Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Using Art to Stop the Crackdown on LGBTQ+ Rights. An Interview with Georgian Artist, Eteri Chkadua

A dear longtime friend of mine, Eteri Chkadua sent me the news last week about how her home country Georgia is moving forward with bills that outlaw Pride events and Trans people. This should be a clarion call for everyone in the United States considering the Republican Christian Nationalist agenda and our compromised Supreme Court working with The Heritage Foundation. Read Project 2025 while you're at it. Then I read How Georgia is on the Front Line of the Struggle between Russia and the West in The Guardian and the billionaire hiding behind Georgia's ruling party.  

Eteri, a renowned Georgian artist was gracious to accept my plea for an interview. She's been a vocal opponent of the crackdown on LQBTQ+ rights and a champion of human rights for decades. "In 2015 in collaboration with Identoba and Europe House to produce the exhibit Anonymous, 'Story of an Anonymous Gay' presented the invisible aspects of the lives of the LGBTQ+ community by sharing their stories. The exhibition brought up the issues of discrimination, invisibility, and the high levels of homophobia." After the exhibit, she had opportunities to defend the LGBTQ+ community and confront the views of straight people and priests on Georgian television and radio shows. 

And she is back to defend human rights, once again!

1. What came to mind when you learned of the recent events in the parliament signing bills that would outlaw LQBTQ+ identity? Can you give us a brief history of when this began?

It was not a big surprise to me as I have been very disappointed with the current government ruled by the Georgian Dream Party since its arrival in 2012. The government has been established by the Made in Russia Georgian oligarch who is kissing the a#@ of the psychopath monster Putin by bringing these degenerative laws to Georgia. In the 1970s mostly well-known in the West and born in Georgia, the great filmmaker, Sergei Parajanov (The Color of Pomegranates, among other films) was arrested for five years in Kyiv, Ukraine for homosexuality. I had friends in the Academy of Arts in the 1980s who'd never admit they were gay because they were too scared of being brutally beaten by their macho neighbors and countrymen.  

2. Who is currently in parliament and how did they become powerful?

A Georgian oligarch has put in parliament his own a#@-kissers who'd do anything he demands for money, they are mediocre people, treacherous to the Georgian people and the country's future. It's embarrassing to have such people governing my native country and elections are faked, of course.

3. What does the ruling party consider LGBTQ propaganda?

During the USSR it was believed that Europe and the West were Gay-if-ing men, otherwise, no one would be gay in Georgia or the USSR. So, the Kremlin and its Georgian a#@-kissing government just continued the Soviet propaganda. 

4. What was the Rose Revolution in 2003? Were you in Georgia at that time?

Georgia enjoyed progress in human and LQBTQ rights following the Rose Revolution in 2003. The demonstrators, led by Michael Saakashvili stormed the parliament with roses in their hands, which resulted in the resignation of Eduard Shevardnadze, the president at that time. This event played a strong role as a majority of Georgian citizens supported a pro-western turn and integration into the European Union. The same year Mr. Saakashvili became president. Under his rule, the country was pulled out of the swamp, and anarchy ceased with the deconstruction of the Soviet Union. I was not living in Georgia at that time. 

By the way, Mr. Saakashvili is in jail, imprisoned by the current government for no particular reason aside from being afraid his party will win elections.  

5. Who does the Georgian government consider foreign agents?

The introduction of anti-LGBTQ legislation followed the Georgian deputy's passage of a Russian-inspired law against Western NGOs, which is aimed at expelling human rights and other groups that help older people and the education of children living in rural regions. The law is supported by the Orthodox Church by using the "Protection of Family Values and Minors" which is copied from Russia's anti-LGBTQ propaganda law passed last year. The bill is scheduled for a second and third reading in the fall. 

6.  There's a history of violent mobs aimed at shutting down Pride marches in Tbilisi, can you speak to that? How did the general public react?

The first time on May 17th, 2013 when very few activists walked peacefully in Tbilisi to defend LGBTQ rights, priests came out of churches and started beating them up with chairs and crosses. The police were not prepared to defend the demonstrators on this matter and the patriarch Ilia II called on the authorities to ban the LGBTQ rights event. Since then, it has continued discrimination of rights and gay pride events. 

7. Do you feel most people in Georgia are allied with the LGBTQ community? Or are they sliding into the far-right influence?

