Monday, December 31, 2007

Prescription for Peace

Happy New Year, darlings! Pretty Lady's second anniversary is upon us! Uncharacteristically, she cannot really find the words to thank you all, for your kindness, your friendship, your mentorship, your humor, and your lively, witty discussions. You have given Pretty Lady far more than you know.

In fact, darlings, you have given Pretty Lady the thing she has been seeking since time began; you have bestowed upon her Inner Peace. And now that she has glimpsed it, she wishes to extend this glorious, expansive, limpid tranquility to the wide world beyond. She does this in perfect trust and sincerity, with confidence that her message will be heard and passed along, to every corner of this troubled planet. Are you ready?

1) We must pay what we owe.

2) We must forgive our debtors.

And peace shall be upon us. Simple! Just like that!

Of course, just because attaining inner and outer peace is simple, does NOT mean it is easy. Pretty Lady herself cannot begin to imagine all the unpaid debts she must track down and remedy; she privately suspects that these debts may number into the hundreds of thousands, including the lunch invitation from the Asian coworker in 1992 (thank you, dear Cynthia!). The best Pretty Lady can do is balance her checkbook, send out a host of thank-you notes, and give stern instructions to the Holy Spirit to alert her of any grievous lapses.

Which is why #2 is so crucial.

For, darlings, if we go seeking Justice, in the form of Worldly Vengeance and Restitution, peace shall never come upon us. Pretty Lady rather doubts that she shall ever receive an adequate apology from any of her former partners in Codependent Dysfunction; she will have to take this as read, and Move On. (It is, in fact, her inchoate theory that moving to New York City brings out a person's most negative, self-defeating defensive habits to an exponential degree, rather like a toxic upheaval; she has seen this happen in both herself and in everyone she's ever known who moved here. Eventually we either get over it and move along, as competent and productive individuals, or we careen into the abyss of solipsistic despair and are never seen again. Pretty Lady gives it 50/50.)

So Pretty Lady urges you all to move with her into the Now, to embrace the Present, and to let the Past bury its dead. She suggests that all of us release the suicide bombs, the assassinations, the lies, the pollution, the disgrace, the scandal, and the slander; that we put a lid on the betrayals, the whining, the flakiness and the insincere promises. She looks into each of your eyes with the amazed wonder of an infant; she meets you all anew. And she is very pleased to do so.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Merry, merry!

Pretty Lady is Off for the Holidays, and may not be checking in, so she is taking this opportunity to say how much she loves you all, and will miss you, and will be back soon.

Meanwhile, she recommends the film Into Great Silence, to get you in a deeply peaceful winter solstice mood. Pretty Lady watched it yesterday evening, and was scarcely even concerned when the bathtub backed up.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Pretty Lady's Universal Healthcare Plan

Someone has nominated Pretty Lady for President! Thank you, David and Franklin!

Unfortunately, Pretty Lady has more sense than that. Presidential politics are terrible for one's complexion, as Hillary Clinton may attest. Pretty Lady prefers the Private Life, making draconian pronouncements from the sidelines. However, since her friends have expressed an interest, she will so far unbend as to elaborate upon her plan for Universal Healthcare, Unsocialized.

Part 1: Health. Care.

...Pretty Lady suspects that one very large reason that the "Healthcare System" is so stingy on Prevention is that it is so heavily interested in selling cures. That, and in covering its own butt; there is a reason that doctors these days compulsively order masses of expensive and, in most cases, useless diagnostic tests. They are not nearly so concerned about your financial well-being as their own, and medical malpractice lawsuits cost them money.

Part 2: Health Care, Part the Second
1) It is in the best interests of Society At Large to have healthy citizens, and as few destitute diseased persons dying in the streets as possible, spreading germs and and despair far and wide.

2) It is in the best interests of Individual Health and Economic Well-Being to seek out the best care at the lowest prices, and laugh in the faces of incompetent dentists who present them with deadpan $13,000 estimates.

So then, what is wrong with individually managed medical savings accounts, coupled with catastrophic coverage in a pool?

Part 3: Pretty Lady Gets Everyone's Knickers In A Twist.

Because what Pretty Lady proposes is, simply, universal government-subsidized health savings accounts.

Yes, she proposes that the government freely give its low-income citizens money, to spend upon their own health. Rather like EBT vouchers.

This, of course, violates all established precendents of Condescension, Patronization, and Punitive Reinforcement. It presupposes a dangerous Lack of Control, and irresponsibly opens up the system for instances of Flagrant Abuse by the least deserving among us. It amounts to a Robin Hood philosophy of robbing the rich to reward the poor.

Or does it?

The key of Pretty Lady's plan is that this subsidization will not be unlimited. Persons shopping for health care will be presented with the challenge of frugality; they will be forced to make their own decisions. They will try things and see if they work; if they don't work, and are expensive, they will try something else. Meanwhile, healthcare practitioners who charge exorbitant rates for nothing at all will be forced into another line of work.

Note, furthermore, that the government is not running this system. Note that Pretty Lady has said nothing at all about Medicaid, Medicare, or prescription-drug plans. The only 'insurance' plan which makes sense to her, as she has said in the past, is a universal catastrophic-coverage plan, payments to be subsidized below a certain income level.

The universality of this plan, moreover, is key; this obviates any need for layers and layers of bureaucracy, put into place for the sole purpose of denying coverage to people in need. Once denial is no longer an option, the wit and wisdom of plan-managers will have nowhere to go but toward the efficient managing of resources for absolutely everybody.

Pretty Lady blushes to admit that she likes her plan even better than the plans of her two favorite Presidential candidates. It seems to her that it takes into account both the free-market libertarianism of Mr. Paul's philosophy, and the universal compassion and social responsibility espoused by Mr. Obama.

The only questions which remains, of course, is: how do we pay for this?

Well, Pretty Lady has heard a rumour that the U.S. of A military budget is a teensy bit overinflated; it strikes her, frankly, as overkill. Were the country at large to heed the admonitions of both Mr. Obama and Mr. Paul, and refrain from intervening militarily in areas where we do not belong, it could conceivably free up a lot of resources, which could then be used for healing, rather than attacking.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Splendid musician, and still alive!

Lovely Kate Schrock has released a new album, which Pretty Lady thinks would make a splendid stocking-stuffer, for anyone on your Christmas list who is devastated at the loss of Dan. Pretty Lady met Kate at the Sidewalk Cafe on the lower East Side, several years ago, was captivated, and purchased her albums 'Dames Rocket' and 'Indiana' on the spot. They have been played thin, particularly on road trips when she is in an exaltedly solitudinous mood. Go! Thither! Listen! Purchase!

Dan Fogelberg, RIP

Whenever things in Pretty Lady's life have looked Black, black, black, during the last twenty years, she has been wont to play Dan Fogelberg's 1981 album 'The Innocent Age,' at top volume, and sing along. Halfway through the second song, everything is Fine.

Thank you, Dan. Well done.

Capture the moment
Carry the day
Stay with the chase as long as you may
Follow the dreamer, the fool and the sage
Back to the days of the innocent age

Storybook endings
Never appear, they're
Just someone's way of leading us here
Waiting for wisdom to open the cage
We forged in the fires of the innocent age

La la la la la la la la la...

Friday, December 14, 2007

Failure to Thrive

La-la-la-la-la, la la la la! Pretty Lady, she will have you know, just placed two homemade, cherry-free fruitcakes in the oven on Slow Bake, to the tune of A Winter's Solstice Reunion. This officially signals her entrance into Holiday Overdrive. All Scroogelike carpers, whiners, and holiday depressives please be forewarned, and keep your distance.

Pretty Lady has never been able to understand people who engage in such dismalness every December, simply because of Lousy Family Memories. It seems to her that if one's family of birth was lousy, the onset of adulthood is a fine and exciting opportunity to get another one. After the age of eighteen, she is fairly certain, a person is no longer a prisoner; a person may go where he likes, befriend whom she chooses, and decorate according to her own taste. There seems to her to be no excuse at all for voluntarily perpetuating Familial Dysfunction, one second longer than one is forced, by youth and economic dependence.

(In fact, she knows of at least one fellow who took to the streets of Mexico City at age 10, because of unsatisfactory nuclear family issues, and got himself adopted by a couple of gay gentlemen who took an interest in his mind. Very unfortunately, the family who could not be bothered to feed, educate, or cease beating him black and blue nevertheless felt that this environment was a danger to him, and sued to get him back. Then they recommenced the beating and the starving. Alas.)

Regardless of the existence of much misery in the world, then, Pretty Lady dares to be Happy. She is all the happier this year, because her nuclear household is unwontedly full of companionship, affection, and the building of indoor fountains. Pretty Lady finds that although the axiom 'You don't need a partner to be happy' is technically a true one, in her case it helps a lot.

