Archives for category: Space Exploration

Damn. Sesame Street turns out to be relevant to my life after all. I never imagined such a thing.

As far as I’m concerned, Mr. Rogers was the only person who ever had a calling to children’s television. Not coincidentally, he was one of the few children’s television personalities not to be insufferably condescending and annoying to adults, a virtue that made him tolerable for precocious children in his audience, too. In retiring, and shortly thereafter dying of cancer at a sadly young age, he made room in children’s broadcasting for an unconscionable parade of fuckheads, notably including Lamb Chop, Dora, and, forgive me for uttering the name, Barney.

One thing I’ll say for Sesame Street is that it was all right. It was overrated, but for the most part it was tolerable enough. Shrill elements on the right have complained that it unduly romanticizes city life and propagandizes youngsters against the virtues of the suburbs. Well fuck me. If the cities are in fact nothing but crackhead murders and postindustrial decay, the kiddos will become aware of this by the time they’re old enough to get their own apartments. This is why it’s hard to find a honky in Camden who isn’t a junkie. As one of the locals put it, prior to the heroin epidemic there “wasn’t no white people up in this motherfucker.”  And it’s a pretty embarrassing kind of cracker that the Walter Rand Transportation Center has been catching of late. With a crowd like that, I can forgive dude for being prejudiced, but he probably already knows that Camden attracts Whitey’s most fucked up constituents and wouldn’t take me, in my Dockers and aloha shirts, for being one of them.

Shriller elements, harder to the right, have accused Sesame Street of unduly romanticizing race relations and the intrinsic nature of black people, i.e., by suggesting that they can be trusted as neighbors. Oh dear. This is where the critique goes from Joel Kotkin having a bad day and accusing the urbanist crowd of desecrating the memory of his grandmother’s hard-knocks life in the Brooklyn tenements to intractable bigots donning bedsheets and cruising the Home Depot for rope. Again, by the time the kids are old enough to get their own apartments, they’ll be able to suss out whether the black people in their prospective neighborhoods are pretty much upstanding or harbor enough violent antisocial elements to scare a cracker into staying out of Dodge. This assumes that the kids have developed some street smarts and social skills along the way, which is a bit of a stretch in times as aggressively cocooned as ours, but is still a worthwhile baseline standard. If you raised children who are too hapless to do this, I can’t help you. I write this as someone who got polar-beared in Black Kensington during an overly sanguine Sunday night bike ride through the Badlands; I’m not naive about the intractable criminality of the black underclass. But yes, I’m sure that children will reflexively disregard anything they see on the streets with their own lying eyes that contradicts what they were taught in a television series about an eight-foot-tall version of the La Choy bird mascot carrying on full English-language conversations with a wooly mammoth.

It’s worth dwelling on the truth that many on the right wing in the United States have highly developed, florid persecution complexes. They live in a country with stratospheric black incarceration rates, often for minor drug offenses; multiple state and federal policies subsidizing rural and suburban areas at the expense of core cities; related federal policies subsidizing the most wacked-out, intransigent corners of the cracker range (think the Bundy “Ranch”) at the expense of calmer, more civic-minded, per capita and per acre more productive agricultural areas whose residents and politicians aren’t quite so shrill; unaddressed local structural racism enshrined in municipal charters, most notoriously in St. Louis County, where the Michael Brown shooting was really just the last straw in a campaign of municipal tax farming; and a number of extremely influential Christian lobbies with their own nationally syndicated publishing and broadcasting arms. In this context, Sesame Street looks less like a serious propaganda campaign than an artistic ghetto, albeit a comfortable one, to which the leftist troublemakers have been remanded so that they’ll stay out of Congress. Right-wingers scream bloody murder about how these left-leaning shows get federal funding through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, and so on, without explaining how this funding comes close to counterbalancing, let alone negating, the effects of the mortgage interest deduction, pro forma appropriation renewals for the military-industrial-prison complex, the Defense of Marriage Act, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, generous subsidies to ungrateful latter-day Whiskey Rebellion tax cheats, the CBN/TBN/K-Love/Eagle Forum/Concerned Women for America/Focus on the Family nexus, or the refusal of higher-level governments to rein in postage-stamp rotten boroughs. They don’t explain any of this because they can’t. To do so, they’d have to admit that they have real power and agency in all levels of government and across much of civil society, and they don’t want to concede that they aren’t just a bunch of victims.

These same factions shit a brick over liberal Hollywood elites propagandizing the mass man (or, if you wish, the mass woman) through bullshit blue-pill dramas like Sex and the City and Girls. One gloss I’ve seen for youngsters’ enthusiasm for city life is that they want to ape Carrie Bradshaw and company. Perhaps in Soviet America, hologram lives in YOU! I’ve never cared for the shallow message of Sex and the City, which I find corrosive, but again, there’s a lot more countervailing propaganda than the tradcons and the truly shitheaded right-wing concern trolls will admit. It’s no less effective for coming out of Colorado Springs rather than Hollywood, and its power is buttressed by the authoritarian tendencies of its audience, e.g., parents who will never let the car radio dial deviate from K-Love, no matter how deeply the music is pulled into a black hole of suck. Both sides of this culture war are playing dirty.

By prevailing industry standards, then, Sesame Street is pretty damned honest. To understand this, think for a moment about Oscar the Grouch. Imagine living in a nice brownstone neighborhood, maybe on the Upper West Side (the Upper East Side seems awfully high-hat for the ethos of Children’s Television Workshop), and suddenly some filthy motherfucker pops up out of a garbage can in front of your house, belligerently accosting passersby before dropping back under the lid. As a television contrivance, it’s pretty entertaining, but this is precisely because it’s freaky as shit. It would probably get tiresome in real life.

The creators of Sesame Street worked in New York City during some pretty rough stretches, including municipal insolvency and the crack epidemic. It isn’t hard to see what inspired Oscar as a character. New York is crawling with disheveled bums. It has always had an intractable homelessness problem. Does Oscar romanticize the homeless? Not by much. He’s a pretty accurate sketch of a Manhattan ventilation grate wino: not likely to assault a passerby, but very likely to scream obscenities at him. Oscar is exactly the Muppet one would expect to pop out of a doorway and shout, “Oh, for God’s sake, give me a fucking quarter, you dirty bastard! Give me some fucking bus fare! I have meeting uptown tonight! Jesus Christ, you cheap Jew!” Oscar can’t be so forward on TV, pursuant to the FCC’s glorious buzzkilling obscenity regulations, but it would be in character.

This isn’t the kind of language one hears from Mr. Snuffleupagus.

Oscar the Grouch comes to mind today because, I shit ye not, Farmer Uncle has been allowing a homeless dry drunk with apparent major mental illness to live in the farm bathroom. For real. I came in this morning to take a shower, having slept in my car at the Talent rest area last night, and Bad News Bubba was sleeping on an old van bench next to the bathtub. I didn’t even see him at first, so I was startled when he stirred while I was trying to calm down his dog. Under his blanket he looked like just another pile of barnyard junk.

