Sunday, November 29, 2009

"Through long December nights we talk in words of rain or snow
While you, through chattering teeth, reply and curse us as you go
Why not spare a thought this day for those who have no flame
To warm their bones at Christmas time
Say Jack Frost and the hooded crow

Now as the last broad oak leaf falls, we beg, consider this
There's some who have no coin to save for turkey, wine or gifts
No children's laughter round the fire, no family left to know
So lend a warm and a helping hand
Say Jack Frost and the hooded crow

As holly pricks and ivy clings, your fate is none too clear
The Lord may find you wanting, let your good fortune disappear
All homely comforts blown away and all that's left to show
Is to share your joy at Christmas time with Jack Frost and the hooded crow "

- Jethro Tull, "Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow"

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Reverend Stang, talking about the effects of withdrawl, which extrapolate nicely also to clinical depression, stress-related clinical depression, and other such unpleasant beasts. It was fascinating and useful, so I've posted some pertinent bits here. Original rant in its entirety is here: for your perusal; it's got specific Sub-Geniusy things, and some extras about what he was up to that week of 1997.



However, yesterday somebody said to me, in the middle of my screaming, "To tell the truth, man, you actually sound like you're crazy right now. Like you've lost your mind."

A little while later, as I was replaying every word in that conversation from memory, searching for backmasked between-the-lines unspoken clues as to how badly they were secretly shafting me, which sort of thing I had been discovering EVERYWHERE lately, that one phrase bubbled up. "You sound like you're crazy."


Suddenly realizing that you have been depressed, in the clinical sense, the classic sense, not just the usual SubGenius hate-the-Pinks alarm-clock and drive-to-work, depression, but the real thing -- suddenly realizing that you're just plain NUTS can be a JOYOUS MOMENT INDEED. It means that you ARE crazy, and They're NOT out to get you! A refreshing reversal of the usual (and often no less valid) SubGenius outlook.

That I might be insane seemed, well, SANE. I did, after all, stop smoking 3.5 weeks ago, which was like self-amputating an arm. We're talking one of the meanest, most vicious, most deeply entrenched death-wish cig habits you will ever HEAR of.

You cannot know what depression, in its clinical sense, IS, really, unless you've both HAD it, and gotten OVER it, or else dealt very closely with someone who has. The Catch 22 of depression, is that you literally CANNOT pull yourself out of it. By definition. That's what it IS. Smoking, hell, I got myself into it, I can get myself out, or not. Depression isn't like that. It's bad brain, bad chemistry. You sometimes need replacement chemicals to oil the stuck-shut hinges on the Mental Slack Shack door, and you need psychological support to get the door cracked open again at ALL.

I am a big believer in antidepressants combined with counselling. For some people. The counselling doesn't have to last forever necessarily but the pills might. The pills are fucking MIRACLE DRUGS, in my opinion. In the old days they frequently didn't work or even did damage, but more and more I'm seeing people who REALLY ARE FAR BETTER, but without losing any of their 'spunk' or "righteous SubGenius Hate" or creativity or anything; indeed, all that improves. They regained their ability to HAVE FUN again.

I am not saying that Conspiracy Mental Health Programs are suddenly DOBBS APPROVED now. I'm saying if some pill can fix you, TAKE THE DAMN PILL! If somebody trained to circumvent your self-deluding bullshit can actually DO that, then LET THE INSURANCE COMPANY PAY 'EM TO DO IT!

If you need 5 bags of Habafropzipulops a week to keep from becoming a serial killer, BUY THE FROP AND LIVE OFF DOGFOOD!

When I started to suspect that I might be crazy, crazier than everybody else I was dealing with anyway, I started a list. Of SYMPTOMS. Just a little ways in, I could see it. It was just TOO OBVIOUS to deny. I wasn't JUST having a bit of a nicotine fit. I was also looking at a textbook description of depression.


1st Week

LOSING THINGS: common objects like keys, wallets, appointment books, jackets, Fropcans, lists of passwords. Imagine picking up a tape deck, getting distracted, putting it down, spending 10 minutes LOOKING FOR A LARGE TAPE DECK in a SMALL ROOM.

