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Advice for Struggling Writers: Read Crappy Work

I’ve had a long dry spell of writing barely a word for over a year. Then I procured this book from the library: Columbo: The Glitter Murder. I am a huge Columbo fan and was excited to find that books existed for the series.

Immediately upon finishing it, I wrote a short science fiction story.

Why? Because the writing in that book was so godawful, it boosted my confidence. That writer (may he RIP) got paid for that book! It got past (lazy, incompetent?) editors. It was manufactured on a printing press! People bought copies of it! At least some readers loved it…it has 4 stars on Amazon! (Only six reviews, but still!)

Just for fun, here are some of the problems I found with the book, in order of importance:

Racism

Perhaps as a white person, one would think to be careful about describing people of other ethnicities. Maybe don’t describe them in a particularly unflattering– or especially, dehumanizing– manner. Some take it too far and describe ethnic folks as exotic in a fetishistic way. But not this guy. The main character, Ai-ling, who is multi-racial (Chinese and white) is described thusly: “She was more often described as handsome than as beautiful. She had straight black hair styled to curve under her ears, dark eyes, and a compact body that was trim and taut. Her slender hips and legs and her flat bottom were the envy of women known as greater beauties. Her face was round, with a pug nose.” [pg 8] Please note, her nose is not vaguely reminiscent of a pug’s nose– which would have been bad enough. No, she was literally described as possessing “a pug nose.” Have you ever met a human with a pug nose? White women are envious of her ass though. (“See! Not racist!” I can hear the writer saying to himself.)

The first African American character to show up is a carjacker. Even worse, he is described as “a huge black.” [pg 136] Not a huge black man. A HUGE BLACK. Would anyone in the book be described as a small white? Or an average white? Or any size at all of a white???? Even worse, he speaks like a toddler. And is assumed to be on drugs. And of course he dies less than one page after his introduction. His murder was never solved because nobody cared. The title of the book is “Murder” not “Murders” even though Ai-ling killed two people. (“I guess that’s kind of racist,” I can hear the writer saying to himself. “But I’ll make up for it later!”)

The second African American character to show up is a car mechanic who is fishing on the beach. From Columbo’s point of view the meeting is described as follows: “Columbo looked up into a bland, honest, black face.” [pg 203] Because obviously if it’s a black character, you need to establish right away for your white audience that he’s not a criminal or a suspect, right? Just like every non-criminal white person is described in the book as having an “honest, white face”– right? Sigh. No. He becomes friends with Columbo and they have dinner together with their wives. (“See! Not racist!” I can hear the writer saying to himself.)

Incomprehensible Passages

If I were the editor I would have thrown this manuscript in the garbage after reading the opening paragraphs:

“Everyone who saw it was intrigued by the name on the masthead of Glitz: Ai-ling Cooper-Svan, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief. [paragraph break here] The name Ai-ling was of course Chinese. The famous Soong sisters had been Ch’ing-ling, who married Sun Yatsen, Mei-ling, who married Chiang Kai-shek, and Ai-ling, who married H.H. King. This Ai-ling was named for her great-grandmother, the daughter of an enormously wealthy Cantonese merchant. Ai-ling’s grandmother, too, had been Chinese, the daughter of a Shanghai merchant. The dowries brought by these two Chinese brides had contributed hugely to the Cooper family fortune. The business alliances the marriages had cemented and contributed even more.”

My rewrite: “An intriguing name dominated the masthead of Glitz: Ai-ling Cooper-Svan, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief. The name Ai-ling was Chinese. She was named for her great-grandmother, the daughter of an enormously wealthy Cantonese merchant. Ai-ling’s grandmother, too, had been Chinese, the daughter of a Shanghai merchant. The dowries brought by these two Chinese brides had contributed hugely to the Cooper family fortune. The business alliances the marriages had cemented and contributed even more.”

This removes the confusing reference to “this Ai-ling” right after a reference to a different Ai-ling than the one he meant (which I only figured out from re-reading the paragraph many times). I still do not know how Ai-ling Soong-King is related to the main character, after reading the original passage about 13 times– I don’t even think filling out an ancestry diagram would help me– so I just edited it out. Also it chaps my ass when people generalize about what “everyone” thinks or feels, and he did that in the very first words on the page.

A second confusing passage: “It was tempting not to bow to Mrs. Yasukawa as she did to him. Instead, Columbo smiled and said he was glad to see her and hoped she was well.” [p 156] Can I just say: WTF? Why is it tempting not to bow? Why “instead”? What does it all mean? I need a diagram to sort this out. He wanted to bow but was tempted not to bow for mysterious reasons so instead of doing the thing he wanted to do but was not tempted to do, he smiled. Any questions?

Out of Character Actions

In all the seasons of Columbo, he never once referred to his coat as a “raincoat,” but in this book it is incessantly referred to as one. Further, in the show, he is doggedly attached to his rumpled old overcoat, even though he is sometimes mistaken for homeless because of it. In this book, he wears the “raincoat” against his wishes because his wife likes it, and he even hopes she burns it instead of washing it. I think I speak for most Columbo fans when I say: Hell to the NO.

In the series, Columbo is distinctly uncomfortable when he goes to a fancy restaurant to confront a suspect. He is aware that he is never dressed “correctly” and he is shocked and appalled at spending more than a few bucks on a meal. In this book, he is eating veal and and pasta drinking red wine with his friend at a restaurant as if that is normal for him. [p 206]

Unlike in this book, most murders by women are not committed by bashing out the person’s brains. The murder scene was also way bloodier than Columbo stories ever are. It also becomes unintentionally funny at one point because, covered in blood, Ai-ling notes that “God, murder was not easy!”  [p 37] This reminded me of the old recalled “Math is hard!” Barbie dolls. I guess you could argue that having Ai-ling bash her husband’s brains out could be taken as a feminist statement from the author.

