Archive for April, 2010

M. Christian

Posted in Writers with tags on April 24, 2010 by neve black

He And I

I know that’s me.  I remember that afternoon: a house in the Sunset District of San Francisco with an intimate playroom in the basement, owned by a friend, since passed away.  The woman was my wife, now ex-wife.

I remember Michael Rosen, the magnificent photographer who took the shot, saying “Open your eyes” over and over again.  I remember she was almost standing on her head, laying backwards on a GYN table with her ass raised high.  I remember the shot took a long time — so long my hand began to cramp.  I remember the day Michael’s sent us a copy of his magnificent book Sexual Art with the photo published in it.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  They say that pictures don’t lie.  They say ‘photographic evidence.’  I don’t know why ‘they’ are, but when I look at that picture I wonder about what’s real and not real, about who that man really is.

He: so assured, so strong, so magnetic.  He looks like he always has that twinkle in his eye, always has that smile on his face.  The kind of guy you know, absolutely know, sings through life, dances through his days.

I: They say that depression is the feeling of being worthless, not valued, ignored, dismissed.  That’s wrong, though.  Depression is actually the absolute, certain knowledge – unshakable – that you’re worthless, not worth paying attention to, are constantly dismissed.  I don’t have good days and bad days, I have bad days and awful days.  Been that way all my life.  It’ a constant struggle.  I’m depressed right now and I was depressed when that picture was taken.

He: a sexual adventurer, an erotic extremist, a howling-boy, a roaring-man, a pierced and tattooed kinky contortionist.

I: I lost my virginity at 22 to a prostitute in London.  I didn’t have sex again until I was 27.  I was married soon after which is when I began to play in the kinky pool: tried bondage, cutting, polyamory, caning, marched in the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay/Transgendered parade, edited a newsletter for an alternative sexuality organization, got some piercings (only my ear and navel) and a pair of tattoos.  Yes, I’ve done all that, plus many other things, but the simple, honest truth is that I’m sexually pretty simple.  I like big beautiful girls – and all I like to do is be with one who wants to be with me.

He: frozen, trapped, in time.  He will always be in his early thirties.  He will always have that body  He will always have all that hair.

I: the big five-oh just hit me … a little over a week ago, actually.  The hair is gone, now I keep it cut very short.  The beard comes and goes – mostly goes — depending on what I’m doing and how diligent I am about shaving.  For the first time in my life I’m beginning to feel … old, and I hate it.  I’ve always pushed myself, have constantly driven myself to do as much as possible and now … now I’m facing the fact that I can’t do things like I used to.

But, you know, looking at the smile on his face, the glee that’s there in that photograph, I wonder if it isn’t a good thing that he’s out there – and that he and I are connected.  I don’t feel it most of the time but sometimes, when the mood is right, when the stars are aligned, I actually see myself in him – and hope that what other people see in that photograph isn’t just a flash of light in the past but is, instead, a frozen part of myself … a part that will always be within me.

M. Christian
began his career in erotica, writing under his pseudonym, “M.Christian.” He has established himself as a very prolific, and chameleonic, author specializing in literary erotica, but he’s also been widely published in other genres, which is where he wishes to focus his career going forward. M. Chrisitan’s erotica stories have appeared in every “best” anthology series including Best American Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Bisexual Erotica, 200 other anthologies and magazines –- he’s been published as four best-selling collections: Dirty Words, Speaking Parts, The Bachelor Machine, and Filthy.

He is also an accomplished anthologist, having edited more than 20 books such as The Mammoth Book of Future Cops, and The Mammoth Book of Tales of the Road (with Maxim Jakubowski); and Amazons, Confessions, and Garden of the Perverse (with Sage Vivant). He has recently expanded into mystery, horror, and humor with the novels Running Dry (Alyson Books, 2006), The Very Bloody Marys (Haworth, 2007), The Painted Doll (Lethe, 2007), Me2 (Alyson, 2008), and Brushes. He has worked with many publishers including Carol & Graf, Orion UK, Robinson UK, Avalon, Thunders Mouth, Haworth Books, Alyson Books, and many, many others. His author’s site is at links to all my publications.


