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The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal Below are the 10 most recent journal entries recorded in the "The Ferrett" journal:

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December 6th, 2016
10:50 am

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The Trump Voter Is One Unified Cancerous Mass, Or Not

In the weeks since the election, “Analyzing the Trump voter” has become the whip we Democrats use to flagellate each other.  There have been thousands of articles analyzing The Trump Voter – they voted for Trump because they were afraid for their jobs, except studies show The Trump Voter was well-off and hence racist!  The Trump Voter slavishly believed what Donald had to say about building the wall, except no, The Trump Voter took what Donald had to say figuratively and not literally!  The Trump Voter wants to build a plan, but The Trump Voter wants to tear everything down, The Trump Voter would be dismayed and/or enthused when Obamacare’s benefits are repealed without replacement…

And Jesus, no wonder The Trump Voter is terrifying.  The Trump Voter is this terrifyingly contradictory amalgam of stories that no Democrat can make sense of.

Because there’s not one unified Trump Voter.

The Trump Voter is an uneasy coalition, like any Presidential voting bloc.  There wasn’t The Obama Voter in 2008 either – there were uneasy conservatives who couldn’t quite pull the lever for a ticket that included Sarah Palin, and heartbroken, and shaky racists who still thought Obama would give them the best hope for their business, and sick people who hoped Obama would deliver on his promises of health care, and cults of personality who just loved the way Obama talked.

There was never an Obama Voter – just endless, loosely-affiliated groups who happened to pull the same lever.

And when we Democrats talk about The Trump Voter, we talk about it like there’s only one reason someone could vote for Trump, and we must find it or die.

Which is a one-way ticket to absolute despair if your asshole Uncle at Thanksgiving is the worst kind of Trump voter who voted out of pure spite.

Truth is, there’s a hundred reasons people voted for Trump.  Some stemmed from “I don’t trust Hillary.” Some stemmed from the fact that people in rural countries felt like the Democrats were ignoring them – and even then, the reasons they felt ignored varied from group to group.  Some stemmed from the belief that Trump would bring back manufacturing, some stemmed from a despairing nihilism to try anything other than what we’ve been doing, some stemmed from pure-D-fucking racism, some stemmed from the delight of hearing a politician say the impolitic, some stemmed from the idea that Trump was less war-crazy than Hillary….

And everyone has a pet theory as to Why Trump Won, and most of them seem to involve The Trump Voter – almost half the electorate swayed by a single issue.

You know why that line of thinking sucks?

Because that implies we have to find an idea that sways 48% of the country, as opposed to 2%.

Because if 2% of the country had voted differently, Hillary would be in charge.   And the poisonous rhetoric of The Trump Voter means that if your asshole uncle wore his MAGA cap at the Thanksgiving table and flung mashed potatoes at you while yelling “SUCK IT LIBTARD,” well, then that voter represents all Trump voters and we might as well give up.

Look.  The honest truth is that 49 out of 50 Trump voters can be utterly unreachable.  They can be cloistered in their Fox News bubble, reading fake news on Facebook, completely unswayable.

All you have to do is find the 1 out of 50 who might listen to reason.

And you’re not gonna find that voter if you’re thinking everyone who voted for Trump is the same as the worst of them.  The truth is, there were Trump voters who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012.  There were black and hispanic voters who voted for Trump – and they did so in greater numbers than they did for Romney.

There are Trump voters who might be persuaded back, with the right efforts.  But you have to find their reason!  You can’t just one-size-fits all The Trump Voter and go, “Your reason for voting Trump is *spins the Trump Voter wheel* RUSSIAN PROPAGANDA LET ME EDUCATE YOU” and move forward –

– no, you actually have to do the hard work of listening instead of shoehorning.

(Even though, it should be said that I firmly subscribe to the Cinemax Theory of Racism.)

And yes.  It’s exhausting.  Because the truth is, a conversion rate of 1 out of 50 feels more like hunting for a job than it does engaging in political rhetoric.  And it’s probably more like 1 out of 200, because the people who are enthusiastic enough to go engage online in politics in these are pretty set in their ways; I’d bet dollars to delicious donuts that most of the reachable Trump voters are going to be converted, if at all, in quiet conversations away from the thundrous trash-fire arguments of the Internet.

