Wankers of the Week: Year-End Yahoos

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Crappy weekend everyone! It’s New Year’s Eve, but even so, the wanks just keep on coming. Guess some people just gotta see the old year out with a bang…and a crash…and an unceremonious thud…and a whimper, plus some cheese to go with that drunken whine. And true to form, these people did. So here they come, in no particular order:

1. Liam O’Fucking Grady. Size of ego inversely proportional to that of penis? Check. Who else would screw around with a 13-year-old girl (and she’s just the tip of the iceberg!) for eight months, and send her nearly 5,000 sexts…at the age of 30? AND have the unmitigated gall to tell her that his wife is “jealous” of this sexual abuse, and the relationship is “only illegal if the law knew…or your mum”? Um, that’s an admission right there that you’re breaking the law, dude. And hurting your wife badly. Not to mention fucking the poor kid up for life. Yeah, I bet her mother’s livid. What mother wouldn’t be, knowing that her barely-teenaged daughter was being groomed and raped by a man more than twice her age? And just to cap it off: He’s got two kids of his own. EPIC FAIL.

2. Newt Fucking Gingrich. A filthy, lying toadstool about everything, including his two divorces? Why, I never would have guessed! But while he may have been the one to initiate divorce proceedings, and put them through a whole lotta hardship, his exes are actually both better off without him. Who wants to be miserably married to a filthy, lying toadstool, after all? Especially one who thinks you’re “not young and pretty enough” to play first lady to his laughable presidential ambitions? PS: Speaking of laughable, ha ha.

3. Margaret Fucking Wente. Where the fuck is her editor??? Her trouble with facts and figures just never ceases to amaze…and neither does her capacity for pulling bogus conclusions out of her capacious ass. Her motives for doing so, of course, are clear: She’s scared shitless of the Muslims and desperately wants to believe that Christians are a global majority, or will be someday. The fact that they’re not, and won’t be, is too scary for her to face…as is the fact that it won’t actually matter anyway, since wherever Muslims have settled among them, they’ve shown themselves uncannily able to just go along and get along. It’s particularly true in Germany, where Turkish Muslim immigrants often find themselves celebrating Christmas (minus church) along with the locals. I’d sure like to see Mags explain THAT one, except that I know she can’t.

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4. Geert Fucking Wilders. Need any more evidence that this fascist fuck is also a corporatist stooge? You got it. His criticisms of Queen Beatrix run to her being too “green” and “multi-culti”! This in the face of a lot of popular opinion in Holland that her holiday message of environmental care and tolerance is just what’s needed. As opposed to his own message, which year in and year out is one-note racism. It’s kind of hard to imagine his fascist party getting as far as it has without corporate money and a lot of slick promotion, nee?

5. David Fucking Cameron. If you needed any more evidence that the British PM is a serious, hardcore wanker, look no further: He banned Larry, the 10 Downing Street cat, from the “newly refurbished” residence. The cuddly brown tabby-and-white kitty was originally brought in as a mouser. And now he’s not fancy enough for the not-so-honorable Mr. Toffybottom. Meanwhile, the mice will play. And, one hopes, they will make mouse-eaten mincemeat of all the expensively refurbished furbishings.

6. Donald Fucking Trump. Hallelujah, just when I thought this week’s list was gonna be a teensy bit thin, Da Donald up and obliges me with a tasty soundbite! And what a doozer it is, too: He seriously thinks black and Latino people can relate to a racist old purportedly rich white dude with horrible orangey hair! And not only that, he thinks that is gonna translate into VOTES! Guess he forgets the color of those whom he evicted from that big chunk of now-tony New York real estate, back in the day, to build all those towers and plazas and shit just so he’d have something to stick his name on. Awwwww. Isn’t that just so adorable?

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7. Victoria Fucking Jackson. Yeah, I’m totally sure the FBI would fill her, of all people, in on the top-seekwit Muslim Brotherhood plan to take over the USA. And I bet they did it standing on their heads while reciting crappy poems, too.

