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The ADD Blog by Alan David Doane

Twitter Stats for NY’s 21st Congressional District Race

Who is the social media savvy candidate in New York’s 21st congressional district race? 

Aaron Woolf (Democratic Party) - 478 followers, 190 tweets. 

Matt Funiciello (Green Party) - 107 followers, 139 tweets.

Elise Stefanik (Republican Party) - 2,758 followers, 2,614 tweets.

I would have expected the Democratic and Green party candidates to be the ones leveraging social media to get the word out to their followers and build their base. But the establishment Republican candidate seems to be the only one even taking Twitter seriously. 

In an area as rural and conservative as the 21st district, it remains to be seen whether Twitter savvy is reflected at the polls on election day, but I wouldn’t discount Stefanik’s obviously enthusiastic approach to the platform as being an important indicator in terms of engagement with her followers and potential converts to her campaign.

By the way, you can follow me at @alandaviddoane.

The Rule of Intended Consequences

The other day, I was sitting with my wife in the waiting room of a local repair shop waiting for our oil change to be completed. There were half a dozen or so other people waiting, reading the paper, drinking coffee, chatting and occasionally laughing. Then a guy walked in with a gun.

The guy was a sheriff’s deputy, and he was bringing his patrol car in for service. Does that make you feel better? It didn’t make me feel any better, and not just because our nationally hyper-militarized police forces seem drunk with reckless, unaccountable abandon and there’s a new dead victim of their unchecked violence seemingly every week. No, it made me feel uncomfortable because, well, just read the last sentence of the last paragraph again:

Then a guy walked in with a gun.”

I don’t make the usual assumptions in a situation like that. I don’t assume the deputy is mentally stable. I don’t assume his wife didn’t just leave him, or that he didn’t just find out his kid was fathered by another man, or that he didn’t just discover that his supervisor has uncovered something really, really bad that he thought he’d gotten away with, and his career is nearly over. How can I assume this guy is responsible and always exercises good judgement? How do I know he isn’t suicidal and right on the edge of snapping? Because he’s a cop? Because he has a badge? How do I even know the badge is real? The gun, now, I assume the gun is real, because it’s a fucking gun. Guns are dangerous. Guns kill people. 

If you’re thinking, “No, people kill people,” then you aren’t thinking about the 9-year-old girl who was unfortunately holding an Uzi in her hands when it killed the irresponsible guy attempting to train her how to shoot it. If people kill people, not guns, then of course you believe this girl should be charged with, what, criminally negligent homicide? Manslaughter? Second degree murder?


But no, you and I know goddamned well that there were two culprits in the death of this obviously incompetent shooting instructor: Himself, and the gun. All right, three — the girl’s parents are almost certainly complicit as well. 

And someone was so proud of this tragic act of madness that they filmed it on their cell phone

Look, I have been a parent for 21 years. In that time I have always consciously attempted to keep my kids away from anywhere that guns were present. It’s very simple math to say that the presence of a gun increases the odds, however slightly, that someone might get shot. How stupid, how arrogant, how filled with fear and hate and a sick, perverse love of guns do you have to be to allow your natural instinct to protect your child to be overridden by new programming that says “Let’s give a 9-year-old an Uzi. What’s the worst that could happen?”

A 9-year-old girl that will never forget she was holding a gun when it, not she, killed someone one day in the summer of 2014. Hopefully he taught her the greatest gun safety lesson of all:

Stay away from them. They kill. They are designed to kill, period, end of sentence. 

As for 39-year-old Charles Vacca, I see him as the victim of the Rule of Intended Consequences. He wanted to teach a child to fire an Uzi; well, he did do that. At least he died doing what he loved.

Make It A Blockbuster Night

Our local Blockbuster Video is being shut down, and in its death-throes is currently running an unspectacular 10-to-30 percent off sale on all the crap left over after they sent the stuff they still think they can sell to other, heartier (i.e., “not dead yet”) Blockbuster locations. They still have some premium Blu-rays on the shelves, like the most recent Spider-Man movie. I’d pay three or five bucks for that, but they have it priced at $24.99. I guess they don’t understand how a going out of business sale works, but good luck anyway, Blockbuster.

Since the proliferation of cheap oil just over 100 years ago, we have lived in a society ever more distorted by the availability of cheap energy. Everything from motor vehicles to personal computers and corn syrup to iPhones can probably be explained by the fact that dead dinosaurs plus pressure combined over a timeline humans literally cannot comprehend resulted in the wildly distorted and inhuman modern life we all not only accept as the way things are, but which most people cannot help but think of as “the way things have always been.” It’s not. Not at all.

