Category Archives: culture

For the love of women, from a sugar frosted nutsack (a book review)

One of my favorite authors is Mark Leyner. I have described him as the postmodern reasonable facsimile of Umberto Eco’s doppelganger… at least I do so to people with whom I care to discuss authors of impact without fear of judgement (someday  you should let me tell you about that time I was found wanting for my love of YA literature).

I am reading,  listening  read his novel about the gods, because I love novels about the gods. For the seriously important information about this book:

The Sugar Frosted Nutsack: A Novel
by Mark Leyner
Link: http://a.co/3YsVZVq   (prices vary)

img_4252
Get it? 

The throws of love seem to predominate any tales about the gods (I am looking at Neil Gaiman here, American gods was also a fucking awesome listen if you find the full cast audio version).

The Sugar Frosted Nutsack is a snarky and often hilarious look at modern culture, with some sweet gentleness mixed in. It is past absurd love-story that involves scenes reminiscent of Alice in wonderland (a human becomes 50 ft tall) and part pornographic romp (a plethora of dildos of an amazing variety are involved).  I have missed Leyners’ work, but decided that he was absent for about 15 years because the world needed to catch up in terms of interestingness.

You know I loved the audio-book when I purchase the actual one. Can’t wait for it to arrive.

Anywhosiwhatsit –

What stopped me in my tracks though, was a section where the character, Ike, plagiarizes this gem below which I am reproducing in an homage, if you will, to the story – but in actuality because I want  “Ninety-seven percent of people think it was SUPER-SEXY of…”

ME

Ike to totally plagiarize that from O, The Oprah Magazine.”

1. Even little girls, in all their blithe, unharrowed innocence, have a presentiment of sorrow, hardship, and adversity…of loss. Women, throughout their lives, have an intrinsic and profound understanding of Keats’ sentiments about “Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips Bidding adieu.”

2. This sage knowledge of, and ability to abide, the inherently fugitive nature of happiness somehow accounts for the extraordinary beauty of women as they age.

3. Women have an astonishing capacity to maintain their equilibrium in the face of life’s mutability, its unceasing and unforeseeable vicissitudes. And this agility is always in stark and frequently comical contradistinction to men’s naïvely bullish and brittle delusions that things can forever remain exactly the same.

4. Women are forgiving but implacably cognizant.

5. Women are almost never gullible but sometimes relax their vigilance out of loneliness. (And I believe most women abhor loneliness.)

6. In their most casual, offhand, sisterly moments, women are capable of discussing sex in such uninhibited detail that it would cause a horde of carousing Cossacks to cringe.

7. Women are, for all intents and purposes, indomitable. It really requires an almost unimaginable confluence of crushing, cataclysmic forces to vanquish a woman.

8. Women’s instincts for self-preservation and survival can seem to men to be inscrutably unsentimental and sometimes cruel.

9. Women have a very specific kind of courage that enables them to fling themselves into the open sea—whether it’s a new life for themselves, another person’s life, or even what might appear to be a kind of madness.

10. Women never—no matter how old they are—completely relinquish their aristocratic assumption of seductiveness.

And here is one last thing I know—and I know this with a certitude that exceeds anything I’ve said before: that men’s final thoughts in their waking days and in their lives are of women…ardent, wistful thoughts of wives and lovers and daughters and mothers.

Source: http://www.oprah.com/spirit/what-i-know-for-sure-about-women#ixzz4cka6nyTB

And because of this.

I give you this:

 

 

I am a rancher at heart, now I have brand to show for it!

My house was built before Arizona was a state.  As such, it has seen so many things and as I go to bed each night I try not to worry about the leaky pipe or the wobbly porch with a hole in it and instead try to concentrate more on what stories it has to tell.

