Shithouse rat

I'm a bipolar writer in the Naked City. I'm not playing with a full deck. I don't have all my dots on the dice. My cheese is sliding off my cracker. I don't have both oars in the water. I'm a bubble off plum. In other words, I'm crazier than a shithouse rat. These are my stories. Comments--short or long, nasty or nice--always welcome!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Maginificent obsession

Originally uploaded by Ben McLeod.

My boyfriend BG likes to brag about the fact that he gets free health care from the VA (Veteran's Administration). He goes there for his HIV meds, and to see his shrink (and get those zombie shrink meds they give schizophrenics like BG). Dermatologists, bone specialists, urologists, what-have-you. Plus a psych ward for those special times when pyschosis pays a call.

I sometimes try to point out to him that he has Medicare and could go to an outside doctor from time to time and perhaps get better treatment, particularly since he has almost been killed--literally-- by VA doctors a number of times. If he were the litigous type, he might very well be a wealthy man by now.

The Manhattan VA has metal detectors and guards, as well it should--though not all VA's do. But BG did tell me a story (I don't know if it's true, but I'd bet it is), about a time before the metal detectors were in place and disaster ensued.

Seems a vet needed to have one leg amputated, so he went to the VA. The story goes that the doctor, in his infinite ineptitude, performed the operation--but did so on the wrong leg. The vet, it is said, came back with a gun and blew said doctor away.

I must say, I'd have been a bit miffed myself. And I have no trouble at all believing this story is true, considering the care BG and others receive at the VA hospital. Recently BG had to schlep to Manhattan--a one hour trip--three separate times before a doctor finally kept her scheduled appointment and saw him--after a three-hour wait.

Be that as it may, BG takes particular pride in the fact that, since he is a vet with HIV, he gets free dental care. I have a dental plan, but it pays bubkis, so at first glance this might be seen as a great perk. However, although the BG family crest does read: 'Cheap is good, free is better," I tend to think that if you receive free shit sandwiches, it might be best to do without.

In any case, BG's been seeing his current dentist, Dr. U, for a number of years. I've met the woman, and she's courteous enough, I suppose. But she is so peculiar that we long ago gave her the nickname of Robo-dentist.

Every time BG comes there for dental "treatment," as soon as he sits down Robo-dentist goes through the exact same routine without fail and without deviation:

Mr. BG, please rinse with this. Some-people -say-that-it-tastes-like-Listerine-and-some-even-say-it-tastes-better.

Then, she points at the chart on the wall and goes down the list.

Do you have any sores in your mouth. Do you have any bleeding. Do you have any pain....

Admittedly, this is certainly better than some of the sadistic psychoshrinks BG has encountered at the VA, but it is very strange nonetheless. BG and I have often pondered why Dr. U goes through this Listerine routine as if she's never laid eyes on BG before. I said, what could cause this strange behavior? Does she have a very bad short term memory? What's the deal?

Gradually, BG filled me in on more details about Dr. U. For one thing, Dr. U wears full surgical scrubs, as if she were in a burn unit. No other dentists we've ever encountered, there or anywhere else, do so. She also seems to have no sense of humor whatsoever.

BG is a very affable fellow, and loves to laugh and make people laugh. To cite one instance, Dr. U seems to be particularly obsessed with getting BG to stop smoking. One time she asked how the smoking was going, and again gave BG the newsflash that smoking could be harmful to his health. Her wise words on the matter: "Mr. BG, you can live without your teeth, but you can't live without your lungs." To which BG retorted with the old chestnut: "Hey, I've been smoking for 40 years, and my lung feels great."

Her reaction to this, as with all BG's attempts at wit, was the same as it always is. Not even a smile, or a fake laugh to be polite. Rather, total silence, followed by: "Oh Mr. BG, you are so funny."

She also has a full dossier on BG, and it has nothing to do with his teeth. Long ago, I submitted BG's slides for an art competition, where the prize was inclusion in a full-color catalog. One of BG's paintings was reproduced in the book, which was, perhaps, 150 pages in length. BG brought it in to show Dr. U, and she asked if she could xerox the picture. BG said certainly, and sat there for about 20 minutes. When Dr. U had returned, he saw that she had xeroxed not just the one page, but the entire book, and then put it in her "BG" file.

Admittedly, BG's teeth--what is left of them--are in bad shape. Nevertheless, Dr. U seems to view BG as a continual work in progress. She is always giving him "temporary" fillings. I have heard of temporary crowns and caps, since the permanent ones need to be made, and this takes some time. But temporary fillings?

I'm no dentist, but I do believe that Dr. U's endless crotzing around has cost BG several teeth already. He's had two painful extractions in the past year alone, and I am convinced from what BG has told me that Dr. U is not interested in saving the teeth BG still has, but in making sure that he loses all of them. Perhaps since her husband specializes in dentures, she apparently is very intent on making sure that BG has a full set as soon as possible.

One day she said to BG: You know, Mr. BG, you are going to eventually lose all your teeth. The next time he saw J, the dental hygienist, an affable man who did have a sense of humor and personality, he asked BG: "What is that woman doing for you, exactly?"

BG told the hygienist what Dr. U had said about being toothless soon.

To which J replied: "You know, BG, Dr. U is full of it."

J used to work in a private dentist's office. He saw firsthand how the dentist he worked for would, say, do a filling for one tooth, but deliberately create a new cavity in a healthy tooth at the same time. So J quit, and came to work for the VA.

In any case, BG was coming back over and over to see Dr. U, but most of the time she didn't do much. But she liked to schedule 2-hour appointments nevertheless. After giving BG the Listerine spiel and the chart rundown, first Dr. U would start writing furiously at the computer for quite a long time. When BG would see her scrolling down, he saw all the endless data she had written about him which had nothing to do with his teeth, including details about his artwork and such.

She then would disappear for about 20 minutes at a clip, come back, work on a temporary filling, leave again, come back again.

At the end of the session, she would always give BG a limp handshake, and say, in her robotic way: "Thank you for serving our country."

The more I heard about Dr. U, the more fervently I tried to understand what her motives might be. I had a suspicion that the VA, which was constantly threatened with budget cuts, had to justify each employee's continued tenure there by the number of appointments each doctor logged in. Could that be the reason for Dr. U's two-hour sessions, with perhaps 5 or ten minutes of real dentisty (such as it was) perfomed?

But it seemed to go deeper than this. It seemed to be some type of personality disorder--or perhaps, lack of personality disorder. BG and I tried to imagine her having sex with her dentist-husband at the end of a long day:

I will now fondle your penis until you obtain an erection. Now you can insert your penis into my vagina. Some people say it feels good.....

Ugh. Whatever. Best not to go there.


Sunday, September 25, 2005

What kind of blogfool am I?

Originally uploaded by arycogre.
A few things about me:

When something bad happens to me, I often find that sooner or later it can turn out to be a good thing after all.

My boyfriend and I do not dig organized religion, but feel that most religions can be summed up by the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you).

I believe in karma. I don't think that "nice guys finish last." I believe that a person who rises to the top by stepping on others is not a happy person, despite whatever riches and status they may attain. I'm talking here about how they feel, deep in their hearts or their dreams or nightmares, when there is no one around to observe or be impressed.

On the other hand, those who are cheerful and happy and giving usually find that that attitude is contagious and is reciprocated--not by all, perhaps, but enough so that kindness is its own reward.

This may be more of a "girl" thing, but when conflict arises, I try to look back in retrospect to see where I might also have been to blame, and attempt to learn from it. Sometimes things people point out to me in an "unfair" manner may still have some truth to them.

So the question then is:
Is there any truth to the claim that I am a crybaby starving for attention? That I am a buttinsky making trouble for others? That I am a know it all?

Well, yes, perhaps there is.

A while back, I wrote a long-two-part post entitled Publish or Perish. In it, I described my experience with on-line writer's groups. I bitched and whined, but I also, in the end, chastised myself for some of my behavior as well.

When I act like an asshole, I try if I can to acknowlege and admit it, though this may be a painful exercise. And being fascinated with human behavior, I sometimes try to understand what motivates others to act like assholes too.

So at the risk of being repetitive, I need to think about what started this fray and if there is even a grain of truth in what others accused me of.

A certain blogger, D, who also has mental health issues, has a really good blog with lots of thoughtful posts. I started to read her, and began to comment.

Around the same time, I started to blog about the issue of commenting in general.

I went to visit D's blog again, where she had just posted about how grateful she was for her readers, and ackowleged the fact that she sometimes didn't have enough time to comment to other's blogs as much as she'd like, but she appreciated her readers very much.

I posted a comment which stated, in essence, that I really liked her blog, but couldn't help but notice that she and Satan often did a kind of IM style banter back and forth, while other on-topic comments were sometimes "ignored."

