Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Defending James

Perhaps you remember a few posts ago, when I (finally) blogged about the whole James Frey fiasco. I sent a letter to the blog, James Frey Owes Me Money, and they published it on the site. Well, because we live in a world where a President can be a draft dodger, an unrepentant liar, cheater, ne'er-do-well, a poser and otherwise felonious conspirator, and some asshole somewhere will still make excuses for him, don't you just know an anonymous little James Frey defender jumped on the opportunity to chastise me for my failure to express harsh opinions against the war in Iraq, the current administration, genocide, starvation, etc.

  • Anonymous said...
    What is this crap? Please at least waste your life doing something more productive than whining about this book being mislabeled. You are the person in front of me in line in the supermarket bitching that you want the can of soup cheaper. This is the most laughable shit in the world. Get angry about injustice in the White House, or war, or starvation, or genocide, or anything that requires real tangible decisions.

I felt compelled to answer him... or her... we'll just refer to this pointless, nameless little fleshbag of wasted human DNA as "it".... to answer "it" by pointing it to my two blogs in which -- and I think you all will vouch for me here -- useful, pointed and topical opinions are not lacking.

  • Catharine said...
    Dear Anonymous -- Thanks for your articulate response to my letter. Believe me when I tell you that I have enough anger to go around. Hence my two blogs about things like injustice in the White House, racism, war, genocide, bad movies and cheaper soup. No, wait... I don't like soup. You've mistaken me for someone else who eats soup.This blog is about letters to James Frey, however, so I pretty much tried to stay on topic and to the point. See you in line at the supermarket. I'll wave if I see you -- if you ever lift your nose out of the latest issue of Weekly World News, that is. ~C~

I was somewhat bemused as to how a post about genocide really would have been relevant at a blog about James Frey and A Million Little Pieces, but this kind of good common sense did not deter Anonymous. I was particularly taken with it's utterly meaningless soup analogy, as I fail to see what buying cheap soup has to do with a nationally publicized book fraud. I was also a little baffled by its reference to the "mislabeling" of Frey's book, as both the publisher and Frey's agent have said that Frey presented the book to them as memoir, and, golly, you learn the difference between a novel and a memoir in English 101. Perhaps it never took English 101. Perhaps it doesn't even speak English at all, and used Altavista's Babelfish to translate its response into English, which would explain the idiotic, random soup metaphor.

Anyway, just thought you guys might be interested in seeing what happens when generations of first cousins choose to marry and procreate. I hope I didn't confuse Anonymous with my brusk editorial style; however, it's obvious to me that vital, articulate opinion is what Anonymous hungers for most. So here it is, Anonymous -- my little opinion, just for you, terse and edgy though it may be. I hope it somehow fills the ridges and cracks in your empty, dreary little life.

And I hope someday, after years of therapy, you finally find both a name and a good, cheap can of soup.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Or "Why I Think John Gray is Just a Nice Guy Who Has His Head WAY Up His Ass."

This all started with that book. That damned book. Men Are From Mars; Women Are From Venus. A seemingly innocuous little tome, written by a former monk-turned-psychologist, who was only trying to help by pointing out to us that men and women are so totally different in every way that they could have come from separate planets. And we bought into it.

No, wait. I bought into it. I won't include you all in this, since some of you had the supreme good sense to call a crock of shit a crock of shit when you saw one. I bought into it because I wanted to find the simple reason why my relationships had been so unequivocally disasterous up to that point. I bought into it because it was important at the time for me to believe that it was just a matter of finding out the right words, spoken in the right order, of understanding what my man's frame of mind was -- that he wasn't leaving me when he "went into the cave," but that he was a rubber band that needed to stretch back into shape before he snapped.

And I bought it. Hook, line and rubberband ball. Because it was easier to tell myself that I wasn't the one being abandoned. It wasn't me he wasn't communicating with. It wasn't me he wasn't talking to. He was in the cave. He was a rubberband that had been overstretched by the demands that life makes on men that taxes them so substantially that they simply cannot function without some downtime. It wasn't me; it was him. "I'll leave him alone. He's in the cave." Nothing wrong with me -- he's just a man being Martian.

Upon further reflection of this concept, from a position of advanced age and sultry wisdom, I say this: Fuck off and die, John Gray!

Sorry. That was strong. I actually think Dr. Gray means well. I don't think he ever meant to be condescending and insulting. I think he set out to explain why we weren't all getting along. I also think thatwhat he knows about women you could make dance on the head of a pin.