The dog. Fuckin’ A. At least he isn’t using her as a prop, which is a great credit to him relative to all the trustfunder twatwaffles who use mangy pit bull mixes, or occasionally Labs, to guilt the productive into supporting their panhandling habits. A pit bull-Rottweiler mix, she’s actually a really sweet dog when she isn’t in guard mode, and she didn’t get rough with me today. But she isn’t the problem per se. The problem is that her owners have left her under Bad News Bubba’s long-term boarding care, and Farmer Uncle is allowing it. He’s had to remind Bad News Bubba to keep her out of the winery rooms, but he’s letting her stay. This arrangement may last for a year and a half; her owners are, respectively, on military deployment for that duration and nursing an infant. Bad News Bubba is their casual, off-the-books employee. And now he’s boarding their dog at a property where he’s been mostly getting in the way for almost two years. The Kids are gone, and the Vegetable Man isn’t around much, so Bad News Bubba is his greatest legacy. He’s the same one who broke a five-gallon carboy of pinot noir during a bottling run after spending half an hour telling a drunken tale about how he and a “derelict bum” (it takes one to know one) had been yelling at each other at the gas station about who was responsible for that bum’s fucking dog fucking eating Bad News Bubba’s fucking rotisserie chicken.

Bad News Bubba has lately invited another buddy, whom we’ll call Mr. Crapper, to build a new outhouse at the farm. Mr. Crapper is barely any more coherent than Bad News Bubba; neither of them can follow his own train of thought like a normal person. What the farm needs is a fucking flush toilet, but what it needs is not necessarily, or probably, what it will get. This also applies to financial solvency. Over the summer one of the neighborhood al fresco alkies wandered in late at night and stole two bottles of merlot. Bad News Bubba told me that he had talked to one of the neighborhood enforcers about the burglary, and that the enforcer said he had immediately ordered the burglar to leave town upon discovering the stolen wine. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the farm hasn’t developed, or won’t soon develop, a local reputation among the down-and-out alcoholics as a soft target full of Wow Much Wines. And it doesn’t mean that I’m not invested in this shit to the tune of $15k.

I’ll say, Mr. Rogers, it is indeed a beautiful fucking day in the neighborhood.

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One GinaMarie Zimmerman, a woman of no particular consequence who is famed for her televised status-whoring, was recently fired from her non-broadcast job for referring to welfare as “nigger insurance.” Let me reiterate: the fact that this woman is a vulgar, tasteless racist is not something about which I give a rat’s ass; Jimmy crack corn, and no, massa, I doesn’t care. Racial equity will not be brought about by raising holy hell every time some two-bit asshat says something bigoted about black people. One does not simply end racism, unless one also ends policies that prey upon racial minorities, but good luck getting Whitey to give a shit about some poor kid from the ghetto getting locked up on a trifle for being involved with drugs that members of Whitey generally use and traffic with impunity.

As it happens, Ms. Zimmerman (any relation to George?) has support from one of Philadelphia’s premier Aspies:

Actually although she was wrong to say it publicly and therefore must face consequences, I see her point. Where or not more whites are on it blacks tend to abuse it more so than other races and that is why we still have debit particular in Philly where im from. Heck my city can’t pay its school system. Anyway I go to Philadelphia shoprite in Cheltenham see many black folk pay their junk food with food stamps not necessarily healthy food thus become obese for some and all while wearing fur coat and driving an escalade with spinner dubs on it. Welfare abuse has to stop and maybe that is what she meant by it…

Well then. Let’s double down on this shit. Combine a childhood spent not far over the city line from the mildly hoodish areas of Philadelphia’s far north side, undergraduate studies in the barely cocooned Ivory-Tower-in-the-Badlands precincts of Temple University, and a case of Asperger’s that makes Alien Uncle sound like Cardinal Dolan, and a public recounting of that bigoted tale is probably inevitable. We Philadelphians call it like we see it. (I’m only kind of a Philadelphian, and not much of one lately, but I’m Philadelphian enough for the current purposes.) It’s one of the reasons that many outsiders find us quite rude. In parts of the country where fake pleasantry, passive-aggressiveness and subterfuge are held ideal, we look awfully forward and brusque. So be it; the average inhabitant of these places is disturbed. (Here’s looking at you, Ashland.) The Temple Clinger, however, takes this forthrightness to the next level. It doesn’t help that he sops up depravity from weird corners of the internet for regurgitation at the next opportunity instead of hanging out with real people, getting an idea of who they are, and letting them temper with some measure of sober decency the rubbish he reads online. Nor does it matter that he’s an impulsive fat guy whose Facebook profile picture is a selfie showing him decked out in a red suit for some big pimpin’. This doesn’t make him introspective enough to stop complaining about irresponsible, obese negroes on the dole.

As I intone whenever it seems topical, there is a credible fix for this dude’s amazing dipshittery: prostitution. He needs to be civilized by whores. After reading nuttery like his comment above, however, I tend to think that the Temple Clinger more specifically needs him some chocolate lovin’. If he doesn’t have a case of the jungle fever, he should. Yes, I’m being flip and trollishly politically incorrect, but I mean it. He’ll return from these trysts with comments about black chicks that I truly cannot imagine (if nothing else, his syntax is beyond me), but he’ll also learn how to relate to black chicks one-to-one, not as hoodrat ciphers at the Shoprite. He may discover that some of his favorite whores are black people. Again, impishly though I present my case, a black hooker will kill (softly, I assume) two birds with one stone: the sexual frustration and the racial trope-mongering. All the Temple Clinger needs to do to make this happen is give one of these ladies a call, and then get his stones off with the bird.

Ladies: if this guy hires you, let me know whether you’ve ever been picked up by an even weirder honky.

Back into the funhouse we go.

The other night I explored the rabbit hole of online diagnosis of personality disorders. Now, before you accuse me of lay quackery in pursuit of advantage in a family spat, allow me to ask: what say you of Drs. McGraw and Pinsky? I aver that I’m one of the less smarmy, mercenary and demagogic pop psychology enthusiasts. I don’t have shit on Phil or Drew. Perhaps scrambling through lists of diagnostic criteria in order to see what fits one’s relatives isn’t honorable, but neither are my relatives.

Besides, even if I make light of this mess, it’s no joke at all to say that the behavior of the two I’m trying to diagnose looks pathological. I’ve dealt with a lot of nuts and assholes, but there’s something that just seems different about Farmer Uncle and Stoner Aunt. They seem to be, to quote some endlessly annoying but perceptive chroniclers of British narcissism at the dawn of the Thatcher era, “special, so special.”

The Pretenders hit that nail on the head. Actually, I was quite surprised when I fact-checked the authorship of that hideous song on Wikipedia to discover that the Pretenders did not get up until well after the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, so late, in fact, that it was almost morning in America. Chrissie Hynde is, however, a boomer (born, like Alien Aunt, in 1951), and her rubbish about specialness captures the boomer zeitgeist of self-absorption in a way that few other bands have done. The most perceptive of these bands has probably been Stoner Aunt’s favorite, the Eagles, whose bailiwicks include whiny pedantry, self-important earnestness, desert cultists, and straight-up manipulative bitches who slander their entire sex by their existence: all stuff of the sixties, I say. Those fuckers may be annoying, but they know their shit. Besides, they have to be annoying to convey what was wrong with their generation.

Here’s where things get really interesting. There’s run-of-the-mill countercultural musheadedness, and then there are the special (so special) versions with which Farmer and Stoner bless the rest of us. If one’s view of human nature must be rosy and willfully ignorant unto stupidity, or if one must be intractably addled by New Age junk science, or if one must refrain from bathing regularly for no good reason despite really digging hot tubs, there are ways to do these things without being a nuisance to normal people. One of these is for the non-bathing spouse to be the nearly reclusive homebody, which is sadly the opposite of what Farmer and Stoner have done. (Caretaker Uncle: “I don’t think he bathes very often.” Yup.) Another is to steward one’s family business with something resembling a good-faith effort to discharge one’s fiduciary responsibilities to employees and investors, but I’ll leave further discussion of this matter for pretty much all my other posts.

