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1  noun  ˈbläg, -ȧg   plural -s
2  intransitive verb   -ed/-ing/-s
: to talk pretentiously and usually inaccurately : lie boastfully

State of the Phooliverse 2024

A brick wall is painted blue with a white border. In the center of the image, a graffiti mural features an antifa logo, flipped horizontally, so that the flagpoles are on the left. The Phoole & the Gang flag logo flies in place of the red flag from the antifa logo; the black flag flies behind it.

The Five Things of the Phooliverse

When I was younger, so much younger than today...I thought grown-ups knew how to do stuff. You did too, didn't you? I honestly assumed adults had their shit together. I reckoned that at some point I would be an adult and I would have my shit together.

When I left home and did my decade of squatting and/or renting apartments/flats for no longer than a year at a time, living all over the place, I met thousands of grown-ups. None of them had their shit together. But I was stuck in that assumption that grown-ups, as a class of being, had stuff figured out. So each grown-up I encountered who didn't have stuff figured out was an exception, I thought. These were all just quirky, goofy, unique little instances of humans drowning in mystery and chaos. Eventually, I assumed, I would meet the grown-ups who had their shit together.

I knew a grown-up who seemed to me to have their shit largely together. They were my director at my big show, the one that took up six months of every year - the venue's artistic director.

When I became a director myself, the artistic director announced to me that they would reveal The Secret of Great Directing. I was so ready to learn the key that would unlock the mysteries of helping a group of very different people join together to make something magical.

They said to me:

"You have to have five things."

I thought about that for a little while. I didn't know what the fuck that could possibly mean. Which five things? What? What do I have to have?

They went on.

"When you direct anyone, when you speak to them, singly or as a group, have five things. Start by saying, 'I have five things to say about that.' Then, make up five things. Start with Thing One, which you make up out of nowhere. By the time you have a good head of steam talking about your First Thing, you will think of Things Two and Three. When you get to Thing Three, you will certainly have come up with Things Four and Five, and you will probably even generate more things beyond the five.

"But have five things. Say that you have five things to say. The five things will come. The magic number is five."

This hit me like I was a ten-story building and it was a grenade detonated in my underground parking structure.

It rattled me in the moment.

The longer I lived with this conversation, the more it damaged my foundations. My spiritual infrastructure crumbled to dust over the subsequent decades.

I realized, as I know now, that absolutely no one, of any age at all, has their shit together.

Everyone is making it up, all the time.

Everyone is faking it. No one is making it. There is no 'fake it 'til you make it.' There is only 'fake it.'

This truth is simultaneously debilitating and freeing.

I have five things to say about the State of the Phooliverse in February of 2024...I bet. I'm gonna have five things to say about it!

But what five things? Let's perpetuate the time-honored, horrible, white-person tradition of cultural appropriation, and swipe Five Realms from Buddhism for a contrived and janky theme around which to organize this pile of stuff I have to say. I know there are more realms in Buddhism, but I only need five, so...

Here are what our Five Things will be for this Blague post about the State of the Phooliverse.

  • Hell Thing

  • Animal Thing

  • Hungry Ghost Thing

  • Fighting Demon Thing

  • Human Thing

The Hell Thing

In Buddhism, the Hell Realm is people suffering in the extreme, with no regard for other people. Their hurt is so great that they may hurt others around them.

This feels like a good Thing to put my complex post-traumatic stress disorder in.

I'm doing better than I ever have in my life with CPTSD.

I'm taking things more slowly. I'm making and sticking to boundaries. I'm recognizing when I'm triggered, and I'm able to regulate my body's reaction to feeling like a child in danger. I'm seeing common circumstances in my daily life that expose me to triggers, and I'm preparing for them with sprezzatura. I'm feeding my body with better food. I am moving my body a lot, every day. I am letting myself experience anger for the first time in my life. I punch a lot of targets in virtual-reality fitness games, as I transform that anger into the most ridiculously-muscular back, shoulders, and arms I have ever had in my life.

The altitude I'm climbing to in this new peace, though, is letting me see so much more of where I've been.

So: A new feature of living with CPTSD is trying not to drown in debilitating floods of shame about the people I've been in the past, in a literally-childish attempt to make people love me. I seized on superficial features in other people, instantly idealized them, shoved them onto monumental pedestals, and then abased myself deplorably to earn shreds of praise and approval.

It feels so much better to not do that.

It is okay to be me.

I am recovering from fifty years of running at top speed at all times to avoid being me.

It still feels weird to just be still.

But I'm getting out of the Hell Thing, even as the whole world feels like it's sliding into an abyss.