But to have a hope of converting them, you have to give up the idea that 47.5% of the country went crazy in the exact same way.  They didn’t.  They had a hundred different reasons for voting, and if you assume that every Trump voter pulled that lever out of KKK-style racism, or redneck job-terror, or Russian propaganda brainwashing, then you’re quietly buying into that idea that politics is all about reaching everyone and if that one Trump voter is an asshole than you might just as well give up.

But we can be smart enough to hold two truths up at the same time:

  • Yes, most Trump voters won’t change their minds no matter what we do.  There are unreachable voters, and it’s a waste of time to try to talk to the people who’ve proven hostile to our best intents.
  • Yet if we could have persuaded one out of fifty of them, we would have won the election.  And we can win the next election.

And yes, there’s the alternate theory that if we Democrats had rallied our base better in red states, we also would have won.  Again, that’s not a contradiction of the “one in fifty” theory; that’s another tactic we can use.  Because just like there’s not one mythical Trump Voter, there’s not one mythical Path to Victory.

Smart people can fight on multiple fronts.  And God, in this dark time, we Democrats need to be smarter.

 

 

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/567205.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(1 shout of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

December 5th, 2016
09:06 am

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The 2016 Annual Greed List!

Alas, I am slightly 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 this year thanks to the gigantic television we bought, I’m back to wanting Things again.

(And it allows me to chronicle strange bumps in my desires; for example, this list contains not one single book. Why? Is it because I stopped loving books?  No!  It is because I just got off a book tour for Fix, and I am so overflowing with books I need to run down my pile.)

And 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 gallumphing holiday season.

Review My Books.
So as of today, I have officially written three books:

If you haven’t bought them yet, obviously buying them is a good thing for me.  But if you have, and you haven’t left a review somewhere – whether that’s at Amazon, Goodreads, or Barnes and Noble –

Well, authors are hungry for reviews.  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 “Didn’t hook me,” 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!

PlayStation 4 Charging Station ($15.99)
It’s rare that my top money-gift is so affordable and so practical, but here’s how it is:

The charging station we have for our current PS4 controllers is crap.  They’re two little balls you have to a) plug into the controller, and b) seat in the charging station, which means the balls inevitably aren’t seated right and it doesn’t charge.

Which would be a hassle just for gaming, but alas, our DVD player is also our PS4 which means that we’re continually going to watch a movie and finding the “remote” dead.  We need a design for charging that isn’t frickin’ stupid, which this is, so I want this.  Or something very much like it that doesn’t suck.

iTunes $30 Gift Card To Buy In The Heights  ($15.99) and Weird Romance ($9.99)
So anyone who’s been following me this year will know of my great affection for Hamilton – the best thing that happened in 2016 was winning the Hamilton lottery and getting front-row seats to see the original cast performing.

And the guy who wrote Hamilton is called Lin-Manuel Miranda, and he’s had a hell of a year.  He also wrote the soundtrack to Disney’s new film Moana, which is ridiculously hummable.

But the trick is that Disney hired Lin-Manual before Hamilton even debuted on Broadway!  And normally, “Disney hires a Broadway writer” would be a step up in your career, but Hamilton had hit so big that most people assumed they’d hired him because “the writer of Hamilton” would help promote their film.

Which brings us to our grand conclusion – which is to say Disney hired Lin-Manuel based solely on the strength of his first Broadway musical, “In The Heights,” which I could use on my iTunes, stat.

In addition!  The directors of Moana are famed for filming The Little Mermaid – which was the debut of Disney’s greatest songwriters Ashman and Mencken, who wrote Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin.  And their first Broadway musical, Weird Romance, is finally available on iTunes, which I would also love to hear.

So basically, a bunch of debut musicals from people I love.

Craaaaaazy Socks ($10 or less) 
My current “Wacky Socks” collection includes Spock socks, Bacon socks, Fallout socks, Apollo 13 socks, and Reindeer socks.

You wanna get me crazy socks? You go right ahead.

