Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Ham Wars

What happens when you combine the year's two biggest entertainment juggernauts, and also you have far too much time on your hands?

This or something I guess.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

On Christmas

It's that time of year again! This is of course a phrase that will be correct no matter when it is uttered, but on this occasion I am referring to the Christmas period, a season of joy and festivity and people taking unconventional attitudes and thinking it makes them better than you.

Christmas comes around once every year, if you're a Christian of respectable stock, so you might think you're pretty well clued in on all the facts of the Yule. But think again, because I am about to blow your mind with some


Let's get going, Big Guy!

FACT 1: The word "Christmas" comes from combining "Christ", the name of our saviour, with "mass", meaning "weight". Originally, Christmas was the one day a year when Jesus would visit the temple to be weighed. If he had put on weight, there would be wild rejoicing, but if he had lost weight, the emperor would have the people whipped for not feeding the Messiah properly.

FACT 2: Christmas was illegal in Australia until 1952, when Prime Minister Robert Menzies had a vision of Fred Astaire singing Here Comes Santa Claus after eating an entire bag of magic mushrooms.


FACT 3: Although We Wish You A Merry Christmas is generally considered one of the most beloved of Christmas songs, Christmas is never actually referred to in the lyrics.

FACT 4: JK Rowling has confirmed, via Twitter, that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is gay.

FACT 5: Turkey only became the traditional Christmas meal after the extinction of the Plum Cactus.

I'd sure never have guessed THAT!

FACT 6: Although we celebrate Christmas in December, archaeological evidence indicates that the first Christmas celebrations took place in April, and that the holiday was known at that time as "Easter".

FACT 7: Different cultures have many different versions of Santa Claus, some far removed from the jolly fat man in red we know so well. For example, in Finland, Santa is depicted as a jolly fat man in vermilion, while the Turkish Santa Claus, though jolly on the outside, has a seething reservoir of repressed rage. In the Cook Islands, children are brought Christmas presents by a mysterious spirit called "Steven Asquith", who sets fire to anyone who sees him and will leave retirement home leaflets in the stockings of those who give him cookies. But all of those pale in comparison to the Brazilian Santa, who doesn't give presents at all, but comes down the chimney on Christmas Eve to stage illegal dog fights in the homes of obedient children.

That's amazing!

FACT 8: Charles Dickens's classic Christmas tale "A Christmas Carol" was originally titled "The Fun Ghosts Who Gave Mr Spengler A Right Old Case Of The Willies". Dickens was forced to change the title after being informed that the word "Willies" was illegal, and in doing so he also changed the book's plot, from the story of Bilby Spengler, a clinically depressed barber who learns some difficult lessons after getting a ghost pregnant, to the story we know and love today.

FACT 9: The Christmas tree is not part of the biblical story of the nativity, but comes from an incident later in Jesus's life, when the Christ-child won a hundred dollars in a local breakfast radio contest by eating an entire pine tree on air.

FACT 10: Advent calendars kill more than sixty thousand people every year.


Monday, December 14, 2015

On Shame

One of the funniest things about having depression - and there are lots of very funny things about it, if we're being honest - is the way you keep hearing about the importance of "fighting the stigma". It's hilarious because so many people are scurrying around, wittering on about "stigma" as if that's the greatest challenge, as if we who suffer from depression are horribly beleaguered by other people's opinions of the illness. If only, we are led to believe, we could just change attitudes in society, it would be so much easier. We got to get rid of the stigma.

We're told this as if the media, the internet, the very world itself isn't utterly saturated with people starting conversations and exploding myths and shattering taboos and endlessly, unstoppably combating STIGMA at every turn. Reducing the stigma of depression is one of the twenty-first century's greatest growth industries: you'll certainly get a lot more praise for fighting depression's stigma than you'll ever get for, say, treating people who actually have depression. The noblest thing you can do with regard to depression, apparently, is to talk about it, because not enough people talk about it, and we won't ever slay the Depression Dragon until we can make sure there's not a single person left alive who doesn't talk about it every day of their goddamn lives.

But more than the Big Lie that We Don't Talk Enough About Depression, the insistence that we attack STIGMA is hilarious, because it assumes the stigma is an external thing. We bloviate about stigma as if any social approbation could possibly exceed the stigma that comes from within, as if it's even possible to worry about outdated attitudes to mental illness in the community when your mind is consumed with the unquenchable shame devouring you from the inside out.

Keep talking about stigma, as if stigma is a well-meaning idiot telling you to cheer up because they don't understand what's going on in your brain.

Keep talking and ignoring the stigma that is hearing your children cry because they're terrified by the outbursts of their father's broken mind. Keep talking because you don't know what stigma actually is, because you aren't sitting up in the middle of the night, staring into darkness and wondering how much damage you've done the kids this time, how many times as they grow up they'll remember the times their father lost control of his misery, how much their adulthood will be consumed by the lingering residue of a father's selfish self-destruction.

Keep talking as if there is anything in society's misunderstanding of depression that can possibly compare to the knowledge that you're ruining your partner's life because you can't help yourself, that every time you rush to the edge of the abyss to look longingly at oblivion you're killing a little more of the happiness of the people you love. Keep talking as if the real STIGMA isn't the guilt that you've caused yourself by forcing your own nightmare onto the shoulders of people who never did anything to deserve the burden.

Keep talking, and discussing, and conversing, and flaunting your overwhelming compassion, as if that famous STIGMA is anything like the humiliation of having the police come to your house, and threaten to pepper spray you, and take you away in handcuffs, for your own protection. And living the rest of your life knowing you so completely lack the most basic capacity for living as a functional human being that your own family has no choice but to treat you as either a helpless child or a dangerous animal, so beyond reason that talking to you isn't even an option: the only solutions available are pills and restraints.

I don't want to hear any more about stigma, because I don't care about stigma. The rest of the world can call me crazy, the rest of the world can call me a crybaby, the rest of the world can roll its eyes and say it's sick of my whining - and the rest of the world will do exactly that, and the ones who claimed to be the most understanding will be the first to tell me they're sick of it.

And the rest of the world can do that all as long as it likes, because I'm so ashamed and disgusted with myself that there is no stigma the world can inflict that is worse than the stigma I've grown inside myself. And all your efforts to combat the stigma will naturally achieve their main aim of making you proud of yourself, but they won't do a thing for me. Because I'm broken, and I know I'm broken, and I know my brokenness has hurt the people I care about time and time again, and I let that happen. I know that because of my depression, I'll always define myself by my reliable tendency to let people down. I know that my depression has poisoned my life and the lives of all around me, and I'll probably do it all over again, and worse, sooner rather than later.

So if you want to write a thinkpiece or a cute webcomic or a pithy tweet about the best way to rid myself of THAT stigma, go for it. But if all you've got is the same mindless trash about stigma and conversations and honesty, then feel free to keep it to yourself. We've talked too much about it already.