Monday, June 30, 2008

The Effects of Separation on the Human Physiognomy

Darlings, Pretty Lady must cut to the chase. This is us.

Note that Pretty Lady said: This is us.

Not you. Not them. Us.

If you will please to imagine what we are discussing in this picture, you can have no doubt; we are, of course, discussing Them. Those other people over there, who are different from us. The ones who have different ideas, opinions, habits, races, cultures, and beliefs than we do; the ones who Did Us Wrong, and the ones who Must Pay. Moreover, we have plans for these people. We are going to Get Things From Them. We are going to Take Them Down. We are going to Prove Them Wrong, and excoriate and shame them, and wipe them from the face of the earth.

You can see it in our faces.

The problem is, of course, that this is us. All of us. As Pretty Lady said. There are no Other People over there; we're all here.

What a pickle.

Sometimes, in fact, Pretty Lady cannot stand to look at us for one more minute. We make her queasy. In fact, we have been making her queasy for most of her life. This, perhaps, is the reason for her Wandering Spirit; she keeps trying to find something to keep the nausea down.

So she looks a bit deeper. She has no choice. And she finds, under the surface, this:

And that is the Reason Why.

Any questions?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

How to Be Classy

Pretty Lady never ceases to be amazed by the prudery, squirrelishness, and embarrassed silence surrounding issues of Class in America. In a society where we freely discuss our sexual habits with total strangers, Class remains the ultimate taboo. Moreover, as far as Pretty Lady knows, this is an aberration unique to our fair land; in nearly every other country in the world, people know their own social station, and have reliable methods for gauging the social station of others. But here in the land of the Free, where class is not supposed to exist, it nevertheless remains one of the single most intractable barriers to social communication and advancement.

Therefore it falls to Pretty Lady to clue you in, even at the risk of being ostracized for doing so.

Clue #1: Class has nothing to do with how much money one has, and everything to do with what one does with it.

To put it baldly: Conspicuous consumption is vulgar. Discussing one's conspicuous consumption, even more so. Pretty Lady has actually known persons who declare, to guests in their own home, "My husband, the corporate attorney, is out putting the Mercedes in the five-car garage." This is a damning and indelible sign of Nouveau Riche social climbing. One's husband is out parking the car, and how ARE you, dear? Gracious.

Clue #2: Thrift is classy. Illiberality is trashy.

Classy persons tip their servers, their bartenders, their cab drivers, their maids, their hairdressers, their porters, and their massage therapists, even if they are down to their last three dollars and are getting their hair cut in a desperate bid to land a job as a sales clerk in the store that Daddy used to own. They pay their vendors before their campaign advisors or their personal accounts. No matter how straitened one's own resources, one does not cut corners on another person's livelihood, particularly if that other person's social connections are an echelon or two lower than one's own. One cuts corners on nonessentials such as flashy cars, tony neighborhoods, dinners out, designer clothing at retail prices, glittering parties, and repairing the roof in the east wing.

Clue #3: Manners are one-size-fits-all.

A classy person treats a smelly beggar and the President of the United States with precisely the same degree and quality of courtesy. Note that this does not require allowing one's boundaries to be violated; the proper response to being nonconsensually groped by either of these individuals is, "Get your hands off me, you creep."

Clue #4: Classy people do not lay territorial claims to other's relationships.

One does not sleep with another person's husband, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend, or initiate an attempt to do so. If one has had a brief affair, years earlier, with a person who subsequently becomes one's friend's partner, it is crass beyond belief to continue bringing it up, particularly when the current relationship is under stress. If one sincerely believes that a couple is mismatched, and that you would be a far superior candidate to the current partner, one keeps one's opinion to oneself until six months after the divorce is final.

Clue #5: Classy people do not proselytize, evangelize, or grandstand.

Fanatics are charming, as long as they do not expect everyone around them to share their obsessions. It is in terrible taste to attempt to impose one's religious beliefs, political views, or sexual lifestyle upon all and sundry. One may have as many rousing arguments about these issues as one likes, as long as the argument remains in the realm of abstraction, and does not extend to wholesale and unwelcome attempts at conversion, let alone personal pejorations.

Clue #6: Classy people attend to their responsibilities.

This means performing the job one is hired to do, to the best of one's ability, whatever one may think of it; providing for any offspring one has happened to produce, under whatever circumstances these offspring came about; and discharging one's debts, to the greatest extent possible.

