Friday, August 28, 2015

The Strange Tale of Frances Farmer

Frances Farmer, 1938
This is Frances Farmer. She was a remarkable woman in many respects. I first ran across mention of her when I began digging into the history of Western State Hospital. This is what I initially found:


The facility was established in Washington Territory as Fort Steilacoom Asylum in 1871,[1] predating statehood by almost 20 years, in former buildings of Fort Steilacoom, which was a U.S. Army post from 1849 to 1868. In 1875, the territorial government took control due to complaints about patient neglect, brutal abuse and poor living conditions. One of its better known patients was Frances Farmer.

The original buildings of the asylum were demolished in 1886 to make way for a larger structure. It was renamed Western Washington Hospital for the Insane and the main ward was completed in 1887. In each of the following decades numerous out-buildings were constructed. In 1915, it was renamed Western State Hospital and grew in various stages.[1]

I dug around some more, curious about who Frances might have been. The story I ran across was so strange, so far-flung and so explosive in its effect on so many people that I had a hard time believing it was all due to one person, no matter how remarkable she might have been.

Books, movies, songs... any number of works have been created dealing either directly or tangentially with Frances and her life.

(I'm putting this after a break so it doesn't eat the front page of the blog.)

Here is where the strange part of her story begins:

Thursday, August 27, 2015

I've got a few things to say, and I don't really care who reads them.

When I was a little girl, I was brave. I was afraid sometimes, but I pushed on anyway. I haven't lost that. What I do seem to have lost, along the way, is some of what made me myself. It was choked out of me by various circumstances and people. Young Me enjoyed many things, including baking and dressing up.

For a number of years, I did neither. I'd wear some clothes that others might consider dressy, but not for me. I stopped wanting to cook. I hated the kitchen and cooking because by that point I'd learned to associate that place in the house with criticism and rejection.

"Oh, this is nice. You know, my mom has a really good recipe for this. You should ask her for it."

"Hey, could you just...please get out of the kitchen while I'm cooking?"

These are small comments. But repeatedly, over a number of years, they get to you. Especially if you're a rather sensitive person who doesn't really have an emotional shell. They're telling you that you're a failure and that you shouldn't even try.

The clothes were restricted to what I could wear without embarrassing whomever I was with. Because, you know, I am so embarrassing in my choice of clothing and demeanor. I just don't fit in. I'm weird. I say strange things and laugh at inappropriate times. I should just wear something plain and keep my mouth shut with a smile slapped on it. After all, I'm just a trophy to be paraded around.

Well, fuck them.

I'm currently on a crusade to regain my Younger Self.

This is what I told myself:

"Taryn, remember who you were when you were little. You might have been reduced to a tiny glow for a while, but your spark never died. All it needs is a little stoking of the fire inside and you'll explode again. Burn like a star."

I've slowly been getting better about wearing whatever the hell I want out in public. I wore that blonde wig to work yesterday, and I'm contemplating wearing another one tomorrow. I'm currently wearing this long, floaty black chiffon dress with a black ballet shrug and a three-tiered black and white apron over it, with damask, polka dots, and checks in separate tiers.

I realize that some of you already regard my clothes as outrageous, but to me they're just normal. I still feel like I can't wear a lot of things that I have. But I am going to change that.

Even more importantly, I baked yesterday. After YEARS. I did not want to for so long. It was just gone, I said. I hated it. I did not like cooking. Or baking. I knew HOW, I just didn't want to. Everyone was like "Oh, you just don't know how. You'll love it when you learn!"


Actually, as it turns out, I don't hate it. I hate them. I hate the people who beat the desire to create out of me and I hate the feelings I allowed them to conjure up in me, turning me against part of myself that I'd loved.

So I baked. It's summer, and it's peach season. Time for peach crisp. I got a bunch of peaches in a flat and set about cutting them up. I'd only meant to cut them up for eating, but then I decided to just dip a tiny toe into the pool of What I Still Could Be and AM, DAMN IT. It's hard to retrain your mind.

