Balance is bullsh!t

Daily writing prompt
How do you balance work and home life?

It’s funny that this came up as a prompt the other day. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to accomplish my goals both professionally and personally, and as much as we all laud the concept of balance I’m starting to think it’s a joke.

When I think about balancing, I picture someone on a tightrope. Arms extended, eyes locked on the horizon, physically committed to a ludicrous, massively dangerous task for other people’s entertainment.

I did just write a novel about a tightrope walker, so yes it’s a strong echo in my mind but that also means I know what the metaphor means. And I don’t know if it should be a goal.

For one thing, it’s fucking impossible. You can do well, giving yourself more or less equally to all your wants and responsibilities. And maybe that’s a neurotypical thing, to be able to plot your life carefully then follow it through, but that’s not in my wheelhouse, to employ boardroom language. I can’t actualize that paradigm.

I’m losing interest in the idea of balance. It’s really difficult to relax while balancing. Balance is a state of tension, of holding in place. It requires hyperawareness of the body and the ability to ignore everything around you. If you find a place of stillness, you cannot move from it or you will collapse. That sounds–that is–exhausting.

That sounds like capitalism: find one thing and do it till you die, never quitting or questioning, while faithfully replicating your DNA to provide capital with more human resources and supporting the rentier system of the 1% that holds the rest of us hostage by giving them back in the form of household spending and debt all the money they loaned you as wages.

The ideal work/life balance is No Work, All Life. I don’t mean, let’s all be unemployed.* I mean, why is work not life? Why are jobs so shit? Why have we bought into this massive system of pitting our economic needs against our human rights? Who the fuck wants to be an actuary? I would expect a single digit percent of actuaries chose that career because of some deep inner calling. For everyone else it was because they weren’t pretty or clever or rich enough to get to do what they want with their lives, and so they put on a suit and sit in traffic and eat a packed lunch and try not to jump out the office window. If that’s your life why even be alive? So you can give your children the very same future?

TL:DR Modernity is delusional. Baked into the core of our culture is the idea that *this world as it is right now* is the best we can do. That Starbucks and Exxon Mobil are natural and inevitable, that the only improvement possible is making the whole world like America. Delusion, delusion, delusion.

Fuck the work/life balance. It’s a joke, it’s a yoke, it’s a rationalization for letting capital skim the cream of labor’s efforts. For our collective good we need to seek a way of life where our work is worth living for.

An ideal work life balance? The least work possible at a job that won’t cost me my life.

*We can talk about health care and education as necessary jobs as long as you want to discuss why we underpay and understaff both these professions.

Common sense

Daily writing prompt
Describe something you learned in high school.

“High school?  Shit, I’ve been trying to forget it.  All I learned is that everyone’s so steeped in their own BS by the time they get there that most of us don’t learn a thing. Sure, it’s good for kids to be taught not just science and math but how to read, how to think, how to get to know other people. But the way most high schools are run, they’re not much better than jail.  Just a way to keep kids off the streets so old people feel safe walking about and adults don’t have anyone coming after their jobs.  I mean, if everyone really gave a shit about kids, they’d pass some gun laws.”

Who owns us?

Way back in the wayback, I started this blog by talking about Cory Doctorow.  He really is a smart person, and in this guest blog for indie author legend Brian Sanderson he brings his ethics and intellect to bear on how Amazon is ripping everyone off.

The problem with Audible is not that it makes a wide catalog of audiobooks available through a convenient app. The problem is that Audible uses technology, accounting fraud, and market power to steal vast fortunes from creative workers and the audiences who love their books.

Disclosure: I’m an author who uses Amazon as a sales platform, but in this insular space I feel safe in expressing my deep concern that we have let a single corporation insert itself into so much of our daily lives. I’ll let Doctorow himself speak to that.


I don’t have any audiobooks for sale. Authorship and publishing take so much attention that I haven’t had any to spare for yet another aspect of it, so I can’t add much commentary.  But Doctorow has nothing to gain by refusing to list his audiobooks on Amazon. In fact: 

my agent tells me that it cost me a fully paid-off mortgage and a fully funded college savings account for my daughter.


If more big-name authors were prepared to starve Audible of their content, would Amazon cave to pressure and make the deal fair for everyone?  Or is it going to take another few election cycles before President Warren (don’t laugh) demands the break-up of this predatory company? 

Until then, I’ll keep listing my books on every platform I can.  There is another way.  We can and must find it.  For everyone’s sake.


how did we let it happen?

this televised delusion

spectacularized demons who accuse us of their crimes

while they are still committing them

like a schoolyard bully asking

why are you punching yourself?

and we reply politely

offer counter points of view

and they laugh and call us snowflakes

and we let them

let’s go on strike

whenever someone uses a lying word like



those people

those queers

those…aw, but we can’t say that word no more

go on strike

walk off the conversational job

demand better conditions

or walk away

“I don’t owe you my time.”

