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So I am a populist.

Other people think the way I do: caring about small American businesses, caring about ethics, wanting to challenge big business, appreciating Ralph Nader, who is a genius.

I would also mention that citizen privacy matters profoundly to me. The government does not have the right to read my emails nor to listen to my phone conversations, even if the most dangerous thing I ever talk about is clipping my own hangnail.

It is a great joy to discover intelligent writings on how the Democrats and the Republicans have let us down. To Bill Curry, author of the piece: Great work!

Here’s the article on Salon: My Party Has Lost Its Soul: Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Victory of Wall Street Democrats.

Speaking of Ralph Nader, here’s what the article says:

His latest book, “Unstoppable,” argues for the existence and utility of an “emerging left-right alliance to dismantle the corporate state.” The book is vintage Nader and ranks with his best. The questions it poses should greatly interest progressives. The question is, will any read it.

The corporate state is evil.

And here is my biggest beef about the Democratic Party, to which I used to belong:

Democrats aren’t even having a debate. Their one think tank, the Center for American Progress, serves their establishment. …If Democrats had caught populist fever they’d be reappraising their own orthodoxy and offing a few of their own incumbents. Owing only partly to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, they instead spend their days as Republicans do, in an endless search for new ways to help the rich pump money into politics.

The Democratic Party has become about the very rich, whose money is protected, imposing lower-middle-class socialism on the middle class. The Wall Street Democrats, also known as Cadillac Communists, congratulate themselves on being good people when they vote in socialist reform.

So who will stand up for the middle class?

It isn’t Obama: “By buying into Bush’s bailout, Obama co-signed the biggest check ever cut by a government, made out to the culprits, not the victims. As for his stimulus, it didn’t cure the disease and hefty portions of it smelled like pork.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes:

This isn’t just a slow recovery from a financial sector collapse, or damage done by debt overhang or Obama’s weak tea Keynesianism. We’re in crisis because of all our broken systems; because we still let big banks prey on homeowners, students, consumers and retailers; because our infrastructure is decrepit; because our tax code breeds inefficiency and inequality; because foreign interventions bled us dry. We’re in peril because our democracy is dying. Reviving it will take more than deficit spending and easy money. It will take reform, and before that, a whole new political debate.

Populists offer hope.

Florence, the Medici Chapels, the Uffizi, and Social Media
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Florence, the Medici Chapels, the Uffizi, and Social Media

There are too many tourists in Florence. Plenty of them are dreadful.

Today I overheard an American as he stood in front of Leonardo’s sublime Annunciation and wondered aloud in a nasal voice if he would be “done” with the museum by 2:00.

I wanted to spit at him.

Some of us go to the Uffizi and we show up. We bring ourselves to the art, not so we can cross if off some list, but so we can participate in something larger than ourselves: great art, the finest art humankind can create. Beauty, truth, and love.

The Botticelli room does it for me. It grabs my internal organs and squeezes and uplifts me and forces me into transfiguration. I want to kneel and pray in front of the Primavera. Every time I go to the Uffizi, every time I pass through that room with its dazzling paintings, I am a different person than when I entered. I am a better person. I am someone who has been weeping with joy and grace.

Sabin the classical figurative sculptor loves Michelangelo, and Sabin in his own right is a master artist, so he’s earned the right to his opinions. He’s also read every book in English or Italian written since 1750 on the Renaissance, so he’s educated.

But for me, it is Botticelli. Botticelli understood women, he understood beauty, he loved femininity, he conveyed grace like no one else, he got it.

This is a debate Sabin and I have every time we discuss Michelangelo and Sandro Filipepi. It is hard for me to relate to Michelangelo who just didn’t like women. Michelangelo’s female figures wear coconut boobs and the most butch arms this side of construction work. OK, I understand, his architecture of the body is unparalleled. But still.

Then there is Leonardo il Maestro. The golden-ringleted angel in the Verocchio painting. That stunning Annunciation, and was that the only painting naughty, restless, genius Leonardo ever finished? Holy god.

And now we are allowed to take photos in the Italian museums. Why? Free advertising. Joe Schmoe American in front of the David on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram will bring in 20 other Schmoes, and Italy needs their $. Gotta love social media.