In fact, she noticed that last week, upon returning home after a short absence, she found her partner slightly Moody. Wherewith, she showered him with diffident Food and Affection, and he perked up! Just like watering the garden! Pretty Lady had to admit that she was rather surprised. All too often, in past years, when she has showered a partner with home-cooked meals, casual backrubs, and a sympathetic ear, her partner has not perked up at all. All too often, she developed a habit of dumping a home-cooked meal on his doorstep, and running away, in order to avoid the inevitable Backlash--the carping, the whining, the Rage and Depression and Squirrelly Paranoia.

Pretty Lady is heartily thankful that the past is, indeed, past.

However, upon cautiously entering upon this new season of Comfort and Joy, it occurs to her that such episodes of Affection producing Squirrelly Paranoia are not exactly normal. The healthy human temperament, she is almost certain, requires Love in order to thrive. What then, does it mean when the application of generous helpings of Love to a test subject fails to produce symptoms of thriving?

Her inchoate hypothesis is that, in such instances, that person's Love receptors are occluded in some way. That Love is being given, but not received. This, in laymen's terms, is referred to as a 'block.' Just as a creative block prevents the ideas from flowing, an emotional block prevents the heart from believing it's true. This is a sad situation for all.

So what to do about this?

Well, first, Pretty Lady always recommends a Reality Check. It is always possible that what one perceives as Giving Love is not what is required by the receiver. It is no use expecting one's application of homemade fruitcakes to be received with cries of joy by a diabetic. More subtly, if one's little girl persists in an irritating infatuation with ballet, she will not thrive under a constant application of dowdy clothing and Serious Textbooks, no matter how much you think she ought to enjoy medical school. People are who they are, and the best of intentions will not change them.

However, once one's reality has been checked and double-checked, and the excellent fruitcakes are still being hurled over the wall with snarls of anti-capitalist rage, or deprecating little sniggers, it is time for a Major Check. Simply, it is time to Back The Hell Off. This is an exceptionally difficult task for the committed love-giver, as Pretty Lady is certain all her readers are; nevertheless it must be done. It is not good for the soul to hang around for much of this. As Pretty Lady can sadly attest.

It is quite possible that once one has Backed The Hell Off, that this may conclude as a permanent state of affairs. One is not a saint; one is unable, usually, to Heal the World. However, Pretty Lady is beginning to believe that if one Backs The Hell Off soon enough, before significant damage has been sustained to one's own love receptors, it is sometimes possible to merely watch, and wait, and harbor a quiet stream of love from a distance. Then, perhaps, the moment may come when a casual issuance of love goes unrejected.

Coming up next: How To Heal one's Own Blocks.

Monday, December 10, 2007

This Message Brought To You...

Pretty Lady had a lovely time in Pittsburgh! Dear Jean, Susan, John and Mary all conspired to make her trip as delightful as possible. It all seemed one big Whirlwind of Lights.

And on the way home, Pretty Lady got to be a Messenger of the Holy Spirit! Her cup runneth over.

You see, on the way home, the Holy Spirit saw fit to shred Pretty Lady's front driver-side tire, on I-80, in the dark and freezing rain.

This was no biggie. Although Pretty Lady discarded that ridiculous spare wheel a couple of years back, since it took up so much space in her trunk that there was no point in even having a 4-wheeler, she has that splendid modern convenience, a cell phone. Plus 24-hour emergency road service. Pretty Lady Remained Calm, and soon the expected angel arrived. The angel's name was Wally. He was prompt, courteous, and performed a quite elegantly heroic back-up maneuver on I-80 in the freezing rain. Pretty Lady commended him warmly. The Holy Spirit had no message for Wally, except 'Keep up the good work.'

Tires, said Wally, should ordinarily not come off in two pieces.

No, as soon as Pretty Lady's tire was safely replaced, the Holy Spirit whisked dear Wally off to another emergency, leaving Pretty Lady alone with an unfinished invoice. "It won't take long," said Wally. "Why don't you grab a meal at the Tannersville Diner?"

The Tannersville Diner, due to the promptings of Fate, decided to close three hours early. "The towing company has an office. You can sit there," said the Tannersville Diner staff, closing the door in Pretty Lady's wet, hungry, stranded face.

Pretty Lady returned to the office, which consisted of a short, grimy hallway, a door marked 'Employees only,' and a window, behind which sat an obese individual. This individual did not look up or acknowledge Pretty Lady's presence. He sat and grunted into a telephone, in an indifferent monotone. His conversation consisted solely of phrases like 'Nothing,' and 'That's not our service area,' and 'We can't be there for over an hour.'

Pretty Lady stood in the hallway.

After about twenty minutes she stated, 'My car is finished. Isn't there a way you could finish my invoice and let me out of here?'

'I can't leave the phone,' was the reply.

'I am perfectly capable of opening a door and fetching an invoice myself,' said Pretty Lady, testily.

Pretty Lady stood in the hallway.

After about twenty minutes more, she stuck her head through the window and stated, pointedly, 'Oh, I see you have an extra chair in there.'

Some mumbling gave Pretty Lady to indicate that she might borrow the chair.

Twenty minutes later, a tow-truck driver entered. 'You are here to process my invoice and release my vehicle,' Pretty Lady informed him. She hustled the man out to the garage, where he engaged Wally on the telephone and torturously made out the invoice.

While he was doing so, the Holy Spirit made some intentions clear to Pretty Lady. As directed, she returned to the dispatch office and delivered the message.

'I have something to say to you. You are a Slob. I have sat here for one hour and listened to you be rude to people in distress; I have watched you be rude to me. It is your choice to be a Slob. You can choose to live your life with grace, to treat people with kindness, to be a good person, or you can continue to be a Slob. It is your choice.'

Pretty Lady exited forthwith, and made her way gratefully back to New York, where her Gentleman Friend had made dinner, cleaned up, lit the candles, and put on a DVD. She has no idea whether the Holy Spirit's admonitions were attended to. This is none of her concern.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Where the Cool Artists Go

Pretty Lady hears rumors that some artsy sorts of people are going to some little fair thingies in Miami this weekend.

Pretty Lady, of course, will be in Pittsburgh.

She leaves it to you to decide Where It's Really At.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Picking One's Battles

Chris writes his own Authority Problem essay:

...Wilson's conclusions are somewhat different from yours, though. Rather than being somewhat confused and horrified at how difficult most people find disobedience, he found it quite natural and understandable. More importantly, he recognized -- which you, Pretty Lady, apparently do not -- the potential within himself -- within all of us humans -- to do the same.

To me, too, that's the most important lesson of the Milgram and Stanford Prison experiments: Almost everyone, given the chance, would be a concentration camp guard. Maybe we all wouldn't be the most sadistic guard at Treblinka; but neither would most of us be the most compassionate, either.

A small example from my own life. I believe, and will quite passionately argue (with very little provocation), that the so-called security routine Americans submit to when traveling by airplane is not only not helpful but actively harmful. I believe that the humiliation of taking off our shoes and belts, and forcing people to carry liquids in quart-sized (not gallon or pint) clear plastic bags, is at least a waste of effort and at most designed to soften American citizens up for the next assault on privacy and freedom.

I further believe -- cribbing again from Robert Anton Wilson -- that the only truly inalienable human right is the right to say no and take the consequences. I believe that the only way to stop the nonsense of so-called airport security is for us, the people, to stand up and say no. To refuse to submit to it.

I almost never take an airplane anyway, so this is an easy stand for me to make. Except just last week my wife and I traveled to Las Vegas so she could receive a prestigious award. I agonized over how I would handle the security issue. And when the time finally came...I took off my shoes. Because...

Because. I can invent a lot of reasons. But, ultimately, there are always reasons. The human brain is absolutely unparalleled in inventing reasons for the things it does. Why sit idly by as your Jewish neighbors are arrested and sent away in cattle cars? Why administer deadly electric shocks on the orders of a man in a white coat? Why pile up naked prisoners and take a picture? Why take off your shoes at an airport checkpoint?

To me, enlightenment -- wisdom, whatever you choose to call it -- is understanding, truly understanding, that you yourself are not above this. Yes, there are always times and places where some individuals find the courage to stand up, and we'd all like to hope that we'd be like those people. But that's just hope.
Clap, clap, clap. Woo-hoo!

Pretty Lady has a few teensy little comments:

1) Pretty Lady's ego-self is, by definition, not above this. That is the definition of ego-self. As long as we identify completely with frangible little bodies, running around at odds with other bodies, we are not above this. This is why Pretty Lady works so committedly, if lazily, to transcend her ego-self.

