Fire!

Happy 4th of July all. Let’s start this pyromania thing off right.

Enjoy the musical stylings of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, with, “Fire”. This is a song I jammed to when I was thinking up Mia’s character. I first heard it off the Hot Fuzz soundtrack. Kickass movie.

Pyromania

Now that you have that song in your head for two thousand years.

What is pyromania? Our ever-knowing friends at Wikipedia define it best: pyromania is an impulse to deliberately start fire to relieve tension and typically includes feelings of gratification or relief afterward.

As sexy and glorified as it is made out to be in the movies (and, admittedly, a little bit in my book hehe) it is actually a rare disorder. Also, contrary to popular belief, it’s not always used as a way to cover things up or try to get money, as the Pyromania Disorder Information Sheet tells us. If you ask me, I think it sounds like a fetish, more than a psychological disorder, though I’m quite aware that it is a disorder. To worship the sight of fire, the relief, and also to see what people have to do in reaction to fire, has a little of the mechanics of watching and being aroused by a sex act. What do you think?

Here’s an interesting abstract/article on fire fetishism, from the Canadian Psychiatric Association. Scroll to the bottom for “Fire Fetishism in a Female Arsonist?”

Tomorrow: Eminent domain in American society, and the start of multi-entry exploration into the Crazy Ex.

Be safe and enjoy the weekend!

Nine Weeks of Strange, Week 8: “The Tie”

This week’s story is about a woman named Adrienne who has recurring nightmares about a demonic woman after the death of her friend Martin. The excerpt is a selection from her initial nightmare sequences. The other half of the story follows a woman named Stella, and her struggle to get to a town hundreds of miles away, to find a grave. What do Stella and Adrienne have in common?

Excerpt from, “The Tie”, from Women in Strange Places: Stories

(c) Celeste Ramos, 2009

Stella

Today I decided to cut off all my hair after what happened last night. I slept outside by the warm back vents of the Palace. I was near the dumpsters so there were rats running around most of the night. Usually I’ve been lucky. They don’t fuck with me much. But last night it was like I was candy.

I was so tired. I was walking since seven in the morning, I only got fifteen bucks from a few people all together. I got some food and it hit my stomach like bricks, but good bricks. It was drizzling a little bit and I didn’t find much cardboard in time before it started to soak me. I was lucky. Right around the time I got to the Palace the clouds had quieted down. They were like moving sludge yesterday, all twisted in themselves. Sometimes I worry I can control the weather.

A couple of the fur and claw fuckers got into a fight over a wet burger in a dumpster some feet away. I hate that sound when they fight, that screeching, sounding like captured birds, and their nails like little metal balls down stone stairs. That sound always keeps me up at night. It’s like a timer, I have to be ready to fling one off me before I feel those cold stinking paws on my forehead, and I know that nose is angling toward my ear.

Ugh! Makes me jump thinking about it. When they were done fighting two of them ran up to me in the dark. The vents were making a nice gentle noise, the noise planes do on a calm flight. The alley was empty. I would have known they were so close to my body if it wasn’t for that sound but it was also kind of putting me to sleep. I felt the sharp pinch of one of those beasts’ teeth on my lower lip. And then the fat wet pressure of another one standing on my calf. I shook them off.

More came, a few moments later but they were scared of me or something. Then they left. I fell asleep thinking about Martin. If he was there he would have gotten rid of those fucking rats in a split second.

I woke up feeling this thing, almost like a sharp needle or something being pushed into my scalp. Two of them were biting around my head and had tangled themselves up in my hair! Those tails were like cords flinging around when I grabbed them. I yanked them out of my hair as fast as I could but it was hard. They were wound up in there good, I wonder what the fuck they were looking for, what they thought I was.

I got some change this afternoon and I called to see how Martin was doing out of force of habit. Habit is a ridiculous thing. I sat against the phone booth and cried. He’s been dead three weeks. It’s the second of July. That means I’ve been walking for almost two weeks.