The Japanese housemaid makes for dinner, of all things, lasagna from scratch. [p 63] Yes, of course that is possible, but it’s not especially likely that you would hire a Japanese person, who dresses traditionally and bows, to prepare Italian food for dinner. If this were the only problem in the book, I would have dismissed it.

Too-Easy Resolution

What makes the Columbo stories interesting is how he stalks and often tricks the murderer into implicating him- or herself. This story was more like a regular procedural which depends upon the murderer’s identity being a mystery until the end of the book (unlike in the Columbo series’ highly original format) to keep it interesting. Consequently, it was not very interesting. He barely talks to Ai-ling until the anticlimactic conclusion. The evidence used seemed pretty circumstantial and hinged totally on the fact that Ai-ling lied about having sex with her husband the day he was murdered. I’m not sure they would have gotten a conviction out of something that flimsy in reality.

Plot Holes

Ai-ling told friend of Columbo that she stopped having sex with her husband because he was having sex with prostitutes and she was afraid he was diseased. Later, she tells that same friend of Columbo as well as Columbo himself that she had sex with husband directly before the murder happened. Friend of Columbo never notices or mentions this.

This might not count as a plot hole, but it is mentioned that Ai-ling does not get along with her father, who didn’t like the fact that they had Chinese ancestry. Why the hell did he name her Ai-ling then?

My final, and perhaps most damning criticism of this book is that there was no glitter involved at all…very disappointing for the queers (lol).

So anyway…

My point is that if you’re suffering a dry spell, consider not only reading your favourite authors for inspiration, consider also reading something a bit more shit for a different kind of inspiration. TV and movie adaptations seem a pretty good bet. Perhaps romance novels could work as well (Note: I tried several times to read Fifty Shades of Grey but I just couldn’t do it. If I had an inner goddess she would have been saying, “Please god, make it stop.” I read Fifty Shames of Earl Grey instead and I have no regrets). Personally, I am picking up the next titles in this Columbo series from the library right away.

The Thing About Trump, or 3 Mistakes People Made With Hitler

Imagine what things must have been like when the Nazi party was first coming to power in Germany. Many people must have seen Hitler’s prancing, screaming and posturing as comical– even his infamous and silly moustache was the one Charlie Chapman made popular. I would venture that a lot of people didn’t take him seriously, and didn’t think he really meant the things he said. Surely many folks couldn’t fathom that legions of fellow human beings would eventually “follow orders” into absolute madness.

But they did.

Comparing Donald Trump to Hitler is becoming uncomfortably easy. Of course Trump is totally ridiculous, with his orange bouffant, his brazen and often bafflingly pointless lies (see Trump Steak-Gate), his pathological narcissism, and his third grade bully mentality. So at first you laugh at his antics because you’re a reasonable human being with a firmly held belief in the good in most of humanity– making you feel pretty confident that nobody would really vote for such a baffoon in this day and age. And then he wins a few states in the Republican primaries. And a few more. And then you read one young kid’s account of going to a Trump rally for the LOLs and instead ends up sickened at all the hate. And then you see violence against protesters on the news, and Trump encouraging it.

And here we are, folks. These are three mistakes I believe a lot of people made with Adolf Hitler that we need to stop making with Donald Trump right now:

1. Being fooled by a comical appearance. Hitler had his Chaplin moustache and Trump has that flamboyant– whatever– on his head. They both pull faces and strut in a way that I find ludicrous. The screaming and practically frothing at the mouth– Who the hell acts like that, except in a bad movie? It is tempting to dismiss them, because most reasonable people would dismiss them. But playing the fool could be a tactic to confuse the opposition. Despite some of the crap that comes out of Trump’s mouth, the man is not a complete idiot. He knows how to manipulate people and get attention. I believe acting a fool is part of his strategy– and it is working.

2. Not taking hateful things he says at face value. Hitler dreamed up the evil genius idea of “The Big Lie,” which is when you make up lies of epic scale and repeat them often so that few will dare doubt them. Trump, whose ex-wife paints him as something of a Hitler fanboy, seems to have taken that idea to heart. It would take pages to discuss this is properly, but suffice it to say that Politifact found that almost none of Trump’s statements they fact checked through 2015 were rated “true” and they awarded him the “Lie of the Year.” So as far as liars go, Trump is a highly accomplished and decorated one. Hitler would be proud.

Some claim Trump’s being allegorical when he talks about building a wall on the border between this country and Mexico. Some say he was joking when he said he would pay your legal fees if you beat up protesters at his rallies. Well, how do we know what he’s serious about? Trump lies and exaggerates so much, even about the stupidest things, that it is tempting to believe some of his more problematic statements are also exaggerations (lies). But this is probably calculated. He’s set the stage so he can say whatever he wants and then claim he was “only kidding” later or, conversely, start deporting Muslims and say, “I told you so.” He’s covered either way, and some people won’t even stop to consider that we maybe shouldn’t have a president who just makes crazy shit up as he goes. Perhaps we’re so used to being lied to by politicians that Trump’s trainwreck spin on it is refreshing?

Hitler blamed the Jews for the collapse of Germany’s economy and Trump blames Mexicans for the woes in ours. In both cases, a scapegoat is cooked up in a fashion that draws in the racist, casually racist, and/or weak-minded supporters like flies– with a little honey promising how great things will be when all those bad ethnic people are gone. Pepper with the laughter of the wealthiest Wall Streeters as they bathe in Cristal. Mix well and enjoy the delicious taste of fascism.

