An Open Letter to Donald Trump

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Donald,

Can I call you Donald? I hope so because I won’t call you Mr. President. I don’t know if I should feel sad or angry today. Or just horrified. How do you feel? Do you feel? I sometimes wonder. I mean there is a right side and a wrong side of history, and you ARE the wrong side. Do you get that?

I’m a NASTY WOMAN. I’m talking horrid. Super Duper Nasty. I’m disgusting! And this Nasty Woman isn’t scared of little boys like you. And there are a lot of us. Hillary. Michelle. Beyoncé. Samantha. Megan. We are legion, and we are a helluva lot stronger than you are. We are daughters. We are wives. We are mothers. We are fighters.

And we’re not scared of you.

That’s right. We’re not scared of you. Not even a little. You are a tiny man who used the most undereducated voters to win. You used fear. Good for you, you clown. People like you try to scare people like me. But it doesn’t work. Because I’m smarter than you. I read books. Lots of books with words… all the best words. 

“The split in America, rather than simply economic, is between those who embrace reason, who function in the real world of cause and effect, and those who, numbed by isolation and despair, now seek meaning in a mythical world of intuition, a world that is no longer reality-based, a world of magic.” ― Chris Hedges, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America

If you understood that, then you’ll get why the entire country is pissed today. Because we just put a fascist in the White House. You won because you pandered to the Americans who think they are being ‘displaced’. You pandered to people who are scared to lose their guns, lives, homes, money, country…anything…

But like I said. That’s not me. I don’t scare easy, and it takes more than a big, orange molester to scare me. I’ve gone up against men scarier than you. I can do it again.

I’m not scared of you because… You are a bigot. You openly hate people based on the color of their skin, or where they were born. That is something ignorant, stupid people do. Smart people look to those different to see what they can learn. Smart people think about how differences make us stronger. Not you. You want to build walls and deport people and assault women and who knows what else since you never really laid out any actual plans. Idiot.

I’m not scared of you because… you are scared of women. That’s right. You are scared of us. You called Hillary a nasty woman because you are scared of her. Of all of us. Of what our power, together, united could do. Will do. You judge women based on their looks. How “Hot” they are to you. (Good thing for you voters didn’t do the same. You fat, ugly, incoherent windbag.)

American women have been putting up with dickheads like you for decades. At home. At work. Walking to work. At the store. You name it. We get told about ourselves all the fucking time. (Just ask all of your ex wives! Two out of three being IMMIGRANTS, I might add.) Now we get to deal with a self-loving, woman hating, dickhead in the White House. And after Obama! He loved us! It sucks, but we’ll manage. Because we are not afraid of you. Hillary Clinton wasn’t scared of you. She’s smarter than you. You know it. She knows it. We know it. Her husband knows it. And speaking of Bill… please, PLEASE stop pointing out that Bill Clinton cheated on her twenty years ago. You hit on your own daughter in public all the time. You don’t deserve my respect. Or my fear. Just my vomit.

I’m not scared of you because... you are not intimidating. You are a joke. You mock people. You make little “jokes” at their expense. (Here’s a clue. A joke is supposed to be funny) You mutter under your breath like a child in trouble. Being afraid of you would be like being afraid of a three-year old.

And finally I’m not scared of you because I won’t let you take my rights aways from me. Or any woman. I won’t let you step on the constitution and I won’t let you try to hurt my immigrant brothers and sisters. My LGBTQ friends and neighbors. I won’t let you forget that BLACK LIVES MATTER. That WOMENS LIVES MATTER. That my body is MY BODY and if you even think of grabbing me by the pussy you’ll regret it.

So Fuck you, Donald. I don’t respect you now and I won’t when you are sworn in. You are a liar, a cheater, an idiot, and a bad salesman. And a bad writer. Your book is a piece of shit just like all of your businesses. Which You’ve bankrupted. And now you get to be in charge of Fucking Over America and our Daughters. And our Sons. You’ve set this country back decades with your bullshit machismo. With your blatant racism.

We had a chance to keep moving forward but collectively chose to move backwards. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

And it’s all your fault.

 

Sincerely,

Alicia

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Books: Shelf-Talker Tuesday!

 

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I read this book back in my college days and loved it! Before Gregory Maquire, Helen Oyeyemi, Neil Gaiman and countless  YA writers others hopped on the “Reimagining of Fairy Tales” bandwagon, Marion Zimmer Bradley did it. And did it well. This book was published in 1982 and is still pretty freaking awesome. She takes everything you know about Arthurian myth (because… it IS a myth) and tells it from the point of view of Morgaine. It is a lot of fun and good reading.

“A retelling of Arthurian legend from a female POV. Lovely writing and required reading for feminists.”

Books: 16 Feminist Books For Women’s History Month!

CharlottePerkinsGilman_HerlandWomen’s History Month has always seemed like a consolation prize, or rather a participation trophy given to “women” as acknowledgement that we exist, and are important. An entire month of acknowledgement is supposed to somehow make us forget that MEN are systematically taking away our rights. Women’s History Month is only necessary because women are still being held down, and held back. I don’t see a “Men’s History Month”, and you know why? Because every month of every year since the dawn of time is Men’s History Month.

