Content note: Poverty, religious extremism, survivalism, guilt, and suicidal depression.
This essay by John Scalzi on what being poor is like was extremely painful to read, as was Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed.
I think it's partly that my family of origin was usually lower-middle-class, and partly that I sold almost everything nice I owned in a very short period of time because I had been guilted so much about not having a job and I honestly believed that I needed to make money somehow and it was my fault if I couldn't.
I think that was around when I almost killed myself.
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I currently have 45 works archived at the AO3. Pick a number from 1 (the most recent) to 45 (the first thing I posted there), and I’ll tell you three things I currently like about it.
Fandom: The Avengers
Characters: Phil Coulson, Clint Barton, Natasha Romanova, Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, Hulk, Steve Rogers, Betty Ross, JARVIS, Bucky Barnes, Nick Fury.
Warnings: Mind control. Inferences of past child abuse and other torture. Current environment is supportive.
Summary: A mission in Russia introduces the Avengers to the Winter Soldier. Steve wants Bucky back and will stop at nothing to make that happen. Everyone else helps however they can.
Notes: Asexual character (Clint). Aromantic character (Natasha). Asexual relationship. Sibling relationships. Fix-it. Teamwork. Canon-typical violence. BAMF!Avengers. Vulgar language. Drama. Rescue. Hurt/Comfort. Emotional whump. Survivor guilt. Friendship. Confusion. Mind control. Memory loss. Slow recovery. Nick Fury makes stupid-ass decisions. Fear of loss. Arc reactor. Fluff. Nonsexual ageplay. Making up for lost time. Tony Stark has a heart. Games. Trust issues. Safety and security. Howard Stark's A+ parenting. Obadiah Stane's A+ parenting. Food issues. Multiplicity/Plurality. Sleep issues. Non-sexual touching and intimacy. Yoga. Personal growth. Family of choice. ALL THE FEELS. #coulsonlives.
Begin with Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12.
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And the gap is a gap between people
They do not talk or make eye contact
The solitude is protocol
But at 1 in the morning
If an elderly piss-stinking drunkard gets on
Dribbling, jabbering gibberish
The people will laugh
And smile at each other
They are in this together now
We need the drunkards
And in later life
It is a service
I am happy
That one got me right in the gut, and I don't think it's just because I'm biased. I'm kind of in awe of what he's writing at just 20, and I find myself wondering what he might be doing by the time he's my age. Meanwhile, there's more, and darker, in Dog Tired Eyes, available at Lulu.
1. I got to help train baby judges! If your a dork, as I am, that is exactly as fun as it sounds. Seriously, I got to be a mock juror for the afternoon and be disruptive and laugh at some (purposefully) utterly incompetent lawyers.
Prosecutor, in the middle of trial, on his cell phone: "Yeah, we're going to have to push this lunch back. This case is taking so much longer than it should. It's an open and shut case. I don't know why they're wasting my time."
Defendant: "Well, I've watched Law & Order. I can totally represent myself. Wait, you mean I could go to jail?!?!?!?!"
Defense Attorney: *falls asleep while in the middle of her client's cross-examination*
Juror (me) to another juror, in the middle of a witness's testimony: "You know, I really like this witness better than the last one. I don't normally like cops, but her uniform is just so shiny."
There was bickering! And ambiguously religious head coverings (none of the judges took that bait)! And more hearsay than I thought possible without a single hearsay objection (there were lots of objections, but for things like "that's a lie! She's lying!")! And general shenanigans!
2. As I was leaving for the courthouse, I noticed than my car had been booted. I was walking to the courthouse anyway, and I didn't have time to deal with it, so I figured I'd try to fix the situation tomorrow. I wasn't super worried. But, because I was in court, I didn't have my cell phone on, so I completely missed Z texting me to tell me that THEY WERE TOWING MY CAR. So I found that out at 4:45 this afternoon and I've been stressed about it ever since. And I'm not sure I'm going to be able to do anything about it tomorrow anyway because I don't have my student loan money for the summer semester yet. No car=no going to class tomorrow night, which is not awesome because I skipped class tonight.
3. I skipped class tonight because Josh Ritter concert! It was outside. The weather was beautiful, the opening act was entertaining, Josh was fantastic, and I love his bass player. I... did not love his set list. I think I've decided that I like the energy of small, indoor concerts significantly more than small-ish outdoor concerts. Though maybe that's just because I was super stressed all night and couldn't completely enjoy myself.
