By the Book: American Vagabond

AA131The writer, painter, bookseller, and perpetually underpaid artist opens up and answers the NY Times “By the Book questionnaire”. Because by the times she’s finally published, it might be too late. 

What books are currently on your nightstand?

My night stand is a stack of books. On top of that, precariously, are stacked more books. I just finished “The Sacrifice” by Joyce Carol Oates, and it was outstanding. Currently I am reading Ron Koertge’s “Sex World”-  a quick, clever book of flash fiction, and a new book called “Mort(e)” about a house cat turned warrior. 

Who is your favorite novelist of all time?

Haha. Nice try. Here are a few: Joyce Carol Oates, because of the breadth of her work. John Irving, because I never expect to read anything I love quite as much as “A Prayer for Owen Meany”. Tom Robbins because he is the absolute best at what he does. Also, Emily Bronte, Roald Dahl, Ray Bradbury… Is that enough?

Who are your favorite writers working today?

Didn’t I just answer that? Stephen King, Haruki Murakami, Michael Paterniti and Zadie Smith. Ron Rash is also amazing and I love Tom Perrotta. Nobody gets suburbia like Tom Perrotta.

What’s the best short fiction you’ve read recently?

Julia Elliott’s “The Wilds” was fantastic.  

What kinds of stories are you drawn to? And what do you tend to steer clear of?

I’ll read any type of story, as long as it is well written. I love ghost stories with all my heart. I also enjoy a good detective mystery from time to time. Aside from that, I’m drawn to stories about adventure, whether they are true or fiction. I’m drawn to writers who obviously take joy in what they do. I enjoy reading of fantastical places, talking cats, robots learning to love, families breaking apart, food and cooking, humor and of course style. I skip books like “Gone Girl” or “The Girl on the Train”. There is nothing new there for me, and I figure out the twist early on. I also shy away from heavily hyped books because I really like to form my own opinions and that is nearly impossible when “everyone” is talking about a book. I don’t care what a celebrity thinks of a book, or how much buzz it is generating. That’s the kind of nonsense I find dull and boring. 

 Who are your favorite fantasy and horror writers? Which books would you recommend to readers new to those genres?

Any new genre reader should begin with the master: Stephen King, of course. For as prolific as he is, he is underrated. “Salem’s Lot” is one of my favorite books ever. Joyce Carol Oates is another of my favorite horror writers, but she somehow avoided the “genre” designation. Tony Burgess “Pontypool Changes Everything” was a revelation. A zombie novel written in prose! Yes! John Connolly’s “The Book of Lost Things” was a lot of fun as far as fantasy goes, and Michel Faber’s “The Book of Strange New Things” is part scifi, part horror and just unputdownable. 

What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?

“My Struggle: Book 1″. I found it in a sharing library so I guess I’ll have to read it now. I’m just not that interested in a seven part saga about a guy trying to write a book. I’ve lived that. But people I respect say it’s good, so I’ll give it a shot. Some day.

What kind of reader were you as a child? Your favorite book? Most beloved character?

I had parents who took me to the library once a week, and it was always an adventure. I still love wandering around in a nice library. Heck, it doesn’t have to be nice. I’ll wander around a crappy library. Anyway, I loved books of all kinds. I would often curl up on the couch and read for hours on end. I adored any type of mystery, and books with secret worlds. And I was obsessed with the Sunfire Romance series for young girls. My favorite books were “The Phantom Tollbooth”, “A Wrinkle in Time”, “The BFG”, “Watership Down” “Choose Your Own Adventure” books – which are sadly out of print, and “The Boxcar Children” series. I still have fantasies of living in a converted traincar. My favorite characters were Milo from “The Phantom Tollbooth”, Laura Ingalls, Scout, and Sophie from “The BFG”.

If you had to name one book that made you who you are today, what would it be?

“Still Life With Woodpecker” by Tom Robbins.

If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?

Oh man, that’s tough. That feels like a lot of pressure. I get asked for recommendations every day, but choosing a book for the President is a tall order. The first book that springs to mind is Erik Larsen’s “In the Garden of Beasts”. It’s about the US Ambassador to Germany at the time of Hitler’s rise to power. I think the man in power should read a book showing how not to react when a lunatic is about to take control.

You’re hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers are invited?

Tom Robbins, for sure. He’s hilarious. I had the opportunity to hear him speak last year, and he’s still sharp as ever. Mark Twain, and Dorothy Parker. I think that would be rad.

You could bring three books to a desert island. Which do you choose?

“Anna Karenina”, for sure. I’ve never read it and a desert island seems like the perfect place to do it. It would eat up a ton of my time, but in a good way. Next I’d toy with bringing a book about raft building but ultimately choose “A Prayer for Owen Meany” because I watch a lot of survival shows and I’m confident I could build a solid raft. After I finish Anna Karenina, of course. The third book would have to be “Still Life with Woodpecker” because I can’t imagine a life without that book.

