Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Pez Murder

The victim. Male. Bunny. Broken neck from deceleration trauma (hitting my cubicle wall at speed after I hurled it.) Xacto knife added post death for photographic effect. Crime scene chalk outline and police line tape by me. Between bouts of crazy deadlines and frustratingly redundant edits to enormous documents, we had fun in the graphic design boiler room. During slow periods, some printed graduation and birthday posters on the giant plotter, designed wedding packages, did favors for preferred management consultants. I created 2 lines of greeting cards. Don't know what everyone did in slack times, but we worked fast and well together in busy stretches. Somewhere on the planet there are rooms of graphic designers and illustrators (I hope) hunched over their Big Macs, and I hope they're having as much fun as we did, more often.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Pez Murder

Once upon a time there lived 10 graphic designers toiling in a small room with the door shut. We had seasonal KEEP OUT signs taped to the door. The empire we served had global offices, and we edited and drew for a couple of shifts until we passed the gigantic overbaked Powerpoint files off to Tokyo or Toronto or wherever there was capacity. Capacity. That meant women sitting doing graphic designerly stuff not related to Powerpoint presentations. Lots of emergencies, plenty of overtime. We were excellent designers, fast and creative and easily bored with the same ol' same ol'. One Easter season, teeth-gritted with files delivered to inboxes that weren't the right version, requests to fit a 200 pg. edit into the schedule, guys in ties standing over our shoulders pointing at monitors, I flipped. I threw my rabbit Pez against the wall of my cubicle, breaking its neck. Wo, I said, I just murdered my Pez dispenser. Silence in the room, then the sound of drafting chairs rotating to the center, designers making eye contact. Then a swelling swish and click of overworked artists on a drawing toot. I stuck my exacto knife in the back of the rabbit's neck and printed a police tape. The printer queue was scrolling printing 1 of 2, printing 10 of 12. Vicki printed a blood pool and a bloody glove. Beckie printed a chalk outline, bloody paw prints heading up the wall of the cubicle so we then knew how the killer escaped. All the kitschy cutesie stuff on monitors got shoved up to the police line, including Marian's picture of her cat. Beckie printed a wanted poster of the empire's VP, who later came by to see what the commotion was about. She used his smiling mug picture from the annual report, which was brave and briefly terrifying while he held it, read WANTED: NICK THE THUMB. He didn't fire any of us. We were able to figure out who ratted to Nick and worked out a long, long season of thwarting his every move. We kept The Pez Murder going for weeks. I'll be posting the pictures here, remembering the spontaneous fire of creativity in a small room with a KEEP OUT sign on the shut door.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014 and Personal Power

I'm participating this year in a different way than previous years. This year is pantsing the experience: no outline, no character templates, the skimpiest of plot ideas. Yesterday the writing flowed. In the spirit of not flow this morning, I watched a TED talk on Dan Gilbert's research. Talked with a friend about what makes a book interesting. And how complicated humans are. Tried to find the quotation "far from the works of man," and realized again how the internet is not organized around what I think I want to know. I did remember where "it ends with a journey," came from. Shakespeare in Love. But I may be misquoting. It starts with a journey? Life starts, continues and ends with a journey. Human beings are as changeable as they think they are fully formed. Life's journey is the tug between the ease of memory and the difficulty of imagining. Experienced a couple of revelations that may help the writing, even though these were repeat revelations - concepts it is hard to keep in front of me day to day. All control is illusion. The diametrically opposed realities of power and power over. All of which reminds me that there is a difference between writing a strong woman lead, and writing a kickass female superhero. A strong woman lead digs for, finds, and uses her personal power, often without believing in that power to begin, even if it doesn't always pull a rabbit out of a hat for our hero. *I love the Rocky & Bullwinkle" preview. Bullwinkle says "Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat,' and Rocket J. says "That trick never works." A kickass female superhero uses many of the same methods that the power-over practitioners use: superior physical strength, guile, and a utility belt chock full of alien artifacts. Personal strength is for everyday wear. Every day heroes. A woman's road trip story must begin and end with that. The journey of personal power.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Three Story Life: CSI Family

