Archive for December, 2009

I tend to meditate on issues of self-identify with my Irish ancestry. My aunt Dukey sent me a Christmas present the other day reminding me to do a little more contemplation on my Welsh ancestry.

She sent me a black tee shirt with a strangely familiar image and cryptic saying below it.  The image is of a figure draped in a white sheet with a horse skull and the saying is “Y Fari Lwyd”. Thank goodness for the Internets! The phrase is Welsh for “The Mari Lwyd”, or literally “Gray Mare”.

It’s a pagan tradition based around a contraption known as a Mari.  A horse skull is placed on a wooden pole, and then it is draped with a sheet (to hide the person carrying the pole, or symbolically I imagine the motive force behind the manifestation).

The eye sockets are often decorated with shiny objects like colored glass.  The skull is usually decorated with colored ribbons. Some skulls have spring-loaded lower jaws that can be used to snap at passers-by.

I’m reminded of the Hobby Horse from the original Wicker Man on that one, snapping at pretty girls. I also remember now that similar creatures were used by the ultimate darkness character of Evil in Time Bandits to chase the protagonists. Basically Mari with hooked, bony claws that shot fireballs out of their eyes.  Weird!

Back to the actual tradition.  A party gathers around the Mari and they go door to door, exchanging songs and in some cases rhyme contests (called Pwnco in Welsh) with the occupants of various houses. The battle of wits and song can get rather furious, with the party extorting gifts of libations (among other things) from the occupants. Or the occupants manage to drive the party off to the next house over with their superior skill.

This is what I call Christmas Caroling!

With the resurgence of interest in Celtic culture, the tradition has been revived in recent years. Perhaps this knowledge has galloped my way so that I might make use of it.  I do enjoy making up lyrics of a sing-songy nature to amuse my friends.  I’m thinking I might just build my own Mari for next year and see what comes up.

Thanks Duke.

Michael the cat surprised K and I by having a repeat episode of his bladder stones. The first time was two weeks after we had moved into the haunted house and were reeling from the major blow of circumstance that caused it.

This time the physical emergency was an upping of the ante. Kidney stones now in the mix (which might be solved by diet—the vet said they can’t remove them because it shocks the organ into permanent shutdown), and a stone in the pipe keeping him from venting the warp core plasma.  Not good!

Poor guy; Not only vacuuming our wallet but several days of poking, prodding, and other indignities from strangers. Away from his comforts. Plus he has a heart condition and is thirteen years old now, not good for his prognosis.

Right as we’re about to make a trip to spend time with K’s relatives, of course.  Now we have to do a day trip of four hours round total, so we can be back to check Michael’s status.  According to the weather fortune-teller, roads on the way back are going to be icy.

Michael is a pigpen, dirtbag jerk of a cat with a lot of bad cards in the health department.  But he’s tough and it’s K and I’s karma to be at his mercy, so I knew he’d pull through. He gave the vet a nasty bite for trying to give him a bath (K and I don’t call him towel-ripper for nothing, he will not be bathed, thank you). Go Michael, go!

Gamera is such an awesome monster car; He pulled us through the drive fine. The midnight Christmas threshold passed with us on the road through the cold and dark night taking the easy-does-it route home. Still, harrowing such that bed never felt so good with a face full of pillow.

I wake up Christmas morning to find a fog has descended on the neighborhood. It’s likely the warmer air mixing in with the cooler air of the blizzard snow pack.  The activity of the automatons is subdued, as if this holiday season pushed people to the brink of exhaustion. The kids shriek as they rip and tear, but the snow surrounds their enthusiasm, keeping it secret and safe. Michael rests on his favorite towel, content to have comfort restored.

Time for coffee. Frankie guard-cat and I sit upstairs in the crow’s nest and gaze at the fog together.  My friend Alexi should be in Orlando by now, jumping into the fray with his hair shaved off and starting a new life adventure like a Juke Box Hero.

Another random encounter Xmas survived; Can’t complain.

Technically, it was short of the 35 MPH needed for the designation of blizzard. Heard official reports mentioning 17 inches, even though I was standing in snow up to my knees, measuring 23 inches. The communications console reported similar anecdotes across the local galactics.

The northern adventurers might as well scoff at us amateurs just below the mason-dixon line. I understand; got a few stories of wandering around at the snowblind levels fighting yetigers with a ski pole up in them thar latitudes. Everybody’s got it worse off somewhere. At least the snow up there forces the Kling-ons to use chains on their disruptors.

Spent long hours in the dark watching the snow fall, with Frankie perched beside me.  For the beings in the chill depths of nothingness, it’s like the rains coming in spring on the wild plains of Africa. The neurotic adaptations of the mindless and the artificial satisfactions of the consumed are swept away by a blinding flood, and the dazzling elemental currents of the unknown may dance in mystery–safe from unclean eyes and shriveled thinking.

