Product Review: Political Primaries

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Republican Primary Lineup December  2015 by DonkeyHotey https://flic.kr/p/BLphmC licensed by Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode

Here at iliketheworldfuzzy, we’re often asked to review products and offer our opinions on them for the benefit of our readers.  Recently, we were given the chance to review a product that’s been generating a lot of buzz in the media of late:  political primaries.  More and more people have started using them and, while results will always vary, we at iliketheworldfuzzy have worked with industry experts to test the product, explore the pros and cons, and review the alternatives, and we’re ready to share our recommendation as to whether political primaries are worth the purchase price.

Until lately, they’ve been something of a luxury product, which may account for the paucity of material on the subject.  Management overhaul, however, has recently focused on broadening the market, making a previously rarefied commodity available to a much larger demographic.  The question many are asking, and that we aim to answer in this review, is:  has that come at the expense of quality?  Disclaimer:  we at iliketheworldfuzzy were provided with this product free of charge, and indeed against our will, for the purpose of this review.  We will receive no compensation, though we have requested reimbursement for our time, pain and suffering, and lost faith in humanity.

First, a description of the product:  political primaries are marketed to children 18 and up and promise an exciting and interactive way to build a party candidate for a general election.  Unlike previous versions, in which the end result was designed almost entirely behind the scenes, this most recent prototype has a more Choose-Your-Own-Adventure feel to it, in which fans are encouraged to vote for the model they like the best.  Of course, the actual end result is still put together almost entirely behind the scenes, but the fan interaction brings a warm, almost sincere-seeming touch to the product while also promoting that holy grail of advertising, word-of-mouth, which is conveniently free of legal restrictions like accuracy and thus keeps the cost of the product to a minimum.  It’s a clever marketing ploy, but does the product deliver?  Here’s our verdict:

1. Pros and Cons

The most important question in a product review is, does the product do what it’s supposed to do?  The answer to this for political primaries is:  yes and no.  Political primaries promise to deliver a candidate for the general election, and most of the time, they do.  However, after repeated use, the quality of the candidates becomes highly unstable, increasing the potential for the product to catch fire or melt down during especially intense election years.  Though the Howard Dean model has been phased out since the infamous implosion incident, reports still come in about candidates becoming over-inflated and filled with hot air.  Journalists in particular should be aware of this danger, as most models react explosively to being questioned on their facts or on how they plan to implement their platforms.

Most disturbing is the potential of the product not to deliver a candidate at all; this happened with one of our experts while testing the product.  When we called the manufacturer, BigGov Corp, for guidance as to how to proceed after the product broke, we were told to send the model into their Brokered Convention Center for repairs.  Despite repeated requests for clarification, BigGov Corp declined to specify who was working on the product, what was being done, and what was actually wrong in the first place.  After several weeks, we received back a completed candidate for general election and, while the candidate was viable, it was not quite what our tester had in mind when she began the process.  To their credit, BigGov Corp did provide the promised result, but it’s clear that with political primaries, as with all market commodities, it’s buyer beware.

2. Quality and Ease of Use

BigGov Corp assures consumers that there will be no decline in the quality of political primaries as they expand their intended market.  To evaluate this claim, our testers pulled archival information on previous versions of this product.  While the current models appear quite polished and appealing, close scrutiny reveals flaws in character and rationality hidden beneath a thin coating of popular appeal that is unlikely to last past the first-ninety-days warranty.  Though no version has been completely free of imperfections, today’s consumers should not expect quality equivalent to the popular William Jennings Bryan model or to demand the Lincoln-Douglas debates from the product currently offered for sale.

In the positive column comes ease of use; this is where the new version really shines.  BigGov Corp’s recent product overhaul makes political primaries more accessible than ever.  None of the models we tested required a sophisticated understanding of economics, history, international relations, or reality, making this product perfect for those who are looking for an entertaining diversion that takes little to no analytical thinking.  Previous incarnations garnered criticism for the amount of independent research that consumers had to do in order to understand the issues raised, and many complained of headaches after putting in too much thought.  Today’s political primaries have no such drawbacks, and every candidate our testers developed had the ability to appeal to emotion and knee-jerk patriotism while entirely avoiding the pitfalls of logic and reason.  BigGov Corp has really done a remarkably good snow job in this category.

