A Signal Honor: Presenting At Beyond The Love

I’ll be presenting at Beyond the Love in November – which I’m super-stoked about. Beyond the Love is considered one of the best polyamory conferences in America, and I’ve heard nothing but excellent experiences from the folks who’ve attended.  To even be asked there is an extremely flattering compliment to the work I’ve put in analyzing polyamorous relationships.

But I’ve also been asked to give the keynote speech to kick off the convention, which is… really quite humbling. It’ll be a short speech, but to be entrusted to set the tone for the conference is something I take quite seriously.

If you’re interested in attending, it’s held in Columbus, Ohio on the weekend of November 13th.  I’ll be giving talks on troubleshooting broken polyamory, and on how to break up like a goddamned grownup.  I’d be happy to see you there.

(And as a separate disclaimer, if y’all want me to talk in your town, I merely ask that I don’t lose money on the experience. Talk to your con holders about travel expenses and putting me up. Particularly, you know, if you live in Australia.  I really wanna go to Australia some day.)

The Dumb Crimes I Want To See In Fantasy And Sci-Fi

In speculative fiction, there are only three objects, moved from place to place, to commit nonviolent crimes:

  • Bread, stolen to feed your family;
  • Drugs, smuggled to demonstrate your ability to evade the law;
  • Gold and/or jewelry, removed from their vault in a fantastic heist and/or bank robbery.

That’s it.  That’s all the nonviolent crimes there are in fiction.

But when Robert Bennett and John Chu recommended the fantastic Planet Money podcast to me, they forgot to tell me that this podcast’s secret name was “The Fantabulous Compendium Of Immensely Stupid Crimes.”  I’ve only been listening for a few weeks, and already I have heard the hubbub over the following crimes being committed:

  • The man who defied the Raisin Administrative Committee to illegally box his raisins, which triggered a Supreme Court case;
  • The man who told the mayor of Boston “Fuck you, I can too auction off parking spaces,” and promptly discovered why telling Boston politicians to go fuck themselves is an unwise maneuver;
  • The man who went to jail for not watering his lawn, in perhaps the best episode title ever: “Lawn Order.”

And the more you listen to The Fantabulous Compendium Of Immensely Stupid Crimes, the more you come to realize that a) there are a lot of ways to make money by selling things, and b) there are a lot of businessmen and lawmakers who want to stop people from selling things, so c) there are a stupendous amount of absurd crimes involving obscure edge cases that people’s lives literally depend on.

And yet I can’t remember the last time I read a fantasy novel that revolved around something as simple as smuggling (perfectly legal) cigarettes to avoid taxes.  Or growing yams in your basement because the King’s Yam Council had seized all your spare yams.  Or even escorting illegal elves across the border.

Point is, the world is filled with such a variety of bizarre crimes, and yet our templates in fantasy are so goddamned small.  Where are the money-washers?  The illegal slakemoth-breeders?  The guys who sell chimera pelts to sad old men who think sniffing the pelts will help them get it up?

I want so much more from fantasy, and yet we’re always returning to the same three scenes and a mugging.  Think big, fantasy. Think big.

Straight Outta Ignorance: A Non-Rap-Fan’s Review Of Straight Outta Compton

So I know nothing about rap. Not that I’m one of those people who sneer “God save me from rap and country music!”- but when I was growing up, the primary exchange of music was The Mix Tape.  I like KISS because my friend Dean made me a mix tape of the best KISS songs. I like Frank Zappa because my friend Mark made me a mix tape of Frank Zappa.  I like punk because Neal and Rocco made me mix tapes of punk.

I knew no one who liked rap, and hence, never got into rap.  As such, my knowledge is sporadic – I know a couple of tunes, but couldn’t pick out a West Coast vs. East Coast beef.

As such, going to see “Straight Outta Compton” was an interesting experience.

First off, “Straight Outta Compton” is a good movie. I have my Pee Test when it comes to films – am I sufficiently interested in this movie that my teacup-sized bladder can distract me?  And though SoC was 2.5 hours and a 40-oz drink, I kept my ass in the seat.  Great story.

