Friday, May 29, 2009

Artsy Lady Bloggers

There are two ladies I subscribe to who use their blogs to post the fabulous drawings they make. I had to share, because they are so consistently awesome that you should be paying attention.

Aimee of Artsyville blogs from Lawrence, Kansas, sharing gorgeous little thoughts and images she's cooked up:

All images from Artsyville

She inspires me, makes me think and laugh and is just a nifty person. She also posts unique pictures of her surroundings that make it look like she's living in a much cooler world than most of us. You simply must take a look, dah'ling! You can also purchase some of her creations via Etsy.

Renee French's blog is nothing but the sketches she creates on a daily basis, and it's fun watching the images change from day to day, wondering what prompted her to create them - and also to see how the images relate (or don't) to each other:

Do you know of an artsy blogger I should be watching? Let me know in the comments!

Don't forget your last day to submit an entry into my contest is Sunday!

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Fear of Aging = Fear of Change?

Nichelle Nichols

Something I've been working on in my life is to graciously accept the changes life throws at me instead of bitching, moaning and fighting against them, wearing myself out by swinging out windmills. When I'm able to accept something, the emotional toll it takes on me is much lighter and I have more creative energy to think of how to deal with the change.

So this was playing somewhere in the background of my head when I was taking a dump (great story, right?) and suddenly noticed a thicker-than-usual (for me), lightening-strike-looking stretch mark across my hip I'd never seen before. I played with it a little, wondering if the yoga's really changing me dramatically enough to do that and then being slightly saddened that I had yet another stretch mark. But then I remember that I don't really mind my stretch marks at all, so what was my problem really with? The only answer I could think of was: change.

Suddenly our culture's obsession with youth seemed the simplest thing to deconstruct. What if the entire fear of aging is simply an expression of fear of change? And then, once I started thinking about it that way, it seemed like there wasn't any other rational way of looking at it. Especially since all of the older people I have heard talk about aging not bothering them were people who really rolled with the punches life threw at them.

What do you think?

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Poetry Exercise of Yester Year

While looking for something completely different, I stumbled across the remnants of my writing from Behrend. I had an incredible creative writing professor, George Looney (he always joked that letters were very important... he was just one letter away from being George Clooney) whom I attribute to making me the writer craftsman I am today.

He trained us in style by having us imitate the style and structure of many different poets - since the substance of the thing can't really be taught - and it showed me I could work within any style as long as I simply broke it down into component parts, and that I had much more range than I had been using.

He introduced me to Mark Doty (both figuratively and literally, when the poet came to do a reading at the college) whose haunting, tragic loss of his lover to AIDS colors his observations on daily life with a unique passion and hopefullness. One of the poems I found last night was written after Doty's "Turtle, Swan" - still my favorite of his to this day.

This is my copy-cat poem:

Gone

Since our town was a country
vista, rambling with farmland, the hih school,
of squat rick and crumbling mortar, sat
in the midst of a field beside a
cow pond where strays came to drink.
On the bank of the pond, once,

I found a new born kitten,
(not a shy, gray thing, but a blonde
sprightly warmth of energy like
the xanthous burst of a star)
purring to greet me, us - you were there.
I took him home with me, to care for him and love him; but then

he was too independent, and he ran away.
Later that same month, we walked
through the shade of the woods that lie
dividing your parents' farm from mine
where limbs rise forming veins,
and found an oak tree standing over the others

in the grove like a single raised hand in a quiet crowd.
Its leaves waved, the trunk barreling down
to the welcoming delicate give of the topsoil.
You and I wanted to carve our initials into the heavy depth
of the trunk. You took out your dad's knife,

though it was dull and I had to use a rock to sharpen it - you
took the switchblade, the grandchild of the swords
used by gladiators to hack
and hew their enemies in
hate, and used it to expresss our love. You slowly

drug the blade through the dark bark,
revealing the pale heartwood underneath
and engraved A, G,
giving us a sort of - I thought -
permenance. splinters fell on your hand. We left
the oak in the copse that day, confident that

a piece of ourselves would now live
together eternally. Last summer,
alone in the woods, I found our tree
shattered to the quick. I thought perhaps that I had
turned myself around within the trees,
mistaken the oak... although my g

