“Why Would You Ever Be Polyamorous? Isn’t It All Drama?”

So I’m in the hospital, being informed I’ve just had a minor heart attack and they have to keep me overnight.  My wife’s not there, because she’s visiting her boyfriend in another state.

She wants to rush back to take care of me.  But what would she do here?  Hospitals are a second home for me, because I used to visit my hemophiliac Uncle Tommy all the time, and visiting is boring and uncomfortable.  I know others would panic, but me? I’m cradled in the best care I can get, and if she rushes home she’ll only get here at 1:00 in the morning and sit all night in one of those murderously painful chairs while I’m drugged up and grunting.

“Stay with your boyfriend,” I say.

“But…”

“Come in the morning.  I’m just gonna sleep, and there’s nothing you can do now anyway.  Get some rest, and drive when you’re not panicked.”

And I think about her, in the arms of someone I trust thoroughly, who’ll take care of her when I’m incapable.  I don’t need her now, and I don’t have the energy to comfort her – but he can.

“You sure?” she asks.

“I’m sure.”

I sleep better that night, knowing that someone’s ensuring Gini’s not flying apart with stress.  (And she got there the next morning.)

#

(Later that night, her boyfriend pondered whether it was okay to make a move on her.  “Are you kidding?” she said.  “If you don’t, he’s gonna be pissed that he’s sleeping alone and I’m not distracted.”

(Reader, she was correct.)

#

My sweetie Fox wanted to go see the eclipse.  The eclipse was near the quilting museum.  My wife wanted to see the quilting museum.

This was all in Kentucky, where there was bourbon – which I wanted to see.  And I wondered: could I combine all three of these into a single trip?

How would it work, going on an extended vacation with my wife and my sweetie?

It all started well – singing Hamilton, drinking bourbon, long debates about obscure topics.  But the rubber hit the road when the car broke down and Fox – who has chronic illness issues – exhausted themself trying to stay upright for the many hours until the mechanics and tow truck and taxi could get to us.  And by the time we got to our hotel they were flustered and upset and panicked because they were collapsing and they were too much trouble, they hated this illness that robbed them of strength at all the wrong times, and who would ever want to look after them when they were –

My wife, who was in no way dating Fox, held them and reassured them that they were loved.

Because they weren’t dating. But they were friends.

And Fox got better, and we saw the quilting museum, and when the eclipse severed the sky it was one of the most magical moments ever.

I remember holding my wife’s hand, and my lover’s hand, as the sun turned into a silhouette and I felt like the world was truly full of magic.

#

I remember sitting down with one of my dearest friends and one of my oldest lovers at a bar.  My friend had asked, “I mean, how do you date Ferrett?  He’s blogging all the time, he’s dating lots of women, how do you handle that?”

My sweetie, who’d had perhaps one too many drinks, gave a goddamned seminar in How To Date Ferrett.

I kept my mouth shut.  She told me all sorts of things I didn’t quite realize about myself, the strengths I didn’t realize I had, the ways she navigated around my neuroses, the bullshit I thought was important but ultimately didn’t matter.

She’d spent years learning how to love me well, and in explaining our relationship to my friend she helped me love myself better.

And in the end, she tilted a glass and said, “I don’t honestly care whether we’re dating.  I mean, I like that.  But we’ve both got restrictions, and one day he might decide mine are too much for him and he’ll leave.  But I know we’ll never stop being friends – and that’s the important thing.”

I blinked.  How could she not care whether we were dating?  And then I thought of the constant way we’d been exchanging texts over more than a decade now, that humming connection of “Oh, did you know” and “Well, that just happened” and “Look at this and laugh” and I realized that yeah, maybe we wouldn’t be smooching some day but we’d always be caring, and shit, why wasn’t that better than anything else in my life?

I watched the way she waved her drink as she spoke, the gesture a little exaggerated and a little intoxicated, and I realized that God, yeah, I was in love with the right woman.

#

“Isn’t poly stressful sometimes?”  Yes.  Yes, it is.  And I write about the troubles with polyamory because I think that a lot of poly relationships make the same mistakes – mistakes that I, tragically, have made – and by pointing out the patterns maybe some people can dodge around them.  Or at least figure out what their mistake is sooner.

But when I do that, monogamous people keep asking, “Why would you risk losing one lover to get two?”  And I think, Jesus, like your relationship is guaranteed no matter what you do – you risk losing a lover doing anything worthwhile, whether that’s moving in together or trying out BDSM or going to college or having kids.  I wonder if these monogamous questioners ever look at the number of marriages where people did everything “right” for two decades and everything still fell apart because you risk imploding a relationship whenever you seek what your heart wants, and you risk imploding a relationship when you don’t seek what your heart wants.