What’s the funniest book you’ve ever read?

Oh man. I don’t know. I just read Nora Ephron’s “I Feel Bad About My Neck” and I laughed the entire way through it. Also everything David Sedaris has written. Oh! Can he crash my dinner party?

Any book you regretted reading?

I don’t know that I really “regret” anything I’ve read. I feel I’ve wasted my time and been totally annoyed with myself for reading “The Catcher in the Rye” and “The Fountainhead”.

Any book you couldn’t finish?

I put down “The Girl on the Train”. It was too gimmicky for me. Predictable. A far better new thriller is “Descent” by Tim Johnston. But I am pretty good at selecting books for myself, so I try to finish what I start.

What book do you think everyone should read before they die?

“To Kill a Mockingbird”, by Harper Lee.

Whom would you want to write your life story?

Me. Or David Sedaris.

What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?

I don’t know. I think you read the right book at the right time. Or at least, I do. I feel like this is the year for me to tackle “Anna Karenina”, but we’ll see. I’ve never read Moby Dick, but I just don’t want to. There are so many books that I DO want to read, and I guess … I’m fairly well read and I don’t embarrass easily.

What do you plan to read next?

I’ll have to see how I feel at the end of the book I’m reading now. But, On deck is “Werner Herzog: A guide for the perplexed”, or “Some Luck” by Jane Smiley. Or Walter Kirn’s “Blood Will Out”

Essay: Becoming Seattle

SN859177I awoke today with a mission: Retrieve a package from the Fed Ex office up on Broadway, and go to a drug store for assorted stuff and things. Before walking out the door I looked in the mirror and was shocked. I looked like a Seattle native. There she was, staring at me in her worn out black pea coat, dirty old sneakers and skinny jeans. Her knit yellow hat that didn’t match her green scarf, the size of which could have fit her and ten of her closest friends. But this was not native looking back at me. It was me! The California girl! (The girl who didn’t walk anywhere because that song is right, nobody walks in L.A.) Seeing that dingy yellow hat reminded me. I’m not a native. Not really. That hat saw Texas, The Grand Canyon, and The California Redwoods long before it saw Seattle. And now it gave me the look of any local who comes in the store looking for Infinite Jest. When did this happen?

I set out on my mission walking fast. I developed my City Walk in the winding streets of San Francisco and I’m as good as any native New Yorker at dodging, avoiding, ignoring and moving in general. I’m like Jason Bourne meets James Bond. But my City Walk is a liability here in Seattle. A city who collectively meanders. A city who will wait their turn when no one else is around. A city who is so polite it causes traffic and incurs rage in an L.A. native like myself. (L.A.: A city where wait your turn means go)

I adjusted my speed, but kept my pace fast enough not to be bothered by, or knocked over by anyone. I passed slow-moving people heavily engaged with the palms of their hands, not watching where they are going. A young woman was so engaged in her own hand that she tripped over a dog. That made me smile. I quite enjoy running errands. I felt the same way in Prague and San Francisco. Places where just stepping out your front door could result in a hilarious story for later.

For me a twenty-minute walk to the post is a journey across the world and a tango down memory lane. I walk by Annapurna (here in Seattle) and the rich, vibrant smells of chicken tiki masala and warm naan remind me of the delicious meals I’ve shared with friends in Berkeley and London. I’m suddenly transported to Brick Lane, eating warm spicy curry in a crowded restaurant then getting fresh-baked doughnuts from the bakery next door. I’m sitting in a restaurant in Berkeley with my friends and their one year old happily eating spicy food, proving once and for all that babies can handle their spice. Each step I take is a new memory. A new place to revisit.

I keep moving. I pass a bar with a familiar neon sign. “The Alley”, it says. I smile and think about Oakland and how much I loved living there. How much I love singing at The Alley. Rod Dibble on piano. Song books available, just ask. Blue Moon you saw me standing alone. Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man. Cigarette stained business cards tacked to the walls. Stapled. Pined. Taped. Decades worth of ghosts listening to the drunk and out of tune sing the songs of yesteryear. Over and over. Night after night. The Alley. Oakland. The first city to steal my heart. But not the last.

I passed a tiny dog barking at a pigeon the size of a small house cat. I passed small groups of students in front of the City College. One group in a heated debate about how many selfies constitute “too many” on FB. Another group laughing about a girl named Jenny and whether she should be pursuing a career as a metal drummer if she’s never even heard of Metalica. I thought of my years at PCC and the similar debates I had with friends. Who’s better Barbara or Liza? Fosse or Sondheim? I know I don’t need anymore literature classes, but do you think I should just take one for fun? Discovering poetry and learning to write it. Learning to write. Buster’s Coffee shop and Vroman’s Bookstore. PCC Flea Market and MTW. The good old days in Pasadena, not my home town but damn well close. Literally.

