Monday, April 30, 2007

Ingredients of Evil

Regardless of its illustration of obvious fact that if a person possesses a hammer, the whole world begins to resemble a sticky-outy nail, Pretty Lady quite liked Cintra's article:

Malignant narcissists seek a "narcissistic load" -- their drug of choice -- which is ATTENTION. Positive attention and negative attention are one and the same -- attention is attention. People suffering from this disorder tend to blame others for their difficulties, fly into a "narcissistic rages," and seek revenge as their due. Attention is the drug, the victory, the raison d'etre -- the narcissist simply needs to be the center of attention, and will get his fix by any means necessary.

Cho's successful domination of the news cycles condones, justifies and rewards his behavior... and encourages it in others who suffer from this affliction. Infamy is the same thing as Fame, for the malignant narcissist.

She wonders, though; is it genuinely, thoroughly true that an essential component of Evil (and Pretty Lady will not entertain the notion that Evil is merely a semantic construct, and is prepared to pulverize those foolish individuals who seriously propound it) is a need for Notoriety? Are those evil people not equally dangerous who hide in the shadows, fearing and loathing the light beyond all else?

She must think on it.

Receiving Clues

Pretty Lady had an Annoying Client Encounter this weekend. This person had the temerity to call her on a glorious Sunday morning and peremptorily demand an appointment within the hour.

"You must book in advance," Pretty Lady replied. More than one hour in advance, she explained. Pretty Lady is Flexible and Accomodating, but not so accomodating as that, particularly for persons with whom she has had no prior connection.

After much whining and confused logistics on the side of her potential client, and much soothing pragmatism upon the part of Pretty Lady, an appointment in two hours was agreed upon.

Pretty Lady hustled; at the time appointed, the doorbell did not ring.

Shortly thereafter, Pretty Lady plugged in her cell phone, and discovered that for reasons unknown, the client had called her Other Number and left a message requesting the selfsame directional information with which she had already been explicitly provided.

Pretty Lady returned the call and re-stated the information. The client declared, "I don't have time now."

Pretty Lady blew a gasket.

Normally she doesn't do that. She understands, normally, that people in pain become confused, and do foolish things. She is generally patient, understanding, accomodating, flexible, and only occasionally stern and unyielding. Moreover, blowing up at even potential, flaky and needlessly whiny clients is bad for business; she is nothing, generally, if not practical.

So after hanging up on the never-again client, she did what she should have done first, which was to call the friend with whom she had been feuding and make it up. Because she knows, and has always known, that when a person blows a gasket, it is never about the Situation At Hand. It is about the Past. The Past is, definitively, Over. And she is happy to declare that the Present is lovely.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

In Search of Equality

Pretty Lady cannot, for the life of her, understand why all these forward-thinking women are so upset with a gentleman for simply making his boundaries known:

When my wife found out she was pregnant, which was an accident, her instant reaction was that she wanted an abortion. There we were in the bathroom with the home pregnancy test kit in hand reading positive for pregnancy and she gets all histerical, crying and raving on and on about how her life is now ruined and how she can’t go through with being pregnant, etc.. I told her it’s her choice, but if she kills my baby (has an abortion) that I would divorce her in a heartbeat and I would never speak to her again.
The ladies present all found this reaction to be horrendous, dreadful, and in violation of the woman's basic human rights, if Pretty Lady is reading them correctly.

Pretty Lady has only to ask herself, well, what if this situation were reversed? What if Pretty Lady found herself with child, and the other responsible party insisted that she dispose of it, because he was unwilling to assume the responsibilities of parenthood?

Well, Pretty Lady's response would be precisely along the lines of the gentleman's words above, and she rather suspects that most of these Up In Arms women would feel the same way.

So, what is Pretty Lady to make of this? Sadly, it seems all too clear that there is a Double Standard still flourishing mightily, even among the vanguard of Female Progressivism.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Path to Freedom

Pretty Lady, in her wild, untrammelled, Bohemian life, often meets fascinatingly Progressive Thinkers. Pretty Lady being who she is, is always charmed. There is nothing she likes better than a late-night conversation about oft-misunderstood doctrines of seventeenth-century philosophy, and the tragic results of these misinterpretations extrapolated into the present day. She can really get her teeth into a good discussion about the Problem of Evil, the glamorization of misanthropy, and the crumbling edifice that is Modern Society.

Pretty Lady's fundamental problem in forming long-term friendships with these sorts of people, however, stems most unfortunately from these same roots. A person who views the flaws in Modern Society with a clear and jaundiced eye is inclined to reject all of its conventions wholesale. And Pretty Lady is pretty darn tired of supervising serial attempts to reinvent the wheel from scratch.

Because a nearly universal hallmark of this sort of Progressive Thinker is a categorical rejection of the notion of Commitment. 'A Trap!' he naturally, progressively thinks, as soon as he shudderingly considers the hellish tangles woven by Family, Society and Culture; 'I shall avoid it, and then I shall be Free! Free to Improve the World, living by my own inner guidance and unfiltered notions of Right and Wrong!'

Oh yes, Pretty Lady has heard it dozens of times before. And she sighs, hangs her head, and continues upon her unwilling and solitary Bohemian path. For the only true entrapment is the pathological need to keep all of one's options eternally Open.

This notion is, to the Progressive Thinker, so counterintuitive as to be utterly unconsidered. But to Pretty Lady, having been a dancer, it is and always has been obvious.

For freedom is Movement; Movement is Change; and to move and to change, a person has to put one foot in front of the other. Then--and pay attention--a person has to commit her entire weight to that foot in front, in order to lift the foot in the back, and move it to another place. In other words, without commitment, no movement is possible.

Pretty Lady felt this fact most acutely during the years she was hobbling around with an injured ankle. It is very difficult to keep putting one foot in front of the other when one foot is not holding one's weight; progress is miserable and slow. During those days, Pretty Lady often thought of her unipedal condition as a metaphor, for being in relationship with a person who is permanently Undecided as to whether or not this thing is for him. Nothing could happen, nobody could go anywhere, because any new logistical situation required the re-negotiation of the entire affair.