The drifts rise high enough for strange things to paddle by, in direct proportion to the amount of effort needed by snivelized coat-and-boot astronauts to tread the snowfall. If two inches of water is dangerous, what might traverse two feet of accumulation? One must listen carefully, between the breaths of snowy quiet and the biting snap of winter wolf’s breath across your unprotected face.

I plunge forward into a drift, the dry crystals sticking to my face and blazing white hot. Brushing off the stinging nettles as they burn my face raw, the cold invades my cheap spacesuit like an inviting alien force. I lay back and let the flakes crackle against me like hundreds of tiny asteroids. A moment’s intention and I’m beamed aboard the honeycomb hideout, safe behind life support systems and hot cocoa immunizations.

Play until you’re tired and cold and dragging. This state of exhausted euphoria is one children are familiar with; Mine’s tempered with the seasoning of adaptation patterns. We forget the previous state, still living because we have a manual override.

A whispering cuts through the quiet cold, telling me I must be like a crocodile.  Silent, prowling, unseen, existing in the winter monsoon where another life force dwells. I see pictures and diagrams as if watching the unrolling from a long papyrus–see, it is like this; use internal strength like so, leap across hidden crevices and through dark corners untraveled like this.

Winter is here. I return to my human existence, welcomed by Frankie who insists on making the biscuits on my cold but warming form swathed in blankets. I’ll tell her all about it during my nap.  I watch the snow on my hanging clothes melt in the light of consciousness as K makes some cocoa.

The last lantern-bearer gone and passing into slumber to the sound of purring, the wintery wonders surge like a noiseless wave in the darkness of falling snow. The rains have come, the drought is ended.

That’s what my friend h-bomb said. I believe she is correct. It’s time to kick this series to the curb and look for the new life that will feed us.

K and I have been watching the original series and made a horrific discovery. The old series is out of print. What is being sold now is the old series with the special effects and opening music revised. Basically, all the special effects shots have been replaced by modern CGI scenes in an attempt, I suppose, to inject new life in the series. Talk about revisionist history!

Dude, the crappy special effects were part of the charm. This is just stupid. Things like the colorization of black and white film, or the re-release of the Star Wars trilogy aren’t audience-driven explorations.

All the coprorate (like my new spelling?) owners have done is made Star Trek more irrelevant. Face facts suits, this golden goose has been throttled to death, you ain’t getting squat anymore, no matter how you re-imagine this stuff.

Well, okay. A livejournal acquaintance (Tweedle Me Deedles!) once did a post about how simplistic and ridiculous the old Star Trek was and I didn’t want to believe him. He’s right though. This stuff just doesn’t hold up anymore, did it ever? It’s headed right for the dustbin of history as a fad. Hek, I’m wondering if Science Fiction itself isn’t headed the same way these days.

Even the reboot wasn’t anything new or different, just more of the same. When you start adjusting the show to try and maintain the interest, the process has entered a recycling sandpit. Each effort thereafter is going to be worse off than the one before. How many people do you know are talking about Star Trek and how “fresh” it is? For goodness sakes, there’s a reason why ideas die and are reborn in new forms. Get on with it already!

The youth aren’t getting drawn in either, they’ve already got their awesome cool dude stuff to hit up for tasty culture goodness AND they can hit it on the old school front as well. There’s no “drawing in a new generation” anymore. The kids are born with it all now.

The bad moments of behavior in Star Trek just seem to get worse as I get older. The solutions to the problems in consciousness just irk me at times, the course of thinking that are pursued. Of course, as a kid I didn’t notice these things quite so much (it was a different collective consciousness at that time). But now, ugh. The flaws just stand out like sore festering zits.

The evil bureaucracy of Star Trek is there right at the beginning. Something that shouldn’t exist at all if this is a “hopeful vision of the future”. The much-vaunted solving of poverty-disease-crime seems to me not a matter of the system now but a result of warp drive energy (dependent upon rare dilithium crystals, oh the resource wars never end). The citizens of the federation enjoy increased standards of living because of the abundance of energy, not because they have rights.

The settler colonialism expressed in “The Apple” episode, made me laugh out loud. Yes, let’s force our way of thinking on the natives because our way is better. It’s somewhere around this time that references start being made to a Prime Directive. Maybe the Prime Directive was coming into being as a means of justification, not unlike the Just War Theory bogeyman is used to excuse violence.

Watching the evil Kirk from “The Enemy Within” attack yeoman Rand in her quarters, followed by the awful post-assault counseling that McCoy gives (with Kirk present and demanding she explain herself!), made me cringe. This is the kind of care that exists in the future? Pathetic. Hard to watch.

