Sunday, May 20, 2018

Blogrolling In Our Time

Reviving a feature from the old place...

Say hello to No More Mister Nice Blog, who we should have added a long time ago, and   Vixen Strangely of Strangely Blogged, who is, strangely, driving traffic to the old place.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

You Can't Stop the Beat

 Photobomb of the Year
Something very important happened today. 

Cynics always roll their eyes at a "royal wedding", particularly one involving male members of the British royal family.  There's something so retrograde, so sexist, so downright primitive, about the idea of two people going into a church and when they come out, one of them is a princess, whatever that means. 

And yet, this transformation of some ordinary girl into a princess; that most often most toxic of female iconography that's nearly impossible for any little girl to escape, has a stranglehold on even our culture.  I don't know why "princess" has such a hold on a country that's never had royalty.  We can't really blame the Brothers Grimm, for the original, pre-Disney versions of their fairy tales have some pretty macabre elements, like Cinderella's stepsisters cutting pieces off their feet to try to fit into the glass slipper. I suppose we can blame Walt Disney for it, and the siren song that the Disney theme parks use to lure in American families. 

No matter how cynical you are, there is something about these extravaganzas that draws us in and keeps us in no matter what happens in the aftermath.  We all know now what an utter clusterfuck the marriage of Charles and Diana was, even from its misbegotten beginning.  And yet, despite the knowledge of how utterly miserable both of them already were on the day when Diana seemed more like just a support for a massive, crumpled dress than a 20-year-old who already knew her husband loved not her but another, we still call that a "fairytale wedding." 

I'm not sure why British royal weddings hold us so much in thrall.  When we look at the British monarchy in historical context, or at least the historical context we know from televised miniseries, a royal wedding is hardly a harbinger of eternal bliss.  Just ask Anne Boleyn.  But let there be a royal wedding, especially this one. and we go bonkers.

Why this one?  Because if Diana was "the people's princess" (ick), then her sons have been "the people's sons," especially Harry.  Of "the heir and the spare", it was Harry, the embodiment of yet two more collective consciousness archetypes, the Lost Boy and Lovable Scamp, who has always had the hearts of royal-watchers.  It is his good fortune to have inherited his mother's telegenicity as well as her ability to connect with people, because in his youth, his self-destructiveness in the face of unresolved grief would have forever stained a less charming young man.  But Harry has always been able to pull off being that "lovable scamp," so it is hardly surprising that he would choose for a bride a mixed-race divorcee with a similar mind for public service.

But it's one thing to choose a spouse that the stuffiest traditionalists might regard as "scandalous."  It's quite another to include in your very Anglican royal wedding ceremony not only the ancient Celtic pagan ritual of handfasting, but also elements from American black churches.  From the perspective of this admittedly very white (if culturally Jewish) blogger, the heightened emotionality brought and wrought by the amazing sermon gifted to the couple, and indeed to all of us, by Rev. Michael Curry, is what elevated this ceremony to something approaching the Divine. 

And this is where this whitest of rituals, the Anglican royal wedding, embraced diversity and the heritage of its newest member.  From the minute he opened with a quote from the Song of Solomon (and not the part you might think), and then segued effortlessly into quoting the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Curry did not just talk of the power of love, but imbued the cavernous room with its power:

There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even oversentimentalize it. There’s power, power in love. If you don’t believe me, think about a time when you first fell in love. The whole world seemed to center around you and your beloved. There’s power, power in love.
Not just in its romantic forms but any form, any shape of love. There’s a certain sense in which when you are loved and you know it, when someone cares for you and you know it, when you love and you show it, it actually feels right. There’s something right about it.
And there’s a reason for it. The reason has to do with the source. We were made by a power of love. And our lives were meant and are meant to be lived in that love. That’s why we are here.
Ultimately the source of love is God himself, the source of all of our lives. There’s an old medieval poem that says, “where true love is found, God himself is there.”
It was moving, it was glorious, it was joyful, it was subtly subversive,  it made me weep with joy and brought me almost to the point of saying "OK, I'll convert!!"  It was also very much of the glimpses white people get to see of black churches, and by the time Rev. Curry remembered that "we got to get y'all married", it felt as if something amazing and strong and unifying and just perhaps lasting had shifted in The Force, that the earth's axis had just maybe tilted a bit back in a kinder, more loving, direction.  Yes, some in the audience seemed profoundly uncomfortable, but it's something the stuffed shirts in attendance needed.  And then all this was followed by Karen Gibson and the Kingdom Choir singing a gorgeous rendition of "Stand By Me" (a song written by a black guy and two Jewish guys) and as a recessional, Etta James'  "This Little Light of Mine".  And when it was over, one had the sense that not only had Donald J. Trump not been invited to the wedding, but that the ceremony had included after all, the nose-thumbing at him that was avoided when it was decided that the only way to avoid inviting him was to exclude ALL foreign dignitaries.