I know some folks look at the way I’ve lived my life and say I’ve wasted it. I know this because folks tell me. The internet is great for that. Strangers actually write to me just to tell me that I have wasted my life. I have nothing to show for my forty-one years on the planet. And maybe they are right. I don’t have any THING to show for it. I’ve had cars but I sold them. I don’t own property and I don’t have kids. I don’t have a fancy job or fancy clothes. If the accumulation of things is the sign of a life well lived, then you’d be correct in saying I’ve totally wasted my life.

But I don’t feel that way. I feel lucky. I’m lucky because for me, a trip to the post office is trip around the world. It’s fun, not a chore. I pass a Phò place and think about the little place near JZP in Prague, and the twenty amazing places in London. I smile. If I had never left southern California I wouldn’t have a cache of memories that are with me wherever I go. Even if it’s just to the post office.  

And now every day is an adventure. I looked out over the water today and thought about The Charles Bridge in Prague, but also how much I love the scenery here in Seattle just as much now. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Hell, I wouldn’t even trade Austin. I met some fine people there and now have a deeper understanding as to why the rest of the world thinks Texas is full of crazy people. (Hint: Because Texas is full of crazy people)

By the time I returned home to my little studio here in Capitol Hill I had been through London, Oakland, Prague, Mexico, L.A. and Texas. I was exhausted but oddly happy. And isn’t that the greatest measure of a life well lived? Happiness? If I can return home from the Fed Ex office, three drug stores and the QFC, all while carrying a package and bundled up like a tick about to pop, I’d say I’m doing something right. My travels have made me adaptable to my surroundings.

As long as my surroundings are not in Texas.

Zen Habits: New Year, New Now

94150-live-in-the-now-gif-Waynes-Wor-dW2TI am not the type of person who dwells in the past. I don’t hold on to my successes or failures as badges of honour or disgrace. I just try to keep moving forward. The end of the year is always a tempting time to look back and take stock of where you are and what you’ve done. And that’s fine I guess, as long as you don’t dwell on it. Looking at what you have done is not the same as doing something. I like to look forward.

Choosing to live in the past only robs you of today. I know that sounds all “New Age”, but it isn’t. It’s really simple. The ONLY important moment is the present moment. You cannot undo the past, and you certainly cannot mold the future, therefore the only thing that truly matters is…NOW!

The idea here is to enjoy the moment. I could easily do a recount of my year and look back at all I’ve done and seen. It was a huge year and I did a lot. But looking back does nothing. Instead I want to enjoy the fruits of my labors, which is the now. I’m here in beautiful Seattle with my fella. I have a great job and I’m pretty happy. My right now is pretty great, and it would be a shame for me to waste it by looking back, or worrying about the future. A life lived in perpetual planning is not really a life. I’ve known people plan for futures that they were nowhere near to achieving. Why live a fantasy life in your head when you could live your real life instead? Hey, that rhymed!

Where ever you are in this coming year, I challenge you to live in the moment. Enjoy yourself where ever you are. Sure, you might get sick or have to do things that are not enjoyable, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fully appreciate the small moments a day holds. Sights, sounds, smells, emotions even triumphs and tragedies, all of these things are worth noticing and living through. When I am having a bad day, I ask myself How can I enjoy this? Just asking the question has a calming effect and grounds me in the now.

You only have one shot at each day so try to make the most of it. Don’t dwell on the past – good or bad. Don’t worry about the future, it is coming no matter what you do. There will always be unknowns, and for me the unknown is the fun part. I guess good ol’ Sophocles said it best, “Tomorrow is tomorrow. Future cares have future cures, And we must mind today.”

Books: A Year in Reading 2014

bandits-book-art

This poster is from Anagram Bookshop in Prague, where I used to work. It was a great little shop.

I am a book stacker. When I die I expect my body to be found under a pile of books. I stockpile. There could be some sort of book shortage, or even worse, Book Zombies! I’ll only have access to what is in my home! I’ll need variety. But seriously folks, I never know what I’ll want to read next. I choose what book to read based purely on my mood. When I finish a book like Lawrence Wright’s AMAZING Going Clear, which EVERYONE SHOULD READ, I like to follow it up with something a little lighter, like Stephen King or Joe Hill. I like variety so I read everything. Reading only one type of book is like listening to only one type of music – boring. We read to have new experiences and learn new things. And we can’t do much of either if we read the same kinds of stories over and over. That would be the equivalent of wearing the same outfit every day for the rest of your life. And nobody wants to be that guy.

