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The Supreme Court Quoted Spider-Man In a Ruling


A Spider-Man comic— specifically, "Amazing Fantasy No. 15: Spider-Man"—now has a special place not only in the hearts of America's nerds, but also in Supreme Court precedent.

The Court very rarely overturns its own precedents—even though it can and even when doing so would have helped out a guy who just wanted to make a few bucks off the Spider-Man toy he invented.

And to explain that principle, Justice Elena Kagan on Monday turned to the superhero himself, officially citing the comic book in which Spider-Man made his debut. "What we can decide, we can undecide. But … we should exercise that authority sparingly," Kagan wrote.

"[I]n this world, with great power there must also come—great responsibility," Kagan added, attributing the line to Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in the 1962 comic.

Specifically, the Court said Marvel—the creators of Spider-Man—did not have to keep paying royalties to the inventor of a toy that, in the Court's description, "allows children (and young-at-heart adults) to role-play as 'a spider person' by shooting webs—really, pressurized foam string—'from the palm of [the] hand.'"

The inventor, Stephen Kimble, patented the toy. Then he tried to sell or license the patent to Marvel—the creators of Spider-Man. (Kagan: "Kimble met with the president of Marvel's corporate predecessor to discuss his idea for web-slinging fun.")

Marvel passed, but then started selling its own, similar product, called the Web Blaster. Kimble sued, Marvel settled, and Kimble received a royalty for future Web Blaster sales.

"The parties set no end date for royalties, apparently contemplating that they would continue for as long as kids want to imitate Spider-Man (by doing whatever a spider can)," Kagan wrote Monday.

Kimble's patent expired in 2010, and Marvel wanted to stop paying him royalties. The Supreme Court has previously said that companies in Marvel's position can quit paying royalties when a patent expires. Kimble asked the Court to overrule that decision, arguing that it's stifling innovation.

The Court, led by Kagan, declined. It's a big deal to overturn a precedent, Kagan wrote, and this case didn't rise to that standard. Even if patent law does discourage innovation, she said, that's Congress's problem. In the meantime, the law clearly limits patent protection to 20 years.

Or, in Kagan's, words, "patents endow their holders with certain superpowers, but only for a limited time."

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At five years in we started on the dining room.  We routed and put up a chair rail, so our two-tone walls finally make sense.  We painted the chair rail and all the matching trim.  We repaired the built in cabinets, which had numerous internal flaws.  In the process we found where a secret compartment  had been installed in the 1920s, only to be taken out by the renovations of the 1970s.  We painted the outside of the built-ins to match the chair rail and the trim, lined the shelves, rehung the doors and installed new hardware.  There had been a misguided attempt to drag the interior into the Modern era which it resisted fiercly.  We gently took it back to the time of the bungalow, and the house looks much happier.

Then we fixed up my adoptive parents' faux-Victorian china cabinet and moved it into the dining room, where it fit the china-cabinet space perfectly.  To be honest we had looked at some Craftsmen-style pieces, but the modern reproductions are too big for the space and the originals are too expensive.  But what matters is that after 27 years of marriage I'll finally be able to unbox the good china.

There's still the curtain hardware and some decorative pieces to install, but at 5 1/3 years the majority of the work on the dining room is done.
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We had biscuits today.  My helpful six-year old starts to get the butter.  "We don't need it, we'll use this instead," I said, putting down a trial batch of honey butter I had just made, on the theory that old-fashioned snack food had to be healthier than modern commercial snack food.

"What's that?"

"It's a surprise.  Try some and I'll tell you what it is."

"I don't what that!  I want the regular!"

"Have a taste."

He licks my finger.  "I don't like that!"

He keeps protesting as the honey butter gets further down the table and more used up.  Finally he cries, "Oh, all right!", flounces to the end of the table, and gets his biscuit slathered.

By the time he's set himself back down in his seat, the biscuit is gone.  "I like that!  Can we have that all the time?"