GETTING LOST WHILE DRIVING IN VERY FAMILIAR PLACES because nothing looks familiar. I missed the SAME EXIT twice running one day. And did it again two days later.

FORGETTING WHAT YOU JUST GOT UP TO DO. All SubGenii are absent minded to some extent, going to another room to fetch something and then forgetting what it was. Professional froppers even more so, but we overcompensate for short term memory loss by keeping careful notes and schedules. The Secondary Memory notes are of NO HELP when you forget what you were doing EVERY THREE FOOTSTEPS.

I dub Hours of Slack. I flip tapes when I cross the room. Have done that for 10 years. Yesterday I recorded side one on one tape, side two on another tape, and kept doing that for 3 sets before I realized it.

Inability to distinguish right from left without long and careful study.

2nd Week

Subtle insanity creeps in. The act of thinking, "That was EASY!" triggers it.

Repeating yourself in conversation -- or, THINKING you'd be repeating yourself, and thus never actually saying anything to begin with.

Inability to hear anything said to you the first TWO times.

Ability to read 30 pages in a novel without any comprehension whatsoever. Reading the same paragraph 6 or 7 times.

Even though you can't remember what you did 5 minutes ago, you can vividly recall every broken or forgotten promise ever made to you since childhood, every small slight or insult, especially by close friends. Perfect recollection of everything ever borrowed but not returned; inability to see best friends as much better than common thieves. Interminable mulling and moping.

Vividly imagining painful and unfair arguments, down to every nuance and detail. Perfect, photographic recollection of completely imaginary fights.

A tendency to laugh off cigarets, yet become hideously bitter about everything else... for 5 minutes to an hour at a time. Then, a favorite tune plays on the radio and suddenly everything is fine for awhile, until the next frothing suicidal rage.

Calling people by other people's names. Transposing important phone numbers and addresses.

Physical clumsiness. Greatly increased sex drive. Greatly reduced sex drive. Completely confused, right off the road and crashed into a tree sex drive.

3rd Week

Mistaking vividly imagined arguments and painful scenes for actual events that really happened. And holding grudges for them.

Looking for incredibly creative work done in the computer the night before, and then realizing that you only DREAMED that you did that amazing work. (Nicotine patches cause heavy dreaming because you're jazzed all night long.)

Fretting and fuming for 5 hours a night, sleeping for 3.

Inability to remember anything good ever happening to anyone except those you most envy.

Inability to accept the existence of anything good even when it's being shoved in your face.

Suddenly conviction that you have been KIDDING YOURSELF during all previous times of happiness. Screaming to self, "All this time I've been a SAP!!! A CHUMP!! ONLY NOW can I finally see the BITTER TRUTH I was hiding from myself. How LUDICROUSLY, PATHETICALLY NAIVE I was. How EASILY HOODWINKED. Oh, I know now that they've all been LAUGHING at me behind my back this whole time and I was too much of a TRUSTING FOOL to SEE it." Etc. ad infinitum.

Any single statement that might be construed as less than HIGHLY FLATTERING, interpretted as a snide insult. Reading between the lines of the most innocuous pleasantries and personality quirks, and finding EVER MORE PROOF of a general unspoken conspiracy against you. Seeing everyone else as venomously jealous while displaying the most venomous jealousy.

Setting conversations up with such evil Moriarty-like twisted logic that no reply anyone makes could be taken as anything BUT total betrayal, or at best the most callous insensitivity.

Forcing arguments and ultimatums over inconsequential things, insisting that they have taken on undeniable symbolic significance. Screaming on the phone. Hanging up on people.

Extreme time distortion. Mulling and festering over how that person borrowed this thing you now desperately need, WEEKS ago, and despite your weeks of reminders, they TAUNT you with procrastination and excuses, and never give it back. You happen to notice that in reality it has only been four days, and you never DID ask for it back, but then you find some other reason to be pissed off.

Screaming the most vulgar, childish insults at your boss, quitting your job, telling your spouse it's ALL OVER FOREVER, writing inforgiveably nasty letters and THEN SENDING THEM, etc. etc. etc. ...


and somewhere in there, if you're REALLY LUCKY, somebody says "Seriously, you sound CRAZY," and something clicks, and it sinks in, and it's... well, it ain't exactly over, but at least you can CRY again, breath freely again and holler out:


And that IS a gigantic relief. If it happens on New Year's Eve, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE.

