I ditched active participation in Twitter several months ago. The outrage cycle was tiring. People shouting THREAD over and over again was tiring. The endless punishment of women and people of color while the Nazis were constantly given what could only absurdly be termed “free speech consideration” was exhausting.
Twitter seemed so full of promise once. It looked like it could change the world, and unfortunately, it did.
It’s like a high-speed microcosm of the Boomer generation, all promises of a new world of prosperity and ideas shared and debated, but then money and power start making demands and everything gets thrown in reverse. Such is Twitter, and such is America forever if we don't figure it out.
Though I had “left”, I kept coming to Twitter when called; I still had my blog alert my followers there when I made a post. I did that because of you, because Twitter brought a tsunami of wonderful people into my life, and I am desperate to stay in touch and remind you all how much you mean to me.
But it was also about ego. It was about “outreach”, a word that here means faves and attaboys. I hunger for that too, and it is a part of me that I would drag into an alley and kick to death if I knew how. But I can at least starve it.
I have no dreams of blogging professionally. I have a career that I like that pays me more than all but the most successful writers dream of, and that gives me options I would not otherwise have. So it wasn’t ever about money or fame. I’m just a dog whining to be petted, when you get right down to it.
I could justify that to myself before, but it's getting harder now. Not when women are being banned for criticizing men while the president* unintentionally brags about the size of his clitoris to North Korea and intentionally stokes the fires for war. I can't even distantly participate in a service that bigoted and loony. If I do, I’ve sold off the best part of me just like Jack and Biz did.
So I’m done. Facebook will never touch my new phone and I'm cutting the last remaining cord to Twitter.
I do hope you'll keep poking around here from time to time, and yes, that is still about both you and me. I'm working on it. But I hope I'm at least finally content to wonder whether anyone's listening, without seeking an answer.
Yonder up to the Crackle Crick
"The trouble with you being immortal," said Daughterry, picking up the conversation from before, "isn't whether it's your fault or not. It's a matter of understanding people. How can you understand what moves people when you don't understand that the meaning of life is death?"
The Devil chewed his beans. He waved his fork in a circle that meant "Go on."
"Well," continue Daughterry, "it's not complicated. It's not even philosophy, really. Just a hard fact. When you are doomed to die, that becomes the main force behind your life. You do what you do because you want to be remembered a certain way, or because it is or isn't healthy. You do what you do because you are running out of time. You do what you do because you're twenty years old and that's what twenty-year-olds do, or because you're fifty and that's what fifty-year-olds do. It's the reason you're careful about what you say when you're forty, because you have to live with the consequences, and it's the reason old people say whatever the hell they want. It's the reason people get married and have kids; we have to replace ourselves."
Daughterry took a sip of coffee.
"It's what makes us happy or sad or mad about things. Because it's all so damn wonderful and so terrible, and it's going to be taken away. And, of course, there's the fact that it's so scary. How does it not drive us mad with panic, every moment, knowing that we are going to end? How strangely nonchalant, how divinely resilient we are! Being mortal means being bedmates with horror."
"You'd be amazed," said the Devil, "how boring time can get. You'd go crazy living to be much more than a hundred, let alone a thousand. Life is like a day. Night comes. You get tired. You sleep. You want to sleep."
"Horse balls. That's just the kind of thing an immortal would say. It changes a thing, when you're afraid of it."
—Michael Poore, Up Jumps the Devil
The best thing about saying that last year was, collectively, the worst year of our lives is being able to say that last year was the worst year of our lives. I'll be God-damned if I'm going to let this one top it.
Happy New Year, everyone.
I tried to send a little levity to my nephew, who is laid up with a kidney stone, and his mom, and…welp
“Who’s there?” asked the guard at the gate.
“A brother in Christ,” said the Devil, and the gate opened.
Between transactions, he played softly upon his fiddle, Old Ripsaw, and surveyed the village with a secret eye. The Pilgrims seemed glum, distracted, like a holiday turned inside out.