This is not to say that a Free Thinker ought to commit her entire future on the basis of one late-night conversation, or even several. A true Progressive makes her commitments cautiously and carefully, after due consideration, plenty of time, and assembling of Facts. But then she must leap, she must spring, or she will never learn to Fly, which is the only reason anyone should ever take up dancing. A leap into the air requires trust, and a relinquishment of control. The commitment-phobic would-be Progressive never gets that far.

Furthermore, the fact of categorical commitment-avoidance does not mean that commitments are never made; it merely guarantees that such commitments are of the lesser-of-two-evils-at-gunpoint variety. For a refusal to decide is a decision in itself, and one that Pretty Lady inevitably will fly away from.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

In Praise of the Maiden Auntie

Tsk, tsk. Little Voxy-poo is all Up In Arms again, about the disaster which is College Education for Feminist Non-Brood-Mares. It seems as though fully one-third of college educated women are failing to breed! The horror!

Or perhaps not. Sometimes it seems to Pretty Lady as though her anti-feminist friends have two parallel brains; the brain that sanctifies the female as the Nurturess Over All, and the one which allows that some women are Fiends Incarnate, who should have their fallopian tubes cauterized at birth.

Really, boys! How many psychotic, neurotic, frenetic, generally messed-up females have you have the priviledge of knowing, and do you really think that all of these women ought to be in charge of babies?

It has been Pretty Lady's unfortunate experience to have encountered a great number of messed-up persons of both genders, Pretty Lady being a magnet for that sort of thing. And the sober conclusion that she has come to, after knowing these sorry people in an intimate way over a long period of time, is that some people should not breed.

One of the most interesting things she has noticed in her ad-hoc psychoanalytic adventures is that the vast majority of persons who were permanently scarred by a Mommy from Hell had mommies with abnormally high IQs. Pretty Lady doesn't know whether female valedictorians are more likely to mess up their children, in an orgy of thwarted ambition, or whether they merely are able to do so in more flamboyant ways.

Be this as it may, it strikes Pretty Lady that providing college educations to all potential Fiends Incarnate is a grand filtering process for weeding out the psychos, and safely installing them in civil-service middle-management positions, where their sadism can find a relatively harmless outlet. Ultimately, this race of twisted pseudo-humans will die out, or morph into cool-ass Maiden Aunties, an archetype for which there is ample historical precedent.

Because in Pretty Lady's considered opinion, the way to save Western Civilization is not to produce more forcibly Western Civilized humans at all costs. It is to produce stable, well-adjusted humans, who are pleased with their lot in life because they voluntarily chose it, and wish to pass this well-adjusted bliss along to the next generation. Creating a generation of traumatized individuals who were unwillingly raised by Mommies who would much, much, much rather have been backpacking through Nepal does not serve this end.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Structure of Discourse

Hmph. It seems that Pretty Lady's Troll Count is up to two! She is not certain What This Means--has she Arrived? Or has she merely Slipped? It is so difficult to tell.

Pretty Lady hates to stoop to mention that Imus person, particularly as, to her knowledge, she has never heard Imus doing whatever it is he used to do, before the recent Unpleasantness. But the issues with the Unpleasantness, she hears, have something to do with Freedom of Speech.

Pretty Lady is, of course, All For freedom of speech. She is a very firm believer that when a person possesses factual information to the material detriment of the Powers That Be, whatever powers they may be, one has a duty to coherently assemble this information and Speak Out. Her understanding is that the framers of our constitution believed likewise. The reasoning behind this freedom, so her recollections of high-school history class go, is that if the Powers That Be go down the wrong track, and start oppressing people or doing something else stupid, Freedom of Speech is one of those early-warning trip-switches that keep the whole shenanigan from going down the tubes.

As far as she knows, the framers of our Constitution did not think too much one way or the other about people's freedom to utter inane, untruthful vulgarities about complete strangers. They didn't have to. The rules for this sort of behavior were laid down in a parallel social code which has nothing to do with the Constitution; these rules are called 'Manners,' and Manners strictly declare that such behavior is Rude.

There are still, Pretty Lady understands, a contingent of persons who assert that Manners are trivial, unneccessary, and downright Oppressive. They feel that adhering to such an archaic and arbitrary code trammels their Creative Self-Expression; they feel that they are using their vulgar diatribes to some Higher Purpose, whatever that may be. They have a perfect right to feel this way.

However, Pretty Lady asks that such persons, before spewing their offensive trash, first make a coherent, rational, fact-based case for why they believe that such trash is providing a point of departure for constructive discourse. If their point is conceded by a majority of Pretty Lady's polite friends, they may proceed unhampered.

If, however, Pretty Lady and a quorum of her most trusted associates deem that such commentary is providing no direct, indirect, tangential, or purely diverting information regarding--well, regarding anything, this commentary will be excised from the record. Pretty Lady hates to be draconian, but she has to draw the line somewhere.

Because when Manners are discarded by the majority, eventually someone somewhere will become sufficiently offended to bring the State in. And then it is All Over. No Freedom of Speech, ever again. So, in supporting Manners, Pretty Lady believes that she is enhancing, rather than assaulting, the cause of Freedom.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Optimism Day

Darlings, Pretty Lady is terribly sorry to have neglected you. But at least she has been smiling at you. The truth is, she had so many things to say all at once, she found herself unable to say any of them. Also, she has been so engrossed in dear Cintra's book that she hasn't been getting enough sleep.

Perhaps this is the reason that, although she seems to see something with startling clarity, she cannot at all communicate right now.

"You just loved crucifying me. You loved inducing cancer in my head, terrorizing my heart and ripping my soul all the time...You have vandalized my heart, raped my soul and torched my conscience. You thought it was one pathetic, bored life you were extinguishing. ...Do you know what it feels like to be humiliated and impaled upon a cross and left to bleed to death for your amusement? You have never felt a single ounce of pain your whole life."

