Starting a Patreon

Posted: August 16, 2016 in Uncategorized

I’ve been wanting to start a patreon for a long time.
At the end of last year, I promised myself that this would be the year I did it. It’s been more than half a year and I still couldn’t get up the nerve to do it.

Asking people for help is hard. The more you need it, the harder it is. Asking people for money is harder, especially when that money is for art. I grew up in the arts but still find myself inundated with America’s puritanical bias against it. “Art is frivolous” “art is useless” “artists are stupid and lazy and entitled” never mind the fact that most of our social lives and identities revolve around the art we consume.
When we try to get to know someone we don’t ask who their accountant is. We don’t ask who built their house. We ask what music they listen to, what movies and tv shows they like, what books they read.
Every piece of american media that you like was created by someone that was called flighty, useless, entitled, lazy. Every piece of art that you like exists because someone, or a number of people, supported that artist before they got big (sometimes even after.)

Saying your art deserves money is hard. It’s hard enough to believe it, but to say it out loud? To risk other people disagreeing with you? It’s fucking terrifying. Artists are supposed to work for free because we don’t have the signifiers to prove we’re “real artists.” We’re supposed to work for nothing or next to nothing “because we love it.” But we don’t pay lawyers less when they enjoy their job. We don’t ask for a discount on our medical bills because our doctor seemed particularly fulfilled with their choice in life.
I could tell myself all these things. I could even believe them strongly, but the thought of asking people to give me money and support my art made me so scared that I felt nauseous and dizzy.

But one day, I asked myself “what if, instead of saying ‘I love my art so much, I’ll do it for free,’ I started telling myself ‘I love my art too much to devalue it,’ or ‘I love my art so much, it deserves my full time and attention.’” What if I said that? What if I championed my art and worked just as hard for it as I do for my friends and lovers? What if I loved it enough to face this fear and believe in my art like it was my friend?

So, hey everybody, I’d like you to meet my Art. It’s weird and funny and creepy and sexy. It’s femme and romantic and messy and bloody. It wants to love you and it hopes you love it, too. It has some projects in mind, and it would love your help.

Burlesque Beatdown: Two burlesque performers wage war against each other using their acts as ammunition, with WWF style monologues between sets. The final showdown will take whatever form the performers agree on; dueling striptease, choreographed fight scene, performing each other’s acts, anything goes. It’ll be like Celebrity Deathmatch but naked.

Selfie Theater: The Me1/Me2 comic you’ve all been begging me for. Plus illustrated versions of some of my best FB posts.

The Panic Room: Part naked literary salon, part devised theatre, The Panic Room combines burlesque, story telling and theatre to create a new experience for both performers and audiences. Performers of all stripes will come together for six weeks to critique and collaborate, creating a feature length performance based around a central theme. Performers will draw on their own experiences and obsessions to create stories, scenes, burlesque acts and audience interactions, which will then be critiqued, revised and woven together to create a stunning new theatrical performance.

Carried Away: a tumblr of humorous recaps of Sex and the City accompanied by hilarious gifs and interspersed with blog posts about the show. I have a surprising amount of thoughts about Sex and the City and my love/hate relationship with it.

The House of Usher:
An immersive, sight specific, performance in a historic manor house which uses The Fall of the House of Usher to explore the running themes and deep seated fears of Edgar Allan Poe’s work.

The Orgy Show: A series of large paintings based on photographs taken at an orgy. I want to finish the 12 paintings and display them along with a dance/burlesque/performance art show based on the paintings. I want to convey that the experience of this orgy, something usually thought to be lurid or shocking, was actually one of the most beautiful, compassionate, loving experiences of my life.

And there’s more. There’s always more.

Could I do these things without financial support? Yeah, maybe. If I don’t get backers, I’ll probably still do some of them. But not all of them. Not fast enough to keep up with all the ideas my brain churns out. Some of these ideas have been sitting around for years, waiting till I have the time and money to do them. And, unless something changes, I don’t see myself having any more time or money than I already have. I’m still going to make art, it’s just a question of which projects I can do, how well they can be executed, and how much I can share with you all. I want to give you all the art. I want it to be the best art I can do. I just need a little help along the way.

