Performance Art or Lady Gaga + Vomit

Performance Art

It appears that there is a new genre of entertainment known as “Performance Art.” I know, I know. Performance Art is not new. In the old days, it involved scripts written by men in which naked women uttered philosophical lines about existentialism or the ritual transfer of immateriality. Performance Art had titles like “Meat Joy” and “Exploding Plastic Inevitable.” Most of this happened in the 60s and 70s because you had to be high to sit through it. Or at least that’s my theory.

But it is the 21st century, and we are all relatively sober, and the deep void of nothingness just doesn’t excite the way it used to.

Enter Performance Art of the 21st century where crazy people swallow dye and then vomit it all over people who want to be noticed. Or maybe it’s people who want to be noticed who swallow dye and crazy people who allow themselves to be vomited on. Anyhoo …

When Lady Gaga got vomited on recently, everyone was all excited about this new turn in Performance Art. But really. If this is performance art, then Lady Gaga is merely a follower of those cutting edge performers at my alma mater, St. Sebastain the Martyr, where Performance Art was a regular activity, especially during cold and flu season.

Imagine if you will a hot, steamy room, the smell of damp wool uniforms, Sister Mary Bernard reading out the week’s spelling list, when suddenly the tell-tale splat of someone’s lunch hits the floor. Desks squeak across the linoleum to a chorus of squeals. You turn around, the scent of sickness already filling the air to see Stanley Smith surrounded by a sea of vomit.

“I don’t feel well,” he says in a tone that lets you know only half his lunch is on the floor. Good old Stanley. He delivered his line with panache despite illness.

And if Stanley’s performance doesn’t make you think of “Exploding Plastic Inevitable,” you are a hopeless rube.

But the show must go on, er, I mean class must go on.

Stanley is quickly hustled off to the nurse’s office, and the janitor is called for. By now, the whole class and Sister are gagging as the smell clings to the humid air and our damp uniforms and who knows what else. The janitor strides in, a hero in blue khaki, and tosses red sawdust over Stanley’s Performance Art, thereby adding his own touches to an already shocking piece of drama.

And you really feel it, the way Performance Art should be felt, in the pit of your stomach: The pull of sweaty sickness, the release brought by Maintenance Man and red sawdust , the crack of Sister’s stick across the desk as she demands our attention. The smell withers away, but it is hard to concentrate on the everyday when you are sitting inches away from Performance Art.

Maybe that’s the purpose of 21st century performance art, to be an unwelcome reminder of the Nature of our Being. Maybe Lady Gaga is inspired by her grade school experiences. And maybe Stanley Smith joined the existential movement. I hope it’s the latter.

 

A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion

I have just finished reading “A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion” by Ron Hansen, which led to my favorite time waster: googling. I liked the book, but if you are into googling, this book lends itself to your guilty passion.

This book was touted as fiction …which it was since there were conversations, descriptions of rooms and scenery that could only come from the imagination of a writer. However, about half way through the book,I discovered that the main characters, Ruth Brown Snyder and Henry Judd Gray, were real. More on this in a minute.

The story takes place in the 1920s. Ruth is an unhappy housewife who is “sylph-like” if the book is correct. More on that later. She begins an affair with Judd Gray, as he is called, a corset salesman whose wife has lost interest in him. Ruth and Judd each have a daughter at home.

Ruth is the stronger of the two. She is angry at her husband who is still mooning over his dead fiancee, and she has begun to hate him and want him dead. Judd Gray stumbles into the affair–literally since he is an alcoholic–and feels guilty about it, although not so much as to make him stop.

After a few years of carrying on, Ruth decides to off her husband, Albert. First she takes out a double-indemnity insurance policy on him. Then she tries crushing him under a car he is working on, kicking a ladder while he is on it, closing the garage door while his car is running, but damn it all, the man refuses to die. Imagine!

She is burning mad by this time and browbeats Judd Gray into helping her. He shows up in the dead of night, dead drunk, and hits Albert over the head with a sash weight, which merely stuns him. They (mostly Ruth) try other means as well, but end up garrote-ing the poor man.