I was never one who got sucked into the Cult of Diana.  Yes, she was pretty and glamorous but by 1980, when her wedding took place, I was long past believing in fairytales.  She struck me back then as a girl who'd set her cap for a prince long ago and had too many spangles in her eyes to realize how cold a fish she'd attached herself to.  Yes, I admired her good works, but to me they were part of the noblesse oblige one would expect from someone to whom so much is given.  And yet, in seeing the man her son Harry has become, and how it is he, not his brother, who has inherited her ability to charm everyone he meets, and in seeing the gauntlet he and his bride threw down today in the company of their family, their friends, and the entire world, I could not help but think that somewhere in the great beyond, Diana is getting the last laugh after all.

  Mazel tov,  you two crazy kids.  Now go forth and do wonders.

Monday, May 14, 2018

I simply cannot imagine what they're going to do with this

I'd heard rumblings about this project a while ago, and then it slipped my mind.  But it seems that the Ridley Scott-produced series about John Whitehead Parsons is going to be streaming on CBS All Access, of all places, in June.

At first glance, it would seem to be a conventional series of the "mad genius" genre, sort of as if The Aviator were remade for TV.  Oh sure, Jack Parsons helped to create the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and had been interested in rocket engines since childhood.  And yes, a series devoted to just this part of Parsons' life would be interesting to a sizable geek audience.

But there was another aspect to Parsons, and that is his involvement with Thelema, the occultist movement founded by Aleister Crowley.  Crowley's ideas are reputed to have, over the years, attracted to varying degrees a number of surprising famous people in addition to Jack Parsons, such as Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page (a known collector of Crowley memorabilia who even bought Crowley's Boleskine House in Scotland), John Lennon, Daryl Hall, members of Pearl Jam, Jerry Garcia, Trent Reznor, and others.    David Bowie references Crowley in the song "Quicksand" on the 1971 Hunky Dory album and certainly his final "Blackstar" video is chock full o'occult references.  .  It's also attracted many non-famous people, including certain people I knew who were involved with this stuff long before I met them, and who grew disgusted with it in much the same way that many conventionally religious people grow disgusted with their own religious leadership. 

I've always chosen to remain somewhat blissfully ignorant about the details of this stuff under the assumption that one does not muck around with what one does not understand and may not be able to handle.  I've seen some really bad things happen to people who dabble in the occult without knowing what they're doing.  But I am curious as to how Ridley Scott and CBS All Access are going to handle this aspect of the life of Jack Parsons, and if there will be any commentary from those who are still into this stuff in a way that goes beyond "Do What Thou Wilt" hoodies.


Cat Guys

Mr. Brilliant and I got our first cat in 1984, shortly after we moved in together.  She was a calico, her name was Cindy, and she only lived a year and a half, succumbing to nodular pancreatitis.  Then came Wendy, then Oliver, and later Maggie and Jenny, and we were always cat people, and Mr. B. became a cat guy. 

When we finally bought a house in 1996, we toyed with the idea of getting a dog.  He'd had a dog as a child, and I'd always had a dog, but after interviewing a few dogs, we realized that with our work schedules, it just wasn't going to happen.  So we were Crazy Cat People.