The Last Guardian on PS4 ($59.99)
The annoying thing about being locked into one gaming platform for years is that you miss the classics that appear only on one game system.  And for years, people have raved about games like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, which were supposedly these great moody experiences that people remembered forever – but they were on the PlayStation, and I am an Xbox kid.

Or was.

But now the guys who did Ico and Shadow of the Colossus have a game out for the new PS4!  And it’s supposedly awesome, with you breaking out of a prison to find a gigantic barn-sized bird, and you have to befriend and train the bird to survive, and it’s weird and crazy and lovely from the previews.  Apparently, you basically find a mega-dog and try to make it your friend.

I would like this game.

Dungeon World ($18.99)
This is a pen-and-paper RPG that’s kind of like Dungeons and Dragons, but is focused on roleplaying instead of hack-and-slashing, which is what the latest D&D hammers on.  In most RPGs the Dungeon Master sets up the adventure – mapping out the castle you’ll be storming, all the people you’ll be talking to, et cetera.

In Dungeon World, you cooperatively get together to create a campaign together, agreeing on what the coolest thing that could happen is.  And that requires people to move away from “I beat what the DM throws at us” and towards “We create a story with triumphs and dramatic setbacks.”

How do they do that?  I do not know.  ButI wish to find out.

Corner Gas: The Movie ($16.99)
This is the conclusion to the Canadian Seinfeld, a gloriously goofy show set in Dog River which I adore.  This is a national treasure of a show about nothing – and while I know there’s no great storyline to conclude (Corner Gas was infamously hostile to running storylines), I’d like to spend one last ninety minutes in the company with these absolutely lovable dorks.

Final Fantasy XV, PS4 ($59.99)
Here’s an interesting fact: Aside from Final Fantasy X, I haven’t really liked any Final Fantasy Games.  They’re all beautiful, and complicated in all the ways I want them simple (five million ways to configure a character!) and simple in all the ways I want them complicated (you’re stuck on a linear story and can’t deviate from it!).

But the reviews say that FFXV isn’t quite a normal Final Fantasy game; apparently, it’s four guys driving around on a big fantasy road trip, doing errands and becoming closer friends.  I’m willing to take a chance on that – especially because even if the game isn’t such great shakes, it’ll look great on my big TV.

Avatar on Blu-Ray ($19.96)
Speaking of dumb things that look beautiful, one of the joys of our massive hi-def TV is that movies really pop when you show them on Blu-Ray.  And Avatar is a movie that isn’t very good, but it is absolutely visually stunning, I want to see how it looks on The Magnificence.

Router Table ($159.99)
Yes, I’m still doing woodworking!  Though not in November, alas, thanks to a whole bunch of hideous news.  But we hope to keep wooding things up, and to do that we’ll need a table to stick my new router in.  Which I am very much happy with.

Gone With The Wind Blu-Ray ($12.11)  
So this is one of the greatest visual spectacles ever filmed, and we have one of the greatest screens ever created.  We need to see the Burning of Atlanta on our big screen.

The Godfather Blu-Ray ($22.00) 
Again, another visually spectacular movie.  I only really need the first movie (my shameful cinema opinion is that Godfather II is severely overrated), but damn will this look nice on my gigantor TV.

Dr. Strangelove Blu-Ray ($22.49) 
I have been on such a Stanley Kubrick kick lately, it’s ridiculous.  And this isn’t my favorite of his films, but it is beautiful and I want to rewatch it with all the extras that only come with the Criterion collections (which do phenomenal behind-the-scenes restorations with loads of interviews).

Watch Dogs 2 for PS4 ($59.99)
This is getting decent reviews – basically, “Hi, this is a clone of Grand Theft Auto with a few tweaks.”  But that’s not a bad thing!  In Grand Theft Auto, you run around a city and cause mayhem with guns and cars, and that is a fun formula on a day when you’re pissed off about things.  It doesn’t have to be genius – it just has to have a few running firefights.

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/566912.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(18 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

November 30th, 2016
09:48 am

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What Words Did You Mispronounce Because You Read More Than You Spoke?

