“Reserve your right to think, for even to think wrongly is better than not to think at all.”
After two weeks in Italy eating too much pasta and drinking (great) wine I got to thinking about discipline. How can one (I’m not saying “me”) have discipline in one area of one’s life but not another? What even is discipline? And is it necessary?
Katherine Hepburn said, “without discipline, there’s no life at all.” All unpleasant connotations. I think of the disciplined women I admire, Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, Marlene Dietrich. Fierce, determined and highly disciplined. At various times they engaged in extreme dieting and exercise. Marlene drank Epsom Salt and stood still for hours at wardrobe fittings. And yet . . . all three drank too much, not to mention bad romances, child rearing “issues.” How was it they could exercise discipline in their careers and less often in their personal lives? How can we harness discipline and turn it from a negative into a positive?
Dictionaries give us these definitions: correction, self-restraint, control, strictness and “training people to obey rules using punishment . . .” No wonder so many of us set out to “discipline” our diets, habits, minds and “fail” when the whole meaning around it involves paying a price.
Maybe if we think of “consequences” instead of “discipline we can harness a more positive energy to accomplish what we want (those extra 5 pounds, 1000 words a day . . .) If I tell myself I won’t eat that plate of pasta because the result will be, I won’t fit in my bikini . . . (vanity I know)
As I’m competitive with myself I thought I’d challenge myself to the changes I want to make instead of wondering why I have no discipline. i.e. today I’ll run 5 minutes more than I ran yesterday.
I don’t really have an answer to harnessing “discipline” and making it work, but I’m on the hunt . . . And I’m still not sure it’s necessary to even have it. I’ll leave you with this quote from Julie Andrews: “Some people regard discipline as a chore. For me, it is a kind of order that sets me free to fly.”
LA Times Book Festival
I was so honored to appear on two panels at this year’s LA Times Book Festival at USC. It was a gorgeous sunny day, my panels were lively and interesting: “Girls to the Front: Women Breaking Barriers” and “Showgirls and Superstars: Gender in Music, Dance and
Comedy.” I specifically spoke about Faith Bacon and Sally Rand and the prejudice accompanying the life of a showgirl in the 1930s taking off her clothes, and all my burlesque performers in general. I signed and sold books. All in all a fab day!
I stumbled across a very interesting feminist. Hypatia. From the little I can glean, she was born in Alexandria around c. 370 CE (or some claim 350) CE means Common Era. Unlike AD (anno domini – in the year of our Lord, not as is thought, after death) and BC (before Christ) Common Era does not have any religious implication. AND it starts from the year 1. (Confused? Me too. So enough of that!) Hypatia, was a kick ass little Egyptian. She was a philosopher, astronomer, and mathematician, educated by her father. She was a “pagan” but did not believe in feeding the Christians to the lions or whatever they were doing before the coliseum. It was very rare in those days for a woman to be educated, to teach. She was beloved, political and very influential. Perhaps too influential. Some hated the fact she wore robes and rode horses like a man. One day after teaching she was accosted by a mob of Christian men, taken to a Christian church, stripped bare and brutally murdered her. It was rumored her eyes were torn out and they cut her beautiful virginal body to pieces, only to then burn said pieces so nothing would remain of this brilliant scholar. Why should we care about her today? The result of her murder is credited with “delineating the classical age of paganism (it was a thing) from the age of Christianity (when the shit gets real).”
I’ve started a notebook with words: I love words. Words I want to use more, like “putative”
“nomenclature” “maladroit” “veracity.”
I spent a couple nights in San Diego at my mom’s. I went through old pictures that her mom, my Grandmother had. I found great treasures and things even my mom didn’t know about, like Grandma liked to ride horses, she played tennis, she hiked to the top of Mount Baldy. There was a bag with her wedding stockings, which are so luxurious feeling, soft, grayish. My grandmother was a city girl who lived on a farm with her husband. They traveled often. Later in life she returned to school and became a medical technician. She loved to read and kept many diaries, which were not very exciting but did trace how I am related to Abraham Lincoln. I’m currently reading a great book about Mary Todd Lincoln, called “Mary Todd Lincoln” by Jean H. Baker.
