Susie Bright


Susie Bright: Au Revoir, Mes Amies!

200812290952 Boy, this has been a blast.

Thanks so much for entertaining my stories and opinions over the past couple of weeks. It's such a thrill to get this much instant feedback that I'm having a hard time taking the needle out of my arm.

I've made so many new friends. Thanks especially to Mark Frauenfelder, for grace and endurance as my line editor. And all my love to my partner, Jon Bailiff, for enhancing and abetting my single-minded determination to post, post, post without concern for any other daily affairs!

What's new for me this year? In addition to The Erotic Treasury, I just released my first Kindle ebooks. If you're curious how to enjoy ebooks, or make one, as an author, you'd probably enjoy my "Kindle-Krazy" how-to.

I'm your friendly neighborhood sewing columnist at Craft magazine, and you'll be seeing my Valentine embroidery tips on the newsstands any day now. I'd love to take another sewing workshop with Sandra Betzina this winter, and of course I'll continue to worship at the feet of my fiber-arts guru, Jill Sanders.

Blogging this year should be fun. Obama may have his controversial Inauguration, but I'll be holding my own Sexual State of the Union address!

It's been intriguing for me to see the Twilight explosion this season- how remarkable that the bestselling book of the year was directed toward female adolescent longings. The movie screenings were audience pandemonium, even in my own little town of Santa Cruz. It's kismet, but I just turned in an illustrated erotic-lit anthology to Chronicle Books, coming out next fall, called The Quiver- which is decidedly more Baudelairean than Twilight, but filled with the same gothic perversions that intoxicate American literature at the moment.

Of course I'll be continuing my weekly audio show, In Bed W/Susie Bright, at Audible. This week, I'm sharing a story from Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Robert Olen Butler on The Peril of the Jealous Husband. Please enjoy some free samples!- and here's the cheapest way to subscribe once you become hooked.

Then there's the memoir. Now that I am officially old and in the way (51 this year) I'm completing a memoir for Seal Press, which will be published in 2010.

 If any of you have tips on how to run a daily blog and write a memoir at the same time while raising a family- send your advice to my address. Seriously, though, I'd love to hear from you anytime, especially if you have questions or suggestions about the memoir-writing adventure.

See you around... and I'll always be at BoingBoing, faithful reader that I am, sipping coffee in the Comments.

Photo: Susie and her darling, "practically-perfect-in-every-way" daughter, Aretha.

(Susie Bright is a guest blogger)

Note from Mark: Thanks, Susie for your wonderful, enlightening, and entertaining guest blog entries. We are looking forward to have you join us again very soon!

Susie Bright: George Carlin, Meet Kris Kovick

200812290945 You did it -- you survived another "holiday with the family."

Your (parent, sibling, soon-to-be-ex) is batshit crazy.  No satiric holiday movie comes close to the horrors you've witnessed. The Griswolds have nothing on your clan.

And then... you have the late, great Kris Kovick. Kris was a cartoonist, activist, author of "What I Love About Lesbian Politics Is Arguing with People I Agree With"- and a singular performing storyteller.

Her home-for-the-holidays classic recording is called Hair Pillow:

"Each person in my family is a different religion. It's like Belfast meets Beirut. There are Jews, Serbs, Catholics, red-neck Christian snake handlers, quietists, and noise-makers of all beliefs. My sister was recently married and her people were Portuguese. We were Serbian-Texans- guess how many guns I have? It made for great potluck, but very careful politics."

You can hear all of Hair Pillow at InsideStories, a site devoted to San Francisco oral history, including audio walking tours of Harvey Milk's San Francisco, and the Presidio Pet Cemetery.

Kris was one of the first cartoonists I met when I first got involved with queer-underground-journalism in my early twenties. But she reminded me we'd been introduced on a previous occasion. When I was 14 years old, she and my dad... were both dating the same woman. My father, in his great liberal fashion, calmly introduced me to both of them. I remember being fascinated by Kris because of a silver band she wore on her wedding finger dating from the days of her first great love. On the inside, engraved in perfect Edwardian script, was one word: "Bitch."

