scarlettina: (Angel)
I have been a writer my entire life. My first publication came in third grade, when the class published a newsletter. My audience was 30 kids and, possibly, their parents. I don't remember the specifics of the article, but I do remember one moment of editing, when my teacher changed the sentence, "Each student made up Indian names for themselves" to "Each student gave themselves Indian names." Factually speaking, her edit was incorrect, because we were never given guidelines or resources for finding actual native American names. We made them up, based on what we'd read in some book or seen in some movie. I remember it irked me. Yes, in third grade, I was capable of being irked. About being edited. Oh, the irony.

Beneath the cut: some history )

The last couple of years, there's been almost no writing at all. What little I've tried has been almost painful. Rejection, somehow, has gotten harder to take rather than easier. And I just . . . just stopped. Except for occasional forays on Live Journal, there's been nothing. A lot of the lack of creativity has had to do with depression. As I’ve written about here before, for a while I was surrounded by people with cancer, which took me back to my core trauma (my mother’s death) and pretty much paralyzed all of my art—whether it was writing or making jewelry or photography or singing.

I began thinking recently that I really need to write again. Fiction feels hard right now; it feels sensitive and sore, too hot and painful to touch, like it’s a big part of the wounds of the summer and fall. So, I’m taking a page from Inigo Montoya (who took a page from Vizzini): When the job goes wrong, you go back to the beginning. I’ve pulled out my copy of A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver and started to read and take notes. I’ve also started to write each morning, a couple of pages of whatever comes. I’ve had a couple of ideas for poems. I’ve been looking over older work, wondering why I didn’t submit some of the pieces I’m seeing now with fresher eyes. I guess we’ll see what happens from here.

Mother's Day

Sun, May. 11th, 2014 11:49 am
scarlettina: (Creating yourself)
So . . . it's Mother's Day in the US. For those of us who lost their mothers young, it's always a tough day. I miss my mom. I was angry at her for years -- when she got sick, when she died. I was angry at her for how she dealt with my father's death, but that's mainly because at 11 years old, I didn't truly understand what she was mourning, and I was busy mourning, too. When I lived back east, Mothers' Day was the day I went to the cemetery. Fathers' Day, too. I had a lot of residual anger at my mom that I've worked my whole adult life to process and, somewhere around 10 years ago or so, it seems to have just evaporated. I'm sure that this was the result of a lot of years of therapy but, more importantly, I'm sure it was also the result of just getting older, accumulating more experience, thinking and processing everything that happened, and then letting go of the things I had no control over back then and things I'll never be able to change. This is part of the process of growing up, maturing -- in one fashion or another. I can love her for who she was and all that she brought with her. I can love her for what she tried to do and for what she succeeded in doing. I can love her for making me and my brother. I can love her.

I always wanted to be a mother. I very much wanted to have children. I think I've written about this here before: that I wanted to have a family, but I didn't want to do it alone. I considered single motherhood. I wrote up a list of the friends I thought I'd ask about donating sperm, though I never floated the suggestion with any of them. (My list today would be significantly different than it was back then, with one key exception.) But in the end, doing it with a partner was key, and I never quite managed to find that partner. (Not saying it won't happen, but the childbearing aspect is pretty much a non-starter at this point.) And so there are no children. It still makes me sad. And I still find myself thinking things like, "When I have a daughter . . ." I can't seem to break the habit.

On Facebook today, I've seen people saying things like:
  • "And for all women who chose not to be moms: you made a valid choice that was right for you."

  • "My deepest love and respect to any who have accepted that extraordinary challenge; to all who seek to do so; and to all who made the equally righteous choice to leave motherhood to others for one reason or another."

  • "So, happy Mothers' Day to all you women out there; chances are that, even if you haven't mothered a human child, you've mothered a cat or a puppy or a friend in need. Cheers, all of you, all of us."

I find these posts enormously comforting. I made my choice for the right reasons, even though they were hard reasons. But they were the right ones; of this I am certain. It's a balm to me to see acknowledgment of those choices as valid and worthy.

And you know, if that last quote has any bearing at all, then for Flatbush, Merlin, Spanky, Sophie and Ezekiel, I've been a mother -- mother enough at any rate. And if it's not too self-aggrandizing to say so, I think maybe I've been a mother to a friend every now and then.

I'll take that, for what it's worth.
scarlettina: (Independence Day)
Last Tuesday night, I went out with [livejournal.com profile] varina8 to see The Monuments Men, the new George Clooney film set toward the end of World War II about the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program, created to scout and save artworks, structures and archives of cultural or historical importance from theft or destruction. The movie itself hasn't gotten very good reviews and I agree that it is wafer thin at some points (and it gets thinner as I think harder about it) but, frankly, I don't care. I had a good time. The film has the same flavor as those classic WWII adventure films, things like The Great Escape, Kelly's Heroes, and The Dirty Dozen--the gathering of the group, the mission, and its daring execution. The reviews are right when they talk about thin characterization. At the same time, as I said over on Facebook, the characters matter less than what they did, what they accomplished, and how extraordinary the effort was--how extraordinary it was that the effort was made at all. I really had fun with this film.