BROKEN: Power is pornographic
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BROKEN: Power is pornographic

Among the myriad ways to categorize people is one I have developed over the course of my life. It has to do with the paradigm a person subscribes to. That is, is this person about power or is he or she about freedom?

I have found that people usually fall into one of those two camps. Not always, of course, and there’s flow back and forth. Even people who believe in freedom can race into a power struggle when they feel unsafe.

As a general thing, people who seek power are looking for power over other people. They tend to develop skills for manipulation, currying favor, seduction, and insinuation, especially the sly delivery of a put down or a compliment, the aim of either being to control the other person’s feelings and achieve a desired result.

Power-mongers’ diction will be full of phrases like “squash them like a bug,” “hold them in the palm of my hand,” “grind them to dust,” “kick their ass,” “beat them to a pulp,” etc. You get the idea. This soul-less paradigm sees people as either winners or losers; other people are objects to be used, objects who either gratify or thwart the power-monger.

People who source themselves in freedom take a different approach. They look for mutuality and reciprocity, for the “win-win” solution, for everyone to feel seen and validated. Their language sounds different, you can hear it immediately. There’s reference to inclusiveness and respect, respect for both self and other people. “We’re in this together” and “let’s resolve this.” Words tend to be courteous. Praise is given out of kindness or because it’s earned, but not to sway the other person into a desired behavior. Notice that “kindness” and “respect” are the operative modes.

I think it takes a lot of inner strength to choose to seek freedom. It takes faith, perhaps even a certain amount of enlightenment. I think it’s a choice each person has to make regularly, because in the flow of life, we regularly encounter challenges and tests. Who are we going to be? It’s the question we face every moment as we choose our paradigm, our Source.

I’m deep in the next draft of this WWII novel of mine, BROKEN. It’s brought up all these reflections because the second world war perfectly embodied issues of power and freedom. That is, the Nazis sought power over other people–over just about everyone. And they were perfectly willing to take away the freedom of anyone who disagreed with them, or anyone who bore the “stigma” of Nazi projections of inferiority: Jews, gays, Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Poles, Socialists, Communists, etc.

The Nazis believed in an embedded hierarchy that their god had established. I have come to understand that the belief in an external, hierarchical, gendered god–and by gendered I mean patriarchal–is the origin of a great deal of evil in the world.

So here’s the next draft of the cover of BROKEN.

Power is pornographic

TicToc: Far Shore, Book Three of the After Series by Traci Slatton
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TicToc: Far Shore, Book Three of the After Series by Traci Slatton

TicToc: Far Shore, Book Three of the After Series by Traci…: Posted First on Blog Critics as Book Review: ‘Far Shore’ by Traci L. Slatton.

 ‘The heart wants what the heart wants’ seems like such a redundancy. Yet there is that simple truth to the adage where there often seems to be no real choice in the matter….

READ the rest of Leslie Ann Wright’s delicious review at TicToc Book Reviews and General Observations or at Blogcritics.org


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Prayer for the families of victims in Newtown, CT

May God grant you peace as you face a loss that makes other people shake with fear.
May you be blessed with joy of memory, so that you see the faces of your dear ones as they laughed and played, joked and teased; so that you hear their voices soft with tender connection; so that your arms feel always their solid wholeness of spirit.
May you stay open to receive the gentle good wishes of kin and of strangers alike.
May it comfort you to know that your beloveds are with you always.
May you, every day, stand in the truth of love, and may that truth lead you through suffering back to your own wholeness.
Traci L. Slatton

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Men, and their need to prove how smart they are

I like men.

I like the way they look, hard and hairy in places where I’m soft and curving, an outie where I have an innie. I appreciate the typical male architectural forms: bigger jaws and shoulders, narrower pelvic blocks and a rib cage about as wide as the pelvis, which doesn’t have to flare out to permit childbirth.

I like the way a man smells when he’s been throwing around a football, or bicycling, or swimming, or puzzling over a knotty work issue. The smell of male sweat can be a big turn on, even when it’s acrid. To be sure, a man stepping out of a shower, all clean except for a few shiny residual slicks of soap, and naked except for a towel around his hips, is an even bigger turn on. And I still remember, with clarity and pleasure, a lover whose flesh smelled like vanilla.

