28 December 2010

Novel novels: February 2010

Note: I'm starting to write this series multiple months after I've finished reading the books, so in most cases I don't remember a whole lot. I'll include stuff I remember, including trigger warnings, but I'm not going to remember everything. I hope to rectify this when I catch up and am writing about stuff I just got done reading.

1. The Law of Nines by Terry Goodkind
  • 2 stars
  • If you've read Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series, do yourself a favour and skip this book. I have read the Sword of Truth series in its entirety, and although I still list it among my favourites for nostalgia reasons, it's rife with problems from many standpoints, including feminist. This book is basically Wizard's First Rule, set in a modern world. *eye roll* I wouldn't be surprised if they got an intern to write it.

2. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  • 4 stars
  • One of my first exposures to Gaiman's writing. Pretty nice.

3. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
  • 3.5 stars
  • Interesting, as a reader and a person interested in the specific history of an object, to read an account of the history of one particular copy of one particular book. Also enjoyable for the religious history aspect.

4. Life, Inc. by Douglas Rushkoff
  • 4.5 stars
  • Quietly inspiring. I liked learning about the history of the corporation, from this guy's POV.

5. take a chance on me by Annabelle Vestry
  • 2.5 stars
  • The Gossip Girl series is one of my guilty pleasures. Cotton candy for the brain. Don't judge.

6. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
  • 4.5 stars
  • Lovely prose, lovely plot.

7. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
  • 3 stars
  • Westerfeld is one of my favourite authors. I liked the juxtaposition of biopunk and steampunk, but the plot didn't grip me as much as I would have liked.

8. Fire by Kristin Cashore
  • 3.5 stars
  • Again, I liked the world, but felt the plot fell short. Fairly decent from a feminist perspective.

9. Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
  • 2.5 stars
  • Interesting plot, but the writing and character development didn't really do it for me.

10. Let the Hurricane Roar by Rose Wilder Lane
  • 2.5 stars
  • Recommended only if you're a Martha/Charlotte/Caroline/Laura/Rose buff, like me.

11. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
  • 3.5 stars

12. Haweswater by Sarah Hall
  • 2.5 stars

13. Graceling by Kristin Cashore
  • 3 stars

1 star = hated
1.5 stars = didn't enjoy at all, but didn't hate
2 stars = didn't enjoy particularly
2.5 stars = enjoyed somewhat
3 stars = enjoyed, but might not read again
3.5 stars = would probably read again
4 stars = would like to own a copy
4.5 stars = would like to own a copy, and would probably read occasionally
5 stars = would like to own a copy, and would probably read often

26 December 2010

Novel novels: January 2010

Note: I'm starting to write this series multiple months after I've finished reading the books, so in most cases I don't remember a whole lot. I'll include stuff I remember, including trigger warnings, but I'm not going to remember everything. I hope to rectify this when I catch up and am writing about stuff I just got done reading.

1. Dracula The Un-Dead by Dacre Stoker
  • unfinished
  • I couldn't even finish this piece of crap. If you had problems with the original Dracula being misogynistic, just wait for this. All of the stuff that Dracula does is Mina's fault, doncha know, but you can't really blame her because what can you expect from a woman. Ugh.
2. Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano
  • 4.5 stars
  • The thing I remember taking away from this book is an adjustment to my idea of gender. Specifically, before I read this I had the opinion that gender is entirely a social construction, that it is not based at all on the body. The opposite of gender essentialism, basically, is what I held. Now I'm somewhere in between, and I think it changes from person to person. Some people's gender is more affected by the body or by socialisation, or both, than other people's is.
3. Daughters of the North by Sarah Hall
  • 3.5 stars
4. The Women's Room by Marilyn French
  • 3 stars
5. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
  • 3.5 stars
  • Liked the concept, liked the world/scenario, wish I had liked the actual writing better.
6. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Anne Barrows
  • 3 stars
  • 2.5 stars
  • I picked up and started reading this book without reading the synopsis, as I was attracted by the title. I was expecting something perhaps quasi-zen, or like The Secret, but what I got was a woman who couldn't accept the horrible things happening in her life, so she convinced herself that they weren't happening. The book was okay, as far as it went, but I was expecting something much different.
  • 3 stars
  • Mildly amusing. Not as original as the reviews want you to think, I've definitely read Biblical rewrites I like better, but it's okay, as far as it goes.
9. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Nqozi Adichie
  • 3.5 stars
  • Trigger warning for child/parent conflict
10. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
  • 4 stars
  • Loved this story! Love the way you have to try to piece together what's going on before it's revealed. Love the quasi-Gothic setting.
11. The Accidental by Ali Smith
  • 3.5 stars
12. The Book of Night with Moon by Diane Duane
  • 4.5 stars
  • Good for anyone who considers their cat to be a person in hir own right. This book is responsible for introducing words such as hauissh (The Game), ehhif (human) and ffheih (spayed/neutered cat) into my household's vernacular.
13. The Whole World Over by Julia Glass
  • 4 stars
  • Enjoyable, kind of like something Elizabeth Berg would write, but with a better plot and better writing. I remember liking the partially stereotype-defying characters.
14. White Teeth by Zadie Smith
  • 3 stars
  • Enjoyed parts, but it seemed to drag.
15. Liar by Justine Larbalesteier
  • 3 stars
  • Basic young adult supernatural fluff. The only way this book kept my attention was by employing several 180-degree plot twists.

Scoring system is as follows:
1 star = hated
1.5 stars = didn't enjoy, but didn't hate
2 stars = didn't enjoy particularly
2.5 stars = enjoyed somewhat
3 stars = enjoyed, but might not read again
3.5 stars = would probably read again
4 stars = would like to own a copy
4.5 stars = would like to own a copy, and would probably read occasionally
5 stars = would like to own a copy, and would probably read often

25 December 2010

more stuff I didn't need

and no, this isn't a rant about the consumerism of the holiday season.

top things I was worried about 3 days ago
  • getting all my holiday crap baked
  • getting M's presents made
  • going back to work on Sunday
  • getting a new job because my job sucks
  • cleaning my house
top things I am worried about right now
  • going back to work tomorrow
  • getting a new job
  • being an emotional wreck for the rest of my life because I am too anxious to enjoy it
  • being crap around children for the rest of my life because I have quasi-PTSD issues surrounding children
so, as you can see, my priorities have taken a turn for the ... exceedingly melodramatic. and also shitty.


24 December 2010

Novel novels project

For those of you who don't know (and since I'm mostly talking to myself here ... well, whatever) I like to read. A lot. Alotalotalotalotalotalotalotalotalotalot.

Quite a bit, is what I'm saying.

About one year ago, I was getting fed up with what I'm going to call the rapid re-read phenomenon.
The first time you read a book, you understand it one way, based on where you are in your life. Then, when you read it again, you understand it in a different way, based on where you are at that point. I've always thought the differences in understanding that you note can be almost important as the influence of the book itself, because it's a way to track the variations in your own worldview.

Here's where the rapid re-read phenomenon comes in. I noticed that if I re-read a book in rapid succession, with, say a four-month interim, I wasn't so much noting the — at that time, very minor — differences between the last time I read and the current time, I was moulding my current read to my last read, effectively making sure I wasn't getting anything new out of the current read.

Although wasting my time with the current read was annoying, that by itself probably wouldn't have spawned the novel novels project. What did it was what I noticed when I read a book for the third time in rapid succession. If four months had passed between the first and second reads, lets say 12 months passed between the second and third reads. Ordinarily, an interim period of this length would not be problematic, but because I had reinforced my first read by reading a second time in rapid succession, that first version of the read was in my mind more firmly than a single read, 12 months ago, would have been under other circumstances. My interpretation of the book, during the third read, would closely mirror those of the first and second reads.

I was afraid that if I kept reading a book with not enough time between readings, that I would lose the ability to understand the book in new ways, because I would be forever stuck in the rut of my first understanding — or whichever understanding had been reiterated.

And so, I decided to go one year without reading any books I'd read before: to read only novel novels, as it were. I do read more than just novels, but the name amused me, so I stuck with it. I started this project on January first, 2010. Sometime in June or July I decided to extend the project beyond just the year, until my 25th birthday, in July 2012.

My primary goal with this project was to avoid the rapid re-read phenomenon, but I am enjoying a major secondary effect: discovering new authors, and new books by previously read authors, to a lesser extent. I find myself having much more to read, many more books checked out from the library and many more requests into the library. Before I started the project, I would only seek out new books if I was bored and my weekly browse-around-the-library didn't get me much. Now, whenever I hear or read someone talking about a book, I will either do a little research to see if I might be interested or just skip that altogether and add it straight-away to my library request list. I am constantly on the lookout for new books, and so I see them all over the place.

I plan to post all the books I've read this year in the next few days, with my star rating and perhaps a few words about what I liked.

22 December 2010

riiiiiiiiiiiiiight ...

The let's play thing is probably no longer happening. Certainly not the way I envisioned, at least.

New project in the works, though! I'm sure we'll all be amazed, especially if I can stay with it long enough to finish.

27 October 2010

Thoughts on fat-shaming and mental health

[TW for discussion about mental health, mention of abuse]

Today on
Shakesville, Liss posted two discussion threads about fat hatred, one for sharing stories about you fat-shaming someone and one for stories about people fat-shaming you.

And I'm sure I have many stories about both, but what's coming to mind is my grandmother talking to me about my mother.

Specifically, sharing with me, whenever my mother had lost a bunch of weight, that she was happy.

Thing is, aside from the part where she shouldn't be policing her daughter's weight, what she doesn't understand is that (almost always) my mother losing a great deal of weight is a sign of a manic period of her bipolar disorder. This "good thing", this "reason to celebrate" is in fact evidence that my mother's mental health is not the greatest, a fact which my grandmother refuses to recognize, just as she refuses to recognize that my mother has been abusive.

And I don't feel like I can share this with the Shakesville community at large, for one because it's not about me, it's about my mom, but mostly because it's hard to concisely articulate all the issues surrounding the story.

In trying to be an ally against ableism*, I feel it's part of my duty** to respect people's choices regarding their mental health. Seeking treatment, taking meds, all of that is the decision of each person, and it's not up to me to police their decisions.

That said, I am the daughter of someone who had undiagnosed bipolar disorder for more than a decade, and who, after diagnosis, has not adhered to the treatment plan set out for her by her doctors. I firmly believe that my mother having bipolar disorder is not an excuse for her totally crap parenting of me and my siblings.

I don't know whether or not her abusive and neglectful behaviours were caused (entirely) by the disorder. I don't know if it's possible to know that. I do know that when you have children, it's your responsibility to care for them. Perhaps especially when you go out of your way to have children, through adoption.

As her daughter, I can't help but wonder if she had gotten diagnosed right away and followed the treatment plan if my life wouldn't have been so fucked up, if my sister's life wouldn't have been so fucked up, if my brothers would grow up to be better men than I fear they're going to grow up to be.

But I feel that I can't talk about this in a space that has been designated as an ableism-free space. So I don't really know what to say.

* An ally at this point, because I'm still on the fence about deciding if I identify as a disabled person or not.
** Duty in a good sense -- not something others put on me, but things I have decided that I want to do.

25 October 2010

Blog note

Due to personal complications, I have decided to scrap the whole Tuesday and Saturday LPFNV thing.

Posts will hence be made when I fucking feel like it.

23 October 2010

Inept Knavery and Erstwhile Bravery: Pilar's story, part one (Let's Play Fallout New Vegas)

[Note on images: Click through for accessible captions]

I've been shot, you say? In the head, no less. And yet, in this land of little infrastructure and littler unmucked-up technology and supplies, you've managed to save me. This is truly remarkable. I suppose I should be grateful, but really, I'm too busy having a headache.

Jesus, dude, do you ever shut up? Just got saved from having my brains blown out, I don't think I can really answer questions right now.


My name? Um ... um, um, um. Seems like I should know this. Courier? No, that's not it. Pilar? Sounds familiar. I think that's it.


What do I look like? Seems to me it'd be easier for you to judge that than me, but I guess I'll give it a go. Might make a few changes -- all within the boundaries of artistic license, of course.

Hm. Can't seem to get rid of that ridiculous raccoon tanline. I'll just have to wear glasses all the time, I guess. Or get some sort of wicked facial tattoo. Something.

Although, come to think of it, that's probably how I got into the immortal tanline situation in the first place.

Okay, Doc, can I rest now?

What? No, I don't really feel like walking right now. Bugger. Of course, if you're going to let me play that nifty arcade game you've got over there, I really can't refuse. It's only polite.

Blast! Rather than an entertaining piece of fun, this seems to be another part of your scheme to wrest personal information from me.

Okay. Strength. I don't feel particularly strong. I think I'm more the wiry type. Let's pick 'lightweight'.

Perception. I seem to be the most perceptive person in the room, not that it's much of a contest. You're the one who's asking the chick with the concussion from hell to take a goddamned history of the life, universe and everything exam. 'Big-eyed tiger', let's go with that.

Endurance. I've got to be somewhat enduring to have made it through the shot-in-the-head incident. But I don't feel like the Terminator, either. Let's go with 'hardy'.

Charisma. Right now, I'm feeling about as charismatic as a two-hundred-year-old can of Spam, but I'm sure that's just a side effect of near death. I'm going to choose 'substitute teacher'.

Intelligence. Blah blah blah. Just going to wing this one and pick 'gifted'. I have absolutely no idea why, but I definitely feel more gifted than knowledgeable at this point.

Agility. Mmmm. 'Knife-thrower' has kind of a catchy ring to it.

Luck. You kidding me? How fucking lucky can I be? I got shot in the head, for Christsakes. I did live, though, I guess. Maybe it's a toss-up. Better go with 'coin-flip'.

I get this feeling you're not going to let me go back to bed, Doc. More questions? Fine. Whatever. This has to end sometime. Lead on.

Couch. Chair. You on the latter, me, the former. Do you moonlight as a shrink or something?

Um, Doc? Do you have a wife or anything? Because, you know, she might not take it so well that you've got this impressionable unclothed young woman sitting on your couch.

Hell, I'm not taking it so well, and I'm not your wife. Do you think you could spare a blanket or something, at least?

No, no, no, it's all business with you, isn't it? Fine. Carry on.

How I feel about these statements is ... they're a waste of my time. And yours. Let's just get through this as fast as possible.

Really, Doc. I'm not sure your ticker could handle my impressions of your inkblots at this point. Also, none of your options really fit. Guess I'll just have to pick the best ... wait a second ...

You know, I'd like to tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.

Because I really can't stand the thought of a septuagenarian bachelor/widower getting his jollies by listening to young women describe intimate aspects of their anatomy. Go buy a set of naughty playing cards, like everyone else.


After all this, you think you know me? Looks like your shrink skills aren't really up to your revival-of-the-nearly dead skills. Better not quit the day job. You know what? Let me just tell you what's really important to me.

There. Wasn't that easy? Couldn't you have just let me tell you about it in the first place?

Now can you give me some pants?

More shit. Fuck me. At least you're letting me pick my own stuff instead of just giving me the run around.

Wacky, I'm up for wacky. LSD, peyote, whatever y'all got around here.

Hmm. I've already determined glasses are the way to go with these preternatural tanlines I've got, so I might as well get a perk for it.

Finally! We're getting up! We're moving toward the door! I'm going to be free!

Blah blah blah, you're empathizing. I would be more interested in hearing your story if you'd give me some clothes. And maybe some shrooms.

Sunny Smiles? That has got to be a hooker.

Maybe I judged you wrong, Doc. Maybe. But we're still not even on the psychoanalyzed-in-my-knickers thing.

So long. It's been real, it's been fun, it's been ...

Screw it. It's been contrived, it's been awkward, it's been awkwardly contrived.


Next time: meeting Sunny Smiles.

Let's Play Fallout New Vegas: initial reactions

[Note on images: Click through for accessible captions]

Double post planned for today, because I feel awkward about both not talking about the game as a player, and about including those meta-thoughts in my character's story. This will probably change as time goes on. Wev.

So, Tuesday. I'm already pretty pissed off because a guy I work with reminded me about Steam after I had already pre-ordered from physical Big Box Store X. I was going to have to wait until I got off work and the store opened, whereas he got to go home at 1 a.m. and download it right away. Grr.

Okay, so I made a poor decision, but I'm going to stick with it. Because I am poor and I already sunk $5 into the pre-order.

I get my game home, insert the disk and get ready to install it. But wait ...

The disk appears to be a mere prompt to install Steam and download the game. Sometimes Providence really has a sarcastic sense of humor.

Wev. I'm slightly too excited to worry much about this right now. I decide to skim the manual while Steam is doing its thing. I haven't done any research about the game at all, because I'm wanting to approach it with fresh eyes, so this is the first I've heard about all these features, and I'm pretty excited. Many of my complaints about Fallout 3 (and Oblivion) appear to have been addressed:

  • First up: Hardcore mode. Ammo has weight! My character will need to eat! drink water! sleep! The lack of the need to do these things are a criticism I have had. It could be frustrating, but I anticipate I will be more excited about the realism than I will be frustrated. I plan to play my character all the way through in hardcore.
  • Reputation. Different factions will have different reactions to me based on how I have acted in the past towards them. Also, wearing faction armor affects NPC reactions. More realism, more excitement.
  • Modding your weapons. Pretty self explanatory. From this precedent, I would guess that they're going to give you a lot more options as far as crafting your own stuff, as well.
  • Companions. Looks like they're making it easier to keep track and instruct your companions. I wonder if a companion's willingness to follow you will be based on your overall Karma, your reputation or some combination of the above?
  • Kill cam mode. You mean I don't have to have an annoying third-person view whenever I kill something? Fantastic. Three modes: Cinematic (third person, slowed down), player view (first person, slowed down) and none. At this point, I plan on sticking with none, thankyouverymuch.
  • True iron sights. This basically looks like the ability to disable the game's crosshair for your weapon. More realism, more excitement.
Steam has downloaded, and I'm ready to play.

Really, Bethesda? I mean, I know advertising is full of bad puns and references and stuff, but ... really?

Looks like my kind of place.

You know, I'm usually not into authority figures, but anyone who has copulating bears on their flag deserves a second chance, imo.

Dude apparently hasn't read the no-monologuing memo. This will end badly.

With me getting shot, apparently. Oh, god, is this whole game going to be a flashback? Have I just seen my untimely demise?

19 October 2010

Let's Play Fallout New Vegas: pregame

In one hour, I will be picking it up. It it. The reason I do not have it already is because I work nights and where I work doesn't carry it for PC. Because they are bastages. So I pre-ordered it from another place and they open at 10.

I am prepared:

Caption: Poorly taken photo of my desk, which is actually a table. Featured are my Sony VAIO (with headphones, mouse and external hard drive), my notebook for gaming notes, a bag of Hallowe'en-themed marshmallows, a box of Lady Grey tea and a bottle of generic Excedrin Migraine. Miscellaneous desk clutter, including picture frames, cups of pens, plastic tubs of random crap and a non-flowering Amaryllis pot, takes up the background.

I have cleaned off my desk and armed myself with sources of simple sugars (Ghost Mallows ftw!) and caffeine (black tea and migraine pills, since I am boring and do not drink soda), as well as a note-taking apparatus.

As previously stated, I work nights, and typically sleep from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., but I have decided to forgo sleep to play it.

I am hardcore!!!1!!!!eleventy!11!!

I will probably not be able to resist posting a little something later today, maybe a bunch of screenshots. We'll see.

16 October 2010

Let's Play Fallout New Vegas: backstory

I am not a gamer.

But I have decided to do a Let's Play of Betheda's Fallout New Vegas, to be released on 19 October.

  • I didn't grow up playing video games, and as such have only played a few hours on a handful of games other than Morrowind, Oblivion and Fallout 3 (hereafter referred to as the Bethesda trifecta). I don't quite understand the major draw of games like Super Mario Brothers or Call of Duty. Neither do I play online MMORPGs, as I'm not really interested in the social aspect that seems to be a primary focus.
  • I am a person who enjoys starting fairly ambitious projects (ambition, as always, being a relative term). Also, I am a person who frequently abandons projects within three days. And if not within three days, certainly within two weeks.
  • I have logged upwards of 100 hours each with the Bethesda trifecta. I really don't even know how much I have played them. 100 hours is an exceedingly conservative estimate. It's probably closer to 200 for Fallout 3 and 300 for Oblivion.
  • I am not especially skilled at critiquing games, I think because I feel I don't have the wealth of experience on which to draw.

  • I want to capture my own discovery of this game, and stretch my gameplay out by forcing myself to document it.
  • I wanted to do a Let's Play after reading Chocolate Hammer's Let's Play Morrowind.
  • I want to approach the game with fresh eyes, so there isn't so much difference between player knowledge and character knowledge. I don't want to have to pretend I don't know that if I just go to this particular shrine in the middle of nowhere and then go find a glowing bowling ball, a goddess will give me an invincible lockpick. If I'm writing describing my first playthrough of the game, and I don't consult any other resources, player and character knowledge will, necessarily, be the same. Whether or not this will make for more enjoyable reading, I don't know, but I think it will make for more enjoyable writing.
  • I want to do a game that hasn't been around forever, primarily because if I start doing a series on it right out of the gate, I will probably be more likely to get hits. I doubt I'm going be getting hits, but I might as well give myself as good of a chance as possible. At the time of this writing, Googling "let's play fallout new vegas" gets you nine hits, all of them on YouTube.
  • I want to play a game I have a high probability of enjoying. My tastes are somewhat limited, so when I remembered that a new Fallout was being released my choice of game was obvious.
At this point, I plan to do updates on Tuesdays and Saturdays for a few weeks, and then once per week after that.

17 July 2010

Run away! Run away!

We all know Jenny Schecter is Ilene Chaiken's Mary Sue.*

So I'm watching the opening of season five, episode one, and Jenny's writing a scene for her movie. Chaiken is clearly writing the main character in Lez Girls, Jessie, as Jenny's Mary Sue. An incredibly poorly written Mary Sue which Chaiken is apparently using to show how messed-up Jenny is.

I try not to bring out the i word at the drop of a hat, but ohdeargodirony.

* I said this exact sentence to M, and she said "Yes, Ilene Chaiken's Mary Sue. Of course! We all know that." M's not big on remembering celebrity's names. Also, she doesn't share my penchant for cilice via The L Word.

27 June 2010

my hate-hate relationship with social networking sites

After reading this Shakesville post yesterday*, which featured Deeky and Liss' commentary on this Non Sequitur comic:

Image description: Drawing of a wedding ceremony taking place in a church. Visual focus is on a (presumably) white, cis-male, non-disabled, hetero groom wearing a black tuxedo; a (presumably) cis-female, non-disabled, hetero bride wearing a white dress with a train and waist-length veil; a (presumably) white, cis-male, non-disabled officiant wearing clerical black underthings, white robe, purple stole. The three figures have their backs to one another and are holding iPads. Text boxes coming from the iPads read, respectively "I DO. [send]", "i do. [send]" and "COOL! U R NOW HSBND N WIFE." The title "iRomance" appears in the lower right-hand corner.

I was so very pleased to see the story "Apple geeks conduct 'iPad wedding'" linked to in a Cake Wrecks post today*.

The internet is great, I'm with you there. Lots of information, people, whatever. Facebook? Okay, I like having one place where I can contact a lot of people if I don't want to use email; I still minimize my FB time as much as possible. Twitter? No thanks, I'm sure if I got started I could never be able to stop and would never ever have any free time ever. Apple, for me, is evil. I will never buy another Apple product if I have any choice in the matter. Google, also evil, but they've sucked me in and haven't screwed me over completely yet, so I'm still with them. 

If you're all yaygoFacebookTwitterAppleeverything!!!1!eleventy!!1!!!! more power to you. That's just not me. I don't even have a cell phone, because I don't want people to feel like they can contact me whenever they want and expect me to respond. I am lucky enough that I don't have the kind of responsibilities that would make not owning a cell phone irresponsible.

There doesn't really seem to be a point to this post, other than 'hey, this is kind of like the meatworld version of that one comic Liss and Deeky were talking about!' but wev.

*Yes, I know that's not when they were published. That's when I read them.

gio and the terrifying wc

My cat used to love to watch the toilet flush in our old apartment. However, the new one is apparently very scary.

He happened to be in the bathroom yesterday when it was being flushed and he started yowling like he does when he sees another cat outside and trying to climb into the bowl.

Today he started yowling when it flushed while he was in another room.

I guess we get to add toilets to the list of Things That Freak Gio The Fuck Out. Currently the list is populated by Pop Rocks, cats who are not Nishka (our other cat), toilets, needing to throw up, blowing raspberries on his tummy and talking to him through a long tube.

how to be a douche, part 793: ask a veteran if they've ever killed anyone

[Trigger warning for mild descriptions of combat violence.]

When M and I were first together, we naturally got to talking about her time in Iraq -- this would have been June 2006, about 26 months after she got home from her year in the sandbox. After several hours of conversation, she said "And I'm sure there's a question in your head, it's okay, you can just go ahead and ask." I looked at her blankly, having absolutely no idea what she was talking about. 

"Don't you want to know how many people I've killed?"

I looked at her and started crying, because no, I didn't want to know. The question had never even entered my mind, but now that it had been brought up I really didn't want to know. If she had, I didn't want to think about her doing that. Either way, I didn't want her to have to think about it, to have to go back to that place.

Last week, we got to talking about that conversation we had had back in the day and I asked her if a lot of people asked her that question. She laughed humourlessly, and said, "everyone asks that." Then she told me this story:

A man came to talk to our [junior-high] class, a Vietnam combat veteran, to tell us about what it was like to be a soldier. He talked to us for a while and opened it up for questions, and one of the kids asked had he ever killed anyone, and if so, how many? You could tell that this question was something he'd been prepared for, but it still hurt. 
He said that he didn't know with utter certainty about all of them, simply because sometimes it wasn't him looking though the sights, squeezing a trigger and watching someone fall; sometimes he would be calling in airstrikes or they would leave a booby-trap on a trail in the jungle and then move away, and they could see that it had exploded but they didn't know exactly how many. He went on to say that he believed it was probably around 50. You could see in his face that this was haunting him, that several decades later this remained a constant horror in his life, and when that question was asked he saw it all again. Even as a soldier, with a soldier's training, this wasn't something he was proud of, it wasn't "yeah, I nailed 50 of those fuckers" it was "I stand before you, having killed 50 human beings" and you could just tell how awful it was for him. I decided right then and there that I was never going to ask anyone that question.
Within the community of soldiers, some people say that the first time you kill, it's hard. The second time you kill, it's harder, because now you can't just tell yourself that this was a fluke thing, you have to own up to the fact that you are a killer, that this is who you have become. And after that second one, you forget why it was hard to begin with because a place within you has died. You can't sit and contemplate every time you killed a person, or you'll go insane, so part of your soul dies to allow the rest of you to continue on doing what you have to do to survive.
I have the luxury of the answer being no, so for me it's not a terribly distressing question. However, I know a great many people for whom the answer is 'yes,' and for them, thinking about the people that they've killed is amongst the worst and most haunting experiences of their lives. So, consequently, I want to make sure that people don't continue to go around asking that question. So my response is to make them as uncomfortable as possible and make sure that they are very, very, very sorry that they ever asked and hopefully they won't ask anyone else ever again.
First of all, I let them know how crushing it is to the human soul to take someone's life and even if you're trained to do it, you still don't want to and you still don't enjoy it. Soldiers are not bloodthirsty animals, they're usually just ordinary people who felt the call to serve, and as such were put into a horrible situation. I know many, many people whose lives have been destroyed because of what they had to do to protect themselves or their fellow soldiers. And basically, they come back just wanting to be human being again, but when people ask that kind of question -- however inappropriate -- they're forced to relive everything all over again.
Then I end up telling them that people need to understand that people don't come back from war the same -- that most of us who raised our right hands and swore to defend our homes are being forced into an evil war of which they want no part, and they come back damaged. And it's awful that petty voyeurs have to rub salt in their wounds to satisfy their own curiosity.

25 June 2010

why klonopin is better than alcohol

Wow, my tolerance for the pharmaceuticals formerly prescribed to me for daily use has gone way the fuck down.