When the movie concluded, [livejournal.com profile] varina8 observed that in just 25 years it would be 100 years since the war began. To me that's extraordinary, because my father, my uncles, their cousins, all served in that war. I grew up on stories of the era. It ended only 15 years before I was born. I still have my mother's photo album from those years: my mother and aunt looking almost movie-star glamorous with their updos and their fabulous 1940s style. Along with that, I was indoctrinated at Hebrew school, when I was less than 10 years old, to never forget what happened to the Jews of Europe during the war. I was shown films of starving people with sunken eyes in prison clothes clutching metal fences, and piles of emaciated, naked bodies being bulldozed into trenches. That sort of thing leaves a visceral impression. The scene in The Monuments Men in which Clooney's team discovers the barrel full of gold tooth fillings provoked a visceral reaction, as if I'd been there--which, I think, was the reaction all that Hebrew school teaching was intended to inspire. (This could rapidly become a post about my feelings about that early training, but that's a post for another time. I need not to digress here.) In fact, I feel like I have more natural sympathy for the experience of World War II than I do for the experience of the Vietnam War--and I lived during the era--but my memories are fragmented and I know that I was protected from much of the news at the time. (Again, this idea would be part of the above-suggested post.)

My point in discussing all this is that I know that within a generation of my birth, children were born for whom World War II is now nothing but dusty history. It's a curious historical incident, as remote to them as the Russian Revolution is to me. My parents, my family, those Hebrew school lessons kept the war alive for me. Of course, I have absolutely no doubt that my perspective on the war is rose-colored by Hollywood musicals, by the romantic stories my mother told of the period, and by the photographs she left to my brother and me. I have nostalgia for a period of history in which I never lived, which I never experienced. It is remarkable to me that there are people younger than me who don't feel the kinship that was inspired in me about the war, about the fight, all the rest of it. To them, Nazis are practically comic-book villains, evil simply because they're evil, unexamined, not understood. (To say "misunderstood" about the Nazis would imply that they require compassionate understanding, which it is not my intention to suggest.)

That disconnection is disconcerting to me. It is, however, the natural effect of the passage of time, the distancing of individuals from contemporaneous experience. It is unlikely that my 10-year-old niece will ever experience what I experience when the war is mentioned or evoked in some fashion--and impossible for her to feel what my parents might have felt. Part of me mourns that. Part of me celebrates it.
scarlettina: (Angel)
When I had my accident back in February and the insurance company totaled the car, I decided that I would go carless for a while and see what it was like. It was a big adjustment, having to plan every little detail and to rely on schedules and resources that were not mine. Commuting was easy; I work downtown now and don't need a car for that. The bus got me to where I was going just fine. I learned the schedules and the buses that would get me here and there as needed. But other things slowly began to drive me crazy: needing to arrange transport for heavy grocery shopping (like, for example, getting kitty litter or lots of liquid stuff), figuring out how to manage longer days out, always having to check the routes, schedules and connections to be sure I understood my timelines and could catch a bus, and wondering what I'd do if the kitties had an emergency and I had to get them to the vet. I got a ZipCar subscription, which has worked in a limited fashion. But it made me crazy having to get the car back at a particular time, not having the option to change my plans and spend a little more time out and so forth. And I had the settlement from the accident sitting in my savings account.

About a month or so ago, I started looking for another car. I gave the carless lifestyle a 7-month trial and I've realized that I just want my independence. Do I need it? Well, the last 7 months have demonstrated that I can get by just fine without a vehicle. But I feel constrained. My independence and my agency feel compromised. My life just feels smaller. And no matter how generously friends offer me lifts, I always feel like I'm imposing unless carpooling just makes sense in context. I looked at a number of vehicles and there was always some issue: impact damage that wasn't explained in the CarFax, weirdly-engineered electrical systems that would be a bear to maintain, poor ride quality, noisy interiors. I gave up for about two weeks. But yesterday I had the day off in anticipation of weekend company, and I took one more shot at the car shopping. Today, I took home a great vehicle:

Janna in her new car

It's a 2008 Ford Focus SES sedan in excellent condition, with a 6-CD changer/player, tinted windows, a moon roof and all sorts of snazzy little extras. (ETA: It's not just all about the pretty. The car has low mileage for its age, brand-new tires, new rear shocks, barely a scratch--technically it's in great shape.) I drove it only to get it home. The insurance kicks in tomorrow and then I'll take it out for a proper spin. I couldn't be more delighted.

The new car: beauty shot
scarlettina: (Happy birthday cupcake!)
Ten years. September 9, 2013 was my 10th anniversary on LiveJournal. I'm here because [livejournal.com profile] herself_nyc admonished me that I hadn't been keeping in touch as I ought since I moved to the Pacific Northwest. LiveJournal was our solution. I don't know that it was the best solution we could have come up with--I suspect we've talked less over the years as a result of simply being able to read each other's LJs--but it changed my life. Here I am, ten years later, a veteran contributor. Some statistics for the numbers-minded. In 10 years I have accumulated:

  • 4,055 (now 4,056) entries (that's 405 posts a year on average, though I'm certain that things have slowed down the last couple of years)

  • 19,500 comments posted

  • 28,619 comments received

Pretty amazing achievement. Lots of words (how many novels' worth, I wonder?). And a lot has happened. I thought about the things I wanted to highlight. I thought I might do what my friend ATC calls a listicle (great word!)--a top-ten list of posts from over the years. I suspect this is more than 10 things, but it covers the ground pretty thoroughly.

So, without further ado, here are highlights: Ten Years of LiveJournal:

Favorite tags

  • Posts about writing: As you might expect

  • Posts about my work being published: Again, as you might expect

  • 121 books entries: Mostly reviews, and I'm glad to have them.

  • 197 movies entries: Again, mostly reviews, and I'm glad to have them.