The way to not be a malignant hippie that I find most fascinating at the moment, however, is the one that can be generalized as giving a shit about other people. There are more specific and loquacious ways to describe this approach, and we’ll discuss some of them (or, more accurately, some of their inverses) below, but giving a shit is a good umbrella concept. The rat’s ass that one gives is the horse’s ass that one does not become.

If that sounds pat or annoyingly witty, you should hear the moralistic gibberish that Stoner Aunt spews forth. My sweet lord.

What I have in mind here isn’t compulsive deference to everyone else’s whims. The point isn’t to turn people into hypersolicitous wet noodles or engineer an overbearingly conformist and communally oriented nightmare like Japan or Singapore.  We needn’t be a bunch of weenies or a beehive of soulless, repressed borgs. We just need manners and scruples. Fred Rogers, for example, had them. That’s why he could wax eloquent about blame foolishness like self-esteem just the way you are without turning himself into a peddler of corrosive mind-rot. He set a powerful example in his demeanor and his interactions with others that more or less counteracted the goofiness of anything that he said. He also had more decorum than some of his successors in the business, such as Barney the Dinosaur. And he certainly encouraged his audience to respect other people’s opinions and feelings; that is, to again have recourse to an Anglo-Saxonism that Mr. Rogers was too classy to use in public, to give a shit. He was all about intelligence for your life, a sort of amphetamine-free John Tesh for children. (It’s only capitalized if America’s premier brony says it, or if Mr. McFeely took some extra feel-good pills that morning and is ready to deliver the mail big-band style.)

Come to think of it, John Tesh wants you and me to be anodyne beyond what Fred Rogers ever suggested. He’s kind of a conformist twit, but damn, what a Legend and true son of the Guyland.

To get our trolley back on track, there are ranges of acceptable behavior (#TeshTip: maybe not such wide ranges after all), and the important thing is to fall somewhere within these ranges. If you go too far off the reservation, you may reach a point at which, say, the Mayo Clinic will tend to confirm your disgruntled relatives’ suspicions that you’re, oh, a Cluster B headcase.

And don’tcha know, our friends in Minnesota have been kind enough to offer us specific tutorials on three forms of Cluster B goodness, including Madonna’s favorite. But if you feel like you’re going to lose your mind in a fashion as pedestrian and milquetoast as that, you should check out what the Mayo Clinic has to say about those who keep on pushing my love over the breaking point (and definitely pushing my parents’ buttons, too) by being ostentatiously butthurt grandiosities or reckless, belligerent assholes with pretensions of alcoholism.

First, let’s consider some Opposing Viewpoints on family law: “Lawyers: I consulted with one the other day because your husband, who was also my de facto employer until last weekend, has been behaving really erratically around me for months and deliberately committed a crime against me last fall” vs. “Lawyers: Your son caused me severe anal trauma by writing me that he had talked to one who thinks that my husband may be senile, and just FYI, I should also mention that your son sometimes has weird ways of not establishing eye contact.”

I’m not kidding. That kooky bitch responded to an e-mail in which I asked her and her husband to leave me alone for the time being, indicated that I considered the circumstances dire enough to warrant a formal attorney’s consultation, and apprised her of serious, specific objections to their behavior, including malicious criminal activity directed at me on her husband’s part, by surreptitiously complaining to my dad that I had hurt her feelings and that I had previously kind of disturbed her with an odd mannerism that she hadn’t thought important enough to bring to his attention in the preceding several years but now found relevant. Responding to a pro se cease-and-desist letter by making a nearly ad hominem attack on the prospective litigant to one of his parents is the kind of crackpot idiocy that gets people sued. Stoner Aunt was either completely off her goddamn rocker or, more likely, too arrogant and contemptuous to take me at all seriously. Or maybe a bit of both: “Well, would you fucking look at that insolent little peon, presuming that I’m answerable to the law courts!” 

That ain’t normal. I’m just sayin’. As a matter of shortsighted expediency it made sense to stir up my dad against me, but anyone with an inkling of how American courts work would recognize that stirring up family trouble with a prospective legal adversary who has already made his preliminary legal position a matter of electronic record is all kinds of crazy. It’s even worse in Stoner’s case because one of my complaints in the e-mail had been about my impatience with her and Farmer’s “evasions, half-truths, red herrings and outright fabrications.” Three out of four isn’t bad for the plaintiff. For defense counsel, it’s an occasion for much facepalmage. Come on, your nephew e-mails you a pro se complaint that you’ve been evasive, and you respond not only by being evasive but also by badmouthing him to his father? The fuck? 

Keep in mind that attorneys usually have horrible things to say about pro se litigants. If I have a fool for a client, I’ll have the village idiot for an adversary.

Stoner is clearly trying to assert the queen’s prerogative here. Bizarrely, she seems to think that this is a sane thing to do when I’ve advised her that I’m in touch with an attorney because her husband has gotten out of control and expect her to tone down her own behavior if she’s to have any real relationship with me going forward. But royals aren’t weird in the head merely on account of inbreeding. Stoner Aunt has been lucky enough to marry into a family that is too fucking mellow and conflict-averse to give her shit for being a self-righteous asshat. My mom’s side of the family would probably have been less hospitable, being recently descended from a tightly corseted fourteen-stone Ulster Scotch battle ax who successfully sued the NYPD for false arrest in 1936 and a rather Asiatic Jew who told her son, “You look like a Chink, you Chink.”

Instead, what we have now is my parents routinely tripping over themselves to make excuses for her, one of their favorites being, “She’s always been that way.” That can certainly be said of Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, the missing Rockefeller, whose childhood acquaintances describe him as having been a hideously mendacious social climber. I reckon it might be said of Jerry Sandusky, too. You know, kiddy-diddling has always been his scene.

Perv be with you. Let us offer one another the sign of perv.

The salient thing here is that Stoner Aunt’s bizarre disregard for others goes back decades, probably to childhood. She probably got a decent share of it from her mother, who my dad, not normally one to paint others with a broad brush, has called “a weird woman.” Her mother is in the habit of sending hard right-wing chain e-mails stuffed with stupid partisan jokes and imagery of Barack Obama as a Hindu god to a mailing list that includes Stoner and other avowed leftists. I’ve long had the strong sense that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

They’re both well weird. Last year, Lord Lochforrest asked me whether Stoner was a narcissist: “Does she do things like see you eat a candy bar and totally flip out at you?” At the time, I thought that he was using an overbroad definition of narcissism, but now I’m not so sure. So let’s compare her behavior to the Mayo Clinic quick-and-dirty checklist for NPD:

  • Believing that you’re better than others: BINGO
  • Fantasizing about power, success and attractiveness
  • Exaggerating your achievements or talents: YUP
  • Expecting constant praise and admiration: YUP
  • Believing that you’re special and acting accordingly: BINGO
  • Failing to recognize other people’s emotions and feelings: BINGO
  • Expecting others to go along with your ideas and plans: BINGO
  • Taking advantage of others: BINGO
  • Expressing disdain for those you feel are inferior: BINGO
  • Being jealous of others
  • Believing that others are jealous of you
  • Trouble keeping healthy relationships: YUP
  • Setting unrealistic goals
  • Being easily hurt and rejected: BINGO 
  • Having a fragile self-esteem: BINGO
  • Appearing as tough-minded or unemotional

Partial hit on eleven out of sixteen, square hit on eight. Damn. When I call these square hits, I mean that these attitudes and behaviors are egregious, easily in the 95th percentile or higher for weirdness and pathology among everyone I’ve ever known to any significant extent.

