Angela Bocage

Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the theory category.

A beautiful blog to which I subscribe

I miss Mary Daly sometimes, but I know she’s always with me. I love to read her books aloud. I will be more accurate, more truthful, more observant, more aware, for the rest of my life because of her. Today I saw a blog by a woman of far greater expressive and analytical powers than i possess, and am subscribing to it. She writes so brilliantly on how the world has changed. I sometimes talk with a friend in Boston about this, about how the world has changed, but the author of Radical Feminism in Otherland fleshes out and fully paints that vision I grope to even put into the simplest words. Here is an example of her good sense and the beauty of her writing:
“Ideals of self-empowerment mystify the reality that patriarchy and capitalism in their neo-liberal formations remain structural and systemic, despite appearances (spectacles) everywhere of gender-neutrality and the neutrality of the ever ‘free’ market.”
My Boston friend and i are imagining theater about what this blogger calls the “One-Dimensional Feminism” of these Orwellian days. May Radical Feminism in Otherland inspire us and help us to be as honest and measured and aware and passionate as we can be!


Identity, illusion, death

I was very honored recently to be invited by a brilliant and cool new friend to write something for a project of hers on the subject, “Identity.” What a big old steaming hot mess that one is for me, right?! The cartoon caption, were it atop a visual panel of my most enthusiastically gross-&-disgusting pen and ink work, would be something like, “Angela’s brain crawls through the wreckage…” I have been changing my so-called identity since I was five years old, choosing and discarding names and traits like old boots, and have never been sorry. When the T. Heads sang, “I’ve changed my hairstyle—so many times now—I don’t know WHUT I LOOK LIKE,” the line applied to me, only add hair color and clothing style as well. I’m not exaggerating when I say age five; it may have been even earlier. I remember deciding to adopt as my own a phobia of having my picture taken at five, changing my name at five or six, and chopping off the long hair my mother had never ever cut at eight. By eleven hair color changed all the time and by fourteen I had had maybe five different sequential names. (A number rather larger now.)

Identity and I have, clearly, waged an old war. When I read Carlos Castaneda’s dubious and delightful Yaqui stories in junior high and high school, devouring them all repeatedly and dropping whole previous sets of friends to be besties with the publications geeks into Carlos—yep, sorry, I do that too, but at least nowadays I’m trying not to be quite so much of an asshole—his stuff about erasing identity again and again, like the dirt and sweat of each day, made so much sense to me. I feared my ego, wanted to lance it like a boil as often as possible, to which end I never save my published clips and don’t have most of my comics, whether originals or published versions. What’s the point—another thing in Castaneda’s mini-library of chaos magic that made sense to me even then was the imminence of death. It was true when I was thirteen and driving on Southern California freeways with my Alzheimer’s-addled grandfather and true earlier today when a migraine made me nauseated and I wondered whether this time it would be the genetically and environmentally vulnerable much-abused ticker.

Death is always imminent even if Death is extremely quiet and unobtrusive about it, too, of course; turns out that many apparent crazies show up in ERs all agitated and hallucinating  when actually they’re mentally normal individuals having their self-concept, cognitive abilities, and the whole bundle of qualities labeled “sanity” undermined colorfully by nothing more than one or more previously undetected tumors. And people get hit by cars or otherwise felled without warning all the time, as my grandfather (while I was living with him, age six) and my mother (while I was living with her, age eleven) exemplified. My, was I the auspicious child with whom to reside, or what?! With ego that poisonous, and death that near, it seemed like a splendid idea to stock up on identities: an old Jewish custom was to change one’s name to Chaim or Chaya when critically ill so Death might skip your checkmark on Its list.

Then, behind the personal, there’s the political. Or under, or encompassing, or whatever your concept may be of that contested relation. Anyway, politics and identity are of course a whole nother can o’ worms. I know the lefties, red diaper babies, and other kind and hopeful souls may be thinking that identity is a politically necessary concept.  I don’t, because it isn’t any particular identity—or even a human identity—which entitles beings to justice and peace! As long as injustice and suffering exist, it doesn’t matter upon whom they splat!  If identity is a useful tool, in some places, times and situations, to alleviate injustice and suffering, by all means use it. If identity is a fantasy, so are the little imaginary lines on maps, which have been known to cause difficulties from time to time…

I use the word “fantasy” or “artifact” because a shift in context, or in time, can change everything: in a painting or fabric or mosaic, the same color looks one way next to green, another next to gray, then changes a lot next to orange! If identity is no more or less real than that color painting or that fabric—it’s an artifact of situation, time, place, and as cynical law students are wont to say about legal rulings, “what the judge ate for breakfast.”

Tsk. I was meaning to write about how funny the book I was reading is, it’s Tanya Huff’s Smoke and Ashes and it’s super fun, but maybe tomorrow…

A young male’s harem! Older females’ infected brains! Is this, like, a late April Fools…with Whales?!