  • 192 current events entries: Commentary on everything from fannish kerfuffles to major political events

  • Posts about the kitties

  • Imaginary world fantasy convention: In 2009, I couldn't attend the World Fantasy Convention, so I took to Twitter, Facebook and LiveJournal and created a series of posts about a fantastic convention with dream Guests of Honor, and about Glinda the Good Witch, who . . . got around. Other people chimed in and contributed, which was awesome. I still have the posts all aggregated in a file on my computer. I collected them with the thought of publishing them as a zine/souvenir for anyone who was interested though I never did put it together. I also created official mugs, tee shirts, totebags and magnets. People still ask me if I'm going to do this again. I have always thought I'd like to, but with planning and plotlines--but I never get started early enough and I'm rarely as focused as I was in 2009 when I did it the first time.

  • The penguin project: 2009 was a big year. The summer before Imaginary WFC, EB, [livejournal.com profile] markbourne, [livejournal.com profile] ladyjestocost, [livejournal.com profile] chaoselemental and I participated in an art project sponsored by Woodland Park Zoo, in which we all created penguin sculptures to celebrate the opening of the new penguin exhibit. These penguins were distributed around the city on exhibit and then auctioned off to benefit the zoo. I loved working on that project and love that I could share it with friends. This series of posts also includes pictures. So much fun.

  • Year in review: On the last day of every year, I post a year in review, a series of questions that I answer. It's an interesting retrospective, especially when the posts are read in aggregate this way

  • Europe 2012: This time last year, I was in Europe--Paris with EB, Lithuania with [livejournal.com profile] skidspoppe and Amsterdam by myself. I blogged the trip pretty thoroughly. You can read the whole trip at this link.

  • Tsavo, Kenya, 2007: In 2007, I volunteered with a scientific expedition to observe the maneless lions of Tsavo, Kenya. I transcribed much--but not all--of the trip journal. In this series of posts (which includes an index to all the entries I did post as well as some pictures), you can at least get a taste of what the trip was like.

Posts of note
This is a list of some posts that feel like they ought to be memorialized here. I can't exactly articulate why:
My two other LiveJournal accounts
I should also note the two other LiveJournal accounts that I've kept here. One was an exercise in writing a story a day based on a dictionary word. The idea was a noble one but it didn't last very long. The other is my fanfic account, Somewhere in Time, where I keep what little fanfic I've written recently. It's all Doctor Who, with one Who/Frasier cross-over that I'm pretty proud of.

Passages
And last but not least, posts about family, friends, and pets I've lost along the way, from most recent to least:
So, happy anniversary to me and LiveJournal! It's been a long and fruitful association despite technical glitches, apartment moves, job changes, and travels. I'm so glad that I'm here.
scarlettina: (Creating yourself)
As I start this journal entry, it has no title because I'm not sure of all the ground I'm going to cover; I know it will be wide and deep. Perhaps the entry will have a title before I'm done.

About 6 weeks or so ago, a friendly acquaintance sent me a letter via Facebook, telling me that I'd helped make his life over the last few years well worth living, that he appreciated my friendship. I was delighted, if a little surprised, at this outpouring. I knew that he was getting ready to deploy overseas--he's in the military, with the Army Corps of Engineers--and would be gone for a year. We see each other annually at Norwescon, as we did this year, though we didn't get to spend much in the way of quality time; we didn't have a real visit for any number of reasons. We don't know each other very well, but well enough to have fostered a certain friendly affection--we each give good cocktail party talk, flirtationally (it's a word now) we each give as good as we get, and have learned a little about each other's lives over the last couple of years. He lives, I have learned, in a very different world than I do; I want to learn about that world because, in some senses, my friendship with him is a kind of experience of the Other that is rare. My primary reason to spend time and keep in touch with him, though, is that we like each other and have much in common. We've just experienced it in very different ways. I thanked him for the note, expressed my surprise, and he said that I shouldn't be surprised; he meant every word of it. A couple of days back, he texted me a picture of himself in camo, saying he was about to head out--he'd see me in a year. I told him to be safe and to come back in one piece and asked for an address where I could write. He promised one when he discovered where he would end up. I just received his Skype address. And suddenly his friendship is that much more precious to me.

I have friends who are veterans, but with one or two exceptions, their friendship came in the wake of their service, not during same. It has been said that convention friendships are years long and weekends deep; in this case, that is absolutely true. The convention space fosters strange, intense connections because of the kinship created by shared enthusiasms and shared energy. And so as this friend departs for parts distant and dangerous, I am worried, I am hopeful, and I am watching his Facebook page and email/texts to see whatever news may come.

As I temper my concern, I am put in mind of another friend who has decided that the best course for his life is to engage in life-threatening behavior as a recreational activity. There is nothing about what he is doing that is harmless. It is behavior in which he engages with complete awareness, provides momentary pleasure and comfort, and could kill him. I was ferociously angry when I learned about it, and terrified for him, and I find that I'm angry, still. I have compassion for him, I love him, and I understand why he does it, but none of that matters to my anger (or maybe the love does; maybe that's why I am so angry).

So here I have a friend who goes willingly into life-threatening danger for a cause larger than himself, and another who thrusts himself toward danger for the comfort and the thrill. I have friends who fight for their lives every single day as a result of illness over which they have no control. And I consider the idea of taking one's life into one's own hands.

It's a strangely vivid phrase, as if life were a tool--a knife, a plow, a wrench, a brush, or a pen. I think about the ways in which I have taken my life into my own hands: my travel, my weight loss, dating, editing and writing. Deliberate choices, all. They are such different ways of doing this thing that they could almost be said to be entirely different from the things I talked about above, and yet they are not. All of these choices are about behavior, about control--about, well, living. Sometimes, even when we think we've got control or we do things that guide this wild horse we ride every day, it's beyond us. That's what my dating life--what little there is--feels like sometimes. No effort at finding a permanent partner has ever panned out; it preys on me, lately, quite a bit. My travel has resulted in enormous rewards for me; I suspect it will continue to do so. True of my creative life, too, for the most part. My work life has always felt like a mixed bag, so much of it out of my hands. We control what we will, what we feel like we can.