The cheap jokes at Spock’s expense—mostly based upon the science officer’s physical characteristics. I mean, okay it’s close friends busting balls for comedy relief. But it still strikes me as unfunny and a bit too much of showing the reptile brain.

Not that the intention of the series creator doesn’t exert an influence. And it should be remembered that the network suits were interfering daily with attempts at making a moral statement. If you consider the times in which this TV show appeared, to even suggest that the crew have a female black officer or a Russian weapons officer was a ballsy move.

There are times when Star Trek does begin to reveal a vision that transcends it’s mediocre reality in-play. When the crew members pursue more compassionate lines of inquiry (trying to understand the Horta in “Devil In The Dark”, or use the translator in “Metamorphosis”) the narrative holds together more strongly. This is true exploration.

The show is not important because of what it depicts, but what it evokes—an imagination of a better future. The seeds of a future society taking root in the present, which for us is now in the past.

I will always love the original series, as broken and simple-minded as it appears now. However, the time has come to re-examine the show, break it into bits and cast it into the flames. We can do better, and we will do better if we try.

A five decade journey that was worthwhile, but now it’s time to dock and see what we’ve learned. There’s more to life than charting gaseous anomalies.

I’m unsure if I should open this canister of two-four-five trioxyn, as my comprehension is limited.  But over here at the Diamond Island conversations tend towards the rare and unusual, so what the Hek.

Scott McCloud talks about comics, but I believe his ideas are applicable to probably just about any art form.  In his book Making Comics, he speaks of four kinds of approaches to comic book creation, but just substitute any art form and you got the idea.

  • Classicists want to create art that displays a certain kind of technique worthy of being admired, as an image of what art should be.
  • Animists want to create art that tells a story and relates to the emotions of the audience.
  • Formalists want to create art that tests the boundaries of what an art form is capable of.
  • Iconoclasts want to create art that has integrity and honesty to an ideal, unbeholden to any mainstream influence.

This is useful in determining what your stance is when you write, or create art of any kind.  You might say it’s the purpose you are drawn towards.  All of them are worthy; although the various camps will claim theirs is the only kind that is true art.  Yet each has a purpose that supports and encourages the other (but don’t tell them that).

Moving on, in Chapter 7 of Understanding Comics Scott also brings up the six steps of art creation.

  • Step 6 (Surface): What you see at first glance.
  • Step 5 (Craft): The skill involved in making the art.
  • Step 4 (Structure): Understanding what goes where and why.
  • Step 3 (Idiom): Speaking the language of a particular flavor.
  • Step 2 (Form): The materialization itself—book, vase, speech, whatever.
  • Step 1 (Idea/Purpose): Why am I doing this?

Basically, you start at Step 6 when you admire and are inspired by a work of art to get involved.  Each stage requires you to pass several thresholds of challenge to progress. At the end, you choose whether to go to Step 2 (re-imagining the form itself) or Step 1 (exploring the ideas available for expression within).

It’s a little strange for me to even contemplate these paths, for they reveal a pattern to our thinking and feeling, our efforts to create art which are grounded in the fundamentals of brutal survival.  Sex, Danger, Play (Art) are as necessary as anything we do.  Going further down you get to things like breathing, making hormones and the like. Then it’s molecules and elements.

The one indispensable part (so far as we know with our nervous system) of the process is the connection between artist and audience.  This relies on the system that delivers the contact between the two, which needs effort to make it effective.

Throw in the formulations of audience expectation of GNS roleplaying game design theory and you have the reader (or whatever the audience is called) demanding fun in the form of their creative agenda:

  • Gamists who want to be challenged by systems that show who cuts the mustard.
  • Simulationists who want the right to dream in an authentic ‘as if’ situation.
  • Narrativists who want conflicts that resolve premise.

These match up with Scott’s ideas of art asserting our identities as individuals through exercise of our organs (gamist, or sports/mental games), the exploration of the world for useful knowledge (simulationist or discovery in language, science and philosophy), and outlets for mental imbalances aiding in survival (narrative, or self-expression through catharsis).

This is an extremely simplified view of GNS theory, but what I have found is it demands a retraining of the brain to expand one’s mind to the horizons available for meditation.  What you have, I believe, is a re-thinking not just of roleplaying games but recognition of the audience as participant, rather than a top-down gamemaster (or artist) responsible for everyone’s fun.

Take a step further in today’s digitized, mouse-driven age and you have the hierarchy of gamemasters telling people what to buy breaking up under a realization that everyone is both artist and audience, and capable of producing their own supply at will.

Demand is going to create supply, that is, people will create their own needs and fulfill them themselves without having to run the gauntlet of traditional gatekeepers, who dilute the message and inflate the price.

Or even demand that price exist at all.