Maybe none of this is your thing. That’s fine! I still like you (assuming I did in the first place) but you probably don’t need to keep reading.

Maybe you’ve already met my art. Maybe (hopefully) you already love it. Maybe you really like the sound of these projects and are falling in love right now. Maybe you are saying “Yes! I want this! Give it to me now!”
I want to give it to you, my friend. The only thing stopping me is time and money, and that’s where Patreon comes in. Patreon is a crowd funding  system where, instead of funding a specific project, you fund the artist on a continuous basis. You can give just one dollar a month, you can give five dollars, you can give whatever amount you want per month. In return you get continuous art, continuous rewards, and a deeper connection to an artist you already love, and a connection to their other fans.

If you can’t, that’s totally fine. I’ll love you anyway. If you want to contribute sometimes but not every month, I have a blog post coming up for you. But if you can contribute every month, and you want to take this journey with me, I cannot wait to bring you along for the ride.

Click here to get started!
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Nick Cave says that a song isn’t finished until it has toured. The song he records in a studio isn’t finished, it’s just a jumping off point. It changes and evolves in performance until it feels right. I feel the same way about burlesque. It doesn’t matter how much time I spend working on the act, it’s still a work in progress until I’ve performed it enough to feel right.

I spent a LOT of time working on Deadpool; Reading the comics, practicing sword fighting, working on that fucking costume. I made this awesome costume, that came off in really cool ways. I had a soundtrack and a story line and a bunch of references. But when I put it up in front of a crowd, the reaction was a slightly confused “meh.”

It was disappointing, to say the least. I did the act a few more times, wasn’t happy with it, and put it away for a while. I knew the act didn’t work but I didn’t know why, so I didn’t know how to fix it. My mentor told me to get rid of the costume.

“It’s too complicated,” he said. “Too elaborate. You’re spending all your time focused on the costume and that’s not fun to watch.”

My mentor is usually right about things but I would stab myself before getting rid of this costume. He was right that it was too complicated, too messy, I was trying to do too many things. But the costume wasn’t the problem, the act was. The costume was the best part. The rest was a mess of sound effects and sword fights with imaginary people and an imaginary bomb and then I turned into a lady for no reason. I had a story in my head, but it wasn’t coming through. Worse than that, the act wasn’t fun. And Deadpool is  nothing if not fun.

So I threw out everything but the costume and went back to basics. I think the best nerdlesque acts can answer the questions Why is this character taking off their clothes? and How does this character take off their clothes? That’s your whole act right there. Why is Snape taking off his clothes? To seduce Harry Potter. BOOM. Great act. Why would Data take his clothes off? To understand burlesque. Half of Data’s storylines are ‘Data tries to understand ____’ so it was a perfect fit.
With Deadpool, I was trying way too hard. He wasn’t really taking his clothes off, he was taking off his limbs when they were wounded because he has these regenerative powers and then he turns into Lady Deadpool because, um… well…

Back to the beginning; Why is Deadpool taking off his clothes? Well, how much provocation does he really need? Zero much. He doesn’t need much reason to do anything, that’s one of the reasons he’s fun. Deadpool taking off his clothes just because he felt like it isn’t all that interesting. What if someone he wanted to kill was at a burlesque show? Bingo.
One of my favorite comedy tropes is “Oops, I’m suddenly on a stage and now I have to perform.” It was great when Bugs Bunny did it. It was great in Adventures in Babysitting. It was great on Scrubs, even though the set up is problematic.

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The cartoonyness of Deadpool made this the perfect trope for him.

Once I’d made this decision, it was just a question of *how* he would strip. Would Deadpool be classic? Stripper-y? Probably not. He would be goofy. He would break rules. He would jump off the stage. Deadpool is a peacock so there would have to be at least a few rhinestones but he’s also a cartoon, so not THAT many rhinestones. (I hate the idea that burlesque MUST have rhinestones. Joker would punch you if you tried to rhinestone his costumes. Mine would anyway. Jared Leto’s or Frank Miller’s or Grant Morrison’s would probably be into it.)
Deadpool would want to dance to something modern, hip, probably cheesy, at least a bit silly. I’d already been doing ridiculous dances in my own home to a mashup of Call Me Maybe and Head Like a Hole so it fit perfectly. As a final touch, I got the incredibly talented Dick Move to add his shockingly accurate Ryan Reynolds voiceover to make the story crystal clear. Because Deadpool would have a voiceover.

