Friday, August 09, 2013

Lights! Music! Costumes! Dance!


I've been listening to the sound track from Burlesque. It's one of my favorite movies. It's has everything I love most -- music, dancing, and lovely costumes. I've always enjoyed Cher's music, back when she wore her own nose and her own body. That was in the dark ages when she was half of Sonny and Cher. That's was when I grew up -- in the days before extensive plastic surgery that turned people from human with interesting faces to plastic with Botox and some of the users ended up as nightmares. (Think Mickey Rourke and Melanie Griffith.)  I know what it is to get older and wish you still look fresh faced and youthful; I am 58 with silver hair that has recently decided to go back to brown when I was so hoping it would end up shimmering silver without the brown hairs dirtying things up and making my hair gray. Them's the breaks,

Anyway, I was listening to Christina Aguilera. That girl has some serious pipes. I liked Cher's song too, but I keep watching the movie because of all the glam and music and Christina Aguilera's singing and gorgeous costumes. The story is merely an excuse to fill up the time between musical numbers.

The above picture is from the only torch song in the whole show. I loved it. I still love it -- and the dress. Please! What's not to love about green silk draped over a young body?

I really hadn't paid much attention to Christina before Burlesque and I don't pay much attention to her other music, which, from what I have heard, is all right. It just doesn't have that splash and sass and costuming I love so much. I know. You're thinking I'm more into Lady Gaga. Not really. I find her fascinating because of what she chooses to wear but I doubt I could sing any of her songs all the way through. I can with Burlesque songs. I've watched the movie and listened to the music that often.

We've lost something now that there are fewer musicals being made, and not just the dancing, singing, and gorgeous costumes. With musicals there is something special about settling in to be transported to another world. India is going through that phase with their films in Bollywood. I hope they don't lose that spectacle and innocence to go all French cinema with subtitles and even subbier meanings or Hollywood with the flash-bang of summer blockbusters that spill over into every other type of movie -- and television, too. I wouldn't mind a bit of British costume drama, since that is where England excels, or the fun and slapstick of broad comedy, but please, please, please don't give up splashy musicals with colorful costumes and songs that make you want to sing out loud while dancing on a cloud of sequins and air.

That is all. DIsperse.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Have We Met?

It's all about labels. People feel more comfortable with labels, even if the label says generic and inside there is nothing of value. It's labeled. It's known. And so too with people.

I was taught that in a group of people at a party, or anywhere people are gathered, there are three subjects you never discuss: religion, sex, and politics. As I have lately come to realize, politics is the most volatile of the three subjects.

In the short space of a few sentences or a couple of short paragraphs, while discussing the current situation in this country (that would be America), I have been labeled. Republican. Liberal. Wealthy. Privileged. Uncaring. Cheap. Of no consequence. Usually after reading a couple of sentences I have written in a comment on a post. I have learned that people don't really read everything written. They tend to pick out a few words and decide they know the person. As if we had met and had exchanged ideas about politics, poverty, etc. in long discussions into the night. But they haven't read what I wrote, not all of it, and that snippet of information is not indicative of my philosophy, experience, or all of what I believe. It's not even a drop in the ocean that is my life after 58 years, a life I have actually lived.

Europeans and Canadians decry America's lack of universal health care, point to our capitalist society and, with that look usually reserved for the illiterate, unwashed, and uninformed of the world, deem me a greedy capitalist who cares nothing for the plight of the poor, and all because I mentioned socialist in a 30-word comment. They know me. I have money and look down my nose at those less forunate than I. More than likely, I oppress the poor, kick bleeding dogs, and drown sacks of cats on the weekends all while driving around in my BMW or Hummer talking on my iPhone while cursing at slower drivers, honking at pedestrians, and breezing past the huddle masses trying queueing for mass transportation on my way to a front row seat at a seal clubbing so I can get first dibs on a new sealskin coat.

It is amazing to me how people go from 0 to outrage in 3 seconds or less. If only my car had that kind of speed.

The only way to know me is to talk to me. That means leaving outrage and preconceptions outside the conversation until they are needed. Such hair trigger emotion and ideas that my character is defined by a few random words you think I wrote -- as opposed to what I actually wrote -- is a waste of my time and yours.

Someone I know from high school, although I didn't know him well in high school since we didn't travel in the same social circles, asked me what I thought about limiting abortion to 12 weeks. Although the hope that I wasn't an idiot or a murderer were obvious in the tone of his voice, I answered his question honestly. I believe that all women should have the right to choose whether or not they should get an abortion. I do not believe that abortion is the answer for being careless or should be used like the Morning After pill or a condom, or just because you don't want a child by that person (then why were you having unprotected sex with them?). I believe in allowing women to choose because it is not my right or my job to tell them what they should do if they find themselves pregnant and unwilling or unable to care for a child.

