Monday, February 20, 2017

Alarmingly Assertive Mormons, Dream Catcher

I’m always game for two things that most people deeply dislike: I’m willing to listen to and interpret your dreams, and I will always talk to religious proselytizers, whether they come to my door or stop me in the street. However, yesterday while innocently walking to my local pool, I happened across a pair of alarmingly assertive Mormons. They wore matching fleece jackets and carried Bibles and of course, the compulsory religious tracts. They were heartbreakingly young and seemed a bit desperate. I made the mistake of telling them (since they asked) that no, I don’t literally believe that Jesus is the son of God, however, I can get behind most of the general principles he espoused. Their eyes lit up with a glassy fervor, and they immediately demanded my phone number, which I declined to provide. Then, one of them jotted down the address of their church, informed me that they were having services at 1:00 p.m., and stated confidently that he would “see me there”. I felt like I was this close to being hog-tied and thrown into the back of windowless van. I escaped unscathed, but burdened with a 30-page pamphlet about the Holy Scriptures.

The reason that I always take time to talk to religious people is because one, I feel bad for them, especially if they are peddling their spiritual wares in my neighborhood, which is notoriously liberal and atheist-leaning. I’m sure they get doors slammed in their faces constantly, which they humbly accept as part of the burden of being a good Christian and sharing the Word of Our Lord. Secondly, it’s no skin off my back. I’m not one those rabid anti-religious atheist types who get enraged by the very idea that someone wants to talk to me about God. If you are that motivated to talk about God with a total stranger, then bring it. Let’s talk about God. It doesn’t hurt me any, and it’s an excuse to connect to another human being with a different viewpoint.  Lord knows, we could all use a little more of that these days. But if these encounters are going to start getting weirdly assailing, I may need to revise my policy.

Speaking of dreams, I was recently browsing my “dream journal”—essentially just a Notepad list where I write down any dreams I happen to remember and/or find interesting or significant. I’ve come to the disappointing conclusion that my unconscious does not cleverly share mysterious wisdom cloaked in highly-structured, symbolic riddles. It’s more like an irrational, babbling toddler with a mental disorder. Here are some choice snippets:

I was at the beach and an angry pigeon with a purple beak stole my debit card.

I was making numerous attempts to fish in nearby lakes and streams, but I was being stymied by a hairy, dog-like creature (kind of a combination of a mole and a dog) who was going into the water ahead of me and scaring off all of the fish.

Donald Trump sent out a caring tweet about me.

Donald Trump had a stroke and my boss at work was the first responder.

A salamander was licking my face, being very affectionate.

An octopus had a message for me, but I can’t remember what it was.

Got foot stuck in a barbed wire fence. The harder I struggled, the tighter it got wrapped in the wire. Spider, goat.

I was taking a class in fashion design and the instructor insisted that all of our drawings needed to be in shades of green. I kept trying to change my fashion plates from peach to green, but they kept going back to the color peach, to my great frustration, as I was on a deadline.

I was looking at apartments in a very swanky building, at least from the outside. Inside, all of the units were absurdly tiny and cramped. The leaser tried to convince me that the pool locker room would be a good place to rent out as an apartment, but said I couldn't be there during peak hours.

There you go--the unconscious of this humble typist stripped bare in all of its lurid glory. Make of it what you will, but, as the Bible says, do not judge lest ye be judged.

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Smug Yoga, Reader Curse, Reviving “Grease”

If you’re one of my friends and you do Yoga, you’re a lovely person and the following statement does not pertain to you. All I’m saying is that on occasion, I run into a particularly holier-than-thou Person Who Does Yoga, and the encounter inspires me to scream at them  (in my head), “Oh, you do Yoga??? Well, by God, why didn’t you say so sooner? Please give me your address so I can mail you your framed Better Person Award post-haste!” I am not trying gin up controversy or be deliberately contrarian here, but I truly do not like Yoga. I’ve given it numerous attempts, and all it does is make me want to crawl out of my skin. My body and brain simply refuse to cooperate. I don’t find it centering or relaxing. And I’m a physically restless person (not to be confused in any way with being an athletic person), so if I’m going to spend time exercising, I want to do something fast-moving with resistance, like swimming or the elliptical. I have a lot of nervous energy to discharge and I need to move. I need to wear myself out physically to feel better emotionally. That I find centering. Sitting still in a dark room and getting frustrated because my body is fundamentally incapable of doing a single Yoga move is not. Also, I could do without the self-righteous lectures of the instructors. It’s none of their business if I ate half a bag of Hot Cheetos for lunch.

