Fight and flight.

A song by Michael J. Pennington.

Ruff draft.

Verse: My name is rage! Seething and festering I boil up from the depth of your pain. Like a rabid beast, I pounce on your brain. A flood of red a sea of crimson and your mine to control. It’s your body, your face, your hand clutching that knife, but it’s my sin.

Oh my god! What did I do? I can’t recall. It’s all a blur just flashes. I don’t want to believe… But why is there blood on my hands? Ho god, why is there blood on my hands?

Chorus: There is only one thing I know for sure. That control is the worlds greatest lie. You think you have it but it only takes one fragile moment to show you how wrong you are.

Verse: My name is Panic! A cold icy chill runs up your spine. A white-cold bolt strikes your brain and you become little more than a frightened animal. Pray to flee before the fear that hunts you.

I know what this looks like! Please, I can explain! Why won’t my legs stop running? I want to stop but I can’t… Please god, don’t let him shoot me! Please don’t let him shoot!

Chorus: Ten thousand years of evolution are no match for raw instinct. Move over higher brain functions the amygdala got here first!

My name is death! You can’t defy the odds you can only survive them. If you survive them. As your life drains away through the hole in your chest. Blackness sucks you under. Small bits of you are eaten away as you are slowly deleted.

Oh god! I didn’t want this… I didn’t want any of this… I… I… Wasn’t in control… I’m not responsible. Don’t let this be the end. Please god, don’t let this be the end!

Is beleif easy?

A wise man once said:

Impress me not by the depths of your faith, but rather by the breadth of your tolerance.

That, someone, was me. Michael J. Pennington, I’m quoting myself. Like the smug narcissistic weirdo, I am. o.O

Cue Alan Rickman / Marvin the paranoid robot voice: “Of course, I have to quote me. Nobody else is going to do it… It’s not like anyone listens to what I have to say. They probably don’t know I’ve said anything at all. Brain the size of a planet, and still, no one listens…”

Okay, I’m done channeling Douglas Adams. Let’s get to brass tacks, why I’m sharing this idea with you now.  I came up with this idea years ago and yet have not found a very good place to slip it into my writing, and I wanted to discuss it. So I’ve introduced the idea in the weirdest way possible. Because of raisins. (No really! Sentient raisins are making me do this.)

BTW: If for some reason Plato or Socrates somehow beat me to the punch on this. (Because they always do! Those philosophical bastards!) Just know I’m just exploring an Idea I’ve been brewing on for a while. (Mine!) I’d be happy to see other philosophical takes on it. (Keep your dirty mitts off it!) Feel free to link other sources (Don’t!) in the comments. (I will cut you… Or maybe just say mean things behind your back. Eyeballs, Peace, Pointy finger.)

Belief. I like to define terms in my writings.  Not so much to change the meaning of words but so my readers and I might have a shared lexicon of ideas. It is not so good if I am talking about spoons and the readers think I’m badmouthing forks. So when I talk about ‘belief’ I’m not talking about religion. Rather I’m discussing belief as the acceptance of something to be true beyond all other arguments or facts.

Contrary to belief is ‘deduction,’ the determination of truth through the study and observation of facts and arguments.

Lots of people confuse the two. Thinking that they are deducing the truth when they are in fact simply rationalizing what they want to believe. Truth itself is subjective. Most people think because their truth fits the facts that it is the only possible answer. Facts aren’t subjective that is true, they are just bits of information about the world around us. the meaning we attach to facts is what we call truth.

We are philosophical as a species, without knowing it we seek to find meaning in everything even the most basic facts. These truths we dig for are the basis of our lives. They give us meaning they give us purpose, they give us hope.

Ah, but look at me. I’m rambling again. You know it’s very freeing to be unknown on the internet. Much like a madman in a cave I can scream whatever I want into the blackness and get only silence in return. If anything I fear discovery. People knowing my name and valuing my opinion. What a horrible curse to have to bend to the demands of the social presser. To mind your tongue least you unsettle the delicate workings of the machine we call society and be punished.

Today I must scream into the blackness a most terrible truth.

Belief is easy.

I imagine those who should stumble upon this hidden corner of the internet, and baffle through my ramblings to this point should be of two minds. Some are wondering what took me so long to come to this very obvious conclusion. Others are might find the need to explain to me the error of my thinking in a calm dignified manner.

But I am not saying that belief is the realm of the simple-minded. I am not saying it is a tool of the uneducated or lazy. I’m not saying it’s the manifestation of a dullards intellect. I’m saying it because I think that it is mathematically necessary.

I sense a great disturbance in the force as if two’s of people who at first agreed with me are now typing their own dignified replies.