Finally the act WORKED! It didn’t just get better, people fucking LOVED it.

Mary Cyn as Deadpool

Look how happy those people are!

You’re not a sex worker

Posted: February 17, 2016 in Uncategorized

Years ago, my former boss went to a burlesque show. He ended up talking to the host of the show later that night. The host was an activist type, who sometimes gets a bit carried away with himself, and in their conversation he gave a very long monologue to my ex-boss about how important sex worker activism was to him, going so far as to say that being a burlesque host made him a sex worker. He paused, briefly, to ask my former boss what he did for a living.
“Well…” My former boss replied. “I was just arrested for pimping and my business is being torn apart by the police right now so…nothing at the moment.”
He wasn’t kidding. He was dead serious. I know because he was my boss and we’d both had our lives thrown into chaos that day.* I like to think that made the host reconsider calling himself a sex worker.

There’s been a trend, recently, of burlesque performers proudly proclaiming that they are sex workers because they do burlesque. I appreciate the support this gives to sex workers and I hope it works to lessen some of the stigma that’s still around sex work…..but it bugs me a little. While I’m definitely not about to say that burlesque isn’t work or isn’t sexy, I still hesitate to call it sex work.

For one thing, burlesque is rarely a performer’s sole income. Most performers have a dayjob, or multiple dayjobs, or a partner that supports them. Sometimes one of those dayjobs is sex work, but usually it isn’t. Stripping is a JOB and a very hard one at that. Taking off your clothes in public doesn’t make you a stripper. Spending six hours a day in platforms hustling dances and grinding up on strangers does. It is tough work and I have no end to the admiration I feel for the people who do it, which is why I don’t say I’m a stripper. I don’t have the bulletproof confidence and sales skills it would take to make it as a stripper.

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It takes fortitude to wear this for 8 hours.

There’s also a certain amount of emotional labor that’s present in sex work, that just doesn’t exist in burlesque. When I worked as a phone sex girl, one of the first things they told me as part of my training is that guys called us to pamper themselves. It’s not socially acceptable for most guys to go to a spa or whatever, so they treat themselves to an anonymous woman who will happily listen to and support whatever they want to say (I think many feminist papers could be written on this concept) And, trust me, it’s not just phone sex workers that fulfill this for dudes. If a sex worker has one on one interaction with customers, they’re going to deal with this guy sometimes.
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And sometimes that’s great and you have a really human connection with that guy and sometimes he becomes one of your best and most loved clients. But sometimes it’s really draining or, worse, incredibly creepy and you just have to keep listening and reassuring and hoping this dude isn’t a serial killer.

And through all of this, you have to stay sexy. For real. That’s your number one job. Stay sexy while that dude cries on you. Stay sexy while he talks about how much he hates his wife. Stay sexy while he talks about wanting to bang his stepdaughter and hope against hope that this is just a fantasy stepdaughter and not some real life girl who has to deal with this guy creeping on her. When I was a domme, one of my co-workers managed to stay sexy when her hair caught on fire. Sex work is fucking hard.

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We switched to electric candles after that.

Is the sole aim of your job the sexual gratification of someone else? If not, you’re not a sex worker. Does your job give you health insurance? If so, you’re not a sex worker. Do you have to touch or see a stranger’s erection on a regular basis? No? You’re not a sex worker. Have you ever taken a gig that made you sick to your stomach because you really needed the money? If not, you are probably not a sex worker. Do you ever factor in the likelihood of being raped, arrested, or murdered when deciding whether you should take a gig? If not, you’re not a sex worker.

Sex work is great. It helps a lot of people in a lot of ways, but it has its downsides. Many of those downsides would be mitigated by decriminalization, but that’s a different article. Right now, being a sex worker has certain inherent risks to it, and I get really uncomfortable when people try to take on the mantle without taking on the risk. There are similarities between being a war historian and a war correspondent but there’s a BIG difference between the two.

So please think about that, when supporting sex workers. You can support queer people, or trans people, or people of color without claiming to be one of them (I’m pretty sure most would prefer that you didn’t.) Please do the same for sex workers.