Now, let’s rate Farmer Uncle:

  • Believing that you’re better than others: BINGO 
  • Fantasizing about power, success and attractiveness
  • Exaggerating your achievements or talents: BINGO 
  • Expecting constant praise and admiration: YUP
  • Believing that you’re special and acting accordingly: BINGO 
  • Failing to recognize other people’s emotions and feelings: BINGO 
  • Expecting others to go along with your ideas and plans: YUP
  • Taking advantage of others: BINGO
  • Expressing disdain for those you feel are inferior: BINGO 
  • Being jealous of others: YUP 
  • Believing that others are jealous of you
  • Trouble keeping healthy relationships: BINGO 
  • Setting unrealistic goals: YUP 
  • Being easily hurt and rejected: YUP
  • Having a fragile self-esteem: BINGO 
  • Appearing as tough-minded or unemotional

Partial hit on thirteen out of sixteen, square hit on eight. Caveat: I consider Farmer Uncle’s slightly higher score misleading because his behavior and attitudes are merely egregious by comparison to normal people, i.e., people other than his wife. He fails in an absolute sense, but in a relative sense compared to Stoner’s living absurdity, he wins.

Now for Farmer’s real test. Let’s see what our Minnesotans have to say about symptoms of antisocial personality disorder:

  • Disregard for right and wrong: BINGO 
  • Persistent lying or deceit to exploit others: BINGO 
  • Using charm or wit to manipulate others for personal gain or for sheer personal pleasure: YUP
  • Intense egocentrism, sense of superiority and exhibitionism: BINGO
  • Recurring difficulties with the law: NEXT THING TO IT
  • Repeatedly violating the rights of others by the use of intimidation, dishonesty and misrepresentation: BINGO 
  • Child abuse or neglect
  • Hostility, significant irritability, agitation, impulsiveness, aggression or violence: BINGO 
  • Lack of empathy for others and lack of remorse about harming others: BINGO
  • Unnecessary risk-taking or dangerous behaviors: BINGO 
  • Poor or abusive relationships: BINGO 
  • Irresponsible work behavior: MINOR, BUT WORSENING
  • Failure to learn from the negative consequences of behavior: YUP 

Shit. Partial hits on twelve out of thirteen, square hits on eight. He and Stoner have never had children, so that could explain why his batting average isn’t a perfect 1.000, but he has damn well neglected my welfare as his adult nephew and employee, as well as that of other farm tenants and employees.

The only aspects of Farmer Uncle’s antisocial behavior that argue against giving him an APD diagnosis are the time of onset and the pattern of progression. The diagnostic criteria indicate early onset and attenuation over time: “[‘S]ymptoms may begin in childhood and are fully evident for most people during their 20s and 30s….Although considered a lifelong disorder, some symptoms — particularly destructive and criminal behavior and the use of alcohol or drugs — may decrease over time, but it’s not clear whether this decrease is a result of aging or an increased awareness of the consequences of antisocial behavior.” In Farmer’s case, the earliest credible onset, as far as I can tell, was at the age of 62, with a noticeable worsening at the age of 65.

A cynical observer might regard it as one of those retirement things: an asshole to his wife upon becoming a pensioner, an asshole to others as well upon becoming a beneficiary of socialist old people medicine. What actually happened, as best I can tell, is that he and Stoner both became unhinged as their business enterprises began exsanguinating in the current depression. By the way, Great Recession my ass: it’s a fucking Fourth-Turning orgy of ahistorical economic idiocy. Farmer and Stoner took a massive ass-reaming that corresponded almost precisely (i.e., plus or minus a quarter or two) to the national aggregate collapse. An awful lot of the damage that they sustained was completely out of  their control. The real problem for the rest of us (and for their marriage) wasn’t that they got hammered, but that they responded by going batty. Regularly having yelling matches on an hourly basis about why the trash hasn’t been taken out or what’s for dinner is straight-up wiggity-wack. I don’t recall many of these fights having the least pertinence to their solvency. The only exception that really stands out is the one in which Stoner Aunt complained, “I’m sick of doing all my baking in this fucking wood stove.” Farmer Uncle’s response was to denigrate her for not having the right combination of skill, attention and interest to manage the fuel supply and damper settings at a time when she was also trying to measure and mix ingredients, a stance that to my amateur eyes looked assholishly cuckoo.

Nor was fighting their only avenue of disruption. They also alternated abruptly between the real world, in which they openly freaked out about their dire finances, and a King Friday-grade Land of Make-Believe, in which they smugly asserted that all was well in their kingdom. The problem wasn’t just that they were making patently ridiculous and self-serving statements about their finances and then getting pissed off if I even gently challenged them. Their thin-skinned efforts to visualize something other than parlous finances and rank squalor and disorganization into existence were unpredictable. They would surface into the real world without warning, and they would descend back into the quagmire of bullshit without warning. It was a bipolar sort of delusion, sometimes wildly so, and they apparently had no qualms at all about using intimidation and emotional manipulation to force those around them (mainly me) to express agreement with whatever version of reality they were promoting at the moment. They were all over the place, and everyone else had to be exactly where they were at all times or else risk a tantrum. It was an absurd, crazymaking sort of caprice.

By the way, I can deal with a lot of cuckoo if it isn’t projectile and malicious. I can deal with people who are consistently off the wall in their thinking, or who live in unpredictable, baffling emotional states, as long as they have manners about it. The fundamental problem with Farmer and Stoner is that the default settings to which they regress in times of adversity are, respectively, heavily affected redneck assholery and lukewarm, passive-aggressive, narcissistic trolling.

These approaches are both vile, but on their own they aren’t particularly strong evidence of personality disorders. In Stoner Aunt’s case, however, less egregious but still serious examples of the same sort of behavior apparently date back at least to her late twenties, when Farmer Uncle first introduced her to my dad’s extended family. Mind you, my main sources on this subject are my parents, and as I mentioned above, Stoner’s mother is mildly disturbed in a narcissistic way. Incidentally, Captain Bones’ father, a man who drives Captain Bones up the wall and whom my dad has long made out to be the most powerful narcissist he knows, plasters his own Facebook wall with the same kind of right-wing brain rot that Stoner’s mom disseminates in round-robin e-mails to those she loves. Stoner’s politics are at the opposite extreme, but only marginally more thoughtful, civil and dignified. As a matter of course, whenever she opens her mouth about politics she provides an object lesson in why everyone my age wants the boomer leadership to just shut the fuck up. She’s far from the only boomer whose style of discourse on controversial matters verges on the feral, but her self-importance goes a lot deeper and wider than that. My guess is that the assholiness that my parents detected in her as long ago as 1973 in fact dates to her childhood.

