In case you forgot, I’ll be at Borderlands Books (my favorite place in SF) at 3:00 pm this Saturday to read to you from my new book The Uploaded, sign whatever you put in front of me, and to, as usual, go out for hamburgers afterwards.
(And if you’re extra-special-good, I may do a super-secret advance MEGA-preview reading of The Book That Does Not Yet Have A Name. Not that, you know, you shouldn’t be rushing out to your stores to buy The Uploaded right now.)
I will, of course, bring donuts after my massive DONUT FAIL in Massachusetts, which I still wake up in cold sweats about. I will bring you donuts or die.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
“I’m not up for sex,” she told me. “I’ve had a lot of medical issues lately. It’s more painful than not to even try.”
“Cool,” I said, and we spent the day going to a street festival.
I woulda liked sex. But life happens.
“I’m in the middle of my seasonal affective disorder,” I told her. “You show up, I might not be able to leave the house. I might just curl up and cry all day.”
“Cool,” she said, and I was pretty morose but we cuddled a lot and eventually managed to go out to dinner.
I woulda liked to have a working brain. But life happens.
“I’m not sure I can make it through this convention,” they told me. “My flare-ups have been really bad this season. I might not be able to go out with you in the evenings.”
“Cool,” I said, and I went out for little hour-long jaunts before heading back to the room to cuddle them, then charging out again to circulate.
I woulda liked to have them by my side when I hit the room parties. But life happens.
I’m a massively flawed human with a mental illness. I need to have poly relationships that include for the possibility of breakdowns. Because if I need to have a perfect day before I allow anyone to see me, I might wait for weeks. Months. Years. And then what the fuck is left by the time I get to see them?
I know there are people who need perfect visits. They have to have the makeup on when you visit them, and they’ll never fall asleep when they had a night of Big Sexy planned, and if they get out the toys there’s gonna be a scene no matter how raw anyone’s feeling.
But I can’t do that.
My relationships aren’t, can’t be, some idealized projection of who I want to be. If I’m not feeling secure that day, I can’t be with a partner who needs me to be their rock so the weekend proceeds unabated. And if they’re feeling broken, I can’t be with someone who needs to pretend everything is fine because their time with me is their way of proving what a good life they have.
Sometimes, me and my lovers hoped for a weekend retreat of pure passion and what we get is curling up with someone under tear-stained covers, holding them and letting them know they will not be alone come the darkness.
We cry. We collapse. We stumble. We don’t always get what we want, not immediately.
But we also heal. We nurture. We accept.
And in the long run, God, we get so much more.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
If you post a photo of your survey form online, make sure its unique barcode is not visible!
Do same-sex couples really have the same rights as married couples? (SBS, 14 September 2017). SPOILER: No, they don't, in some very important ways.
If most people who mail back their vote, vote "yes", then the government says it will vote on marriage equality; if "no", it won't. Frankly, I hope that LGBQTI+ voters and their friends vote these spineless bastards out at the next Federal election. (Labour says it will make marriage equal within 100 days of its being elected).
Speaking of spinelessness, the "debate" over the poll is having exactly the effect the government knew very well that it would: severe stress on LGBTQI+ Australians, especially on young people, who were already at risk. Expert in youth mental health Patrick McGorry responded to Senator Matt Canavan's victim-blaming by suggesting that LGBTQI+ young people have more of a spine than he does. (The rage I feel about this renders me inarticulate, it really does. I keep typing things and having to delete them.) The Australian Medical Association, citing the harm caused by inequality to LGBTQI+ people's health, is campaigning for the YES vote.
The Women's Electoral Lobby page on the survey has a list of helplines, which I'm sure they won't mind if I reproduce here:
Switchboard (Qlife) 1800 184 527
queerspace, drummond street services 03 9663 6733
Victorian AIDS Council (03) 9865 6700
Mind Equality Centre 1300 054 284
headspace (03) 9027 0100
Rainbow Network (03) 9479 8870
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
Black Rainbow (08) 9228 0354
Lifeline 13 11 14
Black Dog Institute (02) 9382 2991
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
(There are also a few links in my last posting.)
