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Posted by Popehat

Colin Cortbus, who has written here twice before about free speech issues in Germany, returns to discuss recent German censorship measures.

Angela Merkel‘s German government has decided to crush digital freedom of speech to silence opposing voices ahead of an election. The measures taken by the German government have chilling consequences for digital freedom worldwide – and Vladimir Putin‘s regime has already began to copy them.

After over 11 years in power, Germany‘s tired Chancellor Angela Merkel and her coalition partners appear to have panicked that they might underperform in the crucial, upcoming federal election in September.

It is not hard to see why. The circulations of mainstream newspapers, which traditionally mollycuddle the Germany‘s political establishment, have been uniformly falling. The only nationwide papers to make gains in sales at all in the last year were Der Freitag, an outspoken, left-liberal newspaper focused on opinion pieces, and Junge Freiheit, a national-conservative outlet strongly critical of the government. The Junge Freiheit‘s adversarial, if at times deeply disagreeable, reporting has long been a thorn in the side of Germany‘s political elite. Unspurprisingly, the newspaper was unconstitutionally targetted by the state‘s domestic intelligence agencies until 2007. To this day, the taxpayer-funded Federal Agency for Political Education warns the voting public that the paper represents a “key outlet of a radical nationalist opposition, which seeks a fundamental change in the social, political and cultural conditions in Germany“. That is an entirely fair, opinionated criticism of the paper‘s percieved mission if you are a private citizen. But it can hardly be deemed to be an ethically acceptable intervention into the debate when it comes from a publically-funded government agency with a legal duty to maintain “balance and distance pursuant to the rule of law“.

But even such Orwellian methods can‘t put a stop to the fact that increasingly, ordinary people are expressing scepticism towards the Government‘s official narratives – preferably via social media, where they can network more easily with like-minded people, often under the saving cover of anonymity. This makes old-style, brute force legal thuggery quite redundant. The government‘s inquisitorial hirelings might potentially be able to intimidate one or two frightened citizens into silence by threating to take vague, and constitutionally bogus measures; For example, police reportedly opened a “criminal investigation“ for “defamation“ against a speaker at an opposition party campaign rally in December who criticised Angela Merkel as „criminal and insane“. But against an ever-growing, often anonymous, sometimes out-of-control crowd of outspoken netizens, these crude, resource-intensive, individualised tactics are but a bureaucratic drop on the hot stone of popular discontent.

Absent of an easy route to get at the netizens themselves, what the government really needed was a quick way to force social media firms to make their platforms inhospitable environments for critical, dissident expression; But taking action against social media networks did not turn out to be all that easy.

In 2016, prosecutors had to humiliatingly drop a pointless, four month-long investigation into a German Facebook executive. The manager had been bizarrely accused in a citizen‘s criminal complaint of abetting racist incitement by puportedly not deleting hateful comments quickly enough – even though his personal role within the social media company did not actually have anything to do with content control.

But coercively targetting social media companies remained an attractive option for the German government. Outsourcing censorship to privately-owned social media firms presents a neat way to circumvene the high bar of constitutional scrutiny that would apply to the state if it tried to enact such censorship directly.

In this context, a tiny number of largely hard-line pro-Government legislators convened in an almost empty parliamentary chamber, just before the end of the last key pre-election Bundestag sitting, late in June. Without all too much ado, they quickly rubberstamped an ominous sounding law; the Netzwerkdurchstetztungsgesetz, or Network Enforcement Act in English.

On paper, the Network Enforcement Act is supposed to combat the purported dangers of “fake news“ and “hate crime“ on social media, in light of events related to the US presidential election.

But this is a poor, figleaf excuse for one of most Machiavellian anti-free speech laws in the Western world.

Surprisingly, the Network Enforcement Act itself does not create any new speech offences designed to better deal with the incitement of violent racial hatred or the glorification of terrorism. In fact it does not even confine itself improving the technical means to clamp down on such specific speech.

Far rather, it weaponises Germany‘s already wildly overbroad and repressive anti-insult and criminal libel laws, which have been previously highlighted on this website. Under these pre-existing, but often ineffectively or inconsistently enforced laws, truth is no absolute defence and even criticism of long-deceased historical figures can be criminalised.

Pursuant to the Network Enforcement Act, social media companies now face substantial fines of up to 50 million Euros if they fail to delete content that is “obviously illegal“ under these laws within 24 hours of recieving a complaint. The same fines apply if not-so-obviously illegal content is not deleted within one week. Moreover, social media companies are also obliged to respond to requests (possibly for data about allegedly criminal users) from state prosecutors within 48 hours – a fraction of the time it would take a good lawyer to write a letter disputing or refusing any mala fide requests.

German courts take months or years to decide whether or not certain speech counts as criminal libel or insult – and even then they often cannot agree. Social media companies cannot possibly accomplish the same in 7 days, much less 24 hours – and the Network Enforcement Law does not even attempt to define what is meant by an „obviously illegal“ posting that has to be deleted in 24 hours. As a result, social media companies will simply feel forced delete all and any disputed content, amid a flurry of malicious complaints from censorious politicians and businessmen who are keen to stifle criticism and inconvenient election campaigning. No wonder, given that experts estimate the fines and costs in case of non-compliance might set social media providers back by up to 530 million euros in total, annually.

Merkel‘s government knows all this full well. Legal experts have voiced strong criticisms of the Network Enforcement Act at parliamentary hearings. The government has been advised by its very own parliamentary research service that the law is in breach of European Union rules. Experts acting for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, of which Germany is a member, have voiced concern that the law fails to strike an adequate balance when it comes to freedom of expression. David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur for free expression, has pointed out that the „ obligation placed upon private companies to regulate and take down content raises concern with respect to freedom of expression… A prohibition on the dissemination of information based on vague and ambiguous criteria, such as ‘insult‘ or ‘defamation‘ is incompatible with article 19 of the International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights“. Moreover, the UN special rapporteur noted that he was “also concerned at the provisions that mandate the storage and documentation of data concerning violative content and user information related to such content, especially since the judiciary can order that data be revealed. This could undermine the right [of] individuals enjoy to anonymous expression ..“.

When a government is desperate to win an easy election and vindictively crush popular dissent, such fine matters of international human rights law are scarely of any relevance. Merkel and her ministers have not even taken window-dressing steps to ensure the law would eventually withstand legal challenges once it comes into force– or for that matter that compliance would be affordable for social media companies. Even the government‘s official justification for the law – to prevent ‘fake news‘ or ‘hate speech‘ from impacting election campaigns, as purportedly occured in the US, is a dishonest non-sequitor; Although the government has had a rock solid parliamentary majority for years, it only passed this law at a point in time so close to the election that technically, the Network Enforcement Act is extremely unlikely to come into force until a few weeks after the election.

