This old life

Feeling old today. Bleh.

My eyesight is definitely getting worse. It’s getting harder and harder to read text on the TV screen. Even reading text on the monitor, which is never more than two feet from my face when I use it, is getting tricky sometimes.

So, it’s time to go see the eye doctor again. Not looking forward to that. They tend to treat people on assistance like shit. They do not take us seriously and honestly don’t really want us there because they don’t make as much money on us.

Or maybe it’s just me. I don’t know.

But eye appointments have always been tricky for me. Even my first one, when I was in Grade 1, was hard on me, because I have a very precise sense of language and the doctor is always saying “Do you like it better like this, or like this?”

And I am stuck saying “Well one is darker and one is sharper…. ” and that is totally not what they are looking for. They want a bunch of subjective snap decisions and I am not very good at those.

And you don’t get far in an eye exam saying “I dunno!” a lot.

Plus they rely heavily on that classic eye chart, which is text, and I think possibly that I have specialized, eye wise, in reading text. So the results might not be accurate.

In general, I feel like I have dealt with my poor vision by learning to force my eyes to focus. If I don’t do that, everything looks dull and blurry. Even with my glasses on.

I suspect that I have a very long term case of lazy eye. Long term as in, since that first eye appointment. I think I had one eye focusing better than the other and it was misdiagnosed as myopia.

And since then, I have been masking that from the world and from myself by forcing my eyes to focus.

It’s just a theory, though. Could be way off base.

More worrisome(because, of course, I’ve had poor eyesight for my whole life) is my hearing. That seems to be deteriorating as well lately. And I seem to be losing it at the low end, which surprises me. I always thought the high end went first.

But I find it harder and harder to make out low sounds. I have a bunch of samples of the type I used to make music that are now too low for me to hear reliably. Even with the headphones on.

And some of my mp3s have starting to sound… strange. Like someone ran them through a low-pass filter and filtered out the low end of the song. Basslines sound incomplete, like there’s notes missing.

So far, it’s no big deal. But I don’t like the way that this is going.

So I guess it’s time to see my GP as well. It could me just the usual sinus mess that is causing this. Fluid in the ear. But that usually causes the occasional annoying high pitched noise in my ear that lasts for maybe five seconds and is gone. It has never attacked the low end at all, as far as I know.

And ears are a lot harder to deal with than eyes. We have correcting vision pretty much down pat by now. But you can’t get a pair of glasses for your ears.

None worth wearing, anyhow.

So it might be that I will have to decide when it is time for a hearing aid. Right now, the occasional inability to understand low speech or low music is not much of a problem.

But if I start needing people to shout before I can understand what they are saying, I will have no choice but to get a hearing aid. Or deal with the world through text entirely.

That would suck. Hard to deal with people on the street that way, you know? What do you do, hand them a pen and paper?

But what has me very worried is my breathing. I have been having episodes of shortness of breath lately. Times when I have to apply my breathing techniques (holding my breath, breathing fast, forcing all the air from my lungs) with considerable vigor in order to get things back to something like normal.

It has to be the sleep apnea. It kind of doesn’t go away when ignored. The sleep apnea must be reducing my lung capacity like it did with a friend of mine. I need to get back on CPAP, or maybe tell my GP that CPAP doesn’t work for me and see what comes next.

I suspect it will be surgical.

Or maybe they have new gear that is way, way better than my CPAP machine. Lighter mask, quieter operation. I saw a video on YouTube of a gizmo that supposedly does everything a CPAP machine does but is just a little rechargeable doohickey that looks like that thing that Bajorans have on their nose and just sits on your nose, wirelessly.

I could live with that, I think. It wouldn’t be covering my face and making me feel (quite irrationally) like I am being smothered. I am sure I could get used to it being there as I slept, as long as it was attached firmly enough that I can move around in bed without it falling off.

The big barrier to telling all this to my GP is, of course, that I would have to admit to my GP that I have been letting my CPAP machine gather dust for like five years now. Not an easy thing to admit.

My therapist, at least, would understand how that can happen with my particular strain of depression. I deal with whatever I can deal with, and everything else gets ignored. That way, I can keep going.

And for some reason, I absolutely have to keep going. My life might not be much, but I have to keep doing it.

I feel like if I was to stop…. I’d die.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

I don’t know how to be enough

You know I’ll explain that.

What I mean by “I don’t know how to be enough” is that I don’t know what it is like to feel like you are a whole and decent person. I have had a vast and terrible sense of insufficiency and inadequacy for my entire life, more or less, and I can’t imagine what it is like to live my life without it there.

All my life, I have felt like there is something abjectly wrong with me and because of this flaw, I can never actually hold my own in society. I have no choice but to hope someone takes pity on me and helps me despite my pathetic nature, and that leaves me in a perpetual state of unworthy gratitude.

It is one thing to feel helpless. It is another thing entirely to feel like you don’t even deserve that help. That you are not worth helping, and that anyone who helps you is therefore taking on more than they can possibly handle and you should feel ashamed for how much damage you are doing to them.

And, of course, incredibly grateful that anyone ever helps you, unworthy as you are.

I feel like that’s my role in the world. Obviously, this is because that was my role in my family, as it seemed to me. I cannot honestly tell you how much of that was based on the reality of how I was treated and how much of it was the product of my rather broken mind, but I can tell you that was sure how I felt.

When you can’t ask for things, hope and gratitude are all that you have left.

I am not sure where the feeling that I could never be self sufficient came from, though. It’s not like I lacked the skills. Between looking after myself as a kid and learning a lot of things the hard way when I was in college, I have had all the basics covered for quite a while.

I suppose it’s the depression talking. It makes me feel so very weak and incapable. But even in college, my brother did most of the actual housework.

