Smile at Strangers now available for pre-order

Well, this is getting real. My book can now be pre-ordered at Powells, Indie, Books-A-Million, and Amazon (see the links below and to the right). Barnes & Noble doesn’t have it up yet, but I assume they will soon.

Release date is something like May 13-28, so if you order now, you’ll have time to forget all about it and be pleasantly surprised when it shows up in your mailbox next spring.

New Bitchslap

Monday’s McSweeney’s column is my cri de coeur: “Can we please all just shut the hell up about vaginas?”

It’s also about the Paralympics.

The 2012 Paralympic Games made me think about what the body means, and doesn’t mean, in an entirely new way. For one thing, nobody talked about vaginas or penises, which made it much easier to concentrate. More importantly, London showed us how unimportant the body could be, even in competitive sports. The games featured runners without feet, swimmers without arms, judoku without eyesight. There were fencers and tennis players who lacked legs, or the use of them. There were people missing almost every conceivable body part, and they embodied physical athleticism in more certain terms than any group of individuals I’ve ever seen.

From a locked psych ward to a horse’s back: Treating PTSD

White HorsePost Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects many survivors of trauma. With proper care, PTSD usually diminishes over time, but for some people, especially combat veterans, it can be severe and persistent, and very hard to manage. In this article from last March, Nancy Bartley, writing in the Seattle Times, explains how equine therapy is helping veterans reduce the long-term emotional and physiological effects of trauma—in particular, how a white Frederiksborg gelding named Fred brought Staff Sgt. Aaron Heliker back from the brink of suicide:

The program was just what Heliker needed. Nothing else had worked, he said, not treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside Washington, D.C., not therapy at a clinic in Texas, not the lockdown PTSD treatment facility in Oregon — not even his beloved service dog, Chopper, his companion to help with anxiety.

Fred’s ability to mirror Heliker’s own emotional state, requiring him to calm himself in order to do as little as brush Fred, has made it possible for Heliker to get used to staying in control.

Not long after meeting Fred last June, Heliker canceled his plans to die, and over the course of nine months went from taking 42 pills a day to four.

I’ve spent a lot of time around horses, and even more time dealing with chronic anxiety, so I was particularly struck by the comments of Debbi Fisher, who runs the Rainier Therapeutic Riding program. “Horses are ideal partners for traumatized service members because ‘they’re kindred spirits,’ Fisher said, and have similar fight-or-flight reactions to perceived threats.” A horse can embody the traumatized human limbic system, writ large. Engaging with a horse, focusing on soothing and calming it, requires a person to project calmness. The horse becomes, in effect, a giant-sized biofeedback mechanism, providing immediate rewards whenever its human companion manages to relax.

Plus they have those adorable soft noses.

Yet more video!

Some video Senpai Max shot during a recent tameshiwari clinic at Sun Dragon. Most of the colored belts you’ll see are breaking and holding for the first time. They did great (though Laura learned the hard way not to hang on to the board when you hold for a flying side kick).

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Max kindly edited out the footage of me failing to break two boards with a hammerfist; I should have used spacers. KJ tosses off that same break at the :52 mark. Alas, we failed to capture Senpai KJ’s speed break (drop the board and punch it as it falls) on video. She not only broke the board; she hit it so hard that both halves struck the opposite wall of the dojo.

Moral: Do not fuck with Senpai KJ.


I will have a hard time shutting up about this

Vanity Fair‘s James Wolcott, who has been a hero of mine since I don’t know when, has very kindly mentioned my McSweeney’s column on his blog.

For a quick understanding of why I love Wolcott’s writing so much, read this post about Bernie Kerick, from back in the dark days of 2004:

Kerik exuded too much quiet authority and dramatic effect, trying a shade too hard to convey that he knew things he couldn’t speak of and was working from the deep inside, privy to secrets that he carried locked inside the bank vault of his barrel chest. I could see how this tough-guy shtick–which obviously wasn’t entirely shtick, but a tough streak that had been refined into an urban lawman persona–would impress fake swaggarts like, well, George Bush, who likes to play dress-up as a range hand and fighter pilot to show what a Hungry man entree he is.

I’m still trying to come to terms with the knowledge that Mr. Wolcott likes my work. The only thing that would top it is if E.B. White came back from the dead and told me I was pretty.