Monday, February 27, 2006

From Jesus to Tampax to k.d. lang

Tomorrow we move apartments. Away from Raz (whose legally changed name is: Rastafarian Jesus) and his snoring directly upstairs (he has been a very good, sweet and slightly creepy neighbour including offering to loaning us his lesbian sex DVD’s and sharing his belief that all gay men secretly want his body and are lying in wait). Tomorrow we are moving to a two-bedroom where I get my very own study/library/workroom to fill with books and a small fridge full of Coca-Cola and red liquorice. There I will blog and write my slightly demoralizing yet compelling fiction. But first I have to move.

Right now I am packing up the bathroom which is a lot more interesting than I hoped. What I wanted to find were all the drugs that Linda has hidden to stop me from trying to overdose myself into in a coma. Instead I have found enough sanitary products for an army of Amazons. Since Linda gets very absent minded I tend to put “emergency” sanitary stashes here and there but it seems Linda has as well, either that or we got drunk and spent an entire evening repeatedly buying Tampax and Always (are 5 jumbo packs enough? Apparently not).

Other interesting bathroom things found and accumulated in the four weeks we've been here: a tube of glass wipe cleaners, a packet of ankle socks (Does Linda remember buying this?), three tubes of toothpaste, four types of Christian Dior lip-gloss and in the very back of the cupboard a book on different types of hair braids. Since we believe in the “blow dry the front and always face forward” type of sloth hair-styling behavior this book seems particularly ambitious.

I wonder if it would be a good “date night” to have a “Sleepover Sunday” where we wear our PJ’s, eat ice-cream and waffles, watch 80’s movies and braid each other’s hair? Are there good dyke braids? Did k.d. lang ever braid?

And yes, I am procrastinating.

Trafficking in human babies and eggs….hmmmmm

Last night, while working on how to attack the editing of my new book (Which for today is titled “Control Group," the 6th or 7th working title) I read in the Economist about a book on the fertility trade called Baby Business. It talked about how Guatemala currently makes about 50 million dollars a year in exporting babies. But also how top quality eggs cost about $50,000.

So this morning I have decided that I must know a) how early can you harvest a girl’s eggs and b) how long under current technology would they be viable. Or specifically, could a psycho mom harvest her daughter’s eggs without consent and keep them until she deems the daughter to be “suitable”? And how do I phrase that when calling up a scientist?

Thanks to Google, I have read so much about fertility treatments, including the suctioning out of eggs during harvesting that I have become slightly queasy (I maintain there are some places needles should never go). Still nothing to be found on egg storage.

Just a note for those thinking of career options, according to Baby Business surrogating can get you an average of $59,000 a baby (remember: not per year, per baby!).

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Yuri, girl/girl love, lesbian anime: different names but same candy

In what time I have between putting ointment on my epee bruises and finding money to buy more manga I have been watching Yuri themed anime; specifically Kannaduki no Miko.

The problem with girl/girl love anime is being left wondering how subtle it is going to be; often you can wait four or five episodes before a hint of smoldering glances. Luckily 45 seconds into this show our heroine, Himeko, trips on the stairs and is embraced into the bosom of the elite, aloof and universally desired princess of the school, Chikane. And before you can say "young love destroying American values” the two girls are at a private lunch planning a special intimate birthday party between them on the morrow.

But wait, this is Japanese anime. Enter an ancient curse, a childhood lad named Souma who also wants Himeko’s heart and 7 evil characters all with big giant mecha robots.

So on the side of the screen we have Chikane riding a horse bareback through the town to rescue Himeko and in the foreground we have guys screaming things like “SPIRIT FIREBALL” in Japanese while fighting with giant robots.

So far I have to believe that there is some sort of tongue planted in cheek. Particularly as the music swells while Souma is inside his Robot screaming inarticulately because someone dared to touch his precious Chikane in an over-the-top boys, their toys and their obsessive crushes theme: all the while Himeko and Chikane are giving each other full lip-to-lip lock “birthday presents.”

