strange fire

books. poetry. paganism. feminism. queerness. blog.

turnabout’s fair play July 31, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 9:14 pm

If one of my customers gets to proselytize at my register, handing me a card with Bible quotes and a little metal cross, then I get to put this (pdf) on his SUV windshield.

 

odds ‘n’ ends July 29, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 5:36 pm
  • “My other car is a Pynchon novel.” Seen on a bumpersticker today, next to a “Republicans for Voldemort” sticker.
  • Met Chanteuse at The Book House today, one of my favorite places ever. An old 19th century house, filled attic to basement with used books. I think it actually could compare with Shakespeare and Co, since it not only has cats, it also has a ghost, one of the former residents, a little nine year old girl who drowned in 18-something. She hangs out in the poetry section.
  • Just got an email from an old grade school friend I haven’t seen in years, who apparently works at the Book House, saw me today and thought “That looks like Andygrrl…”
  • While waiting for Chanteuse in the parking lot, I discovered my first gray hairs. I’m TWENTY-THREE!!! Isn’t there some rule that you have to have your own apartment before you can confront your mortality and accept the aging process??
  • Then again, maybe I can use it as amunition in my next argument with mom: “See mom?! You’re making me go gray!!!”
  • As for my mother, I got a card in the mail from her the other day. Which is weird, since we live in the same house. Turns out she bought me a year’s membership in the “Spiritual Union of Perpetual Adoration with the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters”. In other words, the Pink Nuns, as they’re known locally, are praying “for your guidance in your career and personal choices”. They’re the Pink Nuns because their habits are bright cotton candy pink; they’re a cloistered order (so, not the useful type of nuns) who basically spend their time in Perpetual Adoration of the Sacred Host. Transubstantiated host is believed to be literally the Body of Christ, so after mass, when there are, um, leftovers, it’s (he’s?) placed in a chapel where there is always someone praying, 24/7…I guess because if you let Jesus out of your sight for one minute he starts causing trouble? And I’m the one with the wierd spiritual beliefs…
  • But I guess I can use it to hedge my bets, just in case it turns out I do need a “Get Out of Purgatory Free” card…
  • And the Pink Nuns are pretty famous for causing “miracles.” When the Pink Nuns pray for you, infertile couples concieve triplets and the baseball team wins the Big Game. I mentioned this to Chanteuse and she said, “Do they know they’re advancing the cause of lesbianism?” Ha.
  • I decided to placate mom by applying for the Real Job (proposal writing) that my uncle keeps trying to push on me.
  • Chanteuse called my house yesterday, and accidentally greeted my mother with “Hello, Gorgeous!” which is what she usually says to me. I’m never going to let her live it down 😉
 

late night meme blogging July 26, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 9:20 pm

This one’s actually fairly interesting.