I am still ashamed of that. I had no excuse for that. But it’s the role I slipped into because it was the role I was used to. Like I have said here before, nobody wanted to take the time to teach me to do things the way they wanted them done, so I never had a lot of chores.

I did dishes. That was about it.

I guess the machine had been built years before I was ever born, and nobody felt like it was worth their time to make a space for me so I could help maintain it.

Nobody was keen to make room for me at all, come to think of it. No wonder I felt unwelcome. All my life I’ve been an afterthought at best, a nuisance most of the time, a resented burden at worst.

Or so it seemed to me.

Now I will admit, I was a clumsy kid who did not learn physical things quickly. And because of this, I was usually quite scared during the process. It would have taken effort and patience and time to teach me these things.

And those are three things people have never been willing to spare me. Easier to just ignore me. It’s not like I’d insist people paid attention to me.

And of course, when you feel like you have to learn a skill fast or people will lose interest and give up on you, that makes you all the more freaked out when someone tries and the less likely you will be able to beat the clock at all.

So given all that, I guess it’s no surprise that I feel so incapable. When it comes to the business of life, I truly feel like I can’t do it and any attempt to do it will only end up creating a potentially disaster-level mess someone else will end up having to fix and I will end up wishing I had never even tried.

That is the rape that is always cued up in my head on that subject, ready to play.

I do feel like I may have some minor learning disability when it comes to learning the physical. It’s very hard for me. I pretty much just have to keep trying by myself till I get it. I have a very poor track record when it comes to learning from explanations offered by others.

That’s how I learned to ride a bike. A lot of people tried to help, but they ended up just making me super anxious for reasons that should now be obvious, and it was only after they all left that I was able to figure it out on my own.

And for that, you need the freedom to fail. You have to feel like it’s safe to get it wrong a bunch of times before you get it right. And I can’t recall ever feeling that way when anyone else was around.

Pop culture is filled with images of parents teacher their children to ride a bake. The implication is that the parent sticks with them over a long period of time. first with the training wheels, then eventually without.

I can’t imagine having anyone like that in my life. Nobody has ever had that kind of patience and tolerance with me. Maybe if someone had, I would have been able to calm down enough to learn these things and gained the confidence that brings.

But right now, honestly, I just plain feel like I can’t do it. My best hope is that I can use my other skills to someday be able to play someone to take care of me rather than relying on the kindness of others.

Maybe then I will finally feel like a decent and worthy human being, instead of a parasite.

But I wouldn’t count on it.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Sunday Video Roundup

Gonna try to make this a weekly thing. Might make it easier to keep up.

Now, let’s see how many videos I have made since the last time I did this…. wow. 15. Eep.

Better get down to it, then!

First we got this handy little rant about those Southern neighbours of ours :

Might be delusional of me, but I feel like I am speaking for a lot of people in that video. All us poor benighted people in that insignificant part of Planet Earth known as “Not America”.

I have thought about the subject more since then, and the problem is not that they are barbarians, it’s that they are children. Autistic children, poorly socialized and spoiled. They are the rich kid who has no idea how to get along with others and is way too aggressive. America, World Bully.

Next, some music! Damn, I love the sample at the beginning and throughout this thing.

That bright brass loop. It’s just so cheerful and strong. Been wanting to use it for ages. So… I did.

And it was sort of successful. As usual, the weakest part (at least from my POV) is near the end, when everything comes together. Did it sound good? Sorta, maybe?

It didn’t sound horrible, at any rate.

Aaaand here we have another entry in my practically famous series, Sarcastic Slideshow.

I like doing those but they are a lot of work compared to a talker or even cobbling together a minute of music. My video ambition level has dropped lately and I want to fix that.

That said, don’t expect big shakes from today’s video, because Sunday.

Next up, things get up close and depressing.

That was not a fun period of my life. But that’s life as a depressive. Whether you are on the road to recovery or just straining to maintain, there are going to be times when all the bad stuff you still don’t know how to express and hence release builds up and you have no choice but to feel crappy for a while.

Next up, more of the same, with added background noise.

That was a very bad day. Like I have said before in this space, thank goodness I have you people to talk to (well, at) so I could write out my troubles. That did me a world of good.

And I am so glad that I have learned to do that. Expressing yourself is the key to recovery. Find what works for you and do it. Do it all the damned time.

Our next item is one of those adorable hybrids, the Musical Slideshow.

Yes, when Musical Minute meets Sarcastic Slideshow, the result is a thing. Basically, they’re a Musical Minute with something to look at as well. The usual MMs only have a static image because I don’t want to distract from the music.

But sometimes, I like to mix things up.

And for my next trick, I have this perversion of all that is good and pure in the world :

Can’t believe it took me this long to realize I should be doing cartoons instead of soap operas. I have loved cartoons my whole life! And there’s so much to work with in a cartoon.

I might start doing dubs instead of subs, though. Subtitles go by so fast, it’s hard to keep up.

Oh look, more music.

Love how that one turned out. It wasn’t quite what I was trying to do, but the contrast between the high energy techno bass and beat and the slowly dawning pad is sublime.

I love it when my work gets gorgeous.

Brace yourself : there’s a lot of talkers coming! Starting with :

Yay for pants! Pants are very important to my modern, hip, non-naked lifestyle. I know it’s controversial to say this, but I prefer to keep my genitals covered in public, and pants are a key ingredient in making that dream come true.

Talker Number Two : I talk about my fave podcasts.

I remember that night. Video time rolled around, and I had no clue what to do about it. But I had just been listening to podcasts, so I figured, what the heck, let’s talk about those.

It’s a hip and current topic, and I really do love me some podcasts. They’re like great radio, but freed from any commercial considerations and serious government people looking over their shoulders.

For the next vid, I decided to appear limned in divine radiance :

In other words, I am backlight by sunlight. It looks quite nice, don’t you think?