But I don’t want a month. I don’t want a “special” anything. The world should be a place where there isn’t a second thought about a woman running for president, or running a country. Where we don’t talk about a woman’s appearance before her accomplishments. Where women and men can work and live together without sexism getting in the way.

But that day isn’t here. They threw us a bone called “Women’s History Month” so I’ll take it and run. The following list is made up of some of my favorite books which I would consider Feminist. I didn’t put any of the famous books on the list because… who wants to read the same lists over and over? Hopefully you will find some new, interesting and favorites among these. And yes. There are books written by men on this list. I hope you are not so ignorant as to think men can’t be feminists.

ENJOY!

  1. Herland, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  2. The Temple of my Familiar, by Alice Walker
  3. A Bloodsmoor Romance, By Joyce Carol Oates
  4. Spinster, by Kate Bolic
  5. Yes, Please, by Amy Poehler
  6. Around the World with Auntie Mame, by Patrick Dennis
  7. The Mists of Avalon, By Marion Zimmer Bradley
  8. Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler
  9. Men Explain Things to Me, by Rebecca Solnit
  10. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, by Tom Robbins
  11. Mildred Pierce, by James M. Cain
  12. The Hours, by Michael Cunningham
  13. The Robber Bride, by Margaret Atwood
  14. The World According to Garp, by John Irving
  15. I Feel Bad About My Neck, by Nora Ephron
  16. Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides

I know How Cersei Feels

N7r29SbI try, on occasion to think about the kind of person for whom Game of Thrones is a deeply personal show. You know, nerdy types who value loyalty to the books above anything else. These are the people who spend hours online arguing because, Brienne was would have never told Podric to leave, and in fact was always quite polite to him! Whatever. In Game of Thrones death and dishonour come swiftly and often. And usually when you least expect it. It gives me The Feels when a character I like (and hope will survive) gets euthanized by George R.R. Martin. Watching my favorite hottie get stabbed in the gut a dozen times makes me feel sad. But watching the bad guy get it makes me feel happy. At least it should.

How long have I waited to see Cersei get what’s coming to her? A really long time. She is an awful human being who deserves everything she gets, and probably more. She likes killing people, torturing them, manipulating them, and fucking her own brother. And, she makes really bad decisions that usually end up biting her in the ass. That’s pretty much all you need to know about her. In the season 5 finale, Cersei is completely humiliated in front of the entire kingdom (stripped naked, hair sliced off with a razor for that I just had a bit of Lice look) and paraded through the town while a woman with a triangle, shouts “SHAME!” every five seconds from over her shoulder. This is the moment fans of the show have been waiting for. I should have been cheering. But I wasn’t. I felt bad for her. Why?

Before watching GoT, I logged on to my blog and found a comment waiting for me. I should know better, but I read it anyway. For every comment I get that is positive, I get eight that are mean. It was someone from Texas. Again. Texans are still raging because of an opinion piece I wrote about living in Austin. Two years ago. And I am still getting RUDE comments from Texans. The comment, which I am paraphrasing, went something like this:

“Alicia. Fuck off and die and go back to CA you dick addicted whore. Cunt. Fuck you, you trust fund, bitch hippie.”

I read the shitty comment and deleted it like I always do. I thought, “Nice try fucker! That’s never going to see the light of day.” And I would have forgotten all about it, like water off a ducks back. But, as I watched Cersei Lannister get what was coming to her, I felt a sense of kinship with her. I realized that folks yell the same things at me… online. The townspeople spat in her face. They called her a whore and a liar and a cunt. They screamed “SLUT!” at her and threw shit in her face. A man jumped in her path, naked, and shook his dick at her while screaming, “You can suck my cock!” Or something to that effect. She walked all the way through the narrow streets, enduring all of it because she had no other choice.

1434336782-cersei-mountain-game-of-thrones-finaleOkay… Ready? Here comes my theory. What you watched on the Game of Thrones season 5 finale was a great metaphor for what it feels like to be a female online. We get shamed. We get called horrific things. And it is humiliating. A woman should be able to go online and write, speak her opinion, without someone commenting on her looks or calling her a whore. Or worse. Every time I log on I am subjected to slander and misogynistic treatment. I’m sure this piece will piss somebody off and it will start all over again. If you are a woman and you choose to write something and post  it online you are agreeing to mistreatment. There is nothing you can do to stop it. Those cowardly assholes hide behind their keyboards and are protected by anonymity. The only protection us ladies have is to ignore them, or be vocal. Ignoring doesn’t solve the problem. They always figure out a way to get through. And being vocal just pisses them off more. Right, Anita Sarkeesian?

We just need a huge Franken-Warrior to protect us. Just like Cersei.

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.

