I got recommitted to blogging not long ago, and while sometimes it seems pointless, I think I'm getting at something, and whatever that something is appears to be working.
I think blogging is about making a commitment to yourself: I have something to say, I am someone, I deserve an audience.
For iconoclasts, it's a way of insisting upon your point of view of the world.
To me, blogging is placing my hands on the chest of authority and shoving as hard as I can.
I had a friend when I was young. Her father was a brain surgeon, I believe. One time, I went over to their house, and there was a regular white bucket in the kitchen. Someone removed the lid from the bucket. There was a human brain floating in it.
That's what a blog is: a brain in a bucket, and you beholding it.
Last weekend, I watched "The Act of Killing," which is pretty much one of the most astounding movies you will ever see. Usually, in a movie built on surprise or fear or astonishment, it's a roller coaster ride of emotion: sometimes you are up and sometimes you are down. I was gobsmacked from beginning to end. My jaw was unhinged. My eyes were round. Is this really happening? Did he just say that? Is this real? Yes, it is. In short, the film follows a group of executioners as they revisit the crimes of their past, but they do so in a world that glorifies their murderous histories. In a way, it reminded me of being on a porn set where something considered very "not normal" by society is considered very "normal" in this otherworld. In the case of porn, people are having sex for money while someone films it. This is all very of course. This is all very no big deal. You see the same throughout "The Act of Killing," when a man dances where he has killed people with wires around their necks, and a neighbor talks about finding his dead father under a barrel, and a man recounts raping teenage girls. It is very easy to think of them as Other. But are they? In America, killers are heroes.
The last time we were at the beach, we didn't swim. The intention was to swim, but a storm or a tropical disturbance of some sort the night previous had churned the water into a filthy mess. The sand was covered in broken seashells, and there was an occasional palm frond that had been thrown up onto the beach. The weather was pleasant, but the heat had dissipated, and most of the people on the beach were wearing light jackets and shoes. There were no manatees or dolphins to be spotted. On the way back, we looped through the wooded preserve, where we followed animal tracks of unknown origin, examined blooming plants with explanatory signs, and were hidden from the rest of the world.
In the future, your little black dress will have a sexy cutout that reveals your portacath, or, after treatment, the scar it leaves behind. In the future, your IV bag filled with liquid chemotherapy will bear the logo befitting your economic class (Walmart, J.Crew, Louis Vuitton). In the future, the GM breast implants for your reconstruction will not be optional but required. In the future, your surgical oncologist will appear on QVC hawking his or her branded line of scalpels. In the future, your cancer stage will be trademarked. In the future, you will travel to Las Vegas for treatment, and there will be an entire hotel and casino filled with bald women playing high-stakes games of risk, and you will feel at home amidst the malignancies.
A couple weeks ago, I bought a new desk. Previously, my desk didn't look unlike my new desk. Except it was cheap. It had cheap drawers, and a cheap feel, and when I got too excited, it would wobble. Since writing is my occupation, it doesn't seem like a very good idea to have the bedrock of one's career consist of something as unstable as sand or reeds in the wind or poorly made furniture. It took me a long time to find this new desk. It is not my dream desk, but I sat down at it in the store, and it seemed to work. I said to the saleswoman, "It's kind of like that guy you meet, who has a good job and probably won't break up with you. It will do."
The reason there aren't more Great American Novels written by women: Women aren't sociopathic enough. Engineered for empathy required to take care of small, squirming child bodies, women lack the ruthless, guiltless, narcissistic drive required to produce a masterpiece. Instead, women are distracted: by men who need, living room drapes, the hollers of children. Men tune out: wanting wives, bad carpet, succubi. It is important to note that the act of writing lit-er-a-ture is not confined to the author's relationship to the page. Instead, this sort of high-level literary excretion demands total immersion. The writer must be consumed: by his ideas, his thoughts, his words. Put another way, like Ouroboros, the Great American Novelist consumes himself. Men refuse to live in the world so they may live in their own world. That is the world we see in their books. Women allow the world to tear them from the imaginary, their desperate hands and idle minds grasping at the air for a long lost purchase.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about what it's like having cancer -- or, rather, what it's like not having cancer after you've had cancer. After that, I received an email from Todd Wineburner, about his cancer experience. I'm sharing his email here, with his permission, because he does a far better job of describing what cancer leaves behind.
