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!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Take a piece of fruit!

La nuova Mela
Originally uploaded by *Kazze*.
That's what my Jewish auntie, born and bred on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, always likes to say when I visit. So with that in mind, I'm happy to note that the Big Apple Blog Fesival-- a weekly roundup of representative posts by NYC bloggers-- is hosted this week by A Guy in New York.This past week's posts cover food, clothing, shelter, technology, op ed, animals, living in New York, travel, health, family and friends, entertainment, the holidays (including my cranky kvetch-post below), and blogging--all from that uniquely neurotic/psychotic NYC perspective. Have a nosh!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Is that all there is?

Six months till Christmas!
Originally uploaded by eye2eye.
In the immortal words of John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) just before the Sex Pistols walked off stage after performing only one song at a US concert:

Ever feel like you've been cheated?

Ever stood on line to see a movie that got four star reviews and fall asleep in the theatre from sheer boredom? Ever dined in an expensive restaurant and discovered that the restrooms were filthy and had no soap? Ever gone to a concert you'd been looking forward to and find your mind wandering off in the middle of it, wishing that you'd stayed home watching bad TV shows instead? Ever buy the latest CD by a cool band you'd "discovered" and realize they've sold out?

When anticipation doesn't live up to reality, you have two options. You can either be honest about it, or you can try to convince yourself that you're having a great time anyway. Let's face it: if you're visiting New York from another part of the country or the world and you spend one to two hundred bucks a pop to see some overrated Broadway musical monstrosity, are you really going to admit to yourself that it totally sucked? If you go to the Thanksgiving Day parade and wind up in the hospital after a giant M and M balloon goes haywire, are you going to complain or cheerfully say you'll be back next year? (Personally, I think the two women who got injured this year should have sued the city, Macy's, and M and M's, but that's just me.)

The sad fact is that BG and I are getting old(ish) and jaded. Between the two of us, we've developed PTSD from too many disappointing outings over the years. And as a result, although we live in New York City, at this point we lead what most people would consider to be very boring lives. But we've often joked about the futility of running around trying to have a good time even if it kills us.

Some of this inertia, of course, is due to the fact that BG and I don't always agree on what constitutes a good time. I love to eat out. BG was a cook for many years, and now prepares nothing more complicated than hot dogs and hates anything more high class than Wendy's. I'd love to see some off-off-Broadway plays; BG would rather get knitting needles inserted in his eyes. I love Law and Order; BG would rather watch the lamest movie rerun than sit through one episode.

The thing is that by the time we'd met each other, our youthful days of exploring the city had been replaced by a "been there, done that" mentality. Taking a gamble on an outing no longer seemed worth the time, trouble, or expense. And sure enough, when we do venture out, more often than not we're disappointed.

In any case, the horrors of this year's Black Friday--the frenzied shopping day after Thanksgiving--made me feel a little less pathetic about the fact that not only was I staying in that day, but that our Thanksgiving dinner had consisted of BG making some instant mashed potatoes and gravy and canned cranberry sauce. In several stores, people were injured when mobs pushed their way in after waiting for hours outside in the cold. The stores had promised deep discounts on items such as cheapo laptops, and frenzied shoppers behaved like crack addicts at a free sample sale. As it turns out, in many cases the stores had a very small amount of the sought after items, but used them as bait to draw customers in.

As I sat safe and snug in BG's apartment, I couldn't help but marvel over this behavior. What would drive people to such madness? It was quite simple, really. For all intents and purposes, Christmas had begun as soon as Santa waved to the crowd as he brought up the rear at the Thanksgiving day parade. For many people, I suspected that December 25th would be an all-too-brief--if not downright disappointing--denouement to all this maniacal anticipation.

Personally, I hate hearing Christmas carols for a month straight. I hate the endless Christmas commercials. If I never hear the phrase "home for the holidays" again it will be too soon. How many people travel halfway across the country, getting stranded at airports in the snow, to see relatives they don't really like anyway? Let's face it, family life is not always Little House on the Prairie, now is it?

I have to admit that I did enjoy celebrating Christmas with my ex-boyfriend L's family--up to a point. I was an only child and my parents didn't really celebrate much of anything, so it was a thrill to be part of a big family that celebrated the holidays in style, with get togethers and great food and glittering lights and presents under the tree. The fact that I was half-Jewish made it even more fun, because Jews always feel inadequate around Christmas time. Hanukkah is just not the big blowout that Christmas is--it's a relatively minor holiday which has been built up so that we can try to join in the Christmas fervor.