Yesterday, back from the grocery store and setting dinner on the table, I noticed the faucet (which the plumber just affixed pointing to the bigger sink section, because no, it was not built to swivel, and my brother had uncoupled it from the countertop forcing the swivel) was twisted over the other bowl. Who moved this? I asked. My father said, I didn't. And Scott didn't. I turned around from the sink to look at him expecting to have the phantom culprit revealed. I thought of my mother who, when no one in the house admitted to doing something, would say, then it's the ghost again. Nothing. Dad stared, silent. I had to ask, then who did? The cleaning people. During dinner I thought out loud - I don't remember putting ketchup away. I bought ketchup. Maybe it's still in the car, Dad said. I waited for more information. What is this - a police procedural? Psychic revelation? He just kept staring at me. I had to ask, why do you say that? He said because the car door's still open. ! I never finished taking the groceries in. When was he going to tell me? Tomorrow? When snow piled up on the passenger seat? And I wonder why I think I'm going crazy. It's a remake of Gaslight.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Interstellar Trailer: Women and Movies

Interstellar opens November 7. Christopher Nolan is writer/director. Thought I liked his work, but this week after checking, I like Batman Begins for the cinematography, so Wally Pfister is the appreciated one. Watched the Interstellar trailer and in less than 3 minutes got the gist of this storytelling. The trailer is a microcosm of what is egregious about the automatic treatment of women in movies. Fade in: Earth is a dust bowl. Check. Need to find another planet to f--k up. Check. Enter Our Hero. Socially responsible dad. "Now go out there and save the world." Seated demurely behind him on the journey is The Damsel. She may have been crying. On the distant planet there are the mountains seen from the sea. No, wait. Not mountains, waves. The woman is in the water, don't know why. Our hero is in the ship. She says "I'm not going to make it." Cut to hero in the ship. "Yes, you are." It would take more time than I'm willing to donate to check off the many things that are wrong about this trailer. The damsel is clearly defined as the weakling, and it took only 2 minutes and change. I don't really care about the guy. I do care how easy it is to position the man as strong, socially conscious, good parent AGAINST the crying, I can't make it female. And I'm furious and offended. The trailer makes no pretense of even trying to trick me into watching this film. To balance, I send appreciation and encouragement to the person/persons attached to this project who thought of women viewers and what they might think.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Patriarchy on the Windowsill

I awoke today from a dream saga that set me sitting on the side of the bed, wondering what the heck just happened. This was a trip through decades. There were pieces of my life story, but it felt like an everywoman journey of struggle and pushing back. Against hostile bosses, thwarting spouses, patronizing colleagues, indifferent others – and I was awakened forlorn. Sitting on the edge of my bed in despair and confusion. That's not my normal setting. I can hit the reset mood button just as all women have to regularly in a world with entitled masculine energy paramount. The long dream felt like a trip down memory lane through the centuries, the way female humans have experienced it. I had to shake it off, and it was lucky to talk with a friend who called. I use humor as a survival mechanism and it works most of the time, but the conversation was necessary today to rise out of the melancholy. There's just some shit that's not funny. Humor comes from that pile. Humor is the other face of tragedy (which explains those theatrical masks, although separate isn't entirely accurate.) I made a commitment for next Sunday to go to a standup comedy coaching thing in Ypsilanti at The Mix. Caregiving is a rich environment for comedy. At the core of my caring comedy/tragedy is a golfball with 10-27-96 on it. It's the day my father got a hole in one. It's the day I was diagnosed with cancer. For 10 years I've lived with this golfball on the windowsill. You can see that when I'm struck with the date, I use my soapy hands to try to obscure the day. It took me 7 years to work around that pain of understanding that his pleasure trumps my pain: the crux of patriarchy. I switched the date to the back – he switched it to the front. Yesterday I noticed that he 1) managed to find the permanent marker without asking where it was, and 2) used it to write the date anew on the reverse. Rotating the ball won't help now. Doing some standup comedy, overcoming that fear, definitely will. And maybe it will help some other women, too.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Three Story Life 2014

