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The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal Below are 10 entries, after skipping 10 most recent ones in the "The Ferrett" journal:

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January 25th, 2017
10:38 am


My Weird Relationship With Pain

Six years ago, I went to a Rise Against concert and flung myself bodily into the mosh pit.  I was sweaty, beaten, and in pain.

What I didn’t know was that my appendix had burst.

How could I?  My body processes pain differently than most people, apparently.  I walked around with a belly ache for two more days before finally hauling myself to the doctor’s on Monday.  When he asked me what my pain level was, I infamously said, “Four, maybe five out of ten.”

“You should have been screaming,” he later told me.  Because sure enough, my body was flooded with poison, and though I didn’t know it at the time, I had only a 40% chance to live.


So about two years after that, when I was laying in bed on a sleepy Saturday morning, turning over because I had some chest discomfort that kept waking me from a thin rest, I stopped.  “This is a one out of ten,” I thought.  “Maybe a two.  But the last time I had a five, it nearly killed me, so maybe I should go the ER.”  And I got my daughter up, and griped that I was wasting $2,000 on some stupid ER visit but better to safe than sorry, and….

99% clogged in three arteries, including one known as “the Widowmaker.”  They cracked open my chest, gave me an emergency triple-bypass.

And it’s not like I’m insensate.   If I stub my toe, I will shout profanities to the high heavens.  When I got stung by bees back when we had a beehive, it hurt.  I just seem to have some upper limit to pain wherein literally life-threatening amounts of pain do not register.

So when I was in the cardiologist’s office yesterday after I failed my nuclear stress test – which is a totally badass name of a thing to fail – he asked, “Have you had any chest pains?”

Yes.  All along.

But I don’t know what they mean.

Because after you are diagnosed with a potentially-fatal heart condition, you feel chest pains all the time.  Because you are super-focused on that area that could, you know, kill you, and so any gas pains or random aches suddenly become this billboard-sized panic of “IS THIS THE END.”  I’ve talked with other heart patients, and it’s funny how many random twinges we all ignore right up until the time you can’t.

“Have you had any chest pains?”  And I don’t know how to answer that.  Yes.  No.  The last time I had chest pains they put me on a Holter monitor for three weeks where I wore EKG electrodes day and night, carrying around an electronic pack that registered by every heartbeat, and they found nothing even when I specifically said, “Yes, this hurts.”  On the other hand, I’ve specifically been in at least two situations where my pain should have been broadcasting “YOU ARE DYING, YOU ARE DYING,” and, welp, dying apparently wasn’t that bad.

So what do I tell him?

How do I know?

I literally have a body that doesn’t know what’s dangerous, and unfortunately there’s no easy way of calibrating it.  I’m going into the hospital next Tuesday where they’ll slither a tube up my arteries and literally poke into my heart like a tapeworm to see what’s going on, because I am incapable of self-diagnostics on any meaningful scale.

And that’s a low-grade fear I can’t get rid of.  Any time I feel any pain, I have to wonder, “Is this just your normal forty-year-old dude ache, or is this a harbinger of my impending demise?”  And that constant surveillance is exhausting.

Yet I don’t have a choice.  And maybe it’s better than the alternative; I mean, I didn’t want to be screaming in pain when my appendix burst.  But maybe I’d have had a lot nicer surgery if I had more finely-attuned sensors than these blunt-force nerves I had at my disposal.

As it is, I’m going in Tuesday to have them check out my heart.  Maybe it’s bad.  Maybe it’s not.

I have no way of knowing.

(Incidentally, here’s another thing that’ll kill me: repealing the ACA without a valid replacement for risky patients like me.  There’s no way I can actually afford the treatments I’ll need, and the preliminary rumblings from Republican Senators imply that the new laws might actually be more lenient in who they allow to be kicked off a plan – yes, even if I am gainfully employed – so calling your Senator to tell ’em the ACA should be retained, or at least the replacement should cover unlucky schmucks like me, is critical.  I wrote up an easy how-to manual to do it here.  You’d be doing me a solid if you did call.