Alison Bechdel, Eisner-award-winning author of Fun Home, has some great cartoon memories of Kris. "Kris scared the living shit out of me. She kissed her dog on the mouth and had a dildo in a harness hanging from a doorknob in the living room. I was planning to rent a car to drive to Santa Barbara, but she insisted I drive her vintage 1956 pick-up."

The end of Kris's life came too soon (age 50) and was marked by the fact that she and her mother were both dying of breast cancer at the same time, not knowing who was going to go first. How is that funny? Well, Kris may have created the original Hospice Stand-up.

At one point in their terminal saga, Kris was the more able-bodied of the two and her mother was exhausted with living, helplessly tied up in tubes at the hospital:

Listen:

Thanks to InsideStories producer Paul VanDeCarr, Alison Bechdel, Luke Browne, and Ray Hellmann for helping me put together this homage.

(Susie Bright is a guest blogger)

Susie Bright: The League of Amazing Latkes Q & A

200812290939 Is it too late for potato latkes? Can I have some more?

It's never too late for latkes. You can eat potato pancakes all year round!


Is there a perfect recipe?

Yes.

Potato pancakes inspire controversy because of family traditions... everyone longs for their childhood memory. My recipe may not bring your great-grandmother to life, but I dare say you'll look upon me as a favorite aunt.


It takes forever to grate all those potatoes and cry over the onions- I want to devour my latkes, pain-free, NOW!

Immediate gratification is all about using the right tools. Use a 7-cup Cuisinart with the "grater attachment" to cut up the pototoes and onions, presto!


My latkes always turn out limp and bland; what am I doing wrong?

The key to tasty latkes is to get the water out of the potatoes before you fry them in hot oil. But  potatoes don't like to give up their water.

The miracle answer to a labor-intensive problem is an old-fashioned potato ricer. Don't ask me what else you do with this thing: I only know it as a latke-enabler!

Put a handful of the sopping potato gratings in the ricer's mouth. Press the handles together, and all the water is expressed through the sieve side- in one second! You don't even have to use two hands. You leverage one arm of the ricer against the other by propping it over the sink-top and pressing down. You only do it once- there's no other effort required.


Any other must-have tools? 

Yes, a cast iron skillet. Cast iron is the most precise and uniform conductor of heat, and when you fire up your frying oil, you want that "almost smoking" level of hotness in your pan, unwavering. That's what gives you the satisfying crunch!


Can I use flour, or some other gluten instead of matzo meal for my binding agent?

No! The matzo gives the texture you crave.


Can I make a lower-calorie, lower-fat latke that tastes just as yummy?

The fiber content of potatoes are good for you. You could increase that with by combining other gratings of even higher-fiber candidates, like sweet potatoes, zucchini, carrots- a different kick, but equally tasty. Remember, squeeze the water out of all of them!

There is no getting around the oil/butter/fry part, not if you want the "eyes-rolling-back-in-your-head" satisfaction. There is only one corner you can cut without detection: Use egg whites, lose the yolks- or at least cut down the yolks by half.

The secret to staying slim while you dance the latke fantastic is strategic fiber consciousness and portion control. Move away from the stove and serve yourself a couple of pancakes on a small plate with a huge helping of applesauce. Before you dig in, treat yourself to a fantastic butter lettuce salad with balsamic vinegar, or maybe a sweet tangerine. Afterward, turn up the Eartha Kitt really loud, to dance and sing your heart out!

(Susie Bright is a guest blogger)

Susie Bright: If you want to live in a van or be a stripper, then she's got some tips for you.

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Tara the Hobo Stripper is a van-living, traveling striptease dancer and self-taught herbal medicine guru who's recently settled into a remote cabin in her native home of Alaska.

