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to Jada on Xena

Posted on 2014.08.20 at 15:20
I can't imagine you more awesome, Jada. It's been too long since I've had a chance to be in the presence of that awesome. Oughtta do something about that's what I say. We could have a picnic! Or create a new society built on awesomeness. Oooh! I know! We should build an evolution ray together. I'm planning to be mobile in a year or two, live the gypsy life. We should chill.

Xena was miss billy badass, no doubt. I don't even remember the name of the dude version of that growing up. Beast Master? Whatever. He-Man was my moral compass for quite awhile. But he was so noble and good all the freaking time it sometimes made me sick from all the sacharrine.

If I'd seen Firefly in my youth, Mal Reynolds would have been my idol. That's my idea of the kind of hue I want to be. Doing the right thing, mostly like, but not making a big fucking deal out of it. Honor among thieves, but also a sense of fair play out in the world. A strong internal moral compass, a love and respect for his pack, a sense of humor even in dire straits. A very clear sense of himself as a person and a leader, and an easy, almost casual way of asserting that authority in just the right situations, and not micromanaging or unnecessarily complicating others.

Accepting the autonomy of other individuals but knowing where to offer a friendly word of advice, and also knowing the right occasions to give orders. And the trust of his tribe, so they knew if it was an order, they could count on the fact that he was smart and experienced enough to know what he was talking about and it wasn't open to debate. They could trust him to know what he was asking them to do, all the benefits and harms attached to it.

He proved himself, to earn that trust. He built a crew, a tribe, that wasn't childish, petulant, or passive aggressive. They were focused on the mission above all else. They cared about each other and accommodated the presence of each other--making space for everyone's weirdnesses, quirks, and usefulness.

They each had their own reasons for being there, for becoming family. The odds of a marriage working in the US between two people is about 39%. So you take a bunch of strangers from different cultures and life experiences and basically try to make a marriage between all of them. It's like being in a band. If 2 people who love each other can't make it work, what do you do with 4 or 5 people, who aren't even necessarily having sex with each other(in my limited experience) and see if you can't fairly govern and steer them into civility as well as Malcolm Reynolds.

His crew, his tribe, had genuine care for each other, despite some of their words and actions to the contrary. If they had arguments, they were petty and didn't involve saying anything that would leave deep emotional scars or that they wished they could take back but couldn't.

There were grievances, but Mal's judgment was respected and reasonable. But he was also stubborn enough in his convictions that he would do dumb things(like the duel for Inara's honor) to satisfy his sense of what was right. There are correct manners of behavior, there are incorrect ones, and there is plenty of grey area. Affording others the courtesy due to them is a priority. Respect as it is owed. Earned respect is so much greater a gift than unconditional respect.

But people must be judged on their own merits. The fake Albert Einstein quote, "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid” is not true. We're not all geniuses.

But genius isn't all that's important. Usefulness is the most important thing any one member of this human tribe can have as an attribute. Intelligence is useful, but it takes a backseat to usefulness applicable to the situation at hand every gorram time. Though the first sentence is false, the second one rings true. We can't judge everyone on the same merits, by the same criteria, using the same rubric.

Everyone has value, that being how useful they make themselves to each other. By telling stories. By building houses. By healing the injured. By caring for the distressed. By understanding electrical systems. By being strong or kind or wise or patient or helpful, by giving a hug or saying the right word at the right time, or protecting our sisters and brothers and every hue--every human-- that identifies as dudes, chicks, he-she-it...

Have you noticed that we STILL don't have a gender-neutral pronoun for people? I tend to use "guys" to mean a mixed goup of male/female/sheep/etc. But just like most people our age when they think Doctor they picture a man and Nurse they picture a woman, when I use the word Guy, as in,

"If you're not the guy, then you need to find the guy who is the guy, because this needs to happen"
( GardenOfEdenGlass ) what I picture is a male. That's not fair. This as of yet imaginary "guy" could just as easily be a "chick." So what's the solution? Say "guy or chick" or "man or woman" every time? That gets tedious real quick.

"If you're not the guy or chick, then you need to find the guy or chick who is the guy or chick, because this needs to happen!"

No bueno. So I propose we adopt "hue" as the gender neutral pronoun. It has no sexual orientation, or lack of one. It has no masculinity or femininity, it's totally neutral. It is not etymologically based on patriarchical vocabulary. And it has a homonym, the word "hue," which in a nostalgic and friendly way reminds us of the spectrum of colors perceivable to the huemin eye, in a positive way embracing the hues of huemin skin tone, and the wide and wonderful spectrum of colors our sisters and brothers come in. Hues come in all hues!

hue (n.) -- a color or shade.
"her face lost its golden hue"

synonyms: color, shade, tone, tint, tinge
"a lovely hue of lilac"

-- the attribute of a color by virtue of which it is discernible as red, green, etc., and which is dependent on its dominant wavelength, and independent of intensity or lightness.

-- character; aspect.
"men of all political hues submerged their feuds"

It's easy to say hue, too, which is important when launching a cultural memetically engineered new vocabulary word. It's an idea that's like a virus. Either it spreads and infects everyone or it doesn't and it dies, or gets argue'd or "I have a suggestion"'ed to death.

"so I was hanging with some hues this weekend, a chick named Micah and a dude named Mick Basterd. A guy came over, looking to borrow an umbrella. I told him that I didn't have one, as a girl had broken it, but I was certain that some hue or other with a spare umbrella was bound to assist him. He asked a buncha hues and finally found a chick who gifted her umbrella to him. She said it was made by some hue back in the day who was a master umbrellaist, and this particular umbrella was the very last umbrella that [HE OR SHE? IT? THEY? S/HE? THAT HUE?] ever made. It was [HIS OR HER? ITS? THEIR? ZIR? THAT HUE'S] most elegant work."