Books: 13 Badass Babes From Literature

normanrockwell-4When I decided to make a list of kick-ass female characters from literature, I wanted to use only characters from adult fiction. This proved to be more difficult than I thought. It’s fairly easy to find awesome female characters aimed at making young girls believe they can grow up to do or be anything. Katniss, Hermione, Violet Baudelaire – all of them are awesome and smart and feisty. But they are also all teenagers. Every list I found of “The Best Female Characters in Books” was full of YA or children’s characters. Aren’t there any cool female characters who are all grown up? Answering that question proved a little harder than I hoped. It made me angry that every literary female cited was under twenty.

Unfortunately the adult world of literature favors men. MEN have adventures. MEN fight dragons. MEN go to war. And MEN live full lives. Perhaps it’s because girls are encouraged to be active, seek adventure, and be daring. Women are encouraged to make babies and seek a husband. How dull. How sad. But I managed to put together a list of thirteen of the most badass ladies in literature despite the stereotypes. The only criteria: 1. It must be a book that I have read. Personally. 2. Must be a book aimed at adults.

  1. Jo March (Little Women) – Smart, impulsive, argumentative, tomboyish, and hot-tempered. Jo March loves life and wants to participate. Much like the author Louisa May Alcott, Jo was a rebel. She is forced to live a life that doesn’t suit her and soon yearns for more. She is a writer, and her main focus is writing. Not romantic love. Although she does have romance in her life, it isn’t what defines her. I love Jo. My good fellow. 
  2. Jane Eyre9780143106159She’s my favorite character of the Brontë universe. Throughout the novel Jane possesses a sense of self-worth and dignity.  She’s only a mouse, but underneath she is a tiger. Her integrity is tested over the course of the novel, and Jane must learn to balance the frequently conflicting aspects of herself. She’s self-reliant and never expects to be “rescued” from her circumstances. Jane Eyre has always been a hero of mine. A woman trying to find balance between her need for freedom and her yearning for love, and often voicing radical opinions on sex, gender, religion and social class. Bad. Ass.
  3. Elphaba Thropp (Wicked) – Even before this book became a hit musical with songs that annoy karaoke participants to this very day, I was singing its praises. Long before TV and movies got on board with the “new twist on classic tales” idea, Gregory Maguire had it nailed. He created a Wicked Witch of the West that was vulnerable, kind and funny. A true hero. She’s tough, smart, sassy and green. And like the song says, it’s not easy being green.
  4. Marian McAlpin (The Edible Woman) – Margaret Atwood tells the story of a young single woman who works for a market research company. Unable to foresee a fulfilling career, she begins to worry about her future and about what she might become. She soon realizes that her relationship with her boyfriend Peter is more serious than she would like. Yet when Peter proposes marriage, Marian accepts. A story I whole heartedly related to when I read it. Marian has an affair and develops one of the best eating disorders I’ve ever seen in print. A woman, like Emma Bovary in some ways, has to determine her own worth and her place in her own life.
  5. Miss Jane Marple – She’s not what you think of when you think of detective, but she’s one of the best. Long before Jessica Fletcher was out solving crimes, Miss Jane Marple was doing it better. A shrewd observer and a natural genius, Miss Marple proves herself a match for every murder she meets. Sure, I’m more of a Poirot fan, but even I have to give props to Agatha Christie’s tour de force, Miss Marple. A cheerful person who always expects the worst. How can you not love her?
  6. Scarlet O’Hara – A dark-haired, green-eyed, spoiled brat of a beauty takes center stage in this novel of the south. screen-shot-2013-06-29-at-4-32-01-pmShe’s not nice. And that is exactly what I like about her. Scarlet gets shit done. And if you are in her way, good luck to you. She proved to be strong, smart, and even a shrewd business woman who always gets what she wants. She embodies the old and new south, and struggles with those ideas internally. She adapts to what life throws at her and doesn’t just survive. She thrives.
  7. Mildred Pierce – At first glance, Mildred Pierce is a dumb woman who lets people manipulate her. But that’s not all Mildred Pierce is. The story takes place right after the depression in Southern California, and Mildred finds herself needing to work for the first time ever. Her spoiled daughter is embarrassed of her. Her best friend tells her to use her femininity to her advantage, use men for what she can get out of them. But Mildred instead chooses to start her own business, earn her own money and take control of her own life. Bad. Ass.
  8. Catherine Earnshaw (Wuthering Heights) – All that we know of Catherine is second-hand, filtered through diaries and memories. 2c0ad9efeee96800985915d822546939She is a literal ghost at the opening of the novel. She is a woman torn between two loves and two worlds – Edgar and Heathcliff. Her choice of husband is the turning point of the novel, and when the nastiness begins. She manages to become a “lady” – a snobby brat who gets her way – but underneath is still that strong, wild woman who wants love and freedom. She’s a ghost for the majority of the novel. That says something about the strength of her character.
  9. Hester Prynne (The Scarlet Letter) – A is for Adultery. The heroine of The Scarlet Letter is ostracised in 17th-century Boston for giving birth to a daughter out-of-wedlock. This story shines a bright light into the world of suffocating American puritanism that still exists today.  Hester endures shame and scorn for a situation she could hardly control, and a situation she was not alone in. It takes two to tango, ya know. Hester was forced to marry an old man and while waiting for him in to come to Massachusetts, she meets a charismatic minister and has an affair with him. I wonder who gets punished for that one? I’ll give you a hint, it ain’t the minister. Hester is an independent woman, and a free-thinker in a time when none of that was okay to do. If you were a woman.
  10. Becky Sharp (Vanity Fair) – A poor orphan of low birth, Becky Sharp is a born hustler and social climber who manages to raise herself to the upper limits of high society and wealth. Evil doer or misunderstood woman ahead of her time? 20111017071648-vanity_fair_coverThackeray never actually reveals whether she is guilty or innocent of the crimes that cause her reputation’s crash. Sure, she is constantly stealing from her creditors, allowing Rowden’s gambling to disrupt her friendships, and pulling con jobs, but somehow the narrator makes these sound comical rather than evil. I feel like Becky only committed crimes of circumstance or survival. Any woman in her place would do the same thing. Okay, she’s not the best mom in the world, but not every woman wants a child. And I don’t think Becky wanted to be a mother.
  11. Claire Fraser (Outlander series) – She’s a no-nonsense nurse and all around badass. Oh, and she also time travels. Cool, right? I read the Outlander series back in 1992, and I’ve been recommending them ever since. See, she’s married to a guy in the 20th century, but meets an even hotter guy when she is transported back to the 18th century. Claire has a quick tongue, a hot temper and she’s smart. Sure she gets into trouble, but watching her get out of trouble is half the fun. It was the first time I had read a book where a woman was having the adventure, time traveling, and making decisions that changed the course of the story. And history.
  12. Lisbeth Salander (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) – Okay, she might be a sociopath, but given the circumstances of the novel, I feel alright with that. She’s a feisty, world-class computer hacker with a photographic memory, and she’s also the survivor of an abusive childhood. That’s why she’s anti-social. And why she has just a teeny, tiny violent streak. If you fuck with Lisbeth Salander, you better be a fast runner.
  13. Auntie Mame (Auntie Mame) – This is the story of a ten year-old boy who is sent to live with his zany aunt. And before I go any further, I want to state that I think the world needs more zany aunts. 1549471_10152037290632496_1516082930_nAuntie Mame is a worldly, hilarious, irrepressible, adoring, easily distracted, and all around awesome guardian of her little nephew Patrick. Mame’s life is filled with parties, travel, bathtub gin, caviar, Broadway stars and Indian mystics. The perfect environment for raising a well-rounded kid. No. Seriously. Mame believes in trying things, thumbing your nose at convention, taking roads less traveled because they’re bound to be more interesting, and being yourself no matter what the assholes of the world think of you. These are valuable lessons to learn at any age. My life motto is from this book: “Life is a banquet” she says, “and most poor suckers are starving to death.” (The picture here is my vey own first edition of “Around the World with Auntie Mame”)

