The social perspective of the dependent poor

I belong to a very special, very small category of people : being unable to work, I am dependent on the province of British Columbia, where I live, to support me.

From the point of view of someone ground down by the workaday world, my life might seem like paradise. I have no job to go to, no mortgage to worry about, no boss, no drudgery, no hierarchic humiliations, and no commute.

It is easy, for those for whom each leisure moment is a jealously guarded gem, to imagine that there could be nothing better than an unlimited supply.

But I am here to tell you that, from my experience, there is no such thing as unlimited leisure. I am not living a life of unhindered bliss. And that has very little to do with the fact that I live on around $950/month.

It has to do with endless days to fill. It has to do with have no center, no structure in your life. It has to do with a feeling of utter worthlessness because you feel like you are nothing but a burden on society no matter how badly you wish you could contribute.

Because one of the hidden truths of our narrowly hedonistic modern lives is that people need to work. Specifically, they need to contribute their labour to the society in which they live in a meaningful way that is recognized by proximate authority and valued by the people they work with and, in a subtler but more profound way, by society itself.

And this applies equally to disabled people like me, the transitionally unemployed on unemployment insurance, people on welfare, and people living in areas with extremely high rates of unemployment.

So what becomes of us who are, for whatever reason, destined to live our lives outside the world of work? What happens to people when society does not need them? What does the world look like from that far down on society’s totem pole?

In short, not very good. To be unable to work is to be unable to enter adulthood, and traps people in a kind of bitter juvenile state where they know damned well what society thinks of the dependent poor and yet they are powerless to escape this life at the bottom of society’s valuation.

This is particularly acute in the case of high unemployment. To have generations of young people grow up with no realistic hope of a job does terrible things to them. They end up in a stage of ingrown adolescence, unable to truly grow up and yet feeling the pain of their purposeless existences every moment of every day.

That is why, where there is high unemployment, you also find high levels of alcoholism, child abuse, domestic abuse, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, and all the other ills that plague this forgotten strata of society.

These people are desperately trying to fill the endless pointless days with a kind of low-level decadent lifestyle of parties, sex, booze, drugs, anything that fills up their time and lends some sense of direction and purpose to their lives.

And the true tragedy is that they don’t know why they have to party and drink and fuck all the time. They have no name for the pain they are in, no way to address what is wrong with their situation. Society, with unintentional cruelty, tells them that their lives are great and nothing in their environment or their education gives them a clue as to why they are in such pain and what they could possibly do about it if they knew.

I think that if we, as a society, truly understood what long term unemployment with little hope of relief does to people and the societies they live in, we would understand why having a job is a right, not a privilege, and that it is in society’s best interest, as well as the moral thing to do for these people, to invest in finding meaningful labour for all its citizens.

As for people like me, people who have made it through forty years of life without ever having a full time job that could support them, we suffer invisibly in our apartments, our basements, or even in the same room we have had since we were kids because we still live with our parents.

Nobody stops to think about what it is like to live in such suspended animation. It’s like your entire life is that period at the end of summer where kids are bored of being out of school and can’t wait for it to start again and give them structure and something to do.

Except for people like me, summer never ends, and the very thing that keeps me out of the job market – depression – is made worse every day by this lack of function.

I dread my days a lot of the time because I am keenly aware of how purposeless my life is and the vast black void this lack of purpose or contribution leaves within the very center of my soul.

I, too, have failed to grow up. People act like it’s something that just happens given time, but I am here to tell you that this is just not true. Without the proper stimulation from environment and situation, the end of summer never comes and you are left with endless days of futile diversions.

If it wasn’t for this blog, and the videos I have recently resumed making, my life would collapse completely and I would dread each day and the constant burden of continuous diversion and desperately trying to stuff your life with as much play as possible in order to fill the work-shaped void in your heart with something that, no matter how hard you push, will never truly fit.

And society is on the hook for all my living expenses and medical costs for quite possibly the rest of my life.

So no. This is not a life of leisurely bliss.

It’s a very special kind of hell.

I will talk to you again tomorrow, dear friends.

The universal virtue of tiredness

Ask any person in the modern world how they are doing or how they feel in the modern world, and you will likely get this answer : “I’m tired. ”

Rich or poor, sad mad or glad, regardless of avocation or station in life, every single one of us is tired, or at least says they are.

Why is this? How did tiredness become universal? Why do we feel comfortable telling people we have just met that we are tired? And when did all this start?

Last question first. As far as I can tell, tiredness became universal around the turn of the twentieth century. From the dawn of modern consumerism, there have been universal claims of weariness, and a plethora of products designed to give you back your energy, as though it is something everyone starts off with but then somehow loses and must regain.

Somewhere in a depths of the zeitgeist, then, there is a belief that our energy is somehow being stolen, not spent. How can this be true?

Perhaps it is a side-effect of individualism. We consider energy spent doing things we would rather not do to have been somehow stolen. It is as if our strong individualist egos consider all bodily energies to belong to it, to be used expressly for its own ends, and therefore having to spend it on something which is, broadly speaking, not fun is the same thing as it being stolen.

Stolen or spent, the next question is : why is this a “safe” answer to the universal question of how we are doing?

First off, its very universality makes it safe. The fact that everyone gives that answer without serious social consequence is sufficient to make it a safe answer.

But more than that, admitting you are tired carries with it the implication that you have been working hard, and therefore is actually a statement of social virtue rather than the revealing of weakness it appears to be.