So year after year we'd wrack our brains trying to figure out what to get everyone. I was one of those people who put a lot of effort in trying to find the "perfect" gift for each of L's relatives.

But then, Christmas morning would arrive and we'd open our gifts. Invariably, I'd receive ugly sweaters that didn't fit, or jewelry I'd never wear. My ex's parents would bitch about the gifts they'd received from L's brothers and sister's family, and probably light into our choices as soon as we took the train back to the city the next day. L's nephews were so spoiled and jaded from the sheer number of gifts they received that after tearing open each present they threw it aside and held out their hands for the next one.

All that preparation, all that anticipation, all that buildup. The maddening commercials and ubiquitous Christmas carols, the mobbed stores, the shitty gifts. And in a manner of minutes, it was all over. The crushed gift boxes and torn wrap would be shoved into giant trash bags, and we'd be faced with the prospect of lugging home a lot of useless junk on the train.

So OK, I know I'm being a scrooge here. I know most of you probably love Christmas, especially those of you who have kids. But there's a reason that stress and even suicide around the holdays is so high, and there's something sad and scary about seeing people almost kill each other to be the first one in Wal Mart or Target to try and nab the "perfect" Christmas bargain. Is this what the Christmas spirit is all about? And how do you really feel, deep down, when it's all over?

Technorati tags: Christmas, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Thanksgiving Day Parade, New York City

Monday, November 21, 2005

Timothy's three

Just a heads up that Timothy from Dragon's Wings picked up the tagging torch and did his own "three about me" meme. This was in response to mine, which was in response to Digibrill's, which was....etc. etc. Anyone else wanna play?

Flamers and scammers and trolls...oh my!

Yesterday, while catching up with my blogpals, I read a post by Jessie at What About? entitled "I Am Offended!"The previous day, Jessie had posted a pic of actor Orlando Bloom in a romantic bedroom moment with an equally sexy actress. A reader took offense and sent her a scathing e-mail--something to the effect that she was a sinning hussy because she was married but dared to find a juicy hunk of eye-candy attractive--though she had no intention of being unfaithful.

She was very upset about this, and of course I and other loyal commenters reassured her that the guy was an asshole. So far, so good--no more nastiness from the jerk-off today.

As luck would have it, earlier that day I'd checked out a few sites that dealt with internet flamers and trolls. Awhile back, I myself had a very lively Shithouse flamefest that I must admit I actually enjoyed. In essence, I was provoked; I responded in kind; and the whole thing developed into a full fledged, four alarm cyber-fire. However, In retrospect I must admit that I was not completely blameless, and had perhaps even provoked the whole thing myself in a way. But I vowed when I started this site that I would not delete nasty comments, but instead would try to have fun with them.

I mentioned in a recent post that a number of bloggers have quit their sites lately. In at least one instance, a very popular blogger decided to give it up because of some commenters who were baiting her. Thing is, the vast majority of her readers loved her, so it puzzled me that she would let a few trolls chase her off. But online assholes can be so disturbing that some people would just rather not deal with them, period. I'd once been badly flamed on a bipolar support group site, and it was not pretty, so I know how disturbing it can be to get cyber-burned.

Another interesting aspect of all this is the varying definitions of what a troll is. Over at The Conservative's Conservative, blogger Eddie's views are quite provacative, and it seems only natural that he might get a dissenting comment or two from those with a more liberal bent. Though I don't read him often, I get the impression that he is not very adept at handling any opposing viewpoints. Moreover, his regulars are as intolerant and scathing as he is, if not more so. When a few people wrote in disagreeing with him--and not in a nasty way--they were accused of being trolls. One or two commenters said: Why would you read or comment on a blog you don't agree with?

I daresay some liberal blogs are guilty of the same. But there is a difference between ad hominem attacks and spirited discussion, is there not? Well, you know what they say--never discuss politics or religion...

(By the way, I just took another glance at Eddie's blog, and up top it says "Deep thoughts of a proud right winger- Not a debate forum, please don't waste your time." I don't know if it always said this; I suspect it was added at some later point. Well, at least he's made his position clear, and it IS his blog).

One reason flamers and trolls proliferate on the web is because of its virtual and often anonymous nature. People are emboldened to say things to strangers that they would never dare to say to someone face to face. One might say that a darker side of their personality comes out--perhaps a side that no one offline even knows about.

Which brings to mind a potentially dangerous species of internet nuisance-- bloggers who lie and deceive under cover of the web. Walker posted a very sobering and downright scary story awhile back about a friend of his who met up with a guy online who wound up brutally raping her. I'm sure I need not recount all the examples of perverts trolling for underage kids, but perhaps Walker might provide a link to the post that dealt with this issue. Walker cautions--and I agree--that one should think long and hard before posting photos of yourself, your kids, when you're going on vacation, and other intimate details on your website. There are just too many stalkers and wackos who might very well show up on your doorstep one fine day.