Mr. B. with Wendy (1985-2000)

I think Mr. B. preferred cats because they were easy, specially when you live with someone who does all the litterbox cleaning.  But it was more than that.  When cats love you, they love you because you deserve it, not simply because you walk the earth.  Cats have a badassery that dogs just don't have.  It takes a certain kind of guy to appreciate a cat, and that's why I think cat guys  have a mystique that dog guys just don't have.  Cat guys don't expect to be attached to you at the wrists and ankles 24 hours a day.  Cat guys get that sometimes you want to be with your women friends, or that you need down time, or that you are an adult capable of your own decisions.  Cat guys can be needy in a different way, but they don't need to be slobbered over all the time in order to feel wanted.

After Mr. B. died, I used to joke about how it used to be "Jill and Steve live in Washington Township with their two cats," which made us sound sort of hip and artsy, but now it was "Jill lives in Washington Township with her two cats", which made me sound sad, lonely, and pathetic -- a walking stereotype of the crazy cat lady.  I don't know how the crazy cat lady image came about, except that it tends to be women who end up feeding feral cat colonies rather than shooting them.  But it's a stereotype that unfairly maligns women and keeps far too many men from discovering the amazing mystery that is felis domesticus.

When we used to listen to "Morning Sedition" on Air America Radio over a decade ago, Marc Maron would talk about "Boomer the dirt cat" out at his home in L.A., and about the three feral cats he'd rescued in Astoria -- Moxie, Monkey, and LaFonda.  If I recall, Moxie was part of the settlement with his ex-wife, but Monkey and LaFonda live with him to this day.

Maron is funny and cool and the cats still figure prominently in every interview now that he's a Really Famous Guy Who Interviewed The President And Was Nominated For a SAG Award.  In a 2013 interview, he said about cats "You don't really know what they're up to, and they're always sort of fascinating, and they seem to have their own thing and they're always sort of surprising.  I think dogs are kind of emotionally consistent -- either they're very needy, or they're a little bit aggravated.  I think cats, you assume, have an inner life, because they get focused on things, and they're kind of effortlessly cute with their own obsessions, and that makes people into them."

I think he's on to something here.  Perhaps it's that mysterious inner life where they DON'T share their obsessions with the world that resonates with men, especially those who are uncomfortable with too-open displays of emotionality.  Cats also have a certain "Screw you" affect that I think some men find appealing.  Women, on the other hand, are attracted to an animal that handles its own inner life because we have enough trouble dealing with our OWN inner lives and the inner lives of our parents, spouses and children, thank you very much.  So an animal that goes about its own business and doesn't ask to be understood provides a much-needed respite.

Cat guys tend to be the dirty little secret of masculinity, though that's changing.  In the online world, Dwayne Molock, whose cat guy alter ego is "Moshow", raps about his cats.  What makes Moshow compelling is not just that until you see the cats, he's just another rapper with an unfortunate tendency to use autotune, but that he has four sphinx cats, which are the weirdos of the cat world.  Moshow's sphinxes are endlessly patient and seem to thrive on wearing clothes, including, apparently, matching pajamas:

Moshow shows the kind of gleeful, all-encompassing love for his cats that you usually see in women.  So perhaps it's Moshow who made cat-obsession safe for macho guys like....

Keith Hernandez.

Yes, THAT Keith Hernandez, the 1979 MVP award winner and holder of World Series rings with the St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Mets; the carrier of cocaine usage rumors, the chain-smoking first baseman who along with the couldn't-be-more-different Gary Carter were the missing pieces that when added, created the 1986 Mets, and now the lovable curmudgeon of the SNY broadcast booth, and yes, cat guy.

Hernandez is one of those people who really found his voice on Twitter, but does it in a way that doesn't piss people off, but instead, shows him as a kind of Tweeting Man of Letters.  But it was a single video of himself picking up the paper with his cat Hadji (named after a character in a Jonny Quest cartoon, which may be the endearingly dorky thing done by an ex-jock EVER) that put Keith Hernandez into the Exalted Pantheon of Internet Cat Guys.

Perhaps it's going to take a curmudgeonly ex-jock to make cats as acceptable a pet for men as women have known for decades.  On the other hand, it seems kind of a shame that we may have to share that with them too.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

I blame David Chase.

