2012 – Year of the invisible wall…

I’m not inclined towards reviews of years past, and much less towards annual resolutions. However, 2012 was quite a different year for me, and not that I run on some kind of psychic clock tuned in to the changing of the calendar, I do, coincidentally, happen to be undergoing changes of late.

I’ll take the opportunity to undertake an annual reflection, and call it for what it is; a fortuitous trope.

2012, for me, has been the year of Lexapro (escitalopram).

It’s been the year of shuffling off the frustrations of having to deal with the passive-aggressive in-fighting, kook-apologist, racist-in-denial, bullshitting Buckland family, once and for all.

2012, has been the year of engineering my psychological climate. Out with the counter-productively agitating, the infuriating, the self-pitying, the intrusive and the mendacious.

It all seemed a little radical to me before – burning so many bridges at once, even though I’d done it before. But before, it was for ego and for show, whereas now it’s been practically motivated and unceremonious.

And I have no regrets.

I don’t say that to boast. It’s just I expected I’d have regrets, that I’d consider myself to some extent, mistaken. Yet upon calm reflection, I don’t. I’m surprised.

I have no intention of re-building bridges, and I won’t have such projects foisted upon me either. If bridges are to be rebuilt, between myself and them, it’ll require changes, my unpressured consent, and no effort on my part in the rebuilding.

If there hadn’t been ‘developments’ on this front – sly attempts to garner my attention and exploit second thoughts I haven’t had – I’m not sure I’d even mention these broken relationships.

For me, life is expanding into new areas…

New areas, with new rewards, new sensations and new problems…

I was warned by Michelle that antidepressants could hinder one’s writing, and I now take that as gospel. Or as close to gospel as an atheist can manage, and possibly for different reasons.

My writing hit a wall in 2012. An invisible wall, at least; I didn’t feel any resistance as with other frustrations, but certainly, I slowed down.

It’s taken a while for me to work out what’s been happening. The invisible wall is something I’ve been considering until now, as an opposing force to be overcome. This is how all of my frustrations have been in the past; opponents.

What I’ve come to realise is this invisible wall, it’s really just nothing. Simply, I just don’t have personal frustration and fire as a motivation the way I used to, and it’s taking time for newer faculties to compensate. I’m on new terrain, and I’m not practiced in traversing it.

But things now seem to be speeding up…

I’ve been withdrawn in the past, which I’ve had to learn in the past for safety’s sake. This long since having become pathological.

I’m still not able to comfortably socialise with certain types – narcissists, passive-aggressives, anti-social bigots, and the like, and I don’t care if I don’t ever learn to. But it’s been easier to be outgoing with people of good faith. Much easier – I’m not nearly as worn out by people, without certain types in my life, leaving energy to spend on the good ones.

The surprise though,  is in just how much I’ve neglected participation in healthy interaction, and how I’m yet to appreciate the niceties of how to go about it. No, nothing in general, philosophically, or civically has changed – the difference is all in the fine-tuning.

Unlike a lot of my past navel-gazing on how we should all get along, a lot of my newer, more refined sensibilities (if that’s what the are), are the product of doing – just getting out there and living with good people. This has been made easier through the expansion of my emotional palette, as afforded by my medication.

I’ve got all the same extremes of hue and saturation, it’s just the ranges between have been fleshed out in a more comprehensive gradient. The result has been to find new ways to like or dislike, or to enjoy or to be put off. So it is as well, with the strength of my reaction to any given stimuli – it’s easier now to just roll my eyes, or to select from anything else in the spectrum between apathy and absolute intensity.

Transitioning this to articulation in writing has been, and continues to be, quite a task, especially since for the most of the year, I didn’t understand how this was actually happening.

I’m expecting, if my reflections are accurate, that soon my writing output will begin to increase, and my prose will stabilise into some representation of my current, ‘truest’ self. Progress will continue to be made after this stage, but then for any writer, when isn’t that the case?

To give you an idea of the magnitude of my culture shock, consider my depression of the last year. I went to the doctor in January, on account of feeling quite good – a high which put the previous twenty years into depressing perspective. Despite this high, I still improved on medication, and in fact still made better progress, according to my doctor, than most people with the same diagnosis.

It’s a lot of mental ground to cover in a short time, and has resulted in my residing an unprecedented distance from the black dog. I’m new here, but I’m learning.

My point in this matter of culture shock is, I should soon be stable enough to write my way though a project the size of a book without the beginning and end chapters appearing to be authored by different people.

This rapid change coincides with my expansion into the ‘scene’ – the local underbelly of hobbyist, aspiring and established authors. In a possibly mixed manner, I’m finding new people to like, and I expect I’ll be finding new people to dislike – perhaps some of the precious types. I’ve still got no time for the same old shit.

