Ask Iris: WTF, Iris?

It has been two weeks to the day since I last regaled my beloved tens of loyal readers with my trademark wit and bile.

I hadn’t planned to take a break from writing, at least not one of this duration.  But several factors conspired against the Palace in what might be described as a “perfect storm” if we did not loathe terrible cliches (as well as terrible movies).  As background, we operate by one rule around this here Palace: “Post whatever you want, whenever you want.”  As you might imagine, this rule works out extremely well for the most part:  it provides total freedom as to time, length, tone and subject matter, and thus the process of writing is always enjoyable.  But the rule can sometimes fail rather spectacularly in one respect: what happens when I don’t want to?  The very rule itself becomes an existential threat to the blog.  Frankly, if it weren’t for excellent Palace contributor Don Ardell posting a few pieces during my absence, there would have been the blogging equivalent of dead air for an unconscionable two full weeks. (Thanks Don.)

It’s not like there was a shortage of topics to write about, either.  Take this story from WaPo:

Serpent-handling pastor profiled earlier
in Washington Post dies from rattlesnake bite

We could really just stop right there at the headline, and leave it at that.  But there was more:

Mack Wolford, a flamboyant Pentecostal pastor from West Virginia whose serpent-handling talents were profiled last November in The Washington Post Magazine, hoped the outdoor service he had planned for Sunday at an isolated state park would be a “homecoming like the old days,” full of folks speaking in tongues, handling snakes and having a “great time.” But it was not the sort of homecoming he foresaw.

Instead, Wolford, who turned 44 the previous day, was bitten by a rattlesnake he owned for years. He died late Sunday.

Mark Randall “Mack” Wolford was known all over Appalachia as a daring man of conviction. He believed that the Bible mandates that Christians handle serpents to test their faith in God — and that, if they are bitten, they trust in God alone to heal them.

He and other adherents cited Mark 16:17-18 as the reason for their practice: “And these signs will follow those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

The son of a serpent handler who himself died in 1983 after being bitten, Wolford was trying to keep the practice alive, both in West Virginia, where it is legal, and in neighboring states where it is not.
[emphasis added.]

You cannot make this stuff up.  The level of dumbassitude on display here is completely off the charts.  Nor is there any conceivable High Mockery that could possibly enhance the above description of events delivered deadpan.

Then there was the first sure sign of the impending Zombie Apocalypse:

Ronald Poppo, victim of Fla. ‘face-eating’ man Rudy Eugene,
is a 65-year-old homeless man, police say

Now there’s a headline you don’t see every day.  My favorite quote in this story comes courtesy of Sgt. Armando Aguilar, president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police: “He had his face eaten down to his goatee. The forehead was just bone. No nose, no mouth,” he said. “In my opinion, he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Gosh, I don’t know… you think?

To better elucidate my conundrum and hopefully provide for readers some insight into the nature of this problem, I took fifteen minutes out of my busy day to create this majestic piece of fine artwork:

“Iris Apoplectic”
Iris Vander Pluym
Oil on canvas.
30 ft. x 50 ft.
minimum bid: $10,000,000.00

Then there was the usual end-of-the-month flurry of cynical fundraising emails from Democrats and their assorted allies, all of which I deleted without reading.  Well, except for those from Alan Grayson, Eric Griego, Darcy Burner and Norman Solomon, four candidates among a dozen or so in congressional races who are actually worth supporting.  I did not send these fine folks any money, however.  This is because I gave away every available cent in the Palace treasury to Rob Zerban, the Wisconsin Democrat running against Paul Ryan, a.k.a. Satan.

Paul Ryan, a.k.a. Satan.

Mysterious Palace denizen
Iris Vander Pluym (grinning ear-to-ear, BTW) with longtime idol Joan Jett.

I recently met Rob Zerban at a fundraiser on the Upper West Side—where I also met Joan freaking Jett.  She is a big supporter of Zerban’s, and may in fact be the only person who detests Dick Cheney’s personal hero Paul Ryan as much as I do.  (I met the fabulous Ms. Jett many years ago at a music awards event in Philly, though I doubt she’d remember.)  She is passionate and politically astute, and also as nice to talk to as anyone could be.  Back in the bad ol’ days when I was working my way through college, I used to sing some of her hits in a cover band (I still remember the lyrics).  But I admire her even more for her seminal contributions to the riot grrrl movement, as well as her commitment to producing and supporting many other artists over the years.