Posted in Writers with tags on April 17, 2010 by neve black

Fuck Shame

First I cranked the heat up and let the room warm up. Sixty-five degrees is not conducive to disrobing. Yeah, I knew that I didn’t have to literally get naked to participate here at F-Stop. But the Naked I within me wanted to. Why?

Because it scared me.

Because for most of my life I’ve been ashamed of my body.

Because I could hear loud and clear all the reasons why not to.

Because I’m slowly becoming more comfortable in my own skin.

Because I can think of all the reasons why I should.

Because it’s a transgressive act.

Because it scares me.

Fear and shame are like that gooey substance they use in mousetraps. You know the stuff. I’ve used those traps in the attic. I’d know when a mouse stepped on one. Because usually they didn’t jump in with all four feet. Nope. Maybe just one foot. Mice aren’t stupid. As they’d try to get away (usually successfully too), I’d hear the clapclapclap of the little cardboard tray banging across the plywood above me. If I went up to check, I’d find the trap wedged against the wall where the little critter was able to break free. Struggle is good. The few mice that were caught, I always felt like they probably just gave up and gave in to the goo.

Sitting in my bathrobe, trying to get up the nerve to start the photo session for this post, I could tell that I was having a wee bit of PTSD. My husband was patient with me. Yeah, I have a history – experienced stuff that I would not wish on anyone. I’ve had a lot of toxic shame to pull away from. I’m still picking it from my skin. But that’s not what this is about. This is about getting to a place where the fear and shame are not strong enough to hold me in place anymore.

I’m fifty-two years old. This body has birthed three children; two girls now in their twenties and a teenage son, who was born at home weighing ten pounds. My breasts have fed children for a combined total of close to ten years. There is plenty of sagging and stretch marks. If not for the wonders of woven cloth, I could give the Venus of Willendorf a serious run for her money. Our bodies are wondrous. Why should we be ashamed?

Because just about everything we’ve ever heard our entire lives has told us that we should be. Afraid. Ashamed. Of who we are, what we are.

I removed the robe and lay down on the bed. My husband was probably as nervous as I was. He admitted that he’d never taken pictures of a naked woman before. I’m sure many people, even some friends, would think what we were doing was dreadful. All this should be “private.” I had a phone conversation with my sister once and listened to her rant on about how awful it was that anyone would think about putting naked pictures of themselves on the internet. Needless to say, she doesn’t know about Erobintica. Bodies should be private. Sex should be private. That’s what we’ve been told. Shame on you.

I’ve spent a good portion of my life being afraid and ashamed of who I am inside. Sure that if I let anyone see that me, they would be horrified. They’d reject and desert me. I’d end up alone and unloved. My thoughts? Shameful. My desires? Shameful. My predilections? Shameful. And definitely something to be afraid of. And that has carried over into my writing, both poetry and prose. I’d write things that I wouldn’t show to anyone. Even worse, I’d be afraid to write what I wanted to write, even if I told myself not another soul would ever see it. Sometimes I wrote it anyway, too often, sadly, I did not.

Shame eats away at you, like dry rot. When you stop yourself from writing what you want to, from maybe even thinking about writing what you want to, creativity can grind to a halt. Somehow I’ve managed to begin to pull away from the trap. Not sure how. I’ll probably spend the rest of my life pondering that – and writing those ponderings down.

As the photos were taken, I became more at ease. No, I didn’t do the model thing, but I found that it wasn’t as scary as I’d thought it would be. We had the lights pretty low. Too low it turned out. We had to retake the photos another night. Plus I noticed that I still had sock lines because I’d forgotten to take them off beforehand. Yeah, I was worried about sock lines! When I looked at the photos, I expected to feel some “ick – is that me?” But I didn’t. I’m no beauty. And as I just typed that, I paused. Because there it is. That shame. Still. It’s not gone. Maybe it never will be.

Humans are complex creatures. I like complex. I like messy. Always have.  Nothing’s more unsatisfying than an ending tied up neatly with a bow. Writers who revel in the erotic, are ones who venture into territory that makes many people uncomfortable. But we’re right there, looking closely at what makes others squirm. I like that.

