Friday, November 11, 2011

Why I Adore Atheists

Ira Glass is a staunch atheist. So is my boyfriend and many of my friends and even some family members. What do they all have in common? They are the most moral, selfless people I know. Atheists believe in living for today, because when we are dead and buried, we'll just become worm food (Though, I doubt that's true. We've decided that destroying the Earth while we are alive isn't good enough. We must preserve ourselves to the point where even our bodies are not decomposable. Why do something half way?).

I am not a fan of religion. I actually think, personally, that religion can be a dangerous thing. It can also be what an immoral person clings to as a saving grace should they be hit by a bus. In my view, religion is an invention of man, providing some explanation for our existence. It's helpful to many people, so I would never actually preach that it be banished. I am a very "live and let live" kind of person. My mantra is, basically: Be a shitty person if you want. But please try not to if you can help it.

On the other hand, I am quite spiritual. I do believe that we step into a different plane of existance when our physical bodies die. I don't claim to know much about said afterlife or parallel life or whatever, but I do feel strongly about its existence. I believe that there are only 2 things we are responsible for in our physical lives: to love unconditionally and to help others when we are in a position of being able to do so. And guess who are models for this way of life?


Take Ira Glass for example. He is not a perfect person, true. No one is, really. But he has done an enormous service to the world by creating and continuing to broadcast This American Life. It has become an important tool for learning about other people's lives, their triumphs and tragedies, their inner most struggles and how their moral compasses direct them. The program evokes many responses from the listener: empathy, sympathy, judgment, self-reflection, self-judgment, happiness, pity, sorrow, helplessness. It is, in essence, a multifaceted portrait of the human experience. When Ira interviews his subjects, he is gentle, kind and humorous and there is something about him, his voice, his persona, that you trust. You are comfortable revealing things to him, even though you know that it may be broadcast nationally. I think it's beautiful.

Lots of atheists walk the walk. And isn't that the whole point? To live in the now? Not to think about how many past lives we've had or what heaven is going to be like or if there is a hell? If we really want to advance ourselves and humanity, I think we could all learn a thing or two from the people who don't believe in God. As crazy as that sounds.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Eyes on Your Own Paper

In this journey of life, I believe we are meant to overcome certain human tendencies that may be inherent in our nature, but detrimental to our growth. Each of us, in all probability, is our own worst enemy.

Since I have been a full-time self employed person, I have adapted to a new way of managing finances. And I depend on many things for my survival: nice weather on weekends, happy shoppers with money to spend and a desire to use handcrafted soap, certain technologies, etc. In my former life, I never thought about how my employer was able to pay me. Do you think about it? Do you ever consider all of the factors involved, how all the various components of your employer's business must come together in order to ensure that you receive your regular paycheck? Probably not. But, I am intimate with all of these things because all of my efforts are geared toward keeping my business alive and paying my bills.

This kind of necessary obsession can lead down some less-than-desirable ways of thinking. I don't care to know what my fellow self-employed crafty friends are raking in. Some of them are delighted to share this information. It's never done in an evil, "rub your face in it" sort of way, but it can certainly take the joy out of a day you thought was fabulous, sales-wise. The only person I should be comparing myself with is me. How I did at a particular venue one year vs. another, how my internet sales stack up against themselves from month to month. It can be hard to keep yourself from wondering how much your neighbor is making at a show, but I am determined to keep my head down and not let my mind wander in this direction. It's futile, anyway. Ones sales do not determine how rich or poor one may be. If your sales are huge, but your bills are bigger, well, that isn't success. And no amount of money can stand in for happiness and job satisfaction. Both of which I happen to have lots of.

Right now, I'm in my busy season and I'm doing well. And I'm keeping my eyes on my own paper.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

For 2011 and Beyond

Be kind.

Love Unconditionally.

Laugh more.


Let go of my fears.

Stand up for myself.

Be fierce.

Resist harm.

Be grateful.

Appreciate beauty.

