I dreamed that I was a teenager, living in my parents' house. And we had a guest -- Elf Sternberg was visiting us. (I've never met him in real life.)
I was in awe -- I was trying to be on my best behavior, and to make a good impression. Which meant I was being shy and not saying very much.
Elf was younger, too. He looked much more like the old GIF that used to be on his web site, way back then. Except no long hair -- his hair was actually kind of close cropped.
We were mostly just making small talk. But then, without anyone managing to notice, he spray-painted a lot of scribbles, sketches, and surreal sentences in blue paint on the ceiling.
Once I'd noticed, I began looking at them, trying to take it all in, trying to absorb whatever message they might have. Feeling shy, I asked if any of the symbols up there was an eldar (which in the dream I'd gotten mixed up and was calling an "elenya"). I also told him I didn't know how to draw an eldar. So if there was one up there, I was going to be thrilled to see an example.
He smiled -- and now he was being a bit shy, too -- and he said he *kind of* knows how to draw one, but he's only seen a really authoritative one drawn, once. And then he went into "history lesson" mode, and told me about the old days of furry, and who it was that invented the eldar, and taught it to *him*. I lapped it all up eagerly. It felt really good to be hearing all of that.
Another sentence he'd written was "Onion control is for coonists."
"the first person I ever fell in love with, we typed 'hug' as 'gyf' to avoid suspicion from either set of parents. (shifted over one letter on the keyboard)."
To add to that... Sometimes we talked on the BBS that we met on, but then more often we just dialed each other's modems directly. I miss him. And I miss the rawness of those days. "I love you" with 8 data bits and no parity, over v.42bis.
I should mention that my natural voice range is bass, as is my father's; and my mother's natural range is tenor. But we don't necessarily feel compelled to stick to those roles. :-P
The three of us managed to get four part harmony on Mozart's "Ave Verum Corpus", tonight... my father singing soprano (a few octaves lower), my mother singing alto, me singing bass, *and* me also playing the tenor part on the keyboard. I'm lousy at sight reading, but Ave Verum Corpus is in the key of D, and I managed okay.
Usually when my parents and I sing, my father helps out my mother on whatever part she's singing. So we usually only get two parts. Having four, on what is one of my favorite pieces of music in the world, was really wonderful.
I just got back from seeing "The Perks of Being a Wallflower".
The whole movie was amazing, from start to finish, but... when he's in the mental hospital, and he says something about how he sees everyone's pain. He knows on a visceral level how much pain there is all around him.
I don't have anything to say to that. I can't even say "I agree" because that's too weak.
Anything else I say is going to be too weak, too. So I'll leave it at that.
I'm visiting my parents today -- I drove up initially to help with a
problem with their printer. (Updating the printer's firmware fixed it)
-- It turns out that my father's chorus is having a concert later
this afternoon, and it turns out that the piece they're doing is
Mozart's "Grand Mass". Which is one of my favorite choral works.
So I will stay around for that, and go to the concert.
I keep complaining about how nobody I know believes in singing, or
in choral music. And then something like this happens, and it just
feels "right". I just wish I could share it with people other than
queueball prompted me to read Hesse's "Journey To The
East" recently. I'd read many other things by Hesse, but somehow
skipped over that one.
It hit home; I could just as well stand, in the manner of H.H.,
as self-accuser for many of the same sins. It is possible that I
have made myself unrecognizable as a furry, and then complain that
I am not recognized as one. I do often feel as though furry as I knew it
has disintegrated and it is up to me to chronicle it and keep its memory
alive; this is perhaps just as silly in my case as it was in H.H.'s.
I have certainly lost much, in a spiritual sense; I have supposed
that to be something inevitable, something that can only improve if and
when general circumstances get better. But maybe I should pay attention
to what opportunities I may be passing up, like H.H. did when he
and Leo passed by the church.
Has the furry community that I remember, like the League, actually
survived? Am I, in my "Menschenohnmacht", just blind to it, as H.H. was?
(Sat, 17 Nov 2012)
Date: Sat, 17 Nov 2012 18:36
"But I'll be going / Soon as I find me a reason to"
I can hear Bobbi Joy's voice. She's a fictional character and has never existed, but I can hear her voice, and I can imagine how the tune might have gone.
