Friday, February 29, 2008

Brits: War Too Dangerous for Prince Harry, Okay for Everybody Else

The British press threw a temper tantrum when Matt Drudge reported that Prince Harry, who matters to them for some reason, is serving with their army in Afghanistan. How could Drudge be so callous towards the prince's safety, the tabloids bitched. Foppishly. And also, the Brits had the story two months ago but signed a deal with the Ministry of Defense promising not to publish anything till Harry was back in his London palace bed. British media to Drudge: no fair!

I've never been more proud to be an American, coming from a land of freedom, where semi-professional ad hoc journalists can spread the news without kowtowing to the big divine right lobby. Twenty-four hour news cycle, people, and you'll report on "Dog's tricks are 'better than TV'" and "Fat-carvers bring home top prizes," but not "Third in line for throne serving in Afghanistan?" This is what people want to read on their way into work; think of the advertisers and the stockholders. Think, if you compromise Harry's safety enough and get really lucky, you could see two spikes in readership.

Not that I'm really surprised, but everybody's skirting the real issue here. The media that signed this deal with the army, now that they've been screwed, chastise Drudge's callousness toward the safety of Harry and his unit — marking the first time the British tabloids have ever been concerned for the well-being of one of their subjects. And of course that subject just happens to be in the middle of a fucking war zone, but let's delude ourselves that war isn't supposed to be dangerous. Then the reporters left out of the inner circle are above it all, in an ethical debate over whether one guy's safety overrides the public's "right to know."

But that's a false dichotomy, or it would be if not for the real ethical knot here: the media's cozy relationship to its source and the principles they're willing to sacrifice to maintain that relationship. None of this off-the-record, shady deals nonsense; a reporter's job is to report the news under the theory that the readers are smart enough to filter it. The press shouldn't have spent the ink to write about Harry's detail, not because the Ministry of Defense asked them nicely not to but because it's not newsworthy. Some "news" just isn't relevant to anybody's ability to participate in the civil structure, and the press also has a responsibility to make sure that what's trivial stays trivial.

Look, I don't need to know exactly where in Iraq our troops are stationed and where they're going to patrol today and what time they're having breakfast — and I don't really care either. All I need to know is whether we're kicking insurgent ass, by which I mean providing enough stability for the Iraqi government to restore the nation's infrastructure and secure the borders. And I need to have enough faith in the media so that when the reporter in Basra tells me that we're kicking ass, I can be confident that we are, in fact, kicking ass. Then I use that information to decide whether I want the old guy, the black guy, or the woman to be my next president, and that's how democracy works.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Dating Game

One of the items on my list of New Years' Resolutions that will never be fulfilled is dopey and coy, Meet Someone Special, like I'm in a forties screwball comedy and I'll bring the whole wrath of the Hays Code down on my ass if I use the word "girlfriend." I haven't been on a date since college, and I haven't been on a first date since high school, when the courtship ritual took place in an AOL chat room with "a/s/l every1?" and then "anybody wanna have sex press 19." Which, is that still appropriate?

I remember back when I was ten, if you like-liked a girl, you could communicate your profound connection by punching her in the arm or dumping mud in her hair, then skittering back to your posse, with the other neo-apes throwing rocks at each other. It's truly amazing that we even survived each other long enough to reproduce. That was so nice and simple: if she didn't like you, she'd tell on you; and if she did like you, she'd tell on you but still come back the next day for more. We grew and developed language, and subtext, and then she dates an utter tool but also complains that she's dating an utter tool, and this is all very confusing to me. My road map to true love, or empty no-strings attached sex, is a tortuous M.C. Escher mobius strip; I'm lost and haven't really moved, in fear of falling off into the abyss.

I began sketching a new outline of this uncharted territory for me in super-light pencil (actually dry-erase marker) with the best, albeit pedestrian, ideas I could imagine:

  • Get Harrigan to take a decent picture of me. I don't think I look bad at all in real life, but somehow the camera always manages to capture me in that 1/500th of a second that my countenance is a distorted facsimile of a psychotic Mr. Potato Head. I put my second-favorite picture of me up in my little dating profile (my favorite picture is the one of me in my blanket fort in the "About Me" section of the blog), but I look like I'm trying too hard to force a smile, even though I was genuinely happy when I took the pic. I blame the megapixels or something. If it's all possible for me to look good in freeze frame, Harrigan can do it. She has mad photography skillz, a couple of giant professional digital cameras, and, maybe even a lens that gives me six-pack abs and a chiseled jawline.
  • Write up a profile. My current profile is a list of my flaws, insecurities, allergies and skin conditions ("leprosy-free for over eighteen months!"). I've done a little brainstorming for a blurb that's not intentionally self-sabotaging, but nothing coherent yet.
  • Go where there's people. Duh. Despite my best efforts, there are still approximately zero dating possibilities in my bedroom.
  • Ask my friends...

