Thursday, September 28, 2006

Beth gets boo-boo, but is too embarrassed to go to hospital

I had planned some long blogging posts but on Tuesday night, I went fencing, I did my training with Mr. Ho and then trained some more. Instead of deciding that having an arm shaking so badly I couldn't hold a blade steady was a sign of over exhausted muscles and should indicate I might want to STOP, I thought it would be an interesting time to find out how much more I could fence. Beth, as it turns out, contains no bionic parts, nor has special glowing powers that enable her to fight endlessly. Also, I found that “pushing yourself to the breaking point” isn’t necessarily a metaphor as after another 40 minutes of fencing an unbelievably painful ripping sensation behind my right shoulder blade caused me to drop my sword.

Of course, being me, I decided that I would only now fence only ONE MORE BOUT before stopping. Because, hey, how often am I going to find out how well I can fencing once I have severly pulled and damaged some shoulder muscles. I really hope you aren’t getting that slightly sick and horrified look on your face both William and my father did when I tried to explain the reasons I kept fencing. Anyway, so you don’t have to replicate the experience, you CAN continue to hold a sword if you brace your elbow against your body so the weight doesn’t travel up to the shoulder. But, your chances of getting another point are about as good as an 8 year olds as while you MIGHT be able to extend your arm, having anyone hit your sword laterally will likely cause it to fall out of your hand while you try to stop from screaming.

So, by Tuesday night I had lost function of most of my upper right side including my arm, plus it had swollen alarmingly. Thanks to Codine, opiates and few other pharmaceutical friends as well as lots of bed rest, and my super-human recuperative powers I can use my right arm again (sparingly). I AM planning on going fencing on Friday night, assuming I can tape a sword to my arm. I think I saw them do this on “The Princess Bride” when a person needs to fence after coming back from the dead (or was it that you just keep muttering “you killed my father, prepare to die”?). Linda has different ideas. She feels that besides I coach I need a “keeper”, someone who lurks in the shadows with a tranquilizer gun for when I am about to do something exceeding stupid to myself. She urges all interested parties to apply immediately, before I am fully ambulatory.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Beth's Seattle Women's Epee Tournament Part I

The first thing I realize when I get to the tournament hall is that I can’t remember when I fenced someone shorter than 5’11” and that is pretty much everyone here. Normally that would mean I should come up with a strategy or something, except I am still looking around at all these women in uniforms and realizing that yes, this really is a tournament and I am freaking. Up comes this tall, strong looking, big boned woman with really good blonde highlights. “I’m so glad you are here,” She tells me. “I was worried I would be the tallest one here.”

Of course, in my state I say the first thing that comes to my mind, “You’re fencing with french nails? Long french nails?” This is Birgit, who is 5’11” and used to fence epee in Germany until she got married and had kids. Now that the kids are older and she is getting back into shape, doing all the tournaments. As we talk something she said finally makes it up though my mind, “Wait, what was that about fencing world cups?”

Linda at this point pushes me away toward the people warming up and tells me not to worry about it, “Not worry! She fenced world cups! She seen everything I could possible do!” Linda, sends me off still babbling to warm up. I do five minutes with one woman and then ask she doesn’t mind if I switch as I need to fence as many short people as possible. I go over to the waiting area where women are staring at me and ask, “Would anyone like to warm up, the shorter the better?” (yes, I really said that).

Jacquie takes me up on it and compliments my fencing outfit, and soon we are trading clothing stories, I tell how I ordered a 32 inch breeches and leon paul sent me a 28 inch (a little too optimistic), and she counters by telling me how leon paul sent her size in mens, so now (as she pulls out the extra baggy sides of her breeches) she looks like Hitler. Jacquie and her sister Stephanie have come all the way down from Alaska because there aren’t any tournaments for them up there. On the strip I am doing my usual; short attacks to her forearm, when Jacquie starts doing these little moves which somehow always end up hitting my forearm. “How do you do that?” I want to know.

“It’s not a binding,” she starts, “I’m blah, blah de-supertechnical blah de blah” While I stand there with this “Wha?” look on my face. “….so epee is a lot more advanced.” She finishes. I have no idea what she just said.

“No, I mean do it again,” I tell her, “People aren’t suppose to hit me, so I want to see what you did.” (I find out later she married her coach so lives and breathes epee)

“You do know this is a tournament? And I’m your opponent?” She asks.

“Yeah, so?”

A few minutes later she’s helping me with my fleche and telling me how I’m really improving. (In this one day more people will say encouraging things about my fencing than I heard in the six months at the club). They call out the groups for the “pool” – six people fencing in round robin and neither her or her sister are in my group, Birgit is however, along with a B ranked fencer named TuckerWilliams (I think her first name is Ellary but everyone just called her TuckerWilliams). I find out later that she got her B rank by getting to the quarterfinals at this year’s Nationals Division II.

The first person I face in pools is Birgit. I’ve seen her decimate two people before me and so far the most anyone has on her is 1 point. But, hey, I fight with guys, lots of guys, she doesn’t scare me...much. She holds her blade so it is pointed up 30 degrees, which makes it impossible to attack her arm as she can easily defend both ways. I launch a lunge at her shoulder; she parries and tries to come in. This is familiar stuff from Gerald and William so I use my strength to shove her blade aside and angle mine toward her body, ready to extend and get the point when she uses HER strength to shove my blade back out of position and takes the point. I am stunned. After the months with the guys, no one has EVER simply overpowered me; easily overpowered me. Okay, the whole big, tall strong thing isn’t going to work, at least not for ME. She’s fast, but tends to wait for an attack and likes infighting, which I learn by getting down 0-3, I fight back, with a beat attack, and we stand 2-4, I want it, but she’s got the skill and she beats me, 2-5. It will still be one of the highest pool score any of us 5 get against her.

My next two fencers I beat 5-1, and 5-1. The first fencer gets her point when I overlunge and miss, and with the second fencer, I actually give away the point. The second fencer was this tiny, tiny girl with huge eyes who probably came up to my waist. At one point, I attack, and then, instead of leaping back as I usually do, I simply wait for her to parry and repose, and then told her “good job”. Of course, once I realized what I was doing (as in, this is not a training session, and I am suppose to win, not make her feel good), I put her away. Thankfully she didn’t cry.

Then I fenced Marla who was short, chubby with wild bleached blonde hair and with a her sword arm held quite a ways from her body, which she used to cover all attacks to her body by sweeping them down with her sword. During the first point, I attacked, she countered and I pushed her blade down, and the light went off. The ref, this nice older guy with a beard said, “I think that’s the floor.” I raised my hand. “Yes?”

“I felt it touch my foot.”

“Do you know if it touched first or floor first?”

“I just know it hit my foot.”

He rules the point to Marla. We face off, and after an failed attack, I push her blade down again. The light goes off. “Floor…..?” The ref looks to me.

“Her point hit my foot.” I say and I am down 2-0. Some later say that I shouldn’t have overruled the ref or that this is “part of the game.” I felt that I did not overrule the ref or challenged him, just offered him information that I had, it may have hit the floor before it hit my shoe, it may not. That wasn’t my call. And I couldn’t, after parrying Marla’s blade into my own foot, stay silent. I realized that fencing epee, equally with people who like to fence epee, is more important to me that using any means available to win.

Of course, now that I was down 2-0, pretty much by my own fault I was DETERMINED to win that bout. I launched a series of blistering attacks and crawled back; 2-3, then 3-4 and finally 4-4. I just needed that one point to win the bout. I lunge. Double. I want to win so badly my whole body is shivering like a greyhound, while that little voice in the back of my head says, “Wait, wait for the opening!” We come together, I test with my blade, making mini attacks, until she counters, and all that ping pong training comes together – I flash a hit to her arm. I win 6-5! Marla later thanks me for speaking up about the foot hits and tells me her only goal for the tournament is to convince people she’s not such a walk-over as her appearance might suggest. She convinced me.

Meanwhile Jacquie and Stephanie want to know how I am doing. “Not well” I tell them. Have I won any, they want to know. Yes, 3-1 but still, not very well. They seem to think that 3-1 is just fine for a first tournament. Yes, but I wanted to win them ALL.

I see Brigit and ask her if we can have another 5 points, as she was interesting to fence. She finds this amusing. I meet her husband who used to do the world cup for the US, and every event except the Olympics. He is here as her coach too. I keep trying to get him to tell me some tips but he tells me I need my own coach. “Tell me about it.” I say. Throughout the tournament people want to know what coaching I get, “I haven’t really yet,” I tell them, “But the coach finally gave me a lesson last week.”; They want to know why I chose epee, “I didn’t, but Mr. Ho wouldn’t let me do anything else.”; they wanted to know what his advice was; “Don’t go, it’s a nothing tournament anyway” and “Close your eyes and stick out your arm.” Everyone agrees: get another coach.