What the law says, and what happens when or if it ever comes into force technically is actually quite arcanely insignificant. The law already achieves its objectives by merely existing as a future prospect; The potential of the government even contemplating enacting the costly, repressive, vastly overbroad act is entirely sufficent for bringing in the sweeping and lawless regime of state-mandated, privately enforced mass digital censorship that the government appears to crave so strongly.

In an effort to avoid endless legal battles, vast administrative efforts and hundreds of millions of euros in administrative costs, social media firms will likely be cowed into deleting controversial, critical content preemptively; Right now, prior to the election or the law coming into force. After all, any profit-oriented private business would want to do everything it could to try to avoid the vastly expensive law entirely. By acting now to show the government that they can do the censorship job themselves, making clear that they are capable of acting informally and directly, that there is no actual need for this meddlesome legal regulation. After all, when the coalition government brought in the law, it explicitly stated that one reason for the purported neccessity of the law was that “too small amounts of illegal content are being deleted“ by social media providers, and that user complaints against illegal content were not being processed by social media providers “immediately and sufficiently“.

Thus, the Network Enforcement Act unleashes an immediate, informal, and ultimately lawless tsunami of content deletion; Content deletion that will be conducted kleptocratically by private businesses out of their sheer need for economic survival, far away from the prying eyes of the public, without even a facade of due process or any means of legal recourse. And as an added bonus for the government, netizens who rely on anonymity right now to freely express their thoughts are also likely to be pressured into silence. However vague, the possibility that someday in the future their user account details could be given to prosecutors in some ominous, ill-considered 48 hour express procedure will now weigh heavy on their fingers as they type.

The result will be a stolen election defined by the voices of a politically well-connected media elite, with debate taking place firmly within the government-dictated boundaries of acceptable expression.

Heated, at times hyberbolic, and yes, occasionally emotionally hurtful grassroots exchanges in the marketplace of ideas are what defines a functioning, open democracy. In Merkel‘s new Germany, free, open debate will only be discernible by its silent absence.

Naturally, Merkel‘s government desperately wants to hide this sore reality from a global public.

Very few contempory authoritarian leaders enjoy the enacting their repressive laws in the light of day. When a global swimming championship came to the Hungarian capital Budapest, wannabe-strongman Victor Orban rushed to take down neo-Soviet style propaganda posters that had previously polluted almost every street with their ugly presence. Evidently, he did not want foreign sports fans to think too much about how his regime uses tax-payer funds to promote its own party political propaganda, all while enacting cheap, nefarious pseudo-laws designed to prevent opposition movements from displaying privately funded anti-corruption messages in public. Turkey‘s dictator Erdogan also loves to distract from his systematic destruction of free speech, Kurdish human rights and religious liberty by ranting about fantastical conspiracies involving Gulenists and supposed Kurdish PKK sympathisers (who are secretly actually linked to “atheist Armenians“, according to one of Erdogan‘s right-hand men). It could just as well be Elvis Presley plotting to silence the prayer call of Ankara minarets with loud country music broadcast from his hideout on Mars via a supersonic hyperloop; Any lie will do as long as it takes the heat away from the crimes Erdogan himself is actually committing.

Germany‘s power-obsessed leadership doesn‘t just want to maintain a bog standard clean reputation. It is actively trying to establish itself on that very special moral throne Trump recently vacated because of his venality and imprudence; That of the leader of the free world. And that requires some very out of the box political reputation management.

So, just hours before the German parliament passed the Network Enforcement Act on the 30th of June, its legislators truimphantly passed a bill introducing equal marriage rights for gay people. Merkel had decided to no longer require lawmakers belonging to her centrist-conservative CDU party to vote against the measures, allowing lawmakers to freely choose how to vote as a matter of personal conscience.

Conveniently, this unexpected decision by Merkel dominated the global and domestic news cycle for days. It made the chancellor a darling of global community. Critical coverage of the Network Enforcement Act was relegated to a minor item in the packed news agenda.

But Merkel‘s decision to hold the marriage equality vote at such a time was not just a cynical attempt to abuse gay people‘s rights as cheap political cover to distract from the introduction of repressive censorship laws. It also represents more widely the hypocritical, stage-managed 'democracy' the government presides over.

Angela Merkel had over 10 years in government to find the time and space to realise that gay equal rights were an issue of conscience, not suited to partisan voting instructions.

Choosing to hold a free vote just before the election doesn‘t appear to represent a genuine change of mind on the issue.

Far-rather, it seems like a deeply utilitarian device to allow Merkel to avoid a humiliating forced concession to her political rivals a few months later; All of Merkel‘s three potential coalition partner parties had included red lines in their manifestos, pledging that they would never enter a coalition with the Merkel‘s centre-right CDU party, if she continued to refuse to introduce gay marriage. Germany‘s proportional electoral system essentially makes coalitions unavoidable. So, come what may, long-overdue marriage equality would have been on the books by the end of the year; But by introducing it this way Merkel could dishonestly soak up some of the international credit, and maybe collect some votes from gullible centre-leftists domestically as well.

And what about the government‘s lawmakers, who ceremoniously gathered together in parliament, voting in favour of gay marriage on account of their ‘conscience‘: Where was this conscience of theirs in the years before? Does it only compassion towards gay peoples‘ civil rights when it is electorally opportune to do so? Did they not think that the equal rights for gay citizens are sufficiently important to merit defying mere partisan voting instructions over?

As Germany has economically boomed under Merkel‘s leadership, social compassion and honesty in the public sphere has reached a record low. Corrupt property developers, ruthless drug dealers, and organised crime are being allowed to take over economically deprived parts of Berlin, Frankfurt, Bremen and Colonoge with impunity, while police simply watch. As Berlin‘s political-corporate elite shops in an ever-growing number of luxury all-organic supermarkets, they cheer on the financial rape of Greece and other Southern European countries by the German-led EU‘s austerity programs; Brutal regimes of cuts and privatisations have left some ordinary, hard-working people in those countries unable to afford even basic essentials such as food and medical care. The supposedly anti-racist, pro-equality mainstream media in Germany outdoes itself day-on-day in finding new, politically-useful ways to implicitly suggest to their readers that ‘lazy‘, ‘heat-dazed‘ Greeks deserve all the degrading austerity they get.