Even if Tara weren't expert in so many trades, it would be hard to put down her diary:

It's winter. I'm reading a lot. I'm drawing and figuring out how to make recycled sock monkeys. I keep an eternal pot of tea (a sort of infusion, really) on the stove with a big jelly straining bag as the tea bag. It's ginger oatstraw right now, and I drink it with honey.

Another pot on the stove is a perpetual snow melter. A full pot of snow makes two inches of water in the bottom of the pot. Yesterday I balanced one of the candles on top of a water bucket, which, piled on top of other water buckets, made the light just right for sitting in this chair and reading. Then I got a phone sex call and decided to make dinner and forgot about the candle until my water bucket caught on fire!

Now I have a water bucket with a hole in it and a dead candle that probably would have lasted another week if I'd blown it out and let it re-harden before it burned all the way through.

Other essential HoboStripper writings:

(Almost) everything you need to know about living in a van.

The Stripper Audition

The Joy of Nettles, One and Two

(Susie Bright is a guest blogger)

Susie Bright reads Thurber's version of a "The Night Before Christmas," in the Hemingway Manner

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Talk about a mash-up.

The legendary  James Thurber wrote the parody,  "A Visit from Saint Nicholas in the Ernest Hemingway Manner" for the Christmas Eve edition of The New Yorker magazine in 1927. The poem's inventor,  Clement C. Moore, will never be the same.

It is my great pleasure to read it aloud:

(Susie Bright is a guest blogger)

Susie Bright: Take Me To Your Jelly Leader

Today, I'm off to the Monterey Bay Aquarium with a new generation of children who've never seen the Pacific Ocean like this before.

Someone called MBA one of "10 Things You Have to See Before You're 10" which made me smile- but it's a really a place that invites multiple pilgrimages over a lifetime.

Here are live webcams of their OuterBay exhibit, Kelp Forest, Aviary, Otters, and others. Just remember there's no substitute for petting the head of a manta ray- softer than goofer feathers.

The MBA is a revelation compared the aquariums I visited as a child in the 60s... where you peered into a series of "boxes" with plant and marine life hiding around. With MBA, it's like the sky- or in this case, the ocean- opens up. The anchovies swirl over your head- yes, you read that right. The comb jellies, as seen above, seem to be sending you secret messages. The architects of MBA give as much thought to mind-blowing design as they do to science, and so it's no wonder the whole environment is a psychonaut's delight.

The latest gizmo from MBA:  Seafood Watch for Your Cell Phone

(Susie Bright is a guest blogger)

Susie Bright: I'm a Lumberjack and I'm Okay

200812231123 In the war for blue jean supremacy, there is no more worthy, yet neglected contender than the Wild Ass Jean, complete with six Wild Ass bachelor buttons and red suspenders. Fleece lining, your choice!

I spotted these jeans on the street, not because of the double-duty denim craftsmanship, but because of the little tag on the rear pocket that featured a little donkey kicking his hind legs like he really means business!

Once I arrived at Bailey's woodsman supply site, I realized that I was one chipper behind the curve. The work clothes and boots they offer are the warmest, ruggedest, and strangely, most flattering work togs I've purchased in years.

As a seamstress, I can tell you that making your own jeans is for "advanced members" only. (See my Craft Liturgy: "Life's Too Short for Pants"). For those of you who won't be turned away, I suggest starting with Sandra Betzina's Vogue pattern #7608 -- plus her book, Fast Fit. You will also need two sewing machines set up -- one for straight stitch, one for double -- plus a serger, if you hope to finish your jeans within a month. There is no ballgown that takes as much labor and finesse as a tailored pair of Western jeans -- but your buttons will burst if you pull it off successfully!

UPDATE: Email Bailey's to get on their waiting list for the next supply of Wild Asses! Many sizes are already gone for the Xmas rush.

(Susie Bright is a guest blogger)

Susie Bright: Daughter Songs -- Death and Loss at the End of the Year

200812231108 My mother died four years ago, on a Christmas week. My father passed the next winter, when the light started changing and the warm days were gone for good.