They toss the house (of course) to make the murder look like a robbery gone wrong and empty her jewelry box, hiding the stuff under the mattress (the police will never look there. Hah!). Since Judd is too drunk to do so, Ruth hits herself over the head with the sash weight and ties herself up (but not so tightly as to leave unsightly marks). No one is fooled, especially the police.

To make a long story short, they both get sent to Sing Sing’s death house where Old Sparky awaits.

At this point, I wondered whether this was maybe based on a true story, because it is written with dates and places that make much of it sound real. So I googled Ruth Brown Snyder. Ruth and Judd did exist, did kill Ruth’s husband, did get executed. It was a sensational case at the time. Thousands jammed the street for the trial, newspapers from one end of the country to the other carried the story even though it takes place in New York City, Queens to be exact.

One report claims that the movie Double Indemnity is based on this crime, although Ruth didn’t get any insurance money due to the dishonest nature of the whole situation.

There are photos of Ruth and Judd online. Ruth is not a looker, at least not in my personal opinion, although one of the online stories notes that she gained weight in jail. Or something. If there was ever a sylph-like creature there, I sure couldn’t see it. And I looked. For far, far too long.

A site that specializes in describing last meals (why?) said that she had chicken parmesan, noodles Alfredo, two milkshakes and a six-pack of grape soda. This seems like an awful lot to eat when one is preparing to meet their maker or just preparing to die, but what do I know?

Sorry, I have fallen down an internet wormhole …

One more internet-related note: Twenty journalists were allowed into the death chamber when Ruth met her fate. One had a mini-camera strapped to his leg and snapped a picture as the current surged through her. This picture is online. It’s shadowy and vague, but still creepy.

Back to the book … As true crime stories go, this is a good one. It held my interest, which is not always the case, but I suspect that in part it is because some of it was fictionalized.

Anyway, if you are a fan of “crimes of the century” this is a must read. Be sure to google the main characters. The photos and little snippets are as interesting as the book itself.

Spring Has Sprung (Not)

file1621269898184

I am not sure why, but the advent of spring inspires me to write about … food. Maybe it is because I am so tired of stews and roasts and apples and oranges and pink tomatoes that I could SCREAM!!!!! However, as those of you north of the Mason-Dixon line know, spring did not arrive on March 20 as scheduled. If fact, as I write this blog on March 23 it is 25 degrees and outside my window, patches of snow sneer at me.

So my husband–Mr. Meat and Potatoes– and I are going to sneer right back. His suggest is a barbecue, and why not? Is there anything that says “summer” more than a barbecue. Mr. Meat and Potatoes lugged home four racks of baby back ribs (hope that’s enough for the two of us), which are beginning their slowwwwww cook in the oven. When they are ready, he will toss them on our newly awakened grill and finish them off with a little barbecue sauce.

What about the potatoes? Well, that’s my job. I have decided to contribute a genuine French-style potato gratin that I usually reserve for Easter. Like the ribs it is slow-cooked and melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

Potato Gratin for Easter (or spring or pretending it’s spring)

1 clove garlic, peeled and halved

3 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and sliced very thinly

3 cups milk

2 large eggs

1  1/2 tsp. salt

Ground pepper to taste

1-2 cups Gruyere or Swiss cheese

1 cup crème fraiche (you can also thin sour cream with a little milk)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rub inside of a 14x9x2 gratin dish with garlic. Arrange potatoes in dish. Mix the milk, eggs and salt and pour over potatoes. Sprinkle with pepper.

Bake, occasionally cutting the crust that forms on top and fold into potatoes for about 55 minutes or until the potatoes are done. Remove gratin from oven and dab with crème fraiche and sprinkle with cheese. I like to cover the dish with foil and let rest for 15 or 20 minutes to let the crème fraiche soak into the potatoes. This can also be the place with you stop if you are cooking ahead.

Remove foil if you covered it for a rest.

Return dish to oven and bake until top is crisp and golden, about 15 minutes.

Happy Spring!

Sold!

It’s official. I have sold my two romantic suspense novels to Entangled Publishing! That’s all I know right now, but the contract has been signed, and I submitted my manuscript to my editor, Terese daly Ramin.