So you can see we still have gender neutral possessive pronouns to memetically engineer into the language of the new culture, same as the old but with more badass Xena attributes. But for the short term, most of the hues I hang out with have already seemingly seamlessly adopted the word and use it in place of "guys" and every other appropriate opportunity. We adapted it into our speech seamlessly.

If we're going to change the culture, we need to start by memetically engineering the acceptance and use of positive idiomatic expressions, maxims and popular sayings. Some existing ones are perfect:


"Go Make Yourself Useful" is amazing.

"One Love" is great.

"A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats" is wordy and requires more decoding, but its heart is in the right place.

"Eat A Dick" can be positive or negatve, depending on context.

"Not In My Back Yard" is a just shitty thing to say. It denies responsibility for taking part in the community. It draws boundaries in a negative way.

"Lay down with dogs, wake up with fleas" is a terrible thing to say if we are all to be sisters and brothers.

"Typical Female" and "Just Like A Woman" and "Must Be That Time Of The Month" all need to die in a fire. They belittle and trivialize women stereotypically. We need to creat new stereotypes based on positivity.

Nat Turner's "Knits grow up to be lice" was a justification for infanticide. That should be a no brainer.

I've been working to create new cultural memes that tacitly employs the philosophy behind a better culture than our mainstream culture, be it capitalist, socialist, communist, dictatorship, monarchy, oligarchy or otherwise:

"One Human Family" is a simple, effective way to label every one, every single hue on Earth, my brother or my sister. Family.

"I Support All The Troops" is touchier, as people hate it when you root for both teams, but unlike rooting for injuries, we're praying or burning candles, or sending positive energy, or just quietly acknowledging that we care about and feel sympathy or empathy for all people who have experienced the horrors of war--regardless of which country they were fighting for.

"My Friends Are Too Fucking Pretty To Light Their Own Cigarettes" is a meme I use every single time I see a person reach for a lighter. I light their cigarettes, and even if we are strangers and have never spoken to one another, I immediately have identified that hue as my friend and offer them a service. It costs me nothing, it makes them look cool, and it labels them "pretty."

I startd a conversation in a strip club with a guy I assumed was a redneck conservative Christian. He reached for a cigarette and I pulled my lighter and lit it, saying, 'My friends are too fucking pretty to light their own cigarettes," to him. I was wearing a purple kilt, fishnets and eyeliner. We conversed, he complimented my tattoo and said he had a full Christian back piece, done in 50 hours, the same as my biomechanical arm. I asked to see it and this man I had assumed would hate me on sight stripped his shirt off in the middle of the strip club bar to show me his ink. Later, when I pulled a cigarette, he instantly reached to light it for me with his own. He adapted to the memetic implantation with alacrity. This has been my general experience everywhere I go. People need more positive social interactions with strangers.

It makes strangers seem less strange.

"Safe Travels" is a keeper. It's an obvious wish for well-being, and as I intend to become a Burner Gypsy--like the Edema Ruh--it means a lot to me to have heartfelt wishes for a safe journey. It's like "Merry Part" but merry part has always felt to me like TTYL or "Have a Nice Day." I've seen people abbreiavte it, as MP. It loses its significance and becomes pro forma. But it's not negative, so there's no reason to cull it.

We need to add to this list of simple, easy to say and write cultural memes that embody positivity and a philosophy that is purported to exist in every established religion, but all too often fails and becomes hateful and directed at specific groups.

That is the negativity we need to stop. Nationalism, Patriotism, Religious Intolerance, Homophobia... as the internet puts more and more of us in contact with the real people of other cultures, and specifically people from countries we're at war against, we begin to see each other as not so different. As one human family, trapped in systems upon systems of a sick power struggle for cultural dominance being waged by the leaders of every government involved.

I respect other cultures, to the extent that they aren't imposing their beliefs and way of life on me. But not all cultures are created equal. Just as no two hues are created equal, and some are better than others. Some lie cheat, steal and murder. Some have distorted perceptions of reality.

But they are still part of our One Human Family, and must be treated with compassion, and also with care to protect ourselves from their negativity. If you picture yourself as a glowing ball of light in the center of your chest, with every inhalation you're filled with light, love, laughter... a giddiness. And the light glows brighter. Then understand that every other creature, particularly every hue, has that same light, and is connected just like you and me to the Source. Nirvana, if you insist on naming it. But in any case, the source of all life, be that a mystical origin or the ancestry encoded in our DNA that, far enough back, literally makes all living things one family.

So when we come across these negative people, or people that drift back and forth into negativity and do harm or say rude or hurtful things to us, it is important to imagine that their glowing ball of light is coated in the tar and filth of the negativity that's been done to them. So if they can't shine through, if they spit some of that poison out at us, what we should feel is sympathy and pity for them. There's no need to return hostility and negativity with more in kind. Kill them with kindness. Let every breath and utterance to them be like a purging fire that burns away some of that tar that's preventing them from shining through. Don't respond to negativity with negativity. It's counter-productive. And it goes against the principles of a better philosophy. A better culture.

The Burner Culture.

It is built on the Eleven Principles. "It’s important to understand that the [11] Principles are neither unlimited nor exclusive goods. They are meant to describe Burning Man and offer inspiration for Burners, rather than describing everything important in the world or justifying everything we do." (Caveat Magister)

radical acceptance and inclusion
radical self-reliance
radical self-expression
communal effort
civic responsibility
leaving no trace
enthusiastic consent

These principles are some of the guidelines for a different philosophy on how to live our lives. Leave no trace means that in any situation, we aren't littering, we aren't creating more entropy. We're being responsible for what we leave for the world. We don't gift trash or pollution.

