Monthly Archives: May 2016

Cool Things: The Revenge

ss_ffIt’s been a good long time since I posted a blog entry about the cool things that cheer me up, hasn’t it?  Although I started this blog as a way of charting my rise in spirits after the blackest depression of my life, its original subtitle was “for all the little things that keep me going” (before I put in the current joke about cats), and so posting about the things that make me happy made sense back then.

You’ll be pleased to know that all the things I’ve posted in this category still delight me in their own ways — see, they weren’t just random things I happened to be thinking about at the time:

  • I pet strange people’s dogs whenever I get the chance — it’s one of the few things I can do when visiting my folks in Worthing (such as this weekend just gone, in which I petted more than my fair share along the beach walk);
  • I rewatched both seasons of Space Battleship Yamato during my daily commutes in 2015, when I was in the early, scary stages of the two jobs I did that year (and, as you know, watched the whole of Gatchaman after the second season);
  • At night I’ve been reading through my old Judge Dredd comic strips, including numerous appearances by the dreaded Four Dark Judges, who were my gateway into the franchise;
  • Naturally, having finished the classic Doctor Who, I’ve continued watching the 21st-century seasons (interspersed with Torchwood), and aim to get the later seasons in Blu-ray format.

But what’s the most significant to me?  It’s not Beavis and Butt-head, which I watched through in 2013 and continue to quote amusing lines from with “best mate”; I’ve still got the series, but like the Doctor’s parents, they “sleep in my mind” for now.  It’s also not thunderstorms, because there still just aren’t any for me to watch — though if one starts while I’m at work, I can always fink off to the top floor and get a nice panoramic view of London…

And, believe it or not, it’s not Gwar, despite the ludicrous amount I go on about them in these hallowed pages, and despite the fact that putting their music on shuffle is my default fallback position when I run out of new music to listen to during the walking parts of my commute.  It’s not even Eminem, the guy whose example has encouraged me to keep trying after all these years (and who I’ll be playing in my mother’s car at some point this year, as I’m putting the finishing touches to three mix-CDs of his music).

No, the most significant of the “cool things” I’ve nominated in this blog so far is… Amnesia: The Dark Descent.  The scariest video game of all time (though Outlast comes a close second), one of the few things that can genuinely terrify me… but it’s not so much the game itself (though I occasionally replay it) as the music, which I, er, continue to use as my morning alarms, and have done for virtually as long as I’ve owned a smartphone in 2012 — the year that marked the beginning of my journey.

At the moment I wake with Chris Evans on the radio at 7am every working day, only to be jerked back to wakefulness 15 minutes later when my phone plays the “screaming madness” sound effect that means a Gatherer has seen you and is running towards you, and at the weekend I have the “nice” music (from the “blue room” at the back of the castle you reach just after being pursued by the invisible water monster), and don’t expect me to change either any time soon.

(I even have a Gatherer’s growl as the notification noise for my mother texting me from her mobile… sorry, Mumsy!)

Phew!  I’m not sure why I stopped these posts back in late 2014, unless it was simply that I was in a very, very bad place during my early career change days, and have only just recovered now (or only just realised that I’d already recovered).  Well, I guess I’ll have to get back into the habit of telling you goons about all the little things that make me happy…

But what can I focus on next?  The Mass Effect games, Game of Thrones, the works of Stephen King (especially the Dark Tower series), the music of Prince (which, as you know, I was collecting before he died — does that make me a hipster?!)… I’ve been watching South Park during my daily commutes, but I still catch new episodes of Family Guy even if I’ve stopped watching it (and American Dad!) every night since BBC3 went off the air… and I still watch old Columbo episodes at the weekend… oh, decisions, decisions!

May I get depressed again?

lonely_shinjiI know I said I wouldn’t do it any more, but I feel I must drone on about how things right now compare to similar times in my past, because I’ve been feeling a little down this May, and I have before — it’s almost like clockwork…

Maybe it’s the changeable weather of this time of year that accentuates any unhappiness I already have — things that would otherwise merely perturb me.  I remember one Friday in mid-to-late May 1992, indeed, when I had a miserable time, despite it being a Friday before the half-term holiday!  Somehow too many damn things went wrong that day and I couldn’t concentrate, and got more and more wound up by petty little things; the strange thing is that I was happy at this school (we were about to move to Worthing, so I was making the most of it), so this brief bout of depression really stood out.