Finally, just because I found it interesting, here's a report on the complexities of the debate in Asian Australian communities (chiefly Chinese, Vietnamese, and Filipino.)
Victoria steps in to help 100 asylum seekers cut off by Coalition (GA, 9 September 2017) More states could help asylum seekers denied welfare by Coalition (GA, 11 September 2017). Only NSW ruled it out.
Manus Island: judge approves $70m compensation for detainees (GA, 6 September 2017). "Lawyers hope to have sum paid before offshore detention centre closes next month in what is Australia’s largest human rights class action settlement." Most of the refugees have signed up for the compensation, though some may have done so in the belief that they have no other options, and some have lodged objections and want a trial instead.
Nauru President indicates $8,000 visa fee for journalists will be waived next year (ABC, September 2017)
Australia's refugee capital 'shows what the country can do' (GA, 23 June 2017). "Fairfield in Sydney’s west has resettled roughly half of all humanitarian migrants to arrive in the past 10 years. ‘We’ll always open our arms,’ its mayor says."
So there are several sets of lib dems who avoid going to The Leader's Speech. Many just go get on the train before the big rush. I know of one group who have a rather sweet tradition of going to get ice cream while the Leader speaks. The Awkward Squad goes to the pub.
It started when Cleggy was Our Glorious Leader. You may recall that I had one or two policy differences with Cleggy**. One conf, and I can't remember which one, I attended the leader's speech, like a good lib dem, and walked out about half way through utterly furious with something or other he had said, thinking "sod this, I'm off to the pub". When I got there I discovered a dear friend was already there. He explained that as he knew Cleggy was bound to say something really annoying, what he did was go to the pub, download the text of the speech, and work out which point he would have walked out anyway. I thought this was an excellent idea, and have been doing it ever since***, and the group of likeminded curmudgeons doing the same has gradually grown over the years.
Fast forward to yesterday.
There's a bunch of us in the pub. One or two would have walked out at the "single market is ok" bits of the speech. I'd have made it past that, but only a couple of paragraphs, the bit about having achieved equal marriage would have been my breaking point****. Anyway, we were all happily chatting away and discussing things and it was all good.
... The problem was when Vince turned up. Yep, that's right, The Leader turned up to Not The Leader's Speech. Apparently it was some photo call to do with a motion we'd passed earlier in the conference.
I wouldn't have minded, but he didn't even get a round in. Bloody Yorkshirefolk, they're all the same*****.
So, I am now carefully researching pubs in Southport for Spring Conference to find one that's 1, good and 2, less likely to be crashed by the sodding leader. It doesn't half put a crimp in avoiding the leader when he turns up all smiles and handshakes.
ETA: Caron has posted about this on lib dem voice now. Countdown to po-faced condemnation in five... four... three...
*and even to stand and ovate. People who don;t stand and ovate in the "right" places often get glared at, or even tutted at.
**although as a human being I find him perfectly personable and likeable.
***Except for Tim Farron's first speech. Tim knows/knew all about Not The Leader's Speech, and made me promise him that I would go to his first one. I warned him that this would mean actually walking out if he said something walkout-worthy... Thankfully he didn't. But none-the-less I didn't go to any of his others. I'm just not a keynote speech type person.
****See here for the big rant about that one. There was a big chorus of groans about this in the pub - "Oh FFS we have to train ANOTHER leader and his staff not to do this..."
*****I am allowed to say this being Yorkshire myself
The next thing is Not The Leaders' Speech. Which, the way things are going, will be in the sodding directory by Spring.
Have chaired first thing - health spokesperson Q&A with Liz Barker, Joan Walmsley, and Norman Lamb. I think it went quite well. Have also done MOAR aideing, HSLD AGM, and am now preparing for GLEEEEEEE.
I voted on some stuff, but none of it was controversial.
I have also undertaken to do a post (after conf) on How To Fill In a Speaker's Card, with examples. I am looking forward to doing this. Right, must dash...
I knew musicals could cheer me up, but I’d never heard of one that gave me new tools to deal with chronic illness and depression. Yet when I saw Groundhog Day last Wednesday, I was so stunned by what a perfect, joyous metaphor it was for battling mental illness that I immediately bought tickets to see it again that Saturday.