*Just to clarify, the house I worked for was actually a pro-domme house, no sex involved. I don’t call myself a full service sex worker for the same reasons I don’t call myself a stripper.

Paper Dress Princess

Posted: April 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

About a year ago I was at my day job and got a frantic text from a friend asking me to perform in her event that night. I didn’t have time to go home and get a costume, but I wanted to help out my friend and pick up an extra gig so I said yes. This is not the first time this has happened so I have a couple acts that I can put together with a cute pair of panties and a quick trip to Duane Reade. I’ve stripped out of street clothes a couple times but audiences respond better to something more costume-y so I like to make a dress out of paper. Usually I use wrapping paper but this was a gothy event so I thought that would be too peppy. I went with Newspaper instead. I picked a song, rehearsed in my head, and unleashed the performance later that night.

Sometimes it’s that easy. Not always. Not often. But sometimes. It probably helps if you have a degree and buttloads of experience in performance and design.

People seemed really impressed by what I’d thrown together in a dark club with some newspaper and packing tape. And so was I, actually. So when I decided to put together a portfolio of walkabout characters to pitch to event designers, I thought a newspaper dress would be a good addition. They’d be cool to have at a party, easy to transport, I could do this by myself or with a bunch of people, and I could even make them for guests as part of the entertainment at an event assuming they wanted to be in a dress they had to be cut out of. Which could be fun! I also recently met a professional origami folder (I love New York) so I’m going to see if he can teach me to fold more accessories like flowers or something. Also, since it’s paper, these dresses could be printed with literally anything; photo collages, company logos, magazine pages, book pages, wrapping paper, blueprints, maps.

Damn, I think I have some more photo shoots to do….

Anyway, I sketched some ideas, raided my wig and jewelry boxes, got the lovely Charles Stunning to model and the Talented Steward Noack to take photos, and Voila!

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Original Cyn was a wooden roller coaster of a show, held together with pure love and blind faith. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done and it may be the best thing I ever do. I miss it a lot. And I think I’m not the only one.

In the years since it shut down a lot of people have asked me if/when it’s coming back. I’ve always meant to bring it back in some way but I’ve never been sure how. How big a venue will we need? How can we pay everyone who works on the show what they’re worth? How can we recapture the magic of the original? How can we make it better? How can we get everyone that drunk again?

I don’t yet know how to answer those questions, but I want to gauge interest so we can start to answer those questions. So I have an actual, accurate, number, I’m using this mailing list. So if you want to see OC again, sign up here. I won’t use your email for anything else, just to tell you when and where the show will be coming back.

If/when the show comes back, it’ll definitely be sporadic and it’ll probably be underground so this mailing list will be the only way to know when and where a show is happening. I’ll repeat, for those skimming, THIS IS THE ONLY WAY YOU WILL DEFINITELY KNOW WHEN/WHERE THE SHOW IS HAPPENING.

So, for reals, sign up. Oh, and feel free to pass this link around. The more people, the bigger the party.

 

EDIT: I don’t know why, but the sign up sheet HTML just won’t fucking work on this blog so please sign up here

I’m a very prudish sex worker. I’ve been in videos that technically count as porn but I’ll only be in them if I can keep my underwear on. Preferably a bra, too. And nothing traditionally considered sexual contact happens to me. Many people would say that disqualifies me from porn completely. If you’re one of those people, prepare to have your world expanded.

This is not porn…. OR IS IT?!?!?

There are a ton of fetishists out there whose fetish doesn’t require nudity or sexual contact (as it’s traditionally defined) at all. They’re perfectly happy to see a fully clothed girl drown in quick sand, or eat food slowly, or pretend to be a giant. And I am perfectly happy to accommodate those people! For me, the weird jobs are the fun jobs and I’m happy to find ones that fit with my comfort level. Getting jackhammered on camera for several hours pays a hell of a lot better and plenty of people like doing it, but it’s not something I think I’d enjoy and, honestly, I think I would tire of it quickly. Not so with weird fetish porn! There’s always something new; different things to do, new fetishes to understand, strange and fascinating things to learn about the human race. If possible, I like to research and understand the fetishes I’m playing to. Anyone can pretend to be a giant, but I like to figure out how to be the sexiest giant I can be.