4. Also hindering my enjoyment: My knee really, really fucking hurts. It's probably from the walking today. Stress doesn't help either because I tense all of my muscles and it just cascades into my right knee. It's been bothering me more than usual all spring and I'm going to need to see some sort of doctor about it eventually (again). But that's going to have to wait until I get on some sort of insurance because I'm 80% sure that the next step involves some sort of surgery.
5. I got all but one of my grades today and I'm happy/content with them. It's that last grade that I'm really worried about though. I'd managed to forget about it when I saw my other grades today because they made me so happy, but then I remembered right in the middle of the concert. The last grade is for the legal writing class that I had to withdraw from last spring and it's required to graduate. The class left me freaked out and exhausted all semester, and I seriously do not think I have the mental fortitude to take it a third time. I don't even know if they would let me take it a third time.
6. No car also equals no Wednesday night karaoke. I was really looking forward to that becoming a regular thing. I even had a couple bucks in cash for the $1 PBRs because I had to use my debit card last week and putting $1 on any sort of card is utterly ridiculous.
7. To cap it all off, there is a fruit fly in my apartment and I can't seem to kill the damned thing, and I stepped on a piece of broken glass as I was making myself a late dinner. Luckily, the glass only scratched my foot a little. There's an obvious mark, but no bleeding. At this point I'm tempted to call that a win.
Now, I am going to bed. Someone wake me up next week.
Here’s the finding that struck me as most distressing: “One-third of pastors are reading business books.”
I appreciate that the job of a local church pastor is in some ways analogous to that of an executive, but that doesn’t mean that a local church is in any way analogous to a “business.” If all those pastors reading “business books” — a depressingly vapid genre for which Sturgeon’s Law understates the ratio — are getting the idea that their churches should be more “business-like,” then I fear for their congregations, their ministries, their parishes.*
One way of describing the difference between a local church and a business is by looking at the difference between a Broadway production and community theater.
Consider a Broadway production reviving an old classic like Carousel. At the very same time, far enough away that the rights are still available, a small community theater prepares its production of the very same play. Both productions share some of the same goals. They both want to tell this story as best they can within the constraints of their respective budgets and talent pools (both of which are far more constraining for the community theater). They both want to make their audiences laugh, cry, yearn and ache. They both want to sell tickets.
But Broadway is a business. Like any business, it wants to hire the best possible people for every role. So the Broadway production holds auditions in which some of the world’s best actors, singers and dancers compete to land a part in the show.
Casting doesn’t work like that at the community theater. Broadway starts with a list of roles to be filled, then selects only the very best people it can find to fill them. Community theater starts with the community — with everybody — and then tries to figure out how best to employ them, how best to manage the assembled ensemble so that everyone is able to participate and to contribute to the common goal.
Think of Mr. Fish in John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany. Mr. Fish isn’t a great actor, but he’s a faithful member of the Gravesend Players and every year Dan Needham, the patient director of the local community theater, finds a role that he hopes will make the best use of Mr. Fish and his talents.
That’s the real magic of community theater. Sure, I can laugh along with Shakespeare at the amateur follies of Nick Bottom, Peter Quince, Francis Flute and Starveling, Snout and Snug in their deliriously awful “craftsmen’s play” in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But let’s not sneer at them. Here you have a weaver, a carpenter, a bellows-mender, tailor, tinker and joiner working without pay. Why? Because this is something we humans do — we tell stories, we act them out. We’ve done this for as long as humans can remember anything humans have done. And if I were running a community theater, I’d be happy to have them — Quince and Starveling especially, because every theater needs a good tailor and a good carpenter. (I do wonder if Shakespeare ran into any trouble with his set-builders and costumers after they absorbed his mockery of the “craftsmen” in Dream.)
The challenge, and the beauty, of community theater is figuring out how to allow and enable all of these folks to make their best contribution to the production at hand. Mr. Fish might surprise us all and be better than expected if we cast him as “Mr. Snow” in Carousel. Starveling, Snout and Snug might fit in best as townspeople in the big “Clambake” scene.
The point is that the task for a community theater is the opposite of the task for Broadway. Broadway wants to find and to hire only the very best possible people for every role. Community theater wants to get the best possible contribution from every person in the community.
A local church should be more like community theater than like Broadway.