A nurse called me one night from my mother's hospital bed and talked about the winter chill -- how when the temperatures suddenly dropped, even though everyone was well-heated in the nursing home, a score of people would pass away. The dying of the light at the end of the year was more than just a metaphor.

I feel a kindred spirit with others who've lost close friends and family during the holidays -- our memories of those relationships, warm or troubled, close or estranged, are overwhelming this time of year.

I was fortunate to find a book after my parents died, called Always Too Soon: Voices of Support for Those Who Have Lost Both Parents, which is a collection of interviews with an incredibly diverse group of people who don't mince words about the transformation of loss.

Who knew that actor/rapper Ice-T got his nickname as a result of how cold he became as a child when he lost his mom and dad. I sobbed over Geraldine Ferraro's story, of all people. Each story is  illuminating and comforting, especially during the holiday mania, when "false consciousness" seems to be in overdrive.

Listening to my parent's voices, the little bits of recording I have, is especially poignant to me, more than photo albums. Both my parents were linguists; that's how they met as students, each interested in Native California history.

The only recording I have of my mom, Elizabeth, is her interviews with elderly Patwin tribe members in the 1950s, sharing stories and songs from the last of the original fluent speakers. Even though I don't understand most of what they're saying, I'm spellbound by the timbre of my mother's voice.

In my father's case, Bill Bright, he was a veteran broadcaster from KPFA, and delighted in being on the air. I interviewed him about his life and language interests at length on my Audible audio program: 

MP3 file: Bill Bright, 8/13/28 - 10/15/06


In the first segment, Bill talks about his book, Native American Place Names in the United States. You will learn why the origin of the town name, Loleta, CA, comes from an elderly Wiyot man telling a lumber baron's wife, "Let's fuck!" There's more than one story of American place names like this!  He also explains the political and sexual controversy behind the much-abused word "squaw" -- which is a lot more complicated than you might think.

In the second segment, I asked my dad what was his first experience was of looking at something "erotic." He describes a series of "Tijuana Bibles" that circulated on the Oxnard Union High School playground in the 1930s -- and how his eyes were opened when he came to Berkeley in the post-war years.

At the end of our interview- and this part always makes me cry -- Bill recounts some of Coyote's mythic and erotic misadventures. He sings me a song, in the Karuk language, as a girl would sing to capture the attentions of a young man she might have her eye on. He has such a beautiful voice! He learned this song from Nettie Rubin, one of the native speakers and consultants he met when he was just a young man with a wire recorder, traveling up the Klamath River. She told Bill that since he didn't have a daughter, she was going to have to pass on all her special "daughter songs" to him.

Photo: Elizabeth and Bill Bright, 1954, on Army leave in Florence

(Susie Bright is a guest blogger)

Susie Bright: The Bunny Trip

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I've been working on a memoir -- which was catalyzed by Tin House editor Rob Spillman when he asked me if I had a story about going to the high school prom, for his new book.

I told him that at my school in the 1970s, only "squares" went to the prom, but that I did have a rather illicit role in a Quaalude-drenched swim-team banquet at the famous Century City Playboy Club.

Did that count? He said yes. On that initiative, the following chapter began:

I was a high school swim team score-girl before I was a commie. I'm glad things ended up that way, because otherwise I never would've been able to touch the Playboy Bunny, and carry on my sensual, if guilty, disposition.

The high school swim team was my ticket to an almost-prom, to halcyon schooldays, to a bartended, dress-up affair.

The Trotskyists, the Yippies, the lavender pinkos -- they gave me guns and a good deal to think about, but nothing soft or fluffy.

I went to a school called University High -- a white, mostly Jewish school in West Los Angeles. Its public face was one-part Hollywood Colony, one part UCLA professors' kids. In the '70s, there was no truly integrated school in the district. A discreet number of black students from South Central Los Angeles were bused into white schools from the time they were in Kindergarten.