Here's a slightly less sinister example. Although I and many others ususally take what bloggers say about themselves at face value and readily sympathize with their situations and problems, once in awhile I remind myself that people can concoct tales that may not be true or are very one-sided. (Of course, most bloggers will be biased to some degree, since there are always two sides to every story, blah blah blah). Without getting into detail lest I be labeled a heartless, cynical bitch, the most cogent recent example is a young female blogger that a fellow blogpal steered me to.

Based on her latest post, she seemed ultra depressed--perhaps suicidal--and being mentally ill myself, I (and others) tried to leave supportive comments. But after reading through her archives, something seemed very hinky to me. She complained about her depression and hopelessness, but was ultra resistant to taking meds. She claimed to be bored, yet the drama in her life (including a brand new hubby and kids from a prior relationship) seemed to me enough to stave off ennui, if not despair. For someone in such desperate straits, she seemed inordinately concerned about her blog design and popularity. Further posts fueled my suspicion that she was basically looking for attention and diversion, and neither posessed nor desired insight into how to take some responsibility for her own problems. Not to say she isn't ill, but I think her readers were probably, at least to some extent, duped.

In any case, my trolling for trolls finally led me to a great link:a brillant website by Mike Reed called Flame Warriors which offers a hilariously astute illustrated gallery of all the myriad "species" of flamers out there. It's well, well worth a look.

Lest you think I'm exempting myself here, I'm sure that by the time I finish looking through all the categories, I'll find lots of bits of myself in at least a few of the subspecies. The author of the site himself admits as much.

So what do you guys think about online assholes? Have you ever been guilty of provoking a blog fight, intentionally or not? Posted comments you're not proud of? Ever find yourself sucked into an online argument to the point of blind outrage and incivility? How do you react when you get a negative comment on your blog--do you delete it, ignore it, or counterattack? In other words, what sets you off and what do you do about it?

And last but not least: have you ever thought of just throwing in the towel and quitting your blog because of some cyber-jerks? I'd just love to know!

Technorati tags: flaming, trolls, blog fights, flamers, Mike Reed, Flame Warriors, blog scams.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

All is vanity...

damn, i'm good
Originally uploaded by John C Abell.
"Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity."
--Ecclesiastes 1

Hey you guys: have I told you lately that I love you?

Thank you so much for all the cool comments to my post Eat, Blog, and be Merry. Just wanted to mention (ahem) that this post has been linked to the Carnival of the Vanities, which is hosted this week at The examining room of Dr. Charles. The doc has all the links submitted this week under a bunch of different categories--mine's in the first section under Science and Medicine, oddly enough. If you can, swing on by because he has links to a lot of great looking posts this week.

I've mentioned the Carnivals once before, but wanted to let you all know that submitting to one of the blog carnivals is a great way to get your best posts more exposure. There are now a plethora of different carnivals, but Carnival of the Vanities is the oldest. Here's the deal in a nutshell:

Carnival of the Vanities is hosted by a different blog each week (though sometimes one blogger will host more than one). With this carnival, you choose a link to a cool post you've done in the current week and submit it (with a line or two of info) before the blogger's deadline. Then, s/he posts the links on his/her blog on the designated day.

Another Carnival that is probably still around is the Best of Me Carnival, where you can submit older posts that you think are particularly good.

There are carnivals on a wide number of different topics and categories. I provided a link in my older post, but see Siflay Hraka's post here for comprehensive info and other links to Carnival listings. Siflay is the originator of the Carnival of the Vanities, and his site is definitely worth a visit as well.

So submit those links y'all and spread the word about your best posts!

Technorati tags: Carnival of the Vanities, blog carnivals

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Three about me

Originally uploaded by naama.
OK, Digibrill, I've finally gotten off my blogass and taken up the tag you sent my way. Here goes:

Three things I like in a person:
1. Honesty tempered with compassion.
2. A sense of humor.
3. A juicy mental illness.

Three accomplishments I'm proud of:
1. Getting my master's degree.
2. Getting published.
3. Getting laid (by the right guy).

Three big-time fears:
1. Nucelar holocaust.
2. Anything Bush does or has done.
3. The real estate bubble (I'm trying to sell a coop here!)

My three diagnoses:
1. Major depression (sometimes with psychotic features)
2. Bipolar disorder
3. Obsessive compulsive disorder

Three fervent beliefs:
1. There is such a thing as karma.
2. Bad things can morph into good things.
3. Assholes suck.