This past weekend the grandson of the second owner of our home stopped by for a visit.
He grew up in the house and shared some marvelous stories with me. 
I learned that there is a cover-up and I was sworn to secrecy.
I learned that Wilford  Hayden would ride his old mule from the ranch about five miles north after dinner and sit on the porch chattin’ until well past midnight.
I learned that the brand the Stevenson family use (and did so when they lived in my home) was this:
can we pretend it is for 6 Squink or (last name redacted)?
Also, my cousin has a brand that needs to be renewed
I learned that I need to crash the next meeting of the Scottsdale Old-Timers club! 

TEDx yzpdqbil*

I have to admit, I am currently a little obsessed with TED talks.




It all started with this one talk – I think I saw it sometime in the fall of 2008;

https://embed-ssl.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.html


I was floored, and moved, and thought “what a great way to put things out there”.

And since this was new I kind of waited to see what it would bring. I made my mother watch it. I sent it to my friends, and have fondly referred to the talk and my reaction to it ever since.

I was not a Ted-aholic, though. I would only reach out to Ted videos when I referred to them.

But something changed.

As I was preparing to host a movie screening with panel discussion, and I could not find anyone willing to serve as master of ceremonies, I realized that the job would fall to me.

So, I began watching them to see what makes for a good speaker, what are things that are compelling, what things did I like.

I even made Squink watch them while he would take a bath, the bio-luminescence ones are super cool!

I think I am a mediocre speaker. I have some strengths, but plenty of weaknesses.

But after the event, I had the idea of a themed series of talks, something like the Ted talks I had been watching for cues.

It is possible:  https://www.ted.com/participate/organize-a-local-tedx-event

But I think the one for Phoenix is taken.

And they frown upon “themed” events.

And when I thought about it some more, I saw so many possibilities and had to chuckle at the notion that each one had at least one “rule violation”.

I thought about one dealing with the many faces of cancer; from the physicians that find it, the pathologists that decipher it, the oncologists that treat it, the people who have endured it, the families of those who suffered it, the nurses who care for them, the scientists researching it.

It would be good, but it is a theme and violates the programming rules.

Then I thought about what it was like growing up as a third culture kid, and how cool it would be to get other people who grew up that way. I think my friend Doralice would have some wonderful insights, as would my friend Sparrow, and my friends Jeff and Erica. I think it would be interesting to give voice to that kind of experience. It is a bit unusual.

I have met so many interesting people, I would love to have an event to hear them talk… the Jivaro indian that had to flee his tribe because he wouldn’t convert, the people who started putumayo, the circus people, the rodeo folks, singers, entrepreneurs of the ridiculous, those off grid (the hardest to organize), photographers, movie stars, cartoonists in the golden era, explorers, survivors, hedonists, narcissists, and so on.

That got me to thinking about what would happened if I was told I had to give a Ted talk…  kind of talk could I give? what would it be about?

My ideas for Ted events is large…. but the list of things I feel I would be qualified to talk about is pretty non-existent.

I suppose I could talk about how being diagnosed with cancer was life changing in some spectacularly subtle ways… or what it was like being born to a bullfighter father and an explorer mother, though that is really their stories. About being a child of divorce (booooooring).  What it was like managing a high stress pregnancy, most of which was spent on bed rest (gag me).

At this point in my life, I think I would talk about why I think vaccines are important, from a theoretical view, and cultural view, and prevention view, a mothers view, a survivors view,

What would your Ted talk be about?









*stands for examine your zipper, pretty darn quick, before I look (a childhood phrase)

A seasonal urge

I grew up in the land of eternal spring… some even called it eternal fall.

I never have experienced four strong seasonal changes… usually it was two… but it could even be argued that there was one season unless one counts “more rain” as another season.

Ecuador had that… rain and more rain, it was eternal spring, or something akin to the glorious autumn season of the southwestern US.

Yes, it is confusing, but the big seasonal denominator for me has been the presence or absence of rain.

Today was that kind of day here in my beloved American Southwest… overcast and lightly rainy. A huge high pressure system that seemed unexpected causing tension headaches and achy bones. The release when the rain managed to push past. The smell of creosote wafting in the air.