In a free market, might not money be one of several other options (say, companionship and glory) as means of exchange?  Physical objects like books just become part of a series of modules (a way to make money on one end and a way to show allegiance on another).  Traditionals might have to content themselves with doling out prestige. If they’re lucky, that is—when one can count the number of followers they have does one even need a traditional stamp as a mark of “making it”?

This means the costs will have to go way down.  If someone can make a hit movie for ten thousand dollars, or a bestseller without the chain-gang, how will concentrations of power compete?  They’ll have to.
It can be done if they accept the reality of lower profits and less control—the alternative is extinction.  We are on the downslope of energy anyway, moving towards inner space and not outer space (it was a nice dream while it lasted).

“What about quality?!”  What about it? There’s no quality now, only your good and my bad.  Everyone is going to have to step on up and improve their game if they want to work on the delivery.  Contact is the only game in town now.  There’s no ‘elite’ telling you what works and what doesn’t.

Friends will guard you from crap.  Fans will make sure you don’t starve.  Both will “poopcan” (that is, work the dodgy parts out) your art for you if you are serious.  Just do the stuff.  Everybody’s on the same field and there’s no limit right now.  It’s a conversation; You talk, I talk.

The big question is, “what is your form about and what do audience members do?”

Fun.  NOW.

There’s more to the maiden-mother-crone triumvirate of female experience.  There’s actually a fourth stage of existence, just as there are four phases of the moon.  You know, that new moon thing, the dark of the moon, the hidden moon, the unknown where all is night and nothingness.

I went on about Fear of Icky Girl Power a while back, which was an attempt to make sense of the senseless.  You know, trying to understand the unknowable.  I’m talking about not the conscious, or the subconscious or the unconscious—all matters that can be conceptualized and grasped on some level.  But then there’s not just the infinite, but as a friend of mine once remarked, “the infinitely infinite”.

In practical terms we’re discussing the mer-she.  That woman which is completely veiled by the shimmering scales of the unknown and unknowable.  The other three forms of woman are veiled to various degrees but show some human side or character (crescent waxing, full, crescent waning).  Not so the dark of the moon.

This is some serious bad girl stuff we’re talkin’.  Associated with just about every bad thing you might imagine a woman capable of, because that’s all you can do—try to make associations.  There’s good reason to be afraid; not saying you should be unafraid.  But easy to project onto this unknown part of half the population, remain in ignorance, run and hide or try to overcompensate by subjugating and demeaning.

But all you’ll be doing is working out complexes on the other three parts of experience—half fears and mirages of the unconscious acted out by your own shadow, tortured by the rumblings of your fantasies at the back of your mind, or making stupid mistakes because you don’t have the waking tools to focus on day to day external reality.  The unknown?  Who knows?

It’s a futile absurdity, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t obligated to try.  The bad girl pushes us into trouble, and that’s just what she’s a gunna do.  So what if you can only guess, get hoofin’ it, sucker.

Difficult, because the numinous will materialize the unexpected for you.  Hostile rip apart of face and scarred for life, nothing at all but your friends laughing at you and your story of it—whatever it was, or Hek you might just wake up in the living room missing your coccyx.  What you thought you saw is also likely to disappear at your approach or never be found as be encountered.

You see a lot of movies based on encounters with this inexplicable experience.  The Fog (mist full of vengeful zombies), The Thing (extra-terrestrial shapechanger), Prince of Darkness (hostile liquid with psychic powers), Killdozer (machine animating space energy), Nightmare at 37,000 feet (psychic, freezing slime), Bug (swarms of fiery mutant roaches), The Giant Spider Invasion (swarms of inter-dimensional spiders), Return Of The Living Dead (hazardous animating chemical), and so on.

The plots all tend to center around identifying and neutralizing hostile forces previously unknown to our experience.  Maintenance of order through heroic action.  There is something to be said about extraordinary agency for the preservation of the community.  Stories that reinforce ideals of survival are useful.  They do protect the collective psyche from possession by outside forces.

However, it can also serve to repress and stifle creative energies that might be better served towards adaptation.  If you want to tap into survival talk to a bad girl.  But if you want to see what’s been saving our collective butts seek out the biggest baddest girl of all.

I’m talking about the bad girl as supernal super-predator.

  • Absorptive (Devouring)
    Whatever you’ve got, she can take it and you as well
  • Controlling (Possessive)
    She assumes command of anything she touches
  • Infectious (Unrestrained)
    She goes everywhere and anywhere
  • Exponential (Overbearing)
    Her influence grows in size with time
  • Tenacious (Stubborn)
    She never takes no as an answer
  • Disruptive (Difficult)
    She inspires fear and confusion wherever she appears
  • Collective (Conniving)
    She is many, she is one

With qualities like that, she doesn’t need much else, does she?  She knocks over tyrannosaurus rexes for lunch money and invalidates the insurance policies of entire communities on good days.  On bad hair days she threatens all life on the planet!