Spider Robinson is no slouch of a singer/songwriter, himself, and he's tackled The Drunkard's Song with his guitar, so that we, as fans, know what that song, at least, would have sounded like.
But I don't think he'd try either of Bobbi Joy's songs. Probably every fan has a slightly different take on what she would have sounded like, and if he made a canonical version he'd be disappointing almost everyone who imagined her as being slightly different.
Still... I wish I could order one of her CDs. I'd like to listen to it.
One of the disadvantages of modern md5-based passwords is that if you mistype your password in such a way so that there's a character or two at the end that you didn't mean, it doesn't let you in anyway. Back with the old kind of passwords, if you had an eight-character password, and you accidentally typed nine characters (the first eight of which were your correct password), you'd be fine. They were forgiving, that way.
I caught a country song on the radio today, that I'd never heard before. It was "Straight Tequila Night" by John Anderson. The setting is a bar where all the regulars know each other -- much like Callahan's.
Also like Callahan's, the denizens of the bar in the song are concerned with each other's emotional well-being. Well, kind of. At least to the degree that it helps them get dates. But... that's okay. Of such things, I think, is a deeper compassion born.
One thing I haven't had recently is the chance to have not just a collar, but a leash. It seems like this should be such a simple thing to arrange to have happen. Two furries are snuggling, one of them starts to feel littler than the other, or less verbal, or more animal, or more in need of reassurance and security. A leash is a natural next step, right? It never seems to work out that way, somehow.
I'm a dog. Love, and trust, are always just barely under the surface. I have all these emotions that are ready to come out, but I'm just never in a situation where I feel safe enough.
I can picture, in my head, what it would be like to have a group of regulars somewhere (not necessarily a bar)... somewhere where it smells musky, and safe, with all the scents of all the regulars, where you don't have to talk in human language, where you can just go, and stretch out on a well-worn sofa with a book, and someone might come and curl up at your feet. And you could pet them or scritch them, or you could just tacitly let them stay there, because for dogs, simply a few square inches of *contact* can be all the reassurance you need. And someone might come up behind you and pet you, or not. And regardless... no matter what... you would be *safe*. As long as you were there, you would be safe, and warm, and fed, and if you had a need you could express it, and the other people there would express their needs and give you a chance to help with them, too.
Callahan kept a few sandwiches around for when they were needed, too. "Eat up," he said. "They were getting stale."
We furries have so much potential for wonderful, raw emotion. I don't know why it's so hard to live up to that potential, so much of the time.
Obama, in his acceptance speech, said the following words:
"You reaffirmed the spirit that has triumphed over war and depression, the spirit that has lifted this country from the depths of despair to the great heights of hope, the belief that while each of us will pursue our own individual dreams, we are an American family and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people."
Simultaneously, half a continent away in California, voters approved a ballot measure that took an already oppressed minority group, and ground them even deeper under the heel of the state. Voters in California also failed to approve a ballot measure that would have abolished the... I can't even use the word "death penalty". It sounds like too much of a euphemism.
That thing that people do in wartime. Killing people. Over half of voters in California want the state to be able to kill people that it has decided it doesn't like.
I really, really wish I could believe in Obama's message of unity. Instead I feel cold. I feel like that unity is still only a unity that is extended to heterosexual white vanilla Christian males.
So... I dunno. It's kind of lonely on the outside, looking into that unity that Obama is talking about.
There was someone there who played the piano, and he played all kinds of things, but the only one I recognized was the presto agitato from Beethoven's Moonlight sonata. Which I mis-identified at first, but once he clued me in that it was Beethoven I knew the piece. Listening to him play for an hour was really neat. He's also friendly in general, and it felt good to just talk.
Camping felt really good. Going to sleep at the outskirts of the activity of the "rest of the pack" also felt good. I've always liked curling up to sleep with the sounds of people nearby. It feels like I'm somewhere safe -- safe enough that I don't have to stay on alert, I can nap.
I had an easy time talking with people. Around furries, I have a really hard time opening up. Around these people it was easier. I could just... say hi, and not feel embarrassed. I've felt similarly around the people at the FSS workshops.