All my life, I’ve had that “reader” curse. You know the one I mean—the curse of constantly mispronouncing common words because you spend all of your time indoors reading instead of fraternizing with other human beings, therefore you make up how certain words sound, and then get really embarrassed when someone points out to you that you’re saying it all wrong. I have this with “gesture”—I’m never really sure if it’s pronounced “jester” or “guess-ture," and a whole slew of other words that I can’t recall at the moment. I learned of another one last night, when, in a conversation with Mr. Typist, I pronounced the word “voluptuous” as “volumptious," much to his cackling delight. He gleefully pointed out that I have a life-long habit of mis-saying that word, and he’s right. He has his own theory as to why—he insists that I am mixing it up with “voluminous," but I disagree. I think it’s because a word such as “voluptuous”, “meaning “full of, characterized by, or ministering to indulgence in luxury, pleasure, and sensuous enjoyment," needs to have a soft “m” sound in there. “Voluptuous” is a really clunky word that does not adequately reflect its delightful meaning. It needs that soft “m” to fill it out and give it a nice, warm, downy feel.  (By the way, I know this antecedent may make Mr. Typist seem mean or insensitive, but it didn’t go down that way at all. I was laughing my arse off so hard during the whole conversation I almost fell out of my chair.)

Besides arguing over the proper pronunciation of relatively arcane words, Mr. Typist and I watched the 1978 movie “Grease” on Netflix last night. I remember seeing it in the theater as a very young Ms. Typist, and being absolutely captivated by it. I wanted nothing more than to be in a lady gang and wear a pink satin jacket and have a bad boyfriend with greasy hair and a fast car. So it was really fun to re-visit the movie from an adult perspective.  While watching the movie last night, I marveled to myself that if  1/10th of the sh*t that went down at Rydell High in 1959 went down at any high school ever in 2017, there would be a national scandal and about 11,000 lawsuits. Cases in point: The shop teacher accompanying her students to an illegal drag race, the relentless bullying of the hapless Eugene, rampant underage drinking and driving, not to mention sexual harassment and student-on-student violence. Nonetheless, shockingly, those thirty-five-year-old teenagers came out of it all unscathed and were able to do a silly dance at the graduation carnival. People were tougher back then.

Other random notes: My favorite female character is Frenchy by far. My favorite male character is Danny Zuko, since I have a soft spot for dim-witted but essentially good-hearted men. “Grease” probably has the best opening credit sequence of any film made before or since. And finally, Frankie Avalon singing “Beauty School Drop-Out” in those tight white pants is nothing less than divine. At any rate, enjoy this funny, dark take on Grease in 2017:

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Caper Envy, Big Gem, Video Game Hell

Mid-winter ennui has settled into my bones, and I find myself uncharacteristically bored and unfocused. I happened to catch a bit of the Tom Hanks movie “The DaVinci Code” on TV a few nights ago, and I realized that what is lacking in my life is a good old-fashioned, heart-thumping chase by government officials in helicopters. Tom Hanks and his lady-sidekick cryptographer are having so much fun in that movie. I know they’re on the run and it’s all very serious and Tom Hanks has to prove his innocence, but still, they get to zip all around the Vactican in one of those tiny cars, barely one step ahead of the authorities, and talk about the mysteries of the universe with a slightly drunk Ian McKellen. There is no intrigue in my life, and, as much as I enjoy believing otherwise, no one is after me. I would appreciate a little adventure. Maybe a government helicopter could just come and hover over my apartment for a few minutes to put a decent scare into me. Then again, in today’s climate, I suppose I should be careful what I ask for.