One of my favorite lines is from Joni Mitchell’s song Case of You: “I’m frightened by the devil/and I’m drawn to those ones that ain’t afraid.” One of the first poems I wrote was titled “Magnets” – about being equally attracted and repelled. That’s been me and sex, in a nutshell. It’s scared me, but it has an incredibly strong pull. That’s why I know I’ll spend the rest of my life writing about it. It’s funny, sometimes I wonder if people think this is a “phase” I’m going through. And once it’s run its course I’ll turn to other more socially acceptable writing. Maybe a cookbook? Or at least happy poems that rhyme. Maybe, but I’m pretty sure the rich, naughty stuff is here to stay.


Fingertips trace a line  

slow soft nape of neck

to hard tip of tailbone

message travels

at the speed

of impulse

breath catches

follicles tighten

toes flex

Oh, I still get afraid. Often, actually. I’ll do something daring, then spring back like a bungee jumper. I’ll be brave, then become a frightened child again. But I can’t stop pushing.  I’ll probably do the recoil thing after this post goes up. Why?

Because … how dare I bare my body and soul in this manner?

I’ve come to believe that it is the shame we drape over ourselves that causes more damage than that which causes the shame in the first place. So, fuck shame.

“When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”  ~ Audre Lorde

Though it was almost twenty years ago that Robin penned her first bit of erotica, it wasn’t until a year and a half ago that Erobintica ventured out into the world. She took on that nickname (given by a friend), started a blog (by the same name), sent out that old story (revised of course) and got it published in Coming Together: Al Fresco, sent out others (most rejected), slowly showing more and more of her whole self to the world. It’s been a trip and a half. With no regrets. Robin also writes and publishes poetry and essays and is at work on a novel. She is not afraid to eat crow.

Thom Gautier

Posted in Writers with tags on April 11, 2010 by donnageorgestorey

Life in the Penthouse

April 1983

I was fifteen. I am fifteen. It was spring. It is spring. Before targeting the mission as my own, I’d begged and bribed older boys to buy Penthouse magazine for me, without success. Now, my impending purchase feels like the wait before a bank heist. A sophomore, I’ve spent the long day in school, my cock hard with innocent anticipation.

I get off the crowded bus miles away from my own neighborhood, and stroll into the shop, pretend to browse music and sports magazines and then stare down at the two stacks of thick magazines.

One stack is Playboy: bleach blondes with beaming smiles. Playboy seems somehow “acceptable” or “safe” porn, vaguely Hollywood, somehow false.

The other stack is Penthouse. Even from its covers, Penthouse seemed like High Culture, featuring sophisticated models decked out in European-style boudoirs. Or posed unadorned, hippy-like, nude, gazing over flower fields.

This month’s issue, May 1983, features a cover model––whose name I came to know––is Linda Kenton. She’s a Grace Kelly ringer––blonde coif, a red dress pulled back, a long leg lifted, a shoeless foot raised, a backward glance. As I bring the magazine up to the counter, my young hands tremble self-consciously. My schoolbag heavy at my side, I am fired up by a vague knowledge that a new kind of homework awaits, and I hand over rumpled dollars and take my change, still shaking. The store owner feels like a co-conspirator.

Safely at home I peel open the magazine like it is a sacred and forbidden text.  The pictorial inside knocks me backwards on my bed. I feel flush. It’s not just the female nudity that draws me in. I shiver, sensing an erotic danger even in simple details. Close eyelids and smoky eyeliner. Or a woman’s knowing glance over a teacup. The path of sunlight from a window to a flowerpot to a naked arm to her nose. What a lithe limb encased in black hosiery looks like peeking from under a tulle dress. I am turned on by these simplest details and by the electric force of her finger posed there, pressed between her parted legs. She invites me to do likewise, and these are my first truly deliberate acts of self-pleasuring, confused strokes, a crazed sensation like swimming without knowing what “water” is.  The magazine opened on my bed, for the first time, I willfully bring myself to orgasm.

December 1986

It is years later and, my Penthouse fat Holiday issue is confiscated by household authorities. What if my much younger siblings had found it? I am grilled by my father.  Compliant but outraged, a day or two later, I head to the newsagent to buy that very same fat, hefty Holiday issue again. I stand at the counter. The store’s register is unmanned. I wait. No one appears. I wait some more, growing bitterly aware that I already paid my hard earned cash for this very issue a week before, before the “authorities” snatched it from me. So without a second thought, I walk out of the store without paying, the free issue under my arm. Free. I am sure I came more than once that afternoon.