As for the topic of my talk (I have those sometimes), I am still trying to figure out exactly what I am talking about there. No doubt, so are you. But I definitely feel like I have hold of something important there, and when I finally figure it out, you nice people will be the first to know.

And now, as foretold by prophecy, there’s this little number :

Bleh. Not my best work. That’s what I get for shooting from the hip like I usually do with those things.

Making that video led me to a depressing conclusion : I have no way of describing what it means to be Canadian that is not a direct or implied comparison to that spoiled rich kid to the south of us.

And that makes me feel like the United States and Canada are twins, one wearing a T-shirt that says “America” and the other wearing one that says “Not America”.

Why is it so hard for us to find ourselves? Is it just the noise from down south drowning out our own unique voice? Or is there something fundamental to the Canadian character that makes us shy away from defining ourselves?

Hey look, I found more music!

Maybe the bassline should have been a wee bit louder. I am very happy with the beat, though. I brought a bunc of elements together to make it work, and I am particularly proud of the little clang at the end of each… loop? Beat? Whatever.

Sure, it’s silly, but that’s what I was going for. Sometime bouncy and silly and fun.

Then there’s this from last Friday :

Cost me two bucks for that bottle of water. But hydration is serious fucking business, especially for me, especially in summer, so it was worth it to make sure the trip back from therapy wasn’t as miserable as getting there had been.

Finally, one last bit of music :

Quite happy with that one. Simple, just two instruments. Gentle and calm and green. Lovely.

Phew! That’s it. We are all caught up for now, at least until I do today’s vid.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

The paradox of irreducible complexity within a democratic state

Nifty title, eh? Bet a paper with that title would get someone funding.

Okay, here’s the problem.

The further the modern world continues to grow, expand, specialize, and deepen, the more human knowledge is being applied than ever before. This knowledge covers an ever-wider scope of human knowledge, and the percentage of said knowledge that any single individual dwindles accordingly.

At the same time, these various forms of knowledge and understanding become more and more powerful, and have a larger potential and actual effect on the lives of individual citizens of democratic societies.

And every citizen of a democracy is expected to have an informed opinion on matters of public importance.

So as we progress, more and more issues of greater and greater importance require the very kind of specialized knowledge and understanding that eludes the average specialized citizen. The idea of an informed public making informed decisions is confounded daily by the inability of any one person to know enough to understand all the facts surrounding certain complex issues.

Take climate change. There are, at most, a million people in the world who truly understand the science behind climate change. There’s maybe a hundred million more who, like me, understand science well enough to get the gist of it.

The rest of the world can’t examine the facts and draw their own conclusions. We science types often think they should, but we should not fool ourselves into thinking that they can. They simply do not have the aptitude or the inclination, and we can sit on the sidelines shouting “But this effects us all!” all we like, it will not change this fact.

But say you are quite good at science, and can examine and analyze the facts despite being outside the scientific community dedicated to climate change.

What about nanotechnology? How about self-driving cars? How about economics? Politics? Law? International trade?

There might well be people out there who could know enough to have an informed opinion on all those matters and more, but they are a tiny minority of the population whose lives are influenced by them, and for the rest, informed opinion is impossible.

But what of education? Surely we can educate people on these matters! But the thing is, if you can’t evaluate the facts and draw your own conclusions, you can’t decide who to believe. Sure, experts can do what they can to inform the public, but without the ability to truly understand the subject, all experts are equal and therefore all expert opinions are equal.

And that’s how in the modern world, expertise gets treated like opinion. The existence of true expertise and hence true experts who should be trusted on matters becomes harder and harder to establish in the modern ultra-connected world, where no matter how honest and well informed an expert might be, there is someone with similar bona fides saying the exact opposite.

Therefore, it has never been easier to simply find an expert who agrees with whatever it is you already believe or are inclined to believe. Not even the rough democracy of expert polling can fight this phenomenon. Thanks to the spread of a kind of lazy paranoia, people are well equipped to declare that everyone who disagrees with them is part of a conspiracy to suppress the truth, and thus belief is maintained no matter how broad a consensus there is amongst experts on a topic.

As long as there is a single expert, however inept or corrupt, who agrees with you, the rest of the world is wrong. After all, everyone used to think the world was flat, right? (

So what we have is an ever increasing gap between what people ought to know in regards to important issues that have a deep impact on our lives and what it is reasonable to expect them to know.

There are the communicators, true. The various people in the chain of public understanding that can understand things well enough to explain it to people who are less specialized, and so forth down to the public.

But that only goes so far. There is an irreducible complexity to most subjects that no amount of simplification (or “dumbing down”) can solve. The average person will never grasp more than maybe one or two of these, in their areas of interest and/or expertise. Everything else will require simply taking someone’s word for it.

This goes against the very roots of democratic thinking. Democracy is inherently hostile to authority. The very idea of believing someone else without examining the facts oneself is considered to be, in a sense, a failure of one’s duty as a citizen of an individualistic, pluralistic society.

We are expected to make up our own minds. What exactly that means, nobody knows.

This conflict between what is required of us as informed citizens and the percentage of what effects on which we can actually be informed is a major paradox of modern life. And we all feel the effects.

Nutrition experts say one thing, then the other. Politician change beliefs like a supermodel changes clothes. People gravitate to news sources they can trust, which in modern terms means ones that will never disagree with them. Professional sophists are hired by shadowy powers to try to mold public opinion through obfuscation, misdirection, and emotional manipulation. And through it all, objective truth becomes more elusive than ever.

Unfortunately, I have no solution for this problem. It is not as if modern societies can have officially sanctioned experts, and even if they did, nobody would believe them. The very people who seem solid and reliable today might get their opinions changed by commerce or professional pressure tomorrow. The more an expert is trusted, the greater the incentive for their corruption.

