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sometimes literature teaches us about the virgin mary in the bathtub

cleanliness is next to godliness
tonight i finally made a point of going out to a poetry and prose reading. i get invited to these things fairly often, but i never end up going because i'm usually beat by the end of the day and feeling much to grumpy to deal with people other than dom, who has end-of-days kate inflicted on him on a regular basis. however, since i'm no longer office-bound, i figured that i have no excuse and, more importantly, i think it would make me a better writer to have contact with other people who have been doing this longer or more successfully than i have.

the reading that i attended is one of a series held at the yellow door, which is sort of an underground [literally and figuratively] montreal institution. readings are held there once a month or so and feature poets, prose writers and musicians performing for friends and curious strangers. tonight's reading was mostly poetry, although there was some prose and just a hint of music, along with what could more accurately be termed "spoken word" pieces- i.e., writing created to be read out loud, before an audience, rather than read on the page.

and indeed, the evening was educational for me. and shaming. the shaming was almost immediate, because the first woman who read opened by talking about how she'd been making a point of trying to write one poem every morning, since that's when she feels at her most creative. cue the heavy cloak of fail descending upon me. i think about writing every day, but i sure as hell don't do it. i can't even write blog posts every day and, as you might have noticed, those aren't exactly polished. so thank you for the reminder: if i'm going to be serious about this writing thing, i need to put more serious time into it.

one thing that also occurred to me as the evening drew to a close is that i may in fact be intolerably morbid, brooding, paranoid and generally dark. most of the people reading this evening made reference to beautiful, positive, life-affirming things that broke through pain and monotony of their lives and inspired them. there was a decided paucity of corpses and angst [which is what i think i'm going to call my next short story anthology, now that i think about it]. by comparison, most of my writing [see links to the various poetry and prose entries at the top of this page] is more about the things that will eventually grind you up or grind you down and bury you in a pile of your own meaninglessness. ok, it's possible i've written happier things, just not very many of them.

but most interesting to me was something i discovered after i had crawled out from under the stone of shame but before i realised that i'm remarkably off-putting. author alice peterson read a story from her anthology all the voices cry and by way of introduction, talked about her efforts to find a claw-footed bathtub for her home in rural quebec. when she asked the locals, she was told that she could find them everywhere, in disused lawns and gardens, because the damn things grow like weeds. that's a hard thing for someone who doesn't come from a rural or religious background to grasp, but indeed, the wilds of quebec are evidently in bloom with claw-footed bathtubs sprouting from the ground.

you see, many families want to build a shrine to the virgin mary, but need to do this on the cheap. so rather than order from their trusty "shrines-r-us", people take a d.i.y. attitude and construct a shrine out of whatever they happen to have laying around. like their bathtub. this raises a lot of questions for me. i mean, it seems like a lot of work to dig a hole to stand a bathtub in. plus, don't most families need their tubs? [on second thought, maybe i don't want to know the answer to that second question.] and what happens if you move? do the shrines come with the house? or is everyone responsible for digging up and transporting their own tub-shrine? isn't it a little bit sinful to show the virgin mary in the bathtub? or at least intruding on her privacy? shouldn't she at least get a shower curtain or something?

i opted not to interrupt the reading, but you'd better believe that as soon as i got home, i rushed to google "quebec bathtub shrines". i really wanted photographs, but i also got a link to a wikipedia entry for "bathtub madonna", which i believe was the b-side of "lady madonna", now that i think of it.

and i found out that this is by no means limited to quebec. in fact, putting the virgin in an upended tub in your backyard is a thing in a lot of areas traditionally inhabited by poor catholics in north america. they're a well-enough known icon of white trash ingenuity in the united states that john waters has made fun of them, ironically in one of the few films of his i haven't seen. [nor would i have believed it was a real thing if i had seen it, because, let's face it, waters isn't known for his gritty realism.]

perhaps these shrines are built to recall the humble origins of jesus, but i suspect that they're simply testimony to the power of god and religion in the lives of people living in an inhospitable region for hundreds of years. you'd kind of want to believe that you had god on your side. personally, i'd just like to float the idea that if the choice is between building a shrine and having a bathtub, maybe the almighty would be cool with you not building a monument to the girl he deflowered and knocked up.

but let this be a lesson to you all: reading is important. books are important. you can learn things about yourself and about the world from every literary experience you have. also, when you come to quebec, you might be able to find a free range bathtub to take home with you.

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as long as you're here, why not read more?

jihadvertising?

i keep seeing this ad for tictac candies:



am i the only one who finds the suicide bomber clown at the end a little unnerving? all the nice natural things like the bunny and the [extinct] woolly mammoth and the fruit get devoured by a trying-to-appear-nonthreatening-but-obviously-psychotic clown who then blows himself up. congratulations, tictac, i think this ad has landed you on about a dozen watch lists.

oh and by the way, showing me that your product will somehow cause my stomach to explode in a rainbow of wtf makes me believe that doing consuming tictacs would be a worse dietary decision than the time i ate two raw eggs and a half a bottle of hot sauce on a dare.

making faces :: hot stuff, comin' through

i don't even know what to say about the weather. the end of september saw temperatures at a scalding 36c/ 97f outside. this is especially annoying because we've had a moderate summer. most days it rained a little in the morning, the temperatures didn't creep into the 30s too often and there wasn't the normal stretch of a few weeks when it felt like we were living on the sun. now, we've receded into more normal fall weather, although it's still on the warm side for mid-october. that climate change thing is a bitch.

trying to think of something positive in the situation, it does put me in a perfect frame of mind to write about urban decay's naked heat palette. it's the latest in what appears to be an endless series of warm neutral and red eyeshadow palettes that have followed in the footsteps of anastasia's modern renaissance. [which i ultimately decided i didn't need after doing a thorough search of my considerable stash.] i do think that it'…

i agree, smedley [or, smokers totally saved our planet in 1983]

so this conversation happened [via text, so i have evidence and possibly so does the canadian government and the nsa].

dom and i were trying to settle our mutual nerves about tomorrow night's conversion screening, remembering that we've made a fine little film that people should see. which is just about exactly what dom had said when i responded thusly:

me :: i agree smedley. [pauses for a moment] did you get that here?

dom :: no?

me :: the aliens who were looking at earth and then decided it wasn't worth bothering with because people smoked even though it was bad for them?
come to think of it, that might mean that smokers prevented an alien invasion in the seventies.

dom :: what ?!?!?

me :: i've had wine and very little food. [pause] but the alien thing was real. [pause.] well, real on tv.

dom :: please eat something.

of course, i was wrong. the ad in question ran in 1983. this is the part where i would triumphantly embed the ad from youtube, except that the governmen…