All good readers will know the problem: You’re talking to your friends, and there is That Embarrassed Pause in the conversation.  And you realize you just used a word you’ve read often, but never heard spoken out loud.

“…is that the way it’s pronounced?” you ask.

“Nope,” they say.

Which, for us bookworms, is a constant peril.  We know how the words sound in our head.  But that’s stupidly not the way words should be.

My personal nightmare?  “Bouquet.”  That word is the sole reason I do not speak French to this day, because it is a stupid word that I still maintain should be pronounced “boo-kwet.”  I was in fifth grade, and they expected me to know foreign vowels?  Unfair.

But I had my friend Jim who staunchly pronounced it “annie-hill-ate” because, confoundingly, Star Trek had an episode with a cool title – “Operation: Annihilate!” – yet nobody in the episode actually spoke of annihilating anything.

So, beloved readers, share your embarrassment: What word did you stumble over?

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/566541.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(132 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

09:37 am

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Christmas Is Coming! What Gifts Should I Ask For?

So Christmas is coming up, and so is my Annual Greed List, where I make a list of everything that I currently want to find in my stocking.  Which started out as a way for my family to help understand their terminally-nerdy son, and actually has evolved into a interesting tracking of my habits over the years.

(For example, I can look back over past Greed Lists and chart the demise of physical music CDs, see how the roleplaying market crashed and was revived through Kickstarter, see the hobbies I started and got bored by.  It’s great.)

Which leads me to ask: What cool-yet-affordable things should be on my Greed List this year?  Which RPGs are cannot-miss, which videogames are so cool that I cannot live without them, which geeky trinkets are so stellar that I must have them beneath my tree this year?

What has escaped my nerdy eye?  Please!  Tell me, so I can compile The List properly.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/566322.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(5 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

November 29th, 2016
09:42 am

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The Pummeled Weasel

So life’s been a series of body blows lately, and I’m not doing particularly well.

Which is to say my wife’s been having medical issues for two months, a cascade of problems that started with serious pneumonia and now has her bouncing from doctor’s appointment to doctor’s appointment as they collect more data to find out what’s wrong. And my Dad has been having some issues, and my sweeties have been suffering from profound depression and worsening chronic illnesses, and a friend of mine has been in and out of the hospital.

I’m starting to cringe when I pick up the phone.

And my resilience is slipping. I pride myself on being there for people when they need me, but even mildly bad news is putting me into a state of shock. I’m drinking more than I should be – which is not a lot, but I know myself well enough to know when I’m itching for the bottle – and the thought of being with people I like is sending me into spirals of self-loathing because I should want to be with friends and yet I can’t bear the company.

I’m trying to retreat. The problem is, there’s nowhere to retreat to. The only way to retreat right now is to abandon, and I can’t do that – well, I can’t do that and respect myself come the morning.

It’s foolish, because I shouldn’t freeze like a deer in the headlights. But even mild conflicts are making me panic, forcing me to fight past my own sluggish instincts, and getting anything done involves me staring at the computer screen for an hour before I finally, desperately, put my fingers on the keyboard.

I have a lot to say politically, too.

I feel like I’m letting people down by being silenced.

And what I don’t want to hear is how I should be easier on myself, because as much as I’d like it, that’s not happening and frankly I wouldn’t want it to happen. My ambition has always exceeded my grasp. I have big dreams and work long hours to make them happen. That’s a part of me that’s brought me to good places, and I don’t want that to be neutered. I *should* have broad goals.

Yet as I was driving to pick up food for dinner last night, I felt this burning urge to call my mother. I didn’t. Because I realized what I was going to beg my mother to promise me was that it was all going to be all right.

She can’t promise that.

Nobody can.

You don’t have to help. But if you do, well, just realize I’m being flaky right now to my real-life friends because everything since September has been a chaotic shitstorm and I am not coping well. Bearing with me as I get overwhelmed and shut down would help. I miss you but every time I think about reaching out another diagnosis drops through the door.

And if you’re not a real-life friend, gentle kindnesses are good. Sending pictures of smiling faces are good. Flirts are good, assuming you understand that sometimes I’m flirting and then Gini comes back from the doctor and I just forget everything.