...which I did. Over lunch with Sylvia, I asked her if she knew of anybody and I was completely unprepared for her answer: "Well, what are you looking for?" I never thought about it before. I guess you could read it two ways, but I don't think Sylvia was telling me that I wasn't going to find anyone by reducing the applicant pool down to its most common features, a pair of x-chromosomes. On the contrary, I just assumed I'd wind up settling ━ the cause of so many mid-life Porsche purchases ━ for whoever fate threw my way. There's the small possibility of getting lucky, like with Anne, being star-crossed as in the first half of Romeo and Juliet... but I was always more a fan of when they retardedly killed themselves. Ha, ha, that's what you get for falling in love! Stick with the passionless arranged inbreeding your families destined for you. But the very idea of actively looking for somebody, for something that I want (and facing rejection) was downright mind-blowing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Perspective on The Wire

You've probably been too busy following Lost or American Gladiators to pay much attention to The Wire, which is the best, and most disillusioning, show to ever cross the airwaves and not come into your house. I'm surprised I went seven weeks without talking about it, and I've been particularly shaken by the final season so far, walking away from three shows agape, "Holy shit..." This season's Institution of Massive, Unabashed Failure is the media, and the storylines explore what's been hinted at previously: the twisted, co-dependent relationship between the hegemony of news organizations and, the root cause of all the world's ills, you (yes, you) and your simple-minded complacency. Set a year after "A New Day in Baltimore" never materialized, the broke-ass city is still perpetually desperate for political capital but also actual, monetary capital. Carcetti sold his soul to the powerful upper-middle class white wing of the Democratic party, brushing off the governor's offer from last season and leaving the schools in the same unacknowledged decrepit, useless condition from last season. The cash crunch has reached into the Baltimore P.D.; the five percent raise Carcetti enthusiastically promised the police department is being paid out ━ or, more precisely, not paid ━ in sheets of office paper, to be redeemed on that glorious day when the city actually has a few coins in its coffers. The media, the once-venerable Baltimore Sun, not a real newspaper but "still a pretty good newspaper," is beset by similar financial privation and, suffering takeovers from the Los Angeles Times and then the Chicago Tribune, abandonment from a corporate structure with other things on its mind. The institutional mantra in Baltimore is "more with less," which is even more retarded than it sounds.

The one institution thriving in Baltimore's new day is the New Day Co-Op, and particularly Marlo, who's consolidating his power after a year-long hiatus while under scrutiny from the MCU. The MCU, which was shit-canned twice when the city did have money, is disbanded along with its investigation into the row house murders, and McNulty is shipped back to his perch, and continuing downward spiral, in homicide. This season, more explicitly than any of the others, asks how the common people, shlubs like McNulty, just trying to do their damn jobs for Christ's sake, get ━ that is, wheedle or extort ━ basic resources from The Powers That Be, y'all and your wallets, and what that makes them and their society. It would involve using you, an ATM for your own good, and examining the moral consequences later; I'm reminded of House: "I teach you to lie and cheat and steal...and as soon as my back is turned, you wait in line?" So The Wire presents three parallel scenarios: McNulty, after a lot of alcohol, tampers with crime scenes and old cases to manufacture a serial killer terrorizing Baltimore; Clay Davis finally faces exposure of the shady non-profits he's been skimming from; and a Sun reporter, Templeton, makes himself the paper's new golden boy by fabricating quotes and making up the news. How do we get what we want, what we're entitled to, or what we believe we're entitled to? We give you what that base, emotional, jumping to conclusions part of you wants ━ whatever that is, it's pretty cheap ━ and you reciprocate.