A nature show my sweet wife left on TV for white noise was addressing creodont-to-cetacean evolution, but once that had hooked my ADD brain in, it soon enough pissed me off with a description of a whale male joining a pod and fertilizing some female whales as “he forms a harem…the writhing bodies stimulate the young male.” And then, describing the pod structure of pilot whale life, no sooner does the plummy-toned O.W.M. narrator grudgingly admit they’re organized around experienced adult female leaders than he launches into speculation that the older females lead the pods to suicidally beach themselves because of ear and brain parasites. Oy.

Hey–look at lions. I did a teeny comic about them once in a 3D cartoon anthology, so trust me a minute here. What’s lion life really like? The girls choose what guys they keep around, which ones get to reproduce, which ones even get to eat, that’s what. “King of Beasts served by his harem” my luscious ass! Leo’s a big ol’ baby and Leonie and Leah do the real work! 

So what did this baleen orgy really look like? I psychically tuned into the female whales to find out. The young ladies, it turns out, were sayin’ to each other–all of this in far more expressive and nuanced Whalish of course, but I’ll go ahead and render it in my own native split-personality English–first one says, “Ladies dontchu even think about leavin’ me alone with the sperm donor fogoshsakes!” And then another goes, “Whatta you tawakin’, we only let ‘im come neeah the pod for a few houahs a yeahh, stahhp kvetching-g–we’ll awwl be theah just like awwlwayz!” And then they’re all rubbing and swooping around. “Ah swayah, is he evah gohna git duhhhnnn?!” asks the third rhetorically. Then the water fills with a cloudy liquid, the gals roll around in it, and then they’re out of there. They’re not no harem–they’re cetacean sistahs who are sharing a donor, hello!

All this is me bein’ pretty silly, perhaps. But the leader of my pod, if I had my druthers–and was a pilot whale–would be the brilliant thealogian*/scholar-witch Mary Daly. Mary has had to time travel, a lot, in both directions, to hook up with Matilda Joslyn Gage and the future-Amazons of Lost and Found Continent, and what she’s learned thereby is now available to all of us women and critters caught in the truly messed up world of the early 21st century in her most recent book Amazon Grace. She lays it out: animals, religion, the environment, runaway anti-Biotic technology…in her inimitably spirited, poetic language, she presents an uncompromising philosophy grounded in the ethic of loving life. Don’t just get this book–read it aloud in good company, and similarly, all its predecessor works: they’re available at Tell her I sent you! (*not a misspelling!)

Where minimalism fears to tread, unless you’re Tilda Swinton: a mascara primer, part I

From the cats’ eyes of the 1950s to the smoky eyes of just last season, sandwiching Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy and Joni, Madonna and Cyndi and Chrissie and Joan, Halle and Angelina, in between, fashion has never yet in my lifetime (and for some time before that personal milestone, smile) championed minimalism where the dark fringe of our eyes is concerned. Only Tilda Swinton is the exception, that lovely androgynous thing: to practice eyelash minimalism, thanks to her, is to follow her, and it’s simply futile. You’re Tilda or you’re not.

Like anything and everything else in fashion’s shimmering barometer of zeitgeistical fluctuations, this could be changing as I write, but it has been oddly consistent for fifty-some years. So for the next few weeks at least, perhaps months or a year, we’ll be emphasizing that penultimate vestige of approved body hair. [Or for even longer, should one live away from the coastlines and practice the wily art of protective coloration.]  I’m going to cut to the chase here; what’s the best way to help our eyelashes carry the burden, be the concentrated microcosm of all the information sent by healthy shiny rich shadowy fur? 

It’s essential to use a fine primer before applying mascara. While many of Shiseido’s products have inspired me to rapturous awe over the years (starting in my twenties, theirs was my first comprehensive skincare system), their mascara primer is not among the pantheon; it’s shockingly useless. Smashbox makes an adequate mascara primer, if used in conjunction with the balance of the system I’m breaking down here, but it’s to Sue Devitt’s that I always return. Devitt, justly revered for the Sari sheer lipcolor that is minimalism at its prettiest, makes the mascara primer product that would simply evaporate on contact when it hit Sephora shelves in the more amusing parts of Manhattan. [Remember, as with any product review here, please don’t hesitate to share with the class if you’ve discovered a splendid alternative.]

Primer is the first key, heat is the second. Even a so-so drugstore mascara will be more effective if you heat the tube under hot tap water until its very warm to the touch before applying. When you do the same with your Sue Devitt lash primer and your Diorshow black mascara, you’ll get an effect so gorgeous you may want to skip eyeliner. To be continued!

Perception and theory

Diana Vreeland’s pronouncements that “any set of features can support beauty” and that the only real elegance is of the mind (“the rest comes from it”) made simple sense to me as an artist. The self-portraits of my fellow art students, always seeming to focus on the lineaments of struggle and wear in their young faces; the absolute charisma of the women around me in the punk and lesbian communities of the late ’70s where of all moments conventional notions of beauty were demolished; and my childhood among Southern women who blazed with beauty even free of makeup, with brutally chopped hair, beaten and scarred, confirmed it with such naturalness. Of course my studies in various media of the faces of those who fascinated me was further evidence–what to debutante DV may have been calculated defense against her mother’s excoriation of young Diana’s “extreme ugliness” was an inherent truth.  

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