A Year on Propranolol

The part I remember best is waking up with my head down on my arms. On my desk. With the voices around me, it only took a moment to figure out where I was. Oh, crap. I decided I must have fallen asleep at work. What could be more embarrassing than that?

Then I remembered.

I know the science on propranolol, emotion and memory is all terribly last week, but I’ve never promised or even particularly tried to be a current events blogger. Also, I still owe Juniper a blog post, and while this isn’t that post, it gets at some of the later stages of how my emotional life changed from child to adult.

I still can’t say what switch flipped between my junior and senior years of high school and took me from deeply depressed and anxious to moderately functional. My social circle hadn’t changed much, but the individuals I hung out with within the circle did. It might have been the one newish friend who I knew wanted something from me but who didn’t reject me when it wasn’t something I could give. Come to think of it, I can’t imagine how that lack of rejection could have been anything other than critical.

Whatever happened in high school, time and success and independence were all very good for me. So was Ben, although that is, again, another story. Eventually, depression was brief (still despair-deep, but brief) and tended to be set off by triggered memories.

The anxiety never went away, though, as might be expected. (Ed, I promise. I’ll keep reading you even if you stop posting about my life.) I still haven’t learned to fall asleep properly when anything remotely exciting is happening, much less anything where people are relying on me. For most of my life, the time before sleep has been filled with obsessive deconstruction of the prior day and planning for the next–or fiction. I prefer the fiction.

Waking life was hardly free of anxiety either. As an adult, I’ve been one of the people whom others look at and ask, “Can you do this?” Usually it’s something I haven’t done before, so I’m as curious as they are. I rarely say, “No,” but this tends to leave me with big unknowns in my life, big opportunities to disappoint. I’m not fond of disappointing people.

I was over 30 before I realized it, but I’d been getting migraines on a very regular basis since at least junior high. I didn’t know that’s what they were, because in a way, I was one of the lucky ones. Only a few migraines a year actually hurt. For the rest of them, the debility came from strange visual and somatosensory effects, hypersensitivity and confusion.

I love my doctor. When I walked in with a big list of symptoms that could, even in this day and age, get me labeled “hysterical” and said, “I think I get migraines, although mostly they don’t really hurt,” she pulled out her PDA and started checking off symptoms rather than immediately referring me to a psychologist. We tried a few drugs for treatment of symptoms, including some stunningly bitter pills that dissolved on the tongue. They worked, but they were nothing that insurance was going to cover at the frequency I got migraines, and they did nothing to cut down the frequency.

Then she asked me how I felt about abortion. She already knew I wasn’t planning to have kids, but she wanted to be sure I wouldn’t feel compelled to carry to term if I accidentally became pregnant while on propranolol. If I would have, she’d have prescribed something else. The idea of congenital defects was obviously quite disturbing to her, pregnant as she was.

With a few more checks of my blood pressure against the lowest recommended pressure for the drug (I was borderline), she sent me off with strict instructions to either come in or check my blood pressure with one of the in-store cuffs every few days for the next few weeks and a six-month prescription. Six more months were to follow if it helped and didn’t produce undesirable side effects. After that, with a little luck, I’d be migraine-free.

Believe me, I checked my blood pressure. Getting used to propranolol felt almost as strange as the migraines. I felt so light. It wasn’t lightheadedness, except when I stood up too quickly. (I learned how to get out of bed slowly, in stages.) I was just light.

It took me a while to realize I couldn’t get really upset if I wanted to. I could still recognize things that were wrong, and I still acted to fix them. I just didn’t do it riding on a wave of righteous adrenaline. I could get angry and act angry, but I couldn’t feel the same degree of anger I was used to. Flooding my body with adrenaline no longer produced any noticeable results. My reputation for calm in the face of chaos became more than just me putting on a calm face to keep others from freaking out and getting me going. It was now true.

The same thing happened with anxiety, of course. I didn’t get any less ambitious in what I attempted, but facing failure no longer raised all the ghosts of failure past. I can’t tell you whether I thought about my childhood during that time, thus stripping it of the negative emotions attached to it. I can tell you that the longer I spent without anxiety, the further away those memories got. That anxious kid became less and less someone I knew. I’d already trained myself not to think of my childhood often. The drug removed the emotional triggers that kept me remembering whether I wanted to or not. It let the present run on uninterrupted.

