Saturday, August 6, 2016

2016: The Year in Anger, Part I

I've been crafting this post in my mind for quite a while - back to February, at least, when it became clear that Bernie Sanders had a serious chance at taking the nomination and that Trump did as well.  At that point, my Facebook feed was relatively mute on Trump, but the Sanders phenomenon came on (to my eyes) suddenly, and was swiftly pushed to the top of my feed by a pretty staggering amount of anger from my Facebook friends on the left directed at Hillary Clinton.  I think it was safe to say that I was blindsided by that.  Blindsided, at first, then alarmed, and then feeling like I was being personally attacked.  I was pretty careful not to wade into any debates at the time (the first rule of political fight club is not to join political fight club), mostly because I found the anger deeply off-putting, and not simply because it was anger directed against my own candidate of choice.

As you can imagine, given the long gestation period of this blog, what was originally going to be a pretty straightforward Facebook post kept on building mentally into this massive, complex kludge of an essay, with wispy little truth bombs that detonated one after another in my head, flashing brightly and then promptly distorted and obscured by the next one.  I couldn't wrap it up neatly in my internal dialogue under one pretty, snarky bow, and it felt shoddy of me to waste anyone's time if I didn't have anything salient to say.  The observation that people were/are angry is hardly an original one, and anger plus politics is pretty much the foul-tasting Reese's Peanut Butter Cup of democracy - two shitty tastes that taste shitty together, but we end up bogarting both cups that come in the pack in a single sitting, anyway.

But the clear difference between this year and previous elections was that it seemed like the anger came first.  Anger is putting it mildly.  The special flavor of the 2016 election cycle is inchoate rage, in a tangy smugness sauce.

I know what living with anger is like, so I recognize it when I see it.  Formless anger has been an underpinning of my existence since childhood, and when I started to take medication to bring my testosterone levels up a few years back, my low-lying, largely under control anger surged inside me to what I can only describe as Anakin Skywalker levels.  It was fairly fascinating to be able to examine it happening with a certain intellectual dispassion, while simultaneously totally alarming to be powerless to do anything more than ride it out when it spiked.  I became (well, became more) moody, blame-filled, and resentful, and found myself lashing out at the merest provocation.  My previously thin skin denuded into cellophane, giving everyone a good look at my boiling insides before fogging over again.

The point is, anger is not your friend.  Anger wants you to attack first and ask questions later.  Anger is not your trusted advisor, and especially not something that should be a foundational part of one's decision-making process.  Have you ever made a decision based in anger that you looked back upon once the red tide had subsided and thought, yes, absolutely, that was the correct and moral choice and I in no way regret any aspect of it?  If so, the next time you buy a car, instead of methodical research and test driving, why not just storm onto the lot at a random dealership (wearing the official uniform of the hissy fit: plaid pajamas, a stained bathrobe, and one single slipper) and blindly tear off in the loudest car possible, hurling a crumpled wad of sweaty Benjamins in the salesperson's face through the rear window as you Hooper away?  Rest assured you will be satisfied with your choice, nodding with righteous satisfaction as you sink into the bay because the steering and brakes went out on a particularly tight and scenic cliffside turn.

I started to feel the need to write my own answer to the question that no-one seemed to be asking - that is, "Why do I support Hillary Clinton as the Democratic Nominee?"  And I suspect the reason no-one was asking - especially not those whose motivation for supporting Bernie was that fun-sized anger - is because they'd already made up their minds that anyone who would in good conscience vote for Hillary was (say it with me, now) a shill.

I'd characterize the anger on both the left and the right - the feeling that assures you with absolute conviction that Hillary Clinton is evil and corrupt (words which turned up with alarming frequency in my feed) - as arational.  And I don't mean 'irrational' as in 'crazypants,' I mean it literally: the feeling that Hillary Clinton is evil is not based on a carefully reasoned and analytical response to available evidence. People may hold valid and rational reasons for their anger, but in many, the anger came first, followed by the careful subconscious construction of a rationale, a narrative that people have created to justify it.  Of course, this leads to a particular form of fuzzy logic that's more akin to mental rickets, a kind of Objectivist A=A for the far left.  I know of no other reason to explain why when I look at Hillary Clinton and see a charmingly dorky policy wonk with an unfortunate (but understandable) guardedness, others see a machiavellian manipulator with no recognizable human traits other than greed and pure self-interest.  She's the living rorschach blot, and I hear that Jackie Earle Haley is practicing his evil Hillary laugh in the mirror.