2) There is such a thing as choosing one's battles, and degree of exigency, and seeking one's Tipping Point moment. It is unreasonable and hyperbolic to equate the taking off of one's shoes--so that one's beloved wife may have her well-deserved Fun Time In Vegas, instead of committing a futile one-man-stand against tyranny, getting jailed, and ruining her weekend--to the wanton torture of, perhaps, that same wife, or someone like her. As Milgram and Wilson point out, we are social, relational creatures, which is the very reason for the Authority Problem in the first place. If we were all self-aggrandizing narcissists, who threw gratuitous temper tantrums in airports for moral ideals which nobody around us is likely to understand or be influenced by, there would be no society to give rise to unjust governments, or, in time, to us.

2) a) Remember: contrary to popular myth, Rosa Parks planned her moment very, very carefully, buttressed by an entire Organizational Movement waiting in the wings. These Quixotic Individual Standing Up for Freedom myths do more harm than good.

3) It is quite probable that the simple wrestling with the shoe question, and contemplation of the issues thereof, would make you, Chris, a fraction less likely to sign off on concentration-camp warrants, should they cross your desk; which brings us to:

4) Once we know that such Authority Problems are a universal danger, how do we train our minds to recognize and resist them?

Well, it is said that the few German youngsters who found the notion of Hitler Youth to be boring and silly beyond belief, were home-schooled by permissive but intellectually rigorous parents.

And having an independent income helps, too.

For we cannot become enlightened all at once. First, we learn to Obey. Then we learn to understand the reasons for obedience. Then we learn to discern the circumstances where mindless obedience does not match up with those transcendent reasons; then, with much struggle and failure, we learn to act in accordance with those meta-standards, rendering obedience obsolete.

There is a lot more to this than mere Hope, Chris; frankly, it involves a lot of work.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Tsk, tsk

Pretty Lady is sorry to see that Voxy-poo is up to his self-indulgent little tricks again, and is bullying people with Asperger's. Of course, since the victims in question have Asperger's, they probably don't realize they're being bullied, but still, Voxy should know better. People who are struggling, in however dim a manner, with apparent ontological paradox, do not need someone coming at them with aggressively linear confrontation. The cognitive dissonance thus produced is likely to fuse their fragile little psyches even more determinedly shut.

Because, as Pretty Lady keep saying, over and over and over, it's a question of levels. Sometimes it seems to her that most people view the world as a fused, warty mass of physio-logo-psycho-emotiono sludge, and it is no mystery to her why they get so depressed. They persist in behaving as though any problem can be solved upon the same level at which it is created, which to her is obvious nonsense. To get perspective, one steps away. One steps away and regards the whole.

When Pretty Lady steps away from purported ontological paradigms which present her a sucker's choice, she notes a staggeringly obvious thing. That is, that the vast majority of persons who choose not to believe in God are, in fact, blazingly angry with Him. They are angry for the simple reason that evil and suffering exist. Since, on some level, they hold God responsible for this entire physio-logo-psycho-emotiono mess, they hold Him equally responsible for the evil and for the suffering. Their revenge is to decline to believe in Him. Nanny-nanny-boo-boo.

As if that helps.

Since, then, the obstacle to belief in God is, at root, an emotional one, one may argue Logos until the stars burn out, and nothing will have been achieved. One may have bolstered one's sense of ego-self, but as Pretty Lady has been explaining for quite some time now, bolstering one's ego-self is the whole entire problem.

So Pretty Lady shall, once again, put forth an ontological paradigm that eradicates the sucker's choice at the root, and see if those poor benighted souls like hers any better.

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?

Right off the bat, here, we are presupposing that God is external to the equation; that there is God, and there is something outside of God to be prevented. This is unspeakably sloppy thinking. Pretty Lady dismisses this question on the basis of insufficient grounding.

Is he able, but not willing?

Pretty Lady recalls reading something about Free Will, in a document which purports to explain something of the motivations of God. She recalls that this freedom of will is allegedly bestowed by God onto those of His creation. So if we postulate that God is not separate from His creation, and has extended free will to that creation, then obviously the will of creation is equal and identical to that of God.

Thus the proper question to ask is, 'Are we able, but not willing?'

Then whence cometh evil?

Obviously, evil cometh from denying the will of God within us, which we are perfectly able to do, since our will is equal and identical to His.

So it seems to Pretty Lady that those persons who are permanently enraged with God over the question of evil are behaving in a similar way to that of Pretty Lady's former best friend, who, suddenly, out of the blue, accused Pretty Lady of 'taking pot-shots' at her. She was adamantly certain that Pretty Lady was out to undermine her, from motivations of envy and jealousy, despite a mountain of consistent evidence to the contrary. Moreover, she claimed to know Pretty Lady's motives better than Pretty Lady did herself, and declined to offer Pretty Lady an opportunity of explaining or defending her alleged 'pot-shot' behavior, but rather convicted and sentenced her without trial.

Pretty Lady's hands were tied, because there was nothing at all within Pretty Lady which could influence her friend's opinions, gleaned as they were wholly from the friend's own fantastic projections. Equally, when her friend offered to 'forgive' her for the alleged pot-shots, the offer was meaningless, because it presupposed the existence of a nonexistent offense which required forgiveness. Pretty Lady remained slandered.

Thus, Pretty Lady and her former best friend remain at outs, despite the absence of any concrete evil in their interactions. All that is required is for one of them to declare, 'But lo! I have made a mistake. I have committed an Error of Perception. You were not out to get me at all; it was only my own silly imagination.'

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Bar, Revisited

Darlings, Pretty Lady has seen the light; she has finally understood the reason for those silly little label things at the bottom of Desert Cat's posts. It was borne in upon her that, even if a person is cursed with near-total recall of every conversation she has had in this lifetime, ultimately she forgets in what month this conversation occurred. And the archiving function on her new template, not to put too fine a point on it, is dreadful.

So Pretty Lady was up till the wee hours on Saturday, doing that thing ex-librarians do best.

While engaged in this desultory Cataloguing of History, Pretty Lady's mind, naturally, wandered. It occurred to her that at times in every lady's life, she has got to do what she has got to do, whether it is wise or not. Specifically, there comes a time when a lady has simply got to wander alone into a bar, order a double bourbon or ten, and challenge a stranger to a game of pool.

Why has she got to do this? One may ask. One may not receive an answer. The mysteries of the wayward heart are singular and confidential. Pretty Lady does not concern herself with Motive; she merely concerns herself with Tactics.

For it is widely understood that for a single lady, a bar with a pool table in the middle of Brooklyn is the rough equivalent of a jungle in Deepest Darkest Africa, as regards the potential for loss of life and limb. Much bemoaning of this fact has been done, in progressive circles; however, the fact remains. And it seems to Pretty Lady that the focus of this bemoaning is All Wrong, from a tactical point of view.

The most outspoken of the Progressives, you see, have a tendency to preach to the persons least likely to listen; to wit, they preach to the Creeps. Moreover, they behave as though there were more Creeps out there than not--even that the vast majority of a single gender were possessed of Creeplike characteristics. It seems to Pretty Lady that the point of bifurcation, in these people's minds, boils down to Creeps, and Women.

Whereas Pretty Lady notes that a much more practical division is between Creeps, and Decent People.

A Creep, you see, is an individual who gloms on to a diminutive, intoxicated, pool-playing lady late at night and attempts to back her into a corner, or an alleyway, or his apartment. A Decent Person is the one who stands nearby, casually making sure the Creep's agenda is frustrated.

Do you see? This Decent Person is not a predator; he is not a chauvinist; he merely perceives that the pool-playing lady needs to let off a little steam, more than she needs to keep her guard up. He does not judge her for this. He does not question her ability to take care of herself. He merely hangs around, assuring himself that everything is okay.

It is a very great pity that some potential Decent People are cowed, by idealistic notions of Progressiveness, into the idea that looking out for one's fellow citizens is an offensive thing.

For as Pretty Lady has stated in the past, it is not that ladies in bars are incapable of handing a Creep's nether regions to him on a silver platter; it is that if the lady has friends around, she shouldn't have to. It is Pretty Lady's firm opinion that peace and safety are best maintained by invoking the minimum of fuss; plus, allowing a Creep to save face in a small way may prevent that selfsame Creep from coming back with a switchblade. It is always best to look at the bigger picture, before indulging in petty victories.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

On Issues

As a follow-up to her previous, rather murky post (when Pretty Lady doesn't write for awhile, she tends to suffer from Clogged Neurons), she would like to state that she is tired, tired, tired, not to mention Disgusted, with people who support political candidates on the basis of Issues.

You heard her correctly. She is sick and tired of all you people who pore through a list of Most Desired Perks and sign up for the person who promises you your Top Ten.

Issue Voting is of the Ego. Do you hear? It presumes that there must be a Winner and a Loser, that one must wrest one's victory from an opponent by force, and enjoy the spoils of war while standing on the groaning heads of losers.

Issues, she must repeat, are not Character. Do you understand? People are not Good People because they are liberal, or conservative, or pro-choice, or anti-abortion, or because they promise lots and lots of money they don't have, toward causes they know nothing about.