While German authorities dishonestly smear outspoken political rivals as a racist or extremist without due process to shut them up, the government‘s very own Federal Police Agency racially profilies perfectly law-abiding Turkish, Kurdish, Arab and African German citizens with glee; Flagrantly violating the Basic Law‘s protection of equal individual liberty in a desperate but sleek attempt to win over the votes of the very people the government publicly condemns when they speak out. The government that digs up every moral trope in the box to condemn racism when it happens to come from its political opponents on the (far) right is the same one that to this day has never brought to justice the murderers of Laya-Alama Conde, a black man brutally tortured to death by German Police in 2004 in the city of Bremen; A sadistic crime for which cops took 9 years to even apologise for. Evidently, the only kind of xenophobia the current government has ever cared about combatting is the variety that reduces its share of the vote.

Merkel‘s government is taking Germany, and with it the European Union, a step towards the path of Putin, Lugaskenko and Victor Orban. Building an illiberal democracy in Germany risks setting back freedom globally, and emboldens dictators.

Unsurpringly, Vladimir Putin‘s authoritarian United Russia party has already moved to replicate the Network Enforcement Act. In July, it presented an extremely similar draft social media bill in the Russian parliament, the Duma, that even goes as far as explicitly referring to the German law as its inspiration. Proving that imitation is the sincerest flattery, Russian legislators even copied the exact, expedited content deletion timeframe of 24 hours directly from the German government‘s law.

Copyright 2017 by the named Popehat author.
theferrett: (Meazel)
[personal profile] theferrett

In case you forgot, I’ll be at Borderlands Books (my favorite place in SF) at 3:00 pm this Saturday to read to you from my new book The Uploaded, sign whatever you put in front of me, and to, as usual, go out for hamburgers afterwards.

(And if you’re extra-special-good, I may do a super-secret advance MEGA-preview reading of The Book That Does Not Yet Have A Name. Not that, you know, you shouldn’t be rushing out to your stores to buy The Uploaded right now.)

I will, of course, bring donuts after my massive DONUT FAIL in Massachusetts, which I still wake up in cold sweats about. I will bring you donuts or die.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

The Big Corona

Sep. 21st, 2017 04:13 am
[syndicated profile] nasa_apod_feed

Most photographs don't adequately portray the magnificence of the Most photographs don't adequately portray the magnificence of the


Why I Had a Good Tuesday This Week

Sep. 20th, 2017 10:50 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Because yesterday I got to hang out a bit with Alison Moyet, who if you didn’t know is one of my absolute favorite singers, both in Yaz, and with her solo work. We’d become Twitter buddies in the last couple of years and when I mentioned to her Krissy and I would be at her Chicago show she suggested we have a real-life meet. And we did! And it was lovely! And brief, as she had to prepare to entertain a sold-out show (and she did; the concert was excellent), but long enough to confirm that she’s as fabulous in the flesh as she is in her music. Which was not surprising to me, but nice regardless.

(Alison has also blogged about our meet-up as part of her tour journal, which you can find here. Read the entire tour journal, as she’s funny as hell.)

I noted to some friends that I was likely to meet Alison this week and some of them wondered how it would go, on the principle that meeting one’s idols rarely goes as one expects (more bluntly, the saying is “never meet your idols.”) I certainly understand the concept, but I have to say I’ve had pretty good luck meeting people whom I have admired (or whose work I admired). I chalk a lot of that up to the fact that while I was working as a film critic, I met and interviewed literally hundreds of famous people, some of whose work was very important to me. In the experience I got to have the first-hand realization that famous and/or wonderfully creative people are also just people, and have the same range of personalities and quirks as anyone else.

If you remember that when you meet the people whose work or actions you admire, you give them space just to be themselves. And themselves are often lovely. And when they’re not, well, that’s fine too. Alison Moyet, it turns out, is fabulous, and I’m glad we got to meet.

(Which is not to say I didn’t geek out. Oh, my, I did. But I also kept that mostly inside. Krissy found it all amusing.)

Anyway: Great Tuesday. A+++, would Tuesday again.


This Week in Nazi-Punching

Sep. 20th, 2017 04:15 pm
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)
[personal profile] jimhines

A video of a Nazi in Seattle getting punched and knocked out has been making the rounds. Responses range from satisfaction and celebration to the predictable cries of “So much for the tolerant left” and the related “Violence makes us as bad as them and plays right into their hands.”

A few things to consider…

1. According to one witness, the punch happened after the Nazi called a man an “ape” and threw a banana at him. With the disclaimer that I’m not a lawyer, that sounds like assault to me. I’m guessing Assault in the Fourth Degree. In other words, the punching was a response to an assault by the Nazi.

The witness who talks about the banana-throwing also says he was high on THC. I haven’t seen anyone disputing his account, but I haven’t seen corroboration, either.

2.Remember when George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin, and people like Geraldo Rivera said it was because Martin was wearing a hoodie, and that made Martin a potentially dangerous “suspicious character”? Utter bullshit, I know. But if our legal system let Zimmerman plead self-defense, saying he was afraid because Martin was wearing a hoodie, doesn’t that same argument apply against someone wearing a fucking swastika?

We’re talking about a symbol that announces, “I support genocide of those who aren’t white, aren’t straight, aren’t able-bodied…”

3. Buzzfeed presents this as anti-fascists tracking a Neo-Nazi to beat him up. While antifa Twitter appears to have been talking about this guy, there’s no evidence that the punch was thrown by someone who’s part of that movement. And even if he was, the guy didn’t throw a punch until after the Nazi committed assault (see point #1).

Those Tweets quoted on Buzzfeed also suggest the Nazi was armed, which could add to the self-defense argument in point #2.

Is Nazi-punching right? Is it legal? As any role-player will tell you, there’s a difference between whether something is lawful and whether it’s good.

The “victim” has every right to press charges. But for some reason, he didn’t want to talk to police about the incident.

Was punching this guy a good thing? I mean, there’s a difference between comic books and real life. The Nazi was standing in front of some sort of tile wall. He could have struck his head on the corner after being punched, or when he fell to the ground. In other words, there’s a chance–albeit probably a slim one–that this could have killed him.

My country and culture glorify violence. I’d much rather avoid violence when possible. I think most rational people would. But there are times it’s necessary to fight, to choose to defend yourself and others. I think it’s important to understand the potential consequences of that choice.

Multiple accounts agree this man was harassing people on the bus, and later on the street. He was a self-proclaimed Nazi. Police say they received calls that he was instigating fights, and it sounds like he escalated from verbal harassment to physical assault … at which point another man put him down, halting any further escalation.

