10 Questions for an Artist: Damn the Witch Siren

There goes the neighborhood.
There goes the neighborhood.

The only thing Krista Botjer and Nathan Photos fight about is music.

“The fights are not about what we’re doing in music,” Krista says, “they’re about how we’re going to make this happen.”

The pair is the electronic duo Damn The Witch Siren and they have settled on a plan for making “it” happen: They’re moving from Columbus to Hollywood in July.

“I think I’m more nervous than she is,” Nathan admits, but their new album, “Superdelicious,” which they officially release Friday, has them both excited to make the transition, quality product in hand.

Krista and Nathan swear they fell in love at first sight, which only seems partly true. The rest of it was love at first sound. The two musicians were immeshed in the bands they were a part of at the time (you know Nathan from The Town Monster), and seeing the other play and perform music sealed the deal.

“He writes with heart,” Krista says. “I knew he had something to say and I wanted to be a part of that.”

Naturally, they formed a band, and in 2012 they put out their first compilation of songs, “Let’s Fall in Love.” When they play, Krista transforms into the sexy and fun Bobbi Kitten and Nathan into the brooding but bouncy Z Wolf.

On “Let’s Fall in Love” you can hear them finding their sound and finding each other.

“Superdelicious” is a pumping riot reminiscent of musicians who have truly grown together. It’s so fun to listen to, the songs are super catchy and the complicated sound artistry hits you in waves of fourth and fifth listens. (I wish you could hear right now me trying to imitate the sample of Krista’s voice on “Pearls and Lace” that is my favorite. My neighbors are probably worried I’ve hurt myself.)

Plus, they really rock it live. I’m a big Damn The Witch Siren fan, and I’ve already downloaded the music to my computer and the CD’s still spinning hot and sweaty in my car.

As the album sleeve eventually gathers dust on my bookshelf, I imagine it will grow grimy with gold glitter, atrophying into a kickass gothic unicorn that gallops off every night and returns at sunrise, leaving a hazy trail of delicious in its wake.

 

Damn the Witch Siren's album release party is at 9 p.m. Friday at Ace of Cups.
Damn the Witch Siren’s album release party is at 9 p.m. Friday, May 30, at Ace of Cups.

How would you describe the creative process of making “Superdelicious”?

Bobbi Kitten: We started some of our songs right after our first album. We kind of knew our direction. We knew that we wanted it to be very beat driven. It’s a hodge podge of collaboration.

Z Wolf: We’re both really into technology at the moment, so we use our iPads or iPhones to start songs. I’ll be at work and I’ll come home and she’ll be like, ‘I started this thing’ and it’s just a beat and then we’ll do a vocal and then we got the song “Honey, Honey.” I love working with her because we just bounce ideas off each other all the time.

Bobbi Kitten: Yeah, I’ll be like, come up with something that sounds like Devo.

Z Wolf: All the lyrics on this one are her. … I’m always kind of uncomfortable with singing, which is kind of a reason this is my dream band because she’s an awesome vocalist. I always use the analogy of why would you drive a pinto when you have a ferrari? I love to sing. I love it so much, but I also know my strenghts and weaknesses. And she’s way more charismatic on stage than I am.

Bobbi Kitten: We were trying to be mindful about being gratuitous with the vocals. “Honey, Honey” is vocals from start to finish, basically, but I think it’s cool to know your boundaries. I always worry about that as a vocalist. That’s my strongest instrument. But that’s also a double edged sword. I want to make a song out of all vocal samples. That’s a goal of mine. I don’t know if that will be something for us, but learning more about production and all that stuff, that’s one of my goals. I think we did a good job with “Microphone.” Nate produced most of the song. He put in a dub step fill and he wrote all that ominous part and it’s really cool. It’s cool to collaborate like that.

Z Wolf: I feel like we’ve barely done anything at this point. I’m dying to make an album that’s not really electronic at all. I feel like that’s career suicide, at least if you’re a big band. Most bands don’t do things like that–be one thing and then do a 180. But I’m sick and tired of the rules of music. Experimentation is why it’s so fun. Like, I love metal. I’d love to make a metal album and have her screaming on it.

Bobbi Kitten: We’ll see about that. I don’t know how cool my scream will be.

Z Wolf: No, you’ve got a great scream.

What’s the most difficult part about being a musician?

Z Wolf: Right now, for me, it’s juggling not making any money and having a shitty job that we have to go to everyday that just cuts our day in half. It just gets exhausting. Not a lot of payback for music at this point. It can get taxing on your soul. But at the same time it’s the most nourishing thing for your soul. It’s totally worth it.

Bobbi Kitten: I love my job. But the day job cuts into what you do want to do for the rest of your life. The exhaustion makes you feel like you’re getting old. Am I getting old? No! I’m just really fucking busy. How do you make money doing this? That’s the hardest part. How do you do it without selling out, put the most simple way. I’ve read so many blogs over the last two years about how to make it in music, and they’re like ‘You gotta write a number one hit!’ and it’s just like, um, OK. We want to write pop music, we want to write something that connects to a broad range of people, not for money but just because we want to make fun music, we want people to relax, we want people to go out and have a good time. We still want to say things, though. You’re juggling when you’re writing pop music between compromising your art, and we haven’t compromised, so maybe we won’t make money off this.

Z Wolf: I’ve always done what I wanted to do musically.

Bobbi Kitten: I always find myself going a little crazy because I’m like ‘I want to put this out there.’ And then I’m like, is that selfish of me? To want to put your art out there? Is that selfish to not wait until it’s ready? It makes it feel cheap. … It makes you feel cheap when you put it out on the internet. Oh what now?

Z Wolf: Yeah, there’s just so much out there nowadays. Everyone is making music and all the music is free. It does kind of give it a cheapness that we didn’t have when we were growing up. I cherished my small CD collection growing up. It’s not better, it’s just different. I kind of love this world we’re in, but it’s kind of crazy how much there is and it’s kind of scary where you feel like you’re in a very deep ocean with very little chance of actually making a career out of this. It also can be discouraging when you know no one cares about your album as much as you do. We’re clearly the most excited, but hopefully we can change that.

DTWS' majestic guard cat.
Damn the Witch Siren’s studio bouncer, Lyla. After experiencing back-t0-back break-ins at their downtown apartment, the two moved into Nathan’s parents’ home, where they do all their recording, until they head west this summer.

You guys are so fun to watch on stage, and the production of the videos you play behind you during your set are always relevant. 

Z Wolf: It kills me that I can’t watch her.

Bobbi Kitten: Sometimes it feels very awkward. I love performing and it’s easy to get really lost in the music but then there are those moments where everyone’s staring and you can see people, you can make out people’s faces, and you’re like is this weird, are people enjoying themselves? I just want people to have fun. It’s easier when you’re having your own fun.

Z Wolf: We both hold back quite a bit. We don’t want to. We’re trying to unleash, but the crowd can make you awkward. In your mind it’s always a room full of people and they’re all dancing, and when it doesn’t happen you’re a little reserved. This generation just seems more reserved, a lot less prone to dance. It’s a divergence of so many different things, people are into so many different things. And, again, that’s not bad, it’s just different. But back when there was The Beatles, there was just The Beatles and everyone in the world just lost their minds for them and that was it. Now there’s so many choices and you can’t lose your mind like that unless you’re with a group of people losing their minds like that. Not everyone’s going to lose their minds like that to this little band playing a little club.

What inspired “Superdelicious,” your new album?

Z Wolf: Our first album was a lot about the two of us meeting. It was more of an internal thing, whereas this one is more about the outside world. There’s more on there about social media and the world we’re living in now and the overwhelming, huge amount of music there is out there and making something that has some validity in that context. There’s also a lot about fashion and the way women are treated and feminism.