was still clinging singly to the
splintered trunk. A flash of lightning had reduced
the oak to kindling and firewood,
expendable. I cried to see so
transformed what had been giant and invincible,
standing like a bare-headed god,

laughing among the bowing throng
of palm-bearing worshipers, hearing Hallelujahs
ringing from the hills and the plains.
In an amusement park in the
city, we stood in line for the Super
Jet. You took my hand endearingly and

told me you needed some space;
you didn't mean the upcoming ride.
I sat in the Jet, you screaming
beside me, and all I could think of was
when we'd read Walden in high school, someone told
me that, at one point, Thoreau

had wanted to, oddly,
burn down the entire forest
by the lake into smoldering ashes.
When the ride slid into a stop
I followed you off - I knew that I
would never again follow you anywhere

and I developed tunnel vision, seeing you
with all the space you needed. I forget how
the remainder of the day went by for me.
I don't know why the kitten ran away. My mom
gives me self-help books with passages
underlined in bright blue ink,

describing all my problems, and promising me
fulfillment if only I will do this, that.
I don't know why the cat ran away;
I don't know why the oak, stronger than
others was split asunder. I don't know why
people and things are always changing,

are never constant, will never ever
stay. I only know that I sitll love you - you with your supple fur of blonde hair that tickled my nose all of those nights, your muscular trunk, arms the strong and sinuous roots which grounded me - I still love you though you're gone.

Now, I didn't share that to demonstrate my talent (I think it's pretty hackneyed and often melodramatic) but to share my wonder at how Looney was able to draw me out as a writer. This poem has all of the subjects that tend to obsess me: old brick buildings, cats, trees, relationships, forces beyond my control, forces of nature, unrequited love, Matt (that italicized bit is totally how I felt about him back when I thought we'd never be together), family, mysticism, literature and interacting with nature. When I read it last night I was amazed how much of myself was in this fiction I'd created for a class project. My ex-professor Looney just keeps on proving to me that he really knows his stuff. I count myself as infinitely blessed to have studied under him.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

What Makes a Feminist?

What makes a woman a feminist is something I've been trying to pin down for myself ever since Camille Paglia (whom I used to respect) went insane during the presidential election and tried to tell us all that Palin was a feminist. My mind instantly revolted against her saying that, knowing that the crazy religious gals are NOT in favor of women's rights (being too indoctrinated to understand they're being royally screwed over most of the time) but I wasn't able to define the essential thing that a woman must have to be a feminist... until now.

In my opinion, a woman cannot be a feminist unless she recognizes that people are treated differently based on gender and she wants that to change.

I think this is the very least state that must exist for a woman to be a feminist. I could add a much longer list of things I think feminists should do, but that's a whole different ball of wax.

During the presidential campaign, Palin said that she could see no difference between how girls and boys are treated. Her basis? She was raised to enjoy "masculine" activities like watching sports. That does not fit my definition of a feminist. Being blind to gender difference in the world because you believe it didn't happen in your childhood does not a feminist make.

Ladies? Is my definition of feminism: wrong, limiting, other...? What say you?

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Seen Around Midtown: Norman School

This is one of the abandoned, unused, lovely school buildings sitting dejectedly around Midtown. I really want to break into them and look around, but I'm too scared of getting snatched by the po-po. I also wish I had the money to redo these things into something useful. That would be sweetest of all!
For more pictures, art and writing, visit my deviantArt page.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Women Bear the Brunt of Hunger

There's a hunger crisis in Africa and women are taking the heaviest nutritional toll as they often choose to feed their children before themselves. MSNBC reported:

Ancient traditions and modern circumstances often combine to place the burden on women to feed their poor families. Researchers say women do as much as 80 percent of the farm work in poor countries. And, with food and fertilizer prices rising, and AIDS and the global financial meltdown taking their toll, women like Ndwandwe are straining under growing responsibilities.

"We eat whatever we can get," said Ndwandwe, after describing a breakfast of corn meal porridge. She said her husband had gotten sick and died but wouldn't say what illness he had. When asked what the family would have for lunch, she said she had no idea.

She has seen the price of an apple rise 50 percent in recent months to the equivalent of about 15 U.S. cents. She used to take the bus to town to buy a bag of apples to sell to her neighbors, the small profits supplementing her garden work.

Now, she can't afford the bus fare — and few of her neighbors can afford fruit.