Being a dog around other people there, though, was impossible. The most canine I felt was when I was by myself. So it's a bit of a catch 22. I feel safe (in a social sense) around these people, but I can't be a dog around them. I can be a dog with furries, but I don't usually feel safe enough socially with furries to say hello to any of them if I'm at a gathering.
So it basically boiled down to being a fully-human social event, but with the "good kind" of humans, like the ones at the FSS workshops. I also met B. for the first time, who is someone whose LJ I'd been following for years. That felt really good. He's... from everything I can tell... a really, really, deeply *good* person.
Here's the essential difference, as far as I can tell. I am a wolf. I love the part of me that is a wolf, and I feel like the best way I can honor it is to give it as much free rein as possible, and *be* that wolf. As much as I can. In all directions. Woofs, nuzzles, tails wagging everywhere, anything within licking range gets licked.
But with them... they do have animals inside them, but they are so afraid of those animals ever getting out that they have all this elaborate protocol as to when it's okay to let out a little bit of the animal here, a little bit there. And they savor those drops, and they take them seriously. They talk about how intense it is when they're in animal mode. But I think that intensity is all funneled into these little bits and pieces, and it's also funneled all into one other person. If you happen to be that person, then you probably get the full intensity of the beam that's directed at you. But none of the beam leaks out, so if you're not that one other person, you don't see it -- you just see two humans acting more or less like humans.
I'm curled up warmly in a sleeping bag, with comforting trance music coming from a yurt nearby, surrounded by people who... I don't --
-- actually, this sounds like either VNV Nation or Assemblage 23 :-) It's good, whatever it is.
The point is, the people here aren't all ones that I'm instantly friends with, but they're *approachable*. Unlike random groups of furries. I can't reach out or make friends very well in a random gathering of furries, but I've been able to reach out here.
Furry gatherings *should* be more like this.
Babyfur gatherings should be more like this.
This place isn't perfect. But I'm really glad I'm here. And now I'm going to snuggle up safe and warm in my sleeping bag, and be a wolf.
The name "Rabindranath Tagore" is such a cool name. Wikipedia says that "nath" is a word meaning "lord, protector, refuge".
My thoughts this evening turned to... well... tears. The act of crying.
I was at the drug store picking up prescriptions, and there was an awfully cute toddler there, who was having a great time wandering around, until his parents stopped him from doing something he wanted to do, and then he was unhappy. Not seriously unhappy, or rather the crying didn't last for very long. But when you're a little kid, I think *everything* in your life has deep meaning. When you're wandering around in a store, you're not "just wandering around", you have your life at the present moment spread out in front of you, and your every action, your every moment of inaction, is part of this wonderful symphony of Reality that you're constructing. Every foray, every return, every request to be picked up, is a part of the symphony. And when that gets interfered with, it feels like somebody grabbed the piece of music you were writing, roughly crumpled it up, and threw it away. With no explanation. It's a work of art that has been rudely desecrated and ruined.
Fast forward a couple of decades in life.
You're an adult now. Tears, now, only come when there is horrible suffering on an adult scale. Your symphony now is your relationships, your closest, most loyal friendships, your job (or lack of job), your ability to pay bills. Within all of those, there are greater and lesser kinds of suffering. If you're with someone who is in tears, you can tell whether they're just really upset, or if their whole world is crumbling. The two kinds of crying are different.
I remember being with D., in the final stages of our breakup. The breakup was his decision, but that didn't mean it was easy for him. He sat on the sofa; I think I was on the floor next to him. And he started crying, and it was the "world crumbling" kind.
I don't think I was very helpful, in that moment. How could I have been -- I had been dumped, and my world was crumbling as well.
But I still keep reliving that memory. That memory of his suffering is something that sticks in my mind and that I want to help with, somehow. But I can't, because it's a memory that happened 11 years ago. It's a memory that I can't *do* anything with, other than just promise to myself over and over, as seriously as I know how, that I will devote my life to trying to alleviate that kind of deep suffering wherever I see it. All suffering, but especially that kind.