I really like the way a man smells after holding a baby. Then both scents blend together: the musk and vetiver man odor, and the intoxicating sugar and vomit fragrance of a baby. Thinking of that combined smell makes me quiver. It arrows in to some primitive part of my lizard brain where reason has no place  and species exigency reigns supreme.

I even, usually, like the way men think. They’re problem solvers: a problem is either a wooly mammoth or a saber tooth tiger. Either way, they spear it, drag it home, and eat it. Elegant. It’s true that I’ve been married most of my life and so, of necessity, I’ve learned to tolerate a man’s spear-like, solution-oriented conversational style. If I want to explore all shades, ramifications, and possibilities of a situation, you know, engage in nuanced verbal multi-tasking, isn’t that what my women friends are for?

Good thing I have women friends. I like men, but I don’t understand them.

Speaking of women friends, I have one who likes men even more than I do. She’s tall, blond, gorgeous, and charming, so the affection is mutual. Recently single again after a long relationship, she’s been exploring younger men. She was waxing enthusiastic about dating men in their 20’s.

“For heaven’s sake,” I said. “Aren’t you bored after sex? Why are you dating these young guys?”

“For their energy and optimism, of course,” she responded. “You should try it. I can set you up.” She was, of course, referencing an alternate reality where I, too, was single. She was proposing tangential possibilities, which women find very satisfying.

“Ugh,” I said, imagining her parallel world for the sake of our discourse. “I’d want someone older. These immature guys you like have nothing to say for themselves.”

“But they do,” she demurred. “They have facts. Young men like to have a host of facts at their disposal and you must let them tell you their facts. It makes them feel good about themselves.”

“I’m supposed to let some punk kid spout facts at me?” I clarified.

“Yes, and Traci, you must keep your mouth shut so they don’t know how smart and experienced you are,” she said. I am paraphrasing her words, because she’s even more lovely on the inside than she is on the outside, and she always phrases her statements with kindness and tact.

I burst into laughter. She laughed with me. She’s a friend and she gets me. I’m lucky that way.

But it did set me to thinking about men, those curious creatures, and their need to prove how smart they are. It seems to validate their penis size when they succeed.

All too often men seem to need not only to prove how smart they are, but how smarter they are. Specifically, how smarter than me. Something about me provokes them and they come after me with an unholy critical bent. Maybe it’s not just me, maybe it’s all uppity females.

I see it a lot in male book reviewers, who are, almost universally, nastier and snider than women book reviewers. I’m sorry to make a generalization in an age where generalizations aren’t welcome, but this is what I’ve experienced.

There is something about writing, specifically, that brings out the competitive male ego. I’ve experienced that phenomenon over and over again. Almost two decades ago, a journalist published several pages about how bad my writing was. I had given him a first draft of a novella, with the caveat that it was a rough, crude, unedited first draft and that it hadn’t been spell-checked yet. Remember those days, when spell-check wasn’t automatic?

But my warning fell on ears deaf to all but his own agenda. He went on and on, in his book about something else entirely, about what a terrible writer I was. He generously used a pseudonym, though everyone in the world he was profiling knew it was me.

Did an unspell-checked rough first draft of a novella by a (then) unpublished writer really require such effusive malicious verbiage?

Transference is a bitch.

Maybe so is counter-transference. Recently a man in a helping profession came after me with similar intensity. He’d asked about a proposal I wrote, so I gave it to him. Then, mystifyingly, he turned into a porcupine shooting darts at me, when he discussed it. He’s someone I respect and like, so I was disappointed. And a little sad and hurt, even though I’d long since figured out that he has a formidably critical mind.

The experience did teach me something: to forgive men more. This latter gentleman is pretty highly evoluted, as people go, male or female. If his critical, competitive impulse could run away with him, and he’s actively working on himself, then what hope do less evoluted men have?

What hope do any of us have? I still don’t understand men very well. I’ve got to cut them more slack, for sure. Even if I can’t, as my girlfriend admonished, underplay my own intelligence. Such as it is, and entirely at the mercy of certain lush, entrancing smells.