Monday, October 20, 2014

Mail Time

"Here's the mail, it never fails, It makes me want to wag my tail, When it comes i wanna wail, MAIL!"

Many parents will remember that song, and its source. But it's been a long time since those days. Mail is electronic now.

Most people don't get much other than junk mail in their snail mail boxes. I know we don't. We only bother to bring in the mail about once a week or less. We obviously don't check our mailbox often enough though. Here's how I know.

My wife went to pull the mail out today, and ran away from the mailbox screaming, because a spider was right there on top of the mail. That spider got scared off, and we managed to get the mail and take it in the house. Then, as she started looking through it, another spider came out from under the letters...then another. And these were big ugly hairy spiders too. Something like this one:

My wife was turning apoplectic. I squashed the spiders for her, and found a kind of spider nest attached to some of our letters. Our mail had been left there long enough for spiders to totally move in. I don't really know how spiders work, but I've never heard of them settling in as families, so my guess is that somehow the spider mother laid eggs, and they hatched, and were about ready to move out before we finally came and got the mail.

 That's kind of sad. And hella freaky.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


In 1996, someone gave me the Soul Coughing album, Irresistible Bliss. When I played the first song, "Super Bon Bon", I fell in love. The album is still one of top five of all time. Mike Doughty was the lead singer and songwriter of the band, and his voice was just something amazing that my college-age self had not experienced before. I listened the hell out of that CD.

A few years later, the band broke up, and as far as I knew, they all dropped off the map. It wasn't until years later, after we started the Dunesteef, that I discovered that Mike Doughty was still out there doing stuff. Josh Roseman, who often contributes stories to our show, won the first Broken Mirror Story Event with his story titled, "27 Jennifers". This story took its title from a Mike Doughty song of the same name, Josh informed me. I was like, "Wait, Mike Doughty is still out there doing music? How did I not know this. I've gotta go find out what I've been missing!"

I was not disappointed. His new stuff was different from Soul Coughing, but just as amazing, perhaps even more so. It would be a hard road for his new songs to rise up to the level of love I had for his Soul Coughing songs, because they didn't have college nostalgia on their side, but eventually, a lot of them did. "27 Jennifers," already had Dunesteef nostalgia on its side. So, that gave it a boost. Others soon followed. The guy just knew how to write a song that I would like.

So, preamble over, I got the opportunity to see Mike Doughty live this past weekend.

I have a listener to thank for the privilege. I can't remember who it was now, and Facebook doesn't make it easy to go back and find out who posted what a month ago, so I guess it'll be a mystery. But the listener was complaining that he'd just discovered that Mike Doughty was playing in his city the day after the show took place. This made me immediately go and check Doughty's page, and discover that he was coming to my own city later. So, I set the date on my calendar, and didn't face the same regret that the listener had.

The show was really fun. Doughty played almost all my favorites. And it was my first time seeing him live in concert, which is so much cooler than just sitting in my room listening to MP3s on my phone.

At the merchandise table, they were selling copies of his memoir, The Book of Drugs. My wife, who is only marginally fond of the guy, told me I needed to buy it. She likes to read a lot.

She plowed through the book in the space of one day. Then, after that, even though I had a lot of other things that I should be doing, like writing the story I have committed to having done by the month's end or editing the story for the 13 Nights of Halloween marathon, I spent the next two nights reading until the wee hours until I had finished it entirely.

As you might guess from its title, it was one of those memoirs of a guy who sank to the depths of drug addiction...alcohol addiction too. Then, eventually, after he'd fallen as far as he could go, he finally got involved in one of those 12-step programs, and got clean.

The weird thing about reading this book was that I could see myself in his struggles. I've never taken drugs in my life. I'm not a drinker. I'm actually scared to death of these things. I don't have a good reason to be, there are no alcoholics or addicts in my family or anything, but for some reason I have the feeling that if I let myself get started, I might just disappear down the rabbit hole and fast. I might be one of those guys who goes from normal suburban father of four to orange jumpsuit-wearing inmate in no time flat. That fear keeps me completely clear of drugs and alcohol.