And I've largely failed. I've succeeded in alleviating many kinds of suffering -- and I'm sure I've inadvertently caused many, many others -- but I rarely if ever even get to see the deep kind, in anyone, let alone know how to do anything to help. So even that promise to myself is something I just sort of have, in me, and I can wiggle it around but it just sort of sits there.
So I have a memory, and a promise, that are just lumps of... *stuff*... in my soul, that I can't do anything with.
Much like this LJ entry. This LJ entry is a lump of "stuff" in my LJ, and other than being an outlet, I can't do anything with it. It's not a resolution, or an answer, or a course change, or an analysis. It's just an expression of something.
I resisted the "Gangnam Style" epidemic for as long as I could. I finally gave in to curiosity and watched the video last night. It's not even that good!
I went back and listened to Dragostea Din Tei afterwards. I admit that I completely cranked the volume... my housemate was out, so I felt like I could afford a bit of self-indulgence.
I'm wondering what it says about people's changing tastes that in 2004, what swept the Internet capturing everyone's hearts was a cute, if slightly misogynistic (but you'd only know that if you looked up the translation; the incurious English speaker could be forgiven for not realizing), happy song... and in 2012, it was a... I don't even know what to call it. Extremely image-conscious? music video with unremarkable music.
I've re-listened to Dragostea Din Tei a couple of times today, since then. The part of my heart that it tickles is the carefree, cubby part, that doesn't understand why there's all this unhappiness, and just wants to be cuddled and played with.
I'd rather live in an Internet full of people like that!
I've been having kind of a rough night. I got a bit of sleep, but woke up and have been feeling really, deeply alone.
Part of it is that I got my performance review at work a week ago, and the two pieces of feedback I was given were: (1) I talk too much in meetings, often without a clear point that I'm driving towards, and (2) I shouldn't need as much handholding from management when decisions have to get made. Which basically boils down to: "Suck it up and deal". But that's exactly what I have a really hard time doing, given the projects I've been being assigned for the past year, none of which have been clear-cut. It's *all* been ambiguous, and the message I'm getting is: Yes the stuff you're working on is ambiguous, I don't care, suck it up and deal. Which I'm trying to do. But it's demoralizing, and humiliating, and hard. And I also feel a bit like I'm being set up to fail, also. Talking, sharing the ambiguousness, trying to reach consensus, is one of the only tools I have for being sure that I'm on the right track. If I lose that, I wonder if I'm going to turn into someone like (name of coworker), who *never* seeks consensus, *always* goes off and does his own thing, and it's *always* the wrong thing. I don't want to be like that.
Another part is -- I am really, deeply at odds, culturally, with everyone I see around me. When I was first coming into the furry community, it felt like a bunch of people who had all shared the experience of growing up broken and "different", and who had decided to accept that, and pull together, and invent a new way of living based on animal feelings, and turn tragedy into triumph together. And now everyone I see is hip, trendy, and completely "normal". I don't fit in, anywhere!
I was musing today at work about Pink Floyd. For me and the people I grew up with, "The Wall" was a signpost of sorts. We were all broken, and we all knew far too much about walls, and bricks in said walls, and maybe there were no *answers* per se in The Wall, but it gave us a framework of sorts to understand ourselves in.
Nobody I know these days even listens to Pink Floyd. It's dropped out of the furry consciousness. Maybe there are other things these days that have replaced it. I don't know. But it sure seems to me like "the family of all the weird animal-people" is no longer the dominant cultural force in furry anymore.
I've felt for years and years that the SF bay area furry community lacks something essential in terms of compassion and brotherhood. And the way I've justified *staying* here to myself is, well, somebody's gotta stay here and stand up for all of this stuff that I believe in. I've felt like as long as I'm here, holding up a candle of what I believe in, then there's at least that one candle here for anyone else here who doesn't fit in and who needs that light, as small as it may be.
But now I'm wondering -- *does* anyone around here need that light? And how can I survive, myself, when I'm this much at odds with everyone else around me, culturally?
Why can't anyone else *see* the wall? Why aren't walls and bricks something that people care deeply about, and try with all their might to smash, in themselves and in others? Why is everyone just sitting around playing the popufur game on Twitter and playing video games?