Here is the thing, life is about survival, survival is all about taking risks. Eventually, as a species, colony, or individual, you’ll run into a situation where the chances of survival are low.  For lower functioning creatures I imagine the program to be simple. Seek survival obtain survival repeat. But for higher functioning creatures, ones who might be able to reason out the risks of the situation it’s not so simple. Knowing your odds of survival are low in any situation, might give cause you not to try.  This is where belief comes in, belief is the little motivator that could. Knowing the odds but believing that you can beat them makes you try. BTW you don’t really beat odds or defy them, you can only ever survive them.

Now belief doesn’t always result in positive feedback, but the negative feedback often means death and that information is not passed on.

Organisms that take risks are survivors, believers are risk takers, hence the mathematical predisposition towards belief. Theoretically speaking anyway.

This is an appeal to mathematics argument. Similar to an appeal to nature argument. This argument states that regardless of the morality or intelligence certain behaviors are mathematically preferable when it comes to survival, and even the most intelligent of beings with full control of their faculties may not be immune to said behaviors or the thought processes that they will use to justify them.

So what of the other side of the idiom? Tolerance? I believe that it too has its own mathematical argument. I speak of tolerance as the ability to recognize the differences of others and to respect their independence no matter how alien their behaviors.  Conversely, intolerance is fear of the different.

From a survival standpoint, similar things are good. They offer little danger except for competition for resources, but more often than not resources are plentiful enough. So that’s only a small problem. Different things are often bad, in addition to competing for resources, they can also pose a more direct threat to survival such as hunting us for food.

But here is where things get complicated. Different can often be good. Sometimes different can provide new resources such as food or protection. The different enrich the world around us, and through their unique perspective, all life grows.

These things are true of intelligent life as well as the ability to compare and contrast is a basic survival function. Since similar things pose less danger and different things pose slightly more there is a mathematical bias towards intolerance.

In short, Tolerance is hard.

Wich one plays out is usually up to avalible resources. Lots of resources skew towards tolerance, and a shortage of resources skews towards intolerance. This is, of course, a multifaceted subject and I’ve probably bored you enough with it. Moreover, it’s mostly a theory by a madman, and I don’t put much stock in the theories of crazy people.

What I am trying to say is that of the two faith and tolerance, I find the latter much more impressive. A river that is deep is thought of to be impressive and compared to a stream it is but is it not a river natural predominance to cut deeply into the earth? As the modules of water scrape away the rock and the dirt at the spots where naturally more of them are concentrated? Maybe not, I’m not an expert in the development of rivers.

I just know that depth is often a judge of how impressive a river is, but so too is breadth. Breadth is a measurement of how wide a river is, and I would think that being wide is a far less common feature in Rivers. Often underestimated. Wich holds more water? The deep river or the wide river? What if they hold the same amount of water?

Maybe the deep river is more powerful, but perhaps the wide river covers more ground and touches more lives.

I’m sure some of the greatest rivers are deep and wide, but the most dangerous rivers are most certainly deep and narrow.

Let’s drop the metaphor for a moment. Faith is not impressive on its own, assholes have faith, madmen have faith, serial killers have faith, genocidal madmen have faith.

Sure they may not be saying god, but they have faith in something, even if they don’t admit it to themselves. Even if you got your truth from hard-fought reason, there was likely a crossover a point where you no longer question your truth and accepted it as fact so you could explore greater mysteries elsewhere.  Sure you might reopen that book if new evidence arises, but you are not actively questioning it. It would be maddening reevaluating every truth all the time every day.

I digress, my point is what good is knowing your truth, if you don’t embrace the diversity of other truths? No, not all of them deserve it, but keeping an open mind is mathematically sensible.

A rare quiet.

The world around me has gone still the many voices that pull me in all directions and distract me are temporarily silenced.

Normally that would be the cue for my other problem to show its face. But for now it is calm and I’m awake.

I’m awake and in a mood to write. So what shall I write? I know I have a mountain of uncompleted projects, but it is hard to get into long term projects when your workflow is compromised. I can’t think long term if it may be days or weeks before I get the chance to write again.

It is precisely this reason I’ve been working of the cuff. Drawn to what ever muse has caught my eye. If I never know when I will write next I chose to live in the moment and savor the sweet nectar of creativity. To draw inspiration from the moment.

In this moment I find myself in the woods the mountains of colorado. It is dark and it is still outside. The trees around me still have a sense of dampness from the earlier rain.

My mind tingles with possibilities. A horror story perhaps? The woods are murky and mysterious and one doesn’t need to try hard to imagine a unseen horror lurking within.

Perhaps it was just passing by when it noticed the faint light of my phone. Now it is stalking me. Slinking though the shadows just beyond my sight. I can’t see it but I know it’s there.