I remember when VCRs first became commonplace in American homes, in the early 1980s. It wasn’t that long after microwave ovens had gained a toehold. In a world where, just a decade earlier, going out to dinner and a movie was something special, now you could microwave your meal and watch a major motion picture in your living room, in your pajamas, for just pennies on the dollar of what that experience would have cost you a few short years earlier. Do you think the experience was a special? Or was it somehow devalued by its ease and commonality?

My very first prerecorded VHS purchase was Raiders of the Lost Ark. It cost me $40.00 at Don Hill’s video store in Greenwich, New York, around 1984. What do you think you’d pay for Raiders on VHS at a yard sale now? $.25 seems like it would be asking a lot. Personally I am amazed that anyone still has a working VCR, but I guess someone must. Every once in a while you even see blank VHS tapes for sale. That dying Blockbuster 10 minutes from my house had one lonely 5-pack of them laying unwanted and unloved on one of the sale tables. I doubt it would be worth the shipping cost to send it to another Blockbuster store, so it will probably end up in a dumpster, like our entire culture seems destined to, eventually.

Blockbuster isn’t the only one. In fact, of its kind, it’s the last to go. Ironic, given that Blockbuster had a corporate policy of buying up independent and competing video stores and either shuttering them or converting them to more Blockbusters. And now, just a few short years after that glorious era in which we all were invited to “Make it a Blockbuster night,” (remember?), it’s over. The existence of broadband internet, and the accompanying sites and technologies that have grown in its wake like Hulu, Netflix, Roku boxes and so forth, have pretty much brought an end to the era of the video rental store. Sure, you can still get a physical DVD or Blu-ray from your nearby Redbox, but that seems so…redneck? Hillbilly? Certainly it’s a bit unseemly and déclassé to wait behind the hoboes and methheads in line at the Redbox outside Cumberland Farms for your turn at the kiosk. Maybe it’s different where you live, but I’d just as soon do it all online or read a frigging book. It seems less dangerous, and certainly less soul-destroying.

But I do remember well the glory days of video rental. At one time, the community I live in had a thriving independent video scene, with stores like Empire Video and Big Dog Video. Then Blockbuster came along and put them out of business, then the internet grew up and put Blockbuster out of business. And it all seemed to happen so fast. The days when I could find a rare old cult classic or a noted foreign film at one of the great indy video shops (an hour south, Albany had even more to choose from) seem like they were just a couple years back, but Blockbuster pretty much wiped those independent shops off the map a decade or more ago. And somewhere in the past decade or so, people stopped making it a Blockbuster night, and about three years back I started predicting to my son that the Blockbuster shop near our house (then literally around the corner) would soon curl up and die, because it was obvious as Hulu and Netflix and even Redbox became ascendant that Blockbuster was literally doing nothing to compete with the faster, easier and better alternatives that were growing up around them like weeds.

Now Blockbuster is going. I think I remember reading that they’re keeping a few hundred shops open for now, but of course those will eventually be shuttered as even the seediest methhead movie fan comes to realize there are better, cheaper and less aggravating options. I hope all the employees of our local, dying Blockbuster find other jobs and I wish them all well, but as a corporation Blockbuster never impressed me as anything other than an opportunistic behemoth, and I can’t say I regret that they won’t be here in my town much longer.

But in a greater sense, the passing of Blockbuster, of course, is just one more signpost on the road to a very different world we are all slowly lumbering toward. Whether the end of the cheap oil era and the playing out of the Long Emergency brings a total breakdown of society or just a new World Made by Hand, it’s certain that by the time my children are approaching 50, as I am now, there won’t be any Blockbusters. I wonder what kind of night everyone will be making it by then?

Blogging From A Coffee Shop Again

We don’t have internet hooked up yet at our new place, so I brought Ye Olde 80 Pound Laptop* along with me and stopped at a coffee shop (a different one from previous Blogging From The Coffee Shop posts) to get some breakfast and catch up on the various worlds in which I am interested.

Fascinating goings-on in Egypt, where the troubled administration of the nation’s first democratically-elected president has crashed and burned. I hope there’s a swift return to peace and that the will of the people is ascendant.

I think there are new issues of Star Trek and Fatale awaiting me at the comic book store. As those are the only books I subscribe to anymore, I should go down and pick those up sometime soon.