My Grandma Thelma second from the left On top of Mount Baldy. A bad ass grandma.
$85 million War Front at Claiborne Farms
Zipped to Lexington, Kentucky for 2 1⁄2 days of girls just wanna have fun. Got to hug an $85 million dollar thoroughbred, visited Secretariat’s grave (did you know they used to only bury the horses head, heart and hooves? (Representing intelligence, spirit and speed) At Claiborne Farm they now bury the entire horse). We went to Keenland Racetrack and bet on a couple races. I won two, but as I was betting all of $2, I only won $5. We had a Bourbon tasting at Buffalo Trace. Its not for me, but the old distillery is pretty impressive and the air all around it smells like sweets being baked! Inside is another story, smells like a wino’s breath, not that I would know. A lovely visit to Shaker Village. Those Shakers were a trip! They all died out because they didn’t believe in having sex. Not the smartest way to have a thriving cult. They were called “Shakers” because they shook themselves. They would have hour-long revivals (some lasted 23 hours straight – but you gotta do something if you’re not having sex) where they danced, sang and threw themselves on the floor and spoke in tongues. They believed in equality and bought the freedom of many African-American slaves. They were clean (bathed more than most) and believed in healthy, simple eating. I don’t remember if they drank or not but we had lunch there and had a Mint Julep.
Shaker Village in Kentucky
We visited the home where Mary Todd Lincoln lived in Lexington on Main Street. It is beautiful and elegant and has been lovingly restored. They have many pieces that were hers. Years after Mary lived there (and the President visited) the house was sold and taken over by a Jennie Hill who ran a brothel, or house of “ill-repute,” “Cat house,” “sporting house,” or any number of names for where working girls lived. Lexington had a thriving brothel business. I forget the number, something like 200 houses at the time. One of the women
working for Jennie Hill was Belle Brezing, who was the inspiration for Belle Watling in “Gone with the Wind,” though Margaret Mitchell always denied it, probably because Brezing was still alive when the book came out. Belle was born in 1860 in Lexington. Her mother was in and out of prostitution and when Belle was a 12 she was “ruined” aka “raped” by a thirty-six year old douchebag. There would be other men, a baby, a possible murder of a beau outside her gate, shot through the head (deemed a suicide, not likely).
Belle would go on to have her own house, or houses, they were orderly run, luxurious and popular. She would become addicted to morphine and several times tried to break the habit, but failed. Clearly not disciplined enough. She died of uterine cancer, like her mother (and I think sister) in 1940 having become mostly a recluse, shut in her house in Lexington. Her items were auctioned off. Boy do I wish I had been there for that!
Shameless plug: “Welcome to Marwen” is out on DVD and streaming now. Such a great film. Check it out. Also there is an LP of the soundtrack.
Je suis Suzette
And finally, I shot an episode of “Inside the Issues” with Alex Cohen for Spectrum TV, talking “Feuding Fan Dancers” of course. The little book that keeps on . . .keeping on . . . like Sally Rand herself.
Coco: “Are men really not attracted to girls who wear glasses?”
If your BOOK CLUB would like me to visit via Skype I’m available on the road or when I’m at home. It’s been fun coming into your homes, sending specialty FAN cocktail recipes before for you all to try. email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want me to join in on some Fun FAN talking. A questionnaire is available on my website to download for your Book club.
And lastly what I’m reading or recently read
for complete list, I have everything on Good Reads
as I can’t remember them all!
Belle Brezing (not a great book, but interesting story)
Checked one off my “classics” list. I finished “Madame Bovary.” Good God, 19th century male writers sure liked “fallen” women to kill themselves. I enjoyed this better than “Anna Karenina” though. I also read “George Sand,” very good biography by Elizabeth Harlan. Sand, while not very likeable (to me) because she was a terrible mother, was a prolific writer. Born in 1804 in France, her mother was negligent, leaving her mostly with her own mother, then sent to a convent for schooling. She was occasional anorexic, often dressed as a man, was referred to by George Sand in her personal and public life. Amongst her lovers was Chopin. She was awful to her daughter.