That may be a new turnaround time for new foods.  As for the rest of the family, a three-way arm-wrestling contest nearly broke out between my husband and my teenage daughters over the last drop.  I think this one's a keeper.
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It's spring 2015, which marks the 10th anniversary of the new Doctor Who and more importantly for parents, the 10th anniversary of the return of new, good family-friendly programming to our screens after a very long absence.  The fact that I can still count all the currently-running live action shows that fit that description on the fingers of one hand is a pain, but it's a big improvement over the way things used to be.  A recent entry to that list is the 2014 version of The Flash.  We're up to episode 8, and my family adores it.  We're trying to watch the other episodes this week to get caught up.

The Flash brings a lot of good stuff to the table and lays it out in a very pleasing arrangement.  First off is the source material.  I was delighted to learn that this show isn't just about the Flash.  It draws from the late '80s Flash, Firestorm, and Captain Atom comics, with just a hint of Suicide Squad thrown in for flavor.  These were some of the best super-hero comic books ever, not cutting-edge but right behind it, with a level of polish and self-confidence to their work that has seldom been matched.  They're in a completely different class from the dog's breakfast that DC is putting out now, about which -- no, I won't say, "the less said the better".  Textbooks need to be written about what DC is doing now, and taught from in classes on "How to Screw Up Your Franchise:  Don't Try This at Home".

As for the TV presentation, it's nice to see that WB/CW has put their 18 years experience at making superhero TV shows to good use and removed most of the problems that plagued past attempts.  It's even nicer to see that they're finally putting their expertise into a family-friendly show.  Keep that up and we may rear another generation of fans in spite of DC Comics.

There's a lot the show does right, and most of that is a combination of confident writing and directing paired with an impecable cast.  I could rave for hours about casting director David Rapaport's genius in hiring the perfect actor, time after time.   And since the slow dibbling out of multiple sub-plots which takes turns on the main stage was originally invented for comics, it's the perfect format for this story.

But it's the most contemporary element of this show that really stands out to me.  The Flash is set squarely at the end of the War on Drugs.  In the Henry Allen plot, the show deals frankly with the fact that there are parents in prison, that their children have to grow up living with this fact, and that there are all sorts of accomadations that have to be made for those children.  I can't think of another era in which this situation would have been such a small, ordinary, background detail.  It's heart-breaking, but for the sake of those real-life children I'm glad it's out there so they won't feel alone.  Now we just need to see "Cameron Scott" working in Central City's medical marijuana dispensary (He's here!  Bette Sans Souci was living with him!) to finally bring that misguided war to a close.

I'm looking forward to seeing more of this both refreshing and delightfully familiar universe.
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My husband met an old friend from high school last week in the small Mississippi town where they'd grown up 32 years ago . They chatted about their classmates from the white, middle class private school they had attended. Slightly less than half of the men had graduated from college and gone on to get jobs in business, teaching, and civil engineering. Slightly more than half of the men had not gone on to graduate from college. They were all dead, mostly from drugs or suicide. 10% of all the men in their class had committed suicide in the last five years. His friend noted that more men had died from their class than had died so far from his parents' class -- and his parents had graduated at the height of the Vietnam War. While the women had done slightly better, there had been fewer children born to the members of their class than had been in their class. It was a sobering experience.

I think we might have a problem, folks.
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Introduction
Part 1:  Recollection, Remembrance, and Discovery

Give me that old time religion,
Give me that old time religion,
Give me that old time religion,
It's good enough for me.

The church that I was brought up in no longer exists.  The buildings still stand, I could lead you inside and give you detailed tours.  They still have the same name, and are still used by an entity that calls itself Southern Baptist.  But how they define themselves is completely different.  The Southern Baptist Church I grew up in was proudly liberal.  At that time God was thought to be too big for the human mind to define, and any attempt to limit God's nature beyond the broad outlines set out by Jesus was thought to be dubious.  The important part of the Bible was the Gospel, everything else was just there to provide context.  Homosexuality was not an issue.  Abortion was a medical procedure that was best avoided, but sometimes necessary.  My husband remembers a local Southern Baptist church holding a divorce ceremony for a couple who had married there.  I remember my church kindergarten teachers using a crystal ball in class.  And a book written at the time by a woman Southern Baptist theologian celebrated the ordination of women, which was just around the corner.

We never turned that corner.  We turned back instead.  But how did we reach that enlightened position in the first place?