But wait, that’s not all. By episode two the constant rescuing of Himeko by Souma is wearing on lovely Chikane. I see the foreshadowing of another cliché/parody: the possessive, spurned and thus evil lesbian. But until then, I plan on reveling in every tender shared moment, shower scene and heartfelt talk between Himeko and Chikane while Souma continues to shout power phrases and play with his

Friday, February 24, 2006

Straight men & lesbians? What's going on?

What is the length of time between my moving to a new location and getting asked by a straight guy for a threesome? Less than a month.

Today, Dan, our neighborhood's somewhat-transient artist saw me coming and stole a flower from an old folks home to give to me, “and that other cool lady you live with.” Last time we talked Dan was making the moves how I was so cool that he would love to be with such a beauty like me. I set him straight on how I was with Linda and had been for a LONG TIME.

Dan really wanted to talk about something he “had been thinking about” and “wants to put out there in the universe for you to consider, you and your lady.” What is it he wants to talk about? About “the two of you kidnapping me and showing me the world’” (not so much interested in travel, if you get it, snicker, snicker). Yes, Dan, I get that you would love to have sex with the two of us together. Maybe we can show you that wild lesbian sex you have obviously seen in your straight male porn videos. He ends by telling me that a) it is kinda a joke and b) but one that he is “serious about.”

Could there be any reasons for lesbian couples to stay together other than to service horny guys? Gee I’ll have to get back to you on that one...

I fence epee, yes I do; can you?

Three weeks ago I started fencing again after a four year hiatus. I finally live somewhere with a fencing club. But not just any club; a high powered club taught by Mr. Ho which includes: the current female foil national champion, a contender female epee national champion as well as several junior competitors and the veteran competitor Veronica (Mr. Ho’s wife).

Over the last few years I have desperately wanted to compete in women’s saber. I even took a year of saber in the UK and it was great; violent and only fighting men, but great.

When I came into Victoria’s fencing club Mr. Ho asked me, what have you fenced? I said saber. He grunted in disapproval, looked me over and said: "You take epee. You know epee comes from dueling when people would run to a fencing master. And they would say, ‘I have never fenced and tomorrow I have a duel, what should I do?’ Master says: close your eyes and point at chest. You do epee"

Wow, nice pep talk. He did say later that I could open my eyes if I wanted.

Epee is like foil except....there are no rules and you can hit ANYWHERE - the head, the toe, the groin, anywhere. Nothing matters except hitting the other person before they hit you. If you both hit each other within 1/25th of a second both hits count.

After the first day I was so sore I couldn’t sleep or raise my sword arm above my head. The first day I met and fought William (or Bloody William as his first words were, “I’ve broken 6 foils this year” and he seems to continuously bleed somewhere, often into his mouth. He is 16 and seems to think this is normal). I also met Gerald, a 40 something who started epee a year and a half ago.

They wear double thick pants. I wear cool, trendy and paper thin hip-hugging joggers. Then they started hitting my leg at high speed with a epee foil (Remember the getting hit anywhere?). Now ½ of my body is covered with black, green, yellow and deep ochre bruises.

I am finally starting to get the hang of it and figure: "If I am forced to fence epee then I guess I should start getting serious about epee." So I fence on Mondays and Fridays for three hours. But no one will give me lessons because only Mr. Ho gives epee lessons. And Mr. Ho only trains the top competitors. Still, after asking a few times for lessons, he will now come up behind me while I am in a match and have been fencing for 2.5 hours and start shouting at me what I am doing wrong. He says stuff like, “No no, stop moving your arm and hit him.” or, “Don’t be so stupid.” or just, “No!” with a head shake. I am not sure how much this improves my epee but it has made me stop asking for lessons.

I am determined to practice at home and make my form good enough to take on Amanda (the top epeeist in the club and perhaps the country). On Monday she totally wiped the floor with me in the last bout of the night with Mr. Ho watching - 10-1. Oh well, defeat only makes me sadder.....Uh, I mean stronger!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Canada won't let me have Mace but Zed sells anyway! tracks every book in collective rankings. I was at 45,000 in the rankings four weeks ago (hey not everyone starts a bestseller) due to a positive review in the Globe and Mail (“This is a novel for all innocent victims; especially children, though they shouldn't be left alone with it."). Every day I didn’t sell a book it dropped another 2,000-3,000 ranks. After it hit 88,000 in sales ranks I gave up watching.