8. Rick Fucking Santorum. Y’know, Ricky, your “stick it to the Man” message might have had more resonance if it weren’t blatantly cribbed from the Black Panthers. And if you weren’t wearing a silly-ass sweater vest while uttering it. And if you were not yourself the living embodiment of the Man whom the Panthers were originally out to stick it to. PS: Oh HELL no! PPS: And this is why we can’t trust him to deal with poverty. He gets everything bass-ackwards on purpose. Any questions?

9. Christopher Fucking Smith. He might just be the Charles Manson of child-sex abusers, because he tried to get not one, but two women to “prove their love” for him…by sexually assaulting a seven-year-old girl. And one of them did. Nevertheless, I’m listing HIM, not her, here…because she would not have done it if he hadn’t insisted upon it.

10. Eric Fucking Dondero. Seriously, dude, when Ron Fucking Paul is in a hole, you won’t get him out by digging. (And we don’t want him out, anyway. He can stay right down there with his buddies from white-supremacist wankerdom. And the homophobic genocide league, too.)

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PS: Pathetic. Just PATHETIC.

11. Mark Fucking Madden. Amateurish right-wing radio sports host is amateurish. And lousy at not-properly-apologizing, too. Hiding behind a stage persona is just plain fucking cowardly, as is crouching behind your late mother’s skirts while defending the fact that you were lobbing gender-specific insults at women. Not A woman — ALL women. In other words: Amateurish sexist, swinish, stupid, and utterly fucking worthless to society. I think that about covers it, don’t you?

12. Michele Fucking Bachmann. I’m sure the gays just love you, too, dear. I mean, didn’t you marry one? PS: If anyone wonders why I want tighter gun controls, including a total ban on assault rifles, guess who just made the perfect case for that. PPS: Oh dear, shed a tear.

13. Rick Fucking Perry. Another one I’m sure they love; this one for his classy hypocrisy of trying to keep his clandestine liaisons from seeing his face. And yeah, how about that pro-rape/incest antichoicerism? Bet the ladies are just all over him for that! But best of all, I think all that hairspray is starting to eat his brain, because he thinks Solyndra is a country.

14. The Fucking Duggars. In case anyone doubts the crapaganda value of Michelle’s miscarriage, here you go. Enjoy the barf-inducing video!

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15. Carlos Fucking Talavera Leal. However you say wanker in Mexican, he’s one. A racist one. Who stinks.

16. Shlomo Fucking Fuchs. Where does he think he is, the Jim Crow South? No, it’s Israel on the eve of 2012. You know, Israel? Liberal democracy, according to Bibi Fucking Netanyahu, who wouldn’t be in power there right now if he weren’t such a shameless panderer to the ultra-orthodox kingmaker minority? Yeah, that Israel. Which is looking more and more like an apartheid state-slash-dystopia out of The Handmaid’s Tale all the time.

17. Kelly Fucking Clarkson. More proof, in case anyone needed it, that nothing good ever came from American Idol. Also that only an airhead would endorse Ron Fucking Paul at this rate.

18. James Fucking Hetfield. Tossing rocks at a pesky photographer in Uruguay? Not classy. Metallica already has the reputation for being something of a dickweed band, and this is not exactly going to any great lengths to dispel that unwelcome image. Besides, the word “No” is the same in both English and Spanish, so it’s not as if he had a language barrier to overcome.

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19. The Fucking BBC. Are there really not enough famous women in the world to fill their Women of the Year list? Or were the boobs at the Beeb trying to make some kind of obtuse statement about how female pandas are more noteworthy than female humans?

20. and 21. Frankie and Kayla Fucking Almuina. Yep, a his ‘n’ hers double-wank for these young married folks, who didn’t get the message last week that duct-taping your kid and photographing (and Facebooking) the terrified result wasn’t fucking funny. Like I said last week, the law takes this shit seriously. And so does the kid.

22. Scott Fucking Wilson. A TSA wanker, literally. I guess we should be thankful he was in charge of screening cargo, not body scanners, since he was busted for downloading kiddie porn. But still.

23. Patrick Fucking Lott. Yay, another fucking Repug sex pervert who likes videotaping naked boys in the shower, unbeknownst to them! Anyone keeping count of how many this makes?