That's where the press comes in. The utopian idea is that the media is supposed to provide us with the information we the people need to run our country, it being a democracy and all, but with that in mind, I'm starting to realize how phenomenally irrelevant it is. I'm talking about the opening to the six o'clock news: a minute on someone shot in Rockaway Beach, another minute on somebody stabbed in Bayonne, then three people shot in Morrisania, all in critical condition, with some blonde reporter standing by at the hospital's ambulance bay. This, followed by, "Danger in the kitchen: which household product that you own can kill your whole family? We'll tell you, at eleven." What am I supposed to do with this "news?" More to the point, shouldn't we assume that all this, and the context it creates ━ You are not safe if you leave your home! Also, you are not safe in your home! Buy plastic sheeting and duct tape! ━ is bullshit anyway and the weather forecast is the most honest, straightforward part of the news?

So McNulty creates a "Homeless Strangler" character (that would be a guy who strangles the homeless, not a homeless guy who strangles ━ important difference), broadcasts it around, and gets nothing. I've always wondered this about the media, especially the sensationalist tabloids: in the exploitative, parasitic relationship between the papers and their readers, which comes first, the public's interest or the media's interest? The Chicago Tribune, being a business operating in a free market, would argue that they give their readership what it wants; as a (potential) reader, I note that my options are limited to what the media chooses to provide me. The serial killer story McNulty gives the press ranks somewhere in the middle of the Metro section. It seems formulaic: Alma's triple homicide story wound up in the same insignificant nether-zone. Number of victims, divided by how far on the fringes of society they were, plus salacious details equals location, with some bonus points for being white, an ex-cheerleader or pageant queen, missing in Aruba. Templeton, always the attention glutton, has to pretty much beg McNulty for some gripping detail for the story, something front-pageworthy, something the Post and Daily News could make a tasteless pun on.

Certain critics, who I respect even though I wish I had their jobs, read this, McNulty's serial killer yarn, as the moral decline that really costs him his soul. His transgression: making shit up? Deceiving people? He hits rock bottom ━ which is inane hyperbole in The Wire; rock bottom is more like Bubbs accidentally poisoning Sherrod ━ after giving Larry, a crazy homeless guy, a hundred bucks to relocate to Richmond and pretend to be the Strangler's next victim. Which is wrong, but morality on The Wire isn't merely a mess of gray areas but a complete condemnation of the right-and-otherwise dichotomy Sepinwall forces on it. (Oddly enough, Sepinwall lets this quagmire slide when it comes to Dexter: he does bad things for a good reason, but he's working through it.) There are bad consequences and there are bad consequences; so in this week's episode, Kima has to tell the parents of McNulty's crazy homeless man that their son, who they could no longer care for and had to let go on the street, was probably a victim of the Strangler. And it is awkward, quoth Sepinwall:

Last week, I talked about how Jimmy's abduction of Larry was the moment where he took his scheme way too far, but Kima's interview with the parents of an earlier "victim" show that Jimmy's actions have been reprehensible from the start. Sure, the dead guys are in no condition to care about what's being done to their corpses, but Jimmy's lie is devastating the family members. Like the parents say, it's bad enough to live with the knowledge that you didn't (or couldn't) prevent your son from killing himself with drugs and alcohol, but it's far, far worse to believe that you failed to protect him from being murdered and sexually molested.

Interesting, in a season that twice called out Sepinwall's medium (he's the TV critic for New Jersey's own Star-Ledger newspaper) for showing more sympathy for white victims than black victims, and for upper-class victims than poor victims, he complains about how McNulty's lies affect a white, middle-class family with nary a word about the twenty-nine (by my count) black people that Marlo had murdered, including our friends Bodie, Prop Joe, and Butchie. The Wire gives us this amazing omniscient panaroma, where the full butterfly effect of everyone's actions become clear, and still our own parochial viewpoint takes precedence. Let's review: The MCU's budget and personnel are slashed, Marlo immediately resumes consolidating his power. Marlo consolidates his power, he represses the West Side community, pays more to shady lawyer Maury Levy, makes more "donations" to Prop Joe's fake churches and New Orleans hospitals (which are likely connected to Clay Davis, especially given the land deal Nareese brokered for that drug dealer slash strip club owner), and in particular buys more heroin from the Greek. The Greek sells more, he ships more Slavic prostitutes to America in cargo containers, not to mention whatever he does with his implied terrorist connections. Reading in the paper that your son was murdered and molested (assuming the Sun printed that, even though there's no confirmation that Crazy Larry was either) must be horrible, maybe even almost as bad as being dragged to a vacant by Chris and Snoop, or working as a sex slave in freaking America.