The books are Stranger at My Door and Stranger in My House, samples of which are posted on this site. I plan to write a third book, tentatively titled Stranger in My Bed this year. They all take place in El Royo, Texas, an imaginary town in Texas Hill Country.

I am excited to be working with Entangled. They offer a lot of support to their authors, including a web page, Yahoo groups and marketing support in the form of experts who will work with us.

I expect to have a lot more news (and links) in the weeks ahead, but wanted to share this asap.

 

Review of the Wool Series

“Dust” ends my six-month compulsion with the Silo Saga by Hugh Howey. This series, which began with a short story in 2011, was self-published on Amazon by the author. The first story story was joined by four others to create “Wool,” which told the story of a post-apocalypic world in which people live underground in silos because the earth has been poisoned. The heroine is Juliette who defies the rigid structure of the silo and myths of what lies beyond the silo. The second book, “Shift,” is a prequel to “Wool” and tells us how the silo came to be. Its ending intersects with the ending of “Wool.”

“Dust” takes up the story as Juliette defies the rulers of the silo world in the name of freedom, and eventually wages war against them. She sacrifices much to lead a small band of believers to a better life.

I am being purposely vague about the story because I don’t want to spoil the story. There are many surprises as Juliette discovers the secrets of this future world. Howey’s insights into human nature and his creation of this alternate world strike me as believable, which is what I look for in science fiction. This is the best sci-fi book I’ve read since “The Sparrow” and “Children of God” by Mary Doria Russell.

As a writer and author, I am pleased that a self-publishing author has found success. It goes to prove that there are many great writers and stories out there that escape the attention of agents and publishers. I think we will be seeing more great books coming from the self-published world in the future.

My Most Fascinating People of 2013

Another year has passed, and Barbara Walters has unveiled her “Most Fascinating People of 2013.” We will have to wait a few days to find out who is number one, I can tell you that she is fascinated by a twerking teenager, a four-month-old baby (Prince George) and a family with lots of bad facial hair. In my personal opinion these people are annoying, cute and over-exposed … in that order.

Here are some really, truly, eye-popping-ly fascinating people to end the year:

I like celebrities as much as the next person, so I was intrigued when this item came over the AP wire: “Steven Seagal adopts stray dog in Romania.”  The story is both more and less than the headline promises. Apparently the Romanian Parliament is in the process of euthanizing 64,000 stray dogs following the mauling death of 4-year-old boy. That’s a lot of stray dogs! But Steven “showed his soft side” by adopting a “black puppy.” The good news for the puppy: You’re not going to die. The bad news: You’re not going to live in a mansion in L.A. Mr. Seagal is paying the shelter $18 a month for your room and board. The identity of the lucky dog was not released.

One more celebrity. Brooke Shield celebrated her birthday back in June by releasing (insert drum roll here) a list of “25 Things You Don’t Know about Me.” I know. Maybe we don’t want to. Still, I had to look. I fell asleep before I finished the list, and you’ll sympathize when I tell you that number one was “I get shots because I’m allergic to my dog.” I think even Prince George can do better.

Ilda Boccassini fascinates me because how can someone with the gumption to stand up to half a country, quiver at empty threats. Here’s the story: Ms. Boccassini prosecuted Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi for paying for sex with an underage “dancer.” I’m guessing she wasn’t a ballerina. Anyway, lots of people in Italy liked Berlusconi and didn’t care about the dancer so they were mad at Ilda. Someone mailed her a “threatening letter and two bullets.” A great uproar ensued. Uh, Ilda? Hello? You need a gun to make the bullets work.

Readers of this blog know how much I enjoy university studies. I was fascinated by Clemson University student Nathan Weaver’s “turtle project.” In this groundbreaking study, young Nathan set out to “help turtles cross the road” so of course he set a fake turtle in the middle of a busy street to see what would happen. You know what happened. The fake turtle got run over. According to Mr. Weaver, some drivers “swerved and deliberately ran over the animal.” Except it wasn’t an animal, it was a piece of plastic that looked like a turtle. Nevertheless, the headline was a classic – “Turtle Project Takes Dark Twist.”