And so we are back to simply deciding based not on the facts but on who seems trustworthy to us, and that will always have a lot more to do with whether they are likely to say something that upsets us than it does to whether or not they are telling the truth, or even know what the hell they are talking about.

If you have any ideas for solutions, please leave them in the comments.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Hitting the wall

Remember, the only difference between hitting rock bottom and hitting the wall is gravity.

Okay, so that doesn’t make sense. The point is, I realized today that hitting the wall saved my life once, in a very real sense, and it is around time it did it again.

I have told you lovely, lovely people before about the period in my early twenties where I got into a very, very bad mental and physical state. Irritable Bowel Syndrome had hit me hard and, unlike other times, it stuck around.

All my life, I’d had “nervous stomach” incidents. Times when, for no apparently reason, I would get really nauseous and my guts would be churning and I would spend some time in Bathroom Hell.

It’s as bad as it sounds.

But these episodes were quite infrequent – maybe two or three a year – and I felt a lot better afterwards (yay endorphins) – so I never told anyone about it and just went bop bop bopping along again.

Ah, the resilience (and amnesia) of youth.

But after my college education was defunded, I went into a very bad doom spiral. The fact that I was unable to see what was wrong and continued to pretend like everything was a-okay made things a lot worse.

I wasn’t allowed to be anything but OK, or so I thought.

So after some very bad IBS attacks, I was a dehydrated, malnourished, anxious, hypoglycemic, hypochondriac mess. My days were miserable. I spent a lot of time sitting on the couch in the living room of my childhood home with the TV on, sometimes watching it, a lot of the times in too much pain for it to be anything but flashing lights and noise to me.

And this lasted for a long time. But eventually, I hit the wall. I got well and truly sick and tired of being sick and tired, and I got to the point where the cornered rat turns and fights. I was determined to get myself out of that hole.

So I forced myself to hydrate. My stomach didn’t like that one bit, but I didn’t care. I kept drinking as much water as I could handle, and eventually that got me to the point where I could eat.

Once I could eat, I recovered quickly, and before long I was physically healthy again. (Still depressed and unaware of it, but the physical side was working anyhow. )

And I think that’s where I am right now. I have been ill and depressed and a mess for a long long time now, and it’s high time I finally turn and attack my problems head on.

Starting with the physical. Physically, I am once more a big ole mess. My sleep apnea is untreated, I don’t ever check my blood sugar, and I eat like a moron.

At least some of that shit has got to stop.

It came over me like a revelation : I could be happier. I could feel a hell of a lot better than I do right now. There are things within my control that I can do to enjoy every moment of life more.

Now, for a normal person, this revelation might come across as one hundred percent DUH. But for a depressive, that’s a very difficult thought to think. Depression strangles hope. It makes it seem like the best you can hope for is things not getting worse, even though you are sure they will.

So you just stop thinking about the future and concentrate on making it through the present with a minimum of pain.

And then you look around and twenty years of your life are gone.

So the fact that I can now not just think things can get better, but believe it. It was always possible to imagine life getting better via some external agency like winning the lottery.

But now I think I can do it myself, and in fact, it now seems ridiculously simple. All I have to do is treat myself a little better, and I will feel better. And I am perfectly capable of taking steps to make things better.

The answer came to me through salad.

See, I have known for a while now that leaf greens make my stomach feel better. They give the acid something it can really sink its teeth into (cellulose) and that soothes my stomach really nicely.

And yet, the fog of depression was so thick that it was only recently that I realized that this was actually important.

If I eat more leafy greens, I will enjoy that better feeling more often. I will be in less pain, and that will make me happier. It sounds retarded when I put it into words, but that is nub of my recent revelation.

And to think, it all started when Joe bought a head of lettuce.

So tonight, when we go to ABC Country Kitchen for supper, I will see what kind of salads they have. Whatever I order, it’s going to have a lot of protein to go with the carbs, and will ideally have other vegetables as well.

It might end up costing me slightly more than my usual Greasy Thing And Fries, but how can you put a price on feeling a whole lot better? It’s going to be a rough month for me (hello, five week month!) but money spent on health is money well spent.

The sleep apnea and diabetes are bigger hills to climb, but the shitty diet is something I can tackle right now without a whole lot of effort.

And you know, baby steps. I am not going to suddenly change my entire diet. I am not planning on eliminating anything. I just plan to add more good things.

So my plan is actually to eat more. You really can eat more and weigh less, if you add the right things to your diet. Better nutrition doesn’t have to be a contest of wills.

It can be as simple as eating a salad before your gloriously decadent main course.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

The local hero

Dale had actually done it.

A burglar had broken into his home, and after several clear and commanding warnings were ignored, Dale had followed his training, aimed for the center of mass, exhaled, and pulled the trigger.

Now there he was, sitting on the stage with the rest of his family plus the mayor and the president of the local NRA chapter, in the Union Hall across from the Target on Poplar Street. Above and behind him was a banner reading “Nice shot, Dale!”, the same thing that had been written on the bulls eye shaped cake he’d been asked to cut. All day long people had been slapping him on the back and telling him what a great guy he was for what he had done. The local media had declared him a home-grown hero and the NRA wanted to pay him a lot of money to go speak to chapters all over the USA about what he had done.

Dale would rather have died. He felt like he was dying. Or maybe that he wanted to die.

There had been no satisfaction. No sense of victory. Not even the grim satisfaction of having done what had to be done. Just that young man’s head (the shot had gone high) exploding over and over again in his mind.

And with every explosion, the same question echoed in his mind : why did he have to kill the boy?

And boy he was. News said he was nineteen, and had a criminal record as long as your arm. They also said that the boy had a long history of mental instability, and at any point in time it was fifty-fifty whether he would be in jail or the loony bin. They’d had the boy’s social worker on, saying how she was saddened by the by the boy’s death…. but not surprised.