I'm not going to indulge in discussing any of the clearly, baldly (one might say, brazenly) open sexism that fed into the anti-Hillary narrative on the left.  Bernie Bros were a real thing, and the response of some supporters at the DNC not only underlines that fact, but crosses the t's and dots the i's with shaky little hearts.  I'll only say this about that aspect of the anti-Hillary brigade: if I, as a straight white middle-aged male with plenty of my own sexist opinions found it deeply off-putting, I can only imagine how disgusting and perhaps even a little frightening it must have been to be a female Hillary supporter exposed to that.  One telling aspect of the primary season was that female Clinton supporters, particularly younger millennials, were mum about their support for a candidate with record unpopularity levels among their peers.

But that's enough of the psych evaluation of people who I ain't.  Why, exactly, did I cast my vote for Hillary Clinton in the New York primary?  The pulse-pounding answer can be found in part 2, coming soon to a Rambler near you.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Status, Please

So, what's been happening since April?  Somehow, nothing new of note, and simultaneously a schedule that's more packed than any I can recall.  The last three weeks have been given over to major housecleaning and renovation - the kitchen ceiling being the largest of the projects, and one that certainly has proven to be a challenge.  Albeit, a challenge that has now been mostly solved, with the timely arrival of Sean Scorsone and John Hurson as Ceiling Team B, as well as the rapid construction of two T-Braces.  Oh, T-Braces - you hold the whole ceiling in your hands.

And, as mentioned previously on these pages, I took advantage of the dumpster that was rented for the kitchen demolition and cleared quite a volume of stuff out of the basement.  Yes, there's still plenty of stuff to go through down there, and double yes, the attic wasn't touched, but the dumpster did go back to the leasing company about 3/4 full, which I'm considering a successful purge.

Purge Lite®?

I was largely spurred on in the scouring of the basement by a quick trip up to Hamden (CT) to assist in the scouring of a house up there - a house that was owned by a God's-honest hoarder.  My takeaway was two-pronged:

  1. Having seen what an actual hoarder's house looks like from the inside out, I can rest easy that I am NOT a hoarder, myself.  I make it to packrat, maybe, and,
  2. I need to live in a totally empty room.
Thankfully, the Great Hamden Scouring fell smack-dab in the middle of the week that I had the dumpster rented, so when I got back home, I was able to ramp up and keep trashing shit with a renewed vigor - an energy borne from some deep existential unease.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Why I Oughta...

Another thing that's happening around this time is the annual urge to clean and remodel.  This year, I'm being more ambitious than usual.  On the docket (in addition to finishing up the Yarn Barn re-hang) is a new ceiling in the kitchen, getting the basement cleared out and organized, finishing up the back porch, building a reading nook/bench/cabinet in the master bedroom, and (perhaps) regrout the bricks on the front stoop.

The goal is to get the kitchen ceiling and basement work organized, so that I can rent a dumpster for a couple of days and get all the demolition debris and basement crap out the door at the same time.   This probably means that I'd have to get the basement sorted out in advance of the dumpster arrival, which requires thinking and making decisions about piles of stuff.  This is pretty much the thing in life I'm worst at - figuring out what to do with my stuff, and fighting the desire to hold on to simply everything.  I'm definitely not a hoarder, thank goodness, but, boy, if there's a compulsion spectrum similar to Autism for the hoarding instinct, I'm definitely on there, somewhere.  Whatever the hoarding equivalent to mild Asperger's is, that would be me.


Monday, March 31, 2014


Ah!  Now between classes and wrapping up most of the current freelance work I have on my plate, I should have the mental energy to turn in a few Ramblers in the next couple of weeks.  I'm not sure exactly WHAT I'll be writing about, since my brain still has the needle hovering just above 'E,' but if the past is any guide, just the physical act of writing will get some ideas flowing.  And I promise they won't all be the Rambler about Rambling kind.

Other little updates:

The Yarn Barn: I've in fact finished painting the Yarn Barn a few weeks back, and successfully mounted it on the wall in Yesenia's creative space (not the hell sure what we call that room, these days...), but I realized after a couple of weeks that a) the colors I chose to harmonize with the walls in the room were harmonizing too well, to the point that the barn was kind of camouflaged, and b) although I had hung it quite stably, I found that sitting underneath it was giving me deep anxiety.  Putting a and b together, I opted to paint the wall an accent color and to add further (mostly token) support to the bottom edge. The wall has been painted (sort of a mud color, really) and the new 'feet' have also been painted, so all that's left to do is attach the feet, drill holes for them and rehang the barn.  So that should be done this week.. that deadline was in no way prompted by Yesenia's comment that it was turning into another half-finished project.  Being exiled from her creative space is taking quite a toll, and no number of warm baths seems to take that edge off.