Radical acceptance means that we celebrate each other's differences, no matter how weird they may be to our perspective, if acts are done consensually, we're in favor of whatever makes a hue happy.

Decommodification means, to every extent possible, we opt out of purchasing, trading or selling. This is not a capitalist economy, nor is it socialist. It is an economy based on gifting. We make ourselves useful and learn trades, like plumbing, brewing beer, farming, massage therapy, story telling, performance arts, sex, crafting... and we choose freely what gifts we want to share and with whom.

Enthusiastic consent means that everyone has the right to say no, and you must not only respect that, but you should thank them for looking out for themselves, for not letting themselves be pushed or coerced. For not making you responsible for coercing anyone. In a culture built on permissiveness and sharing, saying no is sometimes harder than you would think.


These 11 Principles are all compatible with the purported tenets of our world's major religions. They are also compatible with the 9 Principles of the greatest swordsman who has ever lived, Miyamoto Musashi.

Everything is about flow. If you remember the moment when you understood how to ride a bicycle, then you understand how to find the flow. Musashi began as a swordsman, and he understood how to flow with the sword, and with strategy. But as he realized he could apply his skills and understanding from one area to many others, he gave up the sword, the gun, the spear, the staff, and so on and he picked up a pen. His principles for understanding how to flow with all things are:

1. Think on what is right and true.
2. Practice and cultivate the science.
3. Perform and appreciate the arts.
4. Know the principles of the crafts.
5. Understand the benefit and harm in all things.
6. Learn to see the world accurately.
7. Notice the subtle things.
8. Take care even in trivial matters.

If we are to build a society based on a gift economy, where we share our skills and areas of expertise with each other freely, it must not become a barter system. We give to our brothers and sisters who have a want or need because they are family, not because we expect something in return. We kill the concept of greed. We take pleasure in sharing our talents with others, and we are proud when we make ourselves useful to each other. Decommodification... the transition away from making purchases at all and participating as consumers of anything will be a long and difficult processs. But it can happen in small steps.

You can make 5 gallons of laundry detergent at home for around $5. Baking powder, lemons, and vinegar are some of the cheapest but most effective cleaning products you can buy. Making soap at home is cheap and easy. There are plenty of small ways you can reduce your economic footprint. Every movie ticket and cinnamon mocha hazelnnut smackachino you don't buy is a conscious decision not to support those products. Or more generally, not to support the existence of products, in an economic system based on the necessity for unlimited growth.

It is an unsustainable system, and one that is finally pushing its lowest tier to the breaking point.

People get a cookie cutter public education, where the teachers are hobbled, drowned in paperwork, and compelled to teach to the SOL test, rather than instilling the wonder and excitement of learning. Why are teachers who hate or don't understand math teaching it? Math is beautiful yet they pass on that hate, frustration and misunderstanding to their students.

What about the dancers? Why is the first thing they cut the creative programs? There is plenty of need for dancers, musicians, fire spinners, actors...our hierarchy of importance in educating our youth doesn't work for most of our youth. And it is having a negative impact on our entire culture.

We need children to be educated by their community, and pursue their individual interests. The Birth School Job Marriage Death circuit isn't working. These children graduate high school, and they find that without a college degree, they can't get a job. So in the prime of their lives, when they should be having children, they are immediately yoked with tens of thousands of dollars in debt. All for a piece of paper that they wave frantically at employers, along with every other person their age, hoping to stand out so they can trade the hours of their lives for enough money to survive. Making someone else's vision come true. It's a sick system, and it obviously isn't designed for us.

Our elected leaders, and all the leaders of the world are involved in complicated, deadly pissing matches that are all power grabs but need to not look like they are. Why did Russia invade Georgia? Why did I see pictures of little children with missing limbs and mutilated bodies? Because there's an oil pipeline under Georgia. And whoever owns it wields a lot of power. It's not about a plane invading someone's airspace and being shot down. It's not about secession on principle. It's not about any of the bullshit excuses that countries contrive to invade other countries by the book. It's about who has the most power.

Who has the most power. That's not what matters. You never look in your neighbors bowl to see who has more, you only look to make sure that they have enough.

Be useful to each other. That's what really matters.

But I didn't grow up watching Firefly. I grew up watching I Love Lucy and The Addams Family. And Saturday morning cartoons. And The Incredible Hulk. Fuck yeah.
The Hulk was always my guy. I grew up with Lou Ferrigno's Hulk. So badass.

Hulk knew himself and he did what he did best. Hulk smashed. What better role model for a young twig?

You'll always be my Warrior Princess, Jada. ...even if you do have kind of a big head.


excerpt from Ragdolls

Posted on 2014.06.06 at 20:32

Contrary to popular opinion, I am not by nature a confrontational guy. When shit goes down, I get knock-kneed. My hands tremble. I get that shot of adrenaline you feel when you've been speeding and you see the blue lights go on behind you. My heart leaps up into my throat and starts jack hammering. You get the idea.

I've just always looked like a mean son of a bitch, and I've got an over-developed sense of justice, so I've been dumb enough to clear my throat and say, "I think you owe the lady an apology" against my body's better judgment.

That's how I felt the one and only night I met Kevin Bruther. Like you could knock me over with a feather. But fuck it, somebody had to say it, and I was in the unique position to be that guy. I was eighteen years old and in love, and God knows that's a winning fucking recipe. Dr. Bruther had a mansion out on a strip of woods off of Vale Road, surprisingly close to the center of the city. He was a surgeon. He could afford a nice house. His wife's minivan was unassuming and dull, but with plates that read BIK HLMT. She apparently had been instrumental in convincing Virginia to pass a law requiring children to wear helmets when riding their bicycles. Safety third, that's our motto, kids.