“You call it an opinion but to me it sounds like hate.”

“We work together.  We don’t need to be friends.”

“You’re talking about people I care about.”

“How could you believe that about another human being?”

do not do their labour

don’t scab yourself to their delusions

refuse to negotiate on the definition of your selfhood

or the selfhood of others

their lies have no authority in the court of your self-worth

they are the ones in prison

they have built the walls themselves

and here we are outside

you and I and all of us

together in the garden




I originally thought of calling this not-quite-a-poem “You Fuckers Wanna See Some Cancel Culture?” but sometimes short titles are better.

I also acknowledge that many of us live and work in unsafe places and cannot ‘walk away’ without causing ourselves immense harm. It’s perfectly acceptable to strike by simply not dignifying the offending party’s remarks with a response. A blank stare can work wonders when someone’s fishing for a laugh.

WHAT RUINED ME Episode 9: ‘Watership Down” by Richard Adams

This book is tied for first with THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY for most important book in my personal history. Douglas Adams taught me about absurdism, and the lyrical power of words. A Doug Adams run-on sentence is a thing of near incalculable beauty, and I’m pretty sure Ford Prefect qualifies as my first book boyfriend (the talking mouse in the Narnia series doesn’t count, as I more wanted to be him.)

Richard Adams taught me politics.  Just like Tolkien, he liked to say that Watership Down isn’t about totalitarianism.  Like Tolkien, he is both right and wrong.  People who haven’t been to war don’t know how deeply it changes you.  Whether or not Adams set out to write an allegory, I believe his experiences serving in World War II, fighting literal totalitarianism, became part of the myth of himself.  

So yeah, it’s a book about rabbits trying to find somewhere nice to dig some holes, but it’s also a classical pilgrimage from base delusion through the vale of sin into moral righteousness.  And it’s also about the horrors of authoritarian rule.  In every case that our plucky, fluffy heroes encounter an anti-democratic system of rabbit governance (Adams gave them cops and kings) the outcome is disastrous.  Denial, subversion, death. 

Meanwhile our heroes are like a carrot-seeking antifa.  They don’t have a chief, until other rabbits start referring to one of them as such.  They don’t impose their will on each other.  They innovate, make friends with other species, liberate tame rabbits from captivity, and defend themselves gallantly against a vile oppressor. What in the world was I meant to learn from this book other than the principles of utopian anarchism?

Like hell it’s about rabbits.  It’s about surviving this maddening, misunderstanding, murderous life we’ve granted ourselves.  These times are both like and unlike any time in human history.  The challenges are enormous.  But the will of every heart to go on beating means we will face them and rise above. 

I have to believe this. 

What else is worth believing?

The Golden Age is Always Tomorrow

There’s a popular illusion that the past was a magically better place, an opinion usually voiced with the words “good old days back when people respected each other” and to this I say: there are no good old days.

Dickens was right, while the past may have been the best of times, it was the absolute fucking worst of times. No more than a hundred years ago, most of us wouldn’t have lived past forty, not (only) because everyone was sick all the time, but because if you weren’t at least middle class, your life was often barely livable. We can’t all have been Napoleon, in other words. Most of us would have been peons.

And no, the 1950s does not qualify. Not while millions worldwide still suffered under the lash of European colonialism.  Not while polio ravaged families and doctors raced to eradicate this deadly virus through mandatory vaccinations. Ahem. Not under Jim Crow, not under McCarthy. There was no golden age. This moment, right here and now, may be our peak, as close as we will ever get, unless we put everything we have into stopping the juggernaut of climate change from crushing everything else.

Your move, humanity.

“Excuse me, Ma’am…”

Except there’s a world of people trying really hard to not get called ma’am.  Not merely gender scoundrels but unmarried women who will never be a ma’am and are perfectly happy about it. Miss doesn’t sit much better at any age. Sir is a proper title and hence shouldn’t apply to 99.9% of the living.

What are we going to do about it?  What can we use for a gender-neutral but wholly respectful title to address people whose names we can’t possibly know?

What, for example, does a fast-food employee say to get the attention of a customer who is “probably a woman” but is dressed in a tailored three piece suit and spats?  Or the person in line behind them in a body-con dress and extensions, looking fully fleek but they missed that one corner of their lip while shaving?  Both of them forgot their french fries, and the employee can’t leave the counter.  How do they get these customers’ attention?  Shout “excuse me, Ma’am,” and hope to fuck both people turn around?  