I couldn't tell what percentage of the population, but like everywhere, educated Georgians are for sure siding with the rights of LGBTQ. They understand that the only way to be a part of Europe is to protect the rights of every human being and their sexual freedom. However, some of the population is clinging to its ancient traditions, to me, it's proof of a lack of education. Georgia's version of Putin's "LGBTQ propaganda" seems designed not only to roll back progress on LGBTQ+ rights but to kill any hope of Georgia entering the European Union which has strict requirements for upholding civil liberties and personal freedoms. 

8. How do you see yourself getting involved when you return to Georgia? I know you're ready to fight for human rights. What do you suggest people here in the United States do to help Georgia and keep the far-right extremists from taking over? History has shown that when religious extremists take over (fascism) we all lose our human rights, no matter who we are. 

I am an artist, so I often use my arts visual language as my weapon to influence people's minds. For years I've been an LGBTQ rights activist. When I arrived in Georgia I started making simple but sharp points in my radio interviews. My aim was to challenge the basic understanding of uneducated people. I spoke primitively: Why are Georgians so afraid of gays? It's not a virus, it won't jump on to you or your children and will not turn you or them gay. In my talks, I associated the facts of hardcore drug use and alcohol which up to now has taken the lives of so many young Georgians, a reason for their compulsive addictions, the possibility of being gay and unable to come out of the closet, using vast amounts of drugs and alcohol to block their natural sexual desires they were prohibited to admitting. 

I was approached by the LGBTQ organization (supported by European NGOs and invited to their hidden office. During the meeting, I offered to stage an exhibition to open up a conversation about their discrimination and rights. I asked them to write to me about what happened the first time they shared that they were gay. I printed these heartbreaking stories in large letters on canvas and graphic designs in the background, making them look more like a piece of art, and hung them as paintings on the walls of the Europa House space located in the center of the Tbilisi capital. 

As I imagined, these firsthand, straightforward narrations, used without the author's names (for their safety) had a huge effect on the viewers. They thought they were there to see an exhibition of my paintings, for which I am well-known, and they were unexpectantly stuck reading those texts, unable to avoid the large letters and the stories they never wanted to hear. The exhibition was reviewed on TV and radio, where I addressed and ridiculed the narrow-mindedness of priests and other citizens, so that I may bring a dialogue to defend the privacy and sexual freedom of any individual. 

I always use the United States as an example of democracy and free speech, which will continue no matter what far-right extremists preach. The current US government is on the side of the Georgian people who are demonstrating non-stop in opposition to the Georgian government's installment of the so-called Russian Laws. Education is the main power for the development of human minds. As much as I understand some people's need for religion. I wish there was as much attention dedicated in the education systems to the fact that religions were invented by men many centuries ago, and at a time when there were no condoms or technologies for abortion available and I believe religions were useful and necessary for people to unite around common values. But religions are just too ancient to be useful in the modern day. I prefer to remind people about the atrocities, cruelties, and wars resulting between different religious believers just because of their choices in choosing different Gods--who are always depicted as men with long beards--because there were no razors to shave when they were invented.

9. Yes, to all of that yes. Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Peace is in danger these days and if those long-bearded gods want to prove that I am wrong and they exist, let them stop the wars, religious fanatics, and far-right extremists everywhere in the world. 

Thank you Eteri for participating in this important conversation we should all be having. Your courage and creative ingenuity are inspiring. The world must stand together to protect our brothers and sisters and stop the spread of war and discrimination.  

Author and artist Eteri Chkadua side-hugging

Photo: Eteri and me at an event in 2023

We thank our Ukrainian friends for holding the line with the dictator. There's no art in a fascist state and no environmental protections, it's the ravage of our resources and human family until the last ember disintegrates. 

Don't forget to check and make sure you're registered to VOTE! 

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Visions of Death: The Music Department Murders ebook is LIVE!

My Historical Supernatural Suspense is Available as of TODAY!  

This story started as serialized fiction (experiment) on Kindle Vella, and after several friends had trouble reading the chapters online using tokens and wanted a book they could take along on their travels, I had to deliver! Both an ebook and a paperback are available. 

Just click on the photo to take you to the page. 

Summer 1935 Ruby St. Claire is a rising star of the Weston Music School Department with her swinging quartet. Next stop, the Roseland Ballroom Competition. After taking a break from helping the police find murder suspects with her extra sensory vision, the images of death have returned. Girls from school are disappearing. Ruby has to act fast and find their killer even when all the signs point to her.