'Cause there are pills and tricks that'll help cure all but the borderline schizophrenia, and if you're a SubGenius you probably want to keep that. And I dunno about you, but as much as Normals disgust me, SHIT... forgot what I was saying. OH! It was that, fuck... what was it... OH YEAH... as much as Normals disappoint me, I'd still rather think that it was me being an asshole than that LITERALLY EVERYBODY ELSE is one. Because I can DO something about ME.

So far, knowing I'm crazy seems (SEEMS!) to be keeping me "sane." I can probably keep the lid on... at least, until the THIRD MONTH!!!

I type all this mainly to get it out of my system and hopefully to pep-talk and WARN the next poor bastard of some hidden dangers I found. I figure if what, 10% of Americans smoke, 20% of SubGeniuses do or have. That means a fifth of you can sympathize and maybe even gain a useful tip or two. No, you aren't alone, and YES, you ARE CRAZY. The Conspiracy REALLY IS to blame, but only you can exercise the Slackify your Fate, THEY WON'T, and someday you'll quit just TALKING about it, and QUIT. And perhaps go TOTALLY FUCKING NUTS like I have.

There is nothing in Dobbs' Word that prohibits self pollution of any kind. Rather, Strength Through Disfigurement is preached -- that one might need to IMMUNIZE oneself against a toxic environment by GRABBING THE BULL BY THE HORNS, so to speak. I swear that I will never act like the "former smoker," that most vile of hypocrites. I shall strive to remain nonjudgemental about the drugs I no longer consume like a fiend.

But that's not the point. Also the point is not that I want you miserable wretches to call me up for "counselling," or to counsel me. The point is, by definition you can't know when you're depressed, so it sneaks up on you, and the Tobacco Demons can use Sudden Adult Clinical Depression Syndrome as a weapon... so watch out. THAT'S the point."


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Two-Sentence Movie Reviews

The House on Haunted Hill (1999)

A head-on collision between an Agatha Christie film and a William Castle film that careens sideways through Clive Barker's storage unit. Not wonderful, yet not a waste of time, and several sequences will be looked back on fondly as you watch other, terrible attempts at the same kind of feel.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Remember: always keep things in their proper perspective.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

As a continuation to the last review, I'd like to say that we enjoyed the whole series, and the purpose of the Village is not at all what we had thought- nor is it in and of itself what one might expect. The easy way out was never taken, it is its own beast, with nothing more than a few fond nods to the original, and we're still arguing what stuff meant, which is certainly a point in its favor considering its lineage. All in all, quite worth a watch.