I was taught in church that the bedrock foundation of our Southern Baptist faith was "soul competency".  God created everything, including each and every one of us, and gave each and every one of us the ability, the permission, and the responsibility to develop a personal and unique relationship with God based on both our personal experience and our own reading and interpretation of the Bible.  God would hold each of us personally accountable for our actions when we met Him before the Throne, and we better be ready.  There would be no one else to hide behind, and we couldn't use anyone else's interpretation as a shield to cover our theological nakedness.  However, the same God that made us also made us competent to do the job.  We were God's children, and we were up to this task.

Soul competency was popularized in the Southern Baptist faith by E.Y. Mullins in 1908.  Here is the Reverend John Dee explaining it:






 To me it means that the individual Christian is unassailable in her interpretation of Scripture and in her own understanding of God's will for her life. It means that when someone says, "This is what the Bible means to me," I cannot tell her she is wrong. I can merely say that her understanding is meaningless for me. Only the preacher's understanding of Scripture is expected to be generally meaningful for the whole community, and it is up to each individual to decide whether the preachers' words are useful or not. Soul competency means to me that anything I understand to bring me closer to God is true and cannot be taken away from me, because my life is unique and there is a way of understanding Scripture which is unique to me. Soul competency means to me that I find truth when I am furthest removed from distractions and contingencies of people and things and authorities- again, when truth takes forms which are unique to me and my understanding of the Bible.





In his book The American Religion Harold Bloom argues that this belief in soul competency aligns the Old School Southern Baptists with the earliest Christians, the Gnostics, in their belief that the close, personal relationship with God is inviolable.  As a young mystic who already had a close, personal relationship with God I had no problems with that at the time or since then.

Soul competency led directly to another core Southern Baptist belief, the priesthood of the believer.  All who believed in God stood equally before God.  Some might be more learned or more gifted, but no one stood higher than any other.  In practice this meant that as long as you founded your beliefs on your understanding of the Bible, no other Christian could tell you that you were wrong.

As competent priests who took charge of our own souls, there was one doctrine we were strongly against -- predestination.  Our fate, like our relationship with God, was subject to change at our own hands depending on what we did.  If we didn't like our fate, we could walk with God and talk with God and take it up with God directly.  And then we could get out in the world and do something about it.  Calvinist predestination was roundly mocked as foolishness.

The great virtue of soul competency is that it inoculates against atheism.  If you are taught that the Bible is the only place where one looks for God, then when you realize the Bible is a collection of old books of questionable value in today's world you have no fallback position and become a skeptic by default.  If there is another place where you are taught to look for God the break is not as traumatic.

 But how did this play out in my head?  Well, here's an example.  The year must have been about 1972.  I was around six or seven, and my family was attending Sunday Service at Bowmar Baptist Church in Vicksburg, MS.  The preacher was telling the story of Moses, and how as a youth Moses had killed another man in a fit of rage.  The preacher said that the young man thought he was alone, but God was there.  It got me to thinking:  was God also young at that time?  It would fit, the God of the Old Testament was certainly more hot-tempered and less mature than the God of the New Testament.  Perhaps the entire Bible could be read as God's coming-of-age story, as He grew into a more responsible deity.  I hadn't heard anyone mention that idea before, and I knew some would object to it.  But I was just as competent to interpret the Bible as they were.  I would hold on to that thought until I was old enough to discuss it with other believers in a thoughtful, non-judgmental place.

I never found that place in the Southern Baptist church.  By the time I was old enough to discuss theology they had changed beyond recognition.  I was able to eventually find a thoughtful non-judgmental place to discuss theology with other worshipers, but that would have to wait many decades until I found the Unitarian Universalist Church.

*************************

There was one other thing we learned in church.  This being the '60s and early '70s we all got a good dose of anti-communism.  It was considered your patriotic duty to preach anti-communism everywhere, including the pulpit.  We were taught that communism was evil for three reasons:

1)  Communists told people what they had to believe, instead of letting people make up their own minds,

2)  Communists punished people who questioned them and did not believe what they were told to believe, and

3)  Communists rewrote their own history to erase any evidence that disagreed with them.  That one seriously freaked me out as an adopted child, probably because it had been done to me personally.  (Although why it was acceptable when done to me and not acceptable when done by communists was a question I never found the nerve to ask.)