Good news is good. If you’re happy about something, telling me that is good. I’m tired of cynicism, I’m tired of despair, I’m drained to redline by so many things going wrong that honestly, every time someone tells me of progress in their life it reminds me that progress can be made.

Progress has not been made around here in a few months. Or so it feels. There are good moments, and I cling to them, but they feel swallowed up in a sea of turbulent news that’s all terror and no firm way to fight.

Hearing your untrammeled happiness helps me fight. So I hope you’re doing well.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/566191.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(20 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

November 28th, 2016
10:12 am

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I Love Westworld, But I Don’t Think You Will. Here’s Why.

So I am absolutely enamored with Westworld, the new HBO show.  I’ve been watching it since the second episode, and with each week the mysteries have been revealed – the show obscures events but doesn’t hide the clues, and it’s been playing fair.  Some of the fan theories that people gave in Episode Two have panned out to be true, and last night’s episode confirmed not one but several popular theories.

That said, I don’t know if you’d like it.

It’s sort of like reading the Harry Potter books when they came out – there was something delicious about waiting years for the next book, for watching kids grow up with Harry Potter, their emotional age deepening as the books handled increasingly complex concepts.

You could read them all in a summer now, but I’m not sure it’ll ever be as satisfying for any as for, say, my daughter, who started reading Harry Potter at age 6 and finished the last book when she was 14.  She grew up with Harry, as Harry grew up with her.

Likewise, I’d say only about 40% of my enjoyment of Westworld comes from the show.  The rest comes from that week between the shows when my wife and I are listening to podcast, finding crazy fan theories on Reddit, talking with my friends about ZOMG DID YOU HEAR.

And the reason this show is so intensely satisfying is that we’re paying close attention to every detail on the screen – and sure enough, all of them mattered.  There was a moment that could have been clumsy blocking, with a character appearing out of nowhere, but nope – that was a clue.  There was a weird composition to a photograph, but nope – that too was a clue.

At this point, the show is turning into a reward for all the hard work the fans have put into it.  They gave the clues to the mystery, and by and large we’ve solved it.  (Though predictably, some of the fans are complaining that the show is predictable now that they’ve spent all this time analyzing it.  THAT’S ON YOU BUDDY.)

And I was talking to my Dad, and I told him I loved the show but I don’t know if I could get him to love the show.  Because when he watched it, I’d give him a DVD for his birthday and he’d spend a week or two watching it all, and if he went to look at fan theories he’d see everything summarized and encapsulated.

Whereas we’ve been scrutinizing every scrap of information they gave us.  We’ve been dealing with incompletes.  And we’re pretty sure how it’s going to end at this point, but that’s because we’re active participants, not just inhaling the narrative but digesting, dissecting, unraveling.

The first season ends this Sunday.  And though over time, millions of other people will watch that finale, they’ll never watch it in the same way that Gini and I will – as a climax not just to the story, but of our analysis of the story.

I can’t wait.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/565873.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(3 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

November 25th, 2016
09:52 am

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While Y’All Are Buying Christmas Presents, May I Remind You My Book FLEX Is On Sale?

It’s Black Friday, which is pretty much Cyber Friday at this point, and lots of y’all will be logging on to Amazon/Barnes and Nobles/iTunes/et cetera to purchase gifts for all your loved ones.

This will be my final reminder that my book FLEX is currently on a big ol’ sale, and can be purchased for a third of the price you’d normally get it at.  Maybe you’ve read FLEX, and you’re going, “My Gosh, I know Uncle Festus would love a tale featuring sexy plump videogamemancers and noble bureaucrat-magicians who work to make the world better!”  Maybe you’re splurging for yourself, and you’ve said, “My, that Ferrett fellow is fascinating, I’ve been meaning to put his fiction on my e-book and leave it there for literally months until I get around to it!”

Well, FLEX is $1.99 in America and 99 pence in the UK, and by gosh it’s not only less than a Starbucks coffee but it also has a lot more discussion of magical drugs.