People either have Integrity, or they have it not. People of Integrity are capable of Listening, and of taking instruction, and of changing their minds when provided with new information; they do not, however, flip-flop with the winds of political convenience.

It strikes Pretty Lady that there are a couple of candidates in this election who possess a modicum of Integrity, and many who obviously do not. The candidates who do possess it, have almost nothing in common on the Issues front; nevertheless, they ring true as regards Character.

Pretty Lady would like to see her country, and eventually the world, managed by persons of this caliber. Hillary and Rudy, on the other hand, may go eat sawdust.

The Authority Problem

Hi sweeties! Pretty Lady has not, you will be pleased to know, immolated herself upon the pyre of her darling Alpha Cat. She has a sense, rather, that the spirit of the Alpha has integrated within her being for all eternity--his serenity, his poise, his generosity of spirit, his ability to box lesser creatures into submission with nonchalant ease. Lesser creatures, beware of Pretty Lady.

No, whilst jetting thither and yon, Pretty Lady has been loitering with her Gentleman Friend amongst the shocking works of Stanley Milgram. And she is here to tell you a painful truth: the vast majority of persons who believe themselves Moral are Just Following Orders.

Milgram summed up his findings in relation to the main experiment in "The Perils of Obedience" (1974):-

"The legal and philosophic aspects of obedience are of enormous import, but they say very little about how most people behave in concrete situations. I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist. Stark authority was pitted against the subjects' strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects' ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not. The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation."
Pretty Lady asks you.
First, despite his numerous, agitated objections, his continuous and persistent dissent, he continues to administer the shocks as ordered by the experimenter. There is, thus, a dissociation between words and action. Second, by no stretch of the imagination can it be said that this man wanted to administer shocks to the learner. To the contrary, it was a painful act for him, one which came about because of his relationship to the experimenter. Third, we note that "responsibility" is an issue important to the subject, and it is only when the experimenter explicitly accepts responsibility that, after several seconds of hesitation, the subject is able to continue. Finally, the language employed by the participant is revealing. Despite the considerable tension of the situation, a tone of courtesy and deference is meticulously maintained. The subject's objections strike us as inordinately weak and inappropriate in view of the events in which he is immersed. He thinks he is killing someone, yet he uses the language of the tea table.

--'Obedience to Authority,' Stanley Milgram, HarperCollins, 1976, pp. 76-77.
Pretty Lady begs to differ. She has no personal objection to using the language of the tea table in dire situations; however the phrase she prefers is, "No, sir, I am sorry, but I cannot in good conscience carry out your orders." How difficult is that?

Evidently, for the vast majority of persons, it is well-nigh impossible. For the vast majority of persons, it appears, the Spirit of the Law is as nothing compared to the status of the lawmaker. And that is a very great pity.

Pretty Lady recalls, during the months preceding the late, unfortunate adventure of the current adminstration in attempting to 'democratize' the Middle East, receiving a great number of anti-war Internet petitions in her mailbox. Upon receipt of one such petition, addressed to the U.N., she had the temerity to reply with the information that: 1) Internet petitions carry no political clout, since the signatures are unverifiable; 2) the U.N. is an impotent and bureaucratic organization with an illustrious track record of gleefully permitting global acts of atrocity; 3) the address to which these petitions are sent is disconnected within an hour or so of receiving one; thus, signing an anti-war Internet petition is precisely the same as doing nothing at all.

Her friend replied, "Well, it's better than doing nothing at all."

Do any of Pretty Lady's friends believe her yet when she states that Better and Worse, and Good and Bad, have no moral authority as concepts, because they are relative? It quite shocked Pretty Lady, the way so many of her friends could not seem to see that impotent dissent is no dissent at all; that in the grand scheme of things, it does not matter if one small ego-self comes out Against The War. One either keeps pressing the button, or declines to do so. All else is trash.

Pretty Lady also begs to disagree with Mr. Milgram, when he states that persons who divest themselves of responsibility for atrocity, upon the say-so of an authority figure, are divesting themselves of ego. On the contrary--they are preserving the image of their ego-selves by dumping guilt onto another. A person who transcends his ego takes full responsibility for his actions, and submits to the Integral Standard of loving his brothers--all his brothers--as himself. Thus he categorically declines to torture them.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

RIP Alpha Cat, 1989-2007

Pretty Lady regrets to inform you that the Alpha Cat passed away this morning at 8:30 AM. In his honor, she is re-posting this profile. He will be missed.


It has been Pretty Lady's long-held view that pet stories, not to mention pet photos, are best confined within the nuclear family. She feels that outsiders are rarely likely to appreciate or understand the nuances of pet personality, and there is nothing she fears more than Being a Bore.

But, in light of recent popular demand, she will break the ironclad rule of a lifetime, and present The Alpha Cat.

Please to ignore the cheap, ugly flower pots in the background; they contain as-yet un-sprouted poppy seeds. Fire escape photo sessions are, of necessity, less than ideal.

Pretty Lady was adopted by the Alpha Cat in Austin, Texas in the summer of 1989. A Mexican vet once asked her what kind of cat he was, and how much she'd had to pay for such a superb feline specimen; she replied, "Simplemente llegó, un día." ("He simply arrived, one day.") The vet declared, "Que suerte." ("What luck.") Yes, indeed.

Astute calculators will remark upon the fact that the Alpha Cat will be at least seventeen, roughly, this summer. Other people's cats generally are showing some signs of wear and tear at such an advanced age, such as big unsightly tumors, urinary tract blockages, gray hair, thyroid conditions, kidney conditions, emaciation, death, and lack of interest in tearing around the house, chasing Brats. (The Brat is another story. We will save him for another, distant, day.) One must note that the Alpha Cat, so far, appears relatively un-ravaged by time.

Pretty Lady has no explanation for this, except that at times she suspects the Alpha Cat of being a Buddha, his consciousness occasionally appearing to transcend the normal limits of space and time. Either that, or he escaped from a genetic research lab at the University, which is not impossible either.

Ordinarily the splendidity of the Alpha Cat's fur and demeanor are difficult to photograph. Magnificent as he is in person, in photos he usually comes out looking like a random, undifferentiated bundle of fluff. Pretty Lady thinks these photos are rather better than usual, despite the ugly flower pots.

The Alpha Cat has accompanied Pretty Lady upon innumerable journeys, both of the mind and the body; he has flown in planes, he has ridden cross-country in trucks, buses, and a Buick (sprawled at his leisure over the seat back, interestedly observing the landscape.) He has acquired numerous dramatic and disgusting abscesses, brawling with oversized raccoons in the ghetto. Once in Mexico, Pretty Lady had to leave him with friends for a few months, and in her absence he went Over the Wall, and hung out in dark corners with the Mexican alley cats. Pretty Lady's friends were forced to perform an Intervention.

In all these myriad adventures, he has always maintained a high standard of politesse, if not always dignity. (One of his favorite postures, particularly in his younger days, was to lie on his back, half-propped against a wall, so that his oceanic stomach displayed itself like Humpty Dumpty's.) When introduced to another cat, he is invariably courteous; he sits upright and peaceful, eyes wide, and psychically indicates the intention, "How do you do. I am the Alpha."

If the other animal is equally courteous, the two of them get along like a house afire. If not--if the wretched creature is psychotic, and yowls indecencies at him, or has the fatuous chutzpah to challenge his Alpha-hood, he demonstrates a world-weary contempt for the creature, and takes him out. "Look, I GAVE you a chance," you can hear him thinking. "Shut up already. You bore me."

In terms of human kindness, let us just say that the Alpha is largely unsurpassed by most humans of Pretty Lady's acquaintance. He has always had the sense of when Pretty Lady has had a particularly horrible day, and on these occasions he takes care to sleep by her head, purring like a factory of sewing machines. During one or two severe break-ups, he performed the role of Feline Dishrag with infinite patience and aplomb.

Pretty Lady is sure she has not come close to plumbing the depths of the Alpha Cat's psyche; she humbly realizes that he is most likely being patient with her. After seventeen years, she hardly knows him.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

How to Live Happily Ever After (or Not)

Hello, honeys! You will be shocked, shocked to learn that Pretty Lady, after decades of Loser-Addiction, has changed her ways. Discretion is always her watchword, of course, but the collected evidence of over half a year tends to suggest that her current Gentleman Friend lacks those certain, ineffable Loser qualities which have so frequently plagued her--and he is still around! In fact, Pretty Lady is feeling so sanguine about her circumstances that she is daring to make an Observation regarding Happiness, or the lack thereof, and apply those observations to an inchoate Rule for obtaining, and maintaining, such.