Everybody with a job works hard, and therefore everyone is tired. There is not an employed person in the world whose claim of working hard would be questioned. It is a curiously universal virtue. Our demanding inner children insist that having to work for a living at all is a supreme sacrifice, and therefore whatever it is, whether you are a practicing dentist or a professional french fry cook, it is hard work and you therefore work hard.

And working hard is the last remaining universally accepted collective virtue. Modern society has severed nearly all ties a citizen might us to feel like they are contributing to the collective as a whole, but claiming to be hard worker still manages to carry with it the deep implication that one is not just contributing a token amount to society, but all that you can.

Ergo, being tired means you are a good citizen.

But apart from the social implications of tiredness, what about the medical truth? Is it possible that everybody really is tired all the time?

I think it is, and to understand why, we have to look at the alarm clock.

Everybody knows what the alarm clock is for. It’s to get you up in the morning when it is time to go to work (or school, or whatnot).

But few people grasp that the very need for an alarm clock implies that you are not getting enough sleep.

Think about it. Left to our own devices, we sleep till we are no longer tired, just like we eat till we are no longer hungry. It’s not like if we didn’t have alarm clocks, we would just sleep forever. So clearly, if we wake up tired when the alarm clock goes off, we have not gotten enough sleep.

Add to that the many ways that modern life cuts us off from the usual inputs that regulate our circadian rhythms, and we have billions of people in the world walking around in a state of half-sleep, suffering continuously from the effects of sleep deprivation but not knowing it because to them, this is normal.

And what is our solution? Coffee. Tea. Cola. Caffeine. We simply accept that in order to function in modern society, it is necessary to regularly drug ourselves into an artificial state of alertness.

This, of course, does not solve the problem, it merely delays it. In theory, we could just go to sleep earlier and keep up that way.

But work takes more than energy from us, it drains our psychological resources as well, and so we end up staying up too late engaging in low-cost leisure activities like watching television in order to replenish those.

And that’s not even taking into account all the non-work activities we end up committed to, and all the little errands and labours required just to maintain our modern luxurious lifestyles.

So the modern citizen is, indeed, constantly tired. The various demands on our various resources always exceed our capacity for renewal, and so the modern person lives in perpetual debt to our bodies and our minds.

The modern person, in other words, lives deep in debt on more than one level.

Oh, and add in one more factor : our poor diets. Diets heavy in carbs, salt, and fat, all of which may taste great but the energy they provide is very short term and afterward, we are far more tired than we were before.

So we sleepwalk through life, drained and stumbling and needing liquid stimulants just to keep going, and then we wonder why the wonder of modern life and all the apparent trappings of success are not making us happy.

We are all too damned tired to be happy. Most modern people feel like they are barely keeping their head above water most days.

No wonder we devote entire rooms of our workplaces and entire sections of the day to the great god Coffee.

And no wonder it is hard to stir people to strive for change.

It’s almost as though the evil and corrupt stupid old men who run the world want us all to be drained and unbrained all the time.

But no… they just take advantage of this happy accident.

That’s all from me for today, folks. I will talk at you again tomorrow!

I’m doing it again

The “it”, in this case, being “making videos”.

I started again on Saturday, and I am going to keep on making one a day for the foreseeable future. Here’s the three I have done so far, starting with Saturday’s.

Yup, I’m back. Note the casual, handheld style. Totally an artistic decision, and not just because it’s easier to record videos lying down in bed.

Next, I use Netflix as my inspiration and do a review of above-average action film Solomon Kane from back in 2012.

I was really surprised when this turned out to be over seven minutes long. time flies when I am enjoying the sound of my own voice, I guess.

And finally, today’s vid, in which I talk about Wonder Woman.

You know…. like I do.

And that is where I will begin today’s actual blogging because I have finished the Wonder Woman documentary and I have more thoughts on it.

It was a great documentary. But a few things in it disturbed me.

One was that, despite being launched by psychologist and weirdo way ahead of his time William Moulton Marston as a very firmly feminist (and feminine) heroine who showed the world that women could be strong and brave and such, after the boys came home from World War II and all the ladies who had been working in factories and doing all the jobs of men were told to go be housewives [1] now, the same fate befell Wonder Woman.

Suddenly she was way less interested in fighting evildoers and showing men the power of peaceful conflict resolution and way more interested in trying to marry Superman. Her previously action packed comic turned, seemingly overnight, into a romance comic, and at one point they even stripped her of her powers and all her cool accoutrements and turned her into a spy-action hero.

It makes total sense that this happened, but I still find it incredibly depressing. Where are Gloria Steinam and Betty Friedan when you need them? Wonder Woman is not supposed to be domesticated. She is supposed to be a free, strong, brave, loyal, and steadfastly idealistic fighter against the forces of evil.

In other words, like I said in the video, she is supposed to be the female equal of Superman. Notice Supes doesn’t get married either?

I can only imagine how crushed little girls (and certain little boys) who were Wonder Woman fans precisely because she was such an awesome figure of heroism felt when their favorite heroine suddenly stopped kicking ass on villains and started kissing ass on Superman.

I will give you a moment to get over that image in your head.

It must have been a very confusing time for women and girls in general. It wasn’t simply the men that told them they had to go back to the home when the war was over. They had told themselves that all through the war. I am sure most of the woman who had husbands overseas kept themselves going through the war with a rose-colored vision of how wonderful life was going to be when her husband came home, swept her off her feet, and took her away from the grimy grunting disgusting world of the factory and put her back where she could be dainty and feminine and yes, even subservient again.

