Friday, March 23, 2012

But don't feed them after midnight: multiplying memes

My end, it justifies my means.
--Before I Forget, Slipknot
Bloggy Memes are the internet form of Mogwais.  They multiple quickly, and it can be difficult to figure out what to do with them.  Still, they are damn adorable, and I love you all for thinking of me. 
I have received some fab awards here of late, and it’s now time to acknowledge the fab people that passed on their bloggy lovin’ to me. 
Trisha over at Word + Stuff gave me a Kreativ Blogging Award.  The tithe is to list 6 things about little ol’ me.

Kathleen over at Reading, Writing and Life gave me a Sunshine Award, which is just such a great thing.  Makes me want to dance to Katrina and the Waves.  It comes with some specific questions to answer.

Wendy at The Red Angel gave me a Sunshine Award and a Lucky 7 Meme.  The Lucky 7 is pretty cool, you take your current ms, go to page 77, go 7 lines from the top and those next 7 lines are your tithe.

Suze at Analog Breakfast gave me a Versatile Blogger award, too, and she wants 7 more random facts about yours truly.
So without further ado, here is a plethora of memes.  You might want to make sure your blender is working--not sure what these things will do once I start to feed ‘em, and it’s getting close to midnight.
Six random facts about me:

1.  I find commercials that feature talking food really creepy, especially that Chips Ahoy commercial where the cookie has eyeballs.  Why would something I'm going to eat tell me how good it tastes and want me to eat it?  

Ooooo. . .wait, is this Freudian?  Because if I think like an anthropologist (see my last post) that means Chips Ahoy is trying to make me think of sex and chocolate chips. 

2.  I love garage sales with a mad passion.  My dad and I spend spring and summer digging through other people’s junk.  I’m hoping to have an American Pickers moment of greatness one day, maybe find a Monet and live for the rest of my life on easy street.  Or maybe I'll just find Suze's Cap'n Crunch Fire King mug, which would be almost as good.
I'm coming for you, Cap'n.

3.  This is one of my favorite pieces of art, an oil painting by a Polish guy named Beksinski.  They're apocalyptic lovers, and it really strikes a nerve in me.  To me, it symbolizes the kind of love that if you had just moments to live before annihilation, you'd wrap yourself around the other person and never let go.

4.  I am double jointed and can put both legs behind my head like a pretzel.  Strange how I didn't have more dates in college.  

5.  I was a Teacher’s Aide for a Human Physiology lab in college.  Consequently, I can castrate a rat in less than 5 minutes.  It takes me a little longer if he gets to his car first.

6.  The first real concert I went to was Metallica (pre-haircut and Napster) in Des Moines, Iowa.  I was almost smashed on the mosh pit floor until this giant burly dude pulled me from the fray like a tattooed god reaching from the heavens.  I'm still a fan of big burly tattooed guys, just look at my romance selections.  FYI, Gena Showalter has awesome tattooed warrior dudes.  
And another seven random facts about me:
1.  My husband and I are the product of a one-night stand that has turned into 15 years.  You can meet someone you'll love forever in a bar, I'm living proof.

2.  I love to be scared--one of my dream trips would be to go to the Stanley hotel (of The Shining fame) and spend a night.  Just as long as there are no clowns involved.  Clowns scare the freaking hell out of me.

The Stanley Hotel.  Just looks scary.

3.  When I’m tense, I pick at my pinky toenails.  As a result, they are horrifically deformed.  Think Hobbit feet.

4.  I hate turtlenecks on men.

5.   I’m a huge fan of musicals--Pippin and A Chorus Line are my favorites.  I briefly entertained a musical theater major in college.  Now I just sing in the shower.

6.  I know all the lines to The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  My fave song is “Toucha Toucha Toucha Touch Me.”

7.  I can do a pretty good imitation of Animal from the Muppets screaming “WOMAN!!”  

Specific questions about me from the Sunshine Award:

Favorite Color: Green.  

Favorite Animal: The Honey Badger.  They’re small, ferocious, can use tools, and secrete a substance from their anal glands that can calm bees.  What’s not to love?  

Favorite Number: 13.  No triskaidekaphobia here.

Favorite Non-Alcoholic Drink: Ice tea, unsweetened.   On the alcohol side, I love red wine and red beer.

Facebook or Twitter:  I like Twitter, because it’s one of those things where the name really does describe what it is.  I find Facebook odd--there’s a lot of sharing of things I don’t think necessarily should be shared, even if it is only with 10,134 of your closest friends.  Facebook also makes me realize that some of the people I know are narcissistic, self righteous assholes.  And the rest of the people I know just like cat videos.