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24. Mitt Fucking Romney. Lame criticism of Obama’s annual homecoming to Hawaii is lame. Hawaiians are US citizens too, remember? PS: Nice kid you got there, too, Mittens. A Birther still, at this late hour — how charming!

25. Lawrence O’Fucking Neill. Gee, do you think Hizzoner is in the pocket of Big Bidness in any way? Or are you still one of those sheeple who are convinced that clean air and fewer greenhouse gas emissions somehow constitute an infringement on your so-called freedoms?

26. Mark Fucking Hurd. For those of you still on the fence as to whether high-tech CEOs can really be douchebags: Yes, they can. They can be wannabe cheaters. They can be totally into quid pro quo sexual harassment. And they can apparently buy into all the lame, simplistic shit the pickup-artist websites are peddling, too.

27. Kevin Fucking Gausepohl. Yeah, I’ll just bet that nudity and sex acts alter a person’s vocal range. Funny, though, how he only picked on young female voice students, and while his wife was ill, too. The “sick wife” excuse for molesting a teenager is perhaps the lowest note of all.

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And finally, to all those tacky fucking wankers who just had to tweet to the world that they didn’t get the car, or the iPhone, or whatever other expensive crap you bugged your parents for. Or you DID get it, but it just wasn’t enough! Now you hate them just because they didn’t spoil you even more fucking rotten than you already are (and that’s PLENTY). Could you little ingrates possibly suck any fucking harder? If I got half the loot any single one of you guys did, I’d be in clover! But then again, my parents raised me right. Yours, I can see now, are facing a lifetime of disappointment in their widdle angels. Coal in the stocking is entirely too damn good for YOU. You deserve shit, people. S-H-I-T. Buried under a load of fake snow, so you won’t know it till you step in it.

Good night, and get fucked!

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Some call them drones…

…others call them Job Creators:

America’s growing drone operations rely on hundreds of civilian contractors, including some, such as the SAIC employee, who work in the so-called kill chain before Hellfire missiles are launched, according to current and former military officers, company employees and internal government documents.

Relying on private contractors has brought corporations that operate for profit into some of America’s most sensitive military and intelligence operations. And using civilians makes some in the military uneasy.

At least a dozen defense contractors that supply personnel to help the Air Force, special operations units and the CIA fly their drones are filling a void. It takes more people to operate unmanned aircraft than it does to fly traditional warplanes that have a pilot and crew.

The Air Force is short of ground-based pilots and crews to fly the drones, intelligence analysts to scrutinize nonstop video and surveillance feeds, and technicians and mechanics to maintain the heavily used aircraft.

“Our No. 1 manning problem in the Air Force is manning our unmanned platforms,” said Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, Air Force vice chief of staff. Without civilian contractors, U.S. drone operations would grind to a halt.

About 168 people are needed to keep a single Predator aloft for 24 hours, according to the Air Force. The larger Global Hawk surveillance drone requires 300 people. In contrast, an F-16 fighter aircraft needs fewer than 100 people per mission.

With a fleet of about 230 Predators, Reapers and Global Hawks, the Air Force flies more than 50 drones around the clock over Afghanistan and other target areas.

The Pentagon plans to add 730 medium and large drones in the next decade, requiring thousands more personnel.

I believe that’s what we call a fatal flaw in the system. A weak spot that could be turned to advantage for those, like me, who don’t EVER want to see drones — whether controlled by militaries or mercenaries — turned against civilians.

Unfortunately, that day may not be far off

Congress first authorized Customs and Border Protection to buy unarmed Predators in 2005. Officials in charge of the fleet cite broad authority to work with police from budget requests to Congress that cite “interior law enforcement support” as part of their mission.

In an interview, Michael C. Kostelnik, a retired Air Force general who heads the office that supervises the drones, said Predators are flown “in many areas around the country, not only for federal operators, but also for state and local law enforcement and emergency responders in times of crisis.”

But former Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice), who sat on the House homeland security intelligence subcommittee at the time and served as its chairwoman from 2007 until early this year, said no one ever discussed using Predators to help local police serve warrants or do other basic work.