I suspect--no, I know that there's a point beyond which we have control over nothing. That places greater weight on the choices we make that we can control. Which means we might want to be thoughtful about those choices. If we have one life to get it right, then we ought to make those choices mindfully. I don't suggest that there should be no spontaneity or serendipity; they are vital and necessary to a life well-lived. The unexpected opportunity, the magnificent discovery are what makes it all worth it. But we have to be present for those things, present physically, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually.

I'm not sure where all this thought is leading to. I know I want more direction than I have. I feel like, at my age, there ought to be more than there is. I look at these friends who have made choices to do these dangerous things, and part of me feels like, well, at least they made a choice, whether or not I agree with it. I look at friends who are monstrously ill and see them making choices about how they live, about how they'll die, choosing directions, taking their lives into their own hands.

Sometimes I am desperately afraid of that. Sometimes I desperately want to do it and don't know how. Sometimes I think what I don't need are hands to take control, but gills, fins and a tail to just keep swimming, as if movement itself were a kind of control--as long as I'm moving, I'm making decisions and taking control without overthinking the process. Maybe that's the key: to not overthink it. (Um, to the person writing this, I say, "Have you met me?")

If life is a tool that we take into our hands, the question becomes the greater one: what do we do with it? I want to create: love, art, family. I want to build. I want to make rhythm, rhyme, vision and thought. I want to foster experience--my own and others'. And I do want to move in some direction. I still haven't figured out which one yet.

EMDR and me

Thu, May. 2nd, 2013 03:39 pm
scarlettina: (DrWho: Welcome to Hell)
Years ago, after explicitly diagnosing me with PTSD as a result of my experience with my mother's illness and death (a diagnosis that had been gently implied by other therapists), my then-therapist recommended that I undergo EMDR treatment. EMDR stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, a therapeutic technique in which the therapist moves her hand or an item like a pen in specific ways and the patient follows that movement with her eyes. The idea is to disrupt the usual neurological processes and desensitize the system to traumatic memories so that the patient can cope with the old trauma. This was back in the early, maybe the mid-1990s when the technique was still relatively new and not very well understood. I'm writing about this because I' have occasionally wondered if I should seek it out again (why I haven't will become evident shortly), also because several people have remarked that they, too, took the treatment and wanted to discuss their experience.

I attended two sessions. The first session, if I recall correctly, was a sort of overview of my history and scoping of my issues. We talked about the technique and what I should expect. The second session included the actual technique, working with the therapist and with the eye-movement exercise. The session as a whole lasted about 90 minutes. It was so awful that it took me a full day to recover. I don't remember many of the specifics. What I do remember is working with images associated with my mother's illness and death. And then, about halfway through, I remember a pain so intense that I thought my head was splitting open. I expected that my skull was going to crack and my brains were going to come flying out. I was told that was the trauma manifesting and that I should go with it. Well, I went with it, and I was in so much pain that I ended up curled over in my chair practically screaming. For about an hour. It was worse than my worst migraine headache, some of the worst pain I've ever experienced. (Even thinking about it now, I'm experiencing some mild discomfort.) I don't remember more than that except that I called in sick to work the next day. As I said, I never went back.

Now, I know that EMDR requires multiple sessions and that the work is supposed to include a balancing element to help the patient regain composure. I know there's a lot more to it than this experience. But I also know this: when the cure is worse than the illness, you have to make some decisions. At the time, I decided not to continue to pursue treatment. The trauma was bad; the treatment felt like torture.

Why would I consider investigating it again? Well, a couple of reasons. First, there's Sh*t going on, with a capital S, in case it wasn't clear from my last post. Second, I never did finish the treatment, and the way I'm dealing with this Sh*t, it's clear that there's a lot of other stuff underneath it that's hindering my coping mechanisms. Why won't I seek out EMDR again? Well, insult, meet injury, and all that. But I also promised myself that I wouldn't seek out any kind of therapy again because I've pretty much talked my issues to death. I recognize them, understand them, and I'm bored with them, frankly. That doesn't mean they're not important; they are. But at this juncture, I don't see the point of sitting in a stranger's office hashing it all out yet again. If insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result, then going into therapy for the umpteenth time is probably the perfect illustration of that axiom. For me, right now, it's not an option I'm interested in.

My sister-in-law once asked me if therapy makes things better, making things stop hurting. After thinking about it for a moment, I told her that things rarely stop hurting, but what therapy can do is teach you how to deal with the pain in constructive and healing ways. Right now, I don't need more therapy. I need to use what I've learned in therapy to deal with whatever pain I'm experiencing.

So, that's my EMDR history. How about you? What's your experience been?

My LJ writing to-do list. I really need to get to it.
--Weight and invisibility
--My first Seattle International Film Festival event of the year
--My experience with EMDR treatment for PTSD
--My general weight loss situation at the moment
--My upcoming publication and the essay related to the story in question
scarlettina: (UFO: Believe)
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I edited books for a Major New York Publisher. And because I'd had a longtime interest in UFOs, alien abduction, and the paranormal in general, I edited a couple of titles on these subjects for said employer. I had a quiet conviction that, while I didn't know what had happened to people who claimed to be alien abductees, something had happened to them, and I was fascinated by the possibilities, as horrific as some of them seemed to be. (And once you've read as many books on this subject as I admit to having read, you realize that these ideas are horrifying.) But nothing can turn a believer into a skeptic so quick as receiving a phone call from an alleged abductee wanting to know where her money is. Or a book proposal that pushes the edge just a little too far. The proposal that ended my career as an editor of the paranormal attempted to relate all of the paranormal phenomena you can think of into one big package, a sort of unified field theory of the weird, if you will. Pyramids were related to crop circles were related to aliens were related to the Kali Yuga World Cycle were related to ghosts, and if A equals B and B equals C, then A equals C and WE'RE ALL DOOMED! I didn't acquire that project, and I never edited another one of these books again.