Wash, rinse, repeat.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A List of Unapologetic Female Musicians Who Don't Need to Use Their T & A to Be Amazing

I was put this together while I was unloading the dishwasher today. I have always been so turned off by the women in the music world who sing all girly and lullaby-like, all while wearing next-to-nothing. It feels like their pockets were lined by executives who warned them: Go out there and degrade yourself or else! Dignity, anyone? Thank the universe that these women went out and did just the opposite.

Wendy O. Williams

Patti Smith

Kim Deal

Debbie Harry

Melissa Auf der Maur

D'arcy Elizabeth Wretzky

Joan Jett
Kathleen Hanna
Kristin Hersh
Aimee Mann
Erykah Badu
Donita Sparks
Bianca Holstead
Carrie Brownstein
Courtney Love
Sinead O'Conner
Tracy Bonham
Janis Joplin
Queen Latifah
Chrissie Hynde
Pat Benatar
Poison Ivy
Lydia Lunch
Marissa Paternoster

I could go on. Moms and Dads, please be sure that your little girls know about these women and understand that it's okay to be fierce.

* I should add that there is a difference between removing one's clothing as a means of exuding power and doing it to please men. Burlesque dancing, for example, is an expression of female sexuality in a way in which the female is in control. Wendy O. Williams and other women on this list did wear sexually provocative clothes, but in the end, it wasn't really about them acquiescing to some expected soft, feminine ideal. It was about their fearlessness of belting it out.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life, etc.

A couple of weeks ago, Jere and I went to the Boston Book Festival to see our heroine, Kristin Hersh. I believe that she has mentions on this blog here and here. I was very excited to learn that she had released a memoir. Even better, there was a whole evening devoted to rock star writer types scheduled this month. The icing on the cake? Said event was being hosted by Steve Almond, author of (among others) Candy Freak (one of Jere's favorite reads), My Life in Heavy Metal and Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life (The words in the title are organized in the shape of a crucifix on the jacket, despite Almond's Jewish roots.) This summer, for one week, he hosted The Emily Rooney Show on WGBH (the NPR station I prefer over WBUR, however, I do miss burly, little Bob Oakes in the morning). Monday through Thursday, I think he pretty much stuck to the outline of the show's topics, but on the Friday of that week, he took the reigns and delivered a refreshingly different and lighter alternative to the political blah-dee-blah. It was a churchy-like show in which we, the listeners, called in and confessed our guiltiest musical indulgences. Almond played the part of the Catholic priest, administering penance for such pleasures as oh, I don't know, Emily Rooney's Everybody Hurts by REM (Does this even qualify?). I wanted to muster the courage to confess that E.L.O.'s Do Ya has always been my own personal Desperado, but, alas, it was a particularly busy day in my workshop and I couldn't break away from all the soapy necessities.

While at the event, I purchased a hardcover copy of RARWSYL and had Almond sign it for me. While in line for this, Jere waited for an autograph from Hersh. He also asked her to do the intro to his web show, Randomonium. For his debut episode, he was fortunate enough to get Andrew W. K. to do an intro. I think Hersh tops this, but it's debatable. He's done several episodes since then, scoring intros by Danbury Connecticut's impressive hardcore get-up, The Pist and Red Sox legend, Bill "The Spaceman (but please don't call me that)" Lee.

Anyhoo, I've since read Almond's book and I found it to be quite energizing. While I don't consider myself to be a Drooling Fanatic, by any stretch, I do get giddy over some more or less obscure seeming artists (I absolutely love The Fall, for instance, but it is rare to be able to talk "Mark E. Smith" with someone). I am still in geeky love with all three members of Rush and I am pretty sure I can still recite all of their albums in alphabetical order.

After reading the book, I have decided that I would like him to release a testimonial about my soaps. I have wanted to have a good, reputable celebrity type to publicly endorse my soaps, and who better for the job? Most of my soaps are tributes to my favorite rock stars and/or feminists. My Bad Brains ode, Soap Craft, is scented in African Rain, which I find rather amusing, as Almond devotes a passage to analyzing Toto's "Africa," where it apparently rains a lot.