I don’t know exactly what I would have done in that situation, but I see nothing to make me condemn or second-guess this man’s choice in the face of a dangerous Nazi.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Rosh Hashanah 5778 prep

Sep. 20th, 2017 11:00 am
chanaleh: (leaves)
[personal profile] chanaleh
Overall I've been too crazed to journal, but today is weirdly slow* at work so I am taking a few minutes.
*(Edited to add: I suspected it was too good to be true. Of course the shit hit the fan on about 3 different projects as soon as I finished posting this, so, we'll hope I get out on time.)

Cards: mostly sent; I ordered 50, and carefully winnowed down my list to that number, but they actually sent me extras so I still have a dozen or so I can send (probably next week; gmar chatimah tovah!).

Honey cake: baked last night.

Challah: 4 small loaves (2 raisin, 2 plain) currently on second rise to bake later today. This year, I used the King Arthur recipe that I printed out last year but decided against for some reason. I made a double batch since it claims to make 1 9-inch round, let the dough rise overnight, and it looked beautiful this morning. Aria was super interested in the dough as I was rolling it into strands for coiling. "Cookie! Pizza! I hold it? I hold it?" I told her she'll be big enough to help me next year.

12lb. brisket in fridge, waiting to prep for Thurs afternoon. Sorry, [livejournal.com profile] ablock, I fear my brisket-recipe allegiance is permanently switched! even though the simmered-in-wine version will forever smell like the essence of Rosh Hashanah to me.

Matzah ball soup: also tomorrow (using stock from freezer)

Vegetables:
- brisket potatoes & carrots
- tzimmes (I actually found frozen diced butternut squash at Not-Our-Usual-Supermarket)
- salad

Guests: 1 (maybe 2?) Thursday night, 1 Friday night

Shul: by myself tonight (6:30pm) and tomorrow morning (9am); with Aria on Friday. She saw me put on a skirt this morning (since I'm going straight from work) and said "Mama you go shul today! I go shul!"

Still to review: Shacharit davening for first day (ack) and Haftarah. I went over the davening with the rabbi during Sunday school the last two weeks and it was OK - Yom Kippur is more direly in need of practice, but first things first.

Kittel: try on tonight, bring tomorrow morning.

Shanah tovah u'metukah!

Groups vs systems

Sep. 20th, 2017 10:13 am
dpolicar: (Default)
[personal profile] dpolicar
I am so very tired of the narrative of "We shouldn't condemn a whole group because of some bad individuals. There are good people and bad people in that group."

Here's the thing: there's a difference between a group of people and a system of people. The difference is that a system of people comprises not only the individuals, but also the social constructs that guide the behavior of those individuals... in other words, the system itself.

For example, a company isn't just a bunch of people who coincidentally happen to work on the same projects in distributed ways. A school system isn't a bunch of teachers and administrators who independently happen to work the same way. A police precinct isn't a bunch of officers who just happen to follow the same rules.

In each of these cases there are policies and guidelines and hierarchies and informal structures and so forth that shape behavior. There's a system.

And when we praise or condemn the public school system, or the police, or Microsoft, or etc. we mostly aren't praising or condemning a whole group because of some good or bad individuals. I mean, sure, those individuals exist, but they aren't the reason. We are praising/condemning a whole group because of the system that organizes it. And the larger the system we're talking about, the more true that is: when we say that democracies are more just than totalitarian states, or that capitalism is more efficient than communism, or that communism is more humane than capitalism, or various other claims along those lines, we're basically not saying anything at all about any individual.

Or at least, that's how it should be. I mean, sure, sometimes we praise or condemn a group of people just because we're applying aggregate-level stereotypes to all the individuals in that group. And in those cases the "We shouldn't condemn a whole group because of some bad individuals. There are good people and bad people in that group." narrative makes sense: we really shouldn't! Or at least, we're overwhelmingly likely to be mistaken when we do; we can draw our own ethical conclusions from there.

(I am reminded now of a friendship I broke some time back by expressing both the idea that condemning individuals because of their group affiliations is bad, and the idea that analyzing the common behaviors of individuals is the only way we can identify pathological systems, in ways that struck them as infuriatingly and relationship-endingly hypocritical.)

And sure, sometimes we make analysis errors in this space. Sometimes there's a system operating we're unaware of. Sometimes we infer the presence of systems that don't actually operate, or aren't relevant to what we're talking about. It's easy to talk about the behavior of people while ignoring the systems that shape us, and it's easy to handwave about notional systems without actually making any concrete or testable claims about whether they exist.

I'm not saying I expect us to be perfectly accurate when we describe groups and systems. But I want us to be better about acknowledging that they are two different things.

When someone condemns racism as a systemic attribute of a society, for example, there are folks who reply that no, racism is a property of individuals, end-of-story.

And in principle that can be a legitimate disagreement; if someone wants to argue that there really aren't any social systems underlying/guiding/constraining/coordinating the racist behavior of individuals, for example, that's a totally relevant argument. (Mind you, I think it's obviously false, but that's another matter.)

But usually they aren't arguing that; rather, they are simply insisting that we can only talk about individuals, because when we say that racism is also demonstrated through the systems that essentially all white people in this country participate in, we're talking about a whole group, and (all together now) "we shouldn't condemn a whole group because of some bad individuals. There are good people and bad people in that group."

And I don't know how to say all of this, or any of it, in ways that are at all useful within the conversation itself. And I watch other people trying to do it, and not getting very far either.

And I understand that often that's because other people just don't want to hear it, and in general I don't believe that there's a way to say everything that will be accepted by the person I'm talking to and that it's my job to find it. But still, I try to express myself clearly and compellingly.

So, anyway. I am so very tired of the narrative of "We shouldn't condemn a whole group because of some bad individuals. There are good people and bad people in that group."

Let Life Happen.

Sep. 20th, 2017 10:13 am
theferrett: (Meazel)
[personal profile] theferrett

“I’m not up for sex,” she told me. “I’ve had a lot of medical issues lately. It’s more painful than not to even try.”

“Cool,” I said, and we spent the day going to a street festival.

I woulda liked sex. But life happens.


“I’m in the middle of my seasonal affective disorder,” I told her. “You show up, I might not be able to leave the house. I might just curl up and cry all day.”

“Cool,” she said, and I was pretty morose but we cuddled a lot and eventually managed to go out to dinner.

I woulda liked to have a working brain. But life happens.


“I’m not sure I can make it through this convention,” they told me. “My flare-ups have been really bad this season. I might not be able to go out with you in the evenings.”