My Passions: My family.  I have two little boys that hung the moon and make me remember what living is all about (some days the definition of success is watching Scooby Doo videos while wrapped in a warm blanket).  I also love to run, and I don’t feel right if I don’t go at least five times a week, even if it’s only for a mile.  Finally, I love to make people laugh--humor is what gets me through the day.

Getting or Giving Presents:  I am obsessed with gift giving--it’s nearly a sport to find the perfect gift for people I know.  I love finding something unique that totally defines that person.  I'm so not a gift card gal, unless I'm desperate.
Favorite Pattern: Paisley.

Favorite Day of the Week:  Any day I don’t have to work my normal job.

Favorite Flower:  Irises and lilies are tied.
Finally, here is the Lucky 7 meme.  This excerpt is from my novel, “Wheel of Fortune.” It's the story of Jorga Volf, disgraced plastic surgeon forced to move home and reconcile with her family--a clan of Czechoslovakian carnies who run their tiny town like a redneck mafia.  Page 77, seven lines down goes a little like this:

About three years ago there was an earthquake in Nebraska, only about an hour from here.  It lasted fifteen seconds and rated 3.5 on the Richter scale.  My fourth cousin Joey became a local celebrity after the ABC affiliate from Omaha came out and interviewed him regarding his injuries.  He’d been on the toilet when it happened, and a bottle of Liquid Plumber fell out of the cabinet and beamed him right on the head, putting him in a coma for three days.  Guy still stutters.
I was perched on the bathroom vanity, trying out this purifying facial masque Stasia had when the house suddenly shook with a force so violent, I accidentally poked myself in the eye with a clay covered finger.  Limited by monocular vision, I stumbled out of the bathroom into the hallway just as another shock went through the house, this time accompanied with a deafening explosion of glass.

Thanks all of you for sending me your memes and thinking of me; I hope I didn't miss anyone.  Lately I've been a little thin in the blogging department--when life starts getting hectic, it seems to be one of the first things I have to put a hold on.  Stuff like this makes me remember how much I love the writerly community.  Have a fantastic weekend!!

And for those of you (Mr. McCarthy, where are you?) who came solely for the nudity I promised?  Here ya go:

Will Ferrell, naked.  You're welcome.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

I See Your Evil Eye and Raise You Ronnie James Dio's Grandma

They looked backward and said goodbye. . .she had become like they are
She had taken his hand. . .she had become like they are
--Don't Fear the Reaper, Blue Oyster Cult
A deadly sin capable of leading to eternal damnation.
But envy may be more than just a threat to your soul, it could affect your neighbor's as well.

Envy is associated with the evil eye, aka the matiasma, malocchio, or mal de ojo.  The evil eye is the belief that the act of envy can transmit bad luck, illness, or in some cultures, impotence.  
Something as simple as a compliment gets the eyeball rolling.  Although the name evil eye implies a victim being cursed, the true meaning is closer to coveting, and generally is done without ill will.
The concept probably started in ancient Greece and later passed to ancient Rome.
Medusa, the evil eye on steroids.
Most strong believers are in the Middle East, central America and Mediterranean Europe, but more than one third of the world’s cultures believe in the evil eye.

A Berkeley professor by the name of Alan Dundes has a unique theory about the origins of the evil eye folklore.  He links it to water and its importance in the more arid regions in the world.  He cited that the afflictions blamed on the evil eye included babies vomiting and becoming dehydrated, breastfeeding mothers (or livestock) losing their milk, fruit withering on the tree, and impotency in men.  Basically, to give the evil eye is to cause another to "dry up."  Given dehydration and its effects were a serious threat in these areas, this could be a plausible etiology of the superstition.

"Maybe you just need a glass of water?"
The evil eye typically is not done with malicious intent, but some people may have the power to cast an evil eye--whether they want to or not.  In Southern Italy and Sicily they are called jettatores.  They are not necessarily evil people--just cursed with a terrible power.  How to tell if you’ve met up with a jettatore?  Although envy is commonly associated with a green eyed monster, those with blue eyes are reputed to be more likely to carry the affliction.  You should also avoid the more hirsuit--unibrows are a sign of a jettatore as well. 
You really wanna know what happened to Mr. Hooper?
How do you avoid passing on the evil eye?  In some countries, it is customary to spit after giving a compliment, thereby removing the potential blight of the praise.  Others believe a true annointment of spit is needed--although this is probably better reserved for blood kin. 
In cultures more wary about swapping spittle, you may just touch the person who you compliment to take away the focus of the evil eye.  And what if someone praises you and doesn’t follow these rules of evil eye engagement?  Some cultures have special prayers of protection.  If you aren't one for memorization, another method is to speak ill of yourself to negate the praise.  I always knew self deprecation had a purpose. 
For those of you with a heavy metal side, Ronnie James Dio offers this simple hand gesture to aid in avoiding the evil eye. 