Three reasons I'm lame:
1. I can't drive.
2. I have no sense of direction.
3. I can't draw a stick figure.

Three guilty pleasures:
1. Astrology books (yeah, I'm a believer!)
2. Law and Order--any flavor will do.
3. Reading TV Guide in the bathroom

Three of my fave bands:
1. XTC
2. The Cure
3. Depeche Mode

Three great things about New York:
1. You don't need a car.
2.Lots to see and do.
3. A Starbucks on every corner.

Three not-so-great things about New York:
1. Overcrowded
2. Expensive
3. Planes flying into buildings

Three things I like about the Bronx (BG's 'hood)
1. The Botanical Gardens
2. The Bronx Zoo
3. 99 cent stores

Three kinds of blogs I don't love (personal blogs, not informational/link-ish blogs):
1. Blogs that don't allow comments.
2. Blogs that don't respond to any comments--ever.
3. I plead the fifth on the rest.

Three things I wish for:
1. An end to hunger.
2. World peace.
3. A two bedroom coop with an eat-in kitchen and panoramic river view.

Three things that make me sad:
1. The Bush administration
2. Blogger outages
3. Giving up my Manhattan coop (one bedroom, eat in kitchen, partial river view. Oh, the humanity!)

Three things I studied in college:
1. Psychology
2. Sociology
3. British and American lit

Three things I'm good at:
1. Reading
2. Writing
3. Kvetching

Yeah, this is kind of short--especially for me. For something longer, here's...

Three good ol' posts from the bowels of the Shithouse:
1.The day the bottle dropped
2.Pomo for dummies (from a psycho)
3. Arsenic and old meatloaf

If anyone else who wants to do this meme, lemme know and I'll post the link on my blog!

Technorati tag: memes

Friday, November 11, 2005

Eat, blog and be merry

Waiting for Guests to Arrive
Originally uploaded by ScarFoot.
Perhaps some of you recall the '80s movie The Hunger, adapted from a book by the horrormeister Whitley Streiber. In the movie, Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie play glamorous NYC vampires. Very cool film, by the way--the first scene alone was worth the price of admission. It opens in a nightclub to the strains of "Bela Lugosi's Dead" by Bauhaus. There they are, Bowie and Deneuve, who even in real life appear to be ageless--terminally chic in their shades; cool, sleek predators trolling the place for their next vic. It's one of those gothy-punky NYC nightclubs where everyone looks like a ghoul anyway. The place is packed with young beautiful people who seem to be simultaneously mocking and worshipping death.

Deneuve plays an ancient vampire who is beautiful, ageless, and immortal. She's lived for countless centuries. Every 200 years or so, she selects a "life" partner and turns him or her into a vampire too. All is blissful--even though a lot of mortals have to be sacrificed along the way for their blood feasts--and her partners live a century or two without aging a day.

The problem is that eventually her partners do age and disintegrate, but they don't die. At this point, she puts them in some tomb-like mausoleum in her Manhattan mansion and visits them from time to time. They are still alive--barely-- and she still "loves" them, but being a serial monogamist, she moves on to the next partner. But of course, I think at the end one of her new lovers (in this case, Susan Sarandon) manages to kill her or turn her into an old shrew or something.

Anyway, the point I'm making is that there's probably not that many people who could handle the notion of living forever. For one thing, everyone you ever loved would die, and your health--well--maybe not so great. And more to the point, what would it be like it you had all the time in the world to do--well--anything? (This notion, by the way, was supported by a recent poll I read in, I think, the New York Post which said that the average age people wanted to live was, like 87 or something. Very few wanted to live to see 100.)

If organisms could exist without a struggle to survive, I think there would be very little progress or evolution. Part of the life force involves a fight to get what we need--whether it be food, or love, or sex, or recognition, or money, or a clean toilet. The needs become more sophisticated and complex as we move up the food chain. BG's cat, being a cat, has simpler requirements. Food, fresh water, a clean place to shit, pigeons in the window to vex her, and some love and attention are all this kitty needs to be happy. Well, except for the fact that being an indoor cat with no real access to any mice or other wildlife to hunt, every evening she does a mad crazy dash around BG's apartment. After reading up on cat behavior, I've learned this is normal and necessary. A housecat must do this because her instinct requires her to engage in some hunting/chasing/fleeing activity that she cannot satisfy for real in captivity. In other words, her life is so cushy that she needs to let her hair (or fur) down a little and pretend there's some reason to dash madly around the safe, secure apartment where she needn't hunt for her dinner or flee from dogs with an attitude. (That's not her BTW--she'd never sit still for a tea party).