Keep those three things in the back of your mind; we'll return to them later.

Coming Soon:  The First Step
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Introduction

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red, brown, yellow, black and white
They are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

In trying to write down my memories, I find that the earliest part of the story has changed the most.  There is what I recalled, what I remembered, and what I later found out about.

I recall only scattered memories of the late 1960s from around 2 1/2 years (when my adoptive sister was brought home) to 3 1/2 years, leading up to a moment a few months before my fourth birthday when I realized I was recalling more details, and would in general recall things from then on.

I later found out I had a rotten start.  I was adopted at birth by an unrelated couple looking for a baby to save their second failed marriage (each) and give them social credits.  My adoptive mother had been rejected as an adoptive parent in her first marriage, and it took three years for my adoptive parents to pass a home study before adopting me (average time is three - six months).

Apparently she couldn't handle a baby.  I found out later she'd bitten and pinched me when I cried, and her own mother had moved in and actually taken care me until her death when I was around 3.  I don't recall any of that, but found out about it later.  The only thing I recall of Granny is going to see her as she lay dying in the hospital, and looking at a figure under an oxygen tent.

After that Mom took a low-level clerical job, even though we were debt free and fairly well off, so she would require a maid to look after my adoptive baby sister and I during the day.   Dorothy was efficient, but neither she nor Mom was into cuddling or other shows of affection.

What do I remember?  I remember being very unhappy and not knowing why.  I remember being alone almost all the time.  My working class parents bought me the toys they thought were appropriate, but made no attempt to learn anything about early childhood development except through hearsay.  This made their purchases somewhat scattershot and focused on what was cheap and trendy.  It also meant no puzzles until much later, few manipulatives, and never, ever any of those nasty building blocks.  There were dolls, but dolls always upset me.  I didn't know how to play with them except to treat them the way I was treated, and I didn't want to do that to anything.  I didn't tell anyone, but I never saw a doll without wanting to cry my eyes out until I was over 30.

(When I was older my adoptive mother complained that I had loved her completely and we had been perfectly happy until I turned two when I suddenly hated her, and she still had no idea why.  You see what I mean about her knowledge of childhood development.)

(And that didn't gel with the later information I found out about her abusing me as an infant.)

Dad had a traveling job, and was only home on weekends.  Mom worked during the day, and Dorothy was busy with my baby sister and cleaning the house.  We weren't allowed outside to play much.  As for entertainment, video games didn't exist yet, and only my parents were allowed to touch the TV.


Of course there was another player in this drama -- me.  I appear to have always been an INTP.  Just as fish are born to swim and cats are born to hunt, INTPs are born to 1) concentrate, 2) sift through large amounts of data, 3) notice discrepancies, and 4) solve puzzles.

I spent most of my preschool years alone in my room with nothing that really engaged my mind. I was an INTP; I had a lot of mind to engage and not much inside it at the time.  But being an INTP who was not yet literate, I found it easy to concentrate on a single thought until I fell into a trance and entered an altered state of consciousness.  Through trance I met other beings and saw things that did not exist in the here-and-now.  It's incredibly hard to do that now because there are so many thoughts in my head that I have to shut down, but back then it was relatively easy.

I didn't tell  anyone.  I didn't have the vocabulary and nobody cared enough to ask me what I had done that day.  Nothing was broken, so nothing got their attention.  I recall one time when I tried to make them realize how unhappy I was.  We were going somewhere, and I slipped unto the floor of the back seat of the car (seat-belts were optional and infant car seats were nonexistent) and began pulling the hair out of my head in huge chunks, hoping they would ask me why.  They didn't.  They just yelled at me for making a mess.  The hair never grew back, and I have an elongated forehead to this day.  But it convinced me of the futility of self-mutilation as an attention-getting ploy, which kept me out of a world of trouble in my teenage years, so it was a win in the long run.

Anyhow, thanks to my mystical experiences I was not as lonely as I could have been, and I became a lifelong theist.  Those experiences would become a great source of comfort to me growing up and provide a solid foundation for my religious education.