I also probably crossed the line by saying thit it seemed to trivialize an otherwise serious post. I think in this case, I was out of line.

I then used my comment as the basis for a post. In addition, D wrote that she was sorry she had let down her readers, thanked me for my comment, and printed out my comment as part of HER post.

In the comments section, she and Satan then commented back and forth a bit. She said that although she adored Satan and his comments--as all his regular readers did--she felt that she had to try to keep comments to serious posts (which included mental health issues etc) more on topic. Satan seemed a bit dissppointed, but I can't get inside his head to know what he really felt about this.

I wrote a comment to her, I guess thanking her (her comments are now shut off), and as an aside wrote: Satan: No comment!

I meant it as a little joke, but Satan's final comment was something to the effect of leaving us to our pristine commenting envronment.

Shortly thereafter, Satan left a "Fuck you" post to his readers, due, he said, to a noticeable drop in comments (this was, of course, said in humor). He turned off comments to that post. Then he went on vacation, and his loyal readers were left to wonder what or who had pissed him off.

Enter my ex-pal Henry, who helpfully wrote in the comments section of one of Satan's older posts that still allowed comments:

'I know it's off the topic of this post, but I'm dismayed that you have shut us all down. Don't let an idiot like Elvira control your commenting; I apologize for leading her over to DC's blog and ruining the good time that was being had by all.

Please don't hold it against the rest of us.'

This pissed me off not only because my ex-blogpal had accused me of rabblerousing, but also because I remembered a time when his almost "worshipful" tone toward Satan was applied to me. No, I wasn't jealous, but I just knew from bitter experience that, with Henry, "worship" could turn to white hot hatred in a hot New York minute.

Awhile back, Henry did a post which started out: "On my favorite blog, Shithouse rat..." So far, so good, right? But when I didn't totally agree with something he posted there, and attempted to make a light-hearted comment gently stating my point of view, Henry went ballistic. Shortly thereafter, our friendship came to an end. He sent two final snarky e-mails, while also blocking my two e-mail addresses and access to comments on his blog.

In any case, here was my indignant retort:

elvira black said...

'Now who woulda thought it? Lil ol me, wielding the awesome power to stifle the voice of the mighty Satan himself!

Thanx for the compliment, but even I do not possess this power.

Am I right or am I right, mighty Prince of Darkness?'

Then a few others joined in and accused me, and eventually the argument moved to my blog when Squid wrote a very nasty comment about how I had "broken" Satan like a favorite toy. Thus commenced the flame fest here.

Although I like to think that I am a kind and gentle soul who does not attack unless attacked, in retrospect, I have to ask myself what part I might have played to instigate this psychodrama.

Although, in my defense, I think that if any of Satan's readers observed that he replied to comments from some people and ignored others, they would be miffed too (he seems to reply to all and sundry, however). I also think my original comment to D's site was a little too...what's the word...self-righteous?

There was D, who loved to banter back and forth with Satan on her blog. That was her business. If I posted and didn't get a response, I didn't have to post comments any more. Moreover, I'm sure that some of Satan's readers also enjoyed the banter between D and Satan on her site.

In any case, although Satan has stated that his "fuck you" had nothing to do with my comment to D, since he was merely going on vacation and I guess liked to have a bit of wicked fun with his readership, it might have been a reasonable assumption to imagine that I caused him to get upset and stop posting, absurd as that may be.

The result was not just a juicy flamefest. Shortly thereafter, D shut her comments off. She said it was not because of anything anyone had said or done. In part, her post read:

"Having comments on sets me up to reciprocate when kind people take the time to respond to my posts. I struggle to reciprocate in my face-to-face life, and I realize I have started to put pressure on myself here, and becuase the blog means so much to me, I have sometimes given energy to people I have never met at the expense of the people I have known for years, who I REALLY owe!"

But I couldn't help but wonder if she had begun to get flamed as well. And now, after this whole battle which had so much to do with commenting, she no longer has her comments turned on at all.

I had felt totally justified in striking back against my accusers, beginning with Henry, because I felt that they had cast the first stone. But in reality, my comment to D's post may have been the first stone, in a way.

Although I like to think that I am mature enough at this point in my life to live and let live, I think I still have some work to do in this area.

Since Henry's original comment enraged me so, I was looking forward to getting all medieval on his ass with a post about him. My next post may indeed be about him--I'm not sure. But if so, I will try to do a more measured account of our friendship and how it went wrong. Although I had a rift with Henry, he was at one time a good friend to me, and there is no doubt that he is very intelligent and funny. Our comments to each others blogs were full of mutual support and appreciation., and we e-mailed each other constantly back and forth, all day long, every day.

Unfortunately, our friendship is no more. I'm looking at this upcoming post as more of a case study of one blogger friendship gone wrong rather than an opportunity to tear a fellow blogger a new asshole. For that, I think, would be bad karma indeed.

But maybe the best karma of all might be to let bygones be bygones and forego my Henry post altogether. If anyone has an opinion on the matter, you know where I live.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

A plague on both your blogs

Thank you to everyone who responded to the last few posts.

As is my anal-retentive wont, I will reply to all messages that I haven't as of yet.

Perhaps it is my bipolar disorder talking (although I don't think so) but this whole Squid episode produced a wide range of feelings and reactions for me.

The first was rage and indignation that Henry-- a former very close blogfriend of mine--one that I encouraged to start his own blog--would stoop so low as to accuse me of shutting down Satan's site because of a comment I made to someone else's blog. This was not a flaming comment, mind you, but instead a comment that the blogger actually thanked me for profusely and chose to include as part of her next post. Nevertheless, Henry, desperate for "revenge," attempted to stir up trouble for me. (After our original rift, incidentally, he blocked my access to his e-mail or blog so I could not defend myself. Very cowardly, very childish.)

Then came further feelings of anger when several other sheep jumped on the bandwagon over at Satan's site as well, and before I knew it, a mini-Salem's witch hunt of the internet erupted.

Squid is a very disturbed individual. I will probably have more to say on both Henry and Squid in the next post--or perhaps I will drop the whole sorry matter. I'm not sure yet.

When Squid and I began our little "debate"--precipitated by his attack to my site--I at first enjoyed myself. It was so very easy to reply to his retorts--not because I am capable of using "big words"--but rather because he is so stupid and childish that he made it so very easy for me. I half suspect that his modus operandi is playing the sadomasochistic buffoon--anything to get attention.

This elation at having a respite from "serious," real world concerns which I and others address on their blogs--little things like Katrina and Bush as well as other matters I considered thought provoking enough to blog about--kind of lured me into this pointless flamefest. I shamelessly admitted that I was rather enjoying myself.

But yesterday, my mood and attitude again changed as I realized that not only were people like Squid stupid and malicious, but actually deliberately hateful and hurtful to the point of potentially aggraving another's serious illness.

The thing that really made me turn the corner into sheer disgust was the way that Squid turned his wrath on someone with a very serious condition--Fibromyalgia disorder. This condition is devastating to its sufferers, causing horrible chronic pain and debilitating symptoms. Suzie suffers from it.

Shortly before Squid turned his wrath my way, he began tormenting Suzie on her blog--complete with horribly malicious profanities and accusations-- by claiming that she had infected his blog with a virus. As of yesterday, he was still taunting her in the comments section of a seroius post about her condition. For me, this goes way beyond the definition of an annoying, albeit "harmless" prankster. and his horrible sickness now sickens me as well.

I will probably write more on this--I could write a book on Henry alone, but he doesn't deserve that kind of attention. For now, this is the essence of what I want to try to express about two very sick individuals--Henry and Squid.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

In case anyone is confused....

For anyone who actually gives a phlying phuck, just thought I'd clarify a few things:

"Mr. X" is, of course, Squid.

Phuck Yu is also--with only a shadow of a doubt--Squid.

In case anyone is in a hellish mood, Satan and his minions are roasting in the everlasting flames of Hades here.

Who the fuck is phuck yu?

Seems that at least one little corner of the internet is all abuzz over this clever new blogger, Phuck Yu. I've been receiving frantic messages from people who are, frankly, puzzled at his sudden appearance on their blogs like a thief in the night, spreading sunshine to all.

Well, whoever you may be, Phuk Yu, I must tell you right now that I adore you.

True, I've only just met you, but the thing is that you remind me very very much of another blogger I am mad about. Sadly, he is taken, and our love can never, ever be.

You share so many of the endearing qualities of "Mr. X" that I am absolutely reeling with utmost tenderness for you. My only hope is that you are not also taken, like the other object of my ardent affection.

Since so many of your new friends seem to be people somehow connected with the adorable little fray that's been going on here--of which "Mr. X" played such a major part--I have the feeling that you must know "Mr. X" pretty well. Tell me, Phuck Yu, are you his brother or perhaps his "special friend?" Please don't break my heart by telling me that you and "Mr. X" share the love that dare not speak its name. Please, Phuck Yu, if you are gay and are tangled up with "Mr. X" in a sordid affair, please don't continue! He is a married man, and if they divorce, I am next in line for his attentions.