For indeed, darlings, it seems to her that there is only one. When a person has come through the Torrents Of Agony, has traversed the Dark Night of the Soul, has engaged with the Forces of Darkness--to include schizophrenic girlfriends, abusive boyfriends, sadistic, domineering parents, parasitic relatives, treacherous friends, rape, incest, betrayal, perversion, and bankruptcy--and emerged into the sunlight beyond, to behold one's Prince or Princess standing smiling in a field of daisies, what then?

The One and Only Rule: Do not blame Him or Her for the past actions of Them.


For how often has Pretty Lady observed it--the cherished and beloved Wife of the nicest man she knows, that stanch, calm, patient, observant, accepting, faithful, considerate gentleman who is the best listener on the block, pulls down a substantial salary and grills a mean chicken--berating this paragon year after year after year, for the actions of every Loser she ever consorted with? He is Male, and he is Here, and so he must Pay, and pay, and pay.

And how often has Pretty Lady been that paragon, that calm, faithful, patient, understanding, accepting Good Woman who listened to the rants--against dead people, against cops, against conniving businessmen and psychotic ex-girlfriends--how often has she been that Safe Haven where battering produced no opposing force, just an ever-giving Source who naturally, in her position of Atonement, must Pay, and pay, and pay.

Friends, if you find yourself doing this, please stop. That way lies madness.

For in Pretty Lady's work as a healer, she has empirically discovered that when a person is finally Safe, that is when ancient trauma emerges. The battered psyche which has, for so long, filed unacceptable insults in the To Be Dealt With Later category, finally relaxes, and disgorges the dreck onto the surface. This is a natural process; it cannot be bypassed or suppressed, at least not to good effect. And when this inevitable cycle occurs, it is PARAMOUNT that one does not turn to one's beloved partner and say, "This must be your fault."

One must guard, heavily, against such tendencies. The reflexive mind is, by definition, not given to introspection; it equates Correlation with Causation without a backward glance. It thinks: "Princess, here. Bad dream, just now. Princess+here=Bad dream; therefore Princess=Bad."

With the unhappy result that the Princess is unceremoniously jerked out of a very nice dream indeed, and subjected to the tortures of the damned.

This, darlings, is how the miseries of the past are visited perpetually upon the future, in an inexorable karmic wheel of raging flame. Do not participate! Fling aside the shackles of the past, and embrace the brighter dawn! The next time you feel an urge to Blame come upon you, punt! One punts with the all-purpose, non-judgmental phrase: "Ah. These are my Issues, coming up."

Once again. "These are my Issues, coming up."

All together: "These. Are. My. Issues. Coming. Up!"

And now we get to set those Issues free! Hallelujah!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Ooo, goody!

Pretty Lady has always wanted a set of clear instructions for how to be a Successful Criminal, and Yahoo Finance has just provided a checklist:

Identity theft is the No. 1 crime in the U.S., according to Werner Raes, president of the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators. The simplest form, mostly used by beginners, is to ask the DMV for a duplicate license in someone else's name. Identity thieves simply tell the DMV clerk that they've lost their license or that it was stolen, then provide someone else's illegally obtained information.
Pretty Lady has often thought that she'd be terrible at Disappearing. She tends to Stand Out In Crowds, even online, and her Signature Style is flamboyant and consistent. She tends to trust in the general indifference of the gross majority, to maintain her relative security in an increasingly totalitarian world, but one never knows when it might be necessary to flee to New Zealand.

Anyway, she is filing this list of tips away for emergency reference.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

On Behalf of the Alpha Cat

Pretty Lady would like to solicit the advice of his fans.

The Alpha Cat, as many of you know, is well advanced into his nineteenth year with Pretty Lady. He is, as you may expect, undiminished in character, dignity and personal charisma. His kindness, intelligence and stoicism have not wavered, even during bouts with kidney stones, dredlock removal and visits from the formerly-feral young cat downstairs.

However, in recent months, the Alpha Cat has begun noticeably Drooping. He has become finicky to excess, with the result that his frame is unwontedly bony; one must stroke him on the top of the head, chin, sides and stomach exclusively, since his hips and spine have become distressingly protuberant. He manifests the occasional involuntary nervous tremor. The only nourishment he will deign to consume is the occasional bite of Pet Guard Chicken and Wheat Germ (no other flavor will do), spiked with some prescription vitamins and digestive enzymes, plus a chunk of Pretty Lady's cranberry nut bread. (This latter was effected, much to Pretty Lady's surprise, only a few minutes ago; she had no idea the Alpha Cat liked cranberries. Full of surprises, he is yet.)

Moreover, he appears to be drinking to excess, and then only fresh-flowing water, with the result that the toilet seat is usually damp, and stray water glasses have to be watched. His grooming habits have declined, ergo the dreds; and in recent days his signature contented rumble is signally absent. Last night and this morning, he regurgitated a bit of spit and phlegm, innocent of hairball or half-digested nourishment. Most distressing of all, the Gentleman Friend reports that the Alpha has ceased biting him on the nose.

Pretty Lady's quandary is thus: She knows the Alpha Cat's days are numbered. She wishes to insure that these remaining days pass in peace, dignity and relative comfort; she wishes to obtain expert opinion on these matters.

However, she has just hung up on two separate veterinarian's offices, because due to a long history with these alleged medicos, she is Deeply Distrustful of their practices. Vets, in Pretty Lady's experience, have developed a strong tendency to insist on a pricey office visit, grab one's beloved companion, stick him full of needles and probes, send off for expensive tests without asking permission, recommend surgeries, hospitalizations, radiation and treatment with expensive and bad-tasting drugs, run up Pretty Lady's credit card bill into the stratosphere, and totally fail to assist her cat in any way.

Pretty Lady is well aware that the Alpha Cat could very well be manifesting symptoms of renal failure, Parkinson's disease, diabetes, thyroid trouble, digestive problems, arthritis, sinus trouble, and cataracts. If diagnosis and treatment of these conditions involves 1) torturing the Alpha Cat and 2) spending large sums of money which she does not have, she would rather not.

She would, however, like to perform any simple commonsense activity which the Alpha Cat, if he could make his preference known, would approve, aside from singing his favorite song and scratching his chin.

Are there any cat psychics in the audience?

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Video

So that's what that little box was for...

Mysterious Ways


Pretty Lady, in following a link from dear Bill Gusky's blog (all the morning-after posts are so cheering!) just read an article about 220 artists who were suddenly and viciously evicted from their homes, with no warning, by the City of New York, for alleged code violations. This is horrible, in and of itself.

But then Pretty Lady looked a little closer at the address of the building, and it triggered a tiny memory, back in the corner of her brain. A memory of a time when she was shattered, and desperate, and soon to be homeless, and looking for a place to live. A memory of a splendidly cheap and spacious loft space she interviewed to share, with two very nice young gentlemen; a loft space that she very, very, very nearly moved into.


So Pretty Lady is here to tell you that when a couple of nice young gentlemen rent your almost-future home out from underneath you, throwing you into another despairing tizzy, making you think that nothing will ever go right for you--remember that you do not, and can never, know all the facts. It may, indeed, be the best thing that ever happened.

UPDATE: It really was that building. This person was very nearly Pretty Lady's roommate:

Fortunately, I was not here when the fire department broke down the doors of the second and third story residents to throw them out of their homes at 9pm Thursday night, October 18th. The people living and running their small businesses (largely artists paying taxes for studio spaces) at 1717 Troutman had absolutely no prior warning that they were going to be forced out of their homes. The Department of Buildings (DOB) states that our landlord was given a notice one or two weeks before October 18th (I hear different stories whether it was one or two weeks before). And apparently some notice was placed on the front of the building before hand, but it was immediately removed, most likely by the landlord.
The horror.

How Not To Be Dismissed as a Fatuous Poseur

La, la. Pretty Lady had an absolutely wonderful time at the opening this weekend! Thank you especially to charming Mary Klein, who flew all the way from Minnesota with her most attractive family; Pretty Lady is of the opinion that Mary deserves a solo show in NYC, pronto. Her luminously simple hanging-egg piece was the Organizing Principle on that whole wall. Thank you also to Tracy Helgeson and her husband, who took the whole lot of us out to dinner afterward (Tracy is doing very well with her mystic barnscapes); Susan Constanse, who is not only Pragmatic and Organized, but a fabulous artist as well (such a rare combination that Pretty Lady leapt at the opportunity to discuss a collaboration); Jean McClung, light-sculptress and interviewer, who not only schlepped Pretty Lady's paintings to Pittsburgh, but offered her a place to crash there next month; and of course, the ever-irreverent Chris. (The painting was centered in the frame, Chris, and needed sufficient breathing-space between it and the wall sculpture below it. Pretty Lady knows best.)

(And should any of you follow the links and watch the video, Pretty Lady must explain that the reason she looks like a fatuous gawper herself is that she was waiting for the flash to go off. She didn't know that video cameras came that small.)