Something similar happened in 1995, during a school year I’d actually found pleasant — so it can strike even when I’m in familiar surroundings, with good friends, and enjoying what I’m doing.  May and June being exam months in full-time education certainly doesn’t help the situation: there was a particularly bad Astrophysics one in 2004 that almost made me give up, and there was a near-disaster in 2011 when I forgot my passport for my first A+ exam, though it turned out all right in the end.

Many times I’ve caught cold in May, too often for it to be a coincidence: 1993, 1994, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2012, 2013 and 2015 (with colds in June occurring in 1998, 2002 and 2014… yes, I’ve been checking my own diary).  You may remember my theories in these hallowed pages that depression could be a forewarning of an incipient cold, or that alternatively it might weaken the immune system and allow an existing cold virus to take hold…

But I think we all know the real reason I’ve been down this month, much as in previous Mays since at least 2010: girls.  Yes, I’m really sick of having to bring up this subject, but it’s a part of my life and something which matters to me, and until I resolve this matter one way or another, I’ll continue to feel down whenever I have an unmitigated failure.  This week I connected with someone in that dating app and almost immediately (as in, within 15 minutes) arranged to meet her for lunch, as we both work near Oxford Circus; it seemed to go well and we parted on good terms, but despite writing to her I’ve heard nothing back, and it feels like yet again either I did something wrong that she didn’t deign to tell me about… or someone’s whispered lies about me into her ear, like they’ve done to many other women who liked me.

(Well, what would you have me believe — that there’s a “stop Dave getting a girlfriend” conspiracy, or that single women in general are the kind of jerks who don’t even bother to reply “sorry, I’m not interested”?  So what if they’d feel bad letting me down — I feel worse not knowing what happened!)

It sucks that I can be getting everything else in my life right (I’ve passed probation at work, and am still enjoying what I do… well, mostly!), yet this aspect continues to confound me — my repeated failures still make me feel like it’s “too late”, that I’m too old to be as inexperienced as I am, and that society as a whole judges me to be either a pathetic loser or a dangerous deviant, who needs to shut up and stop trying.  It’s like being where I am makes it impossible for me to move away from that spot, almost by design (a bit like clamping a car that’s parked illegally), and that it’s somehow my fault for not “being normal” early enough in life.

Still, I need to remember the lesson I learned after my American holiday in 2013, when I not only got depressed over girls (both the young ladies on the trip that I fancied were in relationships already, though one still had a fling with a younger man in preference to me), but I also caught a cold.  Even though I had bad post-holiday blues (as I’m sure you remember), I finally realised that there’s nothing wrong with me being heterosexual: it’s not like I’ve committed a crime by wanting to find someone, and I’m not some kind of desperate weirdo just because I feel disappointed now and then.

And so it is today: despite another failure, I’m not going to give up my search, and I’m not going to let yet another “ghost girl” bring me down for any length of time, because she’s just not worth it.  There’s no damn time limit, and I don’t have to give a f*** what society thinks of me (especially the worthless society of this dreadful country — more than anything I want to leave England forever), because frankly I’m better than that.

And moreover, I don’t want to feel bad for feeling bad, like I’m wasting God’s gifts by not forcing myself to be cheerful, or remembering that other people have it worse, or any nonsense like that: everyone gets down now and then, and the important thing is not to revel in it, but to get through it by whatever means, and look forward to the next thing that cheers you up.  On that basis, over the long weekend (when I’ll be staying with my folks), I’ll see about reintroducing an old “Dave-ros Lives!” institution that’s been too long absent: the “Cool Things” post…

Genital Gestapo?

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Just be thankful I didn’t use a “Family Guy” framegrab of Quagmire’s dad

Sorry, folks, but it’s soapbox time again, as I’m incensed by a worrying trend in bigotry in today’s world (well, principally America, but when they sneeze we catch a cold) — and it’s reached the point that one of my oldest friends seems to agree with it!