Today I went to check on how Zed was doing (it’s a bit like picking a scab), and wow; I’m at 18,000! Someone out there actually bought my book; several someones. Thank you, thank you. You won’t regret it; you may get nightmares and never trust another human again but hey; my father called that growing up when he handed me my first can of Mace.

Rom Com's, Yuri Music Videos and Lesbian Vampires

I have a touch of a cold, probably all these New World bugs re-infecting my body. That’s why yesterday I curled up in front of the computer and watched music video’s from different Yuri anime. When I'm sick and reading gets too hard, there is nothing like bite-sized lesbian anime soap operas set to music. They are free to download and I recommend Card Captor Sakura set to “Oops, I did it again.” and Read or Die OVA set to “Elysium” (Steel Angel set to “Sugar Sugar” is pretty funny too).

Yes, I know it is optimistic of me to think that everyone in the world makes the same “ooh’s” and “Aren’t they a cute couple.” that I do. Or even gets teary eyed while watching a Read or Die video. But why not? They ARE a cute couple (I’m the book-obsessed one and Linda can be the action figure in tight leather). While I can occasionally recognize that most women who watch Romantic-Comedies deep down aren’t saying, “Dump the guy and find a good girl.”, I still don’t understand it. Were that it was a choice, so that more women could be happy.

Even my mom likes hanging around lesbians. We’re cool now, and not just vampires.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Manga sharing and swapping is disease free!

There is no better way to waste a Sunday morning than reading manga (Yes God? What’s that? You like manga too? Better than church? Right on!). A lazy Sunday morning and while Linda reads romances I read Tokyopop.

Ten years ago I was looking for the perfect mix of visual and written storytelling. Reading Frank Miller’s Batman and Art Spiegelman’s Maus, I believed that graphic novels could be both art and literature. At the time, I was using graphic novels to help 18 year old high school students who could barely read overcome their fear of books. But after a lot of searching, I ended up fairly disappointed with the comic format; too much superhero action, not enough angst.

Sometime in the last few years, manga seduced me, with its frequent and popular youth/identity/ outsider/forbidden-love themes blending the best of art and storytelling. Now, with a new crop of North American artists, the best of social taboos, North American culture and sick humor can finally meet: just read I luv Halloween if you don’t believe me.

This morning I read Off Beat, a North American story about Tory, a 15 year old genius who is either investigating/stalking or falling in love with Colin, the mysterious boy from across the street. Did I like it? Well, I got that same feeling of wondrous delight I used to get reading Ray Bradbury stories.

But Beth, isn’t manga the Japanese invasion of mind wasting, no-attention span, addictive brain-heroin for today’s youth to drain away their creativity and initiative? If so, hook up a big IV of it into me cause I can’t live without a bit of yaoi or yuri to my week.

Last night Linda and I had a little party for the people in my fencing club. Michelle, a 16 year old 7-dayer (those lucky/talented fencers who fence 7 days a week, get special lessons and go to competitions) turned out to be a total manga addict (though a bit more into goth/sword stuff than me). She came with her boyfriend and her mom. Turns out her mom has to read the mangas before Michelle is allowed to buy them. They saw what few Mangas I had aquired after three weeks (36-40) and wanted to know, “What type of Manga do you read?” – uhhhh, have you ever heard of boy/boy, girl/girl love?

In the light of morning, I am beginning to wonder if her mother didn’t come over to make sure I was the “right” type of influence.

I gave Michelle Steady Beat to read during the party, which is another North American manga about a younger sister, Leah who finds a love letter addressed to her sister signed “Jessica.” It is a great and funny read about finding out why it does and also doesn’t matter if your family members are gay, and what does normal mean anyway. Where was this when I was growing up? Maybe a manga collection earlier in life could have clued me in on why my brother had the complete Barbara Streisand collection, loved show tunes and carried a blow dryer and curling iron to school to primp his hair (of course this was the 80’s, that magical time when people thought Boy George was “just a bit eccentric”).