I would have told you about this before, but it was too late. The show closed on Sunday. A musical that should have run, well, for as long as Phil Connors was trapped in his endless time loop only got a five-month run.
But I can tell you about it.
I can tell you why this musical made me a stronger, better person.
So let’s discuss the original Groundhog Day movie, which is pretty well-known at this point: Bill Murray is an asshole weatherman named Phil who shows up under protest to do a report from Punxatawney, Philadelphia on Groundhog Day. He’s trapped in town overnight thanks to a blizzard. When Phil wakes up the next morning, it’s Groundhog Day again. And again. And again.
Phil goes through several phases:
- Incredulous as he can’t believe what’s happening to him;
- Gleefully naughty as he uses his knowledge of people’s future actions to indulge all his greatest fantasies;
- Frustrated as he tries to romance Rita, his producer, but he’s too cynical for her and nothing convinces her to hop in bed with him unless everyone else in town;
- Depressed as he realizes that his life is shallow and there’s no way he can escape;
- Perplexed as he tries to rescue a dying homeless man but realizes that nothing he can do on this day will save this poor guy;
- And, finally, beatific as he uses his intense knowledge of everything that will happen in town today to run around doing good for people.
Naturally, that’s a great emotional journey. It’s no wonder that’s a story that’s resonated with people.
Yet Groundhog Day changes just one slight emotional tenor about this – and that change is massive.
Because when Bill Murray’s character gets to the end of his journey, he’s actually content. He’s achieved enlightenment where he enjoys everything he does, toodling around on the piano because he’s formed Punxatawney into his paradise. He laughs at people who ignore him. He’s satisfied.
And when Rita, who senses this change even though she doesn’t understand why, bids everything in her wallet to dance with him at the Groundhog Dance, the Bill Murray Phil is touched but also, on some level, serene.
Andy Karl’s Phil is not happy.
We spend a lot more time in Andy’s Phil’s headspace, and at one point he breaks down because of all the things he’ll never get to do – he’ll never grow a beard, he’ll never see the dawn again, he’ll never have another birthday. Anything he does is wiped away the next morning.
Bill Murray’s Phil gets so much satisfaction out of his constantly improving the town that his daily circuit has become a reward for him.
Andy Karl’s Phil is, on some level, fundamentally isolated. People will never know him – at least not without hours of proving to them that yes, he is trapped in this time loop, he does know everything about them. No matter what relationships he forms, he’ll have to start all over again in a matter of hours. There’s no bond he can create that this loop won’t erase.
And so when Rita finally dances with Bill Murray, it’s shown as a big romantic moment. And in the musical –
In the musical, Rita moves towards Phil and everything freezes in a harsh blue light except for Phil.
This is everything Phil has ever wanted in years, maybe decades, of being in this loop – and instead of being presented as triumphant, everything goes quiet and Phil sings a tiny, mournful song:
But I’m here
And I’m fine
And I’m seeing you for the first time
And the reason that brings tears to my eyes every fucking time is because this Phil is not fine – he repeats the lie in the next verse when he says he’s all right. Yet this is the happiest moment he’s had in years, finally understanding what Rita has wanted all along, and this moment too will be swept away in an endless series of morning wakeups and lumpy beds and people forgetting what he is.
Yet that mournful tune is also defiant, and more defiant when the townspeople pick it up and start singing it in a rising chorus:
And I’m fine
Phil knows his future is nothing.
Yet that will not stop him from appreciating this small beauty even if he knows it will not stay with him. Trapped in the groundhog loop, appreciating the tiny moments becomes an act of rebellion, a way of affirming life even when you know this moment too will vanish.
Can you understand that this is depression incarnate?
Which is the other thing that marks this musical. Because I said there was joy, and there is. Because when Andy Karl’s Phil enters the “Philanthropy” section of the musical (get it?), he may not be entirely happy but he is content.
Because he knows that he may not necessarily feel joy at all times, but he has mastered the art of maintenance.