Yet SoC is clearly a movie meant for people other than me.  For example: early on, in the studio, the guys talk Eazy-E – who has, until now, provided only their money – into rapping.  The music starts up.  It’s clearly a familiar riff.  Eazy-E steps up to the mic, swaggers a bit –

And blows the line.  Off-tempo, terrible delivery, you name it.

The scene still works if you’re ignorant, but clearly this played off of expectations where the audience was ready for the first magic of That Track to drop.

Likewise, SoC has a fair number of Dramatic Pauses where they’re about to announce their new track, or the company they’re starting, and someone asks them what the name is – and – they – hold, for no good reason except to build an anticipation for a Significant Moment that I had no idea was coming.

Hell, they don’t even bother to introduce Suge Knight.  He just shows up without introduction.  Fortunately, he’s such a menace it becomes clear that he’s a bad guy.  Death Row records is presented as a literal hell, complete with torture chambers.

SoC is not a subtle movie. At one point, a character contracts a terminal illness, which is conveyed by them coughing dramatically.  Yet in a way that works better – this is an old-fashioned popcorn drama, where everyone’s presented in clear clean lines (Dre is talented but naive! Ice Cube is suspicious but hard-working! Eazy-E wants the money and the women!) and the plot churns along.  It’s not subtle, but it’s a big story, and frankly, the Ray Charles biopic attempted to be subtle and it got boring.  This is the Greatest Hits track of drama, where if it’s not over-the-top dramatic, fuck it, leave it on the sidelines.

And I spent a lot of the walk home with Gini wondering if this movie was Oscar-worthy.  Paul Giamatti put in a great performance, I know that – but I know that because I’ve seen Paul Giamatti work before, and this was different than his other work.

But as for the three actors who played Eazy-E, Ice Cube, and Dr. Dre? I have no idea how to calibrate. I’ve never seen them work before so I don’t know their baseline – Ice Cube looks a hell of a lot like Ice Cube, but that’s because he’s Ice Cube’s son – and I have insufficient familiarity with Dr. Dre to know whether these guys have captured his essence.  So was it good acting?  Zero clue.  They kept my attention in a bombastic script, and that’s all the quality I can speak to.

I know enough not to take this as history.  I know that some of the other NWA members got shafted in this biopic because a) there’s not enough space, and b) Dr. Dre and Cube produced it, so guess who gets to be the stars?  And I know that it glosses over the fantastic misogyny present in a lot of NWA’s songs and backstage actions, and probably their youth wasn’t as idealized.

Still. A good movie. Brought me up to speed on a lot of the inner tensions, and how fame (and bad contracts, and money) can split friends apart.  I’d recommend it, even if you’re basically a rap yutz like me.

The Bullies Don’t Actually Know You: A Vital Reminder In How Crowd-Sourced Jerks Work

During the Hugos – the science-fiction Oscars – a friend of mine made a pro-LGBT Tweet about the future of science fiction that caught the attention of the anti-Social Justice crowd.  Needless to say, things turned ugly for her fairly quickly.

Watching the insults mutate was a welcome reminder in how bullies work.

At first, they told her to shut up about science fiction, as she apparently didn’t know how things worked in the business.  Bad move, as she was an officer of the Science Fiction Writers’ Association for several years, has edited anthologies, and handles the PR for several quality authors.  Accusing her of being ignorant is ignorance, and could have been neatly sidestepped by a simple Google search for her name.

When they lost on that front, they moved to accusing her to being undesirable, ugly, and was doing this entirely because she was unable to get laid.  Which also doesn’t work. She’s stunningly attractive, and while I can’t speak to the fine details of her social life, she does not appear to have any problems attracting companionship.

When that didn’t work, they then…

Oh, does it matter?  It doesn’t, really.  Because that’s how bullies function.  They really don’t care who you are – they’ll just keep flinging shit at the walls until one of the insults eventually sticks.