And so should the entire country. This is why I cringe whenever I hear someone suggest that we need a “CEO president.”
No. No we do not. A CEO is completely unqualified to be president. A CEO is someone who has spent years preparing for how not to be president.
Think of the matter of full employment. Full employment for a CEO means finding and hiring only the very best people for every position in your company. That’s easy. That’s like trying to find good dancers on Broadway.
But what about all those people who are not “the very best”? The CEO doesn’t care. The CEO doesn’t have to care.
A president does. For a president, “full employment” means that everyone who is capable of working is able to find work. That doesn’t just mean the most talented, best-educated, most capable people, but everyone – the incompetent, the perpetually confused, the easily distracted, the socially maladept, the clumsy, the dim, the schlemiels and schlimazels and every other variety of bungler and screw-up. They need work too. They need to be allowed and enabled to participate and to contribute. And just like in community theater, the challenge is to help them find the right role that will make the best of whatever abilities they have.
If you’re in charge of a business, then you simply fire the bunglers and the screw-ups, the Snouts and the Starvelings. Or you never hire them in the first place. What becomes of them after they’re fired, or if no one ever hires them? Not your problem. Not your concern.
But if you’re in charge of a country, or if you’re in charge of a local church, then it is your concern. You can’t just restrict yourself to the winners of the audition, to “the best and the brightest.” Your job is to make sure that everyone is allowed, encouraged, enabled and empowered to contribute to the best of their ability — whatever their ability may be. Everyone is your concern. Everyone is your problem.
No, wait, not your “problem.” That’s the wrong word. That’s CEO-speak. People are not problems — that’s a lie told by “business books.” Everyone is your community. Everyone is your neighbor.
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* “Parish” is an archaic term referring to the long defunct notion that a local church carried certain obligations based on its geography and not on brand-affinity, ethnic and economic demographics, and partisan political identity. The automobile abolished the parish more than a generation ago. Any church with a parking lot does not have a parish.
UPDATE: "Vimeo has removed or disabled access to the following material as a result of a third-party notification by The David Foster Wallace Literary Trust claiming that this material is infringing: THIS IS WATER - By David Foster Wallace."
Here's a beautifully made video accompaniment to "This is Water," an excerpt from a David Foster Wallace commencement address to Kenyon College in 2005, in which Wallace exhorts his listeners to empathize with the people around them, using examples and languages so beautifully chosen that they just about break your heart.
Transcription of the 2005 Kenyon Commencement Address - May 21, 2005 (via Lifehacker)
But most days, if you're aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she's not usually like this. Maybe she's been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it's also not impossible. It just depends what you what to consider. If you're automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won't consider possibilities that aren't annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.
Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true. The only thing that's capital-T True is that you get to decide how you're gonna try to see it.
Fandom will survive. Fandom will thrive. Feel free to stress and challenge people's motives and plan for the worst and hope for the best. Me, I'm not really worried. In twenty years, I'm pretty sure there will still be porn.
I currently have 74 works archived at the AO3. Pick a number from 1 (the most recently posted) to 74 (the first thing I posted there), and I’ll tell you three things I currently like about it.
You know, I'm actually not sure how I feel about this in specific.
Tis the End Times by morgandawn
Another corporate attempt to corral and profit from fanfic? by ithiliana
I'm warily working my way through the links so far, and I would probably be doing a lot better at the pros/cons bit if I hadn't had really intense meeting today about the new build at work.
Kindle Worlds by flourish - I like her breakdown a lot.
Seriously, Is This Happening?
Weirdly enough, approaching this from a reader standpoint, I seriously love beyond words this. I can pay my favorite authors for my favorite fic. This is like a dream come true. I mean, the ones without offensive porn, incest, or violence (per observation by coffeeandink) which are usually my favorites. I'm assuming A/B/O Sam/Dean SPN fic isn't going to be widely available there, is what I'm saying.
As a writer--I don't think I've written anything without two of the three above (three of three on a good day). And--okay, I'm not sure how I feel about pay-only access, either, if it can't be archived (which this going to Amazon's copyright ownership terms, that would be a no).
This would happen a week before a major deployment at work. Jesus, the timing.
A sergeant first class and officer in charge of the “health, welfare and discipline” of cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point has been accused of videotaping female cadets without their consent, including when the women were showering or otherwise unclothed.