It's not that Sepinwall's ethical take is wrong, especially given that, as I said above, McNulty isn't extorting resources because he wants to catch Marlo but because he thinks, as a homicide police, he's entitled to some resources. But The Wire is full of characters who make ethical decisions that are, let's say, short-sighted, and the degenerate world thrives on them. This season I may admire Bunk and Kima for doing the right thing, real policework (although it seems like Bunk wouldn't have re-opened the Marlo investigation if McNulty's selfish jackassery hadn't put him in a bind), but at least McNulty isn't taking the ethical shortcut the System lays out for him and passing responsibility to somebody else.

This attitude is persistent in Baltimore, under the guise of "fairness" and "political correctness." We saw the same thing last season in the schools, with our sympathies reversed because it was children at the bottom of the shithill instead of drug pushers. I'm thinking of the scenes where Donnelly socially promotes a finally thriving and clearly unready Dukie to high school, effectively ending his education. "Did I do something wrong?" he asks. No, it's just too much trouble, from the superintendent, the media, City Hall, having him in the school and she is long past that. "Have some kids of your own," she tells Prez, who's protesting Dukie's promotion, as if helping nobody is morally superior to helping just one person. All of these institutions that are supposed to make us civilized instead leave a Hobbesian world where there's no loyalty, and no altruism, to anybody but you and yours. Then the police complain that these gangsters won't snitch.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Trick Question

I found William Poundstone's excessively-titled book How Would You Move Mount Fuji?: Microsoft's Cult of the Puzzle ━ How the World's Smartest Companies Select the Most Creative Thinkersin a long-forgotten corner of Barnes & Noble last Friday, just as my brain was starving for more fodder. Poundstone is an unclassifiable author, although if I had to, I'd say he examines intellectual gnosticism in the tradition of Martin Gardner or Douglas Hofstadter. He's written about topics such as the Prisoner's Dilemma, clandestine "numbers station" radio broadcasts, the secret ingredient in Dr. Pepper, and the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. I guess the common theme is that they all require some critical thinking against the status quo to make real sense of. How Would You Move Mount Fuji? is an expose of sorts on the Microsoft job interview process, how Gates and Ballmer find the best and brightest computer scientists to revolutionize your desktop with Clippy, Minesweeper, and a bunch of other bloated programs that individuals, apparently not the best and brightest, in the open-source community have made much-improved versions of. I don't understand why anybody would even want to work at Microsoft: I mean, have you used any of their programs?

Microsoft receives about 12,000 resumes a month. I have some personal experience resume-vetting from my intern days, and I can tell you that it's easy to sort applicants' life experience, condensed to a single sheet of paper, into piles of "never" and "maybe" spending no more than ten seconds on a resume. (Interestingly enough, Poundstone cites a Harvard study that suggests the hiring manager has already made their decision about you within the first two seconds of the interview, before you've even said a word.) Ten seconds per resume means three-hundred sixty resumes an hour, two-thousand five-hundred twenty resumes per seven-hour workday, and over twelve-thousand resumes set aside or rejected every week. Microsoft, like many large businesses, has replaced the resume monkey with keyword-scanning software, which sounds more efficient except for the fact that it's Microsoft's keyword-scanning software and therefore probably dies a Blue Screen of Death every twenty or thirty resumes. Microsoft Resume 2007 Professional Media Edition rejects three-quarters of the applicants, and the remaining one in four gets an all-expense paid trip ━ I assume flying coach ━ out to Redmond, Washington for full-day interviews of the, um, open-ended variety. How would you move Mount Fuji? If you could remove one state from the United States, which would it be? How many piano tuners are there in the world? Presumably, there's a question or two about computers in there, too.

I have a love-hate relationship with brain teasers. I bring this up because, while reading Poundstone's book, I've come up with a new and subversive answer for the question, "How many windows are there in New York City?"

Q: How many windows are there in New York City?

You'll recall that the old answer ━ which, I should point out, doesn't technically answer the question asked ━ requires taking a representative sample of New York City buildings, counting the windows in the sample, then dividing by the percentage of the city that the sample represents. Not that this is a particularly obfuscated answer; it's a straightforward answer to a straightforward question asked in a dickish manner just to make the applicant sweat.

A: 2,109,356.

Q: Really?

The trick is that you have to give this answer with supreme confidence.

A: Exactly.