---that deranged young man

"The journey to the cross should be the last 'useless journey.' Do not dwell upon it, but dismiss it as accomplished. If you can accept it as your own last useless journey, you are also free to join my resurrection. Until you do so your life is indeed wasted. It merely re-enacts the separation, the loss of power, the futile attempts of the ego at reparation, and finally the crucifixion of the body, or death. Such repetitions are endless until they are voluntarily given up. Do not make the pathetic error of 'clinging to the old rugged cross.' The only message of the crucifixion is that you can overcome the cross. Until then you are free to crucify yourself as often as you choose."

--A Course In Miracles
Sometimes it seems to Pretty Lady that the purpose and gift of the deranged is that they show us ourselves, in such caricature and clarity that we cannot look away or deny it. For this, on some level, and in some way, we may be grateful to them.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Bette Davis Overload

Pretty Lady has figured out that the chief benefit of her new hairdo is that it goes so well with her CarolAnn Wachter hat collection.


Sadly, if this phase continues, she's going to have to invest in another tube of Pompeii-colored lipstick. The old one has fossilized from lack of use.


Ah, well. Back to the twentieth century with thee, Bette, dear.


Update: How do y'all like this for a new profile photo?

Okay, that does it

Pretty Lady has formally capitulated to her Little Brother. She just sent him a note to this effect. Her mind is made up. It is High Time for her to purchase a firearm, and learn how to use one. Not necessarily in that order.

Pretty Lady's Little Brother has expressed some Quiet Concern about her safety, in the past; he even went so far, back in her San Francisco ghetto days, as to present her with a stun gun for her personal use. Her sadomasochistic then-boyfriend expressed some prurient interest in the possible erotic side-effects of the recreational use of this weapon, but did not go so far as to volunteer as a test case. She parked it on the molding above her bedroom door, and as far as she can recall, it is still there.

But as pacifistic and fundamentally uninterested in weapons as Pretty Lady may be, she has always trusted that her Little Brother, and others like him, were Around. It is still her instinct, whenever something pesky and mechanical requires attention, such as the starter on her car or the drainpipe under the sink, to drop her hands and call for Little Brother, even though he lives half a continent away. Similarly, she never worries overmuch about deranged lone gunmen bursting through her door and spraying bullets everywhere, because something in the back of her mind relies upon Little Brother to unclip the 9 mm. from under the dashboard or silverware drawer or kitchen table or wherever, and take the fellow out.

It is slowly beginning to dawn upon her reptile brain that not only does Little Brother live too far away to arrive in a timely manner, but when he got here he probably wouldn't be allowed to traverse the Holland Tunnel. Not with all those weapons in his trunk.

However, if Pretty Lady put her mind to it, she would probably be a fairly successful weapons-smuggler, simply because she's Not The Type. She can't imagine that it would occur to the most paranoid police officer to frisk her or her Pathfinder for contraband, after she rolls down the window and greets them with a cheery invitation to do so. At least, they have never done so in the past.

(Vehicle registration card and insurance, though--that's another matter. Pretty Lady hates paperwork.)

At breakfast this morning, Pretty Lady was mildly irritated by the sound of helicopters. After a bit, she glanced out of the kitchen window; several of these ominous machines, marked 'NYPD,' were hovering nearby, carooming back and forth over the canal. An experimental call to '311' produced nothing but a beeping noise. The radio continued providing perky little updates on the war in Iraq, and NYTimes Online supplied more reams of grainy video about the Virginia Tech Shooter. Queries regarding 'Helicopters Over Gowanus Canal--Breaking News' turned up a blank.

Let it be known that Pretty Lady is not becoming a Paranoid Right-Wing Freak who looks over her shoulder at every suspicious noise. She is not Cowering, she is not Terrified. She has simply decided that the sensible thing to do is to have a few more Practical Tools at her disposal. She's got the power drill (or rather, her neighbor has it, this week), the socket wrenches, the pliers, the iron and the vacuum cleaner--all, come to think, supplied by the A.A. in gentler days. A shotgun or two would not come amiss, perhaps rolled up in a failed canvas, or strapped over the studio door.

In other news, Pretty Lady volunteered for an ad that said 'Hair Models Needed,' and lucked out! She got the cucumbers-on-the-eyelids treatment, bergamot conditioner, and the Best Haircut Ever, for free! Of course she tipped. This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Wow

Pretty Lady and Dano struck gold yesterday evening. They highly, highly recommend that you all visit Edmar Castaneda's website and listen, although the experience will necessarily be dimmer and less all-enthralling than sitting in the back room at Barb├ęs and hearing him play a live WFUV broadcast. He does not precisely play; he dances, joyfully, with his Columbian harp. Pretty Lady has never seen a roomful of slightly intoxicated alternative-radio fans hunker down in quite such a hypnotized fashion.

UPDATE: OOP! It was WFMU radio. Where Pretty Lady came up with WFUV, she doesn't know...hmph...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

On Integrity

Pretty Lady is delighted to discover that her Daddy has a fan club! A fan club, moreover, not dominated by aficionados of state-of-the-art fighter planes!

So, to wash a little more Angry Atheist venom out from between her molars, Pretty Lady would like to indulge in a bit of instructive Daddy-worship, if it's all the same to you.

The legend in Pretty Lady's family goes back to her Great-Granddaddy, Pops. Pops owned a hardware store, out in the middle of nowhere. Folks would come into this hardware store, stating their interest in purchasing a new stove.

"What's wrong with the old one?" Pops would inquire.

"Dunno, it just stopped working."

"Have you tried changing the whosamajiggy?" Pops replied.

"Nope, can't say that I have," said the customer.

"Look, I'll make a deal with you. Take this little whosamajiggy, put it in the old stove, and see if that takes care of the problem. If it doesn't, then I'll sell you a new stove."

Well, dad gum if that didn't take care of it.

Perhaps you dears may wonder how Pops stayed in business at all, what with his extreme unwillingness to part with high-ticket items upon explicit request. Well, his attitude bred such unaccountable loyalty in his customers, that along about Great Depression time, Pops stayed in business when nobody else did.