3. Alternatives

While BigGov Corp has essentially cornered the political primary market, lesser-known alternatives do exist.  Those who have a sensitivity to government or the rule of law may want to try caucuses, which are produced and marketed by private political parties and aren’t subject to most election laws.  Also gaining traction are third-party candidacies.  These have great appeal for those who have had bad experiences with BigGov products and come in a wide array of options.  The Green Party has carved out a significant niche market, as has the Libertarian Party, and indeed some enterprising consumers have designed their own third parties, with varying results.

The downside to third-party candidacies, however, is that the end products, while interesting to build and often exhibiting more colorful platforms than their more traditional counterparts, tend to lose power fairly quickly and do not often yield viable candidates.  Still, it’s a market to watch, and may be a worthwhile investment for those thinking long-term.

4.  Conclusion

As always with a product review, the question comes down to cost vs. benefit.  BigGov Corp, while it has made quite a few concessions in its attempt to broaden the appeal of its political primaries, is still selling a high-cost product when all is said and done.  The initial charge is relatively low, but an examination of the final bill includes a number of fees and surcharges not included in the list price.  Many consumers have decried the surcharge for fact-checking, citing the low quality of the truthfulness components in most models, and there’s been some controversy over the legality of the ultimatum fee, which charges the consumer to continue supporting their candidate in the general election “or else”.

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dog in suit by Matt Barber https://flic.kr/p/5Ga2Qr licensed by Creative Commons CC BY 2.0

Still, BigGov Corp is selling the must-have product of the season, and with all its flaws, political primaries do usually deliver on their promises.  We at iliketheworldfuzzy simply caution consumers to read the fine print, know what they’re getting into, and recognize that, while political primaries do produce candidates, they make no promises to produce responsible government officials.  For those who want to purchase a political primary from BigGov Corp and begin building a candidate, the product is available on their website at rightswhatrights.comm; for an easy transaction, have your desired model number ready.  Political primaries are shipped in discreet red, white, and blue bunting and can be purchased for the low, low price of your soul.

Oops, I Accidentally Tweeted A Celebrity

laptop-40935_640So, this Twitter thing:  weird, right?  I couldn’t sleep last night, so I went tweet-hopping.  Twitter suggested that I might find this one guy interesting, and I recognized the name from a guest post I had read online that actually made sense to me.  In retrospect, if I didn’t breeze right past things like introductions on guest posts, I might not be in this predicament.  But I did, and I also jumped right into a philosophical debate he was having with someone on Twitter despite never having met either participant.  I didn’t realize at the time just how perilous this little blind jump of mine was.

My thought process essentially consisted of:  cool!  People are talking about philosophy late at night!  I used to do this for a (sort of) living!  The problem with that reasoning is that, when I used to do this regularly, it was in person, and celebrities very rarely wandered into the bars near my school.  Matthew McConaughey once, but he was pretty drunk (and kind of condescending, too), and Dave Matthews once.  He was actually pretty cool, though also drunk.  It made me feel bad that I don’t like his music.  But, you know, I had fair warning then, and also our conversations weren’t broadcast over the entire internet.

So I said my bit, getting more responses from the non-famous person in the debate than the celebrity, but it’s hardly the first time I’ve had a lop-sided philosophy discussion, so that still didn’t tip me off.  I eventually got tired and got some sleep, got up, saw a response, tweeted back.  I then went on about my day because, you know, I have a life.  After several hours I remembered to unplug my headphones from my iPhone, at which point Twitter started chirping at me every few seconds.  If Twitter could talk, it would have gone like this:

Twitter:  Hey Little Blind Girl!  Hey!  Over here!

Little Blind Girl:  Um, is that you, Twitter?

Twitter:  Of course it’s me.  Who else would it be, Thomas Jefferson?  George Jetson?

Little Blind Girl:  Sorry, you just don’t usually have anything to say to me.

Twitter:  Yeah, well, I’m here now, and you’ve got about fifty million notifications waiting for you.  Would you check ’em, please, because my back’s about to give out from carrying them around.  What am I, your messenger service?

Little Blind Girl:  Well, sort of…

Twitter:  Shut up and check your messages, already.  I don’t got all day.