Further, I’m beginning to intuit, more than ever before, what it is that goes into a good friend. I’ve expanded on a few friendships in Melbourne this year, with those who previously I only knew online. I feel strangely as if they’re old friends – Fin, Em, and company. Some, in a sense are; I recently met in-person, in Melbourne, ‘Notallright’, who I first ran into on the blogosphere in late 2005.

It’s not all about thinking the same way (there are differences, although the similarities do help),  the point is one of good faith; people that for some reason, perhaps the way that they reason, you know you can trust.

I’m realising I’m drawing strength from these good friends, both new and old, in ways I never recognised before. I’ve never had a muse, but I’m starting to understand the concept, rather than know it in a purely abstract manner.

With this comes a new sense of gratitude – even though your friends, you’re real friends, may have had hard years of late, they’ve still helped you just by being who they are. No special tasks required.

So I’d like to thank my friends, old and new, online and off, just for continuing to be who they are. It may not seem like much, but the consequences matter, and who’s had an easy life just being themselves of late?

Again, my gratitude!

Now it’s time for me to cut down on the introspection, look back outward at the world, and press on through the invisible wall. Happy 2013!

~ Bruce

RadiCool Melbourne #008 (Serious Edition): The Noise Bar

For readers who couldn’t already tell, I have a confession; I don’t have a hate-hate (or even love-hate) relationship with Melbourne. I do rather love it, in a way – the way you continue loving your dog, even if it drinks from the toilet bowl.

So with confessed affection in mind, breaking with the mood of the previous ‘RadiCool Melbourne’ posts, I just can’t bring myself to be even mildly sarcastic this time around… Such is the subject of this entry.

noise

The Noise Bar

Okay, a totally unsolicited plug;  I’ve developed a severe crush on this pub.

From memory, at the time of writing, on Wednesday nights there are $8 jugs of beer. In good company, several of these were downed the other week.

And I can still see the back of my hand, which is always welcome news.

But it’s when you try the food after the kitchen opens in the evening – it’s then you’re in for something cooked up with a little extra joie de vivre (wanker speak for ‘oomph’).

The menu isn’t too pretentious – it looks a little swanky-minimalist on paper, and the items have fancy Proper Names… but by fuck (which is quasi-sacred in my lexicon), the food is so incredibly good that the right to any mild vestige of trendiness is more than paid for.

I’m still trying to work out just how exactly, the bun on my burger was prepared. The very edges of the bread, almost caramelised, and how they interplayed with the sauce and the juices, mystified me (and as you can see, prompted a certain level of obsession). Although I suspect effect was probably an uncalculated idiosyncrasy of the chef’s (bless ‘im) handiwork, rather than a deliberate ploy.

(No, I didn’t have the munchies at the time, nor did I pop any psychedelics).

Obviously it wasn’t all bun-edges, my meal, but often it’s these little details that let on that your food has been prepared by a chef who loves what they do.

Naturally, there were several selections on the menu my picky vegetarian self was able to chose from.

***

Gig posters plastered the passageways, and the walls of the men’s loo (I can’t comment on the other half’s decor, having stayed where I belonged), and I’m told there’s a regular gathering of left-wing, Melburnian poets. I’m wondering how the locals would handle a Paroxysm Press Spoke n Slurred, or BorderCross SLAM*.

Whenever I hear of poets or literati from Melbourne, some small part of me always interprets the news like it’s fightin’ words… sporting like, etc..

The surrounding locale’s pretty interesting as well. There’s some nice old industrial red-brick buildings out back, with a bloody great old red brick chimney in the middle (I suspect, disused). The graffiti in the previous instalments of ‘RadiCool Melbourne’, for as long as they’re there, can be found along the Upfield line, north of The Noise Bar, which rests right next to the Brunswick station on Albert St.

With the daylight hours being what they are this time of year, on a not-too-hot day, you could take in a little graffiti on a walk, pop in for a beer, and try out the menu. You may even run into a performer or two if you time it right**.

Sobering back up, I can see my infatuation is leading to one of those long-distance type of affairs where I’m not going to get much face time. Almost regrettably, I’ll be seeing other pubs while I’m back here in Adelaide, but when in Melbourne, I’ll make it a priority to pop in to The Noise Bar for a drink, burger and chips.

Those lucky enough to be in closer proximity would do well to take advantage more regularly. Spoiled, Melburnians, you lot are.

~ Bruce

Update: There was some very sad news delivered to me, just a few days after I wrote this post. My compliments to the chef

* The first of which is on the 9th of February, 2013, in Melbourne. More details will follow as they are announced by the venue.
** Checking out events on The Noise Bar Facebook page would possibly help.

Missed memos?

Okay, so I’m not an insider among the alleged Freethought Blogs cult, nor have I commented extensively on the dramas surrounding the blog network, but I like to think that I’m at least in some sense in touch with goings on. I still read a lot of these blogs, I still talk to people, I still ask questions and I’ve even got a few special sources.