The 20 Coolest Authors. Ever.

Truman CapoteEverybody has their idea of what cool is. It’s a vibe. A feeling you get from someone. Being cool requires one to have a rebellious attitude, be an underdog, or one of societies outliers. Think bikers, but bikers from the 1950’s, not bikers from today. Today’s biker seems violent and rude rather than cool. But you get the idea. Fonzie was cool. Jim Morrison was cool. Wanda Jackson and Peggy Lee were cool. Kermit the Frog is cool. Einstein was cool.

James Blunt is not cool. Kim Kardashian is not cool. Either is Morrissey or Kanye West. David Foster Wallace was not cool. Brent Easton Ellis isn’t either. Writing a “cool” book isn’t what makes you cool. Having the most Twitter followers doesn’t matter either. It’s how you live your life. And obviously how much you like cats.

What follows is a list of who I think are the 20 coolest authors. Ever. I have intentionally listed 10 dudes and 10 ladies because I’m tired of reading lists about literature that do not equally include women. And yes, I am aware that there are more than just twenty super cool authors, and maybe I didn’t pick yours, but these lists take time and effort to create, so I kept the number reasonable. Fee free to add your picks in the comments. Politely.

  1. Truman Capote – Because he gave zero shits about what people thought. He said what he wanted. Wrote what he wanted. Because In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Because he liked cats pre internet. Cool Quote: “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”
  2. 50459320Margaret Atwood – Because The Hand Maid’s Tale and Alias Grace. Because she went toe to toe with Norman Mailer on gender issues and came out on top. He said that men were intellectuals first, writers or poets second. Women were not. Atwood pointed out, in a speech, that she had herself attended Harvard, and therefore had “a smear of intellectualism.” Cool quote: “Another belief of mine; that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.”
  3. Maurice Sendak – Because Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen. Because In the Night Kitchen was BANNED in America on account of the little boy in the book is naked and therefore inappropriate for children. ‘Merica! Because he was on The Colbert Report right before he died spreading the message for LGBT equality. Cool quote: “Fuck them is what I say. I hate those e-books. They cannot be the future. They may well be. I will be dead. I won’t give a shit.”
  4. Joyce Carol Oates – Because she has published over fifty novels exploring themes of gender, violence, race, monsters, and the darker elements of being alive and human. Because she’s been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize three times. Because she writes horror that will keep you sleepless. And because she kind of looks like Shelley Duval and Olive Oyl. Cool quote: “Homo sapiens is the species that invents symbols in which to invest passion and authority, then forgets that symbols are inventions.”
  5. ahem2Ernest Hemingway – Because Ernest once took a urinal from his favourite bar and moved it into his own home, arguing that he had “pissed away” so much of his money into the urinal that he owned it. Because he won the Nobel Prize in literature. Because he once caught seven Marlin in one day. Because he loved cats. Cool quote: “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”
  6. Mary Shelley – Because Frankenstein. Because she hung out with Lord Byron and had picnics with him. Because she wrote the seminal gothic novel. Cool quote: “I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves.”
  7. Tom Robbins – Because he has lived an outlaw life. Because he met Charles Manson and told him he wasn’t up to snuff. Because Still Life with Woodpecker, Jitterbug Perfume, and Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates. Because he was suspected of being the Unibomber. Cool quote: “Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature.”
  8. Patti Smith Because she’s as good on stage as she is on the page. Because she lived for many years at the epicenter of cool, the Hotel Chelsea in New York City. Because Horses. Because her nickname is “The Godmother of Punk.” Because she co-wrote a play with actor, playwright, and my fantasy Granddad, Sam Shepard. Cool quote: “To me, punk rock is the freedom to create, freedom to be successful, freedom to not be successful, freedom to be who you are. It’s freedom.”
  9. haruki murakami and kittenHaruki Murakami – Because he is 65 and he is a dedicated marathon running Iron Man. Because he loves cats. Because he writes food and music better than anyone else. Because he refuses to write blurbs for the back of novels. Because 1Q84, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, and Kafka on the Shore. Cool quote: “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
  10. Agatha Christie – Because she was “Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire”. I don’t know what that is, but it sounds pretty badass. Because she created the best detective ever, Hercule Poirot. Because she wrote over sixty mysteries and they are all fun. Cool quote: “Any woman can fool a man if she wants to and if he’s in love with her.”