The problem was, this Other Thing had happened. They had experienced the same burdens and freedoms of men, they had proved to themselves and the world that woman could live independent of men and do the same work as men, and despite their rosy dreams of domesticity, they could not just forget that and go back to what they had been before the war, no matter how hard they tried.

Back to WW. Luckily, eventually Steinem and Ms. magazine did come around and start hounding DC to restore Wonder Woman to her previous glory, and while, according to the documentary, Wonder Woman didn’t quite become the feminist icon she was before, she at least got her powers and her accessories back, plus a black sidekick.

The other thing that bothered me in the documentary came from something I had sort of known about but never really thought about, namely 90′s feminism.

I only saw the ugly side of it at the time (political correctness, anti-male hostility, and so on) but the truth of the matter is that the 1990′s contained the third wave [2] of feminism in North American culture.

Women and girls were publishing zines, joining punk rock bands, and there was a rise of powerful female heroes like Xena, Buffy, and my fave Scully in the media.

Far fuckin’ out, man. The disturbing bit is that, in 2001, all of them died.

Buffy came back, Xena died heroically, and I don’t remember Scully dying, but apparently a whole slew of others also got killed off that year, and that bugs the hell out of me.

Worse, it lead to a whole era of women being allowed to be only one of two things in the media : power-bitch sex fantasy ass kicking chicks, or totally passive vengeance objects who get killed in awful ways with a sickening regularity.

That bothers me even more. I consider myself a feminist (in that I am a humanist, and women are people) and it infuriates me to imagine this terrible ebbing of the positive political tide in a realm which I hold near and dear, namely genre media.

And that leads me to this very era, where women get sick bastard nerds posting the vilest and more hurting things their piggy little brains can think of on public forums, attacking any woman who dares to have an opinion on anything fannish.

It all leads me to the conclusion that despite all the progress made by women in the last 100 years, the struggle continues, and it is the duty of all decent people, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, to roll up their metaphorical shirt sleeves and get in there and push.

It’s not over yet, folks, but the end is in sight. Women are breaking through the last level of the glass ceiling and soon, we may even have parity in the highest levels of political power.

And then we will REALLY see some changes.

That’s it from me. I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. A job description that didn’t even exist before the end of the war
  2. The first being Suffrage and the second being the bra-burning era

It’s really quite simple

Guess what? It’s Fru’s Relationship With Netflix time, and today’s springboard is the documentary The Pervert’s Guide To Ideology, starring Slavoj Zizek.

Don’t let the title fool you, though, because it has absolutely nothing to do with the content of the documentary and was, presumably, though up by some marketing hack who wanted to create cheap buzz.

Instead, it is a kind of enhanced lecture by philosopher Slavoj Zizek, who uses clips from various movies to illustrate the philosophical and psychological points he is making. And sometimes, via modern movie magic, even appearing to be in the movies himself, flopped on Travis Bickle’s cot or appearing at the wine orgy in the oft forgotten Seconds.

This little bit of razzle dazzle certainly helps to spice up what is essentially two and a quarter hours of a man with a thick Polish accent talking.

That’s just the price you pay in order to enjoy Zizek’s genuinely original and insightful thoughts. You want your Zizek, you learn to penetrate both his accent and his occasionally perplexing way of using the language both of classical European political philosophy and of psychoanalysis.

Oh, and he is obsessed with the term ideology, which I consider to be a word with too much baggage to be useful any more.

I don’t agree with all of his points, but how can I not love someone who sees psychoanalysis as continuous with philosophy and who illustrates his points with pop cultural references?

Take away the accent and add some jokes, and that could be me.

The main concept that I took away from his lecture was the concept of the Big Other, that is to say, the entity of whatever nature that occupies the position of being the overwhelming being of immense power who both guides and protects us.

As Lacan, who coined the term, noted, our first Big Other is our mother, or other primary caregiver. It is this person who hears our cries for help and understands them, who intervenes when we are upset, who provides the necessary protection from the big wild world for us, and who takes on the role of being ultimately responsible for our health and wellbeing so that we may live in the kind of safe, simplified world that our nascent consciousness can handle.

I have been thinking a lot about the need for such simplification recently. The most horrifying thought to any human being is the thought that the world is well and truly beyond our comprehension and we are naked before its chaos, unable to make intelligent choices in a universe which is ultimately unintelligible.

This idea is psychologically intolerable, and yet, ultimately true. Even the brightest among us can’t honestly claim to understand everything, and so some portion of the universe always remains unintelligible and unpredictable.

Even in a strictly mechanistic universe in which there is no such thing as uncertainty at the ultimate level and all is, in theory, predictable, we human beings are still finite in our consciousness and therefore there will still always be that area of incomprehension.

So how do we resolve this paradox of intolerable truth? In the most general terms, we generally decide that while we might not understand everything, we understand “enough” of our world to get by, and that will have to be enough.

We remain aware that the cold callous hand of remorseless fate is always in play and that therefore something unpredictable and unavoidable could always step in and ruin our feeling of being in control, but we push this thought from our minds as something impossible to control and therefore best not thought about.

More specifically, however, in political terms, we have different solutions based on one’s basic political view.

The conservative solution is to simply deny anything which suggests that things are more complicated than they can handle. They substitute raw emotion for reason and actively seek out whatever views stimulate the most primal emotions such as rage and fear and therefore the views that have the strongest simplifying effect.

Once this pattern is established, the conservative comes not simply to rely on these surges of simplifying emotion but to trust them exclusively. Every time they feel the tiniest twinge of doubt that their worldview matches the world, they experience a surge of primal emotion that drives out the higher brain function and makes everything seem simple to them again.