This habit of looking out for the rock-bottom interests of all parties to transactions, and not merely those of self, then, is a multi-generational tradition in Pretty Lady's family. It is part of the air we breathe, and at this point is scarcely subject to conscious consideration. Pretty Lady practices this habit in her own business, unlike her former employer the Wall Street chiropractor, whose business plan entailed corraling a few paralegals and UPS couriers with generous health-insurance plans, and threatening them with crippling disabilities if they didn't come to see him three times a week. Pretty Lady got pretty sick of rubbing down the same hairy-backed UPS guy all the time, she can tell you that.

When Pretty Lady's clients ask her how often they should come in, she invariably replies, "Listen to your body, dear. You're responsible for your own health, and I wouldn't want to bankrupt you. Although if you wait longer than six weeks, we'll be starting again from scratch."

Pretty Lady is thus not rich, but her clients trust her.

Back to Daddy, though--one of the things about Daddy is that Pretty Lady has never, never, never heard him adhering to a legalistic argument in order to weasel out of an implied responsibility. Perish the thought. Once a commitment is made, it is total and unquestioned, no matter if unforeseen and inconvenient circumstances arise. Daddy is the Rock of the extended family; he has shepherded his parents, siblings, cousins, wife's siblings, stray friends and offspring through more sticky and embarrassing and, sometimes, financially draining crises than anyone has bothered to count. Nobody has ever heard Pretty Lady's Daddy utter the words, "Well, I never said I would...". He simply does, and does not hold a grudge afterward.

At the same time, Daddy never pretends to be someone he is not. Early in her parents' marriage, they moved to a new town where some distant cousins were members of High Society. Like good cousins, they invited Pretty Lady's parents to High Society dinner parties. Daddy, a young engineer, was seated next to many expansive oil millionaires who casually discussed the charter jet they'd taken to the party in Baja last weekend, with their twelve best friends. Daddy was rather bored, but polite.

Then the complimentary tickets to the High Society Ball arrived. Daddy returned them, with thanks, and the comment, "Thank you very much, but I am afraid we cannot afford to sustain this kind of lifestyle." Mommy kept a stiff upper lip.

Many times in latter years, particularly in adolescence, Pretty Lady suffered from snide comments and party-invitation-exclusions from Noveau Riche social climbers, who were aspiring to membership in the High Society clan that Pretty Lady's family had voluntarily exited. The knowledge that this sort of thing is gauche, tacky and low-class in the extreme did not entirely make up for her empty social calendar--but really. As Daddy says, and Pretty Lady concurs, those people are boring anyway! Why bother?

(Now, of course, when Pretty Lady goes home, the society ladies who volunteer at the Modern Art Museum are all agog to hear about her latest New York exhibition, but that is all by the way.)

And it goes without saying that cheating on his taxes, or on Mommy, is something so inconceivably beyond the pale in Daddy's universe that it does not bear discussion.

Whenever Pretty Lady has an ethical decision to make, the first question that springs to her mind is "What would Daddy do?" When she once borrowed a friend's five-year-old, factory-second camping tent, and the tent was subsequently stolen out of her trunk, she paid the friend the original cost of the tent without question. Then she received another call. "For another two hundred dollars I can replace it at REI, with a money-back guarantee. The old one had a money-back guarantee. Please give me two hundred dollars more."

At the time, Pretty Lady had not only suffered a robbery, but an assault, and was surfing friends' couches while searching for a home in a safer neighborhood. She was barely making financial ends meet in the ghetto, and needed to come up with the down payment on a new and more expensive place. She was also in a state of shell-shock. Her first inclination was to hang up on this so-called 'friend' and never call back.

But, after much consideration, and discussion with other friends, she sent the girl a two-hundred dollar check. Then she cut the connection.

"I didn't want to worry that I wasn't fair to her," she told Daddy afterward.

"You did the right thing," said Daddy. Which made it all worthwhile.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Pretty Lady Runs Screaming from the Room

Darlings, Pretty Lady has a confession to make. It has been a rough couple of years for her. You see, upon moving to New York City, Pretty Lady made a Stupid Mistake. She got involved with a paranoid, psychotic, abusive individual.

It has taken Pretty Lady a great deal of Quiet Time to mend the after-effects of her relationship with this person, on her sensitive psyche. She has tended toward an unwonted Reclusion. She has done a lot of yoga, and taken some road trips. She has, as you all know, blogged a lot. She is doing much better, now; thank you for asking.

One of the things that Pretty Lady has done, to distract her mind from horrors best left undescribed, is to Meet New People. She has gone seeking in Different Horizons; she figured that whatever was drawing her toward paranoia and psychosis, would be likely avoided in territories having nothing to do with Angry Atheists from New York City.

And now this.

9/11 was minor in comparison to biological/nuclear terrorism. If, instead of a couple of buildings collapsing, a tactical nuclear device were to be detonated in New York harbor, rendering all of Manhattan and depending upon wind direction, all of Long Island instantly uninhabitable for a period of up to 30-60 days and hazardous for decades afterward? If instead of a single city, this was multiplied by tactical nukes going off in multiple coastal cities, and add in an EMP burst, launched from a container ship in the Gulf which takes out most of the electric grid and all communications systems?
Desert Cat, you are channelling the Angry Atheist. This text is ripped verbatim from a typical Angry Atheist rant.

Crom, you too. And even Boysmom is in on it.

Pretty Lady is feeling faint. She is Reeling. She feels as though the world is collapsing down to one diseased, paranoid psyche, with her in it. There is no escape. None! Do you hear? Pretty Lady has gas in her Pathfinder! She has the zero degree down bag, she has bolt-holes both North and South, she's got a good pair of boots, a big box of safety matches, a tent and knowledge of basic woodscraft!

BUT THIS WILL NOT SAVE HER. She sees that now. Nothing can save her from the voices in her head. The voices of Doom, of Stasis, of Fatalism; the dirty bomb that is forever about to hit Manhattan, the reason all optimistic and healing endeavors are pointless, the reason Pretty Lady's affection and joy is never the center of anyone's heart, but merely a pleasant and temporary distraction.

Desert Cat, it is too late to save Pretty Lady's sanity. She is, and has always been, a Marked Woman.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

'I Beg Your Pardon?' Department

Police arrested a 6-year-old Florida girl and even handcuffed her when she acted out in class. Police officers said Desre'e Watson, a kindergarten student at Avon Elementary School in Highlands County, had a violent run-in with a teacher on Thursday.