I got out one of my cookbooks, published the year I graduated from high school, 1998, blew the dust off, and found a recipe for fruit crisp. Me being myself (as if I could be anyone else), I did not agree with everything called for in said recipe, so I mucked with it a bit. Instead of adding one spice or another spice, as it dictated, I added everything and then some more. I added crunchiness and richness and fragrance.

It was glorious. I baked it for 30 minutes, and even halfway through, the house was starting to smell heavenly. Patrick and I debated, and then he heroically ventured out to get vanilla bean ice cream to go with it. It was scrumptious. I am proud of myself. That is the first thing I've made in I do not know how long. (I don't count the salads I throw together.) Really baking.

I feel pretty good.

Here is my triumph:

This is what recapturing your soul looks like. It looks like what you really love, whatever that is.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Me as a blonde!

Well, a fake blonde. I really love wigs. All the fun of hair dying with none of the damage! Plus if your hair looks gross you can always stuff it under a wig. Behold the glory:

I lightened my eyebrows for this with tattoo concealer and a variety of powdery things. YAY MAKEUP. Also: yes, the string things from the buns are supposed to be there. I like them. I think it looks like I tied the buns in my hair. They actually clip in, but whatever.

This is apparently the person whose hair I am wearing;

Leila Malcal, who appears to be a secondary protagonist in an anime known as Code Geass. I know absolutely nothing about she or her show, but I will say that her hair is awesome.

Never grow up, kids.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Female Navy SEALs? Maybe so...

From this TIME story:

Earlier this week, two women became the first female Rangers.

The first real-life G.I. Jane might be coming soon.

Admiral Jon Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations, told the Navy Times and Defense News that he and Rear Admiral Brian Losey, who heads the Naval Special Warfare Command, believe that if a woman passes the famously rigorous six-month Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, they should be allowed to be part of the elite team.

“Why shouldn’t anybody who can meet these [standards] be accepted? And the answer is, there is no reason,” Greenert said. “So we’re on a track to say, ‘Hey look, anybody who can meet the gender non-specific standards, then you can become a SEAL.'”

This has been a fantastic week for women aspiring to join the elite ranks of the American military: 

On Monday, two women passed the grueling Ranger School test and are set to the be the first females to graduate from the Ranger School.

Losey was part of a comprehensive review that recommended women be integrated into the Navy if they meet the same standards as applied to men. The Navy currently has sparse representation of women in elite sections of the branch: among 1,153 divers, only seven are women, and only ten women are part of the 1,094-strong Explosive Ordinance Disposal team.
Each branch of the military is required to allow females into combat positions by 2016 or explain why they cannot do so.

Interesting. Women might even do better, if they can pass the strength and endurance requirements. They've got more body fat than men and thus more resistance to cold. They're also lighter and so can hold up body weight easier, along with probably being able to move silently with more ease. We shall see. It might be that this doesn't work out, but it will definitely be fascinating to watch the experiment.

Monday, August 17, 2015


I went over to Brynn's yesterday, and we had a princess-fest. It was fantastic. Corpse Bride and Tangled. Now I'm totally on a princess kick. I downloaded Frozen and watched it last night. YAY!

Soooo maaaaaany priiiiincesssessssssssssss.....O.o

Anyway, it was awesome. We had tea and gleefully enjoyed ourselves, either cheering along, loudly commenting on someone's moral failings, or pointing out gigantic plotholes and what is even going on here and why is there a donkey moments.

Tea is delicious. Especially when your friend is evil and keeps dumping vanilla ice cream into it. BAD FRIEND. AWESOME FRIEND. NOM. Soooooo good.

Also: chai with eggnog. *shivers with pleasure* Christmas in a cup, ladies and gentlemen!

Speaking of Christmas, I think I actually want to decorate this year. Normally I'm all humbug about it and don't bother. Did we even put up the tree last year? Maybe? Anyway, I'm totally feeling Christmassy even though it's August, and I don't care, so I'm wearing snowflake earrings and contemplating how best to decorate the ladder with lights and evergreens without killing Gurgles.