Which isn’t to say that it doesn’t hurt when they eventually fumble onto an insult that describes you – but some of that pain comes from the shock of Oh, they’ve found me out, and really, they haven’t.  Most Internet pileups are an insult dictionary-attack: they haven’t guessed your password because they have a deep and meaningful relationship with you, they’ve guessed it because they have this list of “the 10,000 most common personality flaws” and they tried each one out in descending order until they stumbled across yours.

These insults are fundamentally meaningless because they don’t actually know what the fuck they’re saying.  They just hated what you had to say, and are trying to shame you into shutting up by trying keys at random in your door.

They will literally say anything if they think it’ll make you feel bad.

And that’s the inverse of how society usually works:  You smell like funky cheese, so your lover rejects you.  You’re incompetent, so your boss fires you.  You’re boring, so your friends don’t invite you out.  All painful, but it’s a clear sequence of cause and effect – here’s the reason, here’s the consequences.

Whereas when bullies come around, they have decided upon the consequence – this bitch needs to feel bad.  And then they start hunting for reasons to justify the consequences.

Yet if you watch carefully, their reasons don’t actually make sense most of the time.  Hey, you’re a – no I’m not.  Well, then you – no, I don’t. Certainly you must – I’ve never done that in my life, actually.

Now, none of this isn’t to say that an internet dogpile doesn’t suck syphilitic moose ass. It does. It’s always a little unnerving to realize that a bunch of people are working their asses off to try to make you cry.  And alas, society has trained most of us that if a hundred people are jeering and pointing, you must have done something wrong.

But you haven’t.  You said something they didn’t like – something they can’t actually argue with, because if they were smart enough to debate your concepts, they’d be off explaining why what you said was wrong.  And having lost the intellectual argument due to a lack of functioning neurons, they have now moved to the Shut this person up phase and will now throw bricks until one of them hits.

Chances are, they’ll eventually luck upon a bad description of you that fits.  But remember: they don’t actually care about that.  All they want is your tears followed by your silence.

You’re allowed either tears or silence, you know.  Engaging is exhausting.  Nobody’s obliged to battle phase-shifting morons.

But if you really wanna show those fuckers up, want to enrage them in the best way possible?  Keep talking.  Ignore them, and concentrate on spreading that original message they couldn’t effectively deny.  Because when you focus on that message and properly categorize the thousands of insults they’re blindly trying out on you, you come to realize that these aren’t insults but a modified jamming technique – filling the air with thousands of messy signals in an attempt to drown the broadcast that terrifies them.

The insults feel personal.  But just like what happened to my smart and competent friend, they only feel personal because they tried out several variations of insults that were so laughably not you that they didn’t fit, running down a long list until they found something that jarred.

That’s not actually personal.  They don’t know you.

They just know they want to shut you up.

Why Assuming “Everyone Is A Jerk” Makes Your Life Better.

Here’s how I survive, folks: I assume everyone’s a jerk on some level.

Not on every level, natch – it’s rare that someone’s a through-and-through jerk.  But even the nicest guy turns out to have this vague yet palpable bigotry towards, say, Pakistanis, and the sweetest girl you ever knew turns out to think Donald Trump has some good points.

Now, if you don’t assume everyone’s got a little jerkiness rolling around in them, then you feel betrayed – my God! I thought you were perfect! How could you let me down?  You thought you’d found the person who was Not A Jerk, and it turns out that when you look at them from the right angle there’s a big chunk of Jerk sticking out of their forehead.

Whereas I just assume everyone has some jerk in them: celebrities, friends, author-buddies, tiny babies, Peter Dinklage, whoever.  I just haven’t viewed them from the correct angle to see that jerkiness, but I assume it’ll show up sooner or later.

Doesn’t mean I can’t like ’em.  I think once you resign yourself to the fact that everyone’s jerky in the right circumstances, you come to rest a little easier: you don’t have to hunt for perfect friends.  You can like people who’ve got some serious flaws – which is good, because you’ve got some serious flaws, and hopefully people will like you.

This is not to say you shouldn’t be outraged when Your Best Buddy turns out to be a strident anti-vaxxer, of course. Call them out! Argue! Stir up a fuss!  But the “everyone’s a jerk” theory subtracts that feeling of betrayal that saps your day and makes you wonder how you’ll function when you haven’t found the True Person To Serve As Your Inspiration.

