Links! Oh boy!

Every time I get on my computer, I run across dozens of links I want to write about, and never do.  Sometimes those links get lost when I close down the browser (or Georgia crashes); sometimes they just get added to the lengthening list of links on my Safari Reading List.

Today, however, I decided “what the hell, I’m just going to stick these in a post.” So here goes:

Under the heading “about damn time” comes the news that the Church of England has decided to ordain women bishops.  Have fun with that, guys.

“You’d think they could password protect a palantir”: John Scalzi’s record of his live-tweeting of a LOTR marathon. I rediscovered this today, and it’s a gem.

Speaking of John Scalzi, many of you are familiar with his “Lowest Difficulty Setting” post; he has an example of it in action here. I usually would never add a “don’t read the comments” warning to a Scalzi post — he’s the one of the best comment moderators on the web — but there is a certain… tedious repetition to some of the commenters’ views that can be wearying. (Although “Libertarian Dismount” is going to be my next band name.)

“Dating while mentally ill.” This article raises salient points not only about dating, but about relationships of all types. As I told a friend about my own decision to be open about my mental illness, it’s better to be lonely because people are scared off than heartbroken because they find they can’t cope and disappear.

Robert Reich’s “Rise of the Non-Working Rich” is well worth reading, and even more worthwhile to use to respond to your uncle’s rants about “welfare cheats.”

And this article is useful when faced with relatives insisting we need draconian voter-ID laws because of massive fraud: “Voter Suppression In Modern Georgia.”

Two articles about the way in which Big Tech screws over artists: “Not-So-Zen and the Art of Voluntary Agreements” (about Google’s stance on copyright) and “Freedom of Thought in a Vacuum of Patronage.” One response to those issues would be to regulate Google, Facebook, and Amazon as public utilities; since we can’t even get basic net neutrality secured, I’d say that will happen when an American Saddleback sails past my airplane window.

Federal judge rules death penalty unconstitutional in California.  I give the chances of this being upheld upon appeal as somewhere between “slim” and “a snowball in hell”, but it is nonetheless cheering news.

I love the music to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” I find it insanely catchy.  I cannot listen to the song, however: the words go beyond off-putting to disturbing. So thank you, thank you thank you, Weird Al: “Word Crimes” makes it possible for me to dance along at the same time I indulge my inner self-righteous grammar geek. (The irony of this — and yes, I do believe that word is used correctly — is how lax my grammar can be in my blog posts. I once had a blog post linked in an article by the Pew Center for Journalistic Excellence, with a footnote stating that grammatical errors were the fault of the blogger.) You even mentioned the Oxford Comma (see sidebar profile).  “First World Problems” was better in concept than execution, but “Tacky” had me giggling like a seven-year-old at a bubble-makers’ convention. (Weird Al devotees, help me out here: doesn’t the “Tacky” video end in the same alleyway where Al shot “Bob”?)

There is so much more out there (Mike the Mad Biologist is responsible for most of my link backup, along with Slacktivist and my Facebook friends) but I think that this is enough for now.

 

Speaking of Broadway….

I have tracks from fifty-nine separate musicals on my iTunes. Twenty-nine of those are complete albums.  That does not count revivals, or movie soundtracks (unless the movie musical was first on Broadway, like Dreamgirls or Hairspray). And it does not include the approximately 150 tracks (I didn’t count) on the six-disc set of the soundtrack to the television series Broadway: The American Musical that I got several years ago. (Best. Christmas. Present. EVER. Cathy, I thank you, even if the rest of my family does not.)

And that is after I did a major purge about a year ago.

It’s such a pity I don’t live in New York, and that I can’t afford to go to musicals in San Francisco very often.

One of the joys of looking up things on iTunes is what else you find on the way. I was checking on the 2007 revival of Company, trying to decide whether I wanted the whole thing* (I already have Raul Esparza’s version of “Marry Me a Little,” which tends to go into heavy rotation on my playlists), when I discovered The Actor’s Fund of America Benefit Recording of Hair.