The sign that Dio learned from his Italian grandmother (and now is flashed by legions of metalheads) is actually an ancient hand gesture called the mano cornuto, or “horned hand” in Italian.  Contrary to popular belief, the mano cornuto does not represent the horns of Satan--this is a more recent appropriation of the gesture.  The horned hand historically symbolized the horns of a virile animal, usually a bull.  Pagan religions used it to represent the male consort of the Earth mother goddess.  It's the hand gesture equivalent of showing off your manhood, no power tools or flexing necessary.  When used as an offensive gesture, it indicates to another man that he has been cuckolded.

A French satire representing cuckoldry with horns.

Some anthropologists give the mano cornuto a more feminine view, believing it represents the sacred lady garden--i.e. the fallopian tubes and uterus.  (I have two friends who are anthropologists, and believe me, everything leads back to sexuality eventually.)  Their explanation for the use of the gesture to ward off the evil eye is simple:  when the thumb is inserted between the index and middle finger, it becomes a representation of the phallus nestled safely in the lady garden, unscathed by the hairy eyeball of emasculation.
What to do if despite all of your spitting and gesturing you have been evil eyed? First you may want to confirm your affliction.  The Greeks do this by performing a xematiasma in which olive oil is poured into a bowl of water while chanting prayers--if it forms an eye shape, the curse is confirmed.  If you are lacking oil, try rubbing an egg all over your body and then breaking it open--if the yolk looks like an eye, the deed has been done.

If you can find the person who is responsible, have them spit 3 mouthfuls of water into your mouth to lift the spell.  If that doesn't work, get their phone number and try dinner and a movie instead.  Taking another egg and rubbing it over your face and body, then burying it in a shaded place hidden from the sun is also a cure.
There are many talismans used to repel the evil eye.  The simplest (of Kabbalah and Madonna fame) is the single red string tied around a wrist. 

Others are amulets in the form of an eye, a hand, a horseshoe or some combination thereof.  By wearing an eye, you mirror back the evil eye, thus negating it.   A blue bead gives similar protection--possibly a crude representation of the blue eyed devil that is apt to give the evil eye.

Again, some scholars cite sexuality as a link to the use of an eye-like symbol as a talisman.  The eye worn as protection symbolizes feminine power--aka the cervix.  In the male, an eye mimics the one eyed wonder worm looking right at you.
I'm thinking Anthropologists may put some of the best erotica writers to shame in terms of creativity.

In India, cloth crocheted with tiny mirrors can be a way to avoid the eye.  The hand of Fatima is also a charm, often incorporating an eye within the palm to represent the reflective power of God's grace.

For men, a talisman in the shape of a horn, often cut from coral, may be worn to protect the family jewels.

Since the moon goddess is said to be the mentor of mothers and milk, any crescent shaped talisman will also do the trick.  In ancient Egypt, an amulet carved of red jasper called the Girdle of Isis was popular as a talisman against the evil eye.  When the anthropologists got involved, some postulated that this buckle shaped bauble was a representation of

--wait for it--

the menstrual pad of Isis.

The Menstrual Pad of Isis?

Menstrual blood was considered by many ancient cultures to be all powerful and representative of the possibility of creation of life.  Wearing a symbol of that blood was protective against threats to fertility and sustenance of life.  Interestingly enough, Isis was the mother of Horus, whose eye symbolizes luck, wealth and good health and is often used as a talisman to ward off the evil eye.  A modified version of the eye of Horus even graces U.S. currency.

If you’re not a jewelry person, there are other ways to ward off the evil eye.  In Sicily, a lemon pierced with nine nails can be placed above the threshold, thus barring a jettatore from entering.  Snakeskin also neutralizes the power of the evil eye.  For those with more culinary leanings, a head of garlic with only one clove is often used by gypsies as a talisman. And as recently as the the early 20th century, it was customary to dress little boys as little girls in order to ward off the evil eye.
For men, even if you’ve been caught without a talisman, you’re in luck.  Just grabbing your anthropological source of power may be enough to thwart any malocchio.