Using Predators for routine law enforcement without public debate or clear legal authority is a mistake, Harman said.

“There is no question that this could become something that people will regret,” said Harman, who resigned from the House in February and now heads the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a Washington think tank.

In 2008 and 2010, Harman helped beat back efforts by Homeland Security officials to use imagery from military satellites to help domestic terrorism investigations. Congress blocked the proposal on grounds it would violate the Posse Comitatus Act, which bars the military from taking a police role on U.S. soil.

Proponents say the high-resolution cameras, heat sensors and sophisticated radar on the border protection drones can help track criminal activity in the United States, just as the CIA uses Predators and other drones to spy on militants in Pakistan, nuclear sites in Iran and other targets around the globe.

For decades, U.S. courts have allowed law enforcement to conduct aerial surveillance without a warrant. They have ruled that what a person does in the open, even behind a backyard fence, can be seen from a passing airplane and is not protected by privacy laws.

Advocates say Predators are simply more effective than other planes. Flying out of earshot and out of sight, a Predator B can watch a target for 20 hours nonstop, far longer than any police helicopter or manned aircraft.

Today it’s criminals, tomorrow it will be citizens. I guarandamntee you that. Any government that is capable of deploying torture weapons like pepper spray and noise cannons against peaceful protesters, or of planting infiltrators and provocateurs in social-justice coalitions, is not going to stop shy of this. After all, it’s a very lucrative business, with lots of private-sector involvement, and thus, attractive to fascists who would love to paint themselves as Job Creators and saviors of Law ‘n’ Order.

Monkey wrench, anyone?

Festive Left Friday Blogging: The kids are all right…or should I say LEFT?

Who says so? No less an authority than The Pew:

Young people — the collegiate and post-college crowd, who have served as the most visible face of the Occupy Wall Street movement — might be getting more comfortable with socialism. That’s the surprising result from a Pew Research Center poll that aims to measure American sentiments toward different political labels.

The poll, published Wednesday, found that while Americans overall tend to oppose socialism by a strong margin — 60 percent say they have a negative view of it, versus just 31 percent who say they have a positive view — socialism has more fans than opponents among the 18-29 crowd. Forty-nine percent of people in that age bracket say they have a positive view of socialism; only 43 percent say they have a negative view.

And while those numbers aren’t very far apart, it’s noteworthy that they were reversed just 20 months ago, when Pew conducted a similar poll. In that survey, published May 2010, 43 percent of people age 18-29 said they had a positive view of socialism, and 49 percent said their opinion was negative.

It’s so funny to watch the media sputter over this, isn’t it? Wait, it gets funnier:

It’s not clear why young people have evidently begun to change their thinking on socialism. In the past several years, the poor economy has had any number of effects on young adults — keeping them at home with their parents, making it difficult for them to get jobs, and likely depressing their earning potential for years to come — that might have dampened enthusiasm for the free market among this crowd.

Indeed, the Pew poll also found that just 46 percent of people age 18-29 have positive views of capitalism, and 47 percent have negative views — making this the only age group where support for socialism outweighs support for capitalism.

Young people have also been among the most involved in the nationwide Occupy movement, whose members have leveled pointed criticism at the capitalist ethos and often called for a more equal distribution of American wealth.

In general, income inequality — which a Congressional Budget Office report recently pointed out is at historic levels — has received more and more attention in politics and the media since the Occupy movement launched in mid-September. Usage of the term rose dramatically in news coverage following the start of the protests, and politicians from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to President Barack Obama have used the movement’s language to describe divisions in the American public.

Isn’t that funny? They say “It’s not clear why…”, only to go on for four paragraphs making it altogether clear why. This tells me one thing: the media don’t get it, but the younger folks do.

Socialism was something most young people of my generation couldn’t mention without sneering, when they mentioned it at all. (Reagan and Bush I: Fuck ‘em.) The fact that all these kids who grew up during the Clinton Boom (and came of age during the BushObama Bust) are willing to contemplate it gives me hope for the future. I had to grow into my socialism. I hope they never grow out of theirs.