Because tending to the town of Punxatawney is a lot of work. He has to run around changing flat tires, rescuing cats, getting Rita the chili she wanted to try, helping people’s marriages. (And as he notes, “My cardio never seems to stick.”)
When Bill Murray’s Phil helps people, it seems to well up from personal satisfaction. Whereas Andy’s Phil is thrilled helping people, yes, but his kindness means more because it costs him. On some level he is, and will forever be, fundamentally numb.
This isn’t where he wanted to be.
Yet he has vowed to do the best with what he can. He helps the townspeople of Punxatawney because even though it is a constant drain, it makes him feel better than drinking himself senseless in his room. He doesn’t get to have everything he wanted – also see: depression and chronic illness – and it sure would be nice if he could take a few days off, but those days off will make him feel worse.
He’s resigned himself to a lifetime of working harder than he should for results that aren’t as joyous as he wanted.
And that’s okay. Not ideal, but…. okay.
And I think the closest I can replicate that in a non-musical context is another unlikely source – Rick and Morty, where Rick is a suicidal hypergenius scientist who’s basically the Doctor if the Doctor’s psychological ramifications were taken seriously. And he goes to therapy, where a therapist so smart that she’s the only person Rick’s never been able to refute says this to him:
“Rick, the only connection between your unquestionable intelligence and the sickness destroying your family is that everyone in your family, you included, use intelligence to justify sickness.
“You seem to alternate between viewing your own mind as an unstoppable force and as an inescapable curse. And I think it’s because the only truly unapproachable concept for you is that it’s your mind within your control.
You chose to come here, you chose to talk to belittle my vocation, just as you chose to become a pickle. You are the master of your universe, and yet you are dripping with rat blood and feces, your enormous mind literally vegetating by your own hand.
“I have no doubt that you would be bored senseless by therapy, the same way I’m bored when I brush my teeth and wipe my ass. Because the thing about repairing, maintaining, and cleaning is it’s not an adventure. There’s no way to do it so wrong you might die.
“It’s just work.
“And the bottom line is, some people are okay going to work, and some people well, some people would rather die.
“Each of us gets to choose.
“That’s our time.”
And yes, Groundhog Day the musical is – was – about that lesson of maintenance, as Andy comes to realize that “feeling good” isn’t a necessary component for self-improvement, and works hard to make the best of a situation where, like my depression, even the best and most perfect day will be reset come the next morning.
And yes. There is a dawn for Andy’s Phil, of course, and he does wake up with Rita, and you get to exit the theater knowing that no matter how bad it gets there will come a joyous dawn and you get to walk out onto Broadway and so does Phil.
But you don’t get to that joy without maintenance.
And you might get trapped again some day. That, too, is depression. That, too, is chronic illness. We don’t know that Phil doesn’t get trapped on February 3rd, or March 10th, or maybe his whole December starts repeating.
But he has the tools now. He knows how to survive until the next dawn.
Maybe you can too.
Anyway. There’s talk that Groundhog Day will go on tour, maybe even with Andy Karl doing the performances. He’s brilliant. Go see him.
The rest of you, man, I hope you find your own Groundhog Day. I saw mine. Twice.
Perhaps it’s fitting that it’s vanished.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
At least that's what I thought, but as it turns out, octopuses are not just famously intelligent, but (with exceptions) they're not at all social. They need theory of mind for a different reason: they're carnivores, and they're prey, interacting with many different species. They don't need to know what each other is thinking (although I'll bet they could make a good guess): they need to know what's on the mind of a predator or a potential meal.
This is not to say that octopuses have the same amount or kind of consciousness or intelligence as humans; but the fact that there's at least one other pathway to sentience gives me hope.
