Category Archives: Hmm

Deliberate vs casual poisoning

princess-bride

I heard an expression recently that I’ve been turning over in my mind the past few days while simultaneously reading the Machiavelli and Sun Tzu editions of The Art of War: “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” I heard it from someone who was essentially telling me to let go of something that was bothering me, because it was doing more damage to me than to the entities at fault. It made sense at the time and is a convenient mechanism to be able to let go of whatever is bothering oneself, but I haven’t decided if it’s valid or not.

I’ve always been intrigued by responses to female aggression, and how they are so very different than responses to male aggression. Men are allowed and encouraged to be angry from time to time, as it reinforces their manliness. But when women show even the slightest bit of aggression it is cause for behavioral modification. “Your message would be delivered much more effectively if you could deliver it without getting defensive,” is the PC psychological device to convey this. This is usually true, and a good thing to consider regardless of gender. But it depends on the audience and the validity of the statement.

Sometimes it’s not true though. Sometimes anger is a really effective way to deliver a message. Sometimes you’ve gotta throw down. But this should be done sparingly and considered a nuclear option for optimal results.

Only with both those methods exhausted is it time to turn to the poison. Sometimes the other person will stop in their tracks and look at you in your poisoned state and realize the fault in their actions. Sometimes when you drink poison, the other person does die. However, you can’t just casually drink poison and expect success. If you reach for the poison too quickly or frequently, your opponent will cease to feel the effects while you continue to suffer, resulting in inevitable defeat.

I originally thought this was a Buddhist quote, but then I looked up the origin and found it’s first source was an AA manual from the 80s, so that makes sense. But this is neither here nor there in terms of validity.

 

Kicking butts

It’s hard to say what happened in my brain the past month. Yesterday marked one month of me quitting smoking. I feel much more balanced, which was disconcerting at first but now I rather like it.

The first week I quit I stressed out so severely that I broke out in shingles across my back. It was blindingly painful, like how a fresh tattoo feels when the endorphiny numbness wears away. It wasn’t just the smoking cessation that caused it, it was a combination of that, the way I reacted to getting ditched and gaslighted by someone I loved, and trying so hard to taper and contain my stress so that I didn’t upset him further or my family I was visiting for the holidays. The way I allowed myself to bottle up and absorb all those self-injurious emotions drove me to the depths of my depressive capabilities, and all the while I was sitting there in blistering hell I couldn’t help but feel accomplished that I had conducted something like my own version of telekinesis. Like I mentally willed so much death into my being that it actually affected changes to my immune system on a microcosmic level and allowed a latent virus to flourish in my nervous system after being dormant for 22 years.

My academic adviser in college always used to comment about me being a scorpio. He’d say, “you scorpios, when you’re not stinging someone else, you’re stinging yourselves.” He was the only person I ever allowed to speak to me about astrology without starting an argument or walking away because the person was so full of crap. He was a philosopher, but he was well aware of science and used astrology as a way to reroute my frantic complaints. Like I would walk into his office fuming or crying over some unfair situation and pour everything out to him for 15 minutes, and at the end he would just say, “Well yeah you’re a scorpio,” and look at me as if to say ‘DUH’ and move on to the practical solutions. Chalmers Knight forever. But yeah, I do tend to sting myself if there’s no one else to sting, or to sting me.

I’ve always been a night owl for as long as I can remember, at times even keeping completely inverted hours, and I’ve always had wildly oscillating emotions. Lately though, I’ve been able to focus much more, though I don’t know whether it’s a product of my smoking cessation or the fact that I’m working on an article I really like. My mood has been pleasantly stable, though I don’t know whether that’s a product of my smoking cessation or excising a person who, in his unintentional though selfish immaturity, grabbed hold of my neuroses and pulled, stretching my patience to its limits. In any event, I feel pretty energized, and as an individual of scientific principles I think I can safely conclude that at least some of the overall changes in my health and affect can likely be attributed to smoking cessation.

A man walks into a bar…

Not just an ordinary bar, a speakeasy bar tucked away in Williamsburg proper with an entrance so discrete you could walk right by it while knowing the address. Above the narrow gray cement entryway is the word “bar” painted in the most delicate of fonts. The heavy wooden door gives way to a long hallway and a second door, which finally lets out into a huge, wooden room with no decorations except for the back light on the bottles of liquor positioned in an array across the wall behind the bar.