This, incidentally, is why they are so reliant on conservative media to reaffirm their beliefs constantly. The kind of emotional state on which they rely is difficult to maintain and requires constant emotional stimulation.

The liberal solution, on the other hand, is to accept a certain amount of doubt in the scope of their understanding in return for faith that what they do know about the world is verifiably true. Logic, reason, and knowledge may not deliver the kind of black and white rock solid certainty that conservatives crave, but its products can be tested for veracity.

It should be noted, however, that liberals can be just as guilty of substituting emotion for reason in an attempt to simplify the world when they are feeling doubt.

Liberals simply use a different set of emotions, like compassion, empathy, and altruism to do it.

We are, all us, operating in a noncomprehensive subset of true reality, and therefore we are all stuck making do with an imperfect map of foreign territory.

It should be no surprise, then, that the less intelligent, either due to a congenital lack or due to senility, tend towards conservatism, and that liberalism maps to intelligence so neatly.

In general, the smarter, the more liberal. That doesn’t mean that all conservatives are stupid or that there are no stupid liberals.

But it does mean you will find more liberals at Mensa than NASCAR.

We should have some pity, though, for those who must operate in a world they simply lack the intellectual capacity to understand.

Imagine how frightening that would be, and how desperately you might lunge for anything that promised to cut the complexity of the world down to a size you can comprehend if it was you.

That’s all for me for today, folks. Talk to you again tomorrow.

The New Liberal Army

It is high time we liberals stop fucking around and get serious.

Our enemies are organized, disciplined, and share a strong group identity. This allows them to exert a great deal of force despite their relatively small numbers.

And a simple truth of human history is that the only way to fight a well organized collective, be it a political party, a movement, or a corporation is with an equally well organized collective of your own.

And we liberals have been fucking that up for decades.

Instead of banding together for common cause, we indulge in our overdeveloped sense of our own precious autonomy and refuse to join any army we can’t run.

Instead of responding to a coordinated threat with a coordinated response, we remain diffuse, weak, and above all cowardly.

And instead of reacting to the disaster that is the global right wing by showing them they are not unopposed, we dither and we blather and we immerse ourselves in a nice warm bath of our own recycled sentiments.

Why make the evil go away for real when we can all just retreat into a fantasy land of sunshine and rainbows and good, good vibes?

That is our drug, and we have been responding like a drug addict for far too long.

Being a liberal does not have to mean being a wimp. It doesn’t mean you have to back down when the other side is aggressive. It doesn’t mean you can’t fight like a tiger for what you believe, come what may.

Hence, I announce the formation of the New Liberal Army, a coherent fighting force trained and prepared to take on the forces of crazy-evil-stupid whenever, wherever, and however it proves necessary.

And do not call this an Army lightly, because while this organization would never, ever use physical violence as a political tool, when it comes to the idea we oppose, we must be the kind of tightly organized and disciplined organization focused on completing its objectives that only an army can become.

And so yes, this means discipline. It means hierarchy. It means doing what you are told without hesitation or question, and possibly even telling people what to do yourself. And why should a liberal submit to all of that?

Because that’s how you get things done.

And the NLA is all about getting things done.

What kind of things? Getting petitions signed. Getting voters registered and then getting them to the polls. Fighting pro-corporate and pro-plutocrat legislation wherever and whenever it raises its ugly head. Being vociferous and dedicated supporters of true democracy and vehemently fighting any attempts to cut corners on the democratic process or otherwise remove the strength of the people.

And make no mistake. This organization will be peaceful, nonviolent, and civilized, but it will NOT be kind, generous, or merciful.

We seek nothing less than the total political destruction of the forces of corporatist anti-democratic plutocratic evil, and we will not rest until our enemies are as afraid to express their vile and ignorant political views as a Klansman is to express theirs.

And we can do this, because they fear us.

That is why they refuse to engage. They know, deep down, that their view cannot withstand the slightest opposition. So they run and hide and do their best to stay far, far away from anyone who disagrees with them.

And right now, liberals are letting them get away with it. They have retreated to their own ideological grounds and let the enemy retreat and fortify.

But basic military strategy says that when the enemy refuses to engage, that means you have them in a rout and you should press the advantage.

In other words, you chase those motherfuckers down.

There should be no place where they can feel completely safe from opposition. One of the main jobs of this army would be to recruit people without a history of political activity to infiltrate every right wing event, every forum, every “think tank”, in order to make our positions known.

And when they kick one of our people out for voicing legitimate opposition, we simply send another, and another, and another, each one an ideological suicide bomber willing to face a lot of angry conservatives in order to expose them to the true world that exists outside their tiny minded little pigpens.

Furthermore, while I have tentatively named this the New Liberal Army, you don’t have to be a liberal to join. You just have to think that it should be government by and for the people, not by and for the rich. All you need is a strong belief in democracy and freedom in order to be a candidate.

And candidate is the proper term, because not all who volunteer can join. If you have trouble doing what you are told, can’t stand to have your personal identity subsumed into a group, or if you would rather die than give up one minute of your precious leisure time, then you will not get a chance to quit the organization.

But if you are looking to be part of something bigger than yourself, something that matters, something that is fully dedicated to making the world a better place not in some fuzzy-edged drop in the bucket sense, but by coordinated action towards specific and achievable goals, this might be the place for you.