Monday, November 16, 2009

So surprisingly, AMC's version of the Prisoner was pleasantly watchable. Aside from the central idea (man is kidnapped and held in an outwardly placid town and toyed with to find out what he knows) they've taken it in several different directions, so much so that I don't feel it can be referred to as a straight remake (and I loathe the term "re-imagining") so version will have to do. The surreal design ethic is there, with everything built and decorated in an odd 40's/50's pastel style, and since we don't have anything like Portmeirion, the majority of the populace live in pastel A-frame beach houses, all set in lines, all exactly alike. The setting has been changed to an inhospitable desert, with miles of hard travel in every direction, and in order to further keep the peace, "there's no way out" has been upgraded to "there *is* no out, there is only *in*." There are lots of little odd touches, both in dialogue and in general Village life. In the original, alcohol was unavailable (a nightmare situation for the British) and in this version, all food is some version of the "wrap, " the most generic food item ever- when Six asks if there's anything else on the menu, the waitress blinks at him and asks in genuine confusion, "Why would there be?" The cars are small and rather toylike, tours are given daily of the Village and the desert environs, though the town is so small everything can be seen from a quick walk anyway, and there's a resort, called "Escape, " which unsurprisingly everyone wants to go to. The ongoing soap opera ("Wonkers" - man, what a name) that everyone follows religiously is, of course, an already overly emotional genre taken to a ridiculous extreme- and what is a soap opera but unending surveillance of someone's personal life? Families are everywhere, as they've finally realized that the best way to keep people in line is to allow them something to lose, a concept not explored in the original, where no one had the spine to fight back, much less form personal attachments in a place where everyone was suspect. Here, attachments are encouraged, presumably to make it easier on the overlords- forget hours and hours of difficult and time-consuming conditioning for every single act of rebellion; just lean on the family, and the dissenter folds. And it's anyone's guess whether the families in question are real or impostors implanted in the memories of the person in question, but who's going to take that risk? Trusting no one is a fairly easy rule to follow if you're on your own, but can you take a chance that someone will hurt your children if you don't play by the rules? Even if they're not your children? But what if they *are*?
Since the Cold War is no longer relevant, the implication is that corporations are now the cat's paw, with information still the most important commodity. (I actually missed the "Why did you resign?" until the Owlvark chuckled; it sounded so *reasonable* coming from the pretty girl...) The central figure, this version's Number Six, is *not* a spy- he's simply a cog in a corporate machine, who, upon leaving his job after finding out more than he should have, has been kidnapped and thrown into a prison that is mainly of the soul. It's no wonder he's not coping as well as our original man did; he has no training for this sort of thing, and no prior experience- his job up until now has been to simply observe, safe behind cameras in a comfortable office a thousand miles from any real danger, and now for the first time he's on the other end of the surveillance spectrum- not to mention the extensive brainwashing, veiled threats, and the violent repercussions that dissenters receive. It's a bit much to expect him to take it all in stride, seeing as his most strenuous job to date involved sitting on his butt in a cubicle. But we do get some flashes of anger and resentment that are likely a reflection of things to come. Sooner or later he's going to Bring Down The System, maybe with a little help this time, despite all the veiled (and sometimes not so veiled) menace of Number Two, the ever-excellent Ian McKellen, who has decided to say screw it to Machiavelli and have it both ways, demanding to be both feared *and* loved- mostly feared, though, probably due to his endearing little hobbies. And his job comes with cake, which pleases him mightily and is another of the little WTF? surreal touches that we enjoyed. And there are Rovers. Oh yes, there are Rovers, and towers that may or may not be a mirage, and many other things that I won't spoil for you here.

Is it brilliant? Well, of course not- the original is brilliant, as it's the originator of the concept, and I imagine no one gave themselves three nervous breakdowns trying to get this version right. But it's certainly watchable, even enjoyable, at least so far, and it's not a travesty, no matter what you might hear- and trust me, the inflexibility of fans will no doubt lead to a lot of bashing. I have a feeling that a lot of fans of the original went into this already decided to hate it on principle, which is a singularly disutile attitude. Being that I love the original in all its angry paranoid surreal glory, I had worried that this was going to be a train wreck, but it isn't, and I should have considered that anyone who was enough of a fan to want to remake it (not to mention petition for enough money to do it on this scale) would have to have some brains in the first place, because if you're dull yourself, you're not going to enjoy the original in any way, shape or form. This is certainly interesting enough for us to keep watching. If you liked the original, give this one a fair shot.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Things I Am Reading:

The Complete Saki - Saki (H.H. Munro)
Strategy - B.H. Liddell Hart
The Age of Gold - H.W. Brands
A Crack In the Edge of the World - Simon Winchester
President Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman - William Lee Miller
Ambrose Bierce and the One-Eyed Jacks - Oakley Hall

Things I Have Recently Finished:

The Road To Oz - L. Frank Baum
Ozma of Oz - L. Frank Baum
The Emerald City of Oz- L. Frank Baum
The Patchwork Girl of Oz - L. Frank Baum
Tik-Tok of Oz - L. Frank Baum
The Lost Princess of Oz - L. Frank Baum
The Hungry Tiger of Oz - Ruth Plumly Thompson


Thursday, November 05, 2009

Oh great, my annoying online horse game is bringing out a boardgame. Wow, now it can annoy me in real life! I wonder if it will randomly dump you back to the beginning of the game at intervals, or move the board so you accidentally put your piece on the wrong square?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

So, Halloween was amusing...

Lincoln and Apehead do the Robot.

I made the hat, and for some reason I'm inordinately pleased about it :)
Also, that's not a cigar, it's a hot dog. No, I'm not sure why.