Part 2:  That Old Time Liberal Religion
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Give me three steps, give me three steps Mister
Give me three steps to the door
Give me three steps, give me three steps Mister
and you won't see me no more.
There are people who will tell you that the Christian Church(es) never change.  If I'm in a good mood I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and try to figure out if they're naive, moronic, or lying.  I lived through the 180-degree transformation of one of America's largest and oldest Protestant denominations from their days in the early 1970s as the second most liberal church in America into a leading player in the reactionary American Fundamentalist Movement in the 1980s.  As a devout, Jesus-loving  child, I sat on my pew and watched the faith tradition I loved utterly demolished from the inside, to be replaced by an evil twin who championed the opposite of everything I had taught while all around me people laughed, cheered, and patted themselves on the back for the "good" job that they had done.

To say it left me a bit sanguine is like saying a tidal wave is a bit wet.

Most people today are astonished to hear that the Southern Baptist Convention was ever liberal; the Fundamentalists have done a very good job of burying the body and getting rid of the evidence.  But a few people have told their stories of the Takeover; this is mine.  It's about the church that used to be, the church that it became, and the three steps (not to mention a lot of pokes, shoves and outright trips) that led me to leave.

It's also my attempt to detoxify myself from the whole poisonous experience.  I have every right to be hurt, angry, and bitter over what happened.  But I choose to lay my burden down here and not carry it any longer.  To allow it to continue to hurt me would be to let the bad guys win, and I don't believe in that.

While I know many of my peers became atheists as a result, I would ask commentators to refrain from wholesale theist-bashing in the comments.  I'm all too aware of how hard it has become to find a church where one can have a positive religious experience in the wake of the Fundamentalist Movement, but I'm not yet ready to completely give up on the concept.

Shall we get started?

Part 1:  Recollection, Remembrance, and Discovery
Part 2:  That Old Time Liberal Religion
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So, six  months later, how's the whole "aftermath" thing coming?  Well there's me, and there's me-and-them.  Let's talk about me first.

I got pretty stressed out around the end of the year.   Come January, I wasn't stressed at all. I felt drained, a little fragile, very mellow, and extremely lethargic. I had started reading Dr. Seligman's book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being; at one point he talks about helping clients work through their depression. "I wanted to make them happier, but all I did was make them emptier." That fit me like a glove.  But when you've spent a lifetime full of pain, sorrow, and anger, empty is a big improvement, and a necessary first step to anything better.

There's all these little fractures in my psyche that used to be full of poison. Now it's gone, and I can feel all the little abrasions the acid of pain wore into my psyche. They need time to heal, and I don't need to let more poison settle in.

I'm working on the exercises in Flourish. I've started a blessings journal, and I've found someone to send a gratitude letter to. I also bought a pretty journal at B&N & turned it into a phone log, with everyone's # on the first page and a log of who I talked to when and for how long in the rest. I need to add birthdays on the other side of the first page as well....

Keeping up with all these extra people is a bit of a nuisance, but better than the alternative.


I'm more patient these days and slow to lose my temper. I'm also slow to do anything else, easily fatigued, and not interested in -- anything really. What I do, I do extremely well, and I've caught up on a lot of things I let slide. I just don't care to start anything I don't have to. I've also lost all the health and exercise benefits I had worked on that gave me the strength to trigger this breakthrough. That annoys me more than anything else.

TBH I'm not much worried right now (duh) but my family is getting concerned. They're not used to seeing me so listless. And I do want to "secure the gains", finish healing, and make sure I don't backslide into cynicism -> depression out of habit.

Huh.  I'm converting over to a new fuel source, aren't I? Going from pain and anger to something cleaner and healthier.

I wonder what it will be.

But before I get there, I'll have to work on the me-and-them.  This is going slowly and awkwardly.  Partly it's because of the circumstances, and the accumulated traumas for all parties that go with the situation.  But it's not helped by the fact that I have all the social intelligence of a brick.  It took smarts, courage, persistence, and kindness to get me this far, but I need diplomacy now.  I don't have that virtue.

But I do have smarts, courage, persistence, and kindness.  I'll see what I can do with those.