It was not a two-way street. It was a cradle-to-cap affair.

Continued...

(Susie Bright is a guest blogger)

Susie Bright: "My Psychoanalyst Says There Ain't Any Santa Claus"


Bright Eyes (1934)

Starring Shirley Temple, with Charles Sellon -- completely upstaged by uber-brat Jane Withers. I'm starting to see where PeeWee Herman got some of his moves!

One of the best rat-a-tat-tat's is between the Indulgent Mom and her Spoiled Child:

Anita Smythe: Now, dear, practice your piano and Mama will buy you something nice.
Joy Smythe: What?
Anita Smythe: Anything you like. What do you especially want?
Joy Smythe: A machine gun!
Withers was cast- and everyone else sent home- the moment the director, David Butler, heard her impression of a machine gun.

Bright Eyes
was quite the splash for our Shirley.  She won the first "child's" Oscar and made a hit out of the film's classic tune, "The Good Ship Lollypop." It was 1934's big Christmas movie. Even the dog in the show was a star- the same pooch played Toto in The Wizard of Oz!

(Susie Bright is a guest blogger)

Susie Bright: The Story Behind Pot Medicine

200812191704 Today, on my In Bed podcast, I interview Wendy Chapkis, author of Dying to Get High: Marijuana as Medicine.

Wendy and her co-author Richard Webb conducted extensive interviews with members of WAMM (The Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana) - the patient collective that exemplifies the "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" ethos when it comes to pot medicine.

In this excerpt, Wendy talks a bit about how boring ole' cannabis became demon "mari-juana," in D.E.A. history.

Listen to an excerpt

Read an introduction to Dying to Get High: Marijuana as Medicine (PDF).

(Susie Bright is a guest blogger)

Susie Bright: Out with the old, in with the shoe

200812190935

"Say Goodbye to 2008 in the Manner It Deserves!"

Pick a shoe, any shoe....

Now choose a velocity and angle, and let the spirit move you!

Comrade Danielle in Argentina forwarded this little Saatchi present to me yesterday, but I don't think fluency in Spanish is at all essential!

(Susie Bright is a guest blogger)

Susie Bright: Rick Warren can either come out of his closet, or go take a hike

Rick-Warren-Whats-So-Tiny Aside from whether or not you think it's an insult to entertain a notorious bigot at the television event of the year, why isn't Obama worrying more about Warren's charlatan-tastic profile?

If I was an underwriter, I'd say this guy has all the "tells" of a big risk.

Deja vu: major Fundie evangelist can't stop talking about how disgusting gay people are, comparing them to incestors and pedophiles. Decries loose women having abortions. Demands his enemies be offed. Then caps it all off with how much he "loves" everybody. Send your check now!

Warren has all the earmarks we saw with Ted Haggard, Larry Craig, Bob Allen, David "DiaperPants" Vitter, et al. It's a bad rerun.

If this dude isn't found in a bathroom with a wide stance and a hooker in the next year, someone's not doing their job. Paging Jeff Gannon!

I have a different pastor for Obama to consider, if he'd  like to take a second look...

(Photo: Screen capture from video of a Saddleback church service Orange County Register)

Here's a video of Obama defending his invitation.

Here's a video of Rick Warren Campaigning for Prop 8, to stop gay marriage.

(Susie Bright is a guest blogger)

Susie Bright: The Christmas miracle on the road to Oaxaca

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(Photo: España, from Mariquita's scrapbook.)

This story is by farmer/blogger Andy Griffin, of Mariquita Farms, who co-owns the CSA veggie-box scheme I belong to. He writes a weekly Ladybug Letter, that our members read religiously!

The Christmas miracle on the road to Oaxaca

By Andy Griffin

Until the Aswan Dam plugged her up, the Nile River flooded every year, spreading her chocolate waters across the land of Egypt, depositing the rich sediment of eroded topsoil from the heart of Africa to fuel another year's productivity in the fields.