Everyone can inspire you, when viewed from a certain angle.  Take that inspiration to make yourself better.

And stop feeling like today’s jerkassery has ruined your faith in humanity.  A reasonable definition of “humanity” includes “jerkiness,” for honestly, that’s what we are.  Mostly nice.  With a solid streak of “jerk” running through us.

Fuck Destiny. Try Work.

Occasionally, someone asks me, “Do you feel that Gini’s your soul mate? You’ve been dizzyingly, rapturously in love for fifteen years – and isn’t that destiny?”

Fuck no it isn’t.

Now, Gini and I liked each other a lot, which was the key to why we managed to somehow forge a connection over the Internets. We had a similar, if evil, sense of humor. We shared the same concept of fairness. We both liked fucking a whole lot.

But when we got together, man did we have a lot to work on.

Yeah, we live in an idyllic wonderland these days – but don’t ever forget we built this fucking thing, brick by brick. If you’d seen us a year after our marriage, you would have thought we were headed for divorce. Hell, at one point Gini flat-out told me she didn’t love me any more, and we spent six months figuring out what to do when that happened.

We fought until dawn sometimes, screaming as we slowly tried to determine how to be kind to each other without sacrificing the things that let us function.

And slowly, we learned each other’s secret language of love. She learned I needed warm, Sunday morning snuggles; I learned she needed clean kitchens. We picked up on the signals that told us when we felt justified but were acting like utter choads. We learned how to apologize without clogging up the joint with denials, defenses, and backpeddling.

After about three years, it got good.

After about six, it got fantastic, and has yet to stop improving.

At fifteen, it’s bliss. It’s our refuge. It’s probably the best thing we’ve achieved together.

But if you tell me that “destiny” brought us together, you’re telling me that destiny did the work. Fuck that fickle bitch. Destiny maybe put us in the same chat room together – or maybe that was her slacker brother Chance – and so I’ll be eternally grateful to someone out there. But when I was seething with neurotic jealousy and Gini was squashing her feelings so deep down even she didn’t know how furious she was, where the hell was destiny?

No. We did this. And I shudder to think of what would have happened if I’d waited for cloud-castles to float by bearing my soul-mate on a sweet tide of incense and pheromones.

Fuck that. My castle started with two people, two shovels, and a quarry that would have broken a sane man’s back. Look at our hands: they’re full of callouses, our fingernails crusted with dirt and blood, and some days the west wing collapses and we walk out with these tools we built ourselves to prop the fucking thing up again.

This is no dream. This is hard work.

And it is glorious.

The Family That Gets A Tattoo Together, Stays Together.

I met my wife in a Star Wars chat room.

I did not see her as someone I ever thought I would romance.

This is because she was married, and I was engaged, and as such we happily kept to the main topic of the Compuserve forums: arguing relentlessly about anything we damn well felt like.  There was a lot of Star Wars debate (did Luke truly fall to the Dark Side, were ysalamiri a dumb idea, why the hell did they have to fly through the trench for twenty miles to get to the exhaust port, couldn’t they just have started like 2000 meters away?)…

…and there was a lot of political debate, couched in Star Wars hokum so it wouldn’t get moved to another thread.  (“The Saudis, who have absolutely no reason to lower the price of oil to help our national economy out, live in a desert as dry as Tatooine.”)

But mostly, there was a love of Star Wars.  And my future wife and I savaged each other in snarling debates for years, long enough that she got a divorce and my fiancee walked out and one day we realized we were in love.

So we got married.  (And I moved to Alaska, which is a different story.)

So Star Wars bonds us.  We had Luke and Leia on top of our wedding cake.  (We have an OTP that defies canon, what can I say?)  And with the new Star Wars coming out, Gini was thinking of getting a tattoo.

And I told her, We should both get a tattoo.  Together.

Of course we agreed this was a great idea.