I started out 2014 on a road trip from Texas to California with a Stephen King book tucked in my bag. Today I type this from a tiny studio in Seattle’s Capitol Hill, while Ray Bradbury’s lovely Dandelion Wine sits next to me patiently awaiting completion. I looked at the books I read this year and couldn’t find a common theme. Some books were about solitude and loneliness, and others about love seeking robots. There were flesh-eating zombies and murderous humans. There was even a mansion in a trash heap. I learned everything I need to know about Scientology and cheese, and reminisced about London with the incomparable Zadie Smith. I read historical fiction set in Texas and the Appalachian Mountains. I read a somewhat funny book about a not so jewish dentist, and an even funnier book about a whiskey drinking’ duck named Fup.

My reading list was all over the map, just like I was.

Since people are always asking me to give them book suggestions, I have put together a doozie for ya. Here is the best of what I read this year. In no particular order. I divided them into helpful categories because I work in a bookstore, and that’s what we do. I left out the few clunkers I read so you don’t have to suffer needlessly. You’ll have to look them up for yourself, or go to your local bookstore and take a look. Just write down the title and author before you go. We thank you in advance.

FICTION

  1. N-W, by Zadie Smith
  2. Serena, by Ron Rash
  3. The Wilds, by Julia Elliott
  4. The Book of Lost Things, by John Connolly
  5. Hold the Dark, by William Giraldi
  6. Fup, by Jim Dodge
  7. The Leftovers, by Tom Perrotta
  8. Mildred Pierce, by James M. Caine
  9. You Must Remember This, by Joyce Carol Oates
  10. My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales, ed Kate Bernheimer
  11. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
  12. The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami
  13. The Children Act by Ian McEwan
  14. To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris (Be warned. This book has an almost intolerable narrator. A good book, but man. Paragraphs go on for PAGES with no interruption.)
  15. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

NON-FICTION

  1. Going Clear, by Lawrence Wright
  2. The Telling Room, by Michael Paterniti
  3. Tibetan Peach Pie, by Tom Robbins

HORROR/THRILLER

  1. Bag of Bones, by Stephen King
  2. Pontypool Changes Everything, by Tony Burgess
  3. Horns, by Joe Hill
  4. *The Quick by Lauren Owen
  5. Summer House With Swimming Pool by Herman Koch
  6. Her by Harriet Lane
  7. Crooked River by Valerie Geary

*This title is in horror only due to subject matter and style. It isn’t horror like Stephen King. It is literary like Dracula, or Haunting of Hill House. 

KIDS

  1. Heap House (Iremonger, #1) by Edward Carey
  2. The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

The Most Detestable Ladies of Literature

urlI just finished reading Serena by Ron Rash and it rocked my world. The title character is a Scarlet O’Hara type, obsessed with land and willing to do anything to get it. She gets what she wants by any means necessary. I loved the book so much it lead me to think about all the other lecherous yet awesome females of literature, and how they are far more memorable than any princess will ever be.

In honor of Serena, here is my list of the most detestable ladies of literature. PS – This may include spoilers. No endings are given away, but I do let you know some of the more colorful aspects to these characters. 