This post is about Chloroform Porn!

It's just as fun as it looks.

It’s just as fun as it looks.

I originally assumed that it was a fetish where people where knocked out with chloroform and then molested but, no, this was just people getting knocked out with chloroform over and over. I lucked out and ended up working with my friend and fellow burlesque performer Apathy Angel. There wasn’t much of plot exactly, it was more like an improv game; we knew our relationship (lovers) and our objective (knocking the other one out with chloroform.)

It was not hard to find a motivation.

It was not hard to find a motivation.

There were also different types of knock outs. Our director explained that, when a rag was used, we should struggle and gradually slow down till we “passed out.” This is pretty standard in movies, so it was easy to replicate. It was also pretty easy to make it sexy. Since all we were doing was knocking each other out, it was pretty clear that the struggle and the fainting was the point so I knew to draw it out, make it as sexy as possible. But there was also the other kind of knock out, which was where you got sprayed in the face directly. The director told us that this was different, more of a shock. You take a couple of quick, shocked, breaths, and pass out instantly. I gave it a shot and the director was shocked by how well I did it. Thanks NYU! I knew that acting degree would come in handy some day!

The shoot culminated with me and Apathy wrestling each other in our underwear, each holding a rag. I don’t remember who won the final knockout but I remember it was a hell of a lot of fun. I really wish I had seen the video clip or gotten photos because, chloroform or not, I’m pretty sure Apathy and I wrestling was hot. You’ll have to make do with this photo of me and Apathy kissing in my Kaylee and Simon act from the firefly show we did a few years ago.

Poor you.

Poor you.

That Couple 1

Two of my friends at Adam Alexsander Presents were planning an afterparty, the theme of which was  that the party was already over. Guests would show up, and the room would already be trashed; drugs on the tables, confetti on the floor, and those few drunk assholes that are always there at the end of a party.

I’m proud to say that I was one of those assholes

The performers were hired to be the drunk/drugged out conspiracy theorist, the teenager who managed to sneak in, the creep that’s hitting on the teenager, the passed out drunk girl, and the couple that keeps making out and fighting and making out again. I saw the casting call an immediately called my boyfriend to see if he’d be THAT Couple with me. He’s not really a performer but he likes performing and will usually go along with whatever crazy bullshit I pull him into. Also, he likes getting paid as much as the next person.

We didn’t so much have a script, rather description of our general tone (Fight! Make out! Pretend to fuck in the bathroom!) and the knowledge that when the signal was given we’d throw cake at each other, then eat it off each other, and then retire to a hotel room to shower off. So I pulled on my most washable party dress and we showed up.

This was easily one of the funnest jobs in my life. I love acting and don’t get a chance to do it very often. I’m an asshole even less often. I try not to bother people. Unless actively performing, I try not to bring attention to myself. But that night I had cart blanche to do whatever the fuck I wanted, as long as it was in character and over the top. And over the top we went. We screamed at each other. We made out like crazed weasels. I threw not one, but TWO drinks in my boyfriend’s face. The third time I tried to throw a drink at him, he grabbed my hand, so I just spit my drink in his face. It was a magical evening. Some people were in on the joke but I think plenty of people legitimately thought we were just drunk assholes. And a few guys hit on me.

Someone even tried to break up our final fight but he got out of the way pretty damn fast when I grabbed a fistful of cake.

That Couple 2

Even better, this was an afterparty for the opening of a huge art retrospective with super important art people. I wasn’t wearing my glasses and couldn’t see anyone so I *may* have thrown cake at Chuck Close or Jack Nicholson.

But what I’m most happy about is that the atmosphere characters really made the party. Having people acting spectacularly drunk actually encouraged everyone to loosen up and drink more (It’s not like they were going to embarrass themselves. Not while *we* were around.) We managed to convince people that they were drunker than they were, that it was later than it was, and made the night a lot more fun for everyone.

That Couple 3

When one tries to make a living as an artist, one’s potential for weird-ass jobs skyrockets. You need work that has flexible hours, open minded employers and will pay a good amount for a short, concentrated, burst of work. And, it turns out, they don’t call them odd jobs for nothing. Also, as a writer, I will often take the opportunity to do something strange or stupid or possibly dangerous just for the material. But to be quite honest, I don’t usually search these jobs out. More often than not, they find me. Case in point, my first gig.