"I was scared," the little girl said.

Police claim the little girl got angry and began kicking and scratching. She even hit a teacher attempting to intervene in the disturbance.
...
The kindergartner was booked in the Highland County jail and was charged with a felony and two misdemeanors.

Via Fetch Me My Axe.

How very strange

Pretty Lady does not understand at all why people think this would be useful:

A recent outbreak of antagonism among several prominent bloggers “gives us an opportunity to change the level of expectations that people have about what’s acceptable online,” said Mr. O’Reilly, who posted the preliminary recommendations last week on his company blog (radar.oreilly.com). Mr. Wales then put the proposed guidelines on his company’s site (blogging.wikia.com), and is now soliciting comments in the hope of creating consensus around what constitutes civil behavior online.

Mr. O’Reilly and Mr. Wales talk about creating several sets of guidelines for conduct and seals of approval represented by logos. For example, anonymous writing might be acceptable in one set; in another, it would be discouraged. Under a third set of guidelines, bloggers would pledge to get a second source for any gossip or breaking news they write about.

Bloggers could then pick a set of principles and post the corresponding badge on their page, to indicate to readers what kind of behavior and dialogue they will engage in and tolerate. The whole system would be voluntary, relying on the community to police itself.

“If it’s a carefully constructed set of principles, it could carry a lot of weight even if not everyone agrees,” Mr. Wales said.

This strikes Pretty Lady as being quite similar to the USDA requiring farmers to submit to draconian standards in order to obtain a USDA-approved 'organic' label. It seems like a whole lot of fuss for not very much. Pretty Lady has not, as yet, seen the need for any 'manners' labels on her blog; she simply says, "Darlings, behave," and you darlings do. What is so difficult about that?

Ladies Only--or--Why Women Are Not Running the World

Gentlemen, Pretty Lady is afraid she is going to have to ask all of you to look the other way today. Go look at pictures of sports cars, or fighter planes, or Anna Nicole Smith or something. Today she is only addressing the ladies. Thank you ever so much! Ta-ta!

All right, girls. Pretty Lady must have a very, very Serious Talk with you.

She sees, here and there, a certain amount of Carping about how Men are Keeping Us Down; how institutionalized sexism is the reason for low female wage rates, glass ceilings, and male-dominated industries and professions. She endures Sad Stories of hate speech on the Internet; she contemplates the ever-present threat of rape and sexual harassment. Confidentially, she is also aware that the boys have a bit of a head start on us, when it comes to World Domination, due to their superior upper-body strength, engineering skills, and low rates of maternity leave.

Let us take this as read; let Pretty Lady inform each and every one of you that Men are not our biggest problem. Women are.

Sit down and shut up. Pretty Lady is not Pandering. She sent the gentlemen out of the room, remember? She is merely telling it like it is. Women are going to have to learn some cold hard Facts about Power Politics, or we as a gender are Toast. She is sorry to be so harsh with you, but there it is.

The fact is, men know a few things besides incorporation, and how to fix a carburator. They know that to Maintain Power, other habits are necessary. Habits such as loyalty, competence, healthy competition, and the realistic nurturance of these things in the younger generations. They may shout, they may punch each other, but they take care of it in the alley and go out for a beer afterward.

Women, on the other hand, are never really satisfied until an inconvenient rival is divorced, bankrupt, unemployed, universally ostracized, and living on the streets with a bad haircut. Look into your souls, ladies. You know it's true.

Pretty Lady, in her own professional life, has noted over time that it has proven nearly impossible to find a Female Mentor. That is not because there are no older women in her profession, or that Pretty Lady lacks the competence to attract the attention of such; it merely means that when she does, she has had to Watch Her Back in a very big way. Without boring you with too many horror stories, let her break down her experience into a few basic categories of Poisonous Women to Watch Out For.

1) The Poisonous Professional.

This woman is one of the few women to have succeeded in a male-dominated profession, in the Early Days of Feminism, and by God, she's going to make sure it stays that way. Her demeanor is tough, competent, and reasonable, with an undercurrent of vicious rage. She surrounds herself with flamboyantly attractive younger men, and actively promotes their careers, in a motherly sort of way. Should any talented, hard-working young women take her class, work as her assistant, ask her to supervise their thesis, or request a recommendation, these young women will be treated with competent, reasonable, vicious dismissal.

2) The Poisonous Administrator.

This woman, thwarted by social pressures, timidity, and possibly an early encounter with the P.P. above, has ended up in the Development Department of the profession that she would never admit to wanting a starring role in. She is pretty, well-dressed, and charming; she is socially well-connected and consoles herself with the fact that she, at least, earns a steady paycheck. She is proud of the fact that she knows and supports so many talented young fellows, and is the center of attention when she goes with them to parties. When she meets a woman around her age who is still pursuing the Main Profession, she is charmed by that girl's sweet little hobby, and makes sure the grant goes to one of the boys.

3) The Callous Opportunist.

This woman will be your Best Friend. She works four jobs, never takes a vacation, maximizes her credit, and founds organizations in the same field as she stars in. She is a Phenomenon, and everybody says so. She will take and take and take, collapse in your living room, cry on your shoulder, then ditch you and stab you in the back.

4) The Smarmy Communist.

We're all sisters! We love each other! We support each other! We swap skills! We are all Equal! Her skills are valued at full retail markup, of course, while those of her sisters are calculated at discount wholesale, or better yet, free.

5) The Cool Girl.

She doesn't seem to have many female friends, somehow, she doesn't really know why. What was your name again?


Now. This is not to say that there are not splendid women out there; women who balance Support with Healthy Competition, who understand the delicate art of networking, who will listen understandingly when you are in crisis, applaud your successes, purchase your commodities, talk you up to important people, and write a feature article about you. They will edit your grant application, show up at your door with a pitcher of sangria, take you out to dinner when you are broke, and get you a massage for your birthday. These are the Flower of Womanhood, living proof that all is not lost; that women, with nurturance and training, will one day be capable of just about anything.