“Cool,” I said, and I went out for little hour-long jaunts before heading back to the room to cuddle them, then charging out again to circulate.

I woulda liked to have them by my side when I hit the room parties. But life happens.


I’m a massively flawed human with a mental illness. I need to have poly relationships that include for the possibility of breakdowns. Because if I need to have a perfect day before I allow anyone to see me, I might wait for weeks. Months. Years. And then what the fuck is left by the time I get to see them?

I know there are people who need perfect visits. They have to have the makeup on when you visit them, and they’ll never fall asleep when they had a night of Big Sexy planned, and if they get out the toys there’s gonna be a scene no matter how raw anyone’s feeling.

But I can’t do that.

My relationships aren’t, can’t be, some idealized projection of who I want to be. If I’m not feeling secure that day, I can’t be with a partner who needs me to be their rock so the weekend proceeds unabated. And if they’re feeling broken, I can’t be with someone who needs to pretend everything is fine because their time with me is their way of proving what a good life they have.

Sometimes, me and my lovers hoped for a weekend retreat of pure passion and what we get is curling up with someone under tear-stained covers, holding them and letting them know they will not be alone come the darkness.

We cry. We collapse. We stumble. We don’t always get what we want, not immediately.

But we also heal. We nurture. We accept.

And in the long run, God, we get so much more.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

The Big Idea: Fran Wilde

Sep. 20th, 2017 12:42 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Today, award-winning author Fran Wilde has a shocking confession to make! About something she said! Here! And yes, it involves her new novel, Horizon. What will this confession be? Will there be regret involved? Are you prepared for what happens next?!?

FRAN WILDE:

Dear readers of John Scalzi’s blog, for the past three years, I’ve been keeping secrets.

I’m not sorry.

Trilogies are a delicate thing. They are a community of books unto themselves. They inform and support one another; their themes and actions ripple and impact one another. They have their own set of rules. Among them: Write down the main character’s eye color or favorite food so you don’t forget it. You’ll regret using that hard-to-spell naming convention by the middle of your second book. Destroy something in book one, you’re not going to magically have it to rely on in book three — at least not without some major effort. Everything gathers — each choice, each voice.

Trilogies are, by intent, more than the sum of their parts.

And, when brought together, a trilogy’s largest ideas sometimes appear in the gathered shadows of what seemed like big ideas at the time.

In Updraft, book one of the Bone Universe trilogy, what began to crumble was the system that upheld the community of the bone towers. It didn’t look like it then. So I didn’t tell you when I wrote my first Big Idea.

Instead, the first time I visited this blog, I wrote: “At its heart, Updraft is about speaking and being heard and — in turn — about hearing others…”

That was true – especially in the ways Updraft explored song as memory and singing and voice. But it was also kind of a fib. I knew where the series was headed, and voice was only the tip of the spear.

I planned to return here a year later to write about leadership, and I did — and, I wrote about demagoguery too, and abut having a book come out during a charged political season. That was September 2016, Cloudbound, the second book in the series was just out, and wow, that post seems somewhat innocent and naive now. But not any less important.

Again, saying the big idea in Cloudbound was leadership was true on its face, but it was also a an act of omission. And again, singing came into play — in that songs in Cloudbound were being adjusted and changed, as were messages between leaders.

With Horizon, I’m going to lay it all out there for you. Horizon is about community.

Structurally, Horizon is narrated by several different first person voices — including Kirit, Nat, and Macal, a magister and the brother of a missing Singer. These three voices come from different places in the Bone Universe’s geography, and they weave together to form a greater picture of the world, and its threats. A fourth voice appears only through a song — a new song — that is written during the course of Horizon, primarily by one character but with the help of their community. That song is the thread that ties the voices together, and, one hopes, the new community as well.

And, like Horizon, for me, the big idea for the Bone Universe series is also community. How to defend one, how to lead one, how to salvage as much as you can of one and move forward towards rebuilding it.

In my defense, I did leave some clues along the way. I shifted narrators between Updraft and Cloudbound in order to broaden the point of view and reveal more about the lead characters and the world, both between the books (how Nat and Kirit are seen each by the other vs. how they see themselves), and within them. I shared with readers the history of the bone towers and how that community, and the towers themselves, formed. I showed you the community’s [something] – that their means of keeping records and remembering was based on systems that could be used to both control messages and redefine them. I made the names of older laws and towers much more complicated to pronounce (and, yes, spell SIGH), versus the simpler names for newer things. This community had come together, then grown into something new.

The evolution of singing in the Bone Universe is, much like the idea of community, something that can be seen in pieces, but that resolves more when looked at from the perspective of all three books together.

Remember that solo voice — Kirit’s — singing quite badly that first book? In the second book, Nat’s voice joins Kirit’s — a solo, again, but because we can still hear Kirit, and because we know her, it becomes a kind of duet. In the third book, three voices present separate parts of the story, and when they all come together, that forms a connected whole.

When you listen to a group of people sing, sometimes one voice stands out, then another. Then, when multiple voices join in for the chorus, the sound becomes a different kind of voice. One with additional depth and resonance.

That’s the voice of a community. That drawing together of a group into something that is more than the sum of its parts. It is an opportunity, a way forward, out of a crumbling system and into something new and better.  

That’s the big idea.

—-

Horizon: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow her on Twitter.


Books: Caliban, Alley, Equilateral

Sep. 19th, 2017 06:47 pm
woodwardiocom: (Default)
[personal profile] woodwardiocom

Caliban's War by James S.A. Corey

Second in the Expanse series, this volume revolves around the crisis on Ganymede, and the associated blue-eyed beastie. Entertaining adventure SF, recommended.

Far-Seer by Robert J. Sawyer

A tale of Galileo, if Galileo was a sentient dinosaur living on the moon of a tidally locked gas giant. Interesting world- and myth-building, recommended.

Winter Witch by Elaine Cunningham

Set in the world of the Pathfinder roleplaying game, this is a light fantasy about a Viking woman, an urban mage, and the icy witch who brings them together. Mildly recommended.

Damnation Alley by Roger Zelazny

Loosely similar to the movie, murderer and rapist Hell Tanner is given a chance at a clean slate if he'll ferry a plague cure across a ravaged America. It's clearly supposed to be some sort of redemption tale, but Zelazny missed the memo that some crimes don't get redemption. I honestly prefer the movie.