  11. Roald Dahl – Because The BFG. That’s why. Because he didn’t pander to children. Because he wrote dark, funny books which may or may not have a happy ending. Because when I met him as a kid, he was indeed the Big, Friendly Giant. Cool quote: “So, please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install, a lovely bookcase on the wall.” 
  12. Zadie Smith – Because she changed her name (as a teen) from Sadie to Zadie because it sounded more exotic, and Sadie means Princess – she didn’t like the association. Because On Beauty. Because she was in TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005 list. Not bad. Because she wears cool turbans. Because she is rumored to be working on a musical of Franz Kafka’s life. Cool quote: “An English Lit degree trains you to be a useless member of the modern world.”
  13. Stephen KingStephen King – Because more of his books have been adapted into films than any other author, so sayeth Guinness Book of Records. Because Salem’s Lot, The Shining, Lisey’s Story and On Writing. Because he survived a near fatal car accident and kept going. Because he writes NY Times book reviews. Because he was in a band called Rock Bottom Remainders with Amy Tan, Mitch Albom, Matt Groening, and Scott Turow. Cool quote: “Every book you pick up has its own lesson or lessons, and quite often the bad books have more to teach than the good ones.”
  14. Octavia E. Butler – Because she was the multiple recipient of both the Hugo and Nebula awards – the highest praise for science fiction writers. Because she was born and raised in Pasadena, California… just like other cool women like me and Julia Child. Because she attended my alma mater, Pasadena City College for her AA, and eventually moved to Seattle. Because she called herself a hermit, and because I met her and she was awesome. Because Parable of the Sower and Kindred. Cool quote: “Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought. To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears. To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool. To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen. To be led by a liar is to ask to be told lies. To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery.”
  15. John Waters – Duh. He is the epitome of cool. Cool quote: “You should never read just for ‘enjoyment.’ Read to make yourself smarter! Less judgmental. More apt to understand your friends’ insane behavior, or better yet, your own. Pick ‘hard books.’ Ones you have to concentrate on while reading. And for god’s sake, don’t let me ever hear you say, ‘I can’t read fiction. I only have time for the truth.’ Fiction is the truth, fool! Ever hear of ‘literature’? That means fiction, too, stupid.”
  16. George Elliot – Because she was a badass feminist in Victorian times. Because, like the Brontë sisters, Mary Ann Evans created a pen name so the sexist assholes of the times would take her seriously. Because Middlemarch. Because she had a twenty year-long relationship with a married man. Because she wrote what many say is the greatest novel in the english language. Cool quote: “You may try, but you cannot imagine what it is to have a man’s force of genius in you, and to suffer the slavery of being a girl.” 
  17. 251550_523966377619405_374295507_nMark Twain – Because he was a riverboat pilot. Because his BFF was Nikola Tesla. Because A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Because he loved cats, and played pool with them. Because the awesome Hal Holbrook did a one man show AS him. Cool quote: “One cannot have everything the way he would like it. A man has no business to be depressed by a disappointment, anyway; he ought to make up his mind to get even.”
  18. Ursula K. Le Guin – Because her first name is Ursula. Because she is considered to be the best science fiction writer alive. Because The Dispossessed.Because her books tackle complex subject such as alternative worlds, politics, natural environment, gender, religion, sexuality and ethnography. Because she submitted her first story for publication at age 11. Cool quote: “I talk about the gods, I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth.”
  19. Alexandre Dumas – Because he wrote about the most badass dudes ever, namely The Three Musketeers, and The Count of Monte Cristo. Because he was a world traveler and a ladies man said to have fathered at least seven children from some forty affairs. Because he was a well liked dude of his times described as, “the most generous, large-hearted being in the world. He also was the most delightfully amusing and egotistical creature on the face of the earth. His tongue was like a windmill – once set in motion, you never knew when he would stop, especially if the theme was himself.” Cool quote: “Never fear quarrels, but seek hazardous adventures.”
  20. Susan Sontag – Because her nickname was “The Dark Lady”. Because she was admitted to college at age 16, and married her professor two weeks after meeting him. Because her book On Photography (1977) did not contain a single photograph – as specimen or illustration. Favorite quote: “I don’t like America enough to want to live anywhere else except Manhattan. And what I like about Manhattan is that it’s full of foreigners. The America I live in is the America of the cities. The rest is just drive-through.”