But the funny thing is, a few weeks ago we got this new huge Ultra-HD 70″ television, which our eldest daughter helped us set up.  The first film we watched? Star Wars in Blu-Ray, of course.

And what I discovered, much to my thrill, is that though she’s in her late twenties, my eldest daughter is as much a Star Wars nerd as I am.  There are activities I think we all share with our parents that we like because it reminds us of family – but without the family there, it’s just sort of Something You Do On Summer Vacations.  I mean, maybe your Dad read Winnie the Pooh to you as a kid and you loved that warm feeling of being in his lap, but there’s a difference between loving that experience and reading Winnie the Pooh over and over again when you’re a grownup.

Whereas our kid?  She kept pointing out all the tiny details, squeeing at stuff only someone who’d watched this damn film too many times would see.  She was as into it as we were, and it was a glory to behold.

We mentioned the tattoo.

She was in.

And then there was our youngest daughter, who we knew also had the Star Wars love when she waited to show her partner Star Wars at our house.  Her partner enjoyed it enough, but my younger kid’s constantly squeezing her hand and going “HERE IT COMES, NO THIS IS THE BEST PART” probably was a distraction.

Youngest daughter is overseas right now on a college trip, but she’s coming back to town in September.  But we Facebook-messaged her.

She was in.

And so plans are tenuous, but the plan is to go in the week the new Star Wars movie releases and get four Star Wars tattoos together, as a family.  We’re not coordinated enough to get matching tattoos, which I think is appropriate – we’re a raucous bunch, we disagree, and us having all the same style would never fly.

Yet if all goes well, the four of us will ink our special bond permanently. We love Star Wars.  We love each other.  And the movie may suck and suck big-time, but we’ll watch it in the biggest theater in Cleveland with flesh still aching from the needle, knowing that nothing can take our bond away from us.

We survived Phantom Menace.  We’ll get through this.

And whenever I look at my tattoo, I’ll think of my wife, and my kids, and the dream we lived together.

Let’s hope this works.

My Crumbling Empire: On Depression, And Social Networks

Yesterday, I saw a dear friend of mine for lunch. We had some lovely burgers, chatted amiably, and when she left I slumped into my chair and stared numbly at the wall for half an hour, drained to the point of paralysis.

I am normally an introvert, which is to say that I love people, but it takes me energy to spend time in their company.

When I’m in Seasonal Affective Disorder, as I am now, talking to people takes so much energy that I have to schedule social engagements like I would workouts. You can’t just go out and run a ten-mile; you gotta build in warmup and recovery time.

Normally, I’m a super social person. I text probably twenty people during the course of a day, merrily exchange @s on Twitter, flirt on FetLife. I have Woodworking Wednesdays, and Roleplaying Tuesdays, and guests over almost every weekend.

My SAD is really fucking with me right now, in a fundamental way. Right now, “answering a text” involves mental labor. My phone buzzes, and rather than going, “Oooh, who is it?” like I normally do, I flinch with a sagging “Oh, man, I have to respond to that.”

And the thing is, it’s costing me. I usually have an excellent support network of friends who tell me happy things and distract me when I’m bored. (For a depressive introvert, in fact, I have a thoroughly vibrant social life.) But weeks have passed, and some folks have quite correctly decided that I’m not being a particularly good friend, and so why waste time on me when I’ll respond erratically if at all?

So I’ve been losing people I like to talk to. In theory. In practice, I want to talk to few people now, and sporadically, but I still like these people, I just… am pretty limited at the moment.

And here comes the annoying part where people tell me, “Well, if they can’t deal with you cutting out on them because you’re depressed, they’re not true friends and they don’t matter!” And that is such, such stinking bullshit.

First off, by defining the only friends worth having as “people who will stay with you for long periods where you don’t reciprocate their interest,” you’re dismissing the need for casual friends. Yes, it’s lovely to have that Deep Friend who will hold your hand when you’re having open-heart surgery – but it’s also good to have a wide, shallow network of people to go catch a movie with.