  1. Serena (Serena by Ron Rash)- This lady makes Scarlet O’Hara look more like Melanie Wilkes. Serena is a take no shit woman who gets what she wants. No matter what the price. Oh and she also has a trained eagle she keeps with her. Like a boss. Jennifer Lawrence will be playing the role on the big screen (against Bradley Cooper, of course) in February, so you heard it here first. Read the book! I promise it won’t disappoint. Ron Rash is a fantastic writer and the Appalachian mountains come alive with his lovely style and prose. Oh, and guys! this is NOT some chick lit romance, so don’t let the cover fool you. It’s about timber loggers in the 1930’s and it has lots of death and killing and intrigue. You’ll dig it, I promise.
  2. gone-with-the-windScarlet O’Hara (Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell) – While Scarlet brings to mind thoughts of romance and swelling music, Scarlet O’Hara is not a nice person. She is admirable on one hand, doing what needs to be done, but on the other hand completely loathsome. I mean, Ashley Wilkes is a simple dullard so he almost deserves the treatment Scarlet forces him to endure. But she is horrid. She deliberately steals her sisters man. She deliberately hires convicts to work in her factory in order to save money. And she beats them. She is selfish and spoiled, rude and entitled. Yet we all love her for her spunk and tenacity. For me her drive and determination make all the rest seem okay. It’s not her fault she’s smarter and prettier than her sister.
  3. Beatrice Lacey (Wideacre by Philippa Gregory) – 61I7PIe1MLL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Like the two ladies on this list ahead of her, Beatrice Lacey is obsessed with her land and will stop at nothing to keep it. Adultery and murder are all in a days work for Beatrice Lacey. The things that Beatrice does in this book will make you slam it closed in horror only to open it again just as quick to see what happens next. It is so much fun! But be warned, this book is not for the faint of heart. Incest and bondage are just a few things to look forward to in this crazy book. The first in a trilogy that will have you hooked from beginning to end. If you can endure the crazy, that is.
  4. 230-MThe White Witch (The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis) This bitch killed Christmas. It doesn’t get much worse than that. She banished all sense of happiness and hope, and She turns her enemies into stone. That’s wicked cool. Pun totally intended. Whats more, she isn’t a nice person. She’s cold and dispassionate, cruel and mean. She uses her magic to terrorize anyone who crosses her. She’s alluring, proud, and cruel – a deadly combination when you take into account her army of demons and dark monsters. Seriously. She had dwarfs and giants working side by side with wraiths and minotaurs. MINOTAURS! It’s always winter and never Christmas, and you won’t be getting any gifts this year. I’m Tilda. Bitch.
  5. Annie Wilkes (Misery by Stephen King) – dreams-as-inspiration-stephen-king-185x300I’m a big fan of Stephen King, but I would never kidnap him and force him to write stories for my approval. Or would I? Come to think of it, that sounds kind of awesome. I mean I wouldn’t torture him or anything, just make him watch Thinner and Maximum Overdrive on replay until he makes up a better ending to Under the Dome. I think that is a just punishment. Anyway, Annie Wilkes subjects poor Paul Sheldon to psychological and physical torture for a really long time. And she kills people. Oh, and then we find out that she’s an infamous serial killer. She stabs a state trooper with a wooden cross and runs him over with a lawnmower, after having chopped Sheldon’s foot off with an axe, setting it alight with a blowtorch. See, I’m nice compared to Annie Wilkes.
  6. Rebecca-Baylay-CoverMrs. Danvers (Rebecca by Daphne de Maurier) – Mrs. Danvers is pretty much the scariest person I can imagine sharing time with in a creepy gothic mansion. She’s tall and gaunt and pointy looking. In the novel she is often described as having a white skull face. See? Creepy. She wears all black and she’s mean as they come. She’s like a vampire, all death and decay. She’s always creeping around some dark hallway, spying on someone with her ear to the door, or her eye to the key hole. She’s a sneaky manipulative bully and downright nasty. I won’t divulge any more because she’s a pretty fun part of the book, but just steer clear of any open windows when she’s around.
  7. Daisy Buchanan (The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald) – philipp-dornbierer-1Let me start by stating up front that I am not a huge fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his books about rich people problems. That being said, I rather liked The Great Gatsby. And I liked it largely in part to Daisy Buchanan. Although every single character in this novel deserves a punch in the face, Daisy deserves just a few extra ones for being such a coked-up, self-absorbed brat. Is there a more insufferable character in all of literature? Maybe, but I wouldn’t want to hang out with Daisy Buchanan any time soon. Sure she may not be as repugnant as her husband Tom, but if that is the best thing we can say about her, then there is an issue. Daisy embodies all of the garish shallowness of the 1920’s and flaunts it with pride and ease. I mean come on, anyone who says this deserves a punch in the face. “I hope she’ll be a fool. That’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”
  8. Gone-Girl-by-Gillian-Flynn-gone-girl-37441442-1181-1810Amy Dunne (Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn) – This is the only book on the list which I have not actually read. I did however see the movie and was told it stays pretty faithful. That being said, Amy Dunne is a bad, bad woman. She goes well beyond bitch, tackles bat shit crazy and goes for the title of all out psychopath. On the surface Amy Dunne is the quintessential, all American “Girl Next Door”. She’s beautiful, funny, smart, and people want to be around her. Some people. She was the inspiration for a (fictional) children’s book series Amazing Amy. She’s famous. But underneath the Amazing Amy exterior is a crumbling marriage hiding a multitude of secrets. While we might understand why Amy is a total head case, it doesn’t excuse the absolute cold manor in which she manipulates everyone around her. The most dangerous thing about Amy is that she will do absolutely anything- lie, cheat, steal, kill – to get her way.
  9. Veda Pierce (Mildred Piece by James M. Cain) – fee16efd06a6dc540df9d81dc27267c6If there is a worse child in all of literature than Veda Peirce, then I’d like to see them in a death match. And my money would be on Veda. Veda is annoying for starters. She wants to hang out with the cool, rich kids in Pasadena, but they live crappy, crappy Glendale. Thanks a lot, mom! (Having grown up in Pasadena, this part of the plot had me in stitches.) Veda blames her poor, workhorse of a mother for everything bad that happens in her life, then manipulates her with emotional blackmail. And that’s just for starters. Mildred tried to give her daughter everything; voice lessons, piano lessons, a piano, new clothes, but nothing was ever good enough for Veda. Her insatiable appetite was only matched by the pleasure she took in torturing her mother. Which is hard to endure as a reader. You just want to shake Mildred until she wakes up and sees Veda for what she is: a total nightmare. But Mildred is always forgiving, and that is exactly what Veda counts on. For Mildred, what other choice is there but to just get stinko?
  10. Little-WomenAmy March (Little Women by Louisa May Alcott) – Okay, this might be a little unconventional, but I stand by my choice. First off, Amy is the youngest child which makes her annoying by default. She is a beautiful little girl who grows into a beautiful young woman and she knows it. A blond-haired, blue-eyed beauty who is a little obsessed with her own good looks. Except for her nose. She would totally have a nose job if she were living today (#nosejob) Amy uses her feminine charms to her advantage, a stark contrast to her much cooler and more homely sister, Jo. She is also obsessed with all things upper crust. She is keen to move up in the world and marry well. (Yawn). As a young girl she gets in trouble at school and vows never to return. And doesn’t! She gets home schooled, which is exactly what she wants. Later, her sisters don’t invite her to play with them, so as revenge, she burns Jo’s manuscript! Burns it! No computer back ups. All hand written. Seriously, if you burn my manuscript I might just let you drown in that frozen pond. Brat. I’d like to see Amy, and Daisy and Veda living in a house together Real World style. I would totally watch that show.

