupid, let's not forget stupid. Do you really think all those kids you were in the third and fourth and fifth grade with are dead now? Or that it's that hard to locate a copy of your birth certificate online?

Bottom line: if you want to stay in the closet, fine. It's your business, frankly. Me, I think the air and light is much finer on the outside, but I don't know how comfortably your closet is furnished or how inclement the weather where your closet is located.

And really, what are you doing save staving off the inevitable? Isn't it better to plant the flag in the ground now and have people say, No! How old? Damn, you look good, girl!

For the record, you do look good, girl, and not for manmade reasons. You've got it going on, and in more ways than one. There's one way, though, that I've got you beat: I'm almost 45, and you're not. You're afraid to say it and I'm not. Well, sometimes I am, but I do, anyway. For the greater good, but mostly, for my own sanity. Let's face it: I have no audience; I could 'out' you right now and only 75 people would know. And most of them wouldn't care. Your secret stays safe regardless of whether I choose to spill it.

But that's exactly why you should spill it yourself, because you doing it would make the difference. It's kind of like during the SAG commercial strike: no one cared if the rank & file turned down the shit jobs; it's when the high-profile members of the community stood up and told the producers where they could stick it that things turned around. You can use your powers for good, or you can use them to serve The Man.

Here: we'll even go first. In the comments. Come on, everyone, I'll go first:

Forty-five. 45. XLV!!!

Who's with me?

xxx c


Photo by Esther G via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Poetry Thursday: Things that make you go hurl

barbie's love dilemma I was thin once.

I mean, I'm thin now, But once, I was really really thin.

Scary thin.

As in, people stared. As in, I dressed in baggy clothes to try and keep them from doing it. As in, a total stranger walked up to me after a show and said, Wow, you really are that thin and then turned on his heel without even trying to hide his disgust.

Of course he didn't know I was thin because my colon was in tatters and food slid through me like water through an oiled pipe making it hard to make things stick to my bones and not because I had my finger or a toothbrush or whatever else was handy shoved down my throat.

No one knew it then except one colorectal surgeon who forgot to give me the results of my colonoscopy.


Anyway. I wasn't an upchucker but I was pretty judge-y about the girls who were.

I thought, you'd have to be sick to do something like that.

And then yesterday I made myself sick. Not because I had something down my throat unless you count the pound of cherries I ate on an empty stomach some of which looked "funny" (and not in the ha-ha way).

I was just sick.

And as I raced to the bathroom and flipped up the seat with some hesitation because I wasn't sure which end should go first...

and as I gripped the bowl heaving wave after wave of bile soup into the toilet...

and as I tried not to look at the film of yuck coating the porcelain because seriously, if I didn't already have to puke it would have made me...

it occurred to me: those skinny, skinny girls who look so sick to me probably are.

Probably worse than I know.

Because seriously, would you do that if you didn't have to?

Frankly, whoever did make them think they had to, those are the sick ones.

So the next time you go to pick up a magazine with a skinny skinny girl on the cover... don't.

And the next time your daughter begs you to give in and buy her a Barbie... don't.

And the next time you hear someone rag on an actress or a model or a whatever for being a little fat or a little old or a little "whatever"

and you feel like jumping on the pile don't.

Because really, if you think about it, you'd have to be sick to do something like that.

xxx c

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Image by Cade via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons License

Before you depart for your fatty American holiday, please take a moment to actually support the values that made this country worth fighting for

gay gothicI've already come out (ha ha) with my position on same-sex unions (pro), the unfairness of current marriage laws against unmarried domestic partners in general (very), and gay domestic partners in particular (off the charts). While it is mildly irksome to me that marriage, with its religious roots and baggage, is the only option for hetero couples who would like to enjoy the same protections and advantage of their straight, married brethren, it is a full-on, hillbilly-kneejerk-nutso outrage that gay couples have no option beyond a half-assed patchwork of easily-yanked domestic partner laws.

I mean, what is this, communist Russia?

Okay, that made no sense, but it was always the grownups' favorite expression of umbrage back in the 1960s, when I was coming up, and I love it. So there.

Here's what you do: fight back. Wisconsin, a fairly progressive state when it comes to lots of laws (who knew?) is doing just that. And today is the last day to help kick in to the $30K by 30 campaign to raise funds to fight the Power, or really, just the inequity.

They've actually hit their goal of $30K already (fast, bro, these internets are something else!), so now they're kicking it up a notch, hoping to hit $40K by the time they file their first fundraising report with the state. Because, you know, lots of money means newsworthy, which means more tape on the cause, which means higher profile, which...

Oh, hell, you guys get it.

Go here and donate, please. Then have a safe and happy holiday.

We want full, intact hands with all five digits sporting those same-sex marriage wedding rings...

xxx c

Photo "Gay Gothic" by Linda Wan Photography via AlanLK on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.