A symptom of my malaise has been a fascination with the Home Shopping Network’s jewelry sale shows. They come on around 9:00 p.m., just as I’m trying to wind down my overwrought brain, and I find them hypnotic. Don’t worry—I’m not sitting there with a credit card and cell phone in hand, as there is no scenario in which I would actually buy one of their frighteningly gaudy offerings. What fascinates me is their host’s salesmanship. If I owned a retail store of any kind, I would head-hunt every one of those HSN jewelry salespeople. They have mad sales skills and a brilliant formula: There is the main salesperson, (male or female, it doesn’t matter) with a Deep South tent-revival preacher cadence, a fiery crusade against the forces of Big Gem, and a warm, down-home, “I’m just regular folks” vibe that's a lethal combination in and of itself. But then they add the double-whammy of the submissive sidekick, whose role is to act as the gospel choir, backing up everything the main host says with cult-like sighs and ecstatic eye-rolls of admiring agreement. It’s fantastic. Every single time, they almost manage to convince me that dropping $67.90 (with Flexpay!) on a Jay King Compressed Turquoise and Blue Topaz Sterling Silver Ring is a great idea. Almost—but so far, not quite. If you ever find me pushing a shopping cart full of my worldly belongings down the street, with a giant garish ring on each of my fingers, you’ll know they’ve won. By the way, lest you think I’m the only one, my cat Buddy is just as enamored of the HSN jewelry shows as I am. He sits miraculously still on my lap and watches it with me, eyes huge and enraptured by all of the glorious shinies.

Because of my afore-mentioned ennui, I recently re-downloaded Neverwinter. It’s easy to play and a great distraction from the fact that I’m completely drained of motivation to send out my novel or work on my writing projects. I rolled a new toon--a sassy elf Rogue--and one of my early quests was to instigate a war between two opposing factions of rat-humanoids by slaughtering all of the inhabitant of one faction’s safe house and dropping propaganda literature from the opposing faction. I cheerfully accepted the quest, all the while knowing that it was an awful, immoral thing to do. That led me to consider all of the other immoral things I have done in video games, of which there have been many. I have slaughtered legions of innocents over the years. I wonder if there is some sort of special, video game hell to which a pixelated version of myself will get sent to atone for all of my video game crimes. I figure I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Right now, I’m too busy pillaging and instigating proxy wars. A girl can only think about so much at once!

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Persian Flaw

Persian Flaw

"In ancient times, Persian rug makers were deeply religious and believed that only God could make something perfect. They would deliberately drop in a small faulty stitch, a flaw, into each Persian rug. In doing so, a “Persian Flaw” revealed the rug maker’s devotion to God."--Karel Weijand

So we will crave
the circumstance of our shame.
So we will allow
only the treacherous in. So we will do
to ourselves what was done
to us. So we will gain mastery.
So we can believe
that it was love.
So we will learn
that love is empty.
So we can become
So we will meet
So we will be granted
no more choices.
So there can be only
our long fall in offering.

So in the falling
we will thrash our limbs
and plead for rescue.
And in the silence that's returned,
we'll find our wholeness.
And in our wholeness, we will clasp
the broken stitch,
and in that embrace
there will be born
devotion, and in devotion,
we will know our worth,
and in our worthiness,
we will offer up compassion.
And our compassion, we will find
a god in every failing.

 --Kristen McHenry

Sunday, January 22, 2017

RSVP’s: The Real Reason Society Is Coming Apart at the Seams

I recently found myself exasperated by the lack of RSVP’s for a work-related event I’m planning, which led me to crankily Google, “Why won’t anyone RSVP anymore???” I was immediately buried under millions of articles, blog posts, and rants from embittered event planners everywhere, lamenting modern society’s widespread inability to commit to attendance at social gatherings. Apparently, it’s been a problem for quite some time. Now, before you snort dismissively and accuse me being preoccupied with first world problems, hear me out.

I know all the world is aflame right now because we’re on the brink of the apocalypse and blah, blah, blah, but while everyone was obsessed with politics, the real symptom of society’s breakdown was in full blossom before our very eyes, and like the proverbial frog in boiling water, we didn’t notice until it was too late. And that symptom, my friends, is not our current Commander-in-Chief. Rather, it is the complete lack of accountability we feel towards what used to be a foundational aspect of the social contract—that is, the simple act of RSVP-ing. This is about more than just flightiness, or people being too busy or overwhelmed by social media. People have always been flighty, busy, and overwhelmed by something or the other. But it used to be that when you were invited to a social gathering, you understood that the person on the other end of that invitation had to think ahead about food and drink quantities, staffing, seating arrangements, name cards, space set-up, and event budgeting. We were honored to be an invited guest, and took the responsibility of responding seriously. We knew that the host was going to work hard to create a fun, enjoyable event for us, and we had enough basic decency and respect to let them know by their requested deadline whether or not we would grace them with our presence.