Twitter’s got a ‘tude.  Anyway, I checked the messages and they nearly all stemmed from that conversation I jumped into last night.  I couldn’t understand why so many people were joining in.  Then, when I was looking through Twitter trying to figure it out, I saw a little blue check mark beside the name of Dude Who Started It.  When I looked that up, and this is probably common knowledge to everyone else, it turns out that the check mark means that person has been verified as famous, or something along those lines.  But, hey, people can be famous for all sorts of reasons, right?  So I looked him up…

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Dude Who Started It, a.k.a. Mark Pellegrino.  Photo by jfer21 from Los Angeles, CA [CC BY-SA 2.0] (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0), via Wikimedia Commons

Dude Who Started It is named Mark Pellegrino, and according to IMDb has been in every television show since Howdy Doody.  Including one I’ve actually seen, which takes away my excuse that I don’t really watch much television, so how would I know.  To be fair, though, the show of his that I’ve seen is Lost, which is nearly impossible to follow even when you watch the episodes in order, which I didn’t, and if I’m being honest I still can’t remember him in it (sorry, Dude.  Can’t see the screen).  As I type this post I can hear Twitter continuing to chirp menacingly at me:  you’ve been mentioned!  You’ve been replied to!  Thousands of people you don’t know want to tell you exactly how wrong, stupid, and ridiculous you are!  Actually, they were fairly nice to me, and it’s interesting to have a vigorous, albeit fairly basic, debate on ethics and epistemology with complete strangers, but it got pretty intense for a while (not to mention difficult to follow).  I kind of feel sorry for Dude Who Started It.  Being famous must suck.

One of the great comforts of my internet life is that very few people are paying attention.  Of course it’s nice to think you’re Being Heard and that you’re Getting Your Message Across, but my message mostly consists of, “Hey, guess what random thought just made me laugh in public for no apparent reason,” which is hardly going to change the world.  I like that I can say whatever I think and no one will attack me for it because no one will notice.  I think it’s great that other people like to have anonymous Xtreme Twitter Debates, but I prefer to have my philosophy discussions the way Plato tells us we should:  while getting plastered with friends.

Unlike Dude Who Started It, I have the luxury of only having to be (not really) famous for fifteen minutes.  Soon enough, Twitter will calm down and start ignoring me again and I’ll be able to go back to my own misguided ways without correction from the entire internet, and I’ll continue to share any funny random thoughts I have with those of you who choose to seek me out.  Though I’ve never been fully convinced that my followers weren’t all just my mother under various screen names.

Ooh, hey!  IMDb says Dude Who Started It was in The Big Lebowski, which I’ve seen at least four times.  If only I’d been sober for even one of them….

Edit:  I kept tweeting because apparently Twitter is the new crack.  I started out the Great Debate of April 2016 by asking the difference between knowledge and wisdom.  I ended by concluding that knowledge is the understanding of how Twitter works and wisdom is leaving it the heck alone.  Words to live by.

Quiz! Cryptic Text Messages and Possible Responses

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Image from http://soft9000.com, licensed by Creative Commons CC BY 3.0

Ever gotten one of those cryptic, completely context-free text messages that you can’t figure out for the life of you?   I’ve gotten what seems like more than my share, and it’s sometimes almost like a spy sign/countersign kind of thing–you know, one person says a secret phrase like “the rain falls sideways in Greenland,” and then you have to know the pre-arranged answer, like “but only in the morning” and then the first person knows you’re his contact.  Sadly, my life isn’t that cool, but it did give me an idea for another quiz:  I’ll give you some cryptic text messages (some of which are real and some of which I made up), and you choose from the possible responses and/or countersigns.  Whoever gives all the correct responses gets the secret plans.  Bonus points for the people who identify the Shadow reference!  Here we go:

A.  Text message:  “The time draws near.”  Possible responses:

  1. The antelope runs in the dark
  2. The chimney sweep draws the flue
  3. The lady doth protest too much
  4. Say what, now?

B.  Text message:  “The fourth time was not a good idea.”  Possible responses:

  1. The stars shine brightest in winter
  2. A footrace with a cobbler is futile
  3. The course of true love never did run smooth
  4. I told you to lay off the tequila!