Not surprised. Here in Winsley County. Here in Big Fork, population three thousand. A town that prided itself on being peaceful, old-fashioned, and a great place to raise your kids. A town so small they didn’t even have a police station. Not surprised.

All around him, people were whooping it up big time, eating cake, drinking beer, and celebrating Dale’s act of heroism.

But he didn’t feel like a hero. He felt hollow, like if someone tapped him on the shoulder he’d ring like a bell. He felt cold, like there was a block of ice where his heart had been. But more than that, he felt… ashamed.

The boy’s head exploded again. Why’d he have to kill the boy?

The boy hadn’t been armed. He was skinny as a twig. He looked like he’d been dragged through the mud both ways uphill. He’d been wearing a plain white T-shirt and jeans so tight they looked like a coat of paint.

But most of all, he looked scared. Real real scared. And seeing him scared like that had felt… good. Real good. Like something out of a movie.

Then Dale had pulled the trigger and everything went to hell.

The worst part was, his wife had seen it. She’d been the one who’d woken him up and told him to go check what that noise in the kitchen was in the first place. She’d been right behind him on the stairs. She saw the whole thing.

Dale looked at her. Right now, she was smiling and nodding and looked for all the world like she was enjoying her time in the spotlight. She even looked at Dale adoringly now and then.

When she did, Dale wanted to die. He’d been married to Marsha for seventeen years, and knew the difference between when she was really happy and when she was putting on a show for company. He knew that right behind the smiles and warmth was something cold and dark that was only beginning to tear her up inside.

No woman – not even one as strong and loyal as Marsha – could see her husband splatter the brains of another human being asll over the kitchen… HER kitchen, the place where she cooked for and fed the family, the place where she had tea with her friends and talked to company – and not be deeply effected by it.

Dale figured they would be eating out for a while.

Dale looked out at all the people who had showed up to celebrate what he’d done. These were people he had known since childhood. People he’d hunted with. People he’d considered friends for his whole life. People he’d been to barbecues, church picnics, and town functions with. People he’d played with when he was a kid then tried to date when he was a teen. People whose kids were friends with his kids. Some of them he’d even voted for.

These were his people, the people he had more in common with than every other human being on the planet. But looking at them now, as they celebrated the fact that he’d killed someone who was barely more than a child, they look like demons and harpies to Dale.

The boy’s head exploded again. Why’d he have to kill the boy?

When Dale first saw him, the boy was at the fridge. He had a dozen packages and jars open and was eating from all of them, like he was trying to eat everything in the fridge at once. He’d been eating with such determined ferocity that Dale was sure the poor boy hadn’t eaten in weeks.

Had he really taken a human life just to keep from having to make an extra trip to Costco?

All the reasons the boy hadn’t listened to his warnings ran through Dale’s head. Maybe he hadn’t been able to hear Dale over the fridge’s compressor. Maybe he’d been too scared to move a muscle. Maybe he’d been too weak and confused to understand what Dale was saying. Maybe he’d had an attack of whatever kind of crazy he’d been and Dale looked like a ten foot alien to him.

From far away, Dale heard a voice he didn’t recognize calling his name. Guess I’m crazy now, he thought. Figures.

But then he realized that the voice was coming from the person standing in front of him. He forced himself to focus on the man.

It was Jim Miller, someone he had known when he was a plumber at the mill. He had a business card in his hand. How do they make them that white? thought Dale.

“…so I know we don’t know each other too well, uh, Dale, but I know what you’ve been through, and I just wanted to tell you… I get it. I mean, I understand what you are going through. It was after you left, but…. the reason I don’t work at the mill any more is that I was playing around in the control room, you know, fooling around to make people laugh… and I, I hit the button that activates the press, and… the new kid, the one from Ashbury, was cleaning the press like we’d told him to do…. anyhow, all I am trying to say is, I know what it’s like to, to… take a… life. And there’s people who help people like us, Dale. We call ourselves the Silver Thread, and it’s mostly cops, but I am sure I can get you in just like someone got me in. ”

Jim pressed the card he was holding into Dale’s hand. “That’s all our contact info. We have a hotline, a Facebook group, live chat, our own website, everything. Call them and say you’re from Big Fork and Jim sent you. They will know who you mean. ”

The card felt hot in Dale’s hand. He wanted to throw it away. But then he felt Marsha squeeze his other hand under the table, and he knew that, from her, that meant “Please do it. ”

“I’ll think about it. ” said a voice a lot like his own, and Jim smiled and nodded a bunch then went back to the party. Under the table, Marsha squeezed his hand again, this time meaning “thank you, well done. ”

Later that night, after all the goodbyes from all their friends, when they were finally heading to the motel they’d be staying at
while the police cleaned up their home, Dale threw the card into the garbage.

But he’d already copied all the information into his phone.

To me, there is no difference

To me, all science deniers are the same.

To me, there is no difference between someone who thinks God created the Universe in seven days, and someone who think the Great Mother or Mother Nature created it in the Cosmic Womb or such. Neither claim is supported by evidence, neither is even vaguely plausible, and both require a great deal of magical thinking to even entertain.

Both deny the evidence of geology, astrophysics, and orbital mechanics, and that makes both sides the same to me.

To me, there is no difference between someone who doesn’t believe in climate change and someone who doesn’t believe in nuclear energy. Both require a passionate denial not only of the truth of science, but the existence of objective truth itself. If you refuse to believe in something that is demonstrably and reliably true, I don’t care what your politics are.

You are anti-reason, and that makes you all the same to me.