Bobbi Kitten: “Pearls and Lace” is a really fun song. The meaning of the song is a lot about feminism. It’s about being a woman and it sounds tongue and cheek. It sounds like I’m a man, I’m a woman, I’m a man, I’m a woman, going back and forth and I feel like the song “Honey, Honey” is a lot like that too, just kind of standing up for being a woman. One of the lyrics in “Pearls and Lace” is “All hookered up in pearls and lace.” When I was in high school I got called to the principal’s office for wearing lace, but you couldn’t see anything, it’d be a lace shirt where you could see the shirt but not through the bodice of the shirt, yet men could wear really sexist T-shirts, like “Cool story, babe, now go make me a sandwich.” Teach men to stop sexualizing the female body so much instead of putting so many restrictions on women. There’s this female band whose members wear these cloaks all the way up to their chins and they want to put an end to all of this sex in pop music, which I understand to some degree, but then they’re covering up their bodies and it’s just like, you should be proud! Be proud! That’s not saying anything. That’s kind of going backward.

Z Wolf: There’s a lot of sexuality in our music. We just got our first writeup for the album and the guy said the one turnoff of the album for him was that the lyrics were racy. I think she comes off like a very powerful woman in her music. Someone who is a role model. My favorite part of “Pearls and Lace” is the second verse where she says “You looking like a dirty knock off/ rock and roll is here to stay/ they dubbed you the savior” and then all of the sudden she gets pitch shifted to down and she says “Move bitch, get out the way.” That’s my favorite part. It can be taken a lot of ways. It’s a throwback to the Ludacris song and it’s also kind of a symbol of how men can dominate in areas including pop culture.

DTWS pink guitar

Catering table for DTWS studio mates.
Catering table for Damn the Witch Siren’s studio mates.
Z off duty.
Z off duty.

Why write as your characters, Bobbi Kitten and Z Wolf?

Bobbi Kitten: It’s fun.

Z Wolf: We love theater and theatrics. Sometimes people want their pop and rock stars to be really relatable and be like them and wear flannel. Other artists you want to be larger than life, ridiculous, and I think we’re just naturally more of that camp by nature. Film, puppets, experimentation.

Bobbi Kitten: Some of my favorite artists were always writing like they were someone else, folk singers who could become different characters in different songs. It was easier to find my voice as a singer and as a writer because we had built these characters. It’s just a different way to express yourself.

Why a wolf?

Z Wolf: It feels like a douchey answer. I’ve always loved wolves and I’ve always felt like that’s my spirit animal or whatever. Wolves are going extinct because people have hunted them to extinction and that depresses me to no end, so like I feel like Z Wolf is one of the last ones. We needed one more. I feel kind of dorky about it, but nothing gets me as emotional or fired up as animal rights. I try with futility to raise money for them, like with [my former band] Town Monster’s albums, but it got no response. No one seems to give much of a shit. We’ve been vegetarian for a year now. It’s really altering, just living in a different way. I used to eat meat two times a day and now when I cook chicken at work it sickens me. I have no real desire to eat them anymore.

How have you grown vocally, Krista, through Damn the Witch Siren?

Bobbi Kitten: When I was a kid I used to sing all the time. But I had a real high squeaky voice, and I remember auditioning for things and I got this part and my friend Mary was a really great singer, too, and I remember all the kids were telling me Mary should have got the part, that I had such a weird voice. I became terrified of singing. I had the weirdest voice. It feels like a totally different life from now because all I ever get now are compliments on my voice, just talking too. It’s so weird because as a kid I was afraid to talk to people. … In high school I would speak really soft; I was still terrified of it. I always wanted to sing, though. I love being on stage. …  I think my voice was a lot different before I met Nathan. It feels like a whole life away. … When I met Nathan, all the rules went out the window. I felt inspired. That’s when I found my true singing voice, was when I met Nathan and we started making music together.

Z Wolf: Her voice is like honey but sharp; it will cut you. She’s very diverse. I wanted to work with her immediately. I knew she had tons of potential. She’s very charismatic. I try to encourage her and push her to do more, be like a cartoon character almost. I always want her to be as ridiculous as possible. I think she holds back a lot still and I want her to let go completely. I have that reservation too. When I was in Town Monster we were playing out so heavily and I felt like a more confident singer and keyboard player and now I’ve been doing more production, so my production has got better but I’m dying to start playing piano more because I don’t want to lose that. I just want to be in a project that I love and I love our band.

DTWS heart mic

What’s your musical origin story, Nathan?

Z Wolf: I was in band in fourth through eighth grade and I really had no interest in it. It was a time killer. I liked messing around on the trombone or whatever but it didn’t click with me. … When I was 15 I went and got MIDI Notation software for $45 at CompUSA. I had already been writing lyrics in my sad little goth boy notebooks, but I took that software home and within an hour I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is what I want to do.’ Everything I made for years was horrendous. … I started making music by punching in notes on a computer. Eventually my mom let me trade in my trombone for a four track tape recorder and an acoustic guitar. I started singing and it was just raspy muttering. I just never stopped. I don’t think I’m truly talented. I think I just work really hard.

What does your work schedule look like? How often do you rehearse? 

Bobbi Kitten: All the time.

Z Wolf: Yeah, we’re pretty obsessed.

Bobbi Kitten: Sometimes we’ll take a week off where we don’t rehearse, but when we’re not rehearsing we’re writing or we’re working on video or something. It’s always very consistent. Having a set rehearsal schedule doesn’t work for us because it takes away from the creative process. We already have the discipline and sometimes you just don’t feel like doing certain things. You kind of have to go with your creative impulse as far as what to work on each day.

Z Wolf: I felt like I was in the worst dry spell of my life in 2011. I’ve been pretty prolific. I’ve written hundreds of songs, but that was the biggest period of time where I didn’t write a lot of stuff. I don’t really know why but I don’t look at it as much of a rut now because during that time period I got a lot better at production. And, really, we had met at that time and I think I just needed some time to fall in love. At the time I was stressed out about it. … Then I made a solo album in, like, a week. It’s not the best thing I’ve ever done but for various reasons I do like it. It’s dark and depressing. That was the end of my dry spell. I kind of had to force myself to make that. At the time I was not impressed with it at all but having some time away from it I like how it’s me and I like how different it was for me. It’s all crazy vocal effects and Auto-Tune, which I think everyone in the world hates except me, but I think that album feels like this weird subterranean world unto itself and, in that, mission accomplished.

How would you describe how Nathan uses Auto-Tune?

Bobbi Kitten: It’s very textural. He paints this line that’s light pink and then he puts all this darkness around it but it just becomes a part of the light pink. He keeps the darkness light.

DTWS equipment detail

DTWS equipment cat shot

What equipment do you use?

Z Wolf: My favorite part about being an electronic artist is that it’s so malleable. This keyboard doesn’t make sound on its own and those two devices there don’t make sounds on their own. But then you plug them into the computer and they do whatever you want them to do. We’re doing all sorts of crazy silly shit up there. We’re using a keyboard to play all the keyboard sounds but we’re using the faders and knobs and sometimes we’re turning drums on or off or we’re setting effects. She triggers a lot of vocal effects on stage, she triggers different clips, like a bass line or drums. We put different samples on this thing and can play with them in so many ways. It’s total madness.

Bobbi Kitten: The past year I feel like I’ve had a lot of people say, ‘What are these machines? Play a real instrument.”

Z Wolf: I used to see this guy whose truck I saw all the time and I just wanted to ram him with my car because he had a bumper sticker that said “Drum Machines Have No Soul” and it was like, drumkits don’t have a soul either! The drummer has the soul.

Bobbi Kitten: Being a singer songwriter doesn’t get me excited. With Ableton [the brand of the musical tech they use], there are all of these new sounds that people haven’t really used before that we can manipulate and that really inspires me.

What are your goals musically?

Bobbi Kitten: We have a lot of plans for our live show. Right now we have synced music videos that go along with our live performance but we will also have midi-controlled lights in the near future. We don’t want to give away too much of what else we plan to do but definitely a lot of cool technical shit that will embrace a lot of new technology.

If you could invite three artists, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be?

Damn the Witch Siren:

1) Marilyn Monroe

2) Morrissey

3) Tom Waits

Bobbi Kitten:

1) Edie Sedgwick. She was extremely witty but she was also a character. She was someone else when she went out and I want to see that in execution. I always wondered what it would be like to be really witty and clever and in it. She seems like one of the most interesting people.