See, I have this issue with my fellow language-users, and that is that I'm never all that certain whether to take people's ambiguous words at face language or not. Like, I'm ninety-five percent sure that what the interviewer means to ask is something along the lines of, "How would you approach the problem of determining the (exact?) number of windows in New York City?" He wants access to my critical thinking, but he's not asking a question that requires critical thinking. He might as well ask me what the capital of Azerbaijan is (Baku) or what's America's longest suspension bridge (the Verrazano Narrows): either I know the fact or I don't.

Q: How do you know?

The intended question.

A: As to the number of windows in New York City, I know that you don't know how many windows there are. Even if I did pull this number out of thin air, you can't prove that it's wrong. You'd have to count either all the windows in the city, or 2,109,357, whichever is smaller, and you're not going to do that.

Maybe I did just happen to stumble across that statistic the other day, straight from the City Bureau of Windows, Doorways, and Portholes.

This is probably not the ideal way to ace a job interview, pointing out the interviewer's ignorance and subverting the whole process by taking advantage of that ignorance. New question: if you could remove any state from the United States, which would it be? (No wrong answer here.) And why?

That second question has a correct answer: such-and-such either is or isn't the reason I gave my particular answer to the first question. But I still don't see the point. For example, I'd dump Oklahoma, because Oklahoma has two crazy right-wing senators devoting their lives to hampering America's progress in the twenty-first century. Seems like a good reason to me (especially because it doesn't assume anything that's not in the question), but how would you argue that my answer is in any way better than, "I just never liked New Hampshire." Maybe I'm indifferent to the other forty-nine states and I hold a grudge against the Granite State (it knows what it did); it wouldn't make any sense to give a different answer. What am I supposed to do, lie?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Fifty big dudes from New York played football better than fifty big dudes from Massachusetts. That's such exciting news, especially since I happen to be from the same region of the country that the winning team plays their home games in! It's like we're all brothers! If I have to hear one more knuckle-dragger thrill about how "we" won the Super Bowl, I swear I'm gonna punch someone. "We" did not win anything ━ the Giants won, you sat on your fat ass and stuffed a bag of Doritos down your maw. There's a difference.

Even worse are the New York tabloids, each one the first to declare the Giants' win a "miracle," and the football players themselves, who all insist on thanking God for winning the game. God, if He exists, had better have more important things to spend His time on than giving Eli Manning (or somebody, I don't really follow football) the strength to throw an eighty-yard touchdown pass (or whatever), or I'm converting to Satanism. God ━ I know this isn't the way things work, but God should smite these football players for their hubris, and the false humility they mask it with. It's not like anyone at the Super Bowl is rescuing puppies from burning buildings or anything.

There's the argument that these professional sports, the community winning vicariously, cements us together in the shared experience. I've read about the Palio di Siena and its effect, that of a needlessly violent symbolic confrontation, dropping the city's crime rate, and I wonder if anyone's done a study about the communal effect of football and its ball throwing, catching, and primitive homosexual overtones. Personally, I think that actually smashing things in a consequence-free environment would be a lot more cathartic than watching other people do it, especially when they get a couple million dollars, a 2008 Cadillac Bling-Mobile, and a trip to Disneyland as compensation for the bruises and broken bones.

I believe that's why they came up with Grand Theft Auto.

Sunday, February 3, 2008


So I have this gnawing suspicion that some of the people I'm in mortal Scrabulous battle with are cheating, asking the Anagram-o-matic 3000 for help. My games are littered with words, "words," like YTTRIA or ZARF or ABA or TMESIS. Tmesis? "Separation of parts of a compound word by one or more intervening words." You don't come across that word unless you're truly mining the Scrabble Dictionary. And there's the matter of the board: most people's Scrabble games look like one of those elementary-school crossword puzzles, mostly four and five-letter words sprawled across the board, intersecting over a single letter. But experienced players, guys ━ or robots ━ with the all the three-letter words memorized play out a game with big old blocks of letters, two by two, three by three, sometimes even four by four. Lots of words at once, that's how you score the big points.

I've never cheated at Scrabble. Well, that's not exactly true, and I can understand the motivation behind taking a second to get that anagram list, pre-organized by score for you. I've never cheated playing with a human opponent, but I haven't been quite as honest against the computer. I get a rack that's bad but not horrible, I'm sure there's a decent word in there somewhere but it's late and I don't want to re-arrange six vowels in my head. I ask for a hint, which is the stupidest, biggest waste-of-time thing you can possibly do with your computer. Because now you're just watching the computer play against itself, which is exactly why you're wasting five minutes playing Scrabulous in the first place. Like you'd sit in front of Tetris while the game shifts and rotates the pieces, "It's on level twelve! Damn, the computer's good!"