What I Miss?

bill_cosby_1978025Sorry folks, a lot of life happened to me in November, but I’m back! And after a succesful NaNoWriMo to boot! That’s right, I won for the third time! (out of ten times trying.) NaNoWriMo takes up a lot of time and energy, plus I had my job to worry about, so I just couldn’t blog. But I came out of November with a whole novel! So I can’t complain. I did it! Thanksgiving, a broken tooth, a sprained hand, and some sort of stomach virus are not going to stop me. 

But so much has happened! If these stories had surfaced at any other time, I would have had a lot to say. But as it was, my words were otherwise engaged. So I thought I’d give my two cents on the big stories I missed in the last thirty days. I’m a little rusty,so be kind. It feels good to be back.

  1. Bill Cosby – Ever since women began coming forward accusing The Cos of sexual assault and rape, I have been wondering where his supporters are. Usually when there is some sort of scandal involving a beloved celebrity (Mel Gibson, Tiger Woods) that celebrity has his famous friends coming out of the woodwork to support them. Not so much with Bill Cosby. Raven-Symone has said to please “leave her out of it.” Whoopie Goldberg said on the view she found some of the stories “questionable”, and singer Jill Scott defended him on Twitter. Most stars have tried to dodge the story by saying things like, “How sad if this is true”. Sad? More like infuriating. These women deserve to at least be heard. If these allegations are true, and dollars to donuts they are, then it is infuriating that this man preyed on women for over thirty years and nobody did anything to stop him. He drugged women and then had sex with them, or touched them. Power and privilege can sometimes make a man into a monster. He shouldn’t get special treatment just because he was a great TV dad and comedian. He is an awful person and should be put away. It’s called serial rape. But famous men often get away with brutality and we end up blaming the victim. I think a full investigation should be made, and if Bill Cosby wants to remain relevant and free, then he should start talking. But his silence is so loud that the only option is to believe the 20+ women and their claims of abuse. Sometimes you have to kill your heroes.
  2. Philae’s Wild Comet Landing - Yep, scientists managed to put a lander on a comet. A comet! The thing used harpoons and everything! I half expected to see Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck emerging from it to help save the earth. Okay, so the mission wasn’t to save the earth, but it was pretty freaking dramatic. It touched down thrice and drifted for nearly two hours before resting on the comet. Now the thing is recharging its batteries and hibernating until it gets closer to the sun. I don’t know what it all means, but I do know that it is wicked cool.

  3. Charles Manson getting married – Who the fuck cares.

  4. Fergusondemonstrators-defy-curfew-fergusonUnfortunately when the news came that there would be no indictment I wasn’t the least bit shocked. I lived in LA during the OJ trial and the riots that followed. This doesn’t feel a bit different. Except that OJ was a famous sports and film figure at the time and used those things to help him legally get away with murder. In Ferguson we have a police officer who shot and killed an unarmed kid and got away with it. It should have been cut and dry. I don’t care what the legal evidence was, the police officer should be behind bars, at least for some period of time. There was no question that he did it. Only a question of self-defence. A murder, even if it was an accident or self-defence, should be punished. The fact the officer is a free man today has sparked nationwide riots. Yes, the facts matter. And no, I was not in the courtroom to hear the facts. But, I do believe some sort of punishment was necessary. And we must also take into account that this wasn’t the first time an unarmed black man has been shot for no good reason. And recently! The the powers that be don’t do something fast, a full revolution is on the horizon.

    But I don’t think taking to the streets and reeking havoc is the right answer. It doesn’t solve anything. I’m all for revolution, but looting, robbing and arson are juvenile. Nobody will take you or your cause seriously if you are damaging property. It’s hard to have sympathy for someone when they are setting fire to a pizzeria. I say, take that anger and turn it into something useful. Take action, but in a civil way. Hell, find a lawyer and sue the city of Ferguson for hate crimes. Now that would be something. If we learned anything at all from Do the Right Thing, it is that letting people get really frustrated about unfair treatment never ends well. Espically for the pizzerias in the neighborhood.