Let Freedom Ring! (Unless you work for Hobby Lobby)

hobby-lobby-reality-check-Miss-R.EVOLuntionaries-FBI’ve never been a very patriotic person. Sure, I love being back in America, but I am not naive enough to say “It’s the greatest country in the world!” It gives me hives to see families wearing matching American Flag outfits, probably purchased at Old Navy, knowing they were made in Cambodia under sweatshop conditions. We certainly have a knack for celebrating freedom yet not actually believing in it. Woman in America are watching their rights be stripped away. Gays can’t legally get married. (There are 18 countries in which it IS legal, including So. Africa and Uruguay. But not America.) Let freedom ring! Throw on that flag shirt and light up the grill!

And that’s the America that I know and love. It’s the country that boasts the loudest and the proudest. With not much in recent memory to boast about. Let’s see… in 2014 we were number one in divorce rates, 23% of us can’t read, we are number one in defense spending, we make about the same amount of money as folks in Ireland, and we die just like everybody else does. And don’t get me started on maternity leave. We are not special, and we certainly are not the greatest country in the world. We just shout louder. We belittle those who disagree with us. We shun and disgrace the poor. We are pompous and arrogant. We don’t care about gays. Or women.

It’s hard for me to want to celebrate The Fourth of July when just last week the Supreme Court declared (in a 5-4 ruling) that for-profit companies can use religious objections to avoid paying for contraception coverage required under Obamacare. Hobby Lobby is a corporation. Corporations get certain benefits that people, actual human beings don’t: protection from criminal charges, tax breaks, etc. If Hobby Lobby would like to be a PERSON with religious beliefs, then Hobby Lobby should not get the protection of a corporation. It’s a case of you can’t have it both ways.

First off, The Hobby Lobby claims to be a christian company with conservative beliefs when at the same time they sell products made in China. This is straight up hypocrisy. The companies that HL deals with in China that have a reputation for labor rights violations and rock-bottom wages. Employees often end up working ridiculous hours in conditions you would never even dream of working under. They will never earn enough money to escape the cycle. Not to mention China’s dark ages, one child policy. This policy leads to the arrest of women and forced abortions. Not very Christian. Yet HL turns a blind eye to this.

tumblr_n816mzyt111r83d7lo1_500HL also invests in companies that make the morning after pill. This from a company who claims to operate in a manner “consistent with Biblical principles”. Whatever that means. Hell, Hobby Lobby cited their religion as defense to explain why they don’t sell Hanukkah decorations. But I digress. Hobby Lobby’s founders have made it clear that any abortion and certain contraceptives are unacceptable in their eyes. Yet HL invests in numerous companies that manufacture birth control (like Mirena and ParaGard). Can all companies claim religious beliefs as reason to deny coverage of other health care needs like blood transfusions, vaccines, or organ transplants? No. According to the decision, written by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, it’s really just about preventing women from accessing certain health care coverage.

‘Merica! ‘Merica! ‘Merica!

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote a descent and it is well worth the read. She says it better than I ever could. This ruling will impact millions of American women who don’t share their employers beliefs. This ruling tells me that some beliefs are more important than others and that men are still deciding what women can and cannot do with their own bodies. Some women take birth control to help them with blood pressure or acne. Some women need that medication. And you know what? It isn’t anyones business why they need it. Nobody is going through Sam Alito’s medicine cabinet deciding which medications HE should or should not be allowed to use. “The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield,”Ginsberg said. And she’s correct.