The Biebs is just warding off the evil eye, y'all.

Have a beautiful week!  Stay tuned for some disturbing factoids about myself courtesy of a plethora of taggings recently.  There will be nudity.  And maybe an anthropologist.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Writing: A Jesus Pancake for your soul

I've seen this happen in other people's lives
And now it's happening in mine.
--That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore, The Smiths

Last night Blogger ate my original post, which I took as a sign that I needed to go to bed and/or I was within minutes of being smited.  Maybe I should have referenced the Jesus Fish Stick instead, it is Lent after all.

Welcome to the first spring installment of fearless Ninja captain Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers’ Support Group.  I was planning on posting a list of things to do instead of being insecure, like surfing Ebay for Jesus-shaped food items or decoupaging images of Oprah, but then I found this:

A little investigation and I found that the quote is from Vonnegut's work A Man Without a Country.  The full quote actually says, "If you want to really hurt your parents and you don't have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts."  Now that first part doesn't ring true in my microcosm of the world but the rest of the quote really resonated with me. 

Much of my insecurity comes from trying to define my success.  What do I want out of this life?  Is this really my path?  What do I want out of my writing?  What will make me finally feel worthy?  Somebody give me a sign.

The true Breakfast of Champions?  Vonnegut humor.

We are surrounded by a sea of talented people, all waiting for their own version of the Jesus pancake (or whatever your religious and culinary preference).  What Vonnegut so simply states is that creation IS the reward.  It's the divine blessing; it makes us rise above the dirt, the amoebas, and the Snookis.  The flow of ideas from within fill up your soul and make you successful.  The ultimate reward is realizing how incredible it is to embrace an art and make it your own.

The worthy create.  

Although a trip to IHOP never hurt anyone, either.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Eleven, One Louder

Swallow my doubt, turn it inside out
Find nothing but faith in nothing
--Inside Out, Eve 6
The fabulous Annalisa Crawford passed me some questionable bloggy loving!  Wait, that sounded wrong.  What I meant to say was I have been challenged to answer 11 questions from the depths of Annalisa’s mind, and then to make 11 questions of my own to pass on to unsuspecting--and perhaps questionable--bloggers.  I’m calling this little meme “Eleven: One Louder” in honor of that quintessential mockumentary, Spinal Tap.


1.  Which book, that you're supposed to love, do you actually hate?

Lolita.  I just could not get past the pedophilia angle, no matter how beautiful the prose.  I get that it is an examination of darkness and perversity, and perhaps it is brilliant because it made me truly uncomfortable.  I just can’t read novels that involve crimes against children; it makes my heart hurt.  Perhaps that’s why I stick to romance and the paranormal. 
2.  What was the last film you saw at the cinema?

I’m not sure if I should admit this, what for fear of having Noxema and other key items of teen angst hurled at me, but it was Breaking Dawn.  A good friend who has a Twilight fetish made me do it--she promised me wine and buff werewolves.  The Bella-Edward deflowering scene made me laugh like a demented cheerleader.  And then I wished I knew a vampire.  Breaking headboards and shredding linen?  Whoa.
3.  Name four people (dead or alive) you would like to invite for dinner. 
    This question always intimidates me, because I feel like I should say somebody really monumentous in history.  But then I’m like, if I invite Mother Teresa to dinner, WTH would I say to her?  Would we discuss my hard core fascination with Highlanders and the HEA?  The virtues of bikram vs. ashtanga?  My borderline obsession with finding the perfect running tank?  Seriously, I would probably just sit there and try hard not to spill on myself and feel really, really pathetic in moral terms.  And who wants that kind of pressure?  But I guess, since this is a fantasy dinner, for that night I can miraculously morph into super hostess, fully of witty repartee and social commentary.  I think I’d like to get a big group of very different people together and just watch the dynamics:
    John Lennon.  
    Johnny Carson.  
    John Wayne.
    Lucille Ball. 
    My Grandma Hulinsky.
    And just so I wouldn’t be too freaked out by being surrounded by all dead people, Margaret Atwood.  And maybe Robert Downey Jr., because I just love him.
    4.  Can you remember your first teacher?
      So I had a bizarre kindergarten experience because my dear older brother and sister had already taught me to read and such, so when I got to school, the powers that be stuck me in an accelerated class for munchkins two days a week.  So the first real teacher I remember was Mrs. Redfern, who had earrings that swung like pendulums, smelled like rose water, and taught me to play with an abacus.  This pissed me off to no end, because everybody else got to design macaroni pictures and play with Little Tikes plastic while I was clacking beads on a wire.  When I got older and had a tiff with some of the mean girls on the playground, one of their favorite digs was to tell me I needed to go back to kindergarten because I missed all of the lessons on having friends.
      Those bitches were so wrong.  
      The first teacher I will never forget was Mrs. Anderson.  One day during recess she told me I could not play matchbox cars with the boys because that was not a proper game for little girls.  She pulled me across the gym, handed me a jump rope, and said “This is what little girls do.”  Fast forward a few years, and an essay on how little girls should ignore the Mrs. Andersons of the world is what got me into medical school.  To rip off Holden Caulfield, everywhere you go in this world there’s a Mrs. Anderson.  Just don’t let her tell you what you can and cannot do.
      5. In which order should Star Wars be watched: IV, V, VI, I, II, III or I, II, III, IV, V, VI?

