Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Part 2: Anger

[Part 1 (sloth) here. This is not autobiographical, but it resonates a little.]

he wakes up at 4am, as usual, and stares at the ceiling thinking, choking on his thoughts. she is warm next to him, sleeping the untroubled sleep of the guiltless, if not the blameless, all knees and elbows, uncomfortable, uninviting. he replays conversations over and over in his mind, old ones and imagined ones, and falls eventually back into a restless sleep to the tuneless score of internal chatter. when the alarm wakes him a couple of hours later, he's unsure how much rest he managed to squeeze out of the wee hours. not much, he thinks, judging by the way he feels.

it's early enough that no one else is up. he glumly pours cereal into a bowl he had to wash, picking his way through the night's castoff cutlery. there is no milk. fucking perfect. he drops the cereal, bowl and all, into the overfilled trash. that one's his job, but so is everything, he thinks. he roots through the nearly empty fridge and settles on some cold pasta, eating a clammy handful, just enough to absorb the coffee a little. it looks like a pbj for lunch too. he can't exactly afford to be going out.

there is the boy still. thank goodness for him. he walks into the dark room and kisses the sleeping forehead before he leaves.

it's a long drive to work. you have to make sacrifices for the family of course, and the city schools are unacceptable. today, in this weather, the commute should be a good hour and a half. he flicks irratably between competing dj prattle. the music, when he finds it, hearkens younger times, happier ones he concedes, but on the commute, and at his age, it sounds tired and small through the tinny speakers. he turns it off, watching brake lights flash on and off ahead of him in an endless line. get out and abandon the thing, he thinks. fuck them all. but wherever would he go? how would his family eat?

fifteen minutes late for the morning meeting. he vaguely listens to the week's sales goals. he remembers hiring this person, what a sniveling little bullshitter he was then, and thinks with disgust that he hasn't changed that aspect since he rose up through the ranks, but has added some dimensions of petty tyrant and patronizing chum. his ample stomach churns dark roast into his esophagus as the pissant discusses how the accounts will be allocated this week. more sales required to fewer customers and, of, course more time talking about it. there will be another meeting this afternoon.

he mans the phones for the rest of the morning, drudging up a sunny voice for the clients and customers. he plays computer solitaire while speaking on the phone. in between, he tries to compose what he'd like to say to his wife when he gets home, but it's difficult to focus on this. the river is roiling, but a decade of throwing stones into the thing has has stirred up the packed mental bed into a silty, turbid maelstrom. he can't much focus on it, can't see a damn thing in there, and instead plays the same words over and over, knowing that there's no real hope of getting them in. 'if only,' he starts. 'i need....' he feels his pen crack in his fist. ink drips on his wrinkled pants

several minutes after twelve, he rises and heads out for his sandwich. though he was trying to avoid it, he bumps into her. he says hi, looks at the ground, and wonders, for the thousandth time, what happened to that chemistry. he knows. it did him no good to avoid the 'temptation' which was probably imagined anyway. later he was desperate, for a friend or for a lover, it didn't matter which. someone to listen, he imagines, and he knows it is asking too much. awkwardly he makes an exit to his perplexed (but unsurprised) coworker. his afternoon's spent with the pissant, and the little bastard is trying to help in his condescending way. focus, he says, be more positive. he knows the guy is trying to care, but then he can afford to when he's had it easy. it's hard to be positive when customers don't like you, and your coworkers don't speak to you and your pissant boss condescends.

there's no point in staying past five, and he doesn't. it's a long commute anyway, and when he gets home, he's too timid to ask about dinner. no time, she's taking the boy to some damn lesson or other. there's nothing on tv, and cleaning up the place depresses him. when she finally gets back he's nursing his second beer, belching chips and dry cereal, and tells the tired kid to shut the fuck up. chastened by the boy's horrified look, he apologizes and gets his hug. he tries to tell his wife about intimacy, and predictably, she gets defensive. is that all he cares about? would it help anyway, he thinks? it's probably too late for that to do much good, though he needs it badly. the rest of the night the couple maneuvers stiffly and silently about one another. finally, at bedtime, he snipes at her and it sets her off, she shouts him back down to silence, and the acid is refluxing like mad now. he shouldn't let her get away with this, not again, but he knows he was wrong to snap and he needs to sleep. if he's quieter she'll eventually stop with the insults. he clenches his fists, the nails digging into his palms.

if he can go to sleep...