So, why the hell would I see myself in this druggie's story then? You see, I think I am an addict too. I'm just addicted to something less frightening, but still very bad for you. I'm addicted to food. Everyone eats food, we have to, but I eat more, and I choose the bad stuff. And I have a tendency to go on benders too.

Mike Doughty talked about how you could tell when someone was deep into addiction. Their skin seemed to have turned grey, along with everything else in their life, like their ambition, their emotions, and so on. Right now, I'm in the midst of a bender. I don't look grey, because it's food that I'm addicted to so it's different, but I feel grey.

It wasn't too many months ago that I was in the middle of trying to lose weight and get down to my goal, but I gave up on that at some point, and gave in to my addiction. I started eating and eating and eating. In the past six months or less, I've gained at least thirty pounds.

I had given up soda for the first half of this year, but now I've given in to soda. I drink it whenever I get the chance. McDonald's sells their large sodas for the same price as their smalls, so I"ll stop into the drive through and grab a Dr. Pepper every chance I get. The dollar store has the 20 oz. Mountain Dew Code Red bottles for, you guessed it, a dollar. That's way cheaper than the gas station, so I started stopping in on my way to work and grabbing one. Then I started grabbing two, because it was cheaper after all than going to the gas station later in the day. Then, (what the hell right?) I started getting a candy bar at the dollar store to go along with my two sodas.

"Breakfast of champions" one of the clerks at the store one day said when she looked over my early morning purchase. It was a gut punch, and should have forced me to kink of that pipeline, but it didn't. I continued on my merry weight-gaining way.

Right now, I weigh as much as, or probably more than, I ever have before. I feel like that addict that has gone all grey and hollow. Except that I'm not hollow. I'm full. To the friggin' brim. Several times a day, I find myself with acid reflux, which is apparently something that runs in my family, because I have eaten too damned much, and my stomach can't get the lid closed. My feet, ankles, knees, and hips all hurt intermittently from carrying around all that extra baggage. Being fat is like wearing one of those big hiking backpacks stuffed full of canned food. That'll make you really tired on a hike, but imagine if you had to wear it all day, every day. I do exactly that.

What makes me most sad is that I have lost all that weight in the past, and now, if I'm going to change things for the better, I'll have to do it again. It was a long hard struggle to get where I was, and I'll have to go through that all over again. I know that I need to change my ways, and cut this crap out, but I have a hard time getting motivated to do so. I try to get going in the right direction about once a week, but before I've even made it a full day, I'm off the wagon.

And, like junkies, I'm to the point where it's not even pleasurable to eat a treat. It's just a compulsion. I don't feel better upon fulfilling that compulsion. I feel worse. I feel sick. I burp up stomach acid. But I can't seem to put two and two together and stop. Like addicts that have developed such a tolerance that they don't even get high from the drugs they take. That's me, but with food.

I wonder if they have 12-step meetings for food addicts like me. A quick google search says that they do. Maybe I need something like that. A sort of support system. I've tried, through blog posts and the like, to develop that sort of thing in the past, but it's never been stable enough to really help. The one time that I did really well losing weight was for a contest at work. Dozens of people were a part of it, and there was a really nice camaraderie and sense of competition that we developed with each other. That was really helpful, I think. I've heard that Weight Watchers does meetings where people get together and talk about their experiences and stuff. Maybe I should try that.

Sadly, I don't know. I wrote this whole post, because of the similarity I recognized between my own experiences and those related in Mike Doughty's book. But I got to this point and didn't know where to go from here. I should have some sort of conclusion to draw or report on at this point but I don't. I should have some sort of plan of attack or something, but I don't.

I did start one thing in the middle of last month that was working well for a week or so. I set up a spot in my basement where I would take a picture of myself shirtless every day for a whole year, then compile them all in a video that showed my fat belly shrinking away. I took a weeks worth of pictures, and was already compiling them. I was finding it difficult to make sure that I remembered to take the picture every day. Then my wife, not realizing what the stuff was set up there for, moved it all, and set up some shelves there. This totally derailed me, and I quit, and went back to being an addict.