(And no, plugging for the ACA {or at least a reasonable replacement} is not why I wrote this, but it’s sort of impossible in this day and age to write about my critical health conditions without pondering whether I’m, you know, going to be able to get coverage I can afford.)


Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/573157.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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January 24th, 2017
12:07 pm


Sometimes You Don’t Need Therapy, You Need Distance.

If you thought my wife and I couldn’t get into a fight about which TV show to watch next – for the record, “Star Wars: Rebels” vs “Mythbusters Search” – well, you’d be wrong.

Stupidly, we fought because we thought the other person cared more. I wasn’t really in the mood for Rebels, but I didn’t feel like making a fuss if that’s what the family wanted. But Gini, sensing my reluctance, immediately concluded that seeing Mythbusters was the height of my desire, and so we wound up in a brief shouting match of both of us screaming that THIS WASN’T FUCKING IMPORTANT TO US.

Dumber fights have been had. But not by much.

And I was really wrecked by this three-minute fight. I was con-dropped from being “on” all weekend for ConFusion, and I had my doctor’s appointment tomorrow (now today) to determine when I’d be going in for a heart catheterization, and when it was done I just slouched my way downstairs and fulminated. I felt awful, and sullen, and drained.

Thank God it wasn’t anyone’s fault.

Look, I’ve seen too many people who have to assign blame for every clash. Someone had to have screwed up to make me feel this bad – and that screw-up has to be addressed, now.

But no. Gini was coming down with the flu, and also peopled out from having presided over a wedding that weekend, and so she was as exhausted as I was. This wasn’t something that needed to be fixed, or apologized for – we were both punchy, communicating poorly, and we’d inadvertently smacked each other around in, ironically, an attempt to be courteous to each other.

Sometimes, you have fights because neither of you are in a good headspace. That’s not to excuse the hurt, of course – but I recognized that my wife was trying her best and failing for reasons that had little to do with her normal communication patterns, everything to do with the fact that I was more sensitive because my batteries were redlined, and this wasn’t A Problem To Be Fixed but A Bad Day We’d Rather Not Have Had.

Some days, if you’re in a good relationship, you write this off as a Mistakes Were Made, and retreat to your separate corners, and come back again when you’ve gotten over yourself.

That’s less satisfying, particularly to those of us who grew up going to therapists. You’re taught that you should come away from a fight with some sense of advancement, that you’ve learned something from this, that you’re smarter and braver and wiser for the conflict. You’re trained to sharpen your communicating skills so that you won’t have the same fights over and over again…

But the truth is, no matter how good you have become at honing your discussion skills, some days you’re just not up to the task. Even the best hairstylist has a bad hair day.

On those days, you can tear yourself to pieces trying to improve the situation, or you can just accept that today’s a write-off, hug it out, and hope you feel better tomorrow.

We hugged it out.

It’s tomorrow.

Let’s hope this day works better.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/572918.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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January 19th, 2017
09:51 am


Dear FetLife (And Other Kinky People): You Don’t Have The Luxury Of Being Apolitical Anymore.

New rule: if you have spent more time complaining about FetLife’s new bans on FetLife than you have spent time complaining to your politicians, you probably deserve to lose access to FetLife.

And you might.

If you haven’t been paying attention, FetLife founder John Baku has explained why he’s going to have to ban a host of  topics on FetLife – including non-consensual consent, hypnosis, raceplay, incest, and anything involving drugs and alcohol. Hint: It’s not because he wants to.

It’s because political issues and lawsuits are in very serious danger of shutting FetLife down.

And I hear people saying “Well, we’ll just go somewhere else!” – not realizing that there are whole swathes of society that are out to shut down kink everywhere. If you don’t fight for FetLife now, whatever kinky website you go to will be closed down next, or will be so overlookable that nobody else will be be there. (Mainly because PayPal and credit card companies are ensuring that porn and porn providers cannot get paid. No money for webservers == no internet porn for you.)