How do I love thee, Phuck Yu? Let me count the ways:

Like "Mr. X," you have the most fetching way of mispelling words.

You share Mr. X's adorable trait of being quite the prankster, with no regard at all for anyone, even those who have serious health conditions which respond poorly to stress.

You have the same penchant for racy words such as cunt, whore, bitch, etc. etc.

Your name and the name of your blog share the same bawdy, exhilaratingly racy titles as "Mr X"'s.

There is a certain je ne said quoi about you that already drives me to distraction. And I am so very glad that you are becoming fast friends with so many of the same people who have become my blogpals in the past few days, courtesy of Henry, Miss "Thing", and "Mr. X." And from what I hear, you are also buddying up to some of my older friends as well.

So if you are reading this, Phuck Yu, please do let me know that my love is not in vain. I don't think I can go through that heartache twice in one week.

Please, please be mine!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

This is a test...

To see if Blogger is punishing me.

Not to be paranoid or anything but...could there be something diabolical in the air? (See below).

I can't even republish to add a new link and some code. I'm scared! Help!

Oh--since I added this message deep in my comments section on the previous post, here's a bit of news for anyone who remotely cares:

Satan is back!

And I had nothing to do with it.

He was on vacation.

I guess I'll just wait for those apologies to roll on in now....

Saturday, September 17, 2005

SIZZLING HOT Comment of the year!!!

This just in:

The very wise, tolerant, and blog-savvy Squid has weighed in on my disgraceful and craven "begging" for comments to my comments on another blog!

Seems there's been a bit of a hubbub going on since I commented to one site about the fact that most of the recent comments I observed were between her and Satan, a fellow blogpal, and that other comments seemed to be disregarded. See The politics of comments.
for the backstory and juicy, flaming feedback from Squid-boy.

The blogger in question thanked me for my input and said that this had not been intentional, and she was sorry about the fact that I had (understandably) misinterpreted her silence.

Sure enough, the very next day Satan posted a big FUCK YOU to his loyal fans and has seemingly boycotted his own blog.

A few of his frantic, sycophantic fans have subsequently put two and three together and decided that I, Elvira Black, the all powerful blogger extraordinarire, who can change the course of might rivers, bend steel with her bare hands, and walk on water, is the cause for Satan's little sabbatical.

Who woulda thought it?

I guess I really am a mean, cruel bitch. Well, here's hoping my little rant helps your hit count, Squidmeister--it could definitely use a boost!

So beware, fellow bloggers--if you aren't behaving to my liking, I will smote thee verily!

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Big Boss from hell

how i precendented
Originally uploaded by nwistheone.
I'm sure most of you are thanking God it's Friday--but perhaps none praise the heavens more fervently than those who have a Boss from Hell.

It seems virtually inevitable that the employer-employee dynamic will always have some glitches. And to be fair, bosses usually have their own bosses to deal with. What often happens, then, is a kind of trickle down tyranny. Your boss has to kiss his boss's ass, while being responsible for his/her employee's fuck ups as well, which reflect badly on him/her. So s/he gives his employees holy hell. Then, as the old joke goes, the employee goes home and yells at his wife, who yells at their kid, who kicks the dog.

Conversely, any good boss who has ever had a staff working for them knows the importance of mutual respect and trust building, as well as judicious delegation skills in order to make any working endeavor or team run smoothly.

I've had a variety of different supervisors. One was a very pleasant, unassuming type--liked by all. There was no yelling or screaming from this boss, but if I had to describe him, I'd say his style was passive agressive.

He had worked as an art director for many years at the university where I was employed. At some point, he got kicked upstairs and became the director of the department. Everyone thought he was a great guy, but all agreed that he was a terrible manager.

He used to have a sign on his door with the circle and the line through it that said "no whining." He avoided establishing regular staff meetings, preferring to have those only when necessary to put out fires. For the most part, he liked to stay in his office with the walkman plugged in and do the type of work he'd done all along--basically laying out long documents on the computer and making typographcial corrections. He was good at this, but it was the type of work that was much more appropriate to those at a much lower level, getting paid a much more meager salary.

He had little clout with his superiors, and could not effectively fight for raises and promotions for his hard-working staff, who often worked late nights and even weekends for no extra pay in order to keep the operation running smoothly. Meanwhile, he was a strictly nine to five guy.

When he was finally let go, a sociopathic woman was hired to replace him. Her resume looked impressive, but she was a fraud through and through. In the time she was there, she managed to do some major damage before she, too, was fired. A record number of people quit during that period. She hired equally ineffectual staff, and tried to get rid of anyone who knew their shit and could help her. After making a shambles of a once close knit office, and reducing the morale to record lows, she was summarily let go.

Then there was the supervisor who was hired and at first was gung ho about making radical changes. He had no experience in advertising for higher education, and did not understand the culture. Everyone in the office knew if he got his hand in a project, it would be irreparably messed up, so they avoiding letting him in on the status of anything or any problems they had. After awhile, when he realized his aggressive and ill-informed approach wasn't working, he would up with virtually nothing to do. He'd leave his jacket on the back of his chair to make it look like he'd be coming back shortly, and would go out and smoke a doob on his lunch hour. On the occasions where I'd come to see him, he often hastily tried to hide the book he had been reading when I came in. under his desk After years of this farce, he too was let go.

But the boss I still have nightmares about was my first "real" boss. When I was accepted for a master's program in English from a major private NYC university, part of my financial aid package included tuition remission and a part-time, 20 hour a week gig with the director of this small publications department.

My boss was brilliant and hard working, but was wound very tight. He had a fierce work ethic, and expected nothing less from everyone else, which in and of itself was cool. But his mercurial moods made the working environment needlessly stressful.

I admired my boss, but also feared him. He treated his staff as friends, and loved to joke and regale us with stories, and give us the latest scoop on his weekend excursions to THE gay after hours dance club at the time, the Paradise Garage. He was about 10 years my senior--I was in my early 20s when I started--but he'd just recently started to smoke pot, and would often light up after five pm while he continued to work.

But the pressures of his job, both self-imposed and external, produced untold anxiety for all involved. I was eager to please, but constantly had to endure his mercurial mood swings. When he was angry--usually because a project he was working on was giving him trouble--he would curse and yell and carry on and hurl the occasional stapler across the room for good measure.

I never knew from day to day or hour to hour if it was safe to approach him with a question. I was young and very sensitive and lived for his approval, so if I said goodnight and he didn't answer or acted cold and distant it would put me in a state of anxiety for the rest of the night. What had I done wrong?

Like a number of his colleagues, he passed away from AIDS many years ago, before life-saving drug cocktails emerged on the scene. Nevertheless, he lives on still in the frequent nightmares I have about him.

In my case, my boss was a big fish in a small pond. The publications office he ran simply provided advertising and promotional services for the university. Although stresses abounded, the worst thing that ever happened was when a disgruntled typesetter inserted the words "Oh shit!!!!" into a paragaph of a college bulletin. The dean called up the day it was printed, having found the error. I thought the world was coming to an end, but the typesetter simply took back the thousands of bulletins, slapped on a label with a corrected paragraph printed on it, and all was well.

But imagine what it would be like to work for a difficult boss whom you were afraid to approach in times of great crisis. What if this boss was responsible for decisions that affected not just his staff or his office or his firm, but the entire country and even the world?

In essence, our President appears to be such a man.

Many of us work for bosses who are able to present a diferent face to their superiors, clients, and the public than the face they present to their often beleagured staff. There's the boss who refuses to take calls when clients are frantically trying to reach him/her, leaving his underlings holding the bag and covering his ass. There's the boss who has temper tantrums within the inner sanctum of his office, but always appears calm and smiling in meetings with those outside his inner circle, his cowed employees at his side to back up this illusion.

One of the most stressful situations of all is the boss who insists on signing off on every decision, but makes himself unavailable to do so. Thus crises erupt which his staff has not been given the authority to deal with without his say so.

But in the case of the President, the nature of the media means that despite the administration's best efforts, some of the behind the scenes machinations and gaffes will be brought to public light.

Here is a small excerpt from the Center for Cooperative Research's thoroughly documented and detailed report on Bush's actions after hearing of the World Trade Center attacks while paying a visit to Booker Elementary Shool.