My bout with TuckerWilliams is the last of the pool bouts and she gets some quick hits off me. She is skilled, but doesn’t have the scary depth and power of Brigit, I think I can take her. I come back with patient hits and after herding her into a corner, she lunges and I get a nice arm touch so we stand 3-3.

But then I start getting ansy and push attacks, exposing myself, she gets the 4th point. I decide to risk it all on a long lunge which I am sure will get me at least a double. I miss, she doesn’t. 5-3 to TuckerWilliams. Suck! Afterwards an older man tells me that I just needed to be more patient, and get her to attack me. I find out after that he is TuckerWilliams father. He seems to take a shine to me and he along with the two sisters from Alaska are good for a bit of advice during the rest of the tournament. I also find out later that TuckerWilliams is only 15! But she didn’t make me cry!

Beth's Seattle Women's Epee Tournament Part II

They put up the pool results and I am 9th coming out the pools and get a Bye for my first Direct Elimination (I don’t have to fight the first round), but face the number 8 person right after in DE (Direct Elimination). I am looking at the structure and see that even if I manage to beat the 8th ranked person, the next person I fight is the number one out of the pools and the one person I KNOW can kick my butt: Birgit. I am facing the sheet, and totally freaking muttering, “holy shit, holy shit” over and over. Then I turn around, and face Brigit and say, “See, I told you I’d fence you again, I just have to take care of this bout first” She gives me this smile you might give someone who has just hit their head too hard.

Jacquie, my defacto mentor comes up to the board. “Oh, you’re facing Sutton.” (the number 8)

“Who’s that? Does she have a ranking?”

“Let’s see, she has a D”

I start muttering “holy crap” to myself.

“Oh yeah, and she’s a lefty.” Jacquie tells me.

My voice jumps up a few octaves, “A lefty! A D ranked lefty! Does anyone know how to fence a lefty?” I might have been panicking just a LITTLE at this point. The reason left handed fencers are scary is because while all right handed people’s attacks are trained for other right handers, they are also useless against left handers. But since a left hander only generally fences right handed people, all their attacks work just fine.

Jacquie is trying to talk me down. “Just hug the side of the strip, keep your arm out from your body and attack her six, so she can’t get to your six, that’s where she will want to attack. (in fencing your six is your outer arm, referring to the position number used to parry those attacks – sixth position. Four refers to attacks between your arm and your body, where you need to move your arm across your body to block it. Most epee attacks occur in four – to the inner arm or shoulder, and a few in six, to the outer arm. A left handed fencer can reach your outer arm easily (your six), and as it is a less practiced defense, it makes an easy target). She continues, “Just keep attacking her six to stop her attacking you, and be patient, wait for the opportunity.”

Sutton is from the Salle Auriol, the club hosting the event and is there with her personal coach as well as a crowd of club members and supporters. I tell the ref that this is my first DE ever and ask what is going to happen. The bout is nine minutes long in three minute stretches; there is a minutes rest in between the stretches. I know that if one fencer is ahead and other fencer doesn’t attack, they can be called for “passivity” and if they don’t start attacking, the other fencer is awarded a point. My plan is to use my reach to get a quick point, then be patient and wait for her attacks and use my point control on her arm as I retreat, get the points for a strong lead.

Within 15 seconds, I get a quick point on her shoulder and it is 1-0. Everything is going according to plan. Only she doesn’t attack. I wait, I wait, I wait. We move back and forth. And for the next 2 minutes and 45 seconds she doesn’t attack once. The ref calls time she goes over to her coach for a huddle. I am left standing there. I walk over to Birgit and ask her to start talking to me as if she was giving me advice. Frankly I am scared, as 1 point does not a match make but I don’t want Sutton, her coach and her friends to think I am not ready so I go over to the scariest fencer in the room (Birgit) and start nodding my head as if she is giving me advice. Birgit meanwhile is sort of looking at me in bewilderment.

I head back to the strip and we go again, for another minute and a half I wait for her to attack. She doesn’t. I realize the refs are not going to call her on passivity and that she will likely do some attacks at the end of the nine minutes. Since I have not yet seen what her attack is, I don’t want to gamble that I can beat it, I want another point. If I can get a two point lead, then I will wait her out. I start attacking her six, then try a lunge to her body, she parries and gets the point. The crowd is cheering and her coach is yelling “Yes! YES!” It is now 1-1 and I double my attacks, I try for a knee attack and she gets another point. Her coach calls out, “Stay to plan, you’ve got her.” And it doesn’t take a genius to figure out she is planning to run out the time. I keep attacking her arm, lunge after lunge. I just keep attacking, waiting, looking and attacking, I break through with an attack on her arm, 2-2.

When I score, everyone is silent. I make one last attack, and as she retreats, I launch myself forward, fully extended, hitting her back calf just before I hit the floor and start to roll (very ungraceful). The ref turns to HER COACH as starts debating on what should or shouldn’t count. Did I hit her? Did she hit me first? Did we get doubles? I stand ready and ref finishes the discussion. She never tells me the score but from the cheer that goes up, I am pretty sure it is now 2-3 against me. The second three minutes are up.

Jacquie comes over to me and tells me I am doing well. Has she been watching the same match I’m in? She says that I am overbalancing, that I am rising up on my back hip, I need to keep it down and keep low.

I start the last three minutes. I don’t want to lunge to her body as that is how she gets points with her parry, but I can’t seem to get a point on her arm. But I am not going to lose 2-3.

I attack, and attack and attack. She moves her arm slightly and I am into her, attack and attack again to her shoulder, 3-3. I keep going, and within a few seconds, too eager, I get too close and she tags me 3-4. At this point, her crowd is cheering her on continuously, “You’ve got it.”, “Come on!” I’ve never been in a position where so many people, so publicly wanting me to not win. It feels like I am at the end of a dark tunnel and that everyone is telling me to just give up; give up and everyone will like you. Screw that. I WILL fence Brigit! I start attacking her arm, one side then another, every second another attack and with 20 seconds left, she drops her hand a bit and I angle over the top of her blade for the hit. I didn’t even need to see the board as the crowd collectively sucked air, sighs with cries of “No!” It is 4-4. True to form, Sutton runs out the time, without ever launching a single attack.

The ref explains that there will be a coin toss, one person will be designated and if the other person doesn’t get a point on them in 1 minute, then they will win the bout. I don’t know who gets tails or who gets head but the coin is tossed; it comes up heads; Sutton has won the toss. “What does that mean?” I ask. The judge says that if I don’t get a point in one minute, Sutton will win. I can’t believe it, the one fencer who never attacks, now wins if she can stop me from successfully attacking.

Jacquie tells me that she knows I can do it (I can?), to keep my hip down and take my time. This is my first competition since high school. Everyone is telling Sutton she can do it, that I won’t get her, that she has it. I am so exhausted that I am dripping sweat through my mask: I have done over 100 lunges in 9 minutes. But I have a plan. I will put one lunge to her shoulder, keep my hip down and get all the speed I can muster. But first I need to get her hand far enough away from her body to give me the extra microseconds I need. I start again lunging to her hand and arm. A few to her four so she won’t be suspicious, then pulling my arm further and further away from my body I attack her six again and again, forcing her to move her arm away from her body to stop me getting the angulation on her. “Wait….another…another” my mind says and I keep hammering away, moving her arm away from her body centimeter by centimeter. “Now!” and I lunge as if at her six but slip the tip of my blade under her arm, then straighten it on the inside of her arm, aimed toward her shoulder as I launch myself forward. She parries, but not fast enough. It hits. The crowd moans as I drop to my knees, shaking. I did it! I wanted it and I did it. I get to my feet and Sutton shakes my hand, her face tight. Stephanie and Jacquie are there, congratulating me. I feel like crying but I’m smiling. Some of the women from Oregon and other clubs come up and tell me good job. I am unranked and in the 8. I stagger over to Birgit, who sits by her husband, she is looking cool and fearsome and I stand in front of her, wheezing and dripping. “Told you I’m coming for you.” I tell her, “You’re next!” She laughs and Linda leads me away for water.

When the next match is called I try to stand up and find out why doing 100 lunges in 9 minutes is not recommended. Oh My GOD! My front leg is on fire! I tell everyone that while this may not be the nicest match they will see, it will be the most violent (as Birgit likes to take it to you, and I am ready to take it to her). Her husband talks to her and then walks past me, “Any last minute tips?” I ask him. He shakes his head; am I really that daft? Yes I am.

I have a plan, I will attack the wrist and then lunge to her thigh. It almost always works as people aren’t expecting such a long attack. We come together, I attack Birgit’s wrist, she lunges to my thigh and hits. Ahhhh! She even steals my plans! Birgit attacks, attacks, attacks, and soon I am down 4-0.