It knows I sense it, we both sit in anticipation of the coming moment when claws flash and my light is snuffed out. My plus quickens, its mouth waters. Closer it creeps, closer, there it’s behind me. I know it is but I dare not look… Any moment now. I hold my breath as if it will be the last, for it surly must be. Any moment claws. Any moment pain. Any moment death…

That would be fun. But the night is too calming and awe inspiring for that. Though dark has a sense of wonder to it. A magic. Just beyond the trees elves a crowning a new queen. A mother bigfoot plays with he son.

An adventure awaits, and I will be the one to have it. By nights end I shall have slain the giant, had tea with the dragon and saved a village of Horfpleddles from a most terrible fate…

Maybe there is no magic or danger. Just some nightlife going about their business. And a writer with an over active imagination inspired by the quiet majesty of the colorado mountains.

😉

The Lighthouse.

You are the brave captain of a swift and noble vessel, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t admire your strength.

But the winds have changed and the clouds are blowing in. Before you know it you are caught in the deluge.

Your vessel is tossed like flotsam in the roaring waves, you’ve been here before but every time is like the first time.

Sail on ‘o wayward captain, the hardest part is knowing I can’t help you in your time of need. Though my light is bright it cannot cut through the black clouds around you.

I have no way to help you, this fight is yours alone. I have no idea if you can hear me, but I stay up all night saying “I love you” into my radio.

Wave after wave crash upon you. Spewing doubt and self-hate. There is no way for you to fight it. You have to endure it till it’s done. There is no mind over the problem when your mind is the problem.

Though I am sitting right next to you, you are very far away. My words of hope and encouragement can’t cross the void.

Hold on tight tie yourself to the mast. You will survive this like so many times before. I may not be there in your private hell, but I will see you through this storm.

When the storm finally breaks my light will guide you home. We have been through a lot today but my love remains as strong as ever.

I can not imagine your struggle but I know it must be hard. I admire your courage and strength if your long fight, and I strive to be as brave as you in my own battles. I’m a better person for having known you.

Sometimes courage is just surviving. Sometimes love is helpless to help. Sometimes all there is is just holding on till its over, and being there when its done.

Update: My Condition

I finally got to talk to a sleep specialist and he basically confirmed what I suspected. There is no quick way to figure out what is wrong with me. Now, this is not the first sleep specialist I talked to. I was speaking to one when I was working for TSA, that doctor didn’t want to go forward until I had gotten my Bi-pap, which at the time I could not afford the nine hundred dollars out of pocket expense of. (Long story short, I ultimately quit TSA because I was not fit for duty, and got my Bi-pap on Medicaid.)

I got the impression then that there were just too many causes for daytime sleepiness and that its a process of elimination.

I’m kinda feeling like sleep science is a more primitive discipline. Maybe not a drill-a-hole-in-your-head-an-let-the-demons-out primitive, but definitely not an efficient as other medical disciplines. I recently went to see a physical therapist and with a brief description of my symptoms, and a quick examination she nailed the problem before the results of the MRI had come in. I know it’s apples and oranges the brain is a complex and not easily understood mechanism. But I still wish we had more precise diagnostics here a quick test for insomnia here, a test for narcolepsy there and walla! You have sleep cancer… or whatever I just want a clear answer as to what is wrong with me.

My current doctor is looking at my bi-pap too. He’s altered my settings and we’re doing a two-month trial, so far nothing but I just started and I’m trying not to be negative. (You don’t get better if you poo-poo solutions without giving them an honest chance.)

The Doctor is of the mindset that my problem is related to insomnia, and I do have a lot of insomnia related issues. Essentially I’m the overweight person in the sleep world. I go to the doctor complaining about my heart, but there is no test to differentiate between a heart murmur and normal weight-related heart problems.  So the doctor asks if I’m eating right. The answer is no. It’s much more likely this is the source of my problem. So before they even consider a heart murmur; I must completely change my diet and adhere to it for some time.

Basically, I don’t sleep well. I go to bed late, I use blue light emitting devices shortly before bed. (phone, tablet, etc.) My wake-up time varies a lot day to day. I spend a great deal of time awake in bed thinking. At least once a month I get insomnia and miss a whole sleep cycle. I often drink caffeinated beverages before bed. I don’t always go to bed when I’m tired.

Here in lies the rub. It may come down to correcting my sleep diet to move forward. I don’t see myself being able to do that. And while I’m willing to cooperate with treatment to a point, I’m pretty against sleep medications. Specifically Ambien. But, I’m against sleep drugs in general.

Worse case scenario one: The doctor is right. My problem is because of my poor sleep habits. I’m kinda stuck because I can’t be perfect, and I just have to live with this problem now.

Worse case Scenario two: The doctor is wrong. My problem is not because of my sleep habits. But I can’t move forward because I’m a square peg and I can’t conform to my sleep diet. Same result.

Fortunately, the doctor did give me a list of things that could also be at fault. I’m hoping one of them could be the answer. I’m working on getting a list of stuff to my primary care Doctor.