And that may not be just FetLife. It may also apply to those happy local kink clubs you’ve watched grow over the last decade or so. People wanna shut them down, and unfortunately, those people are in power. Read @Zetsu’s discussion on how Trump’s Attorney General’s #1 priority is stamping out porn. Read @NCD’s post on what happened to porn providers during the Reagan years. This isn’t just in America – England’s pondering new laws, Germany is, all around the world the tide is turning.

Look. A lot of you – perhaps the majority – have said, “I don’t wanna talk about boring old politics! I go to kinky websites to get away from all that crap.”

And that might have passed in years where politicians weren’t necessarily in favor of kinky shit happening, but at least they weren’t actively out to shut it down.

Unfortunately for you, everything you do is a political act, whether you realize it or not. You may have thought that swooning over The Wolf’s erotic adventures was a nonpolitical act, but unfortunately helping to popularize the guy is putting FetLife in the sight of lawsuits now that he’s been arrested for rape. You may have thought that jerking off to hot porn was a nonpolitical act, but that porn involves the dynamics of who gets paid to make it, and how, and whether they’re in danger of getting thrown in jail. (Even if it’s written porn.)

Everything you do is a political act. Even if you choose not to participate in politics, your non-participation is a big rubber stamp to the Powers That Be that says, “Yes, please, keep doing that.”

Which, as noted, might have flown in an age kinder to kink. But the pendulum is swinging back – not just in America, but all over the globe – and now your abstaining vote is saying, “Yes, please, keep working to eradicate kink.”

…and possibly eradicate your job, should you choose to keep participating in kink. The legal protections for kinky people will dry up unless we speak up.

Look. This isn’t a conservatives vs liberals sort of thing. If you’re a conservative, please remember that you don’t have to vote in lockstep with your party line, just as I’ve complained about Obama’s heavy usage of drone strikes. We’re actually all in this together, because frankly, the one thing we have in common is this kinkiness that we know, and love.

You can call your Senators and your local government to tell them what you want, and what you don’t want. (As I noted in my post on calling to save the Affordable Health Care act, “calling your local official” is the one thing they really can’t ignore.) You can, as John Baku has suggested, to support the National Coalition For Sexual Freedom by visiting their site and possibly donating your time and/or money and/or both.

But unfortunately, kink is now fighting a rearguard position. (I hope that’s your kink.) And your previous position of “I just want to see my porn and not think about all this stuff” means you’re not going to see nearly as much porn as you did before.

That’s not a hypothesis. That’s already happened. Look at the list of everything John Baku is going to have to take down from this FetLife in order to keep it functioning.

That list of things you can watch is going to shrink more unless you speak up.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/572492.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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January 17th, 2017
08:34 am


So I Have More Heart Problems. Here’s What You Need To Know.

Four years ago this weekend, I went in for triple-bypass surgery to fix three clogged arteries. I wrote one final entry in my blog, “How I Pray To God” – which I wrote as though it were the last thing I might ever get to say – and then the doctors put me under.

The recovery from the triple-bypass was bad. Very bad. Life-changingly bad. I’ve not been officially diagnosed, but I do have some form of flashbacks and emotional trauma whenever someone goes through heart problems.

Last week, I went in for my four-year checkup – a radiation stress test on the treadmill.

Which I failed.

The stress test showed two arteries with partial blockage. Which… might or not be a problem. If I have a problem, the perfusion stress test is literally the most efficient tool at seeking it out – it’s 92% likely to pick up any serious issues.

Unfortunately, if you don’t have a serious issue, the test has a 30% chance of delivering a false positive.

What’s happening next is that I have to go in for a catheterization where they run a tube up the artery in my leg to look directly at my heart. If it’s a false positive (as my doctor believes), then we laugh and say “Well, weren’t you lucky!” If not, they put in stents to wedge my arteries open, which is a minor procedure and can be done outpatient (but they prefer an overnight stay).

Worse, the doctor who does these catheterizations is on vacation for two weeks, and so I have to wait to make an appointment at his office to make a reservation at the hospital to do all this, which means probably a month minimum of stress and concern.