Again, this is not just run-of-the-mill abrasiveness, high-hattery or hypersensitivity. Rather, it is an exceptionally unique sort of smug, contemptuous, tautological self-righteousness, reinforced with a finely tuned, strongly amplified, ostentatious sense of grievance. It isn’t something that was deliberately cultivated in her by “society” asshats or their cunt-punting understudies in the sororities as a prerequisite for acceptance as a lady of good breeding rather than a vulgar woman of the slums. Stoner is the oldest of four siblings raised by a twice-divorced nobody of a mother in a couple of pedestrian Bay Area neighborhoods, one of which is still rather workaday. Look at it this way: the Palo Alto that my parents and I left in 1992 might as well have been picked up by an Erickson air crane and dropped into Buena Park. Seriously, the entire nonacademic Mittelstand that one encountered on California Avenue or in Midtown in 1990 can be found at Paul’s Place between about 11:30 and 2:30 weekdays in 2013. (Get the Ortega burger meal. Just do it. Dayyum, is it good eatin’ for cheap.) Now consider that Palo Alto had already become a much more gentrified place when my parents and I moved away for pragmatic reasons having to do with family and work than it had been when Farmer Uncle and Stoner Aunt fled fifteenish years earlier because they were CCR-style country bumpkins from the Peninsula and the traffic was making Stoner le mad. The techies had started moving in, and housing prices had increased by a factor of eight of ten in that time. “Mid-Peninsula” was not fraught with the hideous sociological baggage that weighs it down today. It was a normal place. In demographic terms, Menlo Park was a bayside version of Visalia. The pigs hadn’t yet been let into the clover field.

Yet Stoner apparently emerged not only from this middlebrow, upstanding, more or less well-mannered environment, but also from Da-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-vis, already possessed of her royal prerogative. Several decades in Ashland didn’t help things in the slightest (self-sorting of the wing nuts into their geographically segregated echo chambers never does), but even before she moved to Ashland she had that off-putting, contemptuous pretension about her. My reference some paragraphs above to the erstwhile Clark Rockefeller was all too apt: they were both just too much for their circumstances. In an odd sense, Stoner Aunt didn’t go far enough in her pretension; had she feigned blue blood like our boy Clark did, she, too, might have been able to take the money and run a time or two.

Where she may have gone too far, in retrospect, was in divorcing Lord Antonov, an engineer, before vesting Social Security surviving spouse benefits, and in subsequently getting remarried to a college dropout who had been slumming it with a bunch of roommates and working as a line cook. Had Lord Antonov been sadistic, or generally deranged, or just weird in the way that his colleagues often are (the gents especially, it seems; that’s one sausage fest that women in the profession tend to find disappointing, if not insufferable), Stoner Aunt might have had good reason to throw in the towel, but to the small extent that she talks about Lord Antonov, her main complaint is that he was “boring.”

Shit. What a downwardly mobile White Whine. What’s disturbing, though, is the possibility that she took up with Farmer Uncle because she recognized some kind of latent nastiness in him. For one thing, he’s always been the most uncouth member of his sibship. Maybe he spent too much time around Grandpa, who tended to gamble away the family’s scarce money and, according to Caretaker Aunt, late in his life turned into something of a wifebeating shit. Farmer was Grandpa’s favorite, but I’m still skeptical that that’s enough to explain why he’s such an outlier compared to the other four. Grandma had a huge influence on all five of them, and a lot of the stuff that he did around me he wouldn’t have dreamed of doing in her presence. As far as I can tell, Grandma was fine with Farmer going downmarket (shit, she was fine with Alien Uncle cluttering her driveway and garage with old clunkers and spare parts), but she would have been anguished had she believed that he had turned into a high-functioning dirtbag.

That said, if he was one when he took up with Stoner, it must have been subtle. The thing that really got Grandma tied in knots was that they were “living in sin.” (This is one of the most dumbed-down, Orwellian Christian euphemisms ever devised; we all live in sin, even if Ashlanders like to ignore this truth because it’s a total bummer, man.) Just as the aspersions that Grandma cast on Stoner Aunt for being a divorcee were inadvertently slanderous of all other divorcees, her prayers that she and Farmer stop “living in sin,” and her forthrightness about this aspect of her prayer life, ultimately helped get Farmer and Stoner stuck in a permanent roommate arrangement from hell. Stoner Aunt wasn’t exactly good news for Farmer or for the rest of the family, but Grandma used the wrong moral framework to critique her. Fornication was one of the most pedestrian sins of the Summer of Love. Shunning prospective sex partners who strove to live lives of dignity and taste in favor of the defiantly uncouth was an Aquarius classic. It’s not as if the fifties and early sixties hadn’t been saturated with pop culture models of sexual self-determination on the part of people who made an effort to bathe, dress halfway decently and groom themselves in some fashion, instead of donning rags, then doffing the same rags and openly fucking in mud pits under the influence of hard drugs. Even the amphetamine culture, which enjoyed one of its heydays during the Eisenhower Administration, was geared more towards housewives taking their duly prescribed upper snacks at home and then getting shit done than it was towards late-stage tweakers scurrying around in low-rider pajamas at the 7-Eleven.

The Lord Antonov-to-Farmer Uncle fiasco gives me this sinking feeling that Stoner Aunt is an object lesson in that revolting Chateau Heartiste maxim, alpha fucks and beta bucks. Get bored wif da engineer, get bored by da dropout: dat is how we roll. LOLZLOZLZOLOZO. I guess there’s some equity in the reciprocal awfulness of their decision, and in the fact that Lord Antonov got released from bondage to a narcissistic, henpecking freak who intimidates her in-laws. But even if Farmer and Stoner deserve each other, the rest of us don’t deserve their folie-a-deux intimidation of anyone who treats them like commoners when they’d rather be treated like feudal lords. We shouldn’t be suffering collateral damage from their bad judgment in shacking up. For crying out loud, they shouldn’t be repaying my parents’ beta bucks and my thousand-odd hours of farm labor with such aggressively fraudulent simulacra of independence. If I can live with enough humility not to brag that I totally have my shit together when I’m financially dependent on my parents, why the fuck can’t those two disingenuous mooches do so?

That’s right. My troubles are a mishmash of Cluster C symptoms. Meek loserdom, you might say, but at least I don’t have a goddamn chip on my shoulder. It goes with the territory, to the extent that I’m in that territory, and in any event, Stoner Aunt has gotten lost much deeper in her own. So has Farmer Uncle; clinically or not, he’s kinda not right in the head. They both like to go into the bush Livingstone-style, and they’re good enough at it that they get me blamed for pointing in their direction and saying, no seriously, they’re exploring the heart of darkness. These are, like the most racist title of the least racist book I’ve ever read, Dark Subjects.

What what in the butt? Hurt in the butt! That’s what!

For a summary of practically every counterpoint that Stoner Aunt has ever made to substantive criticism from me or one of her other relatives by marriage, see the title. We’re lucky to enjoy exceptions to the rule on even a quarterly basis. The syntax fits the bill, too, although I prefer not to dwell on it because Stoner’s newfangled nouns and convoluted, passive-aggressive, moralistic ways of presenting what should be straightforward statements are some of the least entertaining things imaginable that are also downright bizarre. It’s much more worthwhile to watch the Temple Clinger mangle the language on Facebook.

And to think that what scandalized Grandma about Stoner Aunt was that she was a divorcee. Look, divorcees are cool. So are laicized Jesuits, probably for some of the same reasons. If you don’t believe the latter point, behold John “Bye-Bye” McLaughlin, and then shut your mouth, if it hasn’t gone silently agape in awe of its own accord (and it will the moment you hear him enunciate “Pethokoukis”). I dig divorcees. Lady Kentfield is one; she’s a hot mess, but she’s honorable about it. This super-hot older MILF in Eureka with whom I routinely flirt at the first opportunity is a divorcee. So is a somewhat prettier lady in her clique whom I find less captivating mainly because she’s mentally stable and shit. Referring to Stoner Aunt as a divorcee is like referring to Charles Cullen and Orville Lynn Majors as male nurses. I don’t care how factually accurate it is to say such a thing; it’s still a slur. It still tars the vast majority of the cohort in question who aren’t like that.