"Several years ago, I patched your official head shot onto a bunch of famous nude artworks and sent them to you and you published them on the Reverse Cowgirl's blog. I've always appreciated that. I've appreciated your writing, too, and your recent entry about your bout with cancer really resonated with me. At about the same time I sent those pictures, I went through a bout with cancer of my own, and I think I know the exact feeling you're talking about. It's like there's a remnant of something still circulating through your body and your life, even though you know you're in remission (there's no cure, they tell me)--even though you know that you've lived to the point where the chance of a recurrence is barely measurable. I don't know that that feeling goes away, sadly. Your friend has a luxury in being able to laugh at your concerns and I think you'd be within your rights in defining that as insensitivity. I understand that she probably intended to ease your fears, but she needs to appreciate that for us and other survivors, a concern about cancer is not some vague, undefined apprehension about something we saw on the news. It's about taking a shower every day and encountering the places where a doctor changed us. It's about the memories of the absolutely surreal and disconnected feeling that comes from the anemia you get when the chemotherapy kills a significant percentage of your red blood cells. In my treatment, I had a massive exploratory surgery to check my lymph nodes. Like comedian Tom Green, my intestines were lifted out of my body and put back after the nodes between my kidneys had been checked. This is standard procedure for testicular cancer and they explain it all to you before they operate, but what they don't prepare you for is the day when your bowels start working again and the sensations are different--the pressures are in different places, the growls aren't the same at all. You've been rearranged at the most fundamental level. I still feel that way--rearranged. Not that it's debilitating, or even something that I think about often; things are just different than they were before the cancer and I guess they always will be. I guess they have to be. I've never really talked to anyone about this before, but I've never really seen anyone write about that strange sense that doesn't even really have a word to describe it. It's not disappointment, of course. With serious illness, there can always be more than one outcome and I think we both got the preferable choice. It's not really longing, either, or if it is, I'm not quite sure what it is I'm supposed to be longing for. It's just that strange sense that everything in my life changed when I had that cancer, except for the fact that everything pretty much stayed the same.
Thanks so much for your writing. It's great to occasionally find shared thoughts that let you know you're not nuts for feeling the way you do (or at least you're not alone). If you find a way to define this bizarre feeling, I hope you write about it. I wish you well. I'll keep enjoying your work and if I make any breakthroughs, I'll let you know."
What a goddamn movie. What a motherfuckin movie. What a great fucking movie. I could not love this movie more if I married it, impregnated it, and lived with it in a backwater trailer. One of the most painfully stupid things about TV critics, movie critics, and book critics these days is their stupid, insipid, lazy desire to/insistence upon fucking recounting the plot of said subject for you. Why the fuck would I want to know the plot if I hadn't seen/read the fucking product yet, you underpaid roadkill? Besides, what's plot anyway? A skeleton worth breaking. That's what plot is. "Under the Skin" has no plot. It has a woman who stalks and kills men the way men stalk and kill women. She is an alien; she is Scarlett Johansson. For those who care, she is naked several times, and she is so moody in the face, so pouty in the mouth, so dripping with weirdness that it will either turn you straight or gay, depending on your gender/sexual orientation. Or bi. What have you. The point is, I loved this movie. The director: Jonathan Glazer, who did "Sexy Beast," which is one of My All-Time Favorite Movies. (The second one, "Birth," was too disturbing for me, someone who likes to be/constantly is disturbed or in a state of disturbance or is attempting to disturb someone or something.) It's based on a book, like that matters. Also: erect penises sinking into black tar pits. Very odd. Very foreign. Very familiar. A man with a giant head. The only movie to accurately depict what it's like to be a woman. Thank you, Mr. Glazer.