We need a word.  Because it doesn’t matter “what” I am, if our sole interaction is that you’re selling me a lunch.

Or maybe we don’t need a new word.  Maybe we can use words we already have.  “Excuse me, in the red jacket?  You forgot your fries.”


ripe apples hanging heavy on the branch, other fruit lay spoiled on the grass

and it was shoving me onwards

blindly I went

with my head covered

signs lined the road

the look of the letters

like bullet holes in tin

the untended fields are green

bees swarm the fallen fruit

drunk on rot

liquid vines of snakes curve along the hedgerows

this is not the tale I meant to tell

I cannot tell it otherwise

this is how they all begin

with the road and the fields

with rot and green

with drunken honey


Oh! Those Victorians!

a wrought-iron spiral staircase painted red and white, in a lush tropical greenhouse

I write dirty books.  On the literary side, because I’m a hopeless show-off, but they’re books full of naked people and cuss words and often very little plot.  Why do I do this?  Of all the things I could write, why smut?

Insert obvious noises about it being fun, titillating, and at times very lucrative (if one writes the right kind of smut.) There is of course a great big long theoretical answer as well, because hey, I like trying to live from the heart of my philosophy.

And the evidence suggests I am one of those humans that doesn’t make enough dopamine unless vigorously stimulated.  It often feels like my choices are to write scorching sex scenes almost daily or succumb to an ennui so intense that I must develop another addiction to distract me. Maybe writing smut is my drug of choice.

But then dirty books about those repressed, prudish Victorians?

I follow the framing of landmark French philosopher Michel Foucault, whose work on the social construction of sexuality neatly upends this idea that the Victorians never spoke of sex.  Far from it, as sex became no longer a private activity but a matter of public concern.  Certain classes of people—homosexuals, working class families whose faith and poverty lead to an “excess” of children, wives who were disinterested in providing sexual services to their husbands, and so on—were doing sex wrong, and needed identifying, and where possible correction.  Deviance became not a matter for the church but for the doctor’s office, the psychiatrist’s couch.  Less a sin than a dysfunction to be remedied.  

Set against this is the growing agitation by these same groups, demanding less patronizing treatment from the ruling classes.  Homosexuality was criminalized, but by defining a criminal class who didn’t perceive their own behaviour as a criminal choice, the ruling class forced disparate individuals into a social unit, which then discovered it had significant power by dint of size alone.  The legal enclosure of homosexuality is the dawn of the modern, collectivized, queer rights movement.  State power labelled homosexual people and lumped them together in order to control them.  But as is the way with humans, the subjects of control, once forced into proximity, were able to define commonalities which allowed them to organize against the continued operation of Power.

That this discursive road is rocky as fuck is not really surprising. Winning any kind of space is hard, and those who win often then protect it against all others, even if it was those others (i.e. the trans women who drove the Stonewall uprising) who won them that space. Capitalism and the dogmas it serves want us to hate each other, so that we’ll keep fighting each other and not our masters.  Power right now wants to enclose trans people, but do that and it obliges them to align.  They count heads, and its suddenly not a handful of isolated cases but a sizeable percentage of the population.  One percent of the US population is over three million people. That’s… statistical.  That’s a voting bloc.  That’s how we change the world.

Not For Trade


“Do you ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”

I don’t align with all of Brian Eno’s public opinions, but I can’t find fault with him on the subject of NFTs.  Like him, I can’t say that I’ve ever understood why they need to exist.  How does making something owned make it better?  “A person claims exclusive ownership of this.”  So fucking what?  If anything, the thing owned has lost value, because now it is removed from public meaning-making. 

Putting your art on the NFT marketplace fees like fighting other artists for the coins some rich idiot tossed from the upper deck of the RMS Titanic. We’re all going to die in about an hour, but by all means, let’s fight for that silver. Something to grip in our teeth on the way down. Something to pay the ferryman.

Crypto-bros like to think they’re anarchists, but the point of anarchism (not anarchy, but capital-A Anarchism, as in the political philosophy of localized self-governance, with special emphasis on governance) isn’t to “fuck the system” but to create a system that is incapable of fucking us.  There’s still going to have to be A System. None of the comforts of the modern world exist without a cohesive society with ample financial resources. If we burn the world, the internet goes too. Oops.

The more we do what crypto-bros think is best, the less livable the world becomes. Right down to, where do they think their microwaveable pizza crust comes from?  Their own ingenuity?  Or hundreds of workers in a supply chain that will collapse if we keep burning the world by mining cryptocurrency. There will be no pizza. No Soylent, no poké bowl delivered by an Ubereats driver whose take won’t cover the cost of the gas to get it to your house.  If push comes to shove, the crypto-bros can always eat each other.  Looks like they’ve already begun.