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Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Dear Bitch,
How about some advice on how those who are lucky to still be employed should deal with those recently unemployed, especially around the holiday seasons, or any time for that matter, I guess.

Do we still wish them "Happy holidays"? Offer employment assistance? Tell them to deal with it and get off their butts and get another job? Commiserate with them and offer to off the offending unemployers?

What say you, oh wise one?

Yours truly,
Still Working


Dear Still,
First of all, congratulations on being employed. I wouldn't want you to think those of us who aren't hate your guts or anything like that. We just hope your good fortune rubs off on us.

How you handle the unemployed usually depends on how well you know them. "Oh, I'm so sorry," is always nice. "It's not you, I know so many great people out of work right now" is even nicer.

Of course, hiring Guido "Legbuster" Anatucci to avenge us is also a very considerate thing - but bad karma. However, the thought is still appreciated.

Do at least acknowledge the situation. When you lose your job, the co-workers with whom you thought you bonded have now wiped you from the memory bank. Because you now have a contagious disease called "unemployment." Feeling like a leper - an invisible leper, at that - really sucks.

The employment assistance thing is tricky. Resume tweaking may help but frankly, the situation more likely has to do with the dearth of jobs than any lack of initiative on the unemployed's part.

If you know the person well, a little financial assistance is nice. But here's where tact comes in. Personally, I'd prefer gift certificates. Here's why.

For Christmas, one of my oldest friends got me a gift card from the local drugstore chain "because I know how hard it is to justify buying things like makeup and nice shampoo when you're broke."

That's so true. Every time you spend a dime on anything that isn't an urgent priority, you feel like an awful person. Yet you need to take care of yourself emotionally, too. So gift cards take away the pressure of thinking you should pay a bill instead.

My close friends often take me out to eat when I'm out of work - and not to Mickey Dee's, either. Nice places, where I can enjoy myself.

One friend got me a book of movie tickets, which was really thoughtful.

It's really the human connection that counts most. You feel so isolated when you're unemployed (God knows why - there are so many of us) and being invited to someone's house for dinner is something to look forward to.

This month, total strangers sent me money. It was amazing, and I am so grateful for their help. But the thing I most appreciated were the letters they also sent telling me I wasn't alone, I wasn't a loser, and yes, people really did appreciate me.

So be kind. Be thoughtful. Be tactful. And lie if you have to.

Sincerely,
BITCH

Dear Bitch,
You said, "Send your bizarre questions." Here's one that's totally off from your usual topics. You may need your panel of experts to help.

I have a complete and utter hatred of snow. Can you tell me if we could force storms away from the city if everyone simultaneously opened the front doors of their homes and let warm air out of their houses at the same time? This seems like it could be a good flash mob kind of thing but no one would have to leave their homes and everyone would be happier, except kids wanting a day off from school.

Signed,
Flakebuster


Dear Flake,
My mind has previously wandered this same path. For instance, why don't we switch on a battery of blowdriers instead of shoveling? Or use one of those steam hoses to clean off the cars? Would we shut down the Northeast power grid?

But I've never actually thought about stopping snow dead in its tracks, before it even has a chance to become a nuisance.

I presume you've already given some thought to the economic consequences of replacing snow with rain (salt suppliers, ski resorts, snow-plow drivers, municipal officials who use emergency snow-removal costs to cover what they're stealing). Sounds like you just don't care, so I'll take you at your word.

Now, what are the odds of getting everyone to open their doors at the same time? Probably not good, and it wouldn't be hot enough to make much of a difference (despite the eternal command by fathers to "close that door, we're not heating the outside.") If we could rapidly generate a superheated mass (by getting everyone to jack up their thermostats first), it still wouldn't work. (Although it's probably promising enough to get a defense contract as a missile defense system.)

I do like the flash mob aspect, though. Sounds like fun.

In the meantime, Flake, I'd concentrate on treating the snow symptoms. Dress warmly (UGGS are nice), drink hot chocolate and get warm any way possible. (I'll leave the details to your imagination.)

Which reminds me: I once met a woman who told this "funny" story. She fell asleep with her vibrator running and the motor overheated, setting her covers on fire. She escaped with a nasty burn on her inner thigh, and offered to show us all the scar. (Everyone declined). So do be careful.

I know I have readers from Stanford, MIT and SUNY Tech. Any of you guys have suggestions?

Sincerely,
BITCH



Dear Bitch,
Sometimes it seems like every other progressive or liberal blog I read is mired in depression. I don't mean pessimism or even anger or whatever else the loony right-wingnuts accuse you of being whenever you don't agree with them - I mean a just plain "tired of it all, someone make it stop, I can't deal with how awful things have gotten" wrist-slitting-level funk.

What can you say to people who seem to be drowning in hopelessness to lift them out of this state? We're going to need lots of energy and optimism in the year ahead, and I'm afraid so many bloggers are teetering at the edge of burnout that we may fall short of our goals as a result.

Signed,
Concerned About Blog Buddies



Dear CABB,
Well, you see this a lot in certain fields: Shrinks. Psychics. High school guidance counselors. Bartenders. Dentists. Bloggers are only the latest victims.