A few months after I moved to North Carolina, I was in the lobby of the Chapel Hill Ronald McDonald House, as part of a group awaiting the organizer of the meetup to prepare dinner for guests of the facility that evening.  We got to chatting with a gentleman in the lobby whose son was a patient at UNC Hospital.  I hadn't been her that long, and to my still-of-NJ ears, this guy sounded like part of the cast of a musical called "Deliverance:  The Musical."  He started saying how he's real good at telling where people are from, and that he knew I was from New Jersey.  I laughed and asked him how he knew, and he said "Because you sound just like The Sopranos."  I have since been told this twice more.

If you don't know who David Chase (nee DeCesare) is, he's the creator of "The Sopranos", one of the most influential and lauded dramas in television history.  In 1995, the production company Brillstein-Gray approached Chase about doing a TV series based on "The Godfather."  It was Chase's idea to make the series about a Mob boss in therapy, and the rest is history.

America loves gangsters.  I don't know why, but the Italian Mafia has become as integral a part of tough-guy American archetype as the Western Cowboy, The Noble Soldier, or The Private Eye.  The Holy Trinity of the Mob in modern poplar culture is, of course, The Godfather films, Goodfellas, and The Sopranos

What's interesting about considering these works together is the descent from a strong, if archaic and often brutal moral code followed by Vito Corleone, where you only do to others what they do to you, down to the anarchy of late-season Sopranos, where the brutal killing of a leading female character guilty of nothing but inability to choose to take one for the team appalled pretty much everyone. 

What gets lost in our admiration of these tough guys is the operatic nature of their tragic, empty lives. are.  Michael Corleone, the former idealist who enlisted to serve his country in WWII, ends up alone, having vanquished all of his enemies, but losing his soul in the process.  Henry Hill in Goodfellas ends up in the witness protection problem, living like a schnook somewhere in the Midwest, similarly bereft of that sense of belonging.  And you can rest assured that no matter what you think happened at the end of The Sopranos, Tony Soprano was still on some level crying over the ducks.

And all of this brings us to Donald Trump, who is the walking, living, real-life embodiment of the operatic tragedy of the Mob goon. 

Bill Maher touched on this last night and I'd been thinking about it all morning:

Oh yes, he's always pretended to have the veneer of a businessman in the way Tony Soprano was in the trash hauling business, but as we are now finding out from the discoveries of the antics of his attorney Michael Cohen, Trump is, and always has been, just another New York Mob goon, surrounded by the same supporting cast as the rest of these guys have always had.  Maher pretty much nailed the cast of characters, though his focus on the Godfather trilogy characters doesn't really reflect the utter amorality of the Trump universe, which is probably better represented by Jared Kushner as Christopher Moltisanti, Steve Bannon as Big Pussy, Paul Manafort as Paulie Walnuts.  The problem is that Trump thinks that Robert Mueller is the hapless Agent Harris and that he, Trump, is the lead actor whose character can never be killed off. 
Maher asks, "How did the salt-of-the-earth people get hooked up with the salt-in-the-wound people?"  The answer to that is easy:  because even in the flyover states, they loved Tony Soprano. They loved him because he did what he had to do in order to take what he wanted.  It's an ingrained part of the American identity -- we take what we want.  Europeans came to this soil and took what they wanted.  The mythos of the Great American West is all about taking.  The cowboy may have LOOKED like Gary Cooper, but he slaughtered everything in his way.  The Americans won WWII in real life, but since then we've seen endless movies about that last Noble Victory fought by American Tough Guys. 
Even when a war is a botch job like Iraq, we take guys like Chris Kyle, who painted himself in his autobiography American Sniper as a Gary Cooper-esque multiple-medalled patriot and hero, and turn them into demigods, even after it turns out that Chris Kyle inflated his own war record.  Worse, we take thoughtful guys like Pat Tillman, the lantern-jawed, right-out-of-central-casting NFL player who gave it all up to join the military after 9/11 only to find that the war he was fighting in was based on lies, and was murdered by his own guys, and turn them into John Wayne.  How many people now even KNOW the truth about either of these two very different guys?  Or are they stuck in our collective consciousness as what the story was that first got "out there", because those stories play into the American Tough Guy archetype?
From 2000-2008, we had a president who wore the Tough Guy suit even though it didn't fit him.  He stuffed the crotch of a flightsuit and Chris Matthews fell in love.  He walked like John Wayne and talked like John Wayne, and the "salt-of-the-earth people" loved it.  Then we had eight years of a thoughtful guy who was slim and wore a suit well and spoke in complete sentences; who "spoke softly and carried a big stick", as Teddy Roosevelt used to say (and that was probably what played into the primal fear of those people who love the American Tough Guy, because that thoughtful guy happened to be black).  And then, for some reason, we decided that real American toughness was Tony Soprano after all.
These people forgot how Tony Soprano fucked up his marriage, fucked up his kids, couldn't manage his anger, was prone to deep bouts of despair.  They forget how utterly lonely he was. They were never able to see the tragedy behind the Tony Soprano persona when they used to tune into HBO on Sunday nights, or the wreckage he left in his wake.  And they still can't.
Oh, and David Chase is planning a "Sopranos" prequel movie.  Just to keep the mythos alive.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Friday Cat Blogging: The Next Generation