By the same token, I feel that knowing we are mortal and that we have to struggle to get what we want gives us a sense of urgency. Sine we won't have forever, there is a "deadline" attached to everything we hope to accomplish in our lifetimes. If we had forever to pursue our goals, I think the world would come to a standstill in the same way it would if we didn't need to eat or compete--even if we only compete with ourselves.

Which all leads up to my observation--unscientific as it may be--that a lot of bloggers seem to be quitting, going on hiatus, and/or in a deep funk. It is very jarring to visit site after site that you assume will always be there and log on one day to find that this will be a blogger's last post. Some stop because they can't handle flamers; some to pursue other interests like writing a book; some because they've found that blogging is preventing them from pursuing their "real" lives to their satisfaction.

But it is always a shock to see a site that has become very popular just give it all up. It smacks of some sort of deep disillusionment and despair to totally quit something that you've worked hard to establish. I'm talking here of bloggers who have stayed the course, rather than those who try blogging and then give it up after a few months, realizing it isn't for them.

Maybe they realize that life is indeed short, and they don't want to spend one hundred years in front of a computer screen. One of my ex-boyfriend's brothers died sitting in front of his computer, which seemed very poignant to me. Is that what I want to do--sit in a tiny apartment all day and blog myself to death?

Since I emerged from yet another very severe depression about two years ago, I have gone through a few hypomanic periods. There is perhaps no way to describe what it feels like to go from the depths of hell back into the world of the living feeling not just normal, but invincible. It's like you've gotten a new lease on life. Moreover, most of my hypomanic episodes seem to happen in early spring, which feels kind of like your life is in rhythm with nature as it blossoms again after a long, cold, dark winter.

So although the illness is still with me, I feel like I've been given a reprieve, and feel very grateful. But I also know that now is the time to enjoy life to the fullest, because with every passing year that races by, I'm closer to the end and I want to cram as much as I can into it.

But--aside from the fact that my hypomania has taken a hike-- there are things that worry me. I worry about the fact that BG and I smoke so much. I worry about the fact that since I started blogging, I'm not eating right or exercising, and that BG and I don't spend time doing as many things together. We used to go for outings and long walks. Now BG goes alone while I stay home worshipping my computer screen. BG is seven years older than me, and has his own medical issues--including HIV, which he contracted years ago when he used to share needles. He was never a full time user or genuine addict, but he did like to indulge and at the time no one knew about the virus. He never cheated or stole for his habit, and continued to work and just use on the odd weekend. So although, knock wood, he is doing really well with the meds he's on, he always tells me that he has a three-month reprieve, because he gets his T-cells and viral load tested every 90 days. His viral load is undetectable and his T-cells are sky high, which is very good. But still, this is something he has to contend with.

My parents both died very young from heart disease. They smoked, they ate the wrong foods, and they didn't exercise. Guess who's following in their footsteps? I'm 48, and my father only lived to see fifty; my mother 57 (and she died before my dad).

At the same time, things seem to be falling apart so completely in the world that if I were of a certain bent, I would believe that the Apocalypse was nigh. Corruption, riots, war, natural disasters, new viral strains, terrorism, scandal, abuse of power, deception, and on and on.

Like some folks, BG tries to avoid watching the news. I, on the other hand, find myself drawn to it all like a car wreck. I can't turn away from the horrors, awful as they are to behold.

So in the midst of all this mess, I've come to some realizations:

The world as we know it might come to an end at any time.

I have no guarantees that I won't have another horrifying bout of major depression.

BG and I will not live forever, and unless we have a suicide pact or we get nuked, we will probably not die at the same time, leaving one of us bereft.

The up side of all this, however, is the fact that knowing that life has a deadline means that I should try to live each day as if it were my last, cliche or no. I don't have forever to do the things I want to do.

And perhaps that's one reason why some very successful bloggers have decided to call it quits. As for me, no way--but it might behoove me to get back to more of the "we" time BG and I had and to do all the things we've put off doing, whether it be traveling or trying to meet new people or further exploring the city we love. I'd hate to think that our only consolation if we got bombed out of existence would be that quitting smoking and eating right would have been a waste of time after all.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Wait 'til your BG gets home!

Johnny Winter draft 2
Originally uploaded by Elvira Black.'s BG's second "draft" of Johnny Winter. I put it up now because he's gone to do some errands in the "city" (where I should have been today, helping my ex-b/f pack so we can SELL this coop already.) But I've been having some horrible dreams about moving out of Manhattan. No need to interpret them...they speak for themselves.