January 1988

Coming off a bad run of luck the previous year—I have just turned twenty. Already I am feeling a tad old to be doing this. I double park in the frigid cold and run in to buy Penthouse from the local shop. The annual Pet of the Year issue is just out.  Her name is “Patty Mullen.” When I take “her” home, her beauty bowls me over. An auburn haired woman posed in streaming sunlight, her head crowned with a fedora. The pictorial informs me she is a local gal (“how far a drive is Staten Island from my house,” I wonder?). For the first time, a Penthouse model is exactly my age. Her taste is eclectic and impeccable. She loves “scallops and white wine and chocolate, Woody Allen and white Harley Davidson’s.”  She wears ruffled Queens Anne lace and hooded blouses. Her smiling green eyes burn through me. Patty Mullen is a great omen. The new year turns out to be an annus mirabilis.

October 1990
Away at grad school, exiled in God’s country, I receive an unexpected care package from home. My current girlfriend has shipped me my Penthouse stash.  She enjoyed perusing my back issues. She included a note saying which issue was her favorite. On top of the magazines, she has left a pair of her black lace panties.

January 1994

I am happily engaged. My girlfriend and I are enjoying a prolific sex life, and yet I find myself home alone, midwinter, and bored. In our gentrified neighborhood’s magazine shop, I scope out Penthouse, like old times. The cover model’s name is Sasha Vinni. Eyes like ink, dark, deep as a Russian novel. And a body out of Ovid’s poetry. Sasha, extolling her Russian upbringing, Sasha strolling among an island’s yew trees and kicking in its foamy shore. Sasha seated in sunlight, Sasha hugging her black stocking legs, the trim of her stockings graced by tiny white bows. Sah-sha.

June 1998

I woke up fifteen hours earlier in Prague. Now I am back in New York. Things at home have been stale. If it’s not over between us now it will be soon enough. Everyone knows the unspoken and slow fade-out of a relationship. It happens.  Jet-lagged, horny, I pull off the highway and stop at the newsagent on the way back to the ‘burbs from the airport. I recall it is the same store where I’d shoplifted that issue some twelve years earlier. This time I wait patiently and pay for Penthouse––I’m a good bourgeois boy by now––and taking the magazine under my arm, I actually don’t expect much from it. The few issues I’ve bought in the 1990s are thinner than they used to be, both in content and in quality.  The couple’s pictorials, once a voyeuristic favorite, have become a parade of silicone boobs and steroid biceps and all-too-graphic anatomical close-ups.

Yet that jet-lagged afternoon at home, I am wowed by that month’s model. Kelly Havel. Talk about sexual healing! Unlike my girlfriend at the time, Kelly actually smiles, laughs. An authentic laughter. Her eyes suggest a compelling mix of self-conscious giddiness and a grown-up playfulness. Her black gown is stunning. Her breasts are small, natural. Her ass is small, full. Her legs are long. Her lips against her own lips on the mirror glass. Her tight blouse is painted with Asian flourishes. A dragon. Fire. Tongue. Flame. Relief.

Epilogue: March 2010

Penthouse back then, was not porn as it is in 2010. Those were hard copies, indeed. I don’t regret a minute of it. Or a dollar of it. Lost and found gazing at the pages of Penthouse, I was somehow included and excluded from sex.

I savored that contradiction.

My memories are like those of someone who lived in an Eastern Bloc country, waiting for the trucks to deliver the latest issue to the local pick up point, then smuggling this underground magazine from one location to another. I even persuaded myself that it wasn’t porn, but high art. I treated the issue with delicacy. I stored the magazines safely and variously. I smelled and touched the glossy pages. I studied the pictorials’ foregrounds and backgrounds. I envied those coupling couples, and I was struck dumb by the transgressive photos of threesomes. I knew each of the photographers by name and by their styles. I read subtexts and stories into the settings. If Penthouse’s photographers aspired to be like painters like Renoir and Klimt, they also knew porn was part irony, and even camp. I was disappointed when the magazine punctured my dream-world of sex with nude photo spreads of “real” celebrities: Madonna, Vanessa Williams, Gennifer Flowers. Once or twice, I actually bought an issue for the articles and interviews. Andy Warhol and Pete Townshend and Martin Scorsese. In more literary moods, I often got off to the (always fake) Forum letters.