Milestone

Feb. 3rd, 2015 10:36 pm
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Brighteyes finished the diagnostic tests (TABE) for the GED.  At 15, she aced every section except for writing.  She's finally starting to understand that my insistence that she write wasn't just Mommy being mean, but a skill she needs to master as well as she has the other skills.  Yay!
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Facebook does a dandy job of highlighting the difference between what is popular and what is real.
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At 13 and 15, we decided the girls were old enough to start watching The Big Bang Theory this winter. They love it. (It doesn't hurt that we know/are people like that either.) My husband wants a copy of the Friendship Algorithm for his classroom. He says his students need the advice. I haven't got around to mentioning exactly how often it's re-run though. I don't want them watching it for 6.5 hours a week.
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I just finished The Invisible History of the Human Race: How DNA and History Shape Our Identities and Our Futures by Christine Kenneally.  Kenneally examines how recent advances in science have changed our understanding of history and of people.  While DNA and genetic genealogy play a prominent role, they are far from the only subjects covered in this book.  One topic that caught my attention was economists' Nathan Nunn and Leonard Wantchekon's research on how the slave culture in Africa caused a climate of distrust that had lingered for centuries and was still stifling economic development to this day.  I couldn't help remembering all the times I've heard Mississippi people say they couldn't trust someone enough to go in business with them, and I wondered if a similar study had been done on how a similar culture of mistrust might be inhibiting economic development in the South.
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My husband is continuing to catch up on his literature.  He thought Welty was nice, but she waited until her very last story to say anything substantive.  Salinger, while technically a better short story writer than Welty, bored both of us to tears.  Like far too many Modern writers, he assumes that his "universal" experiences will continue to be so for every future reader, when in fact neither of us knew what he was talking about half the time.

Needing a break he turned to Lovecraft's fantasies, which are flawed but more substantive than I first gave them credit for being.  The very first Lovecraft story you read tends to be intriguing, but unforuntely they're all just rewrites of the same story, and only a couple stand out.  There's many writers I can say that about, but Lovecraft is the only one I know where you could take entire paragraphs from one story, insert it into another story, and not even disturb the flow.

Lovecraft's stories always made me want to give the writer a good swift kick in the shins for the way he glorified the fear of "things man was not meant to know/do".  As a child growing up right after the Civil Rights Movement I heard my fill of "things man was not meant to know/do" before I learned to read.  The "don't do thats" always hid a deep well of racism, sexism, homophobia, or some related form of good old identity hate.  It was not worthy of the least amount of respect, let alone the histrionic levels of terror it was supposed to engender.

But I was wrong and Lovecraft was right.  Demolishing the old justifications for institutionalized hatred did indeed cause a grotesque, shambling monstrosity to crawl out of the sewers and threated to destroy all life on Earth if we don't immediately stop all progress and worship at it's hideous feet.

It's called the Tea Party.

Odd Squad

Jan. 22nd, 2015 09:50 am
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Fans of surrealist comedies like Gilligan's Island and The Addam's Family should check out PBS's new kid show ODD SQUAD It's about a department full of diminutive detectives who handle X-Files-style cases with tons of surrealist humor and a dollop of math/cognitive thinking skill. It's like a cross between the Sarah Jane Adventures, the original Electric Company, and a 70s comedy show like Rowen & Matin's Laugh-in or early SNL. There's plenty of jokes aimed at grownups, like a recent 80's flashback episode featuring Agent Oprah and her partner Agent O'Donahue (and their big hair).

And then there's the guest stars.  Last month the Kids in the Hall showed up for a hilarious British Manor House mystery.  Yesterday Henson Studios was on hand for an insanely funny "people turned into puppets" storyline.  Just don't get between the kids and the TV when it's time for a new episode to air.
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I stared angrily at the scale.  Where had all my hard work gone?

Four years ago I started an exercise program to get my body back in shape.  Two years of steady, constant exercising later, I was feeling fit and fine -- so fit, my subconcious deemed me able to handle a huge heap of repressed childhood horror.  The next two years were taken up with nothing but repairing damages done to my mind and my soul.  The work was so intense I could do nothing else.  Some days just making it out of bed was all I could manage.  In the process I've lost all the fitness progress I made over the previous two years.  My weight is back up and my stamina is nonexistant.  Physically I'm right back where I started.  I've got all this psychological stuff seen to  but -- I know the metaphor of life being a great big spiral but I don't need it to play out so literally, darn it.