She and the good doctor seemed to have full and productive lives. Though I never met him, I was given a tour of his Betamax library which was vast and bemusing. The explanation I was given was that Betamax was a superior format to VHS, which only won out in the war for home entertainment video medium due to nefarious and underhanded dealings which escape me at the moment. Suffice to say, he somehow got ahold of a metric fuckton of Betamax movies.

I never saw him at home, so I'm not entirely clear if he ever had a chance to watch any of them. In fact, I wonder how he and the missus had time to raise two adopted children. But apparently they had. The younger, Shannon Bruther, was my girlfriend's best friend. The older, Kevin, was the one I was watching from across the room, through a sea of teenage girls eating slices of a six foot submarine sandwich, handcrafted by the sandwich artists at Subway.

Taya and I had gone to Shannon's high school to watch her perform in her opening night of the play M*A*S*H. This was the after party. I had no idea Kevin would pick this night to show up at the house, since he didn't live there and never visited. So when Taya grabbed me and whispered."That boy over there. That's Kevin." All those terrible things started happening to me, the knocking knees, the heart racing... because I knew that it was now my Duty to go and Confront him.
Ain't. Love. Grand.

"Hey. You're Kevin?"

"Yeah, hey man, what's up?" He proffered a hand that I just stared at in disbelief at the idea of shaking, before I shook my head instead.

"We need to talk. Come with me." His eyes looked a little puzzled but not alarmed, and he followed me past the chattering girls, through the sliding glass doors and out onto the deck. "Have a seat," I told him, and sat across from him at a wooden table flanked by wooden chairs on a wooden deck surrounded by woods on a warm spring night in 1996.

He looked nothing like I'd been expecting. He was skinny, for one thing. No muscle on him. And blonde. Bleached blonde surfer dude hair, and a delicate face. His eyes had no malice in them, just wide, calm watery blue and a touch of mischief or amusement. I'd fantasized about this so many times, and he was completely out of typecast. It was disconcerting. I took a long breath.

"I want to tell you a story," I said.


"Once upon a time, about six years ago, the Bruther family took a week's vacation in a rented house down at Virginia Beach." Even saying the name of the beach made me sick. Hearing the name of the beach had made me sick ever since I'd first heard this story. "Shannon brought along her best friend. A girl from school named Taya." The glimmer of a light of dawning recognition seemed to shift into his eyes.

"Hey, man--"

"I'm not finished." I was scared by my own voice. It came out strangled and low, like a wounded dog growling through lungs full of phlegm. He waited uncomfortably for the rest of the story. But I couldn't go on. I didn't know how. I saw him start to open his mouth again and I said, "You raped her."

"What??? No, no way!" He seemed so genuinely taken aback that it almost made me doubt it myself.

"In the bathroom. You followed her in. You pinned her down and pulled off her shorts."

"Whoa, whoa. This is crazy. Yes, we had sex, but I would never, never rape anybody!" How could he sound so sincere? This was not going at all how I'd pictured it.

"She was eleven fucking years old. Kevin. ELEVEN. She didn't even know what sex was. No one had ever explained it to her. You caught her alone in the bathroom and you pulled off her shorts. You pulled her down. It hurt because she was completely dry when you entered her." He was shaking his head, but now he was the one who looked like he doubted himself.

"While you were doing it, you told her 'This is what I like. This is what all men like.' And she believed you. You were the one who explained to an eleven year old girl what sex was while you were raping her." I watched his hands shake while he pulled out a pack of cigarettes and lit one, his lips moving but no sound coming out. "I've seen the pictures from the trip. You can tell when it happened. You can see how her whole face changes, after."

I was trying so hard not to choke up. I could see the pictures in my mind. I could see Taya taking them out of a box hidden away in her room. I could hear the flatness in her voice as she told me this story. "She took you at your word. 'This is what all men like,' so when she would come to visit Shannon at this house, she didn't fight you the next four times you caught her alone. Once, your mom walked in. She apologized and closed the door. She still has fantasies where she cries out for your mom to help her. But in reality, she said nothing as the door closed. Taya felt guilty. She felt like she was the one doing something wrong."

Every time he tried to speak, he met my stare and couldn't find his voice. "The last time, in your bedroom, you took a black Sharpie and wrote on her thigh. 'YOU HAVE CLIMBED MOUNT KEVIN FOR THE FIFTH TIME.'"

I couldn't think of anything else to say. I dropped my stare from his eyes to the floor of the deck and lit a cigarette. I noticed my hand shaking, too. Kevin searched me with his eyes, but I couldn't look at him now. It was like I was coming out of a trance and I didn't want to be there when it broke.

"I had no idea," he started. "I'm not the kind of person who would ever do that." He paused. "If it makes you feel better, I was raped in jail." The ridiculousness of his last words forced a short, bark of a laugh out of me. What the fuck was he talking about? "I got eighteen months for possession. I just got out a few months ago." He sounded so weak, I had to force myself not to feel sorry for him. "If it makes you feel better, I... I think I may be gay now."

I tried furiously in my head to connect the words coming out of his mouth to any kind of logic. My brain balked at the task. All I could think was What the fuck is he talking about? And more importantly, what the fuck makes him think that any of that would make me feel any better? Someone did the same thing to him? Did that erase any of the hurt of the seventeen year old girl I was in love with? Did that make the world in any way a better place? That there was another mutherfucking rapist out there hurting other people? Gay? Gay!? What the fuck is he talking about? Does he think that will reassure me that he won't rape another little girl? No. There was no logic I could find.