—Michael Poore, Up Jumps the Devil
WOW is that timely
Honestly, I should have just posted this picture instead of the letter.
It’s that time again. Here’s my ramblings for another season. Delivered on time, for a change.
It was Josh who gave me my first Nalgene bottle. Part of a care package he gave me before leaving for upstate New York and the Night’s Watch about one point five decades ago. I covered it with stickers and drank water from it. Fifteen or so years went by. Then I went camping.
Jack's Webelos den leader had planned a cold weather camping trip up in the Boston Mountains in early December. Weather originally looked to dip slightly below freezing, which we'd done before with no trouble.
The trees had gone to the bone weeks before we made camp. The wind was a gossip. We were down in a hollow and out of the worst of the breeze, but the sun left us to heap on clothes and hug the fire. We watched the night scratch and rattle its way down toward 20°, well below what we’d camped in before.
The boy and I'd planned to string ourselves up in fancy hammock tents, but insulation is always a concern when you're dangling above ground. He asked if maybe he could go sleep in Alex's tent instead? Yes, of course, buddy. If you can't find me in the morning, go check the bench by the showers in the bathroom, okay?
Later that night I got him down and eventually debated myself away from the fire and over to my tent. I had a bunch of blankets, a sub-freezing sleeping bag, a fire-engine-red union suit and a whole lot of worry. Then some random neuron fired and I recalled Josh's Nalgene.
He'd extolled its many features and benefits in the attached note. "Once I was camping in cold weather," he wrote. "Before bed, I boiled some water, poured it in my bottle, wrapped a shirt around it and stuffed it in the bottom of my sleeping bag."
Friends, I am here to spread the good news. My toes warmed instantly. I lay there, cozy as could be, and recited a very long gratitude list as I listened to the coyotes summon the moon.
I am grateful for my mummy bag.
I am grateful for my blankets.
I am grateful for my hat.
I am grateful for the lee side of the mountain.
I am grateful for the woman I watched playing with wolves yesterday.
I am grateful for the pot of veggie chili I had for supper.
I am grateful that I am packed into this nylon tube and suspended amid nature's annual death rattle, Dutch-ovening myself because of the chili, with no cell service.
I am grateful for a plastic bottle. A plastic bottle that has warmed me three times: Once when it was given, once when I recalled the gift and its attached advice, once with my toes nestled up against it.
I woke not long after dawn to a well-frosted tent. I made coffee. I dried and packed my gear. I came home. I kissed my wife and daughter and dog. I showered and shaved my head and eased myself back into civilization clothing and civilization eating and civilization life.
Checking out like this is a sheer luxury, I know that. But it helped. It helped with my fear and worry and frustration. But it wasn’t checking out that did it. It was yet again being dragged into the world of others.
Watching the kids pointedly not swearing while rassling tent poles. Letting my boy show me every natural shelter outcropping he'd scouted out (three of them in total). Gathering with four other men and our children around a fire and sharing our stories. We communed in the death that is December, we passed candy and cocoa and opinions, and our species again seemed possible. Certainly worth fighting for.
I am grateful for this boy. For these friends. For this life. This life in which I got so damn lucky that I almost feel ashamed.
It's been too long since we’ve gathered around you. We need to get together. We need to remind each other. Maybe we'll cast our stories out into the cold, see what thaws.
My coat still smells of fire. I haven't washed it. I know I have to. But not yet.
I think we can all agree: My wife needs to calm the fuck down
So I get excitable when I get excited about stuff. Take what follows with a grain of salt, I guess. But:
Games-as-storytelling have mostly been attempts to make movies with playable elements divvied up with acting sequences. Movie clones in the same way that early movies were essentially filmed plays.
INSIDE has no cutscenes, no dialogue. No third dimension. Hell, your character doesn’t have a face. But he (or she) does have an arc, and it’s a good and tragic one. All told through running, hiding, climbing, swimming, and shoving objects around.
