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Thursday, December 29, 2016

"We're only as sick as our secrets" ~ Carrie Fisher

Can we talk about Princes Leia for a sec? And what a massive bad ass she was? There she is on the Death Star surrounded by the most terrifying men in the galaxy, this tiny little thing alone and unarmed. Tarkin threatens her life and she doesn't blink. He threatens her planet and she has the presence of mind to find a convincing lie. Alderaan is destroyed and she doesn't even give her enemies the satisfaction of seeing her break down. 

  Every time we see her face from her first frame to her last, she is getting shit done. While her brother is whimpering and whining his way through his adolescence, she's risking everything for the rebels. Jabba tries to make her a slave and she strangles him with the chain he bound her with. She never stops fighting.
When we see her again as General Organa The Force Awakens, she's still getting shit done. When Leia's son turns to the dark side, her brother buggers off to some ocean planet to stare at some rocks for years. Her lover disappears to play space pirates and aliens like he's having some long-delayed mid-life crisis. And Leia? She puts on her big girl pants and gets shit done. 
Carrie Fisher wasn't nearly as perfect as the princess turned general she played on screen, but she was damn sure as brave. Even as a twenty-something actress in the throes of a drug addiction that nearly killed her, she had the guts to tell the great ego George Lucas when his dialogue wasn't working and how he could make it better. She did a lot of that, actually, throughout her career. All through the 80s and 90s when people were calling her a washup and a has-been, she was rewriting some of the most famous movies Hollywood put out - without getting any credit. Fisher served as script doctor for The Blues BrothersSister ActHook, even the Star Wars prequels (though we'll forgive her for that). 

And that's despite the severe mental health problems she battled her entire life. Fisher was always candid about her addiction and recovery, but she later began speaking publicly about her bipolar diagnosis at a time when that still was not done. And people gave her hell for it. An article on Cracked.com once called her post Star Wars career unimpressive, saying she was best known now for talking publicly "about her personal problems," as if this were a filthy, shameful thing to do. People privileged with perfect mental health just can't comprehend how incredibly important voices like Fisher's are to people like me. Every time someone amazing like Carrie Fisher comes out of the closet with their mental illness, the stigma lifts just a little bit off the rest of our shoulders; every time someone as beloved as 
Fisher admits to her struggles, it gives the rest of us hope that we're lovable, maybe even laudable too. 


What made Fisher remarkable wasn't so much the way she spoke openly about her bipolar disorder when she was doing well; she spoke about it when she wasn't doing well too. For a lot of people, the decision to undergo electroconvulsive therapy is a private, shameful thing. Fisher changed her outgoing voice mail to note that because she was suffering memory loss following the procedure, callers would have to remind Fisher how she knew them if they expected a call back. When trolls on social media scorned the actress' appearance in The Force Awakens - she was too fat, too old - she didn't pretend it didn't bother her. She admitted that those words hurt her, but she stood strong anyway, and told other women to do the same.

Carrie Fisher had an advice column in The Guardian, and a young fan recently wrote in to ask her about how to function, how to live with a mental illness. That's where she said some words I'm planning to keep close to me as I navigate my own path with mental illness.

"Think of it as an opportunity to be heroic... An opportunity to be a good example to others who might share our disorder."
"You don’t have to like doing a lot of what you do, you just have to do it... Move through those feelings and meet me on the other side. As your bipolar sister, I’ll be watching. Now get out there and show me and you what you can do."
Fisher chose to be strong when she felt weakest, to be defiant when she felt the most shame. She chose to speak out when the sensible, safe course was to be silent. And she chose to do all that stuff in the public eye, for the benefit of people who were going through the same. And for that, I am utterly at a loss for words to express my gratitude. Godspeed, Leia Organa, and thank you, Ms. Fisher, for all the hope you've given me.


Saturday, December 17, 2016

Heavenly Peace

"The War on Christmas - when did that start?" Begins Helen Zaltzman, host of The Allusionist.  "Upon the birth of Jesus Christ himself, when King Herod ordered all the baby boys in and around Bethlehem be killed? In 1644, when Oliver Cromwell’s Puritans passed an ordinance prohibiting Christmas celebrations? In 1659, when the Massachusetts Bay Colony Puritans managed to get Christmas banned for 22 years for being a pagan festival?"