C.  Text message:  “We went hopping for skittlebits.”  Possible responses:

  1. The kangaroos go hopping at midnight
  2. The sword of a samurai is ever sharp
  3. Neither a borrower nor a lender be
  4. You might want to turn off the autocorrect

D. Text message:  “The treatment has not been effective.”  Possible responses:

  1. The answer lies within
  2. The river must flow to the sea
  3. Thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges
  4. Oh, man, what am I gonna tell my girlfriend?

E.  Text message:  “Call in the lawyers.”  Possible responses:

  1.  Send in the clowns
  2. The sun is shining, but the ice is slippery
  3. Cry ‘Havoc!’, and let slip the dogs of war
  4. Allow me to remind you of the prenup

So the next time you receive a text message and you can’t figure out what on earth it means, it might be a bad case of autocorrect, it might be your drunk roommate, or it might be the Little Blind Girl waiting for the countersign before she hands you the encrypted files.  Although, really, what would I be doing with encrypted files?  For that matter, why do you want me to give them to you?  Hey, what’s with the men in black suits–wait, no!  Where are you taking me??  It was just a blog post, I swear…

Therapy Sessions of the Fictional and Famous: Lorelai Gilmore

Being famous can be very stressful, particularly if you’re a fictional character into the bargain.  Certain mental health professionals specialize in treating the fictional and famous; true, most insurance companies don’t cover this, but fortunately most of these therapists accept space bucks, Federation credits, and Monopoly money.  Primary among this elite cadre of professionals is Dr. Sidney Freedman, of M*A*S*H fame.  As he is also a fictional character, he can relate to his patients and help them feel at ease.  I, being a quasi-fictional character myself (the Little Blind Girl, or LBG, is a recurring character in Charlie Cottrell’s Hazzard novels and is based on me!) have availed myself of his services from time to time.  Don’t ask how I pay him; this isn’t that kind of blog.

Lauren_Graham,_2008_appearance_(crop)What he doesn’t know (and shh, don’t tell him) is that I planted a listening device in his office the last time I was there.  I was curious about what his other patients had to say, and let me tell you:  what I heard was astounding.  There are so many famous fictional characters whose dirty secrets I could share with you, but I think I’ll start with Cathy Coffee herself, Lorelai Gilmore.  She comes off as sweet and friendly on the surface, but believe me, there are some demons flying around in that head.  Once you hear what she has to say, you’ll never view small towns, quirky neighbors, or questionable eating habits in quite the same way.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Note for those of you who understand that this is a humor blog and I’m just kidding about all this, or at least most of it:  all of Lorelai’s responses are actual quotes from her character on the television show Gilmore Girls.  If you haven’t heard of Gilmore Girls, just turn on the TV or open up any webpage on the entire internet and the indoctrination will begin within ten minutes.  I hope you like coffee.

Without further ado, here is Lorelai Gilmore’s therapy session:

Dr. Freedman:  Hello, Lorelai.  That’s an awfully large cup of coffee you’re carrying.  Are you ready to get started?

Lorelai Gilmore:  (on the phone) I’ll be right in.

Dr. Freedman:  Who are you talking to?

Lorelai Gilmore:  My other two personalities. (Turns off phone)

Dr. Freedman:  Is that why you came to see me, because you have multiple personalities?

Lorelai Gilmore:  Voices in my head–totally normal, right?

Dr. Freedman:  How many voices do you hear in your head?

Lorelai Gilmore:  There’s only two.  That speak English.

Dr. Freedman:  And what are these voices saying?

Lorelai Gilmore:  Oh, I don’t know.  How about “Good morning, Appalachia, I got a mighty cute sister and an extra set of toes.”

Dr. Freedman:  You’ve got an inbred hillbilly in your head with you?

Lorelai Gilmore:  Well, I know how mad you get when I bring the Insane Clown Posse with me.

Dr. Freedman:  Lorelai, you know I only asked you to stop talking to the voices in your head because you said they gave you flashbacks to your alien abduction.

Lorelai Gilmore:  Okay, as long as you’ve got a sane reason from a reliable source.

Dr. Freedman:  I’d like to go back to a concern you raised in a previous session, about your inability to maintain a loving, romantic relationship.  Is that still a problem?