Fast forward to 2017 and ship, sailed. These days, it’s a total free-for-all out there. Somehow we’ve gotten so utterly self-centered and myopic, so commitment-phobic, and so emotionally undisciplined that we don’t want to agree to do anything ahead of time because, what if we wake up that morning and just don’t feeeeeeeel like going to that dinner party the host has been planning for three months? What if we get a better offer? What if someone might be there who we don’t like? And anyway, why are you hassling me, man? Why should I have to tell you whether or not I’m going to come to your party? That’s like, totally oppressive. Maybe I’ll show up, maybe I won’t. (But if I do, I expect you to have enough food and booze to satisfy me and my unannounced date.)

See, this isn’t just about how technically daunting it is to click “yes” or “no” on an E-vite. This is a symptom of our deeply embedded sense of entitlement, our laziness, and yes, our selfishness. We’re all so mired in the immediate and so controlled by our base emotional responses to everything that we can’t discipline ourselves to meet a basic tenet of being a grown-ass adult. And that is a problem, because it’s a symptom of the growing tear in our social fabric.  Breaking bread with our friends and face-to-face socializing is a building block of society, as is keeping our commitments. And navigating those things used to be a skill that we developed over time, as part of our maturation process and our induction into real adulthood. Now all bets are off, and that lack of skill is spilling over into the way we interact with each other in day-to-day life, as evidenced by, oh, say, violent attacks on those who disagree with our political viewpoints, or road rage, or general lack of empathy for the lived experience of others. Not to mention the bane of frazzled event planners who need to give a minimum headcount to the caterers by 3:00 p.m. and can’t because no one will bloody commit. Come on, people. We are better than this. Fixing the world’s problem starts with the small things first: Be polite, r├ępondez to the invite!

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Me--Stylist to the Stars, What I Learned About Australia Will Shock You, Childhood Crush

As I mentioned in last week’s non-blog post, I watched the Golden Globes red-carpet pre-show last week. I didn’t watch the actual Golden Globes, because I haven’t seen any of the movies and I find award shows tedious. But I get a kick out seeing the dresses. I myself am a notorious fashion frump, but something about the red carpet brings out my inner Tim Gunn, and suddenly I become this sassy, Fashion Police-esque expert in fit, color and accessories. So, for the edification of all of Hollywood, I have scrutinized this year’s Golden Globes fashions carefully via various websites, and I have a few things to say:

1.    If you have porcelain skin, light pink, white, champagne and pale beige are bad colors for you! I swear, a few of the actresses were practically invisible, their tiny, wraith-like bodies wrapped in layers of gauzy froo-froo that were exactly the same shade as their skin.
2.  Just because a look is trendy, does not mean it’s good look for you personally. For example, there are very few people who look good in yellow, but these damnable yellow gowns have been popping up everywhere for the last few years. Most of them are an eyesore. The same goes for gowns with weird, random things stuck badly onto them. I don’t understand why you would ruin a perfectly good gown by slapping weird, floppy things onto it in a random pattern.
3.  There’s a fine line between delicate and feminine, and looking like you fled a house fire in your nightgown.
4.   There is a limit to how much confusion the eyes can take. Pick one interesting design element and play it up. Six are too many.
6.     In the end, fit and simplicity win over trendiness and “statement” pieces.

Alright then. Moving on to a more serious matter, please brace yourselves for some very upsetting news. I didn’t want to have to have tell you this, but now that my eyes have been opened, I feel that it is my duty to let you know:  It was brought to my attention this week via Imgur that Australians do not know what lemonade is. Apparently, if you order a lemonade in Australia, they give you Sprite. They don’t know about American lemonade. They are not awakened to the pleasure of fresh-squeezed lemons mixed with water and sugar. And they don’t even seem to care! Their attitude is one of scornful dismissiveness. One Aussie actually called it “a niche hipster item." I’m stunned. Here I was, just going about my life all this time, having no idea that a wide swathe of  the planet legitimately believes that Sprite is lemonade. Even more shocking were several comments made along the lines of “So that’s how all those kids in America have lemonade stands. I always wondered how they were making carbonated beverages at home.” Wow.