Do I descend into the Godwinian quagmire of moral relativism? Look at this way, the way Mohammad Ali might: no Hoosier in a mullet ever killed me with an opiate overdose. And come to think of it, court officers have been known to stuff a rag in Nurse Cullen’s mouth when he won’t shut up. (For realz. They don’t fuck around in the DelVal.) It’s a custom that we might find salutary and conducive to the peace in our own parts farther west.

Before accusing me of florid delirium on account of sleep deprivation, keep in mind that Stoner Aunt isn’t one to esteem free speech for the rest of us. What’s sauce for the gander, I say, is sauce for the easily ruffled goose. Okay, woman, you don’t want me telling you to shut up because you’re being a self-righteous ass? Fine. How about you stop attempting to chill my own criticism with your protestations of grievous butthurt?

Stoner Aunt is probably ignorant of the concept of butthurt, just as she is of science. She doesn’t spend enough time online. Butthurt has to be the most righteous and eloquent vulgarity ever to have emanated from the electronic hivemind. Really, though, she wouldn’t want to examine herself (or her conscience, as the popish among us might put it) any more than she would want to examine how refined complex carbohydrates are actually digested and how that differs from the digestion of sucrose. She wouldn’t want to see the workings of her grievance-mongering psyche as it unleashes its self-importance on those around her and then prickles at the first criticism, the mildest rebuke from her fellows. She wouldn’t want to understand the true pathos of her hypocritically elevated regard for her own tender fee-fees and her queen-of-the-mountain act. Understanding the true grotesquerie of the royal prerogative is a total bummer, man. Why manifest negative shit like that when you could manifest taking it easy? What, you want me to take it easy on them? Farkle you, asshole!

That’s the beauty of it. We hurt her in the same orifice from which she routinely addresses us. Shit, it isn’t even that we’re trying to hurt her; it just happens whenever we approach her like an adult and get all Debbie Downer on her because she was throwing her weight around like some grandiose but downwardly mobile member of the Victorian aristocracy. A butt hurt by any other name is still an ass assaulted. How dare anyone give her the hairy eyeball for eating straight out of the serving dish with her bare hands (but daintily, with thumb and index finger!), then insulting her inferiors, then spouting some quack rubbish, then reaching for her clutching pearls, and two seconds later saying obscene things about prominent politicians while leaving detritus and grease on the dishes that she’s pretending to wash! Who do those fuckers think they are? Equals? Lese majeste! (She probably doesn’t understand that concept, either, or its sad pertinence to her worldview.)

Hey, it’s a lot harder to articulate a substantive response to meritorious criticism than to whine, “Oww, poopy hole!” In a way that I have observed but cannot understand, people like Stoner Aunt somehow find it less pathetic to dial the waambulance on whine-one-one than to unabashedly admit that they expect to receive more deference than they give. This confuses me because both approaches are devoid of decorum and self-respect. I guess one needs less of those things when one visualizes one’s own self-image into existence from a pile of steaming bullshit. The other thing that probably motivates Stoner Aunt to proclaim her butthurt rather than make coherent counterarguments is that butthurt is entirely subjective, if you’re groveling or worn down enough to submit to the distorted perceptions of your self-aggrandizing relatives. (My parents are.) If Stoner believes in anything (faith being shown in works, which would totally blow minds in Ashland, dude), she believes in expediency. So does Farmer. It’s a lot more expedient to make vague claims of butthurt that cannot be conclusively disproven than to make specific claims that are patently ridiculous.

I really can’t say how conscious Stoner Aunt is of any of this evasiveness. It’s a fool’s errand to try to pinpoint where she is at any given moment on the spectrum between home planet living and L. Ron Hubbard astronautics. If it sounds schizophrenic, all I can say is that thinking about it in any depth makes it look schizophrenic. Where Farmer Uncle likes to play redneck alcoholic, Stoner Aunt likes to play space-warping nutcase. She isn’t the disinhibited one, either, so we got trouble.

Fire on the mountain.

From the comments:

“I was just chatting with my coworker about this last week at the resturant. Do not know how on the planet we landed on the topic seriously, they”

Nigerian much?

Eh, my late Nigerian relatives, the ones who occasionally bequeath me all upon dying in plane crashes, are probably less trouble than some of my living relatives. They don’t have my parents over a barrel with implicit threats of belligerent asshattery in the event that they are challenged, for one thing.

By the way, I learned tonight that Farmer Uncle is even more cuckoo-bananas than I had understood. We may have more aliens than we have names for them. I’m pretty sure that Farmer Uncle has been exploring more distant moons than Alien Aunt has over the past month and a half, and the only reason he’s on the near side of Alien Uncle (an improvable statement, actually) is that he’s competing with an Aspie.

I run out of superlatives for the hippie derp.

Facebook made me physically ill tonight. To hew to accuracy at the expense of truth, a round of interpersonal drama facilitated by and conducted over Facebook made me ill. Happily, this means that I am not currently a victim of Mark Zuckerberg’s free agency, which is a great way of staying on the sunny side of life, as they taught us in Boy Scouts, and studiously forgetting that the other party to this pathetic drama is a woman whom I hold in ever so much higher esteem than that smirking babyfaced twit.

The scenario here is horseshit worthy of the most banal, navelgazing teen emo blogs: she accepted my friend request, I made a somewhat edgy comment on one of her photos, I may have put her off further with some of the material that I had posted on my own wall, and she defriended me. The whole sequence played out within about 48 hours.

It’s absurd that I got worked up over it. It’s also absurd that it took place between a thirty-year-old man and a woman in her late twenties. But isn’t the only factor that makes this donnybrook surprising. My erstwhile Facebook friend, Lady Huntington, is by all other appearances quite levelheaded and mature. She seems to burn at a pretty hot temperature, but I’ve never taken her to be flighty, impulsive and dramatic like Sweet Thang and some of the latter’s friends. I guess I missed some signs to the contrary. Admittedly, I base this assessment on the one and only time that I met Lady Huntington and a smattering of her Facebook posts that I saw, but I think I got a fairly accurate impression of her. Some people’s personalities really come through in their portraits and writing; she seems to be one of them.

The big wrench in the works is that Lady Huntington is one of Baywatch’s friends. I met her at a birthday party of Baywatch’s that I more or less crashed. Facebook played a role in the miscommunication that time, too, basically serving as a platform for Baywatch to be coy about who was actually invited. The truth, though, is that I have been far too clingy around Baywatch and her crew down south. My feelings about Baywatch and her friends are far too entangled in my feelings for coastal Southern California, where I was first seriously tempted to relocate in 2006, more than three years before I first met Baywatch. Lord Lochforrest had an even more sporadic role in my life at that time than he does now, and since our common grandmother (biological for him, honorary for me) died I’ve had practically no relationship with her other surviving relatives. As I got to know Baywatch, then, I made the mistake of sincerely hoping that she would be the lynch pin that would make everything fall into place for me socially down south. For a month or two she was starting to do that for me in Arcata, so this wasn’t a completely ridiculous pipe dream. The big problem was that I just couldn’t keep my shit together. I was a hot mess. And I’m not kidding at all when I say that Baywatch has approached me with far more graciousness and constancy than I expected or can reasonably expect. Even a tiny bit of grace can make a huge difference when it’s genuine.