But first we have to kill those bitches.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Whee!!

Gracious, darlings, Pretty Lady did NOT expect to be taken up on her Rules, at least not so quickly and so seriously. She is Overwhelmed! After spending two days without leaving her studio (the fumes are so dense that even the extractor fan cannot seem to overcome them), she finally checked the mailbox, and whee!! She now has more new CDs than she can fit in the disc changer all at once. In honor of Easter Sunday, she put on the Tijuana Brass, first. Boop-be-doop-be-doop.

Many grateful returns!

P.S. Chris, the cotton duck will make an excellent new dropcloth. The old one has been toxic since I accidentally stomped a tube of yellow ochre and tracked it all over the house.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Speaking of conflict

A rather tactless maneuver on the part of Eggers & Co. sends our thoroughly Gamma friend Jamie into an uncharacteristic diatribe:

I find myself compelled to write you angrily regarding the letter and "Proposal" you recently sent to lifetime subscribers thanking us for helping you through your “infancy” but now inquiring whether we might be willing to “move on,” that is, to begin paying you for a “normal yearly” subscription, now that you’re a full-grown and thriving professional magazine. In short, I respond: ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?
When Pretty Lady, herself not having been as prescient as dear Jamie in obtaining a lifetime subscription to McSweeney's for a mere c-note, read the offending proposal, she could understand his ire. For all its trademarked clever irony, the document comes across as distinctly passive-aggressive. Distinctly.


(Click to Read In Full. In fact, she highly recommends that you darlings click to read the entirety of Jamie's rant as well; the gentleman has certainly surpassed himself.)

What chiefly strikes Pretty Lady about this incident is that the selfsame tactics of self-referential irony and slapdash iconoclasm which rocketed our dear friend Mr. Eggers to fame and fortune are aging rather badly. What was cute and forgivable in a permanent adolescent are despicable, and perhaps legally actionable, business tactics.

This whole brouhaha, moreover, could have been avoided by the simple expedient of Owning Up to One's Mistakes; if McSweeney's, as an organization, had done the honorable by approaching its subscribers, hat in hand, and explaining, "We find ourselves in the embarrassing position of being the victims of our own success. Honestly, we didn't expect to survive for this long--not long enough to have our publishing house go out of business before we did. We made our name by sticking it to The Man, and now, we find to our consternation that we ARE The Man. And being The Man is more difficult than ever we imagined. It involves, for one thing, having to charge market rate for our subscriptions."

Of course, Gawker broke the news about this before ever Pretty Lady heard about it. Such a retiring life she lives, these days.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Conflict Avoidance 101

Well, Pretty Lady knew more than she thought she did:

Cops might want to put down the billy club and forget about psychology, new research suggests. An analysis of the TV show “COPS” reveals that the best way for police to calm down hysterical citizens is to look them straight in the eyes...police rely on a steady gaze to calm individuals in many situations, including getting them to cooperate during questioning and arrests, and keeping them from interfering with emergency workers.
Pretty Lady figured that one out by accident, while lunching in a Very Bad Neighborhood one afternoon. She had been reading some uplifting thing or other, and was feeling sanguine about life, and all her brothers and sisters in it.

Suddenly, an enraged and distraught individual became belligerant toward the girl behind the lunch counter. The girl, frightened, picked up a broom and brandished it. An Ugly Scene looked to be on the brink of playing out.

Pretty Lady stood up and regarded the enraged woman. The woman declared, "Whatcha gonna do? Ya gonna hit me?"

Pretty Lady replied, "I'm not going to do anything," in a friendly manner. The woman mumbled something unintelligible and wandered away. Pretty Lady resumed her lunch, and pleasant daydreams.

A few moments later, a confused and stinking older man stumbled in, agitated and shouting. Pretty Lady looked him in the eye and smiled. He relaxed, quieted down, and left.

Pretty Lady has often thought that it is not so much the eye contact specifically, which appears to have this effect; it is the recognition. In effect, her demeanor is saying, "Hey! There you are!"

This is, she feels, often the only thing any of us require.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Rules

Pretty Lady must give a sigh of amused exasperation; her friend Crom appears to be determined to push boundaries today.

not knowing your opinion on strangers sending you packages, I decided that discretion would be the better course of action and did not send it. However, should our acquaintance last throughout the year, perhaps a bottle of Booker's will wind it's way to the Big Apple for a very merry Christmas, after all.
As a general rule--being, after all, a Lady--Pretty Lady will accept modest tokens of respect and esteem from relative strangers. These tokens may include books, flowers, original artwork, concert tickets, CDs, bottles of liquor, and Paypal tips.

They do not, however, encompass jewelry, automobiles, lingerie, electronic gadgets, or four-page calligraphic proposals of matrimony. Neither do they include the only extant photo of your birth mother who sold you to the Americans when you were an infant, the original handwritten manuscript of your unedited first novel, or any severed portion of your anatomy.

If you send Pretty Lady an unsolicited nude photograph of yourself, however artistically posed, she will not respond to any further correspondence she should happen to receive from you. The male of the species is recurrently prey to the delusion that ladies appreciate the things that he would appreciate, if the situation were reversed; nothing could be farther from the truth.

The Perils of Projection

Crom betrays a basic ignorance as to the limits and possibilities of cyber interactions:

Statistically speaking, I would offer the idea that meeting a like-minded individual in the cliquish familiarity of cyberspace is greater than that of meeting anything remotely resembling a Real Man by your definition in the Five Boroughs.
First of all, Crom, Pretty Lady holds no truck with statistics. Statistically speaking, Pretty Lady permanently dwells at the extreme end of the bell curve; in her experience, this is rather like approaching the speed of light, in Einsteinian physics. Everything you thought you knew turns out to be not only incomplete, but inapplicable, from your asymptotic perspective. Statistics, in Pretty Lady's world, may be a decent tool for after-the-fact analysis and understanding, but as a guiding principle in her life, they are useless. Pretty Lady does what she does, and allows the Holy Spirit to take care of the steering.

This is all by the way, however.