Another Caregiver Ninja week featuring ambulance, hospital stay, care coordination and a diminishing sense of who and where I am. Seems that each crisis is easier in the coordination of, and harder in the emotional aspect. That isn't what I mean: it feels like I'm untethered from Self and drifting farther away from help and safety. Think Gravity with better underwear. We had that talk about DNR with my father and maybe we're closer to discovering what he really thinks. Specifics were discussed. Yes, 911; no vasopressor and intubation. Disturbing to find out that regardless of what is on file at the destination hospital, staff will go through the steps one by one. My own end of life preferences get in the way. Dad takes a myriad of meds, has had surgeries and procedures and dozens of machine tests. My journey is different. Three stories of end of life emotions, tactics and the overwhelming experience of it all. I told Dad his job for the future is to appreciate. Each day, the color changes, good meals, a fine night's sleep, calming memories, warm socks, hot coffee, a returned phone call. I'm trying to take my own advice.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Reality of Women and Movies in Dollars and Sense

Hollywood had a tank summer at the box office. We predicted this would happen because we watch and we hope: not for industry failure, but for the money/power brokers to get that leaving women out is a bad investment. Best example this year - Hercules vs. Lucy. Dwayne Johnson is a box office winner in action films, but Scarlett Johannson ate his lunch. Industry brokers credit the dismal women numbers in leadership creative roles in a dizzyingly wrong array. Women can't carry the overseas market where pre-sales (and investment $) are paramount. Wrong. Women films don't make money. Wrong. Even Amy Pascal, a studio co-head can't come up with a good answer - because they're wrong. All wrong. Statistics prove the lies (a recent 538 article covers the data well). Frozen, with Bechdel test-passing women in the lead roles, and Jennifer Lee as co-director, and screenwriter, may make the top 10 grossing movies of all time. What we need now is a better look at the money the big studios are missing. Grandmas take kids to movies. The older crowd in this country has more loot than it's had in decades. And they're staying home in droves, and keeping the younger potential audience at home with them. Playing with their apps. Movie money is being siphoned off by women gamers. Did we hear that? Women gamers will soon be half the market. The potential movie going audience of women outnumbers male moviegoers. There are more women than men in this country and within this decade, in the world. Women writers, directors, game coders, media professionals are not just underrepresented - they're missing on purpose. What's different this year; what's exciting and encouraging, is the numbers continue to prove the lie. Women can and do direct, write, code, put out a money maker, carry a film in a leading role. And we know how to call out the falsehoods that keep us out of any industry we are qualified to be in. Will it make a difference? Maybe. A Women in Media study (pg. 38) shows that where there are women in the film industry, those women are producers, and unfortunately, the more prestigious the producer, the fewer women creatives are on board. Check The Hurt Locker. Directed/produced by Kathryn Bigelow. Everyone else in a creative role is a man. Heaping praise on the people who are showing us reality, start with Barbara O'Leary's compiled lists of women directors, cinematographers which bury the lie that women don't want to direct or photograph. People who are publicly claiming what women don't want as an excuse for excluding females won't have much cover going forward. We know the truth, and now we've got numbers to prove it.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Woman on the Edge of Time

Marge Piercy wrote this extraordinary book. The lead actor is Consuelo Ramos. We meet her in her mid-30s, as her niece knocks on the door, bloody from a beating her boyfriend pimp Geraldo gave her. Geraldo, who is several steps behind to beat on the same door and the women who are never safe behind it. Which continues a 30 year reign of beating on Connie. The family, the men, the system, the drugs, the circumstances. When you're done being beaten, when you swing back, you're incarcerated because you got no power. I'm just learning about women's science fiction - the fictional striving for a world without broken ribs and death via womanhood. Piercy beams a striking light on woman+culture, hard to look at with both eyes, but true, oh we so know it's true. Powerlessness runs like ditch water. We readers, shoeless and teeth grinding, follow Connie. Raging, hurt, battered, triumphant over the tiniest success, we are with her. Connie has a gift. She's a catcher, and someone in the future finds her. Finds her in the midst of an upswing in her treacherously brutal life, finds her in the institution her brother confines her to, finds her in the scared resentful heart of the mess of her life. She is the mutton in a psychomedical game of hasenpfeffer. When we feel most powerless, we must understand that there are millions like us. There is a choice: to die as others see our worth and our death, or to fight to realize our worth. My mother gave me a book for my 17th birthday. Five Smooth Stones by Ann Fairbairn. She wrote on the flyleaf "To Linda on her 17th birthday. May you read it in all good conscience." That was so close to 50 years ago. And here is Marge Piercy. Woman on The Edge of Time. May you read it in all good conscience. And then weep, wipe your eyes and move forward. The struggle for a good life goes on, for everyone.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Science Fiction and Women