But, I've been thinking I need to get back on that project. It worked in a way that other things haven't, because it made the idea of losing weight interesting. It made me want to try, so that my video was something worth watching when it was all over. My birthday is only a couple of weeks away now, and I think I may use that as my start date. It seems like it's a nice even day that I'll never forget and so on.

But in the interim, I don't want to keep getting fatter. I weighed myself the other day, and I was at 299.4. One thing I've always been proud to say was that I'd never made it over 300 lbs. I'd gotten close before, but never over. I'm too afraid to weigh myself now, though, because I think I'm probably over now. I don't want to start out my video admitting to being over 300. That's just too much to take. Maybe I can just try really hard to eat good for the next week and a half, so that I'll surely be under 300 when I weigh myself for the first day of the video. I don't know.

I just wish it wasn't a thing I had to deal with. Wish in one hand...

Friday, October 17, 2014

Feminist Quandary

Since she's been a big deal in the news recently, I've become aware of Anita Sarkeesian, and started watching her YouTube videos.

I have a wife and daughters, and I want to do right by them, hopefully being a part in creating a world that's more hospitable to them to succeed and be happy. As a writer, that means I need to try to avoid tropes and stereotypes in my writing, I assume.

She does a whole series of videos about the tropes used in storytelling that are reinforcing negative gender stereotypes called Tropes vs. Women. Watching these videos makes me feel a little bit afraid to do anything creatively, though. Some of the tropes I don't think I'll have any problem avoiding, such as the Straw Feminist or the Mystical Pregnancy (Simi's pregnancy in Fireflies isn't a mystical pregnancy, right? Crap, maybe I haven't avoided it). But others I'm afraid I'll probably fall into even though I'm trying not to.

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is something that I'm afraid I might be doing in the story I'm writing right now. I'm not even sure I understand that one 100% yet. I get the idea that the problem is that these MPDGs don't have any life of their own, and are there purely to forward the story of the male protagonist. And, from what I understand, the way to avoid this is to make the MPDGs have a fully rounded character that has dreams and goals of its own that aren't dependent on the male character at all. But, if these characters are young slacker-types that don't really have any idea about what they want to do with their lives yet, and then the female performs MPDG-type services for the male character, does that make her an MPDG? And if they get married and make a life together, therefore, in a way, combining their goals and dreams into one, does she remain an MPDG? I don't want to perpetuate tropes and stereotypes, but I'm not even sure if I am or not.

Then there's the Evil Demon Seductress. I have a story that Rish and I have talked about or at least made reference to dozens of times on the show. We usually call it the Alien Love Story. I'm going to just summarize the whole story here, and then we can discuss it after.

It's a story about a guy who's a real nerd. He's never had a girlfriend, and he is very despondent about it. He works in Washington at the Pentagon as a secretary for some bigshot general or another. One day, he's going home at night, and he hears a big crash, and sees that someone has fallen in the alley beside his building. He runs to help, and finds that it's a woman, and a very beautiful woman at that. He takes her to the hospital, where they patch her up, but she can't remember anything about herself or anything else. She doesn't know where she lives, who she is, and so on. She asks the guy to take care of her, and he agrees. After all, she's gorgeous, and he's really lonely. In no time flat, he has fallen in love with this woman. She returns his affection. They get married. After the honeyglow has worn off, he starts to notice weird things about her. Eventually, he comes to the conclusion that his wife has been possessed by an alien. He confronts her, she admits that he's right. He says he's going to turn her in, she says he won't, and here's why, because if he does, he won't get to have her body anymore. Basically, she uses her sexuality to keep him in line, and, because he's lonely and vulnerable, he is defeated in that manner.

Now, there's more to the story, including a bit of a twist ending that really makes the story work for me, but after seeing the Evil Demon Seductress video, I'm not sure if I should ever write this story at all. It's just a sexist story, right? It teaches people that women are only powerful because of men's desire for their lady parts, and nothing else, right? Like Anita was saying in that video. Should I bother? Am I wrong with my analysis? Is there a way to save the story, and still write it without making it a degrading trope? Please, comment and tell me your thoughts on the matter.