Now, I should state for the record that I still have an interest in all these subjects. It's hard for me to pass up TV shows about alien abduction, or the occasional episode of UFO Hunters or The Haunted. It's fun stuff to think about, and spooky goodness is always entertaining. For every twenty or thirty crackpots, there are one or two serious researchers (like the well-credentialed Dr. David M. Jacobs, whom I interviewed for a project, who does really interesting research, and who was completely credible--and funny as hell, too) who make pretty convincing arguments on the subject. And I admit that I'm still intrigued by the idea that There's Something Out There. But extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and, these days, I'm far more interested in the credibility of the evidence than I am in the extraordinariness of the claims.

Which brings me to why I'm posting about all this stuff this morning. On Facebook, an acquaintance whom I know to have some interest in these things posted a link to an article that discusses a video making the rounds in conspiracy circles. The video claims to show President Obama being guarded by a shapeshifting alien secret service agent at a public speaking event. It's all about video artifacting effects, of course, but the narration is hilariously serious, especially the bit about "Illuminati elites being in bed with extraterrestrials." I presume the "Illuminati elites" refers to the president and the assemblage to which he is speaking, specifically, a meeting of AIPAC, also referred to in the video as a "Zionist cabal." What this article and the video it analyzes demonstrates is how a simple misunderstanding of evidence leads to incredible conclusions. In some circles, of course, video can't be argued with; this video may--MAY!--be evidence of government affiliation with extraterrestrial influences. I was never this far into the deep end, ever, and I have difficulty imagining the mindset that would take such stuff seriously.

But if I still worked for that Large New York Publisher, I might see an opportunity for a book about all the ways that evidence can be misconstrued, and all the bogus theories that might emerge as a result.
scarlettina: (Blood love and rhetoric)
I was cleaning out my hard drive this morning and discovered something I wrote in 2001 after going to the range with a friend who had just completed police training. He wanted to practice, and I wanted the experience so off we went together. The references to The X Files clearly date the piece, but not by much. This is what I wrote:

So it's Friday night at the shooting range. The place is relatively empty--apparently Friday is a slow night--and suddenly I'm being handed protective glasses and sound-dampening head phones. If I weren't so nervous, I'd feel like Dana Scully preparing to sharpen her skills.

My friend has brought the better part of his personal arsenal: two rifles, three pistols, three different kinds of ammunition. We carry these things into the range in black totes that--if you didn't know better--look like camera bags or the sort of thing in which you might carry a stick bass guitar. He rents a basic revolver to teach me gun safety before we start to shoot: how to hold a gun, to be aware of where the gun is pointed at all times, checking the safety latch, how to show someone else a gun (always unload first), how to aim, how to load a revolver or a magazine full of bullets. ("It's not called a clip," he says. "Clips are for hair or for hanging up the laundry. It's called a magazine." I say, "Where I come from, you load a magazine with short stories, not bullets." He sticks his tongue out at me.)

So it's time to try and shoot. We start with a classic revolver with teeny bullets. He hangs up a target and sends the target holder back on its track about ten feet. I take the gun, holding it just the way he showed me, and fire it empty a couple of times to get the feel of it. (I flash back to that scene in Starman where Karen Allen is watching movies of Jeff Bridges showing off how to shoot a gun. He points it and says, "And squeeze..." Bang! "And squeeze..." Bang!)

Then we load it, and I point, and squeeze . . . BANG!

The first thing is, I'm surprised at how loud the sound of a gun being shot really is, even through protective headgear. Were I not wearing head phones, my ears would be ringing. The second thing is, if you haven't braced yourself properly, the kick can almost be painful. The third thing is, squeezing a trigger is work. It's not an easy clicky-click like with a toy gun; it's a spring-loaded feeling (even a revolver) that gets harder and harder the closer you are to actually firing the thing off.

I shoot six, empty the chambers, and reload. My friend praises me--"Good grouping, you're a natural" (all my bullets have punctured the paper target within an inch or so of each other)--and we go again. This time, when I put the gun down, there are only four new holes in the paper. Apparently I shot three times through the same hole. It's like shooting a camera, I think. Hold your breath to steady yourself before you fire. I use up half the ammo in the box--about 50 bullets--before we move on to a semi-automatic.

My nerves are calming. My friend says it's sort of a Zen thing; the less you think about it, the better you become. I'm thinking, "Use the Force, Luke," and my aim is improving.

We retrieve the target and hang a new one. I'm looking at the bullet holes getting progressively larger as we try to find a combination of gun and bullet size that is comfortable for me. The holes look huge. Suddenly I realize that the only appropriate way to describe shooting at a person would be to say that the bullets rip through a body. That's what they would do: tear flesh. You're shooting at paper, I think, not people.

Soon, he's showing off his new Beretta, all sleek lines and Italian economy. He braces himself and rapid-fires into the fresh target. Talk about grouping.

He rents me a Sig-Sauer--the kind Mulder uses on The X-Files--and I'm discovering that semi-automatic pistols are easier to shoot because they do the work of moving the bullets and reducing recoil. They also eject empty cartridges in every direction. One ejects and bounces off the wall. One ejects and bounces off my chest. Several land on the counter in front of us before bouncing to the floor. They feel more ergonomic, more natural than revolvers.