The doctor calls this “minor course corrections.” Clearly, he’s okay waiting two weeks to do anything; I’ve seen the pictures of my arteries and yeah, it looks really minor.

But it also has a feeling of inevitability. I’ve been exercising more, eating better, trying my best to keep myself healthy, and it’s still back. This feels very much like creeping death – my first blockage was largely the result of a genetic disorder that floods my system with small-particle cholesterol, and at the age of 47 I’m feeling very very mortal. I’m genuinely wondering if I’ll make it to 50, which is a shitty overreaction because this is probably fine, but damn, what happened to me during the bypass seriously fucked me up.

And I think of Hamilton:

*Why do you write like you’re running out of time?*

I am. I very much am. Even if I’m healthy, I am. I hear the clock tick with each heart beat, knowing that each one is no longer guaranteed. And I should be telling more friends directly, but honestly, I can barely bring myself to text about this, so if you’re hearing about this indirectly it’s not that I don’t love you it’s that, well, this is about the bets I can do right now.

And I think of that final post I made; the one where I thought I was going to die. It’s still a good post. If I do die, well, remember me for that.

In the meantime, I am most likely going to be fine, even if I have to get stents. “Course correction,” the doctor says. And it is.

Yet when you’re sitting in a darkened bedroom, trying to get to sleep, and all you can hear is the erratic rhythm of your heart, wondering whether each pulse will be your last – or whether you’ll wind back in the powerless hell of the ventilator – it’s hard to see the good in life.

The joy will come back. It generally does. But for right now, I’m going to curl up into a ball and recover as best I can.

Message ends.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/572160.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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January 16th, 2017
09:20 am


Today’s Martin Luther King Day.

Everyone always quotes the “I Have A Dream” speech, which is of course magnificent. But I always prefer the deeper tracks from “Letter From A Birmingham Jail” – particularly this quote, which still resonates today:

“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

“I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.”

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/572090.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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January 13th, 2017
10:19 am


On Respecting People’s Internet Spaces.

I had a friend who posted Facebook status updates like:

“Any opposition to {$presidential candidate} stems purely from misogyny. I don’t want to debate this. If you disagree, keep your opinions to yourself.”

Now, I disagreed with that. Thoroughly. But you know what I did?

I kept my opinions to myself.

And later on, during the election, when she said she didn’t want to hear any of her friends talking about how {$presidential candidate} was a flawed candidate, I sent her a message telling her I couldn’t do that and quietly unfriended her.

Because frankly, she’d said she didn’t want to hear it – and I thought the least I could do was to respect her wishes as to how she wanted her Internet space to look, even if I disagreed with them.

But I continued to post about {$presidential candidate}’s flaws in my space, because, well, it’s my space.

And yesterday, posting about how there was nothing shameful about Trump’s alleged watersports play in the unlikely event he’d done it, a friend of mine replied how they were humiliated by all the coverage. They were into watersports, and it was painful for them to see all the jokes because it felt like the jokes were aimed at them.

Another friend replied directly to them with a series of bad watersports puns.

I called him out on his assholery, and he flounced.

But I don’t regret his flounce. Because in my mind, if someone says, “I don’t want this thing,” and you push past their objections to directly hand it to them, on some level you’re an asshole.

Which is not to say that there aren’t tons of people out there who I think are racist, and sexist, and rude, and ignorant – and yes, I’d like to change their opinions. And yeah, I think my first friend lived in a bit of a bubble.

But I’m practical. Hell, Internet debate barely moves the needle when open debate is welcome. When someone’s actively said, “I don’t want to hear this,” crashing into someone’s personal space like the Kool-Aid Man to go “OH NO, LET ME EXPLAIN ALL THE WAYS IN WHICH YOU ARE IGNORANT” has almost never worked in the history of mankind.

So even if I had the arrogance to believe that I was 100% right on a topic – and sometimes I do! – I’d also have the self-recognition to realize that this person is not in a place to listen to me right now, and as a result this effort is wasted time.

Plus, it’s just rude. If someone says, “I don’t like the scent of coffee,” shoving a can of Maxwell House into their face to prove a point isn’t funny – it makes you an asshole.