Seems every building and lamppost is dripping a big old flag. I remember when I was little my dad would put up a nice one outside the house. Then there was a small parade down the main drag of town. To my little girl eyes all those stars were like glitter. Silk and cloth flags so clean. Me up on dad’s shoulders, looking down at the top of mom’s head and her crown of red, white and blue stars. Those memories are so clear, bright white. They smell of sulfur and bubblegum.

I wonder what my parents would tell me about Martin. I think he would have liked them.

Man if he could see my hair now. I tried to get it even. He loved my hair. He had a thing about combing it for me when I got out of the shower.

Martin’s family, on the other hand, ha! They probably would have wanted him to be on heroin or something more than being with me. He was so much better before me. That’s what they’d say. They blamed me for his dropping out of med school.

They wouldn’t tell me where he’s buried. I called my sister, who lives in the town over from them, and she found out for me. She had to do some good private-eyeing.

But even she doesn’t think I should go see him. I wish people could understand how it feels like my senses are fading without him, how it feels like everything around me is spoiled because he can’t see it, deflating like fruit when it rots.

All the memories of Martin are pacing my spine. I lost the tiny place I scrounged around to get for us, with his money, the little he had to get to me before his own debt choked him up. He couldn’t pay anymore since he’s dead, obviously. There was no one else for me, just Martin. Just and only Martin. My sister, my last familiar limb on this fucking planet doesn’t want to help me. She won’t, she’s jealous, I know that.

Martin. I can’t sleep unless I can hear the sound of air. Those vents by the Palace last night were so nice. The last time I saw Martin he told me he was going to see me in a few days. I told him to go. He needed the break and I was feeling better then.

I found out he died because the cops called me first, before his family. I was the last number he called, before he got on the road and crashed.

Three hundred miles … His fucking parents won’t believe me when they see me. I’m walking the whole way, it’s the only way I can get there. I know where he is now, and I will bring him flowers and I will sit with him. I’ll lie there with him by his stone.

Adrienne

The shifting sun spread the hand-like shadows of trees across Adrienne’s bed. She didn’t want to move toward it because she felt like she was setting herself up to be hunted. There was little else, she knew, that was available for a place to rest. She had already tried the sofa, the floor, Celal’s apartment, her office, hotel rooms, her brother’s car, and all her other friends’ beds, floors and cars.

The woman always found her.

Adrienne walked out of the bedroom and into the living room, then into the kitchen, haunting her apartment, desperate for something to do that would keep her awake and interested. She managed to watch part of an action movie before she eventually passed out on the sofa.

In the empty room of a foreign house the woman found her, her body constructed only of veins, and her face had no features. Adrienne had dumbly pressed her male body into a corner and cried. The woman made her way across the bright white carpet to capture her. She left a disappearing path of crusted footprints behind her. And as the woman always did, with her arms outstretched, she gurgled, “come back!”

Adrienne often woke up before the woman could touch her. She was grateful for that much; that she only had to relive the gruesome sight of her, and not re-experience her grip.

She tried to stay awake but after twenty minutes fell asleep, this time on the floor underneath the window sill.

She dreamed of an expanse of white, rolling land. The grass and trees were white. There was a small lake off to her left, at the bottom of the incline of the land, where the water looked like milk. The sky was the pallid blue of winter but she sat warm in the light of the sun, in a male body. She looked at the width of her hands, the hair on her legs, the difference in the weight of that body that felt tight like she was wearing a rubber suit. This male body was the same every time. It was always confusing to her male self, why it never made sense that he was a man in the dream.

The woman came from around a bend, down at the bottom of the hill. Her skin was pitch black and this time her eyes were two ovals of glass, that reflected the light of the sun into Adrienne’s peripheral vision. When Adrienne looked she began to stand up, her heart racing. The woman moved up the hill at twice the speed of her stride. She was wearing some kind of black clothing but Adrienne thought it could easily have been her skin trailing behind her in the breeze.