Maybe that could have been a bad thing, an unexamined life and all, except that I’m nothing if not introspective. Not only had I mined my memories for the lessons they could provide, but I had lived in them far longer than they deserved. Distance was a mercy and a pleasure.

The propranolol got rid of the migraines, too. Mostly anyway. I still get them occasionally, just as I haven’t completely trained myself not to respond to non-immediate threats with a burst of adrenaline, particularly around election time. And I still haven’t learned to sleep well.

Still, a year on propranolol was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself, even considering the waking up at work.

I’d been sitting at my desk, having just raised my soda, when someone came around the corner to ask me something. I quickly swallowed–too quickly, setting off one of those pointless but painful esophageal spasms. Pretending I wasn’t about to gasp with pain, I turned to listen to my coworker. When I felt the roaring in my ears, I took a couple of deep breaths to hold back the black, but it was too late.

People look at you differently when they’re afraid you might drop on them at any time. A bottle of prescription drugs and the explanation, “I swallowed funny,” don’t quite cut it. They gather around. They want you to lie down and take things easy and reassure them several times a day for the next several weeks that, really, you feel fine. No, really.

Yes, passing out at work because your blood pressure is low and doesn’t respond well to pain is ever so much more embarrassing than falling asleep.

Taking Off the Act

Thursday morning, my iPod was speaking to me. In a half hour walk to work, three songs all talking about the same subject–acting.

Is there anybody in there in this self-inflicted tomb?
If you peel away the layers, is there someone in this room?

Of course, they were all talking about it because I was already thinking about it. From an email I sent earlier in the week:

I’ve never met an actor who wasn’t in character backstage as well as on. They’re just different characters. That’s what makes acting as a profession so simultaneously appealing and appalling.

Successful acting requires that you be someone else for a while. It isn’t enough to speak the lines and to make the gestures called for in the script. We’ve all seen the sort of dreadful productions that result. You don’t have to dive into the excesses of some of the method actors, but you must at least put on the mannerisms–physical and vocal–and the body language of the part.

There’s no way to do this without being affected by it. It calls for an understanding of a fictional character that few people take the time to find. The mannerisms and body language change your emotional state every time they’re rehearsed or performed. Try practicing smiling in front of a mirror until you can put a sincere-looking grin on your face on demand. Then do it again where you can’t see your reflection smiling back at you. You’ll still feel happier for doing it.

Of course, most acting isn’t about being happy.

As an actor, if you’re any good, you end up living little pieces of the lives of all of your characters. You rehearse them in a way you don’t practice being yourself. You explore them and spend time with them in a way that the world tells you is a selfish thing to do on your own. If you act, you have to enjoy being someone else. You don’t have to enjoy being yourself.

I’m a good actor.

No, my love, we can’t be friends
In fact I liked you much better
When you’d just pretend.

The days of declamation and broad emoting are gone from most stages, and the places where they still find homes are mostly in comedy. Even so, characters in modern theater and film are just a little bigger, a little simpler than any real person. Simple is seductive. People like simple.

If you act, it’s all too easy to find the right simple character for any situation. Few and far between are the people who have the time and inclination to get to know you in all your complex, contradictory glory. It’s much easier to figure out what your audience wants and to give them only that. More rewarding too. Fewer fights. More praise.

There are a few problems with this, of course. One is that everyone wants something different of you. An audience of one is very manageable. More than that, and which audience do you serve? Whom do you please, and whom do you disappoint?

Beyond that, few and far between doesn’t mean nonexistent. While you’re performing for the people who want you to be predictable and easily categorized, what happens to the others? They aren’t the sort to appreciate a shallow facade, you know. Can you act a more complex character for them? Can you drop the act entirely, and what’s there when you do?

I’ll dance for you, pose for you
Take off all my clothes for you
Speak your words, sing your song
I’m up for auction, going, gone!