Michelle loved Steady Beat so I am tempted to loan her Off Beat, ID_Entity, and Hands Off except that they all have gay/bi/trans/cross-dressing themes. Have I officially become a “bad influence?" Am I that predatory lesbian who is showing youths the delights of an “alternative lifestyle” while on the school trip? Oh, I really hope so.

I think normality is a bit like the prairies. While I am glad there are people who live there, and love the weather, the bugs and the eternal skyline – I am also really, really glad that I’m not one of them. People need to live in the prairies, but not me. People need to be socially acceptable. I’m probably not, but I am very glad I don’t have to try to pretend that I am.

Last night, when they were admiring my Revolutionary Girl Utena manga about fencing Veronica, Mr. Ho’s wife (Mr. Ho is the fencing master, Veronica goes to all sorts of Veteran Fencing events; like last week’s “Duel in the Desert” at Las Vegas where you fight for $1,000 in betting chips) asked me, “How do you find these things?”

I just do. “You ever need to find an obscure lesbian film, book or manga,” I told her, “just let me know.”

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Where are the Indi IMAX films, the Zombie IMAX films?

While I started this blog because, for the first time in a long time, I “have a life.”; these last few days, I have been suffering too much “life” (like getting a new apartment and my partner getting a new job within 36 hours and 17 phone calls) to have time to blog. John Creasey apparently wrote an entire book during a tennis weekend with friends (he wrote over 500 books in his lifetime - I've written 5). As I am not likely to match John Creasey, I can hope he either didn’t have serious relationships or much of a personality.

Today I was taken to Victoria IMAX to be given a yearly pass. I tend to read books, write books, or live in my head in order to escape the drudgery of existence on “Prison Earth.” Therefore, I’m usually adverse to watching what I avoid day to day projected on a screen four stories tall. But my partner, Linda, likes IMAX. And I like Linda.

I loathe educational programs. I prefer to be educated with text and receive my mind-numbing entertainment in widescreen and superduper surround sound, not vice versa. So at Victoria IMAX, I asked the first Imax representative if they were planning on showing any of the full length feature films on IMAX (like has been done with Star Wars). No, she told me, Vancouver shows those films (this was told in the way a sommelier would refer to the double-jug of wine drunk sans glass in your lawn chair atop your trailer-home) but that THIS IMAX only shows National Geographic Films.

In that case, I asked, were there any National Geographic films which were made for complete enjoyment and contained no educational or redeeming value whatsoever?

“No, we don’t show IMAX films like that.”

Going to be a long year.

I asked the next IMAX representative, the person taking my picture for the year pass, if there are any National Geographic Imax films with capricious violence? Anything named “Death in the Desert” or “Savage Blood II”, or even something with mindless populous or gratuitous appeal? No. Not yet. Not now, and probably not ever.

They did point me to their wild side which was a 14 year old Rolling Stones IMAX feature. But, I was told, that is the one picture which is excluded by my pass. Oh really? The only one excluded? And was there some sort of morality/education clause on my pass? Would I be excluded from every popular or escapist IMAX film?

The representative sat frozen as Linda came up and pulled on my arm to let me know I was scaring the staff.

I think we will go see the IMAX film on horses next week. I expect it will be very informative.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The book infesting my brain today

I have been reading Fernando Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet in small doses. It is a fictional narrative diary of Bernardo Soares, an assistant bookkeeper’s reflection of the distance between his soul’s feelings and his life.

"I reject life because it is a prison sentence, I reject dreams as being a vulgar form of escape. Yet I live the most sordid and ordinary of real lives and the most intense and constant of dream lives. I’m like a slave who gets drunk during his rest hour – two miseries inhabiting one body. (Pessoa, 15)"

This book is a selected compilation from a trunk of 25,000 items of letters, notes, poems and journals found after Pessoa’s death. The book was written from 1912 to his death in 1935; written in notebooks, scraps of paper, and undated typed sheets of paper. It was not until 1982 that it was finally published and not until 1991 when it appeared in English.