The question is: Does Steve Almond bathe? I would guess that yes, he does. Would Steve Almond like a bunch of free soaps in exchange for a brief, but positive testimonial (if he appreciates them, that is)? Perhaps. However, I think his wife could dig them, too, as she (from what he descibes) seems like a super rad lady who would might understand why my Dinosaur Jr. soap is purple and green.

Of course, I am chicken. What kind of asshole would I look like if I approached Mr. Almond with this request? The kind of weirdo who makes soap for a living (but, lest we forget that we do live in a post Fight Club world and some people actually understand that the danger level in mixing lye and water with oil can be perceived as kind of cool).

So, Steve, if you are reading this and you are interested in indulging me, please comment! Would it make you feel better if I said that you would be bumping Kathleen Hanna, my idol, out of first place?

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

A New Post! At Long Last!

I guess it's been a few months, but here I am. Writing a post on the ole bloggereeno.

To say I've been busy is an understatement. Today, I've taken an actual day off. I wasn't going to, but yesterday's weather report had predicted a total poop-fest for today and I just wasn't up for working in the rain. Again. It's difficult for a number of reasons. (1) People don't shop in the rain. (2) Soap doesn't like rain. (3) My feet don't enjoy standing in puddles of water. Seriously, you work twice as hard and make half as much during rainy days. Lo and behold, though, it was a GLORIOUS day. Still, it was nice to have a leisurely brunch with the "weekend off" people, particularly my boyfriend, who I never seem to run out of fun conversation with.

Earlier in the year, for nearly 2 months, I took a contract with my old company. It was my slow time, so I needed a little gig before my outdoor season started back up. I asked not to do anything too involved. I just wanted some busy-type work, since I was still running my business, too, and didn't want to burn out. I went back to my old company with a fresh set of eyes. When you fund your entire operation, you are responsible for all of your expenses. From business cards to paper clips to product materials and everything in between. I used to walk around my old office not really thinking about how the copy paper got there or who paid for it. Suddenly, it came into my consciousness that someone was pounding the pavement to earn the business that was paying for all that stuff. Let alone salaries and benefits and utility bills. I just gained this whole new appreciation for everything.

Being a solopreneur is hard work, but I feel reeeeeeeeeaaaaaallly proud of the money in my bank account. Because I know where every single cent came from. Even though it isn't as much as my old salary, it gives me a lot of satisfaction.

My mother is hanging in. Her cancer is spreading, particularly in her lungs. I still take her for her treatments every week. She is on a new chemo now and taking low dosages of a steroid to help her breathing. She is relatively stable and the steroid keeps her appetite up which is good. But really, I just don't know. I am still holding onto my "one day at a time" philosophy, which seems to work. I hate that we've all just gotten so used to living with this horrible sadness. If I knew that she was somehow going to make a recovery, I don't think my body could handle the joy. My head would just explode. For now, I try keep the disease separate from the person and keep our conversations as normal as possible. Humor is a good weapon and we use it often to help defeat a lot of the tragedy of the situation.

Spending hours every week in a cancer clinic has been an interesting experience for me. I no longer fear death. When you are surrounded by people who live with cancer, killing them slowly, taking their dignity away, eroding them, you realize just how strong the human spirit is. Cancer can break you physically, but it can't take away your heart. Ever. Still, if I found out that I had terminal cancer, I doubt I would put myself through the agony of chemotherapy. A nice fall off the Brooklyn Bridge would be faster, cost less and be less taxing on everyone. I know, I say that now, but. But nothing. I don't have what it takes to go through what my mother deals with on a daily basis. Everyone is different.

I listen to NPR all day in my workshop. I process a lot of shitty national and world news. And I find myself getting all worked up and pissed off while I am soaping. There are several main issues that have gotten stuck in my craw and I am just mystified as to why our nation hasn't responded with rioting in the streets.