Polyamory is stressful.  Because relationships are stressful.  But there are also beautiful moments in polyamory where you feel the strength of the web, feel the compassion of not just one person but multiple people clinging tight around you when you threaten to fall apart, and it’s like friendship but it’s different in a way that you can’t really explain until you feel it click because god damn there’s something glorious in living with fewer boundaries.

Is it stressful?  Yes.  Particularly in the beginning, when you’re kicked back to high school and it’s got all the awkwardness of those first monogamous dates you had where you don’t know the tricks, and the insecurity cuts deeper and your communications aren’t honed.  It’s tough.

But anything worthwhile takes some effort.

And I think back to these moments, and a hundred more like them, these times when I had multiple lovers and so did my partners and that was all not just okay but beneficent, feeling that magnificent comfort of knowing that something great flowed between us like an ocean, and yeah.

Yeah.

It’s worth it.

 

“Why Does My Partner Hate All Of My Other Partners?”: A Theory

In the beginning, my wife and I were theoretically open to having other lovers.  I say “theoretically” because whoever she dated, I pretty much said no.

Now, not everybody’s in a relationship where they can veto someone else’s new cuteness  – but I always think of that scene from LA Story, where Steve Martin’s character wants a reservation at the hottest restaurant in Los Angeles to impress his date, but the maitre’d runs a credit check on him first.  When asked what he’d have for dinner, he says he’d probably order the duck.

“With this financial statement, you think you can have the duck?  You can have the chicken.”

“What about my date?”

The maitre’d shrugs.  “You can urge her in one direction.”

Which is to say that if your old partner doesn’t like your new partner, even if there’s not a veto on the table, there’s a hell of a lot of ways they can make you uncomfortable – starting with that squirmy feeling that you know you’re making your partner upset by simply being here.  Or the pretty sensible, “I told you I didn’t want you dating this person, so I really don’t want to hear about what’s happening there.”  Or an unwillingness to compromise when schedules start snagging.

If you’re in a poly relationship where you’re used to your partners being supportive, finding that glacial wall of disapproval glaring back at you whenever you return can be, well, chilling.

And I’ve spoken a lot about dysfunction in polyamorous relationships, where one partner can’t handle the jealousy of you being with someone else for some reason.  Maybe they’re trying out this polyamory thing because they like you and realize tolerating your wayward sexuality  – always a successful approach – is the only way to get you.  Maybe they’re insecure, and no amount of special gestures will ever convince them that they have any worth to you.  Maybe they’re selfish, where they want the hot smoochins but don’t want to deal with you having the hot smoochins.

But if your partner’s seemed sensible before – loving, even – and yet they’re still sneering at person after person, as if no one you might date could possibly be acceptable to them, I’d like you to consider another possibility:

Maybe you’re drawn to assholes.

I was insecure in the early days of our relationship, yes, but my wife was also drawn to bad boys who mainly saw me as an obstacle to be hurdled in order to get with her exclusively.  And I kept saying, “No, that guy’s really fuckin bad news for us as a couple,” and Gini said, “Ah, you’re just jealous,” and it wasn’t until I finally caved and let her start dating a couple of men who, in fact, lied and gaslit her in order to undermine our relationship that she went “Ooooohhhh, I get it.”

Once she realized that some of her hot-button personality types consistently led to disaster, she came to understand that I wasn’t being a dick, I was actually doing my best to look out for her.

And you’d think – you’d think – that years later, when we officially went polyamorous, and for a while Gini started slamming down “Not her”s like they were going out of style, I would have said, “Gosh, I remember when I hated all of her potential paramours, perhaps she’s just looking out for my best interest.”

But nope.  The script flipped, and suddenly she was saying “Nah, bruh” and I was the one thundering, “DON’T YOU WANT ME TO BE HAPPY?”

(Spoiler: she did.)

And again, it took a couple of fairly disastrous relationships for me to realize that my wife may have been insecure about people I was dating from time to time, but she was mature enough to put that fear aside and only have the talk when I was choosing women who were bad for me.

(She went for bad boys – I chose people who shared my mental illnesses.  Neither ended well.)

These days, we’re a lot better at being in sync.  Because as I’ve said before, my wife doesn’t have a veto because she is my wife – she has a veto because she has a twenty-year-long track record of looking out for my best interests, even when I was too stupid to see them.  So when she says, “I dunno about dating this one,” that’s the record-scratch moment when I pause and go, “Huh.  What has a better win record at sensing impending dysfunction when it comes to dating – my penis, or my wife’s instincts?”

So I trust her instincts.  (Not that either of us tend to date jerks these days – my theory is that everyone is attracted to three types of people who are bad for them, and the sooner you figure out who those people are the better off you are.  I’m pretty sure I’ve doped out, like, two of them.)