Pretty Lady also had a most enjoyably snarky conversation with the irrepressible Nancy Baker, wherein she discovered that she is Not Alone, by any means, in her frustrations with would-be Sophisticated Art Connoisseurs.

Which is why she must get stern with you people.

The fact is, at this point, Pretty Lady is the opposite of impressed, when friends and acquaintances try to get all buddy-buddy with her, by promising to buy her work. They earnestly pledge that as soon as their kitchen remodel is complete, as soon as they sell a screenplay, when they retire, when their Ship Comes In, buying a Pretty Lady original is Top Priority. Yes indeedy. They mean it. Uh-huh.

Meanwhile, Pretty Lady's rent is due, NOW. The electric bill, the gas bill, the car insurance bill, the student loan bill, the auto repair bill, and the grocery bill are all hanging fire. NOW.

Friends, NOW is the time. If you do not wish Pretty Lady to tune out your idle promises like so much parakeet twittering, pony up. Pretty Lady makes it easy for you; the link to her Rent Fund is right there on the sidebar. Large Works are between 2K and 3.5K; small ones are a mere two hundred. In order to seriously reserve an option on a serious work of art, a down payment of $500 on a large piece or $100 on a small one is required. NOW.

Consider; it is not accepted social etiquette to sidle up to one's lawyer and coquettishly simper, "If I ever get sued, I'm coming to you!" One does not approach one's doctor with the statement, "As soon as I scrape the cash together, I'm having you take my appendix out." One simply picks up the phone and makes the appointment, with the full understanding that doctors and lawyers require payment for services rendered. NOW.

Do not, if you please, bore Pretty Lady to tears with stories about Not Having The Money. Pretty Lady could tell you about not having the money--about the celebration she had, the day she finally had the money for coffee, after weeks of living on rice, beans and Ramen noodles. Do not mention how ridiculously high your health-insurance premiums have become; in Pretty Lady's world, health insurance is but a Distant Dream. If you have a car payment, you are a Wealthy Wastrel with no right at all to complain. Pretty Lady paid cash for her car, third-hand, seven years ago, and it's still running just fine, thank you very much.

For a person who waits until an artist is Famous or Dead, or preferably both, before putting cash on the barrelhead for one of her works is the worst kind of fatuous sheep-vulture. (That is, a grotesque gargoyle-like conglomerate creature which features the salient aspects of both, not merely a vulture with a finicky palate.) There is a very simple method of proving to an artist that you value, support and believe in her work; BUY IT. NOW.

Or else don't. But please do not burden us with your guilty excuses.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Off to the Little Show

Dear Chris has posted, in excrutiating detail, a description of what Pretty Lady's last couple of days have been like. Privately, she confesses that she is extraordinarily grateful that nobody else expressed much of an opinion, regarding the placement of all the lovely works of art in this exhibition; Pretty Lady was pretty much allowed to steamroller her imperious way through. Many thanks to her Gentleman Friend for installing outlets and spotlights at the last moment. Doom, at least, knows how Pretty Lady gets about adequate lighting. ;-)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Vindication -or- The Intelligence of the Intuitive

Pretty Lady would very much appreciate it if some of her readers who are expert in notions of Science and Philosophy and Linear Logic would reread this controversial post of hers, and compare it with this article which appeared today in Salon.

To refresh your memory, this is what Pretty Lady said:

In fact, it is Pretty Lady's inchoate theory that 1) deep down, we are all racist, for the very good reason that survival of the species demands that we be wary of funny-looking strangers; and 2) racism suppressed does far more damage than racism openly and cheerfully expressed. When a person is busy defending herself against charges of bigotry, however justified, this allows little energy left over for actually getting to know people, in an open, honest, organic way.
And the Scientific Report:
Admittedly, one of the greatest obstacles to a frank discussion of bias is the repugnance of prejudice. As ugly traits go, racist and bigot are right up there with pedophile and cannibal. But somehow we need to get over our puritanical revulsion with aspects of our biology that we find morally unacceptable. Being politically correct and denying the presence of unconscious bias has been shown to have its own downside. In a clever fMRI study, psychologist Jennifer Richeson has demonstrated that trying not to have inappropriate racial thoughts can actually tax brain activity and result in lesser performance on psychological tests that require maximal attention and concentration.
Pretty Lady says, hmph. Toldja so.

(With many grateful thanks to Chris, who gave her the heads up, since she is too busy today to read Salon from beginning to end.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Armchair Halloween

Dear Brucie has inspired Pretty Lady to issue a little Challenge of her own, although what with all the shipping boxes cluttering her hallway, she has no desire whatsoever to offer prizes, at least anything which requires dealing with the postal service. So your prizes will consist simply of the Joy of Sharing.

Pretty Lady's challenge: What was your favorite Halloween costume, ever?

Pretty Lady herself is divided between the time she went to the Castro as Humphrey Bogart, and the time she collected a bag full of mildly obnoxious tricks and went to a party as Puck. She is a firm believer in the Persona aspect of costume-creation--to her, a simple Concept is grossly inadequate. You will never catch Pretty Lady dressed as a Kleenex box, or a bunch of grapes. Her Puck character strolled past persons dressed as bunches of grapes, and strategically exploded firecrackers next to their silly little balloons.

One notes that Demeanor is at least as significant an element of this costume as the fact that Pretty Lady scoured the local Goodwill for as decent a suit as she could manage; indeed, the wingtips were remarkably comfortable, and serviceable for years afterward.

When creating a true Persona, it is advisable to plumb one's own soul and bone structure for elements which resonate with the desired target. In this circumstance Pretty Lady chose to emphasize both her equine jawline and a certain world-weary melancholy, inherent within her temperament. These served equally well a couple of years later, when her hair had grown out, she'd settled those perplexing gender-identity issues, and a passerby was overheard to mutter, "really does look like Scully."

But enough of that. Pretty Lady is dying to hear your stories; photos would not come amiss, either. This Halloween she is going to see Legally Blonde on Broadway, and most likely will skip the parties afterward.

Monday, October 29, 2007

It Does Not Matter That He Loves You

To the lady who wrote this letter, and to every other lady out there whose husband/significant other/lover regularly sleeps with other women, makes passes at your sister, declares that he Cannot Be Monogamous, will not address his drinking problem, his anger problem, his money problem, his misanthropy, or his habit of saying creatively and unwontedly cruel things to you in a casual tone of voice:

It does not matter that he loves you. Pretty Lady is certain that he does, in fact, love you, to the best of his limited ability. It does not matter. Do you hear? It does not matter.

Pretty Lady is certain that you love this man. She is certain that you are kind, and patient, and understanding, and forgiving. She is certain that you are doing the best that you can. She is certain that you are committed, and Not Being Selfish, and that you are thinking of the children, and that you were happy once upon a time. She is certain that you would do whatever it takes to help your partner heal.

She asks you to consider this: that when your partner makes a pass at your sister, does not come home, wastes your hard-earned money on a random binge, totals the car, tells you that he's not sure that he's attracted to you, screams at you for stupid reasons, neglects to do a small thing that would cost him nothing and make you happy--he's fine with that.

It does not matter that he loves you. He is fine, I say, with hurting you. Seeing your tears is an eminently endurable exercise for him. It hurts you more than it hurts him. You are committed to his healing; he is committed to your pain. He regards your misery as a necessary, if regrettable, price to pay for living. It does not matter that he loves you.

Possibly he cares that he is hurting you; he does not care enough. He has no motivation to change. It does not matter that he loves you.

Do you understand what I am saying?

There is a place where love is not misery; where you do not have to hold your breath and flinch away from the next words coming. Where you do not have to wonder--where is he? What is he doing now? When will he betray me next? How strong do I have to be?

There is a place where you can breathe, where you do not close your eyes against the awful morning, where love is all laughter and trust and silly snuggles. There is a time when the other shoe never drops. There is a world where you can look around you in joy, without watching your back.

There is a place you will be safe.

That place is not with him. It will never be with him. It does not matter that he loves you.

Please Listen and Pass Along

This lecture on corruption by Lawrence Lessig is well worth the time spent to listen to it.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Passion at the Opera

Well! Pretty Lady is mildly bemused to report that, contrary to lifelong precedent, she has today created somewhat of a Public Scene. She screamed, to tell the truth, at a Total Stranger. Moreover, she was not cut off in traffic; she was not given an Unjust Citation; she was not subject to physical violence of any kind, nor were any of her loved ones. No, the person who aroused the sudden Flaming Ire, such that Pretty Lady did not know she possessed, was a mere, diminutive opera director.

It is not that Pretty Lady is such an extreme fan of opera, as an art form. Just yesterday she was explaining to her Gentleman Friend that she is more inclined to change the station during Saturday Afternoon at the Opera, than not. Opera in general strikes her as unduly pompous, schmaltzy and Over The Top.