'After Card told Bush about the second plane and quickly left, the classroom was silent for about 30 seconds or so. [Tampa Tribune, 9/1/02] The children were about to take turns reading from a story called The Pet Goat. [AFP, 9/7/02] Bush picked up the book and began to read with the children. [Tampa Tribune, 9/1/02] In unison, the children read out loud, "The - Pet - Goat. A - girl - got - a - pet - goat. But - the - goat - did - some - things - that - made - the - girl's - dad - mad." Bush mostly listened, but occasionally asked the children a few questions to encourage them. [Washington Times, 10/7/02] At one point he said, "Really good readers, whew! ... These must be sixth-graders!" [Time, 9/12/01]"

Say what you will about Michael Moore--Fahrenheit 911 made a significant impact on me and millions of others, in part because videotape doesn't lie. Although the Booker Elementary School footage is one of the most appalling and dismaying to me, the film is also chock-full of the kinds of revelations that throughly convinced me that we would all be in deep shit if Bush was elected to a second term.

To see a thorough factual backup covering each segment of Fahrenheit 911, click HERE and judge for yourself.

To see the videotape of Bush's visit to Booker Elementary School (a clip that is rapidly becoming less and less available) click HERE.

Now, once again, we face a situation where Bush is turning to rhetoric in the wake of a disastrously inept and I daresay well-nigh-indifferent initial response to the horrific aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Maureen Dowd's op ed piece , written the day before his speech to the nation yesterday, chilled me to the bone. In part, she wrote:

'Even though we know W. likes to be in his bubble with his feather pillow, the stories this week are breathtaking about the lengths the White House staff had to go to in order to capture Incurious George's attention.

Newsweek reported that the reality of Katrina did not sink in for the president until days after the levees broke, turning New Orleans into a watery grave. It took a virtual intervention of his top aides to make W. watch the news about the worst natural disaster in a century. Dan Bartlett made a DVD of newscasts on the hurricane to show the president on Friday morning as he flew down to the Gulf Coast.

The aides were scared to tell the isolated president that he should cut short his vacation by a couple of days, Newsweek said, because he can be "cold and snappish in private." Mike Allen wrote in Time about one "youngish aide" who was so terrified about telling Mr. Bush he was wrong about something during the first term, he "had dry heaves" afterward.....

W. has said he prefers to get his information straight up from aides, rather than filtered through newspapers or newscasts. But he surrounds himself with weak sisters who don't have the nerve to break bad news to him, or ideologues with agendas that require warping reality or chuckleheaded cronies like Brownie."

Bush's "comforting" speech yesterday did not reassure me. Although he has now taken "responsibilty" for any federal flubs regarding this disaster, it seems unlikely that an analysis of what went wrong will be conducted by an independent, outside panel.

On a visceral level, I have always seen Bush as a befuddled simian like creature. He looks none too bright, and although he wraps himself in the patriotic rhetoric that endears him to his Republican supporters, he can't think on his feet or handle an unscripted moment.

I welcome your thoughts, as always.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


2003-08-24 Fireworks 076
Originally uploaded by flappingwings.
I am soooo psyched! Today Shithouse rat is the featured site for the Blog Herald's 100 Blogs in 100 Days project!

Aside from the fact that I somehow made the cut, the Blog Herald is a terrific site (and I'm not just saying Updated daily, the Blog Herald is a major source for the latest info on all things blog. I highly recommend it!

Many thanks, Duncan, for the honor!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Out in the real world

Originally uploaded by LarimdaME.
Earthshaking fire from the center of the earth
will cause tremors around the New City.
Two great rocks will war for a long time,
then Arethusa will redden a new river.

Nostradamus (Century 1, Quatrain 87)

So here I am again--huddled over Herman the Powerbook--on my boyfriend BGs rickety little futon in the wilds of the Bronx, New York. This morning, at the other end of the teeny "couch," BG sat working on his latest painting of Sid Vicious's mug shot (he eschews easels), the cat snuggled contentedly between us. Safe and sound once again--far far away from the real world. Except, of course, in my head.

Like most addicts, I justify my newfound web obsession by telling myself it's a harmless diversion. It's not like I'm trolling the streets of the naked city in pursuit of an "angry fix." Except for the monthly internet fee, it's all free fun, so I'm not squandering my money. Besides, It's been a brutally hot summer--and though mad dogs, Englishmen, and BG go out in the noonday sun (BG trudges the mean streets for hours), I prefer the more sane alternative of air conditioned luxury.

As a result, things have evolved to the point where I don't leave the apartment for days. I get virtually no exercise, and I'm smoking cigs with the same compulsive fervor a crack fiend devotes to the pipe. When I'm not on Herman, I'm either:

Zoning out in front of the TV;


Having long rambling conversations with BG over coffee and yet more cigs;

Enjoying ever more frequent party daze devoted solely to the consumption of liberal quantities of liquor and herbal supplements, along with stoned blabbering to a soundtrack featuring all my fave Britpop masters--Depeche Mode, XTC, Elvis Costello, et al.-- and a temporary moratorium on CNN.

But in the back of my mind lately is a haunting irony which keeps me from feeling too guilt ridden, viz:

Even if I forsook all junk food, jogged every day, ate only whole grains, veggies and tofu, and banned all booze and bowleg--all that pristine self sacrifice in the name of longevity could still be a total waste of time. Why not eat, drink, and be merry if tomorrow we could all be vaporized?

Nevertheless, after an evening of partying this past Saturday, I vowed to get up bright and early the next morning and schlep back to my coop in "the city" (aka Manhattan). I had work to do--C, my ex b/f, needed help alternately packing or trashing his voluminous junk, in preparation for the sale of our coop.

But as I often do, especially when Herman or the bottle beckons, I woke up late and quickly conjured up a handy excuse not to get after it on Sunday,

For one thing, the subway service was always disrupted on the weekends, when the MTA scheduled most of its maintenance and repair work. Yeah, that'll work.

But then, of course, there was the even more compelling fact that it was September 11th. I figured if anything untoward happened in NYC on the fourth anniversary of the World Trade Centter attacks, it would be much more likely to occur in Manhattan than in the Bronx. What would they do here, blow up the Botanical Gardens?

So I went into the city yesterday instead, After dragging my heels as usual, I finally got to my downtown apartment by mid-afternoon. C had the TV turned on to some People's Court clone, and we started loading up his crap into boxes and garbage bags.

Then, the regularly scheduled show was interrupted by a special report.

Seems that a large portion of Los Angeles, California had just been hit with a blackout. Officials were quick to reassure the public that it did not look like a terrorist attack--DESPITE THE FACT that just the day before, on 9/11, a tape had been released featuring a dire warning regarding upcoming attacks on Los Angeles, California and Melbourne, Austrailia.

According to the New York Times:

"ABC News broadcast the tape which it said it had received in Pakistan on Saturday. It reported that the masked speaker appeared to be Adam Yahiye Gadahn, a young man from Southern California who is wanted for questioning by the F.B.I. In the taped message, the speaker threatens attacks on the two cities, "Allah willing," and warns that the attackers will show no compassion."

A blackout in LA the day after--some coinki-dink, hey? For awhile, despite the official reassurances, I really thought this was IT. But it turned out that some bozo had cut a cable by mistake, and the power was up and running again within a few hours.

But I suspect that the combo of the 9/ll anniversary, the recent Hurricane Katrina disaster, our involvement in Iraq, and the tragic bumbling of the Administration in getting people out of New Orleans in a timely manner had given me a whopping case of post traumatic stress disorder. As a result, anything I heard or read seemed like one more sign pointing the way to the next indescribable horror.

Many years ago, I saw a movie about Nostradamus called "The Man who saw Tomorrow." Hosted by Orson Welles, it succeeded in scaring the living shit out of me by detailing some major global events he had (arguably) predicted. Although skeptics abound, I was haunted forever after by the quatrains concerning the three Antichrists. Most Nostaradamus afficianados agree that the first was Napoleon, the second Hitler, and that the third--even more unimaginably evil than those before him-- will hail from the Mid-East (though some favor East Asia). To illustrate this, the movie featured a chilling scene of a dusky faced, blue-turbaned man, his finger poised over the nuke button--destination, New York City.

This film was released, if memory serves, during the tail end of the Cold War and before the war on terror, so the idea of global annhilation originating from the mideast rather than Russia was kind of novel at the time. Now, of course, it seems all too likely.

Much has been blogged lately about the Bush Administration's embarrassing and tragic blunders in response to the awesome devastation of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Cutting short his month-long vacation, the Prez finally gave up the figurative umbrella cocktails by the pool and emerged to say some stupid insensitive things while viewing the massive devastation of the area. Unforgivable and tragic fuckups--which left residents stranded without food, water, or adequate police protection for days and days--resulted in untold deaths and injuries, and horrible despair and chaos.

One result of all this is that Bush's approval ratings have plummeted. Another is the chilling reaization that if the almighty USA--busy fighting a war that so many now agree is an unmitigated disaster--cannot deal with a domestic crisis, what in the flying fuck will happen if (or in all likelihood, when) we are attacked by terrorists again?