In sum, it ought to be clear by now that Class in America is anything but a caste system; it is wholly about choosing one's values, and adhering to them. As such, it is not bigoted, racist, elitist or condescending to call trashy people out on their behavior. On the contrary, it is a hallmark of egalitarianism to assume that anyone is capable of behaving with class, under any circumstances.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Attention Uninsured Artists: Join Fractured Atlas NOW

Now. You don't have a second to lose.

Fractured Atlas is, AT LAST, offering health insurance with health savings accounts at reasonable prices. At least, the prices are considerably more reasonable than the premiums that Pretty Lady has been paying for her rather indifferent health plan.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Pretty Lady's frequent rants about HSAs and consumer-driven healthcare, an HSA is the difference between buying and renting. You are investing your healthcare dollars, and spending them on the healthcare that you decide to buy, rather than flushing your unconscionable premiums into an ill-managed, totalitarian system, which forces you to take an appointment with a male, Polish OB-GYN who is only in once a week, because that's the only one who has an opening in the next three months, then will not allow you to switch to a female nurse-midwife, or anyone else.

Pretty Lady notes that in the new Perfect Health plan, to which she is switching as soon as humanly possible, not only do you get to choose any doctor you want, but a nurse midwife is automatically covered. Also, the premiums are considerably lower than what Freelancer's Union was charging, last time she looked.

So if you are an artist, and if you are in New York, and if you have no insurance, or insurance that costs more than $250/mo, GO. NOW. You have to get your application in by July 10. GO. NOW.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Few Hard Facts About Inner-City Law Enforcement

Pretty Lady is taking the splendidity of Mr. Obama's Father's Day sermon as read. She would like, instead, to take issue with an instance of sloppy thinking, evidenced by one commenter on such:
Where are the absent black fathers? Have you read anything about the incarceration rate of black males in this country?

Since the "more cops on the street" tactic has been tried before many times, you can just read the race and incarceration statistics from that and extrapolate.

More cops on the street mean more absent black fathers, not fewer.
The obvious rebuttal, made by another commenter, is that visible patrol cops tend to discourage crime, meaning that in the long term, fewer persons will go to prison; this increased patrol cop/reduced crime rate paradigm has been tried and tested in New York City, and has worked so well that Pretty Lady feels completely comfortable taking the subway to Brooklyn after midnight.

However, it is instructive to understand that all police patrols are not created equal. Most of us city dwellers intuitively understand this, but in fact, the difference in patrol zones is actually codified, if informally, by the police department. Ergo, a person has a radically different understanding of the purposes and temperaments of cops, depending upon which neighborhood a person grew up in.

In brief: Middle-class communities, such as the one where Pretty Lady was raised, are termed enforcement zones. Cops patrol them, in a friendly and casual way, and when they observe someone bashing in the windows of a car, or beating someone up, or if they get a phone call to this effect, they show up and arrest the perpetrators. They write reports, issue speeding tickets, and generally keep an eye out. They tend not to harass people for fun and profit. This is why, as a child and a young adult, Pretty Lady held cops in basic trust and respect; they never gave her any reason to do otherwise.

Wealthy communities, on the other hand, are termed enhancement zones. Patrols in these neighborhoods, if not actually private security armies, are known for their paranoia and intolerance. If one happens to go for a drive in these neighborhoods in a shabbyish car, or dares to appear in one on foot, one is quite likely to be stopped, severely questioned, and warned away in strong terms. If one's attitude at being so questioned is not deemed sufficiently submissive, one is quite likely to find oneself handcuffed in the backseat.

Really Bad Neighborhoods, finally, are known as containment zones. They might as well be war zones. Cops do not patrol them, out of equal parts laziness, cowardice, and cynicism. Garbage collection and mail delivery is spotty to nonexistent. Criminal activity rages unchecked; drug deals go down, bullets fly, muggings occur, without remonstrance on the part of the city or of the cowed resident citizens. If cops do appear in response to a summons, they are likely to shoot or arrest everyone in sight, and sort them out later.

Thus, persons who had the misfortune to grow up within a containment zone may possibly be forgiven for referring to cops as 'pigs.' This, in their view, is an accurate description of the role of the police officer in their lives. Cops, in our non-egalitarian society, still exist to protect the interests of the ruling hegemony, not those of every citizen.