Hello RGL crew! It's that time of year again where we explore the new entries in the Good Beer Guide. Which means a whole bunch of new pub articles for you to peruse at your leisure:
- The Albion (plenty of real cider in Kingston)
- The Angel (the Wetherspoons close to Angel tube station)
- The Antwerp Arms (a community-owned pub in Tottenham)
- The Black Horse (dog-friendly pub on the Kingston/Norbiton borders)
- The Brewhouse and Kitchen (microbrewery in Highbury)
- The Cricketers (Stonegate pub beside Epsom Common)
- Cronx (bar in the Croydon Boxpark, run by the Cronx brewery)
- Draft House Old Street (fashionable outpost of the ever-growing chain)
- The Dundee Arms (gloomily lit, narrow pub in Bethnal Green)
- The Flag (large pub by Watford Junction station)
- The Greenwood Hotel (huge Wetherspoons in Northolt)
- The Greystoke (Greene King pub on the Ealing/West Acton border, but with a better beer selection than that would immediately suggest)
- The Hope (sounds like a pleasant place to watch the cricket in Richmond)
- Jono's (oddly-decorated pub in Ilford)
- The Midland Hotel (stained glass and hexagons in Hendon)
- Mirth, Marvel and Maud (see picture above - an Antic pub and performance space, in a converted cinema in Walthamstow)
- The Mitre (more stained glass, this time in North Sheen)
- The Mossy Well (Wetherspoons in Muswell Hill featuring a large model cow)
- The North Star (bare lightbulbs in Ealing)
- The Northcote (above average pizza in Leytonstone)
- The Shelverdine Goathouse (Antic pub in South Norwood)
- The Taproom (deep fried courgettes in Woolwich)
Next week there'll be some non-pub updates! Stay tuned...
Then, because I was going to be stage aide on F6 The Paris Agreement, Zoe (who was chairing it) & I went to plan the session - deciding what order to call speakers, etc. When it came to The Paris Agreement debate itself, as I got on stage I suddenly realised I had parted my hair the wrong side, and every time I looked at the speaker I was presenting a curtain of hair to the audience. Also, if I needed further incentive to lose a little weight, I can only just fit my ample derriere into the chair provided...
I grabbed a (rather manky) toastie, and then lurked in the back of the First timers' Q&A session, mainly to check that the sort of answers I have been giving when newbies ask me stuff had some congruence with official answers. Then there was more debate planning, this time for F10 The Natural Environment. Apparently while I was doing this I missed some barnstorming speeches in the Impact of Brexit on Public Services debate. Still, as I was Hall Aide rather than Stage Aide for the Natural Environment motion, I actually got to vote in the debate - my first policy vote of the conference. I voted in favour of the amendment, then in favour of the motion as amended, as did pretty much everyone else.
Then, while everyone else was at the rally, I had Safeguarding Training - compulsory for FCC members - followed by a quick dash to the pub to obtain food. We dragged a journo along with us and talked to him about trains. I think he secretly quite liked being at conference. Then there was the First timers' Reception -this is another thing I have to do as a committee member. Go and wander round looking approachable and asking people how they are finding conference. I think I was actually helpful to some people - showing them a speaker's card and explaining how to fill it in and things.
Then, for the first time ever, I was inveigled into going to the lib dem Disco. It started with headbanging to rage against the machine and ended with a drunken impromtu rendition of Poisoning Pigeons In The Park on the street outside.
All in all a reasonably successful day. Today is a bit less full on, although I do have ALL THE LGBT+ THINGS tonight... Now have to dash to the venu to get to (you guessed it) an FCC meeting.
So there's going to be a mini debate on the suspension of standing orders, with a maximum of six speakers with a maximum of two minutes' speaking time each. It's going to be chaired by Mary Reid, who is absolutely scrupulous about debate balance and fairness. Whatever happens, I think it's going to be interesting.
Other things that happened included boring stuff like checking everyone knew which debates they were chairing/aideing/hall aideing, people covering stuff that other people could suddenly not do (I'm going to be chairing a spokespeople Q&A session now as well as a debate), a tour of the venue so we know where all the backstage bits you guys don't get to see are, and then chair's training, which is always huge amounts of fun.
For the first time I got one with absolutely no clue as to what the problem I was going to be faced with was, and I think I did OK. SO I'm a tiny bit less nervous about debate chairing...
Now off to have breakfast, and then going to the hall for The Contentious Vote.
If you're in Bournemouth and you spot me, do say hi. My hair is bright purple this year, and today I am wearing this t-shirt.