No, it’s not Donald Trump’s Islamophobia, since he’s reneging on that anyway and claiming it was “just a suggestion” (presumably in the same way that Tony Blair’s government once dismissed an election pledge they’d failed to fulfil as “just an aspiration”).  However, it involves the same level of prejudice, or possibly brutal dismissal of “collateral damage”, and could end up punishing innocent people while completely ignoring the actual problem that it was trying to resolve… oh, you already guessed from the title that I was talking about the new wave of transphobia in America’s public restrooms?  Well, let’s get on with it then…

Trump’s putative plan to prevent Muslims from coming into the United States “at least until we know what’s going on” is fundamentally stupid, but leaving aside the abhorrent notion that all Muslims are terrorists (or that the ones who aren’t are “no great loss” anyway), the question that needs to be asked is: how do you know who’s a Muslim?  If you judge by people’s declared religion, you’ll only weed out the honest Muslims (because al-Qaeda and Daesh wouldn’t balk at covering up their religion if they’re on their way to martyrdom, would they?), and the only alternative is to ban “anyone who looks a bit Muslim-y”, which would likely include Hindus, Sikhs, and anyone else from the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent (possibly even the guy who plays Raj in The Big Bang Theory), even if they’re Christian or aetheist.

(This is, after all, the country that once banned The Artist Formerly Known As Cat Stevens because they apparently couldn’t tell the difference between one Yusuf Islam and another…)

Similarly, all the thugs who say they want to stand outside the female toilets and knock the teeth out of any “trans” people trying to go in: how do you know?  Do you include anyone you even remotely suspect of being male, such as “butch lezzers” (perhaps thinking that they’re ugly and of no value to society anyway), or do you pull down people’s underwear to check their equipment?  And if the latter, who are you to assume bad faith and say that anyone with a penis who tries to go into the ladies’ is clearly up to no good?  Do you automatically assume anyone biologically male is a rapist of women and girls?  Are you?  If you’re not, why is “he”?

This is the side of the debate that prompts one of my old school friends to keep posting offensive images and “tooth fairy” jokes on Facebook (yes, I know, serious business, whatever).  He’s a decent guy, a family man who served in the armed forces, and so I’m almost afraid to ask him whether he just wants to protect his daughters and doesn’t care if innocent people suffer, or if he thinks trans people are “freaks” anyway, so even if they weren’t going to do anything wrong, they still “deserve” to get beaten up… hey, maybe it’ll make ’em choose to be normal, right?

Anyway, why focus on trans people with male genitalia?  What about people who are physically female going into the men’s room (which, after all, actually has naughty bits on show at the urinals instead of hidden in the stalls)?  Are little boys not worth protecting… or, indeed, would they actually be lucky to get molested by women (as long as they’re hot)?  And if you are worried about them, are you also looking at beating up gay men who have the temerity to walk into the gents’… or have you at least moved on from assuming “all gays are paedos”?

(Frankly, anyone who uses “think of the children!” as an argument in favour of oppression or mob rule has already lost the debate!)

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Would Trump have men with depression or anxiety put into camps and bullied until they “grow a pair”, a bit like beating people with broken legs until they stand up?

Obviously this issue doesn’t affect me directly because I’m (full disclosure) a heterosexual cisgender male, but it still gets to me that the bigots seem to think all trans people are either straight men wearing drag so they can sneak into the ladies’ and commit rape, or else “wimps making a fuss about nothing” — i.e. that even the genuine trans people should just shut up and live with whatever gender they were born with, like their nonconformity is too much trouble for society to deal with.  As you know, I’ve gone through depression and anxiety; the experience has left me truly sick of the way society tells guys like me to “stop moaning” and “man up”, and I hate to see the same thing, and the threat of even worse, happen to people who have done nothing more than “be different”.

Of course, all this could be resolved by doing away with the dreadful shared toilets most places have, and instead having unisex single rooms with doors that actually go all the way down to the floor — they have these in the Castle, and some restaurants I’ve been in.  There is nothing remotely good or pleasant about most gents’ toilets I’ve been in (I loathe urinals and troughs due to the proximity of other blokes, and so use a stall even for “number one”), and the entire rooms are often filthy and smelly, especially in places that serve alcohol; I’m reliably informed that the ladies’ are also frequently disgusting (so much for the “fairer sex”).  Maybe we should be threatening to beat people up for making a mess, rather than going into the “wrong” room?