2) Patty Griffin. She’s a folk singer songwriter. I admire her and she was one of the first singer songwriters that moved me to tears. She writes in other people’s bodies. She’s an 80-year-old woman one day and a man the next day.

3) Marilyn Monroe. Everyone has an opinion about who she was as a woman, but I feel like they don’t understand how dynamic of a human being she was. I understand her want to be validated for her art. And falling in love with brilliant men. I feel like she was just a soulful, thoughtful person.

Z Wolf:

For the record, my answers would change every day.

1) J.K. Rowling. I would just love to talk to her about her books. And just cry on her shoulder. “Why would your fiction hurt me that badly?”

2) Jesus. I think he gets a bad rap nowadays. I’ve done a lot of studying of spirituality and I think he had it right. It’s impressive how much I agree with the things he strictly said. Even if the rest of the Bible is bullshit, Jesus had his head on straight.

3) John Lennon. For similar reasons. I know so much about the guy already I don’t know how much I could glean from having dinner with him, but I really honor him and he’s a big hero of mine. He was so compassionate and he wanted to do good in this world. Also, he was terribly flawed. But he meant well and he really did take strides in his life to become a better person and I’m all about that. I was a shitty teenager and I’ve been a selfish person through a lot my life, everyone is, and I think it’s important to take a step back and look at who you are and try to be better.

DTWS k and z in studio

New play features stories of former female prisoners of Columbus

rachels house

Scotland-based playwright Nicola McCartney’s newest work not only debuts in Columbus this week, it is titled after a local reentry support program for former female prison inmates.

Rachel’s House is located in Franklinton and is an arm of Lower Lights Ministries. In response to the fact that the number of women in Ohio prisons, which is typically higher than national averages, continues to grow, Rachel’s House provides resources for former inmates who choose to enter the program.

Addiction recovery is high on the list of program priorities, as is developing a path for economic and emotional stability.

McCartney, who is a longtime friend of a Rachel’s House staffer, visited the center in 2012 to conduct a creative writing session with the women in the program. She wove together the stories that that and following visits garnered into the play “Rachel’s House.”

The play’s stories come from former prostitutes, drug dealers and perpetrators of violent crimes. The stories are at times shocking, funny and sad. The women they belong to have varying outlooks on their responsibility in the paths they took. They are victims of poverty, of abuse, of themselves. It’s also a revelatory look at the prison system and the community and anti-community that can form under a female prison’s restrictions.

“Rachel’s House” premieres this week in Columbus and includes a private showing at Marysville’s Ohio Reformatory for Women.

“It’s not a very naturalistic play,” said Jessie Glover Boettcher, one of Wild Goose Creative’s co-founders and artistic director for “Rachel’s House.” “Watching it, you experience emotions in waves. I think the audience will have that experience of grieving with the women. There’s something about you that is revealed to you no matter what complex reaction you have to women in prison, women who are addicted or selling their bodies.”

McCartney’s editing of the stories aimed to not exploit nor sanitize the real experience but to also maintain the women’s point of views.

“It’s like the difference between a textbook and a memoir,” Glover Boettcher said comparing this play to if a film documentary were made on the same subject. “There’s subjectivity to it.”

“Rachel’s House” is relatable in a broad sense; its overarching theme is one of “recovery from all kinds of addictions and attachments and relationships,” Glover Boettcher said.

The production is also intriguing because it’s a safe space for stories we don’t typically get to hear–like how one woman’s near humorous resourcefulness got her home after waking up in Cincinnati after spending the night with a trick.

After its Columbus run, “Rachel’s House” will be performed in theaters in Oregon and the UK. Hopefully it brings some attention to the Franklinton program Rachel’s House, which has an impressive success rate of helping women stay out of prison–of the nearly 100 women who have chosen to enter the program only around 14 have been locked up again.

“There’s so much energy right now about Franklinton, and this is a long-standing organization there where these stories have developed,” Glover Boettcher said. “I’m hopeful for a real growing harmony between what was there and what is coming there.”

“Rachel’s House” by Nicola McCartney

Tickets: $10

May 15 @ Gladden Community House

May 16 @ Van Fleet Theater

May 17 @ Wild Goose Creative

Alternative Fashion Week’s keychains

I got a nice little surprise this week from my badass friends behind the Columbus Alternative Fashion Week, an event in its inaugural year that celebrates and promotes independent fashion designers of Columbus. (The big finale runway showcase of those designers is this Friday. Get there.) The team designed this keychain with the words “Columbus For a Reason” inspired by a post I wrote that referenced why we live in Columbus and not a city like L.A. or New York. What an honor! You can get one for free at any fashion week event. My reasons for living in Columbus are many, but the fact that independent artists are valued here is tops.

Columbus For a Reason

 

Disney World’s Greatest Lesson for Adults

I have family in Orlando and my Ohio family regularly visits the Sunshine State. Disney World is our playground of choice. We love the Mouse’s house, offensively overpriced hot dogs and cucumber salads be damned.

I have been to Disney World as an adult four or five times. I only went as a kid once, I think, and at that point I was a teenager, so I’ve never really experienced it as a child. That’s OK. There’s so much to love about it as a grown up–even a princess-questioning lady grown up–because it is so creative.

Everything at Disney World is thoughtful, visually speaking. Disney gets down to every last detail.

Here’s an example. On our most recent visit my family stayed at The Pop Century resort, a hotel the Disney empire operates.  The buildings of the resort are decorated with giant metal sculptures of American cultural icons–mood rings, 8-tracks, a Yo-Yo.

Our courtyard this go-round was home to a two-story foosball playground.

foosball

And this guy. A four-story Big Wheel (which, neither here nor there, I like to imagine was used in a giant’s version of “The Shining” and that Jack Nicholson the Giant was a real diva on set… “I ordered whales for dinner! Not elephants! Someone is getting fired! I’m Jack Nicholson the Giant!).

big wheel

A massive Big Wheel would have been impressive enough, right? Where else can you see that out your hotel window? But, alas, Disney details ensue.

big wheel detail

That reads “Recommended Child Weight 877 Pounds.” Clever. Thoughtful.

That is just one example of many in an entertainment complex that is big and powerful enough to be its own city, but you get the idea.

So here it is. My takeaway for life from Disney has nothing to do with dreams or wishes or romance or anthropomorphic ducks. It is this: For best results, never half-ass anything and never stop trying to make things better.  I’ll take honest effort over wishing on stars any day.

Batman for (most) Straight Girls

This past Monday I had the great honor of participating in comedian Dustin Meadows’ monthly Struck a Nerve show at Wild Goose Creative in Clintonville. At these shows, writers, comedians and artists wax poetic and irreverent on different themes. For example, last month’s topic was 2013; I do believe a character who was a pot-themed wedding planner of gay weddings made an appearance. So, yes, fun. This month’s edition was focused on… Batman! Here’s my piece and its PowerPoint images transcribed as best I could for a blog post. If you missed the show, I regret to inform you you missed out on a great night. That’s OK. Just come next month.

batman

Batman for (most) Straight Girls: An Essay

why so serious

My hypothesis is that most modern American straight women have a similar storied relationship with The Dark Knight. It’s not that we don’t like Batman, it’s that our relationship to Batman (and superheroes)–like our relationships to most things–is fucking complicated.

It goes a little something like this.

Girls meet Batman in childhood. Through cartoons, movies,  the lunchboxes of little boy classmates and little girls with hip, gender-neutral parents. AND… costumes.

batman tutu

Every Halloween there is a little girl dressed up as Batman. It’s cute. Yellow and black are complementary colors that look good on even your ugly child. And how sassy with the tutu!

Ask the little girl who Batman is, though, and she likely doesn’t know. I mean, she’ll probably say super cutely “Batman!” but she doesn’t really know who he is other than that one guy with the suit.

Funny, because fast forward just a few precious years later and there’s a high possibility she’ll be wearing a Batman costume again.

party down batman

I’m Batman Barbie.

To be fair, a decent number of little boys do not know who or what they are dressed up as either. This is kind of the beauty of being a kid—you’re adorable until you start to have your own opinions and liking your own things and choosing your own Halloween costumes.