I always feel a different kind of contentment in the rain, no matter in what part of the world I am in. If there is rain, I get this feeling. It isn’t particularly productive, but is a certain kind of peace or contentment. Though I do tend to write more when I can hear water droplets hitting the windows or the cadence of rain on the tin roof of my back porch. I feel the magic that my favorite authors are able to convey about this world, the kind that feeds the stories of Borges, Allende, Esquivel, and Garcia Marquez. While I do not claim that there is a Latin Exclusivity to the genre, as a daughter of its lands, I can understand the origins every so deeply.

When it rains, the world feels magical.

Rain in the magical jungle city of Tena in Ecuador


“The seasonal urge is strong in poets. Milton wrote chiefly in winter. Keats looked for spring to wake him up (as it did in the miraculous months of April and May, 1819). Burns chose autumn. Longfellow liked the month of September. Shelley flourished in the hot months.” Helen Bevington 

I am back – with some Calculated Acts Of Kindness (COAK)

Yes, I decided to  come back here. I figured out how to un-subcribe people and did so…

I did that because this chronicles my life for the last 10 years.. and a lot has happened.

But those ten yea

thank you deviantart

rs all had my Squink in them. And even when I did not mention him, it happened around him.

But it also feels like a new beginning and how wonderful that it coincides with the first day of Lent.

So, I am following after Kelli at AfricanKelli with a commitment to Calculated Acts of Kindness…

I will post updates on:

Flickr Pool

Instagram

Facebook

and of course HERE (and on my other site)!!!!

What a wonderful way to start

Peek-A-Boo – I can’t seeeeeeeeee you…..

Oh my, how many times did I play that game as a new mother…. There were countless delights in the delight and giggles of my newborn son. I loved watching my son take his turn,  cover his eyes, and then swiftly moving his hands away. Staring at me, wide eyed, with the expression of “Mom, I was here the whole time”, laughing as I pretended that I could not see him.
The idea is to learn object permanence.
My brother, when he was young, used to close his eyes when he wanted to be alone (no matter how many people were in the room with him). He was completely convinced (I believe) that if he could not see us, that we were no where near him.
People were and are always present to each other. This is true, even if you adopt some sort of frantic philosophy in which you would argue that everything is not real. That my brother was, in fact, alone and/or there was no one in front of my son when he had his eyes covered.
I thought about these times after I read this article  the other day.
I find humans to be fascinating, we are social beings. There must be some kind of thinking that has an application to technology and how we tend to act towards each other. I mean, why do we act so terribly when we can’t see the face of the other… trolls, for example, thrive on this, I would argue that they depend on it.
I’ve been told that gossip serves a crucial social role for us humans. Gossip moderates our social behaviour… and I think that it applies to this in a certain context. So, imagine if you will, how easy it would be to scold someone you know via text or email if you did not have to see them. One would put their scorn into a few words and be as clear, concise and I might argue brutal… after all we want to make sure the point gets across.
This message puts the other end of the social interaction on the defensive. It is more likely than not, that a series of texts or emails get exchanged with a defensive end and an aggressive end. For delicate social relationships, this is probably not the best way to go about communicating.
This is so hard for people like me who hate talking on the phone. I prefer a text, or an email. I tend to not even want to talk to people. I am an introvert.
This is a modern day reliance that tends to be abused. When I sit on a board or committee, I tend to default to this. I have noticed that feelings get hurt so much more quickly over text or email. I know that I have been on the hurt end. I know I have also been on the giving end…. though not usually in giving of a complaint, but in pursuing a conversation.
So, I ponder the reliance I myself have on technology to communicate my feelings. I am trying to move away from it. Of course, I have this (these, actually) blog(s), they are a public written communication. And my blog is also subject to vitriol and complaint.
Text, email, and even blogs are devoid of any kind of social interaction. When we speak we can at the very least know that the subtle intonations are being heard (even if misheard). When we write, sarcasm doesn’t usually translate. When we speak, there is a possibility we can react to body language. When we text, we don’t.
So much is inferred through sight and hearing. I can see if the person I am speaking to has outward signs of having a bad day. I can hear if someone is making a joke. And though people miss these cues often when in person or over the phone, we are less likely to miss them than if we text.
In the days of “The FaceBook”, Twitter, email, text, instant message… we have lost the physical interface.
If you consider things like FacebookTwitter, or even blogs you can see  how there is a modicum of backlash. Will we learn how to do this better? 
When will learn to be more gentle with one another? 