I fight back and we are often corp to corp (right up against each other). Birgit has a habit of turning her back to escape, but I come from the Victoria down and dirty fencing club so that doesn’t stop me wrapping myself around her and continuing to stab away. I start to come back, 1 point then 2. The ref keeps dropping my points in the counting and twice has to be corrected by another ref. This is driving me a little nuts as I know I am down 2-6 but hey, against Birgit, those two points are precious! Stop calling them as 1-6. I throw myself into it and get a touch on her back ankle. The ref asks Birgit whether she thinks that counts or not; did I hit the floor. Birgit is not amused. I am wondering why the ref is asking my opponent whether I should get a point or not. Birgit refuses to help and the ref gives me the point, then two points later, decides to take it away. She is corrected again and I am at 3-8. Birgit later tells me that she felt the ref was unprofessional, that we are there to fence and the ref is there to make the call. I’m just glad she isn’t mad at me.

My goal going in was to get seven points. So I keep at her, and Birgit keeps attacking me as hard as ever. At one point, I am wrapped around her stabbing wildly between her legs from behind and after my 4th or 5th attempt to hit her leg the ref calls halt. “I know you’re in there somewhere!” is my frustrated cry and everyone at the competition starts laughing. I am soon at 3-12 and just as determined to get a point. Birgit does not let up for one second let up, always giving me 100%. I like that. At 3-13, I say, “I think it is time for my comeback.” And she laughs a little. (we find out later talking to each other is against the rules) At 3-14 the three minutes timer goes and I talk to Jacquie again. I am going to keep my hip down and try a fleche. I go it, I give it all, throw the fleche and beat her out, but she retreats faster and comes back with a flick to the arm. Bout over.

Birgit will go on to win the tournament, as her game has two distinct parts. In the first part, the score is closer as she does different attacks and defenses, then like turning a switch; she simply starts walking away with the bout; the opponent will not get another point. No one gets more than 8 point on her in the entire DE series including the final. Linda and I cheer her on, as we are the only ones besides her husband clapping for her. In the final, she is up 8-7 when the first three minutes timer goes. Her husband walks over to her, whispers something in her ear and less than two minutes later, she has taken 7 consecutive points, the victory and her C ranking. TuckerWilliams from the pool bouts has gone on to win 3rd (losing, like everyone, against Birgit). Birgit’s French nails are still perfect.

I finish 6th and get my E ranking. There were 23 fencers. If two more fencers had come or if the A ranked person hadn’t been knocked out, I would have gotten a D ranking. But as one of the few good things Mr. Ho said, “You control what you can, and don’t worry about what you can’t.” At the award ceremony I get applause as does Jacquie who came in 7th (we all get applause!). Still, I can’t remember the last time I’ve gotten applause. For the next day I keep saying to Linda “I got sixth!”

“I know!” she says back.

In the shower I start crying and laughing at the same time. It was really great, I got Birgit’s email along with Jacquie and Stephanie’s. It was good fencing and we promise to see each other again, some match, some day. But the Sutton DE was hard, very hard and very, very alone. It was an emotional day.

After a LOT of pain pills I manage to sleep, though when I get out of bed Linda tells me I look like an old woman as I hobble to the bathroom. The next day, Monday, I am back at the Victoria Fencing Club, which I now refer to as “Bleak House”. Mr Ho wants to know how it was, “There were fencers from Alaska” I tell him.

“No good fencers in Alaska” he says.

“And women from Oregon.”

He makes a grunt of disgust; guess no good women in Oregon either.

Steve is back, he didn’t know I went to a tournament. Gerald congratulates me; Amanda doesn’t nor Orion; nor anyone else actually. Mr. Ho finds I did get into the top 8 and he starts paying attention to me. I will get a lesson if I go tomorrow, he promises. I go to the strip to bout and find that the blade I used in the competition against Brigit is dead, totally dead; it died sometime between the 10th point of the final bout and the club; in transport? In storage? In the last couple points? Note to self: next time check the tip every few points. The guys won’t believe I am tournament material so I have to beat them all in rotation in 10 point bouts. I do and win, even against 6’7” Steve. I fence over two hours. Everything is different, everything is the same.

“I got sixth.” I tell Linda when I get home.

“I know.”

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Seattle women's epee: I finish sixth!

The long version will come tomorrow but the short version is: Elizabeth McClung is now a ranked fencer as I finish 6th out of 23 fencers (if only 2 more had shown up!!). So, thus ends my first epee tourney - see what you can do if you just fence for 6 months, be very tall and take a LOT of pain pills. Oh yeah, the woman who knocked me out went on to win the tourney! Did not cry, did not make anyone cry. Having a LONG shower and going out for mexican and beer!


Seattle epee tourney, shopping and gawkers.

With 45 minutes to go until I fence I have an insight: tournaments have nothing to do with how well I fence, but how I well I fence UNDER PRESSURE. Hmmmmm.

Linda and I are staying at "Crack Motel" which is cheap, but has a few faults. a) it is by the major freeway (as in 6 feet away) and b) our door doesn't fit - we have figured out how to actually close it (but hitting it with our shoulder), but nothing can make the deadbolt work. Last night Linda was running around worrying about hiding the cash. "Screw the cash, how about me?" I told her more concerned about getting raped than losing our stash. Anyway, nothing happened last night.

I took down three swords and three body cords, if you don't have two working swords, you get a yellow card and if there are any other errors or infractions (like forgetting to salute your opponent at the end of the match), you lose points. One of my swords turns out to have an illegal grip,while a second was missing a screw plus not testing at the right weight (the pressure to depress the point). So I did my "I've always depended on the kindness of strangers" impression and got a couple guys at the club to take a tip screw from the "illegal" blade and put it into the other. It now passes....mostly. I have a club blade as well for backup. Stored it all and went shopping.

Have to say that Seattle is a gawkers paradise as I have had people almost walk into traffic or hit themselves on posts while turning to gawk at me. Yes, I'm tall, and I have purple hair: get over it!

In the 1 hour of shopping I had available, I have: gone and gotten some advice at the Dior makeup counter as well as some skin cream, bought a new pair of new balance shoes for my jogging cross training and bought a pair of stretchy black jeans and a t-shirt hoody so skin tight and thin you can see the clusters of epee bruises through it (the Dior woman suggested a waterproof body make-up for those). Then a nice Italian zesty soup and I am back to fence. Hey, if I am paying this much to come over here, you can bet I am going to get some shopping in.

I like to say I'm not scared and jittery but I'm just not that good a liar. Either way, in a few hours, the fencing will be over, and in a few days, I should be able to sleep again without painkillers.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Horoscopes, fortune cookies & sex with zombies

Between my end of the week “blah” and the anxiety of my forthcoming virgin competition “AHHHHHH!” I can’t do a deep and meaningful blog. And for you pervs, that is “virgin” as in first time epee competition, not having some bizarre all girl contest involving whipped cream.

While I don’t believe in horoscopes exactly, I tend to like reading them once in a while because they promise me wonderful things will happen (though they never do, at least not to ME). Unfortunately, the horoscope writer for our local paper has been severely depressed for the last month or two and is now only writing horoscopes of doom (for example my last horoscope said “if you don’t correct something now, it will cost you ten times as much to fix it later”, and the one before that was: “something you do today will likely anger a family member against you.”) . Someone please take her out for a night on the town.

I still needed my fortune fix so I bought a bag of fortune cookies. But even these are turning out bad (of course, that might be because I tend to have slightly paranoid interpretations; pass the tinfoil, I need to make another hat).

Here are the fortunes I have gotten from my cookies over the last 48 hours.

Cookie #1: “A thrilling time is in your immediate future”
My Interpretation: You will either be hit by a bus or robbed at gunpoint later today.

Cookie #2: “Good reputation is something to prize and cherish”
Interpretation: Too bad you threw that away huh? See how no one is taking your comments about “sleeping your way to promotion” as a joke anymore.

Cookie #3: “Be receptive to making new friends today”
Interpretation: You will be relentlessly hit upon by a drunk semi-homeless guy who will paw your breasts and leave ketchup stains.

Cookie #4: “You will soon be the center of attention”
Interpretation: A warrant has just been issued for your arrest. (Or more optimistically, you will drink heavily tonight and wander into a church where you will do a striptease to your own rendition of “I’m too sexy for these clothes” while dancing atop the baptismal font.)

Cookie #5: “Your independence shall bring you bold adventure”
Interpretation: On your trip to Seattle you will attacked and chased by crazed Baptists who were driven to a frenzy by your rainbow bracelet and butchy ways and you will spend the night shivering in a dumpster.

Cookie #6: Your happiness is intertwined with your outlook on life
Interpretation: I’ve heard this before....often. It seems all of my therapists have joined forces to buy this fortune cookie company and send me messages. I am now too scared to open another cookie in case it says “Increase your medical dosage”

So, no more fortune cookies. If you have any good fortunes for me, now might be the time to let me know, something like “a faulty part falling off plane will likely miss you.”

To the few people who come here because they want to read what I write, thank you, thank you, thank you. But I should warn you that the head nurse in my ward says you are all imaginary.