Lorelai Gilmore:  I love pudding.  I worship it.  I have a bowl up on the mantel at home with the Virgin Mary, a glass of wine, and a dollar bill next to it.

Dr. Freedman:  We’ve talked about this.  Your feelings toward food are not appropriate.  I want you to do the exercise I gave you, all right?  Go ahead.

Lorelai Gilmore:  (concentrating hard) I am attracted to pie, but I do not feel the need to date pie.

Dr. Freedman:  That’s good, Lorelai, we’re making progress.  Now, why don’t you try putting down your coffee cup?

Lorelai Gilmore:  If it was physically possible to make love to a hot beverage, this would be the one.

Dr. Freedman:  I can see we’re not going to make any further progress on this front.  Is there anything else you’d like to attempt during our session today?

Lorelai Gilmore:  I hear there’s a shipment of plutonium coming in on the docks.  And I thought we could dress up as nuns and you could fake a stigmata and you could put the plutonium under your habit.

Dr. Freedman:  I see.  And how will we dispose of the plutonium once we have it?

Lorelai Gilmore:  Well, one of those bench ads usually does the trick.

Dr. Freedman:  Lorelai, this is the seventh session in a row during which we’ve accomplished practically nothing.

Lorelai Gilmore:  We should commemorate it with an oil painting or a severed head or something.

Dr. Freedman:  Yet, despite your complete lack of effort, I want you to continue seeing me.

Lorelai Gilmore:  Prove it.  Drop your pants!

Dr. Freedman:  I want you to give me one more session with honest effort.  Will you do that for me?

Lorelai Gilmore:  I’ll give you two because you scare me.

Dr. Freedman:  I’m only asking for one, Lorelai, and there’s no reason to be afraid of me.  I’d like to see you again to work on healthy ways to deal with conflict.  When would be a good time to work on that?

Lorelai Gilmore:  Tomorrow, if you have time, I’m planning on despising everyone who says “Hey, how’s it going?”

Dr. Freedman:  (sighs) Please don’t make me bring out the Hello Kitty straightjacket again.  It makes me feel so silly.

I swear, every line is verbatim as it came out of the mouth of Lorelai Gilmore.  I await the Wrath Of The Fans with trepidation, a plateful of pop tarts, and an IV of caffeine.  Lorelai’s coming over later, once she fast-talks her way out of the asylum, and we’re going to decide once and for all if we’re Team Dean or Team Jess (don’t even talk to me about Team Logan), and then we’re going to go do something even more dangerous.  Have you ever heard of a Brazilian Bikini Wax??

Image credit:  Photographed by Greg Hernandez*derivative work: – Kerαunoςcopia◁galaxies – Lauren Graham, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17574854

 

Meet Super (Blind) Girl

I have a superpower.  Now, if I had a choice as to what superpower I would have, it wouldn’t be this one.  My first choice would be the ability to fly.  After that, I think maybe super-healing (because chopping vegetables while blind never ends well) or maybe immortality, because awesome.  It wasn’t up to me, though, so what I ended up with was this:  when I’m out running errands, I have the ability to go into a store and walk right up to the thing I’m looking for, even when I have no idea where it is and I can’t see it or anything around it.  Useful, but no one’s going to make a movie out of that anytime soon.  I don’t think.  Unless I can figure out how to sparkle while I do it.

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Edward Cullen by Joel Kuiper, licensed by CC

My superpower became apparent a while ago when I was out with a friend shopping for a garlic press.  We were at Overpriced Behemoth Box Store (not the actual name, unless we’re being honest) in which literally thousands of items of varying degrees of usefulness were shelved, hung, and piled up farther than the eye, or my eye at least, could see.  We resigned ourselves to a minimum twenty-minute session of squinting and swearing, girded our loins, and went once more unto the breach.  I forded a nearby aisle, picked something up at random to see what it was, and yes:  it was indeed a garlic press.  Or should I say, it was the garlic press, because not only was it the thing I was looking for, it was the only one in the entire store.  All this while my Totally Sighted Friend was searching fruitlessly right beside me.  Hand to God, and I have a witness.