What's interesting is that my Scrabulous-cheating friends, or my alleged Scrabulous-cheating friends, suck at it. Turn after turn, it's the same characteristics: a high-scoring word no one's ever heard of, crossing a bunch of other words. Some letter combination that never appears in the English language (DJINN), or a word that's all diphthongs (AIOLI). It would be a different game if you had to define your word before you played it.

I hear "it" ━ winning ━ is addictive. Winning with a few electronic steroids running through your system is still probably more satisfying than losing honestly. Well, not so much for the other person, I suppose.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

"How Does That Make You Feel?"

I started watching In Treatment, HBO's latest exploration of psychotherapy after the brilliance of The Sopranos and the excruciating tedium of Tell Me You Love Me. In Treatment is slow and tough to watch, or more precisely tough to sit through, set entirely in a psychiatrist's office with only two characters' (three on the Thursday episodes) back and forth, and I oddly admire it for breaking television paradigms. It's like watching a stage play, maybe one of those Greek tragedies before the concept of "action" had been invented, and the character study is hidden in the way the patients exposit their stories. But the show is having this bizarre side effect on me; I'm beginning to feel inadequate about my own therapy sessions. Do I talk enough? Are my narratives interesting, meaningful, clear? Or am I just paying two-hundred dollars a fifty-minute hour for a live audience, for the kinds of incoherent ranting write so hastily in my blog?

This is typical for me: Thanks to many, many years in therapy, I now recognize my habit of ascribing the idea of "normal" to my external observations and then using that contrivance as a standard against which I judge my own experience. With that view, I find it interesting that I only read half the show ━ the patients' role, their physical, tangible behavior, their acting ━ in the context of my own psychotherapy. The doctor, Paul ━ as if I call my therapist by his first name ━ remains a cipher, the Greek chorus in the dialectic, frequently just pulling on the patient's issue even as it's flowing smoothly out. "Tell me more." Or, "Go on." Punctuated by one of those weird therapy revelations: what you just said is interesting, illuminates differently, contrasted to this other thing that slipped out of your mouth five sessions ago, like the whole thing's scripted. I mean, obviously In Treatment is, in fact, scripted but Rodrigo Garcia does a truly sublime of job of revealing these characters, where they're blabbing on and on and on, self-assured, and then Paul does his mental calculations and turns his patients transparent before they're even aware of it.

I wasn't seeing Paul as anything more than the sounding board until the Friday episode, when Paul has a weekly appointment with his own therapist. You'll recall that on The Sopranos, Dr. Melfi also had an analyst, distilling (and, by the end of the series, adulterating) her emotional reactions, and I'm now wondering if my therapist sees a therapist. I approve of, and appreciate, and value psychotherapy and the dynamic ━ to the non-initiate, it's like paying somebody to be your friend; but, in a healthy relationship, you're paying the therapist to not be your friend. He's someone who has no emotional stake in your well-being and his relationship with you, so he can be what your friends can't: objective and critical. And that's beneficial; obviously, psychiatrists realize that benefit, and that's why I'm now working on the assumption that my therapist has his own Ivy League-educated Psy. D., and he spends fifty minutes a week on that couch, and they call each other by their first names. The idea makes me jumpy, and not just because I've never cared to conjure anything about my therapist's life outside our sessions. I'm not happy with him having issues, or if he doesn't have issues, then he has issues in that sort of self-help way people go, "Everybody has issues."

Now I have to see him as a person, and not an Eliza with intelligence, textbook education and life experience. He's a person who could find my sheepish narratives tedious, or could be frustrated with my stubborn impenetrability, or could just plain resent me. He can judge me, in the same way I'm afraid everybody else does, and I'm sure that's compartmentalized somewhere off in my brain.

But on the other hand, I've been meeting with this particular therapist for seven years, and another one for three years before that, and another one for two years before that, all of whom, I now presume, can't fit into my reductive mold as emotional processing units, the role I secretly want to foist upon everybody else. That means that despite my best efforts, I actually am succeeding at normalizing my relationships with them, objectively and in reality, as human beings. Which is why I'm in therapy in the first place. Hmmm....