Two and a half hours later, we leave. My right hand is tired. We're both dehydrated and hungry. He hands me the targets from our session. "Souvenirs," he says, and I accept them like a kid getting an A on a penmanship test. I want to try this again, see how much better I can get.

After dinner, I go home and unroll the targets, looking at them one at a time. I notice the bullets leave dirty black marks around the punctures in the paper that are the shade of pencil lead. Look at that grouping.

And the holes look really big. Those bullets, they just rip right through.

Maybe I'll wait a while before I try this again.
scarlettina: (Everything Easier)
A while back, I posted a picture of Sophie sitting on top of the cabinet where I display a number of my porcelain cat figurines. The seed of the collection was my mother's Royal Doulton Siamese cat figurine. I suspect the collection began to grow during a period of unemployment when I had far too much time on my hands and very little brain for being thrifty. The collection is now larger than it appears in the above-linked photograph, the number of figures totaling 37 grouped artfully about the house, a little less than a third of which are not much bigger than my thumb.

This morning I got distracted online and found myself back at The Source of All Collectible Cats (also known as eBay), where I perused something like 15 pages of figures up for auction. I tagged a number for watching but didn't bid (an act of pure self control of which I'm enormously proud). And I realized at that point that my standards for my collection are in some ways pretty rigid, pretty exacting though I've never specifically articulated them. These standards include the following points:

-- The figure must be porcelain or some form of ceramic.
-- The figure must depict a cat in a realistic way, not cutesy* or exaggerated. For example, the cat should not have flirty little eye lashes**, an overly large head, or overly large eyes.
-- The figure should be just the cat: no toys, boxes, baskets, or ribbons and bows tied around their necks. (This rule may be construed as a corollary to the "not cutesy" rule.)
-- The figure should be no more than 5 or 6 inches tall.
-- In an ideal world, the figure should have some sort of maker's mark on the bottom.***

Another element that often determines the desirability of a cat for my collection is the manufacturer. I will often look for cats from fine figurine makers that are not already represented in the collection. For example, the collection currently includes cats from Royal Doulton, Lenox, Lomonosov, and Graelenthal. I have yet to acquire -- and continue to pursue -- figures from Herend, Bing & Grondahl (now part of Royal Copenhagen and so becoming a little more scarce), Royal Beswick (which are actually a little cutesy for my taste), and Lladro among others. All of these are higher-end manufacturers and their products, even second-hand, ain't cheap. So I watch eBay and I wait. (I'm actually watching a Lladro cat on eBay right now that's at a ridiculously good price, given that the figure is listed and shown to be in excellent condition.)

And, of course, some cats are products of the situations in which I discover them. For example, I bought a beautiful little maneki nekko in Narita, and my lovely white Graelenthal in Germany. I brought home a malachite lion from Kenya. I will, naturally, be looking for cat figurines as I travel in Europe this fall. I will make key exceptions to my rules when I travel because it's likely that if I don't purchase a figure I really like while I'm away, I'll never see it again.

Why a collection? My life is filled with collections: elongated coins, regular coins, porcelain ladies, porcelain hands, signed and limited edition art prints, plants, friends. It's a Thing. But I don't think any of my collections has quite such exacting standards as the cats. And I think the reason that's the case is that I'm not generally a cutesy sort of person -- you don't see Precious Moments figurines in my house, for example, and probably never will. I cringe at that sort of preciousness, and cats are all too susceptible to such treatment. Cats are graceful creatures who have enriched my life, so my collection tries to respect their gifts. The result is a collection of figures that I never tire of admiring. They please me, and are an important part of what makes my house my home.


-------------
* I made an exception to this rule when I purchased a beautiful little maneki nekko in Japan. It's a cultural thing and it's a lovely little souvenir.
** I made an exception for a vintage figurine that in every other way meets my requirements. And the lashes aren't big. :-)
*** I have broken this standard regularly because there are simply too many lovely little figurines to choose from. That said, about half my collection meets this standard.
scarlettina: (Happy birthday cupcake!)
Tuesday was my birthday and it was a perfectly smashing day!

Cut for pictures and narrative )Me, going into orbit with the Lunar Orbiter

I couldn't have enjoyed myself more that day. This was the way to celebrate the turn of my half-century, and if the company was any indication at all, then I lived those first 50 years well. I can only hope that the next 50 will be half as good.

See the complete Flickr set.
scarlettina: (Happy birthday cupcake!)
As is usual around here, my birthday (today) was a rolling celebration that started Friday afternoon and ended this evening (though I suspect there may be more revelry as the week goes on). I attended the Clarion West party, completed my first 5K, hit the Ballard Seafood Festival, and had a perfectly wonderful dinner at Root Table (Asian-inspired tapas: steak cubes in a savory sauce, shrimp wontons, and mushrooms stuffed with corn, peas and a Thai-style sauce--yum!), which I recommend to anyone here in the Seattle area as it's just terrific.

The culmination of the weekend was a delicious lunch at Chinook's, and then this afternoon's tea here at Chez [livejournal.com profile] scarlettina. I had a small group of girls over for treats and talk in tiaras. We laid out quite the spread.




The afternoon's fare included three kinds of sandwiches: tuna salad with green onion, cucumber, and tomato dill; scones; lemon curd tarts; delicious muffins; cupcakes; shortbread; two kinds of cheese; pepperoni; bean dip with crackers; Milano cookies; and at least one or two things I'm forgetting. And of course there was tea.

I can only hope that the year brings me the same kind of joy I had this weekend. It was very nearly perfect.
scarlettina: (Awesome me)
First meme of 2011: [livejournal.com profile] twilight2000 asked, and so I must acquiesce to her request. With these exercises I have found that it is often most effective to be as specific as you possibly can be; the more specific you are, the less likely it is that someone else has done what you have.