Anyway, it’s not surprising that people are not taking some of Hit– I mean Trump’s– outrageous statements about certain religious or ethnic groups completely seriously because he’s a big fat liar. But one thing I have learned about narcissists is that they will lie– a lot– about many different topics for a lot of completely incomprehensible reasons. That is pretty much a hallmark of a pathological narcissist and there is no sense in wasting energy trying to sort out why. But when they say something horrible– that’s when you should pay attention. That is more likely to be the truth than anything else they say.

3. Believing he couldn’t possibly rise to power. This belief (along with a little bit of faith in humanity) is being rapidly squashed as Trump continues to nail the Republican primaries. Those of us who are aware and awake no longer have the luxury of hoping that a Trump presidency could not happen in this country. It could definitely happen.

Remember the old saying: The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.

I can’t close this without mentioning that Hillary Clinton is not much of a better choice. She is another pathological narcissist– she just holds it together a bit better than Trump. Her lies are (usually) not quite as shocking and her racism and calls to violence are more nuanced (See Clinton’s comments about bringing young black folks “to heel.”). That does not mean that her effect on our future would necessarily differ that much from Trump’s because her motivations are clearly similar– greed for power and riches. As a known war profiteer, Clinton could very well usher in WW3 because it would be good business for herself and her buddies/corporate masters. By the way, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are friends– the web is littered with photos of them hobnobbing together as well as evidence of his fat campaign contributions to her. In short, Trump vs. Clinton is an illusion of choice. The upset in Michigan, with Bernie Sanders winning the Democratic primary against supposedly impossible odds, is proof that people are waking up and realizing that we’ve been lied to for far too long, and it doesn’t have to be this way.

I hope you will join me in making Bernie Sanders the next President of the United States. Let’s make this country great again for real, instead of it being a place from which many of us fantasize about fleeing. Personally, this is the first time I have had a little hope for this cesspool of poverty, racism, injustice, and imperialism. Let our children to go to college for free instead of dying in pointless wars that make the 1% richer. Let us get the money and corruption out of politics. Let us end poverty because we can and because it is the only acceptable course of action. Let us have fair wages and universal healthcare and sound infrastructure. Let our police departments be de-militarized and let profit-making prisons be torn down. Let drug addiction be a healthcare issue, not a criminal one. Let us have the America we were promised. Like Bernie says, these ideas are not radical. Other civilized countries have accomplished these things, and we can too. https://vote.berniesanders.com/

Exposing Narcissist Abuse Tactics

The American Psychiatric Association defines Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), also referred to as “pathological narcissism,” as:

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
4. Requires excessive admiration.
5. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
6. Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.

Narcissists typically mentally and emotionally (and sometimes physically) abuse their targets, slowly turning them into piles of self-doubting, anxiety-ridden, powerless goo. They do this to make their victims more pliable to their will (and sometimes, seemingly, for amusement). It is heartbreaking that many kind, loving people feel trapped in a relationship with a narcissist who is, in fact, slowly destroying them. The best way to protect yourself against narcissistic abuse is to learn their tactics and be on guard for them. If you are already entangled with a narcissist, once you have realized that fact, it is advisable to seek professional assistance in becoming unentangled.

Be aware that narcissists generally will not show their hand for 2-3 months in a new relationship. In the beginning, they will typically drown the target with love and affection, making the victim believe they share some kind of epic romance. However, sooner or later, usually after the target has fallen in love or made a commitment, the narcissist will start the “devaluation” phase in which they kick over the pedestal and begin their mind control tactics. Listed here are some of the most common of these.

NOTE: I am not a psychologist. I”m a survivor of narcissistic abuse who holds a BA in psychology and has finished the coursework sans thesis for a MA in psychology. Please consult a licensed professional if you need help dealing with/escaping from a person with NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder).

Constant and Often Unreasonable Demands

The typical narcissist will run their victim ragged if given half a chance. They will demand the moon, and if you manage to get them the moon, what they really wanted was the whole solar system, and how dare you? If you get them the whole solar system it will be the wrong color and you clearly don’t love them. The key idea here is: Nothing will ever be good enough. They tend to frame their wants as “demands” and often when they get what they wanted, the next thing out of their mouths will be a new demand, not “thank you.” This keeps the victim focused on the narcissist’s needs and not on their own, as well as exhausts them physically, mentally and emotionally.

Regarding sex, narcissists may demand it when the partner is tired, asleep, sick, late for an appointment, or in other situations where sex is difficult or impossible, with absolutely no regard or compassion for the partner’s feelings or needs– and with no apparent awareness that there is anything wrong with that. Sometimes it appears that they specifically want sex to be uncomfortable for their partners or for the act to be less-than-willing, and that may actually be the case. Narcissists feel entitled to sex, which can manifest as anything from them being rapey/coersive to committing actual rape. Many are addicted to pornography. Sexual objectification, ie, viewing a person as merely a set of body parts to be used for sexual gratification, is common. Remorseless– and what could even be called perfunctory– cheating on partners is often standard practice.

Threats of Abandonment for Non-Compliance

When a victim refuses to comply with the narcissist’s often unreasonable demands, threats of abandonment often ensue. These can be subtle, overt, or entail actually leaving (or pretending to). This strikes terror into the heart of the victim, who is usually a gentle-natured soul such as a child, or an adult partner who is particularly empathetic, especially if they had been a victim of other narcissist or borderline personalities as a child. The latter are targeted by narcissists because we are kind-hearted and try to see the best in everyone, and more importantly, we are willing to put up with a ton of absolute horseshit– we may even expect it. Other people would tell the narcissist to fuck off with their outrageous behavior, and the game would be over too soon.