The fact is, Pretty Lady has been meeting 'like-minded individuals' through the Internet since 1995. She is not only a pioneer in this regard, but she has been goofing around in cyberspace long enough to know that, inasmuch as it has its revelations and intoxications, it also has its Major Pitfalls. The biggest pitfall being that it is possible for a reasonably intuitive and socially skilled individual to apprehend more about a person's basic character and personality in five minutes of face-to-face interaction, than in six months of in-depth cyber correspondence.

The Internet, my dear friends, is more like one big Group Therapy session than a genuine community. It can be useful, informative, entertaining and productive. It allows for rumination, experimentation, and postulatory dress-up; it is also an excellent way of finding bargains on second-hand cars and bicycles.

However, by far the most major and unacknowledged commodity trafficked upon the Internet is Projection. When we know nothing of an individual except words on a screen, our minds creatively fill in the blanks. We fill in the blanks with whatever fantasy or animosity we have lying around in our own brains; such filling-in rarely corresponds, even remotely, to the physical actuality of another being.

That is why, if Pretty Lady meets a person on the Internet, and she does not meet this person for coffee and a chat within a month or so of the initial correspondence (under two weeks is by far the best) she tends to write off the possibility of ever knowing that person in person, in more than a casual 'Hey! It's you!' sort of way.

She has entertained too many long-distance marriage proposals from delusional, incompetent twerps, and been used and abused by too many self-involved players, to do otherwise.

Now, if a person meets Pretty Lady in person, and then becomes cybernetically involved with her meanderings, this is a different story entirely. This individual is merely fleshing-out and deepening his original impressions; that is all fine and dandy, and can lead to very rewarding friendships indeed.

But all of this speculative nonsense about the possibility of Pretty Lady's bestowing her deepest affections upon a textual construct is simply obnoxious spouting-off. Pretty Lady has an email address, a phone number, and feet. Any gentleman who lacks the confidence or capability to make use of these facts does not figure in her day-to-day life with any degree of significance.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Draconian aesthetics

It is official; Pretty Lady has No Conscience.

Merely reading the letter from the lovely lady who inherited all her mother's paintings, and has every one of them hanging in her apartment, is enough for her to determine this.

For when Pretty Lady sublet a large house from a very-much-alive artist, who tendered this same house into her hands with every available wall space sporting a specimen of her own original artwork, the sun had not gone down before Pretty Lady had taken every one of those paintings off the wall, and stored them under the staircase. Prudently positioned upon risers, against flood, and covered with plastic, against dust, of course. Just because Pretty Lady does not share another artist's aesthetic, does not mean she is wantonly and disrespectfully destructive of it.

Pretty Lady was even known to declare, publically, "If X Artist believes that her house is standing as a permanent X Artist vanity gallery and shrine, X Artist has another think coming."

Aesthetics, Pretty Lady believes, are both deeply significant and deeply personal. Pretty Lady herself has been known to redecorate hotel rooms, during the length of her stay. The objects with which we surround ourselves impregnate our every present moment with a powerful energy, which we fail to consider at our deep peril. The present moment is, literally, all we have got; do we wish to Sacrifice All upon the altar of another artist's screaming, headless nightmares? Or even upon a smattering of sweet but banal autumn landscapes?

Pretty Lady's answer to this question has always been a resounding NO. If this makes her a Bad Person, it is the cross she must bear.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Real Man

My lands. Pretty Lady cannot believe the number of times she has answered the question, 'What do women want?' and been greeted by a chorus of head-nodding, only to have the question repeated. To be fair, it is rarely Pretty Lady's friends who are asking this question; it is the unenlightened Others who do so. However, it is so reliably guaranteed to pop up in the community on a regular basis, that Pretty Lady feels she can go on answering it ad nauseam, without any fear of boring her readers.

In brief: Women want a Real Man.

Definition of a Real Man:

One who 1) knows who he is; 2) knows what he wants; 3) engages with her; 4) consistently.

All of these elements, darlings, are crucial.

The vast majority of whining, carping, frustration, rage, and lack of empathy with women comes from wannabe Real Men who wish to cut corners on one or another of the above criteria. The Pathetic faction is heavy on the end of Allowing the Woman to Define him; he is the sort who will go off and drink a gallon of aloe vera juice because the lady demonstrates an interest in holistic health care, and come running back, expecting a pat on the head. The Boorish faction, on the other hand, hold no truck with this sort of thing, at all, at all; he goes after what he wants, attains it, and parks it. He is the sort who invented the immortal line, 'Of course I love you. I married you, didn't I? What else do you want?'

Gentlemen. Please.

A lady does not wish to be the prime motivating factor for all of your actions. This is too much pressure, and it makes her feel decidedly unsafe. It gives her the uncomfortable sensation that if she were to become engrossed in her own activities for half an hour or so, you might go off and commit hari-kari for lack of sufficient attention; she does not want your blood on her hands. When she tells you to 'get a life,' she is being literal and sincere about it.

However, it gives a lady a warm, fuzzy, proud feeling to know that on some level, she is a prevailing influence in her man's life. There is nothing sweeter than the sound of the words, 'I was thinking about what you said, and I've decided...'. These words make a lady feel as though she is more than a decorative possession, to be flaunted or stowed at will. They make her feel that she is an ongoing force to be addressed; a challenge, if you will. Certainly she is more than a combination brood mare and chambermaid.

Pretty Lady would like to point out, as a side note, that a man who pursues several different women simultaneously is NOT a man who knows what he wants. He may claim that what he wants is several simultaneous girlfriends, and a concomitant freedom from responsibility; he may, in fact, want precisely that. However, such a man is incapable of engaging on an intimate level with anyone, and is thus unable to fully know himself. He is constantly shuffling communication modes, is frequently trying to remember which story he told which lady, and is never fully present. How is it possible that this man is honestly cognizant of the contents of his own mind? Let alone that he could have space in there to understand anyone else's?

Pretty Lady notes that all the men she has known who were like that were initially fascinating, having perfected the art of the initial fascination through assiduous practice, but got exponentially more boring every time the tape repeated itself. In pursuing breadth of experience, depth is inevitably sacrificed.