And that’s all I got for now. I promise to be a better blogger until November comes a knockin’ again next year. But until then you can always stop by and say hello. I’ll be here.

15 Feminist Halloween Costumes!

Amelia-in-costume-flyingHalloween is just three days away and once again I am without a costume. Not to fear! There are plenty of places for a gal to purchase the necessary items for a last-minute Halloween costume. I stopped by the Value Village on my lunch break and found more than enough choices. I could be a sexy nurse, a sexy witch, a sexy cat, mouse or rabbit, or a sexy Goth chick… as if that’s even possible. I ended up with some cat ears and a tail. I’m just going to wear everything I own with a cat on it and be “The Crazy Cat Lady”. So not sexy.

For a DIY gal like myself, Halloween is the perfect time for me to put together something cool and original. But for those ladies who are not so inclined, Halloween can be a cruel reminder that being sexy is the most important thing in life. Store bought costumes for such mundane professions as “Cop” or “Nurse” all come with a pair of thigh-highs, booty shorts, and stiletto boots. Because everyone knows that it is way easier to catch bad guys, or help the sick while wearing high heels and no pants.

I’ve put together a list of costume ideas that are still cool and sexy, but hopefully have more creativity and imagination than your average store-bought variety. And your ass won’t get cold. Each choice comes with ideas on how to make this happen on the cheap.