The typical story throws in a hero (usually male) who discovers another quality of the ultra-bad girl:  Invented Weakness (Labeling).  The plot very often revolves around identifying and exploiting the way of thinking that will diss-empower (I play with words) this ultra-bad girl.

In some cases this just brings everything to a draw until the next sequel (In The Blob she gets frozen until next time).  In others there is a defeat but the knowledge that it could happen again is in the background.  Sometimes the attempt to stop the spread of the ultra-bad girl’s power only delays the inevitable and she returns even stronger (Return of the Living Dead has this kind of doomsday ending).

It could be that nature requires physical laws be followed and thus game-balance be maintained, but I can’t help but feel this is a human conceit.  It’s in our interest to believe in ourselves as being special if it maintains survival.

I prefer to dispel that characteristic as illusion and suggest a possible other characteristic:  Enjoys The Hunt (Capricious).  We are never out of truth, and does not the bad girl hold a mirror up to ourselves? Girls just wanna have fun.

I wouldn’t consider the realities of these movies fun for the participants, but are they not shared imaginary spaces of a certain form, in which we invite the ultra-bad girl to come and play?  To demonstrate to us her amazing power and give us insights into some of our deepest, most terrifying curiousities?

Who wants to be one of her victims?  Would anyone possibly want to watch as she destroys all our feeble attempts at understanding, turning us into corpses at her command so that we might slay our loved ones?

Or rather, is there not something in all of us who finds that exciting and invigorating?  She knows about life, and will teach us if we listen.  Because remember, she lives out there beyond the unknown reaches of what can be conceived.  Coming into our field of experience to scare the Hek out of us and inspire new ways of consciousness.  Bad girl just wants us to come out and play—wanna get crushed, crumbled and chomped?

So hey!  All you women out there:  Become the bad girl you already are.

Even if it’s just throwing mushrooms in the soup because everyone but you hates them and pretending it was an accident if they even notice.

The supernal super-predator ultra-bad girl knows secrets.  She’ll tell you one if you let yourself listen.

The End?

The more I explore and attempt a systematized analysis of the bad girl, the more I realize this is a vast subject matter that defies explanation. I’m on her turf now, and I’m simply going to have to abandon a wholly reasoned perspective (though I will still make attempts at some constellation points).

One could say my even treading here is invoking certain tropes that keep getting repeated. Yeah, I see a lot of bones in the shadowy alleyways and misty marsh corners of bad girl outer boundary sector two-point-two.  Yet, I’m waving my candle around because even nice guys need to be bad boys sometimes, and bad girls know most all of the cool stuff.

You opened the door and extended an invitation, right?  Let the bad girl come in so she can speak and act to assert her vitality.  You’ve got stuff to identify that she can point out.  Stuff that haunts you that you fight:  “I should be angry but…” or “I want to own a horse again but…” or “I need to weep but…”—but but BUT.

Time to recognize this stuff and draw it into your own life because the bad girl is carrying a rejected element in you, for you.  Get ready to chat, cause there’s stuff you can do to get your bad back.

Subversion is her friend
Take a summary of an art form’s schools of thought (for example, genre) and see how it can be infiltrated and corrupted.  We can look at Shojo (Japanese comics for girls) and Shonen (Japanese comics for boys) manga, for example.

Typically, Shojo is composed of daily life from the perspective of the female experience.  A major theme encountered in stories is that of love set against narratives of self-realization.

Usually the stories are set against a backdrop of romance, fantastical worlds, or a typical everyday life situation (living in company housing, for example)—all worthy and good interests for creative enjoyment. Particularly noteworthy is the prevalence of Sentai, or teams of superpowered girls working together.

Shonen tend to cater to what are considered young male experiences—goofball humor, themes of loyalty, and explicit naughtiness.  These take place along backdrops of technology, sports, and heroic adventure.  The role of females in these stories tend to be single, pretty girls.

A bad girl isn’t giving up any of her privileges, but she will transpose as she feels like it.  Put the guys in stories demanding emotional complexity and relational intrigue.  Let the gals into the stories of exploring the unknown and conquering obstacles.  Transposing of the sexes is a common plot device in manga, by the way.

Bad girls with a crew of handsome male robots and gigantic spaceships with cool space gadgetry.  Bad girls playing contact sports in all their brutal, high-stakes action and behind-the-bench struggles for what it takes to be a winner.  Bad girls hunting down werewolves in eighteenth century splendor and rescuing clueless but basically good-hearted guys who need to be protected so they can continue to be single and handsome.