At least there's nothing else hidden in the recesses of my mind.  There are still things I have trouble talking about, and one thing I can't out of respect for the privacy of another, but I doubt there's any more long-repressed unpleasantness waiting to erupt.

Unfortunately it wasn't just my body that suffered.  It was also two years out of my relationship with my children.  Now I have to sync up with them and repair that.  That  hurts.  Even the parts of it that aren't difficult still hurt.

Quests of self-discovery have a higher price tag at my age.

Lit Crit

Jan. 9th, 2015 08:23 am
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My husband is catching up on Southern Literature right now.  He commented on the "morose nostalgia" of most of the stories.  I agreed, the glumness is one of the things that puts me off so many of them.  There's an attitude not of "can do" but "shoulda done", and the "shoulda dones" usually happened long before we were born.  It's easy to see why there was a tendency to experiment with magical realism even before Garcia Marquez invented it, and for the same reason; the fantastical elements (or in Faulkner's case, ornate verbiage) entertain you while the characters go to such great lengths to shoot themselves in the foot, and you later find out in flashbacks were doomed before they even got started.  In too many writers it's a glumness only alleviated by "dumb redneck" jokes, and how many of them does a person want to read?  A body needs a few cautionary tales to tell them what mistakes not to make, but there is a greater need for tales where problems are shown to be solvable with the right mental tool set.
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"Have you ever heard of people saying, “this feels like it’s happening to someone else” or something to that effect? Now I can completely relate to that. I kind of feel like. Well, I don’t know exactly how to quantify it. It’s a new sensation.  Extremely weird, but not entirely unpleasant." - my newly-discovered maternal half-sister

"I have to admit, this is incredibly awkward, but I am happy to get to know you." - my newly-discovered paternal half-sister

"That is a picture of your grandmother.  If you want to know what she looked like when she was younger, look in the mirror.  You look just like her." - a great-uncle

"Who the Hell are you, where did  you come from, and what's this nonsense about a Promised Land?" - the Canaanites

I waited a week for my biological mother to call my biological father, then picked up the phone and called him myself. Guess what?  She hadn't called yet.  I told him she had given me his name, and that I was their daughter.  He was upset for a long time.  Not angry or anything, just reliving old traumas.  He has two younger children with his wife, so I now have gone from one sibling to five.  Our relationship is -- awkward.  He feels guilty but won't say it.  I could give  him every reason to feel guilty, but I don't want to drive him away so I won't say it either.  Upshot:  there's a lot of things unsaid.

The next day my birth mother called my birth father and talked to him.  They affirmed for each other that they had done the right thing by me and felt really good about it.

Nobody asked me my opinion.  I didn't give it either.

His wife is disabled.  I don't know if she's been told that I'm back.  She went to school with my biological mother, so I don't see how she couldn't know about me being born.  But maybe I'm still supposed to be a modern-day secret.

A few weeks after that was my mother's family's reunion.  I had been invited back in the spring, and since then, as curiosity about me grew in the family, had morphed into the star attraction.  The week before I was so excited I didn't sleep a wink.  One morning I poured sweet tea over my breakfast cereal.

More people showed up than had come in ages.  Some were genuinely curious to meet me, others just wanted to see the curiosity, still others came for the food.  But for the first time in my life I was surrounded by people who had my nose, my hair, my height.  That did some good.

None of the immediate family was there, it was all cousins.  My mother had begged off at the last minute in spite of being provided with free transportation, claiming she had forgotten she had a medical test scheduled on that day for a rather severe condition.  But one woman looked like a photo of my mother had looked ten years ago and dressed like I do when I'm feeling good, so there's that.  I made her uncomfortable telling her that, so we didn't talk again.

I was connected to the attendees through my maternal grandmother.  I was told to solicit stories about her, but when I did people laughed uncomfortably and changed the subject.  Apparently her name is still used as a synonym for a bossy woman.  Pity, we might have gotten on well.  Or at least had some memorable arguments.