Allow me to enlighten you as to my dilemma, Constant Reader:

Gurgles has learned to climb the ladder. Yes. THAT ladder. The one that is so stupidly made that it's even confusing for humans to climb. This is an incredibly unfortunate development, for a variety of reasons. He can now get into everything. Absolutely everything. I was digging around for something last night and he jammed himself into the hole I'd made in the wall of crap. I found what I was looking for and re-crammed the stuff back in where it belonged. I figured he'd either find another way out or I'd discover his desiccated corpse in a few months when I decided to rearrange (again). As I was removing myself from the loft, I saw Gurgles oozing out of the crap-wall though some microscopic opening. He then hopped right down the ladder after I got my big person bulk out of his way.

He also has no sense of self-preservation. None. He flies from cat pole to cat pole. He bounds up the ladder like no one's business. He rolls around on top of the shower door that is about 1.5" wide. He also thinks he should be able to zoom down the ladder with the same reckless speed that he ascends it. He is wrong. We observed this failing last night (or possibly the night before, they all blend together on weekends) when he attempted to run down the ladder, tripped, then sort of somersaulted down rung by rung until he crashed into Patrick's desk while still in Popple form, plopped off onto the floor, and casually walked off like he meant for all of that to happen.

This is a Popple. You're welcome.
We'd stared in horrified amazement and possibly made some strangled shrieks with our faces while all this was taking place (somehow we were both in perfect position to observe the entire escapade), and I was sure he'd at least sprained something, but nope. He's in perfect condition. He has learned ABSOLUTELY NOTHING from falling headlong off the ladder like a demented Tribble on speed.

This is Captain Kirk. With Tribbles. You're welcome.
Comparatively, being obsessed with princesses is a much safer occupation, even if it does lead to the occasional tiara-buying spree. NO, I HAVE NOT DONE THAT. ...yet. I'm still way too occupied with shoes.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Upon learning that ISIS has been recruiting men by telling them it's okay to rape women who aren't believers

Magnetic poetry and a bird magnet I already had on a small whiteboard, cyanotype filter. I posted it on Twitter with the #FightBack and #badass tags. We need a global effort to band together and go kill those motherfuckers. All of them. They aren't any good to anyone, and I think the world could do with less of that kind of filth in it.

On the importance of being yourself

I don't think much of naming one's poems, visual pieces, or even short stories, really, unless the artist
deems such vital to the work's integrity (eliciting a particular mood within the observer before they plunge into the depths of the artist's gift) . As with many art forms, the greatest pieces require no signs hung round their necks, declaring their sole intent and meaning to the world.

No, in my opinion, art forms of all varieties (and levels of quality) are better left untitled or, better yet, captioned as questions: Who am I? Who are you? Who am I to you? What feelings stir inside you when you see/experience/read/hear me?

I apologize for the page break in this post (I hate them also), but it is necessary to achieve my goal.

To illustrate my point, please observe the following:

You've taken good care of me
You've secreted away a multitude of sins
I've sadly taken leave of you
Cast you off without a second thought
And shrieked in fear and outrage 

when I felt you were to be roughly torn from me

You've made me truly magnificent
a fool
and a trustworthy friend by turns
I've been a princess, a wizard

and the girl next door
under your gentle touch
You've never had a name

and never wanted one

I've loved you to ruins and tried in vain 
to give you back the gorgeous body you once knew
Hated you, consigning your body to flames undeserved 

while I laughed in triumphant, hateful glee
I have also borne your company with cross resignation

determining to fling you from me 
as soon as the opportunity presented itself
yet knowing we would have to be partners again 
in short order, you and I

It's been quite a ride, kiddo

Now, I ask you, would that piece (doggerel though it might be), improve upon being given a
title? Or might it be better left for the observer to discern its meaning as applicable to her own mind?

Before I tell you the subject of the piece, what do YOU think it's about? What are your feelings regarding it? Not the quality of the writing, but the sincerity and intention of the scrawl.
Once you've decided that, here is what I contemplated while writing it: