Some Things from my Childhood

Revolver

I’ve committed to blogging every weekday in January, but today I’m struggling to find a topic. I have a zillion things I want to write about, but they all take more time and thought than I have tonight. So I’m compiling some lists of things from my childhood. (I’m defining “childhood” as “age 12 and under.”)

Note: These aren’t the top five anything. They’re just the first five in each category that popped into my head.

Five books I read:
The Annotated Alice
Winnie the Pooh
Striped Ice Cream
The Little Match Girl
Honey Bunch: Her First Little Mystery

Five foods I ate:
American Cheese slices, broken into small squares, each square placed on a single Chex
Braunschweiger sanwiches on white bread with potato chips
Carnation Breakfast Bars
Angel food cake with strawberries and whipped cream
Tuna and noodles

Five songs I liked:
Rubber Ducky
Yellow Submarine
Octopus’s Garden
The Swingle Singers version of “Sleepers Wake” by J.S. Bach
Tomorrow Never Knows

Five games I played:
TV Tag
Hang On Harvey
Careers
Sorry
Hopscotch

Five record albums I listened to:
Revolver, The Beatles (note: I didn’t understand that the front cover was the front, I thought it was weird so I assumed it must be the back cover)
Julian Bream Plays Bach
Abbey Road, The Beatles
The Monkees, The Monkees
Think Ethnic, Smothers Brothers

Some Things from my Childhood
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Godless Perverts Book Club: “My President Was Black,” Ta-Nehisi Coates

Godless-Perverts-Book-Club-Jan-for-website

Godless Perverts is starting a book club! Want to talk books with other nonbelievers interested in sexuality and social justice? Come to the very first Godless Perverts Book Club, Tuesday January 17 at Borderlands! We’ll be discussing a wide variety of books over the coming months, about sex, gender, atheism, religion, science, activism, resistance, and other topics in the Godless Perverts wheelhouse.

For our first selection, we decided to read a hefty article instead of a book, since part of the first meeting will be devoted to getting things off the ground and choosing the next book. We will be reading the Ta-Nehisi Coates article in The Atlantic, “My President Was Black.” The article addresses issues around identity politics (a.k.a. civil rights), respectability politics, and the role and functions of the President. While this is not specific to godlessness and perversion, it should lead to some good discussions regarding the current political climate, what we expect from politicians (whether friend or foe) and how we should hold politicians accountable. The article is about a 2 hour read (17000 words).

The Godless Perverts Book Club is at Borderlands Cafe, 870 Valencia St. in San Francisco. Continue reading “Godless Perverts Book Club: “My President Was Black,” Ta-Nehisi Coates”

Godless Perverts Book Club: “My President Was Black,” Ta-Nehisi Coates

Greta Speaking at Perverts Put Out, Saturday Jan. 21: Winter in America

perverts put out

I’m speaking at Perverts Put Out, San Francisco’s long-running pansexual performance series, on Saturday January 21. (Yes, that’s the day after inauguration day and the day of the Women’s March: I’ll be coming to PPO from the March.) This incarnation of PPO will be the Winter in America Edition, as we mark the beginning of the New Dark Ages. There’ll be post-inaugural anger, defiance and smut as co-hosts Dr. Carol Queen and Simon Sheppard and the usual gang of geniuses, including Greta Christina, Jen Cross, Daphne Gottlieb, Philip Huang, Zoe Kat, horehound stillpoint and Xan West, look forward to years of queer struggle, community, and hot sex. If you’re in San Francisco, I hope to see you there!

DATE/TIME: Saturday, January 21, 8:00 pm (doors open at 7:00)
LOCATION: Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission St., San Francisco (between 9th and 10th, near Civic Center BART)
COST: $10-20 sliding scale, no one turned away for lack of funds
URL: http://www.simonsheppard.com/pervertsputout.html

Greta Speaking at Perverts Put Out, Saturday Jan. 21: Winter in America

Random Favorite Things

I committed to blogging every weekday in January. Today (Thuraday) has been a travel day, I’ve been offline most of the day and am now tired. So I’m going to post a random selection of favorite things. (I am not going to set them to the tune of the song from The Sound of Music)

My favorite game to play on my phone is Threes. (I just got a new high score the other day, in fact! Broke 90,000 for the first time.)

My favorite tabletop/social game is Slash.

My favorite color is royal blue.

My favorite episode of Steven Universe is “Winter Forecast.”

My favorite episode of Parks and Recreation is “End of the World.”

My favorite character in the Terry Pratchett books is Moist Von Lipwig.

My favorite character in “Leverage” is Parker.

My favorite non-home airport is Portland.

My favorite thing to do in a strange city is to sit in a local, non-chain cafe.

Enough for now. I may return to this theme in the future. Good night.

Random Favorite Things

Politics and Sexual Shame

pointing finger

Content note: sexual shaming, the president-elect, passing mention of rape.

Please find a way to talk about the latest DT/ Russia/ blackmail story in Buzzfeed, without shaming consensual sexual activity.

If the activity being discussed isn’t your thing, please try to imagine what it’s like for people who do engage in it seeing it viciously mocked on social media. Or else, think about one of your own favorite sex acts, one that’s widely considered to be funny or weird or sick — and again, imagine seeing it widely reviled by your friends, neighbors, family members. And please act accordingly.

There are ways to discuss this news story, and to revile DT over it, without shaming or mocking this sex act. You can focus on the racism: how this act (assuming the story is accurate) was done as an act of racist dominance and white supremacy. You can focus on the blackmail aspect. You can talk about the grotesque hypocrisy of FBI director James Comey releasing a bullshit non-story about Hillary Clinton days before the election, but sitting on this story. There are lots of things you can say about this story other than “THAT SEX ACT IS GROSS! RIDICULOUS! DISGUSTING! LAUGHABLE! WEIRD! SICK!” — or making adolescent jokes rooted in the idea that the sex act is gross, ridiculous, disgusting, laughable, weird, or sick.

Remember when Rush Limbaugh made that comment about how liberals think any sexual activity is okay as long as it’s consenting, but any time something was non-consensual we wanted to call the “rape police”? Remember when we all collectively said, “Um… yeah, that’s the idea, what’s wrong with that?” Let’s live up to that now. If we want to be the better people, our sexual ethics need to be based on actual ethics — like consent, honesty, fairness, and harm. They can’t be based on which sex acts personally gross us out.

Politics and Sexual Shame

Depression in a Fascist Regime

depressed woman in window seat

(Content note: serious depression, spoilers for the last episode of “Angel”.)

I don’t know how to do this.

A lot of my strategies don’t work anymore. This round of depression isn’t just worse than my previous episodes: it’s different. My symptoms, the things that help, the things that make it worse — they’re different. I’ve spent the last four years learning how to manage depression, and now, at least to some extent, I need to start all over again.

It’s different because the world is genuinely terrible. That’s not the depression talking: that’s a reasonable, evidence-based assessment of reality. You know the joke, “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you?” Well, just because you’re depressed doesn’t mean the world’s not terrible. And just because you’re anxious doesn’t mean the world’s not terrifying. I keep thinking about Reviving the Tribe, Eric Rofes’s book about gay men’s lives in the worst years of the AIDS epidemic, and I keep thinking about the question he kept asking: How do you treat PTSD when the trauma is still ongoing? Continue reading “Depression in a Fascist Regime”

Depression in a Fascist Regime

Rogue One, and Collective Action

rogue-one

Content note: spoilers for “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”

There are things I liked about Rogue One, and things I didn’t. I mostly didn’t like the ratio of “Pew! Pew! BOOM!” action to dialog and plot. I like “Pew! Pew! BOOM!” as much as the next geek, but there was too much of it here: it got exhausting and overwhelming and boring, and it took time that could have been spent clarifying the sometimes confusing plot. But there were a lot of things I liked (gotta love a sarcastic robot who’s a bad liar), and one thing I liked a hell of a lot:

I liked how Rogue One was about collective action.

I liked that the movie wasn’t another goddamn Hero’s Journey. I liked that it wasn’t about another Destined One Who Will Save Us All. It was about ordinary people stepping up, not because they’re some powerful Jedi’s long-lost son, but because someone has to. It was about the difficulties of collective action, people arguing and splintering and deciding for themselves who to follow — because the alternative is the exact rigid authoritarianism they’re fighting against. It was about a team who all have their crucial part to play, who figure out on the fly how to work together.

In fact, Rogue One completely undercuts the whole Hero’s Journey thing in Star Wars 4-6. Continue reading “Rogue One, and Collective Action”

Rogue One, and Collective Action

It’s Okay to Not Be Friends with Everyone: The Pierce Hawthorne Problem in Community

community-cast-season-4

I’m committing to blogging every weekday in January: sometimes about big important topics, sometimes about small everyday ones. Today I’m blogging about Community.

You don’t have to be friends with everyone. It’s okay to not like people. It’s okay to not want to hang out with people. In particular, it’s okay to not want to hang out with people who treat other people horribly.

I’m a big fan of the TV show Community. It’s a smart, funny show with a fairly diverse cast. It emphasizes friendships much more than sexual or romantic relationships (nothing against sexual or romantic relationships, but they do tend to dominate TV and movies). And it has a huge amount of self-conscious fun with pop culture tropes. Every episode plays with common tropes, structures, and iconic examples of television: messing with them, fusing them, giving them homage, taking them apart. There’s a claymation Christmas special, a bottle episode, a clips show with clips from non-existent shows, a Western episode that morphs into a Star Wars episode, shows in the styles of Ken Burns and Law & Order and M*A*S*H. I once said to Ingrid that I wanted a TV show based on the TV Tropes website, and she said, “You mean Community?” (If you’re going to check out an episodes or two to see if you like it, I recommend the paintball ones: “Modern Warfare,” “A Fistful of Paintballs,” and “For a Few Paintballs More.”)

But I do have some issues with the program. (Yes, you can like a piece of pop culture, even love it, and still critique it and recognize its flaws. Amazing, huh?) And one of the biggest problems with Community is Pierce Hawthorne — and the persistent theme throughout the show that cutting someone out of a group makes you a bad person, and that once a person is in a group, you have to tolerate them forever, no matter how badly they behave. Continue reading “It’s Okay to Not Be Friends with Everyone: The Pierce Hawthorne Problem in Community

It’s Okay to Not Be Friends with Everyone: The Pierce Hawthorne Problem in Community

Depression and Novelty

The word new

Content note: depression, obviously. If you discuss this in your own space, please be careful not to give unsolicited advice about mental illness to mentally ill people. (I’m no longer hosting comments on my blog, mostly because monitoring them had become a stressful time-suck.)

My depression is back with a vengeance. It was bad even before the election, and it’s worse now. So I’ve been more vigilant than usual about what helps and what doesn’t. And I’ve noticed something that helps, something I’d never noticed before:

Novelty.

New places. New TV shows. New music. New clothes. New food. New games. New cafes to work in. New varieties of all these things: new combinations of my existing wardrobe, new flavors in old recipes. As long as it’s reasonably pleasant (or at least not actively unpleasant), novelty of almost any kind knocks me out of my self-perpetuating spirals, fairly reliably, at least for a while.

I don’t know why this is. I’m writing this, to a great extent, to help figure that out. Part of it, I think, is that learning and adapting are pleasures for me (as long as my learning curve on the thing isn’t too steep). Part of it is that my depression is highly self-perpetuating: my brain gets set into self-destructive grooves, and novelty knocks me out of those. Part of it is that novelty wakes me up and grabs my consciousness. I’m working to really savor my pleasurable and satisfying experiences, so I can remember them more fully the next time I’m deep in the grip of hopeless and despair. With more familiar pleasures, it’s easier to tune them out: new experiences shake me, and make me pay closer attention.

And my depression often takes the form of thinking that things have always been terrible and always will be, that I’ve always felt terrible and always will. It does this revisionist ret-con time distortion, where it goes back and overwrites my memories to make me think I’ve always felt this way. Novelty interrupts that, and is a reality check against it. Depressed jerkbrain: “The world is awful. Humanity is awful, in ways that are not fixable. My depression is self-perpetuating, which means I’ve always had it and always will. There is no hope, and I will never experience pleasure again — ooo, rosemary chocolate pie!”

The break is only temporary. This isn’t long-term self-care, like exercise or meditation or leaving the house every day. But temporary alleviations are important right now. When I’m in the grip of despair, the memory of these moments is something to hang onto, reminding me that despair isn’t actually permanent. Even if I don’t immediately feel that, even if pleasure and meaning seem a thousand miles away, I can abstractly believe it — and sometimes, that’s enough. It’s not enough to make me feel better right that moment, but it’s enough to motivate me to be patient, to keep doing self-care, to just keep putting one foot in front of the other with the trust that it will take me to someplace better. So I take it back. This is long-term self-care.

There are exceptions. I’m still resistant to new tech stuff, new apps and programs and whatnot: I’m good with tech things once I get the hang of them, but my learning curve with tech is often steep and frustrating. What’s more, when I’m getting too much novelty and unfamiliarity, that’s exhausting, overwhelming, and ultimately numbing — none of which is good for depression. (Travel is like this, which is one of the reasons I limit it.) Old familiar things do help as well, in a different way. Familiar experiences are soothing. They make me feel safe. They give me a sense of continuity, which can help when I’m feeling like the world is breaking apart under my feet.

But when everything I’m doing is familiar, that’s a recipe for making my depression spiral. That’s a recipe for keeping my brain in the same old shitty groove. So I need to keep a balance between familiarity and novelty, between comfort and excitement. And knowing that this balance makes a difference — well, it makes a difference. It’s one more tool in my toolbox. And it’s a new one!

Depression and Novelty

Variations on Chocolate Pie

chocolate pies

I’m committing to blogging every weekday in January: sometimes about big important topics, sometimes about small everyday ones. Today I’m blogging about chocolate pie.

Every year, usually during the holidays, people write or comment to tell me they’re making my chocolate pie. I can’t argue: my chocolate pie is ridiculously delicious and ridiculously easy. This holiday season, I did some new variations on the classic recipe. One of the nicer things about this recipe is that it’s easy to adjust for extra flavorings: the unbaked filling is yummy, you can eat it with a spoon if you don’t mind a bit of raw egg, so you can just keep tasting it until the pepper or cardamom or whatever is to your taste. (The basic recipe is at the end of this post: you can also find it here.)

rosmarinus-officinalis-botanical-drawing-by-francisco-manuel-blanco
Rosemary Almond Chocolate Pie. This was a big risk — I wasn’t at all sure how it would turn out, and it’s not adjustable the way the other variants are — but it’s been a big hit. The flavors are unexpected but delicious, and the rosemary makes it both sophisticated and Christmassy. (I don’t know why I think of rosemary as Christmassy, it grows like a weed in our backyard year-round, but there you have it.) Continue reading “Variations on Chocolate Pie”

Variations on Chocolate Pie