To me, there is no difference between getting your morals from picking and choosing the parts of an ancient text or by picking and choosing from modern New Age gurus. Morality is not a bouquet, it is the truth of what is the best way for humans to express their desire to lead moral lives. Hiding behind any text both denies the reality of natural human ethics and betrays a fatal cowardice in the attempt to win moral arguments without having to even think about it.

Either way, you are trying to get through life without really thinking about anything, and that makes you all the same to me.

To me, there is difference between thinking you are morally superior because of your particular connection to God and thinking you are morally superior because you live in harmony with Mother Earth. They are both mere status games disguised very thinly as morals, and it doesn’t make a difference if your smugness comes from all the crucifixes in your home or the amount of fair trade coffee you drink.

Either way, it’s just middle class status competition in pursuit of feeling like you are better than other people, and that is about as far from morality as you can get.

Meditation retreat or Jesus camp, you’re all the same to me.

To me, there is no difference between claiming you get your beliefs from your close personal relationship with Jesus or from lots of yoga and Chai tea. Either way, as with the texts, you are attempting to claim authority over others in order to both aggrandize yourself and protect your arguments from reasoned criticism.

Both sides are pretending intuition is information, and that makes them the same to me./

To me, there is no difference between believing the crucifix around your neck protects you from the Devil and believing the crystals in your jewelry deflect negative energies. In both cases, you are externalizing your emotions and thus transforming them into belief in the patently absurd and completely undemonstrable.

Both are forms of mistaking metaphors for truth and hence thinking the map is the territory, and that’s all the same to me.

Similarly, to me there is no difference between thinking a priest has the power to turn wafers and wine into the blood and body of Christ and thinking that drawing a circle and sprinkling salt and sandalwood around transforms your living room or back yard into some kind of magical space.

Both require mistaking ritual for reality, and that makes them both the same to me.

To me, there is no difference between thinking homosexuality is wrong because it’s “unnatural” or thinking plastic is wrong because it is “unnatural”. “Natural” is an ethically and scientifically meaningless word. All you are doing is putting a cheap tinsel halo on your unthinking and unexamined sense of disgust.

Both sides mistake an unreasoned twinge in the stomach for actual moral thinking, and it doesn’t matter to me who you vote for. You’re all the same to me.

To me, there’s no difference between thinking a priest can absolve you from your sins and thinking a five day purge can clear your body of toxins. In both cases, you think a ritual can cleanse you of the results of the evils you have done without having to do a thing to actually make things right.

Both represent a cheap moral shortcut to absolution without right action, and that’s all the same to me.

To me, there is no different between thinking only prayer can cure illness and thinking only “natural” or “alternative” medicine can do it. Both are merely a daft rationalization of a child’s superstitious fear of the doctor and the hospital. Anyone capable of figuring out parallel parking should have sufficient reason to understand that scary things can be good for you and that fear is not evidence.

Both cases are depressingly thin rationalizations of irrational and self-destructive fear, and thus, the same to me.

Note that I do not hate either of the sides I have presented. Nor do I necessarily deny the truth of any of the beliefs listed here. I am merely drawing parallels I consider useful.

All I am truly saying is that both sides are roughly the same in terms of rationality. Both sides deny evidence in order to preserve belief, both sides mistake internal emotions for outside reality, and neither side is particularly good at facing unpleasant truths that do not fit their carefully curated world view.

As someone who has never at any time in his life on Earth been religious, all supernatural beliefs are the same to me. To me, something is either true, and thus bound by the rules of logic and science, or false, and therefore does not exist.

There is no third option. Belief in the supernatural supposes that something can exist that doesn’t have to follow logic or science. And that is simply not the case.

I make these comparisons not to attack anyone’s beliefs but to show that true belief in science and reason unifies people.

But most importantly, I want to make it absolutely clear that nobody has a monopoly on reason and sensibility and therefore nobody has the right to poke at the other side’s flavour of irrationality before examining their own’s.

Left and right are dead. Science and superstition remain.

And I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Diary of a Supervillain, part 2

Still no word about the fate of my friend “Toby”. I have made a few connections among the staff here (being able to help them with their children’s homework helps) and when they know something about how he is doing in his new life in the Powered ward, I will know too.

I don’t know what I am expecting to hear. From all I have gathered about the Powered ward, his fate will be identical to all the other chemical zombies there.

And to think, the people in charge here consider that the humane option. After all, the patients are easy to manage and they are, in a highly insipid and demeaning way, “happy”.

I, for one, would rather die.

Speaking of death (always a favorite topic around here), my main worry for my friend is that his slippery, clever personality will find a way to play games with people’s minds even in the Powered ward, and he will get himself in enough trouble to get transferred to that most dreaded of wards, the Uncontrollable Powered ward.

The powers that be deny it exists, but my people in the Powered ward have seen patients disappear and never come back. Shortly thereafter, their records disappear from the computer, and people who ask about them end up facing disciplinary action on one trumped up charge or another.

The message is clear. These people were never hear.

This happened to someone I worked with once, whom I will call The Minotaur. There was no question of him being in the Unpowered ward. He is indestructible, has unlimited stamina, is strong enough to throw a small building into orbit, and can dominate people with his mind.

He is also an excellent cook and plays a very cunning game of chess. We got along well enough.

And to his credit, he fooled them for a while. He acted like a drugged out zombie, even though the drugs barely had any effect on him, and blended into the flock while he planned his escape.

My people claim they were never fooled (as people do) but didn’t think it was important. They learned different.

One day, an orderly dropped a tray right into the game of chess the Minotaur was very slowly playing with a fellow inmate, and the Minotaur unthinkingly backhanded him into the nearest wall.

The orderly, I am told, will recover. His legs, however, will not.

After that, the Minotaur was subjected to all kinds of tests that proved he was not controllable, and within an hour of the incident, a doctor none of them recognized came to transfer the Minotaur to a “special facility” for “individual treatment”, and all the paperwork checked out, so they had to let him go.