This is my place of sanctuary in New York, my Cheers, where everybody knows your name and if they don’t they learn it within minutes because all the weird night owls of Brooklyn go there to banter with strangers when they need to be alone in public. “Regularity” isn’t a term you can apply to much about my life in New York City, but going to that place on Tuesday nights is probably the most regular thing I’ve done throughout these past four years. On Tuesdays, the bar is pleasantly scarce, allowing my favorite, long-haired, Alkaline Trio-loving bartender plenty of time to pay attention to me. Sometimes he sings my name when I walk in, as I saunter across the room before I take my place on the last bar stool, the seat that is reserved for the bartender’s favorite by unspoken speakeasy law.

So last night, I was sitting there when a man walked into the bar. He was a patron of some regularity, as the bartender and Mary, the regular sitting next to me, greeted him by his name, Connor, and introduced him to me. I watched him interact for a few minutes, without saying anything. There are so many instances in my everyday life where I am compelled to force pleasantries with people who simply must be liked, but when I am out by myself in Brooklyn, I allow myself be as standoffish as I want.

Connor started explaining to the three of us that he had come here to escape an odd situation in which he had felt compelled to suddenly leave his girlfriend’s house. “I just had to get up and go right at that moment,” he said, confused. “I don’t know what came over me, I just got up and left.”

“Why?” the bartender asked.

“I don’t know,” Connor replied. “I asked myself that and I just couldn’t come up with an answer.”

“Do you usually?” I asked, entering the conversation. My participation was like a prize for him, and he began to speak animatedly as if his words were a return gift.

“Yeah. You know how like, when you’re thinking about something, and you ask yourself a question, and your brain answers back with the answer? It’s usually a back and forth, but this time it was just a blank. There was no answer. Don’t you do that when you think?”

“It’s a pretty fluid process for me,” I replied flatly. There was something about Connor and his lack of introspection that set my loser alerts on high.

“So you just left your girlfriend?” Mary asked.

“Yeah, I just needed to leave.”

“What happened that prompted you to leave?” I asked, playing psychologist.

“It was a pretty normal night,” he said.

“But what happened right before you got up and left?”

“Well…” he said before pausing for a moment, “there was a dysfunctional vagina incident.”

The end of the bar erupted in a chorus of “Ooooh”s and “Okay”s, glad to finally have the logical truth. I said nothing but put my elbow on the bar and pressed my fingertips to my temple. He continued:

“Yeah, we’ve been dating for a while and whenever we have sex it’s like fucking PEMDAS. You know what PEMDAS is, right?” he asked looking at me with a challenge in his eye.

“Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally,” I said, squinting at him. “How does PEMDAS apply to sex?”

“Because she needs everything to be done in a certain order or else it derails the whole train.”

“You know, just because you can’t get your girlfriend wet, it doesn’t mean she has a dysfunctional vagina,” I said. The bartender stifled a laugh.

“I knew one of you women was going to say that,” Connor said.

“So you got mad at her for not getting wet and then you just left?” Mary asked in disbelief.

Connor shrugged, and said he would have stayed if it had been later or he was tired, but there were waterworks of self-doubt, so he left and came here. The bartender was shaking his head at this point and caught my eye. Once upon a time in college, I used to think there was something wrong with me, that my body was broken somehow because it wouldn’t respond the way the boys I dated expected it to. I decided that sex was inherently unenjoyable, that the whole act was just a patriarchal plot to keep women submissive, and that women who claimed to like it were probably just deluded in a way similar to Stockholm Syndrome or were simply enduring it to obtain some power in the relationship. It wasn’t until that bartender and a few sets of soaking sheets that I realized how wrong I was.

I wonder how many women live their whole lives thinking they’re sexual misfits because the men who govern their sexuality aren’t comfortable or giving or skilled enough with their own to activate the sexual response mechanisms innate in their partners, physically and mentally.

Connor did a shot and asked the bartender if he wanted to roll the dice with him in a game of threes, but the bartender dismissed the idea. Connor didn’t ask Mary and I to play, obviously, since we’re women and all. But I slapped a bill on the table and told him to roll.

I took his money every game with a smile on my face.

On Fun In Haiti

Lots of people have fun in Haiti. A little-known secret about Haiti is that it is fun. It is easy to have fun, and too much of it if you’re not careful. Especially if you tend to abuse power, like drinking and driving, prostitutes, and general anarchy. If you don’t like those things, which I tend to not (save a little anarchy here and there, and beers-to-go when I’m in the passenger seat (which is always)), fun comes with a side of guilt.