I hope they just keep it growing and growing and growing.

Cops Behaving Badly: Death by pepper spray

Florida police bound, gagged and pepper-sprayed a mentally ill man until he died. Interestingly, this was reported by FUX Snooze, in a non-snoozing mode for a change. Let’s hear Megyn Fucking Kelly try to explain how “a food product, essentially” could cause the death of a depressed and vulnerable individual. I can hardly wait…

And if you needed proof of my contention that mental illness is profoundly misunderstood in our society, here you go. When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. And when all you have is Tasers and pepper spray, every unmedicated brain-sick person looks like a disorderly drunk, I guess. I’m just thankful that neither of these awful fads in police brutality was in common use the last time I was ill.

The Perfect Vagina

The perfect vagina from heather leach on Vimeo.

A hard-hitting documentary on an extreme form of plastic surgery and the physical and emotional damage it is doing to women and girls, as well as the outrageous demand (yes, from men!) for women with an unrealistic genital configuration.

Warning: Graphic. Includes a scene of the actual surgery in progress, and it isn’t pretty. However, if someone you know is dissatisfied with how she looks “down there”, and is contemplating surgery, this is a must-see — especially the part with the artist who makes casts of all kinds of different women’s southern regions. It will make everyone look at her genitals in a much kinder light.

Cristina gets cancer, Chavecito gets topical, Jezebel gets Teh Stoopid

Dear lord, what is it with progressive LatAm leaders getting the fucking C-word? First it was Dilma, then Lugo, then Chavecito, then Lula, and now Cristina?

President Cristina Kirchner is suffering from a papillary cancer in the right lobe of her thyroid gland, according to an official statement from the Casa Rosada [presidential palace of Argentina].

According to her public-communications secretary, Alfredo Scoccimaro, “tests show no existing metastases”, and an operation has been scheduled at the Austral Hospital for January 4.

“A papillary cancer of the right lobe of the thyroid gland has been detected. Today it was confirmed that there was no involvement of the lymph nodes, and no metastasis. The localization of the disease is limited to the gland.”

According to Scoccimaro, Pedro Saco, the chief of the Department of surgery at the hospital, will be in charge of the operation, to be performed by his medical team.

“The probable time of hospitalization will be 72 hours,” Scoccimaro said.

After the surgery, the president will be off work until the 24th of the same month, as per Article 88 of the Argentine constitution, which allows for a 20-day leave of absence. Her duties in the meantime will be taken over by her vice-president, Amado Boudou.

Translation mine.

And as I told a friend on Facebook this morning when he posted the above link, if I were conspiracy-minded, I’d be tempted to say this was a purpose-built epidemic of carcinomas. Right-wing LatAm leaders are strangely untouched. Unless Piñochetera comes down with it in the coming year to lend some balance to the ledger, this sure smells iffy to me. Of course, it’s quite possible that this is just a strange coincidence…

And yeah, how about that Chavecito, daring to utter the words no one else can bring themselves to say? As much as the paranoid anticommunist/antisocialist idiot brigade at Jezebel may be tempted to make fun of him for that, there’s always this inconvenient little documentary, which came out in 2003 and has a disturbing ring of truth to it:

So yeah, smartasses, there IS a vaccine that can give you cancer, and it WAS developed long ago, in the USA, by the CIA. How long ago? Well, it dates back to before the JFK assassination, so do your math, kids.

Quite the fucking coincidence, eh? And we all know how much they have it in for Latin American leaders (or, hell, US presidents!) who don’t toe the hard-anticommunist Washington line. Fidel was supposed to get it, but Hurricane Flora put the quash to that. So they gave it to Jack Ruby instead.

Mr. Ruby, you may recall, died rather quickly of lung cancer, even though he was well known to be a health-conscious non-smoker. (And no, I don’t think just hanging around in smoky boîtes de nuit would be enough to do it, even for a mob-connected small-time nightclub owner like Ruby.)

Just a coincidence, you say? Yeah, a sinister coincidence when you consider his famous last press conference:

He hinted that there was a lot more that could come to light. Surely not anything to do with CIA assassination programs, in collusion with the Mafia…in which he was, rather conveniently, also a cog?