Secure, alone in my room with the latest issue, I was not put upon by social expectations: teachers, parents, friends, siblings. In Penthouse, I didn’t have to think about “my future” or “responsibilities.”  I got off in the company of beautiful, silent strangers. Their allure was so vivid that I can recall their first names as if they are ex’s of mine, which, in a way, they are. Linda, Patty, Sasha, Kelly. These were women who seemed beyond men: worldly, artistic, independent. Penthouse-living women. That was part of founder Bob Guccione’s goal, his magazine’s sweet illusion. I have often wondered what became of these women in “real” life.

Real-life: how irrelevant is that phrase, especially when applied to the pursuit of pleasure. I think sex is forever intertwined with the unreal, the tangible mirage.

Playing among those phantasms in Penthouse and finding my pleasure between what could be and what is, I gave as much as I got.

While Thom Gautier no longer buys Penthouse magazine, he does write erotica, which has appeared in Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 9 (Running Press), and in the forthcoming Sex in the City: New York Sex (Accent Press).  His stories have also been in Lucrezia Magazine, Sliptongue, Cleansheets, and Oysters & Chocolate.

Janine Ashbless

Posted in Writers on April 3, 2010 by neve black

When I was twenty-five, it was a very bad year…

When I was in my mid-twenties, something strange happened to me. I started to cry a lot, and I couldn’t stay awake. I’d get up and walk to work, crying. I’d struggle to keep my eyes open at my desk. I’d fall asleep in meetings and on the toilet. I’d walk home again crying all the way, eat some food and crawl into bed, wake up for an hour around ten and then sleep all the way through to the start of the next morning. I gave up driving: I was too frightened I might crash the car and knew I wouldn’t be able to cope if anything went wrong. I stopped going out on my own at all. I dreaded every day and I despised myself: my only escape was sleep. I could sleep anywhere: I slept right through a party, sitting against a radiator; I slept at the front of the mosh pit in an All About Eve concert, huddled against the crowd barrier.

Eventually I went to the doctor. I thought there was a good chance I had M.E, which was featured in the papers a lot at the time, or some virus. I spent a while describing the physical symptoms – the crying, the hypersomnia, the panicking.

Doctor: “Tell me … Do you ever think about committing suicide?”

Me: “Yes. All the time.”

Doctor: “Have you attempted it?”

Me: “Oh no. I wouldn’t do that to my boyfriend – it would devastate him.”

Doctor: “But if he was out of the picture? Would you?”

Me: “Without hesitation.”

Doctor: “Hm. I think you might be suffering from depression.”

Me: “What?

I was genuinely shocked by that diagnosis. How, I thought, could I be depressed? Depression was for people who’d been abused or had family members murdered or lost both legs in an industrial accident, wasn’t it? It was for people whose lives were irredeemably awful. Yet here I was with a well-paying job (which I loathed … but nevertheless it was a good job with no heavy lifting); I had a steady supportive boyfriend; we’d just bought our first house together; we had no problems and good prospects; things were settled and looked ideal. What fucking right did I have to be depressed?

Hah. I found out you don’t have to earn Depression. It comes as a freebie.

Depending on which country you live in, something like 10% to 20% of the population will suffer from a depressive illness at some time in their lives. Women are twice as likely to be afflicted as men – but men are four times more likely to end up dead. The causes are complex and unpredictable: it might be triggered by stress or trauma, by being unvalued or functionless (like when you retire) or by out-of-kilter hormones (like after giving birth) – or you might just have a crap set of genes, because it definitely has a hereditary component. And you are most likely to first get it in your twenties. Symptoms vary too – I was unusual in falling asleep all the time; it’s much more common not to be able to sleep properly.

Basically, your brain chemistry gets messed up. That’s all it is; not enough serotonin, or something. The effects are indescribably awful.

In my case, I can guess the trigger. Whilst never the sunniest bunny in the warren, I’d been very happy while at university: probably it was the ideal environment for me. I’d acquired for the first time in my life a wide circle of friends who actually shared my interests. I’d got me a fantastic boyfriend, P (nowadays Mr Ashbless), and had lots of sex. I was really interested in my academic course and worked hard at it with good results. But then I graduated – and entered the ‘real’ world. I was cut off from friends and P. I ended up in jobs which were repetitive and alienating. I had to work in an office environment, which – it turned out – I found incredibly oppressive. I felt like I’d landed on an alien planet. I lived only for the weekends, but the weekends were not enough.