Friday, January 20, 2006

Know Your Frayzies

[Not posted to the Slate Fray]

This goes to some of you with cautious affection. Go ahead and presume I mean you.

Hey newbies! If you've been trolling around the Best of the Fray recently, you've been perhaps lucky enough to arrive during a slight remission of the gigantic ego quotient. But if you are sharp, you may have noticed that some names are pronounced only in whispers. And you may have been wondering why no one talks to that seemingly rational and eloquent poster over there.

Psssst: it's because they're Frayzy.

Rest assured that they'll return in force and in form come this fall, hearkening to some vestigial September nesting instinct from those primordial days when the internet provided tides of clueless freshman discovering discussion groups for the first time, when angry lizards were required to do battle against the herds of the ignorant. Though we inhabit evolved times, those reptiles haven't gone away, and some still return to stomp around again, all overgrown now, shitting all over the place and complaining about the stink.

The problem with these massive dinosaurs is that most of them are, in parts, eminently readable, some of them even rather likable, but the smart poster should know how to filter for only the sane portions. For better or worse, they can be highly prolific, spewing so much of everything that even if the fraction of madness they produce isn't really that high, the quantity sure can be. A problem is that the nutty portions tend to bring out the worst in their less-motivated groupies and opponents. Relative newbies can become confused when encountering otherwise normal posters reduced to adulation or froth from having had their bullshit filters overloaded by the Frayzies at some point in the past. Don't let that happen to you. Adjust your settings accordingly.

So who are these people and how do you read them? As a service, I've sorted them for you here in order of increasing required filter strength you'll need to use. You're going to have to find the mulitple nicknames yourself, however, and be warned that the number of them increases with madness.

doodahman (30% whacko) The dood is probably the sanest of the big ego bunch. His My Two Cents column, in addition to being fucking hilarious, is filled with genuine heart, and he is actually capable of some minor self-deprecation now and again, always a plus. He gets some additional points for being the only poster of this bunch with whom I'd drink a beer sans safeguards, for the likely pleasure of listening to him talk, although I wouldn't expect him to listen. That doesn't sound crazy enough? Well, if you follow his MTC thing around enough, he'll sooner or later deeply annoy you with a pearls-before-the-swine stance, and if you dare go outside of the innocuous Dear Prudence forum, his anti-Republican ranting just may get under your skin. He's at his most batshit when feeling aggrieved by other posters, however, responding disproportionately with screaming profanity. It can still be funny.

Hauteur (45% cracked) If you like well-crafted intelligent anti-neocon screed, I must suggest you read Sarvis. If, however, you find Sarv's evident underlying sanity and reason too boring, you can switch to this guy. Hauteur is genuinely a skilled writer--an excellent word craftsman, though he's lamentably compared his essays to performance art, an analogy I can't get past now. Sometimes he really nails the posts though, and you can even converse sanely with him, provided you approach courteously and provided you more or less agree with him at the outset. Like the dood, he'll rally tons of righteous fury against those he considers enemies, and Hauteur's most prominent enemy is the Fray editor himself. Hauteur will occasionally castigate with holy outrage any poster who dares to discuss anything less important than (his) politics, and then spend two straight months doing nothing but whining at length over stars and checkmarks, all with no apparent sense of irony.

JudgeBland (just about half-baked) The man goes by many names, most of them hyphenated or compounded. His style these days is usually that of a sniper, but the content is a head-scratcher often enough, a roll-out flag that doesn't even say "bang," but cites some obscure poetry in French ("je sais pourquoi le clown triste pleure"). I'd consider having a beer with this guy too, but I'd keep some safe routes and emergency codes handy. He takes delight in rattling the posters he finds overrated, and he finds touchy-feely stuff especially annoying, especially if it's of a female version. And don't ask him about the Jews.