Imagine a sea of people all dressed identically, with the purposeful and alert look of the soldier in their eyes, spreading out all over the world to bring the fight to the evildoers wherever they may be. Armed with the very best arguments and intensive training in persuasive debate, their discipline and focus evident in every movement they make, these people wash over the world of politics like a wave of change, bringing the laggards into the 21st century and reconnected the politics with the people.

And above all, bring people hope that change is possible, and all is not yet lost.

Isn’t that a dream worth fighting for?

I will talk to you lovely people again tomorrow.

Good news and the other kind

The good news is, my main computer works now.

The bad news is, William and I have no idea why.

William replaced the power supply, which was supposed to fix the problem. Lo and behold, it does the exact same thing it was doing with the previous power supply, namely turning on for just a second then immediately shutting down.

The funny thing is that when this problem first occurred, I was getting way less than that. In fact, I was getting ZZNN (zip zero nada nothing). Hence my immediately diagnosing it with a power issue.

But when William first came over to have a look, it was doing the flash on, flash off thing. We wondered how this was possible.

I said the logical explanation is that my computer has a mutant healing factor.

I’m such a card.

Anyhow, after the power supply swap, we were getting beep on OFF. William kept attempting to turn it on, which seemed futile to me.

So of course, because computers are more capricious and unpredictable than an irritated cat, it fucking worked.

So now the thing works, as far as I can tell. Maybe the mere acting of pressing that power button many times caused some computer doohickey to click back into place. Maybe the power supply WAS the problem, and the thing would have started working eventually even if we had done nothing.

Or maybe I had offended the Great and Mighty Gods of Computing, who rule the world from their lofty abodes in the mystical land of Palo Alto, and when it started working, it was because I had appeased them by bringing in one of their priests.

That would be you, William.

Who knows. It is a strange feeling to have a problem seemingly spontaneously solve itself while offering no possible explanation as to why. You are glad the problem is solved, but without knowing how, you have no idea if it will stay solved or not.

But anyhow, the good news is that the main computer works now, for now.

The bad news is that the Internet on it does not.

See, the end of our Super Long Ethernet Cable that is in my room has a problem. The little plastic tab on the Y-jack broke off ages ago, and it turns out that thing is kind of really super important, as that is what holds the plug in place.

Historically, we have solved this problem by sticking the plug into the Ethernet port on my computer then fiddling around with it till it connects.

And by “we” I mean “not me”.

You see, dear reader, one of the little foibles that make me so endearing is that I have very, very little patience with fiddling with things.

Normally a patient person, for some reason I pop a frustration fuse really fast when it comes with tiny details you have to just fiddle around with til they click.

That is part of why I have trouble editing my own work. Beyond basic proofreading and sentence structure improvement, editing involves a lot of fiddling work, and I get frustrated easily.

I also had the same problem when I was a kid. It’s why I hated anything like arts and crafts. For whatever reason, I just did not have the patience to deal with my own spatio-motor issues in order to overcome them, and so I could never get things even remotely right and whatever I made would end up a humiliating mess.

And I didn’t exactly need any more humiliation in my life, especially not during class, where normally I shined.

And the thing is, I didn’t know why these things were so much harder for me than they were for the other kids. And I was too young to be able to articulate the problem either. All I have is a very long history of my hands not being able to do what I want them to do, and thus there is much of everyday life that I either cannot do, cannot do well, or had to invent some sort of workaround to cope with.

From my adult perspective, it seems like it might at least be possible to learn to be lass of a maladroit with sufficient training and practice. After all, a dyslexic can learn to read. It’s just harder for them.

I hope that works for us “motor dyslexics” too. It could be that if I could just overcome this low frustration point, I could practice certain things over and over until my fucked up brain/hands/eyes work the whole thing out.

Or I can just continue to live my life needing others to do certain things for me because I am just too much of a spazz to do them myself.

Wonder which one I will pick.

Other than computer related issues, not much going on today. Gonna be social with La Gang tonight. Maybe we will go out to dinner, maybe not.

Doing our weekly dinner out on Fridays works because that way, Joe does not have to go to bed early in order to be up for work the next day.

On the other hand, on Fridays, Joe has worked all day, and is therefore tired.

Doing dinner on Sunday means Joe is all rested and perky.

But it also means he has to go to bed at like, 1 am. And for us, that is early.

To me, Fridays seem mildly superior. But I’m not captain of this boat. It sometimes seems like it because I often volunteer to make decisions when it seems like one needs to be made and nobody else wants to do it, but I am just another passenger on our little social vessel.

I just have a big mouth and am kind of pushy. But not in a “my way or the highway” assholish kind of way.

More like an encouraging, caring kind of pushing.

It can really suck to be the sort of person who really cares about getting things done sometimes, ya know?

I will talk to you all again tomorrow.

Thursday means therapy!

At least, it does so lately. (Siblings, you might wanna skip today’s entry. I talk about Mom and other deep scary stuff. )

Had therapy today. Nothing big went down. I told my therapist that I have my father’s address now, so I could totally send him a letter. But then we got on talking about how the really hard thing to do is confront the weak partner, the passive one, the one who could have helped but did nothing.

In other words, my mother. Might be different in your family. Probably not.

My mother is the one person who could have restrained my father’s rage at the dinner table, and beyond. She was the sane adult with children who were emotionally imperiled by her unstable and dangerous spouse, and in absolute terms, she should have been fighting for us the whole time.

Instead, we all learned to instinctively protect her. She was always so sweet and so fragile. Even today, I can’t imagine ever confronting her about the sort of childhood I had and her role in the abusive dysfunction of our unhappy home. I just can’t imagine upsetting her like that. I would feel like the worst person in the world if I hurt that sweet, sensitive woman.

