Teenage Wasteland

Reading texts on current sociological phenomena often include insights to behavior one has observed in different contexts. I'm currently reading a banned book -- I don't want to go into it here due to a poisonous political environment not relevant to this post -- and came across something fascinating. In reference to social contagion, the author observed a pattern among teenage girls: co-rumination, excessive reassurance seeking, negative-feedback seeking in which the complainer maintains a feeling of control by angling for confirmation of her low self-concept from others. I recognized that pattern of behavior in a middle aged friend.

I have for some time been the advising ear for this friend who was going through a variety of genuine travails. Recently, I found myself frustrated by the endless pattern of positioning herself as more luckless and hard done by as though in some inverse contest. Efforts to point out accomplishments and advantages or how much worse off her friends are all ended up dismissed to this self-image which does not bear the weight of evidence. If she doesn't win this competition, she gets angry. I never understood why it was so important for her to be seen as the most benighted of all, particularly when she claims to want a better life.

It is an aspect of ego but I had not realized to what extent this behavior has been reinforced through years of a toxic form of female socializing: the pity party. Normally, most women grow out of it after puberty but this particular friend has maintained long term friendships in which this element is integral for bonding. My failure to follow the rules throws a monkey wrench into our proceedings. Unlike her other friends, my objective upon hearing of a problem is to solve it. It never dawned on me that her objective was simply to wallow in it and receive reassurance that she is the most ill treated by fate, regardless of what the listener is going through. I suppose others who have more serious problems simply play along until it's their turn but I find it both insulting and counterproductive.

Now I am done. While I value the friendships of women, I need to stress the woman part and avoid the teen angst that never ended. Women need to find other ways to bond. Sharing troubles and grief are understandable; but doing it for entertainment purposes has got to go.


As a take-charge kind of person, I am accustomed to having people look to me to handle and solve problems. It's something I'm good at, though it takes something out of me, and it ensures that things will run as smoothly as possible because I am thorough. It's not as though I am looking to rely on someone else to gain access, purchase tickets, arrange flights and accommodations, handle emergencies, sew costumes, write entertainment or ensure that everyone has a pleasant time. Nevertheless, it would be nice to receive thanks for my efforts or have someone else offer to bear some of the load, however disingenuously. Whatever happened to manners?

Now a friend has attached herself like a limpet, asking if I don't mind only after she has intruded. Unlike some, she's not exceptionally burdensome as a companion, though she does expect me to provide the entertainment, shield her from uncomfortable situations, and take the center seat. But I do so love to do things alone so I am free to take opportunities as they arise or make friends without having to worry about someone else being entertained or offended. The onesidedness is really starting to wear; however, it's hard to disengage without giving offense. I didn't have children for a reason but I'd sure love to play the mom card here.

Term of All that Liveth

Whose name is inscrutable be favourable to us in thine hour.

I'm not one for public expressions of grief, but I do want to do a tribute to one who has graced my life for the past 18+ years. My Big Blue, who so reminded me of the line from the Book of the Law: "magnificent beasts of women with large limbs, and fire and light in their eyes, and masses of flaming hair about them." She was my Magnificat, a big personality in a big cat and a tail too long to capture in any photo. Who died in my arms last night. I think she waited for me to return to the vet's before surrendering into the kisses of Nu. My home is a quieter place, the other cats subdued and unprepared for the big vacuum she leaves in our lives, the empty space where she always slept next to me. Feral, but always near wherever I was. Talkative and demanding, she lived life on her terms. May she be granted the accomplishment of her Will.
Mae West

Not Guilty With an Explanation

I think of myself as a rather easygoing person, trying to balance kindness with not being treated like a doormat. Sometimes that's a delicate balance. But when someone crosses the line one time too many, I'm rather strict about walking away. However, I do give the offending party a chance to rectify. Real friends can fight over things but know a good friendship includes being fair and accommodating or helping to overcome each other's shortcomings.

Then there's the person who, when told they offended, goes into full blown ego defense, gives the non-apology and finally counters with listing your faults. Hell, I'm no angel but this isn't a contest. And the icing on the cake is the person then acts as though things should now go back to normal, the dirty laundry having been aired.