That’s a good start.  But it doesn’t have to be merely mutual transposing; it can be a direct beam-in where the default assumption becomes both genders on the field and the working out of those complications.

Bad girls AND guy space adventurers.  Bad girls AND guy sports-playing—against each other as rivals at times.  Bad girls AND guy hunters in the night saving both standard Joes and good girls from monsters.  Mix it up, stir the stew, do what’s fun…and bad.

Admiration for her bad qualities
Recognize and honor the bad girl for the qualities you like.  Contemplate the things that draw you to want to be like her, and the things that remind you of her influence.  Remember, she’s everywhere—the bad girl has been keeping storytellers in business for a long time.

I think of Maleficent the evil sorceress in Sleeping Beauty.  A withering wit, a spooky castle that reflects her own ghastly outlook (yet functional!), a horde of evil beings at her command, and deadly magic.  Competent, dangerous, fashionable, dramatic, exciting, and complicated—weary at being the only bad girl in the kingdom yet still able to crack a joke.

It’s fun to think of how much havoc she causes on the simpletons in the story.  Who probably wrote it to make her look bad.  Remember that the movie begins with the opening of a book; History is written by the victors (or the hopeful who cling to the folly that she won’t turn up again like the proverbial bad penny).

There’s Pippi Longstocking, who goes where she wants to go, does what she wants to do, and refuses to compromise her freedom.  Super strong, endlessly inventive, unabashedly contrary, afraid of nothing, and always ready with a prank for anyone who takes their authority too seriously.

Oh, to be a close friend of hers like Annika and Tommy!  To disdain all the rules and have unalloyed fun—to accompany a girl so alive and unstoppable as to be a force of nature.

On a less fantastical note, I think of Foxfire and The Devil Wears Prada. In both of these movies the good girl brings herself into the field of the bad girl and forms a mentor relationship with her. In Foxfire, Maddy learns about friendship, loyalty, and courage from the wandering loner girl Legs. In The Devil Wears Prada Andrea endures hardship and challenge under Miranda’s unremitting demands, and emerges tougher and more resourceful than before.

It should be noted that in these two movies, Maddy and Andrea both voluntarily depart their bad girl mentor and strike it out on their own. I imagine they create and shape a power for themselves, strengthened by their experiences. And I also imagine the effect they’ve had on their mentors, for in teaching one learns the last few clues one needs to advance to the next level of awesome.

Telling her story because you can
My grand and wonderfully creative friend Hexe knows a thing or two about bad girls. This last holiday I gave her an Edward Gorey calendar based on various neglected murderesses.

All this past year she’s been taking the murderess of the month and making an artistic creation out of each entry, based on imagining what the murderess’ side of the story might have been.  You could say she’s been studying her subjects and drawing out of them the bad girl for everyone to see and contemplate.

That’s right, every month is bad girl month!

This is a form of invocation—putting yourself at the disposal of the bad girl and giving her a voice.  Bad girls need to recognize each other and realize how much they have in common. Like it or not folks, there are things they can only get from each other.

Pick a form—writing, painting, music; whatever.  Choose a subject.  A particular bad girl or theme associated with bad girls you find interesting.  Dedicate it to your own bad girl and just see what happens.

You got all that?  Because now its time to meet the biggest baddest girl of all.

Reading some practical applications to the Bechdel Test at girlsreadcomics, it occurred to me there is a powerful, transformative scene when you have two bad girls together.  This is where using exercises to recognize patterns is useful.  But there’s another technique—meditations and visualizations which coax out feelings of immersion through mirrored identification.  You gotta have two bad girls.

I’m thinking of that scene from The Fisher King, where Anne and Lydia have a conversation about identity.  The two women share a few drinks together while Anne does Lydia’s nails.  The conversation culminates in this exchange:

Anne: You’re not so invisible. You want a personality? Try this on for size: you can be a real bitch sometimes.
Lydia: (cracks a smile and laughs a little) Really…?
Anne: (smiles) Yeah!
Lydia: (laughs) Wow!
Anne: I know, I know – it feels great!

It’s a moment of eureka for Lydia.  That’s the crux of it—finding the clue which opens up possibilities one is unaccustomed to expressing in one’s self.  Other people can hold up mirrors to us and share ideas we might not be able to obtain ourselves.  Two women sitting together sharing a pastime is a form of legitimate meditation.  It releases the mind so that you can enter a free-flowing state—out of which insights can spark and hopefully start a fire of inspiration burning.

I’m also thinking of the character of Storm from The Uncanny X-Men comic book.  There was a long storyline where she underwent an identity crisis and her powers started to slip from control.  She had been the gentle, life-giving weather goddess for a long time.  Her childhood roots as a thief on the streets of Cairo had become blocked off emotionally and left largely to stagnation.