As regular as the Nile's rising waters, a seasonal flow of migrant Mexican farm workers heads south from the States, going home for the Christmas holidays. Like the Nile, they carry with them a load of riches to deposit from one end of Mexico to the other. Pick-up trucks and TV sets, kitchen appliances and talking baby dolls, chainsaws, mattresses and blow driers -- anything that is more expensive to obtain in Mexico than here, will end up riding the river of people back home.

This yearly tide of travelers has spawned a parasite class of thieves, extortionists, and pick-pockets, who line the highways home. Crooks are crooks the world over, but among the various rateros who afflict the homecoming Mexican farm workers, the most reprehensible element is the corrupted law enforcement officers of their own government.

Read the rest

Susie Bright: Greta Christina and Her Godless Pursuits

200812181109 Greta Christina is the editor of Best Erotic Comics 2008, and the author of "Deprogramming," an erotic short story from my new anthology

The plot is about physical and sexual abuse in a religious cult... and a couple who escapes from the "pod" and begins to consensually re-enact some of the same rituals.
 
I've known Greta since we both worked at On Our Backs in our babyhood, but at that time, oddly, I had no idea she could write.

Now, I'm trying to make up for lost time...


Greta, has any of your writing been produced in popular movies?

Well, I wrote the narration for a video how-to guide on electrical sex toys, titled "Our Friend the Volt."


You were raised as an atheist, but when do you remember being fascinated with the "cult" experience?

I wouldn't describe myself as fascinated by cults, although I do find religion to be a compelling subject.

It sounds like you want to know is what inspired me to write this piece. It's not a very nice story, but it is a true one, so I'll tell it.

I was watching a documentary about Jim Jones (of Jonestown fame) and his People's Temple. At the point in the story where things were starting to go wrong in the church, it said that members who disobeyed the rules were punished by being spanked.

It's a terrible story. They described the incidents -- and what they called "spanked," I would call "badly beaten." But there's a deeply ingrained part of my mind and my libido that inevitably gets turned on when I hear the word "spank,"  that starts to conjure erotic images and stories. So I found myself having sexual fantasies about this scenario... while at the same time being horrified by it and ashamed for being turned on by it.

My story isn't specifically about the People's Temple. It's about a fictional religious cult that I made up. But it's definitely influenced by real cults that I've read about...

Does your family know about your erotic writing? Have they read it?

I've asked my family not to, actually. My porn is like a window into my libido, and it crosses a boundary for me to have my family looking through that window. I don't want my family to know what I think about when I jerk off. Call me old-fashioned.

Have you written any Manifestos?

Definitely. Many times. In my blog. Probably the best known and widest read is "Atheists and Anger" -- an attempt to answer, in detail, the question, "Why are you atheists so angry?"

Has your work ever been "made an example of"?

Oh, yes.

The best example: I wrote a piece a few years back for The Skeptical Inquirer, called "Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do With God."



I can't make myself believe in things I don't actually believe -- Heaven, or reincarnation, or a greater divine plan for our lives -- simply because believing those things would make death easier to accept. And I don't think I have to, or that anyone has to.

I think there are ways to think about death that are comforting, that give peace and solace, that allow our lives to have meaning and even give us more of that meaning -- and that have nothing whatsoever to do with any kind of God, or any kind of afterlife.


I started ego-Googling my name and the title of the piece... and found that several Christian ministers were quoting from the piece out of context, as an example of how even atheists admit that life without the promise of life after death is bleak and hopeless.

They would quote a part at the beginning, where I talk about how atheism seems to offer no comfort in the face of death. And they would completely ignore the entire point of the piece... which is that, while that might seem on the surface to be the case, it most emphatically is not.

When I find this happening, I write to these ministers; I point out that they're quoting me as saying the exact opposite of what I'm actually saying. I remind them about the commandment, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour." (Exodus 20:16).

More of Susie's interviews -- dozens of them -- with erotic writers here.

(Susie Bright is a guest blogger)