Venus Equilateral by George O. Smith

Fixup novel of a series of stories published in the 1940s in Astounding, revolving around a communications relay station and the scientific geniuses therein. The science is advanced and accurate for its era, but has not dated terribly well. (The problems they encounter in communicating with, and locating, spaceships were solved in much simpler ways within the author's lifetime.) By the end, the science has advanced so far that it's almost shifted genres from hard SF to morality play. Mildly recommended.
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Krissy and I are playing hooky today because we’re going to the Alison Moyet concert in Chicago, which necessitated a bit of a drive. Well, we’re here now, and the view from the hotel is lovely, nary a parking lot in sight. How is your day?


Getting ready for the show

Sep. 19th, 2017 10:57 am
reedrover: (Default)
[personal profile] reedrover
This past weekend, I did more toe stuff and a general health check on all of the goats that are going to the show. I'm down to the last don-wannas. Richie still needs a toe-trimming, and I keep avoiding it because, well, he's gross. I also need to wash off Emma's butt because it's black and stinky now. I know it's just a lot of hair and her being lazy about squatting all the way to pee, but really, it's gross.

I gave up getting any more fleeces skirted for the show and sale. Five will have to be enough. I haven't done my for sale notices yet. I did apply for registration papers, but I was a smidge late getting those filed, so I'm not confident that they will arrive before Saturday.

But hey, I'm scheduled and going. We will see what happens when I arrive.

The Big Idea: Annalee Newitz

Sep. 19th, 2017 11:26 am
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

In her debut novel Autonomous, former i09 editor-in-chief and current science and tech writer and editor Annalee Newitz gets under the skin of the healthcare industry and thinks about all the ways it’s less-than-entirely healthy for us… and what that means for our future, and the future she’s written in her novel.

ANNALEE NEWITZ:

There’s a scene from the Torchwood series Miracle Day that I will never be able to wash out of my brain. After humans stop being able to die for mysterious reasons, our heroes tour a hospital full of people who are hideously immortal: their bodies pancaked and spindled and melted, they lie around in agony wishing for oblivion. For all its exaggerated body horror, that moment feels creepily realistic in our age of medicine that can keep people alive without giving them anything like quality of life.

Torchwood: Miracle Day wasn’t my first taste of healthcare dystopia, but it made a huge impression because it distilled down one of the fundamental ideas I see this subgenre: some lives are worse than death. This is certainly the message in countless pandemic films, where the infected are ravening, mindless zombies. Killing them is a mercy.

This idea takes a slightly different form in books like Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go and Paolo Bacigalupi’s Windup Girl. Both narratives toy with what it means when people are turned into medical experiments, like futuristic versions of the Tuskegee Study. We see some ruling class of people deciding that another class should serve as its organ donors or genetic beta testers. What if somebody were treating us like lab rats, as if our lives didn’t matter?

And then there are the false healthcare utopias, which I find the most disturbing because they remind me of listening to U.S. senators trying to sell the idea that they have a “much better plan” than Obamacare—even though I know people who will die under these “better plans.” Politicians have probably been pushing false healthcare utopias since at least the 19th century, but in science fiction its roots can clearly be traced to Aldus Huxley’s Brave New World. In that novel, everyone is medicating with Soma just to deal with how regimented and limited their lives are.

False healthcare utopias can take many forms, and they overlap with more familiar dystopias too. Some deal with surveillance. In the chilling novel Harmony, Project Itoh imagines a future Japan where the government monitors everyone’s microbiomes by tracking everything that goes into and out of their bodies (yep, there’s toilet surveillance).

Sometimes the false healthcare utopia is just a precursor to a more familiar zombie dystopia like 28 Days Later. Consider, for example, our extreme overuse of antibiotics. Though it appears that we can cure pretty much any infection with antibiotics, we’re very close to living in a world where antibiotics no longer work at all. One of the most terrifying books I’ve read this year is science journalist Maryn McKenna’s book Big Chicken, which is about how the agriculture industry depends on antibiotics to keep animals “healthy” in filthy, overcrowded conditions. This is creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are coming for us, pretty much any day now. That’s right–penicillin-doped chickens are the real culprits in I Am Legend.

I’m fascinated by how many false healthcare utopias depend on coercive neuroscience. Often, brain surgery is involved—we see this in John Christopher’s Tripods and Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series, both about so-called utopian worlds created by neurosurgical interventions that restrict freedom of thought. Maybe these stories focus on brains so much because these are fundamentally stories about lies, and brains are, after all, the organ that we use for lying.

When I started work on my novel Autonomous (out today! yes it is!), I knew I wanted to explore the lies of the pharmaceutical industry and its gleaming ads promising a better life to those who can afford a scrip. One of the protagonists, Jack, has become a pharmaceutical pirate so that she can bring expensive, patented medicine to poor people who need it. But she also sells a few of what she calls “funtime worker drugs” on the side, to fund her Robin Hood activities and keep her submarine in good repair.

Those funtime drugs are why things go sideways for Jack. She sells some pirated Zacuity, a “productivity” drug that I loosely based on Provigil or Adderall. It gets people really enthusiastic about work, but it has some unexpected side-effects that the pharma company Zaxy has suppressed. Now Jack has to stop the drug from killing more people, while also evading two deadly agents sent by Zaxy: a robot named Paladin and a human named Eliasz.

So Autonomous is chase story with some hot robot sex, but it’s also very much a book about how pharma companies sell us an idea of “health” that is actually really unhealthy.

Today pharma companies market drugs the way Disney markets Star Wars movies, and for good reason. Drugs like Adderall and Provigil are supposed to make us feel better and more competent—or at the very least distract us—for a few blissful hours. Just like a movie. I’m not trying to say there’s a problem with taking drugs (or watching movies) to feel good. Nor am I saying that people don’t need anti-depressants and other meds to treat psychological problems. The issue is when these drugs are overprescribed for enhancement, and “feeling really good” becomes a terrible kind of norm. Pharma companies want us to believe that if we aren’t incredibly attentive, productive, and happy every day, there must be something wrong. This paves the way for an ideal of mental health that almost nobody can (or should) live up to.

There’s another, deeper problem that’s caused by selling medicine as if it were a form of entertainment. Nobody would ever argue that going to see the new Star Wars movie is a right. It’s just a luxury for people with disposable income. If we see medicine like that too, it’s easy to fall for the lie that our healthcare system is great even though it only serves the richest people in the U.S.

In the world of Autonomous, the pharma companies are full of guys like Martin Shkreli, jacking up the prices on medicine because they can. They get away with it because so many people in the U.S. believe that anyone can get medicine if they really deserve it. Only a lie of that magnitude could make it seem fair when working class people can’t afford to treat AIDS-related complications. Or cancer. Or a heart infection.