Raul Esparza singing “Hair.” Adam Pascal (the original Roger from Rent) singing “I’ve Got Life.” Norm Lewis (who sang Porgy in the celebrated revival of Porgy and Bess, opposite the incandescent Audra MacDonald**) singing “The Flesh Failures/Let the Sunshine In.” Harvey Fierstein (!) singing “Air.” And Jennifer Hudson singing “Easy to Be Hard.”

I’m in love.

* The question not being “Is this a good album?” but “Do I really need another version of Company?” I already have the albums from two different casts of Sweeney Todd, three of Follies, and portions of two different Into the Woods and likewise of Sunday In The Park With George. And that’s after purging a lot of my soundtracks. Not to mention the original cast album of A Little Night Music. And individual tracks from over half a dozen other Stephen Sondheim shows, ranging from “Comedy Tonight” from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum to “Bounce” from Bounce (aka Road Show aka Wise Guys) — my favorite being “The Advantages of Floating in the Sea” from Pacific Overtures. (I have no tracks from Saturday Night, or Passion.) Yes, I do like Sondheim — why do you ask?

**It really is difficult to find enough superlatives for Audra MacDonald.

R.I.P. to a legend.

“I don’t think I’m gonna die tomorrow or even two weeks from now, or even ever. I just don’t know — who the hell knows what’s gonna happen to them? Nobody! Isn’t that comforting? Nobody has a clue. I like that we don’t know. And I like that it’s somebody else’s decision, not mine.” Elaine Stritch.

 

I like Broadway.  I will not go so far as to say I am a Broadway expert, but I do have a fondness for “The Great White Way.” (It’s Broadway — this post is going to be even more filled with cliches than normal.)

Like any aficionado, there are performances — and productions — I wish I could have seen.  These include:

Julie Andrews as Eliza Doolittle in the original run of My Fair Lady.

Raul Esparza in the revival of Company. (I saw that during the short period that it was streaming on NetFlix.  I wish I could have seen it live. Having seen Esparza in Company was the sole reason I started watching Law and Order:SVU again after a hiatus of years, simply because he came on board as an ADA. That, and the man does look sexy as all hell in a suit.)

Jerry Orbach in the original run of Chicago.

Hal Prince’s original production of Cabaret.

Jerome Robbins’ choreography for West Side Story. I still have some hope of that: the musical gets revived every few years.

Another I still have a (very, given how rarely I get to New York and what Broadway tickets cost) slight hope of seeing: Neil Patrick Harris in Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters in Sunday in the Park with George.

Alfred Drake in the original run of Kiss Me Kate.

The original cast of Rent.

And, perhaps most significantly, Elaine Stritch as Joanne in the original run of Company. Other actresses have taken on the role — most notably Patti Lupone — but Stritch was the first, and the best.

Joanne is a wonderful character: cynical and wise, acerbic and pained.** Her tour de force, “Ladies Who Lunch,” throws all of it in our faces, starting with the sharp-tongued assessment of the haut monde by an insider who maybe really isn’t, ending with cutting self-rejection and inwardly directed rage.**

Elaine Stritch, by various accounts, adopted it as her theme song.  While on one level I can understand her doing so, since it was a phenomenal song that she performed phenomenally well, on the other hand it seems an odd choice.  Much better is the song later chose to represent her, and which she performed with wry gusto in Sondheim’s 85th birthday concert, “I’m Still Here.”

Elaine Stritch was a character.  She was an unabashed party-girl (who lived to 89), and would open her one-woman show by commenting to the audience, “Well, as the prostitute once said, ‘It’s not the work, it’s the stairs.’ ” She once said, upon entering a party, “Just give me a bottle of vodka and a floor plan.” She was honest to a fault: in her Emmy thank you speech in 2004, she said of one of her producers, after thanking him, “I don’t like him very much, but he got the money…” She was profane at times, with the ability and willingness to swear like a whiskey-throated sailor. (See above Emmy speech.)

If she hadn’t existed, someone would have had to write her.

She died yesterday at age 89.  The world was a much more interesting place for her having graced it with her humor and wit.

Goodbye, Broadway Baby. You’re not here anymore, and we were lucky to have you for as long as we did.