And now, he only exists in people’s memories.

Rumors are rife as to what happens to people like him. There are dark tales of tortuous devices draining their victims of life force and keeping them on the very edge of death so they can be studied anyhow the scientific sadists please.

Personally, I assume they just kill them. It’s what I would do in their place.

So I worry for my friend “Toby”. A lot of people would assume that for people of my ilk, true friendship is impossible because there is no way we could ever trust one another.

I would argue that the lack of trust makes our friendships all the stronger. When you go into things knowing that both of you would kill the other in a heartbeat if it served their needs, you can build your relationship with that in mind.

I know I could never trust “Toby”. He is, after all, an alien life form genetically programmed to loathe humanity with his entire being, to the point where he looks at us as an exterminator looks at bedbugs.

And of course, knowing this, I view him similarly, and would end him in a moment if they opportunity arose.

And yet, I am also quite fond of him, and I think he feels the same about me. We respect one another. We recognize in the other qualities we value. And most importantly, we enjoy talking to one another.

Perhaps that doesn’t fit the usual mold of friendship, but it works for us. Oh, and sex and romance work similarly.

Had a visitor today. A former foe. Not sure what the policy is on using their names, so I will call him Solomon. He visits now and then, whenever he wants to relive his glory days.

At first, I enjoyed these visits as much as he did, and for the same reason. But over time I have learned to dread them, because his deterioration upsets and depresses me. He is clearly drinking again, and getting into senseless fights, and who knows what else. He just cannot adjust to civilian life.

If I had know that this would be the outcome of my stripping him of his powers, I would have…. well, I suppose I would have done it anyway. But now… I feel responsible.

That’s why, despite my dread, I could never turn him away. That’s unthinkable. Not only because I feel responsible for his condition, but the way he talks sometimes gives me the impression that our visits are the only things keeping him together.

I have no idea what would happen if I turned him away. Maybe nothing. But he and I have a long history together, and I have always admired and respected him despite his proclivity for foiling my plans. He was a strong and noble warrior fighting for the highest ideals when we clashed swords, and I never begrudged him his enmity for me. I didn’t even share it.

After all, I would feel the same if I were in his position.

And I refuse to let someone like that fall apart if there is a single thing I can do to prevent it, or at least slow it down.

My worst nightmare concerning him is that he does someone drastic and ends up in a place like this.

I have now “journaled” the requisite number of words, and thus, I conclude.

Am I antisocial?

And what would it mean if I was?

Those of you who only know me through my online persona might find the question baffling, or even amusing. Online, I am perky and funny and friendly to everyone. Me, antisocial?

But those who know the real me might at least get a glimmer of what I am talking about. In real life, I am a semi-recluse (or as I like to say, an “urban hermit”) who doesn’t exactly go out and paint the town red.

In fact, I barely paint one room light pink, and that’s only on New Year’s.

And it is easy to simply write it all off as agoraphobia and/or social anxiety and/or depression. (Complicated, but easy.) But as I ride that long dark road to recovery, I am beginning to wonder how much of that is, well…. me!

Maybe I am just not that friendly a fellow in the real world. The Internet is great for someone with the kind of social anxiety I have because it reduces the social stimulation down to pretty much its theoretical minimum. Talking in text, and through the mask of a persona that I created myself, reduces interaction intensity to the very low level that I can manage.

So I can be very friendly and silly and funny in that extremely low stimulation level environment. Mostly mental, takes place in the imagination (more or less), don’t have to be my real self and thus self-loathing is neatly dodged. It’s ideal.

And terrible, because it means I don’t have to learn to deal with reality.

My anxiety is so strong that it is very hard to me to figure out who I would be without it. I can’t see through it. It’s like this hyper dense magnetic field that distorts everything, even light, and makes my world blurry and unfocused.

Yeah, I know. My metaphors are weird.

But I am fairly sure that, if it all went away and my brain chemicals were normal and I could begin to think like a normal person, I would still not exactly be super outgoing or interested in “partying”.

Don’t get me wrong. I have been to parties and quite enjoyed myself, especially after drinking enough to keep the social anxiety at bay. I don’t have anything against parties or party attendance or people who love parties.

But to me, “partying” will always consist of finding someplace comfortable to sit and talking with people. Party animal I am not. And I am not very interested in small talk. I do it when necessary, and I grasp why it exists, but I am the sort of person who prefers to get right to the point without any unnecessary detours, so speaking of banal and inconsequential things bores me.

That is not exactly a pro-social sentiment.

See, the reason I have the terms pro-social and antisocial (that’s just how they are spelled, folks) burned deep into my mind is that I grew up in the era of pro-social kids’ cartoons.

In the late Seventies, moral crusaders managed to convince the FCC and the networks that the previous kind of cartoons taught all the wrong lessons, and cartoons and other children’s programming had to be “pro-social” as a result.

Usually, this was done by making the cartoons somewhat preachy, and led to the proliferation of “lesson” shows, where every episode had a moral lesson to teach.

Luckily, for most of it, I was too young to find that really fucking annoying. In fact, for most of that period, I found all those lessons soothing and in some cases even instructive. I came to expect them, and I can only assume that if I had come across something without an implicit moral, I would have been confused and possibly even angry.

In short, I was thoroughly indoctrinated.

In essence, these lessons boiled down to five main lessons, listed here in order of use.

1. Cooperation. It is always better to cooperate with others and do things together than to go it alone or fight with others. This is still, to me, a core lesson of what it is to be a human being. Cooperation is our strongest advantage.

2. Tolerance. This was most often formulated as “it’s okay to be different”. Another basic lesson of humanity, made more important with every increase in diversity.

3. Friendship. For some reason, they felt the need to keep telling us how awesome friendship was. I am pretty sure that you either know this firsthand or resent having it rubbed in your face.