Plus, I gather her health is not that great, and I would never do anything that might make that worse. (Don’t leave without me, Mom. I beg you. )

So whatever I might have to say to her, odds are it will never get said except perhaps in a letter that I never send. I can’t see a solution. For me, hurting her in any way is just plain unthinkable.

Like I have said before, she says she was a victim too, and she was. My father systematically dismantled her self-esteem and made her, a very intelligent woman with a professional career and a lot of responsibility at work, utterly dependent on him. He had her convinced that only he could handle the family finances, and so she could never leave him, obviously.

It can’t be easy to be married to Larry, four kids or no. I think, like a lot of abused wives, she just buried herself in her work and in looking after the kids, and treated Larry just like we kids treated him, namely doing her best to avoid him. It’s that old trick, dealing with something by not dealing with it.

Then there is my certainty that she was suffering from depression for a lot of my childhood. Something happened somewhere along the way and I think she just kind of gave up. She just went through the motions of life.

I find it odd that my siblings didn’t notice this. I sure did. But in a sense, Mom was my only friend when I was in elementary school, so I was closer to her than the others, at least till the zombie chill of her depression finally got through to me and I started leaving her alone, too.

Which, of course, left me totally isolated. I am positive there is a link between my depression and hers that goes far beyond mere genetic risk factors. I saw what happened to her, emotionally speaking, and internalized it.

Maybe all my frozen tundra exists within her as well.

It wasn’t all bad, though. I have fond memories of summers with my Mom, where she would be off work and there to be a Mom to us. I remember her taking the time to teach me things and stir my curiosity, and of course I will always treasure her reading all of the Narnia books, plus Huckleberry Finn and both Alice books, to me when I was a wee sprog.

It must have been fun for her too. Reading to wide-eyed little me, answering my occasional question when I didn’t understand something, doing all the voices for the different characters, my little red head soaking it all up in rapt awe.

And of course, like I have said before, I remember sitting with her at the family dinner table, in the kitchen, singing along to folk songs while she strummed her guitar, the very picture of Seventies familial bliss.

No wonder I have such intense Seventies nostalgia that it feels sometimes like a fever dream. No only was that the era of my most formative years, but things were a heck of a lot better for me back then. I had friends, Pat and Janet, and I had my family around me, far more supportive and attentive and less distracted back then, and things were just plain a lot groovier back then.

Everything changed for me when I went to school. Well, actually, the year before that, when Pat and Janet went off to school and so it was just me and the babysitter. That was the year I should have been in kindergarten.

But we’ve been over that.

So in my mind, it really does seem like the Seventies were the good times, and everything went to hell once the Eighties started. Think about it, I was born in ’73, which means I was seven in 1980. That means Grade II, and yup, by then my life was a hell of boredom and terror, utterly alone in a cold, cruel world.

Maybe it seems that way to my mother as well. It feels like in the Eighties, everyone got colder, more self-absorbed, more careerist, more grey and angry.

I know you won’t agree with that, Felicity, but it’s just my own impression.

The more I think about my childhood, the stronger the feeling of terrible wrongness gets. Nobody should grow up that isolated and abandoned, and my mother played her part in THAT as well.

She ignored me just like the others. I was inconvenient. They didn’t know what to do with me. So they did nothing.

After all, I was so meek and shy, it was like I wasn’t even there.

Sometimes I still feel like I am not even here.

Maybe I should pay someone to remind me I’m around.

I will talk to you again tomorrow, dear readers.

On The Road – Rainy City edition

Part 1 : Notes from the Field

You know what that title means. I am currently sitting in my favorite White Spot on 3 and Ackroyd , waiting for my food, and blogging at you nice people.

I am proud of myself. I didn’t have to leave the apartment and hop on the bus to go to Money Mart and cash La Cheque. I could have just stayed home and waited passively for Friday night to maybe deliver me there via Joe.

But I did in any way, purely as a way to get myself out of the apartment on my own, just for fun.

Damn my food is taking a while. Chicken Caesar Wrap, I summon thee!

While at Money Mart, I confirmed that the Amazon Prime money is back on the card. Glee! I got a hundred sixty bux on the card now, so I see a little online shopping in my future.

Or maybe not. Maybe I will use the money to get one of my novels turned into an eBook. Tbe fantasy one is probably the most commercial.

Then again, the latest one is the one I destroyed my soul trying to edit, so from a sunk cost point of view, it should be that one.

Of course… then I would have to figure out how to promote it…

Story of my life, really. I am a wizard in need of a bard.

Well, I think the road portion of this entry is complete. Typing via virtual keyboard is tiring and I still have some shopping to do.

The rest will be written from home!

Part 2 : The Home Office

Wow, all that typing on the virtual keyboard at White Spot, and I only wrote around 250 words. It felt like a heck of a lot more, I can tell you. I have got to find the power chord for my itty bitty Bluetooth keyboard and charge it up so I can use it again. It’s not as good as a real keyboard, but it’s still better than the virtual one on my tablet.

I got a great seat when I was at White Spot. Way in the back, tucked into a little corner all on my own, perfect for a writer.

I ended up eavesdropping, off and on, on a fairly interesting conversation between an older man and a younger woman who were both involved in some part of the finance industry. The intriguing part was that I was not sure if this was a business meeting or a date.

The older guy definitely had his high beams on, charm-wise. He was sharing some of his life story with her. He did most of the talking. He was telling her about his philosophy of mutual funds, I think. At various times I got the feeling that he was : interested in getting the people to invest in the firm he worked for, there in a more of a mentoring capacity, or trying to get into her pants.