I am pathologically goal-oriented. Heck, I can’t even relax on a beach for a day. I need to have something to do, preferably something creative I can put my heart into and feel really proud of, and I really want to be patted on the head afterwards and told “Janine, that was great!” (Why do you think I’m a writer, eh? Why do you think I’m writing this?) Suddenly, at 24, my life had no goal. No purpose.

Gradually I went into mental collapse.

If you haven’t had it, you probably have no idea just how bad it is. You might think Depression is a bit like “feeling down.” That’s not the half of it. Depression is like … it’s like carry a lead blanket around 24 hours a day. You can’t lift your head. You can’t see the light. You’re physically and mentally on the brink of exhaustion all the time. The tiniest setback is like a brick wall and the smallest task becomes a massive effort. The whole world seems like it’s opposing you. I can remember one morning the toothpaste fell off my toothbrush onto the floor and I burst into tears and went back to bed – there just seemed no way I could carry on fighting my way through the day.

And you have no skin. Everything is raw. Nothing bounces off. The most innocent remark becomes a damning condemnation of everything you are and can be.

Don’t dismiss Depression. Don’t underestimate it. It’s a killer.

Here’s something else you might not know about being depressed: very often, it’s only the thought of suicide that makes it possible to keep going. It’s your escape-hatch. You think “I can’t bear this … but I’ve only got to make it to bedtime. Tomorrow, if it’s this bad, I can kill myself then.”

Without question, if it weren’t for P, I’d be dead. He stuck with me all that time, not saying much, just being there. Looking after my body while my messed-up mind went its own way. He says he didn’t even think of leaving me, because he loved me. I find it hard to wrap my head around the enormity of his tolerance and sacrifice – because oh god I must have been horrible to live with.

Doctor: “Why don’t you quit your job?”

Me: “But … it’s a really good job. Most people would be grateful for it.”

Doctor: “You said it’s making your life miserable. Could you manage financially without it?”

Me: “I suppose so …”

Doctor: “Then quit.”

I quit. I went onto anti-depressants. And slowly it started to work. My therapy (and practically the only thing I could focus on to start with) was gardening. We had a tiny patch of land, and I could research and plan and dig and watch things grow. I became an obsessive gardener, out there for hours with my hands stuck in the soil, because it was the only place I felt in control.

Things improved. In time I became less fragile. I went back to college and did a Forestry course. College courses are good for me – I like deadlines, I like passing exams and I like learning. Goals, you see? I need something to do. I need goals. Short-term ones like writing stories and blog posts. Long-term ones like novels. I didn’t find my way to a forestry career, but I did in the end find my way to writing.

Depression: it changed my life, ultimately for the better. It made me what I am now – and the fear of it drives me still. I want to finish with a quote from Gwyneth Lewis’ book Sunbathing in the Rain. Now, like I said, Depression is an individual thing and this does not hold true for every sufferer, but in my particular case it’s bang-on accurate:

“If you can cope with the internal nuclear winter of Depression and come through it without committing suicide – the disease’s most serious side-effect – then, in my experience, Depression can be a great friend. It says: the way you have been living is unbearable: it’s not for you.”

If I’d stuck contentedly with a career in computing, I’d never have been a writer. If it weren’t for Depression, I would never have become a writer.

Writing is my armour, my bonfire that holds back the darkness.

There is one corollary of that … and here I am naked, for all the world to see. Should the day come that the Writing stops for whatever reason, the Depression will come back. I know it’s there, waiting for me. I can feel it. And if that happens, this time it will win.

But not today.


Janine Ashbless

Janine Ashbless is the author of 5 Black Lace books – three novels and two collections of short stories – and numerous short stories published by Cleis, Spice, Xcite, Nexus and Black Lace. She specialises in fairytale and fantasy erotica because she never grew out of that Dungeons & Dragons phase, despite her mother’s fervent wishes.  She nurses a number of fatal weaknesses: for minotaurs, guys with long hair, Victorian paintings and embittered liberal smartarses. Don’t anybody ever go and make her World President, because she’d do very very bad things with the very best of intentions.