Anyway, the other night I kind of caught BG at a weak moment...with a little help from your comments. He'd had a "few," which usually results in a little attitude adjustment, and I got him off guard. I tried for the thousandth time to convince him that it would be fascinating to show the various stages of his "creation," but he is very resistant to this idea. I guess he thinks his earlier stages are not show-worthy, but I have to say that I think this "unfinished" work has received more positive comments than any other BG work that I've put up here. In a way, I suspect the rougher stuff has more of an impact, and I've always told him he could stop at any point in his creations and it would still look like a viable finished work.

So at one point he kind of mumbled "Do what you want,"...though he changes his mind on this frequently. I don't show him much on this blog anyway. When I do read him some entries, he usually likes them, but at other times paranoia sets in and he says "Don't put anything about me on your blog!"

BG is highly ambivalent about recognition. I started sending out slides of his stuff years ago, and as a result he was in three shows, plus he won nationwide in a VA art competition, and had one of his works published in a book .He hated all the openings--the last fiasco is detailed in Alternative Gallery Hell. If I had been consistent and pushed harder, it is likely he could have shown more. But I've come to realize that BG has a point when he says he's not ready to show yet--for one thing he's still discovering what he can do, though he's been doing artworks on and off all his life. As BG sees it, in a way, these are just studies.

Lately, esp. now that BG uses oils as well as acrylic, his work tends to be more "finished" and perhaps even "academic" in style than heretofore. Since he is totally self-taught, I think he feels insecure about the fact that he never learned the classical techniques, so his latest works are often more traditionally representational. But judging from the response here to the first draft of Johnny, maybe some of the rougher renditions have more impact.

In answer to Timothy's question: BG used to work solely in acrylic, but now he starts with acrylic and then switches to water-soluble oil. He paints on canvas or canvas panels, depending on the size. His idol is Francis Bacon (the artist, not the other guy), and though he feels Bacon has had a big influence on his work, there is really no direct similarity between the two--other than perhaps BG's penchant for bold, dramatic effect. Francis Bacon, an Irish/British artist, broke new ground esp in the '50s at a time when the art world was pretty much co-opted by the abstract expressionists.

In addition to his paintings--a fraction of which appear on this blog--BG will occasionally (albeit reluctantly) do a quick illustration to go with some of my humor stories. He did my Elvira Black"logo" as well. These he can do with his eyes closed and his frontal lobes tied behind his back, but he really doesn't like to do them.

Anyway, on my woefully out of date site map (another source of blogger's remorse) is a section called "BG's art," which has links to the earlier BG stuff I've posted on my blog.

Thanks again, everyone, for all the kind comments on BG's art.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Blogger's remorse!

Blogging with Flickr
Originally uploaded by nico..
Although I'm glad people liked it, I should never have posted BG's first "draft" of his Johnny Winter portrait. For one thing, he is vehement about not showing his work before it's finished, but I think one night after he had a few drinks he kind of said it would be ok--but it wasn't. So now I have to try to make sure he doesn't see that post.

In the second place, he worked on the painting about 4 hours yesterday, and it kicks the first version's ass--so now I feel doubly guilty. I had some cockamamie scheme to post pix of the painting at various stages, which I thought might be interesting. But I dare not now. But I will post it when he's finished with it.

The thing with BG's work is that often his "unfinished" versions are great as they are. They're rough and often quite stark and dramatic. Since he's self-taught, I've seen his techniques gradually become more varied and refined, and though all his work is Expressionistic, some of the more recent stuff is more finished and "realistic" looking than heretofore.

In any case, at this point he's started to add color (a major signature of all BG's works are the vivid colors) and transformed the nose to a more Johnny-esque shape. The shadowing is more subtle yet more intense. Wish I could post it here!

BG's explanation of his art, in part, is that a subject calls to him, "screaming" to be painted. The final product is "there," just waiting for him to complete it. I joked with him last night that he's kind of like a Dr. Frankenstein. Since much of the emotional impact of his paintings emerges from the way he renders the eyes, looking around his small studio apartment where he hangs some of his works you can really start to feel like you've got a bunch of disturbed souls staring you down from all sides. It's a little unnerving at times.

Well, anyway, sorry BG--I blew it. Hopefully you'll either never find out, or you'll come around to my way of thinking and let me post the work in various stages.

Over two weeks ago, Digibrill of Letters to Theophilus tagged me for a meme. I still haven't done it yet. I know a lot of people kind of grumble about it, but I was secretly hoping someone would tag me. But it can be a little hard to do, can't it? So Digibrill, if you're still visiting, I'm working on it. (Yeah, yeah, sure...)