This personal repression made sense because it was during these early years she developed her claustrophobia after being buried alive under rubble.  She survived by temporarily repressing a trauma.  But now it was coming back and she was getting wilder.  Her powers were truly like a storm untamed.

At one point, in order to save the X-Men she had to challenge the leader of their current foes to a knife-fight for dominance.  The panel where she stares hard, challenging the Morlock leader Callisto to a death-duel, despite suffering from exhaustion due to a super-power induced plague, still burns in my mind.  She returns to her roots, plays dirty, and kills the leader to the shocked looks of her team members.

Later, she runs into a woman mercenary named Yukio during an adventure in Japan (a friend of her teammate Wolverine).  Wild and untamed, Yukio regularly risks her life on unscheduled adventures for the thrill of being alive.  She invites Storm to come along for a night on the town.

For several days they push the envelope of physical danger.  Living only in the moment, delighting in physical prowess (and allowing her powers to roam free of having to “control” them for the team), Storm rediscovers joy.  She laughs out loud as she breaks through her wise, patient “nice girl” personality and finds she enjoys the taste of it.

Storm completes her transformation by openly embracing her bad side and changing her costume from an ultra-feminine, revealing outfit with a cape to a butch, punk-rock leather outfit complete with mohawk.  Stunning.  Her friend Kitty breaks down in tears and runs away, an image of Storm as “nice girl” shattered forever.  But as Storm says herself, “This is who I am.  I won’t hide it any longer.”  She would become the undisputed leader of the X-Men shortly afterward.

(Incidentally, Kitty would embrace her bad girl eventually as well, but that would be later.  Coincidentally, in Japan as well with Yukio making another appearance.)

The bad girl lives inside you gals right this moment, or maybe more properly she exists whether or not you recognize her life in you.  She isn’t going to be satisfied with being relegated to backstage; she’s going to pee in your soup as it passes from the kitchen to your refined restaurant table if you don’t watch out.

The question isn’t “Are you a bad girl?”  The question is “How are you a bad girl?”  She lives.

The next question is, “How are you honoring her?”  She has a right to be felt in your personal life and your work.

By asking these questions and answering them, you are granting her the right to existence.  You draw up a place where the two of you can meet each other halfway.

Because when two bad girls get together, stuff gets done.

While there has been some progress in the raising of racist and sexist issues in fiction, I believe we are still struggling to pull ourselves as writers out of the dark ages.  One has only to read minimized perspectives to realize the American fiction market still has work to do.

For comic books, the women in refrigerators syndrome has come to the forefront of some very interesting conversations.  I’ve followed it, mainly because I’m no longer interested in conventional stories.

I’d like to see rare and uncommon points of view get more play in the mainstream.  But this is difficult, because the system of manufacturing consent internalizes values in those who develop the privilege of being able to generate culture beyond a step 6 or 5 art line.

A while back, while examining the question of agency for women characters, I came across a checklist chart from heroplay.  You basically counted the number of situations a hero was helpless (in need of rescue), tortured, and turned evil/sexy for women and men characters in a story.  Are the characters struggling or helpless during the situation?  Defiant or frightened?

Techniques like these are useful for rationally examining what one-sided tropes of a story might be manifesting.  I’d like to see more tools like the Bechdel Test (not just for women but other under-represented groups) appear out there, so we can reflect on what we’re doing.

They aren’t foolproof systems of thought, just springboards for constelating coordinates.  A means of asking questions and identifying positions so that we might test them.  The point is to make more-informed decisions, not proscribe or enforce lines of thought.

So, Tribal Writer explores writing like a bad girl.  This is not an easy approach, as it’s not an either-or proposition.  Women have both qualities existing inside of them as if they were living characters themselves.  Allowing both a wholeness of expression is the moral problem.

Too much good girl and there’s no joy of life.  Too much bad girl and personal relationships disintegrate.  The key, I think, is to generate tools that give these qualities a means to exist free from repression—personal or societal.

I think of the good mother/bad ogress in Japanese culture.  The endlessly patient, yielding and long-suffering mother figure is serious business there.  Everyone else is subordinate to that, even father—who is often portrayed as an impotent buffoon.

But the ogress is always waiting to jump out, tenaciously strong and voraciously sexual.  The housewife manages the finances, goes on golf trips with her girlfriends, and makes arrangements for her husband’s mistress.  Both figures exist side by side without contradicting the other.  This is as natural as a mountain vista.

So, I’ve been contemplating another tool—a checklist of characters based not on situations but on qualities.  Specifically, how often do male and female characters in a story show:

  • Desire
    Actively pursuing the fulfillment of sexual appetites or ambitions?
  • Mobility
    Actively demonstrating a literate mind or a useful/practical/marketable skill?
  • Interiority
    Actively confronting authority or asking difficult/awkward questions?