When you’ve gotten used to generating your behavior from the outside, it’s very difficult to relearn how to let it come from inside again. All of the voices in your head are yours, but none of them is you. Almost everything you do has become associated with a character, a person who isn’t you. What’s left for you to build you from?

I don’t know whether it can be done while you’re still acting. I can’t imagine giving up that immediate approving feedback of individual performance while still indulging in the mass approval that is theater, but maybe someone else could do it. My process required misanthropy, solitude and a certain ruthlessness, for which, ironically, acting had prepared me beautifully.

The first step was deciding who was worthy of being my audience and ignoring (hard to do at first) or avoiding (much easier) everyone else. Whom did it please me to please? That doesn’t sound like much progress, but it was, because what it really meant was who pleased me?

It’s a question that took years to answer, and the answer changed drastically over time. This is where the ruthlessness came in. I’ve abandoned or let lapse more friendships than I really care to think about. There are only two things that reconcile me to that. One is that it was necessary. I couldn’t find another way to do what I needed to do. The other is that it was successful. These days, I mostly add friends.

I don’t avoid people much anymore either. Ironically, I’m still acting around the mass of humanity. They’re still never going to appreciate complexity and contradiction, and I’m still giving them what they want. Only now I’m doing it because it’s easier for them. And I certainly don’t do it all the time.

Now I’m willing to stop to think about what it is that I want, how I think, how I feel. Now I’m willing to risk disagreement and disapproval, even (or especially) from the people I give a damn about. I’m willing to be that geek who will stop in the middle of a sentence to try to reconcile the three tangential thoughts that just occurred to me. I’m willing to be awkward and persuasive and flirtatious and serious and sympathetic and argumentative, because all of those are who I am.

No act. Just me. And that feels pretty good.

If you peel away the armor is something underneath
If you look below for hidden treasure underneath another layer
Are you hiding underneath the skin

Sam & Max Rules

A bit more than a decade ago, my husband and I played a bunch of LucasArts adventure games. Remember, this was pre-Episode One. Pre-Grim Fandango not being released for Macs for that matter. LucasArts was still okay then. In fact, they were pretty cool.

Sure, the Indiana Jones game was kinda dull, but Day of the Tentacle was a geek’s dream. Personally, though, I preferred Sam & Max Hit the Road. It’s still the most surreal game I’ve played, although Psychonauts came close. But even Psychonauts’ meat circus (really) didn’t quite compare to the combination of conspiracy theory, circus freaks and roadside attractions that was Sam & Max. Gator Golf, anyone? A bigfoot underground? How about a rotating restaurant atop the world’s largest ball of twine?

Still, my favorite part of the Sam & Max gameplay was the dialog. It was menu based. All the options tended to be snarky, but there were a few that would get a person decked in real life. Really funny, but nothing you’d actually say unless you wanted to end the conversation immediately.

The first time we came across one of these, we looked at each other, figured out how much progress we stood to lose, and picked the least helpful option. It got about the response we expected–a nasty, angry (silly) retort–but then the weird thing happened. We still had all our other dialog options left. There was no penalty for being nasty. This made a lot of sense in the game, since Sam and Max were both psychotic, but it took a little getting used to.

From that point on, we always chose the funniest, least productive dialog first. After all, if we picked the less-funny, productive stuff, we moved forward in the game and lost our chance at the funny.

Then we went even further. We decided we liked playing by Sam & Max rules, so we adopted them in real life. No penalty for the funny first response, even if it isn’t very friendly.

I don’t recommend this for everyone*, of course. It takes timing and a good sense of how much distance must be kept from the truth in order for something to be funny. Most of all, it takes both a willingness to explain and a willingness to listen when a joke goes awry.

For example, my husband has recently discovered caipirinhas and likes to have one in the evening. We even bought an ice crusher for making them. Since he had a final this weekend, he’s also been studying most evenings. Last week, as he was making a caipirinha and preparing to study, I joked that he was going to need to bring one to his final.

He got a little huffy and declared that it was one drink over several hours and–oops. I stopped him and invoked Sam & Max rules.

Then I explained. He’s never taken a psychology class, but luckily, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know anything about the subject.