Today I fully intended to go back downtown and proceed with the trashing and the boxing. But there's been many a day lately where I've just blown it off and kept myself glued to Herman. Maybe part of the reason is that although the coop sale has been much anticipated and a long time coming, I can't predict with any certainty that my new dream will be realized.

This dream involves getting a two-bedroom coop a ten-minute walk from BGs crib. We can hang out chez Elvira, but we can also chill at BG's. In addition, BG can utilize his (much) smaller space as a real studio, where he can paint in peace. If I'm lucky, I can bag a high floor, with a view of the Harlem river and Palisades.

Much like my Manhattan coop, I see this apartment as the culmination of a New York fantasy. C and I bought the Manhattan coop for a song about 13 years ago --(8 grand, if I recall correctly) with no mortgage and a low monthly maintance. The neighborhood, on Manhattan's Lower East Side, had once been a cramped, squalid immigrant ghetto. When I first lived there with my aunt in high school, it was still a 'hood no one considered even emotely trendy. But in typical New York fashion, the area has undergone a dramatic metamorphosis culminating in its current status as a boho playground for the hip. Former tenements and sweatshops have morphed into repositories of innumerable bars, restaurants, galleries, boutiques, unaffordable apartments, and luxe hotels

My Manhattan one bedroom (with full eat in kitchen) is huge by NYC standards (approx. 800 sq ft). All the windows save one feature a partial view of the east river, where one can watch tugboats and sailboats go by as the afternoon light streams cheerfully in. The remaining window in the bedroom--featuring a downtown skyline--offered a prime view of the Macy's Fourth of July fireworks on my birthday--as well as the tip of one of the World Trade Center's towers every night, its antennna's red light blinking reassuringly in the dark.

Six months after 9/11 brought A Tribute in Light (view AWESOME slideshow here)-- an art installation featuring two vertical columns of light next to the former WTC site. Every night from March 11 to April 14, 2002, I could gaze upon this ghostly reminder of what had been destroyed forever from my bedroom window before I went to sleep.

Moreover, if I had ventured downtown on Sunday--and stayed late enough to see the sun go down--I would have been able to see the Tribute of Light once again, as it is resurrected every September 11th to mark this sad anniversary. .

In any case, although I'm always up for ready excuses, I sense that one reason I bagged out again today is because part of me wonders if all the preparations for my next dream might be for naught. In the meantime, I connect with the "real world" in an artificial way--through TV and webcasts, along with reading the many bloggers who have been writing daily about Katrina and Bush's follies. More than ever, I'm trying to live each day to the fullest for obvious reasons, even if that means favoring what I enjoy over what I "should" be doing. .

So now that BG has just returned from his daily Battan Death March redux--toting a brand new bottle of vodka to boot--I don't particulary regret the fact that my venture into the real world will just have to be postponed one more precious day. Cheers!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Instant karma

I just had to say that I am thrilled to pieces that so many of you have been nice enough to comment to my site. And of course, after kvetching about how people don't respond to comments, I now find that I actually have to venture out into the "real world" today (sigh) and I am thus falling behind in my responses. Payback's a bitch!

It's funny, but I almost always find that a bad situation ultimately gets transformed into a good one sooner or later. My rift with my blogpal, which made me overly touchy and paranoid, actually led to a good thing--disvovering and posting to new blogs (new to me, that is) and actually receiving so many awesome comments in return.

So if anyone has anything else to add, please feel free to "talk amongst yourselves." I will now tear myself away from Herman the Mac (very reluctantly), but answer all asap, as well as sending more comments your way and maybe actually posting something new (lol).

You guys are the bomb (that's a good thing, BTW).

Sunday, September 11, 2005

A "final" comment on commenter's comments about comments

I'm grateful to everyone who has commented thus far about the comment issue. I learned a lot from it.

To be honest, I think my whole rant, starting with the post I'm not gonna be IGNORED... was mostly emotional fallout from a personal cyber-matter.

I had a blog chum, and we had grown very close. We supported and backed each other up on our respective blogs. But one day, he posted about something that had really upset him, and I made a comment indicating that I didn't think it was that big of a deal--at least for me. Although there were other factors, my comment to his post signalled the beginning of the end.

Shortly thereafter, I noticed that some of our mutual blog pals seemed to be boycotting my site. Probably just a little mild paranoia--I doubt there was any farflung conspiracy abroad--but it just served to amplify my anger and frustration about the whole ugly matter.

In any case, this former pal and I were both hypomanic, so at first e-mailing back and forth endlessly was fun. But it got out of hand to the point where I had very little time to devote to my own blogging or discover other sites.

Now that my time is more freed up, I've been able to read more cool blogs, comment to them, and respond to their comments in a more timely manner. In the process of branching out, I've become more familiar with the "sociology" of blogging (lol).

As a baby blogger, I was naieve enough to think that having a lot of comments was totally enviable. What I didn't think about was the conundrum this success can produce.

Popular blogs are usually popular in part because they are updated regularly with great content. But how can you keep up with your blogging if you spend all your time responding to comments? How on earth do you even begin to try to answer 15 or 20 or 50 comments per post?

Not to mention that lots of people also have jobs and something called a real life to contend with on top of all that.

I now know that, if presented with a choice, I'd rather have someone leave a comment on my blog rather than reply to a comment I've sent their way. In reality, it's simply not always practical or productive to beat a dead horse.

Speaking of which, I think I've milked this subject for as many posts as I can (lol). I apologize to anyone I might have upset. I didn't mean to be a bitch. Again, many thanks.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The politics of comments

I was originally just going to post this as a comment to my post yesterday, but I thought it deserved it's own entry, in part because it pissed me off so much. So here it is.

Surly Girl brought up a point in the comments from yesterday's post that turned out to be particularly on-point today.

There's a certain blog I've been visiting lately--a good blog, mind you- where I read some posts and left some comments.

In looking at old posts, I saw that some had a large number of comments. However, this turned out to be somewhat deceiving, because typically, all or most of the comments were simply banter back and forth between the blogger and another blog bud. For example, one post had 45 comments, and all but one consisted solely of quips back and forth between D (the blogger) and her pal S. Another one had over 60, and as I recall, once again all but about 3 or 4 were from D and S-- the other commenters were ignored.

Today, I stopped by for a visit and D had posted a thank you for all the people who visit and comment. She apologized for the fact that she no longer had the time or energy to really visit or comment to other blogs, but she deeply appreciated the feedback she got from her visitors.

This is the comment I left. It may very well be the last I ever send her way.


I recently came upon your blog, and really like it. Coincidentally, however, this post came on the heels of a piece I wrote the other day concerning the "polltics" of commenting.

Although I can certainly understand how one might not have the energy or time to comment to/visit other blogs, I have noticed something interesting in the short time I've been reading (and commenting) to your posts.

You and S seem to have an IM style banter going on. When he makes a little quip, you unerringly respond. Sometimes these have the effect, to my mind, of almost trivializing an otherwise serious post.

Conversely, I notice that others--not just myself--who take the time to compose a detailed, thought out reply are sometimes simply ignored.

Perhaps I am too sensitive, but if I feel I am being excluded from a commenter clique, I will hesitate long and hard before visiting or commenting again.

Just my observation, for what it's worth.


I didn't really want to make waves, because I anticipate that D and/or S will be defensive about this, if they bother to ackowlege it at all. I was not trying to be gratuitously nasty, but it seemed like the most blatant case of comment-cliqueing I've encountered thus far.

As always, I welcome your comments (lol)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The sound of one blog blogging

BlogDay by DJtoon
Originally uploaded by Niro.
Late in April, in the throes of a hypomanic high, I wrote my first blog post.

It was cold and lonely out there in cyberspace at first. For various reasons, I had decided to post under a pseudonym--not because I was ashamed of anything I wrote, but for other practical reasons. Plus, I wanted to be able to say what I wanted without the risk of offending those I knew, though I don't think I've posted anything cruel or unfair.

As a result, I told no one I knew about my new venture--no family members, friends, or colleagues--except for my boyfriend BG. Since then, one person who reads and comments is from my "outside" world, but that's it. Everyone else I've met via Herman, my trusty Apple PowerBook G4.

My very first comment was witty, wise, and wonderful. In other words, it was from me.

To: Elvira
From: Elvira
RE: The sound of one blog blogging.

Hey, shithouse Rat. I'm adding comments to my own posts in a pathetic atttempt to make it look like someone is commenting (and thus reading) this blog.

I thought about contacting an AA website or board and welcoming them to comment on this topic. I'm sure many of them would love to since they can be a spirited and verbose bunch. But do I really want a bunch of hate mail? Something to consider...the only bad publicity is no publicity, right?

Well, take care of yourself, you crazy (and breathtakingly beautiful) chick, you.