Friday, June 21, 2024

Smashwords Summer Sale Through July!

 Hello, Readers!

I’m excited to announce that my ebook, The Unmoving Sky, will be FREE as part of a promotion on Smashwords for July as part of their Annual Summer/Winter Sale! This is a chance to get my book and books from many other great authors at a discount so you can get right to reading.
You will find the promo here starting on July 1, so save the link:
Feel free to share this promo with friends and family. And let the avid readers in your life know all about it! 
Thank you for your help and support!
Happy reading!

Friday, May 24, 2024

Summer is Here!

Daisies in front of a lake

Summertime ... summertime... 

A time for cleaning up the neglected lakehouse and the weeded-over yard and tending to the spring plantings--fingers crossed a few sprouted up. And it's time to enjoy my Mother's Day gift, a new paddleboard. Yay! 
A little work, a little time in the sun, being active outdoors, writing under a tree.
It's Memorial Day weekend-- a toast to our soldiers! My father and grandfather were in the US Air Force. RIP to both of them. And it's my second son's birthday this weekend.

Have fun and be safe, my friends!  
The beaches in NYC open on the 25th! 

dog on a dock at the lake


Friday, May 10, 2024

Everyone Wants to Be Beautiful.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if everyone wanted to be kind?

Kindness is beauty, a robust joy, an infectious charm. I've been reminded recently that we are spiritual beings experiencing this human form made of flesh in all its glorious imperfections. In all its miraculous intelligence. 

I don't want kindness and consideration to go out of fashion for the instant gratification some seek for validation in artificial sources. If we could be a little kinder, more thoughtful, and empathetic, maybe the world would too. What we share is contagious. 

Being polite is elegance and it doesn't cost a dime.  

Let's make manners sexy again! 

Friday, April 19, 2024

Flash Fiction Friday! With a Ghostly SFF

cave in an alin world

Image by MATJAZ SLANIC via canva.com

The Promise 

The ship’s captain was gone. It was Captain Marrow now. Macy was no longer head of the kitchen staff. With her hand on the zoom finder, she watched her creation, Matadon, scrape along the edge of the rock. Its hydrogen center could ignite in an instant. The infrared screen showed the five-kilometer valley filling with layers of methane; the ship docked too close. Planet Xo53’s spectral rings of turquoise and cobalt wrapped an impenetrable field that had barricaded the ship. But she’d been promised a passage through. She’d seen Earth. It was the dream’s message. 
Matadon had to survive long enough to retrieve the quartz inside the cave and return to the ship before the first star set. The quartz guaranteed a lift out of here. It was a race against the methane seeping across the surface, a race they might not win.

A luminescent orb passed Matadon and returned to the ship. Her ship. Queen of the castle. The luciferin orbs were a precaution, proving there was still oxygen inside the cave. She caught her reflection, the slip of a human, breathing recycled air since her team’s journey began a decade ago. Unable to sleep, the hours and days had blurred. Eleven crew members were gone.

 The dreams had started before that, and ever since traveling through this system, she’d been able to dream awake. It wasn’t only dreams that came to her and kept her company. Ideas materialized: maps, blueprints for creating the reconnaissance orbs, and Matadon, what she named the fuel wrapped in silica. Just like cooking, the silica fibers she’d ripped from the barren galley, implicitly following the instructions, soldered with cobalt and nickel, an amorphous shape took form. Standing over twelve feet tall, once animated, Matadon could take commands. Hydrogen shifted through its sinuous reeds, erecting the branch of a neck she’d circled in lenses so that nothing snuck up on her. Having Matadon around kept her from giving up.

Her curiosity and the awake dreams held her hypnotized, punching code, traveling the direction presented, which was here. The promise. Having run out of supplies days ago, an echo drifting by had boarded and tried to kill her. She and Matadon captured the distortion into a magnetic cylinder before it settled into the carbon walls. Without a protective seal to cover the ship, the unseen world often passed through and tried to stick around. Or take crew members one by one.

Matadon stopped. Captain Marrow pushed up to the screen. “What’s happening down there?” All she could see were crystalized rocks. She dialed closer. Matadon lifted an appendage, a positive sign confirming quartz inside the fissure. Another dream that had proven accurate. Enough to jump-start the ship and return home, she hoped.