And here are some messages to other people (real or imagined) who found my blog during various searches.

To those who googling “Sex with Zombies”; first, I talk about sex and a talk about zombies, but not together. Second, zombies are in movies, and like many things that show up in movies, like finding a parking spot in downtown during rush hour, they are imaginary. So get your animated necrophiliac butt outta here and buy some fortune cookies instead.

If you are one of those searching for “sex with prepubescent girls” and/or "sex with dolphin", just to let you know, I’ve forwarded your ISP to the local authorities, you sick, sick f**k.

“Sperm blog” – hmmmm, nice search, why couldn’t I have thought of that as my blog title, or better yet “Spermless blog”

And though I am as bad at is as anyone else, please, please trying spelling better when you search, or make sense, not that I don’t love it when you drop by. This includes you: “kissing without cloths”, “lezbian training”, “bisexual x-box” and “all lesbain orjies””

Yes, that’s right, I’m watching you. Because I’m a sad, lonely bitter person. Luckily, I’m in plenty of company.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Epee Fencing training; I finally get a lesson!

I’m on a new rigorous fencing schedule: Monday, Tuesday, Friday and I’m loving it. By loving it, I mean that I can barely walk, I need painkillers to tie my shoes and there seems to be a continuous bruise which starts over my right breast going up to my collarbone and over and down my arm to my forearm. But anything that hurts this bad must be really, really good for you, right?

On Monday night I was the first person there, Ms. Eager Beaver. I was trying to work on what I worked on six weeks ago, arm hits and lunges to the shoulder. I rotated through the fencers, doing a fair job of training and even winning some bouts. Then I fenced Gerald.

There is something about Gerald, is it the way he lets his blade hang down to the ground and doesn’t move it until you attack, or is it the way he retreats from an attack, looking to all the world to have lost control but still somehow avoids my second attack, my third, my sixth? The problem when I fence Gerald is that I get totally sucked into this emotional vacuum where “Oh I WILL get you this time” is pretty much all that is running through my head. While my attack may start as a lunge to his wrist, it somehow only ends when I am wrapped around Gerald, trying to push under his arm to stab him in the back of the shin. For example, on Monday, I had this brief idea that I could do a controlled low attack and frustrate Gerald by hitting his foot (getting hit in the foot is very demoralizing). It started well, except I missed by an inch. But instead of retreating and trying another attack, I make another poke at his foot. He moved his foot. I poke again, he moves it again. Before I know it I am standing there, hunched over jabbing wilding at Gerald’s feet, which he keeps leaping about just at the last second, until he slowly, oh so slowly, pokes me with his sword. The judge was almost on the floor with laughter, gasping “wack-a-mole” and “dance pilgrim dance!”

This is what happens when I fence Gerald. At the end of one match I was so frustrated he actually gave me a friendly hug to calm me down and I rested my head on his shoulder, either that or I was trying to get close enough to give him a kidney punch. Like I said, Gerald brings out something in me.

I also seem to be under a curse which makes me out to be the evil psycho widowmaker. Later on Monday, Gerald and I are fencing again and he is leaning forward quite a bit. I think, “I’ll make it look like I am going for his wrist, and continue on to his upper thigh.” I must have been tired, because I just missed his upper thigh. I finished the lunge and Gerald said in this odd voice of wonder, “Ohhh, you did it again” (or that might have been “Oh you!!! You did it again.”) and then staggered along the wall to walk it off. “Are you sure it didn’t bounce off your thigh before I hit your groin?” I asked him a little later.

“No, no,” he assured me, “You came straight in.”

Two bouts later with William, I have finished a lunge, and William has his sword pinning my blade from a lunge that started off toward his stomach but I think now has edged slightly lower. He is hunched protectively so far over that his mask is touching the blade. I check the board, the light hasn’t gone off, so I don’t have a point. Hmmmm, how much do I want to win? I slowly extend my arm. (Hey, it’s a legitimate target!)

At the end of the evening it’s back home so I can practice hitting the floating ping-pong ball. The guys at the club have told me they REALLY want me to work more on accuracy (what, like you can’t buy a protective cup?).

The next night, I am on the bus to Vic West. I have made a deal with Mr. Ho, that if I pay for Tuesday nights and go out to Vic West, he will give me a lesson. Of course, with practice at home from the weekend, fencing on Monday and practice on Tuesday, my shoulder hurts so bad I wonder if I can keep my arm up.

At the Vic West Y gym Mr. Ho puts me in an “enguard” position and asks, “How’s your arm?”

“Great!” I tell him with a smile.

First we work on position (I am tilting my head to the side to give my dominant eye more view, but it is throwing my body off in lunges), then on lunges and then on arm attacks. Mr. Ho has a cowhide arm protector with patches on it I am supposed to hit. I have to hit the one right behind the wrist, and one on each side of the wrist. There is a small dimple in each spot, smaller than a penny, and if I hit it, my point will stick and my blade will make a nice arc. If I don’t hit it, my blade will skitter up the arm and usually Mr. Ho will break off due to laughter, sometimes he is bent over due to laughter. It seems every time he says, “Good, that’s the right way to do it.” I immediately follow it with a very bad attack which makes him conclude, “I won’t tell you that you are good.” At one point, when I finally stop using my shoulder to make the attacks and get accurate, he is happy and says, “Yes, like Hungarian coach say, it’s like spitting.”

I am baffled.

“When you spit” Mr Ho imitates spitting, “You don’t overthink or put to much effort into it, you just spit.”

I am still baffled. I’ll take your word on it Mr. Ho, my childhood watermelon days ended with a lot of seeds dribbling down my chin. Maybe I spit wrong? I won’t tell Mr. Ho that.

The lesson goes on for a long time, maybe 45 minutes. We finish with another series of lunges; faster, more extension. I am sweating a lot. Maybe more than usual. At the end, when I take off the mask, Mr. Ho looks worried and asks me if I am okay. I just give him a big smile and say “Great” (As Gerald said to me on Monday, “I think your dream is to fence and win even with a heart attack.” – I replied, “In that order, first win, then heart attack” – so to Mr. Ho, I will always feel “Great!”).

There are only three of us fencing as Amanda goes to get her lesson. William and I face off and do an uncountable number of bouts against each other. “I’m going to beat you the Mr. Ho method.” I tell him. And do a few points with lovely, delicate and precise arm touches. Except then I can’t get the touches anymore and William is catching up. I charge him and then leap into the air to stab him in the shoulder. “That wasn’t the Mr. Ho method, just my old ways.” I told him.

“I guessed that.” He replied.

Amanda had gone for water and Mr. Ho was still in his training kit so, I wandered over. “Are you bored Mr. Ho?” I ask.


“Do you need someone to give a lesson to?”

“You already get your lesson.”

“That’s okay,” I assure him, “I don’t mind another if you’re bored.”

He rolls his eyes, grunts and turns away. Linda thinks he is starting to warm up to me.

But all this pain has a purpose, because I am going to a fencing competition. Yes, my very first official fencing competition! On Monday, someone said that Seattle had a competition coming up. I checked, they do, and I bought my ticket and motel accommodations last night. It’s the 2006 Leon Auriol Open in Seattle. The women’s epee is on Sunday, and if just one more person registers, there will be 25 women in the competition which means if I finish in the top 12, I would get a ranking. While I sure would like a ranking, my main worry is that I will be beaten soundly by a bunch of anemic 13-15 year olds and then burst into tears. So anything above that is an improvement. (of course if I win…, no, just think about not crying). I compete in just four days. I would pinch myself except one arm is too bruised and the other is too tired to pinch.

Mr. Ho was not impressed when he heard. “For competition you will learn nothing in one lesson; in ten lessons maybe you learn enough”

“Don’t worry,” I told him, “Once I’ve had ten lessons I’ll find another fencing competition to enter.”

Mr. Ho looked at me like he had just swallowed a lemon. Like Linda says, I think he’s really starting to warm up to me.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

You're bisexual becuase I care: No boys till 18

Asked recently whether I proselytize, I had to answer yes; particularly my “no guys until 18 dating rule.” While I have no children, my heart constantly goes out to these girls I see who are sensitive, caring, perhaps a little too much in love with a dream, hanging around total and complete knuckheads, motorhead, sportsheads, dopehead, insensitive, juvenile and self centered guys.

During one picnic, as I watched these two “girlfriends” get totally dejected as their “boyfriends” raced in, tried to touch them up and make out in an aggressive way before immediately dumping them to throw around a football, I told Linda that regardless of orientation, any daughter we have aren’t dating boys until they turn 18. They can date as many girls as they want but aside from not having to worry about STD’s and unwanted pregnancies, I wouldn’t have to see my daughter come home crying or be taught that she is a second class gender on the hopes that she met the small percentage of mature 15-17 year old guys; you know those few who actually pay more attention to their living breathing girlfriend than they do to their Xbox 360.

