Scolding the Stars

Watched the Shame-fest known as the 88th Academy Awards last night. The president of the Motion Picture Academy wanted to have a conversation on diversity, and man-o-man those white folk got a talking to. It was like listening to an evening, and granted it was funny at times, of someone scolding the cool kids. I could nearly feel a stiffening in the audience when an African American commentator would speak about “getting the opportunity to compete for parts”, but at the end, when they showed all those white faces looming down from the rafters as nominees for Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, etc it was absolutely creepy. I felt I was watching footage from a GOP convention. As creepy as it was, it was a breath of fresh air compared to that Hollywood self-congratulatory, slap on the back attitude which ushered in “Argo” a few years back.

As uncomfortable as it might have been for all concerned (I thought Daisy Ridley was going to be sick- did her co-star John Boyega refuse to cooperate with the Hollywood power-brokers?), I think it was an excellent reminder of privilege, who benefits from the system of privilege, and who gets to have their stories told.

So yeah Hollywood, you ain’t all that. Clean up your own house, and take a long look at that Man in the Mirror.

For more on the function of shame, see my husband’s latest blog here and learn what a branks is.


Taking on the Heat

“For individuals, creating the kind of organizations Whyte calls for would mean giving up some of the security we cling to in our traditional organizations (a security that is increasingly illusory, anyway). It would mean giving up our reliance on ‘leaders’ as ‘heroes’ who will save us or spare us the trouble of facing uncertainty. It would mean opening up ourselves and our organizations to the shocks, griefs, confusions, and mysteries that befall us by directly engaging the ethical, moral, and spiritual dilemmas of our activities. It would mean explicitly working with the tensions of diversity and divergencies in points of view that are an inevitable part of collective activity but are now routinely turned into mere power struggles and the uneasy truces of compromise. In other words, it would mean being able to take the heat of creative chaos.”

-from Seven Life Lessons of Chaos: Spiritual Wisdom from the Science of Change by John Briggs and R. David Peat, pp 73-74


Change over day at the art league. The theme for this month is “Garden Party” and it is a judged show for Traditional Landscape. My first thought was to submit my painting “Hey! Athena!”, but I thought it over and wimped out.

Hey! Athena!                              oil and cold wax                          11 x 14

Why so wimpy? Because at a watercolor demonstration on the week-end, one artist brought up the topic of “acceptable nudes”. It was a semi-lively discussion, every one asserting that they were open-minded enough for a female nude (didn’t get into the open-mindedness of a full frontal male nude!). Even though everyone was saying how they “didn’t mind nudes”, to my recollection, I have never seen a nude painting displayed at the art league in the past two years. Although you might argue that a female nude is a traditional landscape (how many times has the nude female form been painted?), I wimped out and submitted my summer backyard instead.

summer lawn
Backyard  Garden                        oil                                     9 x 12

Ah! The power of self-censorship!

Urban Thumb Legends

Preface:  My oldest son is learning to drive from a driving school billed as ‘training the safest drivers’. In practical terms, this means that when my son isn’t behind the wheel, he is criticizing everything I do particularly if it is at variance with his classroom teachings.

Son: Amma, your hands are in the wrong position on the steering wheel. Your thumbs are pointing into the wheel.

Amma: Yeah right, hands at 10 o’clock, 2 o’clock. What’s this about my thumbs?

Son: Your thumbs are facing inwards.

Amma: Where should they be?

Son: On the sides.

Amma: You mean sticking out?

Son: No, here (places thumbs on the steering wheel.)

Amma: Why can’t my thumbs be facing inwards?

Son: Because of the airbags.

Amma: Airbags? They didn’t have airbags in cars when I learned to drive. In fact, the first car I drove, my mother’s stick-shift 1962 VW beetle, didn’t even have seat belts!

Son: Ok Mom. Nowadays in the 21st century all cars have air bags.

Amma: So what is this airbag supposed to do to my thumbs if they are in the wrong place?

Son: The airbag will rip your thumbs right off.

