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Week 11 of the TwinGeekz Artz Project 03 submitted June 12, 2011

“Blossom” by Ashley Davene

State Theatre, Portland ME

Upstaging the gently worn

And washed tour t-shirts,

Stickers, a tote bag and some

Peacock-printed scarves,

The display of vinyl

Seven-inch editions sneer

In some sort of revolt

Of the digital revolution. (Meanwhile,

In some alternative

Universe, where the members

Of bands still meet quite

By accident and out from under

The influence

Of corporate interests, you

Discover each other

Scribbling lyrics in spiral

Bound notebooks as the teacher

Drones on about Civil

War casualties.  When you practice

In the garages of parents,

There are noise complaints.  But

One night at a crowded gig, that record

Producer – whose car broke down

just two blocks south – stops in

For smokes and a beer. Sign

Here.) We try to remember why

Some sounds are supposed

To include the gentile hiss

Of diamond scraping over grooves.

This is my submission for Week 11 of the Twingeekz Artz Project 3.  The accompanying art work is by fellow geek, Ashley Davene. 

TwinGeekz is a loose affiliation of loose affiliates in New Hampshire who began the TwinGeekz Artz Project challenge in May of 2005; the task was for each of the original seven participants to produce and submit a piece of art every week for one year.  Every artist succeeded in completing their 52 pieces of art, and thus the TGAP theory was proven: “all creativity needs is a deadline”. 

We grew each of the three years that the project continued. It’s time to bring it back. 

Let’s do it again! #tgap2020 join us!

Week 6 of the TwinGeekz Artz Project 03, submitted May 8, 2011

Week 06 Artwork by fellow Geek Caron Thomas

I’ve lost keys,

And jobs; a sense

Of security – even

Some people, but

Army bases – Fort

Dix, Fort Campbell, Fort

Devens – all lent

Themselves to losing

Fear. As I watched

The failed rescue

Attempt – the helicopters, and

Hostages, Iran, crash and

A president falter when

I didn’t know where

My father was (hidden,

in some camouflaged mission

waiting room) the leap

from fright completed. Now,

The helicopters succeed and

We are supposed to joyfully

Mourn the loss of some

Evil; step aside from some

Worries – defaulted student

Loans and sick kids, unregistered

Vehicles and unrevised writing.

Focus on lost illusions or

Weight. I remember

When the television told us

About exploding shuttles,

Towers falling down,

too many wars. I remember

when the telephone rang and

The voice of my special

forces father spoke there.

This is my submission for Week 06 of the Twingeekz Artz Project 3.  The photography was submitted by fellow Geek, Caron Thomas.

TwinGeekz is a loose affiliation of loose affiliates in New Hampshire who began the TwinGeekz Artz Project challenge in May of 2005; the task was for each of the original seven participants to produce and submit a piece of art every week for one year.  Every artist succeeded in completing their 52 pieces of art, and thus the TGAP theory was proven: “all creativity needs is a deadline”. 

We grew each of the three years that the project continued. It’s time to bring it back. 

Let’s do it again! #tgap2020 join us!

September 21, 2016

Four counts in;
Out - Every time

I see one of those
signs.

Giant announcements of misogyny,
Racism, and most of all,
Fear. Just write -

"I AM AFRAID"

in your front yard.

But of what?

Can you target
Just what Fox News
Conditioned you to hate

for today?

Tomorrow, they may tell you
To love it, you know,

And you'll obey.

The orange Hitler
Impersonator - we've so much

to lose - is my fear.

Breath in Breath out.
Namaste.


This is Poem #169 from the  Poem (almost) Everyday Project. Starting in mid-January 2016, I challenged myself to spend a year in which I’d wake most mornings and write a poem before my first cup of coffee. By the end of the year,  I had written 241 poems.  Here, I have published second drafts of  those pieces copied directly from my journal with minimal editing from their “vomit draft” state. 

August 8, 2016

It starts with Pulse,
Orlando, and does not
Get better after that. 