*Is it me, or does Sondheim write much more compelling female characters than male?
**”Ladies who Lunch” is not my favorite Joanne song: that would be “The Little Things You Do Together.”

 

 

Just go ahead and die, already.

[Note: please feel free to send this to anybody you think might benefit by it.]

Society hates people like me.

Or, more accurately, a sizable minority is afraid of people like me.

Last week, USA Today ran a series about the state of mental health treatment.  It drew a horrific picture of the state of mental health treatment, and of attitudes of society and medical practitioners toward the mentally ill.

Some of the lowlights concerning government programs:

Mentally ill people generally suffer for a decade between onset of symptoms and getting needed treatment.  (I knew that the ten year figure applied to bipolar disorder, with a ten-year lapse between onset and diagnosis, but it appears from this article that that applies to other conditions, as well.)

Medicare treats mental illness differently than physical illness, instituting a 190-day lifetime cap on inpatient services.

Medicaid is even worse: the federal government does not pay for inpatient hospitalization, unlike with physical illness.

States and private hospitals have been closing psychiatric wards because, even when the government covers inpatient services, they do so at lower reimbursement levels than for physical illness.

Private insurance is better:  California has for several years required parity in treating mental illness, and the Affordable Care Act requires insurers to cover mental health and substance abuse services at the same level that they do physical illness.

Some of the horrors of societal stigma:

Studies done in 1996 and 2006* show exactly how bad that stigma can be: 32% of Americans thought that depression was a sign of bad character; 31% thought the same of schizophrenia. While depression was viewed badly (in 2006 46% of respondents would not want to work closely with someone with depression, 20% would not want them as a neighbor, 35% will not socialize with them, 21% will not make friends with them, 53% would not want them to marry into their family, 70% thought they were a danger to themselves, and 32% thought they were a danger to others) the most stigma attaches to schizophrenia.  (I am assuming the numbers for bipolar people are between the two groups.) In 2006, 62% percent of respondents would not want to work closely with a person with schizophrenia, 45% would not want them as neighbors, 52% would not socialize with them, 35% will not make friends with them, 69% would not want them to marry into their family, 84% thought that schizophrenics were a danger to themselves, and 60% — well over half the respondents! — thought schizophrenics were a danger to other people.

The most appalling statistic was that every one of these measures of the stigma against schizophrenics was higher in 2006 than in 1996.  The stigma is getting worse, not better. (A Science Daily item in 2010 stated that the discrimination faced by the mentally ill was not getting any better, even in the face of  increasing belief in neurological sources for mental problems.) The numbers of people who believe that the mentally ill are a danger to others poses special problems: what business owner or hiring manager who believes that a schizophrenic or a person with major depression or bipolar disorder is a danger to other employees will risk hiring them, the Americans with Disabilities Act be damned? It is to my most recent boss’s credit that, with full knowledge of my condition, he rehired me when new opportunities became available.  (I had not told him I was bipolar until I felt it necessary, and by then I had worked two campaigns with him.)

Perhaps most heartbreaking of all, even the medical profession, people who should know better, treats the mentally ill differently: according to the USA Today article, a 2012 study found doctors less willing to prescribe medications or surgery for some serious physical ailments if the patient also suffered from a mental illness. (I am never one for urging people to sue, but it seems to me that withholding necessary medication is almost definitionally malpractice.) Just go ahead and die, already.

We live in a media age: an age of 24/7 coverage of the latest tragedy.  The more extreme the horror, the more amped-up the coverage.  What would have once been in our living rooms for half an hour (an hour at most) for a few days is relentlessly played and discussed over and over.  How many places do you go that have CNN, or worse, Fox News blaring in the background?  These networks (and I’m looking at you, too, msnbc, although I am willing to exempt Rachel Maddow from condemnation ) need material to feed the giant news grinder which they have created, and tragedy, the more sensational the better, fills the bill nicely.  How many hours do you think the cable news networks spent on analyzing Adam Lanza, the Newtown shooter? Or Elliot Rogers, the misogynistic spree killer in Santa Barbara?