I asked my friends on Facebook about their first first jobs and they mostly seemed to be pretty standard: yard work, lemonade stands, food service, babysitting. These jobs were largely unavailable to me. I grew up in a very rich area where they could afford to pay actual money for these things. All yard work was done by Latino immigrants. Most children had full time au pairs. I don’t know how old our paperboy was but I know he made deliveries from a car. (ironically, one of my childhood friends said that his first job was as his mom’s book keeper at age 10. Marin was weird, is what I’m saying.)

Technically my first gigs were ages 10-12 when my dad paid me and my best friend to dress up as elves and advertise his portrait studio’s Photo With Santa day. That was kind of odd, but I don’t really count it as my first gig because I got it from my dad and the salary was downright exploitative. I don’t remember how much they paid me the first time someone I was not related to hired me to do something, but I do remember that the evening was strange enough for it not to matter.

Have you heard of the Antenna theatre company? Probably not, so I’ll explain as best I can. They create installations that the audience wanders through, while listening to the performance (a sort of theatrical sound track/soundscape/voice over) on headphones. Sometimes there are actors and when there are they wear masks like, oh, say, this Amnesia_1

Now, there was an event, I don’t remember exactly what it was but I’m pretty sure it had nothing to do with the antenna theatre company. I remember it being kind of corporate and there being a powerpoint presentation during dinner. Since it was the mid nineties in the bay area, it may have been some kind of internet start up, I don’t know. What I *do* know is that it started with a networking happy hour. And to facilitate this networking they had an ice breaker game where people would have a name tag on their back, with the name of a celebrity, and other people would give them clues about who that celebrity was so they could guess who it was, thus starting up a conversation. It’s not a bad idea but you still have to talk people into playing the game. You have to explain what the game is and get them to consent to having a name tag put on their back. And for this task the event planners wanted teenagers in Antenna theatre masks. Let me repeat, teenagers. In giant weird masks. Talking people in business suits into a game where something is written on their backs. I don’t have photos so please content yourself with this poorly photoshopped artist’s rendering.

I don't think this even really captures just how strange the night was.

I don’t think this even really captures just how strange the night was.

I have no idea why they wanted teenagers. Maybe to cut costs. Maybe to fully set us apart from the crowd, lest people think the mask was some sort of neo-lampshade-on-the-head version of cutting loose. I don’t know. But I do know this: you can’t talk in those masks, you can’t see in those masks, and people don’t want a name tag on the back of their suit jacket. They just don’t.

Also, someone hit on me.

While I was wearing the mask.

It’s a snow day here on the east coast and the dead of winter in the whole northern hemisphere. This is the perfect time to hole up and create whatever solitary art floats your boat. But first you need provisions. You don’t want to be that asshole who makes a delivery guy trek through the snow and who has cash for that anyway? Winter is also a great time for cooking because it heats up the house and you were just going to stay in anyway.

I am by no means and expert in healthy eating, but I’m pretty sure it has something to do with eating plants. So you should start by going to the grocery store and buying all the plants that look appetizing to you. Hell, buy some that don’t look appetizing; I hate spinach but I don’t notice it when it’s cut up and thrown into a soup. I think broccoli is disgusting but I love broccoli cheddar soup. I think most vegetables can be made delicious if you add enough cheddar and butter to them. (like I said, not great at healthy eating.) What’s great about soup is that you can put pretty much anything into it and all the flavors get blended together and you can fix nearly every flavor problem with enough garlic, seasoned salt, or cheddar (assuming you are into savory food, which I really am.) Unless, of course, the problem is too much salt. We’ll talk about how to fix that later.
When buying supplies, keep in mind what you want the foremost flavor to be and what flavors are going to go with it. Beets and peppers would probably not be good together but tomatoes and peppers would be delicious. Some veggie flavors are more dominant than others so keep that in mind. Other veggies don’t have terribly strong flavors but still have a ton of nutritional value so throw those in to extend the soup and make it more healthy. A cooking show once told me that the more colors you have in a meal, the more healthy it probably is. You can also use canned frozen veggies but their flavors are often dulled and sometimes made downright gross by the canning/freezing process. Still, you’ve got to work with what you’ve got access to.
Also, feel free to add whatever meat you like as well, assuming it’ll work with the flavors you’re going for. One of the great things about soup is you can use the cheaper, less appetizing, bits of meat because you’re boiling them and can strain out any bones or whatever. But you’re also free to use whatever yummy kinds of meat you like, too.