I love getting comments, and I am pretty anal about responding. But I always seem to be behind. So if anyone gives two flips in hell, I will be responding to comments in the last two posts asap.

Other screwups will have to wait for another post.

Technorati tags: blogging, art, portraits

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Yet a bit MORE about BG...

Johnny Winter first draft
Originally uploaded by Elvira Black.
No, that's not BG. It's the first "draft" of BG's portrait of the legenday blues guitarist Johnny Winter. It's quite interesting for me to witness the artistic process at work, so I thought I'd sneak this one in before it evolves into its final incarnation. The eyes are already haunting me.

Anyway...what with all my vast blogging expertise (NOT) culled over the incredible expanse of a full six months in the blogosphere (lol), here's some conclusions I've drawn thus far:

There are an incredible number of uber-literate, creative, and talented blog writers doing incredible things.

Blogging and hyperlinking represent an unparalleled shift in culture and communications (duh). In terms of technology, blogs are as revolutionary as the invention of the printing press; as novel a literary genre as--well--the novel was centuries ago; and as signifcant a media development as the invention of television. (Double duh).

Personal blogs allow readers to delve into other's hearts, souls, innermost thoughts, hopes, fondest dreams, and tragedies like no other public medium up until now. In some cases, you can learn more about a complete stranger in cyberspace than their own families, friends, or shrinks could ever hope to--and carry on a conversation with them without ever meeting.

OK, that's all the "duh" stuff. But here's where it gets a little more controversial---maybe:

For men--especially American males--personal blogs offer an outlet for sharing emotions and vulnerabilities that have been, until now, difficult to vent due to societal norms. This is, of course, in additon to everything else men--and women-- blog about.

For women, personal blogs allow them to explore and share their relationships with families and significant others on a global and intensely intimate scale. The whole world can be right there listening at your virtual kitchen table. (Terrible stereotype, but you know what I mean). This is, of course, in additon to everything else men--and women--blog about.

So what's with the pontificating, already? Well, it's all just a convoluted way of warming up to the "confession" that my boyfriend BG figures pretty prominently in this blog of mine--and that this may be, in part, more of a "girl" thing. Not that there's anything wrong with that, right? I'll let you be the judge.

And so it is that in response to one of my recent posts entitled Ah! What Schmirnoff hath wrought!, Timothy of Dragons' wings brought up some points in the comments section that give me a chance to fill in some gaps here about him and our relationship--though this is only the tip of the iceberg. Some things I've talked about in depth in older posts; and doubtless I'll write more about it in later ones. The situation is complicated by the fact that BG and I are both pretty private people, and he isn't always too thrilled about what I divulge here on the web. So there are things that I leave out, though the confessional nature of blogging makes it more and more difficult to hold things back.

In any case, I tried to respond to Timothy in the comments section, but found that my answers were so long and detailed that they seemed more appropriate as a post of their own. So here is my reply to Timothy, rambling and disjointed though it may be. For context, see Timothy's comments. It covers, among other things, AA, religion, spirituality, and (of course) mental illness. And heeere it is.....


Thanks for the thoughtful comments. I do admire the fact that you have been able to remain clean and sober for so long...there are many who cannot, with or without AA. And yes, as you said, a person must have a very strong desire to stop using in order to succeed. Perhaps some people weigh the options and decide that they'd rather continue using.

BG and I have talked extensively about the "spiritual" aspect of AA and a Higher Power. BG was very turned off by what he considered the blatantly religious aspects of AA. Indeed, it is very steeped in Christian dogma, in my opinion, and many of the traditions are based on the culture and norms of a group that started in the (30's?). The world has changed a lot since then, and frankly, I don't think AA has kept up with the times.

As far as prayer and spirituality, I've addressed this subject extensively in an older post, but I'll reiterate a little here.

There is a lot about organized Western religion that doesn't sit well with me, which is why I have considered learning more about Eastern religions and philosphies. We are so used to thinking of God as a grey bearded man in the sky that it becomes hard to think out of the box and perhaps consider that the Higher Power may be much more ephemeral than this--maybe even a creative universal force that isn't made in our human image. Or...something.

BG's mom is a big proponent of prayer. My feeling is that a lot of people use prayer as a smokescreen to make themselves feel virtuous and superior, but in real life they never consider that doing a simple good deed and putting their money where their mouth is might do more for themselves and others. But I do sometimes thank the Higher Power in my everyday life--not on my knees but in my mind.