Victims may not even consciously realize they have been threatened with abandonment, because the narcissist may say something like, “Well that’s what I need for this relationship to work.” Of course, encoded in that phrase is the threat of abandonment, and the victim may feel fearful and be more likely to capitulate, even if they don’t realize why. As a power move, a narcissist will sometimes leave the home without specifying where they are going or whether they are coming back, causing anxiety for the victim. Narcissists may leave their victim for real, but usually only once they have exhausted them of everything they can– attention, money, sanity– and have another victim lined up who has more of these resources to offer.

Gaslighting

This is the most insidious mindfuck method out there. It’s named after the play Gas Light (aka Angel Street) in which a husband lowers the gas lights (it’s set in the 1800’s) slightly while telling his wife the rooms are no dimmer than before, until she starts to doubt her sanity. This is a perfect analogy for the tactic narcissists take against their targets.

One of a narcissist’s favourite games is called: I Did Not Say That. Sometimes they will literally tell you they didn’t say something 30 seconds after they said it. This is not a function of them having a poor memory, as they can be observed remembering all kinds of other things in detail– except shitty things that came out of their own mouth 30 seconds ago. A variation of this game is I Did Not Do That. That is where they deny shitty actions they did, no matter how many people observed said actions.

It’s literally insane for them to deny reality like that. But they are trying to make their victim feel insane, and doubt their own perceptions. It’s as if they believe that if they say anything with enough confidence, it will magically become true. Narcissists will utter 190-Proof nonsense with a straight face and total confidence. Healthy people encountering this behavior will steer far, far away from the narcissist. Therefore this tactic works best on children, or on adults who were abused as children.

Children who have been subjected to gaslighting grow to doubt their ability to make sense of the world around them. This is unfortunately the case with myself. Someone could come up to me and say the most absurd thing, like: The sky is not blue, it’s green–

And I will actually stop for a minute to wonder if it’s true, if I’ve somehow made a mistake in my perception of the sky’s color, or if I’ve somehow misinterpreted the popularly accepted data “the sky is blue” in my mind. A person who has not been subjected to narcissistic abuse would of course disregard the statement “the sky is green.” They would rapidly (and correctly) attribute the error to the other person.

This is the thing that my mother did to me. That’s how deep it goes. I doubt my own perceptions on a very basic level. I doubt my own mind. This is what narcissists want: To make you feel crazy. You are easier to control if you feel crazy.

Fortunately, I know now I am not crazy. But I still stop to check myself all the time over the stupidest shit, years later. In the past this had left me vulnerable to abuse by narcissists in relationships– until one day I suddenly realized what was happening. I have heard it described as “waking up from a coma.” That happened to me, and now I can see narcissistic abuse for what it is: A bunch of crazy, unnecessary, stupid, twisted assholery– to put it nicely.

Briefly, here are more tactics for narcissistic abuse:

Raging Out – Where they throw a shit-fit worthy of a three year old high on rock candy. This may shock the victim into compliance or make them feel guilty and send them into a frenzy of trying to make the narcissist feel better. The end result is that the narcissist gets what they want.

Dead Eye Stare – Where they stare at the victim intensely with a look that is almost inhuman, and certainly unfeeling, saying nothing. This is meant to upset and intimidate– it is truly unsettling and not soon forgotten. Normal people cannot imitate this look in my experience.

Silent Treatment – Where they go quiet in the middle of an argument or list of demands. The crazier this makes the victim feel, the more likely they are to do it.

Blame the Victim – This is a perennial favourite of narcissists everywhere. No matter what the narcissist has done– no matter how egregious the offense– it is somehow always the victim’s fault. They will often even (ludicrously) demand an apology. Narcissists are very fond of playing the victim, and will do so to draw in empathetic people ripe for narcissistic abuse.

Side Note: I believe it is important for people like myself to stop pitying people. It doesn’t really help people to pity them– at best it enables them and at worst it puts yourself at risk for narcissistic abuse. That is not to say that I would ever ask anyone to stop being a compassionate person. It’s just important to protect yourself in the process. Speak softly and carry a big stick, as they say. Don’t automatically believe every sob story.

Are narcissists bad people?

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this. It’s been substantiated that narcissists don’t have the same capacity for feeling that other people do, often pretending or imitating genuine feelings, that they feel rewarded by manipulating people, and most importantly– that they are very, very unlikely to ever change. They are actually cruel in their behaviors. They do actually cause emotional, mental and sometimes physical damage to others without remorse. I hesitate to say that they are bad people– but they definitely do bad things. I think it is possible to live with a narcissist…but I also think, why put yourself through that? There are plenty of other people in the world who would never think of abusing you. It is probably low self-esteem that fuels the fear of finding someone who would love you without trying to hurt you. Fortunately self-esteem can be raised with time and self-care.

Getting Help

If you’re still unsure if the person in your life is a narcissist, check if they fit a significant number of the things on this list: Surviving a Narcissist (NOTE: The author of the list makes the mistake of assuming all narcissists are male and all victims are female–that is definitely NOT the case). If you or someone you love is suffering at the hands of a narcissist, please seek professional assistance and be prepared for the Stages of Recovery. You deserve happiness.

Photo credit: Counselling.

It’s Not a Matter of Trust

There is nothing at all you can do to ensure that someone won’t leave you.

In fact, they will, when they die…unless you die first.