Still, my social situation can look tragic. I probably wouldn’t be such a clingy wreck around Baywatch if I hadn’t had such a hard time living on my own in Philadelphia after college. The loneliness got overwhelming a number of times, and that was with Junior Bear and his crowd maintaining bases in Horsham, Olney and Manayunk; my apartment was a few blocks from Market East, a rail hub with direct connections to all three. Lord Wallingford, a friend of mine in the District of Columbia who seems to handle solitude much better than I do and has a fairly consistent social life at work with some of his colleagues, has told me that he wishes he had more companionship. He lives alone in a studio apartment, much like I did in Philly, although even when he had roommates at his previous apartment, none of them seemed to be close to one another. The roommate situation with which I was most familiar in Philadelphia was a hell-on-wheels clique that split a rented Victorian in Manayunk. This place was one of the main crash pads for me, Junior Bear and our extended crew for a few years, and it could be a nightmare. We regularly had to deal with one of the housemates, Prefontaine, getting shitfaced, paranoid and semiambulatory; he often came home with unexplained bruises, and he needed $3k in dental work after faceplanting on the R6 tracks. He and regular houseguest Herb Hancock were both known to piss on the couches, and another housemate, Bulldog, was a weird abrasive who, I’ve been told, has mellowed out and matured beyond belief in the past couple of years. Junior Bear’s best friend told me that he declined an invitation to fill a vacancy at the Manayunk crash pad and continued living at home instead because it was simply too unhealthy an environment.

I was never as alone in Ashland as I was in Philadelphia, but in a way my living situations, first with Farmer Uncle and Stoner Aunt and then around various losers at the farm, were just more insipid variations on the horseshit that I witnessed in Manayunk. These were de facto roommate arrangements from hell; I got the same hideous drama that I would have expected from strangers on Craigslist, but without the explicit recognition of the nature of the arrangement. This delayed my recognition of what exactly was wrong with the arrangement. My default gloss was run-of-the-mill family trouble, when really Farmer Uncle pulled a lot of the same shit that unnerves people on Craigslist: butting into my business, bumming rides and groceries off of me with a studied and very forced coolness, being a slob with atrocious table manners, having petty shouting matches with his wife over trivialities all the time.

The sick irony is that I have a sizable social network in place in Ashland. This would be a huge help if it weren’t comprised overwhelmingly of assholes, earnest dipshits, and those beholden to either or both. It was a fool’s errand for me to try to reframe my reasons for being in Ashland, or for doing anything else. Believe me, I tried, but Farmer and Stoner kept hosing everyone down with more self-serving bullshit whenever I tried to correct the record; I was shoveling the Augean Stables. If I wanted to be my own person in Ashland, I would have to shut out almost everyone I know there and hope that my social circles don’t come to include people who know Farmer or Stoner, both of them quite well-known and popular in town. I have neither the energy nor the skill to adequately counteract the barrage of fabrications, presumptions, half-truths and lies that Farmer and Stoner unleash on all who are within earshot. I can’t deal with that place. It’s bad juju land.

Plus there’s Farmer Uncle’s disinhibited behavior. I consulted Lord Wallingford about it since he’s an attorney, and he said that Farmer is clearly off his goddamn rocker. As he put it with respect to Farmer’s drinking behind the wheel and defying my parents’ wish that he stop, “he obviously isn’t playing with a full deck.” That was my thought, too, but my parents seemingly can’t bring themselves to admit that this country drunk shtick is not the behavior of a person of fundamentally sound mind and good morals. My mom even brought up Rashomon as an analogy to explain how different people come to different conclusions about the same event, i.e., for why other people might not regard Farmer and Stoner as malicious yahoos. So here I am, one of the assigned family fuck-ups, forced to stand up to my parents and tell them that I’ve seen what I’ve seen, that they haven’t seen all of it, and that I’m in the right and they’re in the wrong. Besides, how the hell does one conclude that playing alcoholic’s chicken with the Oregon State Police and then defying one’s older brother-cum-major creditor when asked to stop is not completely out of control? By what reasoning is such a self-righteous ass held to be misunderstood and deserving of unending forbearance?

This stuff affects me. Even when I don’t dwell on it, it’s in the back of my mind. We have a family reunion coming up this summer, and Alien and Caretaker Aunts are planning to attend. I’d like to see both of them, but things are obviously really touchy with Farmer and Stoner, and I’m at a loss to keep them from lighting the powder keg in the interest of airing and assuaging their own butthurt. I’m not likely to lay a finger on the tar baby at the reunion, since I’m very conflict-averse, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll do likewise in consideration of the small mercies that they receive from me. Then there’s Farmer Uncle’s entanglement in my professional life, which he so poisoned by injecting extraneous family drama; even so, I still need him as a reference since he’s my prior employer.  Seeing how all this shit has affected my psyche and my relationship with my parents, I can’t imagine that it doesn’t also affect relationships with my friends.

One of the things that I end up doing is venting about this drama on Facebook. I’m careful about the privacy settings, but apparently not careful enough, since I seem to have alienated several people, including formerly close friends, to the point of their defriending me because they didn’t care for my negativity. That’s the most plausible inference I can make, in any event. It’s a really disconcerting situation. Why, I wonder, would people get in touch with others on Facebook if they do not want to hear about what’s on their minds? The very platform is notorious as a den of oversharing; that risk is known. It’s an inherent problem for anyone who doesn’t severely self-censor, because it’s impossible to keep track of dozens, let alone hundreds or thousands, of acquaintances’ tastes and interests for the purpose of not offending them in public or semi-public posts.

I recall twice removing people as friends because their posts were annoying me. Both of these guys were absolute bozos. One of them was a townie in Eureka who followed up a lengthy (and entirely cordial) conversation with me in a cafe by cornering me to accept him as a friend, which resulted in my feed being cluttered with a barrage of bizarre show business video links. The other guy was a very casual acquaintance from college, so casual that I cannot recall ever having a one-on-one conversation with him that lasted more than a few seconds, who cluttered my feed with endless treacly left-wing sociopolitical nonsense: Barack Obama and Anthony Weiner working miracles A, B and C for constituencies X, Y, and Z, ten great things that charities have done for America since breakfast yesterday morning, that kind of thing. He has at least twice sent me follow-up friend requests in the course of his exile, one of which I rejected and one of which I ignored. I feel bad about snubbing him in this fashion and maybe having hurt his feelings, but I just can’t countenance all the do-gooder partisan brain rot with which he bombards his electronic acquaintances.

For a few minutes this evening, I thought that the Facebook model of communication was evil and dangerous. Then I realized that it’s really just powerful. Its capacity to facilitate friendships and correspondence is amplified by its technology, but so is its capacity to fuck relationships up. The good news is that it’s everything rolled up into one: post office, photo album, Western Union office, phone book, diary, church bulletin, you name it. But that’s also the bad news. The other bad news is that the technology itself is TMI. In the old days, if one’s friend was too offended or whacked out to respond to a letter, one might have assumed that the friend’s letter carrier was one of those frazzled head cases who hoarded undelivered mail in his attic. There was enough ambiguity and a high enough error rate in the delivery system itself to give the petty bastard of a recipient the benefit of the doubt. The same thing is true even of e-mail.

Facebook offers too much reliability, precision and raw data to let the inquisitive user harbor such illusions. You wanna know what happened? Well, you know what happened now, motherfucker. In terms of knowledge, it can elevate us towards the level of gods. The problem is that with that knowledge comes pain. Jesus of Nazareth, for example, is said to have understood the full pathos of humanity, certainly to have known a lot more about it than your or I. This may not be a level of understanding that we wish to have.