But for the life of me, when some people hit publish, or open their mouths on podcasts and YouTube videos, I keep feeling like I’ve missed a memo or three.

Look, I have a raft of reasons for not wanting to use the ‘Atheist +’ label, mostly relating to its Americentrism, its effective class-blindness, its under-acknowledged class privilege and its aggressive identity politics*, how all these interrelate, and how this gels with my reasons for being an ‘out atheist’ in the first place. However, I’m often left gobsmacked when it’s claimed that the FtB/Atheist+ crowd…

  • … Want white people to feel guilty for being white.
  • … Want men to feel guilty for having a penis.
  • … Are ‘…trampling on the rights of several other demographics’ (video).
  • … Are at risk of bullying their ‘victims’ into suicide.
  • … Are Stalinist/Maoist/Pol Potist/Nazi/Stasi totalitarian propagandists.
  • … Advocate Puritanism at atheist conferences.
  • … Claim that the atheist community is more sexist/misogynistic than the Catholic church.
  • … Paint ‘ElevatorGuy’ as an attempted rapist.
  • … Yadda, yadda, yadda…

I’m not bushwhacked by just any allegation; if people want to allege a specific instance of bullying with supporting references (e.g. Greg Laden v Justin Griffith); if people want to argue that language is more mutable than a lot of FtB bloggers argue (with citations); if people want to pick apart Rebecca Watson’s recent material criticising evolutionary psychology (with references); if people want to argue things like Jason Thibeault’s apology to DJ Grothe not being sincere (with linkage), I’m not going to dismiss them out of hand.

But all this poorly sourced, paranoid horseshit (e.g. follow the above link to see and listen to Al Stefanelli talk about ‘trampling on rights’), just leaves my head spinning. ‘Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence’ – that’s supposed to be close to being a mantra amongst us mob.

When people make these kinds of wild accusations without ample (or any) supporting evidence, I tend not to believe them. In fact, I tend to gravitate towards quite different conclusions.

I tend to suspect, that for whatever reason, some part of the people making these allegations, harbour the attitudes towards themselves that they are attributing to others.

White people who accuse people of trying to make them feel guilty for being white, actually feel a bit guilty for being white; men who feel bad on account of owning a penis, aren’t particularly happy with their penis ownership; people who accuse feminists of being puritans, actually feel insecure or guilty about some aspect of their own sexuality; people who worry that we atheists may be seen as being as sexist as the Catholic church, may actually suspect that we may be that sexist; people who defend ‘ElevatorGuy’ against allegations of attempted rape, see something of the rapist about him, and people who see conflict as potentially precipitating suicide, harbour suicidal thoughts.

This is in these cases, what I venture, what I suspect. I also suspect that these people are looking for someone else to blame for having experienced these feelings.

Yeah, it’s cod-psychology, I know. But is that any worse than a heap of hysterical accusations, thin on supporting evidence?

I’m used of people being smarter than this. The ‘debate’, such as it is, is out-of-the-blue in its unprecedented capacity to disappoint. I’m getting more and more pissed off.

I do expect better, and more so of people in privileged positions.

~ Bruce

*Please note: ‘aggressive identity politics’ has a specific meaning. Any wonk worth their salt will understand, so I’ll not be spelling it out. Consider it homework if you aren’t familiar with the concept.

The flip-side of the ‘woman as sex dispensary’ attitude

Preamble: My apologies in advance for apparent hetero-cis-centrism – the discussion I’m adding to is largely hetero-cis-normative in as far as I can see, and in as far as I feel qualified to comment. This post focuses on a specific attitude of heterosexual men and their enablers, with bad attitudes towards women and sex, although there are permutations of the issue that could involve other, broader and/or less defined ranges in the gender/sexuality continua. A lack of explanation in these respects is not intended as exclusion or detraction (snippets of non-cis-hetero anecdotes and wisdom are welcome in the comments).

Allow me to wax cod-philosophic, folk-theoretic about sex.

There’s an attitude that goes by various guises, names or none, is usually espoused by self-pitying men and their enablers, and has features and flaws that would seem obvious except for the myopia of said self-pitying men. It often manifests in opinions such as…

‘Women have all the power in sex.’

‘She only has sex to get what she wants.’

‘Ladies deliberately attract men, then rebuff them capriciously.’

‘You have to do X,Y and Z to flick whatever switch it is in her brain that makes her serve-up sex.’

‘I’m not going to be bullied by a woman who wants to control me through sex!’

‘I wouldn’t “obsess” about sex so much, if she didn’t obsessively withhold it from me!’

‘She just wants me for my money/assets/status, and not my mind [nor apparently, for fucking’s sake].’