Clearly this is a more than slightly biased view, but one I am willing to enforce, because though she may hate me, it’s for her own benefit (and using the same phrase most parents use to send off their gay kids to reparative therapy does have a nice ring). I have spread this idea around several straight parents and while many, after finishing laughing, do see the value of getting their daughter, during those precious years with a nice stable girlfriend, they do not think it would sell well at home. Alas. Needless to say, I have been offering it up on various Christian sites in hopes that Focus on the Family or other Christian organizations like Concerned Women of America will take it up as the perfect solution for not only allowing their daughters to grow to adulthood in a supportive environment where they can take risks and still see themselves as an equal person, but one which avoids the problems of sex that Dobson and friends so loudly moan about. With my program, there is no need for the ABC model (Abstinence, Be Faithful, Use Condoms becomes Accept Bisexual Couples). I would even be willing to write a small parenting booklet “No men till 18: a girl’s guide to healthy bisexual relationships”

Some of the responses I have received (from non-parents have been unusual):

*Guys who claim that by not allowing them to date any girl they want that I am discriminating against them. (Isn't that the point?)

*Someone who pointed out that girls have testosterone as well (okay...and?)

*People who say that if parents forbid dating guys, the girls will lose trust and thus end up with secret drug habits

*Guys who claim they aren’t the problem, that girls are the trouble and are constantly forcing them to have sex (yes, that wasn’t a joke).

*That girls are statistically the ones who break up with guys and break the guys heart.

While I don’t quite understand many of these reasonings, I do hope Dr. Dobson will think about adopting them as advise for parents who have gay children and are thinking about forbidding them to have teenage relationships. I particularly like the one linking forbidding those relationships leading directly to drug addiction. Since no one has tried my teachings as yet, if you decide to adopt the policy “You’re going to be bisexual for your own safety”, please let me know how it works out – particularly if you can get a school interested in the scheme (I have a host of slogans for school banners if they want to contact me like: “Don’t want pregnancy: try same sex dating” or “Same sex couples are happy couples”)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

More jaccuzzi's, moaning, headboards & missing sperm

Ahhhhh...sometimes we don’t realize how badly we need a weekend of “special training” until we have one. I really liked going to someone else’s Oceanside resort. There were so many things I couldn’t do at home like:

*Call the front desk to have someone start our fireplace. He showed up five minutes later, we were in silk dressing gowns; we offered him Gouda cheese.

*Call the front desk to have them send us more batteries, specially C batteries. None arrived.

*Go to the many, many Jacuzzi’s around the property.

*Drink champagne while using our two person Jacuzzi as we rubbed each other down with green tea scented body wash.

*Use every available towel and then some, and leave them scattered strategically about.

*Spill red wine on the sheets while playing erotic shadow puppets and simply get NEW SHEETS.

*Declare one day “naked day”, start the fireplace, turn up the heat and run around….well, naked. Actually this one I HAVE done at home.

I am not sure what some people do on their vacations in suites with jaccuzzi’s, fireplaces and big soft beds. This is what I do:

Linda finding me on the bed: "What are you doing?"

Me: "Jump on the bed. I’ve always wanted to be like one of those people that are heard in movies make moaning noises through the wall while banging the headboard."

Linda after watching me writhing on the bed trying to rock it back and forth: "I think the headboard is nailed into the wall."

Me: "If we lie with our heads away from the pillow we can both kick the headboard and make moaning noises!"

Linda: "I’m going back in the Jacuzzi."

This might be another reason NOT to book the room next to ours. After two fantastic days, we drank hot choc and watched the documentary Making Grace, about two lesbians having a baby. We wanted to find out what we were doing wrong as no matter WHAT we did, neither of us was getting pregnant. We discovered we were missing two vital ingredients: 1) Sperm and 2) bucketloads of money.

Making Grace follows three years of Ann and Leslie as they try to have a child. I was disturbingly like Ann with the analytical obsessive worrywart personality and Linda was Leslie with the calm and sense of humor. It was actually pretty funny watching another couple have the exact same worry/response as us. The big difference was that Ann and Leslie has a huge house in NEW YORK CITY (a.k.a. bucketloads of money). So though they were older, they were financially able to pay for a year of anonymous donor selection and fertility specialists. They were also helped with having one ex-girlfriend living with them, and one next door so when Ann did get pregnant, there were 2 mommies and 2 live-in babysitters (plus Leslie could go next door and vent about Ann to her ex). They said that the entire first five to six months after childbirth and taking care of Grace was 6 simple words: Try not to kill the baby.

It is really an insightful documentary which covers a lot of lesbian experience including how they have to fight almost daily to present themselves as a family. One family member first said that they were telling their children that Ann was “mommy” and Leslie was just “her best friend.” After a while, when they realized that their 10 year old did not equate, “Grace has two mommies” to “I want to know all about wild lesbian sex” the relatives relaxed. Ann and Leslie now have two children and still fence questions about “Does that hair color come from your husband?” Which they learned not to say no, as then some women just ask, “And what does your husband think about that?” (wink, wink, you slept with the postman didn’t you?)

We finished the film and had one of those brief: “We could do that, we might have killed every pet and plant we’ve owned but this time it would be different” conversations. We’ll talk again when we get to the bucketloads of money part.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Epee Fencing: jaccuzzi's and special training

During the week off, the Y transformed the long gym where the fencing is held. They painted it off white, they covered all the walls with mirrors and they upgraded to some hideous florescent lighting. Right now, it looks like a giant version of a changing room in a woman’s clothing store.

Monday I totally sucked. I practiced arm control at home but unless I practice at least 15-20 minutes every day or every other day, it is as if I have no control at all. During the first few bouts I watched as my point skidded up and along people’s arms, the tip never depressing. Or I missed completely. It was problematic as generally I can win with skill, with speed or with power. My skill was off, and I think I lunge slower now than three months ago and I didn’t feel like trying to muscle inside. As a winning plan, that left me bumpkis.

I talked to Mr. Ho and made a deal: I start going to Tuesday practice, he will start giving me lessons. Right after that I let him know that I wouldn’t be at Tuesday practice that week. But I had that aura of dedication for at least five, maybe ten minutes. Once I got home I remembered I wouldn’t be going to Friday practice this week either because a friend has given us two nights at their time-share condo with jaccuzzi. So yes, I will be engaged in athletic activity, but no, it won’t be fencing. I'll tell him I was doing special flexibility and endurance training when I get back.

I also found out that due to Canada going to a new schedule there will be one of the two National Tournaments in Vancouver this December. This means if I enter the tournament and win, then I am halfway to getting my C or B Canadian ranking. I Amanda came back from the High Performance Tournament in 7th place, which should be high enough for HP ranking. So I only have to beat her and at least 6 other women. She told me Magda, her nemesis from Vancouver who beat her for first place at the BC provincials, has retired because she is 28 and thus OLD. This bodes very ill for me as I plan to put to the test that axiom: you are as old as you can be pain medicated down to.

The last few days I have been putting on a giant ebay sale of gay and lesbian DVD’s in order to raise money to go to some fencing tournaments this year. I had definitely planned to go to North Carolina to the Iron Maiden competition in February. However, that currently looks out of reach as Linda, by being promoted from being an auxiliary to a full time government employee, lost 20% of take home pay AND ended up in a higher tax bracket (those crazy government people!). So currently all our income is tied up in investments (and internet connections). But if the interest and libido of gays and lesbians with disposable income remains high and the ebay sale goes well, I should have enough money to cover equipment costs and some left over to go to a couple tournaments in Washington State. Since I desire to get a US ranking as well, this will be called the “Getting a B ranking in two countries on a budget” plan. I am open to sponsorship, though as regulations on fencing gear are quite strict, the best I can offer is trying to mutter your product name during bouts.

Over the course of the evening the endurance training must have kicked in. I fenced everyone with four bouts in a row in a “anything Amanda can do I can do better” move. Of course, it would be more convincing if I could WIN all those bouts. Toward the end of the evening, things started to come together and my arm touches came back, which makes it a lot better to end saying: “lose some, WIN some!” than “lose some, then lose some more.” Gerald asked me again to PLEASE not hit him in the groin. This made me feel much worse that first point when he tried to trap my blade with his arm so I stood all the way up and forced the blade onward for the touch, right down to the groin. But, hey, he tried to stop me from getting a point! I have a feeling the phrase I have been putting about “Elizabeth the Assassin” is being supplanted by one Gerald keeps saying: “It’s Elizabeth, watch your groin!”

Monday, September 11, 2006

Gay dolphin orgies: It's all about bond forming

Harper’s Sept. 2006 issue cites gay dolphin expert Janet Mann in discovering all male dolphin orgies which average 20 minutes in length. Janet Mann is a professor at Georgetown University and is an often quoted expert of gay sex with dolphin calves. She believes the behavior "is about bond formation” That was Brian’s opinion too about back rooms in gay clubs in Queer as Folk.