Tempo (55% nutters) Speaking of righteous outrage, Tempo eats, breathes, and shits the stuff. All over the place. She is actually sort of a nice, caring person, in the way that your overbearing mother is nice and caring. It's really important to Tempo that your point of view is "correct" by her standards, and that she has some ownership of the local drama, and if it isn't or she doesn't, then she'll cry (often to the editor, who despises her). She is tenacious and probably not worth the price of pissing off, and I most regret putting her on the list, but it's something you really need to know.

Ender (65% mad) I don't know if Ender is nuts or Machiavellian, but I assure you newbies that in practice, it doesn't make any difference. Evidence for insanity: his recent Fraywatch blowup; his apparently random swipes at Dawn Coyote, skitch, gary1, or whoever he's been at most recently. Evidence for sanity: he's just too smart to be pulling off this "as a top-tier poster" self-parody and not be aware of it. Evidence for insanity: he's not laughing at it that we can see. Sanity: Ender doesn't believe that the Fray is populated with real people, just a bunch of D&D characters which the owners may invest too much of themselves in. Insanity: but a lot of us are real people. Mostly, Ender reserves his passion for the other Frayzies, which is good for you and me, but the problem is that here at the bottom of the mountain, it doesn't matter whether it's wolf piss or pig piss: it still reeks. He has some practical things to teach, and can knock some posts out of the park with thoughtful sentiment when he feels like it, but you're probably better off ignoring the guy so you he doesn't drag you down when he goes off the deep end again. The nuttiness seems to come from a boredom that leads to detachment, and the scariest part about Ender is that I see a lot of him in me. Where do you think this post came from after all?

Hey Ender, assuming it's you that's peeking, I've revised this opinion somewhat, especially the video game thing. (They're all subject to revision, after all.) Your biggest "sin" that I see is a fine ironic sense uncoupled with a sense of humor--something I previously thought wasn't possible, and consequently have found difficult to grasp.

Appolonius (70% batshit) Appolonius is a tremendous stylist, and I harbor some affection for the guy for giving me encouragement here and there on these boards. But he's definitely one of the crazier ones, and what's more, he'd probably not deny it. It's just that there's so damned much unfiltered cerebral effluent coming out of him, that that the shit inevitably comes out right along with the rosewater. His posting is probably closer to raw thought than most of us are comfortable admitting, but that doesn't mean I want to read the unrefined product most days, and there can be quite a lot of it to sift through in any case. My biggest problem with Pony-boy is this, however: I served with Jesus Christ. I knew Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was a friend of mine. Appolonius, you're no Jesus Christ.

ghost (80% insane) Never seen a ghost, you say? You are probably wrong. Our ghost is a multinicknamed beast that speaks in loopy prose and addenda. Most of the commentary is a circuitous analysis of other posters, but ghost also likes logic puzzles, and probably sees the Fray as a great big one. It's hard for me to tell you how much there is actually there (is the writing cryptic or just lazy?) but smarter posters than me have found forays into ghost's archives rewarding. Ghost posts are genuinely interesting—in the way that codependency is genuinely need-fulfilling—and ghost may even deign to respond to if you can pass ghost's test by making a passable theory as to what it is that ghost is on about. There is no poster for whom I more relish the fact that the person behind the keyboard is just some (other) bored and bespectacled nerd who cares way too much about this place. The ghost is easy to miss, but ghost's M.O. is infectious and affects ghost has affected the styles of many other posters. You'll be reading the ghost's posts too if you get bored enough.

Denny (85% crazy) Another guy I don't love to condemn, but the amazing quantity of spewage outweighs the handful of nice things he's said to me. Denny is a troll's troll. No Fray poster can touch him for sheer volume or for history or for number of nicknames. Denny, to his credit, at least doesn't shy from being a real person, maybe even he was a real poster once, but unfortunately that person is kind of like that crazy nattering uncle you had, who told war stories he couldn't possibly have been there for, that eventually you learned to tune out and avoid at family gatherings. Not that he can't have a point every once in a while—he tries on a new skin suit every now and again and tries to pull this off—but he can't hold a candle to the brilliant Frayzies no matter how hard he tries, and I trust other posters who've caught him shoplifting from the idea store. He swaps nics to avoid the editor's flush and the eyes of people who know him.

Oh, and lest we forget....

Keifus (___% out there)