Earlier this year, her brother by another mother and father died. You'd think, judging by this photo, she's sad about that. She isn't. She recognized that for what it was: the freeing up of more resources for her. Now, as the only dog, she gets all the cookies, all the dinners, all the cuddles. She doesn't even like to cuddle. She likes chasing balls on deserted train tracks, and drinking filthy rain water, and my husband. I figure I'm her next target. If she can get rid of me, she'll have him all to herself. And all the cookies she wants, to boot.
After I landed at LAX, I steered clear of the highways and drove through the city. I wanted to see what had changed. At the east end of Hollywood, I pulled over to the curb and tried to figure out where Le Sex Shoppe used to be. Once upon a time, it looked like this. Before that, Charles Bukowski was known to patronize it. Above, you'll find what's left. I mean, I think. I wasn't even sure, as I stood in the street, taking photos and trying to avoid getting hit, where it had been. I kept looking for a trace of it, but it had vanished, it seemed.
What's more interesting than the subdivisions of affordable suburban tract homes in Florida that went to apocalyptic hell in the wake of the Great Recession are the mega-mansions worth many millions that to this day sit in a state of lush green decay like concrete block Miss Havishams. Once upon a time, you can see by their Zestimates, they were worth $1M, $2M, $3M and more. In dated photos on listings that have long since expired, before banks came along and foreclosed on them, you can see them at their thousands of square feet glory: the many-tiered tray ceilings with custom lighting, the acres of travertine set on the diagonal, the luxury showers that accommodate three at a time. Today, they are worth half their previous values or less than that. Tucked between neighboring homeowners that wish they didn't exist, their filmy windows gaze blankly at those who bother to peek over their dilapidated gates. Inside, you wade through the flooded swamps that were their manicured lawns, peer inside at their ceilings falling from leaks that make puddles on their granite counter tops, gaze into the putrid vats that used to be their swimming pools with spas and wonder where, when, and how it all went so wrong. The families aren't totally gone: the aluminum baseball bat left on the greening lanai, the stuffed yellow duck forgotten in the dust, the box of letters filled with unpaid bills from banks looking to collect and Happy Father's Day cards addressed to a head of household who must have found, to his surprise, his American Dream had fell to rot, and who, not knowing what to do, simply left.
A few years ago, a library in Sandpoint, Idaho, got in trouble for posting a link to the site that hosted it.
"In response to feedback from concerned parents, the East Bonner County Library is moving a link to Artbomb from the teen section of the library to the adult section. The controversy resulted from one of Artbomb’s currently featured comics entitled 'My, My American Bukkake Too' by author Susannah Breslin.
The comic, which uses a high-contrast black and white art style to explore a story of personal loss with some strong sexual themes, begins with an advisory warning of adult material and is not linked to directly from the library website. However, some parents were upset that a website hosting adult comics was placed in the library’s teen section. Parents took to the Facebook group North Idaho Community Watch Network to discuss the matter. The comment thread generated 21 comments and has been seen 66 times.
'I clicked on the link that I was 18 and bam — (it was very) graphic,' April O’Connell posted in the the discussion. '(It’s) not something I would want my teen seeing.'"
The next thing I'm doing as part of the story I'm working on is going to Las Vegas. I like Vegas. A lot. I got married there, and for some reason I've been there three times in the not too distant past. I had fun doing this piece there. The gun show was awesome. Especially the shooting guns at the desert range part. The first morning I was there, I woke up early, because my head was in another time zone, and I pulled back the curtains, and I could see the giant fat golden orb of the sun getting ready to rise over the mountains. It lit up the front of a shiny casino nearby, and it was like you didn't know if the buildings had been made to match the sky or the sky had been made to match the buildings. Going back -- I'm looking forward to it. I want to see that sun again, and I want to talk to that cab driver who told me about that customer he had who wanted to be taken to a whorehouse where a girl or two would shit on him, and I want to slip twenties into the palms of guys I half know in front of casinos I like because it's what gets me something everyone else wants.