You’re also going to want some stock (veggie, chicken, beef, whatever) or at least some bullion cubes. If you want to be super thrifty, you can make your own stock by saving the carcases of whatever animals you eat and/or the leftover bits of whatever veggies you cut up (i.e. carrot ends, onion tops, etc.) and simmering them for a period of time that closely resembles forever, until the water tastes like whatever you’ve been boiling in it. Run it through a strainer and voila, you’ve got stock for free. When boiling animal bits, be aware that bone has its own particular flavor and the more meat that’s in the carcass, the more the stock will taste like meat than bone, which is generally what you want. BUT bone flavor is actually pretty good, too, so don’t discount it. And this is a great thing to do with BBQ leftovers or when you’re lazy and just get a roasted chicken at the grocery store. I don’t know if this would work on something like KFC I kind of think it wouldn’t, given how little meat, fat or skin is left on the chicken once its been eaten, but I don’t know for sure.
It occurs to me that some people might be grossed out by this talk of bones and fat and carcasses but if it does, you may want to re-examine your decision to eat meat. Just sayin.

The soups I like are thick and creamy, so that’s what we’re focusing on. If you’re like me and prefer those kinds of soups, you’ll want a thickening agent like milk, cream, cheese, sour cream, the vegan equivalents of same, flour, potatoes (or probably any root vegetable,) or even blended up cashews or chickpeas. I am not as familiar with the non dairy options so you might want to consult an actual recipe for advice on this. I did try blended up cashews once and it was delicious but I think you might need an actual food processor rather than just a regular blender. I think most of these principals work for non creamy soups, too. Just skip the mashing/blending/adding dairy part. You can also add quinoa, rice, pastini, probably other grains as well, either as a thickener or just a feature of the soup.

I probably should have posted this yesterday, before it snowed, but I was too busy cooking. Luckily, if you’re at home and don’t feel like going outside, soup can be made out of nearly anything. Poke around your refrigerator, freezer and canned foods, odds are good you’ve got some soup makings. When I was a kid, one of my favorite stories was “Stone Soup” where a stranger comes into someone’s house and, in return for being allowed to stay the night, they offer to make soup for the home owner who has no food. The stranger insists that all they need is a pot of boiling water and a stone. As they boil the stone and sip the water the stranger keeps saying “Oh, this would be perfect, if only it had some ____” and the home owner says “Oh, well, I think I have a little ____” and they end up with a delicious soup. This is a great metaphor about creativity and resourcefulness overcoming dire circumstances, but it’s also a pretty legit recipe for soup (stone not necessary.)

Chop everything up and saute it in some oil and garlic and whatever herbs and spices you wish on a mid to low heat. Start with the denser and more strongly flavored veggies. This is a really good article about aromatics, the flavors on which you base the rest of your dish. You can also saute whatever meat you want to add with the veggies, or you can save them and add them (fully cooked) at the end if you want chunks of meat in the soup. When the veggies seem translucent, throw them in a pot with your stock or some water with bullion cubes and bring to a boil. How much stock/water you add is hard to say because it changes, depending on how much stuff you’ve thrown into this soup. Make sure you have enough to cover everything and let it float freely but not so much that it looks like it’s mostly liquid. If you have any root vegetables, this is when you want to add them. Same for any grain based thickener. Let it boil for a few minutes then bring the heat way down to a simmer. A simmer is when just a few bubbles come up to the surface every couple seconds. You probably want to let it simmer for at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.While it’s simmering, you can continue to add whatever flavors you want be they spices, sauces, juices, booze. Seriously, throw in whatever you think will taste good. I mean, probably not pizza, but use your best judgement. If you *really* want to use pizza you might be able to use it like a crouton in french onion soup, but that’s a bit beyond my knowledge.
You can also use this time to clean whatever you’ve already dirtied. If you are at all like me, cooking creates a GIANT mess.