And, funny, most of the Rogers television coverage — at least that I saw — analyzed what his mental illness may have been, and pretty much ignored the absolute hatred of women and sense of entitlement that underlay his murderous anger. That discussion raged on the Internet, where the Twitter war between #NotAllMen and #YesAllWomen exploded. That Rogers acted out in an extreme way attitudes that women (especially attractive women) face all too many times seemed to fly under the cable news radar.

Armchair psychiatrists come out of the woodwork, making diagnoses based on hearsay and innuendo. Legal experts and media psychologists such as Drew Pinsky weighed in.

David Granirer, founder of Stand Up for Mental Illness, a program which teaches people with mental illness standup comedy to help ease the stigma they face observes “the truth is that people with mental illness commit about 5 percent of all crime. So that must mean that so-called ‘normal people’ commit the other 95 percent. Yet the media never goes out of their way to tell us that the perpetrator was considered to be sane and well-adjusted.” That would be too uninteresting, I suppose.

That’s the news.  What about popular entertainment?

Silver Linings Playbook came out in 2012. At least one critic lauded it as an accurate portrayal of person struggling with bipolar disorder. Of course, all of us with the condition refuse to take our meds, throw chairs though windows, threaten our parents and scare our neighbors, and are saved through the love of a good woman and some dance lessons. I left the theater after watching it uneasy and vaguely ashamed and with the beginnings of anger. (Although I was glad to see Bradley Cooper do serious work; he and Jennifer Lawrence were much better in American Hustle.)

Even the works that I use most often to describe part of the experiences that I have gone through, especially before I found a medication regimen, A Beautiful Mind and Next To Normal, pose problems. Both of them show individuals who are much more seriously ill than most. There are few examples of mentally ill characters who are functional and whose family is not severely burdened by their very existence. (Which is not to say that I have not been a burden to my family at times; so are people with cancer.)

I love Criminal Minds.  I like the characters, I like the equality between the men and women on the team.  Yet, every third week, it seems, they speculate that whatever serial killer they are seeking is schizophrenic (often preceded by the word “undifferentiated”) or in the middle of a psychotic break.  (They also have killers with far more obscure mental illnesses.) True, they sometimes have characters who are mentally ill who are not the killers, and the writers at least have the decency to point out that the mentally ill are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators, but all too often those characters are themselves barely functional.  When Dr. Spencer Reid, whose mother is schizophrenic, began suffering from headaches and possible hallucinations (it was never clear), the fear he exhibited about possibly being diagnosed with the same illness as his mother rivals that a character would show when faced with the possibility of a terminal illness.

People treat you differently when they know you have a mental illness.  I have had individuals try to argue with my diagnosis, and have seen people with mental illness told that there is nothing that exercise and diet can’t cure, that the medicines which keep people like me alive are nothing more than the products of Big Pharma run amok. (Usual warning, don’t read the comments. Although one of the comments led me to this gem from robot-hugs.com.) Then there is what I call the “bipolar horror story”: the people who want to tell you about their cousin who refused meds and went psychotic repeatedly; the boss whose bipolar ex-wife claimed he was an abusive alcoholic.  In some cases, the horror stories have nothing to do with the mental illness, but more with someone being a horrible person, with the nastiness blamed on the bipolar disorder rather than an unpleasant personality. Few people say “I worked with someone I found out had a mental illness; I would never have known.”  Like gays and lesbians a couple of decades ago, those who can “pass” do.

I have chosen not to pass, with full knowledge of what that might entail. I tell employers I have bipolar (although usually after I have been hired), I have included my piece on motherhood and mental illness on the list of publications on my resume. I’ve told all of you, in a forum easily Googleable by anybody who cares.

I’m no hero: studies show that the most effective way for people to lose stigma about mental illness is to actually know someone who is mentally ill.  I believe that I live in a part of the country that is more accepting of those outside the norm, but I am not sure what the limits of that tolerance is.

I really feel I have  no choice: how else can the world change for the next generations if some of us do not come down from the attic now?

I know some of you are in the same place I am — who will join me?