Depressives tend to fetishize the “TRUE FRIEND,” without realizing that casual engagements are equally worth having, because sometimes you just want to get out of the house and get a drink with someone who makes you laugh. Having multiple people you get together with sporadically enrichens your social life, makes you more resilient to life’s inevitable bumps (what if your One True Friend moves away?), and increases the chances of meeting someone who does get your weird-ass social rhythms

Furthermore, I think it becomes seriously toxic to view the “True Friend” as “someone who’s okay to neglect.” It may be that you have to neglect people to keep your sanity intact, as I am right now, but it’s not a good thing that I do this. It’s me not returning texts, it’s me canceling out on social engagements, it’s me not reaching out to people I love –

And I think that going, “Well, True Friends endure the dismal friendships you give them!” does a disservice to the concept of friendship going both ways. Yes, a True Friend will understand when you’re going through a bad patch – but if you are a True Friend in return, then you’ll do what you can to make your friends feel valued even during your deep funks.

The True Friend myth often seems to dismiss the notion that friendship is a two-way street, treating the True Friend as a toy and not a human. “Here, I’m going to toss you under my bed for weeks at a time and not pay attention to you – but now that I want you, come out and play!”

Friendships include maintenance. Maintenance I don’t necessarily have the energy to give right now. And perhaps a lot of the people I talk to understand that withdrawal, but it’s also a not-incorrect move to go “Ferrett’s not talking to me much, so I’m not going to prioritize him the way I used to.”

And so I think of my social network as a crumbling empire – at the core, I’m still talking to my closest friends. But expanding out in rings from that are a bunch of text-flirts and buddies and acquaintances whose company I genuinely enjoy who I’m unable to respond to in a timely fashion…

…and they’re slowly backing off from me. The social network I have is fraying. And when I eventually recover from this sudden depression – if I do – then some people I’ll start texting again and they’ll just be happy to hear from me. Others, I’ll restart up with, with a permanently damaged friendship: they now know that I can drop out of sight, and as such they won’t trust me with too much of their affection.

Still others I’ll lose entirely. We’ll be friendly when we see each other, but that potential for a deeper relationship will have been lost in this absence, where they shrug and figure they’ll hug me and say hello when we’re in the area, but now quietly vow to make absolutely no effort to get in touch.

I can’t say I blame any of them. I’ve got my own issues. This is how my issues affect theirs. And they have to move to protect themselves in the way they see fit.

I just wish I was a little less broken inside. But this isn’t my fault; it’s bad chemistry, some rogue DNA producing a toxic chemical stew that triggers stress reactions.

It’s not my fault. But I still have to live with the consequences.

On Classifying Assholes

For years, I double-dipped the chip. At every party I went to.

But then again, I came from a family that routinely traded bites at every meal, and I was not the most conducive to picking up on social cues, and I have a constitution like a horse where I can eat a sandwich that’s been sitting on the counter for three days and have zero ill effects.

It was not until that Infamous Seinfeld Episode where George gets into a fight with his girlfriend’s brother that I realized, reluctantly, that I was in fact that asshole.

And my enlightenment did not come flaring on at once like a firework, either. I had discussions with friends. They told me it was rude, and I dismissed them going, “Nah, it couldn’t be. Seinfeld overreacts to things. It’s comedy!”  I watched people at parties, monitoring the dip bowl out of the corner of my eye, not believing that people would care about such a thing.

Slowly, I came around. And by the time Mythbusters disproved the double-dipping theory from a semi-scientific standpoint, I’d come to realize that even if it might not necessarily be harmful, it was the sort of thing that people fucking hated and maybe I shouldn’t do it.

That ignorance did not somehow erase my asshole nature over the years of double-dipping.  I was an asshole at parties, and no doubt grossed out lots of people, and possibly even gave a few sensitive people food poisoning, I dunno.  Don’t like to think about that much.

But that ignorance (and, ultimately, resistance) did not remove the fact that I was doing asshole things, and needed to stop.  I felt justified in what I was doing for a bit, in the fact that I felt people were oversensitive – but this stemmed from the fact that at the time, I frequently felt that I could argue people out of their feelings, where adding enough confrontation to an uncomfortable event would somehow make people come away thinking well of me.