I know that was hard to take, so to end things on a lighter note, I was thrilled to hear an interview with my first childhood crush, Shaun Cassidy, on one of my regular podcasts recently. I have a very clear memory of carefully saving up all of my allowance quarters so I could buy his record “Under Wraps.” I had my eye on that album for weeks at my local BX (we were military.) I knew it was five dollars, and I knew that five stacks of four quarters would get me my precious. Finally one day I announced I was going to purchase it. My mother said, “But you don’t have the money for that," at which point I gathered up all of my quarters and methodically counted them out in front of her in five stacks of four. Defeated, mom threw her hands up, and I dashed off to make my shiny new purchase. It turns out, the host of the podcast described almost the exact same experience—she knew the album was five dollars, and she save up her allowance until she had enough to walk to Records R Us and make her purchase. It made me smile think that while I was on an air base in remote Alaska plotting my Shaun Cassidy album purchase, another girl of my age in Southern California was socking away her quarters, too, dreaming of the dulcet tones of Shaun Cassidy. By the way, Sean was an absolute delight in the interview. Turns out, he’s very sweet man and quite an accomplished television writer/producer. You can hear the interview here.

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Over It

I have some sort of thing going on where I’m really congested, but not actually fully sick. It’s incredibly annoying and it’s making me tired, so all I want to do is sit on the couch and watch the Golden Globes pre-show red-carpet fashion to-do. That’s probably all I’d want to do anyway, but at least I have sinus congestion as an excuse. Right now, I’m just over it all. I’m over winter and the rain and the incessant cold and dark, I’m over feeling this constant low-grade crappiness, and I’m over this nagging knee injury that never got correctly diagnosed or treated and gets worse when it gets super-cold out like it has been. Also, I didn’t sew this week or play a fascinating new game or do anything but work, so I’m drained dry of interesting things to tell you about. All of this to say, there will be no proper blog post today. Instead, I present you with a story poem to tide you over until I feel like a human being again:

 Penny the Pig

Penny's favorite sucker, her ever-lasting
gobstopper, was a plastic Fun Family Collection
boy-teenager figurine in a red striped
t-shirt and khakis, with a stiff curlicue of
yellow hair, and black slash eyebrows. His
shoes were lumpy white globs of resin
like something had gone
wrong on the assembly line.
She dug him up behind the barn the night Cecily
left him there during the hailstorm.
Penny kept him safe from the other pigs; dragged
him off and buried him each night, sat
jealously near his dirt hole,
until she dug him up again, rolled
him with her overheated tongue, and
shook him in her mouth as though to snap
his rigid little neck. After a week
he was a pockmarked mess, his brows
mottled with teeth pricks and his
blob-shoes dull with grime.
Penny had made him his own. Broken him in.

Penny screamed and grunted the night Cecily
figured where he was and stole him back. She smacked Penny
with a split-off fence panel and ran
into the house sobbing, clutching the boy by his
dented chest. She spent all night scouring
his body with a potato scrubber, and painting
his shoes with Great Grape nail polish.
She filled in his brows with magic marker and put him
back on her bed stand with the dad, the Grandpa, the
Mom, the prim sister,
and the squinty aunt with a feather hat.

Penny forgot about him after a few days, but Cecily
never found forgiveness in her heart. When Andy
ran off junior year for a job in Akron, daddy
moved up north for good, and momma
sold the property for less than it was worth, Cecily made it a point
to throw rotted crabapples at Penny until
the station wagon was packed, and we couldn’t
wait for her any more. Penny
was lumbering off toward the barn
with her ass pointed at us as we drove off towards Indiana.
I don’t think she even saw us leave. Cecily carried her
family in a ziplock bag all the way to Fort Wayne
until she forgot it one morning in a Motel Six.
Momma said we weren’t going back.
We weren’t made of gas money,
and anyway Cece needed to learn
there were consequences for carelessness.