Oh yeah, and there’s also the salient fact that Jack Ruby himself claimed to have been injected with cancer-inducing vaccines while in prison. But of course he lied! Just another paranoid loony, eh?

Yeah. Sure. He and all those other disappearing witnesses. One of them, by another sinister coinkydink, was Dr. Mary Sherman, mentioned in the documentary as one of those working on that ha-ha-ha-so-nonexistent cancer vaccine.

But hey, Jezzies, keep tarring Chavecito with that ol’ crazyman brush. Good crapaganda doggies — here ya go, have a Milk-Bone! Just know that you’re insulting the intelligence of 6 out of 10 Venezuelans — who, unlike the average US citizen, aren’t fooled anymore by the lies of the right-wing corporate media. And who, unlike the average US citizen, aren’t afraid to vote for a truly progressive leader. That’s a disturbing little trend that’s catching on in Latin America. And it’s not totally insane to propose that the US would resort to sneaky measures to stop it. Including an injectable, discreet, plausibly deniable method of assassination.

After all, just look at how many times and ways you guys tried to kill Fidel. Which makes you kind of the world-record holder for assassination ineptitude, when you think about it.

Your record for character assassination sucks, too.

Say it ain’t so, Joe.

I happened by chance on this sad item today in the Huffington Post. A familiar picture caught my eye:

It only took me a moment to realize where I’d seen it before: in my Twitter feed. Joe followed me, and I followed back, as I recall. He was fun to talk to; witty, intelligent, kind. He retweeted me a fair bit, and I him.

I didn’t really know who Joe was, and maybe that’s just as well. Had I known he was so famous, I might have been intimidated, and inhibited, and unable to talk back. I’m an introvert, after all. And I used to be SUCH a shy kid. To converse normally with a famous writer used to be unthinkable for me. It was not until I read Joe’s obit that I realized just how famous, and how otherwise remarkable, he really was:

Bodolai, a writer on “SNL” for the 1981-1982 season and a producer on the Canadian hit sketch show “Kids in the Hall,” kept a blog called “Say It Ain’t So, Joe,” where he posted a long final note on December 23rd. In his short section of “Things I Regret,” he included, “My inability to conquer my alcoholism” and “That I am no longer able to withstand any more of life’s pain.”

The section of things he is proud of, however, paints a picture of an impressive and happy life, both professional and personal. Proud of his two grown sons (“graceful, intelligent, strong, handsome, creative and loving young men”), and his wife Bianca (“If there is a loving god, she was my blessing”), Bodolai listed his resistance to the Vietnam War and campaigning for Robert Kennedy amongst his proudest personal moments.

Professionally, he was most proud of writing for “SNL” and producing videos with Andy Warhol; being asked by Lorne Michaels to produce “Kids in the Hall”; helping bring Major League Baseball to Toronto; creating a comedy show on Canadian television that he felt would help the nation compete creatively; and writing the first draft of “Wayne’s World” with Mike Myers.

“Wayne’s World”, that touchstone of my ex-boyfriends’ lives. He wrote that. And we were tweeps. Schwing!

That’s why learning that his life behind the witty Twitter persona was so sad, was…well, so SAD. And that’s why I feel compelled to write this.

Alcoholism is a disease, much the way clinical depression is a disease. It is a chemical malfunction of the brain.

I’m not an alcoholic, but I do know why Joe hid his condition from the world. Mentally ill people do that all the time. It’s how we cope, it’s how we convince themselves, how we hope against hope that we finally have a handle on something that is frighteningly hard to get a handle on. Something that we, as a society, have failed to get a handle on.

“Mental illness” is really a misnomer. It implies that a condition is “all in your head”, and it is…but it’s not just imaginary. It’s real, it’s physical, it’s wired into the chemistry of your brain. You cannot snap out of it, and nothing anyone else says or does can snap you out of it. It IS in your head, quite literally, and that is why there is only so much that conventional therapies can do for it. You can tell an alcoholic that s/he doesn’t need to drink, and s/he might even agree with you…at least until the urge strikes again. Just as you can tell a depressive that there is nothing to be sad about, until s/he falls ill again. It doesn’t matter what you tell a person about that THING in their head. It’s all very easy to be “rational” about, until the chemical demon once again rears up from the deep hidden recesses of the brain.