But ignoring that bit of unpleasant reality, there is nothing you can do to ensure they won’t leave you for someone else. Or for more than one somebody else. Or for nobody.

It’s not a matter of trust because nobody can say what the future holds. Nobody can say how they will feel when they meet a new person. Nobody can say how their life might suddenly change. Nobody can say how they will feel about things 5, 10, 15 years from now. I can only make my best estimate of that, and act accordingly.

I can only pay attention to my partners’ needs and meet them to my best ability– as long as doing so does not conflict with my own needs.

The only thing I can say is that I trust that my partner(s) will leave me if they need to, if I no longer meet their needs. There is nothing to blame on anyone if that happens. As long as I tried my best. Though I can’t stop anyone from leaving me and the door will always be open, I will always try to be mindful of ways I can make their lives better with me than without me.

I trust that my partner(s) will do what is best for them, and treat me with kindness in the process. If I can’t trust them with that much, there is really no relationship to speak of in the first place.

Trust is important. But it’s impossible to trust anyone not to leave.

Photo by Unsplash

The price for your freedom is $2350.00, what a bargain

I bet you thought you could, being an Amerikan, walk away and leave this country behind forever, if you chose to do so, being “free” and all. Wrong! It costs $2350.00 to ask “permission” not to be a US citizen anymore, and “they” might (absurdly) “deny” your request. If you make over a certain amount of money per year, you will pay an “exit tax” of potentially thousands more dollars, before you will be free of your bonds to Amerika. Oh George Orwell, you would have found this shit so hilarious. Or terrifying. Or boringly predictable?

I’m speaking of permanently renouncing US citizenship, which increasing numbers of people wish to do for various reasons, usually after they have acquired citizenship with a saner country or countries. One reason many are leaving is the Big Brother tax situation– unlike most countries, Amerika believes it is entitled to a piece of your income no matter where in the world you live or where you have earned your money. (There are reciprocal agreements with some countries.) Banking abroad can be difficult for Amerikans (and Amerikan dual citizens) because Amerika wants to know your personal business no matter where you live, which is a pain in the ass for foreign banks, especially those with “crazy” ideas like privacy laws meant to protect their citizens.

Another reason that someone might want to renounce their citizenship is– Open your eyes! Some of us just don’t want to be a part of this crazy train anymore. It doesn’t take a genius to see that Amerika is scary, full of sociopaths, full of inequality that breeds hate and fear, full of tainted food and water, poverty for no good reason, stupid policies, stupid “leaders,” police departments being militarized and cops executing people without trials, innocent people being murdered by remote-operated drones in wars that are not mentioned on the news… I could go on for pages but really. More than likely I’m preaching to the choir or talking to a brick wall, in either case I’m wasting my breath.

This country was founded with the idea that we were sovereign individuals with the God/Universe/Nature-given right to live as we wished, which of course would have included the right to abandon one’s citizenship without asking another human for permission to do so. It is absurd to ask another mortal for this kind of permission.

All human beings are equal, therefore who can grant such permission?

To ask such permission is to admit you are not equal or free. Government officials are not gods or kings. They are supposed to be elected representatives of the people and/or hired public servants. How absurd is it to pay a public servant, who is your own employee, $2350.00 for the privilege of your own freedom– No, no, to pay to ASK for the privilege of your own freedom? How can you ask your employee for your freedom? That is unquestionably, unconscionably absurd.

Our constitution was all about laying out our rights as sovereign, self-determining individuals. Now we are more like cattle. What the hell happened?

Modern Amerika is not a democracy– It literally is not. Most scholars will readily admit it’s a republic rather than a democracy. But worse than that, it’s an oligarchy. It’s ruled by a few unelected, very clever people. It’s a prison designed so that most people can’t even see the walls. They have set up a reward system that is extremely effective in getting sociopaths to sign up as enforcers, and that keeps the people distracted with cheap entertainment, cheap goods made by slave labor in China, keeps them sick from bad food and water, and keeps them polluted with drugs that mask symptoms well enough so they can go to work with no energy left over to wonder why they are not happy or free. In a nutshell.

The corporate puppets that we “elect” in that dog and pony show every four years provide the illusion that the people have some sort of control over what is happening in this country (Spoiler Alert: We don’t).

The truth is we have no public servants. We have rulers and sub-rulers. Some take orders and don’t ask questions because they are rewarded by the system with money and real or imagined power over others. Some do so because they have gotten in too deep and can’t figure a way out without having themselves or their families harmed. Maybe that sounds crazy? Look what happened to Edward Snowden. He put his life and family at risk by telling the world about some of the crimes of the Amerikan government, and now most Amerikans believe that he’s a criminal instead of a hero because that’s what the talking heads on the boob tube tell them.

Non-ruling class people are “owned” by the state as evidenced by the fact that you must pay to renounce citizenship. It’s not your natural right, it’s a privilege that costs $2350.00 and the consent of shadowy puppetmasters. It follows that to have been born with US citizenship is a burden. You must pay to have strangers consider freeing you from some kind of slave-like obligation you were unwittingly born into.

I am sorry to report that voting is not going to fix this mess. It’s way deeper that. Would voting have stopped what happened in Nazi Germany? I don’t think so. “Brain drain” has been happening for a while here in Amerika– that is, the smart people are leaving. That is also what happened in Nazi Germany prior to things going from bad to completely apeshit. The writing is on the wall.