Autonomous is a book about lies. But more importantly, it’s about what happens to the people who see through those lies and try to do something about it. Everyone deserves to have medicine. It is a right, not a privilege. Until we recognize that, I’ll be hanging out with the pirates.

—-

Autonomous: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow her on Twitter.


[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Well, specifically this silly person said I would never earn out [x] amount of money I got as an advance, and also that I would in fact never see [x] amount of money, because of reasons they left unspecified but which I assume were to suggest that my contracts would be cancelled long before I got the payout. As [x] amount of money seems to suggest this silly person is talking about my multi-book multi-year contracts, let me say:

1. lol, no;

2. [x] was not the sum for any of my contracts (either for individual works or in aggregate) so that’s wrong to begin with;

3. It’s pretty clear that this silly person has very little idea how advances work in general, or how they are paid out;

4. It’s also pretty clear this silly person has very little idea how advances work with long-term, multi-project contracts in particular, or how they are paid out;

5. Either this silly person has never signed a book contract, or they appear to have done a very poor job of negotiating their contracts;

6. In any event, it’s very clear this silly person has no idea about the particulars of my business.

Which makes sense as I don’t go into great detail about them in public. But it does mean that people asserting knowledge of my business are likely to be flummoxed by the actual facts. Like, for example, the fact that I’m already earning royalties on work tied into those celebrated-yet-apparently-actually-cursed contracts. Royalties, I’ll note for those of you not in the publishing industry, are paid out after you earn back an advance.

How am I getting royalties on a work tied to contracts that this silly person has assured all and sundry I will never earn out? The short answer is because I’ve earned out, obviously. The slightly longer answer is that my business deals are interesting and complex and designed to roll money to me on a steady basis over a long period of time, but when you are a silly person who apparently knows nothing about how book contracts work (either my specific ones, or by all indications book contracts in general) and you have an animus against me because, say, you’re an asshole, or because of group identification politics that require that I must actually be a raging failure, for reasons, you are prone to assert things that are stupid about my business and show your complete ignorance of it. And then I might be inclined to point and laugh about it.

In any event, this is a fine time to remind people of two things. The first thing is that I have detractors, and it’s very very important to them that I’m seen as a failure. There’s nothing I can ever do or say to dissuade them against this idea, so the least I can do is offer them advice, which is to make their assertions of my failure as non-specific as possible, because specificity is not their friend. I would also note to them that regardless, my failures, real or imagined, will not make them any more successful in their own careers. So perhaps they should focus on the things they can materially effect, i.e., their own writing and career, and worry less about what I’m doing.

Second, if someone other than me, my wife, my agent or my business partners (in the context of their own contracts with me) attempts to assert knowledge of my business, you may reliably assume they are talking out of their ass. This particularly goes for my various detractors, most of whom don’t appear to have any useful understanding of how the publishing industry works outside of their (and this is a non-judgmental statement) self-pub and micro-pub worlds, which are different beasts than the part I work in, and also just generally dislike me and want me to be a miserable failure and are annoyed when I persist in not being either. Wishing won’t make it so, guys.

Bear in mind speculating about my business is perfectly fine, and even if it wasn’t I couldn’t stop it anyway. Speculate away! People have done it for years, both positively and negatively, and most of the time it’s fun to watch people guess about it. Even this silly person’s speculation is kind of fun, in the sense it’s interesting to see all the ways it’s wrong. But to the extent that the unwary may believe this silly person (or other such silly people among my detractors, and as a spoiler they are all fairly silly on this topic) knows what they are talking about with regard to my business: Honey, no. They really don’t. They have their heads well up their asses.

Or, as I said on Twitter:

And actually the dog has been in the same room as my contracts, so in fact she might know more. Keep that in mind the next time a detractor opines on my business.


flexagon: (Default)
[personal profile] flexagon
Last week I went to view the mountains! No, not really. You'd just think that from the name of the town I visited, where my company is based. I had a good visit, and kept things simple by avoiding most social obligations and simply getting a massage on Wednesday to get my dose of physical touch.

On the flight back I got great news from the minion whose fate was hanging in the balance in my last corporate-whining post: he's found a job in his new office, helped along perhaps by my own letters to his soon-to-be-manager. Which means that my bumbling (and the director's bumbling) didn't ultimately cost him his job, and he's not lost to Zillian just because he's lost to my team -- which now happens at/around the end of October, rather than in two weeks. My relief practically made me melt on the plane.

In weirder news, [personal profile] norwoodbridge went from an OKC hello chat to "yeah, I liked her, we had sex!" with a new person while I was gone. I spent about a day having no idea how I felt about that, because I don't always access my emotional side too well while on a business trip (and I hadn't seen [personal profile] norwoodbridge for a week and a half at that point, so he wasn't feeling very real either). I was pleased a day or so later to find that I felt fine: the new girl seems cool, the whole thing is reasonable, she lives far enough away that she can't be, uh, super spontaneous in a way that would bother me. Basically I know Norwood's been wanting a new thing and this new thing seems good. I might even be compersing, mildly? Too early to say, but this very initial response seems decently in line with, I guess, being the person I'd like to be. More generous. Not so damn scared all the time.

([personal profile] heisenbug also has a first date on Thursday. The poly network is really hopping.)

I finished The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, a lovely SF book that focuses on the humanity of the characters (yes, even the alien ones) and generally satisfies. I foresee it making an appearance around Christmas for certain people who like it character-driven, and I also foresee its sequel arriving at my door in a couple of days. I'm trying to think what to compare it to... it has a small cast of specific characters kind of like Starfish or The Sparrow, but its characters have a warmth and depth more like The Book of Strange New Things or Never Let Me Go. At any rate, recommended.
theferrett: (Meazel)
[personal profile] theferrett

I knew musicals could cheer me up, but I’d never heard of one that gave me new tools to deal with chronic illness and depression. Yet when I saw Groundhog Day last Wednesday, I was so stunned by what a perfect, joyous metaphor it was for battling mental illness that I immediately bought tickets to see it again that Saturday.

I would have told you about this before, but it was too late. The show closed on Sunday. A musical that should have run, well, for as long as Phil Connors was trapped in his endless time loop only got a five-month run.

But I can tell you about it.

I can tell you why this musical made me a stronger, better person.

———————————–

So let’s discuss the original Groundhog Day movie, which is pretty well-known at this point: Bill Murray is an asshole weatherman named Phil who shows up under protest to do a report from Punxatawney, Philadelphia on Groundhog Day. He’s trapped in town overnight thanks to a blizzard. When Phil wakes up the next morning, it’s Groundhog Day again. And again. And again.