I’m just frustrated in general, it feels like my life can’t move forward untill I know what this is. But I remain optimistic and will continue to post when I can.

 

 

Triple Z

Morpheus_zzz Posted:

Sleep.

It’s a problem for me.

This is not like normal drowsiness, it’s not a sirens call beckoning one to a soft and fluffy land a favorite destination we are all too eager to return too. It’s not the kind of sleep that oozes up from your brain like quicksand. Dragging you blissfully away.

I still get that, but this new kind of sleep is brutal, forceful, unrelenting… Cold. I can only think to describe it as an attack.

It starts small, barely a hug hardly noticeable, but it keeps coming, wave after wave, each one getting stronger.

A-inky black darkness wraps itself around my brain and begins to squeeze like a python.

Time slows down, the world collapses to this singular moment. A life or death battle against a mighty giant of a foe. The darkness closes around me as I struggle to resist pushing me ever closer to sleep.

Sometimes I have the strength to survive the attack. The monster gets tired of pounding me and goes away. It is physically exhausting to resist it wears me out and saps my strength.

If I don’t fight, or I lose, I fall asleep… It’s embarrassing, and it never seems to happen at a good time.

Lately, there have been these dreams… Strangely real dreams.

I don’t know how to describe them. Like I’m obviously doing stuff that isn’t real. Like flying, but everything thing looks and feels real, smells real. Is that crazy?

I don’t know what to think.

Comments:

Shavacado_in_chains: You want to know if that sounds crazy? I’ll tell you. Yes! That is some crazy a** sh*t right there! Just another snowflake crying for attention. “I can’t sleep boo hoo…” NOBODY GETS GOOD SLEEP! Take some F*cking Ambien and get a job loser!

– Thetostoftexas: Dude! Did you not read the post? He’s having trouble staying awake, not falling asleep.

– Shavacado_in_chains: Does not matter they got meds for that too. He probably stays up late playing Pokemon or some sh*t.

-Read 97 more comments?

“Ugh…” said Shadow Somnus. “Why is this site so toxic?” This social media site was going downhill, once it was popular amongst some of the internets smartest people, but now they’ve moved on to greener pastures. Still, Shadow hoped beyond hope that maybe someone here might have something. Something tangible. An answer, or an idea, he was desperate for answers, but he would settle for one person who would confirm for him that he wasn’t crazy. That this plight was not some weird bubble of his imagination, and he was just making it all up.  He kept scrolling.

Most of the internet doctors were coming up with the same diagnosis. Narcolepsy. Sure that made sense but was it didn’t seem that cut and dry.

Abettermoustrap: What does your doctor say?

That was a fair question. Maybe this person had some idea of what they were talking about. They just posted, so he wrote back.

-Morpheus_zzz: The doctors don’t know, they want to start me on a C-Pap. I just got tested for sleep apnea, and they want to see how that goes.

-Abettermoustrap: That sounds about right, the state of sleep science is in its infancy, so the strategy is often to throw stuff at you and see what sticks. Any insomnia?

-Morpheus_zzz: Sometimes, I’ve never had good sleeping habits. Do you have any ideas?

-Abettermoustrap: Nothing so grandiose, I’m just in the field so to speak, and this is an interesting case. Can you do me a favor?

-Morpheus_zzz: Sure.

-Abettermoustrap: The next time you have one of these dreams can you write it down for me?

-I’m_Just_Saiyan: What about us?! I want to know about these dreams too! Don’t hold out on the community man.

-Morpheus_zzz: I’ll post it as an update. That okay?

-Abettermoustrap: Works for me. I’ll subscribe so I know when you posted.

Well, that was something. Shadow didn’t know why it was so important that he get some kind of validation for his unusual illness. It wasn’t like this was new to him, being disabled. He had been that way since he was a baby. He was born in a refugee camp and the pore conditions resulted in an infection in his lower spine. The cleared it up, but not before it nerve damage set in and he lost the use of his legs.

They were located in Justice City, his mother got IT training and a position at a large tech firm. His father was a teacher and after leaning enough English he returned to that profession. They didn’t believe in treating Shadow differently, they made time for him and they helped him, but they wanted him to be independent.

That was the problem, he never expected to get worse. He couldn’t use his legs but everything else was working. Suddenly he was losing something, and that was unnerving him. Worse it was interfering with his job. He hadn’t worked in over a year. Money wasn’t a problem. He had plenty to keep him going, but he needed his work.

It’s what kept him sain. He made apps. Just stupid games, but it kept his mind occupied. But this sleep thing was interfering. He had to be in the zone to get stuff done, and the sleep attacks kept him from doing that, he had good days, but he never knew when they would come. Worse sometimes he was too busy on the good days to work. He felt like he was wasting them.  He was just miserable.