“You know how context aids memory–you’re more likely to remember something in the same circumstances you originally encountered it?”

He nodded.

“Okay. This is one of the things that get mentioned in a variety of psychology classes. Every time it’s come up in one of my classes, there’s always one student who just has to say….”

He grinned. “So I guess I should bring beer to my finals.”


Thus was disaster averted. But that’s the thing about Sam & Max rules. You can’t play by them with someone you don’t trust or who doesn’t trust you. You can’t play with someone who won’t explain when the meaning isn’t evident, or with someone who won’t take explanations at face value, or with someone who can’t tell when the joke falls flat. Playing by Sam & Max rules takes a lot of work.

But when it works, it’s very silly fun.

* It’s taken me time, but I have eventually come to realize (not understand, mind you) that not everyone’s life and friends are a traveling comedy routine.

Red Touches Yellow

When I was little, my doctor worked in a clinic that had the coolest entryway. I didn’t much notice the entryway when they reopened the clinic in the middle of the night to deal with my pneumonia-induced 104 degree fever and delirium, but that’s another story. Usually, I loved the place.

We entered through a fully-enclosed glass walkway over a large-scale terrarium. There were lots of plants, a few turtles, and fish in the small pond directly under the walkway. My mother figured out, eventually if not right away, to leave some extra time before our appointments so we could just stop and stare for a while. No, we couldn’t wait until we were done.

The most exciting day was the one with the snake. It was the cutest little scarlet kingsnake, just tiny and absolutely adorable.

It was, by far, the mostly brightly colored thing in the entryway. It wasn’t doing much, but we stared anyway. It was just so pretty.

Then my mother was hustling us inside and into chairs in the waiting room. She didn’t go up to the desk to check us in as normal. No, she went back out to the entryway. Without us. We might have rebelled if she hadn’t come back in quickly. Everything proceeded as usual then, right up to the end.

It wasn’t until we were on our way out that she leaned over the reception desk and said, very quietly, “You might want to know that the snake in your entryway is a coral snake. Those are poisonous.” Then off we went.

We never saw the snake again.

An interesting postscript: As I was looking for pretty snake photos, I discovered that the U.S. no longer has an approved manufacturer of coral snake antivenin. Wyeth decided to get out of the business. It’s okay, though. They just extended the expiration date of the old stuff, so we won’t be completely SOL until this time next year.

Photos: Baby Coral Snake by cordyceps. Some rights reserved. Lampropeltis triangulum elapsoides from Wikimedia. Some rights reserved.

Coming Out

In case the new addition to the sidebar doesn’t say it loudly enough, I’m an atheist.

This won’t surprise anyone who knows me well, but this blog is here in part because few people know me well. It may not surprise regular readers of the blog. I do, after all, use rationality as a label for posts. It’s utterly unlikely to surprise anyone I’ve argued with online. But I think it’s still important to say, because a lot of people don’t think they know any atheists, which leads directly to the kind of idiocy we saw in North Carolina.

What does this mean for you? Aside from having a face (or another face) to put to atheism that is hopefully prettier than Christopher Hitchens‘, not much–necessarily. Yes, if you’re religious, I think some of the things you do and believe are irrational, but this is coming from someone who built a shrine for a jar of expired jelly (another story). Humans are irrational critters, and there’s something deeply satisfying about being irrational sometimes.

So, Why Atheism?
Nobody comes to atheism because it’s the popular choice. They come to it because none of the gods are any less silly or self-contradictory than the rest. They come to it because a non-arbitrary world is what they see when they open their eyes and look around them. They come to it because faith requires so many mental accommodations that it uses energy better spent on living. They come to it because every idiot they know (as opposed to just some of the smart people) is telling them to jump on the bandwagon.

Me? I was raised atheist, although it disturbed my mother somewhat when I told her so.

I was born to parents raised in a strict Methodist tradition. How strict? They got married because they wanted to have sex. No exaggeration. They had their big church wedding all planned and went through with it as scheduled, but they eloped a few weeks before because they were tired of waiting.