The National were fabulous,
But social media postings
halted in exchange

For death at a related 
Venue. Guns all over
The place. Open

Carry. "Let me assault
You with this ridiculous
gun I collect-

I'm not sure why."
When will common sense
Return or was it ever here?

The media construct
The dichotomy of our
Worst and best. 
They highlight the differences
So well, and fail,
Every time, on shades

Of grey. A plan
For chaos. A plan
To sell ad space
And runs on the market. 



This is Poem #142 from the  Poem (almost) Everyday Project. Starting in mid-January 2016, I challenged myself to spend a year in which I’d wake most mornings and write a poem before my first cup of coffee. By the end of the year,  I had written 241 poems.  Here, I have published second drafts of  those pieces copied directly from my journal with minimal editing from their “vomit draft” state.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

So, here we are – two days out from by 50th birthday. I should be excited about being alive for a whole half-a-century, and I am; but as a woman, I keep feeling these tinges of shame about my age. Wondering, “Should I admit to being fifty?” Like it is something I should be ashamed of, when the other alternative, of course, is death.

Women have been taught over the course of our entire lives that a woman over thirty, or forty, or, GASP, fifty, is nothing. Someone to go away. Shut up. Who has passed her prime and purpose. It is no surprise that from ridiculous policies like “a woman never reveals her age” or the inaccurate reflection of womanhood shoved in our faces by the 3,000 media images we look at everyday that we are trained to feel this way.

We need an accurate reflection of womanhood shined back at us. Just one silver-haired beauty on the walls of Sephora or in a Dove commercial among all the twenty-somethings is not enough. In the last census, women over the age of 45 accounted for almost 40% of all women, yet that is not what we see in our movies, our television shows, our commercials, our music. Age, race, body shape and size, ability, orientation, gender – there are many of these – and we must demand that the media created presents a more statistically accurate vision of women in the world. More women need to construct more media.

No more one-size-age-race-fits all models. No more 90% unattainable body types. Women want reality. I do not want my daughter and my thousands of female students, past, present, and future, to feel one inkling of shame when they turn 30, or 40, or 50, or 90. I want them each to feel proud of her accomplishments and excited for what comes next.

I have heard science claims that real happiness begins in our fifties. And what’s the alternative? Death, that’s what.

Why should I feel ashamed that I have made it this far? Why should a woman never tell anyone her true age? That is just stupid and I will not set that example for the younger women, who will turn fifty after me.

Proclaim it! I have been alive for half a century. I have made a mark, but mind me, I have not finished yet. I have just gotten started. I am boulder. I am braver. I am going to speak up even louder. I am going to get more tattoos. I am going to attend more rallies. I am going to take more classes and get more degrees. I am going to write more poems, more essays, more novels and short stories.

I will never hide, or shut up, or just fade away into the background. I am going to make my next half century even more spectacular.

July 21, 2016

 

The truth stops here.

No way of separating

The nonfiction from what is

Constructed each day.

 

We are wearing , each,

Virtual goggles and Googling

Our way through a darkness.

 

The pie is large

And what we each see

Is less than a pinprick 

 

Leaking cherries into the abyss.

So, we check that and trust

The carefully curated

Reality of a few.

 

What do they want 

Us to experience

 

On the screen?

The camera only 

Witnesses what

The photographer commands

And the photograph

Only relays what

The editor allows. 

 

This is Poem #125 from the  Poem (almost) Everyday Project. Starting in mid-January 2016, I challenged myself to spend a year in which I’d wake most mornings and write a poem before my first cup of coffee. By the end of the year,  I had written 241 poems.  Here, I have published second drafts of  those pieces copied directly from my journal with minimal editing from their “vomit draft” state.

Poets are the unacknowledged legislatures of the world.

~Percy Bysshe Shelley

 

Spray paint it on the wall, black

can and a stencil worthy

of the death penalty.

 

Art, when illegal, is the only force

that’ll get us through. Williams

and Shelley knew well the danger

 

of the word. When words

penetrate a scull

fortified by propaganda is

 

(lies, and repetition, and fallacies)

antipoetry. And

the men with the guns

 

and the butter

 

will clomp a menace up the stairs

to your carefully decorated apartment-

right out of an 80s music video on MTV.