…Which was another asshole thing I did.

Maybe double-dipping the chip isn’t such an awful thing, in the scheme of life. On the other hand, I balance that fussiness against the ease of me not double-dipping the chip.  If someone kicked up a fuss about, say, the disgusting nature of using forks to eat food, I’d look at a lifetime of eating spaghetti with chopsticks and go Nah, you be you.

But double-dipping the chip? I can get by snapping my larger potato chips in half. It’s a small price to pay to not be an asshole.

Now, you may think the point of this essay is a heartwarming sentiment where I tell you really, isn’t political correctness like double-dipping the chip?  And though I actually believe that, this essay’s about something else:

Classifying assholes.

There’s a lot of resistance in the community to classifying assholes, because there’s this sense if you do then you excuse asshole behavior.  But the truth is, I was a correctable asshole.  (At least when it came to double-dipping.)  I acted out of ignorance, and when I dismissed other people’s opinions on the matter it was because I came from such a different background that I couldn’t initially believe this was an actual concern a large number of people held.

Eventually, I came to realize that even if it didn’t bother me personally, it did distress lots of others.  So I changed my behavior.

Yet there are other assholes who won’t change their behavior, no matter how much evidence they gather that this is, in fact, A Thing.  They’ll in fact take some dim pride from the idea that they’re making A Stand against some insane fussiness – or they’re just selfish jerks who like the taste of the double-dip.

(Or – even worse – they’ll double-dip when they think no one’s looking.)

Anyway, the point is that people really fucking hate classifying assholes, because in some ways it’s a lot easier to believe that an asshole is a lifelong status – you’re born one, and once you’ve revealed yourself as one, you’ll remainan asshole until the day you die.  If someone did an asshole thing, fuck them, brand them, and expel them.

Yet some assholes can, in fact, change, and become not-assholes.

This argument frequently gets slurred into “Well, you want to excuse asshole behavior!  You want to keep assholes around!”  And no.  It’s entirely  legitimate to expel all sorts of assholes.  Regardless of my reasons for double-dipping the chip, it would have been a very wise decision to keep me out of your fancy dinner party to impress your boss.  And depending on the flagrancy of the circumstance, if you held a party for a bunch of immunodeficient people, it would be an equally wise move not to invite Ferrett The Double-Dipper, for their fear that I might now just double-dip in secret would kind of ruin the party for them.

Regardless of the move, sometimes you bar assholes, and sometimes you bar them for life.  This is rational behavior.  Far better to chuck one jerk out than to have twenty people cringing and waiting for the double-dip-hammer to fall.

Yet what happens is that people take that logic and go, “Well, we’re barring assholes because they’re going to be assholes forever.”  Which is not true.  You’re barring people because they have a history of distressing and/or hurting other people’s feelings, and perhaps they have changed, but you are no longer willing to put you and your friends at the risk of discovering that in fact they haven’t.

Which is a more nuanced position, but it’s also truer.  Sometimes, people learn from their mistakes. Even if they fight that initial wave of feedback.

But sometimes people don’t learn from their mistakes, and you only discover that after you’ve put other people in the line of asshole fire.  So you take the more protective approach, and that’s good.

This is all a fancy way of saying this: it is possible to both allow for the possibility of change, and to also be unwilling to take the risk of discovering whether this supposed reform is genuine.  I think you can say, “Maybe they’re different now,” and even not be surprised in the least when you hear this person has since gone to numerous parties and didn’t double-dip at all, and still go, “They have burned their bridges here.”

I think both extremes of that position are harmful.  I think branding someone a double-dipping demon for life actually suppresses the potential for change, as it’s kind of like criminals when they get out of lockup: if everyone treats you like you’re gonna steal their shit, then eventually you just give up trying to improve yourself.

Yet I’m also unwilling to tell people, “No, man, you should feel entirely comfortable letting my friend Dave The Former Drug-Addicted Kleptomaniac stay at your apartment next to your freshly-purchased big screen television!”  Even if Dave does nothing, it’s hard to sleep easy at night knowing that your television might be walking out the door. Every bump startles you wide awake.  Why would I want you to feel that way?