So anyway!  Here’s the list of places it is, at least for now, on sale:

And if you purchase it, well, you’ll have also gotten me a Christmas gift as well, so you’ve struck two ferrets with one stone.  What could be better than hitting me with a rock?

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/565628.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(6 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

November 23rd, 2016
10:48 am

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A Once-In-A-Lifetime Achievement In My Marriage: Unlocked.

When I first met Gini about twenty-three years ago, she was married and had two kids.

And she was married married.  Like, my friends had been married, but their marriages were all a couple years old and they were still doing the “Are we together enough to have kids?” thing and living in shabby apartments with mismatched furniture.  Their marriages didn’t feel like marriages, but like someone had dropped an uncomfortable wedding in the middle of a long-term relationship.

Gini’s marriage was that strong suburban marriage, where they had a home they’d lived in forever, and two kids, and near the end one of those kids was old enough to date.  Their marriage was old enough to drive.  Their marriage had that patina of antiquity about it – and when Gini announced they were fling for divorce, people were shocked.  Because they’d been together for almost two decades.  They’d gotten so far that their friends had quietly come to assume that marriage would last forever.

About a year later, Gini and I got married.

We got married too soon after the (lengthy) divorce proceedings, I admit.  And honestly, it was always sort of a cockamamie plan – I remember calling up my mother and going, “HEY I MET THIS WOMAN IN A STAR WARS CHAT ROOM SO I’M QUITTING MY JOB TO MOVE UP TO ALASKA AND TAKE CARE OF HER KIDS.”

My mother kept her voice astoundingly even as she congratulated me.

And those first years of marriage felt like duct tape and baling wire.  I lived in a stranger’s house, flailing as a stepfather, running face-first into issues we couldn’t have anticipated from our hours of phone calls.  It was lovely exchanging emails, but suddenly we were both broke and there was nowhere for us to hide – before, we could shut off the Internet and retreat to our corners, and now we were both here, too physical at times, banging elbows all the time.

Those first few years felt like divorce was forever around the corner.  It didn’t feel like a marriage.

And let’s be honest: Gini’s ex-husband wasn’t kind when we heard we were getting married.  He thought it was too soon, and predicted we wouldn’t make it.  And didn’t he know her better than I did?

Wasn’t this destined to fail?

But slowly, Gini and I learned the tools to communicate with each other – and through it all, we ran out of love a couple of times, but our “like” never stopped flowing.  Even when we fought harshly, we still could make each other laugh.  Even when we’d spent the night crying, we could wake up the next morning and talk about Star Wars.

We were unaccountably fond of each other.  Even when we threw hard punches, we wanted to get back in the ring.

And over the years, we got stronger and stronger.

And it’s weird, because people are often like “You guys are polyamorous!  You have other partners!”  And while we deal with the discomforts and the tangled schedules and the ego-bruising that comes with dating other people, the truth is that our polyamory has become strangely easy.  We can’t imagine life without each other.  Even when we’re in someone else’s arms, we know where home is.

And these last few years have been traumatic and stressful because death has come knocking.  Our goddaughter Rebecca died of cancer on her sixth birthday, Gini’s mom died, and I had a coronary triple-bypass that gave me a really good sense of what an ugly death looks like.  And Gini’s had some pretty heavy-duty medical issues this year, in part caused by a bout of pneumonia that may have done some permanent damage, that’s left us reeling with mortality.

We don’t get forever.

Which is why we’d better hold on to what we have right now.

And yesterday, the meter quietly ticked over.  As of November 22nd, 2016, I had been married to Gini longer than her ex-husband had.

I keep thinking: We’re married married.  And we have been for a while.  But now, I’m officially Gini’s longest-running husband, and the limitations of life mean that I doubt anyone will beat this record, and I keep thinking Christ, how have we been married for over seventeen years? That seems like such a long time.

I keep remembering how her ex-husband doubted us.  And he was right to.  By the odds, we shouldn’t have made it.  I give advice to people on relationships, and if I’d come to me describing my marriage eighteen months in, I’d have said it was probably time to leave.

But miracles happen.  Miracles did happen.

We made it.