 

Then, will you hide behind gauzy

drapes or greet them

with your machete of words

and watercolors?

In the winter of 1986 when I was just sixteen years old, I viewed Nine 1/2 Weeks (Directed by Adrian Lyne and starring Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke) at a local movie theater.  I was on a date with a boy I only liked platonically, which I’d have to explain later in the car, and was fascinated by the power dynamics and BDSM in the movie. The film, based on Elizabeth McNeill’s non-fiction book, Nine and a Half Weeks: A Memoir of a Love Affair, explores the brief sexual relationship between characters Elizabeth and John. I still vividly recall images from the movie: Kim’s bowler hat, the refrigerator and milk scene, the watch scene, and Kim Basinger crawling across the floor for money.

Were these healthy images for a sixteen year old girl to see? Perhaps not. At the time, I thought the relationship was romantic and cried when the couple (spoiler alert) split up at the end. Crafting a “romantic” story at the time may have even been the author’s, Elizabeth McNeill,  original intent. It was the 80s after all.

After seeing the film, I will admit that I rushed out and bought the soundtrack cassette. It was filled with some pretty sexy music by The Eurythmics, John Taylor, and Joe Cocker. As I type this, Bryan Ferry’s “Slave to Love” is still playing in my head. But that’s where the filmmaker’s marketing and my spending ended. Beyond the soundtrack, the book and perhaps a movie poster, there were no marketing tie-ins to the film. I couldn’t rush out and buy my own version of Elizabeth’s watch or hat. There was no blindfold with a Nine 1/2 Weeks logo embroidered on it. Fuzzy handcuffs? No dice.

Skip ahead to 2015 and the recently released Fifty Shades of Grey (Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson and starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan.) The new film shares many similarities with Nine 1/2 Weeks. Both movies are based on books, both explore the power dynamics in relationships involving BDSM, both were controversial in their times. One thing that’s changed, however, is the marketing.

A year and a half ago, I wrote a post about EL James’ books and how I was disturbed to have seen merchandise connected to the books’ BDSM themes sold in ICING, a store that caters to teen girls. With the film’s release, unfortunately, things have gotten worse on the marketing front. I’ve seen items related to the film in Target. My English 11 students discussed accidentally finding Fifty Shades’ merchandise while shopping online. Conducting online research while writing this blog, I found that at present you can purchase everything from Fifty Shades themed wine, jewelry, t-shirts and, of course, their own “official pleasure line.” Vermont Teddy Bear created the $90 “50 Shades of Bear” and Sephora is selling the “Give in to Me” line of make-up for $79. Hot Topic is selling t-shirts and there are even onesies and baby changing pads linked to the film.

We as a society might choose to dismiss this as trivial, all in good fun and not important enough to “infringe upon the rights” of marketers. But we are living in a toxic environment where it is impossible to escape the 3,000 to 5,000 advertising images each of us face each day. Many of these images sexualize and objectify women and girls. And the age at which the sexualization of girls is happening keeps getting younger and younger. Just take a look at Halloween costumes marketed to girls or at Bratz dolls. In the marketing world, their invented developmental stage “tween” now begins at six.

This trend is leading to a real public health crisis. Many young women are suffering from eating disorders, depression,  and at the worst, abusive relationships, rape and femicide. These media images affect the way girls see themselves and influence the ways in which boys see girls as well.

As parents and teachers we’ve traditionally had some control over to what our children are exposed or what they are allowed to do. We can monitor their screen time and keep the computer in a public space. We can prevent them from shopping in Thorne’s or the porn shops of Portsmouth; these places tend to have an age requirement of 18 anyway. But when the messages we know they’re not ready for are in places like Hot Topic or Target, what are we to do? Never let them leave the house?