At 11 or 12 I chose to draw stubble on my face with a permanent marker and don my least favorite coat for Halloween. I was “Hobo In Windbreaker.” This was, I believe, the last year my parents let me trick or treat.

Anyway, Batman is a cultural force. His sixteen pack is everywhere and it is hard to ignore.

As an average little girl your interest in kind of starts to wane [(Bruce) Wayne (heyo!)] as you find your own interests and the allegories that best relate to your own tiny life.

Some of what kids are into, gender difference-wise, happens organically. Batman is OK to Girl Average, but there are not a lot of girls around and there’s a lot of kicking and his best friend/ sidekick is honestly kind of annoying, like a little brother or something.

I was way into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a kid. Not because of the turtles; because of April.

april

April! We had so much in common, her and little I! I mean just look at our lives! We both had red hair! And we both…. had …  red hair…

So some of it happens organically but a lot of what kids are into is marketing, subtle or otherwise. Google image search “superheroes for girls tshirt” and you will get multiple takes on this theme:

girls-rule-marvel-comics-t-shirt-80stees

If it isn’t “GIRLS RULE” screaming desperately from your pre-pubescent mosquito bites, it is an image of myriad female comic characters slinging some message of teamwork and friendship. I bet girls would like to don a little ass kicking in something meaningless like a T-shirt, too.

I imagine some marketing centaur somewhere steaming, “You know what we need to teach these asshole mean girls about? Friendship.”

My point here is that I think little girls are often socially herded into caring about cartoons and things that aren’t violent. Or if they are violent or heroic in some physical capacity they are rooted in teamwork and friendship (ie. Power Puff Girls).

While Batman has his helpers, he is, at the root of it, a lone bat, and that is what is so appealing about him on some level. I think girls could really use that a dose of imaginary self-reliance and responsibility via technicolor, to hell with self-isolation’s repercussions.

We want to feel the rage of righteous dark justice, too, bro.

Back to marketing of Batman, et al. It becomes a whole new nemesis as an adult. Here’s an example of a recent superhero t-shirt design for grown women compared to one for little boys.

i need a hero be a hero

Yeah, Pow, indeed. Pow right to your sense of being taken seriously by anyone who sees you wearing that T-shirt.

The psychology happening in these designs is a whole other item of rant, but it kind of lays the groundwork for the way young adult women interact with the Batman.

I used to use Batman as a pickup line. Asking a man “Batman or Superman” and judging him thusly was like a game of existential foreplay.

If a man selected Batman he was probably a jerk and thus more likely to get laid at 21. If a man selected Superman he was probably a lonely, tormented dreamer and most likely to spend two lonely, tormented years with me at 22. If he said Spiderman he was probably Friend Zoned immediately and married by 24 to someone who was not me.

I stopped asking this question when a dude responded, “Wonderwoman, baby.”

Why did I do that? Chicks! Why do we do that? It’s not like a man has ever asked me if I was more into Nsync or Backstreet Boys and took me seriously when I explained why.

And, honestly, I probably wouldn’t want him to. If Bronies have taught us anything, it is that there is little sexual attraction to be found in grown men who hitch their wagons to the little pink ponies of our girlhood.

bronie yes

So superheroes can become an interest you feign–like watching sports or Robocop–to get a boy to like you. Then you grow up and kind of stop giving a shit and figure out what you really do like.

I discovered I loved Batman for the most stereotypical of reasons–Heath Ledger.

An ex of mine really wanted to see “The Dark Knight” when it came out in the theaters. I had stopped using existential superhero foreplay at this point but I should have on him. He loved Gambit, the wily little magic card player who could manipulate any energy he touched.

Yeah. Sounds familiar.

OK, so, Heath had just offed himself and well, morbid interest. Like I said, girls are dark.

(And, hey, just a feminist aside here: Did anyone else notice that part of the mythos of Heath’s suicide is that he was just so twisted from really getting into his acting and playing such a demented character and it just took over? And also Christian Batman Bale’s epic meltdown on the Terminator set was forgiven just a little bit because of all that high-octane action? Meanwhile, Lindsay Lohan is just a crazy drug addled asshole who deserves to never work again and suffer a lifetime of shame for her mistakes? Maybe they’re all assholes. Maybe you’re the asshole, America.)

OK, so we are watching The Dark Knight. It’s in the movie theater and the screen is larger than Wonderwoman’s boobs. The sound is eerie and the mind-fuck that the leading actor is now six feet under in the reality you are actually living in but don’t feel a part of anymore because the story unfolding in front of you is so honest but surreal and putting you in a whole tailspin of storytelling and… Holy shit, Batman! I love Batman! I want to know all about Batman!

And so I learned all I could about Batman. I bought comics. I watched as many Adam Batman West episodes as I could physically handle (which really wasn’t many). I was super secret Batman fan girl.

Why super secret you ask?

Because America is an asshole.

I knew myself well enough to know my intense interest in Batman would last about a year. I would consume as much of its darkness as I could and move on to a new interest that sated my need for sanely expressing and releasing the reasons for my own dark nights.

See, if you’re a girl who says you like Batman and do not know everything about Batman and/ or comics ever, you run the risk of being stereotyped into this:

fakegeekgirl

FAKE NERD GIRL! FAKE NERD GIRL!

Heaven forbid you have a fleeting, varied interest in a subject on your journey through millions of life subjects.

My Batman obsession has been replaced since then with other things that help me feel like my own natural darkness ain’t so twisted. Like a six-month long X-Files binge. A brief but intense obsession with Iron Maiden. An even more brief attempt to learn to play clarinet again.

Dark, dark things.

Now, I, like, I’d venture to say, most grown modern straight woman, am… just a bitch that likes Batman.

never forget

Ten Questions for a Fortune Teller: Meag the Happy Medium

I love love just as much as, maybe more than, the next heartsick gal, but the trope of red hearts can get tiresome. Also tiresome: the anti-valentine’s shtick (you’re lying to yourself and we all know it!).

Solution: Dark Love, an evening of loving love and admitting the darkness that can often accompany it.

In addition to dark-love themed art (example: Meghan Ralston’s real-life-looking knit heart that has strings you can pull until it falls apart… life! art! imitating!), there will be live music, dance performances, live art making (including that by one of my favorites, W. Ralph Walters) and… fortune telling! Huzzah! That’s a fun date idea. Or perhaps a terrible one?

Regardless, the fortune teller on hand at the Dark Art show will be Meag The Happy Medium, a sweet lady who regularly gives readings at The Magical Druid in Clintonville. Catch up on some of what goes into her work below and get a reading tomorrow. See you then.

Dark Love art show

7-11 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14

Strongwater Food and Spirits/ 400 West Rich

 Meag the happy medium

What is a medium? How would you define the work you do?

Technically, a medium is a title for someone of the Spiritualist movement, which was a religious movement that flourished between the 1840s through the 1920s, but still carries on to this day. Spiritualists believe in communication with the dead, usually through seances.

That being said, I am neither a Spiritualist, nor do I communicate with peoples’ dead relatives as a part of my profession. I’m a fortune teller and spiritual counselor, in general.

Why designate yourself as the Happy Medium?

The name began as a joke back in college, when my cousin and I were living together. She was the more talented fortune teller in those days, and I teased her that she should call herself the “Happy Medium” as a reference to the idiomatic expression meaning the halfway point between two extremes. Not too hot, not too cold, but rather just right.

When she didn’t choose to use the name, I took it for myself, originally to use as a part of a pen name for a comedy blog. The blog lasted for about a dozen articles before the jokes petered out, and the questions took a decided turn for the serious. People seemed to really accept the answers I was giving them, and I thought it might be time for me to give their questions more weight.

How did you get involved with this line of work?

This time around, I contacted the owner of a local art gallery named “Also Goods” in Clintonville after she advertised needing fortune tellers for a weekend shift. I lived just down the street from them, and throughout 2011 I would do readings among some amazing local art.