--Kristen McHenry

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Discipline of Wasting Time

This year, I did the unprecedented (for me) and took a week and half off between Christmas and New Year’s. I’m not used to taking time off, and because I’m in constant “go mode”, I tend to have unrealistic fantasies about all of the things I am going to accomplish during my rare vacations. My big plan this time was to edge my goldfish rug, get my poetry chapbook up on Lulu, do a deep clean of the entire apartment, start up “Wolfpine Glen” again, color my hair, catch up on the news on Conspiracy Daily, and double down on my gym visits. So far, I have slept in late every morning, stayed in my sweat pants until past noon, played video games for twelve hours at a stretch, and staunchly ignored the grime building up in the bathroom and the dust thickening on the cherry wood nesting tables. I know this sounds like a laughable statement, but it’s actually been a struggle to fully relax and not give in to the temptation to Accomplish All The Things. My brain doesn’t know how to let go naturally, and I feel guilty when I’m not, in my estimation, “using my time wisely”, whatever that means. So this vacation has been an exercise in the discipline of wasting time. I’ve had to go to the mat with my inner scold, who loves to run around tapping her watch and accusing all and sundry of whiling away their days on frivolity.

One of those glorious bits of frivolity for me has been surfing game demos on Steam (Winter Sale, folks!) Most of them have been fails--I have a zero-frustration tolerance policy when it comes to gaming. My game principles are that I will stick with nothing that poses more than a minor mental challenge or that elevates my heart rate in the slightest. For a while, I was playing a game in which I was an adorable forest fox who could control the seasons, but then somehow I died, and then I was a ghost fox, and it wasn’t as fun anymore, and I got annoyed by the mushroom puzzle. Poof, gone! Then there was one in which I was being chased by a giant, suffocating haze called “The Void”, which was okay for the first hour or so, but then started to feel too much like real life. Deleted! Finally, I came upon a most wondrous story game called “Demetrios”, about a slovenly, dim-witted antiques dealer who gets caught up in a doomsday conspiracy. That one was delightful, and I played it all the way through.

Right now, I’m playing a game called “Dead in Bermuda”, which violates my game policy, but appeals strongly to my overblown sense of responsibility. In “Dead”, eight survivors of a plane crash must pool resources and work together to build a life on a desert island. As the player, I am in charge of making sure each character gets proper healing, help for their trauma and depression, adequate food and water, and enough resources to survive for another day. I find myself quite concerned about dear Julia and Jacob and little Illyana and the sweet if gossipy Alice. And the other four, including Bob the Fisherman and even that snooty lady surgeon. So far, despite my best efforts, my attempts have been disastrous. On my first go-round, I made it to Day 18 before three of the characters committed suicide, and the rest starved to death. On my second attempt, I made it to Day 31, but then they all ran out of water and died. After consulting a few online game guides, I came across the revolutionary idea that I should have been investing more resources in my people. In the interest of conservation, I had been pretty stingy with food and medicine, but the prevailing wisdom on the internet says that you shouldn’t hoard anything, but immediately invest any and all resources into the characters, so they are operating at peak efficiency and can thereby produce more. Hmm…perhaps a lesson for draconian corporate slave-drivers? At any rate, so far I am at Day 21, and while everyone is squabbling and hates each other, so far no one has died. We’ll see how far I get with my newfound largess with the food and medicine. In the meantime, here’s a Happy New Year’s video from College Humor. Warning: Lots of swears. 

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Finishing What I Start, Adventures in Self-Publishing, Refined Sulking

Lately, I’ve been on a kick about finishing what I start. I don’t know if it’s because it’s the end of the year, or if there is some psychological issue at play, but lately my life feels haunted by specters of the half-complete, and it’s bothering me. One of those half-complete things is my poetry chapbook from years ago titled “The Acme Employee Handbook,” which was selected for publication for two different presses over the years, but for various reasons never got off the ground with either. I have come to think of “Acme” as my little orphan child. This weekend, in the spirit of completion, I got a wild hair and started delving deep into the vagaries of self-publishing. I signed up with Lulu and enlisted Mr. Typist’s aid in all of the formatting/proofing/grammar-checking stuff, and got the book uploaded. It’s not actually published yet—I still have some steps to go through to get to that point, but it’s lying in wait. I need a book cover and a “marketing plan” and I need to make some final decisions about pricing. I’m trying unsuccessfully not to get super-daunted by the whole thing. My goal is to have it published by the end of year. Lulu is the first self-publishing site I’ve worked with, and so far, I like them. There were a few glitches, some I am still working through, but they are excellent with giving clear instructions and walking you step-by-step through the process.  I will let you know when it’s ready for download! It will be available on Kindle, Nook, etc. More details to come soon.