Albums: Okay, so there are two albums mostly in the can, and have been mostly in the can for the last year or so.  What's the hold up?  The hold up is that my original plans for bringing in players and singers to respectively handle the guitar solos and backing vocals have mostly come to naught.  I've always had problems with guitar players (a joke that ran so thin during my Copper Man days that I started to bitterly think of it as a riff on Spinal Tap's drummers), but the fact that I've found it easier to get two excellent drummers, a killer organ player, great trumpet work and even a bagpipe solo with minimal fuss while still not being able to lock down a single guitar solo is a scenario that's depressingly familiar.

Hopefully, this is going to change pretty soon.  Backing vocals are the first down, and I've rethought how to approach them from my original conception of a uniform all-male team (Ansley and Bran), recording together in a loose, CSN style.  Since there are two albums, it'll now be broken down to two male singers recorded at separate times for the first album, and a mix of whichever female singers I can round up for the second album, which is helpfully already titled Women in Prison, so there's at least some nice thematic unity there.

Guitar, I don't want to curse, ala PCMA irony gods style.  I'll tell y'all when there's something in the can, and not a minute before.

And after all of this recording is done?  Then what?

I'll get back to you on that...


Sunday, March 16, 2014


So, my MacBook is in the shop.  Again.  And so is my car - basically, I'm expecting to wake up in a tub full of ice, missing a kidney next.  Any day now.

But I digress.  About five minutes ago, totally at random, I decided to see if there was a Blogger app in the App Store.  And there was.  So it had now been downloaded and is what I'm typing this on.  How's that for timely?

Even without benefit of app, I expect the Rambler to pick up steam in the next couple of weeks - I don't think I have 'seasonal affected mood disorder', or anything like that, but February made me pretty much not want to do anything that required me to be awake and thinking at the same time.  

So: let's see what Spring has in store.  I welcome it with anticipation and iPhone in hand.


Monday, March 10, 2014

March Marches On

You may note that the Rambler has been taking a time out for the last few weeks - this is not-coincidentally related to the fact that my web programming classes resumed in early February.  Somehow, these classes seem to take over my life, even though they're only two nights a week and I'm not paying that close attention, this time around (as my grasp of the material shows).

The classes in this round are Advanced CSS and PHP.  I get the former more than the latter, and learning CSS top to bottom is really one of the two main reasons I'm in the program in the first place. The second reason being Javascript, which I'm starting to dread.  I'm dreading it mostly because it's a language pretty similar to PHP, which means there's actual programming involved, and that's where my ability to parse the internal logic of the code breaks down.

So, expect a number of intermittent posts that consist primarily of me whinging about all this.  I apologize in advance.  I'll at least try to keep the despair entertaining.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Longest Shortest Month

Man, but I bet everybody has been pretty much hating this last few weeks about as much as me.  Look around, you can see it in their eyes - a weariness, a need to see the sun, the deep-down physical hunger to lay oneself down on a verdant bed of grass in the shade.  

So that's thing one: the weather has really dragged me down.

Thing two is probably more specific to me, although it's still very much weather related - on three seperate occasions in the last two weeks, I have done major cosmetic damage to my newish car.  First time was the day after the biggest storm, when the roads were a lot narrower than they normally are, and the hedges are substantially harder.  Doing a k-turn, I backed up against an icebank wrapped around a big hedge, and put a nice little dent in the rear fender.  Then, about a week later (after a small snow and the resultant plowing), I smacked the front right bumper pulling in my the driveway at about five miles an hour into half of a massive ice block that had been a mountain of snow next to my driveway, but the plow had cleaved it in twain and thoughtfully deposited a gibraltar-sized chunk into the driveway.  There was a loud and depressing crunch, and a quick examination revealed that the bumper had actually shattered at the corner.

THEN: two nights later, driving back from class in Midtown Manhattan, I smacked a pothole on the Palisdaes Parkway.  Hard.  Although I was going the speed limit, it was an immediate blowout.  I limped on until I could pull over at the closed Alpine Scenic Area.  On the plus side, I think I may have set a personal best time for changing a tire.  When I walked in the bedroom around 11:30 to tell Yesenia what had happened, she just laughed.  And really, what else can you do?

According to the assessor, the damage in full comes to around $1100 - which is good and bad news.  The bad news is that it doesn't quite reach my deductible (each item has its own deductible), but it's also about $1000 less than I'd been fearing.  So thank heaven for smallish favors.

But still, it does mean that my next few days are going to be a little complicated - dealing with insurance company, body shop, and car rental, all while still going to work, getting to class and watching with grim anticipation as the Polar Vortex rolls in for another round.  I mocked it once before, and now I understand its power.  I wish I knew what to sacrifice to it to appease the Angry God of the Northern Wastes - apparently, my fenders and front tire were not penance enough.