When your soup starts to look, well, like soup and/or your root vegetables look like they’ve softened to the point where you can easily poke a fork into them, taste the soup. Don’t get worried if it tastes bland.

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It’s not going to be a boring soup, that’s just the base, you have to add stuff to it.

If it’s SUPER bland, you might just need to let it simmer a little more. If it’s been simmering for a while and it’s still kind of bland, move on to the thickening process, you can probably still save it! If it’s got some good flavor going on and you just want a soup of the tasty-broth-with-stuff-floating-in-it variety, congratulations, you’re done! If you want a thick, creamy, soup you’ve got a little bit of a ways to go. At this point I like to throw the whole thing in a blender and see how it comes out. If you don’t have a blender, simmer until everything is soft enough to mash up, then mash away. Once it’s got a good consistency, check the flavor again. Still not great? Turn off the heat and try adding some dairy/dairy substitute and continue adding whatever herbs/spices/whatevers you think would taste good. Seriously. I’ve added, beer, whiskey, coffee, lemon juice, orange juice, hot wing sauce, throw in whatever you think will work. A good trick to guessing what will be good is to taste the soup and then smell whatever you’re thinking of adding. Just add a little at a time. That should give you a decent idea of what it’ll taste like.

Another good thing to keep in mind is that salt, sugar and sour balance each other out. So if your dish is too salty, try adding a little something sweet and something sour. Too sweet? Add salty and sour. Too sour? You get the idea. Spicy is a little harder to counteract but it’s usually taken down a bit by dairy or beer. I don’t know why. I learned that from an episode of home improvement. Seasoning a soup is much like embellishing a crazy outfit, just keep adding more until it works. If you do end up with something that’s just too damn flavorful, try adding water and/or more bland thickening agents, like potatoes.

Odds are good that this will yield you a ton of soup so freeze some of it for later or just invite a bunch of people over.

Enjoy!
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This blog could often be called “Life lessons from Joss Whedon.”Image

I’m not gonna lie to you, readers, this has been an awful year. It’s been an awful year for everyone so I won’t recite the litany of my sorrows but most of the past 8 months has just been a struggle to go through the basic motions of eating, working, keeping a roof over my head. In the world of burlesque I took on way too many things and I burned out hard. To the point where I spent a lot of time thinking about giving up. Giving up plans included everything from moving back in with my parents, moving to the middle of nowhere and trying to be a normal person, selling all my possessions and drinking myself to death in New Orleans, or just straight up dying. I’m not saying that as a cry for help cry for help or anything, it’s just illustrative of how bad this year has been.

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Things are getting better, thank God. The major source of my stress is no longer a part of my life. My crappy day job just became a job I can do from home (or anywhere else!) which will allow me to pick up more work that I like, do more art, and intern for a career that I actually want. An extraordinarily generous friend is paying for me to fly across the country and take a vacation. And I have only one more show to do before I can take a two month break from producing!

I’ve been dreaming about doing this show for over a year. I have put a fuckton of work into it but when the time came for the big advertising push I was so burned out that I just couldn’t do it. I don’t know how to advertise something I’m not excited about and I couldn’t be excited about anything.

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So then my super amazing co-producer, Sarah Topps, reminded me that the show was coming up HELLA fast and I had a panic attack, which is kind of *like* being excited about something, but still not helpful because you’re paralyzed with fear. Luckily, Sarah is, as previously mentioned, a really spectacular co-producer. She remained calm. She encouraged me. To reference the title of this post, she has carried me a lot this year.

She said “Dude, we got this. I can run this show no problem and we have an amazing cast. All we’ve got to do is get some butts in the seats and the show will be fucking awesome.” And she was right. We already have an awesome show. We just need people to see it.

And it was those people that carried me, too. This talented, smart, beautiful cast and crew, the brilliant photographer and graphic designer that made our promo materials, this source material (thank you Joss!) these people I love and respect and trust to help me when I need it. I’ve been crawling for a while and just the thought of these people has carried me back to excitement and joy and doing everything I damn well can to get this show a great audience.

Because we deserve it.

Wanna see an awesome show? Come to the Bell House this Saturday.

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*hilarious drawings from the amazing blog Hyperbole and a Half. Read it! Love it! Buy the book!