1. The bailing out of "no fail" banks and corporations that, through deregulation, have tanked our economy, put thousands and thousands of Americans out of work, created one of the worst real estate catastrophes in our nation's history - all while betting against the American people.

2. Healthcare providers forcing employers and individual policy owners to pay 40% more on their premiums, but continuing to pay their brass millions in annual salaries plus thousands in cash bonuses.

3. The military calling severe headaches and other cerebral symptoms of veterans of the Iraq war "pre-existing conditions," thus denying them healthcare benefits.

4. The devastation of the BP oil spill in the Gulf. How fucking long does it take to build a fucking cap and stop that shit from gushing?

5. Arizona. I agree that we desperately need immigration reform, but discrimination is not the way to go.

6. Afghanistan. I hate that we think everyone needs a democracy. It's a terrible use of our resources. Why must we impose our beliefs and politics everywhere? And what kind of example are we when we've got two parties that couldn't be more divided right now?

7. Gay Marriage. I still don't understand why this topic is even being debated! We have a Constitution. Let's use it. Marriage is good for the economy, for crying out loud. And so is divorce, for that matter.

I feel like each of these points should be followed by, "There Should Be Rioting in the Streets!"

Friday, January 29, 2010

Tough Stuff

I hate these kinds of situations. The ones that force me to choose between complacency and taking action.

There is a dog (diagonally) across the street in a garage. It's been there for - I don't know - days, I guess. It yelps and howls and cries and it makes my stomach turn. This is not the sort of thing I can just ignore. If an animal sounds like it is suffering, it's way worse than a crying child to me (Sorry Moms and Dads, I know I am supposed to value human life more than animal life, but my heart aches way more when I know a helpless animal is in distress. I have compassion for people, too, but just not in the same "tear my insides to shreds when I hear it cry" sort of way as with dogs. I am not sure if this makes me a bad person. It probably does.) So, last night I just couldn't take it anymore. I walked toward the house to check things out. I approached the garage door where they have the mail slot. I peered in and called out to the dog. It was silent. Maybe it was wagging its tail. Maybe it thought, "For crying out loud, someone is FINALLY here to help me!" But, of course, there are laws. You can't just pull up your neighbor's garage door without expecting to be sent to prison on B & E charges. I looked into the home. There appeared to be a television on. My first thought was that these people left it on to make thieves think that they were home. But then I thought, "Wait. What if the person who lives there had a stroke or heart attack. Shit." So, I wandered back to my house not knowing what to, but knowing that I had to do something. I immediately went to my next door neighbor, Jen's house. She is extremely sympathetic to animal causes. She was like, "Let's call the police. I'm not afraid." And so she did. But the animal patrol person was off for the night, so they said they would send an officer to check things out.

We don't live in a posh neighborhood, so I was already skeptical as to whether or not they would send anyone. Then, I started thinking - what if they do send someone and the people get in trouble and decide to target me and Jen (this is where the dilemma comes in). She has 2 cats and dog of her own and of course, we have 2 cats. What if we find a big brick through our windows?

The garage is attached to the home, it isn't separate. This is good, as it means it is likely more warm this way. And who knows? Maybe the animal is well fed, but left alone all day by someone who, because of this crappy economy, has to work 2 jobs to make ends meet? Maybe the dog isn't even theirs? Maybe the dog is ok, but has terrible separation anxiety. All these scenarios run through my head, and yet the dog is still yelping. Like, right now as I type this.

I contacted my uncle, who is an officer for the Animal Rescue League in Mass. He knows the staff in RI pretty well and basically said that we did the right thing by calling the cops. They keep things anonymous. He told me to let him know if it persists and that he would make a call to the RI ARL. I think we might have to do that. What else can we do?

A car finally appeared in their driveway and we haven't heard any yelping since. The car has left, but who knows? Maybe the dumbasses finally took care of the dog. We will keep our ears peeled.

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