The consequences of women having to scrape together food for their family, often on their own, can be far-reaching. They may not be there for their children at all, as a poorly fed woman is more likely to die in childbirth. And their babies are also more likely to grow up physically and mentally stunted. It's a vicious circle that deepens misery in Africa and other lands of hunger.

The U.N. estimates women and girls account for 60 percent of the world's nearly 1 billion undernourished people.

This makes me sad and brings up lots of complicated feelings about my own mother. Because, as I've said before, food was scarce in my family when I was growing up and hunger was my near-constant companion. I saw this sacrifice on my mother's part at least once a week and I recognized it for the symbol of love it was (especially since my father's tendency was to take as much as he could).

In the fight for food that was our dinners, we all showed up to the dinner table as soon as it was ready (or sooner) and descended upon our paltry fare with the kind of ravenous obsession that hyenas have when tearing apart a dead animal. Speed was the name of the game, because whoever got those seconds (if there were any) would be gone quickly. Or, as often as not, all of the food was rationed between us all with dad's plate always the fullest and my mother's always the most empty. She would even take the smallest portion and give away part of it to anyone who was actually hungry enough to complain about it.

Watching this at home for years and years amazed me. I wondered how my mom could live on what she ate - and now that I think about it, it probably had as much influence on her constant exhaustion as her emotion-deadening depression did. This sign of strength - existing by sheer force of will it seemed - showed me the amazing power women can have and the sometimes shocking demands of having children.

Here's wishing the best to all the hungry mothers out there. You ladies deserve it.

If you'd like to help make a difference, please donate to the World Food Programme, which provided nearly 4 million tons of food to 102 million people just last year - as well as supporting community changes to simplify food procurement.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

How Supernatural Is Like the X-Files: Part 2

A while ago I wrote about the similarities between The X-Files and Supernatural. But as I continue to watch the unfolding story of Supernatural, I keep seeing more ways they're alike. Sometimes it's just in the way an episode will feel, but most times it's because of more concrete reasons, such as:

Similarity 5: The main duo is constantly offering up their lives for each other
In the X-Files, this started as Scully's giving up her career to defend Mulder, whom she was assigned to to bring down. Throughout the many seasons it ran, however, the need for one partner to sacrifice their lives for the other was repeated again and again as Scully and Mulder were damned sure not going to let the other one get taken down by either monsters, aliens or the government/conspiracy group.

Dean in Hell

In Supernatural, the life-giving-up is much more literal. Dean makes a deal with a demon to actually trades his life for his little brother Sam's after he was stabbed in the heart. But in other ways, Dean and Sam are also like Mulder and Scully: putting their lives on the line in just about every episode to keep each other (as well as the people they protect) safe.

The Lone Gunmen

Similarity 6: The duo has access to very unique information sources.
In the X-Files, the whole action has started because Mulder's been tapped by the mysterious "Deep Throat" to put to right the wrongs of the secret government conspiracy group. This continues until "Deep Throat" is murdered, but his murderer, "X" then becomes Mulder's informant, playing both sides against each other. Additionally, Scully and Mulder often receive info from the Lone Gunmen - conspiracy theorists who are geektastic and often help the duo conduct research they aren't able to process through government labs. Without these info sources, the abilities of Mulder and Scully to get anything done would completely collapse.

In the same way, Sam and Dean are absolutely dependent upon their father's journal for direction, advice and spiritual rites throughout the entire first season. After they fall in with Ruby, the good-girl demon, she becomes their number 1 source for information about what's going on with the demons they're fighting until season 3 when Dean is contacted by angels who ask him to do the dirty work they are to pure to touch. The final source of special info is Sam's psychic abilities, which grow in strength throughout the series and often provide the vital clue needed to save a life.

Ruby in one of her incarnations & Sam

Similarity 7: As time goes on, the duo expands into a team.
It takes them a while, but Scully and Mulder eventually form a team to help them in their dirty work against the alien overlords. Although, I think it's interesting to note that the only team member they add before Mulder started to be in the show less than full time was Assistant Director Skinner, their erstwhile boss and confidant. When Mulder goes missing, Scully is teamed up with Agent Doggett (played by T-1000 himself), whose name is a joke on the word "dogged" because he is a ex-cop with rugged determination. Then as she learns to trust him and Mulder comes back on the scene, he brings in a sassy, sexy psychic. Granted, most of this happens during season 8 and who knows if anyone was still watching at the time, but it was incredible to see the dyanmics shift as the duo turned into a team.