The Language of Silence

I am almost always the first to wake up in the house.

Usually, I manage to open my eyes before the first of the two alarms I have.
I listen to my house. I listen to the street outside my window. I listen to the ping of my automatic coffee maker. I listen to my husband sleep beside me, and I listen to see if my son is waking up in the other room.
On rainy days, I listen to the drops of rain against the window.
I look for the signs of morning. Rays of sunshine streaming through the windows, the light on the carpet in the hall next to our room.
I sit up and reach to grab my robe from the foot of the bed and wrap it around me. I swing my legs to step onto our cold floor. I putter towards the kitchen, grab a mug and set it on the counter. I putter to the fridge and open it to get the half and half. I open the carton, as I swing around back to the mug and pour enough in to just cover the bottom of the mug. I put the creamer back and swing back to my mug, pick it up and carry it to the coffee maker, which has already started and is seconds away from giving me the refuge I seek. Once my mug is full, I cradle it between my hands, feeling the warmth. I hold it up to my face and inhale deeply. I love the smell of coffee and cream. I think about the farmers who raised my beans, who milked my cows and give them gratitude.
I putter back to my bed, stopping along the way to peek in on my son, and smile at how gentle his ten year old face looks in the early morning light, the light dusting of freckles on his nose and cheeks. I watch his chest rise and fall for a bit and continue my way back to bed. I set my mug on my bedside table and push my pillows up against my headboard and slip back under the covers sitting up. Once I am comfortable, I pick up my mug and take another breath to inhale its aroma. I take a sip.
I enjoy the silence, the brief respite from life in that moment.
I pick up my phone and check emails, both work and personal. I check the news and open up Facebook and Instagram to see what the previous day brought…. I wait until I hear the alarm in my sons room go off, when I will get up and help him with breakfast.

And as I do these the speed of life picks up and moves along at an ever increasing pace… and won’t slow down until the next morning when I wake up.

Originally published at https://medium.com/@blair_necessity/the-language-of-silence-531433a88d93 on January 12, 2015.


Love, American style

Do you remember that TV Show?

 I mean what is not to love about a show that depicts comedic American love stories using a flugelhorn to highlight it? It made silly out to be the root of romantic love.



I actually was only privy to summer re-runs when we would visit the US, but growing up overseas lent itself to think of America as some sort of different place, where EVERYTHING happened differently. That would include love.

 Aside from my childishly absurd notions that Americans had a different kind of love from elsewhere in the world… I have always been fascinated by this “emotion”, love.

 Of course, I am not the first. Those dead old white dudes (the Greek philosophers) did a pretty good job at trying to define it. But in all my years pondering the whole notion, I felt like they had missed something. Of course, this depends on who you listen to… but in general there are four Greek words for love… though some claim that there are six words.

Source


But the notion of love has always been interesting. There was a post in the New York Times that struck a chord. The idea that love can be induced in a clinical setting with a clinical method seemed intriguing.

 As I pondered the idea of being able to make two people fall in love, I wondered if this “test” was more about being vulnerable and honest rather than that there was a method to allow a couple to fall in love… I mean, that I was curious about what these questions would do outside of a “couple” type setting — what would happen if a parent and child followed the regimen, for example. Surely love was dependent on certain pre-sets. A willingness to fall in love, an attraction to the other individual at its root (which begs another question on attraction identity could this method allow gay people of opposite sexes to fall in love, for example), and even the mood at the time of the “experiement”.