4. Forethought. Think before you act. Don’t act purely on emotion. Use your head!

5. Safety. Don’t do dangerous things. Often connected to the previous lesson. My gosh, did I get a lot of safety lessons as a kid. I can’t entirely dismiss the idea that this made me the anxious adult I am now.

At the same time as I was having my mind marinated in universally acceptable moral lessons, the word “antisocial” became attached to the bad sort of person. Good people were pro-social. Cooperation and tolerance and so on. Bad people did bad things that hurt other people and made it hard to get along with one another.

So to me, to be antisocial is to be a bad person. But that’s a problem for someone like me. The whole vibe of the pro-social movement was not kind to introverts. And while you would think the whole “it’s okay to be different” message would be comforting to an oddball outcast like I was, but reality just didn’t match. As for forethought and safety, those came naturally to me.

I was never the kind of kid who did stupid stuff and got hurt.

As for cooperation, well, I was willing. The world was not.

And yet still, I would hate to be seen as antisocial. Part of me, I suspect, is still trying its hardest to live up to those excellent ideals instilled in me as a kid, and the fact that I don’t seem to be able to do it makes me feel like I am a bad person. An antisocial person.

Maybe I needed more episodes with the lesson “it’s okay to keep to yourself sometimes, too. ”

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Diary of a supervillain

I hate it here. I miss my lair.

Every day it’s the same bloody thing. Communal meals of banal food. Endless group therapy sessions where I am forced to listen to men and women (and a few other things) whimper about their terrible childhoods in order to please our fatuous caretakers. Individual therapy, where I am expected to bare all to some low achiever versed in psychiatric quackery. And hours of forced fun where they lock us out of our rooms and into the recreation area to “socialize”.

Supervillains socialize about as well as sharks do, and for much the same reason. Megalomania does not spring from an active social life. We keep to ourselves.

At least I’m a “UP”, or Unpowered. All my villainous superpowers disappeared when those wretched little monkeys pried me from my power armor like they were stripping a harlot. They were so eager to examine all my advanced technologies (as if they could possibly comprehend them) that they ignored my vehement warnings and a few of them perished from either clumsy handling of powerful technology or the booby traps I had installed in my power armor long, long ago.

And I regret that. I did all that I could to prevent it, but I still feel bad about these young people dying from systems I put in place so long ago that I barely remember half of them. They died at my hand, in a way, and that burdens me heavily.

Would a “raving monster” feel that way? The media calls me a sociopath, but that has never been true. I simply lack altruism. There is a world of difference between being morally inert and simply having no desire to go out of my way to help my fellow upright primates. I wish people understood that.

I understand that the theatrical nature of my chosen profession fooled millions of people into thinking I was truly a black-hearted villain of monstrous dimension.

But the truth is, I never wanted to hurt anybody. I would never have actually activated any of my doomsday devices. To be honest, most of them wouldn’t have done the job even if I had. Why build an actual doomsday device when a convincing fake does the job just as well?

It amuses me to imagine the look on Captain Trueheart’s face if he knew that the Ticktock Device he fought so hard to “disarm” was about as dangerous as a broken alarm clock.

To be honest, I miss him. Of all the superheroes I ever fought, he was the one who came closest to matching me mentally, and I respect him for that. If he was on the case, I knew I would have to work especially hard. He hides it under his “hero pure and strong” persona, but he has as twisted and devious a mind as any of my fellow inmates.

I would love to sit down with him for a chat or maybe a game of chess now that the medications have made me less…. volatile. I am still the same man who terrorized the world, but the medications do a wonderful job of restraining my overweaning egomania enough that I can retain control of myself.

Therapy may be a farce, but there is no denying the efficacy of chemistry.

If I seem especially cranky and bitter today, it’s probably because I just lost a friend. They finally figured out that my roommate “Toby” (no more his name than I am “Anthony”) really is a green-skinned frog-person from another dimension sent here to destroy us all, and not the mild-mannered insurance broker with a costume fetish he’d conned them into thinking he was.

Once they twigged to that, they realized that they only believed his absurd cover story because of his mind powers, and that meant he had to be transferred to the “Powered” ward.

And as banal and insipid as this ward might be, I wouldn’t wish the Powered ward on anyone, let alone someone I have come to view as a friend. The residents of the Powered ward are kept drugged up to the gills (in his case, literally) to the point that they are almost catatonic. The drugs leave them in a state of placid imbecility, and the thought of my friend “Toby” being reduced to such a state effects me deeply.

His final words to me were “Farewell, pink flesh-bag. May you be the last to die. ”

Coming from him, that meant a lot to me.

At least my new roommate “Mark” seems promising. I am not allowed to reveal his true persona, but let’s just say he used to work in pyrotechnics. Rather impressive ones. He and I seem to be cut from approximately the same kind of cloth, as he too was a self-made villain and owed his powers not to fate but to the power of his mind. His approach was a tad less refined than mind, but I always admired his work. His theatricality exceeded even my own. His hostage videos always had me spellbound.

I don’t know what he thinks of me. Perhaps he has yet to deduce my true identity. It usually doesn’t take long. Our caretakers seem to think that if we never speak of our previous lives, we can all pretend to be “normal”, but we figure out who’s who pretty quickly despite all that.

Once he figures it out, I expect I will have to endure the usual period of reverence and adulation. I am somewhat of a big name in our select little social circle, and have through seniority become mentor to many a rising hopeful, and so the young villains all clamor for my imprimatur.

Then comes the disappointment as they realize that the person they think I am no longer exists. I am now as I was before I took the path of villainy : a soft-spoken scholar who fades into the woodwork by choice.

Not very exciting, given my previous high profile, but I am content.

I have now “journaled” the requisite number of words, and thus, I conclude.