By the same token, a man who does not consistently engage with the woman in his life becomes, inevitably, a tedious lump who ultimately is not worth the space he takes up on the sofa. His routine may be straight, narrow and reliable; he may thus be shocked when the woman who has loyally washed his sheets for thirty years precipitately files for divorce.

But the fact is, circularity serves no ultimate purpose. Whether it be the same circular argument, the same scurrilous betrayal, or the identical carping comment of a political nature repeated every evening for three decades, circularity is a characteristic of Hell. Life, to be ridiculously cliche'd about it, is a journey. What women want is a trusted and intimate companion in a landscape which is always, and intriguingly, new.







Monday, April 02, 2007

How to Take Care of Yourself

Darlings, please forgive Pretty Lady's neglecting you. She is recovering from a profligate weekend of Brunch and Literary Readings. She is happy to report, however, that this morning she rose at the crack of nine and repeated her Fabulous Feat of last week; not only did she make it all the way to the park, but trotted gently down the length of it for several blocks. Returning home, she treated herself to an invigorating shower and a French breakfast (instructions to follow) and meditated upon the fact that she used to start all of her days like this, before injury and general despondency intruded. The contented buzz produced by workout-shower-breakfast ought to be a Daily High for every person on the planet. A great deal would be solved that way.

So it is fitting that upon breaching her in-box, she discovered this letter.

Dear Pretty Lady,

As a male I was brought up to show no fear, pain, or weakness, no matter how bad things got. Now I find I'm approaching middle age and I'm simply no longer capable of doing some of the things I used to do. I'm weaker than I used to be, and sometimes in pain, and I can't fight through it the way I could when I was younger.

The trouble is, since I was brought up to believe that weakness of any kind is weakness of character, I can't quite find the line between when I should stop lest I hurt myself and when I want to stop because I just don't feel like pushing.

In other words, I need some way to tell self-indulgence from genuine need for rest. Can you help?

Signed,
Lazy or Exhausted?

Ah, poor dear LOE. You are Not Alone. Pretty Lady is assuming that you are American; it is important to remember that, however degenerate our society has become, its moral roots are those of the Puritans. Your troubles are not unique to your gender. Since the seventeenth century, it has been the habit of our countrymen to equate Self-Abuse with Moral Virtue.

In men, this syndrome manifests as drinking twelve espressos and driving cross-country without stopping--or the programming, term-paper-writing, or particle-accelerator-building equivalent. In women, it manifests chiefly as anorexia, slapping one's own face while looking in the mirror, and uttering the salutary epithet 'stupid bitch' on a repeat loop in one's own mind.

As a backlash against this sort of thing, we are wont to become recklessly and destructively self-indulgent. At times we cleverly combine the two, as in bulimia, or working out while high. What is certain is that most of us have lost all true connection to the messages our bodies are sending us. We have literally no idea when we are hungry, tired, sick or miserable any longer, and we would not know what to do about it if we figured it out.

Pretty Lady is here to tell all of us to Cut That Out. Beating oneself up does not make one a Better Person; it just makes one a sick, tired, miserable, preoccupied bore. It also means that one's loved ones have to scrape up the carcass when one eventually collapses, which is never an agreeable task.

So. Where do we start? Let us at least get the obvious out of the way.

Sharp, stabbing pains: Never good. Stop what you are doing at once. If they persist, see a doctor.

Shortness of breath, acute chest pain: Get in shape or see an allergist. If you have done these things, or if you haven't and they come on suddenly, you are having a heart attack. Go to the emergency room.

Dull ache: Whether physical or emotional, this is an indicator of a general malaise which requires clearing. Go for a brisk walk, sit in a sauna, get a massage, write in your journal, or see a therapist.

Constant, passionate desire to lie down and take a nap, to the point where one is fantasizing about warm snoogly beds with huge down trappings and soundproof walls, and is physically unable to think about anything else for long: Sleep deprivation. Pretty Lady used to get this a lot, until she accepted the fact that her rock-bottom biological requirement is nine hours of sleep per night. If one's schedule does not permit this, nap in the break room at lunchtime, or on the studio chaise longue before setting-t0.

Attention span of less than fifteen seconds, for anything at all, even a new novel by one's favorite author: Lack of exercise, human companionship, or proper nutrition. Take the abovementioned brisk walk, call a friend, and cook a well-balanced meal.

Constant, seething rage: The Holy Spirit can help with that, if one listens committedly, putting prejudice aside, for a decade or two.

In general, when a person is in an advanced state of confusion about whether it hurts or not, and whether anything should be done about it, it is best to start with one consistent observation, and continue with this observation until it becomes a habit. For example: 'Am I hungry, or am I just angry, lonely and frustrated?'

Do not be impatient with yourself if it takes a decade before you are able to answer this question accurately on a regular basis.

If your answer is 'yes' to the question 'am I hungry?' now is the time for a French breakfast, or lunch, or dinner.

Take one from each food group:
High-quality caffeinated beverage (espresso, cappucino, Ceylon tea)

Fresh organic fruit

Fresh organic vegetable (or three)

Freshly-baked carbohydrate

Highly-concentrated naturally occuring fat (butter, olive oil, cream, cheese)

Highly-concentrated protein (egg, bacon, saucisson)

Pungent salty thing (olive paste, anchovies)

Self-indulgent sweet thing (dark chocolate, bitter orange marmalade)
Arrange all elements on breakfast table next to sunny window with lace curtain. Put small dabs on plate, attractively. Inhale appreciatively. Consume slowly and decorously, savoring various combinations.

You will find that if you perform this ritual rigorously and assiduously, you will actually find yourself gaining energy and losing weight. The cause of obesity is not the consumption of fats, proteins or carbohydrates; it is the compensatory overconsumption of plasticized imitation versions of the Real Thing. Once a person starts appreciating food, the food appreciates the person.


Pretty Lady could go on, and on, and on about the delicate art of Taking Care of Oneself, but she feels that this is sufficient to go on with, for the moment. The one other thing she has to say is that LOE--like hell are you 'approaching middle age.' Prime of life, how about it? Gracious.