Sam and Dean started out on their own, but were briefly teamed up with their father (until he traded his life for Dean's and was sent to Hell). Their next allies gained were fellow hunters, specifically Bobby (who often plays mediator between the two brothers) and Jo & Ellen Harville, who run a bar for and pick up gossip from hunters. Next, the demon Ruby was added after Dean was gone for a year in Hell, becoming Sam's number one source for information, sex and demon blood, which gives him his awesome mind powers. Through Bobby, they learned of and enlisted the help of a sexy, sassy psychic (hmm, sound familiar?). An angel who fell and then reclaims her grace thanks to the Winchester brothers also joins them and recently, in their episode, "Jump the Shark," a third Winchester brother was added to the team. My oh my.


Similarity 8: Lots of innocent bystanders get possessed and killed, often while attacking the duo
I'm not sure why this is the similarity I noticed last, since it is probably one of the most obvious, but there you go. In the X-Files and Supernatural alike, there are tons of ways for innocent bystanders to get possessed and forced into the action. Ghosts, demons, psychics, aliens, alien oil, angels and more all get their hands on human bodies to do their dirty work. More often than not, these people end up dead. They're the broken eggs that make the delicious entertaining omlette.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Squishy Gooey Lovey Stuff


I am so in love with this boy. (But who doesn't love a boy who bakes?)

Every day I wake up beside him is like opening the best present ever or winning the lottery, every single day.


I get up, feed the cats, do my yoga and then slip back in bed for snuggles and kisses.

We get ready together and walk to work together, hand in hand.

When we get to where one or the other of us has to turn off, we have a mini-makeout session peppered with the daily-renewed promises and expressions of love that have become our ritual goodbye.

And I walk to work with a smile in my heart and on my face, day-dreaming happily.

He gets me so totally blissed out.

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Seen Around Midtown: Graffiti

There are some fabulous murals around Westport. I've been trying to photograph all of them. Thanks to Meesha for sending this link to the artist.

















You can see more of my photos, art and poetry over here.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Asperger's and the Internet

Stacey posted a few weeks ago now about what online communication has done for her son, who has Asperger's. It struck me really powerfully because while I was taking a break from blogging, I found out that I have a form of Asperger's. For those of you who have no idea what this means, here's a general explanation:

Individuals with AS can exhibit a variety of characteristics and the disorder can range from mild to severe. Persons with AS show marked deficiencies in social skills, have difficulties with transitions or changes and prefer sameness. They often have obsessive routines and may be preoccupied with a particular subject of interest. They have a great deal of difficulty reading nonverbal cues (body language) and very often the individual with AS has difficulty determining proper body space. Often overly sensitive to sounds, tastes, smells, and sights, the person with AS may prefer soft clothing, certain foods, and be bothered by sounds or lights no one else seems to hear or see. It's important to remember that the person with AS perceives the world very differently. Therefore, many behaviors that seem odd or unusual are due to those neurological differences and not the result of intentional rudeness or bad behavior, and most certainly not the result of "improper parenting." (Source)
In many ways, this was a painful realization for me, since I'd always assumed my social awkwardness was a result of growing up in an abusive household and that I'd eventually grow out of it. Having to finally place my problems on nature instead of nurture was depressing at first, but as I thought over my life it just made perfect sense.

I had no idea how to be myself with other people as a kid, so I either stayed silent or I mimicked how the "good girls" acted. Living my life was always having to play a role unless I was by myself. I didn't have many friends and I had a hard time communicating my thoughts to people - which was one reason I became obsessed with being a writer. I thought that if I just used the right words, someone would finally understand me.

As the internet started opening up new possibilities for me in my teens, I embraced its ability to connect without all of the crap associated with face-to-face communication. I started several online journals on several different sites, looking to connect with others who were like me. And I did. Connecting to people online helped me find RL people to connect with. I just learned to look for the geeks and I knew I'd find people like me who connected largely by discussing things we liked: games, movies, memes or what-have-you, and in that way expressed who we were to each other.