Has it really been 15 years since Kevin Drum first posted a photo of his cat Inkblot on his blog and started a trend that continues lo unto this day? 

Since it's Friday, I ain't got no job, and I ain't got shit to do, and since we have made the lunatic decision to start this blogging thing again, I thought I'd introduce you to the current generation at The Southern Casa la Brilliant.

Meet Eli and Sam.


Eli (tabby bicolor, left) came to live with us in July 2013, after Jenny died.  This makes him the last cat-tie to my old life.  Poor Eli has had a tough time of it, and suffers from some PTSD as a result.  He was found as a stray, spent time in two foster homes, and then we adopted him in the middle of Mr. B's chemotherapy.  He spent the better part of two weeks under the bed in a room where Mr. B. was pretty much living, as wiped out on chemo as he was. 

Eli bonded with Mr. B. well before he bonded with me, and it was Eli who knew that something was Very Wrong with Mr. B. two hours before I did.  I wonder to this day if things might have been different if I'd checked why on September 22, 2013, Eli did not want to eat his breakfast in the bedroom.

This was Eli's first 2-1/2 years with me:  New home where New Cat Daddy was sick.  Then something was wrong with New Cat Daddy and men came in with scary equipment and took New Cat Daddy out of the house, and he never came back.  Then New Cat Mommy cried a lot, but at least he had Maggie, who he learned quickly to love, and she loved him back.  And things were quiet for a while, but then Maggie got sick and died and Cat Mommy cried a lot again.  Eli was very lonely, so Cat Mommy brought in a new kitty, and he was fun so things were better for about six months.  But then Men With Big Shoes came in and changed things upstairs, making a lot of noise.  Then a few more months of quiet, then the Men With Big Shoes came back and closed off the kitchen, and two months later THE KITCHEN WAS ALL DIFFERENT, and that was very scary to a traumatized kitty. 

Then, after a few more months, Cat Mommy started putting stuff in boxes, and then he and Sammy stayed two nights at the vet, and then Mommy put them in carriers, but instead of going to the vet, they were in the car for 11 hours, and when they came out, they were in this strange place where all their stuff was there, but it was DIFFERENT, and that was very scary to a traumatized cat.

It is now 2-1/2 years later, and Eli is finally starting to feel a bit more secure, despite having to have a mast cell tumor removed from his ear last December, which required tests and surgery for him and  a radical cash-ectomy from me.  He misses his sunny windowsill, but he enjoys the screened porch in the new house.  He's learned how to purr, he now enjoys being held (but not picked up).  He is very bonded to me now, and has separation anxiety and other anxieties which manifest as occasional peeing accidents.  He is very sweet, very sensitive, and very nurturing with....


Sammy chose me.  I was not ready for another cat after Maggie, who had been my baby for 13 years.  I had been looking at another cat, and Sammy reached out his paw and swatted me on the arm.  I'd always had a thing where I wanted a Russian Blue kitty, and he sure looked like one.  Eli had needed another cat-buddy, so he and Sammy bonded quickly.