Overall though, I started learning to read tarot cards when I was really young. As a kid, it was sort of a parlor trick I could do that amused my Grandma and her friends. I’ve picked up a myriad of fortune telling skills over a lifetime, from reading tea leaves, to the spots on dice, to crystal balls and candles. I enjoy finding patterns throughout the world that help me navigate my way and help others find their path.

What appeals to you about doing this kind of work?

I love being able to give people that confidence boost. I’m a great listener, and I love to hear others tell me about themselves. I enjoy reading for regular clients of course, but reading for total strangers is my favorite. I’ll get done with a reading where I’ve told them all about themselves, and they will say something like, “Aw, but I knew all that already!” at which point I get to reply with my favorite answer, “Yeah, but I didn’t!” I get to be independent confirmation from the Universe.

What are the challenges of being a medium?

Giving bad news. Sometimes, there are indications of what I might call “clouds on the horizon.” I can usually give a fair estimate (give or take) of about when it looks like an event might happen. But it’s never pleasant or easy news to break. I try to frame situations in terms of Opportunities and Challenges as often as I can, but sometimes there are clear indicators that I would be remiss if I ignored or omitted. That’s part of the job though, giving people a heads-up if I have an idea that they need to prepare for something.

I imagine being a medium is like any other craft… you grow with it the longer you are involved with it. Is your work or approach to the work any different than it was five years ago?

My approach hasn’t changed much over the years, except that as I get older the more comfortable I get with having a reputation for being a fortune teller. I do it both as entertainment and as guidance, which is as I’ve always considered it. I’m probably more careful about emphasizing to clients that my advice does not replace the advice of a licensed professional, be they legal, medical, or whatever. I don’t mind being a sounding board, friend, or counselor, but part of my “prescriptions” can absolutely include instructions to get additional help.

Do you yourself go see a medium or ever read your own cards? Is that possible?

That all depends on the reader! I actually have a cute little app on my phone that I use to pull my daily card, and it’s surprisingly apt on most days. If I have a specific question on my mind, or really feel the need for impartial guidance, I sometimes ask friends who also read to pull a card for me, or I go to another reader for a full spread. It’s never so much about what tool is used in fortune telling, but about the perspective that someone else can provide.

Do you have to go into a certain mindset to do the fortune telling or does having this ability interfere with your daily life at all? For example, are you at your day job and see something about someone, clouds on the horizon perhaps, and have to keep it to yourself?

I don’t often bring up my fortune telling at my day job. I find that life is easier if I keep the two separate in general. But the skill of finding patterns and identifying trends isn’t anything that I can “turn off” either. I try not to focus on individual people in those terms if I’m not being asked for help – nobody likes a buttinski – rather I try to focus on patterns that I can identify in a larger business sense, in a way that applies to the job I’m doing.

Kind of on that note, does this ability affect your personal relationships, for better or worse? 

I try to use the “soft skills” that I employ with clients with the people in my life as much as possible. Active listening, being emotionally supportive, honest when asked for my opinion, those are all things that I make sure to do when I’m reading for someone. I feel that my personal relationships deserve at least as much effort as I can afford to provide for clients and strangers I meet at events. In that way, I feel like it helps my relationships and informs how I approach conflict within my own life.

As for having those moments of insight about the people in my life, it depends on what sort of inkling I’ve gotten. If someone I love has asked for a reading, of course I give them my best, but it’s not something I try to do often. It’s far more emotionally taxing on both them and I, usually because of our lack of objectivity in a situation. It really can be hard to see the forest for the trees.
If you could invite three people, living or dead, to a dinner party, who would they be and why?

Sybil Leek, the famous UK witch and goddaughter of Aleister Crowley, Amanda Palmer the artist/musician, and Tim Curry the actor. Because doesn’t that just sound like fun? 😉

 

10 Questions for an Artist: Illustrator Larry Doyle

Larry Doyle in his Tacocat studio holding his latest work.
Larry Doyle in his Tacocat studio holding his latest work.

Larry Doyle turns 26 today, but he cannot deny the velocity his 25th year took to get him here.

“This has been a great year of super high highs and super low lows,” Larry said during a New Year’s Eve interview at his studio in Tacocat Cooperative in Grandview. “I think you just learn how to keep the table from tipping over.”

At 25, Larry came out to his mom and friends as a gay man.

“I got really freaked out that I’d be 40 and married with kids. I want to be happy,” he said. “I kept it inside for so long because I don’t want to be somebody’s gay friend. I don’t want to be the gay artist.”

It’s fair to say Larry hates labels. Or, more accurately, I think Larry hates the way labels can dismiss everything else not under the umbrella of said label. Labels inherently deny genuineness, the dynamics of a personhood.

For example, Larry has been sober for years. It’s a big part of his art, but recently on vacation to Mexico he took a day to get drunk.

“I’d been wanting to for a while. Nothing changed. I drank for hours. I got drunk. But I didn’t have fun. I was like, I’m done,” he said. “I had to know. Sobriety became bigger than me. People who didn’t know me but wanted to talk to me just about being sober. It became bigger than who I was.”

It’s clear Larry wants to define Larry, I think in part because it’s challenging for him to define himself to himself. When other people’s generalizations get involved, it’s hard to not take that personally.

“I have an addictive personality in general. I found that out coming out, too,” he said. “This summer I started dating a boy and I was not myself. I was addicted to this kid. And it wasn’t anything he did. It was horrible. We were building Tacocat and I couldn’t focus on anything. Dating to me was like ‘Let’s move in!'”

Larry said he’s learning to channel all that addictive tendency into his work. And what’s so great is that you can see this in not just how more prolific he is getting (he admits to making and completing and selling more works than he ever has in the past year) but in what his art expresses. Larry’s quest for self-awareness is coming through in his art and the more he understands himself–or keeps trying to understand himself–the deeper that work will get.

He’s a man with a plan for 26, too.

“I want to go national with my artwork. I don’t how to do that. I don’t know what the fuck i’m doing,” he laughed. “Before I hit 30 I want to be able to happliy do this for a living. I want my creative outlets to flourish. What if this was my office? How fucking sweet would that be?”

Read on to see just how Larry’s subject matter is shifting and what challenges he faces as a young artist.

PS-HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LARRY!

Doyle painting 1

See Larry’s art:

LorenzoStudios.com

 

Cafe Brioso

Through January

14 E. Gay St., Downtown

614-228-8366

 

The Oak Room in Deepwood

Opens Jan. 11, 2014

511 N. High St., Short North

deepwoodrestaurant.com

 

What is your training as an artist? 

[Columbus-based artist] Dan Gerdeman was my teacher in high school. I showed him my really crappy sketchbook and he assigned me to Drawing 3, which was the hour-long drawing class. I moved into Junctionview and shared a studio there after high school. I did all the events, sold a few paintings here and there. I took a drawing class at Columbus State. I wanted to go to CCAD but it was too much money so we wrote it off. Then I looked at Full Sail University in Florida for a while and a two-year program would leave me thousands of dollars in debt. When I did go to Columbus State I hated all of it and didn’t really do well. i just dropped out of that. Academia is not for me. … There’s a roablock now because I don’t have the training. I just got a trial on my computer for Adobe Illustrator. There’s a lot of marketing I don’t know how to do, and I want to draw other things, I want to draw more Realism, I just don’t have the training. The first time I realized I could sell stuff was this series I did for, like, Agora Six. I made these little guys that had cigarette burns and they were screaming and bleeding. It was very Don Hertzfeldt.

 

What medium and tools do you prefer? 

Pen and paper all the way. I just got Adobe Illustrator two days ago. I’m always digging [Columbus-based artist] Clinton Reno’s stuff, the rock posters. I love the flat design. I want to push myself into making prints.

 

Doyle tattoo
A drawing of Larry’s tattoo of the heads that count his time sober.

 

What has been inspiring your work lately?

I love iconography, icons in art. I’ve been making this little guy, the guy I often draw, into a saint. I don’t know why; I just love the details and all the halos. There’s no name for him. sometimes they’re self portraits, sometimes they’re just… weird. After I quit drinking, I would draw these heads as date markers. I have a tattoo of a bunch of the heads and I keep a print of it above my studio door. I started to put wings on the heads, little halos. … I’ve always been interested in symbols. Being closeted for so long I’ve had to find different ways to express myself. We all attach different meanings to things. Icons, I love the way they look. They play with the symbols of what it means to me and people can put their own meanings into them too.

doyle studio details

doyle illustration halo new

What in your art career are you most proud of so far?