Ten Things I've Done That You (Probably) Haven't

1. Written a Live Journal post from an internet cafe in Mombasa.

2. Sung the Indiana Jones theme as I climbed down the side of the great pyramid at Chichen Itza.

3. Bought a desk for some school children in Malawi (but you can if you want to).

4. Sold a photograph to National Geographic.

5. Gone flounder fishing off the coast of Long Island.

6. Sung on a local NY television show as a child.

7. Had poetry published in Asimov's.

8. Run an imaginary convention online.

9. Attended the American Numismatic Association's summer seminar to learn about U.S. tokens.

10. Watched sunset from a rock outcropping in the middle of Tsavo, Kenya.
scarlettina: (Jewish: Stained glass menorah)
I grew up on Long Island. My family was one of only three Jewish families in our neighborhood. The families around us were mostly Italian Catholic, Irish Catholic, or German Protestant. Many of their kids went to St. Barnabas parochial school. My brother and I went to the secular elementary school, a typical public school with kids from a wide variety of backgrounds, most of whom nevertheless were some flavor of Christian. My parents chose this neighborhood because, as my mother told me, they wanted us to grow up knowing that "there were other people besides Jews in the world." As if that could ever have been in doubt.

Every Christmas our street would be lined with Christmas-lit houses. In every front window a Christmas tree twinkled. And when it snowed, there would always be at least one Santa snowman. Each winter before my father died, we'd take a walk or a drive, usually the weekend before Christmas, to look at all the displays, because they were pretty and different from what we did at holiday time.

There were Jewish neighborhoods in the town where we lived. At least one of them was the tonier neighborhood to the south, where the houses were bigger, the gardens were meticulously trimmed, and the kids went to different schools than we did. Though my family attended a Conservative synagogue, many of the families who were members were more observant than we were though we went to shul most Saturdays.

I had one friend who lived in that tonier neighborhood to the south whose family kept kosher--in the kitchen and dining room. They didn't keep kosher in the family room, where we often had pepperoni pizza or Chinese food (pass the pork-fried rice!) on paper plates with plastic utensils. And her family had a Chanukah bush. It was a large sort of palm bush that they would hang homemade Chanukah ornaments on: dreidels, boxes wrapped like gifts, paper cut-out menorahs, blue glass balls, white glass balls, and Jewish stars. One year I asked about our having a Chanukah bush. My mother was adamant: Chanukah bushes are Christmas trees in disguise, she told me, and have no place in a Jewish home. My father would never have allowed it and neither would she. And that was the end of the conversation.

Cut to: 2010. Last weekend, I attended the annual Christmas gathering that [livejournal.com profile] ladyjestocost and [livejournal.com profile] bedii throw to help set up and decorate their Christmas tree. I always enjoy this get-together and have fun hanging ornaments. Last night, I attended [livejournal.com profile] varina8's lovely annual pre-Christmas event and discussed with other guests her tree, its ornaments, and how each tree is different from home to home.

I was recently in the local Fred Meyer store, the place festooned displays of Christmas merchandise. On sale were artificial trees about 1.5 feet tall; piled nearby were small glass balls in blue and white and silver. And I had a moment. I'm an adult. I can do what I please. Having a Chanukah bush would make my mostly secular Jewish lifestyle no less Jewish than it already is. And then, in the back of my mind, I hear the admonishment: Chanukah bushes are Christmas trees in disguise and have no place in a Jewish home.

Being Jewish in Seattle has always been something of a struggle for me. It's easy for me to keep whatever measure of tradition I want to keep in my own home, but being out in the world here is difficult. Seattle is the only town I've even been in where I've been accosted on the street for being Jewish (in liberal-as-hell Capitol Hill, no less). I've been given a hard time by employers about taking time off for the high holidays. The Seattle Jewish community is pretty insular, so I've often found myself in the position of being a sort of ambassador, and taken whatever teachable moments I could as opportunities to share and educate. And for many local Jews, I seem to be a little too ethnic, a little too East Coast somehow for their comfort. I've found my own small circle of local Jewish friends, but it's been challenging and not always comfortable.

So there I was in Fred Meyer looking at this little tree with the echoes of my mother's words in my head. And I went back and forth about buying a little artificial tree and setting it up. I couldn't do it. I wanted to, but I couldn't do it. I went through this last year, and the year before. I'll probably go through it again next year. And maybe, someday, I'll set up a little Chanukah bush. But for now, I'll skip it. I'll enjoy my friends' Christmas trees and walk through neighborhoods looking at the displays of lights. But then I'll go back to my little mostly secular Jewish home, enjoy my pretty little Chanukiah, and find comfort in it. It's what my parents would have done.


=================================================

List of things I want to write about, updated:
--The movie "Black Swan" Done
--Ripping my CD collection to my computer and the resulting discoveries
--Christmas trees, Chanukah bushes, and me
--Perspective and politics
--Sophie and Spanky--mainly some pictures because I haven't done that in a while Done
--The creation of art (words, pictures, or jewelry) (or lack thereof) in my life right now
--What comes next
scarlettina: (Autumn)
I have the time but not the brain bandwidth to write on LJ tonight. I had a full weekend and have used my brain pretty hard. It needs rest. But I want to make notes about some things I'd like to write about in more depth in the next few days so I don't forget about them. This list is pretty much for myself, but if any of these subjects in particular interest you, your comment may influence my writing about them sooner.