So when Mr. Obama calls for the presence of 'more cops on the street,' it is to be hoped that he means to make the entire country an enforcement zone, without regard to the wealth or poverty of the zone in question. It would be such a lovely thing if only criminals went to jail!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Audacity of Organization

Pursuant to the last post, Pretty Lady has been thinking how much fun it would be to take a bus to Iowa and fill sandbags for a day or two. Alas, circumstances prevent her, but should any flooding arrive in the NYC metropolitan statistical area, she is psychologically prepared to Pitch In.

Largely, she has been thinking, this is because the astonishingly effective organization of the Obama campaign has led her to believe that should she show up, wearing old clothes, sensible shoes, and with some well-chosen tools and a pair of gardening gloves, organized people would tell her where to go, and how to most effectively cope with the emerging Situation.

In latter years, Pretty Lady has become a bit of a cynic. She has cut back on her volunteer work for such things as community arts organizations, nonprofits, alternative artspaces, art networking groups, and art education programs for the underprivileged, because when she DID work for these organizations, she invariably found herself running the show. This is because she generally proved to be the most-competent individual in the room, and everybody else was quick to notice, and Take Advantage.

And Pretty Lady cannot afford to become that stout, genial, ubiquitous Martyr who keeps an organization running singlehandedly, putting in 60-hour workweeks for no pay, and is presented with a plaque and a champagne toast after 25 years. What she wants is to show up, put in four hours of useful labor, and go home again.

Having a system in place, then, for effectively channelling the energy and goodwill of very part-time, but competent, volunteers like Pretty Lady would seem to be crucial for tackling Thorny Problems with grace and frugality. If an organization--whether it be a charitable used-clothing shop, a community arts organization, or Doctors Without Borders--continually pisses off its willing volunteers by having no method for communicating what, where, when, how and why, in any given situation, it will quickly find itself in the position of only having the Overweening Busybodies and the Totally Useless to work with, since everyone with an actual Life is going to have better things to do.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Obama Campaign Organizes Flood Relief

Pretty Lady received a phone call from her dear friend in Wisconsin yesterday evening; the friend herself was not flooded out of her apartment yet, but many of her neighbors were, and their power had been off for two days. 'There's a lake in the front yard,' she said.

The Obama campaign is using its email list to provide information, organize volunteers, and solicit donations for flood relief, in lieu of donations to the Obama campaign.

The McCain campaign does not appear to have noticed that there is anything amiss, in the great Bush tradition of ignoring natural disasters in the Homeland, while preoccupied with ensuring Homeland Security by invading and occupying foreign countries.

Just sayin'.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Best. Answer. Ever.

Darlings, please go read Cary Tennis' brilliant answer to the pornography-addicted gentleman, right now. Please read it in its entirety.
And what might you be running from? Well, take your pick. For starters, how about just the unbearable anxiety of existence? And many people would say, well, life is shit so why not jerk off to porn all day? Yes, why not? Because you feel bad about it, that's why. And why do you feel bad about it? Because you are being dishonest about it, but more important, because saying that life is shit so why not jerk off all day is not the true journey. The true journey involves the phenomenon that precedes the porn -- the existential loneliness and despair. Encountering our bare, unadorned condition of divine mortality -- that is the true journey.
Pretty Lady has only one thing to add, to Cary's inspired treatise; that is, that all therapeutic process is worthless if one does not set one's intention to heal. Without this intention, therapy itself becomes another form of masturbation.

Intention, darlings, is not the same thing as Brute Willpower. Brute Willpower is the voice that says, "I will pummel this addiction into submission; I will force the Nobel Committee to give me the Peace Prize; I will punch the oppressor in the jaw." This voice is always and ultimately doomed to failure, because there is an entire world out there of other Brute Willpowers opposing it, not to mention the laws of biology, chemistry, psychodynamics and physics.

Intention is something else entirely. It is a compass. When it hits an obstacle, it does not force its way through; neither does it sit down and give up. It merely continues pointing north. One may have intention when one has literally nothing else; not health, not happiness, not money, not friends. One may have it when one hasn't got the slightest idea what to do with it, or how to accomplish one's goal. It is a reminder that, when we see a way around the obstacle, or under it, or through it, we can safely take it, and not get lost along the way. It enables us to take in new information and be strengthened, not stymied. It is an inner light in the darkness around us.