Rather than continue to comment to myself, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Since my post was controversial and involved negative experiences with AA, I proceeded to troll around the internet and try to incite some comments and maybe stir up some trouble. I contacted some anti-AA sites, and a few people visited. One of them, a certain Dr. Bomb, got a little ornery on my ass, but I put him in his place. I'm not afraid of criticism, and have never censored any comments on my blog, except for a few spambots. I welcome lively--even heated-- debate, and I'm perfectly ready and willing to defend myself to all comers.

I put up a site meter right away, and was instantly obsessed with it. I confided to one of my very first blogpals, revealing my shameful secret--yes, I did care about visitors, dammit! If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, has it really fallen?

In any case, what all this is leading up to are some issues I've touched on recently, but wanted to really get into now.

The other day, I was surfing around and discovered a blog that looked interesting. Although the guy seemed to have a healthy number of posts, and had been blogging for about 5 months, I saw nary a comment.

The blog looked interesting--it was kinda one of those Boing Boing type things where you find provocative, noteworthy media clips and post links to them--but I should have known something was weird when I looked at the profile-ette on the home page:

United States
5'9" 150 lbs

Never before have I seen someone's height and weight posted on their blog before. It gave me pause.

In any case, I also wanted to see if people read and commented to more than their most recent posts, because it seemed that a lot of people didn't. I think some folks just didn't choose the template option of receiving copies of comments to their e-mail box. This in and of itself seemed puzzling to me.

In any case, I decided to leave a few.

First I went to an older post--but not very old.

Here's the post:

Monday, August 29, 2005

Well Deserved
Chris Farley gets a star on the walk of fame. Link.
posted by Aaron at 8/29/2005 10:36:00 AM

Here's my comment:


elvira black said...
Helloooo, Aaron? Can you read me?

I just wandered by and was browsing, and decided to be lazy and just post to this for the time being 'cause it was short and I'm a bit smashed.

Also, I don't know if you read comments from old posts. If you do, and you see this, let me know, maybe. It's kind of part of a survey. Sort of.

Anyway, here's my comment:

F*uckin' A.

Then I went back to, I think, the second most recent comment and left another few lines there--trying my best to be amusiing and clever, the better to evoke some sort of response.


Now, this brings up one of several nagging issues I have, after blogging for several months. As far as Aaron and his ilk goes, I am mystified at to why someone who has recieved none or very few comments (as far as I could see) wouldn't want to respond to one when he finally received it. If he didn't want comments, why not turn the comment option off? (OK, maybe he couldn't figure it out, but I doubt it).

I finally told myself that since he was fashioning himself after BoingBoing--about the most popular blog in the universe--he might consider commenting irrelevant. However, if you want to get somewhere between zero readers and a zillion, wouldn't it behoove you to respond with at least a "thanks for the comment"--sort of to encourage a reader to return? Boing Boing has a reasonable excuse for non-response--and for all I know they do respond to comments sometime. Shit, they're busy staying at the top of the heap, so I can understand if they lack the time to give every reader personal feedback. And granted, that kind of site is not a "personal" blog, so comments may seem less relevant--but not necessarily so.

But this guy?

So without further ado, here is my list of things that personally irritate me about some blogs. Note that this is just my opinion. In fact, some of these things don't irritate me as much as merely lead me to ponder the curious nature of mankind at large. Plus, I'm just a blog baby, and I know I have a lot to learn. So cut me a break, ok?

1. Blogs that bite the dust.
They just give up the ghost after a few posts. As with anything else, it pays to be proactive and persistent. When I first started, I trolled the internet to try to entice people to visit. I visited message boards and mentioned my site on the writer's and mental health e-groups I belonged to. I visited the NY Times message board once or twice as well--which is where I first encountered the incomparably cantankerous Mani DaLi. This was before blog fever had smitten me, and I followed his website link and e-mailed him. This developed into a quite a contentious e-mail exchange about modern art that eventually became too much for even me to handle. But like a bad penny, Mani did show up on my blog months later and started some fireworks of his own. The backlash from other bloggers was so excellent that I posted one of my occasional SIZZLING HOT comments of the week! posts about it. These are my personal tributes to contoversial commenters who like to stir things up. Excellent return on my investment.

2. Blogs that don't allow comments.
What's up with that? I always thought the internet was, as they say, one great big worldwide conversation--an exchange of ideas; a dialogue rather than a monologue. When I wrote for publication, most of the time I had no idea of what most readers thought about what I wrote; any sense of reader demographics; or any of the other neat goodies you can find out just by taking 5 minutes to install a site meter. Stats, together with comments, make me feel like I'm not just writing to hear myself write.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again--I am a craven comment whore. I am happy to see that people feel free to rant as much as they like--there is no length limit imposed here. When people apologize for going on and on, I always try to reassure them that this is just what I hope they will do. I really do believe that comments can be as integral to my blog as the posts themselves. Sometimes it's a way of delving even deeper into an issue than I've done in the original rant. Plus, it's a chance for me to blab even more.

3. Blogs that don't respond to comments.
I can't help but think of these folks as just plain blog snobs who think they are too good to respond to someone who was thoughtful enough to drop by and respond to their post. To me, it seems like a slap in the face and an implication that they think their shit don't stink. Well, it does--and so do you.

4. Bloggers who delete comments and/or let everyone know they can and will do so.
I fervently believe in the sanctity of free speech. Why, then, would a blogger choose to censor a post merely because it takes him to task or offends him? Do you simply want a bunch of yes-men, telling you only what you want to hear? There's a word for that--B-O-R-I-N-G. No, no, not that positive comments aren't cool, but the whole idea of blotting out any dissent is really distasteful to me. Yes, of course, it's your blog and you'll delete if you want would delete too if it happened to you--blah de blah bullshit.

5. The late comment conundrum.
I've been dismayed to discover the unwritten rule that on some blogs, comments to old posts are much more likely to be ignored. Again, it makes me wonder if these bloggers don't have the e-mail option turned on, or if they just don't want to revisit the past. I like to browse an interesting blog and drop the odd comment to old posts too. And I am more than thrilled when someone comments to an oldie but goodie(?) here as well.

6. Lurkers.
This is a bigger beef for others, but it does mystify me, for example, that there are a few people hailing from California who spend a lot of time reading but never chime in. It's kind of creepy, but I'm not complaining. I'll take what I can get.

7. Spam-ette comments.
These look like spam, sound like spam, and taste like spam--except that they're from real people (I think) who just post 3 words like "check out my cool blog"--(oh, I guess that's five words) with a link back to their site. Self serving, lazy, rude, and cheap.

8. Old blog pals who run away.
Most of the time it's my own self-centered paranoia, but there's at least one person I'm thinking of in particular who used to comment often and is now nowhere to be seen here-though I catch him on other pals' blogs. We've had no rift, so it's mystifying.

Anyway, here's my final take on the matter:

1. I figure if I'm gonna blog, I want some feedback. Otherwise I may as well just talk to myself in a rubber room.

If someone comments, I will comment back. There was a period where I was falling behind, partly due to an e-mail friendship that got outta control as far as time management issues went. I spent so much time on my e-mail that I didn't have sufficient time to respond promptly, post as often as I wanted to, check out and comment to other blogs, and discover new technologies and innovations relevant to blogging. But I've learned my lesson well.

2. If you want repeat visitors, I think it helps to respond to comments.

People like to see comments to their comments, and it can be an extra added incentive for them to visit again. Why turn your nose up at your "audience?" Are you too good to come down from your lofty perch and respond?

If you're super popular, and can't possibly respond to all, at least put a general note saying thanks for all the comments. Walker, for instance, gets tons of comments on every single post--and posts virtually every day. He also takes the time to respond to all visitors. If he can do it, why then oh why can't I? Am I right or am I right?

3. If you have your comments option on, I think it helps to have your "receive your comments via e-mail" option on as well.
I've heard people say "I didnt' know you commented until my friend told me" or "sorry--I hadn't checked my blog in awhile." What's up with that? When it comes to your own blog, who wants to be the last to know?

Well, that's all I can think of right now. I hope people will feel free to comment about my comments about comments--if so, I promise I will comment back.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Now that's what I call a prayer!

tea light my way.
Originally uploaded by rhoadeecha.
My two long term relationships have been as different as one could possibly imagine. However, my ex-boyfriend and BG do have one crucial thing in common: both were once nice Catholic altar boys.

Though I'm Jewish--or at least half-Jewish, depending on how you look at it--I've learned a thing or two about a thing or two when it comes to Catholicism. Some of it I gleaned secondhand via literature and film. For starters, there's James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, whose first person narrative details the terrors of a young boy's first exposure to visions of the fiery agonies of Hell. In Looking for Mr. Goodbar, the free-wheeling heroine's Irish-American father is fiercely domineering, horribly repressed, and unspeakably guilt ridden in equal measure. Nevertheless, there is also a great deal of ephemeral beauty and tantalizing mystery to be had within the Catholic faith.