There is no news what Flipper and her pals were doing during the orgies, probably attending a music festival or dolphin vagina dialogues. Opo, was the earliest gay dolphin to come out of the closet, as she enchanted the nation of New Zealand from 1955 to 1956. Though she continued to tell the population she was gay, most of the population had never heard of Oscar Wilde and kept saying, “Yup, you sure are a happy dolphin!” She was found jammed in the rocks, and her death is surrounded in mystery (I am not making this up, that’s what the official New Zealand site says), with some thinking she had been murdered (hate crime?) while others speculating it was suicide.

While data about how frequent gay dolphin orgies are occurring still comes in, I think the dolphin watching tour industry needs to turn this into a plus, not a minus. Sure, a few families swathed in crosses from the Midwest will avoid the water lest their eyes be burned by hot gay dolphin love, but think of the influx of gay tourist dollars! Think of the gift shops, the themed bars, the parties!

This post has been inspired by Daniel, the Guy in the Desert, whose posts have educated me about queer sheep, cleaning out horse penis sheaths, perverted Cocker Spaniels, cat asses and more pics of naked/hot guys than I ever thought existed (I can only hope those pics will interest you more than me).

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Suicide, rabbits, demonic depression and God

Because today, September 10th was World Suicide Prevention Day, Linda and I joined the local march for awareness which went from the ocean to the university and included lectures and workshops. The organizer, in her opening remarks, said that 10% of people will be touched by someone’s suicide. Personally, I cannot see how a person could make it to age 30 without knowing someone who has attempted suicide, has committed suicide or is suffering from a loss to suicide. But it is one of the those “issues” that no one likes to talk about, probably because most people don’t know what to say.

Today’s march had a total of two men, less than 7% of the marchers; and they were pretty clear they were there in a "support" role. Why is it so hard for some/many guys to accept and feel the loss instead of "moving on"? I don't believe that women actually care or feel more; though maybe they are allowed to show it more, as there seems no appropriate way in this society for males to publicly show loss, emptiness, empathy or even remembrance (unless the military is somehow involved).

As the march neared the university, we started spotting, "wild rabbits" which started a few generations ago with some lost pets. Of course, the rabbits are so used to university life they tend not to twitch even when bicycles zips past them. During the suicide rememberance ceremony, I was distracted by an older, slightly arthritic rabbit hopping closer and closer. “Look,” I whispered to Linda, “It’s the velveteen rabbit!” She agreed and we both watched it nibble towards us. I thought of the classic line from the book, “When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” This almost sentimental moment was soon erased by my recall of the inexplicable review of this book on Amazon: “My therapist recommended that I read this book, for reasons unknown to me. It is a good children's book, but not for an adult suffering from agoraphobia.” Errrr....yes.

Linda and I slipped away, as we like to talk things out between us, and the workshops were sounding increasingly wholesome, as in just the introduction we had been invited to walk the meditative labyrinth and to join with the connectiveness of a tree and its roots. Since I tend to swear and say loud irrational things when talking about suicide, I wanted to get away from all the hush and contemplation to do so. So we simply followed the white rabbit (not a drug reference!).

We talked together about some of the people we knew who had committed suicide, both of us remembering Mr. B. He was a long time minister noted for his gentle and sensitive soul. He killed himself many years ago, but only last year did I find out that a senior minister, Mr. M. was involved. Mr. M was the same superior whose demands and insensitivity drove my father to a complete physical breakdown (and leaving of the ministery). Mr. M then was placed over Mr. B., constantly berating criticizing and mocking him. Mr. B committed suicide within 18 months. Mr. M has now moved on to another church area.

There was a time, in my church denomination, when people were committing suicide every single month. I remember some months when the North American church newsletter had more suicides in the obits than any other cause of death. Not that anyone talked about it, of course, except to speculate a) if they not going to heaven and b) why they had not given their hearts and minds sufficiently to God.

Does God prevent suicide? I don’t know, but I do know that if God’s followers were more willing to talk and support those with mental illness, depression, sexual abuse, divorce and suicide/suicide attempts, Christians might be more effective at preventing suicide, instead of in some cases, encouraging it. I cannot count the number of times I have heard the message that the solution to depression, or mental illnesses is acknowledging our brokenness, opening our heart completely to God (and some vitamins) and through God’s power “overcoming” our depression, our OCD, our Anxiety, our mental illness, our homosexuality. There are a host of Christian books from Don Colbert's, to the 40 year classic, Spiritual Depression which says, “all depression has its root in sin…only in Christ can release from the bondage of self come”, or Victory over Darkness in which “Victory Over the Darkness emphasizes the importance of believing and internalizing the cardinal truths of Scripture as a base from which to renew the mind and fend off Satan's relentless attempt”, then there are the books linking mental illness to demonic possession. Of course, in the isolation created by a view that depression or mental illness is a state of being “unchristian”or not Christian enough, specifically, not being humble or open enough to God and/or not being determined or working hard enough to “overcome”; many, many people I knew prayed, and tried and struggled. They also waited in their own dark night for something that never came, and then they killed themselves.

It would be nice if the same Christians who get glasses because they don’t see failing eyes as a lack of brokenness, and get special instruction for their children because they don’t see dyslexia as a form of demon possession could be as enlightened when it came to serotonin, lithium, nor-adrenaline and other chemical brain interaction imbalances. Or even the idea that someone attempting suicide isn’t defying God but showing the desperation from which they see their life.

I was disturbed and saddened when blog force Hugo Schwyzer gave a long post detailing his transformation from mental illness to peace through leaving medication behind, opening his heart to God and working hard on confronting himself: “And if nothing else, my story makes clear to me (and perhaps to others) that addictions, personality disorders, and mental illnesses can -- through a combination of grace and exhaustive, long-term effort, be overcome..Where there is even a tiny spark of willingness to change (and inside some pretty rotten, crazy people, that spark can be found), there is reason to hope.”

While he starts originally about Narcissistic and Borderline Personality Disorder, he expands it to all mental illnesses. For Hugo (and many, many Christians), a normal, or positive quality of life is one which is broken into two categories: those who are on meds and those who aren’t, those who “free” themselves and those who don’t, Hugo refers to them as those who “make it” and those who “don’t’”: “Why some make it and some don't is anyone's guess. My condition was grave and real, and my life is different today -- and I don't take meds.”

While I applaud ANYONE who positively reorders their life after becoming aware of mental illness, I am frustrated by another ode to a program which will kill more people from suicide in trying it, than those who succeed. This combo of desire to change and opening your heart to the Lord is exactly the same one which is preached by Exodus International, those who believe that sexual orientation is not fixed, and that someone who really wants to will let God change them “for the better” – of course, studies on this type of program have shown that far more people kill themselves in failing to meet these expectations and the despair that follows than ever succeed.

Going to a doctor and getting the appropriate medication IS an action of acknowledging that you are not defined by your illness or medical imbalance. So is going for therapy. So is going to support groups. If you want to help prevent suicide; then get to know the people around you, and be there for them. Or support somone who is doing the 20 mile, Out of the Darkness Overnight, raising 3.6 million for research and education in this year's event. As a person suffering from depression or mental illness, certainly accept responsibility for your actions, your treatment of others, your ability to positively impact others, but not for the preset biochemical interactions in your body. God doesn’t heal Obsessive Compulsive Disorder with bee pollen or Vitamin B for a reason; because it doesn’t solve the chemical imbalance. There are however several medications that do.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Fall, no teaching & no award = squirrel envy

Fall has arrived and sadly, I did not manage to pick up a single teaching course at university for September. In fact, I can’t get most of the departments to even return my calls. I had this vague plan which involved getting one or two of sessional classes like Comp 101 or Entry to Marketing which often have high volume and require a bunch of floating teachers every year. But I underestimated how anal Canada universities could be; there is a separate workers union for teachers of sessional courses, though how one gets into this union for ad hoc university teaching (and thus able to apply for sessional jobs) is yet unknown. Weird.

I just could go up to the university and schmooze myself into the good graces of the department head and then appointed a job, which is pretty standard North American practice (and you thought nepotism is dead?). Well, except that my having a zero schmooze factor was the reason I took my Ph.D in the UK where they respect some intelligence but mostly admire just being able to survive the process (Ph.D failure rate at my UK university used to be 90% - but it has improved slightly). Combined with that, I got an email on Tuesday telling me that I did not make the final cut for the $5,000 Butler Book Prize. Then, six hours later, I received a personal email from the head of the Butler Book Prize with the header “Sorry, there was a mistake in the announcement.” Hope springs up momentarily, only to be crushed once again when the message is about one of the other authors selected (why did you send me a personal email? Do you hate me that much?). So far, I have won every US prize I have been entered in (one) and not made it up from the long list on every Canadian Prize I have been entered in (two). Am I now regretting that whole essay about how much I hate Canadian Lit?