By the time I was born, they seem to have figured out that this was problematic (and thus, I may owe my existence to religion), because they decided to raise their kids outside any church and leave it up to us to choose once we grew up. I attended church services fewer than a dozen times as a child, mostly weddings and funerals, a couple of times after sleepovers with friends.

There were no prayers, no grace at meals. Christmas and Easter were strictly secular holidays (with the standard cartoony adopted pagan trappings). There was a bible in the house, but it had been a confirmation gift or something and lived in its gift box. It was never read.

So, Super-Rationalist Baby, Then?
Uh, no. The Christmas after I turned two, I was taken to see The Nutcracker ballet. I was mesmerized. (Christmas is still largely a mix of The Nutcracker and the Island of Misfit Toys for me.) This was followed by a long, late-night car trip to a destination coated and shiny with ice from a recent storm. I’m told that as I looked around me, I declared to my parents that I believed in magic.

Okay, I was two. Magic was probably a bit abstract for me to understand. I probably meant beauty. I conflated the two for a very long time, but I kept believing in them.

Oh, what didn’t I believe in? I believed in faeries and mermaids, trolls and djinn. I believed in Norse and Greek and Egyptian and Japanese gods and in tricksters from just about any tradition. I believed in beasties under the bed. If it was in my books, I thought I might just find it in the real world if I turned the right corner or opened the right door or found the right place in the woods. That’s how it worked in the books.

I believed longer than most children, I think, at least in those things. Even after I gave up believing in specifics, I had reasons to need to believe in a different world, and I didn’t know yet that adulthood would be that world.

So, What Happened?
I stopped needing to believe so much some time in high school. I still can’t tell you how I ended up changing, since my circumstances didn’t, but I did. Blame it on hormones, maybe. I got happier, even amid all the drama, and I started living in this world.

I still thought it was cool that there was real weird stuff out there, like ghosts and glimmers of ESP. I’d never seen them, not really, but they were in books that weren’t fiction. I looked forward to science figuring out how they worked. Oddly, though, even then I knew that I could make myself see them if I wanted to, just like the Ouija board could spell out something other than nonsense if I was half-willing to make it happen.

I went off to college around then, hung out at the pagan desk in the student center. With my dawning understanding of the role that desire played in belief, I was with the pagans but not of them. They were just a cool group of weirdos.

Then my favorite of the weirdos gave me Flim-Flam! as a present right around the time I was really getting into research design, and I realized that not all “nonfiction” is created equal. The whole experience rather shook up my standards for “proof.”

So, Then You Were an Atheist?
Nah. I considered myself a militant agnostic for a long time–when I thought about it at all. Being raised without religion, my beliefs on the subject didn’t seem terribly important. They still don’t, really, except when someone else’s views intersect with my life. But over time, I came to realize that I wasn’t exactly agnostic, either.

I call myself a practical atheist. I don’t believe we can prove there is nothing that we would ever call a god. However, every attempt at defining a god I’ve seen is either disproved or of no general human relevance or consequence whatsoever. On that, I am not agnostic. I’m not ignorant, either, as I spent a good chunk of my life reading all the world mythology I could get my hands on.

Nor am I agnostic on the question of whether religion should have any influence on important decisions. The ideas and philosophy of any religion must stand on their own, without the shield of religion, or they must be ignored in public life. The only weight that religion should be given is its cultural weight, and that only with all possible consideration for the question of privileging the culture of the majority. There is some use in recognizing that many of us want Christmas off from work because of family rituals that have sprung up around it but none in assuming everyone has these same family rituals.

It’s the question of privilege, really, that’s making me join the Out Campaign. It’s too easy to denigrate and mistreat people based on their minority status when no one knows who they are. If you read my blog, you know me, at least a bit. So now you know an(other) atheist.

Student Life (and Death)

Dr. Isis, in her new digs, is writing about teachers letting themselves into students’ lives. She’s looking at it through the lens of writing, but there are…never mind, I’ll just tell the story.

Fall semester of my sophomore year of college, two things happened that shouldn’t be related. I got a gamma globulin shot, and I officially changed majors. The event that linked the two was the death of Jon, my buddy and lab partner.