The phone rang. He recognized the song. Re: Your Brains by Jonathan Coltin. His chair had a convenient pouch on the side for his phone he pulled it out.

“Hello,” he said Flatly.

“Get your Greek-Arabic ass downstairs right now!” demanded his closest and oldest friend. Tess.

“I’m sorry Tess, I can’t go out tonight. My chair is at twenty percent power.”

“I built that chair!” said Tess. “I know you’re lying.”

“I don’t know what you’re seeing on your end but…” Shadow was answering when his chair began to move. “Are you hacking my chair?”

“It’s called a back door. I don’t have to ‘hack’ anything.” Said Tess.

“This is kidnapping,” Shadow said as his chair moved him to the exit. In a panic, Shadow began to lie. “I’m not even dressed if you do this my balls are going to be on display all night long.”

“Kinky!” cried, Tess. “I can’t wait to see.”

“I’ll tell everyone we meet your birthname!” Said shadow as his chair entered his elevator.

“You wouldn’t dare!” cried Tess.

“Try me!” Shadow bluffed as the elevator lurched into motion. “Dammit, Tess!”

The elevator reached the ground floor and the doors opened. A tall black woman was standing on the other side. She was dressed to the nines. A sleek dress with sequins. It shimmered as she moved. “I’m sorry for brutishly kidnaping you, but I just had a major breakthrough, and I want to celebrate.” Tess was an inventor and owned the premier tech company in Justice City. Faraday Tech.  Shadows mother was the current C.E.O. She couldn’t stay in IT forever.

“Okay, what crazy thing are you building for mom now?” asked Shadow.

“Not yet!” said Tess. “These things must be done properly. First, we drink!” Tess’s limo pulled up. And we were off. Tess looking like a million bucks, and me like a shabby hobo in an electric wheelchair. I was unshaven, my hair was long and messy and I was overdue for a shower. I was wearing dirty jeans and a T-shirt.

Tess was crazy but she always knew what she was doing. She had a privet room at the club scheduled. It was just the two of us. “What is the point of dragging me out if we are going to stay in here?” I inquired.

“The music and the booze of course. You know I don’t like to mingle.” Tess replied. “You want to dance with me?”

“I thought we were friends,” Shadow said.

“Friends can dance.” She said stepping onto the floor.

Shadow rolled his chair out. He pressed a button, and the chair went from sitting to standing. The chair had a dance algorithm that detected others on the floor and moved Shadow rhythmically to the music. One of Tess’s special features. Shadow did little more than move his arms a bit, but it worked.

“You seem so different,” Shadow noted. “What happen to you?”

“You remember how we met?” asked Tess.

“Of course I do.” Said Shadow. “It was just after nine eleven those kids in school, they decided they didn’t like my face or my chair.”

“One of them was my brother,” Said Tess. “You don’t have to leave that part out.”

“You stood up for me.” Said Shadow. “I never forgot that.”

“I took a pounding.” Said Tess. “Eddie was just so big and so strong.”

“Why do you bring up that old nonsense?” asked Shadow.

“I think I found my true calling!” Said Tess excitedly.

“You mean other than inventer?” asked Shadow. “You’ve always been an inventer like your father.”

“Yes!” said Tess, positively giddy. “And know I know exactly how to use it!”

“You’re scaring me, Tess,” said Shadow. “Tell me what is this thing you’ve made.”

“I have to show you!” said Tess excitedly. “Let’s go.” They were in the limo and on the way to Tess’s lab. Shadow was really confused. Tess was always a free spirit, but tonight she seemed more off her hinges than normal. Shadow wanted to chalk it up to post-invention euphoria, but he was worried. On the way over he began to feel a familiar problem. Darkness was forcing its way into his mind. Tess was too excited to notice, but he was not having an easy time staying awake.

The rolled up to the lab, He followed her inside. This was just not fair, he wanted to be there for his friend and he was bearly aware of what she was saying.

“Are you ready?” She asked. Standing in front of a tarp. Did inventors just keep them around for things like this?

“Yes.” Said Shadow fighting the sleep attack with all his might. If he could stay awake for the reveal. Maybe that would be enough. Tess pulled the sheet but all went black, it was too late. Darkness came. He awoke. (If that could be accurate.) He was flying over the city. The sent of a fresh rain was on the air. When did it rain? The city seemed tranquil but busy. This was not the first time Shadow had a birds-eye view of the city, but it was so quiet outside of a helicopter.

A scream broke the tranquility, Shadow was drawn to it. He immediately was drawn to it. Simply willing himself towards the sound sent him rocketing off in that direction. It wasn’t long before he found the source of the scream, a strangely dressed man was jumping across the rooftops caring a woman in his arms. The man was wearing some kind of body armor, not military more like a superhero. He even had some kind of robotic hand. He set her down on the ground.

Shadow didn’t move in not at first he just kept watching. “This is bad,” He kept saying. “I need to get back. Back to what? I can’t remember!”

