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. ;-)