But that brings us around to my ultimate question, which I occasionally hear from people – “Why does my partner hate everyone else I date?”  And it could be insecurity.  It could be greediness.  It could be any number of manifest dysfunctions.

But before you investigate that, first ask yourself whether you’re drawn to people who are healthy for the  polyamorous dynamic you claim to want, and whether past partners of this type have led to internecine conflicts that made everyone involved miserable until a few breakups settled the dust one way or another.

It could be that you’re drawn to people who are flat-out bad for you, and your partner could be that canary in a coal mine, desperately fainting in the cage to try to warn your sad ass that yes, you are descending into a toxic environment once again and they may not be able to haul you out this time.

It’s not always true.

But it’s worth investigating first.

How To Make Fun Of Trump’s Tiny, Shrivelled Penis

I’d like you to imagine that you’re at a big wrestling match with all your friends.  I mean, like all of them.  Every person you’ve ever wanted to hang out with on some level is there with you, at the show.

You did not get good seats.

So there you are, you and a couple hundred buddies huddled together in the same section of the distant bleachers, a crowd of thousands sitting between you and the wrestlers on a remote stage.  And your most hated wrestler comes on, so naturally you want him to know that he’s a scumbag.  And you know this wrestler’s a notorious homophobe, so you scream out as loud as you can:

“YOU DIRTY, HORRIBLE F****T!”

Now.  Pop quiz.  Do you think it’s more likely that:

a)  The wrestler will hear you?
b)  Your gay friends will hear you?

If you answered anything other than “b,” you are an idiot.

But I see a lot of that with regards to Donald Trump – folks getting on social media to mock Donald for having dentures, or jeering about what a tiny dick he must have, or insulting him for any number of other physical handicaps he could not help having.  (The bad toupee and spray-on tan, well, I’ll give that a pass, as he chose them.)  And they’re out there really giving Donald a good shellacking, talking about what a doofus he looks like with no front teeth and a tiny cock…

And I wonder: You do know your friends can hear you, right?

Because Donald can’t.  He’s got literally all of America yelling for his attention, a constant stream of Twitter-ats that you could never dream of, and the chance of Donald Trump hearing your extremely specific brand of bodyshaming is next to nil.

The chances that your friends are hearing your insults on social media, however, is pretty goddamned high.

And if those friends have dentures, or a tiny cock, or any of those other so-called deformities you gleefully mock Trump for, well, what you’ve just told them is “I’d mock you, too, if I thought I could get away with it.”  You’re telling them, “You’re a freak and the only reason I don’t call you out for your teeth/cock/whatever is because I respect you.”

Yet I got news for ya – people with small cocks and no front teeth and baldness already get made fun of.  A lot.  They can tune into any goddamned comedy show and find some moe taking a potshot at them.  They’re told all the time by society how worthless they are for some physical condition they never asked for, and you rubbing it in is basically another long line of realizing that yeah, your so-called “friends” are sniggering behind your back.

Their response is probably, Thanks for the fuckin’ “respect,” pal.

“But wait,” you protest.  “I’m not mocking Trump – I’m mocking Trump’s vanity.  He’s very concerned about his appearance, so making fun of him isn’t saying everyone with no front teeth or a small cock is pathetic – I’m only saying it because it’ll hurt Trump!”

And I got one word for ya, liberals:

Pocahontas.

That’s the nickname Trump trots out whenever he wants to lay into Elizabeth Warren.  He doesn’t really think less of Native Americans (inasmuch as he thinks about anybody, really), but he knows it irritates her to have her admittedly debatable heritage called into question – and if a couple of Native Americans happen to feel slighted along the way, then that’s worthwhile collateral damage as long as she’s irritated.

He’s not really concerned about her bloodline, he’s just, you know, saying whatever he thinks will vex her.  And he does not give a shit about anyone else who gets dragged down in the process.  And most of my liberal friends have been hand-flailing, saying that Trump’s smearing Native Americans to score a cheap point is far out of line.

But too many of them think it’s okay to smear their friends as long as it maybe, maybe, needles Trump a bit.

So heck, if you’re taking that approach, why not go with the stuff that’ll really get Der Trumpster’s goat?  You know he’s terrified of having his heterosexuality called into question – why not call him a big, juicy f****t?  Hell, he’s pro-white, he’d hate to be called the N-word! You know that would really work under that infamously-thin skin, so why stop at his teeth?

What’s that?  Can’t do that, you say.  There are lines, you say.  And I say, “Fuck your lines.”  If the only reason you’re willing to stand up for your buddies’ potential feelings is because you think they’re part of some protected group, and if “people with dentures” or “men born with smaller penises” or any other kind of traditionally-mockable feature don’t deserve your consideration, then you’re basically only nice to groups of people who won’t call your shit out on Facebook.