1. Elaborate on your default icon.
Mo from Dykes to Watch Out For. My alter-ego in comic book form. The self-righteousness, the endless raging against the machine, the obsessive passion for books, the attraction to nerdy girls, the vegetarianism, it’s all there, though I have better taste in turtlenecks and do not share the Martha Stewart fantasy. “We’re living in a Protestant police state and all I’m worried about is getting a job so I can help perpetuate the paranoid patriarchal death culture!” See? I am Mo, she is me.
2. What’s your current relationship status?
Unexpected and unrequited. And secret, as well, she has no idea. It’s all very tragic, I must say. I hate being blindsided by love. Believe it or not, having half a continent and an entire ocean between us actually helps. Takes it all out of my hands; Fate. Not Meant To Be. Ah well.
3. Ever have a near-death experience?
I’ve had a few heart-stopping moments on the road, but no.
4. Name an obvious quality you have.
Oh that’s boring. Everybody knows I’m a geek smarty-pants. A non-obvious quality that I have: I play a sharp game of 8-ball.
5. What’s the name of the song that’s stuck in your head right now?
I spent the whole day with this godawful French song “Pas sans toi” on repeat, it was torture.
6. Name a celebrity you would marry:
Polyamorous open relationship with Jena Malone and Scarlett Johansen. And I’d have Emma Thompson as my bit on the side. (I’m a Libra, you expect me to decide?)
7. Who will cut and paste this first?
No one. See #2: nobody loves me! [/Bridget Jones]
8. Has anyone ever said you look like a celebrity?
Mom said I looked like a punk Audrey Hepburn.
9. Do you wear a watch? What kind?
You know those rubber wristbands? I have one that’s also a digital watch, green, with French expressions for time written on it. I got it in Paris. I like to brag about it.
10. Do you have anything pierced?
Cartilege in my right ear. I have to keep taking my eyebrow ring out for work and it’s becoming a real pain; I seem to have Wolverine-type powers of self-healing. I’ve had the piercing for over a year and it keeps wanting to close up.
11. Do you have any tattoos?
Only in my daydreams.
12. Do you like pain?
Are you kidding? I just spent 8 hours straight on my feet. My knees are killing me.
13. Do you like to shop?
The need to own books is a terrible addiction; I tried to cut back by only buying from the library sale table. I’m still buying the same amount of books as before, but at least it’s cheaper.
14. What was the last thing you paid for with cash?
2 rolls of paper towels, 2 “baby congratulations” cards, a bag of lime flavored tortilla chips, salsa, and Twix.
15. What was the last thing you paid for with your credit card?
Probably my last hostel in Paris…sigh…
16. Who was the last person you spoke to on the phone?
Cranky Yankee, my old college roommate. Got an update on her never-ending romantic woes. She still has crappy taste in men.
17. What is on your desktop background?
Opening background of the British series Rosemary and Thyme, about two English ladies who run a gardening business and solve murders on the side, because I am indeed that big of a dork. I have this weakness for twee British mystery shows. I’m a big fan of Hetty Wainthrop too.
18. What is the background on your cell phone?
Default. Cell phones are annoying. I only have three people in my contacts list, and one of them is there so I can avoid her calls.
19. Do you like redheads?
Do I like redheads. I’m currently lusting after Kari Byron of Mythbusters. Sexy, artsy, gutsy, funny, nerdy as hell ::trails off into gibbering, drooling mess::
20. Do you know any twins?
I did, in high school. They made movies and were obsessed with the Beatles. One of them claimed she called up Paul McCartney just by asking the operator for his phone number.
21. Do you have any weird relatives?
No, just the usual gradations of dysfunctional. They’re mostly nice, all in all.
22. What was the last movie you watched?
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, with La Chanteuse. “A desert holiday, let’s pack the drag away. You take the lunch and tea, I’ll take the ecstasy. Fuck off you silly queer, I’m getting out of here. A desert holiday, hip hip hip hip hooray! “
23. What was the last book you read?
Just finished up The Sevenwaters Trilogy, a very satisfying fantasy series. Dark ages Ireland and fairies and evil curses and luv and all that.

Ganked from Sylvan. I tag everyone.

 

California is a poem July 25, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 1:19 pm

before I begin, let me just say that blogger sucks blue baboon ass. I’d switch to something else, but that would be like work. Which means instead of pictures, you’ll just have to rely on my painterly prose.

You know what surprised me about California? The mythic quality it has. For some reason I wasn’t expecting that. But I should have; California has such a unique place in the American imagination. Like everybody else, my whole life I’ve read about California, seen it in movies, heard songs about her cities–from 60s hippie ballads to Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “Under the Bridge”–it was this strange, faraway land that was always treated with a mixture of fascination and contempt, here in the Midwest. California is hippies and psychedelics and Beat poets and Haight-Asbury; migrant workers, Okies, sailors, hitchhikers, bums, movie stars, cowboys; Chinatown parades, gay parades, barrios, bilingual schools, gangs and riots, drug addicts, oxygen bars (I really did see an oxygen bar! I always thought they were an urban legend), drag queens, self-proclaimed Emperors, gold-miners and gold-diggers. Highways, suburbs, bridges, fog, redwoods, ocean, desert, bobcats, sea otters, sand. I got to California and suddenly heard the voices of writers I’d half-forgotten, my life has been so crazy these last few years. Twain, Jack London, Bret Harte, Ferlinghetti, Ginsburg, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammet. Writers I used to read in junior high and high school, when California was an impossible thing I believed in each morning before breakfast, no more real than Middle-Earth or Narnia, just as wild and dangerous and beautiful. We drove around Big Sur, all crashing waves and foggy beaches, rocky hills and thick redwoods and lovely sprawling highway, and I remembered my long lost love for Kerouac and my adolescent passion for the Beats (don’t all bookish adolescents have a fling with the Beats?) And now I can’t stop quoting On the Road, which I read when I was 15 and very quiet, and it blew my mind. The charging restless mute unvoiced road keening in a seizure of tarpaulin power. I saw my first Mexican migrant workers, in a field picking strawberries maybe, as we tooled around Monterey and Santa Cruz in our rental car. We have migrant workers here, but we like to pretend that we don’t. In California, migrant workers, illegal immigrants, and under-the-table laborers are the backbone of the economy, and everybody knows it. I thought of Steinbeck. The fields were fruitful and starving men moved on the roads. The granaries were full and the children of the poor grew up rachitic. I love Steinbeck, despite The Red Pony (does anybody like The Red Pony??) I loved him so much as a teenager I performed a bit out of The Grapes of Wrath for speech team (no, not the famous “I’ll be there” monologue. Nobody can follow a performance like Henry Fonda’s). We went to the famed Cannery Row:

Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses.

It’s not, any more; it’s a glorified strip mall, which was disheartening. California may be mythic but it’s not the promised land. It displays the sins of American culture rather brutally, maybe just out of sheer contrast with the beauty of the land, the greatness of its writers and artists. Still, the Monterey Aquarium is a treat, sea otters and jellyfish and all sorts of cool stuff.
After San Francisco (where I did leave part of my heart; the other bits are in Paris and Edinburgh and elsewhere), RC and I (I’ve decided to call RC La Chanteuse, it’s more accurate and interesting) just puttered around the Monterey Bay area. Chanteuse went to UC Santa Cruz for a year, she took me on a tour of the campus. My jaw dropped so far I could have caught flies in my mouth. UCSC is like the Anti-University. It’s Bizarro World. It’s more nature resort than college campus. There are no sports teams, no Greek system, and the school mascot is a banana slug. Really. It’s hippies and wierdo artsy types, with a few computer geeks, and during the first rain of the season everybody takes off their clothes and runs around having a big naked party. Really.
I saw my first redwood trees there, which I hugged good and tight, because it’s the kind of place where you can do that and nobody blinks. They have bobcats, at night. There’s a modern art sculpture nicknamed “The Flying IUD.”
In Santa Cruz we met up with some old friends of Chanteuse, super friendly laid back Californian graphic designer types. We hung out on the beach having Deep Conversations about Art and Life and What’s It All About. We ate pizza, read tarot cards, and watched The Breakfast Club on cable. Chanteuse, like the fine sugar mama she is, bought me Queer Astrology for Women in the Santa Cruz Bookstore, a book I swear didn’t exist. We had vegetarian cheeseburgers at The Saturn, and drank fantastic wine at Bonny Doon (the first decent wine I’ve had since I’ve been back home) where they have vintages named La cigare volante (The Flying Cigar, ie a zepplin) and Cardinal Zin. We had the Best. Goddamn. Gnocci. EVER in Carmelo, and fed squirrels on the beach.
I was pissy the whole flight back, I didn’t want to leave. I told Chanteuse, “Look, just tell my parents they can send me my clothes!” The rambling open highways of California have seduced me. My traveling bug is itching for more. I should get a dog and a pickup truck and just hit the road.

When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured that greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked. Steinbeck, Travels with Charley

What’s your road, man?
-holyboy road, madman road, rainbow road, guppy road, any road. It’s an anywhere road for anybody anyhow. On The Road

 

maybe it’s time to crack open a hard-nonfiction-math-sciency-Steven-Hawking-type book July 20, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 1:26 pm

because when you mistake the beginning of a recipe for chicken saltimbocca as the instructions for ritual spellwork:

“Set aside 24 sage leaves…”
Ooh, sage! A purification/smudging rit! Yay!

…you might be reading a bit too much esoterica.

Moderation in all things, said the immoderate Greeks.

 

never a dull moment

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 1:01 pm

(what, y’all weren’t into my axe-grinding thealogical rants? Sheesh, tough crowd.)

Anyway, oh god, I don’t think I’m going to survive to September.

It’s time for the annual Big Fat Catholic Family Reunion, and my uncle showed up at our house this morning with his teenage son, his daughter, her friend, and his two five and four year old grandchildren. My sister Blondie is home (not her real name but it might as well be), sharing the room with me, so there’s 10 people in this three bedroom house. Plus one large, smelly, drooly bulldog who makes me sneeze.

Really desperately fighting off the urge to run and hide somewhere.

