big time

I hated growing up in my old hometown. People who lived in my town were either senior citizens or people whose families had lived there for multiple generations. It was relatively poor, unless you lived on the ridge above town or overlooking the lake. The downtown was dead (except for one good record store), and you had to go to a nearby city to do any serious shopping. The weather was blazing hot and dry all summer, and the vegetation looked dead or in serious distress every year. High school graduates, who were becoming more rare every year, had to leave town to go to college or find good jobs, and most of them never came back. There were few options for kids to do something other than fight or get into trouble or kill themselves and others while they were drunk driving. Crime was high, suicides were high, and homelessness was becoming a serious problem. There were so many drug addicts, and this was before methamphetamines took over. It wasn’t a fun place to live.

I wanted out, partly because I hated it there and partly because of bad memories of my childhood forever associated with the town. My first escape was to college in Nevada, but for various reasons, I had to return to town. I was angry about it, and I knew I had to leave again. In the meantime my adopted mom died, which broke the last link I had keeping me there. My girlfriend hated the town too, so we made a plan to get out. We got married, sold my childhood house, and moved elsewhere in California; I finished college before we moved out of state for several years. We returned to California for a while, then left again, moving to Ohio where we have been since 2005.

I’ve always liked the song “Big Time” by Peter Gabriel. Some of the lyrics:

The place where I come from is a small town
They think so small, they use small words
But not me, I’m smarter than that, I worked it out
I’ll be stretching my mouth to let those big words come right out
I’ve had enough, I’m getting out
to the city, the big big city

I remember being in my bed as a teen listening to this and thinking about leaving my hometown and the small-town life there. I think my wife and I have been pretty successful after leaving. We visited her extended family a few times many years ago, but I couldn’t wait to leave again because of the memories of living there. Now her family there has all moved away, so I have no reason to ever go back.

conspiracy and truth

If one person has a crackpot theory, it’s harmless. If two or three people agree, it becomes a secret among friends. If a hundred people believe it, it becomes a conspiracy theory. If a million people think it’s true, it becomes a movement that can attempt to overthrow a government.

There has always been the truth of “the establishment” and the alternate realities offered by people outside the establishment, and each path has its own agenda. Each version of the truth asks that you believe without questioning or investigating other possibilities. Sadly, people are often willing to leave the thinking to others and accept whatever opinion is easiest to digest. If you hate immigrants, or distrust vaccines, or question your political leaders, or think your football team was robbed by the referees, someone out there has the set of truths that will reinforce your opinion.

Before the web existed, conspiracy theories were more difficult and expensive to share. People had to write down their thoughts on paper and mail them in an envelope to someone else or print them in a pamphlet or a book to be disseminated. Printing and distribution costs meant that someone had to be bankrolling the effort to sway the opinions of the masses. Important, influential individuals outside the “mainstream” had to build clubs and societies of like-minded people over time. Creating a movement was harder work, and more people had to be involved.

Today, the power of technology makes it feasible for a single person to influence many people very quickly at minimal cost. With the ease of self-publishing tools available on the internet, any crackpot theory can be dressed up as an alternate set of facts. The search engine’s algorithm makes it easier for individuals to find someone who agrees with their interpretation of the facts. The global availability of social media makes it easier than ever for an alternate reality to be shared and distributed to the ends of the earth, gaining followers and adherents along the way.

It is easier than ever to persuade the public with irrational and dangerous conjectures. But at the same time, it is harder than ever to convince them that the conspiracies just aren’t real. If the truth is what you believe to be true, nothing will convince you of the possibility that you might be wrong. People with open and curious minds are able to take in differing sets of information and logically determine what is truth and what is fiction. Unfortunately, there seem to be a lot of closed-minded people who have already decided they know the truth.

good night, loon

I took a short break from posting. I wrote a lot of words in a short time, most during the middle of the night, but the train stopped when I started getting sleep again. Of course now I’m up again at 2:30, so there you go.

I don’t think I can take Latuda anymore. I think it is responsible for the manic spell, and it made me nauseous every time I took the 80 mg dose. I was also extremely tired after taking it, as I was falling asleep within one hour after taking it (then not sleeping well when I needed to sleep). The 40 mg dose didn’t have these effects, but it also wasn’t relieving the depression. I see my psychiatrist Monday, so I’ll let him know the side effects are too much for me. Maybe I will go with just Wellbutrin and my old friend Lamictal and see what happens. By the way, my psychiatrist made a special appointment time for me after hours, which I really appreciate.

The other news is about my bad back. Nearly two weeks ago I was getting in my car when I felt something move in my spine, and I thought, “that’s not good.” I could hardly get out of the car when I returned due to the knife-like pain in my left side and lower back. I have been to my chiropractor twice, and each time the adjustment only lasted for about a day before the pain returned. He said I may have to return to the decompression table, aka the stretching rack. Whatever works, man. I’ll see him Monday as well, but in the meantime I’m alternating heat and ice.

I was happy to see the inauguration went off without problems. I don’t think there was ever a plan to create a disaster on Wednesday; I think the premeditated plot was for Congress to be stopped and for a hostage situation to ensue during the riot on the 6th. Chilling stories are surfacing in court documents about how some of the mob weren’t rioting, but moving purposefully around the capitol searching for a way to get to the legislators. Someone with inside information and detailed knowledge of the building (an “unnamed sender,” said the FBI) was sending messages on Facebook telling the hunters exactly where everyone was located. Speculation about one congresswoman had been rampant, but if the FBI knows anything, they aren’t revealing it yet. I think the true story of the riot will come out, eventually, and hopefully people go to prison for a long time.