Except, alas, I know there are some people who do do that – the number of “Trump going down on Putin” jokes are legion.  “I don’t think homosexuality demeans someone,” they’ll say.  “I just know it hurts Trump to see him in what he would perceive as a demeaning position, so I’m going to tell the world this funny joke based off the idea that gay men are awful and blowjobs are degrading and hope you recognize that my bigotry is artisan.”

And if that’s your approach, then what the fuck is the difference between you and Trump except for your choice of target?  You’re both schoolyard bullies with scorched-earth tactics, willing to propagate whatever inadvertent meanness you’re capable of so long as maybe it hurts your target.

Except remember: it doesn’t even do that.  You’re out in the bleachers, doofus.  At least when Trump starts calling people names, they’re guaranteed to hear what he said.  You?  You’re just some schmuck in the crowd, yelling in your friends’ ears.  Unless you’re toting 100,000 friends on Twitter, your ego’s rivaling Trump’s to think that your every Facebook bon mot will be read, personally, by the goddamned President of the United States.

Now.  This is where the inevitable me-defense comes up – as in, “Well, I have dentures, and I think it’s funny!” – and under normal circumstances I would go out of my way to point out that this isn’t about you, it’s about your friends who may never say anything to you because they’ve internalized this societal shame, and finding a single person who’s okay with a shitty joke doesn’t necessarily make it not-shitty….

But here’s the real point.  The real goddamned point.

This is Trump.

Why do you have to make fun of his physicality when there’s so many other things he chose to do that you could mock him for?

If you’re opposed to Trump, it’s not because of his wig – it’s because he’s done things.  Maybe you don’t like the way he’s let homophobic zealots take over the government, maybe you hate how he’s let Puerto Rico languish, maybe you despise how he’s worked hard to stoke the fires of anti-Muslim hatred.  Like any President, if you’re opposed, you’ve got a million valid reasons to loathe what he’s done.

And you’re going after his dentures?  His goddamned dentures?

That’s like walking into a museum devoted to the Holocaust and finding nothing but goofy pictures of Hitler’s mustache.  You don’t have to bodyshame Trump.  You’ve got a thousand better arrows in your fucking quiver.  And picking on the dude’s dorky looks doesn’t do a goddamned thing to convince unswayed voters, because voters generally don’t vote based on the “looks derpiest” methodology.

Point out where he did wrong.  Point out his intellectual failures, because while it’s no shame to be low on smarts, the man ran for President and claimed competency.  Point out his shabby policies.  Hell, point out that he likes his steak well-done, who the hell wants that?

(I have some dear friends who like their steaks well-done.  I will mock them for that.  It’s a choice, people, and a bad one.  Step away.)

But aside from the spray-on tan – because he woke up one morning and chose that shade of orange – insulting Trump’s body for almost any reason doesn’t work.  He doesn’t hear you.  Your friends do.  And when you go “I’m only making fun of fat people because he does it!”, contemplate the fact that people who do not pick up on your carefully-crafted irony take it at face value.  Contemplate the fact that no biologically-born male woke up one day and chose to have a smaller penis, and your hipster body-shaming is propagating all the same values that Donald Trump himself loves – namely, that big dicks indicate competence and small dicks indicate inadequacy.  (Whereas what it really represents is a biological marker that doesn’t make you any more or less capable.)

Sure.  maybe you could, somehow, get across that careful and perhaps-nonexistent distinction of “I mock this because I feel it would bother him, not because I would think less of anyone who actually had this happen to them,” why fucking bother when there’s a billion other cheap shots to take that won’t potentially cause people you love with no teeth or small cocks or some other unchangeable similarity to Trump to cringe?

And maybe, in the end, it comes down to this: you think if someone was born with a smaller cock or bad teeth or thin hair, they genuinely deserve to be made fun of.  You’re free to have that opinion, of course.  Just as my opinion of you is that you’re a waste of human flesh.

As for the rest of you: The best way to make fun of Trump’s tiny penis is this:

Don’t.

Do better.

I’m Talking About The Last Jedi Over On LiveJournal…

…because LiveJournal has cut-tags to protect people from spoilers, and my blog doesn’t.

Today’s Last Jedi Take On Luke Skywalker Might Become Yesterday’s Midichlorians: On Fan Response

At the end of that essay, there’s a brief explanation on “Why I haven’t posted to LJ recently” and also “Why I’ve been quiet here.”  If you can skim past the massive Star Wars spoilers, and it’s of interest to you, it’s there.

 

The 2017 Annual Greed List!