It seems the bigots just want someone new to have a go at, now that they’re forbidden to discriminate against women, gays and black people (at least overtly).  I can’t help but wonder if there’s any significance in the recent untimely deaths of both David Bowie and Prince, two excellent musicians whose gender and sexual identities were somewhat fluid: would they have spoken out in favour of tolerance for trans people, and did they thus need to be “put out of the way” lest they ruin the fun…?

(Ooh, have I created a new conspiracy theory?)

Loneliness… again

lonely_shinjiThree things made me feel lonely over the Bank Holiday weekend just gone, and two of them conspired to keep me feeling isolated afterwards.

Firstly, “best mate” went off to Amsterdam, and I declined to join him as he was leaving on Friday (though he missed his boat on Friday and travelled on Saturday anyway), deciding instead to spend the long weekend here doing as little as possible.  Thanks to my exact bit of the Northern Line being shut for three days, I had the excuse not to go anywhere in meetup terms, and didn’t even go to the Castle to climb (I can go via bus and Piccadilly Line if the Northern Line is unavailable).  I thus interacted with virtually no-one beyond an occasional shop cashier… but it’s okay, I spent my time playing games and eating junk food — hey, it’s not like I wasted the weekend!

Secondly, it really does look like that young mother in Oxford has stopped responding to me entirely, after cancelling a date in London at short notice two Fridays ago (perhaps I should be grateful she at least told me so, instead of leaving me waiting in Soho for nothing).  The worst part is that I don’t know if she’s simply chosen to break contact, or if something else has gone wrong, such as her phone breaking (again), or depression consuming her.  I think I’d actually be relieved if she’s simply found someone else, as that would feel like I was released from an obligation, but what if she, and other women who “ghost” me when things seem to be going well, are finding out stuff about me that I don’t know about and thus can’t respond to?  Is there some kind of judgemental website for heterosexual women that warns them away from me and other men, based on hearsay?

And finally, something I had to set in motion before the long weekend, but have come to face this week: my boss wants the “new guy” in our team to come and sit in the bosom (uh huh huh etc.) of the team, in a cul-de-sac made of desks, and this has meant me swapping seats with him, out among the lusers muggles normal members of staff.  I’m not a million miles away from the team, and I can still seek their advice if necessary, but it still feels like I’m in exile… ostensibly it’s for a good cause (“new guy” hasn’t been fitting in so far), and I imagine they’ll want me back before too long (“new guy” has very loud sinuses), but it’ll be difficult not being able to turn to one side or the other for advice or humour… and with all I went through on Tuesday, I felt too stressed to go climbing after work.

Although I’ve been better today (Wednesday), and interacted more with people at work (more than “new guy” seems to have done, at any rate), and although I seem to be connecting with women again via that dating app, I still feel relieved to come home and chill out in the evenings.  It’s entirely possible I’m just going through what could be called a “chrysalis phase”, and that I shouldn’t feel obligated to go out, socialise and meet new people if I’m not in the mood, but instead focus on me-time instead — the important thing to remember is that I’m not giving up on socialising, I’m just taking an extended break from it.  This phase is not forever, and I’m not up against a time limit  — or if I am, it ran out in my twenties so there’s no sense worrying.

(The biggest irony, perhaps, is that while I used to compare my “evenings off” to getting Gwar songs in my general music playlist, I haven’t really listened to them in a while… am I saving them for something?)

I’ve got bigger plans for next week that involve socialising again (such as the monthly Japanese meetup — I really hope I get a date out of this one!), but in the meantime hopefully “best mate” will be up for climbing tomorrow, as I’d rather climb with him than some random stranger.  I’m lucky to have him as a friend and a housemate, unlike this time in 2012, when I really was alone and couldn’t spend my non-work time with anyone else… and at least I like my current job, even if it doesn’t always like me — plus, apparently I’ve passed my probation now, so no worries about getting fired abruptly (as long as I don’t somehow destroy everyone’s computers)!

And, best of all, the weather’s getting nice and warm this week, after a long and dismal winter — so if nothing else, I won’t be able to blame any depression and/or anxiety I feel on the cold…