This is because fun is a luxury. A luxury you are viscerally aware of when the majority of people you see every day are not having fun, they’re just “getting by.” This is because you must have money to have fun. I don’t consider myself as “having money” when I’m home in New York, so much as “getting by,” but here in Haiti I “have money.” And I feel damn guilty about it.

When I’m in a cab and the meter is running, I know it’s exactly the same price as a cab is in New York. When I go out to eat, the prices on the menus where I’m taken are the same prices on the menus at the places I frequent in New York. But it all feels more expensive, since here I’m in the maybe 5% of people of who have access to those things, and in New York I let other people pick up the tabs.

When I drink here, though, it feels cheaper. Beers are $2 or $3 here, whereas in New York, they’re $5-13. Maybe drinking is the global equalizer.

Tonight I drank some rhum Barboncourt, the national drink of Haiti, for the first time since the last time I was here. I banned myself from it after the night I allowed some UN guys to take me out to hear a Cuban band play at a local bar. I drank four “rhum punches,” a drink that is basically the Long Island Iced Tea of Haiti, where who knows what goes in it except a shit-ton of rhum and something that masks the taste.

I threw up when I got home that night and the whole next morning and afternoon. I don’t know if it was because I was dehydrated, or because when we left the bar and walked past the rows of tattered tents filled with displaced earthquake victims set up in the park across the street, the sick reality of the situation in Haiti hit me.

The UN guys I went to the party with were talking loudly and laughing when we walked out of there, reliving the fun highlights of a night that took place far away from any poverty or suffering. As we walked past the security staff, onto the street where we were only feet away from the tents, I shushed them.

“People are sleeping over there,” I hissed at them.

“Oh right, sorry,” they whispered back, with the concern of teenagers spending the night at a friend’s house after being reminded to not wake their parents, even though the parents know damn well there’s a slumber party going on and neither of the two parties is overly concerned about it.

They were here to help. They’re all here to help — the NGOs, the missionaries, and the Haitian bourgeois who so graciously contribute to the Haitian economy and create jobs. That’s what they tell themselves, and that’s what they believe. And because they’re here helping, working hard in this destitute country to lift the poor out of their unfortunate conditions, one by one, they’re entitled to a little goddamn fun at the end of the day.

So cheers to you, saviors of Haiti. Have fun. And when someone mugs or murders you or one of your friends in the street because they’re so fucking sick of hearing about how you’re there to help them while you and your kind walk around living life the way you’re accustomed while they’re starving and dying, then maybe Haiti can get some post-earthquake press while the rest of the world shakes their heads and mourns your tragedy, and the tragedy of why Haitians can’t just be civilized and accept the help they’re given.

Advertisers acknowledge the primary purpose of the Facebook is indeed stalking…

… and adjust their strategies accordingly:

facebookad-booyfriend

It was creepy enough when companies annouced products for parents to keep tabs on their teenage children via GPS. This is just over the top….

Luckily, there’s one for reverse-stalking as well:

facebookad-reverse stalking

I know advertising models are falling apart at the seams, but do they really have to resort to giving people the willies to secure click-throughs? This image haunts my dreams.

An interview with Ted Kennedy

The news that Senator Ted Kennedy succumbed to his malignant brain tumor and passed away on August 25 prompted Americans to mourn his loss. But for one man, Ted Kennedy, this day served as a weird reminder of his own mortality. I caught up with Ted Kennedy and our mutual friend and Googler, Lisa, on g-talk shortly after Senator Ted Kennedy’s passing to find out how this tragedy affected him.

me: Ted, how did it feel seeing the announcement of your death plastered over all of American media?
Ted: It was de-familiarizing and slightly anti-climactic…Well not anti-climactic, I was just surprised about my nostalgia for the time in my life when he had been alive.
me: I see.
Did Ted Kennedy’s passing ever make you stop to imagine that perhaps it was you who died that day?
Ted: No, but at least one person actually thought it was me when they were notified via a late night text.
Lisa: I probably would have thought that too, but it was Ted who was sending the text.
“Apparently Ted Kennedy died.”

To commemorate the death of Ted Kennedy’s name doppelganger, Ted and Lisa made this 2-minute video:

tedkennedytoilet