No, according to a lot of people in the UK, the war on Christmas began when the city of Birmingham, England, renamed Christmas "Winterval." This was an atrocity! This was political correctness gone mad! They'd rebranded the day from one in which we celebrate the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and all so as not to offend those insidious Muslims.
"And verily," says Zaltzmn, "...Christmas was banished. Now we sing Winterval carols and wear ironic Winterval sweaters; we hang up our Winterval stockings for Father Winterval to fill with Winterval gifts..."
Thing is, actually, Birmingham never tried to rename Christmas. The city council came up with the name Winterval to refer to the 41-day long festival of events beginning a few weeks before Christmas and ending a few weeks after. Christmas was still Christmas; Winterval was just a cutesy marketing term for a bunch of different celebrations only some of which were Christmas related.
So if this whole story about how the Brits stole Christmas is provably false, and if the last Winterval was 20 years ago, why do people still rant and rave about this as if it's the Christmapocolypse? Helen Zaltzman thinks maybe people just want to feel like underdogs, want to feel like heroes for leaping to the defense of a holiday. I wonder if it's something more than that.
Today I ventured out for some Christmas errands. I slogged through this horrendous precipitation situation that I literally can't even think of a word for - it was kind of like it snowed, and then a slushy machine exploded, and then it all froze, making everything like, deadly slippery and wet and friggin miserable. I'm getting over being sick, so I'm exhausted, I'm going through that whole drama of working up a sweat in the store only to have all the sweat turn to ice as soon as I walk out of the place, it's crowded, it's loud, it's overwhelming. Then I get home to a house that looks like it's been trashed by a hoard of Christmas elves turned vandals and find a cat calmly eating my damn wrapping paper, and I was about ready to snap that obnoxious little bastard's tiny neck.
That's the thing about Christmas. It's supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but at the same time, it's kind of like a month long panic attack. Stores, gifts, cards, food, parties, family: it's all one big stress fest. We know we're supposed to be happy and full of the Christmas spirit, but we're constantly one string of Christmas lights away from snapping. So we take it out on the heathen behind the counter at Target who dares blaspheme against Christmas by wishing us a happy holiday. We rant online over stupid shit like black Santas and season's greetings. How dare people not appreciate the holiday that I baked 9 pies to celebrate? How dare you cheapen my orgy of materialism with your Hanukkah and your Divali and your Winterval. This is the most wonderful time of the year, goddamnit, and if you don't celebrate it exactly the same as I do, I will effing cut you, lady at Taco Bell who just told me Feliz Navidad. 
Guys, this Christmas, practice some self care. Hustle and bustle but get a massage and take a bubble bath too. Your kid will survive the Hatchimals shortage, and nobody cares if your pie crusts are store-bought. Say happy Christmas or joyous Winterval or io Saturnalia or nanu nanu or blathering blatherskeit or don't say anything at all. But don't be a dick, man. It's the most wonderful time of the year, after all. 

Oh and dude? Seriously quit with this whole "Christmas is only for Christians" nonsense. Just about every Christmas tradition you know and love predates Christ. We got Christmas trees from the Chinese, Egyptians, and Romans (in fact, the bible specifically forbids having a tree indoors), wreathes from the Etruscans, mistletoe and holly from the Druids. If anything, most of what we call Christmas belongs to the pagans. They're happy to let you borrow it, but don't Bogart it, it's bad form. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Double Trouble

Christmas came early for news organizations this week when Santa Claus brought 22 very stupid men and their ill-advised Mannequin Challenge. 
So the Mannequin Challenge is pretty cool. You get a big group of people together, everybody freezes, and somebody films the whole thing while, randomly, Black Beatles by Rae Sremmurd plays. It was started by some high school kids, and then it exploded. 
Widely considered the original

Cavs!

These guys fail. That fire is clearly moving.
And then there's these idiots...
The video went viral, the cops got wind of it, got a search warrant, and it turns out some of the dudes were felons, who aren't allowed to possess firearms.
Okay, okay, these guys are idiots, all around. They pretty much did these cops' job for them. 
And I assume the cops totally investigated these guys too...
And these guys for sure, right?
Because if not it almost might seem like...
...there was some kind of double standard.

Yeah, yeah, cops were right to investigate the guys they did. I don't feel even a little bit bad for the guys who were arrested. They did society a big favor by being big fat idiots. But white folks - hunters, collectors, enthusiasts - post pictures of themselves with guns all the hell over social media and nobody bats an eye. And the why of that is worth pondering.

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