She was chanting, “come back”, in that taunting gurgle, and Adrienne’s body couldn’t seem to move fast enough up the hill. When she looked over her shoulder the woman was right behind her, her face inches from her own, and she felt the hot, reeking breath on her cheeks and her eyelids.

The following day, Adrienne walked to Celal’s apartment a few blocks down her street. Everyone she passed looked well-rested and enjoyed the errands of the day. She watched couples holding hands as they walked into grocery stores, the mail man whistling to himself as he dug through his cart for the next building’s mail. People on their lunch breaks talked office gossip over forbidden mid-day martinis.

When Celal opened the door he looked at her with compassion.

“Still the same?” he asked.

She looked at him with heavy eyes.

“Come in. I just started some lunch. Have you eaten?”

Celal gave deeply comforting hugs that Adrienne had never experienced with anyone else. He was a tall man, with all the deep, romantic features of his Turkish ancestry, always clothed in shades of gray, red and black.

His eyes always saw right through her pleasantries when she was upset. They’d been friends since childhood; neighbors in a town full of transient military and technology families. Celal worked as a spiritual healer and therapist.

Adrienne decided to watch Celal enjoy his food instead of eating.

“Don’t be so quiet,” he said, after a few sips of wine.

Balled up on his loveseat, Adrienne rested her head on the upward curve of its back cushion.

“You’re dreaming again? You look exhausted. Why are you dreaming this way?”

“There has to be a reason?”

“Dreams especially have reasons. There is a very, very old theory, you know. Every person’s energy, living or long gone, is connected through knowing one another. It’s like, if someone were to be able to see us now, as forms of energy, there’d be a little red thread connecting the two of us. Because, we are friends.”

Adrienne’s eyes were drifting along the spines on his bookcase, his pride and joy.

“And what’s that got to do with dreams?” she asked.

“Well. It’s been three weeks hasn’t it? Since Martin’s passing.”

Adrienne scratched her head. “Martin’s dead. He didn’t pass anywhere. He’s underground. What’s that have to do with a demon-woman chasing me everywhere I go?”

“The dreams started after he died. Come, Adrienne. Don’t play stupid with the spirit world; he must be trying to tell you something.” As he finished his wine Celal rose and crossed the room to sit with her. “You remind me of my sister. You think so hard about what something must feel like you don’t even know you have it in your hands.”

Adrienne shifted her legs to give Celal room. When he was settled she placed her calves across his lap.

“I’m so – fucking – tired – yel-al. I can’t keep missing work.”

“When you came by Monday you just wanted to sleep, you barely slept, and you left. You haven’t even told me what’s going on. Just that you have nightmares. You have to remind me. About Martin – I only met him once at your birthday party. Tell me about him. There has to be something about this that’s disturbing you so badly.”

Adrienne had never had to describe a friendship to anyone, let alone her best friend. She struggled for a few moments to build Martin up in her thoughts, with all his movements and his voice, facing the realization that she now had to take him apart in her mind in order to describe him – maybe to finally make him fade away.

She instantly thought of punk rock when she thought of Martin.

“He was a punky guy. You remember. And he was dating that girl Stella. The one that was older than him and would sneak him into bars.”

Celal nodded with a faint memory of the couple.

“We were friends, you know, just bar friends. Me and Lydia and some of the other girls would give him shit because he was always the baby of the group. And they were nice at first but then the bullshit with the money started.”

“Oh, yes. That you had to keep giving them money.”

Adrienne nodded. There was a mild guilt that rose in her for complaining about a dead person. She knew he never meant her harm.

“Those two became like a monthly expense for me. Patch up the rent for them here. Help them with groceries there.”

“I kept telling you. Didn’t I tell you?” Celal said. “Just leave them be because they’re going to break your account.”

Adrienne shrugged. “I couldn’t. You remember how I was when we moved to that neighborhood in Ohio. And your family had to go back to Ankara for a while. Remember my letters? About the teenagers. I was what, thirteen then? They traumatized me! Those poor kids. Beating each other up. Drinking themselves into diseases and all this shit, things they could have avoided, and mom always said they didn’t want help. She tried to help one of them and he ended up robbing us. I don’t know. I just wanted to help. They all had the same miserable eyes.”