Then there was travel to San Francisco and its environs, which in itself presented numerous barriers to blogging:  crappy hotel wifi; a stupid rule that precludes wifi on airplanes; a smart rule that precludes the use of laptop computers while driving; and the many enjoyable and engaging distractions of touring the Left Coast, such as Carmel by the Sea, the rocky Pacific coastline along 17 Mile Drive, Moss Beach Distillery, and the spectacular Monterey Bay Aquarium where the Palace made several new friends:

New Palace friend: awesome sea horse. I call him Leafy. Actually, all sea horses are awesome, not least because the males gestate the fertilized eggs and give birth.

A movie of sea horses mating.  I named these two Martin and Marge after martinis and margaritas, which FYI are both excellent accompaniments to raw oysters.  Marge and Martin danced elegantly with each other for a while—and then the female ejaculated her eggs into a pouch in the male’s body.
Me likee.

Jellyfish are beautiful, and absolutely mesmerizing to watch. I did not name these jellies, as there were too many of them and they simply refused to sit still. Also: I did not have all day, people.

Cutest. Jellies. EVAR.

This is a badass penguin I call York, because he seems like a New Yorker.

Finally — and let this serve as a dire warning to readers — there exists an unparalleled, chronically addictive timesuck, channeled via Netflix-on-demand, that goes by the name of Battlestar Galactica.  Let me just say that I am not a big fan of television series in general, and certainly not a fan of any other series recommended to me by this particular friend who swore up and down that despite his utterly dismal track record, I would nevertheless enjoy this show.  To give you some idea of my TV viewing habits, the only show I currently watch regularly (by which I mean on DVR, and usually a day or two after it runs) is Mad Men — and yet I have not bothered to watch either of the last two episodes.  I lost interest in True Blood after two seasons, and even though I adore Jeremy Irons, I could not get through two episodes of The Borgias.  And don’t even get me started on the sitcoms I would surely looooove, like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and How I Met Your Mother.  I would rather pour bleach in my eyes.  In fact, I felt compelled to do exactly that after every episode.  As far as I’m concerned, there always seems to be something better to do.  Like staring at jellyfish.  Or having sex.  Or blogging (until recently, anyway).  But I am now well into season three of this aforementioned Battlestar Galactica, and I am hopelessly, hopelessly hooked.

Not every episode is a winner, of course.  I am not particularly fond of the religious themes and related woo that have been driving more of the plot since season two; nor do I appreciate the glorification of violence, no matter how obviously appropriate it is to a plot that centers around a war.  But the writing is imaginative, the characters are multifaceted, and the acting is universally outstanding.  Set in a futuristic sci-fi universe full of natural hazards and man-made killing machines, the stories are quintessentially human ones—even the stories involving non-humans.  Shot over much of the course of the Iraq war, the show explores the subject of torture without either exploiting it for titillation or flinching from its implications.  Ongoing story lines center on politics, justice, class, democracy, crime, loyalty, race, gender, reproductive rights, betrayal, ethics, love and lust, all without skimping on the action and adventure.  There are lots of cliffhangers, but also satisfying resolutions to many story arcs. I cannot imagine watching it when the show originally ran, and having to wait a week or even months for the next episode; thanks to the beneficence of the Netflix gods, I perform the necessary rituals and spool up two, three or more shows in a row to watch at one sitting.  I was going to suggest that the show is “brain candy,” but now that I think about it, it’s more like “smart crack.”

You will note that I am not posting a link to Battlestar Galactica.  This is for your own safety and wellbeing: you can find it yourself if you really want to dive down this particular wormhole with me.  But I felt it prudent to give readers fair warning that I may not blog again until I get through every single episode.


(I think…)

So, just to recap briefly:

  • Serpent-handling clergy are dumbasses.
  • Zombies are coming to eat our faces.
  • Rob Zerban is awesome.
  • Joan Jett is super awesome.
  • Sea horses could definitely teach conservatives a thing or two about sex.
  • Jellyfish are spectacularly beautiful.
  • York the penguin is a badass.
  • Watching Battlestar Galactica is not recommended for those who actually have stuff to do any time in the near future.
  • I will be blogging regularly again.  That is, if and when I want to.
This entry was posted in Ask Iris, blogging by Iris Vander Pluym. Bookmark the permalink.

About Iris Vander Pluym

Iris Vander Pluym is an artist and activist in NYC (West Village), and an unapologetic, godless, feminist lefty. Raised to believe Nice Girls™ do not discuss politics, sex or religion, it turns out those are pretty much the only topics she ever wants to talk about.

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