Brain meltdown

Every time Pretty Lady reads another piece of journalism, discussing the recent Supreme Court Decision to uphold the standard of habeas corpus, she experiences another episode of cognitive-dissonance-induced vertigo. She does not understand why it is the alleged conservative, constitutionalist judges that are dissenting the decision to Uphold The Constitution.

Of the two dissenting opinions, Justice Antonin Scalia’s was the more apocalyptic, predicting “devastating” and “disastrous consequences” from the decision. “It will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed,” he said. “The nation will live to regret what the court has done today.” He said the decision was based not on principle, “but rather an inflated notion of judicial supremacy.”

Chief Justice Roberts, in somewhat milder tones, said the decision represented “overreaching” that was “particularly egregious” and left the court open to “charges of judicial activism.” The decision, he said, “is not really about the detainees at all, but about control of federal policy regarding enemy combatants.” The public will “lose a bit more control over the conduct of this nation’s foreign policy to unelected, politically unaccountable judges,” he added.

Excuse me? It is 'judicial activism' for the court to exercise its Constitutionally designed prerogative for checking a rogue executive branch, which decides to unilaterally decimate the Constitution, after six years of judicious deliberation?

Perplexed, she wandered over to NRO to see what the alleged conservatives over there had to say about it. Not a great deal, as it turns out.

The thing that has been bothering Pretty Lady, at the back of her mind, ever since this whole distressing terrorism/Guantanamo Bay/Iraq war/Abu Ghraib thing began, is that surely not every prisoner at these places is a terrorist. It simply is not logistically or mathematically possible. She has known enough law-enforcement agents of various stripes to understand that these are not the sharpest tacks in the box, by any means; furthermore, they have a lack of imagination and psychological perspicacity that virtually guarantees that they're going to be picking up a bunch of hapless schlubs who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, with the wrong color skin, and accusing them of terrorism.

Furthermore, it has been established that training in police interrogation tactics does NOT increase the veracity of the information extracted; it merely increases the internal conviction of the interrogator that he's got a guilty one. (Pretty Lady read this in a hardcover book in a very nice bookstore in Grand Central Station; she cannot remember the title, the author or what the book looked like. If anyone can enlighten her, please do.)

So why on earth are these alleged conservatives so vociferously objecting to painfully slow, cautious, labyrinthine procedures that may eventually set a few wrongly-accused schlubs free?

Possibly because by the time they get done with us, they will have sufficient motivation to become anti-American terrorists?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Pretty Lady's 'Recessions are FUN' Cookbook: #2, The Chinatown Solution

Welcome, darlings, to the next edition of Pretty Lady's Poverty Cooking! This week, we will deal with an oft-overlooked source of budget-conscious gourmet dining: Chinatown.

But, Pretty Lady! you say with alarm. There's no Chinatown where I live, you Big City Wench. No fair!

Really? Have you checked?

Chinese people are Not Stupid. They have a way of finding peaceful communities with low rents, they tend to cluster, and for obvious reasons a great many of them prefer not to live in China. Pretty Lady highly recommends that, if you are not aware of the existence of a Chinatown in your community, or a China Block, or a China Corner, that you start looking for one, pronto. Many rewarding adventures, and excellent meals for nickels a serving, could be yours as a result.

When in Chinatown, one must first simply allow the wonders to wash over one's head, in a vast wave of mini-tourism. One must not attempt to parse, too quickly, the large buckets of live seafood, the baskets of sinister-looking dried things, the rows of exotic fruits and vegetables, the jars of strange sauces and revolting-looking tofu, the teas, the herbs, and the good-luck trinkets. One just stands in the middle of it all, appreciating, and trying not to get mown down by little old ladies carrying six bags of vegetables in each hand.

Then, when you have recovered a bit, you start making Experimental Purchases.

Experimenting in Chinatown is one of life's great joys, because everything is so inexpensive that you never take too great a risk, unless you decide to start with Royal Tea. All you do is purchase a $2 jar of something or other, open it, sniff it, and mix a teaspoon of it with some stir-fried veggies over rice. It may be dreadful, it may be divine; life is full of surprises!

To start out with, Pretty Lady will provide her Basic Chinatown Shopping List.