The line gets more complex in other people’s spaces, or in public. If someone says, “I don’t want to debate this” while they’re making comments on my journal, well, that’s my space. If you don’t want to debate it, don’t come into a place where I’m specifically inviting debate. And if they’re making controversial statements and not wanting anyone anywhere to refute them, even if those people’s own personal spaces, well, I’m sorry, shutting down the entire world for your convenience is a bit much.

(Just as if someone hates the scent of coffee, you prooooobably shouldn’t walk into a Starbucks and expect to have everything shut down to match your scent profiles.)

But there is such a thing as a private space. Even on the Internet. I think we can respect the space, if not the opinion, or even the person.

Because occasionally I see someone going off on a frothing rant on, say, dogs on how dogs aren’t nearly as good as cats and they’re filthy animals and lame and have no dignity and nobody could ever respect them. It’s clear from their tone that their opinion’s not going to change – and that replying to them will be seen as a personal assault against their well-being.

What they say is clearly not true. For I respect dogs.

But I also think, “Well, here’s a person whose opinion I’m not going to budge, and clearly they’re not looking for dissent in their mentions,” and move on. Because all I’m going to do is anger this person, anger myself, and not cause one damn bit of change anywhere. And contribute to the idea that my opinions are so earth-shattering that the world is not complete unless I weigh in on that topic, at that moment, in this inappropriate space.

Which is not to say that all dissent is inappropriate, or that all frothing rants must be left alone. (Particularly if that person is talking to a large audience.)

What I am saying is that sometimes, the studied usage of silence is the wisest move. Because I believe that people have a right to control their own Internet spaces – through blocks, or filters, or whatever controls are handy.

I do not always agree with how these people use these controls. But the very point is that the world is not so uniform that everyone should act precisely according to my approval. And sometimes – most times – I respect the way they want to shape their private spaces, even as I don’t respect the opinion.

Complex? Maybe. Lots of people don’t seem to get it. But it’s what I do.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/571816.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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January 12th, 2017
09:58 am


Call To Save The Affordable Health Care Act Now, Or You’re Going To Lose It.

So the Republicans voted last night to show what the repeal of Obamacare (a.k.a the ACA) will look like, and it looks grim:

  • They’re getting rid of preexisting conditions, so insurance companies can drop you when you get sick;
  • They’re not allowing children to stay on their parents’ health care plans until they’re 26;
  • They’re getting rid of contraceptive coverage.

It is important to note at this point that they’re repealing the ACA with no replacement plan. They claim they’re going to put in a replacement at some point – but if you’re a conservative who believes this, I ask you, “Is now the point where you start trusting politicians?” (And they haven’t settled on a plan, which is because nobody can agree on a plan, which means that in the way of politicians they’ll repeal the ACA and then kick the replacement can down the road while innocents suffer.)

(And Trump will not veto the repeal if it passes. If you’d like to argue this, I will bet you $50, placed into escrow in a third party, that he will not. Put your money where your mouth is.)

The ACA hasn’t been repealed yet, they’ve just laid out the blueprint for how they intend to repeal it.  You currently have 36 hours to call your Senator and save the good portions of the ACA. Yes, even if your Senator is a conservative.

Here’s how you stop that:

Politicians can ignore emails the way you do. They can’t ignore calls. Their staffers have to take the calls, which means their staff doesn’t get anything done while they’re handling calls, which means the Senator is far more likely to hear about how the office is slowing to a crawl because the ACA issue is jamming the lines.

In addition, most Senators don’t get that many calls; under normal circumstances, 15 people calling a day is *huge*. For an entire state. If you can get 50, that’s usually off the charts. So even one call can make a significant difference.

(For the record, I’ve called my very conservative Senator four times, and twice he’s reversed his position. In one instance, it was specifically mentioned that the call volume on the issue changed his mind.)

Let them know you’re local. Calling Senators when you’re not a potential voter generally does diddly. You do not have to give your name, though you can if you want; they may ask you for your zip code.