Here's the thing. Is there really anyone out there who has ever known a mother, working or at home, married or single, who believes for an instant that there haven't been at least fifteen times in the course of a day when she wants to pack it in and go hide in a cave, thereby being left alone to do as she pleases for a specified period of time, without being bothered by her 24/7 job of wiping snotty noses or poopy bottoms, refereeing sibling boxing matches, listening to the incessant whines from a napless, overtired, can't-sleep-now-its-too-close-to-bedtime child? Is there anyone who knows a wife, at home or in the workplace, who wouldn't at some point, like to kiss her husband good-bye and go spend a week or so away from the incredibly wearing task of bearing the responsibility for the emotional end of an entire relationship, handling the spiritual and psychological baggage, making all the excuses, looking after someone who may or may not reciprocate affection in a way that rewards her? He is leaving her when he goes into the cave, even if its just for a day or so. He's leaving her to flounder in a sea of both of their making, while he reclines on the beach and gives himself a little break from the struggle commitment requires.

Men are NOT from Mars. Women are NOT from Venus. We are all from HERE -- the planet Earth, and while it spins and whirls and tilts on its little axis, we all have things we have to do. We have jobs to go to, people to conduct business with, classes to attend, papers to write, partners and spouses to emotionally connect with, children to raise and nurture, dishwashers to load and unload, laundry to do. And it's exhausting. For everybody. And I refuse to believe for a second that the male sex is so frail and unstable that it isn't up to the task. One, because that lets men off the hook far too easily. And, two, because I have a couple of men friends who are far more capable than I of keeping all the balls in the air.

The only non-anatomical difference between men and women that I can find is that men give themselves permission to go into the cave, while women just stick around here and plug it out, because that's what we're taught we must do. We don't have permission to retreat and lock ourselves away to watch sports or play golf or nap. We're busy being okay and making everyone around us okay, because that's our job. It's what we do. It's what makes having a "wife" far more desirable to me than having a "husband" at this stage of my life (more about this in future blog posts).

So to every man who has taken to his cave, secure in the knowledge he's rightly entitled to it, then actually thrown it in the face of a woman he knows by telling her it was all becoming too much for him to bear, I say here and now, "Knock it off and get back to work, mister. I don't care what planet you think you're from, you're here now, and the trash needs taking out!"


(original artwork by Ted Nasmith can be found, full-sized, here.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

You're As Young As You Feel... On Mars.

It seems I had two important birthdays this past November. My Earth birthday, which took place on November 2, 2005 at 10:42pm, PST, rendered me forty-seven. But I don't feel forty-seven. I've been told I don't look forty-seven. I'm always appalled when 60-year-old men approach me as of I'm datable, and it feels like I'm looking at my grandfather. (Sorry, guys, but.... Ew.)

I'm thinking that, perhaps its because of the other birthday. See, if I were still living on the planet Mars, one week after my Earth birthday, I would have celebrated my Mars birthday, on November 9, 2005, at 4:31 am. There would have been a mere twenty-five candles on my little cake. Of course, due to the lack of atmosphere on Mars, they wouldn't have stayed lit for very long. But its the thought that counts. And I feel much closer to twenty-five than I do to forty-seven (though I'm pretty sure I look closer to forty-seven than I do to twenty-five).

All of this comes courtesy of Timeanddate.com, a nifty little website that computers dates and times and breaks birthdays down to seconds and minutes. I turned a billion seconds old last July... so very depressing. But not nearly so depressing as realizing that there are 1,071 days until a new President is inaugurated on January 21, 2009.*

So, go see how old you are. Maybe you're do for a landmark birthday on some other planet. (I've always wanted to see Jupiter in the spring).


* Assuming there are no Presidential impeachments, resignations, or hunting trips with Dick Cheney, that is.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy Valentine's Day

Hope you get all the flowers, chocolates, kissed and hugs you can stand.

As for me, I intend to spend my Valentine's Day evening, dining in with a very handsome fellow in a tuxedo.


Friday, February 10, 2006

Environmental Concerns - Journal Entry # 5

11/10/05 -- ENCINO, CA.

I live in a large, 2 bedroom apartment with two roommates. They are both freeloading at the moment, since I'm the only one of us who is gainfully employed. While one of them has job prospects, the other is destined to spend his days sleeping on the couch all day and being waited on by women. The job hunter is pictured at right. The permanent loafer is playing the part of a fur stole.