The Animal Thing

I'm not swiping the Buddhist meaning for this bit of cultural appropriation.

I just want you to know that Angelo and Tony the Cats are the most precious babies, even though Tony is 16 years old and Angelo is 13 years old. They are still just babies.

Angelo the small white cat is in a loaf shape on a snuggly soft red blanket, staring into your soul with wide black eyes and his head tilted slightly to the right.
Tony the big orange and white cat has his ears in the airplane-wings position as he examines the wiring on my DJ cart and peers at us over the Traktor DJ controller units.

The Hungry Ghost Thing Angelo the Cat. He's my HUNGRY LITTLE GHOST BOI.

But really, though:

Buddhism says hungry ghosts are beings driven by intense emotional needs in a primal and damaging way.

Yesterday I read a post on the Zero COVID Community Reddit that punched me in the throat. It just stopped me. Here is what it said.

Ran into friend having post-infection medical issues Just what it says. An extremely high-risk/IC friend decided to liVe wiTh cOviD last year and was hospitalized and very ill following their inevitable infection. I’ve had to detach with love and haven’t talked to them much. Ran into them and they started in on their new medical issues, which are related to urinary tract and sexual health. Not issues I would blithely choose to live with. I don’t know a lot of people who casually gave up precautions AND talk about the obviously related medical fallout from their infection. Their nonchalance was eerie. Do you feel ambivalent about your sexy parts working? I don’t! Yet another reminder to not let anyone talk you into being lax about mitigations, unless you’re eager to swap brunch for a functioning bladder.

The part of the post that slammed my face into the ground was the phrase 'detach with love.'

I am so exhausted.

I am so tired of grieving for people who are still alive, noticing I'm grieving for them, and immediately, violently burying that feeling in my heart as deep as I can.

Friend after friend reaches out. "I'm infected - but it's MILD. It's just like a cold!" Then, months later: "I can't do anything anymore. It's like the worst allergies of my life, but all the time? I can't taste food or remember how to do my job."

Then about one in ten of them dies, really young, really horribly, from a heart attack, or a stroke, and it all came from that 'mild' infection that stripped the linings from their blood vessels and clotted their blood, things they couldn't feel, but they happened anyway.

I'm so tired.

It's not their fault.

Our leaders, the hungriest ghosts, grown-ups who want people to think they have their shit together, on every part of the political spectrum, at every level, are killing all of us.

My need to detach with love is just one of the reasons I parked all my FarceBark and InstaGern accounts this week. I have a little bot quietly and patiently deleting all of my past posts on FierceBerk. I deleted the apps from my devices. I'm full-Fedi finally, no more corporate walled gardens harvesting my data and strobing my eyeballs with poorly-targeted ads and dopamine triggers. (Come experience social media the way it was back in 2009 - it's on Mastodon. It feels nice there.)

I just can't see it anymore. I can't watch everyone I know doing the same stupid things because they've been fed misinformation about a disease that, once it gets in them, means I can never see them in person again, until or unless a silver-bullet vaccine is developed and shared that absolutely prevents infection.

Another Buddhist connotation of Hungry Ghosts is greed - and I'm thinking about ending my Patreon campaign. I will keep it open, and just make it free for everyone. It doesn't feel right to have it anymore. That ship has, I think, sailed; if I write another book, I will gestate it for some more years and then, in a fortnight of furious typing, vomit it up; that's how I do it. It feels wrong to keep subscribers hanging on for things like that. I know that's what it's for. It also feels like a good time to get out of the Patreon game before the platform does an initial public offering or gets acquired by shitty villains.

The Fighting Demon Thing

No Buddhist meaning here. I just like punching. I like jabbing, crossing, upper-cutting, hooking, kicking, elbow-slamming, and knee-slamming. I like putting my whole body behind every punch. I like fighting. It's so fun.

It feels so good to get completely soaked in sweat and build strength and speed and agility. Some days I work out past what I think is my limit for fatigue; I work out until I sob. Some days I keep going while I'm sobbing, because I know the reward will be vast. I punch almost every day. Some days I keep on punching, even while I'm saying out loud, "I can't. I have to stop. I can't." I do it anyway. It feels amazing.

The first and last time I punched someone in the face and laid them out cold was in 1992, and that person was my mother.

She was an alcoholic, and that day she was a violent drunk. She swung at me first.

I did what I had to do. Caught her square on the jaw. Dragged her to her bedroom and left her on the floor.

Minutes afterward, I drowned in shame and guilt and regret about it.

But seconds afterward, I dared her to get up, because I would do it again. For a split second, I loved defending myself.