I’ve probably played LIMBO a dozen times even though I have every obstacle memorized. I started a new game of INSIDE about an hour after I finished my first run through. It’s grim and is brimming with black laughter, and yet something lyrical flutters at the center of it, too. Even when the especially gruesome third act kicks in.
These games are masterpieces. They’re on the verge of something new.
INSIDE is seven bucks on the App Store, but it's worth every penny.
The High Mountain Vest with Hunkerdown Insulation, $87
Available colors: Manzanita Crucifixion, Cerulean Longing, Blood Oath (pictured)
God, he thought, when you loved someone, every day was Opposite Day. Being with them made you feel weak and also strong. They made you want to laugh and cry. Get dressed up and get undressed. You wanted to keep them forever and eat them like a bucket of cheese fries.
“I killed Buddha,” he told her.
—Michael Poore, Reincarnation Blues
This is an actual Freedom of Information Act request from a right-wing group looking to punish resistance:
This is where I’m tempted to make an “am I high right now or is it everyone else” joke, but being high is way more fun than this, y’all.
Though I’m hard pressed to think of a more appropriate nickname for their super-white, greed-fueled murdercult than “Death Eaters”.
I know he isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and a 13-minute acoustic song with no chorus certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I’ve probably listened to this song more than any other single track in 2017.
Choosing “Pure Comedy” for the album’s title track was the right pick, as it's essentially the thesis statement for what follows. But it feels like this was the one he tore himself open for.
Listening to FJM is kind of like reading Vonnegut. There’s a constant thread of simultaneous contempt and love for our species. He sees that we’re hideous and beautiful all at once, and he doesn’t flinch from it. He sings to it.
Sometimes the cynicism on this album goes a bit overboard. I have to be careful about how often I listen to it, because optimism doesn’t come easily for me these days. But when I listen to it, I feel a little less alone in beholding the inherent absurdity and savagery of our existence and not knowing what to do.
Once upon a time there was a girl who had memories that followed her like shadows. They whispered like ghosts. She could not look them in the eye.
Once upon a time there was a man in a robe with a face like a vulture.
Once upon a time there was a woman on the ceiling.
Once upon a time there was black hair and black eyes and a righteous howl. Once upon a time a woman with hair like snakes said, She is mine, and she meant it. And then they took her away.
Once upon a time there was a dark tower that pierced the sky and turned everything gray.
Yes. This is all one story. This is my story. I just don’t know how it ends.
Once upon a time, something terrifying lived in the woods. Or perhaps the woods were terrifying. Or perhaps the whole world is poisoned with wickedness and lies, and it’s best to learn that now.
No, Fyrian, darling. I don’t believe that last bit, either.
—Kelly Barnhill, The Girl Who Drank the Moon
This book. This perfect, perfect book.
In the last five days, I have:
- Driven 650 miles
- Made and blind-baked four pie crusts
- Roasted and braised a turkey
- Made sides and gravy for 16
- Reserved enough broth to make turkey gravy salted caramels (YES I WILL, MOTHER FUCKERS)
- Waited to hear if my nephew has a brain tumor (he doesn’t, hell yes)
- Hosted family overnight
- Run a frankly absurd number of dishwasher loads
- Hand-washed all the family china
- Done an introvert-month’s worth of socializing
- Invented the unit of measurement known as the introvert-month
- Eaten enough carbs that I feel Confession is warranted, despite my Protestant-bordering-on-Unitarian leanings
- Made my father-in-law cry
Every inch worth it. Tomorrow, I return to work, so that I may rest.
If you want a good opening topic for a survey course in The Terribleness of White Folks, consider that we took one of the most profound and raw and beautiful expressions of suffering and longing our species has ever invented and smeared paunchy, goateed dads too old for rock and roll alllllllll over it.
If black culture is a fertile field, then historically, we have been the locusts.