Having had the opportunity to compare and contrast, I now believe that Catholic guilt kicks Jewish guilt's ass, hands down. For starters, there's the unrelenting remorse of knowing that Jesus died for our sins. Where do you go from there?

Both my b/f's also spent a spell in Catholic school, and didn't seem too fond of the nuns. One theory we have about nuns is that their self-imposed celibacy can sometimes unleash some heavy duty sadomasochistic fantasies. Let's face it-- being married to the Lord seems like the ultimate unrequited bond. Mixing sexual repression with constant thoughts of Jesus's suffering can produce some whoppingly unwholesome obsessions.

BG's mom is a very devout Catholic. Last time we went down for a visit, I spied a little basket filled with religious brochures right by the washing machine. One of them, penned by a female saint, envisioned the horrors Jesus endured in excruciating detail a la the Passion of the Christ--things like having his beard pulled out whisker by whisker; being made to drink the foulest of human wastes; being forced to swallow moulten lead; and so on. Very kinky stuff from a fevered, sex-starved brain.

As a result, my old b/f is now an athiest, and my current b/f BG considers himself non-denominational--albeit with a lot of residual issues about his religion.

Another topic we've often batted around is the efficacy of prayer, esp. in the absence of good deeds. BG's mom prays all the time. As BG says, she loves nothing better than to church-hop--visiting and worshiping countless religious venues. She is also quite fond of sending us letters full of chapter and verse preaching.

I'm of the school that views prayer as a tad ineffective in and of itself. Which is ultimately more useful and generous--spending hours praying in church, or actually donating time and/or money to help those who are less fortunate? I suppose it can't hurt to do both.

My ex's parents were also practicing Catholics--and very good people. Despite all this, they went through a phase that absolutely infuriated me. At some point, they decided to join a prayer group where each week, the gang would get together at one of their respective homes where they would pray together and discuss a Biblical passage. One of the members was a German woman who despised blacks and Jews, and was very vocal about it. My ex's mom used to regale me with "amusing" bon mots from this Nazi skag--and one day I exploded and took her up on it.

How could you actually pray with someone who hates their fellow man, I demanded. How could you associate with her in the first place? What horrible hypocrisy. And as a Jew, it offended me on a very personal level as well.

Aside from that, I sensed that the prayer sessions basically helped members cultivate a sense of self-righteous entitlement. Did they truly imagine that Jesus was up there, attentively listening and suitably impressed by their entreaties? Did they imagine He would grant them all their wishes, simply because they asked nicely?

In the 14 months BG went to AA, he bought the essentially Judeo Christian--and I think more Christian than Judeo--mindset hook, line, and sinker. Prayer is considered paramount in AA, and BG was on his knees first thing in the morning and last thing at night. He prayed for those he resented (which included, at this point, many fellow AA members). The default setting for God was always male (the Lord's prayer was often said at the conclusion of meetings in lieu of the serenity prayer). In a nutshell, you entreated your Higher Power to help you conquer your sins and the "disease" that possessed you (an outside demonic force which rendered you "powerless"). It was essential to squelch resentments (turn the other cheek), and to make amends to those you had harmed (confess your sins).

Although BG was a model AA'er, when we got home he would not only complain bitterly about fellow AA assholes who tormented him, but often release his festering resentments via explosive temper tantrums. One day, on the way to a meeting he chaired, he fled from his "commitment" and headed straight to the liquor store and the cop man. He hasn't been to a meeting since.

I've often suggested that BG consider exploring Eastern philosphy and religion. I have not done so in any significant sense, but the little I've read convinces me that the Eastern way sets the western way on its ear. In a nutshell, I've gathered that our notion of "sin" is perceived via Buddhism as more of a soul sickness we all share to a greater or lesser degree. Suffering and making others suffer seems to be the result. There is much less emphasis on worshipping a patriarchal diety, and much more emphasis on seeking inner and outer peace. To my mind, it favors enlightenment over guilt, recriminations, and harsh judgments.

My pal Brink Craven of Maraschino Venom, who is much more immersed in the Buddhist philosophy than I--to say the least--sent me this poem which truly spoke to me. I read it to BG and he was very moved as well. From Brink:

Here is a prayer that I find especially poignant. The Metta Sutra from
ancient Buddhist texts

May all beings be happy, content, and fulfilled
May all beings be healed and whole
May all have whatever they want and need.
May all be protected from harm, and free from fear.
May all beings enjoy inner peace and ease.
May all be awakened, liberated and free.
May there be peace in this world, and throughout the entire universe

No mention of an all-powerful diety; no mention of sin; no mention of converting non-believers. Instead, merely a wish for contentment and harmony throughout the entire universe. To my way of thinking, this would include animals, plants, microorganisms--anything that could be considered a being. It implies a personal striving for balance and harmony, mindful of ones's interconnection with all beings--past, present, and future.

What a perfect, non-denominational, one size fits all karmic vibe. At the risk of sounding pompous, to me it seems to apply equally well to the plight of Hurricane Katrina's victims and the myriad victims of countless other disasters and misfortunes--as well as encompassing the universal striving for inner and outer peace, freedom, and fulfillment for all.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Pscyho killers and stalker sluts

Originally uploaded by heimwege.
Recently, I wrote a post featuring a whiny complaint about blogpals I hadn't seen around in awhile. Somehow, I tied this in to the subject of stalking and the film Fatal Attraction. In this movie, as everyone undoubtedly knows, Dan (Michael Douglas), a happily married family man, has a weekend affair with Alex (Glenn Close). Dan thinks of it as a quick, meaningless fling, but he's got another think coming. Alex wants more--much more--and will kill innocent bunny rabbits to get it. Although, as per the standard morally correct Hollywood formula, he pays for his sin--through anguish, guilt, possible loss of his marriage, recriminations, and the machinations of a psycho woman who just won't go away--in the end, he lives, and Alex dies.

Ice wrote the following comment in response:

'Back to Fatal Attraction for a moment, I do remember feeling that I had a lot in common with Alex. I would totally understand why she did things. Should I be concerned about this?'

This started me thinking about stalkers, and how it relates to some of the feelings I had when watching this movie.

First off, stalking is a serious problem in this country, with celeb-stalking in a horrific league all its own. But perhaps no miscreant is considered more reprehensible and downright terrifying than the female stalker. Thus, seeing Alex in any sort of sympathetic light or identifying with her in any way is just not deemed acceptable.

Women, after all, are just not supposed to chase men. If they do, it is at their own peril--especially if they are looking for a long-term relationship. It's still considered cheap, slutty, and gauche in many circles--and I, for one, would prefer not to engage in it. However, it is perfectly acceptable for a woman to be a passive mental stalker, viz:

Obsessing over a guy. Waiting by the phone for his calls. Taking all sorts of ridiculous crap from him and making oneself too readily available to his whims instead of having a life. Endlessly deconstructing every move "Mr. Right" makes so you and your girlfriends can analyze his demeanor and motives to determine if he does/doesn't care about you. In other words, all the usual women's nonsense. Browse through the pages of Cosmo sometime--or better yet, go to their message boards--and you'll see what I'm talking about.

Prematurely pushing for an exclusive relationship is often a deal-breaker. But in any case, no matter how smitten a woman may be, it's considered particularly bad form to have a quickie one-nighter and then demand a "commitment" the next morning. Not cool. No clinging, no whining, no blackmailing, no wrist-slashing, no bunny-boiling.

But let's face it: statistically speaking, most dangerous stalkers are overwhelmingly male. How many real-life female psycho-stalkers--meaning those with the potential for real violence-- have you heard of or encountered?

I suppose there are women out there who might resort to more passive agressive schemes, such as calling a lover's wife, or even trying to blackmail someone to get their way. Although these are creepy--even seriously sick and damaging--behaviors, they usually do not result in bodily harm or death.

In his excellent bestselling book, The Gift of Fear, the renowned Gavin de Becker, who works with media figures, corporations, law enforcement agencies, regular citizens, and prosecutors on predicting and preventing violence, notes how a certain measure of stalking behavior is considered acceptable, even admirable, in our culture--as long as it is the man doing the pursuing, that is. He writes:

"Men pursuing unlikely or inappropriate relationships with women and getting them is a common theme promoted in our culture. Just recall Flashdance, Tootsie, The Heartbreak Kid, 10, Blame it on Rio, Honeymoon in Vegas, Indecent Proposal.

"This Hollywood formula could be called Boy Wants Girl, Girl Doesn't Want Boy, Boy Harasses Girl, Boy Gets Girl. Many movies teach that if you just stay with it, even if you offend her, even if she says she wants nothing to do with you, even if you've treated her like trash (and sometimes because you've treated her like trash), you'll get the girl.