So have a happy Fourth of July. Enjoy your grilled hot dogs and potato chips. Enjoy the freedom’s that this country decided you could have, but remember all of us who don’t get the same consideration. We still live here too.

Zen Habits: Work/Life Balance

WorkLifeBalance3Yesterday at work I read a passage in a book I was returning to the shelves of the Business section. I tend to glance at the titles in this section or roll my eyes as I flip through the pages. For me, most of what is in Business books is just common sense. They try to market to specific types of people (Type A anyone?) by claiming to have the answer to all of your important questions. It is not unlike the Diet book business. Each new book claims to have the right answer for losing weight, but you’ll only have the answer if you read the book. I’ll save you some money – eat right, eat smaller and exercise. No book necessary. The same goes for business. If you need to read a chapter explaining how to return emails (to your boss, coworker, team…) then you are kind of dumb. But there are plenty of people who think I’m dumb, so I guess we’re even.

The book I glanced at was by a young (twenty-seven years old) entrepreneur who claimed to have the keys to success for todays ever-changing world. Or something like that. She knows what she’s talking about. You can tell from the smart yet chic suit she wears on the cover. She’s also standing outside on a corner like she’s going to hail a cab. I guess thats supposed to let us know she’s a Big City Business Woman and we can trust her. Anyway, I opened to a page about work/life balance. Or rather how the idea of such a thing is a figment of your imagination. Like the Easter bunny. Okay she didn’t make that analogy but she should have. She writes that her generation strives for work life integration. To not work an eight-hour day and then go home and forget about it. She says that work and life are the same. The. Same.

I threw up a little in my mouth. But I kept reading.

She contends that for women, the balance of a home life and a work life doesn’t exist. Something has to give. Women cannot balance a successful career and be a wife and or mother, girlfriend, whatever… without giving up something, or saying “No” to opportunities. Um… No shit! Who says “Yes!” to everything? I guess realizing that at age twenty-seven is alright, but did you need to devote a chapter in your book to it? The trick is saying yes to the right things for you and your priorities. If your priorities are career driven, then say yes to things that will help your career. If your priorities are family, travel or whatever else, then say yes to the things that help that vision. Taking short cuts isn’t the answer.

woman-entrepreneurThe lady entrepreneur continues to write about how she has integrated her work life with her life life by getting  a nanny, ordering groceries on-line and having them delivered, and hiring someone to walk her dog for her. I put the book down. That is not achieving balance. That isn’t even integrating. That’s just delegating. Nice try. But I ain’t buyin’ it.

Success and fulfillment are different for everyone. Many people gauge their success by how well they get paid, their title at work, or their position. Others by how their life looks from the outside. Do you have the right things? If you have the right things people will think you are successful. It seems to me that the author of that book thinks this way. Money, fame and power are what matters. What people think matters. You can claim to have it together, but when you are living your life by proxy, I don’t believe you. Bringing your work home with you is fine if you are single and live alone, but it’s just cruel if you live with other people. Or cats. Nobody wants to be around the person who is constantly checking their iphone, constantly talking about work, or is obviously not present when you try to have a non work related conversation.

Eckhart Tolle says, “Neither failure or success has the power to change your inner state of being.” The most successful people I know do not look at failure as failure and success as success. They do not let outcomes change their state of beingYou can see if goals are being accomplished or not, but that shouldn’t have any effect on your inner state. Telling women to delegate their lives away isn’t the answer. We should make time to walk the dog or pick the kids up from school. We should be capable and willing to buy food for ourselves in a store or market. When we disconnect from our lives to the extent that we buy our food from a touch screen and have it left on our doorstep we’ve gone too far. When the nanny picks up the kids from school, feeds them dinner and you simply kiss them good night, you’ve gone too far. Perhaps we need to look at our priorities a little.

For me, being happy at work and at home meant changing my perception of the world around me. There was no other answer. The truly successful, whether a CEO, a lawyer, a bookseller, or a stay at home mom, are the people who create a life full of joy and accomplishment. These people are not controlled by environment or opinion. Truly successful people are self-reliant, they know where they are going in life.  Even if outward appearances do not agree. They choose where to focus their energy and their thoughts. Tolle also says that pleasure is something you get from the outside and joy comes from within. I think success is finding joy. Who cares what you do for a living if you’ve discovered joy within yourself? I try to remember every day, that looking for happiness is the antithesis of happiness. It helps. And it makes me happy.

I’m a Barbie Girl

contentWhen I was a little girl I had a variety of dolls. I played with “Baby” dolls, Cabbage Patch Kids, Barbie Dolls, Star Wars dolls and action figures, and even my grandmothers porcelain dolls. All of these dolls (including my Grandmother’s) are still in cardboard boxes somewhere in my mom’s garage. I loved dolls when I was a child and I love them today. I played with all sorts of dolls and none of them (with the exception of my Princess Leia action figure) influenced my self-confidence or self-worth. Princess Leia just made me want to fight bad guys and rid the universe of evil. I still want to do that.