Yet maybe someone can sleep well at night, and I can allow them to take that chance. Maybe Dave has actually improved. Maybe he can start over again someplace else.

Dave’s gotta live with his sins, now, though, and there’s some places that won’t allow him back.  But that doesn’t mean he’s an asshole now, and it doesn’t mean the places that allow him in are necessarily harboring criminals.  It means you don’t know because you don’t want to find out, and good for you.  I can support both Dave’s potential improvement and your safety, and there’s no contradiction.

In conclusion: I really don’t double-dip the chip any more. But I wouldn’t blame you if I caught you watching me closely.  The best I can offer is apologies and a string of unbroken non-double-dipping for the last decade or so.

And that may be the first and last instance of an episode of Seinfeld actually teaching someone how to be a kinder person.

Hey, Reviewers, Come Get My Book, Because I’m Too Sad To Bring It To Ya.

Twitter makes me do weird things.

See, technically, I think more people pay attention to me on Twitter, so it’s where I do all my announcements.  Plus, it’s fast – RETWEET, SENTENCE OF SNARKY COMMENTARY, DONE – so if something big breaks, I tend to ZOMG in real time on Twitter and hey!

Problem is, Twitter has the memory of a goldfish.  You are not expected to read everything that pops into your Twitter feed; Twitter is an endless IRC chat, where you scroll back as far as you feel comfortable with.  Of all the social networks, Twitter is the most understanding of your busy time schedule – didn’t see what happened three hours ago?  It’s okay, you weren’t supposed to.  Twitter is only really active when you’re looking at it, and the rest of the time you can forget it.

That may seem odd, and somewhat alien, to many of you reading this here blog.  “But I read everything here!” you say. “I feel vaguely guilty if I don’t catch up!”  And yeah, that’s what happens when people spend their lunch break committing long-ass essays to WordPress instead of Twitter’s CLICK, RETWEET.

Which means that making an announcement on Twitter is like throwing a rock into a pond – a big splash at the moment of impact, but a couple of hours later nobody knows anything happened.  And so for big announcements, I feel the urge to commit them to my (more permanent) blog, just so anyone who wants to keep up on the Whirlwind Life Of Ferrett can do so.

But if you saw it on Twitter already, I must seem relentlessly self-promoting.  But I’m not trying to look like a dick, honest.  I’m just trying to navigate two social media networks with differing concepts of permanence.

Anyway – Jesus, I run long – the sequel to my book Flex, The Flux, is now available on Netgalley, where if you are a reviewer you can go and request a digital copy.  If you’re someone who has a blog of note and doesn’t have a Netgalley account, lemme know and I’ll hook you up. I’m pretty proud of this sequel, which I think is way better than Flex, so go get y’selves excited.

Also, I’m gearing up for another blog-tour, so if you’re a podcaster who wants a yappy guest, or a person with a middlin’ audience who’d be all like “Wow, I want a Ferrett on my site!” then contact me and let’s talk.

However, I should add that right now, I am dealing with a massive and very off-season bout of Seasonal Affective Disorder, where depression is hitting me very hard at an unusual time.  (Long-time readers will know I usually get zapped in the spring.)  This is untimely to say the least, since I should be contacting everyone to get them riled up about SEQUEL SEQUEL SEQUEL, and I have yet to muster the energy to even put a page up on my own damn site.

So apologies if I have seemed distant. I’m struggling to just get the effort up to work and then write the sequel to The Flux, and everything else is a lot of trouble. I’ll be fine, I usually am, and Gini is monitoring the situation – but if you’re excited for the impending sequel, then you can help out by mentioning a) how you liked Flex, or b) that you’re excited about The Flux, or c) both.

Or d) Do neither! I’ll be fine.  You are not the arm of my Great Marketing Machine, and I only ask you to do stuff if you’re really psyched to.

But!  If you are a reviewer, you can go get The Flux now.  And if you’re excited, I suggest you do so.

Message ends.