Light streaked across the screen. Matadon smashed against the rock and disappeared into the fissure. She slammed her hand on the console, eyes tracking back and forth. Now, she had to go down there. Storming out of the control room, she marched down the narrow passage and into the antechamber, a dozen bio-orbs circling, and stepped into the circle. The suit rose and sealed around her body. She picked up the Torc, a spike with a two-meter hook at one end, and strode to the platform, an orb at each shoulder, descended to the first level, and passed through the light frequency that would camouflage her from the spooks, a frequency that should last as long as it took to bring Matadon back.

The elevator grated to a stop and Captain Marrow departed. She crossed the metal platform scattering the phantasms proliferating weightlessness, capped the headgear, and extended the bridge. Ninty meters below, cobalt waves circled. She crossed the bridge, legs apart, distancing the rivets careful not to create friction, and met the rock’s edge. Crouching over, she peered inside. No sign of Matadon. Not even a blip on her palm tracker. She turned to the orbs. “You’re with me.” She still had to gather enough quartz to take her home.

 As she entered the cave, a magnetic field tugged at her suit dragging her inside. Her eyes, obscured by the gray shield, traced the walls glistening with quartz. “Matadon!” she called before turning to a ripple of her reflection. Hand out, she moved forward, the ripples enveloping her fingers and arm, and she stepped through, orbs at her side. She called out again for Matadon. An image of reedy grass flickered ahead. Then she heard water and turned to a rushing creek, budding cherry trees, magnolias, and oaks in the distance. There was a familiar school. She’d seen this all before, in a dream. It was her life on Earth. So far removed from her memories, it had become a dream.

 Her crew members had said they knew the way home, but she knew another way. She saw the promise. Stuck in the galley without a voice, her future and future’s future stripped away; the ship drifted. 

 Captain Marrow staggered forward. “Matadon!” She stopped. Matadon’s sheath was at her boots. She lifted the cobalt-infused silica and gazed at the cave opening. Was this the promise? Only the mirage of Earth? She wasn’t a specter in a make-believe world. She was human, flesh and blood. Dreams weren’t real.

 But she needed the quartz. Wrenching around toward the cave's wall, she recalled the ghost ship, the spirits, the thoughts seeping into hers and Matadon’s. She dropped the sheath and raced for the opening, carelessly rubbing the rivets together, and the valley ignited beneath her feet, below the ship, and everywhere all at once. She entered the ship. Untethered the spacesuit and returned to her position behind the controls.

 She’d forgotten the quartz! Before there was time to settle over her advancing loneliness, a familiar revenant sat beside her, then another in the seat to the rear. Each seat filled with all eleven crew members circling the cockpit, including Captain Warton.

 “Marrow,” he said, slipping over her transparent body. “Get to your position. We’re going home.”

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Monthly Posts?

 Who has time for much more?  

I'm sure your plate is full with reading obligations, reading for pleasure needs, and reading to learn a new system or appliance. I will blog as much as I'm capable of while running a busy jazz club with my husband and being the in-house floral designer--and making sure to prepare the fresh guacamole Thursday through Sunday. But I NEED to write. 

Ever since COVID, my life has taken a drastic hit in writing time and for the last couple of years I was up before heading to the club to write write write, and yes, I did burn out. I took the month of March off to pause my early morning writing sessions, (first time in ten years!) to have a little space for the family business and family mental health issues. 

What I've discovered as I return to writing--not every morning, is that I have more support for me. More energy, and air to breathe because I'm making sure I'm doing what I love. I've always had to adjust my craft to fit into my family life in other artistic pursuits. Writing is flexible. I have that. And I can set my own hours. However, I must stay disciplined to get it all done and hopefully, I'll remain healthy enough to do so along with my various obligations.  

Turns out, I'm tenacious AF. Haha. I'll keep at this writing game. Adjust as needed. Try multiple genres and short stories. Anywhere my imagination leads. That's what I find joyful, creating out of a dreamscape and making it appear real. Writing fiction is a dream. 

But I may only blog once a month. 

Check back now and again for free short stories in the tab above!

flower bouquet in glass bowl in front of window at ZINC BAR
Today at Zinc Bar
flower bouquet
Bouquet behind the Zinc Bar

Photo pf Billy Holiday on mantel with white flowers.