I moved into this apartment in 1996. Come August of next year, I will have lived here ten years. That's about twice as long as I've ever lived anywhere in my life. It is also the first place I've ever lived where I spent time actually apartment hunting, chose it myself with no outside input, and have paid the rent and the bills myself (with no help and with varying degrees of success through time). It is my home. But until last year, it was gravely lacking.

When I signed the lease, it was made pretty clear that no pets were allowed. My manager had been begging and pleading with the landlord to change the policy, but he refused to consider it. I personally feel landowners who ban pets should be subjected to any number of creative and innovative tortures (like being forced to watch every episode of all ten seasons of Survivor back-to-back). Denying someone the company of an animal is cruel. Jerry came in through the back door early this year, stayed secret for a week, then was tacitly accepted by the management in what has come to be a "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

I have been raised with pets my entire life (minus the eight years I lived here under this bio-fascist regime). By rough count, the permanent pets* I have had in my life consisted of five dogs, seventeen cats, one bird (a cockateil -- 'nuff said there), a quarter horse, a couple of Oriental fire-bellied toads, five hamsters and a guinea pig. My daughter kept her iguana at her father's house, which explains why Iggy has since shuffled off this mortal coil. My ex is a nice guy, but clueless about the care and feeding of dependent, confined things. I've laid down the law in this regard: The next exotic pet my daughter acquires, she pays for, and it lives at our house (Note: Tarantulas need not apply).

Jerry is what they call an "inside cat." He used to be an "inside/outside" cat when he lived in Savannah's father's house. But we live close enough to the hills that letting him run around outside makes me uncomfortable. I've already sacrificed one cat to the Coyote Gods -- I'd rather not do it again. Even in his tom-catting days, he wasn't a hunter. His sister was. Her reputation for bringing home half-eviscerated baby rabbits is the stuff of cat lore throughout the feline worldm I'm sure. But Jerry can't hunt. Won't hunt. Shows no interest in it. Unless he's sitting on one side of the glass, and the sparrows are pecking the seeds off the patio concrete on the other. Then he becomes the Great White Hunter.

Through the sliding glass door, he stalks them, follows them, conceals himself behind the vertical blinds, and makes that noise that my ex-college roommate used to refer to as "eeping" -- his jaw drops and "chatters", while a soft, very low machine-gun sound comes out of his mouth. I can only assume that the low-frequency sound is meant to help cats in the wild coordinate their conjoined attack on the unsuspecting prey. As it happens, because of the glass that separates them, the cat could be belting a cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit," and the "prey" would be oblivous. But it doesn't stop him from having his little primal "lion" (or "puma" or "ocelot") take over and drive him to hunt. The cruel sadist in me waits for the day when, after I've cleaned the sliding glass door, he actually decides to throw caution to the wind and pounce.

Watching him, I'm reminded that he started as a "wild thing." He wasn't really designed to live "inside," though doing so means he'll live a longer, healthier life. He was created to hunt other wild things. The same markers that dot his DNA are the ones carried by whatever feral feline began his lineage thousands of years ago, and DNA dies hard.

What about our DNA, then? What prompts so many of us to require the companionship of real, live "wild things" (domesticated though they may be) in our dwellings? Why does that give us such comfort -- lowering our blood pressure, raising our endorphines, curing all manner of physical ailment? What coaxed the first hunter/gatherer to believe that bringing home the pups of the wolf he'd just killed, then raising them as pets was a good idea -- especially knowing what truly awful pets tamed wolves make? (How many Neanderthal toddlers went missing, do you think?) Is it the control over nature? Is it companionship they give us? I don't live alone, after all. I have a teenager at home. And she actually wants to spend a lot of her time with me, as crazy as that sounds. So why the need for a big, largely inert furball that gives very little in the way of material benefit?

I don't have an answer yet. It very well might be the subject of my final paper. Film at eleven….

*This does not include the countless fosters -- rescued litters of barely-weaned feral kittens, stray dogs and homeless cats, rats and injured squirrels which came to live for a while, then later found new homes elsewhere.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I Swore I Wasn't Going to Post About This!

But, really, who are we kidding? This has been bugging the crap out of me. James Frey. Oprah Winfrey. A Million Little Pieces.