The woman had nowhere to go she cowered in a corner. “Help me!” she screamed.

“Lady!” Said the agitated man. “I’m having a really hard time right now. I have to think, I don’t want to hurt you, but if you scream like that again…” His robot hand morphed into a gun. “I’ll fucking kill you! Understand.”

That was it, Shadow had to do something, he moved in and said. “Excuse me.”

Started by Shadows voice the man who looked more like a shabby hobo than Shadow ever did. The man turned and blasted Shadow in the face without question. The energy weapon. Bounced off of Shadow without a scratch. The sight of Shadow filled the man with terror. He removed his goggles revealing eyes that shown brightly in the dark, with a neon green glow. “Braineater!” He cried.

“Me?” Asked Shadow.

“Braineater!” Cried the man. “Leave me alone! I don’t want my brain eaten!”

“I’m not going to eat your brain!” said Shadow.

The man yelped and he began running away leaving his hostage? “Braineater! Braineater! Hide in the deep! The Dark will save us!” He kept crying.

Shadow turned to the hostage, who was hiding her face. “You okay?” he asked. She looked at him and began screaming again. “No no no! Lady, I’m a good guy! I’m…”

“Help me!” she cried.

“Get away from her!” cried a booming female voice.

Shadow turned around to see a genuine superhero. This was Justice City, superheroes were a dime a dozen. This one was new. A woman clad in a metal suit. It crackled with electricity. She hovered above the ground just like him. “Who are you?” he asked.

“I am Tess…” Said the female Superhero. “la! Tesla! Tesla coil. Get away from her or feel my electric Vengeance.”

“Electric vengeance?” Asked Shadow. “Are you knew at this?”

“Why?” Asked Tesla Coil. “is it obvious?”

“No,” said Shadow. “Not at all.”

“Great, can we do this?” Asked Tesla.

“Sure,” said Shadow. “But I have to tell you…” Tesla’s fist rammed into his face and he went flying. He landed on the street he felt that. It didn’t hurt, more like someone touching his face. He could feel the solid surface of the ground give ways as he skidded to a stop.

“Face me you faceless brain-eating freak!” Cried Tesla as she landed in front of him.

“Faceless?” asked Shadow confused. He then caught his reflection in the glass of a storefront. He turned suddenly his arm bumping into Tesla, she flew back as if struck by a truck. She crashed into the building behind her.

He ignored it and went to the glass, his face was completely gone replaced by white marble? Stone? He looked at his body for the first time, it was just a sexless white statue. As if reacting to his thoughts it began to change. His body his clothes his face seemed to be molded by the material. “What is happening?” he cried.

“Shadow?” Asked Tesla He spun to see her crawling out of the rubble. Even with the distortion, he could hear her voice.

“Tess?” he asked.

Shadow panicked.  Instinctively he flew into the air like a rocket. He had to get away from her. Tess followed. Launching lightning bolts after him. The crack of the thunder shook through his body.  He was not going to fight his friend how did he even get into this mess? A dream! That’s right. He was dreaming. “Wake up!” He commanded to no avail.

Tesla scored a strike. The lighting racked his body and for the first time, he felt pain. That’s when he got the idea. He stopped. Tess never gave up, and she never stopped trying. “You’ll never stop me!” he proclaimed. If he was going to be the villain in this dream he was going to do it right.

“Wana bet!” She didn’t even slow down. Her fist was clenched with rage and electricity was jumping everywhere. If anything was going wake him up it was going to be this. He sat calmly as she flew closer, he knew it was a dream, nothing to be scared of. Right? Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. He winced as her fist came closer. Ka-Pow!

Electricity flowed through his mind he couldn’t think. It hurt like hell! But he was right, that punch woke him up. He was sitting alone in Tess’s lab. Was she mad? Did she think he didn’t care? He felt like a heal, no wonder he was dreaming about her kicking his ass. He deserved it. He left the lab, and the limo driver was waiting. “I have instructions to take you home.” said the limo driver.

Shadow went home all the while his heart was burning a hole in his chest. He may have lost his oldest and only friend.  Now this sleep thing had truly taken everything from him.

No one gets a free pass like Gaston…

Recently I came across a College Humor post that irritates me a bit. Perhaps you’ve seen it it’s probably been around a while.

There has been a trend that has existed where internet writers try to score literary points by attempting to make movie bad guys into heroes. More often than not these flimsy attempts at showing the villains perspective hinge on paper thing justification for their actions. Jafar, for example, I’ve read some articles attributing his actions in the movie to that fact that Jasmin states that the only good thing about being forced to marry is it will give her the power to get rid of Jafar. Naturally, this makes Jafars motivation from this point on self-preservation.