"What would make me feel better," I told him, "would be throwing you off of this deck." I took a last drag and flicked the butt into the night. It made an arc as it sailed over the handrail into the woods below. "You have no idea how satisfying that would be. But I can't, because my life matters so much more to me than yours. And Taya needs me. I'm helping her to do what she can to undo the damage you've done."

Those were the last words I spoke to Kevin Bruther. I went back inside. I told Taya we had to leave. Now.

Some years after our divorce, I got a voicemail message from Taya, walking through the parking lot to my car after work. She'd called to tell me Kevin had committed suicide. I called her up. For some reason she was upset at my joyful reaction to the news.

. . . . . . . . . .. .



Posted on 2014.01.25 at 18:31
Current Music: Magnetic Zeroes - 40 Day Dream
"They're interested," Chris said to his boss, Bob, just as he finished introductions and took a seat, "but it's a little out of their price range."

"No, that's not what we said." This was the end of the road, and Cynthia was done playing along. It was time to wrap it up. "What we've said, right from the beginning, is that we are getting divorced, and we will not be buying a time share together." Chris blanched.

Bob gaped at him open-mouthed before he regained his composure. For a couple long seconds, his expression was a mixture of several warring emotions.

First, there was horror at the sort of monster who could pressure a couple going through a divorce into buying a timeshare for nearly four hours. Mixed with the horror, there was sheer admiration for the can-do spirit of salesmanship that Chris had demonstrated. And finally, there was a powerful curiosity at what exactly the hell tactics he could have possibly employed in an attempt to win us over. These things flickered across his face for a few long, pregnant seconds before he settled into the proper somber expression of someone who's just heard bad news.

"I'm... so sorry to hear that," said Bob, presenting a fine simulacrum of a bona fide human being experiencing genuine concern for our emotional well-being, something well out of the acting range of our erstwhile captor, Chris McCullens, who was now sulking with his arms crossed, pouting at the floor.
"Let me just sign Chris's slip here, and we'll get you on your way."


A three hour drive up 95 North is the perfect scenario for discussing irreconcilable differences with your spouse of the last six years. So of course I jumped at the chance. After all, there was just the two of us, the open road, and a three day complimentary stay at the Williamsburg Plantation timeshare ahead of us.
All told, it was the politest, most mutually considerate divorce that is ever likely to happen on planet Earth. We agreed that we are both fantastic people, that we love each other very much, and that we should stop being married to each other at our earliest mutual convenience. Then we went out and shot pool for a couple hours.

The month of January has involved a lot of packing, crying, hugging and honest conversation. Cynthia found an apartment she likes in Ashburn. I'm staying in Burke. Dividing our things was incredibly easy and uncontested. Through the whole process we've leaned on each other, comforted each other, and reaffirmed that things really can be better, once we get through this.

I don't have a single bad thing to say. She has been my greatest friend and source of strength through some very difficult times. In many ways, we've grown up together. We've learned from each other. We've sustained each other and encouraged, supported, and stood by each other. This divorce has been no different. There isn't another person on earth I'd rather go through a divorce with than Cynthia.

Louis CK said that happy marriages never end in divorce; that would be a real tragedy, if two people loved each other and were really happy together and then they got a divorce. Well, we love each other. We're really happy to be a part of each other's lives. And we both feel that this is the right thing to do, for both of us.


We arrived at the condo, still not entirely sure of the implications of the conversation we had just had. We knew that there was no going back, but like a cut from a very sharp blade, we were stuck in that moment between knowing you've been sliced, and the bright, blossoming onset of the pain. That frozen moment when you still entertain the thought that maybe it hasn't happened, maybe there's still something to be done.
In the morning, we drove to meet up with the salesman, so we could be punished for our free weekend stay. Life is balance, I suppose.

"How do you want to play this?"

I grin a wicked grin. "Let's just tell him we're getting divorced."

She grins back at me. "I love it."

So Chris McMullen became the first person who knew about our divorce. The first time we said the word aloud was to this ridiculous former used car salesman. And then we spent the next four hours playing with him as he did an impressive, if unconscionable, job of trying to sell a time share to a divorcing couple.

. . .

The day before the talk, sitting in Dame's Chicken & Waffle in Durham, Cynthia posted a picture she'd done on the paper table cloth, her first drawing of 2014.

"I predict this will be a silly year." She wrote.

Today, she begins moving out everything she's spent the month of January packing. I don't know if silly is the best word for the job, though there's definitely an element of black comedy. And I wouldn't have it any other way. Grace is for people that aren't pressed to their breaking point. I respect grace. But I also respect silly. Perhaps I could use a bit more grace. But I'm certain I could use a bit more silly.

Here's hoping the rest of the year has enough silly to offset its start.

Here's to the end of the longest and healthiest relationship I've ever had.


What I'm thankful for:

Posted on 2013.11.29 at 16:10
Current Mood: sadsad
Current Music: Billy Joel - And So It Goes
I think there's a lot of misinformation about evolutionary science, and when I hear some of the things that people have been told, I agree with them--that's laughable. But I've read an awful lot about what it actually is, and the logic and evidence are overwhelming. The tiniest little thing could prove it wrong, but hasn't. Instead, we've found more and more evidence to support it. All the time we're artificially selecting traits. Look at hypoallergenic dogs. Or Labradoodles, for Franks's sake.

All that natural selection says is that those same kinds of changes happen based on some animals surviving better in certain terrain and climate, long enough to reproduce. Their offspring is then more likely to pass on those traits that helped the parents survive to the third generation. And after a few million years, you look at the ones that survived living on the shoreline versus the ones who ventured into the nearby forests, and the ones by the shore look a lot more like the fossils of their ancestors than the ones that moved to different environments.