This piece I made last night [which Larry is holding in the photo that starts this blog post]. I really like it. Like I said, I make these guys, they all have golden halos. Last night I started drawing another one and I put an upside down cross and right side up cross near him. The upside down cross kind of represents blasphemy. He doesn’t have any gold in his halo but there’s a red circle around him that gives the affect of a halo–and also of a target.

These guys are saints and he doesn’t have any gold so he’s not a saint. But he still has a halo. Maybe I’ll keep going with them and put some gold in them, have them be targets but saints as well. … Sometimes when I look back on a piece I can tell if I was feeling lost or sad, and that’s not something I’m thinking about when I’m making them. Days later I’ll be like, “Damn. That was pretty heavy.” I like the heads that count my days of sobriety, but this most recent work is an expression of how I feel, not what I did.

When I came out I was like <snaps finger> “Solved.” That wasn’t the case at all. I’ve been struggling with how to pull that struggle out of myself this past year and put it into art. I always get super pumped when people make paintings that can do that. [Larry’s studio neighbor] Brian [Reaume] makes these amazing abstract pieces and I, of course, am a child and am like “I see a dinosaur!” But seriously, I get to see him make his stuff now which is so awesome. His piece for artist Stephanie Rond‘s Tiny Out Loud project was about creativity and sheltering it and the war on being creative and being yourself. It’s a painting of a house and the outside of the house had the words like fag and die and stuff like that. Finding the way to be vulnerable on the page like that is crazy.

Doyle illustration one

Doyle illustration 3

Has working in a studio near an intimate group of artists affected the way you work?

I love it. I’ve learned a lot from Brian. He is so about presentation. I’ve learned a lot being here, surrouding myself with people like Adam Brouillette. I’ve learned a lot by watching them and how they present their artwork and the steps they take. Like, when I take this show to Brioso, I will wrap each piece in paper so they don’t get scratched. I threw away a frame yesterday because it had a scratch. I’m not going to put all this time into a drawing and put it in this frame that is scratched. It’s going to ruin the whole thing. I know I am obsessive, that I have an addictive personality, but I’ve learned to turn it into a positive. This is the first year I’ve actually taken myself seriously. I’d done art before but it was like, my friends are here, your friends are here. Now I have people like Brian right next door telling me to get my ass there and work. I’m incredibly fortunate to be next door to these guys.

 

A present from Brian.
A present from Brian.

What do you do while you work?

I listen to music. Lately I’ve been listening to The Walkmen. Interpol. I like throwing it back a little bit. I’ve been trying to get through the top albums of 2013 lists. I’ve tried to watch movies before. I started watching American Horror Story but then I just shut the lights off and watched the whole thing. I just bought “Prefuse 73 Reads The Books” on iTunes yesterday and I’ve already listened to it, like, seven times. I sometimes draw better, too, when people are in my studio, just hanging out.

doyle studio detail 2

Do you ever experience artist’s block? How do you overcome it?

Yes. That’s really frustrating when that happens. I’m fortunate enough to have music and art, so when I’m here and I can’t get through it I go play music for a while. It comes in waves. I’ll be really into writing guitar stuff for like a month and then I will have to be here in the studio all the time. Sometimes the solution is just putting on a CD you haven’t heard in a while or driving to Cincinnati to visit the art museum. Sometimes if I don’t want to draw and know I need to I just scribble. Muscle memory. Even if you just take a canvas and just fuck with it. Sometimes just being here and putting that energy you will have a moment like that it clears out and it’s like fucking finally. Or Brian and I will “go for a walk” and just go to Target and walk around and stare at boys or I go to Giant Eagle and just get a piece of fruit or something. Sometimes just walking away from it is super refreshing.

What is the hardest part about being an artist?

The talking. There’s the business aspect of this stuff I always forget about. If you want to make money, you have to talk. I don’t really want to talk. It feels so cheesy using any kinds of sales tactics. Art’s so personal. I’m going to buy this piece because i want it, not because you’re selling it to me. It’s not a fucking couch.

It’s awesome to do this and be in music. I’ve done a lot of stuff this year. My band [The Weight of Whales] opened for Alt J at the LC. Things like being on stage or doing a show are so much for me, though. Like, when I’m done I’m like just hold me. You have to always be on. Playing a show is a lot of fun and you get to be a rockstar but you have to be on. If you fuck up everyone fucks up. Or being at long shows like Agora that are eight hours long. Afterward I just shut my door and get really depressed. It’s so draining. But it’s totally worth it.

 

What advice that you’ve found invaluable would you give a new artist?

A whole bunch. One of the things I like a lot is people telling me hard work pays off. It’s true. You just have to do it. It’s not going to be easy. The things that come together easily will fall apart easily. If it’s a strugle it will be worth it. That’s so hard to tell yourself when you’re sitting here and you’re like “I can’t draw anything” and all I draw is penises randomly. That sucks. But you have to be here. I can’t take naps anymore because I feel the need, the drive to be in my studio. If you want it, you’ll do it. Before this last year I didn’t finish a lot of things. It’s the closure. Moving on. Doing the next thing. It’s weird. It’s hard for me.

 

Three artists, living or dead that you would invite to a dinner party:

We’ll stay away from musicians because that list will just go on and on.

Spiritus Tattoo’s Mike Moses. I don’t know anything about this person but his Instagram posts are awesome. [Follow Mike @TheDrownTown] I’m obsessed with his artwork. I want him to do my next tattoo. I want two whales on my chest. Everything he does is so clean and thought out, and the line work is amazing.

Alex Pardee. 

Brandon Boyd. His work is phenomenal.

 

An ode to the forgotten Pink Lady

My mom has gifted me at least three copies of “Grease” in my lifetime. I own zero now. I probably sold the DVDs at some point while taking care of my long line of Kenickies.

That’s OK. I can recite the movie by heart because I was incredibly obsessed with it as a child, teenager, young adult and quarter-life crisis adult.

Not obsessed in that weird theater kid way, though. The songs were fine but I didn’t, like, have the “Grease” soundtrack in every room of the house and I don’t know the sock hop dance number.

In hindsight (because who can pick this up about themselves as a kid?) what I really liked about “Grease” was the Pink Ladies and the different ways they were girls.

Grease_Pink-Ladies_Cheerleaders

Rebellious friends running the halls of Rydell, the Pink Ladies gave me a unique place to consider the different ways to be feminine, to be a girl.

I was never interested in Sandy except that her story was what introduced me to all these other interesting people. That was probably because her life was too unattainable for a redhead with bad teeth. Girls like me didn’t get boys like Danny Zuko.

Also, as I got older, I realized Sandy was the type of girl who would bitch to the sluttiest friend she had about her all-encompassing fear of being labeled a slut for making out with a strange guy the night before when said slutty friend has just told her about fucking a strange guy the night before. Ugh.

Sandy Two-Shoes

When I was very young, I enjoyed Frenchy (who was totally the prettiest, right?). The Frenchy actress was on the Thomas the Tank Engine show in the ‘90s and I also watched it all the time. Kids’ interests are so associative.

But Frenchy was dumb. And I was not. So I always just felt for her like I would a best friend (she would have been a good one… flipping off those other cheerleaders… thanks, French).

Frenchy

Marty Maraschino, like the cherry, was eh. She was desperate with a leechy personality built on soggy expectations but redeemed herself in the final scene when she shows Sandy how to smoke a cigarette supa dupa sexay.

cherry

My girl for the longest time was Rizzo.

I always liked the leading lady’s best friend because that’s who I was in real life. One quarter good looking, three quarters personality/ possible mental health issue.

rizzo

Rizzo was all vulnerability haphazardly masked in sexual rage. Tough stuff on the outside but a total kid when the going got tough, when the sex and problems got real. She was such a wannabe hardass.