I found the book by accidental design while researching my new novel. When I plot or write a new book I try reading books that knock my brain off balance; to put on skins I am uncomfortable wearing. I went back to Institute Benjamenta by Robert Walser which I had read while writing Zed. It turns it was not a solitary odd and disturbing book, but that the independent publisher Serpent’s Tail put out a entire series of disturbing books called The Extraordinary Classics. In the series, each book represents one letter in the word Extraordinary. There is no complete list of the books, nor any indication the series didn’t abruptly end at R or D. I ordered what I could find (including Artemisia by Anna Banti).

The Book of Disquiet discomforts by its familiarity. It is revelation that a lost and sensitive dreamer who fights to be heard among the urban apathy and the blanketing mundane is both an individual and a constant. And yet, to find that others live, struggle and wither without ever finding a comparable soul isn’t the greatest encouragement to a struggling writer.

"It is not tedium that one feels. It is not grief. It is the desire to go to sleep clothed in a different personality, to forget, dulled by an increase in salary. You feel nothing except the mechanical rise and fall of your legs and they walk involuntarily forwards on feet conscious of the shoes they’re wearing. Perhaps you don’t even feel that much….

At the end of this day there remains what remained yesterday and what will remain tomorrow; the insatiable, unquantifiable longing to be both the same and other. (Pessa, 25)"

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Self Promotion.....glad that's over with.

By the by this blog is “supposed” to promote myself as a functional Canadian writer through the ongoing publication of the book Zed in different countries. This was suggested by the Editor, Shyla, and the Guru-in-Charge, Brian, of my publisher Arsenal Press over coffee in November 2005.

First they suggested that I join a local writers' group for connections. That made me laugh. Writers' groups and I are like adding a bucketful of scorpions to a greased log contest. Well except for one woman from this writers' group in Wales. She had done her dissertation on self-mutilation. That and her red kinked hair left me lusting after her intellect.

So Shyla suggested a blog.

I pointed out that to make a blog successful a person needs to actually do something. And since for the last 6 months all I did was stay home and sell everything I could on ebay for 12 hours a day to finance our move from the UK to Canada, I was not a blog candidate.

But now I have moved to Canada. And while I am financially struggling, I do other things than sell on ebay; I even interact with assorted Canadians (and Americans). This makes me an adequate candidate for a blog.

But I won’t be blogging about Zed. I would, except that when you have your first book published, unless it is published by Random House or ends up on Oprah, things move at a sedate speed (similar to glaciers). So this blog will be 90% about me and 10% about my novel Zed (published) and two other novels (still unpublished).

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Song for the day

My music tastes are pretty eclectic as I tend to only like songs instead of singers and when I do find a group I like, they almost immediately disappear, never to be seen again. I am fairly persistent in trying and finding music new to me. If I listen to a song more than once it either means the song is fantastic, critics be damned, or the song reflects my mood/moods.

Today I have listened six times to Tom Waits’ song Flash Pan Hunter from his collaboration with William S. Burroughs for Black Rider.

I guess the playing of the saw is an obsession with me. I play the double bass. Thanks to Mary Conliff of the Welsh National Opera who taught me how to make many funky bass sounds I have played almost every part of the bass in various art and poetry event accompaniment (yes, even the wooden sides). I however have never found anyone to teach me how to bow the long saw (yes, that thing that you cut trees down with). I once saw a guy playing the saw in Bath, UK but didn’t want to interrupt his performance and when I returned he was gone. I am also a very big fan of screaming/moaning out overwhelming emotions. And here, in one song, we have these two rather unusual musical aspects combined. (though there is also some nice howling in Crossroads also in the Black Rider CD)

Not going for Bronze Part I

In the December 2005 Economist an article talked about a view within the international community about Canada; that even when things go well or very well Canadians don't tend to have the desire or push to take things further, called "Going for Bronze". I am a Canadian, I love being a Canadian and no offence but, Screw Bronze! Of course, I tend to think that there is a higher personal standard than Gold ("What I didn't get the world record too?").