Another move in my new-found zeal for completion will be to re-conceive “The Diary of Wolfpine Glen” and start the project up again in the new year, with renewed purpose and focus. Therefore, I am taking down the site for now. “Wolfpine Glen” will return at some point, hopefully as a weekly series, once I’ve been able to give it the time and focus it needs.

Buddy, who has thrown some truly epic cat-tantrums in his short lifetime, has managed to turn sulking into an art form. He’s a pretty vocal cat as it is, but he’s really expanded his range. His whines and cries have gotten much more elaborate and drawn out, complete with ear-shattering flourishes and trills all his own. Today, he came into the computer room and proceeded to enact a truly Shakespearean-scale whine-ologue when we declined to play Feather with him. Fed up, Mr. Typist shooed him out and shut the door. A few minutes later I found Buddy sacked out in the bathtub, glaring at the shampoo bottle. I guess that’s his newest sulking spot. I need one of those—a place I can go to pout. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just dark and quiet, preferably with a locking door. And soundproofing.

 -Kristen McHenry

Sunday, December 11, 2016

High Horse Part Deux: Scattered Thoughts

Last week’s blog post seems to have a hit a nerve, and I got a lot of comments via e-mail and Facebook from frustrated artists who are fed up with a number of things, chief among them the wide-spread practice of expecting artists to pay for the privilege of practicing their trade. While the post generated a lot of response, I don’t feel that it did a  great job of analyzing the issues with much depth. It was more of a drive-by rant, in retrospect probably triggered by that terrible warehouse fire in Oakland. (Side note: For God’s Sake, fire codes exist for a reason, people!) Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about the role of artists in our society, and in turn, the projections and attitudes of society towards artists. I started writing what I was hoping would be a sage, cultural critic-like, in depth analysis of the issues, but very shortly into it, my brain short-circuited and I completely lost my mojo.  I’m sorry to say I can now only eke out a smattering of scattered thoughts, then I need to return to my normal shallow waters or I'll get the vapors from too much hard thinking.

To quote my talented artist friend Frankie from a recent Facebook comment: “Hanging fees, entry fees, reading fees, registration fees, are just a few of the ways artists get screwed in this town. Everyone wants to make money off of the artist but no one wants to pay for the work.” She’s not having it anymore, and until all other artists rebel against it, too, the system won’t change. The same goes for writers who continue to pay contest entry fees and submission fees. As long we allow people to make money off of our gullibility, they will.

I believe in Yog’s Law: Money should flow to the writer. I also believe there is a period of time in which it is appropriate to provide work at no cost—when you’re first getting established and you need to get your name out there and build up a reputation. Unfortunately though, for most writers and artists, this period tends to extend far beyond its rightful expiration date. I think some of this has to do with our infamous low self-esteem. For myself, I know I harbor a fear of charging for my work. I’m embarrassed about selling my books at poetry readings. I have some weird hang-up about getting money for them that makes no sense. For the few literary magazines that are actually able to pay, I usually just donate the money back to the magazine. For me, it’s a bit of a moot point, since I’m never going to make much off of a single poem or short story anyway. But it would be much different if I were writing for a living. Or, if a miracle happens and my novel actually gets published. In that case, I’m going to have to get some business sense pretty damn fast, which is not something that artists are known for.

On that note, famous comedian Kathy Griffin once went on a rant about artists who brag about how they have no business sense. She rightly pointed out that it’s our job and our responsibility to understand the business end of the profession, and that it’s inexcusable to be lazy about that aspect of it. So when we get taken advantage of, perhaps we need to take a look at our own culpability as well.

Carolyn pointed out in a comment on my blog that the romantic myth of the starving artist is still very much in play. I think we as artists to some degree buy into that, which ties into our general unwillingness to be business-savvy. But I also suspect there is something of a punitive aspect to it that comes from the rest of society—this idea that if we’re going to “indulge ourselves” in this way, we have some spiritual and moral obligation to live in poverty. Or, maybe it’s tied up in the idea of purity—that art is seen as some angelic, untouchable thing that should never be sullied by something as crass as money.

Heck, I don’t have the answers, people. I’m just as much of a mess as anyone else who swims in these waters. I hope you will weigh in with your thoughts and observations. These are mine for whatever they're worth. I wish I had better answers, but I don’t, so here’s a video of the world’s most brazen raccoon. Enjoy!

--Kristen McHenry

P.S. I found this article, sent to me by aforementioned Frankie, to be quite illuminating.