Now that I could relate to.

But for all her flaws Rizzo would never give up who she was for a Danny Zuko type. Plus, who wanted a dude like Zuko? A guy who would change his personality at the drop of the hat like that? (Oh, yes, the Lackluster from Down Under, that’s who.)

I always crushed on Kenickie.

Yeah. I’ll take that Hallmark card, thank you very much.

kenicke hickey

Kenickie was wild and raw and scared of all the right things and handled them in all the wrong ways.

I loved it. And I loved Rizzo for loving it. That kind of attraction I could understand. Not the we-met-at-the-beach and-hung-out-for-two-days-and-shall-now-be-in-love-for-ev-er shtick.

White doves still poop orange slime.

I have a feeling the writers really liked Rizzo, too, or at least understood how dynamic of a character she was. Who did the movie pan to when the Principal McGee said on the final morning announcements that someone in the school might one day be the next Eleanor Roosevelt?

Rizzo, bitch!

Now… who are we missing… what was her name…

Jan.

jan

Oh, Jan. If you say Jan was your favorite Pink Lady you’re lying. Or you played her in your high school’s version of the musical.

Google search “Jan +Pink Ladies” and only the first three links are actually related to the character. The Google image search results for the same prompt don’t have ANY images of her or the movie.

That’s too bad. Here’s why.

If you did, indeed, play Jan in your high school’s version of “Grease,” you were probably the fifth best person who tried out for Sandy. However, if “Grease” were made today, Jan would be the main character, portrayed by Zooey Deschanel or Lizzy Caplan.

Her name would probably still be Jan.

Jan is super “awkward” in “Grease.” But because “awkwardness” had decades yet to become an attractive attribute of which to aspire–“Awkward” is like a nice, ironic wine–Jan is just a secondary character. Her quirkiness is evident but not gratuitous; her trashiness endearing.

Eating Twinkies with a dessert wine after nailing the impression of a hygienic cartoon beaver? That is manic pixie dream girl gold to film writers today! That scene could just be the trailer for the next Zach Braff movie.

Jan totally would be an example of 1970s’ manic pixie dream girls if not for the fact that, since no one back then appreciated the kind of character on screen, they couldn’t, didn’t sensationalize her. So we viewers are treated to sweet baby Grease-us’ funniest little diamond in the rough without her baking cupcakes and dancing in the rain and referencing great pieces of literature or partaking in hokey singalongs.

Well, I guess there were hokey singalongs.

The manic pixie dream girl thing seems over. It and the anchor-tatted mermaid it rode in on have been identified and thus become predictable, outdated. But Jan in this modern day context is a fun thing to consider on one’s 500th viewing of the movie.

I thought about Jan, briefly, after I watched “Gravity” this weekend. Sandra Bullock plays mission specialist (read: not a full-time astronaut) Dr. Ryan Stone. Stone is stranded in space after her crew’s mission gets bombarded by space debris and alien poop.

OK, not alien poop.

The last hour of the movie, basically, is just Bullock/ Stone trying to survive. Without giving away too many character developments, it struck me afterward–once I came back to earth (buh dum chi) from the pure visual and sonic joyride “Gravity” whips you around on–that it was interesting that the movie followed a female astronaut.

Having a man save himself seems like a more obvious writing choice, especially in 1) a major blockbuster and 2) a movie about space. Everyone knows girls don’t like science!

Sexual tension between Bullock and co-star George Clooney is nill. Refreshing.

Dr. Stone’s sadness, of which we learn about in the most unclumsy of ways, stems from a very human, universal experience of loss, one both a man and a woman could feel. Her trauma is not related to a sexual relationship with a man. Refreshing.

“Gravity” is also not a Girl Power promo piece. No one and nothing preaches “I’M… YEAH ME OVER HERE!… YEAH, I’M AN ASTRONAUT… AN ASTRONAUT WITH A VAGINA!!!!!!!” It’s just an awe-some human story told with a woman. Gender held no gravitas. Say it with me: Refreshing.

I love the dual role fictional characters’ lives, stories, worlds play. When done well they are at once the greatest of escapes but agents for social, cultural change. They help you forget about yourself for a few hours but, if you’re willing to listen, reveal parts of your person previously unearthed.

Even Sandy.

Internet Wins of the Week: Sept. 9 edition

1) New music. New to me at least. My rate of discovery for new music typically puts me about six to six and a half months behind schedule of the cool kids. I have had trouble lately finding music I like. It’s hard because I used to rely on music that released a lot of anger for me… but I’m not really angry anymore… or music that awesomely expressed lady sads… but I’m a more mature kind of lady sads now (best remedy for this so far has been Solange). And, at age 27, irony in music to me is when an emergency broadcast system alert interrupts my oldies station’s Led Zeppelin song. Here are two musicians I “discovered” (I love when average people say that) this week that I’ve been enjoying:

“The Brothers Nylon” by The Brothers Nylon. Instrumental. Exciting. Funky. Complex.

Laura Mvula. Songstress. Powerful. Sensual. Catchy.

 

2) Larry Smith’s TED talk about failure. I’m a TED talk junkie, if you couldn’t tell from my previous Wins of the Week entries. After I watch or read the depressing news each morning, I go to TED’s topics page and pick a talk I think will make me feel better about the state of humanity. It almost always works. This one left me particularly motivated and thoughtful. Smith, an economist, humorously outlines all the things we tell ourselves about our careers–cop outs, scape goats, excuses–that lead us down a road of work we are lukewarmly passionate about. I think I have made all of these mistakes but never thought about them as mistakes, such as not going after a job in order to be a better lover, friend, family member. Still wrapping my mind around this one…

 

3) A hilarious grammatical error. As a writer I am prone to grammar snobbiness; however, I try to keep it in check and not be a word-nerd-asshole when people make a mistake. This poster’s misuse of the word “bread,” though is too funny to pass up. Forget the water… there must be something in the bread! Also, people who usually say shit like this are the same type of people who argue that Mexicans should learn English or get out of ‘Merica. So, laugh on, readers. Laugh on.

southern bread

10 Questions: For recovered addict bartender/ inspiration Michael Bishop

“You should write a book,” I said.

“I would love that,” Michael said.

“What would you call it?” I said.

“Dolly Parton Saved My Life,” he said.

Adorable baby Michael on the right.
Adorable baby Michael on the right.

Unfortunately that book title has already been taken, Michael said after I swooned.

“By some housewife.”

It would be a clever title to introduce Michael’s story, though. His heart is sweet but the dark part of his soul used to be thirsty and strong. In his 20s and early 30s, he fed it with alcohol and, eventually for a short period of time, meth.

“You spent your 20s…” I started.

“Wasted!” he said. “Higher than christ!”

Shooting the shit with angels.

Michael. Not sober.
Michael. Not sober.

When you’re addicted, nearly nothing is sacred. Actually, for most addicts, nothing is sacred. But for Michael, Dolly was. He refused to listen to her when he was drunk. Embarrassed. He knew she, his idol, would be disappointed in his actions… his refusal, inability to take care of himself.

If Michael’s potential book title were more accurate, it’d be that these guys saved his life:

1_Michael_With Andrew

1_Micael_With Virginia

These are Michael’s best friends, Andrew and Christopher, who has been by Michael’s side for 15 years.

One day they showed up at Michael’s door with a few other of his friends.

And his mother.

It was an intervention. Michael remembers the tears. The letters. The cigarettes. The dealer that was sitting in his living room when they walked in. The urge to take one last hit before he went to rehab (“If I’m going down, I’m going down big”). The sickening sea of hurt and fear in his mother’s eyes… a sea in which he had been drowning for more than a decade.

Michael Bishop has been sober since Dec. 27, 2010.

He turns 40 in November and goes to AA three times a week. Some days he hates it and the people who are there, but it has become a necessary part of his routine. AA is as important to his health as sleeping and eating.

Earlier this year Michael studied to become an intervention specialist. He wants to help addicts recover and move on and live happily; one of his awesome ideas is to have a sober tent at Columbus’ Pride festival for attendees who wish to celebrate but are looking for trigger-friendly activities.