I've learned to accept that the majority of society will find me unconscionably odd or even crazy because my mind works differently. Stacey said of her son: "Because he is unusually talented at his instrument the band kids ignore his odd behaviors and he's formed social connections. That doesn't mean it's not still a bit scary and anxiety producing to talk with them." It's the same way for me and writing. I'm awesome at it, which gets me attention, but in RL connections are very arduous for me to navigate, and I often turn to flirty charm to keep people from knowing how uncomfortable I am.

Like Stacey, I'm glad the internet is around for us Asperger's types today, giving us the tools for communication that we don't get any where else. On the other hand, it's weird trying to translate my ease of communications from the online realm to the real world, but I like to think I'm getting better at that every day.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

It's Not Sex When It's Rape

Feministing often posts about how rape is called sex instead of rape in newspaper stories, and it's definitely heightened my awareness to the subject. So this headline in the KC Star the other day caught my eye:

Jury convicts KC man of sex with girl, 13

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but in our society, that's statutory rape. Not sex, bitches. The article, however, doesn't avoid the word "rape" all together, which makes me look at it with a slightly more forgiving eye:

A Jackson County jury convicted a Kansas City man Tuesday of statutory rape in the assault of a 13-year-old girl.

According to testimony from the girl, she met Marlone J. Carasco, 26, at Worlds of Fun in May of 2006. The girl said she clearly told Carasco that she was 13. She said he gave his age as 20 and complemented her.

“He said I was pretty,” she said. [note: the website had two versions of this story, in the other one, this sentence wasn't included - and it wasn't in the print version either. What's up with that?]

A couple of weeks later the girl spent three days at his home and became pregnant, she testified.

According to court records, Carasco met the girl about seven months after a Jackson County judge gave him a suspended sentence for kidnapping a woman and assaulting her with a stun gun.

Police reported that the woman had accepted a ride from Carasco, who then threatened to kill her. The two struggled in the car and Carasco shocked her. The woman jumped from the car onto Interstate 70.

Several hours later, another woman told police she accepted a ride from a man driving a similar car in Kansas City, Kan. She said the man drove her to the West Bottoms and raped her in the back seat. She escaped when he stopped in a parking lot.

Police were not able to find the victim later because she did not give officers a current address. No charges were filed in that case.

Circuit Judge Joel May set Carasco’s sentencing in the statutory rape case for May 28. (Source)
Okay, let's deconstruct this sentence, because it's where I have the biggest problem: "A couple of weeks later the girl spent three days at his home and became pregnant, she testified."

What.the.fuck?

Why isn't the pervert who has been charged TWICE with criminal charges for assaulting women portrayed as anything except some sort of "host" in this?

It's disgusting how often news stories completely erase the rapist from their words, and just leave the victim there - just begging for you to blame her for whatever she did to "cause" this.

Fuck.that.

Let's re-write the sentence, shall we?

I think it should read: "A couple of weeks later, the rapist (or convicted criminal or even his last name would suffice!) kept the girl at his home for three days, raping her at least once and causing pregnancy, she testified."

That sounds much more like reality to me.

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Friday, May 1, 2009

Enter to Win! Inanimate Object "Writing" Contest

Recently, my boyfriend rented "A Collection of 2005 Academy Award Nominated Short Films" from the library and this video, "The Fan and the Flower" (included on the disc as a bonus) was our absolute favorite:



For those of you who can't/won't watch the 7 minute video, it's an ill-fated love story involving a ceiling fan and a flower. One of my favorite story devices is when people tell stories about inanimate objects. For instance, one of my ex's once wrote a story that was about a toaster. It was so freaking cute.

Cuteness counts big with little ole me.

Anyway, this short film inspired me to hold my very first contest! Aren't you excited?

Here's the rules:
  1. Write a short story, poem, song (or otherwise create in some other medium that effectively tells a story) that has an inanimate object as the main character.
  2. Submit to reddvenus AT gmail DOT com by midnight May 30th. So you have ALL MONTH to do put this off until the last minute!
  3. Include your name, location (generally), and any website of yours you'd want me to link to in the event of your winning.

Here's what I'll do:
  1. Choose my favorite 3 entries and post them on my blog.
  2. Think up 3 prizes that the winners will choose from in rank order (so the first prize winner gets first pick, etc.).
  3. Mail or otherwise deliver the gifts to the winners!

Clear enough? I hope so. Now get to creating!

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