Thanks to some psychiatric problems, I am almost terminally late with my Annual Greed List – the large (and, yes, uncut) list of things I desire for Christmas. Why do I do this? If you’re really interested, here’s a brief history of the Greed List.

The briefer version, however, is that I think “What you want” is a reflection of “Who you are” at this moment – your music, your hobbies, your fandoms, help define who you are as a person.  I find it fascinating as a history, watching how what I’ve desired has mutated – for example, the list used to be heavy on physical Things, which then changed slowly into digital objects as MP3s and iTunes became big, and now as I’m renting a lot of digital stuff nowadays I’m back to wanting Things again.

(And it allows me to chronicle strange bumps in my desires; for example, last year’s list contained not one single book. Why? Was it because I stopped loving books?  No!  It’s because I just got off a book tour for Fix, and I was so overflowing with books that I needed to run down my pile.  Now I’m back to only a garbage truck-sized heap of books, and I need more.)

Yet while I guess I could just shove my Amazon Wishlist at you and run, why bother?  I want you to know who I am in this moment, and so I not only list what I want, but explain why I want it.

So.  Here’s what I’d like for this Star Wars-infused holiday season.

Review My Books.
I have officially written four books:

If you haven’t bought them yet, obviously buying them is a good thing for me.  (Start with Flex and work your way down.)  But if you have, and you haven’t left a review somewhere – whether that’s at Amazon, Goodreads, or Barnes and Noble –

Well, every review helps shape the retailers’ recommendation engines, and enough reviews (even negative ones) makes it far more likely that Amazon or Barnes and Noble will recommend that author’s book to someone else.  So even if it’s a two-star review of “Got bored, walked away,” well, actually, that helps.

So you wanna get me a gift that costs you nothing aside from five minutes of time?  If you’ve read my book, rate my book somewhere.  Which you can do for literally any other author you like, because guess what – it helps them!

Watchmen (Annotated Edition) $33.99
My all-time favorite graphic novel is Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.  I’d liked comics before Alan Moore came along, but I’d always thought of them as goofy and dispensable, not really capable of carrying deep emotional weight.

(Which is different from saying they can’t inspire emotion – I mean, I genuinely still tear up every time I read  Muhammad Ali fighting Superman, because that is one kick-ass comic – but I wouldn’t call Muhammad Ali fighting space warriors out to invade Planet Earth deep or anything.)

Anyway, Watchmen was the first comic I read where I could read it again and find more detail.  There are hidden depths to Watchmen that only really turn up the third or fourth time you read it – and it’s not a perfect comic, because some aspects of it have not aged well, but it was the perfect comic for me in that moment, if you can make that distinction.  It took superheroes and fused them with literary fiction in a way where wait, hold on, how do you blend genuine complex emotion with crimefighting?

(Even if Watchmen’s ultimate answer is that you really don’t.  Beating up criminals in alleyways isn’t a healthy profession, and it doesn’t do much.)

Anyway, I know little about this book except it claims to annotate Watchmen in-depth, and I am there for that.  It’s released tomorrow.  But it ships in time for Christmas.

Baby Driver (Blu-Ray) $19.96
This movie was, honestly, a disappointment for me when I saw it – it was a slam-bang car-chase movie from one of my favorite directors, and but all the best action moments (which were spectacular) were spoiled in the trailers.  It was tightly-plotted, as I’d expect, and it was beautifully shot, but in the end I thought it was a bit overrated.

So why is it here?

Because Edgar Wright’s other films – Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, World’s End, Scott Pilgrim – have gotten better on each rewatching, because he has lots of little moments you miss the first time around.  His films are like clockwork watches, every bit fitting neatly into the plot, and they’re also comfort watching.

So I’ll probably like this more the more I see it.  At least if past experience is anything to go by.

Final Fantasy XV for PS4 ($39.99)
Interestingly, this was on last year’s list and I didn’t get it and I’m still interested.  Is it that great a game?

No.  But it’s the only game on this year’s list, even though I’m a videogame addict.  It’s been a dry year for the kinds of games I like – which is to say, big meandery RPGs where you can fight but you can also go on fishing side quests or explore caves or just see the sights.  And considering I finished up the South Park RPG in about two weeks because it was really enjoyable but too shallow, Final Fantasy’s reviews from my friends indicate that yeah, I need some of its meandering in my life to help relax again.

So here it is!  Surprisingly high on the list for a game series I’m not traditionally into.  But I’m told that FF XV – yes, the fifteenth in the series – is unlike the other ones.  So let’s see.

Odyssey, by Emily Wilson (and Homer), $29.99
This translation’s been all kinds of hotness in my Twitter-circle, because it’s a modern, feminist translation of Homer’s Odyssey.  And good translations are hard to do, because they’re not just “swap foreign words for English ones” – you have to consider context and how culture changes.