Two months gone on my pledge to read science fiction by women for a year, I'm already struggling. Part of this is my challenge at internet searching. Part is the inclusion of fantasy with SF. Science fiction has subsets. Speculative, utopian, dystopian, and other -ian(s). SF written by women does not always have women protagonists, and some men have written good SF featuring women. I picked up a couple of books by new SF women writers, and if the thing starts out with a rape or a beating, I'm done. Aren't there other ways to launch a woman on an adventure?  I read Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, and she raised the bar to the stratosphere. I'm going to have to forget Breq in order to appreciate another SF story fully. Today I'm trying to find a critical anthology like Marleen Barr's Future Females, written and collected in this century. What I learned so far: utopian SF is the way women have to imagine a future that is not what we think we will live to see. There are no adventure stories featuring women because a women stepping out her door ala Bilbo Baggins will not regret she forgot her handkerchief. She will regret stepping out. No road trips, starship launches, stranger in a strange land for women. Nope. No unescorted trips to a border town on a mission of mysterious, possibly nefarious, assignment. Nope. An excellent example of this is James Tiptree Jr (Alice Sheldon) "Your Faces, O My Sisters! Your Faces Filled with Light!" Sheldon channels the exquisite joy of freedom, and then flips the illusion on its bloody head. Powerful storytelling. Utopian dystopian. We need a new genre. Freed from the criteria and criticism of male-dominated labeling. Oh hell, we need a new culture. Where's the hope in this one?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

That's What Women Do

My father and I had a heated discussion recently about why he needn't shave my brother. I take Scott to the barber shop. Dad said that I think of the outing to the barber shop like I think of a trip to the beauty parlor.  No woman he has experience of ever frequented such a place. What's that reference doing in our conversation? Because it's a cultural automatic. Women = beauty maintenance. During a later conversation he mentioned the neighbor women were gossiping–while he was gossiping about the neighbor women. Women gossip, go to beauty salons, are the weaker sex. James Muir, the sculptor of this amazing artwork, writes Truth and Justice is not what our legal system is dominated by: the rights of the individual and equality are not preeminent. Sociologically women are not equal, and are portrayed as not suitable for equality, based on perceptions cemented over centuries. Throughout our lives we women coordinate activities, orchestrate workplaces, maintain calendars and events within, elevate and accentuate positive environments, keep the peace, find and share the truth, mete out justice at work and home (based on experience and research). Men do this, too. But men are credited with these skills. Women need to expect credit as well. In the roles assigned to women culturally we hone the prowess to manage large projects and the people assigned. Traits we are labeled with are precisely the traits that allow for excellent leaders. Many of the roles we are excluded from would be the exact endeavor for us to excel. Director, CEO, priest, symphony conductor, hospital administrator. Because those roles are what women do throughout a lifetime. Add to the experience, the desire to excel and succeed and there are ideal candidates left out. We're working to open the way for advancement, for ourselves, our peers, our progeny. That's what women do.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Baby Brother Buddha