Before I do that, though, hoo-boy, do I have boxes and boxes to unpack. We moved in on Tuesday, and it was only last night (Thursday night) that I got around to beginning to arrange things in my bedroom so I could get at them as needed. Stuff like hanging my framed art on the walls and organizing the bookcases could happen this weekend, or I might lay in bed and read the new Dmitry Orlov book (The Five Stages of Collapse) and try not to think about all the work that lies ahead. Either way, we have to find a way to get some laundry done, I think I put on my last clean pair of socks this morning.

Large English Breakfast Tea steeped, Half and Halfed and Splendaed, it’s time to head off to work, where I have a couple of podcasts to edit and commercials to write and produce. Enjoy your weekend.

* Disclaimer: Ye Olde 80 Pound Laptop weight estimate includes carry-bag, power supply, cooling mat and external harddrive. Estimated weight of laptop alone is 65 pounds.

A is for Anhedonia

I called my second ebook Anhedonia in part because I feel like a large part of my life has been spent in this state:

In psychology and psychiatry, anhedonia is defined as the inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable, e.g. exercise, hobbies, music, sexual activities or social interactions. (Wikipedia)

I’ve never been clinically diagnosed, and in the short period where I was actually in therapy decades ago, I don’t remember it coming up. But from as far back as I can remember, I’ve always felt like I experience things at a remove as compared to other people. I always feel like the people around me are able to fully immerse themselves in whatever event or sensation they want to, while there is almost always an invisible wall between myself and whatever it is I am experiencing. Moments of pure, unadulterated joy or despair are rare, and both are uncomfortable and disturbing to me.

The phenomena has been especially glaring for the past few years in relation to comic books. For most of the first four decades of my life comics and graphic novels gave me a great deal of pleasure. From the ages of 6 to around 14 or 15, nothing occupied my time more happily than running off somewhere quiet (usually my bedroom) with a stack of new comics, in the pages of which I would lose myself in the imaginations of writers and artists far more creative than I was, or likely ever would be.

Since the ascension of celebrity fan-fiction writers like Geoff Johns, Mark Millar and others, superhero comics have become an imagination-free zone of ever-escalating violence with no thought, theme or theory in evidence anywhere. The apotheosis of this dire state of affairs was the publication of Before Watchmen. Wretched in intent and criminal in execution, its existence, and worse, acceptance in the marketplace, definitively ended my interest in superhero comics as an ongoing enterprise. The disgrace of it prompted some badly-timed comments about one of its creators at a time when all of fandom was in grief over his passing, and I regret the incident, but do not deny the truth behind my foolish utterance. The people who worked on Before Watchmen, from the writers and artists to the editors, publishers, even the “journalists” who “covered” it — all are complicit in a betrayal of whatever ideals superhero comics might once have laid claim to. The existence and acceptance of the book is a scorched-earth moment in comics history from which there is no going back. And it killed my interest in superhero comics as if that had been its very intent. Perhaps, in broad strokes, it was. After all, the industry has little use for independent thinkers who question authority and call bullshit when appropriate. I was just one little comics blogger, but I’m sure I’m not the only one driven away by the horror implicit in the publication of Before Watchmen.

The thousands of dollars a year I once spent on comics will now be spent on other things. Rent. Groceries. Maybe the occasional movie. I still crave works that fire my imagination, even as I experience those at that same remove I spoke of earlier. Perhaps that’s why I am as fascinated by the process of creating art as I am the art itself. Moreso, really. The mysteries of imagination seem like a puzzle too complex for human minds to ever fully decode. I can’t just watch a movie or TV show and lose myself in it, I am constantly pondering the process of its creation. There aren’t any superhero comics that beg that question the way Kirby’s did, or Ditko’s, or whatever genius you think of when you think of the gods of comics creation. I do know that few walk the earth anymore. Like Saul on the road to Damascus, the scales have fallen from my eyes. 

Or perhaps it’s just an inability to surrender myself to joy and pleasure. After all, you can’t say “Anhedonia” without saying “Doane.”

For The Table



"I went ahead and ordered something for the table."
Tony Soprano

An Open Letter To Marriage Equality Opponents

It’s possible you are a good person, even a loving human being to those in your family and your closest friends. I also think that for whatever reason, probably a lack of diversity and life experience, you have pretty deeply held beliefs that run contrary to most people’s experience of the world in general and the people living in it. Do I believe your opposition to marriage equality comes from a seething hatred of gays? No. Do I think many of the most vocal public opponents of marriage equality are fueled by hatred and ignorance? I do. Do I think that in 15 or 20 years you’ll look back and realize that you were horribly misguided? I hope so.