My favorite translation of all time is Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf, where he condenses several lines of ancient English into a single word.  Because Beowulf starts with the ancient “HEAR YE, HEAR YE, LISTEN ATTENTIVELY TO THE GREAT TALE I AM ABOUT TO TELL,” and Seamus went, “Wait, nobody talks like that.  What do modern people say when they want to alert someone that they’ve got a tale where shit’s about to go down?”

The first word of his Beowulf translation: “So.”

Beautiful.

I read an interview with Emily where she essentially said, “It’s fascinating how every other translation turns ‘house slaves’ into ‘maids’ and ‘butlers,’ like they’re just hired men instead of kidnapped people.”  People apparently keep trying to translate out the complexities and contradictions of the original text instead of leaving them in, and I’d like to see this more complex version of the Odyssey.

Westworld: The Complete First Season (Blu-Ray) $27.99
My Dad asked me if he’d like Westworld.  I wish I could tell him.

The problem is, he’s watching it in a very different way than I did.

I watched Westworld week-by-week as it premiered, and in those weeks I read hundreds of fan theories, listened to podcasts that dissected every detail.  I obsessed over this show, to the point where when the season ending came I had five predictions and I nailed four of them because the show played fair and rewarded diligent watching.

And so for my Dad, who’d probably mildly binge-watch it in a couple of weeks and not have every episode presaged by thorough anticipation, well… I don’t know if it’s any good when watched like that.

In any case, this Blu-Ray comes with tons of behind-the-scenes extra documentaries, and that’s the meat of it for me.  I’ve rewatched the show twice through my HBO subscription.

I’ll probably watch it again.

Louis Riel: A Comic-Book Biography, by Chester Brown $12.99
So here’s a weirdie book: before this book, Chester Brown was an indie comic book artist who mostly drew bizarre horror comics about dicks.  His most famous work, Yummy Fur, was a surrealist work where a happy clown woke up one morning to find that Ronald Reagan’s from a parallel dimension filled with shit was now attached to the end of his penis.

…you wouldn’t think a comic could get weirder from there, but it did.

And then for no reason he wrote a very sober comic biography of Louis Riel, Canadian leader and rebel, which was by all accounts dead serious but became a Canadian bestseller and a classic work of biography.

I wonder what happens when people liked that and go read his other works.

Anyway, I liked his Yummy Fur stuff (and also his autobiographical defense of why he pays for prostitutes instead of having romantic relationships), and yet I’ve never read his most acclaimed work.  So that’d be nice to get under the stocking: a book without Ronald Reagan’s head on a dick.

Merry Christmas!

There Will Be Blood (Blu-Ray) $8.00
Despite this list, I’m terrible at making lists.  Ask me my top five favorite movies, and I freeze.  Over the years I’ve come to say Star Wars, The Godfather, Galaxy Quest, Fight Club, Princess Bride, but I’m not really sure if they’re my top five, they’re just five movies I like a lot.

There Will Be Blood is, I have decided, in my top 5.

It’s a slow movie about an oil baron, and what I love about it is that you see everything that Daniel Plainview does, both the good and the evil – mostly evil, because, well, there will be blood – and yet you can still debate exactly what he’s thinking in the moment.  The movie’s a lot like real life in that you can watch literally all he does and still not be sure why he did it.  Is Daniel Plainview a brutal man with genuinely tender moments, or is he manipulative all the way down?  It’s hard to say because he’s not introspective, either, and he doesn’t talk when he doesn’t have to.

It’s also a gorgeous movie, and would look great on my television.

Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve And/Or Ruin Everything, by Zach Weinersmith ($18.99)
Fun fact: The first ever review of my now-dead webcomic Home on the Strange came from Zach Weinersmith, who hated it and couldn’t understand why anyone was paying attention to it.  I’ve held a mild grudge ever since.

But unfortunately, not only was he right (that first strip wasn’t particularly great), but he and his partner are also one of the best webcomics in the business right now, with SMBC routinely putting out thoughtful, scientific, philosophical, and genuinely funny takes on modern life.  And now they’ve got a book out discussing ten modern technologies, which is good for a guy who writes science fiction.

It’s probably funny, too.  Damn them.

Through The Habitrails, by Jeff Nicholson $14.95
An unfortunate casualty of an ex-girlfriend I lent this to who failed to return it post-breakup, this is a terrifying graphic novel that deals with one man’s depressive look at his cubicle-farm job, and how he slowly breaks down.  It’s written in a fantasy style, so there’s grotesque elements as you see people literally dying at the job, but it’s also weirdly triumphant in the end.

I haven’t read it since that breakup six years ago.  I’d like to see it again.