A good script is something like:

1) I’m disappointed in last night’s Affordable Health Care act vote;
2) Please do not repeal the ACA without a strong replacement (they’re going to repeal it, the idea is just to keep the parts that keep people alive);
3) If you have a preexisting condition or the ACA has helped your life in some way, talk about that and make it personal how your life (or the life of someone you love) depends on this;
4) I will not vote for any Senator who helps repeal the ACA without a strong replacement, either in the primary or the general election.

You’re free to go on, if you like, but be polite. They kind of have to listen. In my experience, they’ll generally say they’ll pass the message onto the Senator, and hang up. But if you want to be that person who the office groans when they have to handle them – that polite-but-firm person who will be heard – then hey! You can contribute to the office gossip that people are *really* concerned about this ACA issue, which is good in politics.

That means you have to make a maximum of two calls, which will take ten minutes max. (Unless your Senator’s line is already clogged, in which case, keep calling.)

You can generally look up your senator by using Who Is My Representative, but if not you’ll find a phone number on their website. Calling the local number is generally viewed to be slightly better.

And here’s the trick: If you’re a conservative who’s opposed to mandating that insurers must be able to insure people with preexisting conditions (for some reason), flip the script and call as well. This is a republic, and you deserve to have your voice heard.

That said, I fully expect the ACA will be repealed without a replacement, and politicians won’t bother to replace one for years, if ever. If you don’t like that very real fact, then call now. The vote’s going up very soon. You have until Friday evening to get your calls in.

Call now.


1) Some people are suggesting calling the “pivot” Senators who live outside your state. As a former Congressional staffer told me:

“If someone is not a constituent (and I worked for a progressive D who was very welcoming to all) they will politely take your info and toss it. Their salaries are paid by their district and that is where their focus has to be. That is why it is so very important to call *your* representative and voice your concerns.”

Calling the Senators you don’t vote for is wasting your time – if you want to do it, fine, but call your home Senators first.

2) Other people are asking, “Is it worth calling my Senators if they’re already supporting the ACA?” My response is, “Telling the Dems that this is important helps make them realize their next election hinges on satisfying the liberals, not the conservatives.”

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/571468.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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January 11th, 2017
09:51 am


My Book “Flex” Now Available In Large Print And Braille!

If you’ll recall, my mother is legally blind.  So this one means a lot to me:

My novel Flex is now available in large print and Braille for anyone who wants to read it.  (I’m unsure if this applies outside the UK, but still.)  Which warms my heart; I know of some sight-challenged people who’ve been “reading” Flex and The Flux on audiobook (I’m told Fix will be coming along soon), but it’s nice to actually be able to read at your own pace, in your own voice.

While we’re discussing “Things for sale,” I should also add that my upcoming novel The Uploaded is still available for pre-order at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  Initial editorial feedback says that it “provides a new take on both the cyber and post-apocalyptic genres.”  Which is a nice way of saying “Ferrett can’t do anything that anyone else has tried before.”


Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/571183.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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January 10th, 2017
10:06 am


Oscar Movie Reviews: La La Land, Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea, Hidden Figures

Every year, Gini and I watch every Oscar “Best Picture” nominee… well, except for last year.  And then the Oscars sucked.

Because the Oscars get way more exciting if you’ve seen the films involved – it shifts from “Oh, Leonardo won!  Good for him!” to a frothing “I SAW THAT MOVIE AND HE WAS OVERACTING AND ROBERT’S PERFORMANCE IN THIS FILM THAT NOBODY SAW SOOOO DESERVED TO WIN.”

Which is, really, the point of Oscar movies: Nobody’s seen them.  Everybody’s heard about them, but if it wasn’t for the Oscars they’d be resigned to their tiny, art-house backwater, culturally irrelevant.  An Oscar win can take a movie that nobody’d heard of and turn it into a movie that people feel guilty for not having seen.

Now that’s power.

Anyway, so the Oscars haven’t been announced yet – but people who follow the scene know that there’s at least three locks on this year’s nominees, so we went to go see them.