Nevermind the years before that he spent hypnotizing the Sulton and using Agraba as his personal playground while he searches for the lamp so he can depose the Sulton as the ruler of Agraba. You really think he only used his magic Hypno-staff once?

We live in a morally ambiguous world. Often times there are two sides to the story. The line between morality and fascism is much thinner than you think. Once you become confident that you can cure all the worlds ills, you basically become one of the ills of the world. That is to say, I feel like I’m a moral person. I feel my approach to many of the common problems of society are pretty good. However, the moment I try to force everyone to live by my rules, no matter how good, takes away their free will. Objectively this would make me evil.

A good example of this is a Disney villain whom did not show up on this chart. Shere Khan. Why didn’t he show up on this list? I suspect for the reason he belongs on this list because he’s a fully fleshed out character with motives and a backstory. Khan has had bad experiences with humans, he believes them to be disruptive to the balance of the jungle, and he believes the presence of the man-cub Mowgli will bring more humans to the jungle. In his mind, by killing Mowgli he is protecting his Jungle from a very real threat. His perspective may be flawed but it is a viable argument. You know who made the list? Kaa, the snake who was looking for a snack and used the tools he had available to get it. (Or not, he was ultimately foiled.) Snake lives matter people!

Why don’t see moral ambiguity in other Disney villains? Because it’s not there. They are meant to be the one-dimensional character who want simple things like power, or profit, or glory. These stories are meant for children after all. They are meant to teach children simple ideas that are almost universally accepted as good. Aladdin teaches us to believe in ourselves, cinderella teachers to hope, the emperor’s new grove teaches empathy and kindness. Mostly the villains are there to provide a hardship so the protagonist can have a transformative experience.

Let’s get to the heart of the matter why Gaston does not deserve a free pass for his actions. He is not a misunderstood character. There is no justification for his actions in the movie and he should not be seen as anything less than a villain.

While Gaston may be the poster child for toxic masculinity, it’s not his love of “manly” things that makes him evil. Before you start calling me an SJW, please understand I consider the idea of toxic masculinity the idea that there is only one way to be a man. That if you don’t have big muscles and a hairy body you are a fail-male, as is suggested in gastons famous song. Conversely enjoying things like sports, hunting, and fishing while being disinterested in reading do not make you a womanizing neanderthal.

So what does make Gaston such a bad person? Let’s consider his four biggest acts as a villain.  Nuber one The “Proposal.” Why is this bad? Ask any woman whos been treated like this by an overbearing creep. He doesn’t ask Bell to marry him, he informs her of their impending nuptials. Note the way he continues to track Bell through the room as he doesn’t give her space, he tries to corner her more than once. These are the actions of a bully. The entire time he oblivious to Bell’s discomfort. When he says “Say you will marry me.” This is not a request, its a demand. Bell has no option to say no, to the proposal or the kiss he’s about to give her before she tricks him out the door. This is all controlling abusive behavior, and while in the movie it’s treated comically, people who have experienced this in real life are often traumatized and may even suffer PTSD.

Number two. Bribing an official to have an old man institutionalized.  Was it out of concern for the well being of the town? Maybe he was worried about Bell’s father, he was obviously a danger to himself. No this was straight up a play to force Bell to marry him. He didn’t give a damn about Maurice, if he hadn’t been Bell’s father Gaston would have been more than content to publicly mock him, and laugh in his face. This is straight up evil.

Number there. Forced marriage. Whether you are a man or a woman the moment marriage is no longer a choice, whether it is a shotgun in the back or blackmail, it is slavery. Forcing a person to provide for a spouse they didn’t choose, or clean a house they didn’t want to be in is wrong. And do we honestly believe this asshole is going to start respecting Bell’s agency when it comes time to making those strapping young boy’s Gaston was talking about? So Bell will be forced to cook and clean for the rest of her life and can look forward to being raped on the regular.

Number four. Attempted murder. (Technically it’s attempted genocide, seeing how Beast is the only one of his kind but we’ll ignore that.) Really there is no gray area here, Gaston at best wants to kill “The Beast” because he’s different. He has no clear evidence that Beast is a monster, he just assumes because of his appearance. But even this crappy reason is too noble for Gaston. (Seriously he mocks beast for being too kind and gentle.) No, his reason for bringing an angry mob to the door of Beast is that Bell loves Beast and he straight up wants to punish Bell for rejecting him. His final act was stabbing Best in the back just moments after begging for his life.

Why does this guy get to be the funny and misunderstood villain? Love? Hell no! Love doesn’t justify his actions. Just because you love someone does not give you the right to control and abuse someone, or commit their fathers, or force them to marry you, or murder their crush. These actions are inexcusably evil. But love is not Gaston’s reason, wherein the movie did he utter the word love in conjunction with Bell? Where was the sob or lament over his bruised feelings? Bell was the prettiest girl in town, and Gaston deserved to mary the best. She was an object a trophy to complete his collection, and he was going to possess her no matter what. Gaston’s defining motivation was vanity.