Essential Condiments:
bottle sesame oil
bottle tamari (or low-salt soy sauce)
jar of chili-garlic sauce

These three bottles may very well last you the next three years, unless, like Pretty Lady, you think that everything goes better with chili-garlic sauce. An excellent, fast, easy way to use these essentials is to boil up a pot of noodles (rice or regular), throw in a few veggies and some lumps of tofu, drain, and douse with about a teaspoon each of sesame oil, tamari, and chili-garlic. The result is sublime, and the whole thing takes less than 15 minutes.

Essential Vegetables:
Japanese eggplants (the long skinny ones)
Green beans
Napa cabbage
Baby bok choy

These particular vegetables are notable for either soaking up things like black bean garlic sauce until they are juicily redolent of same, or holding chili-lime-sesame sauce with satisfyingly crunchy tenacity. The eggplants, green beans, scallions and mushrooms may be stir-fried in whatever sauce you're trying this week; the cabbage is best when washed, dried, chopped and doused in a torrent of beef, chicken or tofu which has been marinated and saute'd in a sauce made of lime juice, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce and chili-garlic sauce.

Don't bother measuring amounts, just fling them into the bowl with wild abandon.

Essential Carbs:
rice noodles
jasmine rice
frozen pot stickers (excellent for heating up rapidly when Not In The Mood To Cook)
egg-roll wrappers (excellent for playing with when Really In The Mood To Cook)

One fills an egg-roll wrapper by putting a spoonful of meat and/or veggies, all cooked together in a sauce of your choice, in the center of the wrapper, folding it over, and sealing it with a little water pasted down with your finger. Then you sauté the egg rolls in a little oil. Your friends will think you are a genius.

Essential Teas:

Jasmine tea in particular makes a wonderful iced-tea, sweetened with a little honey. Green tea iced with milk is out of this world. If you are so lucky as to pass by a shop which sells bubble tea, try it. (Iced green or almond with milk and black tapioca pearls.) It is the favorite food of Japanese adolescent girls for a reason.

Essential Dinner Out:
Peking Duck
Mu Shu Vegetables

If someone else is willing to do the labor-intensive cooking, once in awhile, and not charge exorbitant fees, why complain?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lightworker! Lightworker! Lightworker! Here, Google, Here!

'Paris Bridge', oil on panel, 1998, 3'x4'
Stephanie Lee Jackson

I've come across this term a few times in the past day... what is a Lightworker?

I mean, I googled it, and found various new age-y websites, but I'm curious as to your interpretation, if you'd be so kind.
Pretty Lady googled it too, and--ew.

There may, indeed, be some nuggets of Wisdom buried in the saccharine rhetoric, bargain-basement huckster layout, and Cosmic Kitsch aesthetic of the sites she found, but she didn't have the stomach to dig for them. So she will sidestep the definition entirely, and merely share a few observations she gleaned from spending several years painting light.

It may seem, at first, that one can only depict light by indicating the shadows. This is only true up to a point. As soon as one starts to paint shadows, one notices that they are not only not black, but streaked with subtler rays and beams of light as well. One achieves effective shadows by layering dark glazes over less-dark colors, giving a sense of limitless depth.

One gets an effect of luminosity by layering lighter colors over darker ones, particularly if the darker ones are in the yellow/gold/orange/ochre/sienna family.

Pure white looks greyish blah. Tinting it a very, very pale blue makes it seem whiter; tinting it very, very pale ochre makes it seem warmly incandescent.

Pretty Lady is not certain whether this answers your question metaphorically or not, but it's the best she can come up with at the moment.

The Hallmarks and Limits of Miracles

The only question I've got is whether Obama will prove to be somewhat better or actually a whole lot better. I'm expecting somewhat better, maybe. I'm not expecting him to be some kind of Lightworker who will even make real progress improving things.
Let us get one thing very, very, very clear.

There. Is. No. Such. Thing.

There is no such thing, my darlings, my loves, as a Messiah who fixes everything and makes everything hunky-dory without input from you, except perhaps a vote, or a 'Yes, I accept Jesus Christ as my personal Savior.' There are no such thing as a set of rules you may follow, or a political ideology you subscribe to, which makes you a Good Person, a Saved Person, who is thereafter free from all possibility of harm, or of things screwing up and causing you to reconsider.

Thinking that there is, is a clear sign of rigid infantilism, magical thinking, or wilful denial.