Photo by babawawa

Your Doctor is a Corporate Tool (Most Likely), Here’s Proof

I like my doctor alright. He knows the basics of trans issues. He’s really helped me out by writing letters of support for trans-related surgeries. Whenever I say “no” to things like invasive examinations or vaccinations, he doesn’t give me a hard time. He accepts poor people insurance. He’s respectful and soft-spoken. He exceeds my best expectations of Western doctors, which admittedly aren’t particularly high. Fortunately, I have no real need of a doctor anymore except to prescribe my testosterone, because all my health problems disappeared when I changed my diet to organic and mostly raw. But anyway, like I said, I like my doctor alright.

Except… I recently found out he has accepted over $100,000 from drug companies in the last year and a half. One hundred thousand dollars, friends. It is hard for me to even picture that obscene stack of Benjamins. Like, what the hell, doc? My doctor is serving poor people but his bank account is definitely not suffering for it. This information is available publicly on Dollars for Docs, a website that makes sense out of the raw, often jacked up (ie, self-reported by drug companies) data from the government database Open Payments (which I first heard about from the brilliant John Oliver).

What is my Dr. So & So doing for drug companies that could possibly be worth that much? Well, the large payments of $1,000 to $30,000+ were earmarked for “promotional/speaking” engagements. I can only imagine that Big Pharma flies him somewhere to talk to an audience of other doctors (or maybe even patients?) about how wonderful the drug is, or something like that. Many of the other smaller payments are marked “food and beverage,” so probably those are drug reps taking him to lunch in the hopes of getting him to prescribe more of their shit to his patients.

Two of the drugs that he was paid in “food and beverage” to learn more about were androgen gels, which is relevant to me. It looks like one rep bought him a whole cow for dinner and the other one bought him Wendy’s or something. To his credit, he has never brought up changing my injectable prescription to those gels. I cannot do so anyway, because unlike most people, my levels skyrocketed when I briefly switched years ago– which I don’t recall ever telling him.

For shits and giggles, I looked up my previous doctor, who was funny and extremely intelligent, never once tried to push drugs or vaccinations on me, and who I liked more than any doctor I have ever met (with the caveat that I haven’t met Dr. Mercola in person) but who unfortunately does not take my poor people insurance. He has only accepted $128 in dirty drug money for “food and beverage” according to Dollars for Docs over the same time period. I imagine him telling most of the drug reps to fuck off (literally) when they show up in his office, whereas those guys are always hovering around like vultures in my current doctor’s office, trying to look like they just stepped out of a J. Crew catalog to drop off their samples.

For more shits and giggles, I looked up some famous doctors. I am not particularly a fan of Dr. Oz (he gets some things right), but the astronomical amounts of cash reported for him on Dollars for Docs was for promoting medical devices, nothing drug-related, and part of that was donated directly to his children’s charity. My hero Dr. Joseph Mercola has accepted $0 in dirty drug money. My future plans include changing doctors, and being significantly less poor.

This is not to say that my current doctor is a bad person. In his case, I’m sure he believes the drugs are doing something positive for people. I just don’t happen to agree. Drug trials are often blatantly fraudulent. At best I believe most pharmaceutical drugs do nothing positive, at worst they are harmful– and the majority are unnecessary with a proper diet. But regardless of whether pharmaceuticals actually help, as a humanist I believe it’s unethical to make shit tons of money off of anything that supposedly treats illness, because everyone should have access to that. It also makes my skin crawl that doctors are allowed to accept any money whatsoever from drug companies. It brings to mind how the tobacco industry used to pay doctors to say that smoking commercial cigarettes laced with poisons was good for you. Millions of deaths later, the truth comes out.

The Stolen Hamster

When I was in 7th grade, I stole a hamster.

The hamster belonged to my science “teacher” (using the term loosely). The things I remember about him (the man, not the hamster) are that he had a thick Boston accent, a reddened complexion which I now recognize as one sign of chronic drinking (which makes sense because he was arrested for DUIs several times and often seemed drunk or high), he made dirty jokes in class and shamelessly flirted with 7th grade girls, did not seem to understand basic science or math, coached some sort of sports that I didn’t pay attention to, and apparently had a deal with the devil (or the teacher’s union) because nothing he did ever got him fired– he was even still “teaching” (using the term loosely) years later when my son was in school.

One memorable incident was when a question on one of his “science” tests had the wrong “right” answer. The question was: “John has 5 bananas and trades 3 of them for 2 naked photos of Jack’s sister. How many bananas does he have left?” (I am not making this up.) The answer he said was correct was “three.” So when I could not keep myself from insisting that answer was wrong, I had to stand at the front of the class pretending to swap bananas and polaroids with him so that he could find out how 2nd grade math works. When I told my parents of this, they were incensed at the inappropriateness of the entire situation and went to the principal, who did nothing. He told them the teacher’s defense was that he had gotten that question out of a joke book at Spencer’s Gifts. Because of course that’s where 7th (2nd?) grade science (math?) material should come from, and how could he be expected to fact check such a reputable source? (Or calculate grade school math on the fly?)

Anyway, I stole his hamster. One of the hamsters that lived in his classroom– a sweet-natured, short-haired, creme colored hamster with a white band. On her left cheek was a lump about the size it would be if she had overstuffed her cheek pouch. This lump had been bothering me for a couple weeks as I had observed it mostly unchanging. I told him it was a tumor and he explained, “It’s just got food in it’s cheek. That’s how they store their food,” as if I was as dumb as he was. I said, “No, it’s a tumor” in a tone that meant, “You are a moron.” My friend Lori helped me take her out of the cage and put her in a box so I could take her home. To his credit, he did not try to stop us.