The same is true with monkeys. They look closer to the ancient primate creature that were their ancestors than we do, because we migrated away from the trees. Cro-magnon and Australapithicus and a bunch of others did the same thing, and they ended up changing, too, over many many generations, because of what survived and what didn't. Not all of the organs and things we have are in us because they are useful--they only had to not kill us before we reproduced. Evolution doesn't see into the future. It's not done with intent. It's the random luck of what creatures were better suited to staying alive long enough to pop out some kids, and which of their brothers or cousins got themselves snuffed out.

If you look around at people, we have a lot of variety in color, height, bone density, etc, within the cohort group of any given generation. There's a lot of diversity. And if you look from mother to daughter over several generations, there's not a lot of huge changes happening. You see mommy's eyes and nose, or hair color, and all of those things. And you can go back for centuries, just looking from daughter back to mother, and see very little change. But when you get back a few thousand years and compare that mommy to the present day daughter, hundreds of generations of very slow change between them, you see there's been a huge, slow difference.

Another important consideration is DNA as a genetic building block. The fact that every living thing on earth is based on DNA instead of any other type of system or combination of nucleotides isn't a coincidence. It's mindblowingly cool evidence that, if you go back far enough, we are all brothers and sisters that came from the same self-replicating single-celled organisms. Every blade of grass, every mosquito, every kitten and lion cub, every whale, giraffe and cabbage is connected to us, stretching back through the millennia. Every single living thing on this earth, we all come, by and by, though our paths be wildly divergent, from the same source. Our destinies intertwine. We converge and we withdraw, our paths cross and part again. And by birthright, by the sheer fact that each of our parents and their parents before them survived the ravages of environment and predator long enough to procreate... by that unbroken chain of mother to daughter, each and every living thing on earth is a stupendous badass. Despite all the odds against us, despite everything that could have snuffed us out, WE ARE HERE. Each and every one, the baddest motherfuckers in the valley.

I believe that alien life is out there. I think that, given the size of the universe and the fact we exist in the first place, it would be arrogant in the extreme to think that our planet is the only one to produce life. But I also think, and it makes me sad to say it, that we will likely never make contact with them. The distances are too vast. The size of the universe compared to the size of a planet capable of sustaining life are insurmountable.
But I hope I'm proven wrong in my lifetime.


Your Ghost Becomes This Line

Posted on 2013.11.28 at 17:04
Current Mood: sadsad
Current Music: Edward Sharpe - 40 Day Dream
Let me clear my throat.

A rare combination of events has persuaded me to brush the dust off of this old chronicle, to flip through it. And that peek into the world I inhabited a decade ago stirred something. Something, something. Something that has been missing. Some hunger that the current front runners haven't been able to sate. Facebook, twitter, even the age of myspace... The format is wrong for someone that feels the need to unburden their load. We've been reduced to soundbites, to quips. Only the pithy have weathered the storm, or the ones good at hunting down pithy quotes and regurgitating them like mother birds.

Words have always been cheap, and these days they're at bargain basement prices. More's the pity, it's become harder to find someone who's willing to listen.

If I were to sum up the last six years of pop culture in one phrase, it would be TL;DR. I remember the first time I saw that four letter word. It was here on LJ, and it was written as a snotty comment about a post someone had made. I've used it myself several times on reddit, in the last few years, as a way to let potential readers of my commentary decide for themselves if they feel that I have anything worth saying, so they can choose to invest their time in reading the uncondensed version of whatever point I'm trying to make. So I use it as a courtesy. That's funny. I first saw it used as a commentary about someone else's post, to make them feel bad for carrying on about a point for longer than the attention span of the commenter. And now I use it as a courtesy to people who are incessantly inundated with words, to decide if they are interested enough to continue reading my take on some subject. Huh.

So. Here is today.


It's been a long time since I've had Thanksgiving alone. In fact, I can't remember the last time I had Thanksgiving alone. I doubt that I have ever had Thanksgiving alone. It's a weird pairing of words. Yet here I am, in my basement. With a bottle of whiskey and ashes, writing to no one on a long dead medium.

They're my father's ashes. The bottle, I purchased for his wake. I never saw him drink whiskey, but he claimed on a handful of occasions that he preferred "smooth Canadian whiskeys." I later found, leafing through his old Playboys, that phrase in advertisements. I imagine he picked it up from there. It's funny what sources we look to as a guidelines for what it means to be a man. For what it means to be human, as well.

I'm in my basement. I'm drinking whiskey and ashes. I'm writing to no one. This bottle contains a small portion of my father's ashes that I poured in after his cremation. Every bottle of whiskey I have purchased since July 27, 2009, I have poured some small portion of into this bottle. The flavor is ever changing. It is a blend that has seen me through some times in the last four years. It is somehow comforting. I am spending Thanksgiving with my dad.

This was one of the holidays where he always put out a full spread. Even though he wasn't much of a cook, he would roast a turkey, make mashed potatoes, gravy, buttered rolls, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, candied yams, and his mother's Waldorf salad, which was really just chopped apples and walnuts stirred into cool whip. This day was important to him, for whatever his own reasons were. So I'm glad to have a quiet moment to share it with him, even without a meal.

I'm torn between wanting to eat something and not wanting to support a culture that forces its employees to work on a day when they should be able to celebrate with their family, or that doesn't pay a living wage that affords them the luxury of this day off. So I'm eating microwaved whatever from the fridge. I'm thankful. It's enough.

My dog is sleeping on my feet. For whatever reason, he's decided that I'm the best thing in his world. Nothing I've done has been able to dissuade him from his delusion. So I'm thankful for that.