This does not mean that the world is not full of miracle workers; that miracles are not occurring by the thousands all around us every day. The function of a miracle worker is not to Fix Everything; it is to show us a glimmer of the light on the other side of this corrupt, confused and chaotic world, and inspire us to reach toward it. The function of a miracle worker is to inspire others to work miracles of their own.

Pretty Lady, in fact, has known dozens, if not hundreds, of miracle workers, and basked in the glory of their works on a daily basis. A few of the miracle workers she knows: k, DC, Chris, VD, Badger, Carol, Spatula, her best friend from high school, her whole family, various professors, the fat black guy who hugged her in the street one day in Noe Valley, the Head Librarian at the Geology Library, Hector the Block President, her Reiki master Uma, her friend Sara, the Dalai Lama, and about fifty other people she can think of off the top of her head.

These people have been Working Light for literally decades, and yet the world is still full of war, poverty, corruption, pain, suffering, strife, misunderstanding, and rampant apathy. That is the nature of the world. People who Work Light have no illusions about this; they do not think they can solve things, and they don't try. They just do what they do, without any agenda beyond doing it.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Paul Ward English, RIP

Well. For once in her life, Pretty Lady's Googling habits have failed her.

For despite the fact that, once every few years, she Googles everyone she can ever remember meeting, somehow she forgot to Google dear Dr. English. And she finds, to her sadness and shame, that the good Dr. passed away in Anno Domini 2000. Gracious, and woe.

Dr. English's many and distinguished accomplishments are too well-known to require repetition or comment. His effect on Pretty Lady's life, however, has never been told; for, during the Shakespeare at Oxford trip during the summer of 1987, or perhaps in the months afterward, she mentioned to this erstwhile mentor her intention of joining the Foreign Service. Dr. English remarked, "It's the artists who are remembered far beyond their own generation, not the politicians or the diplomats."

Dr. English often magnified his psychic perceptions far beyond reality, but sometimes he got it right. Thank you, sir, and may you continue your travels through all eternity.

The Cupcake Analogy

Spatula, bless her, has come up with the perfect analogy to describe the clueless Invasion of Boundaries that frequently occurs, in this postmodern dating debacle:
Another man greeted my arrival in his car by putting his hand on the inside of my leg. This was our second date, and he had known me for a combined total of three hours, none of which included any physical contact. He felt up my leg at regular intervals all through the evening, and when I covered it with a bag, he would feel up the bag.

Men: imagine this. You are holding a cupcake. You are thinking of sharing it with someone. You stand around trying to decide who. Suddenly, a random person walks into the room, says, "Awesome! Thanks!", yanks it out of your hands and eats it. That's what it's like.

The cupcake is sweet; who can blame you for wanting it? But here's the thing: it isn't yours. It isn't yours until the cupcake owner says very clearly and in your direction, "Would you like some of this? It will be my heart's delight, my infinite pleasure, my happiness to share it with you." Then, and only then, is the cupcake up for grabs. You'll know you did it right if the lady breaks off a piece, puts it in your mouth, and lets you lick her fingers.
Pretty Lady recalls, in her college days, when masculine acquaintances of hers would stop by her apartment for a chat. Uninvited, they would wander into her bedroom and declare, "So! This is your bedroom!" in a proprietary sort of way.

Not only did these men never receive another invitation--not only to her bedroom, but into any of her dwelling spaces--she did an art project about it, entitled 'Uncertainty,' which involved a gnarled mobile-like construction, dripping used motor oil all over a bedframe which was covered in pristine white dust. Passersby thought it was about abortion, which, tangentially, perhaps it was.

Sometimes Pretty Lady thinks that all this crude, clueless cupcake-yanking has its roots in the indefatigable optimism of testosterone, which runs on its own engine independently of feedback, including feedback such as "You couldn't get me drunk enough to sleep with you, jerk." Other times she thinks that most people were simply Born In Barns, and need a remedial course in basic etiquette, as well as signal-reading. Very occasionally, she suspects that such crass behavior is perpetrated by men who are attempting to come across as Dominant, and haven't quite gotten it down.

Regardless, she will provide a single Clue, for free; that is, when a lady to whom you are attracted, and have made clear signals toward, starts avoiding all contact with you--including not returning your phone calls, switching cafés so that she doesn't have to deal with you, and moving without providing her new address--YOU HAVE CROSSED THE LINE. Moreover, you have crossed it in such as way as to make amelioration of the situation utterly impossible. Whatever it is you did, DON'T DO IT AGAIN, with ANY other lady.