My 83 year old grandfather has depression, chronic heart failure, post-traumatic stress syndrome (well DUH, he was only shot to pieces at Peleliu, the most pointless battle of WWII), which manifests as pseudodementia, according to his shrink. We were close when I was a kid; and now he likes to entertain himself by trying to set me up with boys. It was his birthday yesterday, we were having cake and ice cream when a monster storm hit, spawned two tornadoes on either side of us, and ripped the roof off the airport terminal. It was the closest thing to a hurricane you can get this far inland. We spent the rest of the evening in the basement, all 500,000 of us, drinking, playing gin rummy, listening to the radio reports, and watching the little ones run around and freak out. We’re due for another one tonight. Fun times!

On the plus side:

  • I got a job as check-out girl at Local Grocery Chain Monolith, so by the time I actually do get to Arizona, I might have a nickel to spit at
  • I unexpectedly came out to Aunt Dingbat, who was very cool about it all, to my relief. And turns out she’s all into massage therapy and alternative healing and gave me tons of info and contacts.
  • I found this really great post over at Heima, my new favorite pagan blog: Smartass Witch’s Guide to Good Livin’ in 10 Easy Steps.

and now that I’ve got my bitching done, I really, seriously, totally am going to do another California post.

 

The Laughter of Aphrodite: Reflections on a Journey to the Goddess ~ Carol P. Christ July 17, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 1:41 pm

Mmmm, brain food! Yum. Warning: Long, nerdy post ahead.

Carol Christ is my ace in the hole. Her Ph.D. from Harvard Divinity is useful whenever I need some patriarchy-approved credentials to justify the spiritual path I’ve chosen. The Laughter of Aphrodite is the second book of hers I’ve read, after The Rebirth of the Goddess, and she never ceases to impress me with the quality and depth of her thinking. Theo/alogy (theo being the masculine and thea being the feminine forms of god) is not generally considered the lightest of reading, and perhaps I’m conditioned to it from my education in literary criticism, but I find her writing has such clarity and directness–unlike most academics, she knows how to write in plain English–she’s very accessible to the lay reader. Part of this accessibility is due to her rejection of the myth of academic objectivity, and her inclusion of personal feelings and anecdotes to outline her arguments. The result is wonderfully passionate academic prose.
The Laughter of Aphrodite is a collection of essays, some written when Christ was a student of theology working within the Abrahamic paradigm, and the rest after her discovery of Goddess and feminist spirituality. The earlier essays reflect her conflict and struggle to resolve her identity as a woman and a feminist with her love for the Hebrew scriptures; the later ones show her attempts to “re-member” and create a spirituality that validates the authentic experiences of women. She talks about so much in this book: the influence of Platonism on Western thought and its consequences for women, women’s sexuality as spirituality, nature and divinity, the anti-Semitic roots of Christianity. She criticises the so-called monotheism of the ancient Hebrews; the consequences of worshiping Yahweh as a self-proclaimed war god; the power of symbols and the need to create new ones, not merely abolish the old ones; ways to name divinity. I could go on forever about the ideas and arguments she makes, and I would too, if this wasn’t a library book. Carol Christ has been hugely influential, possibly the most important influence, in shaping my spiritual beliefs; coming from a similar background, she articulates for me things I could never manage to define.
Feminist spirituality and Goddess religion sometimes gets accused of narcissism, escapism, women sitting around in circles cleaning their auras instead of working for change. How can I sit indulgently priviledged, reading thealogy while the Middle East immolates itself for the umpteenth time and the planet slowly dies?
How can I not?
How can I not look for the root of these problems, which are not as distinct as people think? How can I not search for new way of being in the world, since the old ways clearly don’t work? Does anybody think Israel and Palestine and Lebanon and Afganistan are populated by strict atheists? I can go back to the state PIRG tomorrow and canvass a million doors, and maybe do some good, raise a lot of money, but it’s only a band-aid solution. How can I not at least try to find an alternative to exploitive concepts of nature, to the not-so-peaceful Abrahamic religions?
The parts of this book I found the most compelling were her essays on women as “daughters of a Father god”, and her thoughts on death and finitude. Her discussion of women’s relationship with the god of Abraham was unexpectedly cathartic; reading “Women’s Liberation and the Liberation of God” and “Expressing Anger at God” was one of those moments when someone expresses for you what you couldn’t express for yourself, a “YES!! Thank you for saying that! Finally!!” moment. In “Women’s Liberation” she states that not only are women justified in being angry with God–not just with male clergy, not just with “the institution” of religion, but with God himself–more importantly, it is necessary for women to express this anger in order to free themselves and to free spirituality from the grip of sexist ideology.