 So, in a fit of my orneriness and willingness to buck systems and not follow “protocols” I decided to ask my husband and son the first set of questions.

 It was interesting. I learned things about each of them I never would have imagined, though nothing so significant that it induced a stronger feeling of love or something of that nature. However, it was a nice conversation and no one seemed bothered by the questions. 

I stopped after the first set of the questions in part because I had asked them in the car as we were on a family errand and the errand had come to a close, but also to think about how that portion had gone… plus, the second set includes a question about how you feel about your mother and that is an interesting question to ask a ten year old son (I would need to adapt the question in terms of intent, but how to capture that same essence… I mean, mothers have a pretty profound role in our lives for the bad or the good).

 So, it seems (at least on the surface) as if those studies tend to focus on fostering the eros end of a love spectrum, but since I seem to see that it is about being willing to be vulnerable that there should be more cross-love application… meaning it could create something in maternal our wifely love as well. 

I have yet to try the 4 minute staring part of the experiment, but I will. 
Though it reminds me of a boyfriend I had in college that asked me to do that with him, stare into each-others eyes for a few minutes, and it seemed too intense to try at that time… especially since I hated being looked at in those years (think bangs over the face) and would not have that kind of protection. I would have felt too vulnerable.

 However, and perhaps this is the thing I have sensed was missing — its that for all these words describing different kinds of love, and for all these questions to help one fall in love… isn’t there one word, one thing, at the root of each of them that crosses all these definitions and actions and if so, what is that? What causes all of these things to be classified under the word love.

 What does that mean for love?

Find the beautiful

THAT

Find the beautiful

Yes, that…

is my theme for this year.

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson  


Finding the beautiful… it is very present in the external. 

But as I navigated just how ugly it was to go through this cancer thing, how easy it was for people to forget that it is my battle, and I had to find myself repeatedly trying to forgive… I lost my place. And I was so hurt by people that I am close to (who are ashamed of my diagnosis, who couldn’t/can’t talk to me about what was/is happening, who took things from me with out asking, who made things harder for me….) that I forgot to stop and find the beautiful.

So, fuck the folks who take away from this… they can live with their choices.

And I am so lucky, because I have people in my life who can help me do that. So, I have to let them in and help me see what I need to see.

I,  am so excited. Because, you see, this year, 2015, I get to find the beautiful.

Yes, that…

is really my theme for this year. 

Gentleness

I feel a little better today. I still am working hard in my brain as to what to do about everything in my post yesterday. I am sure it will come to me.

One of the images I use when I want to feel better is one from my life back in Ecuador.

Specifically, being on our ranch and sitting on the grass higher up on the mountain.

This is the mountain our ranch was on:

Pasochoa

I have no idea where our ranch was in relation to that picture, but I have many good memories there.

The one that I am calling to mind is about sitting on the soft mossy grass, just above the tree line. There is a grass there that is soft like moss, but is a very small almost light green ground cover. It has these tiny pink berries, berries so small you can’t even see them unless you are looking closely. I can feel the high Andean wind burning my cheeks a bright red. I feel like I can hear the sound of God in that rush of wind blowing past my ears. I weave my finger in to the soft plants, smelling the earth. Listening to my horse hobbled nearby, and the chit-chat of my family enjoying a picnic. I feel connected to the earth, an extension of her, like a small dendrite-like messenger. I feel my hair blow across my face and whip around wildly in the wind. I pick the tiny pink berries and put them in my other hand, which is cupped in my lap… filling my cupped palm slowly with these little light pink jewels. Fairy food, I am certain it is fairy food. I put them in my mouth, one by one. tasting their faintly sweet juice. I watch our cattle off in the distance, grazing.

There is something about that moment that is so gentle, so peaceful, that it can still evoke a certain calm when I am weathering a storm.