Barry Lyndon (Blu-Ray, Criterion) $22.97
Barry Lyndon is perhaps the most Kubrick of Stanley Kubrick’s movies, which is to say it’s ridiculously obsessive and glacially slow.  It’s an 18th century drama, and Kubrick insisted on filming it all by natural light – so when they’re inside, he had to develop special lens to be able to film workable stock through candlelight.

Criterion, the publishing company, does amazing behind-the-scenes extras and restorations, so having this to look at would be marvelous.  Like Westworld, it’s mostly about the documentaries.  Because Kubrick was craaaaazy.

 

 

 

 

Could Audrey II Talk The Ingalls-Wilders Into Destroying Themselves?

I was showing Little Shop Of Horrors to my sweetie Fox yesterday when I accidentally called it “Little House of Horrors.”  Which, naturally, led me to imagine the crossover between Audrey II, sweet-talking, human-eating plant mastermind of Little Shop of Horrors, and the Ingalls-Wilder family of Little House of the Prairie.

Who’d win?

A friend of mine ventured the Wilders would win because “They’re tough.”  But this has never been a battle of muscle – this is about persuasion.  If the Wilders found some strange and interesting plant on their doorstep, placed as part of an alien invasion, would they succumb to Audrey II’s dulcet tones?

(Not that the plant would be named “Audrey II” in this timeline, of course. But we could debate for hours about what the Ingalls-Wilder family would call their pet plant, if they named it at all.)

Now, I do think they would care for the plant, as they’re usually on the verge of starvation and good farmers – so they’d have every urge to see what a weirdo plant might grow into, especially if it promised to be a unique crop.  (Which, given that Audrey II’s end game is to spread its seeds across America, it would be and how.)

The sticking point is feeding it blood.

I don’t doubt that a compassionate Laura might give Audrey a few drops of blood to keep a cute plant from starving – but ramping up to local dentists seems out of line for the very moral family.  However, there’s two issues that make me think the Wilders could be talked into feeding Audrey, who is after all very persuasive:

First off, the question of whether Audrey II could live off of inhuman blood is a question that’s never quite answered.  All it eats in the show is humans, but the rules as given in “Feed Me” are:

Must be blood
Must be fresh

When Seymour pleads “Does it have to be human?”, note that Audrey II does not answer.

So it’s entirely possible that Audrey II could turn into some watchdog for the corn storage, if Audrey II could eat rats.  And eventually, given the family mostly sees animals as livestock, they might toss a deer into Audrey if Audrey was bringing in a handsome income.  Not hard for Audrey to grow up big and strong then.  And Lordy, if Audrey can convince them to lay a perimeter of Audrey IIs around their house to protect their crops and hens, well, victory is easily at tendril.

But what if it must be human blood?  People say “No, the Ingalls-Wilders are not murderers!”  And yet…

They do have a barely-concealed concept for the Native American population.  Who they both fear and envy – which makes sense, considering the Ingalls-Wilders lived on stolen Native American land.

I mean, nobody wants to talk about the family’s darker urges, but playing on darker urges is literally all Audrey does – he quietly leads people to believe that maaaaybe a sacrifice of someone who’s not really fully human could be worth the payoff.  I mean, you don’t want to think that Ma, bigoted ol’ Ma, might shove some strange intruder into the maw of a champing plant, but can you really rule it out?

So my take is that it’s not a sure thing by any means, but there’s at least a chance that Audrey II could lead the Ingalls-Wilders down the primrose path to sporulation.  At which point we then enter a very interesting alternate American history, somewhat like Sarah Gailey’s hippo-infested Mississippi, wherein the plains are now covered with blood-thirsting Audreys – small ones, ones unable to survive on their own without talking people into hideous acts, but enough to bite off a toe.  And entire towns in thrall to their sacrificial Audrey-God, and Ma and Pa and Laura desperately trying to warn the world.

“So that’s what you used your lunch break to write about, huh?” my wife asks.

“I sure did,” say I.

 

 

A World, Transformed: Love In The Early Internet

Twenty-four years ago, I dialed up to CompuServe via a modem to talk about Star Wars. I had no idea my future wife was posting there.

Even if I’d been looking for love – which I wasn’t – the Internet back then was small and furtive. There were no selfies, because that was a technological accomplishment: you had to have a physical camera, then get your snapshots developed at the PhotoHut, and then a scanner to scan it in, and an FTP program to upload it to a site you owned. There were no videos. There were only crude, blocky emojis cobbled together from stray bits of punctuation.

There was only text.

Sane people didn’t fall in love through text.

So love never occurred to us.