"...If a man in the movies wants a sexual encounter or applies persistence, he's a regular, everyday guy, but if a woman does the same thing, she's a maniac or a killer. Just recall Fatal Attraction, the King of Comedy, Single White Female, Play Misty for Me, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, and Basic Instinct. When the men pursue, they usually get the girl. When the women pursue, they usually get killed."

The context of this cultural observation is the focus of de Becker's book--namely the ubiquitousness of dangerous, often violent MALE stalkers--as well as abusive spouses and boyfriends---in our midst, and how women can protect themselves from unwanted male attention and harassment, including injury or even death.

He writes further:
"Giving talks around the country, I sometimes ask the audience, 'How many of the men here ever found out where a girl lived or worked by means other than asking her? How many have driven by a girl's house to see what cars were there, or called just to see who answered the phone and then hung up?'

"By the overwhelming show of hands, I've learned that the acceptability of these behaviors is a matter of degree."

Let me just say for the record: To me, stalking--by men or women--isn't cool.

But back to Ice's original question: Can I relate at all to this diabolical Alex character?

Alex is obviously a lonely and disturbed woman. The implication is that this is far from the only man she's pursued. Although she insists that she's not a slut, she mentions that she's recently had an abortion. Meanwhile, she's just met this guy, but is eager to have a child with him. Moreover, she lives alone in a scary, creepy loft, where every square inch and piece of furniture is white, like a padded cell in a mental hospital.

But one scene in particular touched me in an uncomfortably familiar way.

There is a sequence which cuts rapidly back and forth. First, a vignette from Dan's get together with his close friends at home. They laugh, they joke over dinner, they have tons of warm-hearted fun. Dan has apparently just made partner in his law firm, if I remember correctly, and he, his lovely wife, and adorable daughter are about to move out of the city and to a new country home. Life is good, and Dan figures he can forget all about the troubled woman he schtupped and left behind with her wrists bandaged--not to mention the fact that he betrayed his wife.

Cut to Alex--sitting in the dark, the strains of Madame Butterfly soaring in the background, compulsively switching her lamp on and off, rocking back and forth. Totally alone, unbearably lonely.

Anyone who's had a mental illness--and many who have not--may be able to identify with this scenario. If you've ever been in a crowded bar alone, in the midst of strangers who are all in couples and groups having a merry old time, you may have felt something like this too--a feeling of being cut off from what our culture tells us we are entitled to--a close knit circle of friends, and ideally a long term partner, home, and family.

When I was in a deep, near catatonic depression, it was quite obvious to me and everyone else that I was not capable of interacting normally--and I was in essence completely cut off from my fellow human beings. Conversely, the first few times I became hypomanic, I could be inappropriately forward, belligerent, accusatory--a tad like Alex in her vengeful state.

But in answer to your original question, Ice, I don't think Alex is the kind of character one would want to emulate.

Nevertheless, if there be any amongst you who have not been infatuated and even obsessed over another, let s/he cast the first stone. And if you have ever been on the giving or receiving end of unwanted advances, I'd love to hear about that too.

The open e-mail project

gmail overload
Originally uploaded by ario_j.
I had an epiphany while under the influence, but instead of thinking twice before including it here, I figured what the hell.

Ever had a great e-mail conversation and thought it was a crying shame that no one else would get the benefit of the astonishing insights, clever bon mots, and various and sundry flashes of unbridled brilliance contained therein?

I welcome anyone who's interested to start an e-mail dialogue with me, on any subject we can both agree on. I'm easy. Here are some of my faves:

Pop/rock: In college, I got an A in rock music. "Nuff said.

Arts and Letters: I'm in favor of them.

Religion and Politics: I have problems with them, but like to blab about them anyway.

Mental health issues: psychology, psychiatry, shrinks, your diagnosis, mine, and everyone else's.

Assholes. Fill in the blanks.

These are just a few of the many topics I'd love to explore mano a mano. Here's some options:

A. Just do the vanilla private rambling e-mail thing.

B. If anything of blinding brilliance develops, I could take our precious pearls of wisdom, edit them, and post them here as a scintillating, titillating dialogue--with your permission, of course.

C. Use this as a jumping off point for future posts (giving credit where credit--and links--are due, natch).

D. Or something.

Shades of the Algonquin Roundtable!

If anyone is interested, etc. me etc etc....

Thank you and goodnight.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

I have seen the enemy--and it is us

The X-files mood
Originally uploaded by ozonic.
I am, knock wood, in a very good place right now in my life. I have become much more calm and content in the past few years. I am grateful for what I have, rather than longing for what I don't have. I am with the man of my dreams, and life is good.

My ex-boyfriend and I are in the process of getting ready to sell our Manhattan coop, which we co-own. I try not to think too much about the fact that I would love to stay there, but I also see how much Manhattan has changed. The streets are horribly congested, the borough is losing its character as building after building gets razed to make way for yet another soulless "luxury" high rise, and I'm not a kid anymore--Manhattan is more and more the playground of the rich and young. So I am content to buy a place in the Bronx close to BG. Although the atmo is very different from Manhattan, it is still very much New York, and Manhattan is just a subway ride away.

But lying below the peaceful surface is a sense of unrelenting urgency--a realization that my wonderful life could come apart at any time. This is scary, but it also makes me even more determined to treat each day as a precious gift.

One particular source of joy for me, particularly in the past 4-odd months, has been an immersion in the blogosphere. But it also means that I am privy to one more source of bad news as well as good.

Up til now, I've kind of let it all flow by. When the possibility of disaster is an everyday thing, the only way you can cope without going mad is to turn it into an mental and emotional abstraction. In London, after the subway bombings, it was noted that the citizens were amazingly calm--probably because they have been through this all before--first the Blitz during World War II, and later numerous conflicts with the IRA.

But gradually, little by little, I have absorbed the bad and disturbing news that keeps relentlessly flowing in. Now, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, I feel like my precarious sense of security has been destroyed like the levee's in New Orleans, with every disaster I have recently heard tell of finally breaking through and simultaneously flooding my consciousness.

Here, in no particular order, are a few of the things which have been disturbing me:

A video I saw recently from a link on the Lioness's site, Which surprised her, that shows a rabidly anti-Semitic sermon delivered by a Muslim cleric. This link will take you to a sampling of blood curdling videos full of poisonous rhetoric against America and the Jews; the one I viewed was #669.

Reading and hearing over and over from highly regarded experts about how likely, or nearly inevitable, an imminent nuclear attack may be --particularly if our administration does not take heed and employ decisive action.

Reports coming to the surface about how the weapons of mass destruction justification for invading Iraq was in large part fabricated by a notoriously unreliable source--which is old news to me.

Seeing Palestinians burning an Israeli flag during the disengagement in Gaza. Many fear that this conciliatory gesture will backfire, being interpreted by extremists as a sign that total takeover of the disputed areas is just a matter of time More on the situation, once again, from the The Lioness's site.

A report several days ago of a disaster in Iraq during a religious celebration where many fell or were pushed to their deaths from a bridge they were crossing due to a rumor that a suicide bomber was in their midst.

Endless, horrific reports of looting; snipers shooting at rescue helecopters, hospitals, and police; and rape, anarchy, and general mayhem in the aftermath of the horrific hurricane and resultant flooding and devastation in New Orleans.

Seeing President Bush, apparently cutting short one of his ubiquitous vacations, to finally tour the area a full five days after the disaster-- and now, at last. pledging federal assistance. As usual, despite putting his arm reassuringly around survivors's weary shoulders, he did not look sincere to me, to put it mildly.

Viewing up close, courtesy of CNN, the horrible conditions of the people still waiting for rescue. I could not help but imagine what it might be like to find myself and my loved ones suddenly without a home, food, water, or safety.

An August 31st post by the Sarcastic Journalist with links to some ads on Criagslist by moral bottomfeeders offering lodging to female refugees of Katrina in exchange for sexual favors, including assuming the role of a sex slave.

And closer to home, the fact that despite announcements that NYC subway passengers would be subject to bag and package inspection by police, I have yet to see one police officer in the subways doing so.

As far as the war on terror, although the enemy is hard to pin down, it is at least an evil force outside ourselves. And the hurricane is an "act of God" that cannot be blamed on anything human.

But the fact that it was fully known that this day was more than likely to come due to an eroding and neglected infrastructure--making New Orleans horribly vulnerable to the forces of nature-- is our own doing.

The fact that we have diverted billions to an arguably tragically misguided effort abroad, thus depriving us of adequate resources when we need them at home, is our own administration's doing.

The fact that some people in New Orleans reverted to horrible violence and destruction is our own doing.

BG likes to say that you don't have to go 10,000 miles to see your enemy. Your enemy can be your neighbor, or a fellow passenger on the subway, just as easily.

As for me, the only thing I can do is make a donation to the Red Cross and fervently hope that the scenario I am seeing on TV--or something similar, if not worse--will not be our fate down the road.