I was hoping I was wrong but unfortunately I was not. After I had taken her home and given her a nice cage in a quiet area, the lump grew noticeably bigger. And bigger. I asked my Dad to take her to the vet– I couldn’t bring myself to go. They told him they would chloroform her for free, because nothing else could be done. That they would not try to operate angered me. I was too scared to go and ask them outright to do so, or to call a hundred vets and ask them as I would do now. I felt helpless. I did not know about natural remedies then. I didn’t know what to do except pray– I was religious back then, and took “thou shalt not kill” literally. As the lump got bigger it moved forward on her little face, until her little eye was overtaken, until her little eye was just gone, crumbled off. On her last day, her cries were horrible, and I will probably never forgive myself for not accepting the free chloroform. I was too scared to let her die peacefully as I should have done.

The kind of man I want to be– rather than passively watching an animal suffering, when there is clearly no hope left, I want to be the kind of man who snaps its neck. Or at least uses chloroform. I wonder if I will ever be that man.

The thing that reminded me about that poor hamster was that my beloved chihuahua recently grew a lump on his head. It became alarmingly huge over the two days I was away from home for Thanksgiving, to the point that the lump was as large as half of his little head. When I got home, I wept at the sight of him. Even though I hadn’t been home long, the lump seemed to loom closer to his eye than a few hours before. I wept at the thought of losing my beloved chihuahua, I wept for his suffering and for the little hamster’s suffering years before, I wept at being a coward, I wept for not working harder so I could afford to feed him raw organic beef every day instead of grain-free kibble most days, and I wept at the unfairness of other animals having to die to keep my beloved chihuahua in good health. My son saw my tears and then tried to hide his own.

I did not want to take my chihuahua to the vet because I’ve had nothing but bad experiences with them. I didn’t want to pay them a bunch of money to tell me he is dying and there is nothing they can do, or he’s dying and they want to give him drugs and radiation, or it was a cyst and harmless. There is not much of western medicine that I believe in, especially where cancer is concerned. I texted a few friends desperately trying to locate some cannabis because I believe that to be the best remedy for cancer, besides baking soda injections. Not being a smoker, I had no idea where to get it or how much it would cost. Two friends quoted me vastly different prices, then Trevor let me know where to buy CBD– basically cannabis with the THC removed– which I did not know was a thing, let alone a legal thing. I rushed out to get some. The kind I got was Charlotte’s Web Hemp Extract, 5mg CBD, by CW Botanicals, 30 capsules for $40, from a local head shop.

My son and I treated the lump with hydrogen peroxide, the CBD mixed with coconut oil, and we also gave him water mixed with baking soda to drink, and peanut butter mixed with CBD to eat.

In the middle of the night the cyst burst open. It was not a tumor. His eye is OK. My little chihuahua is still with me, recovering with a wound on his little head where the cyst was. I am still shaken from the thought of losing him, which I understand is inevitable someday. When it is time for him to go, which hopefully will be when we are both old, I hope for the strength and the bravery to alleviate his suffering, if it comes to that.

Dear Nature

“Dear Nature”
by Basil Sunshine

Dear Nature,
Why are you so horrible?
I can’t deny you any more than I can deny
my own skeleton creaking under my own skin, not any more
than I can deny my will to carry on subjecting myself
to this magical misery of yours.
I can’t deny you but I hate you sometimes.

Today we were delighted to meet some piglets that you made.
Who had fuzzy black faces with white spots here and splotches of mud there.
Who shoved wet noses at us and nipped at us for treats.
Who had floppy dog ears and warm human eyes.
Who had, with their little curly tails, about six months left to live.

The farmer said about them, they will be “a lot of ham and bacon.”

And we wanted to weep, didn’t we? Didn’t we want to weep?
Why did we not weep, Daniel?
Looking into their sweet faces, running fingers through their warm fur,
feeling their joy at being alive? And knowing, just knowing.

Because we are so…we have that…je ne sais quoi…yes, yes, because
we are so worldly, we are so hip, we are so downtown, you know, we are
just so full of shit.
Aren’t we?

The truth is we are so stupid that we thought they were pets.

The farmer, why did he say such things?
There were children around, cooing and petting the… the merchandise.
I wanted to scream and claw the golden buttons from his shabby coat.

Maybe he was hungry.
It’s not his fault, Nature.
It’s yours.

I have said over and over, until I am blue in the face,
that I have no quarrel with you.
That I accept you.
Even when you are not kind.
Which is often.

But for the love of all that is holy, there is no good reason
that living things should want to eat each other, is there?
All I want to know is why.
What is the purpose in making corpses taste good?
Why do they contain nutrition? What the fuck is that?
It didn’t have to be this way.

It’s stupid, I hate you, and whoever made you like this
is an asshole.

WWJD? Protest the color of a paper cup and deny refugees haven, apparently

Two recent news stories have been weighing heavily on my mind. One, how Starbucks’ holiday paper cup design was so plain-looking this year that it enraged some people to the extent that they declared it a “War on Christmas.” Two, how refugees from Syria are being denied entry into state after state in Amerika, mainly by political figures who loudly declare their Christian faith and largely with the public’s approval, in a nation with the majority being affiliated with some form of Christianity or another.