My future wife, however, was (and remains) both a phenomenal debater and writer, so instead we argued ferociously (and platonically) for four years about every topic that came our way. She smacked me down whenever I made a terrible point, I took her to task for her weak opinions, we went toe-to-toe with each other in enthusiastic polemics and then engaged in one-upmanship pun wars that went on for weeks.

You couldn’t do better as a staging ground for unrecognized sapiosexual attractions, really.

But what strikes me as amazing is how inconvenient and lonely our discussions were back then… and it wasn’t so long ago.

We had to dial up via phone, and back then that meant landlines, and I was not so rich that I could afford two lines. So I’d clog up the phone in our apartment, and pay hourly connection fees to Compuserve, downloading threads and hoarding replies to save money, all for this bizarre textual connection.

A connection that literally nobody I talked to valued.

The Internet was viewed as a place made for weirdos those days. People barely understood computers, as this was in a day when “Word Processing” was a skill that genuinely added value to a resume. Telling strangers you had a social life online led to people asking what “online” meant.

And those who did know thought you did it only if you had no real-life friends – which was accurate for me, as I was in a lonely place after a move because I had taken a new job in a new city and was too socially anxious to ask anyone to hang out with me. I had my girlfriend, who’d moved out with me, but we weren’t the kind of couple who did well just hanging out with each other 24/7 for literally years at a time.

Having friends on the Internet was a dirty secret. If I talked about them like they were real people, folks would ask if I’d met them, what I really knew about these people, why were they so sad and lifeless that they’d have to talk to losers like me online.

The strands that connected the real world to the Internet were so tenuous in those days. People did cool things on the Internet, but there was no YouTube or easy way to pass around photos, so a big “viral” post maybe got to about 500 people before it guttered out. The idea of meeting someone you knew online was such a big deal that we held entire threads devoted to each crossing, encouraging both people to post their (usually positive) opinions of each other so the rest of us could imagine what our online buddies might be like if we ever shared a beer.

There were no cheap laptops, no cell phones that could connect, no workable wi-fi. Every time I talked to them I had to return home, to my place with the wired connection and the desktop computer, and boot up my specialty program.

And when my wife and I realized that, in fact, we were now both single and in love with each other, it was a forbidden love. Only losers used electronic dating services. (Watch “Harold and Maude” for an example of how it was viewed back in the 70s, and it was no better come the 90s.) The only time online love was discussed was on Geraldo’s show about how they were all secret murderers.

Telling people “We met online” back then usually caused a frozen, polite smile and a step backwards as they fumbled for something nice to say. It just… wasn’t done. Not by normal people, anyway.

But I loved my wife long before I ever saw her face.

(Though we did exchange photos, snapshots sent through the mail, before I flew to Alaska to meet with her. We weren’t crazy crazy.)

And the reason I bring all this up today is because the final CompuServe forums are closing down this December. I didn’t even know they were still running. I thought about finding the first post where I ever contradicted Gini (or she lambasted me), but those archives are gone.

But for us, it’s the end of an era.

And I think about how the world I knew only twenty-someodd years ago has been obliterated. If you’re twenty-three now, you probably have no real emotional concept of how playing videogames legitimately used to be something you could be mocked for doing in high school – and now they outsell movies. Electronic dating is now rapidly outstripping “We met at work” as a connection. Hashtags cause politicians to tremble.

The Internet has melded with the real world in ways that I never would have predicted back when I listened to my modem make that scratchy electronic throat-clearing noise so I could download the latest text-threads about the Death Star Trench Run.

And the Internet is, of course, full of horrors and revelations. It can’t not be; it’s full of humans, and we’re all mixed bags of kindness and cruelty. There’s unexpected ramifications – I didn’t think that a deep love of videogames would lead to Gamergate would lead to revitalized right-wing movements, but, well, here we are.

But never forget: there’s also love.

There’s also connection.

There’s also hope, and answers to loneliness.

I think of me, accidentally finding my wife in text. I think of friends (and lovers) who I’ve met in emails or texts or what-have-you, genuine friends who’ve supported me through some pretty dark places even though we may never have physically met.

And I think of all those people who didn’t understand why they felt so out of place until they stumbled across someone else who was trans, or asexual, or kinky, or gay – connections they might have never made were they restricted to physical meetups in a smaller town. I think of the endless generosity of people on the net, all those GoFundMes promoted by friends forged on the Internet and often donated to by strangers with compassion in their hearts.

The Internet is about kinships, and making those connections are easier than ever.

I met my wife online, back before Twitter or Facebook or even ICQ was a thing. And I think of how someone right now is meeting the love of their life online. Maybe they don’t know it. We didn’t.

I wish them a future as weird and wonderful as what we got.

Goodnight, CompuServe.

Good morning, new kinships. In whatever grand and glorious form you choose to take.