That does not, however, mean that I believe aborting a pregnant in the 20th week -- or partial birth abortion -- is right or an answer. I don't have the right to judge them, but I do think that is murder. My personal opinion and of value nowhere else but with me. I think an abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy is ample time to decide whether or not carrying that fetus to full term. Anything after that, especially at 20 weeks,, at least in my mind, is tantamount to murder because at 20 weeks, that fetus has a change of living outside the mother's womb.

This view doesn't make me popular with the far right religious conservative political crowd, nor does it make me popular with the far left liberal crowd. I don't care. It is what I believe.

Short version, directly from me to you, abortion should be limited to 12 weeks. If it takes you longer than that to choose, go ahead and have the baby and give it up for adoption, but an 11th hour choice is not an option.

I am used to taking flack. I get it all the time from my family, mostly because I'm a writer and I write about my own life, and my family is part of my life. I have had a lot of grief and recriminations from my family because they didn't read exactly what I wrote. They read a piece and weren't familiar with my personal definitions and decided they knew what I meant -- even though that is not what I wrote. Angry emails followed from siblings who haven't taken the time to answer letters or call or visit in the past decades. It was like being at the middle of an angry hive of wasps with only one intention -- kill. Reason was not part of the equation. The need to destroy me was the intention and nothing would stop them, certainly not the calm, cool voice of reason. That would be me. It's as if they had never met me.

Well, in effect, outside of a few holidays we were forced into each other's company once we left home and went our separate ways, they really hadn't met me. Their only knowledge of me was from what I have written -- and they didn't even take the time to read every word or understand what it was I wrote.  Sarcasm and satire are lost on them.

"That was private," they moaned, screamed, and spat at me.

"Did you tell me it was private?"

"I shouldn't have to," was the inevitable response.

"Have we actually met before?" I ask with my tongue firmly in my cheek. "If you didn't say it was private, then it isn't private."

"It was private."

"Well, thank you for telling me after the fact." I pause for effect. "If you will notice, your name was not used and I sincerely doubt that anyone who happens to read this will connect us. We do have different last names and most people, though aware I have siblings, don't know who those siblings are." I wait for the next scripted remark.

"Well, they might and then they'll know all my business."

"Not actually," I say with infinite patience finally wearing thing after this umpteenth discussion on the same topic. The inevitable phone slamming (a lot less effective with a cell phone) is the next move and I am cut off. That sibling won't talk to me for a long time, which won't be a huge loss since they haven't talked to me in years before they happened to read what I wrote.

They know that I was homeless when I was left stranded in New Orleans. They know that I worked for an escort agency for a while. They know I've been married and divorced twice, that I have given birth to 4 sons. They know those facts because I have mentioned them, but they do not know me. They know me about as well as the average reader who comes across one of my books or read something I wrote for Chicken Soup or Cup of Comfort or they knew someone who knew me and had nothing good -- or bad -- to say about me. They haven't actually met me before.

Reading about someone or reading their comments is not the same as sitting down and having a discussion with that person. It's also not the same as having a relationship with that person or having been with them as they laughed, cried, raged, and fell into a depression over a broken heart or devastating loss. The best the can be achieved is an inkling of a shadow of a faint idea of who and what that person is. Labeling them won't change that.

Label me as you will -- because you will do so anyway. If you're really interested, here's a thumbnail sketch. I was a Republican until I could no longer agree with the party line. I became an Independent and remain an independent. I believe that welfare is a trap unless coupled with more than good intentions. There should be a program to educate those on welfare by training or retraining to find a job, manage a budget, and learn that just because you want something doesn't mean you should have it. Spending all your food stamps or money in the first week of the month will leave you like the poor man allowed in to sit at the feast -- sated for a while but then starving when the food has been digested.

I know whereof I speak -- and write -- but you will never know that or understand what is behind my comment, the one you didn't take time to read fully and understand completely, unless you get to know me and discuss these issues with me. It is the only way to know me.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Accessorizing with Guns

My younger sister, Beanie, is a tiny thing compared to the rest of us. Even her two boys tower over her like giants. She is a gentle soul -- most of the time -- and cares for people and animals even when the people and animals are dangerous or simply mean. She always forgives first and she is generous to a fault. She does have a less generous side and we call her Stacy, Beanie with spurs on she's willing to dig into your soft spots without regret or remorse.

When Beanie became involved with the farmer across the field from Mom and Dad's house, she took a lot of kidding and criticism because he wasn't as handsome as her ex-husband or as charming. Beanie knew that charm can -- and does in her ex-husband's case -- hide a lot of faults.

Beanie's fiance is a farmer born and bred and he is also a mason -- and a chef raising his two young boys which he has taught to fend for themselves and hunt. Beanie doesn't like to hunt (it's killing the animals, you see) but she is willing to eat the meat, more so than in the past when the only meat she would eat on a regular basis, outside of the occasional hamburger from a fast food restaurant, was chicken. She even raises guinea fowl, which I have always thought were ugly chickens that make great watch dogs.