If this plague is ever stopped, I will join a gym and do some Muay Thai with other human beings. I'm investing in a heavy bag on a stand to set up in the basement, so I can condition my hands, elbows, knees and heels to impact solid surfaces.

My parents didn't raise my brother and I to be interested in physical fitness. Exercise, to them, was something brutish, dim-witted lunk-heads engaged in - music was more important than anything to my dad. My mom wanted me to be thin, but wasn't interested in the mechanics of that accomplishment. I was to eat every morsel of food I was provided, and somehow become thin, but exercise was never considered to be a factor in making that happen.

Today it reminds me of this cartoon by cupcakelogic.

There are so many things I'm learning now, which I should have learned as a child, about the joys of vigorous exercise.

It's not about weight loss for me. It can't be right now - I'm perimenopausal, and AFAB bodies that start to experience lost or suppressed estrogen production hang onto every fat molecule that they can.

So I've been keeping my eyes on my punching targets, and off of the scale.

Nevertheless, I somehow lost four pounds. I've been working out almost daily since June of 2023, and the four pounds just went away a couple of weeks ago.

My body composition is changing. I have more muscle than I've ever had before. I'm eating a healthier food, not through aggressive diet - I just have more willpower to make better choices. I am managing moods better. I am sleeping better.

Tiffany tells me she's proud of me, and it makes me cry, every time. I'm still so addicted to chasing praise.

My fight life almost intersected with my COVID-smart life a couple of weeks ago.

Tiffany and I were masked up, me in my usual black N95 respirator from BNX, Tiffany in her usual KN95 from masklab, heading to the grocery store, walking from our vehicle to the front door of the store. A dudebro in a Tacoma pickup truck was idling in the no-parking-zone fire-lane directly in front of the door, looking down, not paying attention. We stopped and waited, in case he had just picked up someone and was preparing to drive - but he just sat there. So we took a step forward to walk around the front bumper of his truck.

Suddenly he gunned the engine and started forward. We jumped back.

He saw us. His window rolled down. He started screaming at us. "What the fuck, like I'm supposed to fucking SEE you?! Fuck you!"

At that point, he noticed we had respirators on. His rage skyrocketed.


He stopped the truck for just a second.

Tiffany got a little distance away and prepared to dial 9-1-1. I squared up.

I would let him take the first swing. Master Viggiani said to. All other things being equal, Master Viggiani said, he who attacks will be subdued.

And then dudebro peeled out and drove off.

My adrenalin wore off half an hour later.

Between grocery-store MAGA dunces and residents regularly threatening to murder me and my colleagues at the dayjob, it feels like this realm really could be the Fighting Demon Thing.

The Human Thing

I miss you. I miss being with people. I miss being idle in the company of delightful people.

I am also slowing down, like I talked about in Thing One above.

This means I end up going live online far less often than I used to.

Because of COVID, the economy that only looks good to millionaires and billionaires, and rising tides of incivility and brutality, my dayjob consumes a lot more of my time and energy than ever before. Everyone in civil service is doing the work of at least ten people these days. After a day of work, I find myself without the energy to listen to hundreds of promo recordings every week, or even every month. When Tiffany and I are done with work for the day, we have just enough energy to sit with each other and enjoy peace and quiet, and then fall asleep. My workouts give me a huge boost of energy - and it goes directly into my dayjob work and stays there. I'm consoled that it's for the public good and not for the enrichment of a shitty billionaire CEO...

...except that everyone's labor shores up the whole diseased and corrupt system, enabling shitty billionaire CEOs to evade fair taxation, while public employees stretch ourselves too thin and burn out over and over again.

I try not to dwell on that last part. Having enabled shitty billionaire CEOs in the past, what I got ain't perfect, but it's better.

All that being said, even with my brilliant new "tour trolley," the prospect of setting up for a show, doing a show, and tearing down from a show, after a week in the fiery ovens of the Demon Fighting is too much, a lot of the time. Like this week. I am so chewed up, and it's only Thursday.

I don't have an uplifting, positive, cheerful bow to tie on this State of the Phooliverse post. Unless a very-improbable series of events happens and a silver-bullet COVID vaccine appears, 2024 will be another year without any live in-person Jane the Phoole gigs, despite me having the best motley ever in the history of jester clothes. I'm heartbroken and so angry about it.

I had five things, though! I told you I would have five things, and I had them. I successfully simulated being an adult and having my rhetorical shit together, a skill many in public life utterly lack.

Thank you for being in the Phooliverse, whatever state it's in. Thank you for coming here to read this, and abandoning, however briefly, if briefly, the soothing dopamine-soak of ForceBork and its villainous enabler InstaGran.

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