The other panel at Rainfurrest I really enjoyed was one about building a support network. The panelists started off by talking about suicide in the furry community, and they had enough compassion about it to talk about it in a way that didn't make me go "argh". Suicide, and how to help people who are considering it, isn't something that can be reduced to a short sound bite, and I was grateful that the panelists didn't try.
But I think that way of starting out the discussion sort of broke people's emotional barriers. It made people realize... this isn't just another panel. This is serious. We, the people in this room right now, are trying to grapple with something. And the rest of the panel felt deeply authentic. We talked about the furry community being a family. And several people who had things on their minds -- myself included -- brought up those things, and we talked about them. I felt like we called forth a lot of family energy, in that room. I hope everyone who was there brought some of that away with them.
But the thing I'm the most glad about was on the first night. I was in someone's room, and there was someone there who was having fairly bad nausea. No alcohol or drugs were involved; he was just having a really lousy time for reasons beyond his control. The first time this was pointed out to me, I thought about offering to go get some dramamine, but I really didn't know if barging into the situation was the right thing to do. The guy didn't know me, and he didn't have any reason to trust me.
But then a little while later, his friend was there taking care of him, and his friend was wondering aloud if we in the US have such a thing as Gravol. I pointed out that dramamine is the same thing, and offered to get some. But both him, and another person in the room, deflected the offer, and said they would go get it themselves. So of course I went and got some anyway, because I'm a disobedient wolf sometimes. :-P When I got back with it, I was fully expecting them to already have gotten some (I didn't go straight to the store; they could have gotten there first). So I went in there and was like "Gee, I know you probably already have some, but here" and it turned out they HADN'T. So I felt really good about my act of disobedience. :-)
I wish I'd felt less awkward about making the same offer earlier. But I felt really good to be able to help in that way, regardless. I didn't know the guy, and I had no reason to help him, and he had no reason to trust me enough to ask. But because of the magic of furry, sometimes things work out and the trust is there, and we can all take care of each other. Everyone else in the room who wasn't either the guy or his friend was helping take care of him, too, in the same way. We just all pulled together, and that really felt good.
At the Rainfurrest spirituality panel, the conversation turned to Christianity. Nobody bashed it; the conversation was about how even in Christianity, there are gems, and one would do well to learn from them.
I quoted "Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of these my brethren..." -- I was speaking to the panelist, hoping that I wouldn't have to quote the whole thing. I think he got it.
Here is the full quote from the Bible. It's God talking initially, and the people he's talking to are confused because they don't think they've ever helped God in all those ways. And he explains to them, yes, they did. Or no, they didn't, as the case may be.
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of these my brethren...
Pennsylvania is one of the most beautiful places to drive through that I've ever experienced in my life. That was true when W. and S. drove me to Four Quarters, it was true when P. drove me to Corry, and it was true today when I drove from Pittsburgh to Erie and back. The quality of the light is different. There are hillsides covered with trees as far as the eye can see -- so far, it's equal to some parts of California. But it's not an icy alternation of light and shadow; it's a frosty softness of *shades* of green, shades that aren't so much darker or lighter, but just green and other-green, and all of them beautiful.
I was driving through an incredibly beautiful part, today, and I had an impulse to turn on the radio in my rental car. What came on was a rock ballad that was just perfect for the moment. The sun was bright, but not hot. A bright orange butterfly dipped in its flight in front of me, but deftly flew back upwards before the car reached it.
79 crosses I-80, and it occurred to me that I had been on that very spot (albeit traveling west instead of north) twelve years ago, with D.
The biggest reason that I believe *so strongly* in babyfur... in the transformative power of babyfur as an idea... is that it takes all these needs, and fears, all these embarrassing possibilities that you hope to avoid and don't quite know how you could handle if they came up... and it brings them out in the open, where they don't have to be so embarrassing, where they can be good, and full of love.
Being a babyfur doesn't *quite* mean never being embarrassed about anything. But it's darn close. There are *so many things* in life that aren't embarrassing anymore, that are joyful and that you can experience and go through while holding a friend's paw.
Tale (the person who wrote this poem) isn't a babyfur by any stretch of the imagination, but I still think of this poem of his when I start thinking about this stuff: "And It is With a Friend."