Playing with Barbie dolls as a young girl in the 80’s didn’t give me an eating disorder, and it didn’t make me feel ugly. I never thought of Barbie as a “role model”. I looked at my Barbie dolls as a hanger for clothing. 90% of my time playing Barbies was used to change her clothes. And Barbie wasn’t the easiest doll to do a costume change for. My Barbies didn’t have slick legs (except for “My First Barbie”) and the pants and sleeves of the glamorous clothes always stuck to her body. I literally had to tug and pull to get her dressed. Cher makes it look so easy.  Anyway, I played with Barbie as she was intended to be played with: As a fashion doll.

I get irritated when I hear people complain about Barbie and her “impossible” proportions. Of course she’s impossible. She’s a doll. Barbie was introduced in 1959 when the only doll a girl had to play with was a “baby doll”. I don’t have anything against “baby dolls” but not every little girl wants to play mommy, or even be a mommy. Mattel tapped into a market that no one else in America was interested in: girls. She was one of the first toys to use TV advertising to her advantage, and she’s still around today. Sure, she’s changed a lot but the idea is still the same. Barbie is a fashion doll. You can change her outfits. She goes to parties and to work.

Y7496_BARBIE-FASHIONISTAS-Gown-Doll-(Pink-Mermaid-With-Ruffles)_XXXBut not all women have the same view of Barbie. Some women seem to find the doll threatening. They call her “unrealistic” and “over exaggerated”. I couldn’t agree more. She totally is. But so are Transformers and GI Joe. And My Little Pony. Barbie is no more of a threat to a young girls self-esteem than Batman is to a young boys. But some people have to find fault with everything and those people’s kids get to play with this new doll called “Lammily”. No, that’s not a typo, that is the doll’s actual name. And as if that wasn’t enough to turn off any young girl, the doll also looks like your mom.

Meet “Lammily” the lame doll with the lame name. She’s more “realistic” than Barbie and bound to be absolutely no fun to play with. The doll (designed by a man) is supposed to be the representation of a “normal” body. How fun. Lammily looks like she shops at Old Navy and drives carpool on Tuesdays. If I am a young girl who wants to see what a “normal” woman looks like, I need look no further than my own family, or perhaps to one of the dozens of female teachers in my life. I get normal. I am normal. Who wants to play normal? How does that encourage my imagination? It doesn’t. It probably makes mom feel like she’s awesome, but it leaves daughter bored. And with a doll that doesn’t fit any other doll clothes.

Leia 6Like I said, I had a wide variety of dolls in my entourage, one of which was a “Barbie-type” Princess Leia doll. She came in her white dress, hair in two buns, and her gun. She even looked a lot like Carrie Fisher. I loved her. I loved her until she had to integrate into my pre-existing Barbie society. My new doll had huge, flat feet. There was no way she was going to fit those canoes into Barbie’s dainty little slippers. She was also twice the size of Barbie which meant that she couldn’t share clothes. Princess Leia was stuck in that white, turtle neck gown. Indefinitely. She became the doll that stayed home when the others went out. She was the Cinderella of my group, but unlike the fairy tale, Ms. Leia never got to go to a ball. None of the gowns fit.

And that’s how I see these “Lammily” dolls. They are guaranteed to make your daughter the outcast. I remember being invited over to a friend’s house to play Barbies, and feeling like the biggest dork in the world when I showed up with a doll that didn’t fit in. Literally. Leia didn’t fit in the dream house. If the idea behind these so-called “Normal” dolls is to help girls with their self-esteem, then I see it backfiring big time. If you want your daughter to have good self-esteem, then talk to her about it and be her role model. Don’t leave it up to a doll.

The “Lammily” doll is still being funded (via Crowdfunding campaign) and they hope to produce 5,000 boring dolls that look like the neighbor lady getting ready to go to the gym. The tagline is “Average is Beautiful”. Seriously? I mean, sure there is nothing wrong with average. I got a couple of C’s on a report card or two, but shouldn’t we strive for more? Average isn’t beautiful. It’s average. I understand that some people are offended by Barbie and the hyper-sexualized “Bratz” dolls, but I don’t think making a doll that looks like a soccer-mom is the solution. There isn’t a lot of fun places you can pretend to go with your Lammily doll.

The real solution here is to talk to our young ladies and give them credit for being able to choose their own role models. Barbie doesn’t have to be anything more than a fun toy. If we talk to our kids (boys and girls) and help them to understand that toys are toys, and people are people, then it should be alright in the end. I never once thought I could grow up to be Barbie, the thought never crossed my mind. Leading your kids to believe “they can be anything” and that they are “perfect” the way they are is fine I guess, but I’d rather have a healthy dose of reality. No, you will never look like Barbie. 

And that’s a good thing. Because she is a plastic doll, and you, YOU are flesh and blood.