I suppose it could be all three, really.

So not only did I have the sort of personal space I wanted, I also got a fairly interesting conversation to sample now and then.

The conversation definitely seemed tense at times, like this was high stakes diplomacy and they were dealing with really sensitive subjects. I couldn’t quite follow what they were talking about, though, so I can’t be sure.

And yeah, I suppose I should feel bad for eavesdropping on people. But I did no harm. I have no idea who these people are or what their lives are like. There is no way I could possibly harm them with what I overheard. Our lives do not intersect in any way. I don’t even know their names.

And besides, it’s very hard for me to ignore the spoken word when my mind is not otherwise occupied, and so in a sense I can’t really help it. I end up eavesdropping whether I want to do it or not.

And believe you me, I have ended up listening to some really dumb conversations as a result. They are not all mysterious and dense interactions with a lot going on under the surface.

Sometimes it’s just morons yammering at each other about sports.

Getting back home was… moist. When I left White Spot, it was raining… ish. The sort of rain where it is definitely raining, but not really committed to it.

Fine by me. If it had been real, serious rain, I would have gotten a lot wetter. Luckily, I could make it to the bus stop by staying under the Skytrain, for the most part, then under the awnings on Westminster Highway.

When I was approaching the bus stop, I saw the one thing you really don’t wanna see while approaching your bus stop : your bus, pulling away.

Not only is that just inherently frustrating (so close!), but it means that you will be waiting for the maximum possible time until the next one shows up.

And because it was raining, I had to choose between being seated but getting wet on the bus bench, or staying dry under the nearby awning but having to stand for the whole time. Some choice!

I actually tried to sit down on the ground under the awning (I ain’t fancy, not when sitting is on the line) but a warning twinge from my bum knee warned me of the folly of that kind of move.

If it was that bad going down, imagine what a nightmare getting back up would have been! Man it sucks to get old.

After I got off the bus, I went to Safeway and bought a few things, including, on a total whim, a couple of bottles of Mio.

I’ve been curious about the stuff for a while. I got Lemonade (yay) and, get this, Watermelon Strawberry flavour.

Those are two of my favorite flavours of anything! I can’t wait to see what they are like together.

Oh, and the wonderful William should be stopping by tonight with a working power supply for the Mother Ship, and so I should be back on my trusty ol computer by the time I write to you again.

I will talk to you again tomorrow, folks!

The Island of Z

I’ve been having one of my sleepy days.

Makes sense. I am long overdue. And after spending five days fairly ill, I am no doubt in need of some serious mental rejuvenation time.

Of course, it doesn’t feel like mental rejuvenation at the time. Far from it! It feels like my mind is filled with soft electric sand, and every time I sleep, some of the sand drains out…. but only after it fills up in the first place.

Right now, I am willing to just let the sand have its way and catch up on sleep. If it keeps up, I will get irritated with it and start to fight it, forcing myself to move around and be active and shake the sand out of my skull.

Man, when I get hold of a metaphor, I just don’t let go.

Sleepy or no, I am definitely willing to say that I am no longer in the grips of last week’s death spore. I still have some “liquid goo” rattling around in my lungs and a touch of dryness in my throat, but I feel fine, my appetite is back to normal, and I am properly salinated.

I am so glad that shit’s over. Like I said when still in the antiviral trenches, you don’t know what you got till it’s gone, and that applies to your health more than anything else.

So while I would hesitate to call myself “healthy” now, I will say that it wonderful to be back to the far more pleasant level of being ill to which I have become accustomed in recent years.

One little thing brightening my day : I managed to talk Amazon Canada into giving me my money back for Amazon Prime.

It started when I finally got around to looking up the benefits of Amazon Prime. That meant first figuring out which Amazon I had bought said Prime on.

Turned out, it was Amazon Canada. So I fuck around on Google trying to find out what all I get from Prime on Amazon Canada, and it turns out some dude wrote an entire Kindle book about it.

Wow, there are so many it takes a whole book to explain them all, I thought.

But no. I found the information elsewhere and it’s not even a pamphlet’s worth. Pretty much all you get is free 2-day shipping and a deal on 1-day shipping.

Whoopty fucking do.

When I saw that, I instantly made my mind up that it was SO NOT WORTH the $88 it had cost me, and I was determined to get my moola back.

So I wrote a heart-string tugging letter to Amazon about having been sick (true) and financial times being hard for me (true, but not exactly new) and how I knew they had my money now and didn’t have to give it back, but I would really appreciate all or at least some of the money back anyhow.

There may have been some gilding of the truth in there. Trust me, it was a masterpiece of pathos.

Couple hours later, I get an email saying my Prime membership has been canceled and I should be getting the money credited back to my card within 2 to 3 business days.

SCORE! I still can’t believe I pulled it off. I figured that absentminded people like me were the natural prey of free trial gambits like the Amazon Prime one, and there was no way they would give me a penny back. Or if they did, it would be in the form of “store credit”, so to speak.

But nope. I’m getting my $$$ back. Squee! I not only managed to correct one of my recent stupids, I did it in a way that makes me feel smart. DOUBLE SCORE!

So things are looking up for me. I am recovering from getting knocked almost all the way down by that illness, and pretty soon I will be officially on the rise again and ready to go hunting for some writing courses to take.