Two vets have told me that he IS a Russian Blue, and aside from wrong eye color, he has all the physical traits, plus the Blue tendency to play fetch.  For hours.  It took me a few months to warm up to him, because I was intensely grieving Maggie, whose illness had been very traumatic.  He was only five months old, which means that he had all the kitten-badness, and he was driving me insane.  But he is a very confident, self-assured little cat, and bonded with his new brudda, and over time, his utter silliness and adorableness won me over.

Sammy is a bit of a bully, though.  He is very territorial and bullies Eli relentlessly, including redirected aggression when there is another cat in the yard, and nonrecognition aggression after Eli came home from surgery.  Eli, being somewhat gender-fluid, is like a long-suffering mother, and spoils him.  In some ways, they are like Maggie and Jenny were, except that Jenny, also a shy, timid cat, couldn't stand Maggie, and Eli adores Sammy, for all that Sammy drives him crazy. 

And that, here in our no-longer-new life in North Carolina, is our little family. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Uncle Joe

I feel kind of badly about this post, because when my father passed away in October 2015, I didn't do a blog entry for him.  I'm not sure why, other than that by then I had had quite enough of writing posts about dead people.  My mother died in December 2012 and I'm ashamed to say I haven't missed her for a single day.  I didn't write anything about her until the following Mother's Day. In March 2013, Mr. B. got his cancer diagnosis and by the end of July, we began our Moyamoya Drama of Eternal Torment. In the middle of all that, our cat Jenny died, and then three months after Mr. B. died, our other cat Maggie died, which knocked me flat for quite a while.  I got through all that, but by the time my father passed away in October 2015, I was out of words.  All I knew was that it felt like the world had been toppled off its axis somehow.  I'd gotten through all the rest of it, but this one just gutted me.  Maybe it was just the wah-ferr-theen-mint given to Mr. Creosote in "Monty Python's Meaning of Life" that made the whole thing explode, but that was the one that made the world just seem wrong now somehow. 

Dad was 90 years old when he passed.  He'd beaten back aggressive non-Hodgkins Lymphoma twice.  For four years I'd been telling people how he'd go for his R-CHOP infusions and then go to Longhorn for a nice lunch.  He was well north of 80 but got through chemo without breaking a sweat.  Can you blame me for thinking he'd be around forever?  But I didn't write anything.  I think I was just spent by that point.

My father had an older brother, Joseph.  I'd thought that Unclw Joe too would be around forever.  Joe was four years older than my father but he took very good care of himself.  He did his own yard work till just a few years ago.  He walked two miles every morning.  He was sharp as a tack.  He played cello and taught music.  He'd spent the last few years caring for his wife Marion, a funny, clever, amazing woman in her own right, but she died a year and a half ago after 68 years of marriage, and I think in some ways he didn't know where his place in the world was without her, for all that he went back to teaching Osher Learning classes.  At 95.

What I remember most is how much I always enjoyed being with them.  I was younger than my cousins, but I always enjoyed being there.  Joe was quiet and thoughtful and Marion was vibrant and funny and their house was always filled with laughter and jokes and quizzes around the dinner table, whereas the home I grew up in was full of fighting and screaming and drama.  It was little things like that which got me through what was a pretty hellish setting in my own home. 

Because Joe hadn't lost one iota of intellect, and he kept in shape, he never really seemed to age.  He got smaller and thinner, but it seemed impossible that he could die.  I used to say that Joe will never die; he'll just blow away with a light breeze someday -- after he turns 100.  But that didn't happen.  He became ill suddenly and died on Tuesday, barely a few weeks later. 

It seems disappointing, somehow.  It seems that if you're going to make it to nearly 97, you ought to hang on for 100.  But I have that same sense of the world being off-kilter somehow.  Because for my entire nearly 63 years, no matter what else happened in the world, and Goddess knows that chaos is ruling the universe these days, there was always Uncle Joe and his cello.  Except now there isn't.