I'm thankful for memory. I'm thankful for that part of me that can still stretch back through the slowly dimming light of the past and grasp some vivid moment, and savor it, and hold it precious, hold it sacred, preserve it in mind. I'm thankful for my limbs, for my anger. If I stopped caring, I might decide that this whole mess is worth stopping. There are too many interesting things I have left to learn, too much I'm still mad about that needs to be resolved. Too much left undone. There's a long and twisting road. I hope it's at least as strange as the path that's brought me here.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Posted on 2011.08.23 at 02:14


On the Topic of Pleasing a Woman

Posted on 2011.07.20 at 13:57
Current Mood: calmcalm
Current Music: The Magnetic Fields - The Book of Love
I jotted a few points here that I'll be fleshing out and refining but I thought they were worth sharing. My thought was to write a handbook for young men who are becoming interested in sex, but it's hopefully a worthwhile read for older gentlemen. Some of these points were hard won; others were won hard.

The most important things to know about pleasing a woman
(a list of perhaps a dozen important things, based on my experiences pleasing many women)

1. Comfort.

A lot of her orgasm depends on her mental state, and she's probably nervous about her performance, she might be nervous about her sexual prowess, her breath, what you think of what she's wearing, if she did or said anything foolish... You need to make her feel totally comfortable and un-judged. Make her feel safe and protected. You are cool, confident and in control. Let her see that, and let her see that you approve of her and see her as desirable and sexy.

2. Audible feedback:

Moans, words of approval like "Yes" and things like "You have no idea how good that feels" will boost her confidence that she is doing well. She is most likely just as invested in your pleasure as you are in hers, and stroking her ego will stoke her fires and make her more eager to please.

3. Pay attention. 
Every girl is different, and it's important to be receptive to the feedback you get, whether they tell you what they want or if their body shows you if they're enjoying it or not.

Explore, experiment, adapt. Don't be afraid to be a little bit rough, once you're in the act. While every girl wants to be respected, she also want you to be shocked and pleased by what a dirty little whore she can be. When she's feeling confident, she also wants to feel manhandled and used. It's a different line for every girl, so you have to be careful and pay attention while riding it.

4. Keep sex friendly. 
Whether it's casual or serious, stay comfortable about it and just let it go when things go wrong, get weird or are embarrassing; the ability to laugh and brush those things off with a little joke is a sign of maturity and being in control.

5. Lesbians are valuable teachers.
If you have any lesbian friends, learn everything you can about cunnilingus from them. they are a valuable source of knowledge on the subject, and sometimes they end up not being as lesbian as you thought they were. If lesbians are scarce, learn through trial and error. Push up the skin on either side of the hood, at the top of the vaginal opening to expose the clitoris. Hold like this to increase blood flow to the area and intensify physical sensation and strength of orgasm. Place your upper lip against the pubis just north of the clit with a bit of pressure. Make your tongue flat and wide, then touch the clit using constant contact. make small steady downward thrusting motions with your tongue, don't lick it up--that's like rubbing a cat's fur the wrong way. Keep the rhythm and pressure steady. Her moans will cue you in about when to go faster. Just follow her rhythm when her tempo speeds. If you slip a bit, you can place your entire mouth around the clit and suck for awhile, but don't change things up too much, it will frustrate her instead of building momentum. When she does reach orgasm, now is the time to stop licking or it will be painfully intense and she'll shove you away. Instead, open your mouth somewhat wide around the clit and apply pressure, grab her hips and let her ride it out.

This is general advice. Every girl is different and your mileage will vary.
<a href="http://fantasti.cc/videos/permalink/xvideos/Nina-Hartley-giving-pussy-eating-lessons-to-Sunny-Lane/472501/>This NSFW video tutorial by Nina Hartley is a must see for anyone who plans to engage in cunnilingus at any point in the future.</a>
6. End things gracefully.
Most breakups happen because things about you and things about her are bringing out bad qualities in each other. That doesn't mean she's a crazy fucking bitch, it means that you're not being good for each other and you don't think it's worth trying to work it out. Everyone has a point at which it feels like more work than fun.
If you've gotta break her heart, do it gracefully, and with respect--even if you're angry with her--because it's going to influence her future interactions with other men. Don't put all the blame on her, and don't be passive aggressive. Tell her you wish things were different, but it's just not working out and you want to end it. Don't let her drag you into a fight or put you on the defensive. Tell her that things are too emotional right now to have a worthwhile discussion, and when you're both able to talk it out calmly, you'll be willing to talk it out with her, just not now.
In their youth girls are still fresh and hopeful, filled with excitement about their new bodies and bursting with hormones. They haven't had their hearts stepped on a dozen times, and so they don't have mental scars from past boyfriends to project onto your every word and action. The more careful you are with each heart, the more of them will survive into their twenties or even thirties without becoming completely cynical and jaded.
7. Most young love ends.
You are probably not going to meet a girl you should marry before you're through college. It's not that you won't find someone to love intensely, it's that all of the changes that will shape your life and take you to different places are very rarely going to bring you closer, and far more likely to pull you apart. So love, and love freely, and let love go freely, too. Be graceful about it.

8. Your eyes can deceive you.
Sometimes the plain girls are unbelievably better in bed than the hot ones. Not always, but it's definitely worth your effort. Fuck what your friends think, you know something they don't know. Also, girls talk. If you treat her right, every single girl she knows will know just how good in bed you are. This has serious advantages in the long run.
9. Get rejected by girls.

Don't be afraid of them. Being rejected happens, and it's better to get it over with and build up a thick skin than to never pluck up the courage to try. Also, try to be ready with some responses to rejection. Sometimes persistence can win the day, sometimes you'll just cut your losses, but always show dignity, grace and class. If a girl tries to make you feel small for asking her out, she just did you a favor.
She showed you that you can do a lot better than her before you even wasted a dime on her. That's one girl off your list, and a thousand more to get to know.