Phil goes through several phases:

  • Incredulous as he can’t believe what’s happening to him;
  • Gleefully naughty as he uses his knowledge of people’s future actions to indulge all his greatest fantasies;
  • Frustrated as he tries to romance Rita, his producer, but he’s too cynical for her and nothing convinces her to hop in bed with him unless everyone else in town;
  • Depressed as he realizes that his life is shallow and there’s no way he can escape;
  • Perplexed as he tries to rescue a dying homeless man but realizes that nothing he can do on this day will save this poor guy;
  • And, finally, beatific as he uses his intense knowledge of everything that will happen in town today to run around doing good for people.

Naturally, that’s a great emotional journey. It’s no wonder that’s a story that’s resonated with people.

Yet Groundhog Day changes just one slight emotional tenor about this – and that change is massive.

Because when Bill Murray’s character gets to the end of his journey, he’s actually content. He’s achieved enlightenment where he enjoys everything he does, toodling around on the piano because he’s formed Punxatawney into his paradise. He laughs at people who ignore him. He’s satisfied.

And when Rita, who senses this change even though she doesn’t understand why, bids everything in her wallet to dance with him at the Groundhog Dance, the Bill Murray Phil is touched but also, on some level, serene.

Andy Karl’s Phil is not happy.

We spend a lot more time in Andy’s Phil’s headspace, and at one point he breaks down because of all the things he’ll never get to do – he’ll never grow a beard, he’ll never see the dawn again, he’ll never have another birthday. Anything he does is wiped away the next morning.

Bill Murray’s Phil gets so much satisfaction out of his constantly improving the town that his daily circuit has become a reward for him.

Andy Karl’s Phil is, on some level, fundamentally isolated. People will never know him – at least not without hours of proving to them that yes, he is trapped in this time loop, he does know everything about them.  No matter what relationships he forms, he’ll have  to start all over again in a matter of hours. There’s no bond he can create that this loop won’t erase.

And so when Rita finally dances with Bill Murray, it’s shown as a big romantic moment. And in the musical –

In the musical, Rita moves towards Phil and everything freezes in a harsh blue light except for Phil.

This is everything Phil has ever wanted in years, maybe decades, of being in this loop – and instead of being presented as triumphant, everything goes quiet and Phil sings a tiny, mournful song:

But I’m here
And I’m fine
And I’m seeing you for the first time

And the reason that brings tears to my eyes every fucking time is because this Phil is not fine – he repeats the lie in the next verse when he says he’s all right. Yet this is the happiest moment he’s had in years, finally understanding what Rita has wanted all along, and this moment too will be swept away in an endless series of morning wakeups and lumpy beds and people forgetting what he is.

Yet that mournful tune is also defiant, and more defiant when the townspeople pick it up and start singing it in a rising chorus:

I’m here
And I’m fine

Phil knows his future is nothing.

Yet that will not stop him from appreciating this small beauty even if he knows it will not stay with him. Trapped in the groundhog loop, appreciating the tiny moments becomes an act of rebellion, a way of affirming life even when you know this moment too will vanish.

Can you understand that this is depression incarnate?

Which is the other thing that marks this musical. Because I said there was joy, and there is. Because when Andy Karl’s Phil enters the “Philanthropy” section of the musical (get it?), he may not be entirely happy but he is content.

Because he knows that he may not necessarily feel joy at all times, but he has mastered the art of maintenance.

Because tending to the town of Punxatawney is a lot of work. He has to run around changing flat tires, rescuing cats, getting Rita the chili she wanted to try, helping people’s marriages. (And as he notes, “My cardio never seems to stick.”)

When Bill Murray’s Phil helps people, it seems to well up from personal satisfaction. Whereas Andy’s Phil is thrilled helping people, yes, but his kindness means more because it costs him. On some level he is, and will forever be, fundamentally numb.

This isn’t where he wanted to be.

Yet he has vowed to do the best with what he can. He helps the townspeople of Punxatawney because even though it is a constant drain, it makes him feel better than drinking himself senseless in his room. He doesn’t get to have everything he wanted – also see: depression and chronic illness – and it sure would be nice if he could take a few days off, but those days off will make him feel worse.

He’s resigned himself to a lifetime of working harder than he should for results that aren’t as joyous as he wanted.

And that’s okay. Not ideal, but…. okay.

Andy’s okay.

And I think the closest I can replicate that in a non-musical context is another unlikely source – Rick and Morty, where Rick is a suicidal hypergenius scientist who’s basically the Doctor if the Doctor’s psychological ramifications were taken seriously. And he goes to therapy, where a therapist so smart that she’s the only person Rick’s never been able to refute says this to him:

“Rick, the only connection between your unquestionable intelligence and the sickness destroying your family is that everyone in your family, you included, use intelligence to justify sickness.

“You seem to alternate between viewing your own mind as an unstoppable force and as an inescapable curse. And I think it’s because the only truly unapproachable concept for you is that it’s your mind within your control.
You chose to come here, you chose to talk to belittle my vocation, just as you chose to become a pickle. You are the master of your universe, and yet you are dripping with rat blood and feces, your enormous mind literally vegetating by your own hand.

“I have no doubt that you would be bored senseless by therapy, the same way I’m bored when I brush my teeth and wipe my ass. Because the thing about repairing, maintaining, and cleaning is it’s not an adventure. There’s no way to do it so wrong you might die.

“It’s just work.

“And the bottom line is, some people are okay going to work, and some people well, some people would rather die.

“Each of us gets to choose.

“That’s our time.”

And yes, Groundhog Day the musical is – was – about that lesson of maintenance, as Andy comes to realize that “feeling good” isn’t a necessary component for self-improvement, and works hard to make the best of a situation where, like my depression, even the best and most perfect day will be reset come the next morning.

And yes. There is a dawn for Andy’s Phil, of course, and he does wake up with Rita, and you get to exit the theater knowing that no matter how bad it gets there will come a joyous dawn and you get to walk out onto Broadway and so does Phil.

But you don’t get to that joy without maintenance.

And you might get trapped again some day. That, too, is depression. That, too, is chronic illness. We don’t know that Phil doesn’t get trapped on February 3rd, or March 10th, or maybe his whole December starts repeating.

But he has the tools now. He knows how to survive until the next dawn.

Maybe you can too.

—————————–

Anyway. There’s talk that Groundhog Day will go on tour, maybe even with Andy Karl doing the performances. He’s brilliant. Go see him.

The rest of you, man, I hope you find your own Groundhog Day. I saw mine. Twice.

Perhaps it’s fitting that it’s vanished.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

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