Of course, with my novel Control Group, I am still in rewriting meltdown. Just to clarify, I completely and totally finished Control Group, sent it off to people to read, got some very good reviews but put it aside for awhile. Then, rereading it some months ago I decided that while it might be a good book, it was not a great book. That seemed somehow important then and I replotted the entire book including changing every major character except two and added three new characters. Okay, so now the novel is spread in itsy-bitsy tiny pieces all over my consciousness and I am asking myself, “Was it really that bad a novel?” or more importantly, “When I finish this, and reclaim my sanity, will it actually be a better novel?” I have no idea. I’ll let you know.

In news that surprised even me, I am going to be a panelist at VCON, the Vancouver Science Fiction Convention October 6-8th. The specific panels I will be on should be finalized in a few days, so if you want to see me in person, come to Vancouver. I will even buy every person who mentions this blog (in person) a coffee. But not an expensive Starbucks coffee, just one from a vending machine; cause remember, I DIDN’T win the Butler Book Prize. Also, if anyone has any idea how what I can say to people who ask me what type of science fiction/fantasy I write, that would help. It’s just that when people are paying money to come to VCON, I want them to have a good time and add to that, and right now I am feeling like a big old imposter, since I don’t actually write science fiction (hey, if I saw it during a fever dream, that means it’s real!). Plus, the one thing I used to say in my writing classes was: There is no such thing as Science Fiction. But that was suppose to be a writers Zen riddle.

Everyone is heading off to school and I’m not. It’s making me feel a little insecure. Every morning this week groups of 20+ Canada Geese have honked their way over my head (sometimes only 25 feet over my head) as they head south for the winter. The squirrels, of which I see at least three every walk I take, are very focused, slightly neurotic with all their leaping and bouncing, but still determinedly focused. All the animal kingdom seems to have a goal and purpose. Meanwhile my subconscious, or collective insecurity, is trying to tell me to start a science fiction/fantasy novel in the next four weeks so I have something slightly science fictionish to talk about at VCON. Also, it would mean I get to escape this particularly ugly rewrite. But no, no, being a dedicated writer means doing what needs to be done, even when it isn’t particularly pleasant anymore. It’s just, the squirrels look like they are having more fun – I’d kinda rather be leaping around with them.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Dieting, guilt and the church of feminism

Isn’t a religion’s success based on how guilty you feel? In which case, I am leaving the church of feminism; I am tearing up my card, handing in my toaster before I get booted out. Why? Because I am on a diet.

You see, according to Feh-muh-nist, “Feminism requires WORK - intellectual work, emotional work, physical work, and spiritual work…If you're not up for it, that's okay, but then you're NOT A FEMINIST.” All that working out however can’t include doing so because you (whisper) “want to be thinner”. On Feh-muh-nist’s list of things “real” feminists oppose, right after rape and prostitution, comes “weight-loss diets and fatphobia” at number 4.

From I blame the patriarchy (and linked endlessly elsewhere) I find that by dieting, I am letting not just myself, but ALL women down, that “certain of your so-called choices are making the whole group look bad.” And thus I have institutionalized the oppression of the patriarchy and their standard of beauty which she links in a list that starts with “dieting” and ends with “rape”.

My diet consists, not of anything particularly organized but rather simply exercising more, eating less, and eating (slightly) better stuff than normal. Yes, I want to feel fit, and yes I want have more endurance for epee, but also, a major if not THE major reason I am going on a diet is: to lose weight. And the reason I want to lose weight (excluding the financial consideration of going up a clothing size when everything you buy is a specialty item and even a t-shirt cost over $30) is because I think I would look better 10-15 pounds lighter. And maybe that means I have absorbed the beauty myth and maybe it doesn’t. Maybe I don’t feel as comfortable greeting the mail delivery person naked anymore. Maybe I have deep rooted body image issues. SO WHAT!

Honestly, I would like to be part of a movement of women (heck, even men) that supports women, that looks like a big family instead of a pack of hyenas ripping a wounded member apart. Remember the 90’s when there was the call the boycott establishments that sold diet drinks as oppressors and enforcers of body image? I do. And I drink diet coke, and it’s not because I like the taste. It’s because I want to drink coke, and not have calories. Even the “pro-feminist” male Hugo Schwyzer is a better feminist than me. In yesterday’s blog he displayed the correct way a feminist should get healthier: only healthy food, no diet coke, no looking in the mirror or weighing yourself to determine your standards, finishing with his pledge not to wiegh himself for the rest of 2006. Let’s see, yesterday I had my diet coke, weighed myself twice (losing 4 pounds in an afternoon and deciding the scale is wonky), stared at myself naked in the mirror, found a top to hide my pot and went out for chicken wings then I followed up by going on a run as soon as I got up this morning. I felt good about myself after the run so I wore a fairly skimpy top to do some errands. These actions I now find are my empowering the patriarchy to rape women because I don’t have enough mental discipline to accept myself as I am, but also not eat junk food (which separates me from the inner woman and the nurturing organic food of mother earth). Eh? What? But chicken wings taste so good!

Let’s not go into my other lists of feminist sins: push-up bras, make-up, hair styling, being a femme, shopping at walmart, and actually smiling sometimes when a guy tells me I look good instead of kicking him in the balls and screaming “Female exploiter!” over his writhing body. I fail to see the point of being so wonderfully empowered if I am no longer allowed to be who I am, neurotic warts and all. So, I am now calling for another movement – not sure what to call it – about helping and empowering people where THEY ARE, instead of deciding where they should be and how they should feel. Or how about just caring about other people and trying to make them feel good? On that plan, today, I smiled and said “hi” to 14 people….so far. If you see me running, smile and say hi. Once I notice a majority of people noticing and caring about others, then I’ll start to worry about whether they are noticing and caring the RIGHT way. Till then, I am on a diet – 15 pounds or feminist!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Moving to LA: murder, mud, fire, flood and Doo Dah!

In fall of 1977 my parents moved to Pasadena, California; known for its bad elderly drivers (as eternalized by Little old lady from Pasadena by the Beach Boys), its geeks in the form of Cal Tech and JPL, and its fairly affluent middle class values, from the Greene & Greene to Frank Lloyd Wright houses to Bullocks on Lake Street. Of course for me, that first year of 1977-1978 was all about murder, natural disaster and kooks.

Our arrival to Pasadena coincided with the reign of terror of the Hillside Strangler. The Strangler (which turned out later to be cousins working in tandem) terrified, because The Strangler attacked, raped and killed only women. The age ranges were all over, from 12 to 28 and every weekend, people waited to hear who was dead. Teenage girls were kept at home; single women were encouraged to not be alone as “The Strangler” killed again, and again, all over Los Angeles, leaving only dumped bodies behind, from Eagle Rock to Glendale, from prostitutes to country club members, if you were young and female, “The Strangler” was targeting you. With each death, things got worse; the next victim had been tortured before being killed, then the next body was staged so it pointed toward city hall. The last body was found in Feb. 1978. Most of this went over my head, but I do remember the tension among the women, and really everyone, wondering when the next person would be killed, when the next body would be found and more important, would it ever end?

Of course this was just a prelude to six years later when the Night Stalker began his summer of terror, simply walking into people’s houses, killing, torturing and raping them and then disappearing, sexually assaulting and/or killing as young as 8 and as old as 83. With the police composite description, you couldn’t go a block without seeing a poster as neighborhoods took turns watching and patrolling, every window locked tight and some people even using cardboard cutouts of the Night Stalker in their window to try and convince him to choose someone else. (consequently the clue of his wearing a baseball cap of the band AC/DC fueled the justification in our church for banning that “evil” rock music, specifically AC/DC – one of the bands my brother liked).

Back in 1978, our family moved from an apartment to a small house on Lemon Street, Pasadena, just at the edge of Hispanic gang territory. About 5 houses down was the bus depot and repair yard which, as a large open space abandoned on weekends, was used for duels and knife fights by the gangs. Many summer nights, I can remember going to bed listening though the open windowns, the screams and moans coming from the bus depot. Previously I had lived in a fairly remote area of Surrey, BC, with two neighbors and lots and lots of woods (which at school the 5th grade boys told us were filled with dead rotting bodies - so I didn’t go into the woods a lot). Besides the bodies-in-the-woods, it was a pretty sedate life in BC, well except that time my brother found the stash from the robbery from the corner store, or when the 18 wheel truck lost control and stopped just short of flattening our house (our fence and trees didn’t fair as well). Well, I guess LA wasn’t so different, just bigger.