“Martin wasn’t a kid off the street – he was a man, with his woman. They’d made their choices. He was twenty when you met him wasn’t he?”

“Yeah. And I got pissed off at him because it wasn’t clear to me he was using the money the way he said he would. I found out he was drinking it or giving it to Stella for something because she was sick or some shit. But she looked like a junky to me, do you remember her? Real skinny.”

Celal noticed the sneer that came over Adrienne’s mouth at the thought of Stella. “You look like you have a lot more contempt for her than you realize.”

“She never made sense. Every time I’d come to see them in that tiny little hole of theirs she’d say how much she loved Martin, and that they were so close that if they ever spent time apart from one another she’d die. Meanwhile, Martin kept driving down to his parent’s place in Fulton! He’d get his dad to come get him. He was working for his folks’ business in Fulton and then he got his car. He’d already dropped out of med school because of her.”

“According to him,” Celal said. “Was he really working?”

Adrienne sighed.

“I’ll take that as a no.”

“I don’t know what he was doing. All I know is he was doing it and drinking. Because some friend of his yelled at me at a bar and told me that I was keeping the bottle in Martin’s hand with the money I was giving him. I didn’t know he was a drinker, that he was that bad at least. I confronted him about it.

“He told me he thought I was his friend. Guilt tripped me for an hour on the phone. I told him if he came back immediately I would help him get straightened out, but he had to leave that bottle, he had to stop wasting his life on Stella too … Then he said he was going to drive back up the next day to talk to me in person …” Adrienne looked away from Celal’s face.

“Oh. You hadn’t told me that part.” Celal set his hand on hers.

“He died in a wreck driving drunk.”

“Not your fault, Adrienne.”

“I know. I don’t blame myself for that. I just wish – I hate not having the right words for people. Do you know what I mean?”

Celal nodded. “Very much.”

“I just wanted to help. Some people are made of hooks. Other people made of latches I guess.”

“You did more than what a lot of people would do.”

Adrienne began to cry.

“When did the nightmares start? How long, after Martin’s passing?”

Adrienne shook her head. “Um … the same day, I think.”

“And this woman just follows you around?”

“She chases me! It’s like she’s trying to scare me to death. In all the dreams I’m a man.”

Celal rested his head back against the cushion and looked at Adrienne. “And you’re getting worse now, it seems.”

Taking her legs off of Celal, Adrienne sat up straight and looked down at her hands. They were cold and dry despite the season. All those cold showers to stay awake were taking their toll on her skin.

She walked around Celal’s apartment and gazed at the things she’d gazed at dozens of times before. Among his family pictures and scented pillar candles, Adrienne was always drawn to the image that hung on the wall, central to the collection of the odd things Celal had gathered during his thirty years of life.

It was an “accidental” photograph that Celal had taken somewhere in India, of smoke rising from a friend’s cigarette that looked like a question mark.

Prison

Prison

In “A Drop in the Mercury“, Thelma has a distorted vision of what life would be like in prison. For the most part, she understands the hierarchical systems involved, and, that she wouldn’t be able to survive in that kind of environment. She longs for chaos. She longs for a perpetual state of arousal — emotional and mental arousal — that prison seeks to quell and altogether destroy.

Most people are familiar with the derogatory images and ideas (moreso than porn, I think) associated with women in prison: babes behind bars, raving horny chicks turning to lesbianism, women being “worse than” men in prison because of the violence, etc.

This image is an example of the classic stereotype we know and love, one that still “robs” a woman of any ability of being genuinely aggressive, hostile, or anything else “unfeminine.”

But what’s it really like to be a woman in prison? Let’s start with some facts.

It sucks. As it does for a man in prison. Who the fuck wants their rights taken away? Their families? Their children?