Many of your arguments against marriage equality come down to the fact that two people of the same sex cannot procreate. Above and beyond the fact that many opposite-sex couples enjoy decades of marriage without ever having children, either by choice or because they physically cannot reproduce, the fact is that marriage is not and never has been solely about procreation. The decision to marry is about commitment, and about declaring that commitment and everything that that entails before the world, and before God, if you believe in one. Sex is also not solely about procreation. It’s about pleasure, it’s about bonding and trust, it’s about good health and keeping your body operating properly, it’s about relaxation and intimacy and feeling good and a million other things, and just because one is born gay does not mean you should be automatically barred from any of those things; procreation, marriage, good health, intimacy, all these things are entitlements that, if any human being is allowed to have them, EVERY human being should be allowed to have them. If you’re a parent and you oppose marriage equality, think about this: You may someday learn that you and your opposite-sex spouse have created a homosexual. Or a bisexual. Or a transgendered person. Because every queer on earth was created by heterosexuals just like you, except for the ones created by non-heterosexuals who loved each other so much that they overcame the limitations of the natural reproductive process in order to create a child together. And even if your kid is straight as an arrow, as you probably hope he or she will be, it is 100% certain that they will grow up knowing such people, perhaps loving them as close and trusted friends, and they are going to wonder why previous generations, why you and those like you, denied those people the same rights that heterosexuals had without question and without reservation. 

I don’t worry about gays getting married. Even before marriage equality became a major public issue, the idea that my marriage could somehow be impacted negatively by what other people chose to do in the context of their relationship and how it is defined would have baffled me. Every time I see a marriage equality opponent say that “gay marriage” harms “the traditional definition of marriage,” I wonder how secure they feel in their relationship. My marriage of twenty years may not have been the easiest or the most stress-free, but that’s never been because someone else in some other house was also married. My wife and I chose each other, and the strengths of our bond is entirely, unreservedly left only to the two of us. That anyone could think otherwise borders on madness, I think, and certainly stems from obsessive paranoia. 

In other words, if every gay couple on the planet gets married tomorrow, your marriage is still the exclusive property of you and your wife. Its strength or weakness is the sole province of the two of you. No one, gay or straight, wants to (or even can) interfere with it; more importantly, no one else’s decision or desire to marry for themselves in any way affects your marriage, unless you decide that it somehow does. Be confident in your love, in your marriage, and in your family. And please, try somehow to find within you the strength and decency to allow everyone else the same. The end result can only be that there is more love in this world, and stronger families. Procreation? Keep calm and fuck on. Heterosexuals are never going to stop procreating, you needn’t worry about that.

If there’s one message I wish you’d understand, it’s that you needn’t worry about who is or isn’t, or can or cannot procreate. That’s a choice every single human being, gay or straight or bi or trans, ultimately has to make for themselves. And whether you or people like you want to let them make that choice, they are going to anyway. Why fight about it? Love thy neighbor. Seriously.

Actual Conversation

Friend: “Happy hump day”

Me: “There is no hump day this week, Monday was a holiday.” (Memorial Day in the U.S.)

Friend: “But it’s Wednesday, it’s hump day.”

Me: “No, this week either there’s no hump day, or Wednesday and Thursday are both hump days because of the four day work week.”

Friend: “Work days don’t have anything to do with it.”

Me: “No one who doesn’t work gives a shit about hump day. ‘I’m so glad to be over the hump of this week in which I am not working.’ No one says that.” 

 

I do…have a strong affinity for Albert Einstein’s view that in this at-least-four-dimensional eternal solid that we know as spacetime there is only, as he put it, “the persistent illusion of transience.” Each instant, every hour and every human lifetime is therefore suspended, fixed forever in a medium without loss and without change, where our time-bound awareness recurs endlessly, our precious lives repeating in their joys, their sorrows and their sheer breathtaking richness, and each repetition new and unexpected, every time the first time round.
Alan Moore
Exorcising Kegel

I’ve been having pretty severe bursitis pain in my hip for the last month, which is why I haven’t been keeping up my usual blogging pace. Yesterday I started going to see a physical therapist, who recommended I do Kegel exercises once an hour to try to strengthen the muscles in my lower body. 

When I told my wife about this, she asked “How do you do that?” I told her what the doctor told me, which is that you contract your pelvic muscles just as if you were trying to cut off the flow of urine in mid-stream. Astonished, she said “Guys can do that too?!?”

I thought a moment, and then said, “No, we’re men. We just spray everywhere until we’re dry as a bone.”

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