My brother and I were out today for breakfast and errands. We stopped at the farm plot to cut some flowers. Scott was hugging the blooms on the way home - unknown if it was because he was appreciating, or because he was saving them from my scary (to him) driving. The world's too big for him now. Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" came on the radio. At the line "forget about everything" Scott repeated it. My heart chilled. But he was hugging flowers, and when I smiled at him he smiled back.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Yesterday I lost touch with my soul. That's what it felt like, when explaining to a friend at lunch what state I was experiencing.  Emotionally tapped out and unable to refill the empty spaces. She gave me a phone number to call a spiritual advisor. I fumbled the bill and was reminded that I can't keep mental track of things, that I am clumsy and confused, and unable to create anything. No writing, no jewelry, no art. The garden is no longer restorative. And I crushed a beetle between my fingers the other day, a thing I've never done. The beetle wasn't doing anything but eating my zinnia leaves. I called the advisor. He agreed to call me back later last night. I lit a candle and opened a journal page and wrote B E R E F T. I've been lucky to have a strong spiritual sense. To experience awe, joy, and humility in the mystery of creation. So the inability to touch the source feels vacant and odd. I burned out in the caregiving role years ago, and now the ashes are adrift. We had a good conversation last night. I have to change my role, take steps to build my strength again and get back on my spiritual path. Just now, that feels daunting, but I took the first step by making a phone call to ask for help. Per ardua ad alta.

Monday, April 14, 2014

How Did I Lose The White Rabbit?

Today we have 65 degrees in Michigan. Tonight we'll plummet to freezing. Tired of waiting for real spring to stick around, I decided to put out the forsythia in front of the dollhouse, and a little late, the Easter eggs and baskets as well. I have a box of seasonal decorations, and not there is the White Rabbit. Also not on the grass in front of the house is the White Rabbit. How can I lose a white rabbit? If I had picked it up to put away, it would be in the box. It's not. Nor is it on the floor under the dollhouse. Not hiding in the bushes. When I started looking for the hole in the landscaping, and heard Grace Slick singing "one pill makes you larger, one pill makes you small" I decided to step away from the Missing White Rabbit. In a little while, I'll be laughing. I think. I hope. Go ask Alice.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

63-year-old Woman

That's my age. I don't see me in media of any kind, at the grocery store checkout on a magazine cover (unless it's the rags with bad pictures of celebrities and the "cancer" with a question mark headline), or on the internet. I just googled "women photos 63 years." And I got double digit million results with celebrities who are supposedly aging gracefully. Cher? Gracefully? I searched again using google Advanced Search, and asking for none of the words celebrity, celebrities. Here are the top 7 results.
1) East New York 76-year-old woman apparent victim...
2) 63 year old woman kills teen who tried to rob her
3) 63 year old Chinese woman gives birth to twins
4) 63 year old woman loses 250 pounds
5) I am a 63 year old woman. Am I too old for buccal fat removal?
5) This woman is 63 but looks 45
6) 63 year old woman dead after 70 year old brother shoots her
7) At 102, she changes oil, spark plugs on her 82 year old car.

No wonder I'm cranky.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Finland vs Russia Hockey Coat of Arms

In celebration of the Finnish hockey victory over Russia at the Sochi 2014 Olympics, I have redone the Suomi Coat of Arms. Bit of history - when the tsar ruled Finland, he insisted that the lion (ordinarily carrying a sword) be flipped to point away from Russia. Clearly the tsar didn't have enough to do. If the lion had been carrying a hockey stick, who knows?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Sunday, February 2, 2014

What's A Girl To Do?

Writer Holly Robinson's (no relation) blog post on January 26, reposted on Huffington Post on the 27th How Old is Too Old for a Main Character? is a response to a Fay Weldon article in the NY Times Sunday Book Review A Writer of a Certain Age which is unfortunately blurbed on google the author remembers when looks started to matter in publishing.

Weldon claims–in writing right out in front of everybody–that women want to read books about their younger selves. Hogwash. I read books about women of all ages, men of all ages, horses of all ages, dogs, history in all ages, wars in all ages. Weldon cannot possibly know what women read. That's men that want to be their younger selves, Ms. Weldon. No woman I know would go back if given the opportunity, but every one of my brothers would. Robinson writes that yes, more women than men buy books, but more under 45s buy books overall. That does not mean that the women under 45 are all reading fiction featuring 20-something women. The Bowker link Robinson uses doesn't go to Bowker, so I'll look that up later. But this may be like the more cat food is bought than baby food trope. Yes, under 45s may buy more books. Parents buy children's books, buy gifts. Regardless of genre, Weldon is out of shape stating what age female character any woman wants to read.