The number of women in prison is on the rise. By the early 90’s, female prisoners were 9.3% of the nation’s incarcerated population. The majority of women in prison, as with men, are women of color, from poor backgrounds or generally “low” social standing. An overwhelming amount of women in prison are also mothers of children under the age of 18.

The subculture that develops evolves from a number of factors. In “Prison: Prisons for Women – Prison Subcultures“, an interesting set of definitions for ways of life in womens prisons is described. In short, many of the subcultures that evolve come from women trying to preserve the identities they had before landing in prison. Some seek to stay out of trouble, others don’t care and continue the violent lives that led them in prison to begin with. Others still adapt to survive, and end up becoming people they weren’t before they ended up in prison, in order to not be harmed or killed.

One’s sex life of course changes once in prison. A common thing is the development of “studs” and “femmes”, the personas of a more masculine and ultra-feminine woman, as described in this ABC story “Inside a Maximum Security Women’s Prison.”

This video touches on the spiritual and emotional journies of women in prison, as they near the end of their sentences or are just beginning them:

Magic and the Megafamily

Welcome back, friends and neighbors.

In “The Impatient Clock“, Yona is a magician who quit magic after a miscarriage and decides children shouldn’t have imaginations. They should be taught reality and the sciences right off the bat and not be taught to believe in Santa Claus or imaginary places, people, or anthropomorphized caricatures of love.

Why set children up to take them down, is the rationale. What joy or benefit is there for all those involved when kids learn from their parents that ol’ Claus is going to get them something or whatever, until the inevitable day comes when the parents are caught by the upset child(ren) in the middle of the night; or telling them about underground families of trolls; or telling them about the Easter Bunny; or faeries or anything magical?

I’ve always thought it’s quite related to the same reason for which grown people will pay top-dollar to watch David Copperfield or David Blaine or Criss Angel or Penn and Teller: amazement does crazy things to people. It opens a little door in your head. Big or small, I think people like to know and feel and maybe witness some kind of an unexpected otherness. Because then, who knows — WHAT ELSE can be possible?

There’s a bit of a magic trick tucked into the story arc of “The Impatient Clock”. Figure it out. The world needs more womagicians.

For those of you interested in learning something new to fuck with your friends, impress a date, blow some time or make your parents mad about missing change or table utensils, here’s some magic tricks for shits and giggles.

But first, nothing about magic would start off right without a quote from one of the best damn magic movies ever made: The Prestige.

“Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called ‘The Pledge’. The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course… it probably isn’t. The second act is called ‘The Turn’. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back. That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call ‘The Prestige’.”

Let’s go.

Magic Tricks

First, a little cheap flash and shockwave magic with Merlin’s Clock.

One of Leo’s favorite coin tricks: The Peripatetic Coins

Good old card tricks and mentalism notes. Woo!

Video tutorials on card and coin tricks and other random stuff on PubTricks.

The classic, sawing a woman in half. Frankly, I think there’s more adventure in sawing a man in half … Pity the guys who volunteer for (or perform) these tricks aren’t hot, heheh.

Babies, Babies, Babies, BABIES, BABIES!!!!!!!!!!!

Children all over the world are orphans, lose their families, get sold, get bought, fall ill, get lost — whatever sad fate that robs them of familial connection — there are children all over the world who wish they had a family or even one caring adult (doesn’t have to be a traditional “parent” setup) in their lives. You never know how some love and encouragement can help someone… There’s food shortages. Disease outbreaks. Myriad other things that make me think Momma Earth is saying, “STOP REPLICATING!”, and yet some people want LOTS of children. LOADS of children.

WHY?

Inevitably we will find ourselves talking about Nadya Suleman so I’ll just start with her to get her Guy Smiley likeness out of my face for this week. The writer at Childfree Clique said it best: “[Nadya] is batshit fucking crazy.”