How many predominantly unambitious, timid, unskilled male characters will one come up with?

Actually that sounds rather interesting to me.  But the point of this exercise is to examine your own fictional characters, or the characters of others.  With the hope one will gather clues and learn how best to construct characters for one’s own formula.

Because each of us has a magic potion we are formulating in our combination of technique, inspiration and meditation.

These movies are very likely moving out of the theaters as I type this, if not already moved aside for the next installment of inefficiency Hollywood propaganda.

The question that comes to mind for me is:  Which of these two movies is an accurate rendering of the apocalypse?

This Is It begins with an acknowledgment of Michael Jackson’s death.  We the audience enter this experience knowing the ending—that the man we are about to see is dead-man-walking.  He has passed on.  And yet, through the magic of the movie screen we get to see him in the days leading up to his end, rehearsing a mega-galactic show.  When we see him, he is alive, yet we know he is dead.  This is the condition of being a god—both alive and dead, in two places at once.

I suggested in a previous post that there was something of the vampire in MJ, and seeing him during the movie I cannot help but think how supernatural he looks.  How supernatural his interactions with the other dancers, musicians, choreographers, and so on are.  One thing for sure is that MJ has total mastery over his music, his moves, and the presentation of both.  It is a supernatural experience, if you forget that he is mortal, as the movie has already stated.

What I enjoyed most about this movie is how we catch a glimpse of the show as it might have been, and how the creative process occurs as the participants work out the kinks.  It’s two shows in one.  Very much like life, because it is life and we know there is death because the endgame is in front of us.

It’s a glorious spectacle to behold, and yet the imperfection of the show as MJ tries to perfect it brings a human, individualized quality to it.  At the end, the film freezes to announce him as the King of Pop.  The show is ended, a life is ended, the movie is over.

Meanwhile, 2012 slakes our thirst for everyone to perish at the hands of impersonal forces.  You have the inviolable average white family struggling against the challenge of doomsday, with father doing most of the work and ensuring everyone stays together, everyone survives, and all interlopers are removed.

The doomsday special effects are everything one might hope, with entire buildings collapsing as thousands fall screaming into the black pit of destruction.  It’s been done before, in the first superman movie.  The death of Krypton is at least honest as it sets up a story situation.

In 2012 you get to watch billions die, the rich ensure their survival, and lip-service get paid to human values—allowing a few laborers to live long enough to become the next generation of slaves. How exciting!

Fear not, all will proceed as it has always done, with nothing changed in the fundamental social class of things or how decisions are made for the human race.  Even better, the predominantly white survivors get to settle in the new Africa and say they are where the human race began after the flood.  How convenient!

The movie truly ends about two-thirds of the way in, when the protagonists reach the islands of Hawaii, which have burst into flames.  It’s a genuinely sober moment in the story, when one realizes luck or skill or preparation will only get you do far–a message the rich would do well to contemplate.  They won’t—paying the Mammon dues will ensure their survival, right?  Nope.  End of line, program.  All fall down.

The movie ceases to be interesting after that and we focus on the passing on of life all doomsday movies are required to depict.  Don’t worry, it’ll all come out in the wash.  Give the audience enough special effects to slake their thirst for blood and a salve to their misery, but then bring them back from actually reflecting on their own clocks ticking.

The devil loves the old standby of “tell them there’s no hurry.”  Paid for itself all the way back to the beginning.

But with This Is It, the endgame is irrevocable.  Life does not continue on.  No ark of any kind, metaphorically or medically, is letting MJ perform a single show he rehearsed.  What we see is all we get.  When the end comes, that’s it.  Your number is up, no matter how frighteningly genius you are.

I watched This Is It and I felt whole, as if a truth had been spoken.  Yes, I’m seeing an edited program which excludes anything which might be construed as negative.  Yet I still found a sublime peace and sorrow at the same time.  All of us are headed into the last curtain call, no exceptions.

I watched 2012 and enjoyed the special effects.  Woody Harrelson stole the show as a crazy apocalypse nut.  But the story was all so phony.  Propaganda reassuring the owned that all will be well in a catastrophe.  It says more about the fears of the rich than it does about what the end of life on earth might be like.  The movie fosters a profoundly bleak, one-sided view of human beings.  At the end we’re right back where we started—get back to work, drones.

But MJ, standing alone against the actual, physical bulldozer coming out of the trapdoor on stage.  Trying to stop what in all reality is probably too late to change.  It’s complete farce.  Yet in that moment of the fool’s end I understood the fans, I saw the other side.  He’s gone, and I’m still alive—but even in the heartless heart of a vampire I see the good.

That’s what is known as sublime.