Jon was an unrepentant geek. Band geek, physics geek, punner, the kind who taught himself to flip a pen around his fingers and would practice in class even though the pen would occasionally skitter noisily away. He was the kind of geek who crushed on female friends without any expectation that there could be more.


One weekend Jon went home to do laundry and see the family. He didn’t come back Sunday night because he thought he had the flu. A few days later he was in the hospital, then moved to the local university hospital, comatose and in need of a new liver. It was hepatitis.

I thank whoever decided that the hospital needed large waiting rooms. Jon would have been gratified to see how many of us huddled together there. He would have understood, too, as the wait went on for days and people drifted back to school except for an hour or two here or there. The three of us who hung around except to sleep and shower and work when we had to were the ones who had already been through bad stuff, who knew that the strain was survivable and ultimately better than not knowing what was happening. Jon would have stayed too.

It was a week before a donor liver was found. Jon’s kidneys had shut down and he was on dialysis. Neither Jon’s family nor those of us who’d stayed told the others that we could read the doctors’ faces by that point. Somehow, those told a story that the percentages couldn’t. They told us how critical the next few hours were.

The surgery went well, technically, but the liver never started working for Jon. His body rejected it, as sluggishly as it was doing everything else. Dialysis got more difficult as his veins stopped functioning properly. Somewhere in there, I made the mistake of telling one of the hopeful people that it was over, Jon was dying. I don’t think he forgave me.

Then Jon died, about a week after the transplant.

I think that was when they finally got around to asking which of us might have had close enough contact to be in danger. The night before Jon had gone home, we’d been out for beers with another friend. (Yes, I was barely eighteen. So sue me.) This friend was all but bawling over his impossible love, and Jon and I took turns stealing his beer and drinking it when he wasn’t paying attention. We still had to prop him up to walk him home, but we kept him away from dangerously drunk. I earned a gamma globulin shot for that. So did our friend, but he also got the girl in the middle of all the stress.

No one, by the way, ever figured out why Jon’s liver went bad. It wasn’t any of the known strains of hepatitis.

Going back to classes was hard. I dropped multivariable calculus without regret. I was taking it from the incomprehensible teacher who’d written the incomprehensible book, and having Jon as a study partner was the only reason I hadn’t already decided to take it at a different school. I took an incomplete in optics, meaning to go back when I could face the lab without my lab partner. I don’t remember what my third class was, something where the grade was dependent on midterm, final, and papers. It was flexible and not something Jon was taking with me.

I woke up the first morning I was fully back on campus to discover that there was a test scheduled in my fourth class–psychology–in three hours. I’d skipped one test, as allowed under the rules of the class, the first week Jon was in the hospital. I couldn’t skip this one. I went to the professor to ask for a one-day extension. I think I even managed not to cry in his office.

He said no. He explained that the ability to drop a test was there to cover bad situations and that it wouldn’t be fair to other students to make a special rule for me. He, not unkindly, suggested I start studying.

I did. I read the chapters I’d missed, even though I wanted to curl up into a tiny ball instead. I barely finished them, having to go back so many times because I realized I wasn’t taking anything in. The test was a nightmare. I knew I wasn’t doing well. I couldn’t concentrate, and I could barely remember what I’d read. I hated my professor and wondered how life could pile one unfairness on top of another.

When the tests came back, mine had an “A” at the top and no other marks on the page.

I may have learned more in that class than in any other I’ve ever taken.

All of which is a very long way of responding to Dr. Isis’s concerns about doing students an injustice in taking their personal situation into account. It certainly doesn’t have to be that way. It can even be an opportunity to help them develop.

Life in Da Hood

There are times when you wake up, not quite sure why, but knowing it isn’t good.

Two men and a woman, all 19, suffered non-life-threatening wounds when they were shot about 1:35 a.m. Sunday near 1012 E. 21st St., said Minneapolis police spokesman Sgt. William Palmer. The motive was unclear, but it was not a random shooting, he said.

I woke with a vague memory of loud noises and only consciously heard people yelling in what sounded like an argument. There was a cop car at the intersection by the time I was aware enough to move and look. The two ambulances were the big hint that it was serious.