La La Land.
This is the first musical I’ve seen in a long time where I didn’t buy at least one track off the soundtrack.

La La Land is beautifully visual; a lot of movies are basically old-time radio scripts set to film in that you can turn off the screen and the actors will tell you “QUEEN MORONA! WATCH OUT FOR THAT KILLER MANATEE!  NOOOOOOO!” Dialogue and sound effects will tell you all you need to know.

La La Land tells its story exclusively through visuals much of time.  And it’s clever, and creative, and a joy to watch…

And the songs are pretty forgettable.  Not that they don’t do their best, because the songs are rooted deeply to the storyline, and the story is a very good one about Hollywood ambition and love.  You may wind up remembering the songs because what the characters did during those moments the songs were playing, in the same sense that John Cusack could have been playing any song on that boom box hoisted overhead but it’s going to be Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” until the end of time.

But the songs themselves are meh.  They’re not offensive.  They’re nice.  They do what they’re supposed to do and leave.  And I think La La Land would have been a knockout film for me if the songs had been as memorable as the beautiful dance numbers and that wonderful ending and the chemistry between the two leads, but as it is what we have here is a musical number where the music is the weakest part.


Unfortunately, La La Land is also a tale about how Hollywood Magic Makes Things Wonderful and Isn’t It Hard To Be An Actor? – which means that regardless of its merits, La La Land is most likely going to sweep the Oscars like it did the Golden Globes, because there’s absolutely nothing actors like being told better than how wonderful they are.

La La Land is a solid B+.  This director’s impressed me; I loved his last film Whiplash, and now I’ll see his next film without waiting for the reviews.  But it’s picking up a lot of attention just because it’s kissing Hollywood’s butt, which is a shame because it’s simultaneously overrated and quite good.

Manchester By The Sea.  
This is a slow film – positively Stanley Kubrickian in its pace.  But whereas a lot of films try to take Kubrick’s measured sluggishness and instead become boring (I’m looking at you, VVitch), Manchester by the Sea leaves the camera on long enough that you’re forced to look at the humanizing elements of a dehumanizing situation.

The trick is that you pause the camera on someone, and leave it there until the audience starts to squirm a little and their uncomfortableness matches with the person on screen, and then they start looking for the tiny details about how this character feels.  Done right, you can make someone study a character just by refusing to look away – which means you need a cast who can give you the small details that make this hunt rewarding.

Manchester by the Sea is immaculately acted.  Casey Affleck is beautifully, instinctively, uncomfortable in his own skin.  And I don’t want to tell you what the movie is about, because part of the film is that slow grind of lingering on the “Why are we spending so much time on this mundane detail?” until the light blooms and you realize oh, yeah, that’s what this means.

It’s a super depressing film, but it’s not despairing. Bad things have happened.  People are trying to survive in the wake of them.  They’re doing their best to be kind.  They’re just… not always able.

(And this film would have been 15% better if they’d been a little more restrained with the melodramatic background music during the key scenes.  Still, well worth seeing.)

My friend Charles said that Moonlight was very good at handling complex relationships.  In the beginning, I didn’t see that.  The relationships start out simple – a young black kid is fleeing bullies in a poor neighborhood, and meets a guy who’s eager to help him out.  Cue father figure relationship.

But then you find out who the kid is, and why he’s being beaten up, and things get complex fast.

Moonlight follows the kid through three very critical moments in his life, played by three different actors, and he does not have an easy life.  In that sense, it’s easy Oscarbait because it’s pain-porn.  But too much of the Oscar pain-porn is a bleak howl of despair, and Moonlight works hard to find those small moments of happiness within the pain, and is trying hard to ask difficult questions about redemption.  And whether it can even be done.

And the final performance of the kid should win Best Actor, except it’ll probably go to Ryan Gosling because he’s playing an artist and he’s smooth and graceful and, well, basically Ryan Gosling.  But Trevante Rhodes plays the kid grown up, and he’s hardened into something angry and thuggish – except for these beautiful moments he does with his eyes, where he has to be cruel to survive but somewhere within is this beaten kid who only wanted kindness.