As far as BG's schizophrenia--well, out of all the mental illnesses, I think this one has the biggest stigma of all. But in fact, to me it seems like a catch all diagnosis--not at all well defined. In a way, any state of psychosis could simply be labeled psychosis plain and simple in my book rather than schizophrenia--and vice versa.

Nevertheless, when I started dating BG and he said he was schizophrenic, it did give me pause, since I had the same stereotypes in mind that most people do. But I have to say this: no one meeting BG would ever guess that he was schizophrenic save for his doctor, family, and close friends. In fact, he appears more "normal" than most "normal" people. His social skills are vastly superior to mine--he can engage in small talk with people he's just met with complete aplomb. And he is charming and friendly and open. He does not talk to himself, or rock back and forth, or stare blankly into space. He is not dirty and disheveled--in fact, he is scrupulously clean.

On occasion, BG still does have to go into the hospital, though this has not happened for quite awhile. He does indeed have a heavy track record of hospitalizations under his belt, but I think that stress often exacerbates many illnesses--mental and physical--and undue stress is something we try very hard to avoid now. Knowing him intimately, I know that he is schizophrenic--the symptoms are there, subtle as they sometimes may be-- but as one more enlightened doctor once said to me: "Don't call him that--it's just his personality."

And last but not least, BG worked very very hard for many many years in very stressful jobs. Long story short, he has gone through ordeals in his life that I doubt I could ever have begun to endure.

In a good percentage of cases, schizophrenia seems to get milder as time goes on, and I think this is the case with BG. I think it can also be true of alcoholism, despite what AAers may say. There are some people, from what I've read and believe, who siimply outgrow it or overcome it--without AA, and sometimes without a spiritual awakening.

At this point, BG has a lot more control over his drinking than he once did. He is more of a binge drinker, and can sometimes do without for considerable periods. He has a lot of anxiety, however, and I think he uses alcohol, as they say, to self medicate.

But rather than seeing this as completely bad, I have to say that virtually all meds, legal or illegal, have potential long and short-term side effects--some of them very serious--and sometimes even fatal. For some people, alcohol and other illegal drugs do alleviate distressing symptoms in the same way a sleeping pill or an antidepressant or an aspirin might. But sleeping pills can be addictive; psych meds may cause weight gain or horrible neurological symptoms; and even aspirin can cause ulcers. In the case of BG, the major side effect of drinking is a screeching hangover the morning after.

As far as enabling or making things worse for BG--I do not encourage his drinking. When I was very ill there was no way I could drink with him, and he did so anyway when he felt the need to. It may seem as if helping him procure a bottle on Sunday was enabling, but the alternative was that he would go to his local shitty bar instead. And just as there is almost no way to talk BG out of drinking, there is no way to talk him into it if he has good reason not to. One good example of this is when I was in the hospital for about 6 weeks with a super major depression--complete with shock treatments--the whole works. BG visited every day, arriving the minute visiting hours began and staying til they ended--which on the weekends was all day. When he ran into one of his disgusting (now ex) friends--a stone cold alchie--who tried to talk him into drinking with him by saying "you need to take care of yourself too," he never considered doing so for even a nanosecond. "Elvira is counting on me," he said. And that was that.

I'm curious as to why you would be angry with God...but that's perhaps a discussion for another time.

In any case, thanks for your comments, as always!

Well, that's it. I've brought up a lot of things here, and welcome comments on any of this, of course--that goes without saying, but I'm saying it anyway.

Technorati tags: Johnny Winter, AA, schizophrenia, substance abuse, religion, spirituality, Higher Power, prayer, blogosphere

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Yowzah! Now THAT'S scary...

BG's decomposing masterpiece
Originally uploaded by Elvira Black.
This is, like, the pumpkin of Dorian Gray, isn't it?

After several nights of partying in celebration of BG's Halloween birthday and the anniversary of the day we met, this is what BGs masterpiece looks like now. Like pumkpkin, like pumpkinmeister--BG's gonna be feeling and looking pretty shitty in the morning--kinda like what you see here.

Actually got a few trick or treaters this year...most of the kids just hit the local stores for their candy loot though. Kinda cute to see them in their adorable costumes!

OK, enough with the Halloween already.

I'm happy to report that my New York Story 1(and 2) are featured links today on the Big Apple Blog Festival! This week the fest is hosted by Spinachdip. The entry here includes my links (yay!) plus interesting entries from other NYC bloggers--all on Spinachdip's cool blog.

More info about the Big Apple Blog Festival is here;a list of other blog carnivals can be found here.Blog carnivals feature a roundup of recent blog pieces by particular topic, and there are lots of them. So hey, why not submit some posts--take a look at all the categories and go for it!