My theory is that this kind of toxic trash is so prevalent in our society we’ve become blind to it. It has become such an everyday occurrence we just accept it as normal behavior. But it’s not nor should it be.

Now at the start of this, I tried to make a distinction between Gaston and other “Manly Men.” If Gaston’s proposal to Bell happen in The Double Deuce bar (Roadhouse) I would like to think Patrick Swazy would have drop kicked his ass. Perhaps ripped his throat out. There are innumerous examples of tough guy’s, manly men, badass’s and hardass’s not only respecting women’s right to say no, but fighting for it. Both in marriage and in sex. Simply put as a rule there are a few things that are universally considered evil. Gaston does those inherently evil things.

Now let’s clear some stuff up.

Beast was worse. How dose that excuses Gaston? Seriously, just because two sausages get into a tiff over a girl does not inherently make one of them the hero. I consider Beast the second villain of the movie. While it’s arguable which of the two is the greater villain both of them are responsible for their share of evil.  The difference between Beast and Gaston is that Beast undergoes a transformative experience and has a chance to redeem himself in the final act. This is because the simple moral we are trying to teach children is not to judge based on appearances. Bell is beautiful, but this does not stop her from being intelligent. Gaston looks heroic, but he’s actually a villain. Beast looks like a monster, but that doesn’t stop him from feeling love, and eventually empathy.  IF any Disney villain needs to be on the misunderstood side of this chart it’s Beast.

Who is the hero? This should be obvious. Bell is the BDH. All the truly heroic acts are committed by Bell. She nobly and willingly sacrifices her freedom for her father. She resists the technical demands of Beast. She tries to escape her imprisonment. She expresses empathy for her captor and treats his wounds. She sees the spark of kindness in Beast and helps him to change. (effectively saving his soul) and finally, she saves Beast’s life and saves him and his entire kingdom with a singular act of love, and all of it without to my memory raising a hand in anger. She rocked the hero thing. Yes, Beast saves her life but was he saving her or protecting her property? More would he have to save her if he hadn’t imprisoned her, to begin with?

This was not the perfect movie. I have many problems with it. It promonts the idea that if you love an abuser enough they will change. It also undermines the basic premise of don’t judge by appearances by having beast become a pretty human at the end. Bell straight up judges everyone in the town in the opening song of the movie. But not Stockholm Syndrome. Stockholm Syndrome is bullshit. Not only is it a crap theory made up by a government that wanted to villainize “terrorist” by undermining any redeeming qualities they might have had. (Not saying they were good people, but they did show some basic human decency during the incident that gave Stalkholm Syndrome its name.) It is simply the worst kind of victim blaming. Not only blaming the victim for being in the abusive relationship but also taking away any agency the victim might have had by saying they were made crazy by the abuse.

Maybe we don’t know the whole story. Maybe there are reasons Gaston acted the way he did. It is possible to look beyond these one dimensional portrays, the movie Maleficent does just that. Perhaps Gaston was abused by his overly masculine father. Maybe Gaston and Bell were friends once, and he really spent his entire life trying to make himself into the perfect husband for her. Perhaps even he was given that idea from Bell, her casually mentioning she wanted to marry prince charming someday. That his bosting and manly posturing was all some sort of misguided attempt to become Bell’s dream guy. Sure, and when he became this perfect specimen and she rejected him. Then he went a little bit crazy, and before he knew it things had gotten out of hand.

Perhaps instead of falling to his death, he is met by the same enchantress that transformed Beast, and she transforms him like she did Aaron. He is offered his own transformative experience, and he learns that love is not about possession, but rather about giving. Or whatever I’m snowballing here.

My problem with that is it really doesn’t excuse his behavior at all, much as the things that were done to Maleficent excuse her behavior. We only get a chance to see the character in a more sympathetic light, but this doesn’t make the bad stuff any less bad.

We are not responsible for the damage that is done to us, but we are definitely responsible for the damage we do to other. I include myself in this boat. I was abused as a child. Before I got my head straight I made some women feel really uncomfortable. It’s inexcusable that I did that, and maybe you could argue I was suffering from my abuse, but that didn’t make my actions any less traumatic for the women I acted out against. I have to live with that. It would be really important to show that kind of regret for Gaston if we were to give him the Maleficent treatment.

Okay bringing it home. Gaston is not misunderstood, he’s not given the chance to be misunderstood. And we as a society should recognize his behavior, and motives as “evil.” Because if we stop giving Gaston a free pass, we can stop giving real-life abusers a pass too. How many times have we heard stories of rape or abuse that had little caveats like “but he’s so good at sports” or “he loves her” or “she doesn’t know any better.” Look I know I’m swimming upriver on this. I just feel it needs to be said.