Another bundling problem with Facebook is that it aggregates everybody into one place to hear everything from everyone else. Some people, especially older traditionalists, would no sooner share their personal thoughts on such a public platform than they would drop trou and shit in the town square on market day. The more historically minded among them may consider Facebook’s social dynamics a techie version of the old village idiocy, smothering gossip and all.

There certainly seems to be a weird self-promotional culture that has taken root on Facebook. I didn’t notice it for the first few years that I was a member, starting in 2004, but these days I notice it more and more. It’s probably part and parcel of assuming that everyone is in the audience all the time, since one can’t ignore one’s brand in such conditions, lest it be tarnished. Instead of serving as a platform for real engagement, it has become for many users a platform for mindless mutual flattery. Time and time again I see thoughtful, even witty posts getting either no feedback (including likes) or a tiny fraction of the feedback received by self-congratulatory banalities; self-righteous complaints usually fall somewhere in the middle for outward audience engagement. A lot of this stuff is amazingly anodyne, and much of it comes from people I recall being sharper and more thoughtful in college. I can’t help but wonder whether some of these people are tailoring their posts (subconsciously, I would think) to elicit positive feedback from the peanut gallery. But hey, if you announce your engagement to your paranoid, possessive schmuck of a boyfriend, you’ll get mad congrats from your peeps, except for the friend and sometime date you started shutting out for months at a time upon taking up with handsome.

Used thoughtlessly, this sort of technology can really fuck up relationships; been there, done that. But as I mentioned above, the thing to keep in mind is that it’s powerful. Similar things have been said about new technologies going back millennia: this blog shit is making everyone self-absorbed and arrogant; computers are turning our children into recluses; television is turning our children into recluses; these telephones and automobiles are corrupting our daughters; the Gutenberg press is of the devil; nobody can fucking remember the campfire stories now that we’ve got this writing bullshit; nah, man, you’ll kill yourself if you try to use fire. These are tools that can be very useful. The main thing to do is to have some sense when using them, and maybe step out of the press room and away from the fire pit from time to time to deal with real people in the real world.

It is my distinct, tittering honor to present a breaking news bulletin from the Temple Clinger desk.

This evening a friend of the Temple Clinger’s, or so she is called, posted a piece of delectable white knight bait that received 27 likes and a dozen comments in half an hour. It’s of such a rarefied, Heartiste-worthy quality that I should probably call the waaaaambulance. But even if I don’t call whine-one-one, I must reprint her plaintive essay in its entirety:

At times I’m completely ashamed of myself and my internal insecurities about love: independent in profession;weak-minded w/ boys. In 2 days I’ll be 24: time to grow up, Cinderella. I need to remember that I have an incredible life, and I am so blessed with amazing opportunities. Yet this inkling for love haunts me; I need to stop. I need to come around to the idea that it’s perfectly okay to not have someone special yet. I have this nact for being such an old soul, that I forget how truly young I am, and how much time I still have to grow and explore; or the comfort in knowing that even when I’m older it’s still okay to be on your own. I wanted this; I always wanted emotional freedom. It’s time to enjoy it. 

I guess seeing the couples on this trip made me miss being with someone full time, but missing it for a moment doesn’t mean missing it altogether. I’ll move on with something more positive; I’ll continue to better me. And hopefully someone somewhere down the line will see my value. Until then, I need to appreciate the value of me, myself, & I. No more trashing up my standards for a warm bed; it only leaves me colder. I deserve the best.

This isn’t a cry, or a complaint. But one more on the road to self-discovery. I go alone, but I’m not lonely. And I’m learning to love and understand that term. I am who I am because of my expectations of myself, and it’s dawning on me that I can also have a high expectation of others. Bring it on heartbreaker; you’ll have to have a lot more moves that Jagger. 

The author corrected her last typo in the comments, but none of the others, and proceeded to bask, one must assume,  in the glory of the instant solar system that assembled around her. Thus spoke the orbiters:

“you do deserve the best and you will find it or it will find you!!” (Female; ended comment with a heart emoticon)

“I’m sure you have chances to date plenty of men. I know I’ve asked you out numerous times without a response. I’m still awaiting my
Opportunity to wow you.” (Male)

“Discovering your true self is a fantastic journey. Take your time” (Male; ended post with smiley-face emoticon; received like from fellow possessor of the male perspective)

“Some women dont find the right guy because most would rather b with a guy whose an asswhole but has a nice body n good hair some girls need to get to know some guys who arent perfect but would do anything for the people they love and have great personalities.” (Male)

“Repeating yourself is a sign of old age” (Female; ended comment with smiley emoticon; scared up a like from a fella)

“((HUGS)) any time you need them! Otherwise go get girl!” (Male)

“time is on your side” (Male; ended comment with smiley-winky emoticon)

“great post ,keep smiling” (Male; ended comment with smiley emoticon; got likes from two dudes)

“I feel ur status completely girl!!” (Female)

“I’m 27, nice guy/gentleman and single and ready to mingle but I don’t have success…” (Temple Clinger; no likes) 

“I wouldn’t give up my life for any girl right now, even you” (Male; ended comment with tongue-hanging-out emoticon)

“Wow that was beautiful expression of emotions.” (Male; got one like from a dude)

“Eloquently written [girl]…Keep that head up and the clear perspective you have above will guide u” (Male, same as liker from immediately above; ended comment with smiley emoticon)

Amazingly, there’s nothing at all out of the ordinary about the Temple Clinger’s contribution to this beta orbiter Renaissance Faire, except for its coherence, which far exceeds that of many of his insane white knight posts. To hit on a theme that I will revisit from time to time in the future, one that I already have in draft form in my oft-delayed long-form essay on pickup artistry, the Temple Clinger fucking needs to hire a prostitute. Dude needs to contribute to Stacks and Cats. He obviously wants pussy, and not the irresistibly cute kind to which I just linked, but the amateur girls aren’t giving it up for him, to no one’s surprise but his own. Whores, like psychiatrists, are used to dealing with hella weird dudes and civilizing them with the ancient arts of fuckery. With a professional’s help, the Temple Clinger can learn how to relate to women. If he starts getting pussy from a professional, he’ll probably stop making such a creepy nuisance of himself around every Philadelphia metroplex amateur he can glom onto, and the sexual tutelage should be pretty easily complemented (“in words of psy sexy lady whoop whoop whoop…compliment”) by social tutelage, so that he’s generally less of a mindboggling WTF around the ladies. It’s like mixing medicine into a dog’s food; come for the hamburger and rice, stay for the mange treatment.

Some of the Temple Clinger’s colleagues should hire pros, too. Given that they’re hanging out on a sporadically single 24-year-old’s Facebook page and white-knighting her navelgazing ass, I don’t imagine that they’re getting any from their neighborhood bar sluts. Or maybe it’s just a slow Sunday night. I dunno. At some point, contingent upon financial circumstances but probably sooner rather than later, it’s time to stop pining for aloof sluts who don’t dig your style and hire a hooker. If you’re hanging around teh interwebs insipidly complimenting a chick for publicly complaining about her poor sexual and romantic decisions, it’s time for you to get the time from Admiral Yamamoto and start working on plans for big boy sex with a grownup. By which I mean one of Ben Franklin’s mercenary prostitutes. Yup, it’s the Adults’ Hour, which means that it’s time to stop trying to be smooth with the childish amateurs if doing so hasn’t so far proven an efficacious course of action.

Whorish girls, holler at your local white knights. I’m not kidding about that. Schedule a treatment regimen for the Sodiniomas in situ in your neighborhood. The gym rat chicks may thank you one day.