I keep thinking if I talk about that lying little sack of poo, it only serves to give him more publicity. I read the first few chapters of the book weeks and weeks ago (before all the hoopla), and found it to be poorly written and ill-conceived, even for a memoir. As a work of fiction, it's like a bad rip-off of Go Ask Alice.

I have been stewing about it for a couple of weeks. The talk all over my MFA program forums is frightening. "Beautiful, man. He was totally playing with genre." And (from an instructor, no less), "What difference does it make? Everybody lies." And from the fiction writers: "Gee, golly, but we make shit up all the time." You're FICTION writers, you idiots!!!! The moral turpitude that is alive and well and living in the American literary community is breathtaking. No wonder this generation's literary claims to fame are the Jayson Blairs and the Judith Millers and the James Freys of the world. One creative non-fiction instructor, Hope Edelman, redeemed the entire program for me, though, with her post on Huffington Post.

But I found a website that has given me an outlet for my anger. It's called James Frey Owes Me Money. I wrote my letter to James last night, and we'll see if it makes the cut there. If it does, I'll link to it here. If it doesn't, I'll post the whole thing. Not all the posts are anti-Frey, but there are enough there to make me realize that I am not alone in the world. People out there do recognize that he is a liar and a fraud and an otherwise not-nice human being, and aren't afraid to tell him so in public.

So, keep your fingers crossed that my letter makes the site, so I can finally have some closure.


Update: My letter to James was indeed posted on the website, and here's the link.

Monday, February 06, 2006

In or Out, Make up Your Mind

The Chron is up and running again, so I've moved the Feminism post back to its rightful place. I have another post planned for here in a day or so.

Now, if we can just keep the computer fairies happy, we'll all be fine.


Thursday, February 02, 2006

Environmental Concerns - Journal Entry #4

Fourth (actually, fifth, but the original No. 4 was so boring, I decided to spare you all -- you can thank me later) entry in my Environmental Landscapes Journal.

10/23/05 – ENCINO, CA

Did you know that, prior to 1994, the state of California spent two times more on freeway shoulder landscaping than on the earthquake retro-fitting overpasses and abuttments? That’s what Michael Ventura said in his article for the May-June, 1994 issue of Psychology Today. The result, of course, was that a bunch of overpasses either actually fell down, or at least threatened to, following the Northridge quake of January 17, 1994. Clearly, the vegetation that we drive past every day is critically important to us. I started to write “the vegetation that we whizz past at 65 mph,” but who are we kidding here? Whizzing? I personally spend most of my time crawling along at a breathtaking 25 mph on the freeway these days.

Yesterday, I spent more time than usual regarding it when my distributor went to the Great Irretrievably Broken Auto Parts Graveyard in the Sky on the southbound 405, just short of Mulholland. Not the most interesting spot on the freeway, granted. A couple of bushes of mustardweed, which, if I’m not mistaken, is indigenous There’s nothing much to look at, except to stare longingly into one’s rear-view mirror, waiting for the tow truck that’s promised to come and rescue me. (Hey, wait a minute… those cars are whizzing, aren’t they. That blurred SUV just to the left my rear-view mirror is most assuredly whizzing. Bastards!).

So, being me, and a bit perverse, I came home and looked up “freeway landscaping + california” in a couple of search engines to see what I can find on all that “landscaped” real estate that we pass by every day. It turns out that we in California spend a lot of money on freeway landscaping. A large chunk of the alotted $27.5 million set aside for road maintenance is earmarked for planting and maintaining the vegetation that grows along the freeways that run across and along the entire State of California. This is where the mustardweed comes in, apparently. Recycled water is being used in some areas, but it seems to be meeting resistance from some locals who don’t fully trust what they’re neighbors are doing in their sinks and showers (and, really, can we blame them?) And because we’re trying not to water anything extra these days, landscapers are choosing low-maintenance, native plants that require little extra care than the environment gives on its own. Mustardweed and lantana are the biggies, with laurel sumac and certain ground cover flowers (ice plants, ivy, etc.) coming up strong behind. I personally have a soft spot for lantana from childhood, when I found that the little blossoms make fabulous Barbie wedding bouquets.

No lantana today, though. Just some rather ratty mustardweed, a few trees on the hillside across the way, and a bunch of taillights from the cars whizzing (oh, yes, I said whizzing) by as I wait for Triple A. And because this is a journal – one that you insist on reading, you glutton for punishment – if I have to suffer through this misery, so do you.

Welcome to my fresh hell.