Moonlight is the movie I am rooting for to win Best Picture, currently.  (I may change my mind as I see the others.)  It’s the dark horse, because it’s a film about black culture, and frankly those can’t traditionally compete with the rah-rah isn’t Hollywood great? films.

But.  I bitch about going to see all the Oscar films.  I talk about how it’s a drag, and it is, because a lot of Oscar films are turgid arthouse circle-jerks.

The reason we go is because occasionally we stumble across a film as good as Moonlight.

Hidden Figures
Some of NASA’s greatest mathematicians during the Space Race were black and female.  This is their story.

This is a box office hit, and deserves to be.  It’s what I call simple-complex – it’s a drama, but the three lead characters are drawn in broad strokes (The intellectual visionary!  The fixer!  And the sassy smartie!), and the plot points are pretty predictable.  It’s not going to challenge anyone intellectually, because it’s the polar opposite of Manchester by the Sea – whereas Manchester holds the camera until you figure out what’s happening, Hidden Figures tells you outright and moves on.

Which makes it hellishly enjoyable.  You’ll laugh, you’ll clap, you’ll boo at the right times.  But you probably won’t be surprised, because in the end this is a feel-good film and what you think is going to happen largely happens.

Yet that is not bad.  Predictability isn’t a detriment when everything else is entertaining, and those three characters are smart and capable in a world that’s stacked against them – and what’s unusual is that almost nobody’s racist as white people today define race.  Nobody’s actively out to get our three black heroines – they’re merely enforcing the status quo, they don’t see themselves as bad guys.  One of the refrains of the film is “That’s just the way it is.”

It’s not a complex look at institutionalized racism, but then again when you’re making a cheery feel-good popcorn film you don’t want complex.  The point is made, and made well; nobody has to mean to be racist to wind up perpetuating racism.

Gini proclaimed this the best film she’s seen this year, and we’ve seen all these films this year.  I’m still giving the nod to Moonlight, but damn I hope this picks up a nomination.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/571129.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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January 8th, 2017
10:33 am


Mild Panic At The Disco

About three years ago, I had a triple bypass.  Which was, if you’ll recall, the most traumatic incident of my life.  And mostly, the heart condition wasn’t my fault – I have a genetic predisposition that really sprays fine cholesterol particles everywhere, which requires medication to clamp down upon.

Tomorrow, I go in for a cardiac stress test to see if everything’s okay.

I’m prepped.  I shaved my chest, because those leads will do a number on a furry guy.  I’ve got my alarm set so I drink no caffeine after 6:00.  And I’ve been working out regularly, and doing long walks with the dog, and eating better, but…

There’s also chest pains.  There always are, of course.  Part of the issue after every heart problem is that you always have little pains around, things you hadn’t considered big deals before the diagnosis, but now every gas pain is a concern that maybe this is it, maybe you’re dying.

Maybe tomorrow they look at me and discover that all this has come back, and I’ll have to go in for more surgery.  I hope not.  I’ve tried to keep myself relatively healthy.  But I’m terrified that some time after tomorrow’s test I’ll get a call from the surgeons saying that things have deteriorated, that it’s time for more stents or open-cardiac stuff or just the clampdown where I never get a chocolate milk again and it’s nothing but kale for the rest of my life.

I’m more terrified than I let on.  But that’s what it is.  Tomorrow I get the evidence for what my life will become.  I won’t know for a week after that, of course, but this is a scary time and maybe it’ll be nothing but I have firm evidence that at least on one notable occasion it wasn’t nothing.  It was a something.  A something that’s affected the rest of my life.

I need to know, of course.  I can’t just stick my head in the sand.  But I understand that urge.  I understand that sense that it’d be better if you didn’t know, if you just kept trundling along in life and skirting that huge cardiac elephant in the room until you just keeled over and died, because maybe it’s better that death sneaks up on you rather than you looking it in the eye.

It’s probably nothing.  It’s probably nothing.  It’s probably nothing.

But I’ll know what it is soon.

Let’s hope it’s nothing.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/570842.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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