Last time I checked, Christmas was supposed to be a Christian holiday that marks the birth of the allegedly non-mythical Jesus. But mostly I have observed it being celebrated in the most un-Christlike ways possible here in Amerika, featuring plenty of at least three of the seven deadly sins– greed, envy and gluttony. I feel fairly confident in saying that if Jesus was an actual person and he was magically here today, he would not only be appalled but might show up with a bullwhip to his own birthday party. [Reference: John 2:13-17]

Does the painful irony not even occur to these faux Christians that their own religious figure was from the Middle East, and also a refugee? [Reference: Matthew 2:13-15] Maybe not, since people are so fond these days of depicting Jesus as a white guy with blue eyes (which is improbable, to say the least). Many Christians I’ve spoken with do not even know that Jesus was Jewish, according to the book that many of them carry under their arm but do not actually read and/or comprehend. [Reference: Matthew 1:1]

I hate to be the one to inform you, but if you think the most important problem with Christmas in Amerika is the wrong color coffee cups and that Syrian refugees should be turned away, you are not a Christian. You’re a shitty human being, and definitely not a Christian. To be a Christian, I think you have to ask yourself at least once in a while (like maybe before taking a serious position on an issue), what did Jesus command that I do in this situation? And if there was nothing written about it in the book you consider holy, then maybe take a minute to consider what Jesus might do in a given situation, based on the themes of that narrative.

What did Jesus say about the design of Starbucks’ holiday cups?

He said, “Verily I say unto you, thy coffee shall be contained unto a shitty single-use paper cup, upon which thou shalt place graven images pleasing to the Lord your God.” Just kidding. He said fuck all about that.

What did Jesus say about refugees?

It turns out he said a bunch of shit. The most important of which, in my opinion, is that those who give food, water, clothing, refuge, shelter and care to the humans with the least status are actually doing those things to Jesus himself. Further, those who do so will go to Heaven and those who do not are to be sent to that other unsavory place. [Reference: Matthew 25:31-46]

What do you have to say to that, John Kasich and all you other fake Christian assholes?

Yes, we can easily know you are not a real Christian, because it says in your own book that we will know you by your fruits. [Reference: Matthew 7:15-20] Your fruits, sir, were clearly shat out by a monkey with a stomach virus.

Here’s something for the Starbucks cup whiners to chew on: If you can afford to pay two or three times the going rate for a cup of coffee, your life is probably not that difficult. Let’s take a moment to close your eyes, breath in the heady aroma of your grande Pike’s Place, take a loud slurp so that you can properly experience the rich compounds of the aerated coffee over your palate, and finally, for a millisecond try to realize just how fucking privileged you are. Think of all the hardships that millions of people around the world are facing. Does the color of the fucking cup you are going to throw in the trash really matter that goddamn much?

Nevermind. I know that this is an exercise in futility because people who think like that are immune to reminders to empathize with other people. Just keep guzzling your overpriced coffee, not giving two shits about anybody, and ruining the Earth by not recycling your mountains of displeasingly uncheery coffee cups.

PS, Fuck You and Merry Fucking Christmas.

In regards to putting my penis in your daughter

Recently a fellow on the street asked me for some change and I gave him what was in my pocket, as I always do whenever I have any change on me. But before I could continue on my way, he started talking– well kind of ranting, speaking at an inappropriate volume (as Italian people like myself sometimes are guilty of doing) and showing the whites of his eyes– about religious topics. My son later told me he would have asked for his change back at that point, which I think is a pretty funny response, but I would never have even thought about doing that unless he was being evil toward me. Probably not even then, because I clearly had advantages in life that he did not.

The first thing he started with, looking pointedly at the rainbow keychain that I wear hanging from a belt loop on my pants every day (and which does fuck all to get people to recognize my queerness usually)– was that the advice he gives “these LGBT people is to try being heterosexual first, then you can at least know that that doesn’t work for you.”

My mouth fell open but nothing came out. I didn’t know whether to laugh or not. Before I could gather my thoughts and respond that most heterosexual people don’t need to try being gay to make sure it doesn’t work for them, he continued, “It’s all in the Bible. It’s about a man and a woman because it’s all about reproduction.”

“Well, back when the Bible was written, there was not overpopulation like there is now. I think God understands that, and that’s why there are gay people.” (I normally do not use the word “God”– I use the word “Universe” to represent the divine force I perceive, unless it is for the sake of communicating quickly/effectively with someone.)

“There’s a book. We’re not supposed to just do different things from what it says.”

“Well we have to do some things differently. The world is different now.”

“I just don’t want it on the streets. Heterosexual people, them too, nobody. People need to keep things in the bedroom. I don’t want my children influenced.”

“Well it’s not legal to have sex in the streets here,” I said. “So that’s not a real problem.”

He nodded and moved on to the topic of marriage.

I wish I could reproduce his epic rant about the holiness of two people joining together as one as God intended, etc. etc., but he was talking a mile a minute.

Then I felt the conversation took a distinctly wrong turn.

“If you put your penis in my daughter, I don’t want you putting your penis in my daughter, because then you can back out. People shouldn’t be doing things until it’s holy first.”

This one I couldn’t possibly respond what I was thinking. Besides the fact that it was worded too personally for comfort, talking about penises and daughters in one breath is pretty much what’s wrong with the world, not a lack of marriages. Men (primarily cis hetero men) attempting to control/guard the sexuality and reproduction of women is a mark of lizard-brain thinking. That is, using that tiny, primitive portion of the brain to make decisions instead of using the reasoning of the higher mind.

“Marriage is between two people, then nobody else tries to come in there. Males are not going to be fighting anymore. There’s peace because they become one flesh and everyone respects it.”

“I see what you’re saying, but I don’t necessarily believe in marriage. People can still be kind, and not fight, and take care of each other. It doesn’t have anything to do with being married. I have two partners and I take care of them both and they take care of me.”

“Well then it’s between your two partners and you, and nobody else comes in there.”

I didn’t really know what to say to that. The belief that other people are a threat to my relationships is one that I’ve discarded.

I shook his hand before I went on my way, and told him it was nice talking to him.