Media makers and marketers are the primary storytellers of our modern culture. Storytellers have been the ones to define our world, construct our myths, sense of self and our place in the world. They define what is “normal” in a culture. Is the message now delivered through the merchandising associated with Fifty Shades of Grey and its exploration of BDSM the story we want to share with our teenagers?

EL James’ tale might not be that different from Nine 1/2 Weeks or The Story of O. I would never suggest censoring such work and the point of this essay is not to criticize the writing or filmmaking of the stories involved. Erotica is a genre that has existed for a long time. Part of the fun of it, however, has always been the secrecy of it. It was a private, adult experience. Of course teens need to be talked to about sex. It is irresponsible of adults not to do so. It’s also irresponsible of adults, however, to present fringe fetishes to our children as normal and, perhaps, healthy, without having a conversation about that, too.

I plan to talk to my daughter about this. I bet she can’t wait. (I’d like to emphasize the sarcastic tone of that last sentence.) In a world where marketers are not regulated by law in the strategies they use to market to our youth and in which they refuse to act responsibly or to take responsibility or shame for their methods, what choice does a mother have?

At the beginning of the last school year, many of my English department colleagues and I decided to try free-choice reading in our high school classrooms. The practice, which has been used at the elementary and middle school levels for years, has gained popularity in the upper grades in its proven capacity to raise students’ reading ability by increasing the amount they are reading. Among the many questions we had about accountability and evaluating student progress, one question rose to the top: what if a student wants to read EL James’ 50 Shades of Grey?

Before I write on I need to make two things clear: I’m neither a prude nor a fan of censorship when it comes to reading material. When I was a teen reader, books like Judy Blume’s Forever or VC Andrew’s Flowers in the Attic were gateway books that led on to more high-brow naughty books like Peyton Place or Lady Chatterly’s Lover. These led me to discover more classics and to eventually start trying my own hand at novel writing.

One day the librarian in our small town New Hampshire library chastised me for what she deemed my inappropriate choice of a Judith Krantz novel. She shouted, “I don’t think your grandfather [who was an Episcopal priest in town] would approve of you reading this.” I knew that she was wrong. Everyone in my house was a fan of reading – everything.

However, our concerns over our high school students reading this particular naughty book caused me to think about the situation, not because I wanted to censor what my students chose – free choice reading is free choice reading – but because of the mainstream popularity these books were gathering. The trilogy of books have been best sellers for a while. Casting for the mainstream movie is taking place as I type this, with Gilmore Girl’s Alexis Bledel rumored to be one of the picks for the staring female role. At the mall you can buy 50 Shades merchandise – t-shirts with quotes from the novel and bracelets with handcuff charms. I didn’t see this merchandise in Victoria’s Secret or Frederick’s of Hollywood, though. These products were being marketed to teenagers in Icing, a store like Claire’s but for slightly older girls. And there is the problem.

The reigning story is that EL James started writing her books as Twilight fan fiction. Now, I don’t want to get too side-tracked with the quality of Stephanie Meyer’s writing, but I find the ultimate message that her books send to girls disturbing. Twilight is the story of a young woman who is manipulated by and falls in love with a man who’s nearly 100 years her senior. Throughout the course of their relationship, he is angry at her and emotionally abuses her. Eventually, she is willing to give up all of herself, including life, to be with this man. Not a good message for our young women to be receiving. Enter 50 Shades of Grey to up ante on abuse and make it seem like a normal part of a romantic relationship.

It’s one thing if girls are sneaking to read this book in the privacy of their own homes and feeling a little bit guilty about it. After all, isn’t that part of the fun of a dirty book? But people are reading this book openly at tables in restaurants. When I visited Star Island last summer, their tiny library contained the complete 50 Shades trilogy. Newsweek, while still in its print form, sported a blindfolded woman on its cover. What’s happening here is that through the relentless marketing of these books and merchandise, S & M is becoming normalized. And doesn’t that defeat the purpose?

By the end of the school year, our teacher-fears about the droves of students who’d be lining up to read 50 Shades of Grey proved unfounded. I had only one junior level student who included it on her reading reflection, and she’d read the book on her Kindle, so no one would know.

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