Most of all Michael just wishes to do good with the rest of his life. He knows addiction survivors–and to some extent people who have loved/ love addicted people–are connected. They need each other. They can spot each other. They can help each other.

Plus, now he can listen to Dolly whenever he wants.

Dolly loves you, baby.

Following is a Q&A with Michael about the details of his addiction and recovery. (Editor’s note: There are more than 10 questions here so this headline is misleading. Got a problem with that? Get your own blog.)
Do you remember the first time you got drunk?
I don’t know if I remember the FIRST time I got drunk, but I remember sneaking beers when I was in junior high and high school, I started sneaking into bars around the age of 19 and drinking with people I didn’t now as a means to find myself. Growing up gay in the late 80’s/ early 90’s was very different than it is now. Homosexuality was not as accepted as it is today and it seemed, at least to me, to be the only way to be around people that were like me.
1_Michael_High School
Was alcohol immediately an issue for you or did it build up into a problem?
I don’t know that I would classify it as an immediate problem, although I believe that any and all underage drinking is an issue; however, my personal insecurity led to more drinking to try to fit in… with friends, people around me and relationships I was so desperate to form. I achieved the exact opposite, I lost friends, I didn’t fit in, people didn’t want to be around me, and I couldn’t maintain any sort of personal relationship.
Why do you think it became a problem for you?
I honestly believe that alcoholism and drug addiction is hereditary, but I also believe that my surroundings played a VERY large part in my addiction. In my eyes, it was “just what people did,” and I didn’t have the knowledge or experience to practice any sort of moderation or responsibility. That being said, while environment was a key factor, I also take full responsibility for my choices. No one forced me to do the things I did.
What does life feel like for an alcoholic who is living in his addiction?
What’s ironic is that I think most people drink to forget feelings, or to not feel at all. The crazy thing is, you then open yourself up to an entirely different wave of emotions. I felt lost, sad, ashamed, scared and hopeless for many years. At many points in my life of addiction, I didn’t see a way out, didn’t think I deserved better and began to believe that my life was going to end leaving a very sad and pitiful legacy.
What was the saddest moment for you as an alcoholic?
I don’t honestly think I can pick just one. Many people in recovery speak of their ROCK BOTTOM. I hit that bottom more times than I care to remember, each time thinking that things couldn’t get any worse, only to find out that as long as I chose NOT to heal my life… things could, and did, get much worse. My addiction cost me jobs, friends, homes, belongings, freedom (I was in jail twice) and most importantly my belief in myself. My family and friends tried desperately on several occasions to help, through conversations, ultimatums, and formal interventions. I wanted to stop at several points in my life, but I didn’t have the faith in myself that I truly needed to be sober.
What finally made you get help getting sober and how did you get sober? 
There were several defining moments of sobriety for me, and several lengths of sobriety that all unfortunately ended in relapse. My best friend Andrew organized a formal intervention on December 5, 2008, as I was weeks, possibly even days, away from dying as a result of my crystal meth addiction. At that time I truly believed that I wanted the nightmare to be over, but I found myself trying to stay clean for others and therefore relapsed. On December 27, 2010, I ended up in ICU after an overdose and a pretty serious fall. I decided that I was ready to commit to a life a sobriety, and ready to do the difficult work it would take to achieve it I didn’t want my two best friends and my mother watch me die. I have been sober since December 27,2010.
What has been the most rewarding thing about living as a survivor of addiction?
There isn’t one thing that I can say has been the most rewarding as there have been monumental victories and tiny blessings along the way that have motivated and inspired me to continue on the path I am on. Knowing that my mother sleeps at night without worrying is amazing. Knowing that my friends and family respect me, trust me and are proud of me is something I could never put a price tag on. I went to Savannah in January of this year to begin my training and certification process as an interventionist, and THAT is one of my proudest moments. I have done things I never thought I could, and I have accomplished things that I never thought I would, and to be able to say that I am PROUD of myself is probably the greatest gift I could have ever given myself. So many people come up to me to tell me how proud they are, how I inspire them and motivate them, and those words are things that I hold close to my heart every moment of every day.
What is the most difficult part about being a survivor?
I think the most difficult part of being in recovery is learning not to put myself in a dangerous situation, and knowing when to remove myself from a situation that might become dangerous for me and my recovery. No one is responsible for my recovery but me. I think it takes a great amount of strength and determination to maintain sobriety, it doesn’t get ‘easier’ as time goes on, I have just taken the tools given to me and made them part of my behavior. I believe that I have a choice in everything I do… And my choices are what make me stronger… every day!
Is it difficult to meet people but not drink, especially while working in a bar?
Probably the most difficult decision I made was to keep working at my job in a bar atmosphere. Most experts would say that that is a HUGE mistake and a VERY dangerous environment for someone in recovery to be in. In fact, the statistics and odds are DEFINITELY not in my favor, but many of the people I work with and around have been instrumental in my process, so I feel that I am blessed to be surrounded by love and support on a daily basis at work and at home.
The LGBT community does have a large population that gravitates to the nightlife atmosphere, but that is by no means a representation of the entire community. I have friends that don’t ever go out and are still just as active. I think modification is a key factor. I chose not to remove myself from that environment, so it is my responsibility to adapt to it when present.
There is a huge population of sober LGBT people, and I am fortunate enough to have contact with many of them on a regular basis!
I have also learned that complete honestly is my best friend. When out and about, I can say “I don’t drink” because I don’t. If the question as to why arises, I am MORE that open about my life and my history and I find that most people in the LGBT community are extremely supportive.
1_Michael_with Union family
Is addiction something you battle daily? 
Yes, addiction is something that I deal with on a daily basis. That is the key to sobriety: There is no cure and there is no endgame. It’s about constantly maintaining, learning, educating and sharing. Sobriety is a living thing and I have to feed mine every day. At the beginning I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to do it, but I have learned that the gifts I have in my life could never, and would never, be bought with another drink or drug.
How do you find peace now when you crave something?
I find peace in everything around me, and I have learned to not take the little things for granted. A short phone call or text from someone is what brings me peace. Reading and educating myself brings me peace. Reaching out to someone else that is struggling brings me peace. I’m a very spiritual person, and I find that taking the time to give thanks to the power that has allowed me to continue my journey is key! Humility is a wonderful thing. I find strength in words, actions, music and all the sights that enter my life on a daily basis. When I am feeling the weakest, I find that nothing heals me like a good ol’ Dolly Parton song and a hug from someone that I love.

Do you think we as a society should treat addiction differently or do you have any thoughts on how we could better handle or help addicts?
I think we are making some wonderful headway in the field of addiction research and treatment. There is ALWAYS more that can be done… as long as there are still people suffering from this disease, there is work to do. I think that society is really coming along with recognizing that addiction IS a disease and not just a matter of willpower or weakness. I think that there are certain celebrities that have used their platform to raise awareness and I applaud their actions. I could go on and on about the media and “reality shows” and their role, but that’s another conversation. I think addicts need to be treated just like anyone else that is fighting every day to find their way and find their light…. with love, respect and kindness.
What is the most valuable thing you have learned from recovery?
I have learned hundreds of thousands of valuable lessons since I began this journey, and I hope to learn hundreds of thousands more.  I think some of the most important things that I have learned are that I deserve all the good things that come to me, that I can do anything I put my mind to, and that if I use my voice, and my gifts to help someone else find THEIR voice and THEIR gifts… than I am TRULY living my life the way it was meant to be lived.
What do you want to do with what you have learned in your recovery?
I don’t hide that fact that I should have died on several different occasions during my life. What I have learned is that I am STILL here for a reason and that there are lessons for me to learn and lives for me to touch. I hope to take the gifts that I have been given and use those to inspire and motivate people to find their light… life is a journey, and the day I stop learning is the day I die. I believe that I have so much work to do, and so much good to do… and if I leave this earth having helped ONE person change their life for the better, then my life was worth it all. I truly believe that there are MILLIONS of my brothers and sisters out there, some suffering, and some succeeding, and I know that I am connected to all of them on a greater level. I pray for their healing and victory every day.
1_Michael_Today alone