Role Model

So my father died last night. 93, after predicting his death every year since he was about 40. I used to cry for his tragic circumstances until it was pointed out to me that he actually had a wonderful life: a satisfying, good paying job, secure retirement, healthcare, loving wife of over 60 years, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren all doing well. He just liked to feel sorry for himself.

I have been the black sheep of the family long before I understood what that meant. When my sister called to give me the news, I tried to offer some advice on how to handle our mother, since only I have experienced widowhood. My sister was incensed. After a sleepless night, I realized the issue was that I was undermining my place in the family drama. How can they continue to think ill of me if I turn out to be a nice person after all?

It reminds me of the time I went to my other sister's wedding and my mother commented how surprised she was that people at the reception actually liked me. We have our assigned roles and there will be hell to pay if we fail to play our parts. Even if I attend the funeral, another 8 hour flight having just got back from 20 hours at the airport, it will assuage no one. The dysfunctional play must go on.

Good Grief

It's like I've been branded for life. Whenever someone introduces me to another person with "you have so much in common" it turns out we don't. Or, well, that we have one thing in common: we were widowed at some point. In two weeks, it will have been 11 years for me, so I don't know why this looms so large in my curriculum vitae.

I have come to suspect that it has more to do with people not wanting someone else's grief to get all over their funky good time, so they want to fob them off on someone else. That they would choose someone also possibly grieving seems the height of insensitivity. This practice started less than 3 months after ajrose93 passed with the most recent occurrence this week. Not that I ever unloaded my sorrows on anyone else though I may mention in passing when advising someone going through a difficult time. But I certainly never bring such things up in polite company. Yet here it is, my scarlet letter, forever expected to console others on behalf of people who have better things to do. I would not begrudge anyone. Compassion is, after all, the vice of kings. I would just rather not be volunteered. The grief stricken are apparently a burden on society who must gather like lepers in our own colony, a place of indefinite detention with no recourse or appeal. I'm ready to be released with time served.

Some Challenges Not Worth Taking

Oh, that fucking ten year challenge. So LJ sends me a link to my words, "I had a dream but now that dream is gone from me." How emblematic. Some memories never stop hurting. Every time I see a Marvel movie I cry at the end, recalling how he kept railing on about how Marvel could make good films if only they put the money into it DC does. He missed all that. Then again, he missed a lot of bad stuff too. And now his mom just passed, best mother-in-law in the world, and his sister would not even invite me to the funeral. Ten years. I managed to scrape myself off the bottom of the barrel all by myself, thankyouverymuch. I don't want the constant reminders. I'm trying to live my life looking forward. But the good news today is that Occult Forces is finally formatted for e-publication. Onward and upward. It's the only way of honoring the past.
Bill Hicks

Abandoning Reason for Madness

Let’s get this out of the way first: all nations spy on other nations.  Any nation that can will mess with any other nation, even its own allies (f’r instance: https://anewkindofhuman.com/facebook-is-deleting-accounts-at-the-request-of-the-u-s-israeli-german-governments-this-is-just-the-beginning/).  In such activities, one nation stands out for its aggressiveness.  The list of coups and overturned elections by the US is as long as it is overlooked as is our military presence around the world.  And we weren’t even apologetic when German Chancellor Angela Merkel discovered we had bugged her cell phone.

So we now turn to the national apoplexy over purported Russian involvement in our last election.  After a year and millions of dollars spent investigating a variety of allegations, the results thus far turn out to be rather abysmal.  Early claims of “hacking” the election have evaporated as no evidence has surfaced to support them.  Even the DNC claims that the Podesta email dump was the product of a hack has been debunked by tech experts who have proven it must have been a download by a disgruntled insider, this theory being further supported by the go-between who passed on the download to Wikileaks.

The current indictments boil down to 13 Russian nationals running a viral internet advertising firm which included a rather insignificant sum spent on Alex Jones-style Facebook ads and some minor trolling (as compared to this: http://theantimedia.org/state-department-gets-40-million-fund-new-propaganda-troll-farm/).  No evidence of collusion by the Russian government and definitely no sign of the smooth hand of Vladimir Putin behind all this.  If the Russian government wanted to mess with our elections, they certainly would not have done this piss-poor job of it.

Don’t be fooled by the variety of charges: all prosecutors overcharge as a way to pump up their cases and to force plea bargains to make them look more substantial.  Works on rube jurors every damn time.