As I was saying.... we are again. Did I miss anything?

So last time we checked in with Your Humble Blogger, that is, Yours Truly, I had just moved to my new home in North Carolina and was settling in for a lower-stress work life as a telecommuter. And for a while, it worked out that way. But that didn't last, and without going into the gory details, I ended up working even LONGER hours as a telecommuter, sometimes up to 14 hours a day. A lot of this was due to processes changing, and then changing again, and again, and again, and a new system, and Perpetual Disagreement on how to assess tumor response, and general corporate red tape and nonsense.

But a lot of it was due to the reality that widow brain never really goes away. My ability to concentrate has never really come back from Mr. Brilliant's death in 2013. I had an insourced helper who basically saved my bacon and covered for a multitude of sins for four years, but she quit in early fall last year. I bumbled along for a few months, but after attending a training in November that might as well have been conducted in Aramaic for all that I understood it, and then coming home and having to pull an all-nighter because of something I'd forgotten to do and in danger of missing a deadline, only to be bitched at by my manager for not delegating the work to a new person who I hadn't had time to train, I realized it was time to throw in the towel.

I was exhausted. I'd developed hyperthyroidism due to Graves, which is an autoimmune disease. My hair was thinning at an alarming rate. And the more time and effort I threw at The Job That Ate My Life, the further behind I was getting. So I quit. I let them decide my departure date (January 31). I left a shitload of money on the table and after COBRA runs out in July 2019, I'll have to scramble for health insurance for 11 months before whatever empty husk of Medicare is left by then kicks in. And I haven't regretted it for one minute.

You'd think that after spending the last nine-plus years with my head buried in That Damn Black Box, including the last five years of Mr. Brilliant's life (something that haunts me every single day), I'd feel a void in my life; that I'd be bored, that I'd feel like "What do I do now?" But I don't. For three months I've been sleeping till 7 AM, poking around Facebook and Twitter for a couple of hours, following along with the Trump Era Follies, having lunch with friends, and puttering around the house. I even joined a wellness center, which is a fancy way of saying I've joined a gym, except this one is affiliated with UNC and is across the street from a continuing care community, so it is patronized primarily by the old and the fat and the infirm, so I am actually one of the more spry ones who goes. I take tai chi for seniors. Once a month I go to my neighborhood book club. I crossed "Attend a Green Day Concert" off my bucket list last fall. I run a Triangle/Triad Area Mets Fans group, where a bunch of us unfortunate Mets fans get together at a sports bar to watch our team lose horribly. And when there's a day when I don't get anything significant accomplished, I always have another one tomorrow.

So why on earth would I take a giant leap forward into 2004 and start blogging again? Mostly it's because I've been doing too much ranting on Facebook, and I'm not sure that's the best place for it. The Trump administration (I'm amazed that I even have to type that, so let's just call him "#Schmuck45") is off-the-charts horrifying, and I think we all need the catharsis of ranting. And frankly, I miss writing about stuff. I miss writing about my cats, and about movies I've seen. I want to weigh in again on politics and religion and television and all the things about which I'd be talking with Mr. Brilliant if he were here, but he's not, so you all get it. I want to regale you with funny stories about the people who, when I ask how long it's going to take me to not sound like The Sopranos anymore (and yes, people here have told me that), say "Oh honey, you ain't NEVER gonna lost that accent." And you can follow me on this journey or not, as you like.

So I'm not sure where all this is going to go. I'm under no delusions that I'll ever be a Big Name Blogger (is there such a thing anymore?). I'm even Facebook friends with some of the people I snarked about at the old place. I'm not trying to do fancy template design anymore, because my web skills got stuck at HTML4 and I haven't written a lick of code that isn't C# (and precious little of that) for the last five years. I'm not concerned with traffic or page views, I'm not looking for ad revenue or anything else. B@B was always primarily an outlet for me until it started getting attention, and then I got seduced by fantasies of grandeur. I don't have that now, especially as vlogs on YouTube have taken over what people used to write. So if you'd like to pull up a chair and take this online journey with me, feel free. Put up a pot of coffee and fix some breakfast. It may even occasionally be brilliant.