And we don’t get forever.  But every day after this somehow feels new – we were always breaking new ground, but now each moment is heading into even more uncharted territory, this glorious entwining, becoming more together, working hard to ensure that whatever happens we keep that strong and unwavering fire of our fondness stoked.

I beat the record.  It’s foolish, but… it matters.

I love you, Gini.

Let’s see how far we can take this.

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/565428.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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November 22nd, 2016
10:04 am

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The Water In The Restaurant: A Parable

So you sit down at the restaurant and the service is terrible. You’re parched, and they don’t even bring you a damn glass of water.

You watch as they bring you bread, set the table, but they’ve forgotten to bring you the cool glass of H20 that’s supposed to be sitting here by default. Eventually, finally, they ask if you’d like anything to drink and by then you’re pretty snippy – “A water, thank you” – and you’ve already made a note to decrease your tip to the minimum.

Guess what?

You’re an American. Go to Europe, and they don’t even understand this concept of “free water.” If you order water, they bring you sparkling water, which is wretched concoction prohibited by the Geneva conventions, but no matter.

Water’s just not part of the meal unless you ask.

And you’re not a Californian, either, because the drought there means that you also have to ask for water. That’s part of the culture.

But because you have these quiet expectations of What The Staff Are Supposed To Do For You When You Sit Down In A Restaurant, you don’t recognize that your lack of hydration is because you’re actually failing to communicate a need.

It’s not that the waiters don’t want to make you happy – well, except maybe in France – it’s that for some waiters, “What they do by default for customers” does not include “serving water.” They’re actually good waiters, and you’re potentially a good customer – this is just a cultural difference you haven’t absorbed yet.

You can still get your water; you just have to specify.

Likewise, a lot of relationship problems spring from this concept of what you should do by default for someone who’s upset. Because like all these watery restaurants, you grew up in a culture where when someone’s upset, of course you bring them food/leave them alone until they ask for help/smother them with questions/take them out drinking.

So you sit down in the chamber of I Am Upset In The Presence Of People Who Love Me, expecting that damn glass of water that everyone’s given you since you started going to restaurants, and they’re not doing the thing they’re supposed to do.

You get furious at them, and eventually explode…

…and if you’re unlucky, you never learn that the person you’re dating went to very different restaurants.

This is why we have to use our words, annoying as that is. Because quietly, we’ve picked up on all these unspoken assumptions about The Way Things Are, and we often don’t realize that this isn’t The Way Things Are, it’s The Way Things Are Where You Grew Up.

And it sucks, because it often feels less comforting, somehow, if you have to ask for what you need. You’re used to that quiet placement of that glass by your left elbow, that simple satisfaction of knowing they get you. It feels alienating, asking the waiter, “Could I have a glass of water?” and – if you’re in Europe – seeing that slight narrowing of the eyes that says, Why would they want that?

It can get embarrassing. I was having a bad weekend at a convention I had to go to alone, and for me, part of loving someone is being on-call when they’re under stress. But my wife often puts her phone aside for hours at a time to charge it, leaving me isolated.

I had to say to her, “Look, I know you don’t normally do this, but this weekend I need you to keep your phone within range at all times. I might need you to talk me out of a panic attack.” Which made me feel absurdly needy, and a burden to her, and I would have far preferred if Gini’s natural temperament was “Go on standby.”

But it wasn’t. So I used my words. And she was there for me when I needed her.

And I’ve seen people not ask for what they need because it gave them plausible deniability. What if they asked the waiter for water, and this was a super-snooty restaurant where they’d laugh at you silly Americans and your ridiculous obsession with hydration, and you’d end up thirsty and embarrassed?

Better not to ask, they think. In one scenario you’re getting crappy service, sure, and that crappy service will never change – but you also never have to find out that the restaurant secretly despises you. It’s a lot easier to sit there, furious and silent and justified in your outrage, than to get a definitive no that bruises your dignity.

But really, you gotta ask. Because if this restaurant – or person – really will think less of you for asking for the stuff you need, then you shouldn’t be dining there. And maybe that’s a painful realization, but better to move on to a restaurant more suited to your requirements than it is to sit angrily by a water-free table.