Aside from these 13, for whom the penalty would, under normal circumstances, be deportation, the only other dirt that has thus far turned up is the usual product of globalization: corrupt business practices on the international scene.  (As the only crime defined in our Constitution, treason is not among any of the charges to date.)  You’d think after we discovered our own banks to be in the money laundering business for drug cartels, we’d be more jaded about revelations so far.  But nothing succeeds like hysteria, so it’s almost impossible to get anyone to look at this with a calm, precise mind.  Watching James Risen debate Glenn Greenwald was painful.  Greenwald, despite his usual meticulousness, was unable to get through the cloud of outrage that Risen insisted on as his own case was demolished.  Risen even declared Greenwald a poor communicator since the latter was unable to dispel the fever dreams plaguing Risen.  What was needed, rather, was an exorcism.

As the case disintegrates before their very eyes, the Democratic party is switching its hopes from WWIII with Russia to purging its own party of dissidents by inferring guilt by association (however attenuated) to Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein as the purported beneficiaries of this marginal ad campaign.  “Sowing dissent,” a clear right under the First Amendment, has now become a potential criminal charge.  What next, full-on HUAC hearings in Congress?  The dangers to our freedoms radiating out of the Democratic party may only be possible thanks to the shade thrown by our Clown-in-Chief, but they are very real and currently unchallenged.  This being the Democratic party, our only hope lies in the party’s uncanny ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  We will have to take our heroes wherever we can find them.
Witching Hour

Scheherazade Need Not Apply

Storytelling is an art because it is not simply about going from plot point A to plot point B with a minimum amount of adverbs. It allows room for ideas and ambiguity, takes twists and turns like a magician’s sleight of hand, builds entire universes from the printed word and finds new ways to enthrall us on even familiar terrain. Whether through elegant use of language and syntax, artful structuring or unexpected use of devices to open the reader’s third eye, storytelling is the opposite of the paint-by-numbers industry that takes up so much shelf space at Barnes & Noble. So many people think it takes no particular skill to crank out screenplays, novels, films, or TV episodes, inundating publishers and studios with recycled garbage.

Re-watching last season of Fargo, I found myself examining the structure and how evocative each scene was, how it arced and how it ended as it began. Justice and retribution were balanced by loss and folly and even the improbable alien voyeurism dovetailed with an overall meditation on menace and change.

By contrast, a novel I agreed to review demonstrated so little respect for the art that I declined to publish it. The writer (who had some experience writing factual treatises) like so many non-fiction writers, assumed that plot, characters and rudimentary grammar were all she needed to construct a novel. When I offered her my review, largely a synopsis of Creative Writing 101, her response was “well, it’s not for everyone.” Such dismissiveness considering the amount of effort involved in reading and writing a diplomatic response aside, I must conclude she could not distinguish between a treatment and a compelling narrative. I don’t fancy myself a writer but I do love to study and understand what makes something effective and elegant. I would hope that someone who does would want insight into the magic of storytelling.

The Scourge of Critical Thinking

Whenever you deal with people from various defined groups, it is not unexpected to find similar thought patterns. Some are healthy but many are not. The latest I have noted deals with home schoolers. Now I am no fan of home schoolers. I think it best for children to be exposed to the company of others from different backgrounds, to have a variety of professional educators teaching them and to have an arm’s length relationship to those educators. The fact that our public education system is in a shambles has as much to do with racism (the privatization movement went into high gear after the Supreme Court decision on bussing) as class warfare. While it is expected that parents want the best for their children and I certainly don’t envy their predicament, this commendable attitude is being used against society as a whole.

Notwithstanding the above, which I present largely for the purpose of declaring my own bias in the matter, I now return to the issue: whenever I interact with home schoolers, I am careful to hide my concerns while offering the benefit of my advanced education for pointers. Professionals always respond with interest and are happy to discuss new or additional resources. Home schoolers, on the other hand, invariably state “we are already quite covered on this thankyewverymuch” and shut down further debate. What this seems to indicate is not a healthy educational atmosphere opening vistas to children otherwise denied them by the system, but a closed indoctrination scheme. Some defensiveness is to be expected of non-professionals experimenting on their own children, but one would think someone undertaking such a gargantuan task would welcome (or at least pretend to) kindly offered assistance.

The irony of the interaction which triggered this observation was on the need for the study of critical analysis in school and where one could find useful study guides.