Mostly, I knew that the election was making me sleep deprived (as though I didn’t already know). Usually gunfire wakes me up instantly, so that I’ve been able to count a full clip unloading as I come to consciousness. Not this time. There wasn’t even any adrenaline.

For the curious, no, it doesn’t happen very often. Less than half a dozen times in over ten years, although this is the first time there were injuries to make the paper. The arguments that pull me out of sleep are much more common, especially now, when the economy’s in trouble, but they’re still less frequent than the kids running around after my bedtime who are having too much fun to be quiet.

No, I’m not scared, and no, I’m not moving. In all the time I’ve lived in the city, I’m still further from the closest murder than I was growing up in the suburbs. It’s life, people.

There’s just a little more of it here.

The Goblin King

Fantasy Magazine has a column up about the 10 fantasy movies that make people think that fantasy is stupid fluff. I have no problem with fluff, and I’m rather fond of at least one of the movies on their list, but I did have to agree with the inclusion of Labyrinth.

I didn’t like the movie when I first saw it, although having watched it again a few years ago, there are bits I like (love the creepy hands). Fantasy Magazine thought:

…the movie ended up as the tale of a Mary Sue who is totally misunderstood by her parents, God! and ends up ripping the heads off furry marionettes in the middle of a sexual awakening.

Now, while I’ll admit that Sarah was an oppressively competent and admired little whiner, that wasn’t my big problem with the movie. Since I was in my mid-teens when I watched the first time, I didn’t figure out why I didn’t like it until much later.

It’s the ending. Specifically, it’s the scene where Jareth proposes to Sarah and she turns him down.

I know, I know. It was necessary. I fully agree that she had to turn him down for the story to work, and I would have been creeped out if the fifteen-year-old had accepted. That’s not the problem.

The problem is that she didn’t even think about it.

How often does one meet a goblin king? How often does one defeat him? How often does he offer to lay his kingdom at one’s feet? Sure, it’s an offer that can’t be trusted, but should that make the idea any less tempting? Shouldn’t one take just a second to wonder what it would mean if it were something one could accept, just one little moment to imagine?

But no. She just takes the baby and runs. She never even looks back. Stupid girl. Stupid, stupid girl. Far too stupid to spend two hours of my life with.

At least there were muppets.

Yeah, Yeah

It’s that time of year again. Since people have hinted that I’m to watch their blogs, I’ll add links later.

In the meantime, enjoy the traditional Renaissance Festival birthday song. The “happy birthday”s are sung in a group, with a loud grunt at the end of each. The changing lyrics are started by whomever sings the loudest and continued by everyone who knows them. The “but” is very cheerful. The rest is a dirge. If I’ve missed a verse, traditional or not, please add it in the comments.

Happy birthday, huh.
Happy birthday, huh.
All the world’s in dark despair
People dying everywhere, but

Happy birthday, huh.
Happy birthday, huh.
I like puppies, yes I do
Boiled or baked or in a stew, but

Happy birthday, huh.
Happy birthday, huh.
Now that you’re the age you are
Your demise cannot be far, but

Happy birthday, huh.
Happy birthday, huh.
I’m a leper can’t you see
Get your birthday hug from me, but

Happy birthday, huh.
Happy birthday, huh.
May the cities in your wake
Burn like candles on your cake, but

Happy birthday, huh.
Happy birthday, huh.
You have lived a year too long
You’ve had to hear this stupid song, but

Happy birthday, huh.
Happy birthday, huh.

Janie knows the perfect birthday gift for me. A story. Just don’t pay attention to the part where she casts aspersions on my ass. She’s never seen my ass, though not for lack of asking.

Greg gave me another Stephanie to share my birthday with. How cool is that?

Dr. Isis has a lovely, immodest proposal that isn’t really for the occasion, but I’m going to pretend it is anyway.

Mike is exaggerating my writing prowess. He’s right about almost everything else, though.

Betul has posted pictures from her trip to Turkey. These are from the Black Sea region and so beautiful I’ll even lay off asking her for the Istanbul pictures–for a while.

Monica has updated her blog after far too long a hiatus. Now this is starting to feel like an occasion.