--The movie "Black Swan" Done
--Ripping my CD collection to my computer and the resulting discoveries
--Christmas trees, Chanukah bushes, and me
--Perspective and politics
--Sophie and Spanky--mainly some pictures because I haven't done that in a while Done
--The creation of art (words, pictures, or jewelry) (or lack thereof) in my life right now
--What comes next
scarlettina: (WW: Decisions made)
Snurched from [livejournal.com profile] miss_swamp:

I'm watching Defying Gravity, and there's this great line from Donner:

"There are a handful of days in everyone's life that they can point to and say, 'That day changed me. That day helped make me who I am'. They usually happen on big event days; the day you get married, have your first kid. The day you land on Venus. But they can also happen on regular days. In unlikely moments, with events that may seem like nothing at the time, or they're so huge that they literally take your breath away."

So my question is - what were your days like that?


Good thing this question is in the plural otherwise I wouldn't be able to answer it.

Enter at your own risk: self-revelation beneath the cut. )

Don't know what happens from here. Maybe I've missed a day here or there; time will tell.

How about you?
scarlettina: (Movie tix)
I didn't go to my senior prom. Mostly, it was because no one asked me. My then-"boyfriend" was far more interested in having pictures of himself taken with a busty blond ballerina than chubby me, so he broke up with me just long enough to take her to his prom (he attended a different high school). I don't remember what I did that night. It almost doesn't matter. I'd had my prom night two years before.

When I was a sophomore in high school, most of my friends were seniors. They were a wonderful group, very protective of me and trusted by my mom. I'm still occasionally in touch with one of them. Anyway, they all decided that, rather than going to their prom, they were going to go to Adventureland, a dinky little amusement park on Long Island to which my folks occasionally took me and my brother when we were kids. Since my circle of friends was going that night, I was on the trip, too.

We rode the roller coaster, the carousel, and the Tilt-a-Whirl (my favorite). We played games on the midway. I still have the humongous Pespi-Cola glass that my friend Tom won for me, without a chip or scratch on it. I still remember the lights strung along the tops of the game booths and the music of the carousel. It was one of Those Nights, touched by some ineffable magic, the kind of night you look back on and think about, knowing that nothing quite like that will ever happen again. There were some wonderful moments later on in the evening that I'll probably write about at some point.

My point for the now is that Adventureland has become almost mythic in my memory--not mythic like the Oracle of Delphi, but rather personally mythic, a place of "perfect joy" whether I was there with family or friends, somewhere outside of time that will remain as it was in those days, the late 1970s, pure and fun and cheesily lovely. I never went back again after that one perfect night.

I've been hearing, lately, about a new movie called "Adventureland." Turns out that the film is based on this icon of my childhood and teenage years. It's been well-reviewed by The New York Times. And I find myself wanting to see it. Wanting to see it as soon as possible. I don't expect it to bear much resemblance to my memories or evoke the emotions I harbor about that brief period of my life in any way. But I'm curious to see someone else's interpretation of that time and place (actually, the film is set a few years later than my time), curious to see if it was actually filmed on site, and to see what sort of story has been laid over this place that provided the setting for such an emotionally key moment for me.

Anyone wanna go to the movies tonight? The film is playing at the Metro Cinemas. I'm thinking the 7:20 PM show.
scarlettina: (Default)
Back again!

Comment to this post and I will give you 5 subjects/things I associate with you. Then post this in your LJ and elaborate on the subjects given. Topics courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] greyjoy:

The Publishing Biz )

Elongated coins )

New York )

Travel )

Fandom )
scarlettina: (To Boldly Go)
Coupla days back, my friend Brian helped me bring some boxes up from my storage unit, the idea being that I'd figure out what was in them, then do one of three things: rearchive the contents, dispose of the contents, bring the contents back into the rotation of daily living.

As previously mentioned, one of the boxes contained my junior high school and high school yearbooks. This same box, it turns out, contained a number of offset-print, perfect- or comb-bound Star Trek and Starsky & Hutch fanzines printed in the mid-to-late 1980s.

When I moved from New York to Seattle, I made choices about what was going into storage, including the 'zines. I kept out the 'zines in which I had stories or art. I packed away 'zines I wanted to keep for one reason or another that didn't have my work in them. So for the first time in about 15 years, my issues of 'zines like "Vault of Tomorrow," "Guardian," "Nome" and "Mind Meld" are seeing the light of day. I also have copies of then-classic novel-length stories including "Legend's End," "Courts of Honor," "The Thousandth Man," and more. There are also the notorious, then-controversial "Sun & Shadow" and "Broken Images," the contents of which probably look tame now in comparison to some of the explicit fanfic being published on the web. These are thick books printed on 8.5 x 11 paper, all richly (if more often than not, inexpertly) illustrated.

I never thought these things would become the fossils they clearly are. I was most definitely a post-K/S-emergence fan (I was 16 by the time the first fall-off in slash fan-ac began), but the tradition, obviously, has continued to this day, although in a considerably broader and more mainstream way.

These relics have personal relevance for me in the friendships they recall and represent, and a particular period in my life. It was a time when a female support structure was a safe haven for me, when I was learning basic social skills I'd missed growing up. I am profoundly grateful to that community of women. I also remember the day I was done with it. It was a clear and fairly clean break. It was, for me, a kind of graduation day.

Perhaps storing the 'zines and the yearbooks in the same box represents an equivalency, different kinds of mementos accrued and then bundled together for what they all represent: learning, growth and moving on.

Wanna laugh?

Sat, Dec. 20th, 2008 10:31 am
scarlettina: (Awesome me)
I just joined a group on Facebook related to the elementary school I attended. A couple of people were lamenting a lack of pictures so, being an archivist, I found a few, scanned and uploaded them. Wanna see me, circa 5-6th grade, in my band uniform? (Band camp jokes can be skipped, please....)

A girl in a cape, holding a flute )

::giggle::

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