The late summer of 1978 was marred by the Malibu/Mandeville Canyon fire, which set fire to the San Gabriel mountains, which loomed above us, only a few miles from where I lived. The fire spread everywhere, and thanks to the whipping winds up to 60 miles an hour, it also set a new speed record as it spread 13 miles in less than two hours (faster than most animals or humans could run), “One eyewitness account in the Los Angeles Times described how the rampaging fire front "turned thousands of wild rabbits into balls of flaming fur that darted insanely about, only to start new fires at the spots where they fell."” As the sun went down, the entire horizon, covered by the 5000+ foot mountains, was orange with the fires, and the sky rained ash continually. Every morning you would get up to find the lawn covered in a fine ash which hung in the air and stuck to your face and clothes, like grey snowflakes (which was repeated a few years later when Mount Saint Helen blew). I never worried that the fire would come down to us, though I wished it would (remember I was a disaster loving kid, not the disaster loving mature adult I am now). But it was a wonderful panorama of raging fires with helicopters and water bombers roaring by overhead to make their runs. Of course, the fire was barely out before the torrential rain started and the mudslides began, whole hillsides of houses disappearing under the mud in slides that killed 13 people. Drowned to death in mud – ug! Somehow the landowners of Malibu convinced the government to build a giant wall to stop thier houses sliding into the sea. The houses in places like Ventura weren't so equally protected (maybe something about how not many people in Ventura lunch with the governor?).

Of course, these were the “innocent” days of Pasadena; some serial killers, a lot of natural disasters. Soon the entire nation would be looking at LA, and parents would be checking what we were wearing daily; not because we were too low cut, but to make sure we weren’t wearing blue or red. The days of the “crips” and the “bloods” were soon ahead. But on Thanksgiving 1978, we all went out to see the latest Pasadena folly, the Doo Dah parade. The Doo Dah parade began in November 1978 as a parade for people who thought the annual Rose Parade was too stuffy and too serious. It was a parade for all the people who wanted to dress up and be in a parade.

The Doo Dah parade has been described as "a cross between The Little Rascals and a Fellini movie," which is famous in it’s own way for marching groups from “The Synchronized Briefcase Marching Drill Team” (an 1978 original group which has just grown and grown in popularity) to "The BBQ and Hibachi Marching Grill Team". The Pasadena of my youth was well known for its “colourful” characters such as “The Spinner”, a local man who dressed wild and spun in circles while waiting for lights, or “bee man”, the guy who covered his entire van in testimonies to bee pollen as a curative. The Doo Dah Parade just gave Pasadena eccentricity a little legitimacy; and considering the antics of the students of Cal Tech (including making a green glow-in-the-dark liquid, putting it on the highway and then cleaning it up in full Haz-Mat suits starting an urban panic), the oddities of exiled royalty of pre-WWII Europe to probably the highest per capita health food stores in the US, we needed all the legitimacy we could get.

Through random murders, fires, floods, mudslides and the Doo Dah parade I was baptized as an LA resident. It was good because the next year would have me trapped in a building singing hymns while surrounded by the LA sheriffs department with their shotguns and tear gas (story for another day). LA was not a place for the weak, as the State would later prove when they flew helicopters in Apocalypse Now formation over the city, dropping a nerve agent developed by the nazi’s; with such high toxic levels that it pitted cars and killed pets outright. LA also brought the US a new concept of road rage, with all out gun battles on the freeways of the 1980’s including one July with temperatures over 114 degrees which racked up 800 homicides in just one month. You’re not in Canada anymore; Viva LA!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Amateur guitar players: criminals or cash cows?

In the US war against illegal music, the new public enemy are….amateur guitar player? Yes, both the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) and the Music Publishers Association of the United States (MPA) are continuing a campaign to stop amateur guitar players from sharing self learned chording (called tabs) online due to “copyright infringement.” But this is far less about their hatred of garage bands or sorrow over loss of revenue than an attempt to corner a future market through making the current competition illegal.

The Music and Teachers Organization explain guitar tabs as “a rudimentary way for guitar students to show each other how to play a guitar part for their favorite song. These tabs are created by the users and as such are not akin in any way to the illegal downloading of music recordings. They are not copied from published music from a book, from the web or other pre-existing sources.” However, MPA President Lauren Keiser announced in December 2005 that these guitar tabs fall under copyright as being derivation of original materials and that “he did not just want to shut websites and impose fines, saying if authorities can "throw in some jail time I think we'll be a little more effective".”

Following last year’s attack on PearLyrics, a website showing song lyrics (but not music), this July and August the MPA and NMPA lawyers have sent threats and closed down several of the biggest guitar tab sites including: OLGA, Guitar Tab Universe and Guitar Ironically this has doubled the traffic of Ultimate according to the New York Times.

The NMPA and MPA claim these actions come from concern over theft and protecting musician's income rights showing as proof that guitar tab books have dropped in sales from 25,000 books in the early 90’s to around 5,000 a year. However, the NMPA and MPA protect the rights and royalties, through publishers, of hundreds of thousands of musicians. Why, instead of wanting the music of the hundreds of thousands of artists to be played and spread through guitar tabs, are they more intested in these 20,000 books? While it is very noble to employ not one but two different legal teams to protect the royalties of 20,000 books annually; the NMPA and MPA are not paid to be noble but to make money.

The NMPA and MPA are not just interested in current revenue, but wherever it may be found, now or in the future. Right now the MPA does not make more guitar tabs for an obvious reason: cost to profit ratio. The MPA president Lauren Kaiser “estimated that, including overhead costs, tablature could cost about $800 per song to produce, license and format for downloading.” Tim Reiland of the online sheet music store MusicNotes sells the limited number of licensed guitar tabs for $5 each but says "Less than 25 percent of the music out there ends up in sheet music because sometimes it just doesn't pay to do it". Well, currently it doesn't.

This fever of legal activity is not because guitar interest is waning, but the opposite. In Britain alone, just in the last year, almost 1 million guitars were sold. Online guitar lessons sites are listing their 10 millionth hit, and tab site Ultimate gets 1.4 million hits a month. Literally tens if not hundreds of millions of people are learning or playing the guitar, and that means money. Well, it would except that since the 70’s the traditional way to play the guitar is to get a guitar, listen obsessively to the songs you like, learn how to play them and then share notes on how to play them with your friends. The whole point of a guitar is that is inexpensive to buy and inexpensive to learn: the people’s instrument. Plus you can wave it around really threateningly and look cool on stage with one. Well, there isn’t a lot of money for music companies for people sitting around sharing how they learned to play “Stairway to Heaven” That is, unless you can somehow make doing that illegal!

The MPA, in response to the mass of petitions, letters, protests and frustration from guitar fans who point out that the internet is the ONLY place they can learn to play most songs, hold out both the stick and the carrot: “"it is the presence of the unauthorized free product that is largely to blame for that situation," implying that once it rids the Internet of the scourge of sheet music piracy, guitarists will be awash in a sea of accurate transcriptions.” At first it may appear that the MPA and NMPA simply want masses of people to stop learning to play guitar and instead return back to the revenue herd of listening to CD’s and legal downloads. Instead, I believe that MPA is sincere in increasing and securing guitar tabs. Because by cutting off the community of guitar players sharing with each other, MPA and NMPA envision a future where every single one of the tens of millions of guitar students and fans will have to play for each and every song they learn. That is a lucrative future, one any corporation would fight for. I am reminded of the Coca-Cola campaigns in third world countries to “transition customers from traditional beverages” (translation: stop drinking water and tea and buy coke instead). So, prepare to get out your green, garage bands, because the MPA has decided there is money in those strings.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Long Weekend: sex tips, zombies & vampire

Friday before the long weekend; why am I thinking that this may not be the most productive workday this year? It’s the last long weekend of summer, so I am not going to post a long piece on alternative fuel cars (next week!) but instead offer some suggestions to keep your mind distracted as the clock ticks around toward FREEDOM!

A nifty webcomic with strong, yet eccentric goth female characters is Devil’s Panties. Though the main character wears a t-shirt with a double headed axe, she is NOT a lesbian; her friend however is. Besides the comic, she also offers some valuable advice for the bedroom, like not starting off foreplay with the phrase “It’s not my fault!”

I also recommend zombies, as zombies are sort of eternally fun. You could join my zombie army, or better yet you could join me in playing Urban Dead, a post zombie apocalypse city online game. The game is turn based with only 25 actions a day which makes it perfect for a 5-10 minute escape from workplace reality (preferably when your boss isn’t watching).

For those vampire inclined, you might want to check out the oldest blogging vampire, currently named Angelique. Posting can be disrupted when her lair is found or destroyed, but if you ever wanted to ask someone what it was like in the Middle Ages, now is your chance. Of course she may have been preoccupied with the sex and the blood drinking.

As for me, I am heading to the mountains. Yes, that’s right, I am off to do arduous mountain training for epee – based on the premise that anything that makes Mr. Ho that upset must be good for something. Besides, if you read a lot of manga, then you know that either you will end up as a school girl with a complex love triangle (not me!), with a giant sword (yes!), and alien (No!) or do mountain training. The other reason I am heading to the mountains is that there is a bell-ringer convention in town and they are planning to ring the 10 bells of the cathedral through a full chime (takes three hours!) at least once. I live two blocks from the cathedral.

Drive safe, and remember, the more you honk your horn in a long holiday weekend traffic jam, the more the other drivers respect you.