Friday, June 06, 2008


Pretty Lady, along with a great many of the people she most respects, quite concurs:

Dismiss it all you like, but I've heard from far too many enormously smart, wise, spiritually attuned people who've been intuitively blown away by Obama's presence - not speeches, not policies, but sheer presence - to say it's just a clever marketing ploy, a slick gambit carefully orchestrated by hotshot campaign organizers who, once Obama gets into office, will suddenly turn from perky optimists to vile soul-sucking lobbyist whores, with Obama as their suddenly evil, cackling overlord.

Here's where it gets gooey. Many spiritually advanced people I know (not coweringly religious, mind you, but deeply spiritual) identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment. These kinds of people actually help us evolve. They are philosophers and peacemakers of a very high order, and they speak not just to reason or emotion, but to the soul.

The unusual thing is, true Lightworkers almost never appear on such a brutal, spiritually demeaning stage as national politics. This is why Obama is so rare. And this why he is so often compared to Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., to those leaders in our culture whose stirring vibrations still resonate throughout our short history.

The interesting thing is that Jonah Goldberg, presumably with Deep Scoffing Contemptuous Cynicism, quoted nearly the whole article.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


The Obama camp has moved quickly--and deftly--to shut down the Hillary Clinton bid for the vice presidential pick.

The well-sourced Jackie Calmes reports in the Wall Street Journal that "close advisers to Sen. Obama are signaling that an Obama-Clinton ticket is highly unlikely." The way they're signaling it is by suggesting that, even for Hillary to be considered, Bill Clinton would have to "release records of his business dealings and big donors to his presidential library." No one thinks Bill Clinton is inclined to do this.

End run, with alibi! Elegant, clean, impenetrable. Aikido politics, using the opposition's force against it.

Pretty Lady's 'Recessions are FUN' Cookbook: #1, Poor Girl's Cassoulet

Darlings, Pretty Lady has come to a decision. Having graduated not once, but twice, with an Art Degree during an economic recession, she has acquired certain culinary skills that combine hedonistic Self Indulgence with Extreme Thrift; she will begin to share those skills on a weekly basis. Thus, she hopes, she will fill her karmic Community Service requirements, having neither the budget nor the temperament to do it any other way. She will, additionally, post any thrifty recipes her friends care to send her.

The inaugural recipe is one based (quite loosely indeed) upon a delicacy which was a mainstay of her sybaritic time with the Frenchman; as you fans of French cuisine surely know, a cassoulet is a heavenly alchemical stew involving confit de canard, sausage, pork, beef, and white beans. It comes bubbling out of the oven in a little covered ceramic dish, whispering of the back burner in a country kitchen, warming the cockles of one's heart and sending the diner into a protein coma.

Pretty Lady's version, being both healthier and thriftier, dispenses with the confit, sausage, pork, and beef, while retaining the essential redolent stewy nature of this dish. Eat it and thrive.


1-2 lbs. chicken parts; thighs and drumsticks are both the cheapest and the stewiest.
2 cans northern white beans (we will discuss Beans from Scratch much later in the series, Pretty Lady having become slothful in her bean cookery in recent years.)
scallions, one handful, chopped
garlic, 6 cloves, peeled
olive oil, 2-3 tbsp.
1 tsp herbes de provence (or you may mix oregano, marjoram, rosemary and basil)
1 bay leaf
vegetables of your choice, the choice being any combination of:
artichokes (fresh or canned)
whatever is in season that takes stewing well; experiment!
salt and pepper to taste
juice of 1 lemon or lime

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, sauté the scallions and 2 cloves of the garlic, crushed, in the olive oil for 2 minutes. Add the chicken parts and sear on both sides. Pour in the beans (drain the cans first) and add water to cover; stir in the herbs, salt and pepper, whole garlic cloves, and vegetables. Simmer, partly covered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. If it is too dry, add water; if too soupy, take the cover off and turn up the heat. Just before serving, mix in the lemon juice.

Some vegetables stand cooking for longer than others; if you use artichoke hearts, add them toward the end of cooking. Mushrooms, tomatoes, eggplant and carrots will stand cooking almost indefinitely. If you use eggplant, slice it, salt it, sweat it and blot it before cooking. This removes bitterness.