CC makes a good point later on though — some people are obsessed with the fact that they CAN make more people. But they don’t seem to understand that the babies are indeed, PEOPLE. That need. That depend. That will eventually grow. As the world learned of Nadya’s madness, she kept citing that she had an awful childhood and that she wanted to give her children the best of what she could provide, etc. Fine. However, if you’re going to try and “make up” for what your childhood lacked, realize that you can’t do that without getting YOURSELF STRAIGHTENED OUT first, or your children, which you bore with the intent to bless, will suffer. And resent the fuck out of you.

Now I know this doesn’t always happen. Plenty of people who come from fucked up pasts have gone on to be good parents. The majority, however, don’t. As Leo tells Yona in my story, “kids aren’t bandaids.” They’re people with their own lives and even if you’re the parent, guess what — they don’t exist to serve or fix anything FOR you.

The seemingly “perfect” megafamilies like The Duggars (or as I call them, the Mormon Mob) are a different story. I found an interesting opinion on an old blog entry from “Thoughts of a Regular Guy“, where he pretty much states that the Duggar’s business is their own. Apparently they’re not relying on the government to foot their clan’s bill, the eldest children helped the dad build their house, the kids grow their own food, etc. Some people have worried that the kids won’t get enough love from the parents but the Regular Guy stresses that they’ll have unique relationships with each other as siblings — love needn’t just come from the almighty mom-and-dad routine. And I agree with that. But there’s something about the Duggar’s that just has NOT seemed right to me from the get-go.

An entry called “America’s Creepiest Family” addresses several of my concerns with this set up. Read through the comments for the real meat. Most people commend them for being good Christians and the like. A user called tiger1981 blows up some research they did from some place or another, and cites financial and religious shenanigans on the part of the Duggars. An inevitably anonymous user calls them a cult. Frankly, for me, it’s the mental inbreeding that looks like it’s going on … is a bit weird. 

Be fruitful and multiply, to paraphrase the bible, is what a lot of religious folks follow. I always say it’s better to help one’s fellow man and take in lost and lacking souls.

I’m also a firm believer in potential parents being required to take psychoemotional evaluations before having or adopting their first kid. Cuz what the fuck — WHY do we need stories like these in our world? Kids in cages… fuck. And let’s not forget gems like fathers who have kids with their daughters and variations on that kind of story. If you missed it, there was a guy in Colombia with a similar story to the Fritzl case, only he didn’t lock the woman in a fucking hole for 20+ years.

And people hide behind God, then blame God for standing there, why? The Devil has less to complain about in the scapegoat department than God, that’s for sure. 

“Fucker’s settin’ up franchises” — Tyler Durden

Then we get folks like this, who have a bijillion kids with a bijillion women. Why?

With the exception of dudes like the franchise man, and evolutionary theories a lot more people seem to hide under and behind lately (like evolution-focused reasons for why high heels make sense), it comes down to the fact that an alarming amount of people swear that the family dream situation will make them happy. This April 2009 article calls bullshit on that, and so do I. Here’s a fun snippet:

Why do we have such a rosy view about parenthood? One possible explanation for this, according to Daniel Gilbert (2006), is that the belief that ‘children bring happiness’ transmits itself much more successfully from generation to generation than the belief that ‘children bring misery’. The phenomenon, which Gilbert says is a ‘super-replicator’, can be explained further by the fact that people who believe that there is no joy in parenthood – and who thus stop having them – are unlikely to be able to pass on their belief much further beyond their own generation. It is a little bit like Darwin’s theory of the survival of the fittest. Only the belief that has the best chance of transmission – even if it is a faulty one – will be passed on.

 

As Ali G. would say, full real. 

Be happy with yourself, your life, your circumstance first. Add on to your wisdom and your talents, your experiences and your life — so you have much more to pass on to your offspring when you have your kid(s) or adopt. Because in the end, having kids should also be about bringing about changes and progression. The real magic in our existence is in wonder, discovery, imagination and enrichment, and all the wonderful places we can go, and people we can become.

Til then, remember this poor fuck should you get tempted to take the easy way out and pop out a few to help fix things at home: 

Tomorrow: The “dark side” of magic and the “dark side” of the womb. No not the moon — the womb.