Several years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer, and everything seemed fine. I was early-stage, doctors offered solutions like butterscotch squares in candy dishes, and since I had just gotten married, anything unhappy was simply impossible. Eventually, a surgeon with a name that reflected her practice opened up my front in an operating theater, wiped the boundaries of my malignancy clean, and sent my excavated tissue off for further testing. Those tests, it turned out, indicated a slightly later stage, a weirdly aggressive type of cancer, and people in white coats knitted their brows while studying my data set. It was not the type of expression you wanted to see when confronted with what felt like a near-death experience. Everything will be fine became an afterthought, not a promise. Still, everyone plowed ahead -- the cheery dogs, the determined husband, the idiot patient -- and off we went through the field of the medical industrial complex. A head of hair was shed in cascades that clogged drains, a portacath was inserted into my chest, and over the course of a year I was radiated, chemotherapied, and targeted therapied. Nearly a year and a half after the whole thing started, I was finished. Left to my own devices, I was told to live my life. From the San Francisco fog that shrouded by cerebellum, I nodded grimly and waited for the next part of my life to begin. Eventually, of course, it did. My hair grew back, the black hole that had developed where the port once resided closed itself, and I told myself that things would get better. Time ticked across clock faces. One day, I got on a horse and galloped through a sandy arena to leap over a fence, which I had not done since I was younger. Still, something was gnawing, and in order to address those tiny teeth, I got on a plane and flew to Los Angeles last week. What are you doing here? my friends asked politely. I was working on a story, I told them. I was looking for something, I told myself. I explained to one friend that I was worried the cancer would return, the notion of which she laughed at hysterically. Now that I'm home, I'm prone to look back on what drove me to return to what I'd thought I'd done already. I think the answer is this: I wanted my balls back, or, failing that, I wanted to grow another pair.
Helen is the tousled hair star of "Wetlands." Her destiny: "So I turned myself into a living-hygiene-experiment!" Based on the book of the same name, the movie is a fanciful frolic through the body's holes and its many secretions, a journey through which Helen finds herself by way of an anal fissure. Think: "Trainspotting" with a vagina. She's not afraid to wipe her bare ass across a filthy toilet seat, take mobile phone pics of men's faces as she jerks them off, insert anything (vaginal fluids, male spunk, a carrot). In most movies, everything is withheld; here, everything is exposed and examined under a microscope. Helen offers herself up to us as a totemic feast to feed our carnal desires. As such, she is everything we are not: exposed, daring, unguarded. Her hobbies include "fucking" and growing avocados. "I just got nothing to hide," she explains. Of course, no normal family could produce a young woman so unabashed. Her brutal mother swaps boyfriends and religions, and her father can barely contain his raging libido; Helen is their collateral damage. After she cuts her ass shaving her butthole, she ends up on the hospital, where she develops a relationship with a male nurse, and we wait for Helen to poop ("The sooner you shit, the sooner you go," a female nurse scolds). Despite all the sex, holes, and issues, reproduction is verboten. Helen has sterilized herself, and pregnancy is equated with a turducken. What's best about "Wetlands" is that it offers a vision of the opposite of contemporary American feminism, the members of which spend all their time policing their bodies' boundaries and the behaviors of others. In Helen's postfeminist self-love orgy, politics are just, well, too boring and dry. The closest thing to a political act we get in this movie is when Helen trades used tampons with her best friend, noting, "It's my way of cutting into America's tampon industry profits." Bless her heart.
Being on a porn set is always a bit surreal. A table of sex toys. A wheel of sex acts. A guy whose job it is to wipe up the mess. The porn star who can't stop complaining. The woodsman whose tattoo reads: "It's not only who you are underneath. It's also what you do that defines you." The supermoon hanging over the sleeping Valley.