*The graph in the USA Today article is misleading; I have read the original article from the American Journal of Psychiatry“’A Disease Like Any Other”? A Decade of Change in Public Reactions to Schizophrenia, Depression, and Alcohol Dependence” and provided the results from the article. (Am J Psychiatry 2010;167:1321-1330. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2010.09121743)

 

Things as they are.

Life proceeds apace.

Much has been happening in the world at large.  I feel like I should be commenting on the last couple of weeks of the SCOTUS term, but writing about such emotionally charged cases as the Hobby Lobby decision (and the equally disturbing and important union case, which people seemed to have not noticed) is beyond my available bandwidth right now. (I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome of the cell phone case; I thought the decision would come down as it did, but did not expect it to be unanimous.  And hurrah for the Stanford Law School Supreme Court clinic!) I have a post that I was preparing for Mother’s Day about the botched Oklahoma execution, his mother’s reaction to it (she supports the death penalty, and thinks her son was justly executed, but was very upset at the manner in which things went down), and how everyone, even felons on death row, is someone’s child.  I hope to finish it sometime before next Mother’s Day.

Where I am at, for those interested in keeping score:

The Rocket Scientist and I attended Mom’s funeral in May.  It was, of course, an emotional affair, especially given that she died so suddenly.  (My doctor was not happy: I was still recovering from pneumonia at the time.) It was nice to see my siblings again, though — we kept saying “We really should do this more often, not only when someone dies.” I went through the week in shock, more or less: it is pretty much a blur.

After I got back, there were other endings and goodbyes to take care of: the Not-So-Little Drummer Boy moved across country at the end of May, and the Red-Headed Menace graduated from high school in early June.  While I am happy for the opportunity that the NSLDB is taking advantage of (he’s living with relatives while working at a small radio station, with the hopes that, given enough experience, he will be able to get a paying job at a larger station), I miss him terribly.  Yesterday, on Facebook, he attempted to argue a point of grammar with me, and followed it by “I love you, mom.” I defended my original sentence, and replied “I love you, too, son.”

As far as the Red-Headed Menace graduating, it means that I no longer have to deal with the K-12 public school system. (I do want to point out that he won both the track and field team’s award for the most-improved athlete — he lowered his 3200m time to 10:00! — and a scholarship given to kids who have struggled academically before turning their grades around.  I am very, very proud of him.)  I am sad about this, but on the other hand it means I will never have to face the Common Core curriculum.  Those of you with younger children in public schools have my sympathy.  Since he will be at home for a little while, it seems like nothing has changed, but on the other hand, everything has changed.  A large part of my life and my identity have gone out the window.  I was with the public school system for nearly two decades, and it seems odd that that period of my life is over.

I went to work the week after Mom’s funeral.  My coworkers were surprised by this, but quite frankly I needed the structure and the camaraderie. It didn’t matter how sad I felt in the morning, by work time I had to put on a happy face to deal with the public.  I had to power through.

Since work ended with the primary (at least for now, I have a chance of coming back for the general election in the fall), I have been looking for full-time, permanent work.  I love the people I work for, and the people I work with, and the pay for the type of work is good, but the work itself leaves something to be desired and is, in the end, only part-time and temporary. I am not sure that I am even good at the job, which disturbs me.  I am used to having jobs I know I do well.

The week after the primary and RM’s graduation, I headed to Florida to help my eldest sister take care of Mom’s affairs.  Mom was a lovely person, but she was not very organized: she had not changed the beneficiary on the small insurance policy she had, so Dad was still listed.  We had to prove Dad’s death as well as hers.  In one sense, it was like opening old wounds.  I had a hard time dealing with it, and was very grateful my sister was there with me. (I also got to see my absolutely adorable five-year-old nephew, and my brother and his wife, which was nice.) While I was in Florida, the enormity of Mom’s death, and the overwhelming sense of loss it engenders, collapsed on top of me like a house on fire.