What I wasn't ready for was Beanie taking to guns. She has always been wary of guns and wouldn't touch one if asked  -- or forced. Her fiance wanted her to learn how to protect herself, and she did learn. She moved from target practice to liking guns and then to getting her concealed carry permit and carrying a gun in a Flashbang bra holster. She said her fiance's gun was too heavy and made her uncomfortable, so she went shopping this weekend and bought her first gun.

She bought a Ruger LCP .380ACP 6+1 round in Lady Lilac because it matches her coat and her earphones. She is accesorizing with a gun. The picture above is a photo of her brand new gun.

One of her fiance's boys asked her if it was a toy. It does look like a toy, but handling and performance are what is important. I asked her how it felt, so she took it out and did some target shooting. When she came back she said it felt good and she liked it. The Ruger is lighter than the guns she has used -- and she may buy a pair of shoes in the same color as the gun to match. I wonder if she'll go so far as to buy lingerie to match since she's using the Flashbang holster.

It only makes good sense to carry a gun since she is such a little thing and has to work and go through areas of town alone. She needs protection and she has it -- and has had it since she moved in with her fiance.

I am a proponent of gun rights and I write quite enthusiastically and passionately about the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I have hunted and owned guns and I know how important it is to be prepared to defend yourself. Like Grandpa always told me, don't pick up a gun unless you plan to use it. I have never had to shoot a man or a woman, but I am fully prepared to do so when I pick up a gun to defend myself.

In short, I am quite vocal about my beliefs and yet it is my little sister who has quietly gone out and gotten her concealed carry permit and is accesorizing with guns. I think it is probably closer to the truth that most of the people who are ready to defend themselves and take hold of their constitutional given rights with both hands tend to be quietly doing so. They don't mind filling out forms and having to go through waiting periods. They do so quietly and with firm resolve to protect themselves.

I'm not worried about her fiance's boys either. The boys have gone hunting with their father since they were much smaller, although the oldest boy chooses not to hunt now that he is a teenager. His younger brother is quite the hunter though. The boys have been taught to respect and handle guns since they were very small as their grandfather taught their father, and as previous generations of that family have always taught their children to respect and use guns. These are the people who have, for generations, quietly gone about the business of farming and hunting and teaching their children to hunt and protect themselves before there was legislation to limit the sale and use of firearms. They haven't shouted about it and I doubt there will ever come a time when they will quietly give up their guns should it come to that in this country. They will quietly defend themselves.

I've learned that it isn't the loudest protesters that anyone needs to worry about; it's the quiet people who take hold of their freedoms and rights that should give everyone pause.

I'm proud of Beanie and amused by her purple polymer Ruger in Lady Lilac with her Flashbang bra holster and her concealed carry permit. She has changed drastically over the years even while she remains true to herself. Bravo! Beanie.

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler has been my favorite writer of crime fiction most of my life, but I had only seen his work dramatized by Humphrey Bogart and other actors, Bogey being my favorite Philip Marlowe. I decided to check out the writing this time around and The Big Sleep seemed like the right one. I expected hard boiled and got an interesting introspective view from what is essentially a down at the heels private investigator.

Marlowe is asked to General Sternwood's home to discuss getting his youngest daughter Carmen out of a jam. She has signed some IOUs for a lot of money and the man wants to be paid. Marlowe suggests looking into the situation closer and deciding whether or not the debt (or rather blackmail money) should be paid, and he thinks the general should ignore the markers.

During the conversation, the ailing millionaire talks about his son-in-law, Rusty Regan, and how much he misses him since he walked out on his elder daughter, Vivian. He knows Regan was a bootlegger, but a good man who wasn't just after his daughter's -- or rather his -- money and he spent a lot of time talking with the general. What Carmen and Vivian want to know is if Marlowe was hired to find Regan. He tells both women, and everyone else who seems to think that's the only reason Sternwood would hire him, that he was hired to handle another matter. No one seems to believe Marlowe.

Marlowe finds Carmen naked with a dead man on the floor and steps in to handle things. When he returns to the house, the body is gone, as is the film and camera that shot pictures of Carmen while drugged and naked. Things get more interesting from that point on.

Chandler creates a believable situation with dangerous rip tides and under currents that Marlowe manages pretty well. Marlowe is always a few steps ahead of the bad guys -- and gals -- and able to adapt to all situations. What is so surprising about Chandler's writing is how he gives each character and the story such depth and complexity. The writing verges on poetic and the situations as real as the morning newspaper. Chandler demonstrates the relationship between police and criminals and how Marlowe fits seamlessly into the mix without giving up his principles. The women are dangerous and unpredictable and Marlowe handles them with experience and dispatch. He is ready for anything.

The Big Sleep refers to the big sleep that all of us must take in the end, whether it is with a bullet or the slow embrace that comes with old age and infirmity. What Raymond Chandler offers is a class act that has aged well and is quite potent and still potable.