  1. Amelia Earhart – All you need for this is a pair of tan slacks, brown boots, a white blouse and some goggles. A white scarf, wig and other accessories will help sell it, but they are not necessities. Those of you who want to go all out can use a cardboard box to make an airplane!
  2. Morticia Adams - 71a64d2c8146fe32d43468c3177623faBefore there was such a thing as “Goth” there was the Addams. Of course Morticia is just a TV version of the great Vampira,but she isn’t so well-known so if you dress as Vampira, prepare to be called Morticia or Elvira all night. Morticia is a great choice though, and if you are going with a group you can do the whole creepy family. All you need is a long black dress (with sleeves) and a long black wig. Accessories such as a severed hand, a rose, long cigarette holder or a family member will help sell this look.
  3.  Ghost Buster, or Janine Melnitz – If you want to be a Ghost Buster all you need is a tan jump suit. You should be able to find one at a secondhand store. Next fashion a Proton Pack, and, since my boyfriend insists, you need a ghost trap. tumblr_mw2otrYszz1qmp5efo1_500To make these you can use a backpack, or paint a piece of cardboard and add some hoses. It just needs to give people an idea. It’s Halloween, not Cosplay. Now, if you want to be awesome, you go as Janine Melnitz from Ghost Busters. She was played by Annie Potts and is going to get you crazy point for creativity and originality. Get a red wig and cut it into a bob. Next, get a leopard print coat, some big plastic beads and a pair of glasses. It would help to walk around with the Ghost Busters.
  4. Ms. Marvel - 531dd786ecf4bNo, not the hypersexy Ms. Marvel of the past, but the new Ms. Marvel. She’s been updated and she’s super hip, super cool, super…super, and sexy without being a gross stereotype. Kamala Khan is “a teenage Pakistani American from New Jersey with shapeshifting abilities, who discovers that she has Inhuman genes in the aftermath of the “Inhumanity” storyline and assumes the codename Ms. Marvel from her idol Carol Danvers.” (Wikipedia) All you need for this outfit is a black mask, (or old t-shirt cut into a mask)red tights or leggings, and a blue jersey knit dress. You can sew on a lightning bolt and add a red scarf and you are ready to save the world.
  5. Lydia Deetz (from Beetlejuice) – 9e420f480b2b9611674756888cd6afd9This one is sure to get you points for originality. All you need is a big black sun hat, a black blazer, and a long black dress. A stellar copy of The Handbook for the Recently Deceased would help. then do pale make up with dark eyes and some spiky bangs. If you are more ambitious, and have more money, go for the big red wedding dress. This is a popular idea in the Cosplay world, so you can actually find patterns for the red wedding dress and for the cover of the iconic handbook.
  6. The ladies of Mad Men – This is the perfect costume idea for a group of ladies going to a party together. Carrie, Charlotte and the gang are played out. These ladies are just as fashionable and more fun. Alone, these looks would just read as “60’s chick”. But together they spell out the whole story. Betty Draper, Joan Holloway, and even mousey Peggy and the glamorous 1a36799636c13dbb_ff178663-a8a8-298b-fbcd-867d4aa84525_Mad_Men_Stairs_Jon_Jessica_Elisabeth_January_Kiernan_Christina_1153_1182_V1.xxxlarge_2xMegan Draper are easy looks to achieve with the right accessories. Betty just needs an Aline dress and some pearls. Joan, a form-fitting dress, tight hair-do and heels. Peggy Olsen is conservative and should have on loafers. And that depends on what era you want to use. You can do 50’s, 60’s and even the 70’s! Have fun with it. 
  7. Suffragette - If you really want to go as a feminist this Halloween, then this is the look for you. Go to your local Goodwill or Value Village and find a high collared old timey dress. Or night-gown. If you sew, you can add details to help, if not there are places to find a costume dress that looks 19th century. Then all you need is a banner across your chest or a picket sign. And a hat. Those ladies loved hats.
  8. img_1910Frida Kahlo - First of all, yes you must do the eyebrows and the mustache. That is a deal breaker. There is nothing worse than a really pretty girl trying to be Frida Kahlo. The real Frida embraced her unique qualities and lived with them. So it needs to be part of your costume. And honestly, the eyebrows sell the look. Aside from that you need your hair slicked back, or in braids. You need flowers in your hair, a shawl, and about 40 necklaces, braclette and a big skirt. Done.
  9. Buffy the Vampire Slayer - This one is all about props and accessories. Any Buffy fan will tell you she didn’t go anywhere without Mr. Pointy, her favorite stake. So you’ll need to make one of those. Next, you’ll want to try for an iconic Buffy look: Leather jacket, black slacks, jeans or red leather pants, tank top and hair back with bangs. You’ll need black boots and a cross around your neck. full_30102010218_1298118365You could also do a big pink prom dress, but you’ll need to make sure Mr. Pointy is always in hand.
  10. The Bride AKA Beatrix Kiddo, (Kill Bill) – This is easy. Get yourself a yellow track suit and a plastic samurai sword. You’ll need some yellow running shoes as well. If you are not blond you’ll need a long blond wig with straight bangs, Then spatter yourself with blood. Or soak yourself. It’s Tarantino and Halloween. Go crazy with the blood. The more the better. Soak it up.
  11. Agent Scully - 86442-b1a60045dc8ced2a443097c43aad5192The hottest FBI Agent this side of Agent Mulder. Dana Scully is all about the black skirt suit and pumps. Add to that a red wig ( a must!) and make yourself a FBI badge. Extra accessories can include a flashlight, an outdated cell phone, trench coat and a gun.
  12. Pussy Riot - This is the easiest, the most timely, the most feminist and the most badass choice you can make. Extra points if you dress your daughter like this. grid-cell-28985-1413567743-5Gold star if your daughter asks to go as one of The Pussy Riot girls. These chicks define what it means to be a badass, and what it means to walk the walk. First you’ll need a stocking cap that covers your face. Now cut holes for eyes if there are none. It doesn’t have to be pretty. Next get some bright-colored tights and a (different) bright-colored jersey dress. Write some stuff on your arms in black marker and you are good to go.
  13. Xena Warrior Princess - 2This one is a little harder to make at home, but there are plenty of places to buy a full Xena costume or accessories. What I would do is buy a brown corset and fashion a breast plate out of something. trial and error would have to come into play. Foil? Fabric? Who knows. For the skirt I would probably find a spartan skirt at a costume store and use that. Then add boots and make a Chakram by cutting a frisbee and painting it. I’d need a black wig and better abs, but that would ba a pretty convincing Xena Warrior Princess costume if you ask me.
  14. Princess Leia – So the trick here is to go with Leai from the first movie. That is “A New Hope”. You know, white dress, laser gun, cinnamon bun hair do. I was Princess Leia when I was a little kid and my brother was Darth Vader. My mom made the costumes. She made the Vader helment with a pair if sunglasses, an army helment and card stock. That’s how you do Halloween. Don’t go for the Gold Bikini look. 5959268c0bb885a28894d64af0bf0e12It’s played out, and the Cosplay chicks who do it, do it really well. So instead go for an easier, more comfortable and more iconic look. You’ll need a long white dress with a turtle neck. If you can’t do that, a long white dress with long white sleeves. Or a white bathrobe. White boots. A thick silver belt. you can make one of these if necessary. It’s a recognisable part of the look, so it should be there. And now, the hair. It’s a must. If you have long hair, you can actually do this with your hair. If not, the options are endless. Actual cinnamon buns. Ear muffs dyed and styled. Knit caps that have buns on the sides. Panty hose fashioned into a Leia’s Hair hat. Store bought Leia hair buns. They all exist. I promise.
  15. Mary Poppins - Who is more iconic than Mary Poppins? Nobody. If you get this look right nobody at the party will ask, “Who are you supposed to be?” keikolynnThey’ll know right away. The outfit is fairly simple. You’ll need a shin length black skirt and a button down white blouse. You’ll need white gloves, a scarf, and black boxy shoes or booties. Now for the accessories. These are important. Of course you’ll need an umbrella. A black umbrella. Next a black hat with daisies and flowers on it. You’ll need a big carpet bag and a little red bow-tie. Boom. Mary Poppins.