This does not mean that she has no respect for opera singers, however. The discipline and training required to achieve proficiency in the genre absolutely commands it. A lady or gentleman capable of rendering an aria with grace, clarity and projection is not an individual who one day decided to open his or her mouth and bray; this person, at a bare minimum, has dedicated a decade or two to study and practice, and the concomitant sacrifices thereof. Such a person is, by definition, a Professional.

And Professionals, to Pretty Lady's mind, deserve to be treated professionally.

It does not matter, then, if a hypothetical opera company is operating on a shoestring. It does not matter if the auditorium is furnished with folding chairs and the occasional dumpster-picked sofa. It is immaterial if the entirety of the stage design consists of three lame Powerpoint slides and seven floodlights. As Pretty Lady knows, it is possible to do a great deal of Art on no budget at all; one merely has to be Ingenious and Resourceful.

Thus it is thoroughly, criminally inexcusable for an opera director to produce a pivotal scene wherein the hero sings his dungeon aria--not in chiaroscuro, not in Dramatic Shadow, not in Dim Spotlight--but in utter pitch darkness. In pitch darkness sings the hero, invisible, while seven floodlights brightly illuminate a swath of bare floor in front of him. In illegible, invisible, inscrutable pitch darkness perform three of the main characters, for twenty-five minutes, until the villain comes along, with the self-serving ingenuity to illuminate his own face with a flashlight.

This, friends, is not simply a Risky Choice. This is not a Creative Blunder. This is not explainable by Youthful Ignorance. This is the sort of pigheadedly stupid directorial decision that only arises out of lifelong wilful jack-assery.

For no human being who has ever seen a play in a theatre, let alone an opera at the Met, let alone a high-school musical, would think it apt to render his performers invisible while expending all available wattage upon forty square feet of naked masonite. No human being who possesses the faculty of sight, that is.

Pretty Lady is well aware that some unfortunate humans do not possess this faculty; she does not fault them for it. However, when a person sets himself responsible for a group, and leads that group into a vulnerable position, it is that person's obligation to acknowledge his or her weaknesses, and accomodate those weaknesses in some way, by requesting assistance.

This opera director, Pretty Lady knows for certain, is surrounded by professionals. He has a his command an entire orchestra, two conductors, and a chorus of excellent opera singers, all working for cheap or free. He is in continuous contact with one theatre director and a couple of techies.

The only way that he could possibly have perpetrated such an egregious blunder, then, is if he has made a habit of categorically rejecting all input from all professionals on a subject he knows nothing about. Period.

This is why Pretty Lady felt no compunction about buttonholing this alleged director after the performance and reaming him a new one. She did not Hold Back; she displayed none of her signature Tact and Diplomacy. She dwelt at length upon lack of professionalism, wilful ignorance, and the egoistic asininity of such. She dismissed outright any attempt at plea by poverty. She concluded with a strong statement to the effect that this fool of a director had grossly insulted his own excellent performers, and bid him a curt good-day.

For, dear friends, today the issue is Opera; yesterday and tomorrow the issue is War and Conflagration. A person, she maintains, who has the careers, lives, safety and well-being of others at his disposal is not justified in maintaining a state of pigheaded Denial about his own shortcomings at their expense. A performer is dependent upon a director to light his laboring figure as effectively as possible, within available means; a soldier, a student, a child is equally dependent upon the wise allocation of resources by his own Dear Leader. Dear Leaders everywhere would do well to recall this.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Egregious Mr. Finch

Darling Charlie! Pretty Lady is so grateful! Here she had been meaning and meaning to write a pretty little screed one day, all about thrilling, difficult topics like Spite and Ego, and just never getting around to it. And Charlie-poo goes and provides the perfect Timely Example! Oh, Pretty Lady could just kiss him.

What’s "fun" about the art blogs is how conformist, reactionary, redundant and self-referential they are, the Sam Brownbacks of the art world. Tyler Green sucks up to every curator on the planet, and I wish him well on his world tour of speaking engagements at obscure museums, cashing his money orders at the bus station.

Have you ever been to blogger Ed Winkleman’s gallery on 27th Street? I hear there is a valuable prize awaiting the first recorded visitor: you get to meet Dinky Winky in the flesh or at least register for a random drawing to win email privileges. Militant Art Bitch is the Elizabeth Dole of the fogosphere, a kind of bastard outta Carolina, and ArtFagCity trolls YouTube a little slower than your random teen at the mall. Art critic Regina Hackett has a cute self-portrait on her site, "Sleepless in Seattle." They all refer and link to each other, in a heated circle-jerk, since their primary audience is themselves.

Oh, Charlie-poo, you cutie-pie. You just couldn't have done any better! Ten points!
1) extraordinary in some bad way; glaring; flagrant: an egregious mistake; an egregious liar.
gross, outrageous, notorious.

1) a malicious, usually petty, desire to harm, annoy, frustrate, or humiliate another person; bitter ill will; malice.
2) a particular instance of such an attitude or action; grudge.
3) Obsolete something that causes vexation; annoyance.

Poor little Charlie-poo. Pretty Lady's heart just bleeds for him.

For could it not be more obvious, darlings, that Charlie is throwing a tantrum at having been left out of the sandbox? The little tyke is so jealous! So jealous that he has thrown prudence to the winds, and has allowed the essential petty egotism of his character to flail flagrantly in the wind. In his haste and his fury, frothing at the mouth, Charlie-poo has not even bothered to put together a set of cohesive, factual paragraphs, but has lost control of the English language in an orgy of inept name-calling.

Note, darlings, the absence of convincing rhetoric within the Chas-man's periods; the manner in which he utterly fails to provide supporting evidence for his assertions. Verily, it is evident that Finchy-pie is upset about something. Privately, Pretty Lady suspects that Charlie got his knickers in a twist by a comment or fifty made by Edna, once upon a time. This is perfectly understandable. But why is the poor ranting fellow going after everybody else as well?

Well, it seems to Pretty Lady that Charlie feels his territory is threatened. And rightly so. Many of us, including, sadly, Pretty Lady, don't bother to read what Charlie has to say anymore, when we have the perceptive, eclectic, ruminative, insightful words of dear Edward, and Tyler, and Deborah, and Chris and all to peruse.

The fact is, darlings, that Charlie himself has made it perfectly obvious why Art Readers everywhere have decamped and gone on to more erudite climes. Nobody wants to play with a spoiled four-year old, and that is what Charlie's own words have forcefully proclaimed him to be.

And this sordid little incident fully illustrates the truth Pretty Lady has been biting her lips upon, lo these many months; that persons who continuously make unprovoked pejorative comments about others are revealing far more about their own characters, than the characters of the persons they profess to critique. In laymen's terms, this is called 'projection.' Pretty Lady is astonished at the manner that certain persons seem unable to grasp the lack of wisdom in their actions; at times, she is even tempted to consider that the perpetrators of such behavior are Not Very Bright. If they were, surely they would learn to shut the hell up.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Fetishization of Language

Our friend the redoubtable critic, J.T.D. Neil, has drawn our attention to a serious problem of old-fuddy-duddy-ism in the Art World, of which Pretty Lady was previously unaware:

...some find it difficult to understand why painting remains the pinnacle of art world fetish item that it is, and this look into the way that Freud works with his models offers the uninitiated an very rare glimpse of the kinds of time and effort that many painters (though, of course, not all) require to produce their work. ...Of course this is not meant as a defense of the fetish; it is only meant to point out how painters paint, and why there is much wrapped up in that activity that few viewers or collectors of art ever understand.
Gracious. One wonders how Mr. Neil justifies his own indefensible practice of fetishizing the written word, in his work as a critic. Certainly in these contemporary times, the practice of communication through language is archaic and passé; it is only an irrational, reactionary cultural gestalt that keeps people buying newspapers, books, magazines, and reading the occasional blog or Internet news item. A critic truly worth his salt would find a more modern method of conveying his ideas--perhaps through interpretive movement, or food.

A Tip for Serious Art Dealers

Psssst! Yoo-hoo! Mister and Ms. Serious Art Dealer! Pretty Lady has some Exclusive Advice for your very own sophisticated, wise, avant-garde ear. She has a Tip for the Knowing. That Tip is: Art Bloggers. Art Bloggers are Where It's At, Up and Coming, and Sustainable for the Long Haul. Art Bloggers are a Sound Investment.

Now, Pretty Lady is not giving you this advice from mere narcissistic Self Interest, no sirree. This is a deeply considered, experiential opinion, backed by both Theory and Practice.

You see, Pretty Lady has once been a Dealer herself; she knows all about what it is like to work with promising Young Geniuses. She has, personally, represented talented young people who forgot to bring half of their show to the gallery on the day before the opening, and forgot to give her a price list, and when Pretty Lady found an interested buyer, insisted on a price five times as high as what was remotely realistic. She has worked with tantrum-throwers, liars, self-aggrandizing narcissists, and vulgar thieves. She has worked with Charming Extroverts who lacked a shred of talent or self-discipline.