It’s gotten to the point that my Totally Sighted Friend will take me to the grocery store, tell me what she needs, and then follow me around until I find it.  One day she needed potatoes, so I wandered into the produce aisle, picked up a kumquat, put down the kumquat because I’ve never been sure what a kumquat is, thought I might like some cheese, and on the way to the cheese stand nearly ran into the potatoes.  Totally Sighted Friend seriously and with opportunism aforethought just leaned on the cart and watched me amble around until I stopped and went, “Hey! Potatoes!”  Which were right next to the onions I remembered I needed when two of them fell into my shopping cart.  They were specifically yellow onions, too, which was the kind I  wanted.  That’s really what makes it a super-power:  it’s so freaking specific.

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copyright 2011-2016 by woodstock-chan on deviantart.com http://fav.me/d397ahb

Of course, with great power comes great responsibility.  For instance, I have to be careful when I’m looking for something sharp or heavy that I don’t have anyone near me at the time lest they find themselves minus a finger or plus a concussion, because if I don’t immediately find whatever I’m looking for, it will launch itself at me, and not all coffee-makers have good aim.  I also have to watch out that the things I’m looking for don’t spill themselves all over the floor beside me and trip some innocent bystander who didn’t realize who they were standing next to.  As Super (Blind) Girl, it is my duty to minimize collateral damage in the fight of good against evil, and by good against evil I mean me against whatever idiot decided to reorganize the grocery store aisles I had so carefully memorized (side note to whoever did that:  I hope that when you go home, your mother runs out from under the porch and bites you).

Yea, verily, the life of a superhero is fraught with peril.  As I walk this lonely road, gentle readers, do not envy me, but follow at a safe distance, because there’s a decent chance I’ll accidentally find whatever it is you’re looking for.  By the way, I also have the power to draw smiley faces on the insides of basketballs, but I’m afraid you’re going to have to take that one on faith. 🙂

Why I Got Nothing Done Today, Told In The Style Of A Lying 8-Yr-Old

[Editor’s note:  Now with pirates!]

Embed from Getty Images

 

I really tried to take out the trash, I swear, just like I was supposed to.  But, see, right when I was emptying the trashcan into the bag, these pirates came in and just started, like, attacking the trash.  Every time I tried to throw something away, they would spear it, you know, with their swords, until their swords were all full of empty Lean Cuisine cartons and that old candy bar you said I shouldn’t eat.  Which I didn’t.  And then when I went to throw out the rest of the trash, some of the pirates snuck in front of me and hid all the rest of the trashcans so the other pirates wouldn’t find them, and I was so mad.  And then, and then, when I finally got everything in the trash bag and I was trying–no, really, I was!–to throw out the trash bag, the pirates, like, made me walk the plank!  And then while I was swimming back, they took all the trash and put it back in the trashcans, and they took all the trash bags with them so I couldn’t throw anything out, I swear, they really did.  It wasn’t my fault, you know, ’cause I could have fought the pirates if you hadn’t have took away my sword after Halloween.

Then I tried to clean the bathroom, ’cause I felt so bad about not being able to take out the trash.  And I turned on the faucet in the tub to, you know, get lots of water for the cleaning, and then, then this mermaid came out of the faucet and started splashing around in the water.  And she was getting water, you know, everywhere and I couldn’t get her to stop ’cause I don’t speak giant fish lady.  I tried, really, I did, but she only giggled and splashed even more, so I turned off the faucet and she just, you know, swam down the drain, and that’s why there’s water all over the bathroom.  It wasn’t my fault.  I didn’t know there was a mermaid in the faucet, I mean, there never was before. 

So then I was, you know, gonna vacuum the rugs.  But then, see, this monster came in ’cause it heard the vacuum, right, and it thought the vacuum was growling at it.  So the monster was trying to fight the vacuum, and every time I tried to push the vacuum onto one of the rugs, the monster would rush at me, and I had to run away.  And then, see, when I ran upstairs, the vacuum followed me, ’cause it was scared, and then the monster, you know, the monster followed the vacuum.  So then the vacuum and I tricked the monster into getting in the closet, and then we shut it in and stayed real quiet until it fell asleep.  But we couldn’t, you know, do any more vacuuming, ’cause then the monster would wake up.  I really tried, but the monster messed everything up, you know,  and anyway you should stop yelling ’cause I’m pretty sure it’s still up there.