Finally, someone recorded 200+ hits on my blog Thursday. Either someone really appreciates my posts, or a bot crawled my site. I don’t know how WordPress’ stats work when the bots come to visit, so I can’t explain the spike. I only have 57 posts, so I don’t see why a human would generate that many hits. If you did, however, say hi.

Over and out.

the politics of fakebook

It seems like most of the people I went to high school with have become a raging alt-right conservative. For some people this doesn’t surprise me, but in a few instances I never thought they would swing that way. I grew up in a small town in California where the political climate is more like the southern states than elsewhere in the state. Most everyone I see on Fakebook is all “guns, Jesus, and Trump”, not necessarily in that order. I’m sure some of my former friends supported the mob at the Capitol.

I’ve heard that people naturally grow more conservative as they get older, but it certainly did not work out that way for me. When I was a kid I grew up around and went to church with mostly-conservative older people. During college I started expanding my attitudes a little bit, and studied what conservatism was all about (at that seemingly innocent time). I didn’t like the right-leaning philosophy very much, and started moving away from that way of thinking throughout my late 20s. Since that time, and especially since my diagnosis with bipolar 15 years ago, I have become increasingly liberal while the conservatives have become increasingly radicalized. I have reached the point where I would rather vote for dead people than for a Republican.

As far as my high school friends, they can take their “god, guns, and country” posts and stick ‘em. I don’t go to Fakebook anymore because I got tired of looking at those posts. There aren’t enough cats there to make me go back.

pascal’s wager

I’m still thinking about the memorial service I went to several weeks ago, but more about the role of religion in people’s lives and how it relates to my atheistic views.

I must admit that people who believe in religion get many positive benefits. They can have comfort and hope knowing that their god has a purpose for their lives, that he cares for them and guides them through trouble, that someone is listening to their problems during prayer, and that there is an afterlife of some kind where things will be better.

It must be nice to have that source of happiness and joy, even though it makes no sense to me anymore. I understand that giving one’s life to God means that they don’t have to worry as much about problems with the faith that God will solve them.

As an atheist, I have to work a little harder to find happiness, deriving it from the pleasure of living life while I still have it. As a perennially-depressed atheist, it is really difficult for me to achieve this happiness. It is hard for me to have a hopeful or optimistic life because of my brain chemistry, and I don’t derive as much pleasure from life as other atheists might. As a result, sometimes I wish I were one of the faithful.

There is a concept called Pascal’s wager, which supposes that the existence of God cannot be determined by reasoning and logic. If you believe in God, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose; if you don’t believe in God, you have nothing to gain and everything to lose. So you need to place your bets: if you wager there is no God or Heaven or Hell or any of the other trappings of religion, you risk eternal damnation. If you wager that God is real, you get all the benefits of belief without risking anything. It seems like the logical choice would be to believe.

As a former Christian, I know the benefits of believing in religion, but I just can’t bring myself to drink the Kool-Aid again. I’m betting against God. If he does exist, I’ll see some of you in Hell.

winners and losers

At the moment we still don’t know who will be president, but it looks like Malarkey Joe will win the vote. That doesn’t mean it’s all over; who knows what kind of malignant chicanery the Trump lawyers will come up with. In addition, in Pennsylvania and Michigan there is the specter of the Republican-led state legislature deciding to reverse the election by appointing an illegitimate set of electors to the Electoral College. Because of the arcane system of choosing the president, and the lack of legislation to protect us against such trickery, this ain’t over by a long shot.

I’m a solid left liberal, but I will criticize the Biden campaign for not working hard enough to discuss the issues facing the country. He made the election about Trump, for or against, and that only served to enrage the Trump cult members. I think Biden should have spent more time talking about what legislation he would propose to help some sectors of the public: working class non-college-educated voters, Latino and Black voters, 50-somethings who will depend on Medicare and Social Security, and everyone concerned about health-care costs. 

Biden might have done better in some of those demographics had the election been about issues people care about. Instead the campaign was all about Trump, and by extension the coronavirus. Yes, the virus is the most important challenge in our generation, but concern over the virus is largely split along party lines, and we see how that plays out.

Finally, many people are hoping the Trump nightmare will end on January 20th, but I don’t believe that will happen. As long as the cult leader has a microphone called Twitter and a press agent called Fox News, he will be able to reach the cult followers from afar. Their ranks are growing and spreading hate and racism and asshole-ism through a country that is slowly becoming more liberal. Obsessed with the culture wars, they will never change their minds.

In the meantime, the rich, ultra-conservative power brokers will continue to use Trumpism as an effective means to justify their oligarchic political agenda. The lower class, the working poor, and minorities throughout the country are the real losers here.

corona fools’ day

Nature has some new plague to run in our streets. – Rush, “Red Tide”

So much suffering, and we are just getting started. Nothing in my lifetime has prepared me for the level of death and economic hardship we will soon face.

I read a lot of history, stuff about wars and depression and dark times, but it is all abstract when it is in the distant past or in far-off places. The loss of life during the Boxing Day tsunami was tremendous, but even that seemed so far away from America.

This will be real, and this will be in our faces every day. We were all New Yorkers after 9/11, but the tragedy will be so much bigger this time, reaching into every city in every state.

I hope it’s not as bad as the models are predicting. But if it hits your family, you don’t give a fuck about the models anymore. You simply join the millions who will suffer and grieve this year.