And that's where things stand.  My parents are relieved to find out that I am alive and well, but uncomfortable with me, our situation, or both.  Some people are glad to get to know me.  Others don't know what to make of me. Still others wish I had never been born.  For others I'm a curiosity.

It's a complex, delicate negotiation adoptees find themselves in, trying to place themselves within the context of the actual people in our biological family.   Unfortunately the stesses that come from being an adoptee lead to a lack of validation of our feelings and an inability to connect with others.  My people skills are essentially nonexistent.  Thus, the very skills we need the most in reunion are the very ones we have the least.  That hurts.

Dealing with all this proved very painful.  I spent most of the summer and into fall as a walking basket case.  The pain has gradually subsided, although it flares up on occasion, such as when I  come across mention of an interesting relative who died before I could find them.  My distraction of choice has been Animal Crossing New Leaf; I don't even want to look up how many hours I've logged in on that.  But the time I spend with it is slowly diminishing.  I'm still terribly absent-minded though.  It's hard to read for any length of time, or remember anything.  And I really shouldn't be trusted with any handheld electronics other than my 2DS.

But painful as it has been, I'm still glad I did it.  Most of the relatives I've met have been pleasant, and even the unpleasant people are easier to mentally grapple with than phantoms.  Wrestling with facts, even painful ones, is so much better than wrestling with nothingness.  In that slot at the back of my head labelled "Where I Came From" there is now information, not half-formed guesses.  That is huge.

It's just that the nature of the (entirely artificial) situation is like walking into a room where you are going to be the guest of honor at a party through a door that has a bucket of mop water perched on top of it.  I have to get through the door, and there's no way I can avoid the dirty water.  I don't like that, and I'm not too happy about the people who set it up, and the fact that they didn't mean to set it up isn't going to keep me one speck cleaner.

But one big mystery remains.  How did I come to be -- me?  What parts are biology, environment, and sheer will?

I'm a fairly standard-issue female INTP (brainy, absent-minded, socially awkward, fanatically honest and obsessed with the truth), albeit generously leavened with developmental trauma.  Except there's nothing standard about female INTPs, at 1% - 2% of the population we are more rare than hen's teeth.  In spite of genetics, they don't seem to be any more common in my biological families.  While they may be in hiding (we are introverts after all) it appears the last one before me came of age in the Great Depression.  So, IDK, is there something latent in the genes that only manifests as INTPs under extreme stress?  Do we only appear **drops voice dramatically** "When the Need is Great"?  DUN DUN DUN DUNNNNNN!

Great theory, except for the fact that female INTPs are the least popular personality/gender combination on the planet  (Really, people.  That dreadfully underestimates the damage an S dedicated to an evil cause can do.)

I'm being maudlin.  That's not going to help.

Whachu mean by that?  It helps me deal, so chill!

**deep breath** Get it together now....  My thoughts are whirling around like fish in a bubble net.

Still, it's a valid question.  How much of my obsession with the truth comes from something in my genes and how much is from being so thoroughly lied to at such a young age?

And if it is something in my genes, is it something hard-coded in, or something emergenic, that depends on a randomly occurring combination of traits and/or circumstances?  Is it just -- one of those things?

"One of those BELLS that now and then RINGS,

It was just one of those things."

 I don't know the answer.  I know more than when I started out, but nothing definitive in that regard.  Typical.

Gradually more of my internal CPU is starting to kick free of this conundrum and show up for other work.  This is great.  "Hey Brain, long time no see!  How have you been?  I've missed you!  Tell my creativity I miss her as well!"  There's still a few more posts on this topic that need to be made, but I'm ready to move away from it being the bulk of my attention.

(And not a moment too soon, my house looks like it's auditioning for Great Expectations.)

And I don't want to sound too surly, most people I've met have been wonderful.  I'm just not used to having so many wonderful relatives!

Now I have to figure out what to do with all these extra people in my life.  Y'know all those feel-good movies that end with the curmudgeonly hermit making a ton of new friends?  Notice how they always roll the credits before they show how he copes with the sudden jump in social stimulation.  Why is that?  :P
crabby_lioness: (Default)
I haven't posted lately because I've been down with the flu.  The good news is it's not psychosomatic for once.  I know this because the whole family's got it!

The bad news is the whole family's got it.