Instead of swallowing her anger, choking back the words forming in her throat, she rises and cries out, “What happened to the mothers, the daughters, and the sisters? How can we give allegiance to a tradition of fathers and sons? Where is the woman of God who could aid our quest? Where are the Goddesses?…By your very existence as male, you legitimatize the patriarchal order in which I cannot fully exist. How could you, God? You promise to abolish the bow, the sword and war from the land, but you yourself are called a man of war. How can you ever fulfill the promises you have made to us?”(24)

Yeah, how dare you, you asshole? There’s something so empowering about having your anger validated. In expressing my anger at God I run the risk of being seen as reactionary, turning to paganism to piss off my parents, if you will. Which isn’t true, but that’s a whole ‘nother post. In expressing my rage and pain, I could also be accused of being “intolerant” towards Christianity, engaging in reverse prejudice or bigotry. Frankly, respect is a two-way street in my book, and I’ll respect Christianity when it starts respecting me. But I won’t hold my breath.
Living as a daughter of a father god, trying to exist in a discourse that expressly deifies the male and excludes women from participation in the sacred by virtue of their femaleness, is poisonous to women’s psyches. “How much easier to swallow her anger,” Christ says. “How much easier to choke to death on it.” (30) A woman in this position can try to connect to the divine only by abstracting herself from her female body, modeling herself on male authority figures, alienating herself from other women; she can also learn to submit, to accept that she is less than, inherently flawed, deserving of mistreatment. The wife shall submit to her husband; women must cover their hair and keep silent.

When I loved the God of Hosea, whose love was defined against a backdrop of the slaughter of sons and the dashing of mothers with their children into pieces, was I not accepting brutal punishment as one of the faces of love? (100)

The reference is to Hosea chapters 9 and 10, where the people of Israel fuck up once again, as humans are wont to do, and God decides to dish out one of his cosmic spankings: “Ephraim must lead forth his sons to slaugter…I will slay their beloved children” (Hos 9:13-16) I became an agnostic long before I understood and accepted my sexuality; all the good, decent, loving Christians I know, the liberal nuns who educated me, none of it was enough, none of it could compensate for the fact that the God they followed was an asshole.
I was raised to worship Jesus as Prince of Peace, to worship Yahweh as a god of love and forgiveness, and I could never understand the disconnect between these ideals and the reality of Christianity’s brutal, bloody history and intolerant present. But Carol Christ’s essay “Finitude, Death and Reverence for Life” nails down, at least in part, why the supposedly peaceful “great” religions are so unceasingly violent. Liberals and progressives like to ridicule fundies with their apocalyptic vision and desire for Armaggedon. We view suicidal religious extremists as a bizarre aberration. The religious wackos running the government are a fringe group, right?

It is easy to dismiss these men as mad. Indeed, they seem to have lost touch with reality. But they are not aberrations within Western civilization. They are its products, and their visions of reality are considered sane within a culture founded on the denial of finitude and death, a culture that clings to ideas about life, to ideologies, rather than to life itself. I am not suggesting that Platonic dualism as represented in theology and philosophy is the sole cause of these views. But the cultural habit of denying finitude and death, which is deeply embedded in Western thought, makes it easier to deny that nuclear war could destroy almost all the life on this planet. (221)

Death and life, she argues, are inseperable. It’s one of the few widely held tenets of modern paganism, in all its myriad forms, that death and life are connected in a cycle of birth, decay, and regeneration. To deny death is to deny life. To aim for transcendence of death, rather than acceptence and understanding of it, is to miss the point, and is ultimately futile anyway. No one gets out of here alive. It’s a dangerous concept as well, because to “avoid” death you must destroy all evidence of your mortality, of your corporeal nature. I believe that Western society operates on a profound terror of embodiment. Throw in Platonic dualistic thinking and you’ve got a toxic mix: anything associated with embodiment, physicality, life–women, nature, sexuality, food, pregnancy, aging–is evil. It’s all terribly juvenile and fucked up. Christ insists that for humanity to survive the destruction we wreak on ourselves and the planet, we must embrace death, our finite nature, the existence of change. “We must learn to love this life that ends in death…our task is here.” (215) Paganism teaches me how to do that. Other people will probably find other ways of accomplishing it. But it’s got to be done. Change or die is the rule of nature, and since we’re already dying in droves, it’s time to change.

For me Goddess has always been more than a symbol of female power. Goddess symbolizes my profound conviction that this earth, our source and ground, is holy. I have always known this. I will never know anything with stronger conviction. (209)