In the end, it’s nicer to go to a restaurant that provides the water without asking. But that doesn’t mean your favorite restaurant can’t be a place where you have to ask.

And if you ask often enough, and the staff gets to know you, they often make special accommodations. You can get your water, you can get your love, you can get your comfort.

You just gotta be willing to educate the locals.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/565030.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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November 21st, 2016
09:30 am

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REMINDER: Your Local Democratic Party Is Three Overworked Schmucks Desperately Seeking A Fourth.

When I hear about the Democrats, I think of Hillary and her ten thousand staffers.  She controls a massive, finely-tuned network, taking expensive polls and spinning the news media – and why would anyone listen to me?  They have Obama talking to them, Bernie Sanders, all these heavyweight decisions made from the top.

I’m a random schmuck from Rocky River, Ohio.  What difference could my voice make?

Then I talked to Melissa Yasinow, a city councilwoman in Cleveland Heights.

“I’m not sure that Rocky River has any representatives on the Cuyahoga Country Democratic Committee,” she told me. “I’ll have to look that up.”

“Wait,” I said. “You’re saying that literally nobody in all of Rocky River has volunteered to be on the council?”

“I’m saying it’s possible.  That sort of thing happens all the time.  Everyone assumes that someone else is doing the work.”

“…You’re kidding.”

“No,” she said earnestly.  “There were four council seats up for grabs in my district, and we had only six people running for them.  Across all parties.  And that’s not the people who got winnowed out in the primaries – that’s six people total who wanted to run.  And we’re a competitive district; I know at least one place in Cleveland that had four seats for city council, and only three people ran.  Heck, you could run and probably win.”

“I dunno about that,” I said, thinking of all my essays on kinky sex.  “I’ve got a lot of skeletons in my closet…”

“Look, if Trump just won, you’ve got a shot.  All the old rules are out the window.  And besides, as I said… nobody else is stepping up.  Do you know how I got to be a councilwoman?”

“No.”

“I went to a Democratic women’s caucus, and they said, ‘We have a seat open.  You should run.’  It’s kind of embarrassing, how simple that start was, but that’s really all it takes a lot of the time.  And even if you don’t want to be a politician, there’s plenty of empty seats waiting around for someone to have their say.”

I frowned. “It’s just hard to believe that all of this influence is available for the taking…”

“Look,” she said.  “You’re worried about making sure the Democratic party is staying in touch with working class concerns.  Well, Rocky River’s not exactly a Democratic stronghold, and if you look at the West Side it’s filled with Hispanic residents who are factory workers.  You can start making a difference for what you believe in right away.  And if you wanted to fight for LGTBQ rights, or better health care, or to change the economy, well, there’s seats to do all of that in local ways.  Just… show up.”

“It can’t be that simple.”

“It is.  All over America.  Everyone assumes someone else is doing the work, and the truth is every political department is understaffed.  I won’t tell you it’s not insanely boring sometimes.  And it eats up a couple of hours of your week.  But if you want to make a change, it’s as easy as calling your local city council and saying, ‘I want to help.’

“Trust me,” she said.  “They’ll find a spot for you.”

She’s talking to some people now to see what empty seats are waiting for my wife and I to fill them.

But Melissa’s fundamentally changed my view of politics.  What I see on CNN is people waging multimillion-dollar campaigns for the national seats.  Yet each state has 500 towns, and each town has at least ten positions someone needs to fill, and what nobody’s discussing is how a lot of those positions are empty because they’re assuming everything is as hotly-contested as the 2016 election.

You may be disappointed by the DNC’s actions in 2016.  I was.  You might be disappointed at the opportunities the DNC missed in 2016; I was.

But what Melissa is telling me is that the DNC is composed of a bunch of tiny chairs, each with its own opportunity to influence the party in some way, and we’re not taking that influence for ourselves because we assume it’s already taken.

It’s not.

Call.  Volunteer.

Take that seat.

(And yes, civic-minded Republicans, this goes for you too.  I believe that government functions best when all sides step up.  But holy God, Democrats, we need you more than ever today.)

 

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/564777.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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