      I’m not sure if order matters, but amount of red wine consumed before each certainly does.
      6.  Which fictional character would you like to be for a day?  

      I should say someone respectable, like Nancy Drew or Wonder Woman.  Maybe Winnie the Pooh, because he just seems so Zen.  But I think I want to be Rhage from J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series.  Because he’s a vampire that morphs into a giant dragon and eats bad guys.  And that just sounds amazingly testosterone filled, and if I get to be something else for a day, I think I want to be a man so I can try to understand the motivation and thought patterns of the burlier sex.  Maybe there is a flawed neurologic connection that truly does prevent them from putting dirty clothes in the laundry hamper instead of on the floor.  I could also be Merry Gentry from the Laurell K. Hamilton fairy series.  Because she has a magic vagina that can save the world.  ‘Nuff said.

        7.  Sweet or savoury?

        Savoury.  Or vinegary.  I have mad love for salty, vinegary things.  I can eat an entire jar of pickled beets in one sitting.  And interestingly enough, then your pee turns red.  As does other things.  Just FYI in case you think you are hemorrhaging internally.
        8.  Do you have a tattoo? How many?
          I have a tattoo on my shoulder that I talked about in Bohemian vs. bohemian.  I got it about a year ago in homage to my Eastern European heritage and I am really proud of it.  My next ink will be my sons’ names on my right wrist.
          9.  Do you still have your first teddy bear? (I do.)
            I don’t.  I do have my baby blanket and my first Betsy Wetsy doll.  I also have several bald Barbies that I went hairdresser on when I was a toddler.  I actually just recently bought a Barbie--the Tokidoki Barbie with the pink hair and tattoos.  Now apparently she is on Ebay for lots of money, but I love her too much to sell.
            10.  Oggy, oggy, oggy... Does anyone know what comes next? (hehehe)
              Hmmm.  Maybe, honey, can you get me a breath mint?
              11.  What are you reading right now? 

               I just finished the Karen Marie Moning Fever series.  A very cool twist on fairies.  For something completely different, I just started The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco.
              And now here are my 11 questions:
              1. Paper or plastic?
              2. What cartoon do you still secretly enjoy watching?
              3. If you could pick up an instrument and immediately know how to play, what instrument would you choose?
              4. What is the song that most defines your personality?
              5. What’s your anger style?  (i.e. simmer and steam, etc.)
              6. What do you think will be the downfall of modern society?
              7. What is the best character name you’ve ever come across?
              8. What is your most bizarre beauty ritual?
              9. What is your favorite scent?
              10.   Could your Significant Other identify you by just one body part, and if so, which one?
              11.   What moment in your life would have won the $10,000 on America’s Funniest Home Videos?
              The 11 questionable bloggers that get these babies are:

              D.L. Hammons at Cruising Altitude
              Cynthia Chapman Willis at Laptops and Lattes
              Julie at Empty Nesty Insider
              Raelyn Barclay
              Angela Orlowski Peart
              L.G. Smith at Bards and Prophets
              L.B. Diamond at Diamond-Lucid Dreamer
              Delores from The Feathered Nest
              Melissa Bradley at Melissa's Imaginarium
              Stephen T. McCarthy at Stuffs (just 'cause I'd love to hear the answers and we share mad love for Spinal Tap)
              Girl Wizard (on hiatus, but I'd love to get at least question #4 from her)

              Answer none, one or e--lev--un.  Ha, that rhymes.  I'm a poet and I didn't know it, but man, my feet show it.  They're Longfellows.

              Good day to you all!