10. Have fun. 
The goal should never be to score, that's a great way to sabotage the whole thing. The goal should be to have a great time with this girl. Try keeping this in mind and you'll be surprised how, magically, it will lead to a lot more sex than trying to score ever did.

11. Girls appreciate little creative romantic gestures. 
There are all sorts of things you can do. Simple, classic things like flowers or candles (but for fucksake, don't leave them burning and start a fire. Low temperature candles (like the $1 Santeria candles at grocery stores) can be safely dripped on bodies, just test it out on yourself first to make sure you're not going to burn the shit out of the poor girl. A water glass with ice cubes in the summer makes another awesome, free sex toy. Reach over partway through and rub a piece of ice down her sweaty body, around her nipples, across her lips.

Girls loves notes or poems folded into origami. Learn how to make a napkin into a rose. Maybe learn a couple magic tricks. Often florists will sweep up fallen rose petals and bag them for you, for free or really cheap. You can scatter rose petals on the carpet and the bed, or in a bath. You can use thumb tacks to hang dental floss from the ceiling, tie a weighted bead to the bottom so it hangs straight, then use a hot glue gun to glue rose petals around it in a spiral, making a spinning stream of rose petals.

I explained this plan to a woman at a flower shop once. She gave me ten dozen roses worth of petals for free, which I used to create a curtain waterfall of rose petals surrounding a girl's bed.

You can do much simpler things. Girls love to steal a piece of clothing that smells like you. Girls are very smell-oriented creatures. Pick a nice cologne, or take her with you to a store and let her pick it for you. That smell will remind her of you for years after you've broken up.
Cook for her. Write her a song. Take her on a picnic. Spread a blanket by a lake and play the song for her on your guitar. Take up photography. Take her picture. Learn to draw or paint. Get her to pose for you. You have all of these options.
Don't let the bastards grind you down.

12. Don't let the bastards grind you down.
Your heart will be broken. You will feel cynical and jaded. You'll feel like you've been made a fool. You'll demand an explanation. You'll tell yourself you'll never let another girl make you feel this way again. You'll feel misogynistic and make nasty statements about women. You'll listen to angry music and write breakup poetry, dressed in black and refusing to smile. Then, you'll meet another girl and fall for her.

Try to keep the perspective proper.
 There's a great line from the movie Suicide Kings. Sean Patrick Flannery is telling Christopher Walken about how amazing his girlfriend is.

Sean Patrick Flannery:        
She's the kind of woman that'd make your heart stop. And then start it back up again. You know any women like that?
Christopher Fucking Walken:       
Yeah. All of them.


clever title

Posted on 2011.05.19 at 22:22
Current Music: emotionally relevant song
As my memory gets longer, the sharpness of reliving some moments begins to dull.

I still remember the conversation that led me to begin this electronic diary. Before that, I always heard my friends talking about things they already knew had happened because they'd read them online. Before that, I had no online persona, no online identity. It was an exciting time, and I wrote freely about anything and everything. And some of it came out pretty well.

I feel sad now. I feel sad for the excitement of new frontiers. I feel sad for my friends who are hurting. I feel sad that I don't have a driving focus in my life right now. I feel sad that I worked so hard to calm the chaos, and now I'm left with calm. I'm secure. There is nothing really to struggle for.

I've heard that all the freedom most people want is the freedom to be comfortable.

I'm comfortable. And adrift.

My friends keep dying. Others are consumed with bitterness or trapped in their own pain. I've managed to weed out pretty much all of the unnecessary and stupid drama in my life, and now I don't know who to help. I'd like to help myself, but I don't know how.

I'm sad because drugs aren't the answer. And my natural operating chemicals don't work properly. I'm sad because I finally tried getting prescribed medication and it doesn't seem to be helping. I want to be happy and energetic enough to accomplish... something.

I miss that passion. That sense of magic in the air. The feeling that I could do something great and that when I spoke people were excited by what I had to say. I miss saying things that inspire me.

My dad is dead.

I just put my mother in a nursing home.

My sister cut off contact with everyone.

I have to tell my grandmother her own stories when I call at night because her memory is getting increasingly worse.

I have no five year plan. I have nothing I'm working on getting better at. I have no one I'm saving. And worst, I can't find the will to start working for these things. I feel slow and sluggish and tired all the time. I'm behaving like a passive observer in my own life. And I can't quite get the will to take the driver's seat. I want to. And I don't know what will make me want to enough to move. I miss how I know I can be. I want him back.

Posted on 2010.07.07 at 21:16


Storm Petrel

Posted on 2010.04.21 at 17:13
Current Music: Ice Cube - It Was A Good Day
Since the Holy Mother protected sailors, she sent these birds to warn them of coming storms. Sailors also believed that these birds contained the souls of their dead comrades, so to kill one was to kill a fellow mariner. Any sailor who slew the storm petrel would also die, following the adage of “a life for a life.”

During a fierce storm, if a woman bared her breasts, the storm would abate. This is why barebreasted women are often seen as ships’ figureheads.

Breton folklore holds that storm-petrels are the spirits of sea-captains who mistreated their crew, doomed to spend eternity flying over the sea, and they are held to be the souls of drowned sailors; sinister names from Britain and France include Waterwitch, satanite, satanique and oiseau du diable.

2. One who brings discord or strife, or appears at the onset of trouble.

... in a storm the birds surround a ship to catch small organisms which rise to the surface of the rough seas; when the storm ceases they are no longer seen.

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