And Pretty Lady is here to tell you that you do not want to work with these people. Not if you want to spend your golden years in a state of health, sanity and financial solvency. What you want, my dear beloved visionary impresario, is to build yourself a stable of brilliant, deep, dynamic, creative, visionary and reliable artists.

You may protest. You may say, to yourself and to Posterity, "Reliability is so pedestrian! So boring! So je ne sais rien! Reliability obviates the Fire, the Youth, the Risk and the Glamour of association with the capricious World of Art! Do not talk to me of Reliable. Are you trying to make me into a mere Shopkeeper?"

Not at all. For it is Pretty Lady's fiery, dynamic, visionary opinion that Reliability and Creativity are not polar opposites, but rather twins who were separated at birth, or at least in myth. And fortunately for you, the medium of Art Blogging gives you, my entrepreneurial friend, a simple and substantive Litmus Test for discovering artists who possess both depth and staying power.

Think of it! An Artist who Blogs is, of necessity, literate, competent and responsible. This person is capable of organizing his or her thoughts in a more or less cohesive manner, and implementing them upon an interactive New Medium. He or she Shows Up in public upon a regular basis; he or she is Available for Conversation, in a creative and charismatic manner which is bound to impress your patrons.

And, as Pretty Lady is empirically discovering, Art Bloggers ship their work on time, and send Pretty Lady emails and tracking information to let her know when the package will arrive. They do their own publicity. They offer to help with hanging, and bring their own tools. They Communicate. They have not yet thrown one single irrational, narcissistic tantrum among them.

Art Bloggers Rock.

And, as you can see from this handy template, they are phenomenally gifted, in a wide range of styles and media. So you, dear Dealer, do not have to sacrifice Personal Vision for the sake of Stability; you may go right to the source and select an Art Blogger who fits your own Artist Family!

But you had better get in there quickly, or all the other dealers will snap up these paragons before you, and you will lose your glamorous space in Chelsea, and have to move to Newark, which will never gentrify, not in your lifetime.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Toot, toot

Somebody got a massage from Pretty Lady last week, and this is what she has to say about it:

she totally rocked my socks. i shit you not that i really can feel the energy work aspect of what she does - at least it really seems that way. regardless, she is great at massage and somehow manages to be so therapeutic without being painful, and anything that's a little painful is brief and followed up by something relaxing so it's all good.
Pretty Lady told you so. ;-)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Folk heroine

A new breed of vigilante is brewing in the hinterland:

Who among us has not longed for a hammer in this age of incompetent "customer service representatives," of nimrods reading from a script at some 800-number location, of crumbs-in-their-beards plumbing installation people who tell you they'll grace you with their presence between 12 and 3, only never to show? And you'll call and call and finally some outsourced representative slings a dart at a calendar and tells you another guy will come back between 10 and 2 next Thursday? And when this guy comes, pants halfway down his behind, he'll tell you he brought the wrong part?

And there is nothing, nothing you can do.

Until there! On the horizon! It's Hammer Woman, avenger of oppressed cable subscribers everywhere! (Cue galloping "Lone Ranger" theme.)

"I scared the tar out of some people, at least," she says. "It had never occurred to me to take a hammer to a phone company before, but I was just so upset. ... After I hit the keyboard, I turned to this blonde who had been there the previous Friday, the one who told me to wait for the manager, and I said, 'NOW do I have your attention?' "

Pretty Lady, uncharacteristically, can think of nothing to add.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fun with Foyers

One of the reasons that Pretty Lady is so very fond of her Gentleman Friend is that he combines, within his character, equal elements of both Fun and Pragmatism. He is neither an Idle Dreamer nor a Humorless Workaholic, but rather a 'Let's Do It!' sort of fellow. Thus, when he states, 'It would be easy to install a track light in your studio,' he goes to the electrical supply shop that afternoon, and has Pretty Lady's studio gorgeously illuminated by sundown. Instead of saying, a year later, like so many others, 'It would be easy to install a track light in your studio...'.

So it is that Pretty Lady and her G.F. are already well on the way to transforming their formerly dismal and cluttered Stairwell Storage Area into an Indoor Art Garden, complete with waterfall.

Most of the plants that Pretty Lady potted yesterday are of the 'medium, filtered light' to 'low light' variety; it remains to be seen whether the skylight is sufficient, or whether artificial supplementation will be required. Having a G.F. to whom electrical wiring is No Big Deal gives Pretty Lady such a cozy, secure feeling!

How lovely it is, also, to have downstairs neighbors who do not object to having their foyer overtaken by art and bicycles. In fact, the Japanese lady spent all day Sunday helping Pretty Lady clean the hallway, and enthusiastically agreed to store several paintings on her walls. The column in the right hand corner is on generous loan from the wondrous artist Danonymous, a.k.a. Daniel Scheffer; if Pretty Lady gets her way, someday it will have a light source inside of it.

But the Crowning Glory is to be the Actual Running Fountain, installed in the area where Pretty Lady's portfolio is awaiting transport to air-controlled storage; the G.F. ordered the pump last night. Then, a trip upstate to collect with concrete...and then--dare we say it--orchids?

Monday, October 15, 2007

It's That Time of Year Again

Hello darlings, Pretty Lady is terribly sorry to be neglecting you. But it is time for her Autumn Fast, and she is wont to be a Bit Testy at times. Though this year is better than last, since she and her Gentleman Friend have been engaging in all sorts of Nesting behaviors, such as trolling antique stores, and the electrical aisle at Home Depot, which always puts her in a cheery mood.

Also, this priceless tidbit has given her quite the belly laugh:

[Hitchens] had just told us in strong terms about the failures of religion and its detrimental effect on our culture, and now he was explaining to us how the solution in the Middle East was to simply kill everyone who disagreed with you. He didn't relate the two parts of his talk, which was unfortunate.

...while I agree with his goal of working towards a rational, secular world, a triumph of enlightenment values, I disagree entirely with his proposed strategy, which seems to involve putting a bullet through every god-haunted brain.
What has Pretty Lady been telling you dears, about the Evolution of Moral Reasoning?

For this adorable little tandem of diatribes makes it crystal clear that a person's literal beliefs, or lack thereof, have nothing to do with the mode of reasoning, or similar lack thereof, used to arrive at them.

In the case of the redoubtable Mr. Hitchens, we have our Classic Case Study of the Stage One Moral Mind, better known as the Malignant Narcissist Pitching a Tantrum. Whether he screams 'Reason!' or 'Satan!' or 'Me me me me me!' as the fundamental tenet of his alleged belief system, matters not a whit. It is, simply, All About Him. This type of person is incapable of perceiving the separate existence or fundamental value of beings outside his own tiny, contracted, underdeveloped ego-mind.

Thankfully, a sizeable majority of human beings outgrow this stage once they move past the Terrible Twos. However, if a person remains mired in this psychospiritual mindset through adulthood, little short of Divine Revelation--with attendant lightening bolts--will alter his or her perceptions. Fortunately, this sort of thing happens with epidemic frequency. Which Should Tell You.

(It should be farther noted that mere intellectual capacity has no bearing whatsoever upon a person's level of moral development. Obviously our friend Mr. Hitchens is possessed of sufficient native wit to have acquired a book contract and numerous speaking engagements, and even goes potty all by himself.)

Our dear befuddled PZ, on the other hand, exemplifies the Stage Three Moral Mind, otherwise known as the Mostly Harmless Skeptic. He has, willy-nilly, absorbed the moral Rule Book of the Stage Two set, and is now confidently Striding Forth in his opinions, far enough to question the notion that the Rule Book was Divinely Inspired. However, he does not go so far as to pitch the rules out the window; thus the notion of systemic genocide makes the dear man a wee bit uncomfortable. When such individuals as PZ are in charge, things may go Horribly Wrong, but not usually because of wilfully Malicious Intent. These boys do their honest best with the tools at their disposal, and Pretty Lady honors them for it.

(For Pretty Lady's views on Stage Four Moral Reasoning, please see the rest of her archives.)

What Pretty Lady hopes is crystal clear, however, is that the notion that one may control one's environmental circumstances, including the behavior of others, solely through the machinations of one's ego-self is the TRULY irrational position. Reason is a splendid thing; would that more of us, including scientists, would apply it.

Live and In Person

If any of you darlings would like to meet Pretty lady in person, you may drop by The Blogger Show at Agni Gallery on the lower East Side, next month. The reception is on Saturday, November 3, 6-9 PM, if you enjoy that sort of thing, which Pretty Lady doesn't, particularly. So if you would like to meet Pretty Lady all sweaty and giving orders and fussing about placement, come by the gallery on Thursday or Friday between 11:30 and 5 for a chat, while she is hanging the show. Pretty please. You can help!