And how infamously addicted we are to facing facts bravely about how unmarketable older women are. Both women indicate that they are okay with the status quo–because they have to be. Robinson takes a moment to talk about her older female in her book, and writes that she will continue to write women of all ages. But both women writers sigh when mentioning that agents will tell you not to write older women because publishers won't publish those books. What's a girl to do? is implied, but nowhere written. Robinson goes so far as to share with us what a nice guy her agent is. Weldon's unforgivable action is that she is a teacher and she warns her girl writing collegiates away from writing older women. With this she moves from facing facts bravely to being a spokesperson for the patriarchy. You can give a nod of complicitous assent to the ongoing exclusion, suppression and outright prejudice against women creatives, but you damn well better not teach it to the young women launching their lives. That's how we got suppressed in the first go.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Can I Get a Refund on This New Year?

New Year's Eve Day, Dad woke up and couldn't breathe. 911 called. He'd had an acute pulmonary edema. The ambulance wouldn't take him to the VA, so he went to another hospital we don't know. I had a terrible cold, so after he was squared and wired in the ER, I called my sister to take my place. I left my brother home alone, having called his companion to get him to come downstairs to go out. My neighbor was on alert, thank goodness. Dad was in the hospital until Sunday, when I went to pick him up, with my brother who hates hospitals. The doctor hadn't filled out the discharge papers, and the oxygen order hadn't been written so we had a long wait. It took 3 women to get my father in a wheelchair. Heads up for all who witness this: there is no way you can get anyone out of the car who cannot walk. When he was in the car, it dawned on me. The aide said "call the fire department to get him in the house." Another clue. Don't do this. Got home in the snowstorm to a sidewalk and parking lot not shoveled yet. It took 8 firefighters and 2 policemen to get him in the house in a blanket carry. No help during the storm. The attending physician had let him out without the new heart medication, and it took from Sunday to Thursday to get that written. Couldn't reach the VA to talk with his primary care physician. Couldn't reach the home health people. Somehow we got through the week, including an episode of delusion and panic in the middle of the night twice. And then I started getting crazy, too. Now we have 5 people who are contingent employees of the home health organization, which means the person coordinating the schedule is me. The person emptying the urinals, and supervising the walker use is me. The cafeteria was open 24/7 until I put a stop to that. No soft boiled eggs at 2:30 a.m. My sister came over Friday and I was able to go to a hotel to stop my head from spinning. But I could still hear Dad calling me. My brother is disoriented, the dog is disoriented, and we're all confused and tired. My sister took the dog because he was barking all night. I am dreaming of a vacation. A week. It will take 2 days to stop hearing voices, 2 days to sleep, and then I can have a really fun time. For now, I'm working hard to maintain my sanity.

Friday, January 3, 2014

You Watch Your Phraseology

Picked up Yes, I Could Care Less by Bill Walsh today. The subhead is how to be a language snob without being a jerk. Got as far as page 2. Introducing us to the concept of common usage, and that some words we consider incorrect are just nonstandard, Walsh then chooses to admonish us: Language change is inevitable, so why not lie back and enjoy it? The first chapter title is are people just careless? I already have the answer to that. The last line I read made me feel sick. I don't know any other reference, or colloquialism or dialect or usage that could relate to any other understanding of the phrase. I am bloody sick of this sort of thoughtlessness. My mother, when she did explain the reasoning behind whatever punishment had been meted out, would talk about how balls start rolling. Let this go, and then there's more, because clearly it's okay through common usage to pass on this, and that pass gains momentum and here we are with every state in the US, and the government of same, trying to take rights away from women. There are cat fights on twitter and facebook about slut walks and slut shaming, which only tells me that women have jumped into the fray in a way that helps nobody. We have had a decade of more women's rights reversals than in any other decade in history, and a contributor to this affront is letting phrases like this continue to live. Women are hypervigilant, and if we're not, we damn well better start being. For me today, it's refusing to read a book that uses that thoughtless and foul reference.  Some thinking person needed to have taken that phrase out. Thanks, Mayor Shinn, for the title of this post from Meredith Wilson's The Music Man.