And then, you are powerless against it. And that is the most frightening part of all.

We do try to fight the beast on a biochemical level, however. There are medications for depression, just as there are medications for alcoholism, but finding the right one can be a daunting task. And even if it doesn’t flat-out fail, it can still carry horrendous side effects. One of the worst, in antidepressants, is suicidal ideation. How ironic that the drugs some of us take to keep us from killing ourselves over depression, end up making us feel just well enough to act those horrible suicidal thoughts out!

I said I knew why Joe hid his illness from the world, and I do. I have used the word we for a reason. I, too, have a mental illness.

I am a clinical depressive. I have major depression. I have been sick enough in my life to be full of gruesome suicidal thoughts at rare, but lengthy and terrible, intervals. The last time I was gravely ill was pretty much all of 1993, and probably the tail end of 1992 and the first few months of 1994 as well.

I’m sorry about the vague wording, but the illness crept up on me silently, and went away just as silently; I cannot mark a single clear moment when the curtain fell, or when it lifted again. Depression is a maddeningly fuzzy beast, and it literally cast a fog over my brain.

Back then, I was in my mid-20s. And I was so sick that I could not go near a railroad track because my chemical demon, my major depression, made my blood burn in my veins, and the only “cure” for it, as suggested by the demon itself, was to lay my neck on a nice, cold rail as the freight was rolling by. The train seemed to create its own vacuum, sucking me closer to the tracks, and it took all of my sorely limited strength to pull back and get far enough away to survive. I don’t know how or why. I barely had the energy to drag myself to and from my part-time job at a local fabric shop, and after working hours, to the local amateur theatre, where I appeared as Bianca in The Taming of the Shrew, and as Letta in Death of a Salesman. To this day I don’t know how I did all that. As my illness progressed, I became more and more easily exhausted, and if I could have spent all my time in bed, I would have. I did not have the energy to live, and I thank my lucky stars that I was not put on Prozac or Zoloft or anything like that, because then I might have acted on the demon’s urgings and lain down upon the rails.

I did not, and do not, want to become a suicide, any more than I want to be a depressive. I can count all my major depressive episodes on just one hand, and I shudder in fear of needing a second. Just as I shudder in fear of the side effects of current antidepressants, which is why I prefer to seek out natural remedies: vitamins, herbs, exercise, right livelihood, human solidarity.

So far, so good. I haven’t been truly sick since 1994. Given that my illness has a roughly six-to-seven-year interval between flare-ups, that makes me LONG overdue for my next bout. It is this that reassures me that I must be doing something right. I have moody episodes, and I tire easily still, but I am firmly in control. The dragon is nowhere to be found. The burning sensation in my veins is gone, and I don’t miss it. Even the horror of 9-11 hasn’t sent me into the paralyzing death spiral it might so easily have done had I not taken matters into my own hands in the latter 1990s, when I began taking Vitamin B complex and looking seriously into things I could do that would nourish my depressive brain back to health.

One of the things that has helped me most, after righting the critical vitamin shortage in my central nervous system, is being able to talk about my illness. I tell my family, and my friends, what to look for, and to haul me off to my doctor for a psychiatric referral if I ever start showing those signs again. It’s not easy to overcome the stigma of having an all-in-your-head illness, something that makes you deathly ill without you looking even a little bit sick. It isn’t easy to stand up and be counted in this pusillanimous, cowardly world of ours. Especially not as a mentally ill person.

But I have consciously chosen to do just that because the alternative is silence, and silence, as the AIDS activists have so often and rightly pointed out, equals death. Depression runs in my family; I am not the only one who has it. I also have so many friends who are, themselves, depressives of one sort or another: bipolar, or dysthymic, or major depressives like me. Some have had suicidal thoughts, and gone me one step further by acting on them and failing. Some of them are struggling with medication and side effects, trying to find the pill that works best. Others, like me, have managed to tough it out long enough that the demon just gradually let go again, letting them breathe, think rationally, and seek out preventive solutions.