Amma (laughing): You mean, there will be a car accident and the police are going to have to run around searching for my thumbs that came off?

Son (serious): Yes. But fortunately, the thumbs can be sewn on again. I don’t see why you are laughing at this.

Amma (Imagining scores of people with thumbs scars from where their thumbs were re-attached. Is their texting impaired?): I think in driving school they tell you a lot of urban legends to scare you into being good drivers.

Son: But it’s true!

Amma (considering the value of having a good teenage driver, even if he is scared out of his wits because you know how important texting is to them): Well, I suppose I am laughing because it is just so macabre.

Son: (triumphantly) That’s how I can tell you are married to a German.


The Billboard that Made Me Sob

I was driving along a stretch of Roosevelt Street I rarely go to, but it was a necessary route on my mission to obtain Blue Ribbon paan masala (no betel nut) from an obscure international market. As I turned the car homewards, I was stopped at an intersection and noticed the large billboard to my right. In large letters it read, “Happy Anniversary to Deborah, my beautiful bride of 35 years!”. In the corner of the billboard was a tall man in a brown tuxedo, dark hair, long sideburns and a handlebar moustache. In front of him was a young woman wearing a bridal veil, a granny style wedding gown, her face glowing with happiness. It was a beautiful photo, taken straight from the 70s. And I thought to myself, “There is no way they look that good now, but that is how he still sees her.” At this point, the waterworks started.

I was reminded of a passage from Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking:

“… ‘you can love more than one person.’ Of course you can, but marriage is something different. Marriage is memory, marriage is time. ‘She didn’t know the songs,’ I recall being told that a friend of friend had said after an attempt to repeat the experience. Marriage is not only time: it is also, paradoxically, the denial of time. For forty years I saw myself through John’s eyes. I did not age. This year for the first time since I was twenty-nine I saw myself through the eyes of others. This year for the first time since I was twenty-nine I realized that my image of myself was of someone significantly younger.” p. 197

The Tattoo’s Broken Promise

“What he really means to say-how can he explain it? The rest of your life, Tanya, is a hell of a lot longer than you think it will be. And you’ll grow tired of everything. Your own face in the mirror. The sound of your own voice. And that’s when you’ll start regretting that tattoo. Not because you see it every day. But because you don’t even notice it anymore. Because you thought it would last forever, and remind you of something forever. And it doesn’t.”

-from the story “Phantom Pain” in Lydia Peelle’s Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing

Branch of Damocles

The wind storm was so fierce yesterday that it snapped a branch right off the tree in my front yard. Instead of falling to the ground, the branch was wedged into the other branches of the tree.


It will fall one down one of these days, I’m guessing during particularly fierce summer thunderstorm. Until then, the perilous branch hangs overhead.

Rear Window

A non-representational painting (i.e. abstract) of the famous Alfred Hitchcock movie.

Rear Window                              fluid acrylic                      20 x 24 in

Not seeing it? I understand.

Mary in my art class first saw the window (focus on the dark blue lines).

Then Stephanie saw a face in the upper right corner.  Seeing it yet?

And the movie is about a murder, red fits that theme.

Rear Window.

Excellence in Repetition

From Jo Nesbᴓ’s Midnight Sun:

“Did he? He beat Futabayama?”

“Oh, yes. Toyed with him. He just had to learn a few things first. Such as how to lose.”

Knut sat up. He squinted at me. “Does losing make you better, Ulf?”

I nodded slowly. I saw that Lea was paying attention, too. “You get better”—I squashed a midge that had landed on my arm—“at losing.”

“Better at losing? Is there any point in being good at that?”

“Life is mostly about trying things you can’t do,” I said. “you end up losing more often that you win. Even Futabayama kept on losing before he started to win. And it’s important to be good at something you’re going to do more often, isn’t it?”

“I suppose so.” He thought about it. “But what does being good at losing actually mean?”

I met Lea’s gaze over the boy’s shoulder. “Daring to lose again,” I said.