It helps that tomorrow is every cripple’s favorite time of the month, Check Day. I plan on going on my own to get it cashed, as otherwise I would end up having to it after therapy on Thursday, or wait till Friday night in hopes we would be going out to eat, and fuck that noise.

It will do wonders for my mood to not have an empty wallet. I have like maybe a couple bux to my name at the moment, and that never feels good.

Sure, intellectually I know that I am not, in the grand financial scheme of things, broke. Check tomorrow, Amazon payback, etc.

But being broke is psychologically damaging on a level inaccessible to mere reason. I have “winter is coming” white people genes in my DNA strand and that means I need to have a reserve of resources available at all times in order to feel safe.

I recognize that this is exactly how financial hoarding (oldschool : miser) happens. I can completely imagine myself being the kind of person who can never have enough money because they use money as security against a cold cruel world, which works for a while, but when the real monster lies within your soul, no amount of money can keep it out.

There, I just wrote the plot for an entire CBC-bait novel about a middle aged rich white dude’s existential crisis.

So my plan is to find a place, financially speaking, where I am comfortable. A place where I can have a nice, easy, pleasant life without a lot of worry or hassle on my part.

I have thought for a while now that a glorious place for any artist to be in is the one where you are so financially secure that someone could offer you a billion dollars to sell out, and you could still say no.

Then watch the look on their faces when “more money” stops working and they realize they actually have to DEAL with you, not just “make a deal” with you.

That’s all from me for today folks. I will talk to you again tomorrow.

A burden of intention

One aspect of modern life in the modern world that puzzles and intrigues me is this burden of intentions that we all carry around for us.

Let me explain. While chatting with my sister earlier this month, she mentioned some small thing she had been meaning to do for a long time, and it suddenly hit me that this is not a rare thing. It is, in fact, a nearly universal aspect of modern life. People walk around with enormous lists of things they plan to do some day, when they get around to it, when they have the time, and then feel guilty for not doing them.

Thus, this phenomenon insures that all us modern naked beach apes carry a burden of guilt for intentions unfulfilled, regardless of how realistic said intentions were or even whether they are something you really, truly want.

A severe but not entirely invalid line of argument could be made that if you wanted to do these things bad enough, you would have done them by now, and the fact that you haven’t means that you likely never will and you would be a lot better off just forgetting about the whole thing and ridding yourself of a lot of unproductive and thus entirely unnecessary guilt.

And yet, we never do that. We hold on to these intentions and their resulting burden of sadness and guilt, and so one has to wonder why.

What is it we are getting out of this internal list? It must be something precious for us to be willing to endure the costs.

I think what we get is hope. Despite the fact that when we think of these little tasks, we risk feeling bad for not having done them yet, we really enjoy the idea that we will do all these things “some day”. It is the miracle of the undefined future, where terms like “some day”, “eventually”, and “when I feel like it” can be used to bypass many layers of reason and prudence and allow us to believe that we will do damned near anything…. some day.

For small things, this is harmless. It doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things if you never get back to knitting Afghan blankets if you otherwise have a happy and fulfilling life. If thinking that makes you happy, then it is probably a net good to believe it, whether it’s realistic or not.

But some kinds of hope are toxic, and if the feeling that you will do certain things “some day” keeps you from doing them in the present and that in turn keeps you in an unhappy or unfulfilling life, you might just be better off deciding, right now, whether you are going to do it, or give up and move on.

One thing I have noticed about the things people have on their little lists is that they nearly always involve either virtue or self-actualization. They are the things that people think they ought to do, and possibly even the sort of thing that people thing people like themselves DO do, but which involve a certain amount of sacrifice of our precious, precious off time and so we never actually do them.

So whether it’s volunteering down at the homeless shelter (virtue) or finally taking that last French course you need to get your minor (self-actualization), this burdensome list is usually filled with the sort of things we feel we ought to do, and it is just easier to imagine we will do them some day than it is to actually do them, and so they get added to the list.

And adding things to that list is so easy, isn’t it? It’s easy and it feels good and you never even think about how long the list is already or, heaven forbid, how realistic it is that you will do whatever it is your adding.

As for prioritizing the list so you can tackle the most important ones first?

Forget about it.

So the list gets longer and longer and longer, and as it does, a very specific kind of sadness begins to accumulate. Because no matter what sort of deal you have made somewhere in your mind about hope and fun, not doing the happen golden life-affirming things you keep meaning to do is damned depressing.

Some part of you is like the kid whose Dad always promises to go play catch with them “next time, Champ. Next time for sure!”.

Sooner or later, that part of you realizes it’s never going to happen, and the constant disappointment of the dream turns it sour, and now the item on your list is not a source of joy, but only of guilt and self-recrimination.

And yet, you can’t delete it off the list either, because that would mean admitting that you were never going to do it.

And that would mean killing the dream.

As I always say in these things, I am by no means exempting myself from this phenomena. I have a lot of dreamy ideas about things I could do “some day”, and these dreams, unrealistic as they may seem to someone else, have been a great comfort to me through a lot of years of emotional isolation.

I don’t think I could ever give them up. Not unless one of them came true. But I could never, I think, settle down to live an utterly mundane life of selling car insurance and going to BBQs and talking about RRSPs.

I have the seeds of greatness within me. I have known it since I was a child. There is a part of me that is a mighty wizard and that makes me the sort of person who can really leave a mark on the world.

And some day, god damn it, that is what I am going to do. I am going to use this magnificent mangled mind of mine to shiny a mighty big light into the world, and where the light falls, miracles and wonders shall occur.

And that’s a dream well worth the burden.

I will talk to you again tomorrow, folks.