I don’t propose that there is a singular natural remedy for alcoholism, any more than there is one for depression. If these things are chemically wired into our brains, they are surely in our genes. I can only say what works for me, what keeps me well…and one big thing that does, is resisting the urge to relapse. Resisting the urge to quit taking vitamins just because I feel better, or to quit doing yoga because I’m calmer now and not having panic attacks at the slightest provocation like I used to.

And resisting, above all, the overwhelming urge to relapse into silence, into death.

But that’s the nature of the beast that is mental illness, no matter which of its many forms it takes: You hide behind a cheerful, competent façade — or a silent, morose one, as I did, pretending for the longest time that nothing is wrong, because you fear that you will be kicked out of school, or lose your job, or lose your friends, or lose your sweetheart or spouse, or just lose everything. Including your shit. Because you have so much to lose when you spill your guts, don’t you?

But here’s the sad paradox: You stand to lose even more if you don’t.

If there is just one thing I wish I had done, it would be to recognize the signs of Joe’s trouble, and talk with him frankly and honestly about it. Who knows, maybe he would have survived. Now that I really think about it, the very title of his blog sounds like a cry for help wrapped up in a thick layer of ironic, humoristic denial. Why, I wonder, did I not pick up on the signs sooner? Am I not a writer, do I not have the sensitivity that comes of having been there myself?

I don’t want to beat myself over the head with it, because this is nobody’s fault. But whenever I hear of one more suicide — especially if it is someone whose face and name are known to me, and it’s someone I’ve talked with personally — I feel like there is so much more I could have done.

There is so much more we could ALL do.

Can we start, please, by just not stigmatizing mental illness anymore? Can we make it okay to talk about this taboo subject, to even laugh about the illness without mocking the sick ones, and not shrink away when someone mentions suicide? Can we start putting money back into mental health care, instead of taking it out and giving it to corporations who only abuse it and make us sicker? Can we quit pretending that a psychiatrist is some kind of luxury only to be had by the rich, who can pay for the best out of pocket if they have to? Can we admit that nutrition matters, and that our fast-food culture is leaving us malnourished on so many unforeseen levels? Can we admit that the manufacture of discontent is killing us, and that our atomized, expensive, every-man-for-himself culture is every bit as toxic, and addictive, as 100-proof alcohol?

If we can, there is hope for us all. I write this in sorrow and in hope. I have chosen to stay and fight; at the time I did not know why. THIS is why. I vow to do whatever I can to help, however little and late it may be.

I miss you, Joe.

Two to tango

Q. When dancing the tango with a same-sex partner, who should take the lead?

A. Who cares? This handsome twosome seemed quite happy to take turns at it, when they were thinking about it at all. Being on an equal footing doesn’t make it any less a tango, does it now?

BTW, those side-by-side and back-to-back moves weren’t strictly Argentine; you’re supposed to face your partner virtually nonstop, which is the secret behind the tango’s romantic sexiness. But then again, those guys WERE from Barcelona. How about these lovely ladies from Buenos Aires?As you can see, they stuck true to form. Very gracefully and elegantly, too.

And for those who wonder if same-sex tango is anything new: It isn’t. At least, not for men. Since Argentine gauchos were often far from female company when out on the cattle range, they had no one to dance with but each other…and who knows, maybe some of them even preferred it that way.

Quotable: Linus Van Pelt on the true meaning of Xmas

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Music for a Sunday: A sky-scraping dome

I remember when this one first came out, and there was a whole lot of shrieking and controversy. How could a notorious group with an “out” gay lead singer, who shot to fame with a video that was deemed obscene*, put out a love song for Christmas? And with such a respectful, Nativity-themed video, too?

How indeed. Even at 17, I “got” it long before the so-called adults did. This works both as a love song AND a Christmas one. Enjoy, and remember to do what it says: Make love your goal.

*The original “Relax” video was actually quite tame, even by the standards of the time, but I still ended up preferring the non-controversial version. Laser beams are just plain cooler, y’all.

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