In short, women ‘dispense’ sex for whatever (usually Machiavellian) purpose.

There’s a lot to take issue with in this attitude. First and foremost – in as far as women ‘dispense’ sex, they’re free to; it’s their body.

However, in addition to the more obvious objections, there’s a flip-side; a double standard to this bizarre attitude towards a woman’s supposed ‘sexual capital’; we see men viewing women’s sex as being withheld with a purpose, in a sense, to increase its purchasing power – more diamonds, more money, more men grovelling, more control, more man-pain. We don’t see these same men applying the same logic to men who withhold sex from women, as if sexually active women couldn’t possibly desire sex for what it is.

This, beyond any kind of Puritanism that views female sexual desire as somehow dirty.

These men view a woman’s sexuality as a commodity of a sort, but are slow to place a value on their own, presumably because it’s an uncomfortable prospect just thinking about thinking about it. When it comes to what women want, sexually, a back-handed defence of the male ego metastasizes into some kind of categorical imperative.

***

When women turn down sex with a man, they deny themselves a sexual interaction just as much as they deny their prospective partner. In as far as refusal can say anything about what women bring to the bedroom (such as the ‘price’), it also infers a value for what men have on offer as lovers.

Fellas, perhaps she just doesn’t want your sex, now, or ever. Perhaps she’s not holding out for a new necklace or a set of earrings.

Maybe she doesn’t trust you to be around her drinks. Maybe she doesn’t trust that she’ll be safe around you. Maybe she doesn’t trust you’ll be a good fuck.

Hell, maybe you’ve got a six-pack, a nice smile, and all the moves and stamina to boot, but the prospect of it being you makes the sex unattractive. She’s not objectively bound to realise all of your allegedly profound qualities, even if you think that makes her ‘shallow’. (Perhaps you don’t know a thing about what she likes, ‘shallow’ or not).

Maybe she doesn’t like small (or average) cocks. Maybe she doesn’t think your hands will spank well. It’s her paraphilia if she’s got one, and she can like what she wants. It’s her body. It’s her.

(And guys, please. Don’t wrinkle up your nose, or complain about your sore jaw at the mere mention of cunnilingus. When you do that, you look like the archetypal man-child who won’t eat his broccoli or the crusts on his sandwiches.)

***

I don’t care so much, just how biologically predisposed we may be to this kind of attitude – how bound up in culture is it, that women are seen as the dispensers of sex?

How big is the challenge, if people are to take this issue on?

Aside from objectifying women more generally, specifically, the ‘dispensary’ attitude denies their sexual desire. The flip-side of this downplays (or doesn’t) what men have to offer (and in a sense, is implicitly sexually degrading for men).

Any comprehensive challenge would seem to entail telling self-pitying hetero guys to stop whining, and to start considering what they bring to the table (bedroom/loungeroom/kitchen floor/etc.), sexually speaking.

Yeah, maybe it is too small – for this one lady. There’ll be others. No harm, no foul.

Perhaps guys, you’re unattractive to her. Again, there’ll be others. (Although health and hygiene are worth considering on their own merits, as is personality).

Maybe, men, you do cum too fast. Perhaps you should learn to deal with your anxieties more productively, or perhaps just be less selfish.

Or maybe, guys, you’re selling yourself short. Why wallow and mope if this is the case? That’s just sabotaging yourself (and leads to a future, if you’re not already there at the end of the journey, where you only become more unbearable an asshole). Indeed, why wallow and mope if you’re not selling yourself short as a lover?

How often is self-pity a good, healthy thing, or attractive?

***

Is the idea of a heterosexual woman, just one, someone, somewhere, seeing a guy’s cock for the first time as she unzips his pants, and finding it beautiful, such that her eye’s light up like she’s unwrapping a present at a particularly happy Christmas, so unbelievable?

Is the idea of women, losing themselves physically in the company of a man, almost ingesting him in a rhythmic, intoxicating embrace, so beyond imagination?

Is the idea of a mutual sexual consent, where beyond just saying ‘yes’, both lovers have sexual treats on offer for one another, so bizarre or counter-intuitive? How could it be so? Isn’t just the prospect of anything else being the norm just a little bit insane? Isn’t the status quo as it stands on the matter, just a little (or more than a little) bit balmy?

***

Looking at the population of the planet, patriarchy not withstanding, shouldn’t it inspire just a little bit of scepticism in people when it’s universally (or near-universally) alleged that everything but sex is a motive in women’s minds when women have sex?

I’m more than a little sceptical of the intellectual honesty of men who make these claims, I feel sorry for people who truly believe them or have to deal with the consequences, and I’m opposed to the unthinking  perpetuation of the belief, either as the direct, universal discounting of the extent of heterosexual female sexual desire*, or as its corollaries.

~ Bruce

* Or the extent of non-hetero, non-cis sexualities.