In my opinion, it's a self-inflicted wound. If I were a Jungian (and I most fervently am), I'd tell you that sort of psychological exhaustion results from projecting anima/animus onto the world situation - that is, the unintegrated parts of self, distanced by designating them as "positive" or "negative" and reacting thusly.

There are things about the Bushies that most certainly drive us nuts because we're not dealing with them in ourselves. So you can believe that George Bush and Dick Cheney are evil, diabolical beings with superpowers, or you can see them as complex, contradictory humans who live in denial and cognitive dissonance - like the rest of us. Only worse.

If I were to go deeper, I'd say blogging burnout is rooted in spiritual anorexia. When you're convinced (as many, many liberals are) that anyone who believes in a beneficient force that orders the universe not only has a screw loose, but is the enemy - well, I can see why you'd want to slit your collective wrists. Because that doesn't leave much wiggle room, does it? It's all on you - and if you fail, IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT. Whew!

Astrologically speaking, it's been a rough year. Things should be looking up soon, although not in an obvious way. For instance, Uranus moves into Pisces today and because Uranus only changes signs every seven years, it's a big fucking deal.

(By the way, Uranus aspects coincide with earthquakes, since the planet rules sudden shocks - and illumination. Plane crashes, explosions and the like seem to follow Uranus like a puppy. But we know there's nothing to this astrology stuff, so never mind.)

For the rest of this week, we have a rather nasty T-square and some other things that will come to a head literally around midnight on New Year's Eve.

A few weeks ago, I dragged someone to see astrologer Michael Lutin speak in Manhattan. (Lutin happens to be a Jungian analyst. Quelle surprise!) Lutin is very, very funny - and damned good. He said the current astrology has people worn out and crying "uncle". Right now, everyone is torn between their longing for security - and their compulsive lust for something completely new that will change their lives completely.

Sounds about right, doesn't it?

He said Libras (of which I am one - twice) were torn by their need for validation from the very same corporate system which they held in contempt. "No! Not me!" I protested... but I digress.

My final point: Bloggers often suffer from historical tunnel vision. Really. (For perspective, I suggest "A People's History of the United States." Or anything about the Dark Ages.) Sometimes a relatively small group of people can change the course of history - and sometimes they can't. Sometimes they just get smallpox, and die alone. Think Steven King.

We're the Pluto-in-Leo generation. Pluto is destiny, Leo is ruled by the sun, and thus feels it's the center of the universe. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) We believe, not so deep down, that we're destined to be the star around which the universe turns. This drive has resulted in some remarkable achievements - and also a lot of kitty blogs. That's a problem; Pluto in Leo can't always tell the difference.

Statistically speaking, it can't be true that all of us will be the sun. (Just me, maybe. And you.) So there's a lot of ego tied up in blogging. When we don't see results (i.e. blog awards, Ecosystem rankings, hits in the tens of thousands), we don't feel the love. Because if we don't have an audience, how can we be stars?

We may be taking ourselves a tad seriously. Bloggers, after all, mostly preach to the choir. Burned-out bloggers should take some time off and go have a life. (Speaking for myself, I don't think it's so much that I'm afraid Bush will win if I go on hiatus; it's that I'm terrified people will forget I exist if I'm not wearing sequins and tapdancing in the spotlight. Pluto in Leo - where's my audience?)

Bloggers are a catalyst, certainly. But only a handful of us will actually tip the balance of this election. We're cheerleaders; we're not quarterbacks. We need to remember that.

In the words of famous Philadelphia DJ Hy Lit, "Live, love, laugh and be happy, maintain your cool and be nobody's fool. Solid ted, 'nuff said." What more, ultimately, do you need?

Sincerely,
BITCH

There must be some logistical reason why I haven't gotten any letters, because I know my readers aren't all so shy. So here's a hint: to write me, click on the link that says "madrak at ospolitics.org" in the upper right-hand column. It's that simple.

Your personal information will be confidential - the only thing that will be printed is your letter. (If you have an astrological question, please include date, time and place of birth.)

Monday, December 29, 2003

Welcome to The Bitching Post, my new blog.

People, even total strangers, often seek my advice. I don't know why. My friend P. has a theory: She says I'm pretty much unshockable, and thus able to empathize with everyone, no matter how twisted, psychotic or unstable they are. Even Republicans.

My friend L. says I have "an overactive compassion chakra." (Hey, it's all relative.)

But I so love to give advice. Most of the time, it's pretty good advice, since I'm such a know-it-all. (And a little pushy, in case you haven't noticed.)

Since I'm out of work, I need some entertainment. I figure this fills the bill. Look out, Dan Savage.

Just to give you some idea of where I'd like to go with this, topics will include (but are not limited to) politics, religion, astrology, relationships, stain removal, home repair and computer problems. If I can't answer your question, I'll find someone who will. (Just like Ann Landers' panel of experts.)

For those extremely paranoid readers with high privacy needs, I include the following link to email anonymizers.

Send your bizarre questions to madrak at ospolitics.org. (replace with the @ symbol - I do this to avoid spam bots.)

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