Serve in stew bowls. Provide napkins.

Serves 2-4 people, depending on appetites and how much chicken and veggies you use.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

How to Transcend Sexism's clear that the faults we tolerate and even overlook in men, we see as glaring in women. The problem with sexism is that it's so damned invisible. McCain can confuse Sunnis and Shiites and nobody blinks. Bush can admit to his press secretary that he outed a secret agent while claiming that he'd fire any aide who did so -- and the press sleeps. Men make mistakes. Women are not allowed to. We are held to such high and impossible standards that the possibility of any woman penetrating the barrier again seems remote.
Erica Jong, lamenting...well, Pretty Lady is not lamenting at all.

Because a person does not transcend sexism by becoming President. Particularly when one's method for attempting to become President involves lying, manipulating, pandering, marrying someone Presidential, prodding, extorting, distorting, backstabbing, and possibly bumping people off. It is perfectly possible that both Lucretia Borgia and Attila the Hun were extremely sexist individuals, if they managed to transcend their lizard brains sufficiently to have thoughts on the subject.

Transcending sexism, in fact, is not an external process at all. Simply, one may not effectively address sexism Out There, in the material world, because this is not where it originates. Attempting to redress the fact that one is defined in the minds of others by one's external characteristics, by manipulating those selfsame external characteristics, is doomed to failure at the outset. Sexism begins in the mind; and the only mind over which one has any measure of significant control is one's own.

Reread, if you will, the Erica Jong passage above. 'We are held to such high and impossible standards...'. This passage, Pretty Lady tells you, is a Red Flag. Perhaps she notices it so particularly because of her Virgo nature, which holds her to high and impossible standards on a second-by-second basis; she, in her earlier years, sincerely believed that she would not be allowed to join the human race until her feet did not smell, she had passed the bar, graduated with honors from Harvard Medical, placed in the triathalon, and held a solo exhibition at a major gallery in Chelsea, sold-out and well-reviewed. The fact that she had no interest in attending law school, medical school, or competing in triathalons held little place in her considerations, because, as a Receptive Feminine Entity, she believed that other's expectations defined her as much as she defined herself.

This, darlings, is the lead cannonball attached to our ankles. This is the chain we must cut. All else is useless.

Pretty Lady is not telling you that this is at all easy. As women we are naturally sensitive to the thoughts, feelings and opinions of others; this is how we are constructed, and it is a fine thing, for the world would literally fall apart if it were otherwise. This is one of the reasons it is fatal to model one's feminist ideology on that of Attila and Lucretia, for such ideologies necessarily require that only a few individuals attain them. If we were all Attilas, the world would end in a ball of flame, sooner rather than later. Remember Kant, and heed him.

In fact, Pretty Lady came to understand in latter years that those Harvard Medical expectations were a mere Booby Prize, to compensate for the fact that the clearly stated inclination of her Inner Self, since birth, was toward the well-reviewed exhibition in Chelsea. Well she recalls, at the age of eleven, being asked by her mother, "If money were no object, what would you like to do?"

Eleven-year-old Pretty Lady responded forthrightly, "I'd want to be an artist, and live in a loft in New York City."

Her dear mother replied, "Okay. So what jobs are like being an artist, and what places are like New York City?"

There was never any real chance that Pretty Lady would become a graphic designer, living in a condo in Kansas City, of course. But the subliminal message that "You can do anything you want, except what you want" produced a neuroticism in her personality that became her primary barrier to achieving her goals. It took a great deal of time, effort, and several spectacular failures to duly eradicate these neuroses, and claim her God-determined place in life as an artist in New York City. But here she is, surviving and thriving.

Because, darlings, the answer is not Out There, and it never was. The answer was born with you, within you, and all you must do is access that answer and build your life from this foundation. Persons who jeeringly deny the truth of this answer must be resolutely shunned, for it is a waste of time to address them.

And for all you ladies who complain about the catcalls, the belittling remarks, the dismissals, the apparent deafness when we are communicating something of serious import, and the thousand subtle indications that we are decorative chattels whose primary role is the care and feeding of Others--yes, that's annoying. But boys get to deal with getting shouted at, shot at, and pounded into the pavement, as a regular rule. Consider this your gauntlet of bullets, and be proud to walk it.