I came home with a lot of pictures and a few personal items. (The Thanksgiving silver is still sitting on top of the china hutch, because I forgot to have it shipped to me. I am going to get down there sometime in the next couple of years so I can retrieve it.)  One find was what I thought was my Dad’s battered traveling cribbage board; at any rate, it was the board on which he taught me to play.  My sister told me it was actually my grandfather’s: it was the board on which Dad had learned to play, and Granddad had played cribbage on it while in the Pacific during World War II.  I am glad to have it: of all my Dad’s possessions, it was the one that I wanted (unlike my sister, who wanted some of his pipes). The metal slider holding the pegs in is gone, and the original wooden pegs have been lost, replaced by plastic ones.  I intend to find a metalsmith who can fashion a new slider, and see if I can purchase wooden pegs online.

If anyone local to me plays cribbage, and would like to play a few games with me over coffee, I would be very happy.  I have a lot of conflicted memories of my father, but playing cribbage is not one of them.

I spent a lot of time with my sister talking about my childhood and young adulthood, and told her things I had never told anyone in my family. [Warning: sexual assault triggers.]  We also talked about how I was losing a home, whereas she was not.  She is eleven years older than I am, and only knew Mom’s house (now my brother and his wife’s house) as a place she visited between school terms or, later over holidays.  For me, however, it was home, the home I always identified coming from.  My sister calls herself a Mississippian, while I always say that I am a Floridian.  This is spite of the fact that I have lived in California nearly twenty years longer than I lived in Florida.  St. Petersburg was where I grew up, where I came of age, where I have memory and sense of place. Now that Mom is gone, I don’t know when I will ever go back.

I have been struggling.  Summers have always been hard for me, psychologically speaking, and coming on the heels of Mom’s death, this one is even harder.  I told the Rocket Scientist last night over dinner that I wish Mom had died in October.  I am also struggling with a torn muscle near my ribs (I seemed to have incurred it during a bout of coughing when I was down with pneumonia, and I exacerbated it while sorting through Mom’s possessions.)  It can spasm or catch at the oddest times, taking away my breath from the pain.  I know from past experience with a similar injury that the only cure for this is time, as well as warmth for the pain. This falls under the category of “no fun at all.”

An article in USA Today has me unhappy: it concerns the ways in which mental illness is still stigmatized both by federal health care programs and society at large.  I do not regret coming down from the attic, however, no matter the cost:  as the article states, only day-to-day experience with people with mental illness will change societal perceptions and prejudices. Sometimes you just gotta take a stand about things. The article was disheartening, however: the percentage of Americans who believe that schizophrenics are a danger to others has actually increased between 1996 and 2006, as well as the percentage unwilling to be friends with mentally ill people.  If anything, as a society we are going backward; I blame police procedurals, and the lack of non-psychotic mentally ill characters on televisions shows, and in media.  (Do not get me started on movies such as Silver Linings Playbook.) I will probably write about the issue, anyway, because it is important, and close to me, and I have a perspective on it that others may lack.

So that is where I am, these days.  I hope to get back to your regularly scheduled programming soon.

 

Suits.

A week or so ago, a blogger named L.P. posted “When Suits Become a Stumbling Block: A Plea to My Brothers in Christ,”  skewering modesty culture in Christianity.  She showed a lot of pictures of sexy men in suits.  (She identified just-right fitting pants as the issue for her; for me, it’s all about shoulders, which suits emphasize nicely.)  She covered a lot of bases, but I think she missed some, mainly:

 

Nerd suits.

 

Law…

 

 

….. and Order suits.

And….

Culinary suits.

 

 

Game show suits.

 

 

 

 

And, of course …

Presidential suits.

 

 

 

There are other sources of temptations of impure thoughts, of course: my own personal bête noire is… black leather coats. Jackets are bad enough, but black leather trench coats……  um, yeah.

 

There is also the issue of … formalwear.

 

The more cynical among you might think that this was only an excuse to post pictures of Chris Hardwick, Raúl Esparza (Danny Pino is only lagniappe), Jesse L. Martin, Alton Brown, Jane Lynch, Barack Obama, and Fred Astaire on my blog.  Piffle.  It’s not like I included all the media figures I find hot: I couldn’t find a good picture of Jason Sklar in a suit that did not have his brother as well.