James Edward Wellborn, Jr. – First of all, when the media refer to you by your first and middle name, man, you’re in trouble. In the case of James Edward, he broke into someone’s house and stole their TV, and if he’d stopped there, James Edward might still be enjoying a life of crime. But no. He also took a pet lemur. A lemur is a monkey-like creature with golden eyes. Only his lawyer knows why James Edward grabbed the lemur and gave it to his sister to take care of.  Unfortunately for James Edward, his sister freaked out when she realized it was stolen and insisted he give it back. But as any self-respecting thief knows, you don’t just give something back, you sell it back. Everyone knows this … except the victims. They called the police.

Jamie Jeanette Craft will go down in history for the least successful get-away ever. Why? She tried to flee the scene of an accident in a battery-powered Fisher Price Power Wheels. The police caught her.

You ever wonder how low people can go? Try this: Fernando Martin Vicente was fined 5,400 euros “for fielding athletes with no disabilities at the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney in order to win medals.”  Vicente had argued that “If someone wants to cheat, it’s difficult to detect. It’s easy to pretend you have little intelligence but the opposite is difficult.” (Mr. Vicente himself might be the exception to this rule.) So of course with a team packed with “intelligent” people, you’re probably thinking they dominated the Paralympics. Not so. They finished third.

I’m glad this happened in England, because if it happened in America everyone in Europe would be calling us rubes. Anyway, a British boat captain, Colin Darch, was scheduled to appear at the Parkham Women’s Institute to talk about pirates. I should say the Parkham women devote themselves to “crafts and good works.” To get into the spirit of the evening, the ladies dressed up as pirates with eye patches and fake parrots on shoulders and swords and such. Only problem: Captain Darch was there to talk about his recent run-in with Somali pirates.

You’ve probably run across the occasional news story about the 100-year-old bottle of wine. I always wonder if it’s any good. Unfortunately there’s only one way to find out. Open the bottle and drink it. So I’d like to think John Saunders was doing the world a favor when he (allegedly) drank $102,000 worth of the vintage whiskey he was guarding. He very thoughtfully drank four cases of the 100-year-old brew, leaving five cases for the rest us (providing we can afford it). It’s nice to see the common man enjoying some of the finer things in life, although his public defender insists Mr. Sauders is innocent.

 

In the honored position as most fascinating people of 2013 are the Sworn Virgins of Albania. Being somewhat isolated and in the mountains and all, Albanians have not been schooled in the fine art of feminism so they came up with a unique solution to providing support and protection to man-less households in an area plagued by “blood feuds and honor killings”: the Sworn Virgins of Albania. These ladies take a vow of celibacy and become the heads of their households. They are allowed to wear pants and cut their hair. “They smoke, work and swagger about town with the other men.” They are addressed as “uncle” and referred to as “he.”

You know why I liked the Sworn Virgins of Albania best, don’t you? The other fascinating people tickled my funny bone, but the Sworn Virgins … they sparked my imagination. How about novel about a woman who sacrifices everything, even her identity, to care for her family. Or maybe a romance. Or espionage. But that’s me.

Happy Holidays to all!

See My Guest Blog – Fountain of Inspiration

I am guest blogging today at Katherine Givens website. Katherine is a member of the Romance Writers of America and Romance Writers of America PRO. She has two novellas, one already released and another upcoming.  In Her Dreams (Harlequin Australia’s Escape Publishing) was released October 1, 2013. much to her delight! Love Amidst the Egyptian Sands (Red Sage Publishing) will be released on January 1, 2015. Her short stories and poetry have been published in various magazines, including The Copperfield Review, Tipton Poetry Journal, Nazar Look, and WestWard Quarterly.

Here’s a snippet of my post:

As the author of six romances (two published), I love finding new information on the chemistry between men and women, aka romance. It’s the fuel of inspiration and new ideas for stories. Sometimes it seems to me that after thousands of years of civilization, romance has changed little since the days Salome danced for King Herod. But even that scene sends my imagination into overdrive. See the rest