 

Depression And Me, Or: Not Today, My Friend

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Hands behind glass by jannemei on flickr https://flic.kr/p/APgHk licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

If hope is the thing with feathers, then depression is the thing with barbed wire.  Depression is the thing with barbed wire that wraps around the soul and binds and tightens and tears apart and never stops at all.  If a person were stumbling down Main Street literally wrapped in barbed wire, people would shriek (and probably whip out their camera phones), emergency personnel would respond, and that person would receive effective medical attention and sympathy.  It would make the news.  There would probably be one of those online fundraising campaigns for medical bills that would reach its goal in half an hour.  Yet there are millions of people walking around with metaphorical barbed wire wrapped around their souls, and somehow that’s not only not a crisis, it’s a complete non-event.  When did this become acceptable?

Of course, it isn’t acceptable, but that doesn’t keep us as a society from accepting it.  I think a large part of that comes from the inability of those who have never experienced depression, no matter how well-meaning they may be, to understand fully what it’s like.  The most hideous part of depression isn’t the pain, or the despair.  It’s not the exhaustion, the isolation, or the sheer tedium.  It’s the helplessness.  Depression targets your will, weakening it until you may know what can be done and you may want to do something, but you’re incapable of making the choice to do anything.  Free will, or the ability to choose, is what makes us human, makes us people instead of animals, and that’s what depression hits hardest.  If it keeps hold of you long enough, you’ll no longer have enough of yourself left even to want to do anything.  Depression destroys what makes us who we are, and if you’ve never had something that fundamental taken from you, you can have the best intentions in the world and still have no way to comprehend what the experience is like.

The hell of it is, for those of us under siege from that horror, we’re still in there somewhere.  Behind all the pain, despair, exhaustion, isolation, tedium, and helplessness, we’re there.  We’re screaming for someone to help us, raging at our own inaction, and begging for the pain to stop.  We’re also, frankly, really bored.  You have no idea how boring it is to be trapped in your own head, listening to the same malicious thoughts over and over.  I mean, how many times can you hear that you’re not good enough before you start to think, enough already!  At least pick a new fault.

I’ve actually had that thought, and that’s really what led me to find my most effective weapon against the depression I’ve fought against for twenty years:  humor.  That’s why this screed belongs on a humor blog.  Laughter isn’t just medicine.  It’s also a tool that can cut through the barbed wire and  a key that can unlock your will to choose.  Ironically, or perhaps just symmetrically, laughing at someone is also the tool that will secure the wire in place and the key that will close the lock.  It’s kindhearted laughter, generous humor, that works against depression.  I, for instance, laugh about how terrible I am at yoga and write sonnets to Johnny Depp.  You may choose to turn on the television, mute the sound, and make up your own dialogue (this is a favorite with my circle of friends; we’ve found it works best with soap operas, the news, and any kind of talk show).  As long as you keep kindness in your heart, laughter will help.

Laughter from a kind heart makes room.  It eases the pressure of sorrow against your soul.  It creates the space you need to pick yourself back up when you fall down.  It acknowledges that we’re all human and we’re all, at various points in our lives, ridiculous.  It gives leeway for screw-ups and fallibility because they happen to everyone and the world will keep spinning.  It makes room because we’ve all been there and we will be again, and we want there to be a way out.  With depression, laughter makes room for one of the first things that gets forced out:  hope.  Hope is the ball of twine that led Theseus through the labyrinth, and it hasn’t lost any of its power with time.  So for the past twenty years I’ve taught myself to laugh as much as I can and to hold on to hope so that, with luck and the world’s dippiest sense of humor, I’ll find my way through.  The Minotaur won’t get to eat me this time.

For those of you who know someone suffering from depression, please understand that he or she is facing the inexpressible anguish of becoming less of a person each day.  Help them however you can, and thank fate, chance, or whatever gods you believe in that it’s not happening to you.  Depression should shock the world, but it doesn’t, and it should never have become a source of stigma, but it has.  I worry about what that says about us as people, and I worry about those who don’t feel free to ask for the help they need.  I worry about what another twenty years of suffering is going to do to me.

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Prothonotary Warbler Singing by Noel Pennington on Flickr https://flic.kr/p/kDn241 licensed under CC BY 2.0

But as long as I can laugh, I have hope.

 

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

– Emily Dickenson